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 landscape: before and after

From the plain of Migennes to the Saône plain, through the Ouche valley to the Armançon valley, the canal traces its path through a country landscape, with many castles and churches.

A landscape unchanged for centuries? Don’t be so sure of it!

Before: there was a traditional heritage related to human activity.

Laundries and mills on millstreams alongside the canal

Farms and post-houses

A few factories, tilemakers and forges enlivened the neighbourhood (Veuvey-sur-Ouche, Buffon, Aisy, Grignon)

After the construction of the canal: everything changed!

A remarkable industrial boom

Creation of transport routes: roads and railways

In the nineteenth century, the predominant character of the canal was industrial and commercial. It took around a century for it to evolve from a busy work hub to a place of leisure and relaxation.

Yet some aspects of the activities of the past still remain, such as the drinking troughs and public wash-houses.

The Gissey-sur-Ouche wash-house, built in 1846, is still a symbol of hard work and neighbourliness in local memory.

In 1962

Léa meets a poplar tree on the towpath

Huh! My leaves are bristling with indignation! Just imagine, young lady, I thought I’d been planted to beautify the towpath! But the poplar avenues of the nineteenth century are out of fashion now! Even though my ancestors were chosen to give the canal a truly majestic appearance. They also helped stabilise the banks and provided shade. There was also ingenious use of trees at the locks, all adorned in the same fashion, with chestnuts that were never pruned to give lots of shade and fruit trees so the lock-keeper’s wife could make jam. But all that is in the past. Nowadays a tree has to earn its keep! Can you guess what my fate will be, young lady? Well, I’m going to end my life chopped up into tiny little pieces of wood… I’m going to be made into matches!

The Jaugey wash-house at Barbirey-sur-Ouche

With columns and a bell turret, this is a puzzling building that has something of a classical temple or a Christian oratory about it. The water from its fountain is pure and drinkable but also intermittent. It has dried up several times over the years, in periods of drought but also when the world has been shaken by wars and crises, like in 2008. Could this wash-house be some kind of warning system? It’s a total mystery!

The abbey church of Bussière-sur-Ouche

This twelfth-century Cistercian abbey was built according to the wishes of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Following the tradition of the order, it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and placed under the protection of ‘Our Lady of the three Valleys’. Inside, you can admire the remarkable fifteenth- and sixteenth-century bas-reliefs as well as a very moving polychrome statue of the Virgin and Child. Henri Vincenot took inspiration from the construction of the abbey to write Les Etoiles de Compostelle (The Stars of Compostela).

The gardens of Barbirey-sur-Ouche Castle

Around the castle where Charles de Foucault lived, a magnificent landscaped garden, created in the nineteenth century, extends over 18 hectares. From the terraced vegetable garden overlooking the English-style park, you make your way down to the water features and the meadow. Further away, a quarry used in the construction of the canal is hidden in the forest. Times have changed but harmony, dreams and elegance are still much in evidence.

The wash-house at Gissey-sur-Ouche

This was built in 1846 to meet the State’s hygiene requirements. It was a place where women would meet up and chat, and remains in local memory a symbol of the hard work and neighbourliness of the old days. Inside, between light and shade, the rinsing water comes out of two lions’ heads; outside, water from the fountain spurts from a lion’s mouth.


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!