In Dreux and Vernouillet, families and teenagers love the freshness of the rivers

“It’s free, except for the bus ticket to get from Dreux here, to Vernouillet. And so much better than the chlorinated water in a swimming pool that makes your eyes red ?!” exclaims Wissam, 15, before jumping into the white waters of Blaise, which meanders along the Chemin de Volhard, between Garnay and Vernouillet.

On this Tuesday, July 19, Wissam and his friends are enjoying it like never before. Alternately, they take their momentum from the river bank, after which they multiply the acrobatic figures over Blaise. At this point, right after extraction, the current is fresh and the bottom of the water is too deep for those who cannot swim.

“No problem. We all learned to swim with the school. We put on sneakers so as not to injure our feet with the rocks, and we wet our necks well before getting into the water. We are careful.”

Boubakar, 14 years old (supporter of swimming in Blaise)

The banks of the Avre, a place protected by the town hall of Dreux

This boy, as cheerful as he is ruthless, does not hesitate to bathe with one arm in plaster, wrapped in a plastic bag. A hiker observes the scene, amused, and says, “When they were teenagers, my kids got sucked in it, too.” Anas, 15, and Rood, 16, know this corner of nature as well as their city.

“As soon as it gets too hot, we come to spend the afternoon with our towel and our snack. People do not bother us. Everyone is quiet. At least, for swimming, it is one of the only places: Vernouillet’s swimming pool is closed due to of the works. There is Saint-Rémy-sur-Avre, but it is too far and too expensive for us “.

Anas and Rood (Two friends who like to swim in the river)

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Has settled in Dreux since 2020, and Karine and her buddy Melvin recently discovered the breadth of Blaise. “It’s really beautiful with all these big trees and this very clean and very fresh water. When not going on holiday, it’s an ideal place to cool off and forget about the city,” says Karine. Melvin is happy too.

“Swimming is allowed here. In my village where I lived, near Évreux, the mayor had banned it because a child had drowned in Eure.”

Melvin (An adult swimmer)

On the other side of town, less intimate than the Chemin de Volhard, lies the “Drouais” large beach at Pont-Hoddé, on the banks of the Avre.

“As a child, I already came to spend my holiday here, on Pont-Hoddé.”

Michael (63-year-old Drouais)

Pont Hoddé, located in the Dreux area on the border with Normandy, attracts dozens of families to the vast meadow every day. The city is aware of the importance, including the social, of this leisure place, and the city has installed benches and tables while respecting the ecological balance of this sensitive and classified space.

Working at the swimming pool Vernouillet: In two years we will be swimming

The depth of Avre does not exceed forty centimeters here. So the kids have a field day under the watchful eye of their parents. “It’s a river. You still have to be very careful,” says a mother who does not take her eyes off her ten-year-old boy.

Do we have the right to swim or just take a dip in the natural environment?
Unlike regulated leisure bases, which are subject to the guidance and supervision of local authorities, undeveloped natural bathing sites, such as Blaise or Avre, are freely accessible: French law recognizes a “principle of general freedom to bathe”.
However, mayors have the power to determine areas that are prohibited from swimming due to a particular hazard (strong currents, pollution, multiplication of accidents, etc.). These prohibitions must be the subject of an order and a display clearly visible to the public. When users bathe in the natural environment, they do so “at their own risk”.
Damien Stépho, mayor of Vernouillet, says: “You have to be very careful. Swimming in the river can often be dangerous. Parents need to keep an eye on their children carefully”.

Pascal Boursier
pascal.boursier@centrefrance.com

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