Thursday 31 March 2022

Juvigny (residency nearly resecured)

I’ll start this blog with a thank you for all the feedback we received on our first blog update of 2022 proving that it provides some light relief and coffeetime reading for some as well as a memory aid to us.  With Karen not working this year we are quickly losing track of what day it is, but it doesn’t really matter with our way of life. 


After leaving Condé-sur-Marne last week we spent a couple of nights at Juvigny and with the lovely weather saw plenty of butterflies.  One interesting one was the southern small white which is not currently found in the UK.  This is one of the species that is increasing its range northwards quite dramatically, by as much as 100 km a year over recent years.  This now means it can be found across all of France and as specimens have been seen around Calais it probably won’t be long until it reaches the UK.  Many people refer to white butterflies as ‘cabbage whites’ because of the damage their larvae cause by eating brassicas,  Actually, there is no such thing as a ‘cabbage white' as it's a generic term for the small white and the large white.  The southern small white does not feed on brassicas so may get persecuted unnecessarily when it does arrive.

Another white found in the UK is the green veined white and this doesn’t feed on brassicas either but does suffer in the hands of some mistaken gardeners.  The picture below is of a male green veined white we saw by the boat over the weekend.  It clearly shows the green veins which help distinguish it from the ‘pest’ whites which have plain undersides dusted in yellow.

A much maligned male green veined white

Other than going for walks and lazing around the boat we did some log cutting over the weekend which felt strange as we’re currently avoiding being sunburnt rather than thinking about lighting fires.  Looking at next week’s forecast there are a couple of rainy and colder days coming up, so we want to be prepared.

Celebrating our return with a traditional glass or two of rosé

Talking about drinking, the champagne fields are a hive of activity at the moment.  The fields are alive with the strange vineyard tractors with their raised bodies and narrow wheels that enable them to ride over the vines doing whatever is done at this time of year.  The smaller plots are managed by hand and the workers are painstakingly doing the same job manually.

Just one boat came through in the two days we were at Juvigny, a Dutch péniche heading south called Mussey.


We left Juvigny late on Sunday morning for the short hop to Châlons-en-Champagne where we arrived in time for a late lunch.  As usual, there was an éclusiere on duty at the lock in the middle of the town. The lock is a VNF control point where details are taken of all boats going through and what their plans are.  We’d been holding onto a télécommande, or remote control unit, that we'd used to operate the locks on the canal de la Meuse last year.  Strangely there had been nowhere to deposit télécommandes as we left the last lock on the Meuse, so we’d kept hold of it until we were able to return it.  The éclusiere said she couldn’t take it because it was different to the ones in use in her area but in the end rescinded and jotted down that we’d handed it in.

We regard Châlons as our French home and not just because we love the place but because it is where our official French address is for tax, residency and health purposes.  The port is also a nice quiet spot with very friendly and helpful staff.  After mooring up we picked up our post and met up with a few of the other boaters in the port.  We moored next to Guy & Ardon on Vindi and Buddy was delighted to see them as he could sit outside their boat demanding food on the off chance that they may give in, but thankfully they didn’t.  It didn’t help that when we popped in to see Bill & Jane on Lazybones, the first thing Jane did was to give Buddy some fresh meat!

We couldn’t resist having a walk around our old haunts in the parks to see what had changed and as we passed the island opposite the Grand Jard we were keen to see the heronry on it.  There’d been at least 15 pairs nesting there when we’d been stuck in the port during the first lockdown because we weren’t allowed to move.  Sadly, we became aware that there were fewer than half that number of herons sitting on their nests this year.  We found out later that there had been more, but several nests were destroyed in recent strong winds.  We did notice though that during the afternoon herons were busy rebuilding so hopefully they will get a chance to lay more eggs (assuming that’s biologically possible). 

Island with heronry
The other end of the island – we’re sticking out at right angles to the hotel boat

We also had a wander around the market and a couple of the squares in town and noticed that our drain cover artist has been hard at work again.  Several of the murals (?) that had been fading had been freshened up and in the corner of one square were some new paintings.  These cats are just a couple of the six new ones we found:

On Sunday we travelled seven kilometres up one lock.


I said earlier that now Karen’s not working again we’re beginning to lose track of which day is which, but it was important that we didn’t miss Monday as it was the day Karen had her appointment at the préfecture to pick up her new carte de séjour to replace the one she lost in a lock last year.  The waiting room in the immigration hall was packed but we were only delayed by 15 minutes before we were seen.  The clerk took Karen’s documents, checked them over and said all was OK but we needed to make another appointment to receive the actual card.  I found it incredulous that the appointment was in effect just to make a further RDV and assumed I had misunderstood the French. 

We went around the same conversation three times with the same outcome so there was nothing for it but to go back and make another appointment online.  Another clerk, who spoke a little English, could see I was getting distressed so came over.  Our clerk explained the situation to the new guy who then repeated slowly, and with some English, what we’d been told thus confirming our understanding had been correct.  He helped us out by getting a girl to make the appointment for us there and then and, frustratingly, the earliest she could get was for just over two weeks’ time.  We were upset about this of course but at least it sounded like the card would finally be in Karen’s hands.  The sight of a queue of Ukrainians waiting to be processed in an area set aside for them, presumably with a Ukrainian-French interpreter, brought us down to earth by making us realise how fortunate we really were.

We now had several options to re-plan our journey to Strasbourg

  • Set off and take the car with us so we could drive back to Châlons on 13th April
  • Set off and use public transport to return to Châlons
  • Stay in Châlons for the next couple of weeks or so
  • Start cruising in the wrong direction for a week and then return to Châlons

We didn’t really fancy taking the car with us and the trains and buses were such that we couldn’t find a way of using them without an overnight stop which seems crazy for a journey of no more than 50 miles.  We’re also really keen to be on the move so didn’t fancy hanging around in Châlons so there was nothing for it but to set off down to the Marne and then return in time for the appointment. Once we accepted that we had to change our plans yet again so early in the year we were quite excited as we hadn’t been on the Marne for three years and started thinking about the places we could visit.


It wasn’t quite as warm on Tuesday morning but at least it was still tee shirt weather when we set off back to Juvigny.  We’ve decided to take a few days to get down at Cumières on the river Marne, stay there a while and then return to Châlons. It was a busy on the water as we passed three boats on our journey, all of them commercials.

We hadn't seen Dahna before

On Tuesday we travelled seven kilometres down one lock.


It had only taken a day or two to get used to the hour’s time difference between France and the UK but we’d forgotten how much difference the daylight-saving change makes with lovely long evenings.  By the same token it’s still dark at 7am and when we got up on a misty Wednesday morning a commercial was emerging from the lock by our mooring like a ghost.

Thiros passing in the gloom

Expecting rain and a cooler day we decided to stay put just going for a couple of walks.  Contrary to expectations the rain never arrived, and it was still warm for the time of year, so we ended up staying outside most of the day.  Saying all that it did remain pretty gloomy as you can see from this picture of Jersey exiting from our lock.

Before I sign off, I will include a picture of our new granddaughter, Olly:

Olyvia Hazel Rae in the week she was born

Saturday 26 March 2022

Juvigny (slow boat to Châlons)

Moored at Juvigny for a couple of days

While a lot has happened in the world over the last three months or so it feels like we’ve been stuck in a groundhog day back in the UK.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a brilliant time with our children and grandchildren and meeting up with a few boater friends but there is always something missing when not living on the boat; we hate the thought of leaving but it’s probably just that we’re itching to get back on the move.

One of the main family events happened a couple of weeks ago when Polly & Lochlann provided us with Olyvia, our first granddaughter.  Of course, being back in the UK for a solid period of time we were able to look after our two grandsons on a regular basis and were soon into a weekly routine.  We constantly chuckled in the difference in approach to childcare from their two mothers; one would arrive with a comprehensive operations manual and maintenance schedule whereas the other was lucky to be sent with a change of underwear!  I’m not being harsh at all as both their mothers are aware of their differences and will understand the sentiment and we are so fortunate to have two lovely, happy grandsons.

It’s been a very mild winter, but we haven’t seen anything like the number of butterflies we would have expected.  Since January 1st there have been reports from all over the UK of hibernators on the wing.  Our sightings have been a bit slow off the mark; but it just started picking up in the last week before we returned to France which we did on Wednesday.  We rose at 2am so we could get back to the boat before lunch and have plenty of time to sort out any problems.  It was an easy and uneventful journey back as most of the 550 km were on motorway and we were settling in by 10am EU time.   Apart from a thick coating of Saharan sand covering the boat, everything was shipshape and Bristol fashion as they used to say. 

We had a few jobs to do before starting to cruise including carrying out an engine service, disposing of the plants that died off over winter and giving the boat a thorough clean.  As we’re starting later this year, we’ll forego spring plants and go straight to summer ones at the right time.  We also needed to do a shop for large items like Buddy’s dog food while we had the car as we won’t be taking it with us this year.  Because of the jobs we decided to stay in the port at Condé-sur-Marne for a couple of days to get them done.  Buddy was soon settled in and seemed to be really happy spending most of the time sunning himself on the pontoon.

Regular readers will know that Karen lost her French residence permit (carte de séjour) in a lock late last year and we’ve been going through hoops ever since trying to get a replacement.  Fortuitously, on Thursday afternoon we received a text saying the replacement was now ready and to book an appointment at the préfecture in Châlons-en-Champagne.  We went online and managed to get an appointment for Monday morning.  This was great news as it meant we could get on the move later the same day, especially as we’d imagined having to hang around in Châlons until the card arrived.  This meant we had to get to Châlons by Sunday evening and as it was only 17 km away, we decided to cruise to Juvigny and spend a couple of nights at a nice spot we knew where Buddy could roam freely.

We left around midday and were soon back into the swing of things.  We were almost instantly rewarded with the sight of a kingfisher and reminded of how prolific cowslips are in this part of France growing in swathes along the banks.  The port we’d been in was at the bottom of the canal de la Marne à l’Aisne by the junction with the canal latéral à la Marne which we joined and turned left to head south.

Joining the canal latéral à la Marne

It wasn’t long before we were heading unto our first lock at a place called Vraux.  This particular lock has quite a fierce bywash even when there hasn’t been a lot of rain.  Extra care has to be taken to avoid being pushed into the side of the lock as the boat entered especially with Karen on the roof waiting to get her line onto a bollard.

Getting ready to steer into the side flow

We moored up just above the next lock at a spot we stayed in a couple of years ago.  The mooring is on the offside, or opposite side to the towpath, although there was a track running down to the lock cottage.  Once again, we were puzzled why benches and picnic tables had been placed there as any passing walkers or cyclists would be on the other side of the cut.   

Incongruous picnic area on a straight stretch of cut

Once moored up we sat outside and relaxed for the afternoon while finalising our cruising plans.  Every year we make plans for the entire year and always seem to be thwarted by closures due to low water levels or over abundant weed growth.  This year we’ve agreed to plan in stages so first of all we’re heading for Nancy followed by Strasbourg, cities neither of us have been to.  It will be a journey of 365 km through 165 locks and one inclined plane.  

The purple line shows the first part of our 2022 travels

First, we will head down the canal latéral à la Marne to Vitry-le-François where we will join the canal de la Marne au Rhin (ouest) to Toul.  We have travelled on both of these canals before so will probably stop at places we haven’t visited before.  At Toul we will join the Moselle and head north on a section that will be new to us and then pass through Nancy before travelling the length of the canal de la Marne au Rhin (est) to Strasbourg, again a new waterway for us.

Later on, we were talking about how we hadn’t seen any boat traffic yet when a commercial came past at 7pm.

Veredis Quo not quite fully laden

As I said in the introduction this was a short update to help get my mind back into blog writing and I hope you will continue to join us on our travels this year.

On Friday we cruised nine km up two locks.