(56) September 2013 on the Canal de la Somme.

On Monday 2nd September we left Ailly-sur-Somme at 10am as planned. The Somme continued to be a pretty, winding, narrow and fast flowing river. We passed through three locks. Our lock keeper advised us of a quay mooring in the town of Long and even went as far as moving a barge for us so that we had room to moor up.

 The very pretty, winding and fast flowing Somme.

The approach to the town passed the splendid Chateau with its gardens and conservatories. The quay was just beyond the bridge and above the lock. We weren’t expecting the flow to be so fast, but there was a weir opposite the quay which dragged our stern across the canal as we tried to moor up. Fortunately we had a bow line on and were soon moored up safely and plugged into the electrics.

The Chateau.

Long is a small town with an interesting history. It acquired most of its wealth from the local peat extraction industry which is responsible for the number of lakes and ponds in the region. In the nineteenth century, it was one of the richest communes in France which is evident from the rich architecture of the church, Chateau and Mairie. Long also has its own Hydro Electric Power Plant (now a museum) which provided the town with free electricity until the 1960s. A Lancaster bomber crashed nearby in World War 2 and its propeller stands as a memorial to the crew.  With only one tabac, one restaurant and a boucherie (which sold a few groceries and was also a depot de pain,) we ate mainly out of the store cupboard while we were there.

The Hydro Electric Plant – in use until the 1960’s.

Right next to the plant a propeller and 500lb bomb recovered from a nearby lake belonging to a crashed Lancaster bomber. It failed to return from a raid on Amiens railway station.

We spent two days at Long and then moved downstream to Pont Remy where we stopped on the quay next to the reproduction Gallo-Roman village of Ambiani. From there I was able to catch a train back to Ailly to collect the car and finally restock our larder at the strangely named ‘Mutant’ supermarket.

We decided to wait here for our friends Louise and Alex (Riccall) who would join us in a few days and also Peter’s brother Paul.

We had intended cruising to Abbeville and possibly St Valery on the coast, but decided to do a recce by car first as we still had to find a mooring for the winter. The next day we drove to Abbeville and had a look at the available moorings before heading down to St Valery. Here we came across ‘Linga’ which is a barge we had looked at several years ago in Bourgogne Marine. She is now owned by Timothy, who is doing a thorough refit and was hoping to cruise over to England that weekend. The pontoon at St Valery looked fine in the late summer sunshine, but we felt it might be a bit bleak in the winter assuming we could get permission to moor there.

Being so close to the coast we decided to drive into the town and find a restaurant serving Moules Frites. St Valery was buzzing with tourists and we chose a restaurant next to the estuary. The tide was out and there were miles of sand banks. Our Moules Frites were a little disappointing and the numerous flies were irritating, but we enjoyed the holiday atmosphere and drove up to the old part of the town with its superb view across the Baie de La Somme.

The Estuary at St. Valery.

As well as a plaque commemorating  Joan of Arc’s passage through the town, there was a stone explaining that ‘William the Bastard’, later the ‘Conqueror’ set sail from here in 1066.

Mediaeval Gates with a plaque about Joan of Arc.

The following day, having decided that we would not go any further downstream by barge, we reversed two hundred meters upstream to a wider spot and turned around. We then reversed downstream and back to the quay……well Peter enjoys a challenge!

Just wide enough to get a turn in above Pont Remy.

‘Riccall arrived mid-morning the next day and being unable to turn in the remaining space by the quay, ended up going through the lock and turning around just below it. She then cruised back up through the lock and was soon moored up on the quay above ‘Aurigny’. We had a lovely lunch on ‘Riccall’ and supper on ‘Aurigny’ as we caught up with over six months of news.

Catching up with Alex and Louise.

We enjoyed several days together and drove once again to St Valery to board the Chemin De Fer De La Baie de Somme.  This was an interesting excursion by steam train across the bay to the town of Le Crotoy on the other side. Sadly the weather was a bit grim with rain and cloud most of the day, but the train ride was fun and we enjoyed a lovely lunch upstairs in a seafront restaurant. The tide came in during lunch and we marvelled at its speed- apparently that of a galloping horse!

Our ride to Le Crotoy.

First Class Carriage.

First Class passenger !

On the way back we were able to stand right behind the engine- great fun.

We pottered around for a couple more days and enjoyed several drinks, coffees and another meal together on ‘Riccall’. Paul arrived from Alderney and Louise and I enjoyed a 13km walk along the towpath back to Long.

We had spent ten lovely days at Pont Remy and had been pleasantly surprised at how quiet the Somme had been – except for the ducks which were incredibly vociferous especially in the early hours of the morning! Paul caught a nice barbel on his first evening and we hoped the fishing would be good for his stay. Louise and Alex left the next morning, heading to the quay at Long and we followed an hour later intending to stop at a pontoon below Long Lock which looked like a good fishing spot. Unfortunately, despite several hours over a couple of days, the fish proved elusive.

We all visited the Chateau de Long as there was an open day and Louise, Alex and I had several walks in the area while Peter and Paul fished in vain. With no fish in sight we soon moved up to the quay and fitted in behind ‘Riccall’ while Louise and Alex enjoyed lunch in the canal-side restaurant.

Back at Long with ‘Riccall’.

Mounted on the wall of a cottage opposite the Chateau and near the bridge.

The grand Church in the small town of Long overlooking the Chateau, a testament to the towns wealth during the peat excavations.

They left the next morning, heading to Picquigny and then onto Corbie to meet up with friends. We spent a couple of days meandering upstream to the various fishing spots we had marked on the way down. Just above Long , adjacent to the marais (marshes and lakes) was a pontoon in a beautiful setting……and the fishing improved – three chub and a barbel.  I dropped the car up to Picquigny and cycled the 15km back to the barge and also had a couple of walks around the lakes. Lots of duck shooting in these parts and the water speckled with decoy ducks, caged calling ducks and hides.

A lovely rural fishing spot upstream of Long.

A lovely rural Barbel !

We eventually reached Picquigny, where our boiler which had been playing up stopped working altogether. We walked up to the Mairie where a helpful lady phoned a heating engineer for us. We gave her our mobile number and waited for him to call us.  The chaps went off to sort out the cars, do some sightseeing and check out the moorings and I had a walk up to the castle and collegiate church. Apparently the treaty ending the Hundred Years War was signed here in 1453.

The castle some of which dates back to 1066.

The nearby town of Bourdon where over 22,500 German soldiers are buried. Not sure I would describe them as victims though.

Six soldiers to a plot. Different to other German cemetery’s which normally have just black crosses.

With no phone call from the engineer, we left Picquigny in evening sunshine and cruised to the pontoon at Samara, where there is an elaborate reconstruction of a prehistoric site. The fishing was not as good as was hoped and by the next evening we were moored on the pontoon at Amiens, hoping it would be quieter than when we had stopped there previously. The chaps took the train back to Picquigny to get both cars and after supper fished until late, waiting for the rabble rousers in the town to go home. They were rewarded with a few bream.

A noisy night in Amiens with the local students celebrating or commiserating their exam results.

After another noisy night in Amiens, we left the next day. Paul went off to visit some more battle grounds by car and Peter and I took the barge up to Corbie, mooring up behind Riccall.

We spent the next day visiting the Australian Memorial Park at Hamel, Franco-Australian Museum in Villers-Bretonneux and other War Cemeteries and Memorials in the vicinity.

 The Australian Memorial Park at Hamel.

We had a short, sunny cruise to Chipilly the next afternoon from where we drove to parts of the French front-line south of the River Somme, including the largest German War Cemetery in France at Vermandovillers.

Beautiful memorial at Chipilly.

Inside the largest German Cemetery at Vermandovillers. These two died fighting alongside one another in WW1. In WW2 the ones on the right tried to annihilate those on the left. 

Paul left to head back for Alderney and Riccall caught up with us once again. We sat on deck drinking Pimms and later had a lovely farewell meal on Riccall.

 

Our time on the Canal de la Somme was almost over and we left Chipilly heading for the quay above Frise the next day. Our peaceful sojourn came to an end and we were soon back with the big commercials on the Canal du Nord.

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One Response to (56) September 2013 on the Canal de la Somme.

  1. Gwenda says:

    Thanks again and again for your diary and photos. We love seeing some new and some well remembered places through your eyes. Keep well and see you back in the UK some time soon. Gwenda

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