When a canal crosses a river

It is no secret that France is criss crossed with hundreds of canals. These used to be the inland highways, taking goods across the country and back again, using barges towed by horses.

Those days are obviously long gone, but the canals remain, along with much of the beautiful scenery and well-maintained towpaths. The latter are now predominantly used by walkers, fisherfolk, joggers and bicycle riders and are very popular.

What is less well known is that there is a fascinating infrastructure also waiting to be explored and enjoyed, which has been maintained along with the canals.

An excellent example of this was an old bridge that we came across while trying to get out of a heavy downpour of rain at Savigny-en-Sancerre. Riding our bicycles along a nearby road, we could see the lower parts of the bridge quite clearly, but the top section was frustratingly elusive. Assuming it was a road bridge, and hoping there would be somewhere to shelter from the rain, we made our way up side track to investigate.

A side view of the bridge with the river and the floodplain below

A side view of the bridge with the river and the floodplain below

The bridge was enormous and very beautiful. The track which had led us to the top of the structure went on further to what must have been a loading dock. Ornate roadside bollards now teeter at unusual angles, providing evidence that this was once a well maintained and busy place.

The bridge stretched across a wide, low area as well as the river and was consequently quite long. But the thing that startled us most was that there was no road – it was a canal!

The canal stretched as far as one could see along the bridge

The canal stretched as far as one could see along the bridge

When a canal crosses a river, a bridge is required! I was fascinated – never having seen anything like it before!

Entry to the bridge - view from under the tree

Entry to the bridge – view from under our shelter tree

And it was no ordinary bridge either.  Two very ornate pillars complete with carvings and twin lights flanked the bridge on the side where we were. We could not see the other end, but I am sure there would have been another pair there too. There were light posts all along the bridge – beautifully shaped to complement the bridge design.

I could have spent a long time exploring this new discovery. I was particularly keen to ride across to the other side. But sadly, the rain continued to pelt down and we were getting soaked through. A huge (fig?) tree provided sufficient respite to take a few (gloomy  :-)) photos before we moved on …….. still hunting for some shelter.

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