Wednesday, August 9, 2017

 Barge Date: 30-07-2017

On the Somme and back again

 Forgive the formatting.  Google is the problem.

I know, some of you think that I have gone away (Mark, Guy)What is happening with the blog? I am behind again and I don't know why but let me try to catch up as quickly as I can.  This will be a bit long but you don’t want to stop too soon and miss something.

From Amiens we wanted to go east to the small village of Long. As we headed that way, we still thought that we could not get all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. So we were going to make the best of it. We had been told by a lock worker that the tie up near the lock in Long was a bit tricky but that he would be there to assist. He told us that there was space available for us (In his words, "not the best space, but not the worst either").

Along the way, we noticed several weirs in the canal with signs warning of "violent current". These are locations where excess water is taken from the canal and diverted downstream or to the lower part of the canal. Traveling past them had never been a problem. The sign before Long warned of "Danger d'aspiration" which, translated literally, means "beware of being sucked in".

In Long, there is a beautiful castle that can be viewed as you enter the town. It is just up the hill from
the canal and you can see large greenhouses filled with flowers and well landscaped gardens and lawns that come right down to the canal. Very impressive.

But just as you are passing the castle, you go under a bridge and there is a left turn in the canal that leads immediately to mooring space on the left, the lock straight ahead, and one of those sucking weirs off to your right. If we had planned it better, gone a little slower and stayed to the left bank, looked at Google Earth, and thought everything out a day before we would not have gotten sucked to the weir. As it was, I was to the right in an attempt to see around the corner and to know whether there was space. By the time I had done this, I had lost control. Apparently, this happens quite regularly at this location and perhaps it is a bit of fun for the lock workers. I don't know. But I do know that we were pulled to our starboard and up against the protective guard rail that keeps innocent barge owners from going over the falls.

I wish I could say let's go to the video but that's not possible. We attempted to back up and move to the port side but these old boats just don't want to go backwards. Finally, the lock worker who said he
was going to help us showed up.  

The only solution was to stop the water from going into the weir. This must be a simple matter because in five minutes we were able to move the boat and throw some lines to the shore where several volunteers roped us in. One of them was the owner of a boat tied up at this location. He said the same thing happened to him several days earlier and he knew it was not a pleasant experience, so he wanted to help us. A little bit of excitement for the people on the shore and maybe a little bit of learning on our part. 

Apart from the castle and a church, there is not much to the town of Long but there are some interesting stories that we find as we visit. There is a commemorative marker for a British soldier that risked his life to move a tank that was stalled on the bridge thus preventing the Allies from taking the town from the Germans. This British soldier somehow was able to get the tank off the bridge but he died while doing this. The town has this marker to remember him. 

There is a nice restaurant in this town that overlooks our mooring location and you may see it in some of the pictures. We had lunch, then ice cream, and then dinner there and it was all good. It would appear that a young couple own this restaurant and do most of the work. The lady taking our orders and seeing to all of our needs as well as many other tables was somehow able to do most everything herself. I don't know who is in the kitchen but I suspect it is just her husband. If you are in Long, we can recommend this restaurant. Its name is Le Comptoir Bleu. 

We visited the castle and it was interesting and enjoyable. I may not recall all the details but it was built in the 1700s, has gone through several owners and sat empty for 25 years. It was purchased and restored in 1964 and then bought 17 years ago by the present owner, a real estate agent, who put a lot of money into it. When he and his wife purchased it,  there was not a single flowering plant on the property. Through his work and with 4 gardeners, the place looks very nice. From the outside, the castle looks grand and large but it is a bit deceptive. 

This is a very swanky pigeon coop from the inside.

Once you are inside, you realize that from front to back there is just one room in depth. We took the tour of the castle (no pictures allowed inside unfortunately) and enjoyed seeing the results of the restoration work that has been needed to bring the rooms back to life. The castle was purchased in 2000 without a single piece of furniture, except for a piano and an automaton (piano player) that the purchasers insisted on keeping. The couple that own the estate live here but we did not see the rooms that they occupy. I particularly like the greenhouses and their location down the slope towards the canal.
When our visit was done, we successfully passed the weir to go through the lock so that we could make a U-turn and head back towards Amiens. We stayed one night at our regular mooring site and did some errands in town. 

1 comment:

  1. Fortunately when we came into Long, after some fairly heavy rain, 'Catharina Elisabeth' was being helmed by an experienced Dutch friend of ours. Let's just say he did not spare the bow thruster or the reverse gear! I watched and learned, grateful that I was not having to do this myself. I can so easily see how you would have become pinned on the weir. A great town and a lovely mooring spot.