Canals, the European Union and… cycling

After the experience of the Virgin Money London Marathon and the Schneider Electric Paris Marathon, David Edwards-May has taken up the challenge of a new ‘marathon’ directly linked to his advocacy of inland waterways, the neglected third mode of inland transport for freight and passengers. As author of the practical navigation guide Inland Waterways of France (8th edition currently available here or here), he feels it is time to update the work by cycling (or occasionally running) the entire 9000 km of French waterways over the next two years (body and health permitting).

Canal des Ardennes towpath

It can be very slow progress through tall wet grass, as here on the Canal des Ardennes on May 18.

The project began on May 16 with fellow IWI member Padraic Neville, cycling over much of the route in north-eastern France from Givet on the Meuse (a stone’s throw from he Belgian border) through the Ardennes and Champagne regions and finally along the Canal de l’Ourcq to Paris.

Sections of the Canal latéral à la Loire were covered in late May with partner Irène, then part of the river Yonne at the time of the 25th anniversary rally of DBA The Barge Association in May. And now, In August, we have explored the splendid and increasingly popular ‘Loire à vélo’ route from Orléans to Le Croisic, a beautiful fishing port and seaside resort on the southern Brittany coast just beyond the Loire estuary.

Although the Loire is not properly navigable upstream of the confluence with the Maine at Bouchemaine, and quite an advenure for navigators even downstream), it well deserves a place in the guide because it has hundreds of traditional wooden craft, which lend their nostalgic presence to the stunning landscape in nearly all the historic ports of the Loire, dotting with dark brown the constantly varying entrelac of blue, green and yellow strands.

Now, at the end of August 2017, the log here shows that David has clocked up 1000 km of cycling, covering an actual waterway length of 620 km, not including the Loire from Orléans to Bouchemaine.

For the blog with a descriptive account of the stages of this waterway ‘marathon’, see

Waterways cycling map

First stages of the French waterways ‘marathon’ started on May 16, 2017, and expected to continue over two years or a little more

Home page archive from November 2016
(starting to train for the Paris Marathon)

Despite all the prevailing sadness, the retrogade policies pursued in too many member States, I’m still gunning – and running – for Europe.

It was an honour and a pleasure to raise nearly £4000 for The Inland Waterways Association by running the London Marathon in 2016. The objective in 2017 is the Paris Marathon, for children needing heart operations (Relais du Cœur). Please visit the Sponsorship page.

But as president of  Inland Waterways International I also want to support inland waterways in my home country France, the rest of Europe and throughout the world. The waterway network is Europe’s common heritage, for transporting goods, boating or running or cycling beside them! And that’s what I plan to do.

crinan-ardrishaigRunning the length of Scotland’s Crinan Canal starting at Ardrishaig sea lock before the World Canals Conference in Inverness gave me another idea: running or (more often) cycling along all 8500km of waterways in France over the next 2-3 years.

This photo is the Canal de la Robine (La Nouvelle branch of the Canal du Midi). I cycled that in 1988 during a survey of the whole canal ‘des Deux Mers’ from Sète to Langon. It will be interesting to do the same and record what’s changed in 30 years.


Header photo
A mural painting beside the Canal de Roubaix proclaims ‘We respect our canal’. That’s what it’s all about: restoring, maintaining and using our canals. Here there was to be an express road; almost at the last minute, in the late 1980s, the threat was averted, then a long campaign began to restore the canal through this industrial town in decline. A complete turn-round has been achieved, and the canal is the pride of the town, of greater Lille and its population.


2 thoughts on “Canals, the European Union and… cycling”

  1. jy bernardy said:

    Hé Madways, tu vas sortir de la piste avec cette position ):D


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