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.)



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.




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,


Chapel of St Colette




including a chapel build on the site of her birth


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.


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 …..



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.



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 . . . . .

Saint-Valery sur Somme to Amiens


(Comments in italics from the silent one)

Up early (groan from one member of crew) bearing in mind we had moved forward to French time, to be at the sea lock by 0730 as instructed for the one 30 minute slot of the day to pass through. An éclusier appeared through the morning mists and half light, opened the lock gates, and we were in, up and through in. Despite several phone calls and messages left for the PCE (who manage the rest of La Somme) to say that we were moving up river there had been no reply. Captain Carr therefore looked for somewhere to moor so that we could make contact and arrange for an éclusier to open swing bridges and locks for us along the river.


We saw an old jetty with bollards and managed (just in time) to secure Calliope against the strong downstream current and outgoing tide. Stewart set off to find the éclusier or someone at the marina in order to get more information. He returned with welcome fresh bauguette and croissants – but no information. It was Saturday. Maybe they would not pick up our messages until Monday, so it was decided that we would ‘Carry On Up The Somme’ to Abbeville.

((i) The river was falling rapidly and we were on Neap tides (ii) Ray and Hilary needed to get to the railway station at Abbeville (iii) We have a dismountable wheelhouse (iv)It was 21Euros a night at St Valery and free on the Somme)

IFIt was an interesting journey! Calliope has an air draft (height) of 2.8m and we had been ‘reliably’ informed by many Piper boat owners and experts that she was built at just the right height to go under all the bridges on the navigable waterways of France.

So no problem going under the 8 bridges between us and Abbeville then?

Bridge 1, no problem; Bridge 2 looks a bit tight – Ray on foredeck and Lesley on Back deck guaging and re-guaging whether we would fit under as we got closer and closer …….. aaah …. phew … just squeezed through. Checking the Guide Fluvial we noted that the bridge had an official clearance of 2.7m, and was a turning bridge that the éclusier would have turned for us had we managed to make contact.


Never mind; no damage done. What about bridge 3, growing closer by the second?   Oh no! An official clearance of 2.4m!!! Too late to turn round or back – we are half way through already and the wheelhouse roof is … is not … maybe is …. Whoops, slight graze to the canvas cover, stern digging in as Captain pushes the boat through with full throttle, and double phew, we made it again!

(Bags of room . . . . )

So no worries at bridge 4, with a clearance of 2.5m – a full 10cms higher than the last one! And the last four are all well above us 2.9m, 7.93m plus, plus.


With all the excitement not a single photos was taken of those few kilometers.


And so we arrived at the outskirts of Abbeville, slowing down as we passed the canal to the lock entrance to check out our course once we linked up with the éclusiers – only to see it blocked by a working boat and barge. Hmm – could be here for a while!

We turned the bend onto the old town wharf wall – a very high wall left from the days
IMG_7943 of big trading ships coming in to tie up. We had an interesting minute or two finding a suitable mooring for us, with unreachable huge ancient rings atop the wall, and sparsely spaced modern steel ones along the side of the wall.



And then we were tied up fast, safe and secure, and could relax and enjoy our surroundings.


Abbeville town wharf mooring

After enjoying a farewell supper in a local restaurant (except for those who chose andouiette) it was time to get a good night sleep. Next day, Sunday, we were up and off to ‘la gare’ to say goodbye to our essential crew – Ray and Hil – who were off back to England.



We like Abbeville – it’s a typical little French town with quirky ancient corners, a couple of nice bars (with pinball machines!), a selection of shops and a few good restaurants.


IMG_8479.jpgWe got to know it quite well, staying longer than expected because on Monday when we finally made contact with the éclusier team – (two of them called round in their bright orange van) we discovered that we had caught them on the hop.


Although all the info says that High Season starts on April 1st, they were going to be working on the canal for another 10 days or so, and that was when it would ‘open’ with éclusiers to operate locks, swing bridges etc.

That gave us a small problem. Where we were moored there was no water or electricity supply; round the corner just after the lock there was a mooring with both these facilities. In halting French we explained all this, and our friendly men went off to find a solution.

The solution was that they could let us through Abbeville lock on Wednesday to the other mooring, where we would have to stay until April 15th. Excellent.

In fact we were able to move on Wednesday. Those few hundred meters were an adventure in themselves.

  • Calliope is 20m long. The river at this point is about 22m wide, partly obstructed by branches.
  • There is a very strong downstream current.
  • The town wharf juts out a couple of meters just downstream from our mooring, narrowing the river.

broadside onto the current

So, a difficult turn!

Let’s just say it was exciting, and we made it without hitting anything more than a few branches ….








… and temporarily lowering the French courtesy flag.




After that, turning into the canal cut, going through the lock and onto the new mooring were all relatively simple manouevres.


We plugged in to electricity ………….. and discovered that there was no water!



Our very helpful Somme amis were onto it immediately. One van after another came to try and sort it out and by next day we had super water pressure.






The new mooring was great and it gave us a good opportunity to get to know Abbeville. We had many pleasant walks round the town.




There are lovely buildings (many very very old)


Interesting parks and open spaces


Friendly bars and restaurants



We also went travelling by train to Mers Les Bains and Le Treport on the coast- a grand day out.

Belle Epoque extraordinaire at Mers Les Bains

(The Banksy half way up a cliff walk was an especially astonishing discovery and very powerful, sprayed over an WW11 German gun emplacement.)

The old fishing and commercial ports of Le Treport


We were in Abbeville for both of our birthdays, and each enjoyed being Queen or King for a Day, feeling decidedly rosy as night fell on 12th and 13th!



Finally, on April 14th, the canal opened for 2016 business. So good bye Abbeville and the beautiful sunsets and reflections.

We cruised upstream, meeting the éclusier, right on 11am as arranged, at Pont-Remy lock, and stopping just after for lunch. We moored opposite a ruined chateau – elegantly dilapidated some would say.

It was a beautiful sunny day with plenty of normal river birdlife – heron, ducks, coot, moorhens, Greylag and white geese etc. There were surprisingly strong swirling currents on the river (would have been ‘yellow boarded’ on the Thames), but Stu coped well. (It was nothing . . . )


After lunch we carried on upstream to Long, where we again met the éclusier, locked up, and moored in a lovely location by the Hotel de Ville and bridge.

Overnight mooring at Long


Long has some interesting heritage – a chateau called Folie de Buissy, with an amazing run of pergolas and glass houses next to the river …….

Folie de Buissey, Long

… and a hydroelectric power plant built in 1900, providing electricity to the town until 1968. – but no bars . . . .

hydroelectric system, Long

Next day we said goodbye to Long, and a local goat.

We continued towards Amiens, this time having lunch soon after La Breilloire lock, at a pleasant pontoon next to Pont de Bourdon.

The sun shone, the birds sang, and the water flowed, through a canalised river between huge lakes of Somme water, apparently created in part from digging for peat..

moored up waiting for Picquigny lock from downstream

Our target mooring at Picquigny was reached early and we moored up below the lock waiting for the éclusier to arrive.

approaching Picquigny lock

Entering the lock at Picquigny




It was the first time this lock had been used since winter and the poor eclusier had to remove a huge load of debris, twigs, small logs and boughs (and a dead cat) [poor thing] from the lock gates before we could come through to our mooring.




Picquigny is another interesting town. Walking up the hill towards the church we suddenly discovered that it is effectively placed on an inland cliff, with old fortifications built round it. I must discover the history!

We walked along the bank to Samara Ancient Village Museum one afternoon, and although we did not go in we did enjoy more wildlife and riverama.

Samara mooring

The mooring at Samara is longer and tidier than we expected; we did not stop there as our course was set for Amiens.


Picquigny castle and church on the hill


We left Picquigny on a green, blue and gold Spring day, passing a good view of the castle and church on the ‘cliff’.




The Captain was alert to every bend in the river, with navigation buoys to negotiate and wicked eddying currents to manoeuvre.

We went through locks at Ailly-sur Somme and Montière with the help of another great eclusier.




Approaching Amiens from downstreamAnd after the Montière lock we came up a lovely straight stretch towards Amiens, with the Notre Dame silhouetted against the sky

(apparently twice the size of the one in Paris; it were ’uge).


Calliope reached Amiens lock a little early, but the èclusiers had opened the gates before their lunch so we cruised right in. From the depths of the lock it was almost impossible to see the little green bollards set back from the edge, but by standing on the roof, and very lucky rope throwing, we got a bow and stern line attached and waited, having lunch, for the èclusier to return.


the mooring at Amiens, Port amont

Then we came through lock, round the canal, and into a ‘pleasant’ mooring at Port Amont, opposite the park on one side – and the ‘English Pub’ on the other!



[It became less pleasant at night, with happy local young making their way home from nightlife at 2am – no harm done, but a bit noisy!]




Amiens cathedral is truly magnificent, and the story of its protection during the world wars shows great dedication from a team of civilians and soldiers.








IMG_8433Amiens has many lovely ancient buildings, old streets, characterful bars and a whole network of small canals giving it the name ‘Venice of the ~North’.

It also has hectare after hectare (how big is a hectare? Very big I hope) of Hortillonages – small market gardens surrounded by a maze of tiny channels, about 4′ wide, navigated by special narrow punt like boats. Individual bridges, built to their owners spec, link paths and gardens.


We enjoyed Amiens, but after two days and nights we were ready to set forth for waterways new, and headed off towards Peronne and to complete our voyage of La Somme.


(Apologies for all errors – have to leave free wifi in library now as due on another boat for drinkies!)