These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over nine years now and are still loving it. Our Ulster born Shih Tzu, Shannon, has grown up, and has taken over the boat! After three wonderful years in Ireland, we transported The Puzzler to The Netherlands, and spent a year there. In 2015 we went southwards, to reach the north of France by June. After glorious weather throughout the summer, we arrived in Roanne in late October, and enjoyed our winter in this friendly port. We cruised extensively in France in 2016 and 2017, returning to Roanne each winter.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

1st - 5th May. On to Clamecy. The story about The Floating of the Logs.

Having been at Villiers-sur-Yonne for five days, and done all the local walks to explore the village, we felt that it was time to move on. We were also running out of food, as there is no shop in Villiers. Shannon is practising her best photographic smile!

So it was on to Clamecy, where once again we were the only boat in the port. It is a luxury to have decent internet, so this is my third post in as many days!

Here the old timbered houses really look old!

The cathedral, St Martin de Clamecy, stands proudly in the centre of town.

There is so much detail around the main door.

Inside, it is an imposing cathedral.

There is such detail in the stained glass windows.

This rose window, half way down the cathedral, was more impressive than the one above the organ at the end.
We visited the museum, which we missed when here in late 2015. There was quite a lot of archaeology and art, but we were fascinated by the story of The Floating of the Logs. This began in the 16th Century, reaching its peak between 1785 and 1816, at which time Paris consumed a million cubic metres of firewood per year. All timber producers upstream of Clamecy would cut their logs to the standard length of 1.14 metres, mark them with the owner's mark, and float them downstream during November to one of 22 “casting ports”which were spread along the upper reaches of the Yonne. The logs were stopped by barrages, removed from the water, and piled up on the river banks to dry, awaiting the “Great Flood”. The following March, the logs at all 22 ports were all cast into the river at the same time. When the dammed up waters were released, the resulting flood carried all the logs to Clamecy, where they ran up against dams, and were again taken from the water, to be sorted by the owner's marks, and built into log “trains”, like the model shown here. The 22 small dams built along the length of the Yonne were successively released, at the beginning of the summer, to create the current required to transport the trains downstream to Paris. This journey took about 11 days. However, by 1881, coal had superceded wood as a source of energy, and the last free log float arrived in Clamecy in 1923, almost 400 years after this saga began.

Monday, 30 April 2018

25th - 30th April. Through three tunnels, down the flight of 16 locks, then on to Villiers-sur-Yonne

Having passed the lake, there are three tunnels before descending the 16 locks. There are no lights in the tunnels, which is unusual for France.

This cutting after the third tunnel is reminiscent of the Shroppie!
There was even one lock with traditional balance beams, although they would be too high for easy use. We completed the first 8 locks in record time, then had to wait for half an hour for a boat which was coming up the flight. We started at the same time, but we made much better time! It does help that we only need to use one gate at locks.

All the trees are really green now, as we continue our descent.

A pottery shop at one lock was followed by some unusual sculptures, alongside the canal. They are unusual, to say the least!

Did this martian annoy someone?

I think I prefer the steel ones.

What a pretty lock cottage!

The canal widens out below the 16 locks, and we actually shared the mooring with another boat, for the first time on this canal. It is really quiet.

Most of the time, the canal wends its way between trees.

Sometimes, though, the river Yonne can be seen from the canal, across at the far side of the valley.
We are passing some pretty villages. This is Dirol, with a lift bridge too, which was open for us. There are push button controls at lift bridges on this section of the canal, so they are easy to operate, without having to call VNF.

The plane trees are very attractive here.

Near Asnois village we gave this log pile first prize for the best stacking!
On to Villiers-sur-Yonne, where we spent five days on our own. The canal is really quiet due to the canal closure before Auxerre. Opinions vary as to when it will be open again, and it could be as late as the end of May.
Què sera sera!

The trees in Villiers, which is over the canal bridge, have had a haircut, and look very French!

From the top end of the village, there is a splendid view over the valley of the river Yonne. Yes, the mown grass is in a private garden!

Going to the left at the canal bridge and crossing the river Yonne, we visited the hamlet of Sur Yonne, which has many attractive old houses.
The most famous structure here is the “Corps de Garde”, which is the only significant remains of the 16th century fortifications of Sur Yonne, when the hamlet was independent of Brèves.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

16th - 24th April 2018. From Cercy-la-Tour, we continue along the Canal du Nivernais to Châtillon-en-Bazois, Mont et Marré, then on to L'Etang de Baye on the summit level.

Looking across the canal at Cercy-la-Tour, the statue of Notre Dame du Nivernais (directly above the cruiser), and the church, can be seen on the skyline.

The original statue was made in 1958, but was replaced in 2008 by this splendid stone statue, which was sculpted by Joël Dasvin of Chaulgnes.

From the statue, The Puzzler is a long way down below us on the river Aron, which has joined the canal du Nivernais here in Cercy.

Lovely blossom by the lock.

Continuing on along the canal du Nivernais, the plane trees are just starting to show a shimmer of green.

This part of the canal follows the meanders of the river below us, but this is not obvious until you look at the map!

Did we really change direction so much!!
Shannon likes to lie on the bows of The Puzzler and act as a figurehead! Here we are entering the stop gates of Cœuillon, where the canal joins the river for a short while, before the first lock at Châtillon-en-Bazois.

In Châtillon it is a lovely mooring, just in front of the chateau. We stayed here for a few days, sunbathing on the towpath as the temperature reached 40°.

Our next stop was at Mont et Marré, where this part of the village of Marré is separate from Mont, a smaller hamlet which lies over in the trees on the other side of the canal.

The laverie here has seen better days.
A misty morning, going up first a double, and then this triple lock. We go up, as in Ireland, with all the gates open. As each chamber is full, we move forward and the gates are closed behind us.

It is a good thing that no-one has to climb this risky lock ladder!

Nearly all the trees are green now.

This is the lowest bridge on thie Nivernais canal. If it is too low for your boat, then do not come this way!

On the summit level, we moored beside the Etang de Baye, and walked right round it. It was our longest walk for a long time!

This is from the other end of the lake, with the canal lying over to the left. The Puzzler is moored in a line across from the headland, at the far end of the lake.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

5th – 15th April 2018. Delays at Decize, then across the river Loire to join the Canal du Nivernais.

We had to wait for nearly a week at Decize, until the Loire was open. Spring is certainly here with the celandines beside the port.

The lock out on to the Loire is strange, with see-through tops to both top and bottom gates.

The sign at the lock makes sure that we know where to go!

On the Loire the flow was much gentler than it had been last week, and we had an easy crossing to St Lèger des Vignes, on the canal du Nivernais.

It is a pleasant town mooring at St Lèger.

Climbing up above the trees behind our mooring gives a clear view across the Loire valley to the old town of Decize.

Three days later we eventually set off along the canal du Nivernais, past these very French plane trees. We are in no hurry as the Nivernais canal is closed, beyond lock 76, until 15th March.

8 kilometres further on, we stopped on a wild mooring, and walked up the hill to visit Verneuil. The view across the valley from The Puzzler is really good.

The church of St Laurent in Verneuil dates from the 12th century.

There were several of these small, wooden carved reliefs inside the church.

They can be seen above the ancient murals, which are painted along the walls.

Two cranes had a nest on a pole, at the far side of the field, and one of them is there now. They tend to lie down, so are difficult to see.

The other one is hunting for frogs, quite near to the boat.

On Sunday we moved on to Cercy-la-Tour, and were the only boat on the jetty, despite there being electric and water too, at last!