(Actually the Haut Escaut; we are in Wallonia!)
From Bossuit, at the end of the canal from Kortrijk, it is not far to Peronnes where we were to join the Nimy-Blaton- Peronnes canal – just 27 kilometres. Nonetheless, in our new sedate gentle mindset we took a break of two nights along the way at Antoing, because we like it!
We woke to much brighter skies than the evening before – in fact it paired with rain the night, which helps to wash the cabin roof, so quite welcome!
At 10am we contacted the lock keepers and asked if we could go down in the 11am lock, and were told he would prepare the lock immediately. We were ready to go and within a few minutes we were heading into the lock.
We have been through this 9.5m lock a few times and are quite comfortable with it – but this day was not so easy. A gusty tail wind, strange eddies in the water, and the bollards not where we expected meant that we had a rather inelegant landing. It happens to the best of helmsmen and bargees from time to time.
We were soon sorted, tied up neatly, and ready to descend with the ‘singing’ floating bollards to the bottom. (The ‘singing’ is the echoing squeaks and squeals of the bollards as they roll down their metal runners).
I know I look a bit if a twit here (alright – a lot of a twit), but at tine like the entrance to this lock our nauti talk has been SO useful.
I have to admit to being against these walkie talkie things to start with, but it so nice to converse gently and with full understanding with my Captain when plans have to change from A to B to C … to D!
And then the great doors opened and we were out onto the Scheldt, which, as I have said above, becomes known as the Haut Escaut in the French speaking Wallonian area of Belgium.
I have taken many photos before of the stretch of the Haut Escaut from Bossuit to Antoing, so I will restrict myself to just these few. In the distance, I could see churches and windmills on the horizon.
We love the continuous commercial use of the waterways, apparently keeping 40 lorries per boat load (on average) off the roads!
Along the way is quite a shallow lock, but sufficiently interesting to a group of friendly students to provide us with an audience. I also performed an act if public duty, hauling form the water in the lock what looks like a mashed up traffic cone.
The final image, on the right, is, I think, part of the modern hydraulic system to open the sluices and allow water into the lock.
Going through Tournai we always look to see how the rebuild of the mediaeval bridge is going – all to allow the much wider modern commercial barges to fit through. It is coming on, though after two plus years still not complete.
And this time we found another bridge almost completed – except that at the moment there seems to be a lack of road at either end!
We reached the small ‘port’ of Antoing, in the metaphorical shadow of the castle, in good time and tied up happily for two nights.
We must be getting lazy, because apart from changing two gas bottles at Neptunia chandlery (50 yards away) and doing some shopping at Aldi (100 yards away) we had a quiet time.
Oh, we did get out for a pizza one night -and the glass off wine on board beforehand brought the distant castle into play once more!
The weather was improving and by the second night the glinting setting sun shone across the river to Calliope in fine artistic style.
After two nights, and with a replenished ship, we were ready to travel the three kilometres to the Péronnes lock and join the next canal. This short section of the river is pleasant, though not remarkable.
The actual travel time was about half an hour, but a 40 minutes wait to go through the lock meant we almost felt we had had a half day of travel! We tied up to the ‘dolphins’ before the lock and waited in the sunshine for a working barge to come down; quite right that they have precedence.
We had come to Le Grand Large – a big basin between two large locks that lift boats from the Haut Escaut to the Nimy-Blaton-Peronnes canal – and within the basin is the Royal Péronne Yacht Club, and it’s new curving visitors pontoon!
It is rather lovely, although a strange shape to moor a 20m straight boat to! Anyway we did it, and sat back to await the arrival of our dinner guests, and bargee friends, Martin, Sally, and dog Tin Tin.
Just look at that view!
I was down below cooking up a feast (well, a meal created from some Aldi ingredients plus a good tart from the boulangerie) and Captain Stu kept an eye out for our friends to arrive.
Together we had a lovely evening, talking about moorings old and new, locks easy and difficult, friends on boats, food, wine and generally a good time with good mates.
Next day they moved on up the canal gradually towards the Meuse. We will be following tin their wake, but a few days behind.
They left us to enjoy a morning flight of swallows, one of who was cheeky enough to perch on our flagstaff long enough for me to get a photo through the window.
And then we enjoyed another two days of this wonderful mooring, and its adjacent walks, some alongside the old canal that was used before these giant locks at either end of our lake came into use.
But I get ahead off myself, because officially we are now on the ‘new’ Nimy-Blaton-Peronnes canal, and not on the Haut Escaut at all!
So with a reminder of how peaceful it is here, I’m off until the next episode.