‘At The Head of the Pond, (Au Cap De L’Etang) or Capestang’
I was baffled. What ‘pond’ are they referring to? There is no small body of water resembling a lake in our village…or is there?
I occasionally ride my bike down a back road near the foot of Capestang, which takes me through what I thought was a pasture. On closer look, this is where the Roseliere Pond forms.
The Capestang tourist office arranged an etang walking tour as part of our heritage days here in Capestang and of course, I signed up.
After a long shift working on the canal boats, I ran home to shower and meet up with a group of people to watch a slide show on the history of the pond and to participate in the walking tour that follows. Running late, I ended up missing the entire presentation. My French may not have been good enough to understand it anyway, however I decided to join the walk through the marshlands afterward to see it for myself.
A group of us travelled to the head of the pond, where a tour-guide showed us the area. Some of the visitors came to spot birds with binoculars around their neck, while others simply wanted to know about the elaborate water system that flood the plain.
The water naturally rose in the floodplains as part of the river system in the middle ages, but the river rerouted itself before they built the Canal du Midi. The lagoon connected to the riverbed, which led to the Mediterranean Sea. People transported salt and fish during this time and that brought wealth to the region. So how does it flood today?
The beginning of fall, the land is dry. A stream runs through the centre of the terrain, with long native reeds growing high above head on either side. The River Quarante floods the stream that in turn floods the marsh plains to make up a low-lying pond. It is a massive stretch of land, and although shallow, when full of rainwater, a person can easily kayak around.
One water source to the etang is the Canal du Midi. Excess rainwater and overflow channel down the runoff tracks towards the etang. The graffiti decorated storm drains run the course of Capestang directly into the bog. In addition, when the River Aude overflows, any connector stream that leads to the bayou will flood as well.
Friends who live on the etang give an account of what happens during a flood. ‘The real damage is done when the River Aude spills over from Cuxac and Sallelle d’Aude. There is usually a strong wind coming from the South, which keeps the Mediterranean Sea high and prevents the rivers from spilling into the sea. During our worst flooding, our kitchen was almost one metre under (and we’re at a high point of the Etang) so it does get to about two metres deep in certain parts of the pond.’ Sarah
A natural 2000 zone, a corporation owns most of the land, and their shareholders use the pond as their own private hunting grounds. These lands are home to a vast variety of protected birds and animals. The walking tour only accesses a small portion of the pond, which is Capestang village property.
The walking tour is a great way to see the pond, very informative, especially for birdwatchers and botanists. We spotted a variety of animals but the stars were the Black Heron and a Praying Mantas.
So happy to finally explore the pond, next time I plan to return when it floods.