Friday, 15 August 2014

Meuse, Ardennes and Aisne-Oise

Aug 14

We left Toul on a grey showery day and that has persisted for weeks.  On the Meuse we were covering old ground, albeit four cruising seasons ago and in the opposite direction so it seemed a bit different.

Lots of weed in the canalised Meuse so had to clean the filters a lot and, hard to believe, some of the pounds had low water levels. We got held up at an ecluse near a cement works so Kotare had a new colour scheme - grey! The Meuse width was all over the place though not much current (we were going downstream)

Meuse narrow
Meuse wide
We were struggling with moorings, all those Dutch and German boaters, but managed to sneak in on the last one on the wall at Verdun.  It was the WW1 100th anniversary but not a lot of noticeable commemoration.

Verdun entrance (from south)
Lot of misty mornings but we pressed on, Consenvoye had a 'one off' sloping sided ecluse and a good bar.

Dun sur Meuse was a nice little town, unfortunately the church was at the top of a steep hill so Peter suffered again. A huge church for a tiny fortified village almost impossible to get a good photo not helped by the rain.

Dun sur Meuse

That's Kotare on the right :}
Another green bank mooring at Alma near the barrage - an obvious surplus of red paint but one of the best maintained barrages we have seen.

Alma barrage

Our last effort on the Meuse before turning off was to tie up on a very dodgy 8m pontoon in shallows near a Sedan Intermarche - managed to get a new gas bottle (as well as food) ready for the darkest Ardenne.  The last ecluse and the *** eclusier shut the gates and opened the paddles before Peter could get the 2nd rope on (and untie the first).   Our 2nd best rope shortened by another metre or so!!

A dog's life
Our first attempt at a mooring on the Ardenne at Pont a Bar was foiled by a sloping sided quai and not much water so off to the St Aignan complex (two ecluses and a tunnel) for the night where we tied up in the reeds near a a tatty English tjalk being helmed by two sisters and three whippets.

St Aignan
Then to the top of the Canal des Ardennes at Le Chesne, a sleepy town but we managed some shopping and we will remember it for the yowling cats which kept us awake. Next day it was showery but we pushed on down the main Ardenne lock flight - we managed the first 19 locks in 3 hours which was good, but they were chained and it was 'downhill'.

Next stop the Grand Union
The next day we finished off the Ardenne and on to the Canal Lateral de Aisne - at the Vouziers junction we were back in 'commercial' territory but only the odd one at this stage.

Vouziers junction
Into Rethel after a couple of very nice green bank stops. Rethel was 95% destroyed in WW1 and then it was bombed out again in WW2 - the only residual features that survived were the church tower and entrance.


Then we took the Canal de Oise-Aisne, cutting north west towards the Canal de Nord. Commercials in front of us on day one and also coming the other way ( 4 or 5) on day two, very overgrown so we ended up in the bushes occasionally, making room for them. In the Braye tunnel we found we had caught up with a commercial  so ended up choked on diesel fumes and deafened by the engine noise echoing in the confined space. Tomorrow on to the Canal de Nord and the traffic will at a guess get worse.

Braye southern entrance
Braye northern entrance (plus fumes)

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