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!



Published by lesley-jane

Wife of Stewart, mother of 3, Granny of 6 (yes, I am happy to define myself by my family; I value them more than anything), and living abroad Calliope, our replica Dutch Barge, currently cruising the inland waterways of France, Belgium and The Netherlands. Retired from a couple of enjoyable careers, and now being closer to the real, outdoor me. Love water, fascinated by animals, enjoy music, support Pompey and try to find fun in all parts of my life.

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