LETTERS FROM THE COUNTRY:
One of the principal resources of the mountains is water. It is rain which makes the grazing grow. Old settlements were situated by rivers and above them where water was available. The rivers were used to float down tree trunks and water power ground corn and cut wood. Nowadays waterfalls and rivers provide electrical power.
|At the beginning of the last century a local firm began to make concrete water troughs at a price many households could afford. But public fountains continued to be built and maintained. There are about half a dozen in each village and until fifty years ago they were essential for the poorer families. They are provided with movable iron bars to make washing large objects easier.|
This year we have had a summer such as occurs once or twice a century. Already in June, despite a normal winter for snow, on some upper pastures the farmers who had not built reservoirs were lacking water. The grass grew so little that the herds kept in the valley were lacking nourishent. The heat and the poorer quality food led to a fall in milk yields, while in the towns sales of ice-cream and soft cheeses soared. The milk lake caused by agricultural policies shrank like the artificial lakes behind the dams.
|There will be a lack of forage this coming winter. There is still grazing available in the mountains and more movement of cows than usual. Perhaps some of the neglected chalets difficult of access will receive a new lease of life.|
When storms come we have plenty of warning. First the mountains at the head of the valley disappear behind slatey clouds. Gusts of wind agitate the trees. Then lightening begins to flash in blinding streaks. In July we had the fiercest downpour in living memory. For twenty minutes the streets ran with water. Some cellars and a few buildings were flooded. The rain ended just before it reached catastrophic levels. Flooding is much more likely now so many streams have been canalized in concrete and gravel roads made impermeable. For houses the best defenses against flooding are old-fashioned high thresholds and cobbles outside set in sand and a garden without a paved terrace. Mountain rivers and streams are always dangerous, as sudden surges of water may occur at anytime due to natural forces or human activity.
A series of storms led to run-off from the fields covered in cow dung polluting the water supply of a neighbouring village. This summer relations between villages in this part of the valley have been soured over the question of water. Our village is particularly favoured with water and the other villages would like to share it. But there has been difficulty in agreeing on terms.
|I believe there has been a settlement here from at least Roman times because of the good quality of the water. The water in the public fountains is cold enough to cool champagne.|
The village is situated beneath a cliff where a river falls down in
cascades which formerly fed a flour mill and a sawmill. The flour mill
is now just a house and the sawmill works with electricity from the
driven by one of the waterfalls, while the most beautiful of them
tourists. But more than this, to the north of the village the gravel of
the river valley (another important resource) covers an alluvial lake
high quality water. Over the winter a pipeline was built to sell this
to the towns of the region, just as the river is dammed to provide
electrical power. The storms have given just enough flow to keep the
7th August 2003
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