8 Apr 2011

Springs and Caves / La Douze and Les Grottes

About two kilometres from Bize-Minervois, on the road to Agel, is a warm spring at the base of rocky hills, called La Douze, or sometimes just La Source (the spring). 

It’s only metres off the edge of the road, next to rows of vines. It doesn’t run all year – roughly from October/November through to about August, when it appears to exhaust all the underground water until the rains come again and fill up whatever underground storage system there is. 
Not only is it stunningly beautiful, it’s fascinating because the water is warm. Well, tepid to warm – quite a few degrees warmer than the Cesse, which because of ITS mysterious underground meanderings, is very cold all year around. 
La Douze runs several hundred metres along the base of the rocky hill, in channels that over the years have been reinforced. It then runs under the road and finally joins up to the River Cesse. Because the hills are obviously still saturated from all the rain, it’s putting out lots of at the moment.

Nic and I went for a walk there the other day, and chose the difficult - i.e. overgrown and very prickly side - to trace its length back to where it gushes out of the rocks. The going got quite tough and we were all but on our knees. Nic jokingly said we might need to de-tick ourselves when we came through at the other end. It wasn’t a joke – while I missed out on any, she managed to pick up five that were on the leg of her pants – luckily they hadn’t yet managed to latch on to any flesh! Yuck …. ghastly things. I would have taken a photo of the little buggers if she hadn’t been a little [read ‘quite’] frantic trying to get them off. She had the job of then going back home and de-ticking the dog.

The waterweed and the algae that grow on the bottom make for such amazingly bright colours. 

These photos are exactly as I took them – it really looks like an artificial environment, but it’s all real. There are frogs here, but no fish because it’s bone dry for part of the year. 

Between the course of La Douze and the base of the limestone rocks are ancient caves – les Grottes de Bize or sometimes called La Grande Grotte de Tournal a Bize, named after Paul Tournal of Narbonne who found the first human bones in the caves. 

They were at one time occupied by Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon – items that have been found in the cave have been dated at more than 30,000 years.

An informative article (already translated into English) can be found on the Bize-Minervois Maire’s own website - here.

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