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Whispers on water - a photo journal of our life on the 'cut' dedicated to keeping family and friends informed of our whereabouts.
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1.Sunset over Devils Garden
Late most nights, when all terrestrial light has hopefully faded from the night sky I can be found sprawled out in my chair listening to the sounds of the river and it's nocturnal inhabitants. Sometimes the moon, hanging silvery bright outside the window, seems to cast its beam as if to light the way for predators of the night, affording them the comfort of a shadow in which to hide or seek prey from. Ducks disturb the water in a frenzy of panic as a fox skulks along the bank or an owl silently throws it's moon cast shadow across the water, swooping in search of a late supper. A dog barks nervously in the distance, unsure of what it may face in the darkness as it waits to be let back in to the fold.
I often stay up until well after midnight embracing all that living this life offers, never alone with my thoughts, always in touch with my dreams, comfortable in the knowledge that life is the greatest of adventures and must never be taken for granted; nor those who tread a similar path through life looking for the same experience.
The night holds few mysteries and seldom draws caution from me. I look upon the hours between dusk and dawn as an education. Gone are those who touch down with scant regard for those who live on the water; passers-by oblivious to the simplicity of actually living, instead complicating their lives by conforming. The International Space Station drifts lazily across the sky, sharply reflecting the rays of the sun below the horizon, a wonder of technology that would otherwise be invisible; ever seeking knowledge.
An owl hoots close-by, carefully picking a moment of quiet to attract the attention of a potential mate. A pair of swans drum along the side of the boat feeding on streamer weed attached to the hull just below the water line. They also know there's a chance of roughly torn pieces of bread kindly proffered from the galley hatch. When accompanied by signets the drumming reaches almost a cacophony of attention seeking. Yet seldom do I rise to meet the usual frown of gazes, almost indignant with impatience, as they gather expectantly at the hatch. Then silence!
The glow of my tablet, crossing continents in search of answers to my questions, keeps me in touch with a world I was once familiar with, bringing words that elicit long held emotions only further adventure can sate. A clarity of thought and expression suits the word-smith in me as the night unfolds and I often head off to bed with the comfort of a dream to be had. Sleep comes easy, deep and sound.
I open the galley side hatch one last time on my way to bed and let the beauty of the night seep in. The waters surface reflecting the moons glow and the silhouettes of trees stand tall against the backdrop of a starry sky. An aircraft powers high westwards towards the Atlantic, heavy with fuel as it climbs to cruise altitude, as familiar to me as breathing once upon a time.
The river journeys on unperturbed.......
21st Apr 2014, 14:42
With the sun drawing excess water from a land soaked by months of rain, mist forms easily, first drifting close to the ground, then rising skywards, a gentle warmth encouraging wisps of vapour to congregate and dampen the day.
Later, the chill of evening takes over as the sun dips towards the horizon The mist, now heavy with moisture, sinks close to the ground clearing the sky to treat us to a wonder of colour and movement.
3rd Apr 2014, 20:58
Vale Royal, River Weaver.
1. The Cathedral of the Canal.
2. Barnton Cut.
3. Vale Royal.
Monday dawned cold yet with a Sun that took the chill from the air and melted the frost-stiffened resistance of wilvir's mooring lines.
Teasing the coiled lines into life I cast off and stood at the tiller guiding wilvir through water breaking at the bow into an explosion of day-stars on the sun bright surface.
We continued on towards the Anderton Lift holding point having let them know in advance we would be arriving to drop down onto the river. With one caisson out of action awaiting a spare from Switzerland we were next, along with another narrowboat called 'Plan B', to be lowered to the River Weaver below; part of a journey that is made all the more special by this compact wonder of engineering
With the beautiful contrast of the black ironwork towering above us against the blue of the sky, we left the lift and rounded the bend taking us down river to Barnton Cut. Here we spent a couple of days settling in to the rivers languid pace and collected some mail we'd had delivered to the local village Post Office.
A run into Northwich gave us the opportunity to stock up on supplies and after a night on the town moorings we left this morning to lock up to Vale Royal, one of the seven wonders of the River. Here we'll stay until after the weekend.
28th Mar 2014, 20:40
1. One of hundreds down across the cut.
2. A fallen tree collapses a culvert wall.
3. The force of nature.
4. Settled in for a few days.
5. Short days yet work goes on.
Well into March, it's time to resume our journey now that the canals have been woken from their slumber and routine maintenance has enabled hard-worked sections to become viable once again for the coming boating season.
The seemingly long months of rain left trees vulnerable to the storms that followed, high winds uprooting and shearing trees mid-trunk like match-wood, many falling across the cut. The buzz of a chainsaw seemed to be ever-present as the effort to clear the debris swung into action, leaving behind wood enough to fuel the odd cabin stove of a passing or stranded narrowboat.
Walking a countryside sodden to its tops was hard going at times and Gunner grew pretty adept at finding firmer ground and I often left him to lead the way. It's uncanny how he will take me across large expanses of countryside, with no sign of a right of way, yet brings us to a stile that is exactly on a bearing that will take us home. I couldn't ever be without him.
With rainfall settling down after the wettest winter on record, and, as a consequence, farmers better able to now get out and work the land, spring has arrived and we're all the better for it as the sun begins to both give and draw life from nature once more.
18th Mar 2014, 13:14
120' above the River Dee.
2nd Mar 2014, 19:01
Llangollen, Llangollen Canal.
1. The view upstream from Llangollen Bridge
2. The River Dee thunders past 'The Corn Mill'.
3. Llangollen railway station from The Corn Mill'.
4. Horseshoe Falls.
5. Llantysilio Parish Church
6. Our quiet berth.
We left St Martin and made for Llangollen, stopping west of Whitehouse Tunnel for a night before heading across the Pontcysyllte aqueduct and joining the Llangollen Canal proper.
The run into Llangollen is a feast for the eyes as the hills rise and fall as a backdrop to the tree lined slopes of the Dee Valley.
On arrival we moored in the canal basin and over the next three days dodged the rain as best we could to make our way down to the town to shop and enjoy a meal or two, which I had no choice but to accompany with some good beer. The 13th century Corn Mill pub and restaurant was a great place to sit and watch the swollen River Dee thunder past virtually underfoot.
Our last full day saw us walk the towpath to the source of the canal at Horseshoe Falls and follow the riverside path up to Llantysilio Parish Church overlooking the River Dee. Snowdrops,in abundance, had sprung up in the churchyard amongst the tilting headstones, adding to the atmospheric charm of the place.
On our return we dropped into a pub to warm ourselves in front of a blazing logfire and partake of some liquid refreshment.
Leaving, we climbed a steep path back up to the canal above and the comfort of wilvir tucked into a sheltered corner berth of the basin out of the wave-making wind that had arisen.
The following morning we awoke to snow on the ground and clouds, heavy with more, descending into the valley, which started to release their cargo as we prepared to leave. But leave we did.
16th Feb 2014, 20:12
Here it comes again.
Taking advantage of what appeared to be a break in the weather, me and Gunner ventured out over the weekend just as the sun broke through the gloom that has descended upon us these past weeks. Fooled by the feel good factor of fresh air and the sun on my face, I climbed a hill away from the canal to take in the view and as you can see from the photos I was in for a soaking.
Underfoot,water seemed to defy gravity as it clung to the high ground, refusing to drain away. I was constantly having to drag my feet from the mud and water sucking at my boots . Then the rain came. The sky took on a threatening, dark mood as a wind came from nowhere, driving a squall before it that seemed to want to hit me head on, no matter which way I faced.
After taking a few snaps of the approaching weather, we made for the shelter of a hedgerow way off in the distance. It would at least provide us with some sort of wind break and take the anger out of the rain that was now visibly falling like a curtain across the landscape, blotting out the horizon as it approached at a rapid rate of knots.
We made the lane on the other side of the hedgerow just as the rain hit, with Gunner wagging his tail and looking at me as if to say 'good decision'. I don't mind weather in any of its guises for the most part. I've always invested in good quality outdoor clothing and footwear as I spend the majority of my time 'playing out' and thankfully I was as dry as bone, even though water was running off me.
I have to admit, this over abundance of rain leaves a lot to be desired, and has brought misery to great swathes of the countryside as water inundates every hollow. As an old countryman said to me last year, 'If they looked after land drainage like we used to, it looked after you'. His knowing smile said it all.
While Southern Australia suffers a heatwave, Canada and the USA a deep freeze, England is enjoying a bath. Ha!
We turned for home, skirting the slopes down to the canal, until, reaching a bend, the lane disappeared underwater. A stile, pointing across the sodden countryside, would take us in the general direction of the canal about half a mile away. It was slow going, with Gunner up to his belly at times the going was that soft. I've taught Gunner to lead in every situation unless I call him to my side. To see him work difficult terrain such as this and, at the same time, looking or holding back for me, is what having a friend like him is all about.
Not many weeks ago we were walking amongst dry woodland around glacial meltwater. So, deep in thought, I made my way back to the boat and wondered about living in a cabin on the shores of a mere, surrounded by pine trees, mixed woodland and a little owl for company. Another one of my dreams......
28th Jan 2014, 10:25
23rd Jan 2014, 17:59