Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Advent postcards, Cenon-sur-Vienne


French Village Diaries cycling adventures Advent postcard Cenon-sur-Vienne
Advent postcard, Cenon-sur-Vienne

Advent day twelve

Today’s cycling advent-ures postcard is from just outside the village of Cenon-sur-Vienne, at the confluence of the mighty Vienne and the river Clain, whose valley we had been cycling through north of Poitiers last weekend


It is hardly surprising I’ve found a watery theme to today’s post, as the rain continues to pour down there is little else on my mind. In the space of two months, we’ve gone from a worryingly low water table that necessitated water restrictions coming into place on 13th October, to most of the west of France now a soggy mess. Drainage ditches at the edge of roads are flowing like rivers, fields have become lakes as the water tries in vain to drain into the ditches, and the rainwater drains in the village are gurgling and bubbling high like a water feature fountain. 28% of French departments now have water tables full to a very high level and only 11% are showing as very low. How can a situation swing so drastically, in such a short space of time? The Jet Stream. It seems to have shifted and got itself stuck further south than usual, and the resulting low pressure over the Atlantic is the cause for our seemingly endless rain.


We struck lucky three times on Sunday morning. Firstly, the rain didn’t start until we were back at the car after a 36km bike ride and a picnic lunch with views of the Château de Dissay, plus we had two lucky discoveries on the bike ride, both just outside the small Vienne town of Cenon-sur-Vienne.


The first thing we stumbled upon that put a smile on my face was the archaeological site of Vieux-Poitiers (Old Poitiers), on the road between Naintré and Cenon. Here, where the Roman town of Briva once stood, a ruined tower is all that remains from an amphitheatre that once held ten thousand people. The fact that it is also on the Chemins de Saint-Jacques pilgrimage route, just made me fall in love even more. Situated on a triangle of land that is protected on two sides by the two rivers, that also offered fishing and trade routes, you can see why this was an important position two thousand years ago.


Our route continued up the triangle to stand at the confluence of the Clain and the Vienne rivers. It was rather appropriate to find ourselves here as we finished our twelve months of mini-cycling adventures to celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. In 1998, our main criteria for our wedding venue was that it had to be on the river Thames. We were both born by the Thames, worked in London, and often met for lunchtime walks along the river and decided upon Henley-on Thames for our wedding. It was a special feeling at having achieved our 25th anniversary challenge, where we have managed twenty-three nights away this year and cycled 1864 kilometres, and standing by these rivers, inspiration struck for another cycling adventure for 2024.

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