Thursday, 25 April 2019

Anizy (vive la différence!)

A study taken by Karen during her camera course on Wednesday
Strong winds and heavy rain had been forecast for Wednesday, so we had prepared to stay put for the day at Fleury.  Laying in bed first thing we could hear light rain but could see that the trees weren’t moving, showing the wind hadn’t arrived yet.

As it was Wednesday, Karen & Buddy went for a run but didn’t avoid the heavy rain that started about 10 minutes before they got back so were completely drenched By the time they had sorted themselves out the rain had eased off so I got the bikes off the back of the boat and we went for a bike ride. 

We had promised ourselves we would go for a ride whatever the weather and, as Karen had read that we had missed a ‘famous’ fountain on the cruise down yesterday, we cycled back up the canal to find it.  A good advantage of this canal is that the towpath is tarmacked for the whole of its 173 km length and just wide enough for the éclusiers to drive their VNF vans along.  The advantage being that they make excellent cycle tracks.

Buddy was back to normal after the recent heat and, even though he had had a good run with Karen he was more than happy to run along the towpath with us on our bike ride.

We knew we were looking for pk (point kilometre) 40.5 because that was where we needed to turn off to do our sightseeing.

pk 40 so we knew we were getting close
The trouble was we had forgotten what we were looking for, but I did remember Karen reading out that we had to cross a bridge over the River Aron to get to the spot.  We saw the bridge but as the river was running on the other side of the canal it meant we had to cycle a few more more kilometres up to the next crossing point, which was a lock, and back down the other side to reach the bridge.

We crossed the bridge and found what the guide book described as a magical fountain.  It was, in fact, a trickle of water coming out of the bottom of a limestone cliff.  An artificial pool had been made to capture the water, maybe for washing although the river was close by.

Our uninspiring 'fountain'
On our ride home we bumped into an éclusier at one of the locks and, as the heavy rain and winds hadn’t arrived, we agreed with him that we would set off after lunch.  It did start raining again before we got back to the boat but we both felt really exhilarated after our ride and sightseeing excitement so we didn’t mind.

Karen’s second soaking of the day 😉
We met our man at 1.00 as planned at the first lock.  We gave him a cup of coffee and had a chat before we got going.  It’s always good to try and have a normal French conversation when there’s no pressure like when you’re trying explain where you want to moor for the day or that you want to change your plans.

One of the smaller lock cottages
I was reading about the history of the 100+ lock cottages built in the 1820/30s and had been surprised to find that they were built without ovens or staircases.  This was a cost cutting exercise apparently.  The families were provided with wooden ladders to get upstairs.  It was said that the families made a lot of fuss having to live in such remote places without ovens and staircases so all the cottages were updated to provide both.

The car in the picture above reminds me that the éclusiers along this end of the Canal du Nivernais work for the local department (Nièvre) and not the state run VNF as is the case with the majority of rivers and canals over here.  This explained a couple of things we have noticed recently.  Firstly the éclusiers don’t have a uniform and there are far fewer of them compared with the VNF guys who got us up to the summit over the last three weeks.

Departmental car not the VNF vans we have been used to seeing
Unusually, there was a lock landing at the next lock, so I moored up walked down to the lock with Buddy to help get the lock set.   Buddy clearly remembered the UK routine of locking downhill and was quite happy (insisting) he stayed with the éclusier while I went back to bring the boat into the lock.

We joked to our children that the éclusier’s dog looked just like Buddy
We knew that the French word for barge is péniche but haven't known what they call narrowboats.  During one of our conversations with our éclusier he explained that narrowboats are called 'péniche anglaise', wide beams are 'péniches' and plastic boats are simply 'bateaux'.

We arrived at Anizy after eight kilometres and two locks and moored up for the day.  The promised wind arrived soon after mooring up but only lasted a couple of hours.  In fact by six o’clock the skies had cleared and we ended up having an unexpected warm sunny evening.

I mentioned Karen’s camera course at the top, so I had better explain that it’s an online course to teach her to use all the facilities on an SLR camera.  Today’s lesson was about controlling exposure length for moving objects.  Luckily, we had moored up next to a field of Charolais and, as usual, they were nosy and quickly ran down to investigate us thus giving the ideal opportunity to capture some of the shots Karen wanted.

Practising photographing moving objects
Mentioning differences that we have been encountering between cruising in the two countries makes me think I’ll share a list of what we have found now we have been here for four weeks.  These are purely our observations and I have tried to avoid inferring which country we prefer for each item on the list and the list is in no particular order 😉
  • Locks:  all have been manned so far; in the UK it’s generally only the larger rivers where they are manned
  • Mooring: we have been able to moor anywhere we want on either side of the cut (subject to the odd restriction); in the UK it’s very unusual to be able to moor on the offside (non-towpath side)
  • Wild mooring: couldn’t be easier but use recognised ports if you want to see another boat; in the UK wild mooring often means another boat is in sight unless its not the boating season
  • Mooring: not come across any time restrictions although in towns you have to pay; in the UK it’s 14 days or fewer before you have to move on
  • Water: not that many water points and it looks like you have to pay in the summer; in the UK getting water is never a problem and it’s free
  • Lock landings: few if any whereas the UK it is unusual not to be able to temporarily moor to a bollard to wait your turn to go and set the lock
  • Locks: have only seen a couple with balance beams; in the UK it’s usually only river locks that don’t have balance beams
  • Cills: we have only seen these marked at a couple of locks; in the UK it would be a H&S nightmare if the cills weren’t marked at the side of every lock
  • Electric lift/swing bridges: controls are on both sides; in the UK the controls are usually on the wrong side making it very difficult for single-handers
  • Recycling: lots of recycling bins along the way but not all have bins for general rubbish; in the UK it is noticeable how few canals offer recycling facilities
  • Cyclists: not seen any racers here just families and people out enjoying themselves and happy to stop and chat to passing walkers and boaters; in the UK it’s a constant nightmare having to get out of the way of speeding cyclists who refuse to stop and wait for pedestrians
As you can see from the pictures above, Wednesday was a gloomy day but by evening the clouds had gone and the sun was out leaving us with a pleasant few hours before sundown.

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