May 08, 2012
With the arrival of Gwennol’s crew we were ready to start the many hundreds of kilometers of weaving through the canals to Marseilles. Our first day up river from Abbeville to the village of Long (much of the Somme is a canalised river) made us realise that we would have to become accustomed to miniscule water depths that would give us chickens if we were at sea! But you only need a few centimeters under your keels to keep afloat and make progress. We started receiving the first of several warnings that there might not be enough depth at the upper end of the canal to allow us to get through to the commercial Canal du Nord, which we needed to take to go south to Paris.
That first evening in Long was particularly pleasant after a spell of wet weather, and we were moored alongside ‘Cordiale’ – a canal boat with which were to have more dealings with the following day. It turned out the crew were Welsh – Jeremy from Merthyr and Catherine from Llyn – but they have lived on the Isle of Wight for many years. Not long after we set off Neil’s navigations went wrong and Gwennol went firmly aground. Only with the skilful help of Cordiale did we manage to get free from the mud. Thereafter we encountered thick weed – “salad” as Luc called it – which both of us struggled through. By the time we made our next overnight stop at Picquigny (try pronoucing that), we were gloomy about our prospects.
Linking up with Luc the following day, we used the car to reconnaitre the upper reaches of the canal, near Peronne – also calling in to see the notable WW1 museum there. So with renewed optimism we recommenced our journey the following day, calling briefly at Amiens to see the huge cathedral. By evening we were at the attractive little town of Corbie where we joined up again with Fabuleuse – and eventually also Cordiale. This gave all the crews an excuse for an enjoyable night out together, during which (as always) the Welsh connections were explored with the usual surprising outcomes. However we drew a blank with those of a Belgian nature!
So from Corbie to Cappy – getting ever closer to the WW1 front lines. It was strange to think such a quiet and sleepy hamlet once shook to the boom of the big guns from both sides. Our weekend in Cappy coincided with the French presidential election, but there was little sign of the campaign in this part of the country. It was wet, windy and cold, and definitely not May weather – when would the sun shine again?