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. 

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