14 days on the Nivernais Canal

If you are ever going on the Nivernais, allow a month or more. There are lots of lovely places to enjoy and explore. Our 14 days were magical, and tiring! We were on a mission to meet firstly two friends, and then a grand-daughter, hence the speedy trip.


Migennes lock

Migennes lock

Talkin’ ’bout Migennes-eration – a good place to set off from. (Ho ho ho – Hope I get old before I die . . . )

On Yonne

On L’Yonne

To reach the Canal du Nivernais from the Canal de Bourgogne we had a short trip out on L’Yonne – a river – wide and flowing much gentler than it had been until quite recently.

First floating bollard lock, Bassou, Yonne

First floating bollard lock, Bassou, Yonne

The Yonne has some HUGE locks, sometimes with sloping sides and floating pontoons.  Not sure about them! (Billy totally unfazed, contemplating the end of the bit of string)

Bridge, Pont and lock de Raveuse

Bridge, Pont, Bill and lock de Raveuse

To navigate the locks we had Bill helping with ropes, Stu maintaining our position with the engine and Lesley out of sight with rope between teeth while taking this photo.

Neron, Whoops. lock blocked,

Neron, Whoops. lock blocked,

At Neron a holiday boat locked us in the lock, making a strange manoeuvre …… something most of us have done in the early days, and no doubt will inadvertently do again at some point in time.

heron in lock gate

heron in lock gate

From Neron to heron on the inside of a lock gate – novel way to fish.

Auxerre, Bill’s first view

Auxerre, Bill’s first view

Bill spies Auxerre and its heavyweight crouching churches. (Heavyweight crouching churches? . . . . )

Auxerre mooring 1a

Auxerre mooring number one

Auxerre – first mooring on wall, requiring ladder scramble ashore – fun in a long dress and with a bad back – not!

There are so so many old houses and churches. Lovely lovely meal out with Bill at restaurant behind the red and green sun shades; restaurant is called St Nicholas after the square and after the patron saint of mariners. (Thanks Bill – good to have you on board)

Onto our second mooring – right by a couple of bars, but feeling safe under the godly surveillance of three churches! Mind you if we had know the cost of staying there each night, which was NOT displayed at our mooring point, we would have remained on the wall.


Allez les bleus




Euro 2016 final; the locals prepare, but I am drinking the wrong colour beer – Kriek.  Either sad French or elated Portuguese fans kept us awake much of the night!






Auxerre town 7

Auxerre – a modern aspect


Leaving Auxerre

Time to leave after two nights with a top up of fuel and water, and a serious lightening of the bank account. Ah well . . . .

We were sort of off the river and into the Canal du Nivernais, although much of the ‘canal’ is delightfully the river. And despite the town’s historical links, Auxerre lock has the most modern surround I have seen.


Champs-sur-Yonne bridge and needle weir

Some points of interest along the way.


Upstream from Auxerre

Bailly; there’s a massive wine cave in them there hills! It’s full of creamant bubbly-luscious drinkable stuff.  Visited, did tour, tasted, bought some; saving it to savour.


Upstream from Bailly

The countryside opened up to reveal hills and pastures, forests and cattle.


Lavoir de Barzarnes

On our way down from Bailly we found a pretty little mooring by a bridge near Bazarnes and I was despatched to the village to find bread.  Before I found the boulangerie I saw the telltale roof of a lavoir down a little lane. It was one of the most beautiful I have seen, with a small river flowing in one end and out the other. Wish I had had some washing to do!

Mailly-la-Ville was planned as a three night stop, to take us through Bastille Day when (we thought) the locks would all be closed. The three pontoon moorings were just right for us and several other boats, with free water and electricity. The village had character, boulangerie, épicerie and a bar. Really nice stop over place!


dragonflies and water lily in L’Yonne


Mailly-la-Ville’s Bastille Eve Fireworks (both of them at once)

On 13th July the local children paraded with lanterns to their firework display on the bridge to Mailly-L’eglise.

Discovering that the locks were open on 14th July we decided to move on south, past the Roches du Saussois ……..

…. enjoying views of L’Yonne …….

…….. fascinated by the antiquity of the Chatel-Censoir lock house, and the modernity of the éclusier’s little office.

The views and nature were unendingly fascinating; hopefully these picture will paint the thousand words my brain cannot bring together.


Alongside at Lucy-sur-Yonne, after thunderstorm


Our next night was at another tranquil village mooring – Lucy-sur-Yonne. We were just a few yards away from the river and a lavoir – but I have restrained myself and not included this one.





Chateau de Faulin

We walked out between the wheat fields in the late afternoon sun to take a look at Chateau de Faulin – a fortified farmhouse. I long to know who they were fortified against. Were there marauding peasants? Was Bourgogne at war with another region of France? Someone who knows history will let me know, I hope. (I suspect it was the Blooming British pet)

The opposite bank at Lucy-sur-Yonne provided a gentle parade of animal life, including an occasionally noisy family of geese and a cat who did not become a snack.


First view of Coulange across L’Yonne



Next day we continued west a bit towards Coulanges, then gradually south again.

We had a ‘feeling foolish’ moment, approaching a closed point levée, looking around for an éclusier on bike or scooter to open it, with Stu gently braking mid channel. Ah, I see it now …. one of has to get off and operate it!  There’s a mini mooring and a set of buttons to press!  Push and press at Pousseaux.

And what is that beyond the bridge??

Old lock and farm buildings seem a natural part of their surroundings as we float on by.

Then, getting close to Clamecy at La Forest, a wake up to the crew as we took a 45 degree swerve to the left to go through a very narrow and awkward barrage flood gate! I don’t know how Stu does it; all I have to do is click the shutter! Narrow’s OK, it’s the little side currents they throw at you that keep you on your toes. That said, I’m awful glad we’re not any wider. . . . 

Clamecy lived up to its description as a ‘pretty town’ with many medieval buildings, streets and steps. It has a massive and interesting history linked to the timber industry, floating logs and rafts down to the Seine and Paris. We were lucky to get space in the port, and used it as a stepping off point for exploring the town and the market.

Two little details – the statue on Bethlehem bridge of a ‘floateur’ waiting for work with the logs and rafts, and a magnificent butterfly that spread its wings on the ground before me.

Clamecy also boasts two lavoirs – a renovated one, now used as an art gallery, and a very sad, tired one and full of weeds, where the roof has fallen in

Our next stop at Monceaux Le Compte was a few hours longer than expected!

Montceau aground

We woke up aground. Ooh La La to starboard

Several hours, conversations with éclusiers, and multi litres of water we were off. What had happened to us, and several other bats up and down the pound? It seems that three days of small mistakes in water management had resulted in too little left on the canal.

We continued through ‘drawbridges’ at Dirol and elsewhere, noticing lots of extra water flowing over the top of lock gates and into the locks!

Leaving Montceaux late we adjusted the plan and had a short day to Chitry Les Mines –  scarily hitting some rocks whilst mooring, but seemingly no damage. The photos show peaceful views out of the port, across the canal – and omit the three large boats full of youngsters on an activity holiday!  Despite the apparent threats of late night noise they were worn out by 1030 all became quiet.

We arrived hot and slightly bothered, so I went in search of foot cooling resources. I hardly dare mention that I discovered an ideal spot in a lavoir. The Yonne flowed by, depositing clean sand, and I lay down in the water to lower my core temp.

Oh yes, there is also a good cafe there – good prices and smiling service.

Next day was designed to be a short trip to Sardy where we would take a good rest before tackling the 16 locks to the top. We neared Sardy in temperatures of the high thirties, looking forward to stopping. Then, one of those serendipitous interventions, a lady éclusier mentioned that the 3 boat loads of kids were also going to Sardy and maybe we would prefer to moor above écluse 12?  We took her advice, steeling ourselves to the additional 5 locks, and what a good decision.

The magical mooring above écluse 12 is a barge’s wonder to behold! Truly.


Fully clothed, soaked and cooled – and happy



My first action once moored was to cool off in the water. Too hot to waste a moment I was in fully clothed again.

The area around the mooring abounded with creatures and plants – lots of butterflies and other nature to get close to.

So now we just had 11 locks and three tunnels to the top.


3 elusiers at ecluse 3

The final 11 locks in 2 kilometres were made easy by young, hard working, teams of éclusiers and stunning scenery.

The tranchée to the tunnels was very beautiful, if a little precarious – with rocks at the edges just below the waterline.

Three tunnels and three approaches for Le Capitaine to steer through, light/dark/light/dark/light/dark/light. Gimme an F . . . 

Baye mooring

And out onto the lake at Baye – wow!!!!  Another swimming opportunity.


Low bridge.

First challenge after Baye at PK 62 is a bridge, unnamed, and no wonder. It is apparently 2.7m high, which is interesting in a boat 2.85 high …… made it with inches to spare!

There’s a treble lock  closely followed by a double lock on the way down to Chattillion. Our éclusier on the first three also had lovely little chocolate fondant cakes for sale – €2 each.

We passed over a small aqueduct that took the river Aron below, and through Mingot lock towards Châtillon-en-Bazois.


Chatillon approach – Aye aye, what’s going on here? . . . .



I am sure Captain Stu will have something to say about the hairpin bend and bridge into Châtillon!  The map gives an indication of the necessary manoeuvre.





View from the wheelhouse

We moored up below the chateau, where we belong – and discovered that there was a ‘jazz festival’ at the port that very evening. This event was simply lovely small town France get together. We were made so welcome; tout la monde was served an aperitif of rosé wine with pamplemousse (grapefruit) and we could buy tickets for various sausages with chips.

The DBA recommended our next mooring – thank you; another gem.

Anizey is a basin above a lock, just after another bridge we should not fit thorough! This bridge is also labelled as 2.7 and we are 2.85 ……. (Bit tight this one, with a footpath off to starboard)

I liked the bridge, the mooring and the nature.

Butterflies and lizards to enjoy as I wandered round the sunlit, then twilight, basin.

Next day was the final dash to Cercy-la-Tour where we were due to meet two friends Jenny and Charlie from Tulsa Oklahoma. We got as far as Villard lock, 19, only to be stopped for lunch. Never mind – it was a very pleasant place to eat and relax – and take photos!

Cercy-La-Tour is a great place to welcome friends to the French canal system. The village, up a steep hill, is ancient and picturesque.


Cercy-la-Tour lock


The lock is one of the most colourful!

(Thank you Jenny for this, and several other, photos!)





The scenery after Cercy, down to Decizes, was open and full of colour (and weed)




and Jenny and I could relax on the front deck while Charlie was first Lieutenant to Stu.




She took some great photos along the way – here’s a few I love.



The mooring we chose in Decize was right next to supermarket, ideal for taking on food, drink, and gas!




We walked into town for a couple of drinks at a pleasant bar, getting a good view of the old Loire, bridge, and the city on the way.

The next day we left the Nivernais, spending a short time on the Loire before gong through two interesting locks, Ter and Bis, to join the canal latèral à la Loire – and the next chapter!



Going down the Yonne side of Canal de Bourgogne



Pouilley basin

Four days at Pouilley – alternately very hot, very wet, quite windy. Altogether pleasant R&R. So relaxed that I took almost no photos! We were moored up just a few boats from Manuka – Guy and Vicki, our Piper boat friends, which gave the four of us an excuse for an evening of beer, wine, and swapping barging yarns.

We walked into town along the canal path towards the tunnel, so in the shade of a lovely line of plane trees. The town is not as old as most of the places we have seen, but bustles with boulangeries, boucherie, bars, restaurants and a range of shops. We only managed to give the bars our business!

Our mate Pam was in France following England in Euro 2016 and had some days off at Dijon so she hopped on a bus to Pouilley and we got 24 hours together – a chance for me to catch up on Portsmouth Football Club news.

We also caught up on a little cleaning and engine maintenance, although I have to say it was SO hot most of the time that work was not an attractive thing to do, unless it involved a hose and lots of cold water (Yes!!!).


When we did set off it was immediately into a set of locks going down, down, down. We discovered a new way to describe our speed – 7eph – écluses per hour – though has to be said they were automatic,. We we had a great éclusier speeding us down, and those 7 were within 2 kilometers, so only 2kph then.

As so often, the views were huge and magnificent – a sense of space and adventure, and the close up detail always interesting.

To reach our overnight stop we had to go through the first of three Tranchées –severe narrowing of the canal. (It means ditch in English, but thankfully a bit wider than most British ditches – but not much . . . . ). along its kilometer length were masses of wild flowers, and occasional passing places.


Castle near Eguilly

We also passed a long abandoned castle near Éguilly, masked by trees.


Pont Royal

And then we reached Pont Royal – an intriguing small hamlet, miles form anywhere, consisting of a row of big houses along a quay side. Apparently it was an important port for wood and wheat in years gone by. Anxious moment coming round the corner and seeing all the moorings in the port full, followed by sense of relief discovering there were bollards on the straight just after – that’s us top left hand corner; lovely lovely spot.

Nature added to our enjoyment of the evening, with flighty swallows and a dramatic nightfall sky.

Next day we collected our baguette, ordered the previous day from the harbour master, and picked up some local rosé wine and alcoholic ginger beer too. We were off downstream again, aiming to get through 13 locks (ooh, that was a risky aim) and reach Maringy-en-Cahouët.


Doubling up in the locks

We were sharing the locks with another boat – actually the one that had unknowingly played hosts to the swallows the evening before; we just fitted in together.

The day’s scenery included some four footed excitement for me – relaxing cows and sheltering donkeys – one with his wooly, and overhot, friend.

The mooring was just outside Maringy and close to the lock; we went for a saunter round the village, in search of more water!


The village lies just below the canal, with the river Brionne running along at the bottom. Marigny –le-Cahouet has been there a long time. The old houses, barns and buildings plus the clapper bridge. There’s a boulangerie with small alimentation and, seemingly, a bar although not open for me to watch England’s football match.

The evening light was soft and enigmatic, soothing the village and the canal.


Captain of the ropes


Having stayed awake to hear the second bad UK news of the week I was a bit tired next day when we set off at 9 with the intent of covering 19 locks. Even Stu found it was nice to sit down while paying out the rope in the locks.





Locked in lunch – Lock 38Y

By mid-afternoon, making slow progress with one eclusier who had left us with our Kiwi lock-mates on Kotare for an hour and a half at lunch time, we were relieved to pull in at Pouillenay ‘port’.

It was a great slug day – I like slugs (though not when they eat my delphiniums and lupins). The spits and spats of rain along the way created nice damp surfaces, especially on the lock walls, and I got several good photos of my sluggy friends.

During our enforced long lunch break at the bottom of lock 38 I had time to go foraging for photos around an abandoned éclusier’s house. So much desolate spirit around these houses – leaves me wondering who planted that cherry tre, put up that TV aerial, painted the shutters blue? They had planned, and hopefully had, a happy family life there – and now it stands empty except for the lizards.


Every lock has a meadow surround of its own. Sometimes as the boat rises or falls and the eye becomes level with the top of the lock wall, a stand of wild flowers waves gently in the wind.



On the way from Maringy to Venarey Les Chaumes


The following day was a good day down the canal to Venarey. The countryside up here in the hills is continuously photographic – its hard to out the camera down sometimes!





Following on into the lock


We were sharing a lock with another boat again, a small cruiser who went into the front of the lock, leaving us two bollards at the back that were far better for control of Calliope.






Venarey Les Chaumes

He left us behind to moor up when we reached Venarey. When we arrived the wall was full, but we had been told that a boat would leave at 1pm, so sidling up to a beautiful genuine old barge called Constanta 1901 we asked if they were going that afternoon. Luckily they were, and their Swiss hospitality extended to allowing us to moor alongside them for an hour until they left.

Stu and I walked intotown for supplies. It was quite hot, and we both found ways to cool down, some would say showing our different personalities off perfectly!

It turned out to be a very friendly place to moor. Tim and Val on Doorengone invited us over for a glass of wine that evening. In the morning Marion form Moondance came for a chat before we left, while her super husband Charlie cycled into town to get bread for us all!  Merci beaucoup.

On Friday we moved on again, this time to Montbard. The éclusiers had had fun decorating the lock bollards last year, which added some amusement to the trip.

We had finished with the staircases of locks, so everything was gentler. Our éclusier was a great, the sun shone out amongst scudding clouds, and we had locks to ourselves!


Bollard in there somewhere!


The éclusier’s lunch break occurred before we arrived at Montbard, but he left us at a charming centuries old village called Coucelles-les-Montbard. He told us there were at least two bollards in the grass below the lock …. and so there were, once we found them!



We had time after lunch to walk up into the village – yet another place with so much atmosphere – you could feel the centuries of people living there through good times and bad.

The journey on through the countryside showed that agriculture is still working well in the Cote D’Or hills, with some harvesting going on.

And then into Montbard, where Val from Doorengone was waiting to help us tie up.  Friendly helpful folk are boaters (nearly) all. A relaxing day. Just time for a kip, a quick shop, and then out for a drink and supper. Despite the attractions of the old town we picked the Hotel de la Gare and had friendly service and a relaxed meal.

Should we stay or should we go? That was our anthem for 18 hours in Montbard.  We had plans for next day – the park, the museum, the castle. But the night was not so good. A toxic blend of trains and mosquitoes led to us deciding to move on next day.



I had picked out Cry-sur-Armançon, recommended by DBA members as quiet, peaceful, rural. We travelled downstream with our New Zealand friends from a few days before on Kotare, moving into very different country with high cliffs on one side. The village of Buffon, famous for its c18 forges, rose up directly in front of us, then we turned the bend and continued into the countryside.


Cry basin, after we left.

Cry seemed very promising, despite the warnings of the éclusier that the water was a bit shallow. We went in to the side of the basin as he recommended, and moored up with a Heath Robinson assembly of ropes, one bollard, and two spikes!

All seemed well; Stewart had a siesta and I had a cup of tea but the attractions of Cry were evident to others. An enthusiastic party of about 8 arrived, with camper van, two motor bikes, tents, beer and fishing rods. Unbelievably, to us polite Brits, they set up their angling actually amongst our mooring lines, and round the rest of the basin. Although they were nice enough folk, we realized that this was not to be our weekend rural idyll, so I cycled down to the next lock to see what options we had.

With a bit of a wait for a boat coming upstream we were able to go down two more locks and moor at Raviéres wharf.  The area seems famous for its stone, signalled by the huge lump but the mooring, carved with RAVIERES “La Pierre” (the rock).

Back to trains and mosquitoes, but in every other way a very pleasant place to be. Phew!

The villages of Raviéres and Nuits-sur-Armançon, separated from one another by canal and river, are similar, with intricate narrow twisting lanes and allies, ancient houses and buildings, and plenty of character.

They also have a small set of shops and restaurants, providing all the basics.


The bridge at Cry sure Armencon

We stayed for two nights at Raviéres; this allowed me time to cycle back to Cry and Perpigny to see the old bridges and lavoirs (sorry – the lavoir experience is about to begin in earnest).


Moving on from Cry to Arlot lock


The ride caused me to pass by our short lived mooring at Cry, only to find that the fishing party had moved on, and a broadbeam boat arrived. It also allowed time for some cleaning of deck, windows and hull, plus rest, reading and wine.







On Sunday we voyaged on towards our goal of Tonnerre by Wednesday. The canal was wonderfully empty – we passed one boat all day – a narrowboat from Weybridge where conincidentally we were moored exactly one year ago.

We passed ruins, flowers, animals and flowers. Stu was active at some locks, helping éclusiers and making 4-legged friends.

I was on lavoir lookout and able to scramble ashore at Chassingelles while in the lock to take photos of the lavoir 20 yards away.

(For those perplexed by the term ‘lavoir’, it is not a communal lavatory! It is a communal place to wash clothes, with a constant supply of fresh water running through and sloping washing stones all round the edge. I fell for them as a child living in a Maltsese fishing village where the women collected to wash their clothes in front of our house, while the men mended their nets. It was a truly communal activity.)

We stopped for lunch at Ancy then on to Lèzinnes for the night – giving me a chance to examine my nets . . . . . 

It was a tranquil mooring at Lezinnes; we walked into the village to find the Lavoir and maybe a beer. The first was locked and the second closed!

But we found a man with a key to the lavoir and so pleased we did. This is one of the best – providing the villagers not only with water and scrubbing stones, but fire places and big hanging rails.

The next day we had a short trip to Tanlay, passing by Ancy-le-Libre (lovely tower), Argentenay lock (lovely art), and several herons in flight.

Tanlay is home to a wonderful chateau with a gatehouse as big as many a mansion! (Blooming bonkers!) It’s a good place to stop, with plenty of mooring and a pizza restaurant/bar right alongside.

We did a quick tour of the village, mainly to take in the exterior of the chateau and, surprise surprise, another lavoir – this time built alongside the chateau wall, just to remind the villagers at their laundry who the boss really is!

Now off to Tonnerre to meet Stu’s old schoolmate Billy. I did get another lavoir photo along the way, but I think I will save it for a special lavoir bloggette. Along the way the lock keeper at one of the ecluses offered ‘salad’ for €1.50 and Chabis for €6.50; we bought one of each. The lettuce was genuine enough – I watched him dig it up. The Chablis is of dubious origin!


Welcome shade at Tonnerre

We arrived and tied up at Tonnerre in time to go for a walk up (yes, its up a bit of a gradient) into town, passing over the Armençon and two of its tributaries.

Tonnerre has a lavoir truly of note. It is the circular Fosse Dionne – a natural spring near the top of the hill that opens into a huge clear pool.



A washing trough was built around this, allowing laundry at the perimeter and drinking water to gush down from a central channel. There are four fireplaces built around the circumference. The whole thing is a wonderful combination of nature and man. I can recommend this as one of the most astonishingly beautiful places I have ever seen; words can’t describe it, the pictures can only give you a clue.

13639851_1763435707233586_1750635830_oStu and I had a great evening with our friends Nils and Torild on Passe Gomme, moored up a few yards away before a day preparing for Bill to arrive. This included a 4km walk to and from the supermarket – must take the bike next time, a wishy-washy deck wash in the hot sun, and a kilometre uphill cycle ride with Nils and Torild to a vineyard.

We had a good meal out in town with Bill at Le Petit Gourmand – not haute cuisine, but good value French cooking at €12 for Menu du Jour.


Leaving Tonnerre

Next day we were up and off down the canal by 9.30, fresh croissants in hand! There were some lavoir moments right next to locks, aided by Bill taking the front rope, before we reached Charrey for a lunch stop.

Charrey is a very pleasant rural mooring, with lots of flowers and butterflies in July, so popular with this amateur biologist!

We continued towards Germigny where we planned to stop for the night, passing the neatest horned éclusier team I have ever seen, cows desparate for shade, and a young heron who tried to escape is by taking off and landing a few yards ahead of the barge.

We almost missed our mooring, caught up in noticing yet another lair right on the canal bank; Captain had to go hard astern for a hundred yards! But well worth it for a peaceful night in the countryside.

Bill and I took a walk round the village, with its strange church (half the roof appears to be missing) and the welcome Armençon river and weir where I took an impromptu dip to cool off a bit.

A beer on the back deck before supper and Scrabble ended our day in the sun.


St Florentin lock and church


And then it is the final day on the Canal! We are off to Migennes. We passed St Florentin and its church on high, westward towards Briennon-sur-Armençon for the usual enforced one hour lunch break.

This was a total break for yours truly as I twisted my back holding Calliope away from another boat in a lock, and spent a few hours lying down listening to Bill learning to be crew!

He and Stu brought us easily and safely into Migennes for our last evening on the Canal du Bourgogne.





Head to head – Calliope and Wanderlust

We found ourselves moored up next to another super Piper barge Wanderlust, but sadly David and Beckie were away for the weekend.

We have spent 25 good days on this canal, through very varied weather and scenery, meeting old friends and new, and (one of us) becoming a lavoir lovie!

Now through the final lock and onto the river Yonne, heading South into the sun; I wonder what this river has in store for us.