Friday 25 March 2016

Butterfly Trip

Well our something of a 'butterfly trip' to various canal locations around France has been somewhat inspiring.  It has been possible to draw some easy comparisons with the UK inland waterways.  We stopped for the night at a canal side 'Aire'. Now, here is a complete turn up for the books. France is full of these 'aires' there are over 3,000 of them.  Which are in the main intended as overnight parking spots, for what the French call 'Camping Cars' and we call Motorhomes.

It was here that I came across the French equivalent to a lengthsman and he was patrolling a disused for boating section of canal.  Yes, that's right a he was patrolling a disused section of canal!  My broken schoolboy French however, was no match for his excellent command of English.  I remarked that I found it surprising that the 'towpath' was in such good order and that the trees seemed to be well kept.  Some were even pollarded to provide shade in picnic areas.  He pointed out that the towpath was used by many local people for fishing, including special ramps for fishermen in wheelchairs, walkers, joggers and cyclists. Though the canal is disused for boating it is being used for other leisure activities such as kayaking. As for the trees along the French road and canal system was something the French valued.  He said that rather than being 'disused canals' many are actually used for drainage or moving water into agricultural areas.  This particular canal was earmarked for the restoration of access by boats and seven locks had recently been restored. There were he said about 20 more locks to go.

A disused canal in France.
In the above picture you can see the pollarded trees in front of the white building.  The 'aire' was a little further to the right. This has room for about ten mobile homes and provides elsan and fresh water provision free of charge. The french encourage visitors to use the local shops by way of payment.

The next day we were at the 'Canal Port' in Montauban and the weather was cool in the day and cold at night.  It was partly overcast with little in the way of sunshine with the occasional spot of rain in the air. What we might describe as a typical English summer day.  However, the boaters were all tucked up on moorings.  This is their winter season and there is not a great deal of boating activity.   The marina facilities were shared between the aires users and the marina boaters, for a total fee of five euro or about four pounds thirty a day. This also included provision of mains electricity and access to fresh water, elsan, showers, toilets and rubbish disposal.  The typical cost of such a campsite in the UK is about £15/20 a night.  Now, just imagine what could happen if such facilities were provided by CaRT and available to tourists from abroad.

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