Sunday, 12 October 2014

Saturday 11th October 2014 Wez to Condé. 17.9kms 8 locks

Northern end of Mont de Billy tunnel
10.8°C Foggy first thing so we waited until we could see the lock then set off at 9.30 am, just as Advenir (an empty péniche that we last saw at Berry) was coming up in Wez. Cindy was under the loading chute at the first silo quay waiting for loading on Monday morning no doubt. There were fishermen on the corners of both ends of the silo layby. Three men with guns over their shoulders were walking the field towards the silo and their dogs were searching the standing corn to flush out any rabbits. Advenir was catching up, he didn’t stop at the first silo. The sun
Kingfisher at Vaudemanges
started breaking through briefly around 10am. We went into the next silo layby so Advenir could pass us more easily. As they were passing Madame was washing the gunwales down and chatting with Mike who asked where they were loading, when suddenly they went into hard reverse – hotel boat Adrianne came through the next bridge and went past heading towards Reims. Waved hello to the crew on the hotel barge and followed Advenir on towards the tunnel. Noted that, as the summit level was full and overflowing well, the bridge clearance was reduced a bit on the next two bridges which are normally low ones both marked at 3.6m – Advenir did what we hadn’t seen an empty working boat do in a long time, as the wheelhouse was about level with the bridge the skipper applied the throttle hard to
Vaudemanges lock, first of a flight of eight locks
dig the stern end down into the water and pull the back end of the boat down to clear the bridge as they went under it. A neat, if risky, solution. Our top light on our mast cleared the bridges with just a few centimetres to spare.  Into the cutting. VNF had done a lot of bank clearing along the right bank where the towpath should be (but hasn’t for years), there is a footpath beyond the trees. A man with a van was fishing in the feeder channel for the
Lock cabin at Conde bottom lock of the flight.
canal from the little river Vesle. The empty peniche had a green light for the Mont de Billy tunnel and had just entered as we turned the bend. The light changed back to red so Mike called the lady tunnel keeper on VHF radio. Madame answered him and said that as there was an empty in front of us we would have to wait fifteen minutes. OK, we stooged about until the light changed to green. I cooked a quiche while we went
Jammed lock gate covered with boat graffiti
through the 2.4kms long tunnel, which is lit by fluorescent lights all the way through. It took a mere 25 minutes. There seemed to be more vacant space in the layby at Vaudemanges, just two DBs and a cruiser. I turned the pole to start the flight of eight chained automatic locks down to Condé. I made some lunch as we went down the flight, slowly, delaying lifting the bar each time as Advenir was not far in front.
17 Vaudemange, 18 Champ Bon Garçon, 19 Longues Raies, 20 St Martin, 21 Foss Rodé, 22 Isse, 23 Coupé, 24
On the pontoon at Conde ready for winter
Half the lock houses had completely gone, one of the remaining four was derelict and the roof was leaking (Coupé) one had been refurbished, but looked empty, (Foss Rodé) while only the other two, Isse and Condé, were lived in. The last lock (Condé) failed as we were leaving – we’d had no other problems – the bottom end gates didn’t fully open and the twin red lights were on as we left the chamber indicating that it was “en panne” (out of order) someone came to fix it before we’d tied up. We winded and tied up on the last vacant space on the second pontoon at 2.35pm. We went in the car to get some coal from the Bricomarché at Mont Héry in Chalons.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Friday 10th October 2014 Sillery to abv Wez on summit level. 7.06kms 4 locks

Sugar works boiling up the beet - pooh!
11.3°C Cloudy with blue patches of sky and little spells of sunshine, warmer as there was little wind. Cruiser Blue Steel that we’d shared a lock with on the Meuse went past around nine heading downhill. We set off at 9.45am, winded and headed uphill for lock 13 Sillery. I turned the pole and the lock gates opened. A deeper lock, we rose 3.49m. Into the port and we moored on the end of the quay nearest the lock while Mike went to get some bread. Took some photos of the boats (lots of SSRs in evidence) one or two Dutch boats and French. Took photos of Avalon which was moored on the outside end of the second staging
Beaumont must be one of the next in line for new concrete walls
and, surprisingly, it wasn’t the only wide beam moored there. Set off again at 10.30 am, 2.2kms to the next lock, passing the sugar works of Beghin Say which was cooking sugar beet and making what is (in my humble opinion) the foulest stink in the world. I gave up having sugar in my tea and coffee way back in the early 1970s when I saw the Tate and Lyle factory in Liverpool for the first time. Turned the pole and the gates on lock 14, L’Espèrance, opened. New concrete walls in the lock c
The vineyards, lighthouse and windmill - La Montagne
hamber and the lock house had had new windows and doors. Up 2.63m and on to the 2.8kms long straight pound to lock 15 Beaumont. Turned the pole and we went up another 2.75m. The stone blocks that made up the lock walls were very badly eroded. It still had its old style two-storey lock cabin and two lock houses, both in use, one with a plate over the door said it was the “conducteur des voies navigable”. Beyond was another VNF workshop on the edge of another basin, almost as big as the one at Sillery but
Old lock cabin at Beaumont
completely empty. Just 1.15kms to the last lock of the day 16 Wez, more new concrete walls and a lift of just 2.47m on to the summit level. The VNF man who lives at the house came up the towpath in his van, waved, parked in front of the house and went in to have his lunch, bread under his arm. It was midday. We winded about 400m beyond the lock with a beautiful wide panorama of La Montagne and moored with our bows on the last mooring stump for overnight péniches.
Moored on the summit level above Wez
It was 12.15pm by the time we’d knocked pins in and put all the gear away. Lunch. Pleased to see we’d still got a good signal from Bouygues Telecom!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Thursday 9th October 2014 Courcy to below Sillery lk. 21.6kms 3 locks

Misty cutting nr Reims
13.9°C Heavy rain in the night and still raining when we got up. Decided that we must move, rain or no rain. It had stopped raining when we set off at 8.40 am. There was an old cruiser (looked permanent) tied by the quay beyond the road bridge and a smart large varnished wooden yacht, called Maiko. On into the cutting that takes the canal out of the Aisne valley into the valley of the little river Vesle, a little tributary of the Marne. The long péniche loading quay at PUM steel works was completely empty save for one resident empty boat called St Joseph, which had been painted down to the waterline and hadn't been loaded
Just one boat moored at PUM steel works
since, it was attached to an electricity supply too. Around the corner in Courcelles, there was a bateau ecole boat (a small cruiser doing boating lessons) in the empty Port Colbert arm, its crew dropped a buoy in the middle as we went past. At 10 am the rain started to pour down again, brolly up – at least it wasn’t windy. A gypsy encampment of half a dozen caravans had been set up where the fuel depot used to be. A little further on into the city centre there was a flock of about a hundred ducks,
Palais de Congres. Reims 
someone had thrown a lot of bread on the side of the road, but a big flock of pigeons from the flour mill were eating it before the ducks could fly out on to the bank. Joggers were still out in force on the towpath in the rain as we went past the Palais de Congres and the Port de Plaisance. Just one cruiser (Pierre VI) was moored on their finger moorings by the Capitanerie. Further along the quay there was a row of péniches; Anders, Interlude and Taifun (moored three abreast) then two DBs, Resiste and Biesbosch with a cruiser
Port de Plaisance. Reims
alongside, then two more péniche houseboats – Landoria and Nautica. Beyond the road bridge there were more houseboats; a cruiser called Ti Amo, then a restaurant boat called La Petite Seine, a well varnished péniche called Cabourg, another old cruiser and then a small floating shed (first one in France!). Just before the bottom lock of the three in Reims there was a moored DB called Liberté. A crowd of school children (early teens) were supposed to be running, a few were walking and chatting, looking as if the
A floating SHED!! Not seen one since Germany.
last thing in the world they wanted to do was be on the towpath in the rain – but some were serious runners, especially several of the boys who had tee shirts off and tied around their waists. The rain continued as we went up the chained flight of three locks. I turned the pole to activate them. All were full so we had to poodle about while the first one emptied. The itinerant lock keeper on his scooter arrived at the bottom lock, 10 Fléchambault, as I lifted the blue pole. Up 2.87m and on up the short pound to lock 11 Château d’eau, which was ready by the time we arrived. Up 2.01m and another short pound took us to lock 12 Huon. Up another 2.36m. Noted that the well-fortified lock house (surrounded b
Lock house at Huon. Reims
y high fences, as are all three locks to keep children and vandals out) was at long last inhabited – there was a light on in the house and garden furniture and a child’s playhouse in the garden. Another retired (or just resting?) péniche was moored on the left immediately above the top lock, a very smartly painted boat called Cotre, with the equally flamboyantly painted name plate on the stern of the Trombosky family. Again the boat had not been loaded since it was last painted. The rain had paused. I made a
VNF offices Reims
cuppa. Two contractors (not VNF) were strimming the grass alongside the right bank. Into the area of Reims called Cormontreuil, where there were two big silos. The boat we’d followed up from Berry, Mondor from Douai, had just finished loading at the first silo quay and, at the second quay Castille was loading, with Star from Brugge waiting. Past the VNF offices and then factories occupied the left bank with a thick belt of trees along the right all the way as far as Taissy. Trees were growing along the left bank too as none of the factories now used the canal quays for transport. The canalside factory walls were covered in graffiti. Rain started pouring down again as we passed huge piles of
Moored below the lock at Sillery
woodchips before the next silos. The quays were no longer in use - the grain driers were in use, fired by woodchips. A lorry driver waved as we passed, he was waiting to load at the silos. Out into countryside with glimpses of fields beyond the trees as we approached Sillery. Along the towpath all the flowers were yellow, golden rod and tansy. Winded and moored below the lock at Sillery at 1 pm. Mike trimmed the nettles back, we unloaded the moped and he set off to move the car. As we were beyond the boundaries of Reims we were surprised we still had a 4G Internet signal.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Tuesday 7th October 2014 Berry-au-Bac to Courcy. 12.3kms 9 locks

Alongside Berry lock, former boatmen's cafe and chandlery
11.6°C Windy, chilly and sunny first thing, but grey clouds rolled in before we set off and rain showers arrived lunchtime and continued all afternoon. Mike went into Berry on foot to get some bread, but he returned empty handed as the bakery was closed, on holiday. Mike called at the lock cabin (there were seven or eight VNF staff in there, must have be on a coffee break) and told the keeper we were setting off up Berry Marne, uphill on the Aisne à la Marne. He left it set for us as a loaded boat had just come down, two in fact, Jomel
Old lock house opposite the old cafe by Berry lock
followed by La Paix. Fetched all the mooring pins out and set off up the lock, No 1 Berry, at 10.25am. Rose 2.85m, ropeless as usual, but with an audience - a guy in a car stopped on the bridge and a man on a bike. The old lock house was still standing, but gradually decaying. 1.15kms past the silos (with the loud drying fans running) to lock 2 Moulin de Sapigneul. Turned the pole to activate the lock, which is chained to the one after it. (Looking at our old Navicarte of 1990, the first five locks used to be chained (linked) together
Loaded boat Dahna waiting abv lk 3 Sapigneul
and called the Berry flight, activated by the keeper to go uphill and automatically activated by boats breaking the radar beams at the top to come downhill) A boat was going up the locks in front of us, so no use doing more than 5kph or we’d soon be catching it up. One was coming down in lock 2. Loaded boat Guitti from Chauny cleared the lock and we went up. The activating rods in these first few locks are almost by the top end gates, so we motor into the chamber right up to the front, I lift the rod from the bows, the bells start ringing to say that the lock is about to start working and then
Boat we were following moored below lock 6 Loivre - until we turned
the pole and the lock gates opened!
Mike backs off until the stern is about a metre from the bottom end gates, which will have closed by the time we get there, then the lock fills. Up 2,67m. Another sad, empty lockhouse. Another short pound 1.1kms and we had to wait a short while as the lock, no 3 Sapigneul, emptied. Up another 2.67m with yet another forlorn, empty lock house. Another loaded boat, Dahna from Vitry, was waiting to come down, bows to the right bank in the wind. A longish pound of 2.35kms, past the factory of
Old lock house at 7 Fontaines
Caprimeb at Neuville, where they make prefabricated concrete tunnel linings and on to lock 4 Alger. The lock was full, so the boat we were following must have passed the downhill boat on this pound. It emptied and we went up another 2.67m. Glad to see that the lock house was still lived in and it had had new windows and doors. Two black Labrador dogs came out to woof at us after we’d left! There were three cars and a VNF van parked on the towpath side of the lock. 1.2kms to Gaudart lock 5, chained to lock 4, so it was empty when we got there. Up another 2.58m. The lock chamber had new concrete walls and new gates, but they’d put the rods less than a metre from the top end gates, Mike almost had
By contrast with the house also alongside lock 7
this one is lived in and well kept
to put the bows on the cill for me to reach the rod. Another refurbished lock house. Smoke curled from a chimney pot to be blown horizontally by the wind. Dark black rain clouds were coming in our direction so I closed the doors and lifted the mats off the front deck so they wouldn’t get wet. Waterproofs on. 3.5kms to the next lock. We passed two downhill boats, loaded Coxswain from Douai just after we left the lock, then an empty called Amigo about 1km further on, just before the A26 autoroute bridge. The first rain was just a light shower, but the wind coming from our right across open fields of sugar beet was whipping it into the horizontal. Glad when there were
Moored by the old factory at Courcy
more trees on the right bank to shelter us as the canal was on a slight embankment before Loivre. Below lock 6 Loivre there were three moored boats, a houseboat called Louna (a DB) and a retired péniche with no name, plus the empty boat we’d been following. The lock light was red, we thought the péniche had stopped for lunch/shopping/the night/whatever, and so we turned the pole, the lock gates opened – then the boat untied and blasted off into the chamber! Mike had to reverse 50m back to the pole and turn it again. It started to rain, heavier this time. A VNF van went past us and on up to the lock. We came to the conclusion that, for whatever reason, the péniche skipper had missed the turn pole and had called the VNF out. Waited below while the lock turned round and we went up lock 6, rising 2.62m; this lock was chained with the next three over the next 2.67kms. The boat in front had just left lock 7 Fontaines when we arrived, we hung about below while it emptied, then went up another 2.81m. In the distance we could see at lock 8 Noue Gouzaine there were two VNF vans and workmen by the top end gates. A man on a bike was collecting fallen walnuts by the lock. The péniche in front cleared and the lock emptied for us. The itinerant keeper lifted the bar for me and we rose ropeless as usual another 2,51m. This chamber had also been recently refurbished with new concrete walls and new gates. The guy working on the top end gate was a maintenance electrician replacing some wiring. The keeper opened the top gates from the lock cabin and left them open after we’d gone, turning all the electrics off so all the lights went out. On the railway track to our left we spied a large digger going past, the type that has two sets of wheels, one set for rails and one set for the road, no time to take a photo of it. The péniche was still in lock 9 Courcy, so we had another short wait while he cleared then we went up our last lock of the day. Rose another 2.63m on to the long pound (12.45kms) into Reims. A VNF lady in a big van went past and stopped on the towpath just beyond the lock to do her paperwork. We moored next to the old glass works on the left before the road bridge. New bollards had been added, which we found very useful. It was 2.40pm. Mike trimmed the herbage to keep the spiders and insects off the boat and I made us a late lunch. A large, Dutch-flagged DB called Mastodont went past heading downhill at 3.10pm. Amazed that we had our first ever 4G signal! Wow, Reims must have been upgraded since we were here last.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Friday 3rd October 2014 Asfeld to Berry-au-Bac 21kms 3 locks

Tracks through the layer of algae, last of the c des Ardennes
8.7°C After a foggy start it was sunny with clear blue skies and hot. Mike went by car to get another loaf from the boulangerie in Asfeld before taking the car to Berry and coming back on the moped. On his return he said that a new young lock keeper had come and told him he wasn’t allowed to park by the lock house as it was parking for VNF only. He told him he was bringing a boat and that he’d always parked there over the last 20 years. Not allowed – far side of the lock chamber. OK. (In fairness there has always been a notice
Antenna farm on house at Pignicourt by the suspended pole
to say that, but previous lock keepers have always told him to park our car by their house, maybe he’s a relief keeper and Madame will be back on duty tomorrow, we’ll see) We loaded the bike back on the roof and untied at 11.30am. Winded and set off heading downhill on the last 3kms of the canal des Ardennes. Poplars lining the towpath were dropping lots of bright yellow leaves. The lock, no 14 Vieux-les-Asfeld, was empty (an empty péniche had gone past heading downhill at 8am, that’s two in two days, things are looking up) so we had to wait a while for it to fill. I threw a rope round a bollard
Beautiful red leaves of Virginia creeper
and Mike connected up the generator so I could do some washing on the 6.9km pound below. Descended 2.93m and as we left the lock started on a different canal, the canal lateral à l’Aisne. An empty péniche, called Ericpay (we think), went past heading uphill. Mike had seen it earlier coming up the control lock at Berry Aisne, he said the skipper was the spitting image of our old mate, (and sadly missed), fender-maker Alfie Langford. The rest of the long pound was very quiet, overgrown with trees hiding the towpath. As we
Aqueduct over the tiny river Suippe
dropped down lock 1 Pignicourt (no lock house) Mike disconnected the drive. Took a photo of the radio antennas at the house of a radio amateur who lives in the village right by the turn pole for going uphill. The sunshade went up as it was getting hotter. Among the trees on the 7km long pound there were loads and loads of cherry trees on the offside, where no one but boaters could get at them, shame we’re too late! At Variscourt, before the road bridge, a whole family were fishing, Dad, Mum and daughter in her twenties, mother and daughter were both smoking.  Beyond the road
Conde-sur-Suippe lock
bridge a Dutch barge called Quo Vadis (Dutch flagged) was moored and more fishermen were fishing at the end of the moorings by the lakes. A pheasant flew across the canal and dived into the undergrowth. Suddenly our bucolic surroundings became very industrialised when we came to the silos and quays on our left at Guignicourt (a town which is hidden from the canal by lots of trees as it is on our right, on the far banks of the river Aisne). A dumper truck went past, under the bridge, making a big cloud of choking
A very scrawny looking heron
dust as it passed us. There were no boats at the silo. Mike took a photo of the bright red leaves of some Virginia creeper, a sure sign that autumn is here, at KP13 by the as yet silent sugar works, the sugar beet harvest will soon be in full swing then the smell of boiling beet will be disgusting (I hate it, makes me feel ill!) Over a little aqueduct carrying the canal over the tiny river Suippe, a tributary of the Aisne and into the next lock, no 2 Condé-sur-Suippe. Down another 2.63m and on to a 4.65km pound leading to Berry and the junction with the Aisne
Bon Espoir taking great care with low bridge
into Berry Marne, first lock of Aisne a la Marne canal
à la Marne canal. There were more fishermen along the bank just below the lock, opposite a long silted up layby. There were more by the old bridge at KP15 just before the A26 autoroute bridge. Many lorries were trundling down the motorway, we had a good view as there were no trees. A huge ploughed field stretched away into the distance before the bridge and after it another huge field of bright green leaves of young sugar beet, then the trees closed off the view again. More boat traffic, it’s getting busy! A British-flagged replica Dutch Barge called Soraya went by heading uphill, hope they know the canal shuts on the 15th for a month for repairs on the Montgon flight and the locks down to the Meuse. The rail track down to the factory in Berry appeared on our left, it was starting to look rusty and disused. There were no railway wagons, but the shunting engne was still there, hidden in a shed. No boats were moored there either and the place right by the junction, where there always used to be at least three
Moored in the corner of the large at Berry-au-Bac
or four empty boats moored, was also devoid of boats and a fishing contest was in progress. Mike called the lock keeper on 10 and got a faint reply from a boat (maybe the one we’d just passed?) so he tried again on 22 and the keeper at Berry Aisne replied and said thanks when Mike told him we were staying in the “large” (wide layby above his lock, which is now sadly silting up) and not going through his locks (he also sets Berry Marne lock for uphill traffic starting the chain of locks up the Aisne à la Marne). To moor in the corner of the large, we pulled the boat back carefully until bubbles started coming up then went forward a bit to stay out of the mud. It was 4pm when we tied up. The only other moored boat was an empty péniche called Advenir which was on the far side by the (now closed down) fuel depot. At 5.45pm an empty called Bon Espoir came up Berry Aisne and went on up Berry Marne, gingerly under that very low bridge. Oostenwind, a loaded Dutch boat, came down the lock before Bon Espoir went up – the Dutchman went on down Berry Aisne heading towards Paris. Another loaded boat arrived just after 7pm and, although the lock lights were off, the lock was ready for him (probably he’d phoned and put the lock on callout) and he went down Berry Aisne on to the 20kms long pound below for a few more hours running time before he had to stop for the night at the next lock. Nice to see working boats on the move again.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Tuesday 30th September 2014 Rethel to Asfeld 21.4kms 4 locks

Lock house at 10 Acy-Romance
13.4°C Overcast dull grey morning, sun out 1.15 pm with lots of grey clouds. Mike walked round to the Citroën garage to get the new biellette (a small connecting rod) for the gear linkage on the Xsara. Set off at 10.50 am I made a cuppa and sat out as we were approaching lock 10 Acy-Romance. Twisted the hanging pole and the lock gates opened as the lock was already full. The house was lived in, there were outdoor shoes on the doorstep. Down 2.15m and on to a 2.15km pound. A feature of this end of the canal are the long lines of tall ancient poplar trees all along the towpath, behind them on our left was a steep bank to
Lock cabin and banana palm at 11 Nanteuil
start with, which eventually became lower and lower until the ploughed fields beyond it came into view. The right bank was a tangle of lower trees and bushes with glimpses of more fields beyond them. A large gathering of mallard ducks flew off as we got closer to them. A moorhen raced across the canal, disturbed by the flighty ducks. Lock 11 Nanteuil was also full, so at a twist of the pole the top end gates opened. This lock had a smart garden with banana palms growing on the off side of the lock and there was a new lock cabin to house the controls should the roving keeper need to work the lock. Down another 2.35m and
Not smoke on the water, this is harvest dust
off on a 7.7kms pound. Not far below the lock there were a few houses in the village of Nanteuil that were on the banks of the canal, smoke curled from the chimney of one house. Beyond that the surface of the canal was covered in a layer of dust, the sort that descends after harvesting. There was lots of it so it must have been a very dusty harvest. There were trees growing along the bank of the canal right next to the canal, hiding the towpath from view. Lots more dust and then the trees gave way to open views across the empty fields as we neared the town of Château-Porcien. The town itself was hidden from view from the canal as it stood on the far bank of the river Aisne to our right, the river whose valley the
Lock house at 13 Asfeld
canal had been closely following since the bottom of the Montgon flight of locks. There was a VNF workshop and house on the left before the road bridge, then silo quays on the right and a saw mill on the left. Just beyond the silos there was a quay that we had moored next to in years gone by, which was now heavily overgrown with Japanese knotweed. First signs of life, other than wildlife, appeared on the towpath - a young Frenchman who had put down a knapsack and was shedding his jacket as the sun had just started to come out from behind the thick grey clouds that had hidden it all morning, he said hello as we passed
Oops, we're sure he didn't know we were in the lock!
by. It was 1.15pm and time for lunch. Mike did the honours with the lock poles at 12 Pargny (which had a nice house and garden) while I made lunch. Down another 2.89m on to a 7.9km pound. The hiker had caught up and, when Mike asked where he was making for, he said Asfeld (that’s where we’re going too). The next 3km section of towpath might prove a little difficult unless he has a machete! The towpath was difficult to see and looked well overgrown with trees right down to the water on both sides making the canal seem much narrower. More layers of dust on the water. The canal widened out again after a towpath
Safari's skipper steering with a joystick  into Asfeld lock
turnover bridge and a 2km straight section into Blanzy la Salonnaise. More signs of life! A young lady was walking four Sheltie dogs along the towpath. Mike saw a basking terrapin, quite a large one, but it didn’t want any publicity so when he picked up the camera it dived. Several other animals made loud splashes as they dived in the canal as we approached the next lock, couldn’t see what they were, all I saw was the ripples in the water where they’d been. The house at lock 13 Asfeld looked empty as it had no garden and the garage windows were broken. A car was parked on the road, but we suspected there were fishermen below the lock (there were). Down another 2.42m and as the gates opened we
Moored on the quay at Asfeld
were very surprised to see the bows of a loaded péniche a few metres from the gates. A VNF van appeared on the bridge over the tail of the lock and the VNF man waved. The skipper of Safari from Saarbrücken (in Gemany) didn’t look any too happy to see us, although he hadn’t got a green light for the lock and he had been about to enter on a red and let the VNF man in a van sort it out. He stopped and we went round his bows, there was just enough space. The skipper was steering from the starboard side of the boat with a joystick control and his wife was in the wheelhouse; they both waved. About ten minutes later we winded and tied up on the piled quay in Asfeld, just before the road bridge and the silos. It was 3.35pm. Gave Mike a hand with the bike and he went to collect the car from Rethel. 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Thursday 25th September 2014 Attigny to Rethel. 18.2kms 4 locks

Hanging pole to twist and activate lock. No 6 Givry
7.7°C Thick mist first thing, then sunny later. Mike took the car to Rethel and came back on the moped (he said there were three boats on the town moorings in Rethel including a British replica DB called Linda from Sheffield), I got on with the chores. He was back at 10.30 am, I gave him a hand to load the bike back on the roof and then we set off from Attigny at 11am. 2kms and we were soon at lock 6 Givry. Mike twisted the pole and the yellow light flashed on the apex of the left hand bend (the lock was out of sight round the bend)
No posh lock cabin at this lock (Givry) no lock house here either
so a metal box contains control panel (anti-vandal)
and we stooged down to the lock, it was still slowly filling. No lock house at this one, but they’d added a shiny new metal box to house the controls for the automatics as there was no lock cabin either. A new sign with the lock name and distances to the locks in either direction (just like they used to have over the door on all the old lock houses) had been added to an orange post with a life ring. It emptied quicker than it filled and we were soon 2.95m lower. The next pound was a long one 7.85kms. There was a lone fisherman by the village of Givry, then the canal
Refurbished lock chamber and new style rods
split level - on lockside for downhill
behind the ladder for uphill
became like a wild river with both banks covered with trees and bushes down to the waterline, maybe there was a towpath lurking under the trees but we couldn’t see it. On a 2km long straight we could see a boat coming towards us. It was a very wide, large, Swiss cruiser called Arc en Ciel (Rainbow) whose crew were steering from the roof. We spotted their navigation lights were on as we passed, lot of use that was as we’d seen the boat easily from 2kms away! The sun finally burned through the mist. The leaves on the poplar trees were starting to turn bright yellow. About 1km before Ambly the trees thinned out and there was a towpath again on the left. A few old wooden chalets were hidden under the next thicket of trees. Lock 7 Seuil had been totally renovated with new concrete walls and metal edges, new short control rods on the lockside for going down and new ones set into the wall behind a ladder for coming up. The house was lived in and well maintained. We dropped down 2.54m and set off down the short, 2.7m, pound to the next lock. A former Nichols hireboat called Orchis
Gottcha! Honey buzzard
was tucked in between the trees growing along the towpath edge close by some wooden bungalows. A man waved and shouted hello as we passed. Another very wide three-storey cruiser was coming up in the next lock, this one was Belgian-flagged and called Jeu d’Eau from Liège – on his way home no doubt. Lock 8 Thugny had been refurbished, just like lock 7, and again the lockhouse was lived in and well looked after. Below the lock there were new signs that said “no fishing” and “night fishing for carp allowed” – 75m further on a man was fishing with a long roach pole! Vive la France! Bet he’s fished
Recovered sunken boat on the bank near Rethel
there since he was a wee lad! The view on the right opened up across a big field of maize and we could hear the mewing calls of birds of prey before we saw three honey buzzards spiralling up on thermals. Lock 9 Biermes hadn’t had the revamp treatment yet. The house was surrounded by a motley collection of ancient agricultural equipment, péniche propellers and anchors. Down another 1.72m and on to the last wriggly bit before the town. Houses started appearing on the left bank and a cyclist came whizzing round
Moored on the old quay at Rethel
the corner on to the towpath which was now metalled. Another fisherman was seated by some pilings out on the bank next to an old rusting cruiser which, by the marks across its roof, had been sunk for some considerable time. Still on the left bank we passed a factory processing huge bales of waste paper just before the bridge and the start of the moorings on the right bank. We passed DB Linda (they left late afternoon) moored by the water and electricity posts (wow, more refurbishments!) and winded to tie up on the old quay at 3.10pm. Yipee, we got 3G. Made a cuppa and settled down to do the log and photos then start the great catch up. One day caught up, 15th is the next day to do so I’m still ten days behind.