Getting Industrious on Canal du Nord

The Canal du Nord, and on down L’Oise to Compiègne

I’ve been working on my WordPress ability (a little) and now know how to get French accents into the main text – but not the photo captions – so apologies to all French readers)

Having joined the Canal du Nord, and its potential challenges we rounded the first bend to our planned Peronne mooring – which as full of massive industrial / commercial barges. Plan B came into operation – the ‘port de plaisance’, (no, not another name for a pleasure dome) avoiding more shallows and wondering if there was a space for the 20m Calliope.

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Alongside at Peronne Port de Plaisance.

Yes, just enough room if we had our stern sticking out beyond the pontoon. The other barge at the mooring, Nellie Dick, belonged to some friendly Aussies who were in the area for the ANZAC Day memorial event back near Corbie.

We stayed three nights on this pleasant mooring in a dead-end inlet. Nature was all around us, and with only a 2 km walk into Peronne we went exploring. Peronne deserves a little time; there is a good WW1 museum, some old cobbled streets, a good market, and, important to us, shopping at Intermarche for a new printer.

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We also sought out a boulangerie for the famous local ‘tarte au poireaux’ (leek pie).

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Peronne lock, Canal du Nord

Knowing that the large locks on Canal du Nord would be a new test for our capabilities we also walked down the ‘chemin de haulage’ to inspect the first that we would encounter; interesting!

Then as we turned back we found looming storm clouds that caught us out just before we reached the shelter of an unused railway bridge.

Next Day

Finally we were off down the Canal du Nord. This adventure began with Captain Carr’s helmsmanship to the fore, reversing Calliope through the narrow entrance to the mooring inlet, avoiding the shallows and any passing giant barges, into the canal.

(It was nothing . . . )

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Ropes from fore and aft to midships bollard

We arrived at the now familiar first lock and had out first lesson in how to go up huge wet locks, with ropes from bow and stern to one set of central rising bollards; good fun if you like an adventure, and not always easy.

By mid afternoon we had risen through several locks (only the French would have a guillotine to enter and leave the lock), reached a plateau and moored up on what is named on the map as Port L’Ercheu –

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Port d’Ercheu

nothing in sight but countryside and a few bollards; perfect.

We enjoyed the peace and solitude, the sunset and the dawn, and were delighted with our breakfast visitor on the bank – a yellow hammer, and the first either of us had seen.

And the next two days

The following day took us through our first European tunnel – Tunnel Pannetierre. It looked to be straightforward enough for the Captain, but odd eddies pulled the boat from side to side, keeping him on his toes.

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We emerged into sunlight, and two more huge locks – I so love the guillotine gates!

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Pont L’Eveque – meeting Canal Lateral a L’Oise

That night we moored at Pont L’Eveque between the railway bridge and a road bridge – not as quiet as some moorings, but pleasant just the same.

This almost marked the end of our Canal du Nord experience – just 200m to go to the T-junction where we met the Canal Lateral à L’Oise.  We walked round the village, spotting a Boulangerie, bar and evening market for next day; good use of a stroll

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Noyen tower

Next day we walked into Noyon, about 2.5km – and did the history bit – fascinating.

The area around the cathedral is fascinating, and the cathedral itself has quite the most beautiful and unusual apse we have seen.  This photo does not do it justice at all! We were also starkly reminded again of the toll on France’s buildings (and of course people) from the two world wars. The bullet holes all over the cathedral were evidence of this.

After a relatively boring pizza and some gourmet-esque shopping in the best boucherie/charcuterie we have found yet.  We bought home made garlic sausage, paté, rielettes and quiche! Then back to the boat before going out into Pont L’Eveque that evening. We purchased as expected from the (small) market and the (typical) bar, and also met our friends on Nellie Dick again.

Day 4

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Coming into Longueil-Annel

Back on the road ‘river’ again, leaving the Canal du Nord and joining the Canal Laterale à L’Oise.

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Looking back at Longeuil-Annel lock

This was a much gentler trip, stopping at Longeuil-Annel for lunch and a quick look round the museum du batteliers. (Worth planning at least two hours there if you love barges and barge life)

We arrived in Compiègne later afternoon and saw a perfect mooring against a wall.

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Tied up at Compiegne between Esme on the right and Passe Lagon on the left

It was opposite the *‘Gaz station’ for next days fill, and just behind another barge ….. Esme (home of the DBA’s famous Chris and Diane Grant). Within a few minutes it was obvious that another barge was joining us, and soon Passe Lagom tucked in too.

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Compiegne bridge (taken by Stewart)

Four very pleasant nights were spent in Compiègne, including three wonderful evenings with the two aforementioned barges and bargees (and a trashed wine cellar . . . .).

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At last – a Croque Madame!

Our time included a Croque Madame for Monsieur Carr (with a Coke?);

a good look round the town, its ancient buildings and links with **Joan of Arc; a food lovers shop at the huge Saturday market;

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Armistice train track

a cycle ride to the Armistice train and track through the woods for Lesley;

and a joyous view of the May Day parade, with its numerous brass bands and horse drawn floats.

**Couple odd points of alternative interest: *Joan of Arc was only 19 when somebody burnt her, and **Guerdin’s (et fils) is a good place to top up with fuel, with a great chandlery. The young man who leapt about to catch our ropes was the petit fils Guerdin – a scholar, gentleman and acrobat . . . . (with thanks to Gerald on Lautrec for the pointer).

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Goodbye Compiegne

So with fridge and fuel tank full we were ready to set course back under Compiegne bridge and off towards Soissons – the next stage of Calliope’s voyage south.

PS – Astute matelots will notice the skipper’s new pride and joy: two black balls (from Guerdin’s) weighing down the forward flags – it’s what all the best dressed 40m 1,000 ton barges are wearing this season . . .

Gates, houses and barns of Conde-sur-Marne

The scent of grape harvests past seemed to seep from the stones as I walked the back lanes of Condé-sur-Marne. It stands at the confluence of two canals; the Canal de l’Aisne à la Marne and the Canal lateral à la Marne, within the famed Champagne region of France.

 

img_9109Round almost every bend I found hauntingly beautiful barns and still proud gateways that led to cobbled yards; truly decrepit houses; narrow alleys heading out to rural green; a patchwork of corrugates iron holding things in place. All more than hinting at the village’s history of viniculture, and most merging into a more modern way of life.

It came to tine for us to leave, to continue our journey, but I was not ready to go. Something was tugging me back between the high honey-stone walls; I needed to try and capture some essence of the place on camera. It was a twenty minute twirl, sometimes waiting for the sun to emerge from behind clouds, and sometimes not.

 

 

Here is the result.

Gateways

Eaves and Roofs

Walls

Buildings

And the bit of fun!

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Saying good bye to La Somme – Amiens to Peronne

Written in haste while we had the wee-fee (wi-fi) to upload it all)

 

I have mentioned that Amiens was a curate’s egg. The good parts were the architecture, the parks;

 

les Hortinollages and their passerales; (I’ve got another 30 photos of these if anyone is interested . . )

the Cathedral; (absolutely HUGE, twice the size of Notre-Dame in Paris)

 

old houses, shops and restaurants (linked together by a mini-canal system similar to Venice.)

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The bad parts were that we had moored up against a quay that was popular with exuberant somewhat inebriated young at night, and melancholy somewhat inebriated drinkers during the day. It looks lovely – but had its downsides.

 

 

So Stewart never felt comfortable there and after two nights we decided to move on up river. The first part of the journey was past Les Hortillonages (hectare upon hectare of small market gardens divided by small channels of water).

The first lock we came to was at Lamotte-Brebiere where we waited for our jolly orange Somme van and accompanying l’eclusier to arrive next to a lovely wacky bar.

 

 

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Corbie mooring

 

We continued to Daours lock, through to Corbie and our resting place for two nights.

 

 

 

 

 

Corbie is a pleasant village with some nice buildings – and our first meeting with another boat in 4 weeks (see below below)

 

It has a close association with Sainte Colette,

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Chapel of St Colette

 

 

 

including a chapel build on the site of her birth

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St Colette’s viewpoint

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and her favourite view from a high spot above town. (A Saintly Colette indeed . . . )

 

 

 

(with a point of view . . . . . )

We met Bente and Kurt and their splendid B&B (barge and breakfast)/cruise barge Aslaug…look them up and go for a day out or holiday with them! They helped us celebrate our wedding anniversary the evening before we set off again, with Cappy as our target for the night – a target that was somewhat missed!

The first of our set of three ‘incidents of the day’ occurred before we even left – the printer stopped working, and there were none to be purchased in Corbie. Then as we set off proudly upriver, looking back we saw a happy black fender bobbing about mid-stream …. requiring full astern from the Captain, and a wildly wielded boathook by the crew.

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From La Somme

Setting off again, we had a good view of St Colette’s view point from below as we began the journey – you can just make out the same information board (above) in the top left hand corner.

 

Calliope made good time and we arrived at the first lock, Bailly-Laurette, a few minutes early, so moored up to await the eclusier. An hour later he arrived, somewhat put out to find the third of our day’s setbacks. He discovered that there was no electricity to the lock mechanism. After a couple of phone calls he decided he would do what he could with the ‘emergency’ manual turning handle – which took ages and a lot of puff.

 

Consequently we were at Bailly-Laurette for almost three hours – long enough to photograph a selection of flowers around the lock;

and meet two sets of boaters waiting to go downstream. This meant that there would be no more locks that day and no reaching Cappy.

The superb result of this delay meant that the Captain recalculated our course and decided that we would heave to at Chipilly – an absolutely wonderfully quiet and peaceful mooring with nightingales singing all night (noisy incessant un-melodic little critters)  .

 

Near WW1 memorials and sad, sad graveyards. (Over 1 million young men from both sides were wounded or killed in just 4 months at the battle of the Somme, after which the Allies front line had moved forwards 11 kilometers – to another position of stalemate . . . .)

 

It is also the place of choice for proud geese parents to take their young on evening promenades, but the very young are corralled for safety on the water.

 

And next day, on down the last stretch of the Somme towards Péronne and the scary scary Canal du Nord . . . .

We were accompanied by our eclusier from the day before, fortified and refreshed overnight by some beer we gave him!  He stayed with us through two ‘point levis’ (lift bridges) and several locks. 

 

At Froisssy we jumped ashore for half an hour to see Le Petit Train de Haute Somme – built to bring men and supplies to and from the front during WW1, then used by local farmers, and now a tourist attraction.

The neat Art Deco lock building at Cappy was an additional attraction.

 

Through the last lock, under the A1 …..

 

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Under the A1

 

…..  and then under the last rusty bridge of La Somme before bursting out onto the scary Canal du Nord, avoiding the first of many giant commercial barges and the shallows marked by a long row of red buoys to starboard.

 

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Entering Canal du Nord from La Somme

Our second meeting with another boat in 4 weeks – actually, 2 x 40m fully loaded barges strapped together pushing about 6 knots; the ground rules have just changed  . . . .

Just around the first bend we saw the entrance to the creek on our starboard bow that heralded our mooring at Peronne. Hooray – we had made it!

So far so good . . . . .