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.


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

26th - 27th May 2017. A visit to the laverie at Vouécourt and a thunderstorm, with hailstones the size of marbles at Villiers-sur-Marne.



The lock cottages are very pleasant on this stretch of the canal, with all of them in use.


Most trees have straight trunks, but this one was really different!



Vouécourt is an attractive village.


In Vouécourt there were bells on the outside of the church tower. However, having waited ages to see them ring, they didn't move at all, with the sound coming from inside the tower.


The laverie at Vouécourt is one of the best preserved that we have seen.



Inside, it probably looks the same as it did when the ladies of the village used to do their laundry, many years ago.

A frog joined us in a lock, next morning. These frogs are not enormous, but do make a loud noise at all rural moorings.


At Viliers-sur-Marne a thunderstorm began, pelting us with hailstones. It continued for nearly an hour.



It was as though we had been in a snow storm.


These are a few of the hailstones which Andy collected over an hour after the storm.
We brought the main flower pots in as the storm began, but had not anticipated it being so bad! After half an hour I braved the storm to rescue the remaining pots.


They weren't very happy!


Next morning it was as though the storm had never been!

Monday, 29 May 2017

22nd - 25th May On down the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne through both newly mechanised locks and manually operated locks. We share moorings with an ocean going yacht, a lizard and two snakes.



There is a new lift bridge at Jorquenau.


It has no counterweight, just these pistons to raise and lower it.


Moving on, the mechanised locks too continue further than we were expecting, as four more no longer need an éclusier to operate them. Our telecommand is working well.

After Rolamport, we are sharing with Piki Mongué as our lady lockkeeper helps us through. We got to know her quite well, as she was with us for two days.
At Foulain there are only two jetties, so yacht Freedom Found came alongside The Puzzler. They are on their way back from the Mediterranean, having visited Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. Previously they crossed the Atlantic too, but we won't hold that against them!


We walked from Foulain to find Chateau de Moinon, which is now the base for an outdoor centre, with gîtes in the old barn.


This lake is part of the centre, and we found a lovely forest walk which went right round the lake.


From Foulain we shared locks with Freedom Found as far as Chaumont the next day. Shannon was concerned that we could both fit in!


However, it was too hot at Chaumont so we decided not to stay there, and carried on later, sailing through this wooded stretch to Riaucourt.

The jetty here has been newly concreted, in front of the dovecote and old stable. We ignored the red and white stripey tape, having checked that the concrete was hard enough for us to use!


There is plenty of wildlife here, with firstly this lizard climbing up the steps.
Next to arrive were two grass snakes, which played on the concrete before disappearing below the far end of it. A local man assured us that they were harmless grass snakes, though this is much the smaller of the two! The other one was at least 4 feet long.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

20th - 21st May. Visiting the fortified town of Langres.




The fortified town of Langres on its hilltop is visible from afar.

We cycled up from the port to the supermarket, halfway up the hill, then continued on foot on a pleasant path up through the trees to the citadel. The town walls are very thick.


The reservoir de la Liez, seen in the distance, is the main feeder for the canal. We were moored below it last night, so walked up to see it and found it quite full, which is good for the canal.


Shannon and I are in a mini watch tower, at a corner of the walls.


Our tower can be seen right at the far end of this wall.


This is a carriage from an ancient rack and pinion railway, which used to transport people up to Langres.


Nowadays, it is possible to take the lift up from the car park down below!
These are the Navarre and Orval towers, built in the 16th century for the defense of the west corner of the city of Langres. The Orval tower was built as an afterthought, as a mistake in the planning had made the Navarre Tower too low to be effective for defense of this corner of the town!


Inside the towers, we were treated to an impressive light display, as well as several interesting video presentations about the history of the two towers.


At one time, the Navarre tower doubled as a gunpowder store, so a roof was built, using oak beams, to protect it.
Looking back to the Navarre tower, which is one of 12 towers built along the ramparts. We have now walked right round the ramparts of this fortified town, a distance of 3.5 kilometres.


The streets of Langres climb steeply up from the gateway below us. There are 7 gates into the city.

Monday, 22 May 2017

15th - 18th May 2017. On through the villages of Cusey, Piépape and Heuilly-Cotton to reach the summit of the Champagne – Burgundy canal.

At Cusey we met two French cruisers, going the other way. There have been very few boats moving on this canal. They arrived just before we did, but squeezed up to make room for us as soon as they saw us coming. When I thanked him for this, he replied, « C'est naturelle », which was very nice.



Cusey church is unusual, with this circular part at the east end.


There are several old houses in Cusey like this one, with the barn built into the house.


By contrast, this is part of a new development in the village.


The Champagne to Burgundy canal is very attractive, with tree lined sections alternating with views over the wide countryside.

The River Vingeanne has run alongside the canal, all the way from the River Saône, but is quite shallow here, as we are nearer to its source. Shannon thinks that it is a great place to retrieve sticks!


The church at Piépape has an unusual round tower.
The last eight locks up to the summit are all 5.12 metres deep, but are so gentle that we are not using any ropes at all. All that Shannon and I have to do when we get there is to lift the blue rod to activate the lock.
We are moored at Heuilly-Cotton village, on the summit level at a height of 1116 feet 4 inches above sea-level. This is about twice as high as Standedge tunnel in the English Pennines! This is an attractive village, with many large properties.



Balesmes tunnel lies ahead of us. This tunnel, like most in France, is one way only. It is 4820 metres long.

There are lights throughout the length of the tunnel. Fifteen seconds after passing each green light, all the white lights behind us go out, so then that looks very black!


It was raining before the tunnel, but this end is quite dry.


This heron sat quietly, watching us pass by close to him. He does not see us as any threat.