With its electric hybrid motors, solar panels, eco-hulls and leisurely itineraries, Backwaters Tours is offering a new eco-friendly way to experience the hidden rivers and canals of France’s heartland.

This new no-fly holiday option focuses on day-cruises aboard the company’s own new-build vessel, Natalia. Best described as a floating observation lounge, Natalia meanders through France’s vast inland waterways network from Loiret in the West through Burgundy and across Alsace and Champagne region into Picardy, Flanders and the Ardennes.

The holidays very much reflect the “Slow Travel” trend, as guests typically spend the day cruising, enjoy a local boulangerie lunch on board with regional wines, strolling the towpath, and breaking out for occasional excursions to visit the great vineyards, châteaux, historic cities, and other iconic sights of the French regions.

For another slow boat through France, why don’t you take a Burgundy Wine Cruise?

Such is the gentle pace of travel, most of these tour-cruises stay within easy travelling distance of the same hotel all week, both providing a stable base for the week’s holiday and allowing for that little bit of extra freedom morning and evening when passengers might otherwise be trapped aboard a conventional cruise boat.

Specially commissioned to serve the cruise-and-tour ideal, the Natalia has 300kWh of battery capacity, sufficient to propel the boat on its electric engines at around 6Kph for six hours. The boat’s saloon roof is also fitted with solar panels, providing an additional feed of power to serve its air conditioning system, and the battery bank is charged overnight from shore connection.

Other green design credentials include its peniche-style bow and shallow hull, which minimise wash to help preserve canal and river banks. In fact, as the vessel travels at only jogging pace, it creates hardly any wash at all. This gentle pace of travel also means there are plenty of opportunities for guests to enjoy strolling or cycling the towpaths too.

The company also ensures cleaning is done with eco-products and has adopted a waste-avoidance policy with single-use plastics excluded, a strict recycling code in place and ‘normal’ multi-use crockery, cutlery and glassware used on board. Crew members are also expected to contribute to environmental recovery by retrieving recyclable materials from the waterways when practicable.

Backwaters tour-cruises normally operate by coach, departing from Folkestone, but guests can travel independently if they wish and join the tour group at the destination.

Holidays start from £950 per person, with no single supplement, for a week’s all-inclusive cruise exploring the scenic and secluded Canal du Nivernais in the rural heartland of Burgundy. Departing Folkestone on Sunday 26th August, the Cruising the Northern Nivernais tour includes all travel and transfers, excursions, full board and six nights’ accommodation at the family owned two-star Logis St François in the village of Vermenton.

Covering 70km and with a total cruise time of 21 hours, the tour starts in Vermenton and finishes in the medieval town of Clamecy. Itinerary highlights include the viewpoints of Mailly-le-Chateau and Irancy, wine tasting in Chablis, a jazz night at the Cistercian Abbaye de Reigny, guided visit to UNESCO-listed Basilica of St Mary Magdalen at Vezelay and to the prehistoric underground Caves d’Arcy. There’s also a free afternoon in the fine city of Auxerre, and a trip on a local train following the Upper Yonne valley.

For bookings and more information on Backwaters and its 2018/19 programme visit: www.backwaters.tours or call: 01303 263 422.