February 25, 2014
A river runs along it
No, this isn’t about a Robert Redford film. Readers of this blog will have noticed my obsession with the weather, the damage it has done to the roads and the bonanza of free firewood to be picked up all along the coastline. Basically, rainfall in January over most of Europe was around four times the seasonal average, and all this rain eventually ended up at the sea. I now return to the subject with renewed enthusiasm.
Ventimiglia is located between two rivers; the Nervia to the east and the Roya to the west. Both have deposited the previously mentioned free firewood onto the town’s beaches in immense quantities, and there it currently lies while the authorities try to figure how to dispose of it in time for the arrival of tourists in the summer. Some tidying up has been done but there’s a lot more work needed.
But there’s another interesting consequence of the heavy rainfall. Being something of a geek I’ve always been fascinated by a river meeting the sea; the fresh water rushing down so purposefully only to be nonchalently absorbed by the much bigger body of salt water. It’s probably a metaphor of some kind, but I haven’t worked out exactly what. (Anyone care to add a comment?)
In the case of Ventimiglia, a curious thing has happened to both of its rivers. For as long as I can remember (about 7 years) the rivers have each flowed into a freshwater lake behind a narrow shingle bank dividing them from the sea, with a channel on the western side (on the right from the rivers’ points of view) leading to the sea. The lakes are one of the things that make Ventimiglia special, as you’ll find wildlife all around; swans, ducks and large number of freshwater fish. The city forefathers have resisted the urge demonstrated by some of their neighbours over in France to concrete everything over and manage the flow, and the two lakes are a remarkably peaceful place to spend a sunny afternoon.
Only now they’ve changed. The lakes are still there but the shingle banks, presumably overwhelmed by the huge extra water flowing during the storms, have changed and the rivers have both headed east. Instead of forming the usual orderly western exit they’ve copied Orford Ness, where the river Alde gets within spitting distance of the sea then abruptly turns right and only joins the sea ten miles further down the Suffolk coast. Here the kink is left rather than right, and it’s for 500 metres or so rather than ten miles, but this is only the Mediterranean, after all.
In the upper picture the sea is on the left, the lake is ahead and the water is flowing past where I’m standing. The lower picture shows it making its way to where it joins the sea.
All this is rather attractive but it leaves another problem for the local authorities. On the left of the picture above you can see the clubhouse of the local windsurfing and kitesurfing club. Although the Riviera is relatively tranquil there are days when there’s enough wind to make either pursuit enjoyable. But now the surfers must carry their equipment across a narrow, fast-flowing and cold river before they reach the beach itself. And these are people who understand wind and tides. Other summer visitors arrive with children who will immediately head for the water, only to be dragged 500 metres along the coast and dumped into the sea itself.
So however attractive the area has suddenly become, it’s not likely that the authorities will tolerate it remaining that way. I’m assuming they will bulldoze the ‘proper’ channel and block up the river’s present course, restoring normality.
And here are a few more photos of the area as it is now: