…some Guest Blog Posts just have a way of truly ‘transporting’ yeez to another place and another time… here’s a delightful piece from my dear friend, Authoress, Angela Wren, whose own blog kicks off a new series of posts beginning today, May 17th and is all about Robert Louis Stevenson and his travels in France…
A Wooden Train to Paris
I have a dilemma to resolve. I’ve been poring over my maps of France for the past three or four weeks now, trying to decide where next to explore. I could re-travel old routes taken before and relive previous adventures or I could try something completely new. That’s my dilemma.
Robert Louis Stevenson has taken me through the Cévennes on a number of occasions and his first published book, An Inland Voyage, has made me think about taking the rivers and canals in northeast France to follow in his sway. But I have a niggling problem with that idea.
Having read Terry Darlington’s book, Narrow Dog to Carcassonne, I’m very much aware that it is possible to navigate a canal barge from the north coast of France through the inter-connecting system of waterways down to the Mediterranean coast. I also realise, from my own wanderings in France, that the waterways within the country were very important in the past and remain so even now.
If you think about it long enough you will realise that, of the 90 plus départements into which the country is divided, around two thirds of them are named after rivers. Along with these rivers there is a system of canals and locks, some of them pre-dating our own once heavily used canal system. So, as I gaze at my maps, I am drawn to an exploration of the waterway that stretches from the Morvan to the heart of Paris. From as early as the 16th century the Morvan was supplying the ovens of Paris with wood through a linking system of rivers and canals – the Nivernais being part of the route.
A favourite haunt of mine, Clamecy (Nièvre), was a major point on the route.
The town sits on the fast flowing river Yonne and everywhere you look in the old town there are reminders of that ancient trade. In the museum there is a large room dedicated to the Flotteurs – the raftsmen, women and children who worked the river and ‘les trains de bois’. The tools they used are on display along with a detailed explanation of their work and their lives. Old faded photographs show these people at work and at play. The trade continued until 1880 when the last ‘train de bois’ made its way to Paris.
So my journey would have to start in the forests of the Morvan. Here the trees were felled and logged – made into ‘bûches’ just over a meter in length and marked to show ownership. The logs were then floated down the river and along its course were families who waited and tended the cargo, making sure no logs were trapped by pushing them back into the mainstream. I feel sure some must have been missed though!
Once at a navigable point in the river, teams of men spliced the logs together to make rafts about 36 metres in length. These rafts were then sailed along the waterways – the river Yonne, being one – and the canals. As they neared Paris and the river widened, the rafts were connected together making vast floating wooden platforms, 72 metres long. Each raft was managed and driven into the heart of the city by only a couple of men and perhaps one of their sons. Some task, I think.
It would take about 10 to 15 days to reach the city and then the men and boys who had sailed ‘les trains’ would walk the 200K back to Clamecy.
So my dilemma and my niggling little problem. Do I take to the road and the Cévennes or do I sail? And if I sail, which route to choose? The niggle is that I can barely swim to save my life. I achieved my swimming proficiency certificate at the age of seven and I haven’t been to a swimming pool since! I don’t do beaches either, just in case you were wondering. I suppose it will be terra firma for me then.
And the slight mistranslation? Yes I know, but ‘A Wooden Train to Paris’ sounds so much more romantic and intriguing!
Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre. I’ve been writing, in a serious way, since 2010. My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio. The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.
…m’Lady Angela’s novel, Messandrierre is a cracking read… here’s a wee blurb taster for yeez:
‘Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre.
But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman for all the work on the case.
Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?’
Messandrierre – the first in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt.
…thank you, m’Lady, Angela… the rest of yeez Lads and Lassies of Blog Land can catch up with Angela on any of these links:
Website : www.angelawren.co.uk
Blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com
Facebook : Angela Wren
Goodreads : Angela Wren
…see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…
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