Navigating south

There a a few routes that can be taken south from Belgium into France. In 2019 we took the Brussels Charleroi canal and in 2022 we travelled along the Boven Schelde. Alternative routes are the Lys, which is a round about way to get to the Meuse and the Dender. We had hoped to travel down the Dender, which is a small picturesque river with a great flock of locks as it reaches the Canal de Centre. Unfortunately we heard via the bargees grape vine that it had a lock that was closed so you could not make the passage through to the Canal du Centre. With limited options we chose the Boven Shelde, which is the most direct route to Namur and the Meuse. Sounds rather convoluted so here is a map to put you in the picture.

The Lys is on the left and flows through Kortrijk. This year we travelled along the Boven Schelde (marked). The Dender marked in green (closed at the time of planning) and the Brussels Charleroi canal flows through Brussels. all eventually lead to the Canal du Centre and onto the Meuse.

From Ghent it was to Oudenaard and yes we have been here before. It does have an impressive town hall that was built in the 16th century by the towns wealthy burgers, a huge church that seems to be under permanent restoration and a very good boulangerie at the end of the port. This visit coincided with an open monument day that gave me a chance to view the tapestry museum and a display of unusual wooden sculptures created by a local artist.

The town hall which houses the tapestry museum
Dinner with some of our boating companions at an Indian restaurant in Oudenaard. We waited 2 hours for our meal, so there will not be a return engagement
From Oudenaard to Tournai and under the newly renovated bridge. The medieval bridge was recently raised to accomodate the larger commercial barges

Well not much can be said for the European spring. Our average temperature has been 10 degrees with cloudy skies and rain with only a rare glimpse of the sun. But as we approached our next port at Peruwelz the clouds cleared and the sun shone through to warm our chilled bones.

Peruwelz is home to Basilique de Notre Dame de Bon Secours which in the Middle Ages was the site of a pilgrimage to an old oak tree. There must be some story there but I couldn’t find anymore information.
There is a small sacred statue above the alter, presumably constructed of pieces of the old oak.
The harbour at Peruwelz

But the sunshine did not last and after a 2 day stop we continued onto Mons to restock the panty (Mons is home to the biggest supermarket I have ever visited).We made a quick departure after one night as the port was the venue for the Belgium national waterskiing championships over the weekend.

The port at Mons

We were now cruising on the Canal du Centre and the next attraction was the Strepy Thieu boat lift. At 118 metres in total height it dominates the landscape and is an engineering marvel that we have been lucky enough to experience 3 times. In the last few weeks we have climbed the hills via 9 locks with a total of 42 metres. Now at the Strepy Thieu we would travel the final 73 meters to the summit in one happy swoop.

Waiting at the boat lift
Travelling along the summit. The next leg will take us on the Sambre, and we will be climbing down from the plateau and through a total of 10 locks.

We had one overnight stop at a small port not far from the boat lift.

It was a long day from the Seneffe to our next port at Floreffe. There is only a small mooring at the town and every time we have passed it has been occupied by permanent residents. But this year the waterways are very quite and we were lucky enough to have access to the only mooring available. So why Floreffe? The town is on a bend in the Sambre and dominated by a 12th century abbey. Although added to over the centuries it has remained largely unchanged since the end of the 1700s. Today it is occupied by a boarding school and is a major tourist attraction in the area.

The abbey at Floreffe
The mooring at Floreffe

Next stop Namur and the Meuse, our direct access into France

2 responses to “Navigating south”

  1. Marion Nicholes Avatar
    Marion Nicholes

    Florette looks so interesting. Glad to see some blossoms out.
    Hope the weather temperatures increase soon.
    X Marion


  2. Dear Karen and Peter,
    So good to read of your adventures and of the canals/ locks/ boat lift all functioning for happy bargees so far away….. it’s your other life. Start of May…. weather will warm up…….. and into France – how great! The nearest I can get is talking French for a couple of hours in the Fitzroy Gardens on a Sunday morning.
    It will be later in September this year before I even reach Europe ( first grandchild due in London end of July, so fun by September😃 )
    Hope you have a wonderful European summer.
    🤗🤗 Dori


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