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.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

23rd - 31st May 2015. On up the river Meuse to les Jardins d'Annevoie, Le Chateau de Poilvache, and then the town of Dinant.

Les Jardins d'Annevoie lie above the river at Annevoie, and are delightful. There are 50 water features here, in a series of waterfalls and fountains. These are all fed naturally from the Grand Canal which lies above the gardens. It draws its water from the Fonteny spring, on the other side of the hill in the Rouillon valley.

Moving on to Anhee, the Chateau de Poilvache can be seen on top of the cliffs on the other side of the river. It was built in the first quarter of the 13th century, but was besieged and destroyed in 1430 by the army of the Prince-Bishop of Liege. Only the ruins of this clifftop town are left.

We were moored near to a railway bridge which was handy for crossing the river. There was a walkway for pedestrians but, as the last train was pulling 36 freight wagons, we were glad to have a clear crossing! A track through the woods led us up to the castle, and the view from the top made the climb worthwhile.
The Citadel at Dinant is in much better repair, as it towers over the town. The church below it is the Collegial Notre Dame.

This is certainly an impressive church.
There are not so many barges on this stretch of the Meuse, but we saw one going under the main bridge with his wheelhouse right down. There was still very little headroom, so he put on full power at the last minute, to push the stern deeper into the water, and got through safely, with an inch or so to spare.

Adolph Sax was born here in Dinant and colourful saxophones adorn the town bridge.

Andy relaxes with him outside his house.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

23rd - 27th May. From Huy, up the river Meuse to Namur, then on to Profondeville.

We found free wifi in Huy town square.

While waiting below Ecluse (lock) d'Andenne – Seilles, Shannon is concerned about access to the land!
We found a space among the barges for The Puzzler to moor. In this respect Belgium is easier than Holland, where the barges are kept separate from the Sport, or pleasure boats.

On up the Meuse, which is now lined with picturesque wooded cliffs. This river was used for transportation of goods as early as Roman times.

The city of Namur lies at the confluence of the rivers Meuse and Sambre. The 17th century citadel guards this junction.
The turtle is more modern than the rest of the citadel, but gives the impression of being on guard here.
The view from the top of the citadel looks down on the River Meuse, where it is joined by the Sambre. This confluence is just beyond the car park.

The snail is the symbol of Namur, so Shannon is checking these ones out.

This fine building started by being a meat market, but has had many other uses since then. It is now a town museum.

Going on up the Meuse the cliffs alongside the river are spectacular. Look at the top of the left peak.

There are three climbers near to the top. It is a perfect place for rock climbing.

This was the most impressive house along this stretch of the Meuse, with copper beech trees to both sides of it.

The evening light at Profondeville was lovely.

Monday, 25 May 2015

19th - 22nd May. From Maastricht, into Belgium on the Albert canal, and then on the River Meuse to Huy.

Maastricht is a lovely city. St Servaas Cathedral and Basilica overlook the Rijthof, the main square which is surrounded by cafes.

The old town walls are hidden among the back streets of the town.
Above Lanaye lock we will join the Albert Canal to go south into Belgium. However, the lock is currently “kaput”. We arrived there at 1.30 pm, and were in the company of many barges, by the time that the first locking went at 7.30pm. We were told that we were to go in the second locking, but as each cycle, up and down, took about an hour, we decided to wait until the morning. Here four smaller (a relative term) barges are exiting the lock, so that four more can go in.

We retreated behind the wall, tying up behind a work barge there. We could hear barges going up and down Lanaye all night.
A new lock is being built here, which will take four large barges. This lock can only take one, plus small boats like us. We are tied on to the barge so had an extremely gentle ride up the lock, which has a rise of over 13 metres. This was our deepest lock so far.

We passed through Liege, which is a big city, but we did not stop there.

At the next lock we had to wait on a dolphin, which is built for big boats too.

Is it a house or a castle up there? No doubt we will see more of these.
Mooring is allowed at the small town of Engis, opposite the huge gravel works. A large sign tells us that mooring is forbidden, except with fenders. All of our tyres came out again, so that we were legal! Tyre fenders are not allowed in locks in Belgium, in case they come loose, and then sink to create a problem.
The barge, Tesco3, was loading on the opposite bank. Here the skipper is measuring carefully to check the weight of his load. There are three of these marker scales on the side of each barge.
On coming into the town of Huy, we found a wall mooring, beside some steps. The red arrow points to The Puzzler, to give an idea of the size of the river Meuse here.
In Huy can be found the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame. On top of the cliff is the fortress of Huy, which was built in the year 1818, but was notoriously used as a prison by the Germans during both World Wars.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

12th- 18th May 2015. South towards Belgium on the Maas, Zuid Willemsvaart, and Juliana Kanaal.

From the Biesbosch National park we headed upstream on the Maas, which is a huge river. Although the barges too, are very big, they do not create as much wash as we had expected.
The banks are protected by these large stones.

We moored in the first marina at Heusden, which is an old town built in a star shape.
Leaving the Maas, we went on to the Zuid Willemsvaart and on into 's-Hertogenbosch. This town is usually known as Den Bosch. Sam, Cees and Cheetah joined us here, and we carried on, locking through with one large barge!

There are few moorings on this waterway, but this grassy bank above lock 11 was perfect for us.
The Zuid Willemsvaart is long and straight, but we chose this route, rather than going an extra hundred kilometres upstream on the Maas, in order to reach Belgium sooner.

We pulled into this small harbour at Nederweert to go shopping, but this was a bad decision!
One very large barge came past fast, and sucked most of the water out of our harbour. The Puzzler was tied by the top rope and leant over quite a long way. However, the rope held firm, and we came upright again with no breakages. We moved on quickly before any more barges came along.
Just before reaching Maasbracht, we turned off the main canal into Polderveld, which is a lake complex, full of lovely moorings. To our surprise, we found a full length narrowboat there, so we moored together.
Anne and Ollie live on Wandering Snail, which was also fitted out by them in Norfolk. Anne Husar has written a book called “ A Cigar in Belgium”, which describes the Belgian canals in interesting detail. We look forward to visiting all the places so well described by her, and can highly recommend this book to everybody.

Walking is good here, with stepping stones to add interest.

Shannon and Cheetah had some great games together.

Beavers have been very active here. Even Shannon could not believe the size of this tree which they had felled.

It was time for Sam and Cees to leave us, so Ollie kindly provided the water taxi to get them to a bus in Maasbracht. Andy went along for the ride.

The dinghy, Origami, is groaning under the weight!
After a very pleasant weekend together, we all set off, with Wandering Snail moving out, having first pulled The Puzzler off the bottom. We had settled on the stones quite securely!
It was out to the river in tandem, then The Puzzler went south towards Maastricht, on the Juliana Kanaal, while Wandering Snail headed north down the Maas.
We were in Maasbracht Sluis with two barges, and it filled extremely quickly. I counted 4 seconds for each rung of the lock ladder, as the water covered them.
In Born Sluis, you can see the floating bollards. These are really good, as it is a long way up these locks, on the Juliana Kanaal.
In Maastricht there is a free mooring along a wall, which has been built between two river bridges. We found a spot easily, as the weekend boats had moved on. We were told that it had been quite full yesterday.
This wall acts as a breakwater against the barges on the main river. We can hear them passing, but there is not much wash where we are.