Monday, 5 October 2009

It wasn't meant to be a boating holiday

I've just got back from a few days in France. It really wasn't meant to be a canal holiday - but you just can't help it, can you?
Travelling by train from Hereford you first cross the River Wye, not generally considered to be navigable these days although a few years ago Frank Barton brought his "Wye Invader" unconverted Dutch barge up to Hereford from Chepstow with the intention of turning it into a floating restaurant. Next comes the River Usk at Newport, which might, just might, one day provide a link from the Mon & Brec Canal to the River Severn and thus to the rest of the system.
Near Reading, the railway parallels the River Thames for a while and at West Drayton comes tantalisingly close to the Grand Union near the unloading wharf for the gravel traffic from Denham - although there's nothing to be seen from the railway. The GU is crossed at Osterley, but you are lucky if you see a boat from the train and, of course, the best walking route from Paddington station into central London is via the rear exit and the Paddington Basin towpath that takes you almost to the Edgware Road.

Leaving St. Pancras on the Eurostar you get a glimpse of the Regent's Canal as you exit the station whilst once across the Channel you can look out for the Canal de Dunquerque a Valenciennes outside Calais and, later, the Canal du Nord near Lille, although at 186 mph you would be lucky to spot a boat on either.
Our onward journey required a crossing of Paris from Gare du Nord to Gare d'Austerlitz which we did partly on foot, being lucky to see a loaded aggregates barge on the River Seine near the latter station. On previous visits we have followed the route of the Napoleonic Canal Saint-Martin which joins the Seine almost opposite Austerlitz station.
Of course, as this was "not a boating holiday" I didn't really notice any of this - and I certainly didn't take any pictures!

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