Saturday, 30 June 2018

Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne: St Dizier – Joinville – Donjeaux - Froncles.

25 June to 30 June 2018.

54 kilometers, 22 locks, 8 lifting bridges.

Monday 25 June – St Dizier to Joinville. 31 kilometers, 13 locks, 6 lifting bridges, 6 hours 50 minutes.

Apart from the really lovely port at Chamouilley which is only nine kilometres from St Dizier, there are not many great mooring options between St Dizier and Joinville so an early start was needed to ensure that if we did not find somewhere suitable in between then at least we could arrive in Joinville at a reasonable time.

The first of many!

Chamouilley port de plaisance

This is a pretty part of the canal with steep, forested hills following the tree-lined canal with occasional little villages appearing through the gaps – and the weather was really champagne.

Very clean water for the most part.

We thought of stopping at the General Patton Museum at Eurville-Bienville

but having read that it might have closed deterred us so we pressed on

The pretty Mairie at Bayard.

until we reached the very pretty and reasonably priced (€7 for mooring, water and electricity) pontoon outside the Hotel de la Vinaigrerie.

Despite initial concerns (we are on the ‘other’ side of the Marne River), Joinville is a super town, very French and with some age being dated to Roman times but rising to prominence in the 12th century and then being raised from a ‘lordship’ to a principality in 1551 before the Revolution of 1789 abolished the feudal system (by chopping off lots of nobles’ heads).

The town center bustles and to make life easy there is a fuel station across the road from the hotel mooring and a large Super-U supermarket just beyond that.

The main road into Joinville.


Church of Notre Dame

The Chateau du Grand Jardin

A lovely park.

Flower decorated Le quai des Peceaux - 'peceaux being the wooden posts which supported
the vines which used to cover the hills right down to the town
until the were destroyed in the Phylloxera disaster

Le Quai des Peceaux.

Good food at La  Grande Brasserie Salle XIV

And they had a South African flag flying!

A biggie at our mooring - he was stuck in the mud
for a couple of minutes.

Our fuel tanker.

Thursday 28 June – Joinville to Donjeux. 9,4 kilometers, 4 locks, 1 lifting bridge, 2 hours 10 minutes.

Although we had thoroughly enjoyed our time in Joinville, a case of ‘itchy anchors’ saw us make an impromptu decision to move on so at ten o’clock lines were gathered and we made our leisurely way south – the only issue was one lock in particular where a beam-on wind saw us dragging our ‘rock sliders’ against the lock wall despite the lockie pushing with all his might in an effort to keep us off the side.

Looking back over the aqueduct at Mussey-sur-Marne.

Apart from a lovely free mooring with electricity and push button water taps,

there is nothing in Donjeaux apart from a lovely small church and the Mairie – the auberge has closed down, the pub looked derelict and we found no sign of any shops.

Whats on that door across the street?

A hunter lives here.

The auberge...

...with web covered windows.

Derelict cafe.

But the Department of Fishing had organised a fishing instruction class for the children of the local junior school - impeccably behaved and polite!

Let the journey continue.

Friday 29 June – Donjeux to Froncles. 12,4 kilometers, 5 locks, 1 lifting bridge, 4 hours 20 minutes (including the 30 minute telecommand delay).

Determined to have the locks set in our favour again and despite the official lock opening time being nine o’clock, we set of before eight; moi having looked at the wrong page of the guide and thinking that the first lock was three kilometres away and not the actual one kilometre. So we arrived there at eight to discover that the batteries of our telecommand had died, proven at eight thirty when the cruiser, with whom we had been trying to avoid locking through, arrived and activated the lock, something our telecommand had refused to do.

Fortunately, as we were exiting the lock, a VNF van came past and we waved them down and did a telecommand exchange – now we have power again!

So we locked through with Tinus – not really fun being the boat in front in these 3,4 meter rise and somewhat energetic locks so we let them go ahead and to our surprise, after the next lock they decided to stop for breakfast at Villiers-sur-Marne so we overtook and arrived at a nearly deserted quay at Froncles, did some chores, enjoyed a veggie curry lunch and rested in the 33C heat.

Feeling a bit lonely at the long, serviced quay.

If your antenna coax connector looks nice and shiny...

...that doesn't mean that the coax is also good!

Froncles main claim to fame seems to be that it has a steel foundry owned at times by Mr Citroën and ArcelorMittal and whose employee numbers have fallen from a high of some 800 to a lowly 135 presently’.

The forge boss's home.

The original 1700's forge.

12thC mills

The towns website also claims “In August 1944, the rapid advance of the allies forced the German troops to retreat. On August 29, 1944, the German artificers blew up all the bridges between Marne and canal. Our bridge, inside the factory was unknown to them because it was not on the maps.” – this last statement I find hard to believe as the town was occupied by the Germans from 1940 to 1944 and the factory produced steel for them. And the bridge is in plain view.

The bridge in question

Basically, the town is a modest, blue collar, rural establishment with a scattering of the usual small businesses (the restaurant has closed down) and houses sufficient to be home to its fifteen hundred or so inhabitants. In a higgledy piggledy way it has its own charm.

A free-range egg dispensary!

On a broiling hot Saturday morning we did an e-bike ride to the downstream town of Villiers-sur-Marne; a delightful collection of stone houses clustered around an old church – and we even found a farmhouse selling cheese and paté which will be our supper this evening.

Shopping time.

Swallows nests in the rafters.