The towns of Saint Malo and Dinard are separated by the mouth of the Rance river. A river that shapes the lives of those that live along it. A river that begins as an enormous tidal estuary and flows all the way into the region’s capital as a calm pleasant canal. One of its crossings piqued my interest when I went to see my boyfriend as he was fishing beneath it – the Saint Hubert Bridge.
This 66-year-old suspension bridge is actually overshadowed by a larger, more modern bridge. It runs parallel and carries the traffic along the Route Nationale 176. But this section of the river bends sharply, meaning that you won’t be disturbed by the traffic even a short distance away by the old bridge. This charming crossing was originally built in 1928 and was much needed by the local people. Before the completion of the bridge the only other way of crossing the river this far north was to take a ferry across from Saint Servan; 16km away.
Named after the port that sits beneath it. An ancient fishing port below the town of Ville-és-Nonais. In the past, many of the villagers would gather bait from the river and sell it to fisherman at the Sunday market. Today, it continues to be frequented by fishermen. Including my boyfriend who is after conger eel. It is a beautiful part of the Rance and very quiet and picturesque. Sitting at a picnic bench by the port is a beautiful spot to watch the sun go down on a summers evening.
Destruction During WWII
During WWII the bridge was destroyed by the allies to prevent the Germans from delivering supplies to the Norman front. Only the two pillars remained. Staring at each other. A reminder of the missing bridge for 13 years until a replacement could be built. The rest of the bridge fell into the river below and was never retrieved.
In fact. The debris of the original bridge sitting at the riverbed is one of the reasons fishermen come here looking for conger eels. These eels lie at the bottom of the river and the old bridge is their playground. You’ve heard of eels living in shipwrecks, but these eels live in WWII rubble. I’m sure many a fisherman has snapped a line after being caught on some of this debris.
Guardian of Saint Hubert
If you decide to visit this unique and unknown place in Brittany I must warn you. It is guarded by an unlikely protector. A very grumpy goat! This goat is a breed native to Brittany known as a chévre des fossés. This literally translates to goat of the ditches. You wont find this particular goat in a ditch but rather up on the rocky banks of the Rance guarding the hiking path that leads down to the port. If you’re visiting, like I did, you might have to stand your ground against a goat that wants to charge. Fear not, I simply charged first and that did the trick.
These goats were once owned by the poorest families in the region and provided sustenance for them with milk, meat, leather and workforce. Yes, these goats are so named because they were used for clearing banks and ditches. They were also known as “cows of the poor”. They were only rediscovered in 2005 and there is virtually no record of them in the 19th and 20th centuries. There is now a concerted effort in Brittany to promote the breed through cheese production.
So although, the goat of Saint Hubert may be unfriendly he is part and parcel of the history of this location. A bridge resurrected and a breed rediscovered. Once they were both vital to the people of the area and have now become almost obsolete. Replaced by progress. But this is not a sad place. It is a small but important peek into history and a reminder to pause, reflect and remember.
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A travel and lifestyle blog. By me, Lydia. I'm based in Brittany, France and I am here to share an honest and informative account of my life here.