Discover the squares around Royan

In the setting sun, their vaguely crooked silhouette stands out against the horizon of the sea. Two, three, four rows of stilts surmounted by a footbridge join a small building extended by a quadrangular net stretched into the void. These squares constitute a typical element of the Charente postcard. There Charente Maritime counts nearly 400 scattered, sometimes on the side of cliffs, over the extent of its coastline. 

Did you know?

The squares take their name from these braided nylon layers that are immersed using a winch to dredge shrimp or mullet a few tens of meters from the coast, where the waters are lowest.


Within the perimeter of royannais country, they are visible, in clusters or isolated on the bank:

  • in Meschers-sur-Gironde: on the port, from Vergnes beach, to the north and south of the Cadet conche, along the Corniche;
  • on the tip of Suzac, in Saint-Georges-de-Didonne;
  • in Vaux-sur-Mer, on the conche de Gilet, cliff north of Pontaillac;
  • along the ledges of Terre-Nègre and Perrières, at the Pont du Diable opposite the Cordouan lighthouse, at the conche du Concié or at the Auture well in Saint-Palais-sur-Mer;
  • and in Royan itself: at the tip of Chay, on the rocks of Pigeonnier or Pontaillac.

The Squares: the fisherman's dream

Le plaice refers indifferently to the "pontoons", their huts and their nets which come and go. But it also refers to a fishing method centuries old. Simple, long free, plaice fishing remains less dangerous than fishing on the high seas. It boils down, moreover, to the use of rudimentary equipment, accessible to everyone. All you need is a square of net held in place by two hoops (the plaice itself), all completed with a rope and a wooden pole as a support. 

At the turn of the XNUMXth century, sea ​​bathing fashion, still in its infancy, gives a second life to plaice. It thus modifies the codes. A wealthier audience equates the genre with a leisure activity. Its exercise tends to become sedentary in fixed positions. Notables finance the installation while retaining the property for their holidays in Charente-Maritime. In Royan, around 1900, the first unsheltered pontoons appeared on the banks of Pontaillac. They serve as a backdrop for the postcards produced on site. Other photographs, taken at the same time, show that in the heart of the resort, temporary masts lined up, each spring, on the Foncillon quay (today the Foncillon facade in front of the Palais des Congrès). Twenty years later, wooden works still crop out on the edge of conches of Pontaillac and Pigeonnier.

fashion in the 50s

In the decades that followed, more elaborate squares began to settle in the panorama of the coast of beauty. They are flanked by temporary huts, close to the structures found today where the rising tide approaches the rock ledges and "holes" of the high limestone cliffs, Meschers-sur-gironde notably. This direct contact with the ocean makes it possible to shorten the length of the "booms" which lead, from the coast, to the "wooden shelters" from which the fishermen cast their nets.


The phenomenon took on a whole new dimension after the Second World War, especially in the 1950s. Locations and self-construction projects then multiplied around Royan. Most of the permanent installations, inscribed in the current landscape, date back to this period. Indeed, paid holidays are getting longer (3rd week), the standard of living is increasing and holidays by the sea are becoming more democratic. The squares, mounted on acacia trunks or poles recovered from EDF, finally become small second homes where fishing is practiced for pleasure.

Many of these pontoons did not withstand the 1999 storm and had to be rebuilt.

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