On all the boards
Welcome to the Burgundy Canal!

My name is Léa and I am a seasonal lock-keeper!
Take a look at my logbook and come along with me for a canal adventure the whole of its 242-kilometre length. It’s a real masterpiece of civil engineering as well as one of the loveliest ways to get from the Channel to the Mediterranean!
Meet me at every noticeboard by the canal. Have a great time exploring!

The canal stirs everything up

The construction of this waterway greatly altered the appearance of our towns and villages. What a lot of activity there was! Bargemen, lock-keepers, artisans, tradesmen, farmers and workmen all brought the canal to life.

The nineteenth century rocked by the industrial boom

With the water of the canal, it was full steam ahead!

Hydraulic power and the transport of goods

Establishment of factories, cement works, forges, warehouses

Workers arrive in great numbers

There is much activity on the quaysides of the ports, at Saint-Jean-de-Losne, Pouilly-en Auxois, Montbard. People are loading and unloading wood, oil, laminated iron, cement, lime, Burgundy stone, wine, sugar beet, cereals.

Businesses used the canal as a way of fetching raw materials form afar, which were processed and then sent elsewhere in the same way. The sugar refinery at Brazey-en-Plaine processed sugar beet from the whole region. A weighing machine at the port of Vandenesse-en-Auxois (several dozen kilometres upstream) would weigh the production before it was loaded onto barges.

It is difficult today to imagine all the hustle and bustle.

When the major road and rail links were built, the flame of industrial activity on the canal was extinguished. Fortunately, the leisure sector then took over.


In 2007, a European decision put an end to sugar production and the 12-hectare site was re-industrialised. Aiserey mill became a high-end flour mill, much in demand by the greatest professional chefs, combining production on millstones and on cylinders.

In 1993, in Aiserey, Léa meets the sugar refinery

Ah, young lady, I have undergone modernisation ever since I was built. First there was an oil-mill, then a starch factory, and in 1857 my buildings were remodelled as a sugar refinery. At that time the canal was bustling: barges transported sugar beet, pulp and sacks of sugar. And in 1863, the railway was built. Can you imagine how busy it was? As time went by, my owners changed and I had to adapt. It got easier to load merchandise when the cranes and quays arrived. Around 1930, to my great regret, they took down my three chimneys. But on the other hand, now I can function with just one single new coal-fired boiler house. Then, from 1938 to 1965, my production was diversified when they opened a distillery for beet alcohol, built new workshops and even a white sugar warehouse, 30m wide by 95m long! I don’t recognise myself anymore! Now, about 300 trucks arrive every day to unload 5000 tonnes of sugar beet so I can produce my 50,000 tonnes of sugar, just between October and December. I am one of the rare sugar refineries in Burgundy, young lady, and I am very proud of that!

Longecourt-en-Plaine Castle

This former hunting lodge of the Dukes of Burgundy was a stronghold of the plain in the thirteenth century. In the fifteenth century it was rebuilt in brick, then made into a residence for leisure in the seventeenth. The castle is nevertheless still surrounded by ditches crossed by three bridges. Its kitchen, with its ribbed vault, also dates from the Middle Ages. Medieval humour can be found in the series of sculpted characters adorning the lower part of the arches, created in the spirit characteristic of grotesque figures!


1724 A canal project is agreed after much deliberation concerning the route

1775 Work begins on both banks

1826-1832 Pouilly tunnel is dug out

1833 The whole canal is opened to traffic

1872-1882 Standardised to Freycinet gauge (lengthening of the lock chambers)

Nineteenth century The industrial boom

Twentieth century Gradual transition from industry and commerce to tourism and leisure

2010 Creation of the cycle path

Nowadays you can travel on the water for pleasure or enjoy cycling along the cycle path that follows the old towpath. It’s an ideal opportunity to discover the wealth of our heritage as you explore!