Cycle pathLa Rigole de La Plaine to Seuil de Naurouze


Level: Easy

Distance: 80 kilometers return trip

Time: 3 hours there / 3 hours back – including breaks, lunch and at a leisurely pace – it is good for a whole day to really get a good visit in.

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Park up near the swimming pool and the Municipal campsite on the road to Sorrèze in revel, the place is called, Le Moulin du Roy.

The path is well marked, with crossing points at road intersections marked in green and generally with a give-way sign.

It is flat and in excellent condition from Revel to the Lac de L’Enclas, but after the lake it gets a bit harder going due to the amount of tree roots that cross the path – this only makes the ride a bit bumpy, nothing more.


A bit of History…

La Rigole de La Plaine, runs from the Lake at St Ferreol (we have a blog post on the lake too), which is the reservoir which feeds the Rigole, which in turn keeps the Canal du Midi at the correct level of water, the water for La Rigole, comes from Les Cammazes and the Basin de Lampy, further up the Montagne Noire at La Prise d’Alzou, with the tunnel of Les Cammazes including 50 aqueducts.

The Canal du Midi, Lac de Saint Férreol were built by Pierre Paul Riquet, after having convinced Vaubin, Maréchal de France, (further up from St Férreol is the Voûte de Vaubin – an incredible vaulted viaduct) and Louis XIV of the feasibility of the project - Saint Férreol lake was built using 10,000 labourers.

The Canal du Midi is sometimes called “the canal of the two seas” – Le canal des deux mers, as it links the Atlantic with The Garonne at Bordeaux, down to The Mediterranean at Sète – 240 kilometers long 99 locks and 130 bridges – it truly is an amazing construction and is a UNESCO world heritage site.

At Naurouze, there is the parting of the waters, where the South and North waters separate and where the climate is also notably different at this point.

A monument was erected in honour of Riquet’s engineering genius in 1827 – on the south side of which is a sculpted nymph, symbolising La Montagne Noire, pouring water from an urn – representing La Rigole, the water then divides into two – symbolising The separation of the waters of the Canal du Midi. Neptune guards the waters from The Atlantic, whilst Venus guards the waters from The Mediterranean side.

The Duke of Wellington and Maréchal Soult signed the armistice which ended the Napoleonic wars in the house of the engineer of The Canal du Midi at Naurouze on 18th April 1814, which effectively condemned Napoleon to leave Fontainbleau for his exile on The Isle of Elba.

La Rigole is part of the Pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostelle in Galicia, Spain, which is the third most important Catholic pilgrimage destination after Jerusalem and Rome – you will see the sign of the scallop shell on crosses at various points along the way, you may also cross pilgrims on their way.

On the bike…

The original idea was to start the at the point opposite the Grillon restaurant near La Jalabertie, but as Lidl in Revel, had an English food special with caramel, chocolate shortbread – this was an opportunity not to miss, so I started where I should have started at Le Moulin du Roy, the beginning of the plain section of La Rigole. Rigole, by the way, means small stream…

If you’re coming by car, parking is easy and secure here.

The route is exclusively a cycle and walking path and is in an excellent state of maintenance as far as Lac de L’Enclas, with a surface of fine compacted red gravel, much like that which is found on a tennis court – it really is excellent.

Don’t forget to keep to the right hand-side of the path – you’re in France now!

You will pass walkers, runners, other cyclists and anglers – all of whom are usually very pleasant with a nice “bonjour” as you cross or pass them.

It is a good idea to have a bell on your bike to let people know you are approaching so that they can get out of the way, or put their dogs on leads.

The pathway follows the main road up until The Laudot, so you will be able to hear that traffic as it is only 100 or 200 meters away, after the Laudot silence reigns as the path only crosses very minor roads that are generally deserted.

There are lots of bridges that cross La Rigole, from the old original bridges that have been reinforced to concrete slabs laid by farmers to access their fields – I will be talking about just a few.

Bridge N°1 (Km 8.18) – I’ll call it that even though it isn’t the first that you will encounter – at first sight it is an ordinary bridge, but if you look closely you will see that it has been widened to cater for the road crossing it, but underneath the original bridge is visible, made of traditional brickwork, which would have been 3 or 4 meters narrower than it was today.

I was tracked for about a kilometer here by an elusive jay, with its superb chestnut and sky-blue plumage – each time I attempted to take a photo of him, he ducked behind a bush chuckling to himself and chiding my slow reaction.

As I was riding by, it was with delight that I was able to get off of my bike to watch a young fox playing in the wheat stubble catching butterflies. It was almost as if he were conscious of the fantastic scene he were laying out, with the golden stubble offering a contrasting backdrop that showed his glossy red coat in its full glory.

Bridge N°2 (Km 9) – The Lock-Keepers house at the Laudot, the waterfall that forms the small river of the same name, that snakes across the Lauragais plain. Here is a nice place for a water stop (or a caramel and chocolate shortbread nibble) – cross the busy road – on foot – that runs from Revel to Castelnaudary.

The traffic is supposed to slow to 70 KPH here, although not many do and it is an extremely dangerous crossing point.

The path follows the meandering Rigole, look right to see St Felix de Lauragais and the wind farm next bridge of note at Km 15.33, this brickwork bridge is the viaduct that takes the Rigole over the railway, which today is used only for the transportation of cereals.

Make the most of the excellent surface of the path it will change soon!

Km 16 – Le Lac de L’Enclas – spread out over 2 hectares with a depth of 3 meters, why not stop off at the restaurant / bar, Le Relais de L’Enclas for lunch or a cool drink?

The lake is popular with carp anglers and bird watchers – there were a pair of black swans in residence, but only one remains now – let’s hope it is a just a tiff and the other will return soon.

You can either take the straight route and bear left to continue on the the path or do a tour of the lake – there are also a few spots to have a picnic, complete with tables and benches.

If you need to fill your water bottles, then do so here, there is a drinking-water tap outside the public toilets, next to the restaurant.

At the bridge at Km 17.73, there is an excellent view of the site of the old fortified village (Castrum) of Les cassés (on your right) which was burnt, along with 60 heretics, during the crusade against the Cathares in the 13th century.

Accommodation is available in the village for pilgrims on their way to St Jacques de Compostelle.

There are lots of other bridges to see along with some fantastic scenery, overlooking the Pyrénées, La Montagne Noire and the hills in The Aude department – really stunning – but don’t take your eyes off the tree roots for too long…

Km 35.29 – we have two choices here, either cross the road and continue on La Rigole or turn right and take 500 meters of the main road and climb to the monument commemorating the building the Canal du Midi – the 360° views all around from the monument, although not high, are pretty stunning too.

Do visit the tourist centre if it is open, there is a fantastic and helpful lady who will give you the history of lots of things, not sure if she speaks English though, but there are a lot of leaflets and free guide books in English.

You can buy a cold drink at the visitor centre and fill your water bottles at the tap in the car park.

Now you must visit the parting of the waters and the Canal du Midi – there are picnic tables and benches under the fantastic avenues of trees that lead to the Canal du Midi – there is also an auberge where you can get something to eat and drink too.

Have a good rest, then take the pathway just next to the auberge for the journey back.

I stopped for a quick break on the path during the return journey, when a red squirrel descended a tree, right opposite me, with a huge apple in his mouth – I discretely tried to get my camera out of my cycle bag, but he looked up and scampered back up the tree to hide behind the trunk.

I couldn’t see him completely but just managed a glimpse behind a high bough, I grabbed my camera, much quieter than the first time, got him lined up in the lens – perfect.

No – all I could see was a “batteries Spent” message through the lens, before it all went dark.

Almost at once, as if my reputation as the world’s worst photographer had gone before me, rumours being spread by jays and gamboling foxes, he came out and started stretching out on a bough – now was he looking at me? Did he have a squirrelly smile on his face? All conjecture but I did feel that there were some sort of conspiracy by the wildlife of the Midi-Pyrénées against my taking snaps of the animal inhabitants – I’ll get you yet!

You will see lots of wildlife on the way – wild ducks, herons, kingfishers, hare, rabbits, rainbow trout, deer, water voles, ragondins, foxes, badgers, squirrels, buzzards, red kites, the list goes on – just keep your eyes open – but look out for tree roots!

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