Sunday, 29 September 2019

Château Thierry (a host of golden clouded yellows)

The weather looked more promising on Friday morning, so we set off for a cruise when Karen returned from her morning run.

Sun about to come up on Friday morning
It was quite windy though and dark clouds kept scudding quickly across the sky but, luckily for us, didn’t drop any rain.  At the first and only lock of the day we tied up once we were in so we could fill our plastic water containers at the tap that is right by the lock.  Unfortunately, the tap wasn’t working, which was the case the last time we were here, but then the éclusier let us use his outside tap on his lock cottage.  Remembering this, Karen knocked on his door and asked if we could fill up with water.  He was more than happy to let us, and we soon filled up our containers.

Us spoiling the éclusier’s view from his cottage
By the time we were back on board the lock had reset itself and wouldn’t respond when we raised the rod that would close the gates and open the paddles.  The éclusier was obviously expecting this as he was already standing by the emergency control box and set things going for us.

After another six kilometres or so we moored up at Jaulgonne for lunch.  We didn’t go into the village, deciding rather to push on to Mont-St-Père.  We marked Jaulgonne as somewhere to stop overnight and explore on our way back up to Châlons-en-Champagne.

Moored for lunch at Jaulgonne
I know it looks like we are precariously moored with just a bit of the back end on the landing stage but there is a dolphin hidden behind the bush and we have the centre line moored to that.  Also, I know we are on a river and facing downstream rather than upstream but a) there is not much flow and b) it was the only way we could moor and still get Buddy off.

We carried on another few kilometres after lunch and moored up just above the next lock at a village called Mont-St-Père.  When we were nearing the mooring, we could see a large VNF work boat already there and from a distance we thought he was taking the whole mooring.  It turned out he wasn’t, and we could get in behind him.

In order to get to the bollard near his back end, we had to get quite tight against him and saw his rudder was moving freely in the current rather dangerously close to our front.  In order to avoid causing any damage we moved down to the last two remaining bollards .  Mind you, it then felt we had moored selfishly by leaving a git gap, but with the lack of boats on the move we didn’t worry too much.

Moored for Friday night
Later on, we went for a walk along the river to gather some walnuts and also cross to the other side of the river to see the village of Mézy-Moulins.  The first thing that struck us was the size of the church for such a small place.  Not only that, but it was outside of the current village and appeared to be in the middle of fields.

The church at Mézy-Moulins
As well as looking strange being stuck out on its own it was unusual in having flying buttresses.  We found out later that it was built in the early 1200s which accounts for its Gothic look.  We couldn’t get inside but next to it was a fantastic sight.  It was a field of some kind of pea plant that was in flower and swarming with clouded yellow butterflies and also the three whites: large, small and green-veined.  We searched for long tailed blues (their larvae feed on some of the plants of the pea family) but didn’t find any.

The field full of butterflies
We also came across a sign with the words of the Wolf & Shepherds fable.  It was then that we realised that we must be back in Jean le Fontaine country. 

The fable
Jean was born and lived in Château Thierry and you may remember that when we came up this way, we visited several villages that were celebrating his works by portraying one of his fables in their lavoir.  This reminded us that we need to do some research to see where the remaining villages are so we can plan further visits.

As for the walnuts, well, we found some and brought them back for drying.

Our haul
The girls on Puddleduck are cruising a day or two behind us at the moment and we had told them about a line of walnut trees at Tours-sur-Marne we passed.  When we said we had found some walnuts today they sent a picture through of the ones they picked at Tours today!

Nikki & Gorete’s haul
The girls have been picking, drying and bottling walnuts for the five years they have been cruising in France and finding so many, the jars of dried walnuts make ideal gifts.  That's a beauty of having a large boat: plenty of room to store pickling jars as well as those crates.

On Friday we cruised 16 kilometres down one lock.

Shepherds’ warning sky on Saturday morning
We set off for Château Thierry at about 10.30 on Saturday.  While I had taken Buddy out for his morning run, I had stopped at the lock down from where we were moored to fill up our plastic water containers at the lockside tap.  I had left the full containers at the side of the lock so we could pick them up on our way through.

Metal stanking planks by the lock (Écluse 5 – Mont-St-Père)
We had realised that we haven’t seen any sweet chestnut trees for what feels like ages, so we kept a special look out during our cruise.  We saw none the whole and only two horse chestnut trees. There were plenty of walnut trees and one other nut tree that we see fairly regularly but can’t find out what it is.

After an hour or so we were coming into Château Thierry, passing all the high quay and the pay-to-use pontoon moorings, to moor a little further down where there is a free-to-use low quay with plenty of rings ideal for a narrowboat.

Coming into town - a bit grey compared with the last visit
Welcome to Château Thierry
After lunch we popped into the tourist information office and picked up some walking leaflets.  We also bought a couple of booklets detailing some of the exhibitions at local villages commemorating Jean de la Fontaine fables.  Each booklet represents a circular tour taking in 17 of the villages and shows pictures of the lavoirs and the exhibitions being put on at each, two of which we have already found by accident at Saulchery and Pavant.  Something for us to do when the days get even shorter and colder in November.

The tourist office is down by the bridge over the river and we couldn't believe that we missed the shaped trees last time we were here.   In a couple of years this will be one of the raised hedges that are the trademark of many French towns

Raised hedge on its way in the centre of town
After a short walk it was back to the boat for the rest of the day to watch the Ireland game on catch up. 

Just as we were about to start watching a French guy knocked on the boat.  He was the owner of one of the large liveaboards down by the bridge.  Last time we were here I was out with Buddy and the guy had asked Karen if he could take pictures of our solar panels as he hadn't seen fixings that allowed lateral as well as side to side tilt.  He had come back to say he had had some supports made up and he was so pleased with the result that he just had to come and tell us.  It's amazing what can be conveyed in a conversation in French when you have to guess at what some of the words mean.

Back to the rugby: what a brilliant game and an unexpected result which, we imagine, makes it a bit worrying for Scotland. 

Moored for the weekend 

We plan on staying here for a couple of days at least as there are a few more places to visit that we missed when we stayed here for a few days earlier in the summer.

Saturday’s cruise took us eight kilometres down one lock.

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