Monday, 15 June 2015

Canal de Bourgogne

Weed-filled lock at Tonnerre showing windlass in place on top gate

The gates are opened and closed manually by turning a wheel

Moorings at the port of Tonnerre
John and Sarah's holiday in France this year was spent in the Yonne Department of northern Burgundy, a beautiful and delightfully peaceful part of rural France, well away from the popular tourist areas.

In the small town of Tonnerre, we came across the  Canal de Bourgogne (the Burgundy Canal).  This is a 240 km long waterway that links the River Yonne in the north to the River SaĆ“ne in the south and hence ultimately provides a link from the English Channel to the Mediterranean. Construction started in 1775 and it was completed in 1832, just in time to succumb to competition from the the railways!  It has 189 locks. 

There were a few pleasure boats moored at Tonnerre, but the canal didn't look well used and we didn't see a single boat pass through while we were there.  The lock was full of rather thick weed. The gates are opened and closed not by balance beams, but by turning hand-wheels.  The paddles had windlasses permanently in place, something that would be unlikely to survive the unwanted attention of vandals in England.

It made us contemplate a holiday on a canal boat on one of the French canals, which would make a change from our normal practice of renting a gite in a small village.

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