After rowing down the Thames from Oxford to Greenwich five years ago, a group of 12 friends including Grafton’s Earl Cruickshank; and former Grafton resident , and Head of the Clarence committee president Neville Doughan decided it was time for another rowing adventure.
First choice was the Danube, but on investigation discovered it to be a busy commercial waterway and too dangerous for rowing quad sculls down.
After much research, the group finally settled on the Canal Du Midi, a 17th century built canal from Toulouse in the south of France to the Mediterranean. The canal passes through rural villages, towns and cities affording a different view of the areas surrounding the canal.
Starting from a lock outside Toulouse at Renneville with two quad sculls hired from the local rowing club the row finished at Beziers a couple of hundred kilometres later.
The apparent novelty of rowers on the canal, even though it hosts an annual race created great interest with pleasure craft, waterside cafe owners, hotel staff and locals.
However the canal locks proved too dangerous, due to their high fill rate and in some cases of multiple locks, up to four consecutively in places, with high banks and stone canal sides. The lifting and carrying of the sculls proved much harder than the 25 kilometre row each day.
Allowing more sightseeing, and removing the need to pack and move each day, the group hired small vans and based themselves at Castelnaudary, Carcassonne and Beziers along the way.
Medieval castles, orchards, vineyards and markets compensated for the problems encountered driving a wide van on narrow streets on the left hand side of the road.