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.
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.
We also sought out a boulangerie for the famous local ‘tarte au poireaux’ (leek pie).
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.
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 . . . )
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 –
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.
We emerged into sunlight, and two more huge locks – I so love the guillotine gates!
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
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.
Back on the road ‘river’ again, leaving the Canal du Nord and joining the Canal Laterale à L’Oise.
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.
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.
Four very pleasant nights were spent in Compiègne, including three wonderful evenings with the two aforementioned barges and bargees (and a trashed wine cellar . . . .).
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;
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).
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 . . .