But where did the Thames go?

Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2022 at 1:59 pm

The dry grass path runs along a small valley. And soon a dusty basin is formed, protected by a canopy of trees, strewn with twigs, without the slightest trace of moisture. However, it is the source of the Thames.

My source now: for kilometers downstream, the course of this river emblematic of the United Kingdom can be summed up at best in a few muddy puddles, a staggering shortcut from the drought inundating much of the country.

“We haven’t found the Thames yet,” says Michael Sanders, a 62-year-old computer scientist who came with his wife to survey the Thames Path, a specific path that follows the course of a meandering river. source to estuary.

“It’s quite dry. There are puddles and mud, but no water flows yet, and we hope to find the Thames downstream, but it’s gone so far”, testifies to this vacationer, interviewed by AFP in the village of Ashton Keynes , For example, but not limited. kilometers from the source.

In this picturesque area at the foot of the Cotswold Hills, not far from Wales, the river rises from an outcrop in the water table, before meandering for about 350 kilometers towards the North Sea, watering the corridor of the British capital.

But for those who normally liken the English countryside to a golf course, the shock is heavy this summer, after a winter and spring almost unprecedented since rainfall records are available.

“It looks like we’re going through the African savannah, it’s very dry,” said David Gibbons, a 60-year-old retiree walking with his wife and two friends down the staged opposite track of Michael. Sanders, from mouth to source.

A few hundred yards from the target, he revels in the wildlife he encounters as he makes his way over the waterway that transforms, from a strategic and navigable industrial artery of the London area, into a tourist attraction, between the pleasure of river and birdwatching. .

– “Nothing has changed” –

“But for the past two or three days, we haven’t seen any animals due to the lack of water. They disappeared about 10 miles (16 km, editor’s note) from here,” according to David Gibbon.

“We’ve never seen it so dry and empty,” adds Andrew Jack, a 47-year-old provincial officer who lives about fifteen kilometers from Ashton Keynes, which can be reached via narrow country roads dotted with broken-down stone houses.

Between the main street of the village and the beautiful flowering buildings, the river bed, spanned by small footbridges, is riddled with cracks over which hornets fly, suggesting images of the African backwaters in the dry season.

No respite in sight anytime soon: The National Weather Service issued an orange heat alert for southern England and eastern Wales on Tuesday between Thursday and Sunday, with temperatures hitting 35 to 36 degrees Celsius.

Local authorities are ramping up calls to save water, and the company that supplies London has announced upcoming restrictions on consumption, which will be added to those already in place in part of the south of the country.

But David Gibbons refuses to panic. “I’ve lived in England all my life, we’ve had dehydration before,” he said. “I think it will be green again by fall.”

Andrew Jack, who came with his family to walk along a riverbed where there was no single scale left to measure, admits that he is more pessimistic: “There are many Englishmen who think + great, let’s take the time + (…) but it means that something What has changed, and for the worse.”

On a personal level, he fears that the situation will get worse. The UK will have to adapt to a warmer climate, with more and more summers like this.

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