Saint-Valéry and the Canal de la Somme
Information about the 156km long Canal de la Somme
The Canal de la Somme, built in 1770-1843 to provide an outlet to the sea from Saint-Quentin, is in effect the canalised river Somme throughout the greater part of its course. It is one of the most attractive waterways of northern France, passing through a marshy valley dotted with lakes, peat marshes and gravel pits, and is ideal for pleasure cruising. Commercial traffic has all but ceased.
The waterway is entered from the Somme estuary at the harbour town of Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme, and offers an alternative approach route from the English Channel to the waterways of central France.. It extends 156km to a junction with the Canal de Saint-Quentin at Saint-Simon, althouth the last 16km between the Canal du Nord and Saint-Simon have been closed to navigation since 2006, with no short-term prospects of restoration. The currently navigable waterway is divided into three sections. From the sea lock (PK 156) to Abbeville (PK 142) it is called the Canal maritime d’Abbeville à Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme, designed to be used by coastal ships. From Abbeville to the junction with the Canal du Nord near Péronne (PK 37) navigation is mainly in the river, with occasional lock-cuts. In this length the river is abandoned in favour of a lateral canal over the last 17km. The third section from Péronne doubles up as a section of the Canal du Nord.
History – The river Somme was for centuries considered a strategic route for navigation inland to Picardy and Paris, potentially faster and more reliable than the Seine, particularly for trade with England. The first comprehensive plan for canalisation was produced in 1729. The meandering river was not easily tamed, however, and the Intendant of Picardy reporting in 1763 found the navigation to be in a ‘pitiful state’. Complete canalisation was authorised under Louis XVI in 1785, but works were interrupted by the Revolution. The project revived by Napoleon in 1810 included a ‘ship canal’ (canal maritime) between Saint-Valery-sur-Somme and Abbeville. The waterway was opened to navigation above Abbeville in 1827, while the ship canal was completed in 1835. Locks were 34 m by 6.25 m wide, later enlarged to Freycinet dimensions. The two locks on the section incorporated in the Canal du Nord were rebuilt in 1964 to the dimensions adopted for that project, 90 by 6 m. The canal was among the first to be conceded to a local authority, in this case the Somme département, in 1992, but the concession was limited to the section west of Péronne. Transfer of ownership of the entire waterway (excepting the section incorporated in the Canal du Nord) is under discussion.
Key Waterway Dimensions
- Max Beam: 6.35m
- Max Height: 3.43m
- Max Draught: 1.80m
Locks – There are 25 locks, including the sea lock at Saint-Valéry. They fall from the Saint-Simon pound of the Canal de Saint-Quentin (65m above sea level) towards the sea. Lock dimensions vary, but the smallest are 38.50 by 6.35m. Entrance through the sea lock at Saint-Valéry is possible only for 30 minutes or one hour before high tide.
Draught – The maximum authorised draught is 1.80m from Saint-Simon to Abbeville. This is increased to 3.20m in the canal maritime (which used to allow small coasters to trade up to Abbeville).
Headroom – The normal headroom under the numerous fixed bridges is 3.70m, but the bridge upstream of lock 17 in Amiens may present a reduced headroom of 3.43m. The swing bridge at Feuillères (PK 43) is equipped for automatic operation, with radar detection, and it is advisable for small boats to have a radar reflector. There are four swing bridges and one lift bridge on the canal maritime. These are equipped with gauges displaying the headroom available with the bridges in the closed position.
Towpath – There is a towpath throughout.
Operation – From 1st April to 1st November, operating hours are 0900-1800; lock-keepers accompany boats reporting at the office at each end of the waterway managed by the département, Feuillères lift-bridge and Petit-Port swing bridge, or by calling the central control tel 06 74 83 60 69. This number may be used in season from 0630 to 1930. From 2 November to 31 March, 36 hours’ notice of passage is to be given, and operating hours are reduced to 0800-1700, with no service on Sundays or public holidays. In all cases operating staff have a break from 1230 to 1330.
Authority – VNF – Direction territoriale Bassin de la Seine
– 19, route de Paris, BP 1053, 80201 Péronne cedex (PK 0-39)
Conseil Départemental de la Somme
– Agence fluviale et maritime, 1 rue Baillon, 80000 Amiens (PK 39-156)
PK 156.4 Downstream tidal gates, railway swing bridge d/s, end of canal maritime, Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme harbour in estuary below lock, VHF 9, 30 berths (non-drying) up to 2m draught, night €21, water, electricity, showers, crane 10t, slipway, repairs
The village grew during the 10th and 11th centuries and was historically significant as the site where William the Conqueror assembled his fleet before sailing over to England in 1066. During the many wars between the French and the English the village passed between French, English and Burgundian ownership. The English destroyed the abbey and cloister in order to strengthen the nearby Saint-Valéry castle. In 1431, Joan of Arc, captive of the English, was held prisoner in the local prison where she was then conveyed to Rouen and burnt at the stake. The cell in which she stayed can still be found near part of the old village walls.
Saint-Valéry has a station (and out-of-season terminus) of the narrow gauge ‘Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme’ (Somme Bay Railway), a tourist attraction. Running around the entire length of the bay, this railway connects Le Crotoy with Noyelles-sur-Mer and Saint-Valery. In the summer season trains also run from Saint-Valery to Cayeux-sur-Mer and the sands at Brighton Plage.
PK 156.1 Lock 25 (Saint-Valéry), upstream sluice gates, boat repair yard, yacht and boat moorings u/s r/b
Canal pontoon moorings inside the sea-lock.
PK 155.6 Lift bridge (Pinchefalise), headroom 4.20m, D940
PK 153.0 Swing bridge (Boismont), village 1000m l/b, headroom 2.70 m, municipal bridge manually operated
PK 148.2 Swing bridge (Petit-Port) headroom 2.43m
PK 145.2 Swing bridge (Laviers), headroom 2.50m
PK 144.0 Motorway bridge (A28)
PK 143.1 Swing bridge (Sur-Somme), headroom 2.93m
PK 142.9 Private quay l/b
PK 142.3 Railway bridge (Boulogne), end of canal maritime, headroom 6.50m
PK 142.1 Bridge (D928 Abbeville bypass)
PK 142.0 Towpath bridge, end of lock-cut
PK 142.0 Junction with bypassed river Somme navigable a few hundred metres upstream towards the town centre (trip boat mooring)
PK 141.9 Bridge (Hocquet)
PK 141.7 Lock 24 (Abbeville), water
PK 141.0 Abbeville, bridge (Gare), quay d/s r/b for 3 boats, water and electricity €2 for 4h, railway station l/b, town centre r/b
Pontoon halte managed by the Tourist Office.
PK 140.7 Bridge (Portelette), entrance to lock-cut, l/b
PK 140.6 Bridge (Boulevard des Prés)
PK 139.5 Disused railway bridge (Béthune)
PK 136.0 Bridge (Épagnette)
PK 134.2 Bridge (Épagne)
PK 133.0 Bridge (Eaucourt-sur-Somme)
PK 131.3 Lock 23 (Pont-Rémy)
PK 131.0 Bridge (D901)
PK 130.6 Pont-Rémy quay r/b
PK 130.3 Towpath bridge
PK 127.5 Bridge (Cocquerel)
PK 124.8 Lock 22 (Long)
PK 124.7 Long bridge, moorings d/s l/b, village r/b
PK 120.6 Bridge (Étoile)
PK 118.0 Railway bridge (Fixecourt)
PK 117.9 Railway bridge (disused) and overhead power lines
PK 117.5 Lock 21 (Labreilloire)
PK 115.0 Bourdon bridge, industrial quay u/s l/b, Hangest village l/b
PK 108.0 Lock 20 (Picquigny), water, bridge, village l/b
PK 102.5 Lock 19 (Ailly-sur-Somme), bridge, village l/b
PK 100.0 Bridge (Dreuil), village l/b
PK 98.7 Motorway bridge (A16)
PK 97.7 Lock 18 (Montières), bridge
PK 97.1 Railway bridge
PK 95.8 Bridge (Blanc)
PK 95.0 Bridge (Cagnard), private quay u/s l/b
PK 94.3 Footbridge (Saint-Maurice), quay d/s l/b
PK 94.0 Lock 17 (Amiens), water, bridge
PK 93.8 Bridge (Maulcreux), lowest on the Somme
PK 93.6 Bridges (Saint-Pierre)
PK 93.4 Bridge (Célestins)
PK 93.0 Footbridge
PK 92.7 Footbridge (Samarobriva), Saint-Pierre park r/b
PK 92.6 River divides, attractive quay accessible through very low arch bridge (Pont du Cange) ahead, navigation continues right
PK 92.4 Amiens bridge (Beauvillé), quay d/s l/b (Port d’Amont), 10 berths, water, electricity, town l/b
The Port d’Amont quayside halte run by the Tourist Office is close to Amiens Cathedral, a world heritage site. It is spectacularly the tallest and ‘purest’ of the large Gothic churches of the 13th century.
PK 90.1 Bridge (Camon)
PK 88.7 Camon bridge (Longueau), boatyard u/s r/b, repairs, chandlery, private slipway, village r/b
PK 87.1 Main road viaduct (Jules Verne), N25 Amiens bypass
PK 85.6 Railway bridge
PK 84.3 Lock 16 (Lamotte-Brebière) in short lock-cut r/b
PK 83.9 Pipeline crossing
PK 80.7 Private footbridge
PK 80.5 Private quay r/b
PK 80.1 Railway bridge
PK 79.7 Lock 15 (Daours)
PK 79.3 Bridge (Daours/Vecquemont)
PK 77.2 Railway bridge (Aubigny)
PK 74.5 Corbie lock 14, water, bridge, quay u/s l/b, town r/b, mooring for 3 boats u/s r/b, water €2 for 4 hours, electricity €2 for 4 hours, showers at camp site
PK 70.7 Bridge (Vaire-sous-Corbie)
PK 66.8 Sailly-le-Sec r/b (track to village, 600m)
PK 65.3 Lock 13 (Sailly-Laurette), bridge, village 600m r/b
PK 63.7 Bridge (Cerizy l/b)
PK 62.4 Cerizy/Chipilly bridge, quay u/s r/b
PK 58.6 Lock 12 (Méricourt-sur-Somme), bridge, village 1300m
PK 57.1 Étinehem arm r/b (no longer used)
PK 54.1 Navigation enters Somme (Bray arm r/b)
PK 52.9 Lock 11 (Froissy), quay d/s r/b
PK 52.8 Froissy bridge, quays d/s
PK 52.5 Quays, l/b, tourist railway (Froissy-Dompierre) and museum
Good informal moorings near the écluse and bridge and also immediately adjacent to the light railway.
PK 51.0 Lock 10 (Cappy), water
PK 50.4 Cappy lift bridge, quay u/s r/b, 15 berths, night €10, water €3, electricity €3, showers €2.50, crane, slipway, pump-out €4.00/m3, repairs, restaurant
The whole quay is now available to visiting boats. Upstream from here to the Canal du Nord the canal sections are narrow due to overhanging trees, and may be shallow.
PK 46.9 Éclusier-Vaux lift bridge
PK 46.0 Quay l/b
PK 44.7 Lock 9 (Frise inférieure), footbridge
PK 43.6 Lock 8 (Frise, supérieure), bridge, quay u/s r/b
PK 41.3 Feuillères lift bridge (automatic, with radar detection), quay u/s l/b
PK 40.0 Railway bridge (TGV Nord), basin d/s
PK 39.9 Motorway bridge (A1)
PK 39.1 Lock 7 (Sormont), bridge, quay r/b
PK 36.9 Bridge (Bazincourt)
PK 36.7 Junction with Canal du Nord r/b, beginning of common section
PK 33.9 Péronne port de plaisance, 20 berths, night €9.45, diesel on commercial quay, water, electricity, showers at campsite, slipway, restaurant
The Port de plaisance is in a spur off the main canal, which although not a ‘full’ grand gabarit (the equivalent of a canal motorway), still carries a fair amount of commercial traffic. Passing péniches (especially the empty ones, which travel faster) can still cause wash and movement.
PK 33.5 Bridge (D1017), quays d/s, quay u/s r/b with all services but limited space, Péronne 1300m r/b
PK 33.1 Railway bridge
PK 32.9 Lock 6 (Péronne), VHF 10, water
PK 28.4 Bridge (Pont-lès-Brie), D1029
PK 25.7 Saint-Christ-Briost bridge, quay and turning basin d/s r/b
PK 23.8 Motorway bridge (A29)
PK 22.7 Épénancourt l/b
PK 22.2 Lock 5 (Épénancourt), bridge, VHF 10, water, private quay u/s l/b
PK 20.7 Pargny bridge, quay u/s l/b
PK 17.9 Béthencourt-sur-Somme bridge, quay d/s r/b
PK 16.4 Junction with Canal du Nord l/b, end of common section (upgraded)
The Upper Canal de la Somme east from this junction has been closed since 2003, and no re-opening date has been projected.
PK 14.8 Voyennes bridge, village 300m
PK 12.5 Lock 4 (Offoy), bridge, quay d/s l/b, Offoy 300m
PK 11.2 Canizy l/b (windmill)
PK 10.0 Footbridge
PK 8.3 Footbridge
PK 7.9 Quays l/b
PK 7.2 Lock 3 (Ham inférieure), bridge
PK 6.6 Lock 2 (Ham supérieure), bridge
PK 6.1 Ham basin l/b, large village, alternative mooring above lock r/b
PK 3.1 Sommette-Eaucourt, l/b
PK 1.6 Bridge (D56)
PK 0.1 Lock 1 (Saint-Simon), bridge
PK 0.0 Saint-Simon, Point Y, triangular junction with the Canal de Saint-Quentin
Cruises, holidays and vacations on the Canal de la Somme
HOTEL BARGE CRUISES
Hotel barges are elegant and supremely comfortable, converted from traditional vessels or created as cruising boutique hotels from new. You’ll experience the smoothest of relaxing week-long vacations in high style looked after by an expert captain, professional masterchef, knowledgeable local excursions guide and attentive English-speaking cabin staff.
There was formerly a Locaboat self-drive boating vacation base at Cappy, but unfortunately that has now closed.