Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Late summer at Pewsey.

We've made it as far as Pewsey and tomorrow our Natalie and family are coming up for the weekend. No peace for the wicked and as my old gran would have added, "The righteous don't need any."

Last night we had a pleasant evening in The Waterfront with another Graham, also ex R.N., well Fleet Air Arm, I suppose that counts. A few pints of "Proper Job," up from Cornwall and the world seemed much mellower.
This morning it was hands to cleaning stations, so I turned to with mop and duster. I drew the line at black stockings and frilly apron. Once the boat was gleaming we donned boots and off we went.

 Along an ancient track with views across a drowsing late summer landscape to the Marlborough Downs,

hazy in the sunlight. At the foot of the hills was a field of ripe wheat which seemed to have been used as a practice ground

by some rather amateurish crop circle makers.

The western end of the ridge is scored by terracing, known as strip lynchets. These may date back as far as the iron age and were used for crop growing. It's not clear if they were deliberately built or are the result of soil slip down the slope as the soil is loosened by years of ploughing.

Elegant Georgian manors and homely thatched farms shelter at the base of the downs in this beautiful corner of Wiltshire.
Back at the canal C&RT were busy rebuilding the banks.

The local ducks were taking full advantage of the half completed works.

 No flies on them.

Elephant hawk moth caterpillar crossing the towpath, Jill acted as lollipop lady until he was safely back in the undergrowth.

Thistle flowers seem to be exceedingly attractive to the local insects,

this imposing specimen was buzzing with them.
May be a day or two before I get a chance to put up another post.

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

Monday, 26 August 2013

Butterflies and turnstiles.

We decided to stay another day, it is just so quiet here, no sound of a road and just the occasional airplane going over. Not a lot of boat traffic either, Caen Hill flight is closed as some clot has succeeded in wrecking one of the gates. It just doesn't pay to drive your boat into the gates, inclined to be somewhat embarrassing.
Another stroll was called for so we set off vaguely in the direction of  Alton Barnes.

 We were delighted to find that the good weather had brought out the butterflies, like this beautifully coloured small tortoiseshell.

At Alton Barnes there is a charming little Saxon church.

On the wall inside there is a copy of the Ten Commandments which reminded me of the story of the parson who awoke one morning to find that his bicycle was missing. Thinking it to have been stolen he decided that, on the coming Sunday, he would preach a sermon on the Commandments, stressing the eighth, "Thou shalt not steal." On the appointed day he set off in fine style, lambasting the sinners in the congregation and getting ready for a climax at the eighth. Alas, when he got to the seventh he remembered where he had left his bike.
From there we aimed for Alton Priors using a paved path across a field but the entrance was guarded by the worlds oldest turnstile.

England can always come up with a surprise!

At the other side of the field a bridge over a small stream also had a turnstile protecting it. Suddenly the word turnstile made sense, the device replaced a stile and it turned! Blindingly obvious when you consider it.

The church at Alton Priors is no longer in use and the inside is virtually empty but, below a trap in the floor, there are

these sarsen stones. Along with the presence of a ancient yew tree in the churchyard it suggests that this was a sacred site long before the church was built.
We returned to the boat along the towpath and were gladdened to find even more butterflies. How do they know when you are about to push the button? Because that is when they invariably launch themselves into the air, I have a myriad of pictures of places which butterflies have just vacated.

I managed to get this gatekeeper sunning itself and

a speckled wood sitting on a butterbur leaf.
We may move tomorrow.

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

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Some musings on autumn and WWII.

Sunshine and showers? Just generally grotty summer weather.

Yesterday gave us a colourful sunset but this morning it was grey and miserable with showers coming and going but by midday cabin fever was setting in so we decided to brave the weather and go for a wander.

On the nearest bridge, Woodborough Fields Bridge, we found a remnant of WWII. These huge lumps of concrete were designed to prevent the Nazis' using the bridge to cross the canal. The K&A was part of the G.H.Q. Line which ran from Somerset to Kent and was designed to protect London and the midlands in the event of invasion. I just get the feeling that if they had managed to cross The Channel then a shallow, run down, canal wouldn't have been much of an obstacle, even with the help of these gurt big blocks of concrete.

As we walked around the local lanes it was obvious that autumn was creeping up on us.

We rejoined the towpath at Ladies Bridge, just by the Widewater. Guess what, the graffitists' had been there.

R.N. had been there in 1890 but the highlight

was this beautiful swan, cut into one of the bridge wings. Unfortunately the artist had left no clue as to date but it obviously had some age to it.

More swans tonight,

as the sun dropped behind the hill.

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

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Chimneys and a touch of the African Queen.

As you head east from Devizes you pass some large houses, one of which,

has a fascinating arrangement of chimneys.

This splendid array sits in the centre of the rooves, or is that roofs? Seems to be a matter of some debate with rooves being described as an archaic form. As that is the spelling I learnt in my youth I will remain unapologetically archaic.
Ignoring that, it does indicate an intriguing arrangement of fireplaces in the house.
Parts of this stretch, known as the long pound, are starting to resemble an outtake from The African Queen,

This widebeam certainly struggled to push its way through. Not only is it narrow but desperately shallow as well.

We plodded on until we came to our favoured mooring in the lee of Woodborough Hill with it's beech hanger and Picked, Pecked or Pickled Hill, take your pick. May also have once been called Cocklebury.

We managed to ease in next to a splendid clump of hemp-agrimony with

the long pound stretching out towards Pewsey ahead of us.
We will probably stay here for the bank holiday weekend, just letting the world go by.

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

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Shopping in Devizes.

I swear I've worn about two inches off my legs going too and fro to the market and the shops. We are now fully stocked with everything we need to last us for a while. Wonderful butcher in the town centre, Barnsley chops, pork fillet, nice piece of topside for Sunday and all the other necessities, sausages, real smoked bacon etc. Plus we filled the from the market. Needless to say the wine rack is bulging.

The seventy footer that held us up on the locks, note the roof. Enough balloon fenders for a Thames gin palace. Oh well, everyone to their own I suppose.

C&RT's contractors were working hard cutting the grass up the flight.
Moving on tomorrow to find a country mooring for the Bank Holiday, well away from the popular moorings.

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

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Back at Devizes, with a bit of Tenerife thrown in.

Now back at Devizes, we came up the locks yesterday in the company of a family on their first ever canal boating holiday, it certainly made the work easier and by the top they were handling it like seasoned veterans. Unfortunately it took us six hours as we had a chap in a seventy footer ahead of us and he seemed to be unable to get into the locks without some extraordinary manoeuvres. Entertaining but very slow.
Now for a couple of days shopping, we emptied the victuals locker before we went off on our hols. and this is our first chance to replenish.

Back to Tenerife......

Aqualand, another water park, and young (5) Esme goes off the top board, no hesitation, just a firm grip on the nose and away.

Her cousins, Jonah and Noah, were not slow in following. There was also a dolphin show:

The kids loved it.

Jill and I also got to meet them close up.

You can never get away from the fact that Tenerife is an active volcano, it last erupted in 1909. It didn't stop Jill and I taking an excursion up to the caldera, brave people that we are.

The main peak is 12,198 ft. high,

and the interior of the crater is like a moonscape although a few hardy plants do manage to survive the harsh conditions.

On the way back down we visited the village of Masca, pop. 60, none of our pictures does it justice but the road down to it is to the right of the photo. The hairiest series of hairpins I've ever been down.

If I wasn't grey before I am now.

I won't inflict anymore holiday snaps on you, nothing worse than someone who has just come back from holiday with a shed load of piccies!
My faithful Canon compact went belly up halfway through the holiday so we had to buy a replacement at huge cost. When we got back guess what? Yes, the Canon resurrected itself and is now working perfectly, so we now have a spare Nikon compact. You couldn't make it up.

The tan is fading already.

Watch this space.......