Montchanin to Paray Le Monial

So, since our last update we left Montchanin on 1st September and headed to Montceau Les Mines. Montceau is an old mining town that has suffered economically since the closure of the mines in the 90s. Many shops closed and services diminished until some bright spark decided there was value in capturing the passing trade from the canal and also investing in business development. You can see the recent investment in commercial centres and most obviously in the port, where the basin has been converted to a safe, comfortable and well provided for marina.

On arrival at the visitors pontoon, on the opposite bank to a very large fairground, we were immediately told we couldn’t stay there and had to move. Pourquoi? Because tomorrow night is the last night of the fair and they have a firework display close to the marina so we had to move to the other end of the basin. No problem for us. We settled on the end of the large pontoon connecting the numerous secondary pontoons, each with 6 finger pontoons, and was able to get the scooter off.

In the evening I convinced Frank that we needed to visit the fair, for churro’s (doughnuts) if for nothing else and when I saw the huge pendulum ride King Loop I knew I had to have a go. Whata mistaka to maka!!!! Having been swung upside down 100ft in the air several times, strapped into a carriage that spun and twisted in different directions I was fully over my hunger for adrenaline. When my glasses shot off my head on the 4th upside down turn I’d had enough. When we finally came to a halt I blindly shouted into the crowd of spectators that I’d lost my glasses. Frank stepped forward asking where. If no idea other than I was upside down at the time we parted company. Then, without warning we were off again with the cheerful bastard at the controls saying “do you want to go again?”. Noooooo!!!!!!!

Eventually we came to a stop, the pedestrian platform raised and I escaped. As I did so Frank was standing there holding up a pair of glasses saying “are these yours?”. Unbelievable that he took the dogs round the back of the ride and found them among the caravans. Undamaged in any way at all! Frank took the thanks and praise I bestowed upon him but the boys told me later it was Bosun who found them……..

Whilst in Montceau we managed to get both dogs’s rabies and annual vaccinations up to date and I also got their microchips checked to ensure they remain readable. It is rare, but I have heard cases (from vets) where a chip has failed to read upon re-entry to the UK, so I always take the opportunity to check them when possible.

We had a couple of lovely days in Montceau and moved on to Génelard on 4th Sept. Génelard is a lovely place to stop. The port is a large basin near to the busy village, with a hotel, bar, 2 boulangeries, a pharmacy, a tabac and many other small shops. The other thing they have is an amazing hardware shop, right in the middle of the village. Those that know it, it reminded us of Reeves in Maldon, only it is twice the size.

Something we’ve seen regularly in the canals are signs of large fish. A sudden large splash or significant disturbance of the water or small fish suddenly jumping out of the water and skimming across the canal as a predator targets them for lunch. But we’ve never actually seen what makes these things occur. Until we were coming into the last pound towards Génelard. This very large snub nose emerged from the water heading in the opposite direction. It was huge and we think it was a catfish.

In Génelard harbour one day there was much interest in something behind our boat. When we looked we thought at first the enormous shadow in the water was one of these fish. As it slowly got closer to the surface we realised it wasn’t one fish but literally thousands of small ones, all feeding on something. The French lady on the boat behind us tried to explain the phenomenon and I think I understood for the most part. There were young catfish, they would grow to be as big as the shadow we were looking at but they are destroying everything in the canal and eating the indigenous species. If a fisherman catches one he won’t put it back in the water but discard it on the bank. Yes, I know, I said, my dogs roll in them! She said hers does too. She also warned against letting the dogs swim in the canal because the fully grown catfish might bite them.

Anyway, out of curiosity I grabbed our net and scooped up a few hundred from the ball just to see. Sure enough, they were catfish – anything from 3 inches to 8 inches long. There was no sign of what they’d been feeding on but they were not happy in the net. The French man from the boat behind them came along to warn me not to touch the fish, then put his hand in and picked one up so we could get a better look. True to their reputation it bit him and blood appeared on his finger.

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It is concerning that these fish seem to be taking over the canal environment. And if what we saw is a common occurrence then the odd one chucked on the bank by a fisherman will have no effect in slowing down this invasion.

Today, Friday 7th Sept, we have left Génelard and are on our way to Paray Le Monial, a large but pretty town just a 30 minute drive from our house. We are only a couple of days travelling away now but plan to stop in Paray at least until Monday before heading to Digoin, just 15 minutes from the house. It’s happening, this years floating adventure is nearing its end.

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