(50) The River Marne: Reuil to La Ferte sous Jouarre and England – June/July 2013

Painting and more painting is the key feature of this post as more settled and increasingly warm weather arrived at last. Peter and I completed the cabin sides and Paul the crane and mast while we were moored at Reuil. We then attacked the gunnels which left only the trim, rails and side decks (only!?!)

Painting despite the weather and willow tree fluff !

The headgear is not for the sun but to stop sweat diluting the paint !

The fishing here had turned sporadic at best and so we decided to move on. After the inevitable car shuffle and recce, we left Reuil and stopped overnight at the lock at Mont St Pere before cruising on to Chateau-Thierry the following day. The quay on the left bank above the main bridge was a suitable mooring and we stayed a couple of days.

Paul and I drove back to Reuil to collect the Micra, stopping en route to visit the 30m statue of Pope Urbain II which sits high on a hill in Chatillon-sur-Marne. Paul returned to the barge for more fishing while I took the opportunity to stop off at Dormans. I spent a couple of hours at the Parc du Chateau with its interesting Memorial to the Battles of the Marne.

The Pope pointing the way.

The Memorial building contained a crypt which commemorated those who had been killed; their names inscribed in red paint. The cloisters had a special tomb containing the remains of 500 unknown soldiers and a death mask of Marshal Foch. Details of the battles were inscribed around the walls.

The main upper part of the building housed two unusual exhibitions. One was showing the contribution made by animals during World War; horses, dogs and pigeons in particular. The second concerned the French Kite Corps. This Corps provided kites which flew above the front line with an observer suspended underneath in a basket (similar to a hot air balloon). A model of the set up showed how scary it must have been as the observer was an easy target.  The park was very pretty, but the Chateau closed as it was a Thursday.

I wouldn’t fancy being suspended over enemy lines under a few of these.

Friday 21st June was market day in Chateau-Thierry, so we strolled over the bridge and up to the ramparts of the old fortress. Paul bought some tasty chicken sausages and fries for our snack lunch and we sat on the banks of the River Marne enjoying the fine if breezy weather.

Our waterways guide had mentioned some famous historical figures connected with the town and we looked in vain for a statue of “Antoine the Great Bastard of Bourgogne (poor fellow)” ………

……however we did find one of the poet and fable writer Jean de la Fontaine and it was the weekend of the town’s summer festival in celebration of his works. At a nearby bar we were entertained by the proprietor and his father who were practising for their gig later on.

Later in the afternoon we drove to the impressive American Aisne-Marne Monument just outside the town which affords excellent views over the Marne Valley. As ever we were stunned by the huge sacrifices made by soldiers during the First World War.

Afterwards, we headed towards La Ferte-sous-Jouarre to recce the mooring situation at various spots on the way. Sadly the pontoons were full, but with free electrics and water it seemed like a nice spot and one from which I could return to England for a week or so.

We decided to head there the next day and moor on the stone quay downstream until a spot became available. Paul headed off by car and Peter and I enjoyed a pleasant cruise, arriving mid afternoon. Three Dutch cruisers had passed us earlier and Paul confirmed that there was now space on the pontoon, so we hoped it would still be there when we arrived. Fortunately it was and after a nifty manoeuvre midstream, we were soon moored up on the pontoon.

I immediately booked my ferry back to England (and the hairdresser !) In the end I spent just under three weeks in England and enjoyed catching up with family, friends and my choir. I was also able to spend Dad’s 87th birthday with him; played an unusually good nine holes on the Shey Copse course at Hoebridge with Sue and Nick Barney; and enjoyed watching Andy Murray become Men’s Singles Wimbledon Champion- on TV.

Meanwhile, Peter and Paul enjoyed more fishing and caught several Barbel and Chub. After Paul returned to Alderney, Peter set to and despite very hot weather (which was not really suitable for painting,) managed to finish the side decks, trim and rails by working at the beginning or end of each day. He also had a brief visit from Paul and Martine Chopping who were visiting nearby.

La Ferte-sous-Jouarre. Newly painted cabin sides and with the Marne still running fast – a nice Barbel.

I had a good drive back to the barge in the trusty and well travelled Micra, arriving in time to join Paula and Chris for aperros on board ‘Claes Compaen’. We spent several convivial evenings with them and enjoyed a barbecue on Bastille Day – 14 Juillet’ before walking up to the town to watch a very good firework display.

So, having enjoyed an unprecedented month at La Ferte-sous-Jouarre in glorious sunshine we awaited the arrival of my brother Andrew and his wife Kathryn on the 22nd of July. Our top-sides looking fabulous now but sadly, showing up the woodwork and hull……………….such is the nature of barging. Their time will come!

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