Canal de la Somme
The Canal de la Somme is situated in the north of France along the Somme, a river which flows in western direction and discharges at St Valery-sur-Somme in the Channel. We are camping for one night not far from the speedway in Péronne, a place halfway Paris and the Belgian boarder. I only have a couple of hours to survey the canal by bike. In the first world war heavy fights took place at the Somme. There is an important museum : l'Historial de la Grande Guerre.
Near Péronne the Canal de la Somme is coinciding for some distance with the for the navigation more much important Canal du Nord. I cycle on the south bank west. Soon I see the bifurcation where the Canal du Nord bends to the north. I follow my way along the Canal de la Somme. The banks of the canal are overgrown. The towpath is somewhat muddy but still in reasonable state so I can cycle on it. After a few kilometers I arrive at a lock.
I want to cycle on along the canal but after two hundred meters the towpath is hardly accessible. I cycle back and try again the other side. In the beginning that goes better. I am cycling now between the canal and stagnant water. The river Somme must be here somewhere but there are also a lot of lakes created by digging away peat. The silence coming from nature here, is overwhelming. The cycling however becomes more and more difficult. The path is narrow and some black-berries are growing over the path. Presently I will get a flat tire. When I also hear the noise from the highway I decide that the time has come to return. I am still between some lakes and I see some simple shelters and a few boats.
I can imagine what it 's like on Sundays here. Without doubt there will be some fishing and picnicking families here.
I go back by a different route where I jam a view times on dead ends of sandy paths. I see water everywhere around me.
Later I discover the Canal du Nord back at a lock with a great decline. The lock is already closed for navigation but during the rest of my cycling tour I see a number of barges navigating on the part of the canal where the Canal du Nord coincides with the Canal de la Somme.
The evening falls. The water in the lakes where the Somme is streaming, is twinkling in the evening light. It's a place to return to some other time. Indeed I am in de neighbourhood again some years later. I take a look at the Canal de la Somme now more to the west. I drive by car from Feuillères to Fossy and pass along four locks. On my trip I see two empty barges navigating on the canal. It appears that there is some professional navigation all the same. I presume they will load grain. I see corn-fields everywhere (and grave-yards from the first world war). I see no lockkeepers houses. There is a shelter made of red-brown masonry at every lock. The locks are electrical and are tended by a lockkeeper who travels with the barges from lock to lock. The lock, but also the surrounding have been very well maintained. Also the counterpoise bridges in the villages along the canal are looking well maintained.
The river Somme runs permanently north of the canal but it is hard to discover a river. It is one large mosaic of connected lakes. On the places where I can pass the Somme, I find three or four spots where the water is running underneath the road, mostly by a little weir.
There are lots of picnic areas along the canal on Sundays. The weather is fine and some Frenchmen are swimming in the canal. Some brave boys are even turning somersaults from the quays of the lock.
During about two kilometers a narrow-gauge is running along the canal. This railway-track, which is only 60 centimeters wide, is constructed in the first world war in 1916 for the supplying of the British forces. On holidays and Sundays a little train is running: le petit train de la Haute-Somme. We are waiting some time at a little station platform and are rewarded. We see a diesel locomotive coming followed by a steam train with carriages. It's a magnificent sight.