St-Jean-de-Losne to Pouilley-en-Auxoir
10 days in June 2016
with Captain Stu’s comments in italics!
We had reached St-Jean-de-Losne from Auxonne down La Saone (in pretty rapid time) and stopped in at the boatyard chandlery for some fenders and canal maps. After a quick lunch on the visitors moorings we set off up Canal de Bourgogne – our quick get away hampered by arriving at the lock when it was closed for lunch!
We enjoyed the enforced rest, sat in the lock happily resting and awaiting the éclusier’s return.
The lock was a real surprise to me – because I had misread the Du Breil! The map for the start of the canal was opposite a page with lots of information – about the Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne! This told me all the locks were mechanized. In fact they are the opposite. They are all manual, as I saw when the éclusier came back. He put his muscles to work, opening and closing ‘portes’ and ‘vantelles’ until we were off up stream.
The first few hundred meters of the canal were very wide, with lots of barges, old and new, moored both sides. It has obviously been an absolute hub of barge activity through the decades. It seems bizarre, but these two photos, taken within minutes of each other, have such different colouring.
The plotted course was to Longecourt – just 6 locks away. Another éclusier joined us in his sou’wester and waterproofs for the next two locks, zipping along between the two on his little VNF motor scooter.
Then a very pleasant lady éclusier took us through to our stop for the night, with my little bit of help.
Guy and Vickie on Manuka joined us at the mooring later – we are at the far end.
Another surprise – the chateau at Longecourt-en-Plein. Huge history linked to Dukes of Burgogne, back to c12. Now open as a small hotel with its own Facebook page!
Up just a few more locks next day to Breteniere – an upside/downside mooring. The upside is that it looks quiet and rural, but with a small supermarket and garden centre within easy walking distance. The downside is that it can be a bit noisy from a nearby road – and, although not while we were there, a nearby small airfield. Overall we enjoyed our stay at Breteniere, with a higher percentage of birdsong than traffic noise! It also gave me a chance, inbetween heavy showers, to wash the deck and roof.
On our second day there we were waiting for brother Alan and his wife Ceanna to arrive on their way to Italy, so a good chance to experiment with local food and drink to create a special meal –blinis with crevettes and smoked trout, summertime cassoulet and a tarte au pomme birthday cake!
It was a home and garden day, making beds, cooking, and potting on my herb seedlings.
Alan and Ceanna arrived earlier than they hoped, the sun came out, and all was good for drinkies on the back deck before the meal, with plenty of family catch up chat and laughter.
Next day A&C drove off on their way to Italy and we motored on towards Dijon. The canal was exceptionally weedy! We only had 17 kms to our intended stopover, but quite a few locks to negotiate. We began with a young female éclusier – a student of Biology from Dijon Uni, on a summer job. Part way through the day she was joined by another éclusier, and between them they had us speeding through the locks. Ploughing would be a better description; sparrows were hopping across the surface . . .
We came through Dijon, noting that the canal basin was quite full of boats and barges,
water-lillies and waterfowl before continuing on into the country and a village called Plombieres-les-Dijon.
This was another pleasant surprise. Described as ‘a run down canal basin’ in one of our guides we actually found an open sunny port de plaisance (excusez moi).
It is next to a village of charm and character – with a boulangerie, small supermarket, and two restaurants! We tried all of these but one of the restaurants, enjoying a meal out with our new neighbour Ozzie boater Stuart aboard his barge Vagabond.
Calliope’s Stewart used the good mooring to touch up the rubbing strake with black tar like paint – dropping his reading glasses into the paint in the process – then handing them to me to clean which meant that I ended up with tar stuck to my hands and shirt! White spirit and plenty of rubbing seems to have done the cleansing trick.
After two nights we started on a gentle trip up to the top of the Canal de Borgogne, just travelling 10 kms to Fleurey-sur-Ouche …… ah yes, we now work our way alongside a new river – L’Ouche.
Fleurey is an atmospheric and picturesque old village, spanning both sides of the canal and river; it must have some interesting history. One of the chateaux had fascinating walls along its water meadows, built with holes in it, to let flooding water in and out, but keep cattle in!
We took a walk through both sides of the village before retiring to cook and eat our own supper, regretfully voiding what looked like an excellent restaurant just along the canal bank.
As we moved along the canal from Plombierres to Fleurie we kept catching a glimpse of the top of a church at the top of a rounded hill. It was Gouffre Les Damwes, and finally I caught a photo just about worth sharing.
Next day we cast off at about 9.30, meeting up with two jolly, somewhat chubby (are we allowed to say that these days?) éclusiers who worked with us through the rain, sun and several locks. Once they left we found ourselves in the company of the previous days slightly sad éclusier, who stayed with us for two locks – then disappeared……….
We reached the next lock, 35, entered through the open gates, and closed them to be helpful, thus ‘locking’ ourselves in. There was a small steady flow of water in through one of the upstream vantelles, so we tied up, made lunch, and over the course of a gentle hour we floated to the top of the lock.
At about that point a new éclusier, on a bicycle, turned up and operated the two locks that took us to our next mooring at Lock 34, Moulin Banet. This turns out to also be a very characterful lockside restaurant, with plenty of French families taking lunch outside at an assortment of tables and chairs, watching the entertainment of our ascent!
Later I joined them, at a separate table, for an excellent Kier and the lock cat. Poor Capitain was unable to get ashore, having had to moor outboard of a load of rushes in order to take on water!
Nonetheless it was a wonderful gentle evening amongst green grass, red poppies, blue skies and wooded hills.
It was also Father’s Day, and Stu had a lovely surprise when he responded to strange sounds from the iPad to discover Hollie calling him on Messenger, or some other new form of communication whose chirps and buzzes we do not yet fully understand!
Although a delightful spot we carried on next day, wanting to reach the tunnel at the summit and put its gloom behind us. We passed the13th century bridge at Gissey and later stopped at La Bussiere sur Ouche to fit in with the eclusiers’ lunch break.
We took the opportunity to spring ashore and walk up to the village and see what we could of the old Cistercian abbey – not much as it happens as it now belongs to a Relaix et Chateau hotel!
But we did see an ancient gateway into what was a fortified village, and the lavoir (laundry house for washing clothes in running water). Watch out for more lavoirs – a bit of a passion of mine!
We enjoyed the company and working relationships with the two female éclusiers who were with us part of that afternoon.
We arrived for the night at Pont d’Ouche – where, not surprisingly, there is a bridge over the Ouche; the canal passes over it as well. Picking a tranquil spot just outside the village we found that it was little used because the mooring stakes were pretty much out of the ground! So we moored to two handy lamp-posts instead.
A beetle came visiting, with narrow orange and black stripes.
Pont d’Ouche has unsurprisingly got its name because of a bridge over the Ouche river – in fact two bridges these days – one for the road and one to take the canal over the top.
We walked into the village looking for a bar with a TV for England’s game in Euro 2016. There was a bar, called ‘pub’, with a sign for Guinness – but closed on a Monday! Back on board technology came to our rescue and we managed to watch live on line on a laptop.
Next day was due to be a bit of a route march, starting at 9am, in showery weather, to get through 10 locks, shared with another boat, and moor up at Chateauneuf (sadly not the du Pape version). I will let the Captain comment on the stresses and strains involved in the lock sharing! Hmm, bit cosy . . . .
Along the way I managed to grab a photo of the local style of lock – the downstream end includes a set of stone steps at each side. And a photo of our shared lock!
We made it, and the weather cleared. Once moored up we had a perfect view across meadows of cows to the hill with Chateauneuf perched atop.
At night the chateau is lit up, and in the morning it rose like a fairy tale castle from the mist.
Our last section of the ascent of Canal de Bourgogne began next day.
The early mist cleared, the sun came out, and it was so hot we were almost glad when we reached the tunnel and its cool interior! Prior to that we came through some fascinating locks.
We moored at the lovely wide Escommes basin for lunch, and waited for the light to go green, the barrier to lift, and the radio to announce that the tunnel was ready for Calliope.
We entered the tunnel via a ‘tres beau’ cut into the hill. It was full of dragonflies, mostly mating as they flew – a version of the ‘mile high club’ peut etre? Though this pair were on the boat.
We had our instructions for the tunnel, and these included wearing life jackets, so being good law abiding Britons we did.
The tunnel brought us into another long narrow cut and led into the canal basin at Pouilley-en-Auxois, where we stayed for a very pleasant four nights RnR. We both needed it!
Onward and downward in the next chapter.