These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over eight years now and are still loving it. Our Ulster born Shih Tzu, Shannon, has grown up, and has taken over the boat! After three wonderful years in Ireland, we transported The Puzzler to The Netherlands, and spent a year there. In 2015 we went southwards, to reach the north of France by June. After glorious weather throughout the summer, we arrived in Roanne in late October, and enjoyed our winter in this friendly port. We cruised extensively in France in 2016, returning to Roanne for a second winter.


Saturday, 21 October 2017

13th - 19th October 2017. Having loaded our wood on to The Puzzler, we continue along the Canal Latéral à la Loire, and then the Canal de Digoin à Roanne.

At least half of our logs are now covered on the roof of The Puzzler, and Shannon is trying to uncover them again. We had to offset them to the port side, so that she could still walk up and down the boat.

After an extremely misty morning, the sun has suddenly broken through, so I needed the bridge as a sunshade! Some more wood is here in the cratch, while the rest is safely inside the boat. If it were all on the roof, we would be very top-heavy, and rather unsafe!

These trees have suffered from being hosts to the large balls of mistletoe, and are now dying because of this.

On reaching the start of the Digoin to Roanne canal, we feel as though we are nearly home, although we still have over 50 kilometres to go.


Here are some thirsty young charolais cattle.


Shannon and I are walking between the locks at Chambilly. The trees are just starting to turn yellow, as autumn approaches.


On to Artaix, where there are as many camper vans as boats! Shannon loves the leaves.

Our canal travels parallel to the river Loire, and the Loire valley is quite wide here, with small villages along the top of the surrounding hills.

Every time we pass  near to Iguerande, we see this sign directing us to the donkey farm.


It is possible to take one of their donkeys out for a walk, as this family are doing.


Autumn is coming, and the canal above the lock at Briennon is full of leaves!


Our last lock of 2017, as we enter the Port of Roanne. We have been through 672 locks this year and travelled 1756 kilometres (1098 miles).

We have the same place in the port as we had last year, though we must vacate it for the next couple of weeks, while we are away in England. This is the first time that we have seen the fleet of day boats in residence here.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

1st - 12th October 2017. After Beffes we walked by the River Allier, then crossed it on the aqueduct at Le Guetin. A visit to friends at Nevers, then on along the Canal Latéral à la Loire to find more friends at Beaulon. Finally on to Pierrefitte for our winter's wood.

We moored at Beffes, hoping to top up our water, and to have electricity overnight. However it is now October, and they have both been turned off for the winter!


These little red beetles seem very happy here.


It is a good walk down by the river Allier, from Le Guetin. The aqueduct behind us is a splendid structure.


Shannon was more interested in retrieving her stick!

The staircase lock at Le Guetin leads us up to the aqueduct. We need our longest rope at the bows for the bottom lock here.

As we cross the aqueduct, the river Allier is far below us. Shannon has had a trim, so she wears her lifejacket each morning to keep her warm.


A most impressive aqueduct.
We went down to Nevers to visit friends, who had been in Roanne with us last winter. It was a really good day, with a game of quilles too.


We were sad to say au revoir.


Is this a Praying Mantis? He came to visit us, but had little to say!


We have had several wild moorings on the canal Latéral à la Loire.


That evening we were treated to a lovely sunset.


It is nice to see a few more boats about. Two boats going up in a lock is OK, so long as we are all careful.
Another wild mooring underneath an oak tree. The only disadvantage of this was that the acorns fell on the roof of the boat throughout the night, which was a little noisy!
Moving on to Beaulon, we found six boats already there! However our friends invited us alongside, and we had a lovely evening with them the next night.
After that it was on to Pierrefitte for our winter's fuel. We could choose our wood this time, and it was then cut, and delivered to The Puzzler within 24 hours. Now all we have to do is lift it on to the boat!

Monday, 2 October 2017

18th - 30th September 2017. Along the Canal de Loing and the Canal de Briare, to join the Canal Latéral à la Loire. We harvest walnuts and sloes, but buy wine in Monetréol-sous-Sancerre.


To the south of Souppes the Canal de Loing has a very attractive section through the trees.

By lunchtime Sally is on the roof again, collecting some more walnuts.
The bottom gates at lock 35 have been damaged by a peniche, which must have come up underneath the walkway. It was lucky that he did not lift the gates too!

The approach to Montargis reminded us of Utrecht, in The Netherlands. We are now on the Canal de Briare.


At last we have found some sloes! Andy is going to patent our “sloe pricker”, which makes the job much quicker than by using the forks.


Shannon has spotted a cat in a tree by a lock.
We had to wait over lunchtime at Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluses. The mooring on the other side was a bad height for us, but this side was shallow, so the plank did a good job. The swans were very hungry.

These are the original seven locks of Rogny, while the new flight of six, starting to the right here, each rise over 4 metres.

We had a proper walk round Briare this time. We were here two years ago, but did not stay here then. The church of St. Etienne is lovely.

The rose window, situated behind the organ, is very unusual in that it shows all the signs of the zodiac.

We are leaving the Canal de Briare as we cross the aqueduct to join the Canal Latéral à la Loire.

The river Loire is far below the canal here. We will travel near to the Loire all the way to Roanne.


Forty kilometres further on, we find vines again, near to Sancerre.
Monétréol-sous-Sancerre is an old village in the heart of the vineyards, with wine 'caves' to see. Both the ones we visited were based in farmyards, but we preferred the wine tasting room of Lepresle, which was a basic outbuilding of the farm. His wine tasted better too!

Looking back towards Monétréol, the hill town of Sancerre can be seen above it. We visited Sancerre in early September two years ago, and really enjoyed it.


Someone needs a haircut!


By the weekend the sun was hot enough for sunbathing, although the mooring was a little rural.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

11th - 17th September 2017. Off to Northumberland for my niece, Emily and David's wedding.


A couple of days cruising took us to Souppes-sur-Loing, where Andy and Shannon were to wait for me.
On Friday I was off to the north of  Northumberland, where the scenery is wonderful. I am here for my niece's wedding tomorrow. This is the superb view from my bedroom window, where I am staying with my cousins.




Here is my niece, Emily, and her new husband, David, in the Threshing Barn at Doxford Barns. These barns have been renovated and make a great place for a wedding, being full of character.


The bridegroom's family photo just beat the rain.


However, the bride and her family kept dry, here in the Great Hall!


Cousin Oliver watches my brother, John, with his daughters Emily, the bride and Harriet, her chief bridesmaid.

Back at Doddington, the three cousins, Oliver, Sally and Jonathan are in the orchard. It has been such a good weekend, catching up on family news.


A long-time family friend, Susan, was staying at the house too, which was great fun.

Meanwhile Shannon is working on her best photographic smile, as she and Andy have spent a quiet few days at Souppes.