The Saillant Marsh is a salt marsh located in the municipality of L'Epine on the island of Noirmoutier. The marsh is a locality. The 160 marshes found on the island were named many years ago in the same way that urban areas are named. I started restoring my marsh in October 2021, but it had previously been in use up to 1960.
First of all, it was necessary to mark out each path with stakes and ropes in order to find the water circuit. Then each path was rebuilt using a shovel and a lot of dedication. Several hundred metres were shaped manually to form the structure of the marsh. Once the skeleton was completed, the priority was water circulation. The aim was to circulate the water at the lowest possible level in order to maximise evaporation capacity. This was a painstaking job. The bottom of each basin was shaped so that the water would flow by gravity. The principle was to start at the highest point of the marsh and finish in the salt ponds. Each of the marsh's basins is therefore lower than the previous one.
In the Middle Ages, Benedictine monks converted the marshes to gather salt. Called "White Gold", the monks used it as a preservative. Today, salt is used for cooking or adding to food on our plates.
The size of a salt marsh is generally measured by the number of ponds it has. Mine has 20. Other marshes on the island can be as large as 72 ponds, that is, the size of a football stadium. They are fed by reservoirs, which are large bodies of water that draw their water from the sea and are located a long way from the circuit that I described to you earlier.
Marshes are made up entirely of clay. Plants that can withstand harsh conditions (wind, heat and salt), such as glasswort and marsh flowers, are found here, as well as a well-developed variety of wildlife. The avocet, for example, is an important bird species on the island of Noirmoutier because of its abundance in the salt marshes. These funny birds hunt in the marshes and nest on the paths. They protect their young in groups and try to lure me away from their nest by running very fast in the opposite direction. I am used to working with them around and take care not to disturb them. This entire ecosystem is registered as a Natura 2000 area. This is a charter comprising a series of economic and social benefits based on sustained support for the ecosystem and designed to protect the biodiversity of the environment.
No part of the production is lost from the marsh. The first "tirures" (first harvest draws) of salt greyed by the clay are thrown back into the water or kept for the island's fishermen to use in their "bait boxes".
A marsh's production is subject to the whims of the moon and tidal fluctuations, which affect the water levels in the ponds. Heat also plays an important role: the higher the temperature, the more evaporation occurs and the more salt is generated.
For the time being, I work alone on my marsh, supported during the production peaks (from mid-June to mid-September) by my family, my partner and my friends. I am hoping to further develop my marsh so that I can start hiring students every summer. In this way, I hope to be able to pass on my love of salt farming to younger people, in the same way that it was passed on to me.