A short trip East to West on 3 canals

Canals Sambre, Saint Quentin and Lateral à L’Oise

5th to 7th September 2021

It took just two days cruising to go the final three and a half kilometres on the Canal de la Sambre from Beautor, the seven and a half kilometres on the Canal de Saint-Quentin to Chauny, and the eighteen kilometres on the Canal Lateral à L’Oise to Pont-L’Évêque. It could easily have been done in a day, but much more pleasant to take our time, see another town, and take in the scenery.

We were soon along the short final part of the Canal de La Sambre and into a wide junction with the Saint Quentin where the blue of the sky almost met the blue of the canals.

We looked towards the section of the Saint Quentin going north, which includes the tunnel that boats are towed through. We have never fancied that, hearing a mix of the tales, good and bad, of boaters experiences.

We were gong fore the Canal du Nord, with its two tunnels, both under self propulsion!

I like to take photos of the different lock keeper house styles from canal to canal. Each canal ends to have one style of house along its length – perhaps now and then a large one for the lock keepers who had extra duties.

This one on the Saint Quentin is quite small. I like to imagine who used to live there, with their family, and what their lives were like. Not os bad on a day like this with sunshine and blue sky – but less fun in the depth of a cold wet dark winter I’m sure.

The Saint Quentin’s southern end is at Chauny. We were not sure what to expect. There is a port/marina there and it looks quite smart, but is designed for smaller boats that Calliope. So we moored next to some steps, and also, in some trepidation, a shuttered Karaoke bar. We were quickly reassured by a friendly and welcoming local that the bar was no longer in business.

It was a hot day and I put up the shade sails over the dog box and main cabin window to keep us cool.

You may have spotted the goose in the larger photo above, on the left. He was a very friendly gander, constantly swimming over to us and talking – for company as well as for bread, or so it seemed. He lived, during the day, on a ledge at the edge of the canal, with a few moorhens for company, but sadly no partnering goose.

When it began to cool a little we went to take a look at Chauny. It was much nicer than we expected. There are a lot of old and interesting buildings, she ofd open spaces and parks, many shops, cafés and bars. Overall it is a vibrant town (city?) and worth a visit.

After a cooling beer in the main square we returned to Calliope and her cool interior. Supper aboard and a shady evening on the aft deck rounded off a good day.

The sky played its part in the final hours, turning striking flaming red and pink.

In the morning – another brought blue one – I added a short diversion to my boulangerie trip by gong to see the Oise, still running to and fro quite wildly next to the canal.

This is the weir at Chauny, smooth and polished before its enthusiastic tumble down to the next level.

The glory of these waters never ceases to enthralled me. I apologise for so many blue and green photos, but it may inspire you to follow in our wake. Of course it is not always like this. There are stormy days, wet weeks, gale ridden months; but each has its splendour.

Here we are crossing a wide basin that marks the junction with the Canal de l’Oise à l’Aisne, on the left under the bridge.

But our route was plotted to continue on the Canal Lateral à l’Oise. For this depending on the canal side signs, that is the name half hidden on the sign behind the bush!

With this canal comes new canal infrastructure. The locks have two ‘lanes’, although it seemed as if only one side is currently in use. There is probably insufficent traffic. The lock house is much bigger; the signage explaining where you are is completely different with its blue writing; the locks along this stretch los each have one or two intriguing old wheelbarrows. I guess they were used for loading and unloading barges in earlier days. That must have kept plenty of people in work – tough manual work.

Sometimes we pass barge and boat graveyards – often far bigger than this. They are always an emotional sight. Once people were proud to own and work these craft, usually living on them with their families. Now they relax into the water, pride gone.

Ah, time to relax! The Captain takes his time over his lunch, whilst studying the Book on our next canal – Canal du Nord. Meantime crew goes ashore with a bag of compost and replants the thyme plant in the little tin bath given to Calliope and crew by a sculptor back on Canal de la Sambre.

As we got closer to evening Stu and I took a good walk round Pont L’Éveque and tried to see the place we had moored 5 years before on the other side of town – on the Canal du Nord. But it was not easy to get there so instead we aimed for Le Confluence – a small bar at the junction of the two canals that we had been to last time. It was April 2016, and colder and darker than a hot early September evening. This time we sat outside!

On our way back via the port we saw this vibrant street art. It was just too wonderful not to capture ‘on film’. I would love this on a giant poster on my wall – make me smile each time I looked at it.

We rose to a morning glow as beautiful as the evening glow had been 12 hours before. There is something special about sunlight over water.

Commercial barges were already moving on to their next collection or deposit by the time I emerged.

I went out for some morning air and the possibility of fresh bread in the morning. The former was in abundance, but the latter was not to be found; we managed to be there on the day of the week that it was closed, quite a habit of ours! But the walk was well worth it to see the early light on the bridge over the entrance to the port.

The port itself seemed to still be slumbering under the 8am skies, but no doubt there was activity inside the houses and boats.

It is an attractive port, and can take longer boats, but on this occasion it was full.

Not a worry. We were very happy moored up just above Sempigny lock.

The last lock on the Lateral à l’Oise is called Sempigny – the village just across the canal from Pont-L’Évêque – and is where the telecommand, or remote control, that we have used to open all the locks for the past week since Origny-Ste-Benoite, must be posted back to the VNF in the dockside letterbox.

Moving on to the much bigger Canal du Nord we will be working with manned (and ‘womanned’) locks.

And then there we were, on our way to our first lock of Canal du Nord. Read about that voyage next!

Published by lesley-jane

Wife of Stewart, mother of 3, Granny of 6 (yes, I am happy to define myself by my family; I value them more than anything), and living abroad Calliope, our replica Dutch Barge, currently cruising the inland waterways of France, Belgium and The Netherlands. Retired from a couple of enjoyable careers, and now being closer to the real, outdoor me. Love water, fascinated by animals, enjoy music, support Pompey and try to find fun in all parts of my life.

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