No.27A/B -The Classic Nivernais, Natural World
Passing through scenic and sparsely populated country on the western edge of the Morvan regional park, the Canal du Nivernais is arguably the prettiest of the many canal cruise routes in central and eastern France. The Canal provides a link between the Loire Valley to the south and the Paris basin to the north, and its mix of river and canal sections make it an infinitely varying and interesting waterways journey.
3 Full days of Cruising - 3 more days of relaxed exploration of the natural world around us!
For this 8-day Cruise and Tour package will be joined by France-based nature guide Jason Mitchell, supported by a local specialist birdwatch leader.
Burgundy is a paradise for the nature lover. Its jewel in the crown, the Morvan Forest, is a national park covering nearly a quarter of a million hectares. This is a granite outcrop in the middle of a mainly limestone region. There are deep valleys and faults crossed by rapids, peaks covered with forest and mountainsides dotted with bogs and broom-covered heaths. The rivers Yonne, Cousin and Cure weave their way through the region forming picturesque valleys with abundant wildlife and spectacular viewpoints, and these rivers have numerous tributaries with waterfalls, lakes and reservoirs.
Closer to the lovely city of Auxerre, the countryside is that classic mix so typical of rural France, forested slopes, working farms, hillside vineyards and sleepy villages, all decorated with delightful summer flower displays.
Over 150 species of birds have been sighted in the Morvan alone, and wild boar, deer, badgers, polecats and bats all have their home here. The waterways and lakes provide habitat for lots of fish including carp, perch, pike and trout - accompanied of course by the predatory bird population including herons and kingfishers which should be regular sightings as we navigate the canal. And in high summer butterflies abound.
PLEASE NOTE: Price is per person and based on two people sharing a twin/double room. Single room supplements and upgrades are not included.
Outward Travel by executive coach departing Folkestone in the morning to arrive in Vermenton by 18:30, with an en route break for lunch in or near Reims. Pre-departure overnight accommodation and/or parking available at the Ashford International Hotel (please enquire for further detail). Anyone preferring to transfer via Eurostar to Paris and local train to Auxerre again please enquire for further information, we are happy to provide escort and/or reception facilities as required. We are also able to receive forwarded baggage to go with the coach so that you can fly or take the train to Paris and onwards to Auxerre with minimal luggage.
Today is Bastille Day and the canal will be closed for cruising, so we shuffle our normal itinerary and take the coach to explore the Northern fringes of the Morvan Park. First we will visit the UNESCO-listed Basilica at Vézelay, enjoying an introduction to the history of the village before we take advantage of the elevated views to see something of the surrounding natural world. From here the coach takes us the short hop to the remote hilltop vineyard of La Croix Montjoie, where we can savour the magnificent views over a pick-up lunch. We will then head a little further into the park as we seek out some of the best viewing spots before we return to Vermenton
We cruise from Auxerre to Vermenton - 7 hours on alternating sections of the River Yonne and canal cuts, the waterway travels 21km through the villages of Vaux, Champs sur Yonne, Bailly, Vincelles, Cravant and Accolay, and passes through 13 locks.
We walk from Vermenton as we follow a nature trail from the village through the hillside vineyards to the viewpoint above the wine village of Irancy, where weather permitting we enjoy a picnic lunch. We then spend a free afternoon in Auxerre, whose spectacular waterfront with the Cathedral St Étienne and Abbaye St Gervais makes this one of the most attractive skylines in all of France. In the evening we dine out at La Bersaudière in the village of Nitry, giving us every chance of glimpsing deer and wild boar as we make our return through wooded country to Vermenton at twilight time.
We cruise for 6 hours today between Châtel-Censoir and Clamecy, covering a further 20km with 9 locks over a scenic rural route, with the small town of Coulanges-sur-Yonne as midpoint. There should be time to explore a little of Clamecy on arrival before we board the coach to return to Vermenton. In the evening we visit the restored Cistercian Abbey of Reigny - only 2km south of Vermenton - where we enjoy supper courtesy of our hosts Béatrice and Louis-Marie Mauvais.
We return to the coach for a gentle tour of nearby viewing and walking points recommended by our guides.
For our final day of cruising we board at Châtel-Censoir and cruise back to Vermenton - 7 hours mostly on canal over 29km with 12 locks, passing through the villages of Merry-sur-Yonne, Mailly-le-Château (another splendid viewpoint), Mailly-la-Ville, Prégilbert, Ste-Pallaye and Accolay, and also passing the spectacular limestone crag at Les Rochers du Saussois, a protected zone in nesting season for its prodigious Peregrine Falcon population. This brings us nicely back to our "home port" where we enjoy a gala dinner in the hotel.
We set out for home with a planned lunchtime break in Reims or Laon before completing our journey back to Calais for an early evening crossing.
Because of the regularity of locks and our gentle cruising speed there will be plenty of opportunity for a towpath stroll or to use one of the bikes carried on board.
On cruise days an on-board lunch is included and a free bar operates throughout. As well as teas, coffees and soft drinks, the bar stocks bottled beers and a range of wines including local Chablis, Bourgogne Aligoté and Irancy rouge, Crémant de Bourgogne, and a Provence rosé. Lunches-out are also included on excursion days.
Our Nature Guide
Jason Mitchell was born and raised in Devon where from an early age he developed a passion for birds and other wildlife, especially dragonflies and butterflies. From his earliest volunteering experience on the Exe Estuary he wanted to work in conservation and after returning to education in his mid-twenties, Jason graduated from Plymouth University and started work for the RSPB as a warden on the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths. Since then Simon has worked on various conservation projects for local government and the Wildlife Trust, and in 2010 he returned to the RSPB as Warden for the North Kent Marshes.
A career change followed in 2013, when Jason moved to La Brenne in France with his wife Emilie and young family in pursuit of a new challenge. La Brenne was an obvious choice for Jason; his wife is French and having visited the Loire Valley many times he fell in love with the 'Land of a Thousand Lakes'. Now well established as a nature guide both in France and more widely across Europe, Jason also works as a tree surgeon in the winter months.
Executive Coach Travel
Assistance with booking taxi connections and/or hotel stay pre-departure (additional cost)
Eurotunnel or ferry crossings
En route stops where time allows - normally Reims or Laon
Hotel stay at the Logis St François in Vermenton
All meals except for lunches on travel days outbound and return
Wine with all lunches and evening meals
Three full days of cruising on the Canal du Nivernais between Auxerre and Clamecy
Local nature-themed coach excursions and visit programme on non-cruise days as described
Advance luggage/travel independently options
Our Hotel and Meal Plan:
The 2* Logis St François in the village of Vermenton, recently fully renovated and ideally situated for our cruising the Canal Du Nivernais between Auxerre and Clamecy. This groups-only hotel is operated by the family who own the nearby Abbaye de Reigny where we dine on one evening. This is a comfortable, clean, spacious and quiet hotel and although it lacks some of the creature comforts we might expect of a major chain hotel it has an appeal all of its own in its simplicity, generous space and warmth of welcome.
Our package includes all meals, with a continental breakfast every day at the hotel; lunches either on board the boat or at a restaurant (and on one day a picnic); and evening meal either at the hotel or dining out as described, with three courses and a choice of menu. Wine is included with all lunches and dinners.
Our boat is hybrid-engined and normally charges overnight from shore supply. Its diesel engines are only used if battery power is exhausted, so most of the time you can look forward to silent cruising. The saloon roof is bedecked with solar panels which reinforce battery endurance and support the boat's air conditioning system.
We also operate to a strict waste-avoidance policy. We try to completely avoid the use of single-use plastics and we operate to a responsible recycling code. All meals and drinks on board are served using normal crockery, cutlery and glassware. Our crew also has a brief to support the recovery from rivers and canals of floating litter whenever this is practicable.
On Board Facilities:
Our boat has been designed to comfortably accommodate a coachload of passengers in observation lounge comfort and there is additional seating outside for those wanting to take in the views and fresh air. There are 3 bikes on board free of charge for anyone who would like to ride the towpath. The boat has two WC/washrooms and a galley serving hot and cold drinks, beers and wines, for which there is no charge. There is no smoking on board.
Departure from Kent:
Anyone from further afield please feel welcome to join us on this or any other Buzzlines/Backwaters tour. We are happy to arrange parking for you here in Kent, or we can pick you up from Ashford International Station - only 37 minutes by HS1 from London St Pancras - and help you to find overnight hotel or B&B stops.