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Canal latéral à la Loire
On the western flank of Burgundy, the river Loire weaves in and out of the region. This canal tracks the river, taking traffic from the Loire into the Paris basin. It links into the Canal du Centre, Canal du Nivernais, Canal de Roanne à Digoin and Canal de Briare.
Heading from the Puisaye northwards, the Canal de Briare was the first canal to be built under the reign of Henry IV, part of an ambitious project to link the North Sea, Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. The commercial success of the canal encouraged the monarch to continue expansion southwards forming the Canal latéral à la Loire.
The seven locks at Rogny on the north west tip of Burgundy in the Puisaye are now dry but in their day, they were an engineering first. Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluses was designed by Hugues Cosnier in 1605. These ‘steps of water’ form an imposing pyramid structure which allowed one small boat at a time to pass through. Superseded in 1880 by six more practical locks for larger boats, the original structure is being restored as a monument.
The Canal Latéral à la Loire continues southwards
on the left of the river Loire.
The medieval town of Decize rises up from the Loire on a rocky spur. Moats, towers and the remains of battlements show it to have been of major strategic importance centuries ago. The gateway, the Marquis d’Ancre is thought to date back to 1194; the fortifications are 16thC.
On entering the town, running parallel to the river, you will find the Promenade des Halles, a 985m walkway edged with magnificent lime and plane trees planted in 1770. There are several churches worth investigation plus the cloisters and chapel of the Couvent des Minimes. History lovers will be interested too in the murals in the tiny church at Verneuil, just to the west of Decize dating back to the 15thC.
Decize comes to life on the water in the summer. Here the river Aron joins the Loire, and the Canal du Nivernais and the Canal Latéral à la Loire converge. Pleasure boats of all kinds from barges to kayaks create a good atmosphere. Decize is surrounded by lovely landscapes where there is plenty of scope for keen fishermen, walkers and cyclists, bird watchers and nature lovers.
Digoin, known as the ‘town of water’ is a boater’s haven. With a marina for 100 craft, here the Canal du Centre, Canal Latéral à Loire and Canal Roanne à Digoin converge. Probably the strongest visual image is that of the Pont-Canal, resembling a viaduct only this is a ‘viacanal’ which crosses the Loire and joins the Canal du Centre with the Canal Latéral at a great height. Watch all the activity from the Observaloire centre on the bank or go on one of the river trips on offer from the Port de Plaisance.
Apart from water activities, cycling enthusiasts have the Voie Verte running from Cronat to Digoin, on to Paray-le-Monial and to Santenay. In this area there is also a tradition of pottery, particularly faïence. But the prosperity of this surprisingly large town lies in the steel industry up the road at Gueugnon making this a lively and well served trading area.
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