26. Last days on the Canal Lateral a la Loire, a few days on the Canal de Roanne a Digoin and the Canal du Centre.

The Canal Lateral a la Loire continued to delight, with its pretty scenery and interesting towns. We stopped at Gannay sur Loire for a couple of days which is famed for its Sully Tree- according to our old waterways guide.  The tree was planted in 1597 by Sully the Finance Minister of Henri IV and marks the boundary between the Burgundy, Bourbon and Nivernais regions. The tree is now immortalised in a concrete base which is rather a shame. We enjoyed a filling ‘Formule’ lunch in the nearby restaurant and couldn’t eat anything else that day.

Not a lot left of the famous tree.

Our next stop was the port at Beaulon, where we stayed over two weeks. Popular with camping cars and boats alike it was a great spot for us to get down to some serious barge painting. We managed to do the stern cabin roof despite the awkwardness of having to remove and stack the solar panels first and as with the front deck decided to use non slip paint. The solar panel brackets had to be removed too and then replaced accurately before the panels themselves could be screwed down.

Third coat, trouble is the hatch looks scruffy now !

….ah well.

Fortunately, in the waiting time between coats, we were able to enjoy a couple of trips into the pretty fortress spa town of Bourbon Lancy (in search of Sikoflix initially) and lunch in a lovely old creperie in Beaulon.

We also did a recce by car of Dompierre sur Besbre which is off the main canal, but decided it wasn’t worth cruising there as the port is a bit dingy and then onto Diou which was much nicer.

Friends Carol and Jeremy (‘Anthonia’) stopped by on their way south by car for a night and it was lovely to catch up with them again. Fortunately the new problem with our hot water tank was fairly easy to manage until such time as Peter could take a good look at it and diagnose the problem.

After several ‘trouble free loo’ years, our guest cabin loo failed to flush and on closer inspection the problem was a wet wipe (alas one I think I dropped in while cleaning) plus a build up of lime scale in the macerator. As Carol and Jeremy headed south, I watched the Royal Wedding and we planned to leave on Monday 21st May.

We had tried to do the minimum of noisy preparation while at Beaulon, not wishing to spoil the calm, but on the Monday morning several nearby camping cars left and we decided to stay a bit longer and tackle our largest deck- the grass one. We rolled up the ‘lawn’ stacking it on the newly painted front deck. The garage floor paint had done a good job over the past eight years and needed redoing. As with all decorating jobs the preparation is important and for us it involved washing, scraping off rust, vacuuming, two coats of the rust proofing ‘Owatrol’ (which need a 24 hour drying period) and then two coats of paint. With the vagaries of the weather this seemed to take forever especially as it was our third deck.

Third coat again…one more to go.

We had in fact been fairly fortunate weather wise, but just as Peter finished putting on the first coat of Owatrol, the skies darkened and the heavens opened. Sue and Alan had just moored up on ‘Whisperer’. With windows open, hatches removed for sanding and varnishing and Peter off in the car helping Alan collect his car, I ran around the barge like a headless chicken trying to keep the deluge out while the air turned a dark shade of blue around me. An hour later after several drinks on board ‘Whisperer’ I had calmed down sufficiently to accept the soaking bedroom carpet underneath the hatch on our return … amazingly the Owatrol coat had survived the three hour rain storm!

The following day Alan drove us all over to a canal-side restaurant in Cercy La Tour. We had cruised through there and stopped not far away in our first month nine years ago. We enjoyed a tasty pizza lunch in the sunshine.

Our deck having survived the thunderstorm, we set off after ‘Whisperer’ the next morning. We said we would meet up again several weeks later in Tournus.

We passed through more pretty countryside and short wisteria-festooned aqueducts on our way to Diou, but the strangest sight of all was a garden with weird objects and decorated trees, a big black dog and a chap wearing white women’s tights and a sweatshirt. Needles to say the tights left nothing to the imagination!

No picture…too nauseating !!

Our three day stop at Diou enabled us to finish the ‘grass’ deck. We had at least made a good effort on the top sides so far this year.

Carol and Jeremy joined us the next day on their way north. By then we had moved up to Pierrefitte and we enjoyed another evening together. They headed back to ‘Anthonia’ in Auxerre the next morning.

Our next stop was the new quay at Molinet which is close to the junction with the Canal de Roanne a Digoin – the ‘Canal Tranquille’. We did another recce by car of the first part of that canal and then drove into Digoin which is quite pretty near the canal, but rather disappointing otherwise.

‘Aurigny’ had cruised to Roanne in her previous life and we hoped to return there for a week or so and then return north with friends Jacqui and Paul who were arriving soon.

We set off and turned onto the Canal de Roanne a Digoin, the canal is definitely ‘tranquille’ and very rural. The tow path is often rough or nonexistent and the canal itself rather shallow in places. Our first mooring spot at Pont de la Croix Rouge required us to put tyres out to rest on as it was so shallow. We shared the mooring with ‘Blue Gum’ and invited Sally and Charles on board for what turned into yet another extended aperos session.

After a slow, dredging cruise to Chambilly, we stopped for the night and then turned around the next day to return north. It really was rather shallow.  We spent another night on tyres at our previous mooring and had a fabulous meal in Chassenard at ‘La Table de Jeanne’ before moving up to a free mooring in Digoin on the right after the aqueduct and just before the port.

Pont de la Croix Rouge, returning north.

Just about to enjoy a delightful lunch at ‘La Table de Jeanne’ 

The puddings !! …ok, deserts.

We stayed at Digoin for several days during which I visited the interesting ‘Observaloire’ and we chilled out.  A drive to the well appointed Paray le Monial enabled us to finalise our meeting point for Jacqui and Paul on Sunday 10th June.

Paray le Monial is a destination for pilgrims and as such is very well kept and also very quiet. The Basilique du Sacre Coeur dominates the skyline and is beautifully illuminated at night. There are several places of interest for pilgrims and while we were there huge marquees were being erected for a forthcoming religious event. We were amazed at how quiet the town was during two evening walks at the weekend.

Paray le Monial, The fire brigade washing the barge.

Free of charge, good service.

Our friends arrived after a longish drive from Le Havre. Among the many lovely things they brought with them was a huge box of Yorkshire tea… as we were down to our last few ounces of emergency loose tea it was gratefully received and we could ditch the recently purchased French English Breakfast Tea that tasted and looked like mud.

A river runs through the town which is very quiet and ‘Godly’ !

The weather remained unsettled and rather cloudy, but was generally ok. With another car available for shuffling, I was let off car collecting duty a couple of times having done a fair bit in the past month or so.

Being on a new canal with guests is always fun as it is new to all of us and we never know where we will be able to moor. However with our ancient waterways guide and DBA mooring guide, we have always found somewhere.

Genelard was a pleasant port on the line of demarcation between Unoccupied and Vichy France during WW2. Jacqui and I spent two absorbing hours in the exhibition at the library.

Genelard. the bridge was the demarcation line.

Good friends, good weather…good Evens !

At Montceau-les-Mines, we moored by a busy road as the new port was still being finished. Jacqui and Paul cycled back to get their car while Peter cooked his tasty Seafood Risotto and we all enjoyed watching a Dave Gilmour and Billy Joel DVD.

The next morning we had to phone for the three bridges to be opened in the town centre and once through the town had a longish day and several locks. We were approaching the top of the canal and eventually stopped at Montchanin next to a VNF centre. Paul and I cycled back to get the cars while Jacqui went for a run.

Heading through the town.

Just love holding up the traffic !

Paul & Jacqui.

The ‘summit’ lock, all downhill from here!

Going downhill is always challenging as Peter loses sight of the lock about 50m out and relies on my perceived distances. This coupled with an unhelpful wind made things very tricky and we had seven to do in a chain as we headed towards St Julien-sur-Dheune. There was room for us at one end of the oddly shaped port with hotel barge ‘Finesse’ at the other end.

Pleasant scenery, tight locks.

St Julien-sur-Dheune with the auberge on the left.

That evening we were treated to a lovely meal at the canal-side auberge, a super way to end a great week with friends.

We stayed on the quiet pleasant mooring a couple more days as we realised we were reaching the end of the Canal du Centre and needed to find a suitable spot to leave the barge during our return to England early in July. I enjoyed a 45 minute guided tour of the Villa Perrusson one afternoon. Only the gardens were open, but the tour gave a good idea of the background and history of the local Ceramics industry.

 Villa Perrusson.

After a chain of seven more locks we stopped on a stone quay for one night, but it was noisy with traffic so we moved onto Santenay which is a winegrowing town full of caves. The weather had finally settled down and we were greeted by blue skies most mornings. The mooring was free but had no electrics; however the sun did its work with the solar panels.

Nothing here but lovely views…

…Not such a lovely view !

Ahh, that’s better. In the town centre.

Still a little too hot for my liking !

We spent three days at Santenay during which time I cycled through the vineyards, explored the town and collected the car. In glorious sunshine we drove to Tournus, La Truchere, Chagny and Fragnes to recce possible moorings for our forthcoming trip and narrowed down the possibilities. Chagny was just 5km away but the gusty conditions made the short trip quite challenging. We stopped there for one night.  Then we had a longish trip down to Fragnes, a charming port with 300m of moorings and a very pleasant Capitaine – Celine. We stayed there a couple of nights enjoying a meal in the restaurant. It soon became clear that we had run out of options of leaving ‘Aurigny’ on the Canal du Centre.

En route to Fragnes.

A friendly lock assistant.

Our reserved mooring at fragnes.

A second drive to Tournus and La Truchere on the River Seille, plus a detour via the old disused Gigny lock on the Saone gave us our solution. We would cruise down to Tournus and spend a week or so there and then move back up to the Halte Nautique at Gigny…

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