Leaving Charleville-Meziere in our wake, we cruised up the Meuse, turning right into the Canal des Ardennes. This canal was created in 1831 and enlarged to carry larger 38 meter barges in 1846. Although it mainly carries pleasure boats these days, it remains in the national priority network and provides a connection between the valley of the Meuse and the River Aisne. The canal is 88 km in length with 44 locks, including a flight of 27 locks and a tunnel.
We breath a sigh of relief once we had completed the last lock of the flight, only to be faced by a canal full of weed. Pineapple weed or wild camomile is a native of North America and first appeared in the canals of northern France in 1861. It spread rapidly displacing the native weed. Where there is little maritime traffic, particularly commercial traffic it clogs the waterway slowing progress. Imagine driving your boat through a sea of mud and you might get some idea what it is like cruising through this weed.
With our cruising speed down to about 6kms we made 2 more stops along the canal before we reached our turn off onto the Canal de l’Aisne a la Marne.
There was a lot more to see at Asfeld, our next stop. With a colourful history Asfeld was once the site of a fortified residence built in the Middle Ages. The chateau survived many assaults over the centuries and was purchased by a count in 1671. This count was responsible for building a new church in 1780, the church of St. Didier. It is a most unusual monument built in bricks and built in the baroque style. Its walls do not have a single straight line. The bricks were fired separately, convex or concave depending on where they were to be set. The overall shape is that of a viola.
Leaving the Canal de Ardennes our wake we turned left at Berry au Bac towards Reims and champagne. And what a blessing, no weed!
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