After a lay day in Péronne, we ventured out this morning for our cruise down the Canal de la Somme. We had heard no further adverse comments about lack of depth, but the warnings at the entrance showed reduced depth and reduced height. After the first lock at Sormont, the waterway is no longer part of the VNF network and is instead under regional control, except that the regional management does not seem to start until the next lock. Consequently there is a 4km stretch which does not appear to be looked after by either authority and with only 2-3 feet of water under us at some points, we frequently felt logs and obstructions bump past the propellors.
We were beginning to wonder if we had made the right decision, but at the next lock we were greeted by the local waterways agent, and presented with an impressive set of detailed coloured charts for the rest of the canal, all printed on waterproof card, and showing every facility and navigational detail of interest. We were promised 1.2m depth for the rest of the waterway, and were relieved that we were not asked to sign the disclaimer of responsibility for the lack of greater depth. A diligent team of lock/bridge operators followed us along the waterway and we were impressed by their attention to waterborne tourism, given that no license fee is payable for cruising this waterway.
We had planned a fairly short cruise to the hire boat base at Cappy, where good pontoon and alongside moorings are provided, equipped with water and power. The small village was typically sleepy on a Sunday afternoon but a handful of eating places and a boulangerie make this a reasonably well-equipped stop.
With an afternoon free we had intended to visit the Froissy-Cappy railway, a narrow gauge steam driven line, which was built to transport troops and supplies to the front line in 1916. Later used for village reconstruction and then for sugar-beet transport, it has been completely renovated by an association of volunteers and their museum is an impressive collection of all the types of wagon available for the 60cm wide tracks.
We had some difficulty locating the train station at Cappy, and eventually discovered that the only real station is at Froissy and visitors make a round trip from there, to the end of the line at Dompierre. The normal way to visit the railway would be to walk or cycle the 2km along the towpath to the station at Froissy, but we never do the normal thing, so we intercepted the train as it conducted its end-of-line turn, a little downstream of the lock at Cappy. In fact we later discovered a very serviceable mooring quay just upstream of the Froissy bridge, which was ideally located next door to the station, but of course with hindsight these things are always easy.