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.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

15th - 26th May 2018. A week at Mailly-le-Chåteau, then on to the end of the Vermenton branch of the canal and, later, a visit to the Caves of Bailly Lapierre.

At Mailly-le-Chåteau, the town is in two halves, being built both at the bottom and at the top of the cliff. Our mooring is just round the corner, in an inlet with room for plenty of boats, with free electric and water.
The second night that we were there, this fleet of five boxey boats arrived, with 45 children on board, aged 10 to 13 years. They were on the last night of their weeks holiday, and came from the outskirts of Paris. After an energetic game of football, they all moved quietly to their campfire, and had obviously had a great week. What well-behaved youngsters!

Shannon found new friends nearby.
Walking back along the canal, we climbed to the top of the cliff in the nature reserve called Bois du Parc. From there we could look right back, across the valley of the Yonne. Our route took us away from the river and canal, through the woods and out on the other side. The road would have been too long a walk to get back, but we found another track back through the wood, and then a lane back to the boat. Throughout the wood we found wild asparagus to pick, which is a really tasty vegetable.

After a week, we left Mailly-le-Chåteau to continue on, and joined the Vermenton branch, which is quite narrow.
We stayed two nights at Accolay, but with a trip up to the end of the canal at Vermenton. Our bikes had their first outing this year, as the supermarket is at the other end of town, and we hadn't seen a shop for 12 days! Do not miss the walk in the Parc des Isles there, as it is well worth a visit. We used the bikes to get to the park, and Shannon really enjoyed riding in the basket again.

Back on the Nivernais Canal, the valley is quite wide here.

Now this is proper cultivated asparagus!
The buildings of Bailly Lapierre can be seen ahead of us, lying halfway up the hillside. The caves where the wine is made, go directly into the rocks behind these buildings.
Inside the caves, the temperature is a steady 12°, so take a warm top with you, when you take the tour! There are about five million bottles in here, all at different stages of maturity.

These caves are full of history, being the source of stone for the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. This was my favourite carving - there are several in the caves
The carvings were each done by a different stonemason.

Bailly's have made wine here since 1972 and we bought enough wine to merit a lift back to the mooring!

When we first arrived at the mooring, our deck was level with the stonework.
By the next day, however, the river level had dropped by nearly three feet, so it was a real climb to get off the boat. Apparently the hydraulics at the next weir had jammed open, which we could see as we scraped the bottom of The Puzzler along the lock cut.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

6th - 14th May 2018. On to Lucy-sur-Yonne, where we are tempted to stay in France! Next it is a visit to Châtel-Censoir, then on to Les Rochers de Saussois, at Merry-sur-Yonne.

Moving on from Clamecy, the sides of the valley rise to cliffs in places. Andy's beard comes and goes!

We spent several days in Lucy-sur-Yonne, which is a pleasant village. This is the first boat that we have seen for days!

We were tempted by this idyllic canalside property.

Wouldn't The Puzzler look good at the bottom of the garden? However, we decided it was not to be.

The Château de Faulin is in this field near to Lucy, and is an impressive building.

The village of Châtel-Censoir lies right above the canal, and it proved to be a fascinating old village.

The collegiate church of Saint Potentian lies at the top of the hill, and dates from the 9th century.

Inside, the chancel is built over the 9th century crypt, hence the unusual height of the altar here.

Carrying on, the canal is almost like an English canal in character, as it winds along the hillside.

The river Yonne appears beside us at intervals, as we share its valley.

In places the valley opens out, with this being an area of arable crops.

However, soon, we approach the Roches de Saussois, which are spectacular.

This rock is used by people who want to practise their serious rock climbing.

This will be our route up to the top. I am very pleased to be fit enough to climb up, as last time we were here, I had to admire our crew climbing, while I stayed on the boat.

It was rather off putting, to say the least, when this climber decided to do acrobatics on his rope, which was directly above us, as we ascended!

We can see The Puzzler far below us, once we reach the top of the cliffs.

Looking on down the canal, Merry-sur-Yonne can be seen over to the left. There is a good restaurant there, at the campsite, which is not to be missed!

When we were here last, in October 2015, this was the route down from the top for Andy, Debbie and Matt. Happy memories!

This time, however, we found a much safer route down, beyond the highest cliffs. The pine trees lined our descent, and were really pretty, with all the new growth.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

1st - 5th May. On to Clamecy. The story about The Floating of the Logs.

Having been at Villiers-sur-Yonne for five days, and done all the local walks to explore the village, we felt that it was time to move on. We were also running out of food, as there is no shop in Villiers. Shannon is practising her best photographic smile!

So it was on to Clamecy, where once again we were the only boat in the port. It is a luxury to have decent internet, so this is my third post in as many days!

Here the old timbered houses really look old!

The cathedral, St Martin de Clamecy, stands proudly in the centre of town.

There is so much detail around the main door.

Inside, it is an imposing cathedral.

There is such detail in the stained glass windows.

This rose window, half way down the cathedral, was more impressive than the one above the organ at the end.
We visited the museum, which we missed when here in late 2015. There was quite a lot of archaeology and art, but we were fascinated by the story of The Floating of the Logs. This began in the 16th Century, reaching its peak between 1785 and 1816, at which time Paris consumed a million cubic metres of firewood per year. All timber producers upstream of Clamecy would cut their logs to the standard length of 1.14 metres, mark them with the owner's mark, and float them downstream during November to one of 22 “casting ports”which were spread along the upper reaches of the Yonne. The logs were stopped by barrages, removed from the water, and piled up on the river banks to dry, awaiting the “Great Flood”. The following March, the logs at all 22 ports were all cast into the river at the same time. When the dammed up waters were released, the resulting flood carried all the logs to Clamecy, where they ran up against dams, and were again taken from the water, to be sorted by the owner's marks, and built into log “trains”, like the model shown here. The 22 small dams built along the length of the Yonne were successively released, at the beginning of the summer, to create the current required to transport the trains downstream to Paris. This journey took about 11 days. However, by 1881, coal had superceded wood as a source of energy, and the last free log float arrived in Clamecy in 1923, almost 400 years after this saga began.