(70) To Erquelinnes.

We finally left the River Meuse early one sunny day in mid-September, expecting a fairly long day’s cruising. Paul went by car so that he could explore the Citadel in Namur and do some sightseeing.

The River Sambre was busy with commercial barges as expected, mainly coming towards us this time. Peter managed to catch another escaped ‘glissoir’ in the first lock, using his fishing rod (well he gets plenty of practice!) This took our total to three this season.

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Good fishing!

Our luck continued and we only had to wait for one lock all day. Several locks were undergoing repairs of one kind or another but all were functioning well. We eventually stopped just above Auvelais lock which was deserted compared with our previous stop there back in July.

As we approached the ‘joy that is Charleroi’, the skies darkened appropriately, but fortunately the rain held off. We phoned ahead to warn the lock keeper of our intention to stop above the lock at the Abbaye d’Aulne.

Heading west, the scenery improved and the sun shone once more, but the lock at the abbey was closed for the night and we had to moor up in a fairly awkward spot just below, using sunken tyres to stop us touching the sloping sides. Fortunately, Paul had met us at the previous lock where we had unloaded the shopping from his car. As the sun set the mist crawled towards us cloaking the countryside in a grey-white shroud.

We spent a pleasant weekend by the Abbey enjoying a couple of visits to the bar there, more fishing and walking. We also visited the Abbey itself which is a strange mixture of ruins and useable rooms. In fact there was a wedding reception taking place while we were there.

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The mooring at Abbaye d’Aulne.

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The old Abbey.

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Beer is still brewed here and served from part of the Abbey converted to a bar.

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Good stuff too!

A spectacular thunderstorm kept us amused for an hour or so as it circled around, bringing the summer to a suitably rainy end.

Our next stop was at Thuin, which had been the extent of our travels on the River Sambre at the start of the season. More lovely walks for me and more fishing for the chaps with some success catching carp.

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Nice carp from Thuin.

With the end of September approaching, we moved up to Lobbes where the mooring was free and our 2 euro for the electrics lasted for the extent of our stay and was even returned to us by the meter. The town itself has an imposing Collegiate Church set high on the hill, but the shops are few and far between.

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Lobbes.

Paul left us for the return trip to Alderney and we relaxed for a couple of days before heading up to Erquelinnes. At the final lock (Solre-sur-Sambre) the lock keeper asked for a sheet of paper which we had been given when we first entered Belgium. Fortunately, it was among our papers, but we were surprised to find that we should have been given a new one on each stage of our journey through Belgium – as we left one canal and entered another. However, we had cruised extensively and never received another one.

Nevermind…………while he prepared a new document (for the remaining couple of kilometres to Erquelinnes,) he was more than happy to let us fill up with water in the lock.

It seemed strange to be entering our winter port at the end of September (a month earlier than usual for us) and the sharp right turn required care; but we were soon moored up at the far end in front of the Syndicat D’Initiative being warmly welcomed by Lorna, Lawrence and Tilly – ‘Waterdog’.

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Fairly tight entrance to our winter port, Erquelinnes.

We soon settled in and enjoyed meeting the local bargees and boat owners at a club barbecue on our first Sunday in the port.

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A little earlier than usual we settle into our winter mooring.

With pleasant walks in the surrounding countryside and plenty of shops in both Belgium and nearby France, we were set for a very comfortable and pleasant few months.

A total of 1,307 kilometers, 145 Locks, twice up the Strepy Lift, once up the Ronquieres  Inclined Plane and twice down it.

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