Press the green button to raise the ocean

The 17th Century terraformers who carved out the Canal du Midi enlisted an army of plane trees and cypresses to strengthen its banks.

These days, sadly, many of the trees are dying off from disease and old age, but their roots still make for good moorings.

Floating along the first canal to link two oceans, I marvelled at the ease with which Europe’s waterways have morphed from transport arteries into leisure amenities.

Half a century ago this canal was a workplace; now it’s a playground where holidaymakers in hireboats self-serve at automated locks.

Amazingly it works. Press the button labelled with your destination, then green for go to start shifting three quarters of a million litres of water…

… which makes me wonder what other bits of heavy infrastructure might be ripe for mass amateurisation.

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