The Loire river
Discover the greenway along the the Loire levee
The Loire river, often called the "last wild river in Europe" has a characteristic landscape and a rich natural environment. History has shaped the banks and shores of the river, whose capricious nature has always had to be tamed in order to protect people and preserve farmland, promoting the development of vegetable and horticultural crops.
Loire history and stories
The Loire river was in the past a major line of communication where goods and ideas were exchanged for millennia. Until the twentieth century, trade and fishing on the Loire flourished - freight was limestone, hemp, spices, and plants brought by sailors from around the world
Today almost alltrade has ceased. There are still a handful of commercial fishermen but most fish are caught by angling enthusiasts nowadays. The river hosts pleasure boats rather than trade ships - although it may still be just as busy!
The "last wild river" with its characteristic landscape.
The Loire, is a landscape of sand bars, typical and oxbow lakes created as the river bed wanders around its valley. Mudflats, old quarries, former tow-paths, narrow feeder waterways disconnected from the river when it not in spate.
There are, besides, the quays and wharves which give the Loire its human heritage.
The richness of the flora and fauna
The heron is a denizen of the Loire along with terns, cormorants and a host of other species.
Many migratory fish (salmon, lamprey, eels, catfish, perch, pike) swim up the Loire to breed, while the banks are covered with wild flowers and native plant species.
Until quite recent times the Loire Valley was regularly submerged by floods. The farmers grew both wheat and vines on parcels of land of only a few hectares.
In the clay zone they planted willow. In the sandy area they grew asparagus. Hemp and tobacco were also cultivated
The Divatte levee
The Divatte levee is a protective barrier built in 1856. It runs from Saint Sebastian to Chapelle Basse Mer along nearly 16 kilometres, protecting the land from the devastating floods of the river, allowing practicable use of the fertile land of the valley.
Flooding once caused massive damage to homes, crops and roads. As the need for new land arose as the population increased, a dam was built in 1848. Its construction was completed in 1856.
It bears the name of "The Divatte" river which forms the border between the departments of Loire Atlantique and Maine-et-Loire. The road along its length was added in 1868, before which it was not possible to move along its length..
In 1856, on the day of the completion of the dam, an exceptionally large flood broke through the levee at Chapelle Basse Mer. This relatively minor breach was much less important than the extreme flood of 1910 called the "flood of the century" which broke the levee again much more seriously. Protection against flooding remains an issue to this day and regular monitoring and reinforcement work is always in progress.
You may often see markers on public or private buildings used to read the water level. They are part of the Loire heritage - a particularly good example is to be found on the Chapelle Saint Simon at Chapelle Basse Mer.
As the seasons pass, the landscape varies, shaped by agriculture: livestock, crops and vegetables. Plateaus, hills and valleys offering contrasting and colourful landscapes invite you to stroll through the countryside discover local produce and to meet the producers.
Vegetable crops are one of the specialities of our region with the production of spring vegetables being particularly prized.
The grand Nantes tradition of vegetable growing dates back more than a century. The fertile bed of the Loire, rich in alluvium, is particularly well suited for growing spring vegetables which enjoy a light soil.
As we are also close to the Atlantic Ocean, our farms enjoy a mild climate, extremely favourable to farm gardening.
The main feature Nantes farming our wonderful spring vegetables and the originality of their production. The quality of vegetables owes much to the sand of the Loire.
Today vegetable farm gardening centres around the production of:
Mâche (also called lamb's lettuce, a kind of water cress). The Nantes region provides 85% of the French production and 50% of the European market of this salad variety. Production began in the Nantes region in the 1960s and 70s and took off dramatically in 1985-86 with the arrival of the fashion for bagged salad leaves.
Leek growing is very important and lasts almost all year round, from spring leeks to late winter leeks.
Radishes, grown throughout February to May are mainly sold in France,
Above-soil cultures such as cucumbers and tomatoes are grown under glass greenhouses which provide integrated biological protection.
Spring carrots whose culture was invented in 1840 in Nantes, have sadly virtually disappeared from the Nantes region. It was the main crop for of 70-80 years but was beaten out of business by the more successful carrot growing enterprises of the Landes region.
Lily of the valley is grown here to - the region produces 85% of national production and France is the world's largest producer. Picking usually takes place over a short period and requires a very large temporary labour force.
In St Julien de Concelles and La Chapelle Basse Mer, horticultural production is centered around the lily, the iris and gladioli.