2016 Barging Belgium

Heading towards Neptunia: 30/08 – 31/08

Mons to Antoing

Under the Bridge

One last war-related visit was taken early in the morning. When we were last in Mons, one of our barge neighbours – Andy Soper – told us of a memorial under the railway bridge across that crossed the canal on the eastern side. He had found it while walking his two dogs but Ian, on a schedule, used a bike.

The memorial is on the Mons side of the canal, under the bridge and commemorates one of the first engagements involving the British forces in WWI. The Nimy railway bridge was being assaulted by the Germans and eventually, the depleted ranks of the British defenders were ordered to retreat.

25-year-old Sidney Godley was alone in charge of the single machine gun at the point of the defence, having taken it over after all the company’s machine gunners had been killed or wounded. His commander, Lt Dease, wounded five times had finally been taken away. Godley offered to continue to defend the bridge and under heavy fire, single-handedly held up the German advance. He was wounded twice and when the ammunition for the gun ran out, rather than leave the weapon to be captured, he dismantled it and threw it into the canal. He attempted to drag himself back to his lines but was captured. Fortunately, he recovered from his wounds and was repatriated at the end of the war.

His bravery and that of Lt Dease (who died of his wounds) was recognised by the award of the first Victoria Cross medals awarded in WWI. It is sobering to note that in the first Battle of the Somme, on the first day, nine Victoria Crosses were awarded. There were also 60,000 casualties – a third of them deaths. While they celebrate bravery, the Victoria Crosses also signify terrible carnage.The memorial itself is, like all such memorials in Belgium, well-tended and respected.

The memorial itself is, like all such memorials in Belgium, well-tended and respected.


Two relaxed cruising days

We left at a sensible time in the morning for an easy three-hour trip. We always smile when one of us quantifies a cruise in those particular terms:

Just sit right back
And you’ll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip,
That started from this tropic port,
Aboard this tiny ship.
The mate was a mighty sailin’ man,
The Skipper brave and sure.
Five passengers set sail that day,
For a three-hour tour,
A three-hour tour.

We made it safely and without incident into the port at Peruweltz. We tied Catharina Elisabeth up outside against the wall which made for a bit of climb to get off but we weren’t sure the space inside the port was available. An hour later a lovely tjalk came along and moored there, so obviously it was. Outside meant we were exposed to the passing commercials but we tied up taut and they were never a bother. We truly love watching these huge craft pass by and the swell they generate. We just relaxed in the sun, slightly disappointed to find out the highly recommended restaurant was closed. We arranged with the capitainarie to get the fittings for the water and filled up Catharina’s tanks.

After a BBQ meal of chicken to celebrate the end of the Quest. We had a relaxing evening and quiet night.

The Castle

Next day was another short trip in the direction of Tournai. We left mid-morning in warm sunny weather again and made it through the two locks that end the Canal du Centre without incident. However, one of them was impressive – the 12.5 m drop in the Perrones lock was the biggest we had done so far. But like most big things on canals, it was well managed and easy to use with floating bollards inside that made it easy to handle the lock cycle.

We headed off toward Antoing where many fellow cruisers had recommended a floating bunker barge Neptunia as a great place to get fuel and to buy items at the chandlery. When we arrived, there were boats waiting to take on fuel and rather than wait, we decided to moor in the nearby harbour and stay the night. We still had two days until we were to meet our next guests. We’d pick up fuel the next morning as we left.

The mooring was very picturesque, although tying off tightly was necessary with the commercials passing behind us regularly. There was a striking tower in the distance, crying out for exploration so the bikes were soon off and we went for a mid-afternoon explore. The town was very quiet but the Tourist office was open. In the courtyard outside was another ‘lucky’ statue and again, Ian thought that it might provide a bit of accident protection.

The plaque behind reads “The most beautiful girl in the world can give only what she has. If you caress her heart it will bring you happiness…”

We soon discovered that the tower was the Château d’Antoing. Tours of the castle were available but as it was a private residence, only on a Sunday. Seeing our crestfallen looks, the lass said that she had the key to the gate and she could take us inside for a quick look. As the owners were in residence,  this was a stretch on her part. She opened the gate, took us in, but within a minute or so, we could hear dogs barking. We took a few quick snaps and let her usher us out – we certainly didn’t want to get her into trouble.

We then set off for a casual ride around the pretty, but very quiet town. Several parts of the cycle, especially near the canal, were through leafy, walled cobbled streets. 

On our way to the church we came across a sports ground with this sculpture made of limestone.

The area around Antoing used to be an important source of limestone for cement and gravel. Some gravel is still moved from local quarries (by barge of course!) but the need for limestone has dwindled. In commemoration of this past activity, the community created this recreation area and commissioned the sculpture representing the workers whose manual labour over the years contributed a great deal to the town.

We were disappointed to find the church, L’Église Saint-Pierre, locked but as we were leaving, a chap approached us and asked if we wanted to see inside. It turned out he was both important in the local council and the caretaker of the church. He gave a lovely personalised tour, discussing aspects of the history and architecture and recounting stories about each of the paintings. All of this in French mind you – Ian took and summary from Lisette later. For some reason, we only have a picture of the ceiling of this pretty church – made memorable by the kindness of a passer-by.

Back on Catharina, we drank and dined, in a very scenic mooring.

After watching a bit of canned TV, we had an early night. Next day onwards to the previous capital of France, Tournai.


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    2 Responses

  1. More luck – let into a locked castle and a locked church! How do you manage it?

    1. (Ian) Good-looking wife – qui parle délicieuse français.
      Same as you Shaun!

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