Monday, 29 April 2019

Saint-Lèger-des-Vignes (last weekend on the Nivernais)

On Friday evening I received an email from VNF that the final lock on the canal onto the River Loire at Decize was closed as the recent rainfall had made the water levels on the river unsafe.  They estimated two to three days until the water drops to a safe level, but we weren’t too concerned as we had planned on staying at Decize for a few days anyway.  Hopefully, as we are at the upper reaches of the Loire and the rain has stopped it won’t be long before we’re on our way again.

Saturday was moving day and we set off for our rendezvous at 11.00am at the first lock of the day in the middle of Cercy-la-Tour.  After a quick chat with the éclusier we agreed, with 8 km to the next lock, that we would stop for lunch on the way as we wouldn’t get to the lock before it closed for lunch at midday.  Whilst letting us down, she received a phone call, and then apologised and explained that the lock would be closed for an additional 15 minutes.  Hardly a problem for us but she was very apologetic.

We stopped on the pontoons in Cercy for lunch and as we set off again, heard our second cuckoo of the year.  I’ve no idea if this is early or late for this part of France but it’s a lovely sound as I’m sure you’ll agree.  While on birds we saw our first white stork since being here and we had forgotten how large they are but still graceful in flight in their distinctive black and white livery.

We arrived at the next lock at 1.00pm, prepared to wait for 15 minutes as agreed but, to our surprise the gates were open so in we went.  The éclusier for this and the next lock was the last one employed by the Niévre department before we returned to VNF control at the Loire.  He showed a great interest in our plants and was explaining what they were called in French, most of which we won’t remember of course.

Heading into Decize – the first industrial area we have been through
Return to the distinctive uniform of a VNF éclusier
During the heavy rain on Thursday I found my walking boots leaked so after they had dried out I gave them two coats of waterproofing and promptly forgot I left them on the roof in the sun.  On Saturday morning, taking Buddy for his pre-breakfast outing, I saw the boots on the roof and found they were soaked through as it had rained again.  It was back out with my spare pair for the cruise on Saturday and I left the wet ones where they were hoping they wouldn’t take too long to dry out. 

After dropping through the last lock of the day we moored up alongside a retail park and opened a well-deserved beer.  I had forgotten to mention, that although it had been a dry cruise, it had been very windy and, in retrospect, we would not normally have travelled in such strong winds.  With a wide canal and no boats on the move or moored up on the way we felt a lot safer.

The point of mentioning the beer was that as I brought my now dried boots in from the roof, I somehow spilt my beer bottle into one of them so back to square one again. 

As we were moored next to a retail park, we took the sack barrow to the petrol station and filled up with 60 litres of diesel.  We were also next to a garden centre so went and bought a couple of 70 litre bags of compost so we could finish potting up the summer plants.

Our mooring for the weekend

Another use for our trusty sack barrow
Before we left for France one of my tasks was to put solid wheels on the sack barrow.  I am so glad I did this as we no longer have to worry about getting punctures as we would be lost without it.

On Saturday we cruised eight kilometres down four locks.  We have now been here for a month and in that time covered 198 km through 118 locks.  We are therefore just short of a third of the way around the Burgundy Loop cruising ring.

Sunday was a rest day for us as we wanted to have a bike ride and look around Decize in the morning and get some more pots planted up with summer plants in the afternoon.

Decize is a fortified town built on a hill practically surrounded by water as can be seen on this map:

  
The dark blue line across the top is the Canal du Nivernais and we came in from the right on Saturday and moored just before Saint-Lèger-des-Vignes.  The canal finishes where it joins the Loire on the other side of Saint-Lèger and we will head down the Loire, to the west of Decize and join the Canal Latéral à la Loire at the bottom and head off towards the south east.

Looking at the map you can see that Decize is also bounded by the River Aron which we have been cruising parallel with for the last week or two and also the Vielle Loire or Old Loire which runs to the east of the town.

Crossing the River Aron on our way to Decize

Heading into Decize on the approach to the bridge over the Vielle Loire
The Loire was still flowing quite quickly, and we were glad it was closed; we did get an email later on saying it would be open on Monday morning though.

Decize itself was like many medieval hill towns with narrow streets and a main road skirting around the hill itself.  We didn’t see it at its best as it was a gloomy day and everywhere was shut as it was Sunday.

We cycled down to the port which is at the start of the Canal Latéral à la Loire as we wanted to check out the route we would be taking and see how the locks work as we left the Loire.

The lock off the river into the port and also the lock from the port up to the canal were both automatic locks.  We will have to pull on a pole as we approach the locks, wait for the lock to empty, the gates to open and the green light to come on.

The pole at the end of the hangman's arm at the top lock (we will come up the lock and turn left)
Once in the lock we need to tie up and then pull on another pole to set the lock filling operation in motion followed by the gates opening for us to leave.

We will need to pull the rod on the left (the one on the right is for emergencies only)
We were glad we visited the locks as it answered the question, ‘which side should we go in?’.  As the operating poles are only on one side then that’s the side we will go in 😊

After we drop down the lock onto the Loire we will then be going uphill again for the next 130 kilometres until we hit the summit of the Canal du Centre at Montchanin.  

After lunch we planted up a few more summer pots and took it easy for the rest of the day.  Whilst outside an éclusier stopped on his bike to tell us that the Loire was reopening and to ask us when we wanted to leave.  We told him we would leave at 10.00 on Monday morning.

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