Friday, 9 October 2015

A sunny week on the Nivernais, part 2

Sunrise at Sauzay
Sunrise at Sauzay
One of the things I like best about canal cruising is the chance to see spectacular sunrises, with a lot of mist. It was barely light when we set off for a 4km walk with the dogs on a deserted towpath below Sauzay lock on the Canal du Nivernais, and the lovely thing about French canals is a towpath both sides. On the Nivernais it's tarmac one side (much loved by cyclists) and grassy farm track the other - but wide - so you can walk up to a bridge, down the other side to the next bridge and back in a round trip.

Canal du Nivernais sunrise near Sauzay
Les Hâtes de Seia
By the time we reached the location above, the sun had just risen, and we were at a wide part that must have been a halt though I wouldn't trust the depth, at Les Hâtes de Seia (PK 26).

Once it was light enough we set off again. The canal is straighter now that it's left the hills, but the countryside is still rolling, and now and then you can catch a glimpse of the Morvan hills. A few kilometres further on you come to the only lift bridge on this southern part of the canal, the pont-levis du Tremblay, dramatically overlooked by the château of the same name. I believe the wooden bridge was built for the château and recently restored, but it's hard to find out much about it. In the background the Morvan national park is quite clear now, and reminds me just a little of the Llangollen canal - but with less traffic and more châteaux!
Wooden lift bridge at Tremblay, Canal du Nivernais
The lift bridge and chateau at Tremblay, near Isenay
Ecluse de Roche
Roche - ooh look! A boat!
Next comes Cercy-la-Tour where the canal briefly joins the river Aron before turning a very sharp right through an open stop lock, and you're in a pound of nearly 8 km without a lock. The canal gently meanders, sometimes through low hills and sometimes through woodland until you reach the lock and small aqueduct at Roche.

It was about this time that we discovered our fridge wasn't working, it was a gas fridge, and with no instructions we had no idea how to start it. We found out later it was because they'd cut the gas to repair the oven and not reset it!  Somehow a day or two later, by pressing various buttons, it started again.

7 kilometres and two locks later, we found ourselves in the port at St-Léger-des-Vignes (which is not as pretty as it sounds). This is the southernmost point and the next lock takes you into the Loire to crossover to the Canal Latéral à la Loire. By the time we'd moored, next to a much coveted powerpoint, it was getting on for 5.30, and yep, half a mile walk to the Mairie to find it's closed and you can't get a card for power or water. Luckily we met a lovely lady living on a narrowboat who charged our mobile for us.

Port de St Thibault, St-Léger-des-Vignes, Canal du Nivernais
Port de St Thibault, St-Léger-des-Vignes
 Next morning, another lovely misty sunrise, and walking down to the Loire we were astounded to see a camel across the river. The circus was in town and we found out when we got home that only 5 days previously, a lion had escaped.

Finally, it was time for a leisurely cruise back to base. Although the map says water at Champvert, there was nothing to fit an adapter to, so it was on to Cercy-la-Tour. Negotiating the stop lock was a challenge as most locks have a low bridge on the down side, which means having to get lined up before ducking at the last minute. I'm afraid to say we clipped that one! We made up for it though by perfectly mooring between two boats on the pontoon at Cercy (bowthrusters again) and filling with water. In to the lock, and the lock keeper said she could only allow two boats through, so drove down to the pontoon to interrupt a French group's lunch and commandeered them to go up the lock with us. We tested our speed between 2 kilometre boards before Cercy, and we were just on 8km/hour flat out (the speed limit), however, that didn't stop the French boat tailgaiting us all the way to la Saigne, where we stopped for the night (see pic, part1).

We woke to another lovely sunny morning, with Charolais cows peering through the mist at us, and another very pretty stop. Being well ahead of time, we set off and stopped for a long lunch just before Meulot while the French boat went on. It was so hot by now we had to put the parasol up. Having arranged to get to the next lock at 3pm, we set off as the lock keeper passed going in the opposite direction, so when we got to the lock, there was no one there. That gave me ample time to practise lassoing the bollard, which I managed on third attempt.

Penduline tit
Penduline tit
With Chatillon getting ever closer, it was my last chance to get out my zoom lens (a 150-600mm Tamron) and as it's heavy, I lay on the front deck with it, still waiting for a perfect shot of a heron or buzzard, when we saw some little birds in a bush on the bank. My first ever sighting of a penduline tit, though sadly not a brilliant photo.

Then it was through the stop lock at Chatillon, then the final lock (lassoo'd the bollard first time!) and into the base - which was full, so we moored up on the bank after asking a fisherman to move. He wasn't too upset and shared a beer with us later - he'd been there all day and hadn't caught a thing - why do they do it?

A lovely trip, and it's only reinforced our determination to live on a Dutch barge one day, family responsibilities permitting! It's a beautiful canal, though not the place to go if you want a restaurant at every bridge, but we like quiet, and it certainly is that.

The stop lock, Chatillon-en-Bazois, Canal du Nivernais
The stop lock, Châtillon-en-Bazois

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