|St Suzanne Village|
There are obstacles and weirs along the length of the river, but it was even so used for water transport until replaced by rail and road. In a number of places the river meanders along, with rapids and weirs bypassed by old locks and short canal lengths, some just 25 metres or less. These locks (écluses) are mostly ruins, and in many cases the canal bit is silted up and overgrown. At Vire town there are waterfalls and rapids that effectively blocked the river traffic, and to the north it joins the Vire and Taute Canal. Interestingly, as many of these old lock locations are where the water flow is faster or over a weir, there are micro hydropower electricity generating stations - 11 between Pont Farcy and St-Lo alone. Each generates enough power to supply a few hundred houses. So not only has the river been turned into a valuable leisure amenity, but also a renewable energy resource creator.
We joined the river walk at Condé-sur-Vire; there are small car parks at most villages along the length of the walk. There is a base for canoe and kayak sports there (in summer only, of course). A week or so before, we had gone past the valley of the Sée at Tirepied, where the whole flood plain was under water, again. The Vire had also burst its banks then, with the water level up to three metres higher than usual. That meant that it covered the towpath, which is raised above the land, and burst into the fields the other side. There are permanent metal signs at each access point, which can be folded open to show that the path is closed because of flooding. Useful, because the flooding can be localised to where the river is narrower or the towpath lower. We walked a little bit along the towpath at Candol a few weeks ago, but most of it was under water and invisible. Now the waters have receded, and there were no problems; there were a lot of little rivulets still flowing into the river, though, and the ground was throughly waterlogged.
Spring must be arriving, because we saw four or five swallows skimming the river in between the showers, and apart from primroses and celandines everywhere, there were a couple of clumps of marsh marigold in flower. On previous walks along the river, we have seen otters, an adult near St-Lo, and a juvenile a bit further south. We also saw this deer (chevreuil) at Candol, during the hunting season, so it may have been away from its usual place.