I'm camped at Les Ceriselles which sits beside the Canal du Nivernais. At a 174K it's not exactly a waterway of note for its length or its rise and fall. Work to build the canal began in 1784, however, five years later when the Bastille was stormed and the revolution began, the project was abandoned. Initially, a feeder waterway to move timber from the Morvan to the already established Flotteur's route along the Yonne to Paris, when building work resumed in the 1820s, the canal had evolved into a full navigation route for barges and other traffic. It became the most direct link between the Loire at Decize and the river Yonne at Auxerre.
From the campsite, there is direct access to the canal, and the old tow-path is mostly tarmac and well kept. The camping is about halfway between locks 74 and 75. Just after lock 75, the canal rejoins the Yonne at Bailly - râcle de Bailly - and the path continues beside the river. As I cycle, I'm joined by a grey heron. He was clearly a grumpy guy, as every time I stopped to get a photo, he took to the wing. He can't have been that bright either because he always flew off in the direction of my travel, so meeting again was inevitable. He just didn't quite get that!
In the silence and shade of the trees, I find myself thinking about a story I need to finish. There's a French connection, but I can't decide how it fits with the very English and very Yorkshire beginning. I pass a large property on my left, and a snippet of conversation pops into my head about yellow curtains. All I know, at this point, is that the conversation is between a mother and her child.
I continue through locks 76 and 77 with still only the heron and the silence as companions. At lock 78, the path becomes the narrow riverside road that runs through Vaux, and that snippet of conversation keeps crossing through my mind. By lock 79, the heron has finally given up on his fishing trip, and I'm joined by a pair of swans. These two are much friendlier, and they follow me for a short while.
By the time I reach lock 81, the last before Auxerre, the canal has traversed through 4 further râcles in less than 6Ks. A bizarre thought strikes me. All that chopping and changing from canal to river and back again may have given the Nivernais an identity crisis! As I take a long look at the city of Auxerre, I reassure the canal that it has done its job.
Lunch is a pain au chocolat, by the river with the boats and the cathedral for a view. I also finally decide how to finish that story and how to make the connection between Yorkshire and France.
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