After ‘doing the Strepy’ we headed along the Canal du Centre to Seneffe – a little port where we have moored in previous years. Not much to do there – particularly as we had been unable to book dinner at one of our favourite restaurants – Au Gré du Vent. We did find, however, that Le Petit Baigneur provided a most acceptable alternative.
The weather is being extremely changeable – some lovely bright sunny days and some real wet ones. We decided to stay put if the weather was forecast to be really bad, and so we spent 2 days at both Thieu & Seneffe. Then it was onward towards Charleroi and then hang a right & down the Sambre, which was our plan. The Sambre is partly in Belgium and partly in France but the french side was only reopened in 2021 after many years closure. We wanted to go as far as we could – revisit some known places but also try waters anew.
Charleroi is close to Namur and was very industrial in its day ….. now mainly abandonned factories although some sites now seem to be being cleared. There is lots of graffiti / wall art which makes for an interesting passage.
Finally we were on The Sambre and back to much smaller locks with a lock keeper to boot! How we missed the infamous ‘eclusier’s walk!’ Our first stop was the little port of Landelies where we were just about able to get in. Not many boats are cruising now, most are already tucked up in their home ports ready for winter. But we got in and hooked up to electricity as it is getting quite cool at night. The little church in Landelies was pretty, but not much else to see.
On this stretch of the Sambre the eclusiers work the locks, literally turn the handles which we don’t often see these days. They also call ahead to the next lock so that radios and telephones are not required. Very calming. And the autumen colours are developing along the canal sides.
In one lock the lifting road bridge was literally right behind us as we came up in the lock!
Our other stops on the Belgian Sambre were Thuin and Jeumont. Nothing much to report from either except that the frites at Thuin were delicious!
Then we were ready to start the french Sambre – waters new – and that’s where things became increasingly frustrating! Because it was after 15th sept we had to ‘book passage’ at least 48 hrs beforehand. And works were planned at a lock further down starting on Monday. It would be shut for 3 weeks so unless we got our skates on we wouldn’t be able to go past that lock. A nice ‘young man’ said they would accept our booking for the next day providing we went through that lock on the Saturday. We agreed and set off early next morning.
At the next lock an eclusier was waiting for us and explained the telecommand gadget and system for this section of the Sambre. Great we thought! We happily went through a couple of locks with our new gizmo and then stopped for lunch at the new Port de Plaisance at Hautmont.
That’s when things got even more complicated and frustrating. Firstly the fuel barge, where we were going to take on the extra diesel we needed to complete the full round trip, was out of action. Then Amanda and Peter (Le Piglet), told us that there were other problems on the flight of locks ahead. A friend of theirs had had to make a huge detour as a lock was out somewhere further down – Amanda couldn’t remember exactly where. It wasn’t shown on the VNF website. We therefore decided that enough was enough & that the gods were obviously trying to tell us something. We stopped for a couple of nights and are turning round to go back the way we came. Not quite the penultimate cruise we wanted but it is time to head for home!