Abandoned canal I

I like water. And everything pertaining thereto.
And when the water element mixes, infiltration, history and political aberration, I'm thrilled.
It's clear that I did not hit 160 km on one of the worst highways in the Belgian kingdom only for the (relative) beauty of the landscape.

Here, this is one of the worst wastes which our administration (federal, then regional) was guilty.
A wide-gauge canal, two monumental locks and all the infrastructure that goes with it (towpaths, bridges, roads, technical facilities, etc.).
And all this is... to nothing. Or very little. It true that this place has become a paradise for fishermen and of birds. But when we see where flows of public money, it has something to stay stunned.
To be complete, not only Belgium should be pilloried for this useless canal. France is the most major guilty in this aberration. Indeed, if the channel is operational (after cleaning and renovation of locks) on the Belgian side, it is quite different in France.
To understand this French-Belgian problem, a map and a brief little history is needed.

Pommerœul canal

Pommerœul-Condé canal : Belgian section   French section
Nimy-Péronnes canal   The Scheldt
Old filled or unused canals

1800 : construction of the Mons-Condé-sur-Escaut canal, to facilitate the transport of coal to Flanders and northern France via the Scheldt.
1815 : Battle of Waterloo and defeat of Napoleon. The new canal is now located in two different countries : the Netherlands and France.
1823 : construction of the canal Pommerœul-Antoing to allow the canal to remain on the territory of the future Belgium and thus ensure a constant connection with the Scheldt.
1964 : Replacement of the Pommerœul-Antoing canal with the new Nimy-Blaton-Antoing link.
1972 : Construction of the E19 motorway (A7) on the route of the old Mons-Condé-sur-Escaut canal up to Hensies.
1980 : the Belgian state decides to dig the Pommerœul-Condé-sur-Escaut canal to recreate the link between Mons and Condé-sur-Escaut. This new canal takes the route of the old canal from Hensies and thus avoids detour to Péronnes1.
1992 : total siltation of the French section. This section is part of the historic Mons-Condé-sur-Escaut canal and has never been modernized. Closed to navigation of the Belgian section Pommerœul-Hensies.
1999 : start of studies of the future Seine-Escaut link2. The Pommerœul-Condé canal is one of the links and must be returned to navigation.

This is where the problem arises : what about the 1.5 million cubic meters of sediments in the French section of the canal ? It's not the volume of sludge that is the problem : toxicity and the presence of heavy metals make the task more difficult.
Regardless, we lay the Walloon region the following idea in 2003 : store and process the toxic sludge on Malmaison site. This site is close to populated areas (Bernissart, Pommerœul and Hensies) and a nature reserve (Harchies marshes).
Immediately, municipalities and the association CPB fought against it and get, in 2009, the cancelation of the project based on analysis of the Pasteur Institute that demonstrates the danger of the project. The Walloon region abandons its proposed lagoons to the technique of filter press barge (I'll spare you the details but it looks very fun).
A victory well short, however... The French government would consider the establishment of 14 times larger than Malmaison close proximity of Bernissart. It goes without saying that the outcry was immediate and we are again left a delicate legal-politic French-Belgian issue.
In the end, it will have to decide to remove these sediments. This will not be the Belgians who will do it but the cost will be paid by the two countries.
Waste, controversy, threat to the environment : welcome to the Pommerœul-Condé-sur-Escaut canal.

That said, I invite you to visit this canal in the center of much debate...

Abandoned canal I

Welcome at Pommerœul. We are greeted by closed doors.

Abandoned canal I

On the other side of the bridge, a landscape a bit more friendly...

Abandoned canal I

The lock (No. 1 on the map) is 151 meters long, it compensates for a drop of 15 meters.

Abandoned canal I

Harchies marshes being in close proximity, it is therefore not surprising to find many birds on the canal.

Abandoned canal I

The lock of Pommerœul and the vast space nearby. Apart from a few fishermen, no one comes here.

Abandoned canal I

The lower reach, from the bridge.

Abandoned canal I

The railway bridge, and far off, the monument of the former border crossing of Hensies on the highway E19.

Abandoned canal I

The building of the lock's discharge. Far left, the penstocks.

Abandoned canal I

The lower entrance of the lock.

Abandoned canal I

Penstocks.

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This bucolic setting is highly threatened by the reopening of the canal. Heavy traffic would not it have a detrimental effect on Harchies marshes ?

Abandoned canal I

At the top of the discharge building. Louvers seem new.

Abandoned canal I

The gateway isn't really reassuring.

Abandoned canal I

Condemned access to the bowels of the lock.

Abandoned canal I

Omnipresence of birds in this place almost deserted.

Abandoned canal I

Details on the door.

Abandoned canal I

Fifteen meters isn’t nothing...

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At the bottom...

Abandoned canal I

Control room of the lock. It doesn't seem to have suffered the attacks of vandals.

Abandoned canal I

The discharge canal. It flows into the penstock.

Abandoned canal I

The upper reach of the canal. The sky gradually becomes darker...

Abandoned canal I

The area around the lock. Weeds colonize the floor of pebbles.

Abandoned canal I

The lock. Only operated for twelve years.

Abandoned canal I

The entrance to the lock. Any navigation beyond this point has been banned for 18 years.

Abandoned canal I

The pontoon at the entrance to the lock. Today, Pommerœul lake no longer serves as rest area with barges navigating the Antoing-Nimy canal.

Abandoned canal I

The Grand Large closed by its concrete wall. Given the topography of the place, the volume of backfilled land is enormous.

Abandoned canal I

The junction between the two canals.

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On the left Tournai, Mons right.

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The unnecessary sentinel of a forgotten canal.

Abandoned canal I

Right next to the lock chamber, massive beams stored in a mobile shed.

Abandoned canal I

They are all marked with an H except one. A commercial placement of a famous computer manufacturer ?

Abandoned canal I

What are they for ? Maybe at the repair of the lock gates...

Abandoned canal I

The hangar on rails.

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At the foot of the lock.

Abandoned canal I

 

Abandoned canal I

Closed since 1992, we discern a slight lapping.

Abandoned canal I

The bridge on the Mons-Tournai railroad line against the light. Trains pass 160 km/h, regardless of what happens on the canal.

Abandoned canal I

The angular forms of the building of the penstocks.

Abandoned canal I

At the time when it was in office, this machine was used to filter the water coming out of the penstock. The three cups raised, they turned to drop onto the conveyor belt dirt carried by the canal.

Abandoned canal I

The conveyor can now play the mirror.

Abandoned canal I

The installation as a whole. It's been a long time since it was not used anymore.

Abandoned canal I

The sun has decided to go elsewhere, it leaves room for nice black clouds. That sucks a little.

Abandoned canal I

The railway bridge is entirely openwork. The brown traces are left by the passage of trains.

Abandoned canal I

Grates between the tracks but nothing between the sleepers. Attention at the fall.

Abandoned canal I

Birds disturbed by my presence.

Abandoned canal I

A bird takes a break on abandoned board.

Abandoned canal I

The bright blue of the railway bridge. We lost the sun...

Abandoned canal I

At the end of the pontoon, south side.

Abandoned canal I

It will perhaps be necessary to shorten the stay. The temperature fell at once and the wind picked up strongly.

Abandoned canal I

Minimalist building maintenance. At least we can save money on window cleaning...

Abandoned canal I

At the foot of the imposing penstocks.

Abandoned canal I

Surprise guest : hail. See you next time...

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Back at the canal two weeks later. Here, the way of the 1000 puddles.

Abandoned canal I

In the distance the wheel chassis of an old coal mine in Condé-sur-Escaut.

Abandoned canal I

Almost hidden in the vegetation, one of only two bridges over the canal in the French section.

Abandoned canal I

A bridge worthy of a horror movie.

Abandoned canal I

Detail on the rust that gradually nibbles the paint.

Abandoned canal I

The canal to Lock 2 at Hensies. Although only a kilometer away, the lock is completely hidden by the vegetation.

Abandoned canal I

Compare with the pictures of the same canal in Belgium...

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The peaceful village of Saint-Aybert, France. The border is only a few tens of meters.

Abandoned canal I

Yes, this is a canal ! Seen from the towpath near Lock No. 2.

Abandoned canal I

The lock on approach. Most of the roads leading to it were closed.

Abandoned canal I

There is no longer had any boat here since 1992.

Abandoned canal I

But the oblivion of the place was beneficial to birds. They find here a haven of peace.

Abandoned canal I

The birds.

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The customs office, in very bad condition.

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The dam that I preferred not to borrow, so as not to disturb the birds resting there.

Abandoned canal I

The lock and the technical building of the lock were secured with chain-link fences. That did not stop the vandals of a rampage. All cables have been stolen.

Abandoned canal I

The upstream entrance to the lock.

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Traffic lights, waiting for a hypothetical barge...

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The Haine channeled, a remnant of the former Mons-Condé canal. It flows into the existing canal just after the lock.

Abandoned canal I

The dam on Haine. On one side, calm waters, on the other whirlpools.

Abandoned canal I

Focus on the cables of the dam. Out of order following the theft of electrical cables. Copper is then resold on the black market. The NMBS/SNCB regularly faces the same problem.

Abandoned canal I

The gaping mouth of the discharge canal.

Abandoned canal I

We are in November and that feels. It's cold, there's a lot of wind, the sky is low and it's drizzling. And yet, I succeed make an overexposed picture...

Abandoned canal I

The gateway side Pommerœul. Only a few fishermen and walkers are still living this place.

Abandoned canal I

Infiltration into the prohibited perimeter. Here, customs offices totally devastated.

Abandoned canal I

Nothing was saved. No need to enter the building to see the carnage.

Abandoned canal I

This building seems newer than the rest of the complex. So, he did not have to remain active very long.

Abandoned canal I

The lock side France. It should be noted that the administration replaced the lighting poles less than two years ago. Why ? No idea but some lanterns have not been installed...

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The lock side Belgium.

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Downstream doors locked since 1992. Time is starting to make its mark.

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Just after the door. No need to explain why the navigation is no longer possible...

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Poles without lanterns, stems without flags, windows without glass and the canal without boats.

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Nice welcome committee.

Abandoned canal I

What did this board mean ? The rust removed its identity.

Abandoned canal I

An open technical box. All that had any value was stolen.

Abandoned canal I

The bridge on which I will not go further. Its profile inverted donkey does not inspire me more than that...

Abandoned canal I

Dead end for a channel with no way ?

Abandoned canal I

We leave the condemned domain to return to the public domain.

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The vast desert of the canal.

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The old Sartis coal mine. Here, my grandfather ruined his health...

Abandoned canal I

As for the lock, nothing is preserved...

Abandoned canal I

Given the lack of time, only three shots. Who knows, maybe later ? Buildings don't seem very strong...

Abandoned canal I

The bridge to the typical architecture of 70's-80's. It connects Pommerœul to Hensies.

Abandoned canal I

The monument of the border. Before him, the former Hensies landfill being rehabilitated by the SPAQuE.

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The canal towards Pommerœul. Historic canal went straight to Mons.

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The calm of the canal threatened by a hypothetical reopening.

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The rain reappeared. Again and again... Let's go home.

24

October 2010

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Notes

  1. Canal where the site of Péronnes is, cf. ici.
  2. Explanation here.