Monday, 29 July 2013

Summer is back, rain, thunder, wouldn't be surprised at a plague of locusts.

The beer fest went well, the sun shone, there were a dozen beers and three ciders and all was going well when, with no formal notice, we were hit by a sudden squall. Luckily some of us managed to grab the frame of the beer tent before it soared away. Horizontal rain and howling wind, there was nothing for it, we grabbed the beer and legged it into reception where, in true British fashion, we continued where we had left off. All in all it was a jolly good party.
Sunday was spent quietly.
Today was just a quick trip into Devizes for a bit of shopping.

Make of it what you will, I can only hope there was once a snuff mill in the area, other connotations are too nasty to consider.

I've put this in because I don't think anyone would be too impressed with a picture of Morrisons.
We've been enjoying a rousing thunderstorm for the last two hours, really looking forward to Tenerife next week.
Hopefully we are all ready, apart from the packing, I try to avoid getting roped into that. Jill is so much better at it than me and I never seem to get it right if I try to help, much better if I just offer the occasional bit of advice.

Watch this space..............

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Stonehenge. Nothing to do with Druids.

I'm sure everyone has been delighted by the neolithic theme of the last few posts. So we just had to visit the most famous of them all,

along with what seemed like a meeting of the United Nations. It was a case of spot the Brit.

Stonehenge, the place that gave it's name to "Henge" structures throughout Britain. Except that Stonehenge isn't a henge. It's a stone circle. It's a fantastic place. Unfortunately, because of the pressure of the number visitors, you don't get the atmosphere of the place. We visited it one autumn day nearly forty years ago, we were the only people there, there were no restrictions and you could wander amongst the stones, it felt special then. Now it might as well be Disney.

The Slaughter Stone, so called because at one time it was believed that it was a Druidic sacrificial altar where, presumably, helpless virgins were slaughtered. It is just another fallen stone and Stonehenge had been out of use for over a thousand years before the Druids turned up. Good story though. Modern druidism and paganism are the invention of some rather unpleasant characters in the 19thC.  Not knocking them though, they've got a good scam going, selling bits of rock, sorry, crystals, and various useless "cures" to the gullible. "Never give a sucker an even break", as W.C. Fields once said.

 No comment on this one, except that the young lad had the sort of look on his face that said, "Is she for real?"

Meanwhile the A303 was as usual on a summer weekend.
Today the marina has a mini beer festival so I must finish this post and prepare.

Watch this space..........

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Sorry, it's more prehistory.

More on the stone theme. This morning it was back up the A361 to Avebury for a quick look at the bit we missed yesterday.

The West Kennet Avenue, a processional way(?) from Avebury to another stone circle known as The Sanctuary, unfortunately nothing remains of the circle, just some modern markers.
The Avenue was originally 1.2 miles long, not much left now.

Archaeological dig taking place on the only domestic site in the whole area. They had brought their own conveniences with them,

Patsy and Edina must be branching out.
We moved on and parked just across from

the enigmatic Silbury Hill. The largest prehistoric mound in Europe. It seems to have taken about 400 years to finish. I've come across building firms like that and I bet the final cost was way above the original quote.
On top of the hill opposite is the West Kennet Long Barrow.

A chambered tomb.

In the five chambers that make up the tomb they found the remains of about thirty six people.
Someone had found a new use for the place. As we wandered in for a look we got shouted at by its present inhabitants.

They had a nest in the first chamber and did not appreciate our intrusion.

The local "pagans" had been there, probably in between sessions of stone hugging and crop circle spotting.

Crop circle made by an unambitious alien? Spotted from the top of the barrow.

We tried a spot of stone hugging.
I definitely felt something,
I had knelt on a thistle.

Watch this space.................

Heavy rock with The Stones.

As we've got a few days to get through before we're off we are doing a bit of sightseeing. Yesterday we went neolithic/early bronze age.

Avebury henge and stone circles. The largest prehistoric stone circle in the Britain and it is impressive. This is the bank and ditch of the henge. The ditch, when first dug, was up to thirty feet deep with near vertical sides, all dug with deer antler picks.

Aerial view of the site, the village buildings give an idea of the scale of the place

and this shows the size of the stones. The lady holding the stone up is the National Trust archaeologist who gave a group of us a most interesting tour. This particular stone is called the Swindon Stone, only because it stands beside the Swindon road.

Artists impression of how it looked when new built. Most of the stones are now missing, many of them broken up for building material and quite a few just thrown down and buried in the post medieval period. Nobody knows why they did this, lots of theories from simple field clearance to destroying pagan sites for religious reasons.

Of course no one knows why it was built in the first place, it's put down to that good old catch all, ritual.
Fortunately it is big enough to lose the tourists, so even with a few hundred wandering about it doesn't seem crowded,

I will refrain from sarcastic comments about tourists, especially as we currently answer to that description.

Watch this space..........

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Swindon, at least they have an M&S.

We made it to Swindon to kit ourselves out for our hols. and to change our valuable pounds into Mickey Mouse money, a.k.a. Euros.

It's sad how, if you blindfolded someone and dropped them into any town in Britain, they would not be able to name the town.

The council offices have a certain amount of architectural credibility.

On a sultry day the local youngsters appreciated a water feature, but all in all it's a bit bland. Of course we only saw a little bit of the town, perhaps we missed the best bits. At least, contrary to expectations, we didn't get mugged. Sorry, is that town stereotyping?
Good feature, the parking is reasonable, four hours for two quid.

Watch this space........

Monday, 22 July 2013

The necessity of new clothes.

Settled in the marina, collected the hire car and tomorrow we start the shopping that apparently needs to be done before we set off for Tenerife. My shirts have been ok for the last ten years, so why do I need new ones just to go to Tenerife? Same goes for shorts, they might not be the latest style but they are practical, if a little faded. If I cut off the loose threads the fraying will hardly notice.
Looks like the hot weather is on it's way out, thunderstorms tomorrow?

The sky is certainly looking threatening.

Watch this space.........

Friday, 19 July 2013

Well done our Noah.

Yesterday morning and up Seend Locks, like so much else on this lovely canal they are in need of some t.l.c.

No date yet for repairs.

Apparently they had two incidents in one day of narrowboats, well festooned with fenders, becoming wedged in the gates, in one case it took them seven and a half hours to extract them. Moral: don't festoon your boat with fenders.
In the afternoon we were collected by daughter Cairstine and whisked off to grandson Noah's theatrical extravaganza to celebrate leaving junior school.

The smug grin of the consummate performer. He had the plum part,

Master of ceremonies

and link man.

They all did brilliantly, good on them.
Cairstine then treated us to a slap up meal in the local Thai restaurant. The Blue Orchid. Worth a punt if you're ever in Marlborough and feeling peckish.
Into the marina tomorrow.

Watch this space.......

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Early morning and a touch of varnish.

We are just killing time before Armadillo gets tucked up in the marina and we jet off to the sun. Typical that when we book a foreign holiday the sun comes out here and it's probably hotter here than in Tenerife.

Yesterday we came past the site of the former junction of the K&A and the Wilts. and Berks. Canal at Semington. Another active restoration project, although how they intend getting it through Swindon I'm not sure. When it finally reopens it will be a lovely rural canal, 52 miles and 42 locks, joining the Thames at Abingdon. I reckon I will have shuffled off this mortal coil long before that happens.

This is what the world looked like at 0515 today.

By 0615 it looked like this and if you are wondering what I was doing peering at the world at that time of the morning I'll give you a clue.

Just indulging in a touch of the piscatorial art. Caught a few bream and roach. At 0845 the first boat of the day passed and the pull from the locks stared to play havoc, dragging the float all over the shop, so I packed up and retired on board for brekkies.

By this time the world looked like this and the heat was starting to build.

After the morning snack I put another coat of varnish on a rather tired looking panel, definitely not one of my talents, but it doesn't look too bad if you don't look too closely. Notice the shortness of the hirsute appendages, trimmed back for coolness.
Spent the rest of the day wrestling with the complexities of booking a hotel at Gatwick and booking in on the flight, online.
What a busy day I've had.

Watch this space...........

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Our trip to Bath and a treat for any antipodeans who come across this post.

Hooray, we eventually got as far as Bath down what is probably the poshest stretch of canal in Britain.

Sydney Gardens and Cleveland House Tunnels.

Having got this far we winded and made our way back. At Bathwick there is a length of seventy two hour moorings, ideal for anyone wishing to visit the city.

What a pity they are taken up by boats that obviously haven't moved for quite a while. Continuous cruising, Kennet & Avon style. Definitely no welcome for visitors.
So now we are near Bathampton, enjoying the sunshine. We lunched at The George, excellent burgers. I know it's not haute cuisine but, although the menu looked excellent, we didn't want anything heavy because of the heat. The Thwaites Wainwright Bitter was spot on as well.

As is our wont we wandered over to the church, it turned out to be the coolest spot for miles. We always try to explore the church wherever we stop, not that we have any religious convictions but the church and churchyard carry the history of the people of the area. Plus they often have really quirky architecture.

This one contained the tomb of Arthur Phillip, commanding officer of The First Fleet, the one that took the first convicts to Australia. There is an Australia Chapel in commemeration of the event.
As we bimbled back to the boat the towpath took us under Bathampton Bridge and, oh my, wow.

As the canal opened in 1810, whoever IL was carved his initials into the bridge when it was built. Probably not a navvy as they were usually illiterate, so possibly the contractor in charge of building?

These are masons marks, as the stone masons cut each stone to size they put their mark on it so they would be paid for the number of blocks they produced. The marks are invariably made up of straight lines because they are easier to carve. I have seen patterns identical to these carved in granite on Dartmoor and on stones in the locks on the Macclesfield and Peak Forest canals. I suppose there are only so many patterns you can carve quickly into a stone block so duplication is inevitable. Possibly the masons were told which mark they would use when they started on a new contract, so the marks were not personal, just standard issue.
We will never know who cut these marks but they are a link going back to the people who built our canals. Well I find it fascinating.

Watch this space..........