The River Charente is arguably the most attractive of all the inland waterways we have ever filmed. It is certainly one of the least heavily used, and not at all spoiled by modern commercialisation. The navigable section runs for around 100 miles through Western France, from Angouleme, down to Rochefort on the Atlantic seaboard. It passes through the Cognac producing region. The landscape is characterised by the many vineyards, and the heavy forestation required to support the production of the thousands of oak barrels used in traditional Cognac production.
The river was officially abandoned as a navigation in the 1950s, but navigation has been fully restored up to Angouleme, and is maintained by the Departments du Charente and Charente-Maritime. All the locks and towpaths are in excellent condition. It?s estimated that there are only around 80 boats on the river, so even if they are all out, you will encounter less than one boat per mile. We cruised for hours on end through the beautiful countryside without seeing another boat.
At the Eastern end of the navigation, Angouleme is a delightful Romano-Gallic fortified town standing on a promontory overlooking the river. The old town is inextricably linked to the production of naval canon and munitions. The manufacture of fine paper is another local tradition, and the video shows you the timeless process.
Cognac production is centered around Jarnac and Cognac itself. We visit some mainstream distilleries, and a very small private distillery to find out how the famous amber nectar is made.
Sainte is another ancient Romano-Gallo settlement, with an amphitheatre, said to be second only to the Colliseum. The town centre is an eclectic mixture of open air markets, French gothic architecture, pleasant pedestrianised areas. and fascinating little side streets.
Rochefort, at the Western end of the navigation, is a model town, built around an eighteenth century naval dockyard with plenty to see and do. It provides a fitting end to a delightful journey, full of interest, on a beautiful, unspoiled waterway.
Running Time: 60 minutes