As we leave Corbigny, we pass through a curiously thin bridge, which turns out to be a tiny aqueduct, only a foot wide. It’s dry but at one time obviously carried water from one side of the steep banks to the other, one field to another. There’s some history here if only we could find it: why construct this stone edifice for a tiny stream of water? Who paid for it?
At Chitry les Mines, a super little port with a shop that sells bread (at last) and spare impellers, we meet the infamous Ted Johnson. He’s now retired from the family business, which once repaired boats and now supplies boat parts with son John at the helm. As he tells us stories we discover we have many acquaintances in common all over the world and it’s hard to drag ourselves away. It’s a small world, boating.
Just round the corner, there’s a series of lifting bridges – get off and operate with a button – but one is out of order and has to be opened manually, turning a large wheel with very low gearing. It takes forever to get through, since one must stop afterwards and lower it again the same way.
We pass the Le Boat hire-boat base at Tannay, with its boat lift. But we press on to Clamecy, the capital of the Nievre region, and wait for a short while at the swing bridge before the lock.
Here the canal and the River Yonne rejoin and the port is formed where the canal is blocked from its former route running through the town. The recent storm has brought a large tree down on top of the old wash house, but it has spared its part-conversion art gallery.
We moor just beyond the river bridge for a quick (and highly successful) supermarket dash. On the bridge itself stands a memorial to Jean Rouvet, responsible for the first ‘rafts’ of Morvan timber to be floated down the Yonne to Paris, a hugely important industry that continued for four centuries. Remnants and reminders of the logging trade can be seen all along the Clamecy banks. At the other side of the bridge stands the rather ugly Church of Béthleem. The Count of Nevers promised his friend, the Bishop of Bethlehem, that if ever Bethlehem should fall to the Saracens then he would welcome him in Clamecy. In 1188, that’s exactly what happened and the church is the result.
We stop for the night at Chatel-Censoir, a delightful basin with paying town moorings, but we choose to hug the town-side bank just by the lock using our own mooring spikes. The town is well worth exploring for its collection of important and vernacular buildings. The road and railway are right by the canal, the church bell rings out from high on the hill. But as the sun sets, you can hear a pin drop. Utterly peaceful.
We turn right just under the railway bridge along the embranchment de Vermenton. Here’s our first uphill lock for some time but only 0.8m and then another deeper one past Accolay before we reach the basin, with the River Cure flowing through it, at Vermenton. We think we’ve reached our destination for the winter.