En route from Tournai to Pommeroeul (having first checked for river traffic on the AIS) we were able to top up with water in the first lock – Peronnes 2. Although we have a huge capacity for storing water, we always top up when we can especially if it is free.
After a pleasant cruise we moored up in solitary splendour in the increasingly windy Pommeroeul basin by mid afternoon. We spent almost a week there, during which time we enjoyed several walks, cycled back to Peruwelz to collect the car and on Peter’s birthday were joined by Lynn and Stew (‘Matariki’) in a small restaurant near the port for a fine celebration lunch. We had hoped to dine in the excellent restaurant at the port, but on arrival found it was closed that day. Peter also brewed some beer and I potted on more of my marigold seedlings which unfortunately suffered for it in the persistently cold wind.
Lynn colour coordinated for our lunch.
Whilst at Pommeroeul we learned of the passing of two fine men who had both lost their fight with cancer; my sister-in-law Kathryn’s brother Martin and our friend Chris Walker.
Peter had worked with Chris prior to his retirement and subsequent move to Alderney over twenty years ago. We had spent many pleasant times together while holidaying there with our children over the years. We were pleased that we had been able to spend time with Chris just recently at the SEG reunion in Bruges, which he attended with his wife Jan.
A lovely man and good friend.
Victoria Wood also lost her fight with cancer that week and we were once again reminded of the importance of making the most of each and every day.
After leaving Pommeroeul, we headed to the small quay at Thieu which we have used several times previously. Spring was on its way but the keen wind was ever present. We had decided that this would be a sensible spot to leave me and ‘Aurigny’ while Peter went over to Guernsey for Chris’s funeral.
Thieu, within sight of the impressive Strepy lift again.
After craning the motorcycle off, we headed back to Perwuelz the next day to enjoy a plate of Flemish Stew denied to us on Peter’s birthday. Then we headed to Pommeroeul to collect the car.
The following day we had a rather chilly cycle ride along the entire length of the old canal. Most of the old lifts are now redundant, but it is still possible to go a short distance by barge where there are a couple of quiet moorings available.
While Peter headed back to England and over to Guernsey, I was home alone and was delighted when Lorna (Waterdog) was able to come over for a couple of days from Erquelinnes – several days away by barge but less than an hour by car.
We had a lovely time together despite the windy, wet weather and enjoyed a couple of nice walks with Tilly (between showers) and plenty of wine and chat. The barge felt very empty again once Lorna had left and I was pleased when Peter made it back safely after four days away.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny, enabling Peter to wash the motorcycle and crane it back onboard while some kind of music event set up on the quay in front of us. Meanwhile, I drove the car to Seneffe Port and cycled back – rather further than I had thought as the towpath was not as straight forward as expected. Fortunately I had the sat nav with me, but when you are cycling it is tricky to use.
Back in Thieu on the quay, the music (I use the term loosely -loud bass was all we could hear) was annoying, so we cast off and headed to the relative peace at the base of the Strepy Lift. Here we could get a good signal for the TV and watch the Grand Prix undisturbed and then hopefully take an early ‘lift’ the next day- one of several public holidays in May.
We were up in the spectacular lift just after 10am, sharing it this time with a large commercial barge and then enjoyed a pleasant cruise to the lock at Marchiennes au Pont. I walked to the station hoping to find a train back to Seneffe, but was out of luck, so we craned the motorcycle off the barge and collected the car dropping it further along our intended route at Sclayne.
Our fourth time…
…Never fails to impress.
We had used the quay there before and it was about 15km east of Namur near Andennes. After a couple of wrong turns (one of which took us bizarrely past two windows with women sitting in them on the main road) we found the quay, left the car and headed back to the barge. The hassle of the day did make me wonder if having a car with us was really worth all the trouble.
The spell of warm weather continued the next morning as we took advantage of the lock and cruised on through the marvellously awful Charleroi with its quays full of recycling and toweringly ominous metal structures. We hardly had to wait for the locks and were moored up on the pontoon near Lidl at Auvelais by mid afternoon.
We visited the unusual French cemetery I had found with Jean on our last visit. It is set on a hill and has a Breton Lighthouse at the gate, reflecting the homeland of many of the dead. In the dappled sunlight it all looked very peaceful.
Standing watch over a peaceful and rather unusual cemetery.
Beautiful hilltop overlooking Auvelais.
We were definitely back into cruising mode and still enjoying the ‘free’ electricity provided by our solar panels. The sun was lovely but the breeze rather cool.
Our cruise to Namur was uneventful and once again we were able to top up with water at a lock, albeit for just a few minutes. We moored up in our usual spot below the Pont de Jambes by mid afternoon and I set off up to the Citadel. On all our visits over the past three years renovation has been ongoing and it was nice to be able to walk in areas hitherto unexplored. Lynn had told me of a pretty garden at the top next to the former Chateau (now a hotel) so I strolled in to have a look. It was certainly impressive, but sadly for me the wrong time of year as few plants were in flower. I returned to ‘Aurigny’ via a fairly steep wooded path similar to the one in Dinant.
The lower Sambre on way to Namur.
The next morning we decided to visit ‘de Schtouff’ by the bridge for a Croque Monsieur. The whole road was closed to traffic and filled with a huge market. It was Ascension Thursday – another public holiday in Belgium. Alas the bar was only serving drinks, but after quenching our disappointment …and thirst with a welcome beer, we ate a burger from the butcher’s stall and bought two more planters for my marigolds. We would just have to stay another day.
After one more relaxing day during which we enjoyed a ‘half and half’ – One portion of Croque Monsieur and one of Spag Bol and several walks, we headed off to Sclayne.
Still the tastiest croque we’ve ever found.
We had a short cruise with our only delay being at the Grand Malade Lock which is huge and takes ages to fill and empty.
A mini heat wave had arrived and after a couple of days we moved on to Huy, stopping outside the first port (Statte) on the free wall while we wandered into the town. Unfortunately, the interesting looking cable car across the river and up to the fort was closed and in the unexpected heat neither of us fancied the walk up, so we made do with a beer under an umbrella in the centre or town.
We would soon be in new territory as we cruised through Liege to a long quay near Herstal Bridge. Next stop …the Netherlands.