Niort is also on the outskirts of the second largest wetland area in France, the Marais Poitevin. The marsh area boasts incredible flora and fauna and rowers launching from Niort are just a few strokes away from being completely surrounded by nature.

Recently, rowers began to notice a problem in their sanctuary – garbage. They decided it was time to make a change. A few years ago, some volunteers started a challenge. They began picking up litter before and after their rowing sessions. It was mostly plastic bags and bottles.

“The amount collected was not huge, but enough to spoil the pleasure to row in such a beautiful place,” says Club President Thomas Bleuse.

Niort Rowing Club, France. Rubbish collection © FISA

Motivated to do more, the club joined forces with a local initiative called Niort en Transition.

“It is a collective of citizens focused on providing local solutions to reduce impact on climate change,” says Bleuse. Together, the rowing club and members of Niort en Transition gathered to spend an afternoon collecting garbage from the banks of the river.

“Since rowing shells are not the best boats to clean a tree-bordered river, Niort city services lent us canoes to accomplish this challenge,” Bleuse says.

The group of more than 30 volunteers contained experienced rowers and those who had never before been in a boat. Working together, they paired experienced rowers and novices and they all set out to clean up the waterway. The result was shocking to them. They found everything from bikes and road signs to metal objects and plastics. The group even found a stroller, which they took to a second-hand shop.

‘This operation was a success in terms of organisation and proves to us that involving non-rowers in the conservation of our playground is a good thing: cooperation between environmental associations and rowing clubs can be a way to keep our waters cleaner,” Bleuse says.

The club will now try to repeat this clean-up effort on a yearly basis and they encourage others to cooperate with associations to keep waterways clean.

For more information about the environment and rowing, click here.