Into the valley of the Somme

We joined the Canal du Nord at Arleux, overnighted at Marquion, until we turned off onto the Somme. 45 kms, 12 locks and the Ruyaulcourt tunnel. I had not been looking forward to the Canal du Nord, expecting it to be very large and commercially busy. It was fine. and neither of us were looking forward to the 4.4kms tunnel after our experience in the Pouilly tunnel on the Burgundy canal.  This one even has a passing place in the middle & we were warned to watch for the lights and to ensure we were well tied up if we had to wait for a boat to pass us. In the event it was fine. We followed a commercial all the way through, didn’t have to wait in the middle. Only took about 45 mins and no bashing about ……… as compared to the 2 hours and lots of bashes in the Pouilly tunnel 4 years ago.


We moored for the night just before our last lock on the Canal du Nord ready to join the Somme in the morning. We had intended to go to Peronne for a few days first but the marina had no room for us so straight to the Somme it had to be.

The engine hours turned 1000 as we came out of the tunnel so we had a beer to celebrate that evening!

What a change of pace and environment! The locks on the Canal du Nord were large (can take double length barges ie 100m), automatic, 6 to 8 metres deep with widely spaced bollards. The locks on the Somme are for freycinet barges so only about 40 m long. The first only had about a 1m drop. And you have to call ahead as the locks are all worked by an eclusier.  We had been told how friendly the eclusiers are …….. but we got Mr Grumpy!

We turned into the Somme on 15th August – just a few months later than intended!

The Somme is not part of the VNF (Voies Navigables de France) network but is run by the Agence Fluviale et Maritime with the central control based in Amiens. There seems to be a lot of work going on to protect the banks. Like going back in time travelling along with an eclusier – so much more personal.

Very soon saw a kingfisher and then a woodpecker. The lockside was covered with a pretty wildflowers – Common Toadflax – and it is peaceful and not at all industrial. What a contrast to the Grand Cabarit waterway we have been on for sometime. The water is pretty weedy but one day in we are feeling so much more relaxed.

We cruised through the countryside, joined by a Dutch boat, to Cappy for the night. Bit tight getting into the only possible space but we managed. There was a vide grenier going on in the village but it really was not up to normal standards! Even I didn’t find anything.


The boat in front of us, Contessa,  sported a NZ flag so we invited them on board for an aperitif and promptly discussed all the different people we both knew from NZ and from St Jean de Losne. Really is a small world!

Onwards to Corbie the next day where we were to stop for 2 days but it became 3 when the weather turned to heavy rain overnight.

First night we moored beside the campsite but Adrian got fed up of being talked at very fast and very loud by a lady from the site. She was trying to be ‘helpful’ but after she knocked on the window as we were having breakfast, we decided to move down near the lock. Contessa was there and Camelot (brits Rob and Sue) and found we had more boaty friends in common with them! Small small world!

We had tried unsuccessfully to hit the tourist spots in Corbie. We were given a walking tour map at the Office de Tourism but everywhere was either closed or fully booked. We returned to the boat and decided to get a taxi to go and visit the Franco-Australian war memorial at and the John Monash WW1 museum at Villers-Bretonneux. Rob & Sue joined us.

An excellent museum dedicated to the participation of the Australian Imperial Forces during WW1 – sign shows that these lads were fighting over 14000m from home. Commemorates the decisive battle July 1918 when Australian troops, led by General Monash, finally managed to break through the enemy lines. He orchestrated aircraft, infantry, artillery and tanks to a very precise and detailed plan to surprise and defeat the Germans.

The museum features personal stories (related by actors), contemporary footage interwoven with modern visual representations of the battles. The main film was very realistic with the sounds & sights of battle.



Author: mistyjf

I have been boating in Europe since 2009 when I shipped Misty Morning to France. Time & life move on! Adrian, my new partner, & I bought Piedaleau in 2015 to continue and expand our European boating adventures.

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