Welcome to the last Sunday in April – how did that happen?? Today, I’m delighted to welcome back Angela Wren, who was my first Sunday Sojourn guest, taking us to Paris. Good to have you back, Angela!
Hello Jennifer and thanks for inviting me back onto your blog. I’m in Clamecy today, a small town in the département of Nièvre (58) and I thought I’d tell your regular readers about the importance that this town once had in relation to the logging industry.
Situated as it is, on the river Yonne, which is flanked by the Nivernais Canal, and within easy reach of the forests of the Morvan, the town became central to the logging industry and remained so for many years. The local men who worked the logs were referred to as ‘Flotteurs’, Raftsmen, and their contribution is commemorated by a statue on the centre of the bridge across the river as you come into town.
So, what’s this all about? Come with me to the port. Before All Saints’ Day (November 1st) each year, the trees that had been felled during the previous winter and stacked throughout the Morvan were logged. Consisiting mostly of beech and oak they are cut into ‘bûches‘, logs, of 1.14m in length. All Saints’ Day was the designated day for the ‘Foire aux Bois’, The Wood Fair, at nearby Chateau-Chinon. This was the day that the timber owners sold the cut wood to merchants and dealers who would then negotiate and sub-contract a deal for the transportation of the wood to this very port here, in Clamecy.
What happens next is the really interesting bit. At the beginning of November, once all the deals were struck, the logs were marked with the individual ‘signe‘ of the new owner with the aid of an engraving hammer. These marks enabled the identification and sorting of the logs after their journey down river. From the point of felling and logging to the final destination, the logs would be marked many times as commercial transactions changed and new deals were cut. And it was only marked logs that could be transported.
At the end of November, the logs are thrown into the rivers and streams whose flow has been artificially increased by the opening of the reservoir sluices located upstream. The logs floated up to one of the 22 locations on the upper reaches of the river Yonne. Stopped by ‘arrêts‘, artificial barriers, the logs were then withdrawn from the water and stacked and left to wait for the annual spring floods ‘le grand flot’.
In March in the following year the wood from all the 22 collection areas was thrown back into the river at once and left to float down to Clamecy. Men women and children – whole families – would follow the logs and keep them moving using long spiked poles to push any that got trapped back in to the main flow of the water. At Clamecy the logs were halted and held by the one of the locks. It’s here that ‘Les trains’ the rafts, were created. The logs were spliced together and then cross-spliced with each other again and again until a raft as long as a modern barge was created. A small lean-to was created at one end and a long oar was used to navigate le train, down the river and through the linking waterways and canals until the outskirts of Paris were reached. By this time the rafts had been spliced together creating a vast platform of logs – over 700,000 individual logs – more than 70 metres in length. On arrival at port de Charenton in Paris the rafts were dismantled and the wood sold to heat the ovens and fires of the city. The men would then make the long journey, over 200K, back home on foot.
Sadly this form of work has died out with the last ‘train de bois’, wooden train, making its final journey in 1880. But the river and the canal remain as a testament to the men who undertook such risky work.
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, for about 5 years. 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.
Novel blurb – Messandrierre
Sacrificing his job in investigation following a shooting in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a rural gendarme. Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?
But, as the number of missing 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.
Can he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?
Messandrierre – the first in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt.