4 Locks 38 km
Briollays boulangerie is a new building with an open workshop. You can watch Mr. Baker preparing fresh bread while Mrs. Baker is selling it to you. Bread is so important, that there is even a Decree Pain, the French bread law. Most importantly, the bread must only be baked using flour, yeast, salt and water. No additives, no freezing, no shit.
After breakfast we up sticks and motor up the Sarthe against the flow. So far we have gone mostly downstream, but now we do notice that there is quiet a bit of flow against us. Even so this is the driest summer in 50 years (we will have to talk about that problem later) there is still a current of about 2 km/h against us all the way up the Sarthe.
First port of call is Cheffes. The most remarkable details about this village are the ecluse that lifts us out of the flood plains, back on a proper river again. The other detail is a filling station that is only 700 m away and actually on the level. So we can fill up the petrol tanks without the need of crossing a mountain range, as it has been the rule so far.
A few kilometers upstream, near Moulin d’Ivray the river divides into two arms surrounding lots of small and smallest Island with little canals pointing here and there. This area is a heaven for wildlife, fishermen and canoeists.
But first we pass a group of boy scouts. One after the other walks up to the three leaders and shouts something about patria and bravoure. This goes along with a lot of saluting and standing to attention. A bit too much militaristic for such a nice place on such a sunny day.
Next stop is Châteauneuf-sur-Sarthe. The old factory on the left hand side houses the Maison de la Rivière. It is all about the history of the river and its traffic. Most interesting is a live sized model of a Paddle and Rymer weir. Well worth a visit.
After so much culture we spend the afternoon pottering further upriver, only stopping occasionally to have a swim. Brissarthe looks like a lovely place.
Tonights stop is Pincè, the tiniest of villages. But with a nice and quiet mooring for two boats.
7 Locks 47 km
As promised in the last post, things start to look up and moods start to raise. We wake up to marvellous sunshine and the promise of a hot day.
A visit to the boulangerie produces fresh bread and pastries. After breakfast we use the local facilities to stock up the larder and fill up with petrol.
Today the l’Oudon is so much different. It really is just beautiful with wildlife galore and more kingfishers than anybody could take in.
The éclusier at écluse 3 la Himbaudière is a student of the German language. So we have an extended chat with him. Passing Lion-d’Angers we rejoin the Mayenne and turn downstream towards Angers.
Ècluse 45 Montreuil-Belfroy is the last lock on the Mayenne.
After this point the scenery changes dramatically. Since Mayenne we have followed a well defined, often rather narrow valley. Here the hills disappear and we enter a vast flood plain. Not too much unlike the Shannon Callows of home, but at a much grander scale. What appears like a dike of some description in the picture below, is in fact the level of the land, which gets flooded every winter.
The Île St-Aubin lies in the center of this picture. It is another huge flood plain that becomes a lake in winter. The Vielle Maine runs to the left to join the Sarthe near Êcouflant, while the Mayenne heads towards Angers on the right. The markers are on poles about 5 meters high to maintain navigation in times of flooding.
An amphibian landscape.
We moor up on the little jetty of Briollay. This is a delightful village perched on a sandy bank just above the flood levels. The harbour mentioned in the Guide du Breil is totally silted up. But there is an excellent slipway and an Aire de Camping for disposing unwanted ballast. We share the jetty with a french cruiser and crack out the BBQ, also the restaurant at the other side of the riverside park looks very promising. The child finds a play mate and we have a very relaxing evening in the sun.
Just after nightfall a huge Locaboat hire boat turns up. They are slightly lost and have no place to go. So we do a bit of a boat shuffle, so they can moor up to the jetty while we moor up to them. It turns out that they are a crew of nine, including six kids (so the child is catered for) and are out of all places from Israel. They are spending a week on the boat and seem to love it, but complain that they haven’t got any tuition before they set of. We will keep bumping into them the next few days and they are really lovely people.
6 Locks 28 km
At Jaille-Yvon there is an activity center sporting such activities as tree-climbing, boating, canoeing and a lot more. We stayed here over night in order to take the child tree-climbing in the morning. A minibus takes us up the hill to the actual venue and we spend two hours trying to find out how much monkey is left in us. Unfortunately, in my case its mostly the belly of a silverback.
After an ice cream we do a short jaunt downstream to Chenillé-Change. Its a quiet pretty village and still has its little Epicerie, which is more than unusual in those days. But reason for the stop is the mill, which can be visited as an museum.
Its a worthwhile stop for anybody with even the slightest interest in old technology. The mill is fully operational and they produce flour in small quantities to help financing the upkeep. But the water wheels are mostly used to produce electricity.
Further down the river we take a right turn into the river l’Oudon, which is navigable for 18km from its confluence with the Mayenne near Le Lion-d’Angers to the town of Segré. There are three locks on the river. The first one arriving from the Mayenne is manned, the other two are manual and self service. Most of the rivers stretch is rather bucolic, but we really don’t do it any justice as we just rush through it. The weather is so bad, that the only thing we can sensibly do is pressing on, as stopping would mean falling into a deep depression.
We huddle down for the night and hope for a bit of improvement in the overall situation.
If you think, dear reader, that this is a sad way to spend your years holiday you are mostly wrong, as from tomorrow onward, the sun will be shining solidly for the next two and a half weeks, we will meet lovely people and the boat will break down slighty less often.