Friday, 26 April 2013

Thursday 18th April 2013 Attigny to Tannay KP24.

Quiet mooring at Attigny

12.3°C Grey start, then sunny spells later. Cooler. Set off at 8.50 a.m. to get to the first lock at nine. 1 km to lock 5 Attigny. A young lad was fishing from the quay beyond the road bridge where there were some new buildings. The shallow lock was already empty. It filled slowly. The house at N°5 looked empty, shame as it looked a good house. 4.8 kms to the next lock, the banks were covered in cowslips and ladysmock. Half way to the lock we spotted a poor hedgehog trying hard to continue to swim, looking exhausted and near to drowning. We fished it out and I put it in a box with some newspapers and rags to cover it. 
Lk 27 Rilly leads on to the river Aisne
We came to the junction where the canal off to the right followed the river Aisne up to Vouziers, a dead end. We took the lock on the left which leads to a crossing of the river then a flight of locks climbs a steep valley. River lock 27 Rilly was ready and operated by a VNF keeper, a pleasant, friendly chap with a plaited beard. The lock filled and we rose less than half a metre on to the level of the river Aisne, which we followed for 650m to the first lock of the Montgon flight of twenty six locks. 
Lk 26 Semuy. Bottom lock of the Montgon flight
Lock 26 Semuy was operated by a middle aged lock keeper and a young lady who was there to take boat details. I climbed the lock ladder on the right hand side (opposite the lock cabin) with our centre rope and held the rope round bollards while the lock filled. Once the lock was full we shoved over to the left hand side of the chamber and gave the young lady the rest of the details from the licence that she required for her form. They almost forgot to give us a zapper. I asked how many boats they’d had through this year and the keeper jokingly said five hundred, to which I replied “You’re hoping!” He laughed. As it turned out we didn’t need the zapper yet as the whole flight was “chained” – as one filled the next one got ready, etc. 
A huge old waterwheel hidden in the undergrowth
below lock 22 Montgon flight
The first four were named Semuy, then there were six in a flight called Neuville-Day and the top sixteen were called Montgon. All of the locks had posh new lock cabins on the towpath side. The towpath was tarmaced all the way to the summit and used to be used by diesel tractor units, which hauled the working boats through the flight. Many of the locks had been repaired in the seven years since we were last here and some had new concrete chamber walls, some had new gates and some had new tail end wall cladding. Sadly, most of the lovely honey coloured stone lock houses were falling into ruin with no doors and windows, some had gone entirely. Into lock 25 and I lifted the first blue pole and we started. 
Derelict lockhouse beside lock 20 Montgon flight
Up 24 OK, then at the next lock (23) the lower part of the blue pole was missing so I had to climb another ladder to activate the lock. Up 22, at 21 there was a dipper sitting on the lock gate with a beak full of grass for its nest (the stream flows along side the canal in a deep ditch surrounded by trees). It hid when I brought the camera out and flew off as the gates opened. The village of Neuville-Day spread up the left hand side of the Montgon valley as we went thought locks 20 and 19. The sloping fields beyond the village were filled with cows, Charolais for the most part. Up 18, the lock house looked like it was being renovated. I made lunch as we went up 17, 16 and 15. 
New lock cabins, one for each of the 26 locks.
We could see L’Heritage occasionally in the locks below us. The house at 14 was lived in and was surrounded by more houses on the edge of the village of Montgon, the keeper worked the newly completely refurbished lock as the automatics were “En panne”. Ran out of diesel as we entered lock 13, the engine died so we’d no reverse and came to an abrupt stop when we hit the cill. I climbed another ladder with the rope to haul the boat back down the chamber and lift the bar to start filling the lock, while Mike bled the system and restarted the engine. 
Lock 13 with weir through the lock wall.
Up 12, the new cabin had been vandalised (the only one in the whole flight) and someone had broken two of the double glazed windows. Up 11 and 10, made coffee and sat down to drink it as we went up 9. Lock 8 had a derelict house, but as we climbed higher up the valley it took on a more remote air and the lock houses were missing altogether at 7, 6, 5, & 4. Lock 3 still had an inhabited house. This was where we had an embarrassing incident back in 1996 when we were coming downhill in the lock. The operating system then had a swivelling spring-loaded metal bar sticking out from the wall at the entrance and exit of each lock chamber, which full-width boats had no trouble pushing into the slot in the lock walls to activate the lock’s electronics. 
Rope grooves in the wall of derelict house at lk 12,
made by towpath haulage diesel-powered tractors
The wind shoved our bows over as we exited lock three, so we thought we’d missed the bar, Mike reversed into the chamber to exit again – then the gates closed, trapping us in the lock we’d just come down. A cheery grinning face appeared above us, the lock keeper, who asked if we wanted to continue down the flight – yes, please! I’m sure that the derelict house at lock 2 was being used as a goat shed, we could hear a goat but couldn’t see it. Our smiling keeper was at the top lock by the house up on the hill to our left. He wished us bonne route and we said thanks for a good trip through the flight. It was 3.20 p.m. as we went though a low cutting on the summit level into Le Chesne. 
Slots in the lock wall for swiveling metal bars that
activated the old system of automatics 
The Nicholls boat (Arcachon) that we’d seen in Rethel the previous Sunday was now moored in the middle of the quay under the Pont X on the left. Plenty of room for L’Heritage on the right hand wall, where they’d installed new electric points. We carried on out of town. More fishermen with campervans were parked on the old quay on the edge of town. Further on there had been extensive bank works and the towpath edge along the left bank had been sloped, the earth held back with chicken wire. The towpath had merged with the field and muddly puddles - it looked disused – no tarmaced haulage way here! 
Lock 3 Montgon - the one we got stuck in, years ago in 1996!
It will look better once the grass re-grows. Under the road bridge and moored by the now derelict waterman’s house, where the feed water from Blairon reservoir comes into the canal. Knocked pegs in behind the piling, then trimmed off the tree stumps that were poking through the holes in the piling. It was 4.45 pm. While I cooked dinner Mike let the hedgehog loose in the field. Later he lit the coal fire as the Météo indicated it would be 7°C overnight. The Internet too feeble to bother with so no blogging again today.

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