Cauroy-lès-Hermonville (another Chalkhill Blue?)

Back on a canal and on the nice new moorings for lunch on Wednesday
After Karen returned from her run on Wednesday morning, we set off for Cys-la-Commune where we reckoned we could have a good walk around a couple of remote villages.   I may have already mentioned that as this is a busy commercial canal there are very few places to moor.  On our way down a few days ago we had noticed that some new bollards had been installed below the lock at Cys-la-Commune making it an ideal stopping place for our walk.

The weather wasn’t wall to wall sun as we were expecting but it was pleasant enough and the clouds became fewer and fewer during the day.  At least it was back to temperatures that keep the butterflies on the wing.  I forgot to mention that yesterday was probably the first day we saw none on the wing since early spring, but it was foggy most of the day and didn’t warm up enough when the fog cleared.  Today it was still the usual late summer suspects plus a painted lady.  This quite surprised me as I had thought they would be well on their way back south to North Africa by now.

Passing through Vailly-sur-Aisne soon after setting off
Our walk was really peaceful with only the odd car and tractor on the roads and we saw nobody out in the villages.  Well, that’s not quite true as a couple of dogs and a goose were barking/squawking madly at us as we walked past a house.  A woman came out to calm the animals down and apologise to us, but we said it was OK.  We then realised that we were practically at the end of the village and needed to turn around which meant it would be a bit embarrassing as we would set them off again.

The main street in Rhû
The three villages we visited were little more than farming settlements but were all very well kept and felt quite wealthy like the Champagne villages.  We also found a lavoir in Rhû:

More pictures of the lavoir can be found by clicking here
The lavoir had a sign saying that it is prohibited to play in the water in the basin and (according to my translation) that the plants would be deposited in the gendarmerie!

Large church for the size of the community at Saint-Mard
Looking along the Aisne valley from Saint-Mard
As much as we had a lovely mooring, we both felt that we should carry on cruising after lunch.  We still had 50 kilometres to go to get to Reims by the end of Friday so it would be good to make some inroads into the distance left to travel.

Autumn is on its way
When we reached the last lock of the day, the lights weren’t working so it meant a call to VNF.  I was glad we weren’t back at the lock at Cys-la-Commune as that is lock number five and called écluse Cys which is pronounced the same as the French six.  We have noticed that the éclusiers and control centres refer to the locks by their names and not thier numbers.  It could have been a confusing conversation trying explain which lock was at fault 😉 Fortunately we were at écluse la Cendrière which was number four.  The call-out service has been really reliable on this canal and a guy arrived in his van within ten minutes and set the lock for us from his control post.

Once through the lock we turned onto the Canal de l’Oise à l’Aisne to moor on the pontoon that we stayed at when we came through.  Stupidly we forgot there was a really strong flow here and it took us ages to bring the back in when mooring.  We should have spun the boat around first to face the flow, secured the front and then brought the back in as we would on a river.  

The flow was so strong, that we both thought it was stronger than any of the rivers we have been on over here.  It seems a terrible waste of water of which there is very little this year.  Selfishly, we have been wondering how our cruising plans for next year will be affected if there isn't an appreciable amount of rain this winter.

Moored for Wednesday night at Bourg-et-Comin
We knew the water wasn't working at this mooring as we checked last time but we didn't check if the electricity was working.  Out of interest I checked both this time and the water was still off but the electricity was on.  We didn't really need electricity as we had done all our washing in Soissons but connected up anyway to keep the batteries topped up.  It was a bit ironic really because if it had been cold we could have used the fan heater too.  We did try it a couple of times during the evening but turned it off pretty quickly as it really wasn't needed.

On Wednesday we cruised 13 kilometres up three locks.

Karen caught this just before sunrise on Thursday morning
As the sun came up, we were watching a kingfisher hovering over the water and then flying to a perch opposite the boat and then off to hover again.  It did this many times and is the first time we have seen a kingfisher hovering. In fact, we haven’t even seen one dive into the water although we have seen a few perched on branches with their catch, small fish or dragonflies, in their beaks.  Considering the number of kingfishers we see it’s surprising we haven’t seen one going in the water.

I was reading Ian & Helen’s blog (nb Leo) over coffee and was intrigued to see they had spotted another Chalkhill Blue and, no, it wasn’t our first boat either.

Another Chalkhill Blue at the bottom of Foxton locks
The colour reflected the main wing colour of the male butterfly and, judging by the CRT number the boat was relatively new.

Our aim for Thursday was to eat up a good chunk of the 44 kilometres we had left to get to Reims by Friday evening so we can have a weekend without moving.  It promised to be a gorgeous day and it turned out that way too other than a few dark clouds rolling in when we were having lunch at Berry-au-Bac.

Lovely blue skies
Plenty of butterflies were flying and flitting around and we had many passing visitors to the boat flowers including small tortoiseshell, comma, red admiral and speckled wood.  Along the towpath we saw the usual whites and a few peacocks, but the most plentiful yet again were clouded yellows.  I called today ‘Clouded yellow & kingfisher day’ after the number of kingfishers and clouded yellows we saw.  Other water-based birds of note during our cruise were cormorants and grey herons.  

Karen spent a while indoors during the first part of the cruise baking yet more things with our walnut haul.  This is a walnut pie which was delicious with cream after lunch…

…and for dinner we had leek, goats’ cheese, walnut & lemon tart, which we both agreed was well worth repeating.  

We moored for lunch at Berry-au-Bac where I discovered why there was such a flow of water at last night’s mooring.  Berry is at the upstream end of a 20-kilometre pound that runs down to Bourg-et-Comin and over the River Aisne on an aqueduct.  As the pound is so long it is at the same height as the Aisne at the upstream end, so a cut from the river was built to supply water to the canal.

The water is flowing in fast down the cut from the river on the right
While we were having lunch a commercial moored up in front of us and as we left for the lock, we saw the couple on board unloading their car.

She held onto a line to steady the crane that he was operating with a remote control from the bank.  The whole operation only took a couple of minutes but then I suppose they have been doing it for years.

Once we were up the top of the lock, we took on water as there was a tap and hose by the lock cottage.  We handed in our télécommande to the éclusier on duty as were about to join the Canal de l’Aisne à la Marne where we will be back to operating the locks by using the twisty poles positioned 100 metres before the locks.

About to leave the Canal latéral à l'Aisne and onto the Canal de l’Aisne à la Marne
Although this canal has some long straight stretches like the previous one down to the River Aisne, it does have quite a few bends to break up the long straights.  Mind you we haven’t found the long straights of these northern French canals tedious, as we thought we might, mainly because the views of the countryside are so beautiful. 

A bendy bit
The first few locks on this canal had clearly been rebuilt recently and the new bollards and operating rods were at the ends of the locks which is really awkward for a narrowboat.  They are ideal for commercials as they fill the complete lock and will have someone at either end.  We’re not complaining as we appreciate the canals are commercial, but it’s just something extra to be aware of when we’re locking.

Lock cottage needing love and attention at one of the refurbished locks
At several of the locks, not only did Karen have to be on the roof to get a line over a bollard as they were deep, she then had to get up the ladder and walk down to one end to pull on the operating rod. 

Another of the refurbished locks – Karen pulling on the rod
Karen and Buddy walked for the last few kilometres and we met up just before the last lock of the day.

Cruising through Cormicy
We moored up for the night in a lovely quiet spot just above the lock with the nearest village, Cauroy-lès-Hermonville, about two kilometres away.

Moored for Thursday night
On Thursday we covered 26 kilometres up six locks passing many commercials but once again there were no pleasure boats on the move.

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