These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over eight years now and are still loving it. Our Ulster born Shih Tzu, Shannon, has grown up, and has taken over the boat! After three wonderful years in Ireland, we transported The Puzzler to The Netherlands, and spent a year there. In 2015 we went southwards, to reach the north of France by June. After glorious weather throughout the summer, we arrived in Roanne in late October, and enjoyed our winter in this friendly port. We cruised extensively in France in 2016, returning to Roanne for a second winter.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

5th – 15th April 2018. Delays at Decize, then across the river Loire to join the Canal du Nivernais.

We had to wait for nearly a week at Decize, until the Loire was open. Spring is certainly here with the celandines beside the port.

The lock out on to the Loire is strange, with see-through tops to both top and bottom gates.

The sign at the lock makes sure that we know where to go!

On the Loire the flow was much gentler than it had been last week, and we had an easy crossing to St Lèger des Vignes, on the canal du Nivernais.

It is a pleasant town mooring at St Lèger.

Climbing up above the trees behind our mooring gives a clear view across the Loire valley to the old town of Decize.

Three days later we eventually set off along the canal du Nivernais, past these very French plane trees. We are in no hurry as the Nivernais canal is closed, beyond lock 76, until 15th March.

8 kilometres further on, we stopped on a wild mooring, and walked up the hill to visit Verneuil. The view across the valley from The Puzzler is really good.

The church of St Laurent in Verneuil dates from the 12th century.

There were several of these small, wooden carved reliefs inside the church.

They can be seen above the ancient murals, which are painted along the walls.

Two cranes had a nest on a pole, at the far side of the field, and one of them is there now. They tend to lie down, so are difficult to see.

The other one is hunting for frogs, quite near to the boat.

On Sunday we moved on to Cercy-la-Tour, and were the only boat on the jetty, despite there being electric and water too, at last!

Monday, 9 April 2018

16th March - 4th April 2018. More bridge, MAMMA MIA, followed by our departure from Roanne.

We have been playing bridge three or four times a week. Our bridge club looks out over this road, and the port can just be seen beyond the roundabout at the end of the road. New trees are being planted along by the widened road.
There is a major redevelopment going on here, with the creation of a new park in front of the monument. This monument commemorates the liberation of Roanne from the German occupation in August 1944. It has been interesting to watch progress every week, when we are here for bridge. Maybe we will return to Roanne one day and see it all finished!

We went to see Mamma Mia at Les Maronniers, in Le Coteau. It was an amateur performance, but was performed very professionally.

Eight of us went on this outing. We all really enjoyed the evening, which was a fitting finale to our time in Roanne.

This was the finale of Mamma Mia, with half of the songs in English and half in French. All the audience sang too, in whichever language they preferred! It was great!

It is 31st of March and, sadly, we are now leaving the mooring where we have happily spent the last three winters on The Puzzler in the Port of Roanne.
We are doing a circuit of the port, and Quaintrelle joins us. This circuit is great fun. Everyone sounds their horn as we pass by, and we reply with ours. Liane has to get the award for the loudest horn!

Into Roanne lock together.

A lot of our friends both from the port and from Roanne have come to the lock see us off. We really appreciated them doing this.

Iguerande is the first of the villages to be seen, as it dominates the skyline, away from the Roanne Digoin canal.

Two donkeys out for the day.

Artais church is always impressive. We stopped at the mooring soon after the village, where table tennis in the wind is always interesting!

The lockkeepers have realised that one gate is enough for two boats, so long as they are both narrowboats!
Making good time, we reached Beaulon by midafternoon on Monday. By the time that two hireboats had fitted in too, the mooring was full. If ever you stop in Beaulon, do not forget to visit the delicatessen in the village for your preserved sausages.
Tuesday found us at Decize, from whence our fellow narrowboaters, Aileen and Mike, left us the next morning. We have enjoyed travelling together, and plan to meet again in the future. They are continuing on along the Canal Latéral à la Loire, while we are turning right on to the Nivernais canal.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

1st February - 15th March 2018. Snow, bridge and tenpin bowling. A haircut for Shannon and a port concert.

This is our view of the port of Roanne, taken from our kitchen window. We would have to look a long way to improve on this!

A few days later, the snow arrived.

Shannon really enjoyed destroying our snowman.

The next snow was so fine that even our bikes were covered.

We play bridge at the club in Roanne two or three times a week, but we also enjoyed a pleasant social evening of bridge at Simone's house.

In February we had a port outing to the Tenpin bowling rink at Riorges, not far from Roanne. You can see that it is a serious game!

Here is Andy in action.

That was such hard work that we all needed a coffee to help us to recover.

The 1st of March brought another cold spell, with the port icing over, near to The Puzzler.

Shannon has grown her hair long for the winter.

However, it is too long now, and the weather is warmer, so she has had a bath, prior to a haircut. She does not like her bath!

With her new smarter look, Shannon is thinking about rescuing her clean toys from the washing line.

15th of March was an eagerly awaited treat for everyone in the port as the day of the concert arrived!

All the musicians in the band live on their boats in the port, and were really professional.

Dave and Aileen were the main singers, though everyone sang too. Are they sharing a joke that we are missing? We certainly all had a fantastic time that evening at L'Authentic.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

14th December 2017 - 31st January 2018. Bridge Christmas dinner at Charlieu. Shannon has a friend to stay for Christmas. New Year celebrations on Eendracht, followed by a trip to England.

This year our Bridge club Christmas dinner was at L'Auberge de L'Abbaye at Charlieu. There were 40 of us there and we all enjoyed a five course French meal.
Escot came to stay on Christmas day, so we went for a walk further along the river Loire, round by the lakes. We think that these were created in the old sand pits.

Shannon and Escot co-exist quite happily, although both still prefer to be top dog!

We all enjoyed New Year's Eve celebrations on Eendracht.

Our normal route along the path beside the river Loire was blocked today, with the stepping stones hidden under the water. The river Loire, to the right, is very full too.
We went to England in the second week in January, although Sally fell over a rope in the port, which delayed our visit by a couple of days. 7 stitches in my chin, after a 3 hour wait in casualty, was not what had been planned!

The cliffs of Dover look really white when the sun shines, but are quite dull at close quarters.

After a visit to Norfolk, we drove cross country via Aynho, on the Oxford canal. There are more narrowboats here than we have seen in three years in France!

Once back in the UK, this is the headroom to be expected at bridges.

Beyond the bridge at Aynho, the residential boaters “stretch in never ending line”.

We had a lovely time in Cheltenham, with Debbie, Matt and Toad.

Back in Roanne, there was a pretty sunset to greet us.

By the end of January, our logpile is much smaller, but it still keeps its shape, having used the French style of wood stacking.