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2015 European waterway trip – Canal de la Marne a la Saone Part 1

St Dizier – France

So here we are going up again.

The older maps, charts and books call this waterway the Canal de la Marne au Rhin, but somewhere along the line in their wisdom
the VNF have change it to ‘Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne’ (Canal between the Campagne and Bourgogne regions).

Whatever we call it, we came across a few new challenges.

Condes Tunnel

But first.

This part of the journey from Vitry till where we joined the Saone River took 10 days in which we did a whole 220 kms. 71 locks, climbing 247 metres and then 44 locks going down 158 metres. 2 tunnels – one (Condes Tunnel) a mere 60 odd metres and the Balesmes Tunnel which was 4.8 kilometres.

Leaving Vitry

Among the new challenges were –

lots of floating weed,

often very shallow water,

narrower canals,

lift bridges, some operated by remote,

some by poles hanging across the canal which you twist as you go past,

and even a few small commercial barges.

Bridge operating pole

These barges were apparently built so that they just fit into the locks, and yes they are a tight fit.

They also tend to hog the centre of the canal and we once got pushed into the side by one of them and were aground.

Commercial barge – tight fit!

The first part, particularly between Vitry and St Dizier, the water level in the locks when ‘up’ was right to the top of the lock, so normal fenders were effectively useless as they floated onto the quay.

We did have 2 heavy special fenders which we set at each quarter.

These helped but we did scratch a few times.

Very high water level in locks

In the last post I mentioned Gerard Morgan-Grenville’s book Barging into Burgundy.

Well it certainly came into it’s own now.

When I planned the trip I used the modern
waterway guides to decide where would stop or overnight and where we would have longer stays.

St Dizier mooring – bit bleak and grim

I had thought St Dizier would be amazing. Mmm – Gerard described it thus:

“Soon we were entering the vastly unattractive industrial complex of St Dizier…..”.

Well he was dead right.

We had to overnight here as we arrived at the first of 2 possible stopping quays very close to lock closing time so actually we had no choice.

Town of St Dizier

And yes it was grim.

No services or facilities at all, next to a bit of open ground with a recycling point.

All night long we had people coming along throwing their bottles etc into the bins.

We walked past the lock to the other quay to have a look.

Also pretty bleak.

Lots of weed in the canal

There were electricity points but they did not work.

Certainly no facilities or ablutions and definitely no harbour master.

At least it was all free!

There was one other boat there, a French couple, and even they we rather unimpressed.

St Dizier – Miko ice-cream factory

The day after, it was raining, so despite the rather grim berth we stayed there.

I walked up to the town, managed to find the tourist office and use their wifi to catch up on some necessary communications.

The town itself was not particularly exciting. It is the home of Miko ice-cream which is apparently well known, but not by me!

Lift bridge on canal de la Marne au Rhin

I had also planned a day in Chaumont, as once again it appeared inviting on the charts.

But our new guru, Gerard described it – “The town has been badly damaged and is not worth a visit.” He had also noted 2 airfields with many noisy aircraft flying around all the time.

Approaching, we too heard this and gave poor old Chaumont a miss completely.

…….continued next week.

And have a look at Karen’s blog for her perspective on our travels.

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