Monday 8 April 2019

Séry (how could we forget the flood)

Saturday was a staying put or no do day, so we walked into Vermenton to do some exploring and a supermarket shop.  The day started lovely and bright but had clouded over by the evening but at least it was tee-shirt weather when we set off with our rucksacks and a couple of bags each. 

Saturday morning at Accolay
We were moored just down from the 1km to Vermenton milestone, so we knew we had at least that far to walk to get to town.  We also knew that the supermarket was a further kilometre or so away on the other side of town therefore we knew we didn’t want to buy too many heavy things.

1km milestone
Vermenton has a port so we wandered down there first, but it was really small with about a dozen Dutch barges that looked like they had probably overwintered there. There were also a small hire boat base with four or five plastic boats being got ready for the season.

The town was really quiet which we found surprising as it was a Saturday and we had a look around the narrow streets and alleys before heading off for the supermarket.  Narrow streets are often called ruelles and I cannot believe I have never noticed the word, ‘Ruelle’ on French street names before.

As we were walking past the church, we were stopped by a priest who invited us in.  We assumed he was telling us we could have a look around the church but we hadn’t realised 11.00 mass was about to start.  We used Buddy as an excuse but that didn’t work as the priest said that he was a chien gentil and could go in.  We then reverted to mumbled English and quickly walked away.

When we arrived at the supermarket, Karen went in to do the main shop while I took Buddy for a walk on the hillside.  We spend our euros via Revolut debit cards and one advantage we have found is that we get an immediate SMS message for every transaction.  This means we each know when the other is about to leave a shop if we have gone in separately.  We emptied the trolley into our bags and rucksacks and headed straight back to the boat.

The sun was now rather warm and, with our heavy loads, we were beginning to wish we hadn’t worn our walking boots.  As with our walk into town, we didn’t pass anyone on our way back to the boat.
The port of Vermenton is on the River Cure and it is also where the Canal d’Accolay starts.  There are flood gates at the entrance to the canal which are closed when the river rises to help protect the canal and its banks.  Apparently floods over recent years have been higher than the gates  

Passing the flood gates at Vermenton on our way home
Once back at Accolay we spent the afternoon on the boat expecting, as it was Saturday, to see a few boats on the move or at least local families from the village walking up and down the towpath.  Apart from the occasional dog walker we saw no one and the village was uncannily quiet all afternoon; it seemed the dawn chorus could be heard all day.

We did see one boat on the move but that wasn’t until later in the evening – a Dutch barge had come down from Vermenton and looked like it was setting off for the season.  One advantage of being over here is that we are an hour ahead so the evenings are staying light for longer already.  A disadvantage is that the locks are closed from seven every evening so there’ll be no late summer cruising as is possible in the UK.

We had agreed with the éclusiers that we would leave at ten on Sunday morning but when we woke up to pouring rain we began to wish we hadn't.  We were brightened up over breakfast as we saw a great white egret fishing on the bank opposite.  Also known as the white heron, this used to be a very common bird throughout France but by 1980 there was just the occasional overwintering pair in the Camargue.  Nowadays it has become common again throughout France and they look just like a heron or a much larger version of the little egret we get in the UK.  After breakfast, we donned our wet weather gear and off we went.

Passing the two metal punts that are used for the water jousting I mentioned in the last blog entry
We started off by stopping at the water point at Accolay on the way to our first lock.  It was on one of those silly sloping side moorings so needed both of us to get the boat secure.  As we were attempting to moor, Karen reminded me about the disaster when we took on water at Cravant and that she was surprised I hadn't mentioned it in the blog.  I had to admit that I had completely forgotten about it.  

The water pressure at Cravant was particularly high which was great as the tank fills quicker but has the drawback that we have to make sure the hose is secure in the tank and doesn't recoil itself with the pressure.  Karen was taking a shower and I was outside getting rid of rubbish and recycling when I heard Karen screaming out.  I assumed that she was telling me that the tank was full and I needed to turn off the tap.  When I saw her standing at the cratch dressed in just a towel I realised it was more serious.

The hose had come out and somehow had been pointing at an angle to send water gushing through the vents on the front door.  Consequently the bedroom floor was awash and had started encroaching into the bathroom.  It took a lot towels and mopping to clear up the mess but at least we were able to stay there, wash the towels and then top up with water again before setting off.

Anyway, back to trying to get water at Accolay: in the end we found that because of the slope we couldn't get close enough to the bank so had to abort our attempt to fill up with water and cruise back down the 4km or so of the short Canal d’Accolay to rejoin the Canal du Nivernais so we could then continue our journey south.

Éclusier with an umbrella at our first lock

Sign indicating that both sets of lock gates were replaced during the winter stoppages at a cost of €155,000
As we’ll be cruising along the length of the Canal du Nivernais down to the Loire over the next couple of weeks or so, I’ll include some background information:
  • The canal is 174 km (108 miles) long and links the River Loire in the south to the River Seine (via the River Yonne) at its northern end
  • It has 112 éclusier operated locks which are 38 metres long and just over 5 metres wide
  • There are three tunnels at the summit level
  • Construction of the canal began in 1784 and the whole length was finally opened in 1842
  • It was built for the floating (flottage) of rafts of cut timber from the Morvan forests to Paris, via Clamecy and Auxerre
  • In its heyday it was an important trade route, carrying timber, building stone, grain and wine out of the region, and bringing in coal
  • It helped develop the Nièvre region, particularly the area known as the 'Valleys of the Yonne' of which Clamecy is the capital (where we are heading for this week)
  • The canal, like most others started its decline with the arrival of the railway in the 19th century.
We had the same éclusier for the whole journey and he was joined by another one at a couple of the locks.  It didn’t stop raining all day and we weren’t really looking forward to having to stop for the enforced lunch hour and then putting wet clothes back on again to continue in the afternoon.

Éclusier still with his umbrella and Karen well covered up

Having been through the bridge at Prégilbert it looks like it’s no longer raining but I assure you it was
Approaching our final lock before lunch at Trucy-sur-Yonne 
The guidebook indicated that there was a swing bridge just before the lock and judging by the height restriction we knew we should be able to go under without having to swing the bridge out of the way.

Plenty of room under the swing bridge
While going up the lock we had a chat with the éclusier and told him that as long as we could moor in the next pound that we wouldn’t carry on after lunch.  I think he was more than happy with that suggestion and explained we could moor either side of the canal.

Moored for Sunday night north of Séry
It was strange being moored by long grass rather than a towpath, but it meant we wouldn’t be disturbed.  Apart from taking Buddy out for a short walk later we stayed in for the rest of the day.

Over the weekend we cruised five kilometres down one lock and up four more.


Jennie said...

We had a hire boat on the Canal du Nivernais some years ago - I hope you like Clamecy as much as we did. The logging history is fascinating and the war memorial that was desecrated by the Germans is very moving. I will read your posts from this canal with particular interest. Jennie

Neil & Karen Payne said...

Thanks Jennie. Yes we're looking forward to having a few days in Clamecy and hope to catch the market too