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The River Cure

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Chastellux on River Cure Burgundy France

This river is so picturesque and varied, that you could plan a whole touring holiday around it. Châteaux, the medieval town of Vézelay, lakes, waterfalls and mineral springs are just some of the treasures en route. The countryside goes through forests, limestone cliffs and caves, and finally vineyards over the river’s 80 km course.

The source of the Cure is near Anost deep in the granite highlands of the Morvan Forest and it flows right through this Natural Park on a south east to north west axis. This is the famous lakes district of Burgundy. As well as the ‘big five’ lakes (Pannecière-Chaumard, Settons, St. Agnan, Chaumeçon, Crescent) there are smaller lakes dotted throughout the wooded landscape, each one being rich in fish and birdlife. Gouloux with its waterfall is a particularly pretty area to take a walk through the forest, alive in springtime with an abundance of wild flowers and ferns. On a sunny day, the rays of light bursting through the branches make you catch your breath.

There is canoe-kayaking along several stretches of the river such as at Dun-les-Places, and on the tributary river Chalaux which hosts, from time to time, the European championship kayaking competition. The Cure drops in, and out, of Lac-les-Settons where water sports of all description turn it into a tourist attraction during the summer months.

Then it travels on, close to St-Brisson where the Musée de la Résistance is based. Being right in the habitat, soaking up the atmosphere where the freedom fighters were in hiding, brings the museum to life. The villages around such as Montsauche-les-Settons and Dun-les-Places, suffered terribly during the Second World War,.

The river now flows in, and out, of Lac du Crescent near Quarre les Tombes, a reservoir completed in 1933, to supply hydro electricity.

Ahead, the fairytale castle of Chastellux-sur-Cure rises out of the forest. Oak, beech and chestnut trees thrive, along with large conifer plantations with pine trees and more recently, the lucrative Christmas trees. The Cure was part of the transport system in times gone by, taking the logs from the Morvan forests to Paris to keep the capital warm.

Chateau Bazoches Castle Burgundy France
Château de Bazoches

Now we’re in château country. The Château de Bazoches, was the home of military strategist Marechal Vauban. Going through the pretty village of Domecy-sur-Cure, which of course has its own château, the smell of wild garlic along the banks of the river is intoxicating! The river runs on to Pierre-Perthuis with its charming stone bridges spanning the river. The village is named after the rock which forms a natural arch 6 m high downstream on the right bank.

Here begins some of the most historically interesting stretches of the river. Before reaching Vézelay, down in the valley close to St-Père lie Les Fontaines-Salées, mineral springs dating back to Néolithique times and once a sacred settlement. They bubble with natural helium and were dedicated to Celtic water goddesses long before the medieval monks got their hands on the salt deposits and created a healthy business.

Vézelay and the Basilique Ste Marie-Madeleine have been a centre of pilgrimage since the middle ages and rate as two of the must-see places to visit in Burgundy.

Vezelay Burgundy France

The Cure is joined by the River Cousin at Sermizelles and begins the first of two giant meanders through the magnificent limestone gorge of St. Moré and Arcy-sur-Cure. This is ancient Paleolithic France – and one of the oldest places in the world where human habitation can be traced. There are caves deep into the escarpment. At Les Grottes d’Arcy it is possible to take a guided tour through a section of the caves showing paintings and hand-prints. At St- Moré you can wander in and out yourself – but this is only for the fit …. and intrepid. This is excellent walking country with far-reaching views from the top of the escarpment, and mysterious ancient sites to be discovered.

The Manoir de Chastenay once belonged to the Knights Templar and was a pilgrim refuge on the way to Santiago de Compostela. Mythology gets mingled with alchemy, Christianity and masonic ritual here, rivalling the Da Vinci Code.

At this point, the river passes by the old Cistercian Abbaye de Reigny, which is being restored and hosts a seasonal programme of arts and related events.

Finally the river goes through Vermenton, home of cruising boats preparing to set off down the Canal du Nivernais.

At Cravant the Cure joins the River Yonne. It is a medieval village surrounded by the vineyards and cherry orchards of Irancy with fortifications, timber framed houses and an attractive lavoir.