All along the Atlantic coast of the Charente Martime in France you come across these “sheds on stilts” with square nets hanging off them. These are the carrelets locals use to catch anything that happens to pass by. Their distinctive spidery appearance is due to the timber poles having to be tall enough to account for the highest spring tides and any other sea conditions that may occur.
The current design dates back to just after WWI, prior to this round smaller nets were used. Over the years a large number of them had to be reconstructed due to storms taking their toll on them. There was a period when the carrelets were considered an eyesore; in the way of people’s enjoyment of “unspoilt” nature, however, this tide of opinion has turned and the surviving carrelets are now valued as part of the areas heritage.
As ever in France, there is a lot of red tape around these structures. Firstly, the number and location of these are tightly controlled; secondly, you don’t actually own the carrelet, instead you rent it from the state for an annual fee and any reconstruction is at your cost. There are a lot of hoops to jump through if you want to build a new carrelet in place of a previously demolished structure, which again, you will not own, but the cost of building is yours to bear! There are regulations with regards to size, shape, materials to be used and even colour.
We found these wonderful structures on our drive along the coast north from Royan to the La Coubre lighthouse and I was lucky enough that we had a wonderful sunset that evening.