Thursday, 23 May 2019

Pouilly-en-Auxois (and a Glanville fritillary)

Wednesday morning mist on our mooring at Pont de Sainte-Sabine
With the promise of a beautifully warm day on Wednesday we spent the morning on a circular walk taking in Châteauneuf-en-Auxois and a length of the Canal de Bourgogne that we have yet to travel.  We’re not sure how the rankings are performed but the village literature says it is ranked in France’s 157 most beautiful villages.

Our main target for the morning – Châteauneuf-en-Auxois
Other than the canal bit the walk was on country roads which were fine as only a couple of cars passed us.  As the village was at the top of a hill, we had some marvellous views on our way up one side and back down another.

The canal runs across in front of the settlement at the bottom
You can’t really see it in the picture above but the A6 Autoroute du Soleil runs through the Auxois plain too and crosses the canal a couple of times.

Before we reached the village we passed its old lavoir.  It’s spring-fed hence the reason it had to be built down a bit from the village itself.

Spring-fed lavoir
The village was indeed pretty with some lovely medieval houses, a fortified château that dates back to the 12th century and, of course, bars and restaurants for the tourists.

The château dominating the view as we walked down
When we started the descent, we had the pleasing sight of seeing two courting scarce swallowtails.  

On our walk back along the canal section an éclusiere stopped on her scooter to check we were still setting off after lunch.  It was nice that she recognised us as we had only met at the last of the day yesterday.  She probably recognised Buddy who, once we were home, had a good long drink and found the shade whilst we had lunch.

We were climbing the 13 remaining locks to the summit at Lochère where we would stay and get a passage through the tunnel to the other side on Thursday.  The locks were a lot closer together now we were getting near the top and Sandra and Françoise did a sterling job getting us through them all in what seemed like no time at all.

The éclusieres making a fuss of Buddy
The girls were great fun, constantly chatting and laughing and eager to help us with our French.  

At one lock, a freshly emerged Glanville fritillary took a fancy to one of our solar panels.  In the UK, these butterflies are only found on the Isle of Wight and a small section of the mainland close by.  It is many years since I have seen them in the Isle of Wight but have often seen them in France since.

Glanville fritillary on a solar panel
As we arrived in Vendenesse-en-Auxois we passed a reserved mooring area which you could possibly mistake for public mooring.

It looks like mooring for wine and water.  Well, it is, but Wine & Water is the name of a hotel boat that we passed yesterday.

The lock cottage at the fourth lock before the top looked interesting from a distance:

Getting closer we realised it was adorned with old tools and kitchenware etc.

Écluse de Grand Pré
Once at the top we chatted with Sandra and Françoise about arranging a passage through the tunnel while Buddy had yet another rest.  Although the tunnel is wider than UK ones, it is still under one-way control as much wider boats than ours make the transit.  After some telephone discussion it transpired that we could go through on Thursday, but they weren’t sure whether it would be morning or afternoon.  We would have to moor up for the night and one of the girls would come and find us in the morning when a time was allotted.

At the top lock
We were just discussing where to moor when Françoise took a phone call and became very excited.  She had secured us a slot to go immediately.  It seemed that as we were a narrowboat we would only take 40 minutes or so to get through rather than the two to three hours that it takes a broader beamed boat.

However, it did mean we had to hurry which also meant the girls had to hurry with all the safety checks.  We find it strange that there are very few signs of H&S generally on the French system but all sorts of precautions are taken when going through the tunnel.  We have only come across it in two UK tunnels.  To travel the 3 ¼ mile Standedge tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow you even have to wear a hard hat and have a CRT employee with you, which is great because you get to hear all about the history.  The other tunnel is Harecastle tunnel and we’re not sure why checks are carried out there but suspect it’s because it’s a one-way tunnel, so CRT staff are present to control entry times, probably reinforced by a recent-ish death of a boater.

Anyway, Sandra did the life jacket, fire extinguisher, lighting etc. checks with Karen while Françoise took me through the radio operating instructions and what to do when we got through.  Sandra was worried our tunnel light wasn’t strong enough so gave Karen a powerful flashlight.

Approaching the tunnel entrance
A red and a green light were on and I used the radio to let them know that we were ready to go through.  We waited for the red light to disappear but as it didn’t I called again and was told to go through.

As Karen said, the 3.3-kilometre-long tunnel was tame compared to UK ones.  It was lit, nice and wide and dead straight.

Lights in the ceiling
As well as having distance posts showing how far and in what direction the nearest exit was it also had the kilometre points that are all the way along the canal measuring the distance form its end at the River Yonne in the north.

157.5km from Migennes

Straight on for the nearest exit
It took us about 40 minutes to get through the 3.3km tunnel and we emerged into the port at Pouilly-en-Auxois.

Loads of mooring space at the port
We ended up mooring near the French couple that we had had the abortive attempt at locking up with a couple of days ago.

You can just pick us out in front of the white boat at the end
Buddy and I walked down to the VNF office to hand in our transit slip (to prove we had got safely through), the radio and the flashlight.  On the way back we popped into the captainerie to find out about mooring fees.  It seemed there was no charge for mooring but we had to pay for water and electricity.  We said we would probably take on water before we leave but won’t need any electricity.  The water charge was only €2 for ½ m3 which will be more than enough for us.

Strangely, it seemed to be done on trust as the water taps worked and during the evening, we noticed people arriving in cars to fill up water containers which was a bit naughty.

Strange building behind our mooring
We went over to investigate the building behind us and found it housed an old electrically driven tug that used to tow boats through the tunnel until it was decommissioned in 1987.  Amazingly it was in service for nearly 100 years and replaced steam driven tugs.

The electric tunnel tug
Our evening view to the flour mill on the other side of the port
During the day we travelled 12 kilometres up 13 locks.

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