Summer has arrived!

We left our mooring at Middlewich this morning in the pouring rain. I could see the first lock before we set off and I got soaking wet. There was a lot of plant material in the lock so I used the boat hook to haul some of it out.

The next lock I did twice, because the chap who was in front of us was on his own so I gave him a hand.  It had stopped raining by then. 

Martyn had to move over to one side to let a boat through a narrow bit and in doing so, one of our fenders snapped off. The rope it was attached to got caught round the prop which meant the tiller wouldn’t work properly. We had to moor up but that was difficult because the tiller wouldn’t move. Eventually we sort of managed and Martyn opened up the weed hatch to clean it out. He pulled out the piece of rope and the same sort of plant I had pulled out at the lock. 

We stopped at Aqueduct Marina to get the toilet pumped out (£24!) and to fill up with water. We seemed to have used a lot of water over the weekend.  The rain was on and off. As soon as I put my raincoat on, it stopped. Eventually we could see blue sky and the sun was trying to come out from behind the clouds. 

At Barbridge junction we turned left onto the Shopshire canal proper. The bit we had come down was the Middlewich branch.  The sun came out and it has been a glorious evening. We are moored just past the junction, next to a road which isn’t as busy as it was earlier. We have about a mile to go before we turn right to the Llangollen canal and the final leg of our journey. We expect to be at Llangollen Basin by Friday.  Hoping that the weather stays nice and we don’t get any more rain. 

The photos above were taken yesterday of the boats that were moored up for the festival.  Our boat was way past the bridge! 

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Paying it forward

Sorry, there wasn’t a blog last night. We moored at Cropredy and the Internet was dire. 

Yesterday the weather was lovely again with a slight breeze. We cruised back towards Banbury and stopped for lunch there. I went to find a Wilkinsons and found a charity shop as well.  Picked up a game called Speechless and a box of dominos.  Afterwards we cruised on towards Cropredy. At one of the locks was a guy on his own,so I did the lock for him. Martyn said that was nice of me and I said it’s all about paying it forward. The chap will do something nice for someone else and so on and eventually it will come back to me.  We moored up and although there was no signal, I managed to ring my dad who had had a small op yesterday. He sounded ok though. 

Overnight it rained and was still raining this morning. I swept out the boat intending to give it a bit of a clean, when it suddenly stopped raining. Movement everywhere!  All the boaters bringing in their mooring ropes and setting off. 

We had three locks to do followed by a set of five.  I met a lovely lady at one of the locks. Her and her husband were from New Zealand and had been over here for nearly six weeks cruising the canals. They have been coming for the last nine years and feared that as they were getting on, this year would be the last. However, she said that her son and daughter in law were interested in coming next year, so there was a slight glimmer of hope that they would make it ten years. She said they were leaving from Manchester airport on Wednesday next week and they wouldn’t be home until the Saturday after! 

At another lock, the man on the boat behind us said he would finish the lock I was doing so I could get on the boat until the next lock. Paying it forward!

We filled up with water at Fenny Compton. It was tipping it down again.  Just after, while I was inside sheltering from the rain, I realised we had stopped but not on the towpath side. I went down the front of the boat  and in front of us was a boat reversing and another one with its stern in the middle of the canal. A lady appeared but she couldn’t drive the boat nor speak English! The boat that reversed dropped someone on the bank and they went to help. We managed to squeeze past and when we looked back, the man on the bank was pulling the boat back to safety. 

It’s stopped raining now and we are cracking on to get to a mooring just before the next set of locks. Then it will be plain sailing back to our marina tomorrow. 

Still in the marina

We are stopping here for a few days now. One of my brothers is coming with his family tomorrow, Tuesday, I have to go to Daventry to get my phone and Wednesday we are doing our helmsman course, if the weather is ok. Thursday we are going back to Kent and we will be back Sunday.  

I’m hoping the helmsman course will give me back some confidence. Since the boat tipped on its side, I’ve been wary about being on the cut. 

The weather has been nice today, a lot warmer and no need for the fire. We went to Leamington Spa this morning. I need to go back there. The shopping area is lovely, there are some gorgeous independent shops. (But do I need more stuff? I’ve got nowhere to put anything!)

We found yet another Tesco on the way back, this one is a lot nearer than Daventry being only four miles away. It’s in the middle of an industrial estate and there was no signage to indicate it was there. The only sign we saw was at the side of the road saying it was open. Very strange!  

Hamish fell off the boat today. I was walking on the pontoon with Moo and heard Martyn shout and watched as he hauled a dripping wet dog from the canal! We brought them life jackets yesterday but he wasn’t wearing it. Martyn said he had started swimming and was under the pontoon still attached to his lead! So it’s just me who hasn’t had a dip yet. I suppose my time will come. 

The duck that popped up to the window the other day has been back. She is partial to cornflakes and takes them from our hands. I’ve called her Matilda and her other half is Stanley. I still don’t know what sort of ducks they are, I can’t find them in my book. 

I will try and get a picture and post it on here. Maybe someone who reads my blog can help?

The only place I can get internet now, is when I’m sitting in the cratch. That’s the covered bit at the front of the boat. It currently holds our washing machine.  It’s not very comfortable but it serves a purpose. 

And with that I will say goodnight. xx

A different kind of life

Well, here we are aboard Kia Kaha. It’s been a hectic day to say the least. We exchanged details this morning which all went swimmingly, no pun intended.  We met up with the old owner Chris, who was very happy to show Martyn how everything worked while I tried to persuade the dogs to get on board. There was a lot of digging his claws into the pontoon from Hamish but eventually he made it.  Then they couldn’t get into the boat because the step into the cabin was too high! 

In the meantime I had managed to lose the spare set of keys that Leeza from Great Haywood Boats had just given me! I knew they weren’t in the water as I had them when I was on the boat. I had my handbag out three times looking for them. Martyn found them behind the doors in the cratch (the front of the boat which is covered up with a canvas hood).  They are now attached to a cork keyring so they will float if they fall into the canal. 

A swan appeared and hissed at Martyn. I don’t like swans much and this one confirms my reasons why. It’s vicious.  It tried to attack me when I was drinking my tea in the cratch this afternoon and then again when I was getting on the boat this evening.  Evil thing!  Apparently it hisses at everyone. 

  
We spent a long time unpacking the car, loading it onto a trolley and then unloading onto the boat. We’ve only brought a little bit of our stuff, yet the cupboards are full. I’ve not done it very tidy, it was more a case of get it all put away before I could relax.  I have no idea where I will put everything else. I’m thinking I’ll just live with what we’ve got. 🙂 

We went to Stafford to Asda. I had to get a microwave, some baking trays, pillows and supplies. We won’t starve for the next couple of days. There is a Canal side shop and cafe here. We looked in the shop before, it has a butchers that sells some lovely looking meat and it also sells veg and other stuff.   

Once back from Asda and everything was put away, I started dinner. Pork chops, boiled taters and mix veg. It was flipping lovely.  We couldn’t get the oven to work but Chris had kindly left instructions for just about everything and Martyn found the booklet for it. It works now. 

It’s very quiet here, earlier all I could hear was the birds in the trees and a couple of ducks quacking. I saw a heron at the edge of the Marina which flew away and one of the swans doing a takeoff and landing. There is a railway line that runs alongside the Marina and every so often a train dashes past. I wouldn’t want to be on those trains.  

I still can’t quite believe we own a boat. It feels like we have come on holiday, I wonder how long it will be before I realise we live here now. 

The weather today has been absolutely gorgeous. It was foggy when we arrived this morning but the sun soon broke through. I’m very glad we didn’t get the rain that was forecast. 

Tomorrow we intend to take Kia Kaha up the canal a bit and find a pub for lunch.  On Friday we will have our first visitor. Jim is coming on his way back from Scotland and is staying overnight. Saturday we will set off towards our Marina in Warwickshire.   

The sun has disappeared now and night is drawing in. It’s very cosy on our boat, I think I’m going to like this different way of life!

   
 

Home

We arrived home yesterday afternoon after a very good ride from Weatherby. The weather got warmer the nearer we got to home which was nice. We called in at some friends who had offered us a comfort break at Rochester and from there it was a hop, skip and jump to home. Dumped our stuff indoors and went to pick the dogs up, who in two weeks have grown into hairy bearies. 

They badly need a trim but they were pleased to see us. 

So that’s it, it was a really great holiday, one I will never forget. From the silver sands at Nairn, to the lovely welcome and hospitality in Orkney to the  Hotel Inch on Loch Ness to the stunning scenery in Glencoe, it was fantastic. 

Shame the weather wasn’t better but it had its moments, I’m glad we did it. And we have an excuse now to go back and do the West Coast. 

 
I have no idea what I am laughing at in this photo but it just about sums up our holiday. 

I hope you enjoyed my blog and thank you for reading. 😀 

Going home

The hotel that we stayed in last night was lovely but our bed was a little lumpy and the pillows were very thin and flat. We left the window open all night as it was warm enough but the dawn chorus awoke us at 4am. We went back to sleep but the alarm went off at 7.30 and it was time to get up.  Breakfast was nice, I had boiled eggs and toast and Martyn had a bowl of cornflakes followed by two kippers with lemon. The smell of kippers makes me feel sick when they are being cooked so it was a real treat for Martyn. 

We left the hotel just after 9 and followed the A82 to Fort William and then through the Glencoe Pass. I had forgotten how stunning Glencoe is, it is an amazing place, full of character and the most beautiful scenery. The weather was much better today, the sky was blue with some grey clouds but it was warmer although passing by Ben Nevis at Fort William, it got a little cold. We stopped at The Green Welly stop at Tyndrum for a quick drink and to refuel. 

Soon we were through Glasgow and picked up the M74. Our sat nav told us to take the A66 (not Route 66!) across the Pennines. It’s a lovely road but is heavily policed, we stopped at Cafe 66 for a hot chocolate for me and a tea for Martyn. 

Eventually we picked up the A1M at Scotch Corner and we stopped at Weatherby Services to see if we could find somewhere to stop for the night. Luckily the Days Inn there had a room available. I was very relieved. It was now 5pm. We rode for a lot of miles today and my bones are aching. I’m finding it very hard to get on and off the bike now as I am so stiff. 

Still we can only have around 260 miles until we are home now. So we will be home, all being well, tomorrow. It’s been a great holiday, we’ve ridden a lot of miles, just under 3,000, the bike has for the most part gone well. It’s definitely been a holiday to remember. 

Before we left home,  one of our must sees was the Falkirk wheel and the Kelpies. We haven’t managed to see them so we will definitely be coming back. We want to see more of the West Coast as well. 

Mainland

Back on dry land this afternoon. Martyn suggested we stop for lunch on the A9 where we had the roast chicken last week. Something was wrong with the bike though. It kept stalling. It had been fine before we got on the ferry but wasn’t so good when we got off. Martyn thinks that where they tie the bike up on the ferry, maybe it had squashed something. Anyway he gave it a blast down the A9 and it has been ok since then. The road that was very windy on Friday wasn’t so bad today. It was still windy but not blowing a gale force wind today.  I didn’t have to question my sanity this time. 

Going round the hairpins was good again, I quite enjoy that bit of the A9. There was a couple of motorbikes behind us. One overtook and the other obviously wanted to keep up with his mate, so he overtook us just as a car pulled out from a side turning on the other side of the road. I was waiting for the car and bike to crash but the biker just managed to squeeze through in time. 

We stopped for lunch and then carried on. Sometimes it rained and was windy but when we reached Inverness despite being able to see snow on the mountains again, it started to feel warmer. We turned onto the A82 which runs alongside Loch Ness all the way to Fort William but we were only going as far as Fort Augustus. We had booked into a lovely hotel called Hotel Inch. It is a former hunting lodge and having just had a three course dinner, I am now sitting in the lounge on a very comfy leather sofa in front of a wood burning fire with a fantastic view over Loch Ness.  Despite there being several people here in the lounge with me it is very peaceful. I would be happy to stay here for a while but tomorrow we want to be back on English soil. I need to go to bed now as I am making silly mistakes with my blog. Goodnight all. 

View from our bedroom window

  

Two days on Orkney

The crossing was ok but after about three quarters of an hour I started to feel nauseous. I was glad when the ferry docked at Stromness. 

There was a folk festival going on, on Orkney for the weekend. Stromness was very busy. The town centre sign took us up a narrow cobbled street with shops either side and passing places for the traffic coming the other way. Not your average high street. We couldn’t find any parking so left Stromness and headed out to Kirkwall hoping to maybe find a pub on the way for some lunch. There are no pubs on the way. What there is, is lots of moorland, hills and sheep. Lots of sea as well. You can never forgot you are on an island on Orkney. 

We reached Kirkwall and parked the bike opposite the harbour outside a pub called The Shore.  Martyn had haddock and chips and I had a ploughmans salad with lots of scrummy Orkney cheese. 

Once we had finished we rode to Paul and Lotty’s. We already knew Paul was at work and Lotty was out but the door had been left unlocked and a note on the door said to turn left into the kitchen and make ourselves at home. Underneath the note someone had left another note saying thanks very much but his name was Keith! Keith was a delivery driver apparently. It’s  a bit strange walking into someone’s house especially when you don’t really know them. Paul is Martyn’s cousin but they hadn’t seen each other for a few years. I have to say though that I immediately felt at home. The kitchen had a lovely big pine table in the middle and the whole house was very homely. 

Eventually everyone arrived home including the dog, Flo, a gorgeous black lab who was very friendly and loved being made a fuss of.  Dinner was spaghetti Bol and garlic bread which was very nice. We were given Halina’s room to sleep in which was lovely as it had a very smart en suite attached. There were a couple of girls from Sweden staying and a young man from Skye as well. Friends of Halina’s from Uni. It was a busy house. 

Sunday and the weather was windy but we were up early as there is a lot to see on Orkney. Paul had gone to work but the rest of the house was still asleep when we left. A cockerel and a chicken appeared from nowhere to see us off, the cockerel being very noisy and probably waking the whole island up. 

Our first stop was the Italian chapel. A chapel built during WW2 by Italian prisoners of war who were imprisioned on Orkney. The chapel is amazing. It was made from two Nissan huts and the inside is painted to look like brickwork and ornate brickwork. The altar is painted like something out of the Sistine chapel, very beautiful. 

   
 

The lamp hanging from the ceiling on the right hand side of the photo above was made from a bully beef tin! There is wrought iron work in the chapel and it was all done by the prisoners.  There is a photo taken as the chapel was finished like the one above. The bell in the original photo was made from cardboard. 

The prisoners also made three Churchill barriers. The barriers were made to stop the German ships from accessing the islands. They have been constructed with a road on top of the barrier which creates a causeway from island to island. During the end of the First World War, the Germans sailed their entire fleet to Scapa Flow to await their future. They then sank their ships. Some have been salvaged but some still remain and you can see the ships lying half in and half out of the water. It’s very eerie. 

After we left there we rode to the Standing stones of Steness. They are a similar thing to Stonehenge, there were sheep in the field and it was muddy. Getting on and off the bike has had me trailing mud across the seat! 

From there we went to Skara Brae which is a Neolithic village. It was discovered in 1850 when a storm uncovered it. It is a very well preserved Stone Age village. The furniture was made of stone. There was a dresser for storing prized possessions, a couple of beds and a hearth in the middle of the house. The houses were connected by covered passages but they all retained a sense of privacy. No one knows why the village died, maybe another storm covered it up. It rained while we were there and as it was outside I was glad I had my crash helmet with me. 

We rode round a lot of roads on the island. The roads are virtually empty and straight. Very good for motorbikes but as seems to be usual in North Scotland, it was windy with occasional showers of rain. Our wet weather gear is very efficient and neither of us get wet. 

Late afternoon we rode back to the house. Paul was at work still and Lotty was working in the cloche in the garden. Lotty made a wonderful dinner, we had roast pork with all the trimmings. Very very nice. We sat talking after dinner, Martyn and Paul did a lot of reminiscing. Eventually it was bedtime and we said our goodbyes to Paul and Lotty, who were both heading off to work early this morning. 

This morning (Monday) we were up early to pack the bike and get to the ferry for 10am. We were loaded on last with two other motorbikes and we were back on the mainland by around 12.40. The sea was a bit choppy today. It made Martyn feel quite ill but I was ok if I didn’t look at the sea or move about. 

We had a wonderful time in Orkney and were made to feel very welcome. We will definitely go back as there is still so much to explore.