When you’re cycling along the coastline in Charente Maritime you will almost certainly see some Carrelets. These unusual wooden structures are part of the local scenery now and are visible in seaside towns as well as on the coast by the sea or in the estuary.
- For centuries, dip net fishing used to be the reserve of the poorest people due to its random nature. You had to be really desperate to give it a go and you only needed a net, a couple of acacia branches and a length of rope to do it.
- It was with the development of the concept of leisure time and activities at the start of the 20th century that the carrelet structures that we see today began to be built.
- Initially they were constructed by the wealthy to use with their friends as a place to meet up and contemplate the seascape whilst occasionally pulling up the net to see if they had caught anything.
- It was this social aspect that kept the carrelets much in use until the 50s. They then fell somewhat out of fashion in the following decades due to the rise in use of cars and TV.
- Their appreciation is on the rise again as people have taken a renewed interest in protecting an important part of their local heritage following some severe storms that destroyed many carrelets (notably that of 1999).
- What can you catch? You can land any catch that is in the net apart from elvers (baby glass eels).
- How to visit a carrelet: You can go onto a carrelet at the Maison de la Baie du Marais Poitevin. There’s one that the owner will show you around on Pontaillac beach near Royan. The last option is to get to know the owner of one and see if you get invited!
If you have any other questions about cycling in Charente Maritime please ask me!