This year, the canal du Midi tree replanting project is celebrating its 10th anniversary, a milestone in a project whose progress has not slowed down

Voies navigables de France celebrated the 10th anniversary of its canal du Midi replanting project this Thursday, December 9 in Trèbes (Aude). Here we look back at the work already completed and all that remains to be done to restore the canal du Midi’s green canopy, affected since 2006 by canker stain.

Plane tree disease: the early stages of the replanting project

As robust and imposing as they may seem, plane trees can develop a long-known disease called canker stain. It was probably introduced with the landing of American troops in France in 1945, by boxes of ammunition made from infected wood arriving from the United States. The disease is caused by a microscopic fungus which dries the plane tree and inexorably kills it. It was first detected on plane trees along the canal du Midi in 2006, in Villedubert (Aude).

Unfortunately, researchers were unable to find any curative treatment, and the 42,000 plane trees bordering the canal came under threat. Voies navigables de France had no choice but to cut the diseased trees down to ensure user safety, and to replant new species to re-create the canal’s green canopy, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.

The beginnings of the canal du Midi tree replanting project

The first trees were replanted in Aude in the winter of 2011-2012, six years after the disease now threatening our plane trees was discovered. The species were chosen not only for their landscape characteristics (colonnades and green canopy), but also for their resistance to disease. Thus Turkey oak, hackberry, Norway maple, small- and large-leaved linden trees, hop-hornbeam and white poplar were planted to replace plane trees.

In the past 10 years, 29,100 diseased or dead plane trees have been cut down, and 16,700 trees have already been replanted along the canal du Midi since the project to restore the green canopy began.

Replanting of canal trees… but that’s not all!

  • Canal bank restoration

Bank restoration is a central component of the canal du Midi replanting project, since cutting down plane trees causes the gradual elimination of the root network that supports these banks. Various processes are therefore necessary to stabilize them before replanting new trees to replace the decimated plane trees.

In the space of 10 years, 33.5 miles of banks have been restored.

  • Preserving the biodiversity of the canal

The canal du Midi is a boating site with an exceptional architectural heritage. It is also an area rich in biodiversity, an ecological corridor home to many species of animals (fish, amphibians, birds, etc.) and aquatic plants. An action plan has been set up to preserve the canal’s biodiversity by limiting and offsetting the impacts of felling on fauna and flora.

Plane trees affected by canker stain are therefore cut down in the spring and fall of each year, out of respect for the biodiversity, and in particular the breeding and nesting periods of birds, wintering, and the rearing of small animals for bats.

Also, since 2015, bird nesting campaigns and bat houses have been set up to provide shelter for wildlife displaced by felling. At least 1,350 habitats have been introduced along the entire length of the canal du Midi and in the surrounding environment.

Replanting project investments

€79 million has been invested over the past 10 years to carry out this massive project. The estimated overall cost of the project is €220 million.

Since December 2013 and the creation of the VNF patronage program, replanting campaigns have received support to the tune of €8 million, raised by companies, foundations and individuals concerned about preserving this regional historic and environmental emblem. It is thanks to the joint effort of the business world, citizens, local authorities and the government that we are able to carry out this colossal project for the preservation our French river heritage.

A big thank you for all your support!

 

The canal du Midi, a Giving Tuesday partner in 2021!

To celebrate the 5th Giving Tuesday in France, Nailloux Outlet Village wanted to celebrate the canal du Midi replanting project. Review of a two-stage operation.

Giving Tuesday is a global generosity movement that was initiated in 2012. It was last held on Tuesday November 30, 2021 in France, with the aim of encouraging solidarity in all its forms. The event has become all the more important given the negative effects of the COVID crisis on society and solidarity. As a solidarity alternative to Black Friday, Giving Tuesday offers a wealth of inspiring initiatives to get involved in all areas, giving each of us the power to take civic action.

Although fairly recent, having arrived in France in 2018, this solidarity movement has gained momentum in a short period of time. Men and women, associations, organizations, businesses and communities are all contributing to #GivingTuesday. From South Africa to India, and from the United States to Europe, it is a movement that brings together more than 150 countries every year!

For the occasion, the Voies navigables de France patronage program and Nailloux Outlet Village, member of the canal du Midi Patrons Club, decided to join forces to encourage people to donate to the canal du Midi tree restoration program on Tuesday, November 30 and Saturday, December 4.

Why choose Nailloux Outlet Village as a site for Giving Tuesday?

The VNF patronage program began working with Nailloux Outlet Village in 2019, when the outlet village decided to join the canal du Midi Patrons Business Club. The village rapidly became actively involved in the cause, and hosted the “Nouveaux regards sur le canal du Midi” [A fresh look at the canal du Midi] photo exhibition – developed in 2016 to celebrate the canal’s 350th anniversary – in the same year.

In 2020, the shopping center’s exhibition area celebrated the work of Franco-Cuban artist Yoël Jimenez, with a collection of posters dedicated to the replanting project.

In the spring of 2021, the VNF patronage program launched the “Le canal en famille” app in partnership with Nailloux Outlet Village, with the aim of raising awareness among families about restoration of the canal du Midi’s green canopy and to teach them more about this regional heritage in a fun and engaging way.

Last summer, Nailloux Outlet Village hosted an exhibition of photographs of the canal du Midi taken by artist Daniel Banon entitled “A l’ombre du canal du Midi” [In the shadow of the canal du Midi]. The purpose of the exhibition was to spotlight the beauty of the canal du Midi’s green canopy, to raise awareness of the importance of recreating this emblematic landscape for future generations. The works presented were also available for sale to support the replanting program.

It was therefore only natural that Nailloux Outlet Village should be chosen for the two days of replanting awareness events organized for Giving Tuesday, as a continuation of the existing partnership.

The two days of action

Tuesday, November 30: €1 was donated to Voies navigables de France for each entry to Nailloux Outlet Village. Visitors were able to visit a canal du Midi stand where the VNF patronage program teams were present to answer questions about canker stain and the replanting program. The public was also invited to make micro donations of €3 at a kiosk set up in the outlet village over a period of several months.

 

Saturday, December 4: the VNF patronage program was once again present at the shopping center, offering several free activities for children and adults. Nailloux Outlet Village has welcomed various speakers, including author and illustrator Marie-Constance Mallard. Violette Mirgue, the mouse-detective created by Marie-Constance and popular among children, served as the theme for a meeting dedicated to discovering the canal du Midi.

 

The December 4 program of events, in detail:

  • From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Workshop for children led by Marie-Constance Mallard, author of Violette Mirgue, the little darling of the canal du Midi
  • From 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Walkabout in the period clothes of important characters of the 17th century, organized by the association Historia Temporis
  • 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.: Concert by Archipels, the amateur vocal ensemble of “les éléments” from their Nougaro program, “Autour de Minuit.” The following artists were present: Claire Suhubiette, Hervé Suhubiette, Raphaël Fournié, Etienne Manchon
  • From 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.: Conference on the Biodiversity of the canal du Midi, hosted by Symbiosphere

A warm thank you to everyone who participated. We appreciate your support!

“Down time,” an ideal period for “dry” canal du Midi operations

Canal du Midi structural maintenance and restoration are two of the VNF’s most important missions. From November 2 to December 24, 2021, the canal du Midi undergoes a period of “down time,” ideal for carrying out work that cannot be done when the canal is in use while limiting the impact on economic activities and navigation.

Traditional maintenance work

The Voies navigables de France teams carry out work on the canal du Midi all year long. However, some work can be done only when the reaches are emptied, such as lock gate repair and modernization, and sealing and masonry work. VNF also makes the most of the reaches being empty (a reach is the area of a canal between two locks) to remove objects that have been thrown in.

 

Close attention to banks

This “down time” is also used to renovate any damaged banks; although necessary, cutting down plane trees because of canker stain gradually erodes the centenary roots, essential for maintaining banks. The aim this winter is to restore 8 miles of banks. Thirty miles of banks will then have been rebuilt in total as part of this project undertaken to restore the canal du Midi’s green canopy. Nine sites will be renovated between Toulouse and Marseillan, in Haute-Garonne, in Aude and in Hérault.

 

Choosing the right technique for the reach

Different techniques are used depending on the area, and depending on how many people use the site, on whether there are stationary boats and on the type of bank. The main technique used consists in driving oak or chestnut piles into the ground to which wooden boards are attached vertically.

 

The VNF teams also use “plant engineering” techniques whenever possible, including reprofiling of slopes combined with helophyte plantations (plants that grow in the water: iris, rush, sedge, etc.).

From Fanjeaux to Bram via Montréal: conquering Lauragais in a particularly lively Canalathlon!

After two successful editions in 2016 and 2018, the Lauragais cluster for regional and rural balance (PETR) once again invited local athletes for a marathon unlike any other, on Sunday, October 17 … read on to find out more about this 3rd edition of the Canalathlon, a solidarity sporting event in aid of the canal du Midi tree replanting project.

The morning mist hadn’t lifted yet when the starting signal for the Canalathlon was given. The 104 teams who had signed up for the event, representing over 400 participants in total – a record since the event’s creation –, took off in the streets of Fanjeaux for the first event of the day: the orienteering race. It wasn’t long before the first teams, some in costume for the occasion, found the markers hidden throughout the village. Next, they seized their bikes to cycle the 7.5 miles separating Fanjeaux from Montréal, where the second stage would begin: a race of one and a quarter miles. It was then the second pair’s turn to jump on a mountain bike for a 5-mile pedal to Béteille lock. For the last stage of the race, the four members of each team, reunited at last, boarded two canoes to reach Bram harbor. The water was cold, but the excitement kept the participants warm. Once moored in Bram harbor, a final effort awaited the teams to complete this sporting event: a 1-mile race to reach the finish line at Château de Lordat in Bram.

Meanwhile, the village of Bram, where the participants would arrive, had been busy preparing for the arrival of the first teams since 10 a.m. Families and passers-by were all able to enjoy many activities set up on site. From bicycles to smoothies, local producers’ markets and exhibitions – there was something for everyone! The VNF patronage program also had its own stand, where Marie-Constance Mallard, author of Violette Mirgue, Le trésor du canal du Midi, give children the opportunity to draw and complete a fresco dotted with Violette Mirgue mice. Once all the participants had arrived, the grounds of Château de Lordat were transformed into a stunning open-air restaurant!

 

 

At the end of the day, a check for €1,000 was handed over to Laurent Adnet, Head of the Voies navigables de France patronage program. All donations collected will be used to help finance the vast canal du Midi green canopy restoration project.

What had already been a wonderful day ended on a beautiful note in bright sunshine with the band “Baraka Groove.”

 

A big thank you to you, our weekend warriors (October 17)!

Carve your name into the “Friends of the canal du Midi” virtual tree!

Thousands of trees still need to be planted to restore the canal du Midi’s canopy that has been ravaged by the disease known as canker stain. You can help us by taking part in our new crowdfunding campaign, which begins on September 24, 2021!

Who hasn’t dreamed of carving their name or initials into the bark of a centuries-old tree along the canal du Midi? Except that,of course, this is forbidden… So why not do it virtually, and make that dream come true while also taking part in a gesture of solidarity?

This is what Voies Navigables de France (VNF) is proposing with their new crowdfunding operation, “Carve your name on the ‘Friends of the canal du Midi’ tree,” which can be found at lesamisducanaldumidi.fr

For each donation of at least €20, you can carve your name into a branch on a virtual tree, and even choose its species (oak, poplar, maple, linden, etc.).

The larger the donation, the more unique rewards you can claim: an “I’m drawing the future of the canal du Midi” sticker, a postcard of the canal du Midi, the children’s book “Violette Mirgue : le trésor du canal du Midi,” the CD “Nougaro, autour de Minuit” recorded by the choir Archipels and even tickets to the VNF gala dinner at Fouquet’s restaurant in Toulouse on December 9, 2021.

“Every little bit helps,” explains Laurent Adnet, VNF Patronage Manager. “We’re really counting on your generosity. Since people were often asking us if they could sponsor a tree, we came up with this idea.”

See more

VNF’s goal is to raise €60,000 by October 17, 2021, which would enable 400 new trees to be purchased for the canal du Midi.

The VNF patronage team is counting on your generosity and sharing on social media to make this operation a success.

The canal du Midi is on show all summer at Nailloux Outlet Village and the media library in Port la Nouvelle

From this summer to the end of September, discover the VNF patronage program’s new exhibitions, “A l’ombre du canal du Midi,” featuring photographs by Daniel Banon, and “Lumières du Midi,” featuring watercolor paintings by Patrice Rouzière, at the Port la Nouvelle media library and Nailloux Outlet Village.

Following the success of “Nouveaux regards sur le canal du Midi” and artist Yoël Jimenez’s exhibition dedicated to the restoration of the canal du Midi, which were both shown along the canal for several years, the Voies Navigables de France patronage program is holding two new exhibitions to show the canal du Midi at its very best and raise awareness of its replanting project. These are “A l’ombre du canal du Midi,” a collection of photographs by Daniel Banon, and “Lumières du Midi,” featuring watercolor reproductions by painter Patrice Rouzière. The exhibitions are open until the end of September at the Port la Nouvelle media library and Nailloux Outlet Village

"A l'ombre du canal du Midi," photographs by Daniel Banon at Nailloux Outlet Village

Until September 31, discover “A l’ombre du canal du Midi” by Daniel Banon in the Nailloux Outlet Village exhibition space.

Address: Lieu dit Le Grill, 31560 Nailloux

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm

All the photographs are on sale, with the proceeds going toward the canal du Midi replanting project.

Information and purchase

Two exhibitions at the media library in Port la Nouvelle (Aude)

Until September 22, you can enjoy “Lumières du Midi,” featuring watercolor paintings by Patrice Rouzière, and “A l’ombre du canal du Midi,” featuring photographs by Daniel Banon, in the Port la Nouvelle media library.

Address: 225 Rue Jean Jaurès, 11210 Port-la-Nouvelle

Opening hours: July-August: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm.

From September 1: Monday: 2 pm – 6 pm; Tuesday and Friday: 10 am – 12 pm and 3 pm – 7 pm Wednesday and Saturday: 10 am – 12 pm and 2 pm – 6 pm

First event of the year for the canal du Midi Patrons Business Club.

The first event of the year for the Patrons Business Club took place on Thursday, July 1 at the magnificent Domaine Preignes le Vieux in Vias. It was an evening full of culture and exchanges in a friendly atmosphere.

How marvelous it was to be able to get together again!

On July 1, patrons old and new were able to meet and spend the evening together in a unique location in Vias, the Domaine Preignes le Vieux.

We were lucky enough to have in attendance Christophe Ghristi, Director of the Théâtre du Capitole, and artists Céline Labrie and Cyril Kluber, who performed excerpts from “Péniche Offenbach,” a traveling opera along the canal du Midi scheduled at the end of the summer.

We can’t wait for the next event (end of September).

If you would like to join the canal du Midi Patrons Business Club, just contact Julie Birs: julie.birs@vnf.fr

Discover the canal du Midi with “Pépé Gaston”!

Voies Navigables de France is launching “Le canal en famille,” a fun mobile app to learn about the heritage sites along the canal du Midi and raise awareness among the general public of the environmental issues that it is facing.

It’s the story of a family that’s been living on a barge for three generations. Readers will meet Luc, Emma, their parents, and Pépé Gaston, an extraordinary sailor who always has plenty of fascinating stories to tell. This time, his adventure gets off to a bad start: a disease (canker stain) is eating away at the beautiful plane trees along the canal du Midi from the inside out…

With the new app “Le canal en famille,” the whole family can join Emma, Luc, and Pépé Gaston on a journey of discovery around the remarkable sites along the canal du Midi, and learn about the environmental issues involved in its preservation and the threat of canker stain. During the journey, players can take part in challenges to win the opportunity to virtually replant as many trees as possible.

Players can choose from among three routes: 2 km, 5 km or 10 km, with a maximum duration (excluding travel) of one hour. There are around ten “levels” to complete by winning mini-games and quizzes.

The concept of the game is to embrace the canal’s heritage while learning about the importance of its preservation by replanting trees. We wanted the animation to be immersive, attractive and fun

See more

Milène Benoist

VNF Public Fundraising / Communications Manager

At each level, you can stop off at animated checkpoints and learn about the canal’s heritage in a fun and interactive way (its history, particularities, noteworthy structures, etc.). After a level has been completed, the barge moves forward a little, and a tree is planted and colored green.

The app is completely free, suitable for all ages, available on iPhone or Android, smartphone or tablet and does not require an internet connection once installed. Fans of the canal du Midi, a precious gem of the Occitanie region’s heritage, can download the app now.

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