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.

1 comment:

  1. Looks beautiful weather. Hate the totally shaded mooring here with views of the sunshine and fishermen in shorts and t shirts on the opposite bank. At least when we return the plain trees will have shed their leaves and that will let a bit of sun on to Snail and her crew. Bon voyage. xx