Drought: where did the Thames go?

Ashton Keynes (UK) (AFP) – The dry grass path runs along a small valley. Soon a dusty pool takes shape, sheltered by a curtain of trees, strewn with branches, without the slightest trace of moisture. However, it is the source of the Thames.

A now theoretical source: for miles downstream, the course of this emblematic UK river can at best be summed up in a few muddy puddles, a striking respite from the drought that is overwhelming much of the country.

“We haven’t found the Thames yet,” said Michael Sanders, a 62-year-old computer scientist who came with his wife to walk the “Thames Path,” a marked path that follows the river’s winding course from its source to its estuary. .

“It is completely dry. There are puddles, mud, but no water is flowing so far, we hope to find the Thames downstream, but so far it has disappeared”, testifies this holidaymaker, met by AFP in the village of Ashton Keynes, a few kilometers from the city. source.

It is in this picturesque region at the foot of the Cotswolds, not far from Wales, that the river rises from a spring of the water table before meandering some 350 kilometers towards the North Sea and watering the pass to the British capital.

But for those who would normally compare the English countryside to a golf course, the shock is severe this summer, after a winter and spring almost unprecedented since rainfall has been available.

“It looks like we’re walking through the African savannah, it’s so dry,” exclaims David Gibbons, a 60-year-old retiree who, with his wife and a few friends, is walking the reverse route of Michael in stages. Sanders, from the mouth to the source.

A few hundred meters from the target, he marvels at the wildlife on the way up the waterway, which from a strategic and industrial navigable artery in the London region is transformed upstream into a tourist attraction, between river pleasure and birdwatching. .

“Something has changed”

“But for the last two or three days we haven’t seen any animals because there is no water. She disappeared about 10 miles (16 km, ed. note) from here,” according to David Gibbons.

“We’ve never seen it so dry and empty,” adds Andrew Jack, a 47-year-old land official who lives about fifteen kilometers from Ashton Keynes, which is reached by narrow country roads dotted with stone houses.

Between the main street of the village and beautiful flowered buildings, the river bed, spanned by small footbridges, is streaked with cracks flown over by wasps, recalling images of African backwaters in the dry season.

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

Local authorities are increasingly calling for water conservation, and the company that supplies London has announced upcoming usage restrictions that will be added to those already in place in parts of the south of the country.

But David Gibbons refuses to panic. “I’ve lived in England all my life, we’ve had droughts before,” he says. “I think it will be green again in the autumn. »

Andrew Jack, who has come with his family to walk along the bed of the stream, where a lonely graduated scale has nothing left to measure, admits he is more pessimistic: “There are many Englishmen who think well, let’s take advantage of time+ (…), but it means that something has changed, and for the worse”.

“Personally, I am concerned to see the situation getting worse. Britain will have to adapt to a warmer climate with more and more summers like this,” he fears.


Also on GoodPlanet Mag’:

Drought: in New Aquitaine, charred sunflowers and worried farmers

More tap water, dry crops: the government caught in a historic drought

Drought: Borne activates the interministerial crisis unit in light of a “historic situation”

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