These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over nine 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, 2017 and 2018, returning to Roanne each winter.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

8th - 15th June 2016. On from Varreddes to the head of the canal de L'Ourc, then back to Bondy, in the suburbs of Paris.

We stayed above Varreddes lock for three days, as there were some fallen trees to be cleared from the canal further on. The village was about a mile away for shopping. The general store had no baskets so it was a question of piling all of our purchases on his counter, which was not really big enough! We managed though, to his delight. Were we his best customers this year?

We found an interesting walk up through the woods, and feasted on wild strawberries!

Moving on through Bosse bridge, this could have been on an English canal, except for the lack of other boats.

A lorry was needed to clear the wood from the fallen trees. There were a few small branches still in the water, but nothing to worry about.

The canal de Clignon is a small feeder canal, and comes in near the head of the Canal de L'Ourcq.
This canal is navigable for small craft, with a 12 metre winding hole after 1.2 kilometres. We walked up to this point, though its towpath could do with a trim! Yes, that is a train crossing ahead of Andy.
Near the winding hole the canal de Clignon crossed the river Ourcq on an aqueduct. The muddy coloured banks show how high this river has been.
Four kilometres further on, Mareuil is the next village. This view of  Mareuil church, together with the millstream, could have been painted by Constable, if he had been French!
To the right of the millstream, the canal de L'Ourcq comes to an end, but navigation continues on upstream for another 10 kilometres. However, this lock is not working just now, so this is as far as we can go.

Setting off to go back down the canal, Shannon is on a constant watch for coypu. She loves to see them, either on the bank, or diving to escape The Puzzler. Moorhens are nearly as good!
The two avenues of trees just before Varreddes are the most impressive on this waterway, with tall trees which are possibly birch, on the right, and hornbeam on the left.
Returning through Varreddes lock, we found that this lock is different to all the others, as far as keys are concerned. Mr Eclusier had worked us through last time, so now it was trial and error. It is a two key system here, and they must be used in order, or the lock will not let you have your key back! Eventually I had to go to find someone to help. He too had difficulty, and had to give me his key instead of our original one, as it was securely locked in! Incidentally, have you ever seen such a long lock, with only 3.1 metres of width?

Twenty minutes further on, we came across the remains of yet another fallen tree, which had just been cleared. It was quite a relief to get out of these woods, with overhanging trees threatening us at every turn!
All other locks on the canal de L'Ourcq are quite simple. The top light is green, so put your key in beside it, and turn it. This closes the lock gate and fills or empties the lock. The bottom light then turns green, and a key turn here will open the gates. Do NOT forget your key!

There is a great deal of urban art along this canal, and some of the artists are quite talented.

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