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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

The body is too big for the head.

 Hooray....we woke to sun. Finally, a decent day for our trip to Chirk Castle. 

I must just say that the meal last night was brilliant, but they don't seem to know about portion sizes. My Scampi and chips nearly overflowed the plate. I counted 14 scampi, normally I would have had about 7 or 8 pieces. No way could I finish it all, and Ian's fish and chips was equally large. Thank goodness we didn't have a starter. In my opinion, they would get more return on serving smaller potions because folk may choose a starter or desert as well. That's more money per person for the proprietor. Anyway, I couldn't fault the service and the food was delicious, so the Holland Arms was one place I would recommend, even though it was off the beaten track.

It took nearly 2 hours to get to Wrexham, road works scuppered the preferred route and the sat nav kept trying to turn us around and go down the road that was closed. Back to a paper map, then, at least one can get a rough idea of different routes.

Arriving at the castle entrance, wow, such wonderful impressive gates.

 

The road bypassed those gates, instead took us up a lane leading across the estate. Gosh the place was big, I read somewhere that the castle sits in 480 acres, plenty of exploring to do then. 

We had a bit of time on our hands as the castle didn't open to the public until midday, so a stop at the cafรฉ for tea first.  

Not sure what I expected when entering, at first everywhere seemed dark and dingy but to think this place was built in the 13th century by Roger Mortimer and later furnished by the Myddelton family as far back as the 16th century, it has every right to appear dingy. Going further into the rooms and one can see the different styles of furnishing as the families taste changed throughout the decades.


Having tackled all those steps at South Stack,  you would think we would have learnt our lesson about exploring the dungeons and upper rooms 'cos loads more steps to go down and climb, and all time-worn and very uneven.


 I had to do it...to good an opportunity to miss.


We both suffered, Ian with that hamstring and me with my knees but never one to quit, teeth was gritted and pain put on the back burner. It was a relief to climb that final step and head off for the gardens.

They were magnificent! One of the best gardens we have seen in a long time. These photos do not do it justice.




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The road back to MB was down hill. Both find going down painful, so we requested a shuttle bus. Yep, we have finally succumbed to old age and creaking joints!

Tomorrow we head for FS. Hopefully for only a couple of days but how I will feel after having that wisdom tooth out, well only time will tell. This then will be the last post until we set off again and go 'op north' to Northumberland, we do so love it there.

Just a little teaser to all you narrow boaters out there. Where do you think we have stayed tonight?


And wildlife,




 

Monday, 27 June 2022

The hunt for the Reds

 On our walk to the harbour late afternoon, I spied a paddleboarder. Something strange about it though. Then suddenly out of the water it rose. I have heard of hoverboards, but have never seen one. Pretty neat, I thought. Would I like to have a go on one? With my balance problems, most definitely not!





Back to MB just in time before we got drenched. We had battled against the wind during the walk and my goodness those gusts. Met office predicted 50mph along the coast, and they weren't wrong.  And then the sheer amount of rain....washed off the poo deposited from all those gulls yesterday, so very pleased about that. I had mentioned that the night before we had hardly slept a wink, but last night, well it was not too bad, maybe we were just too tired and nothing but an explosion would have stirred our butts! Anyway, we awoke to rain this morning, and very rough seas. Looked across the bay and caught this wave as it came rose up toward the lighthouse. 

Not a good day for venturing out, and we 'ummed and ahed' about what to do. I really wanted to see the Red Squirrels and a place called the Dingles had been recommended. So even though it was tipping it down, we headed off.

Waterproofs and walking shoes were required, and I did worry about slipping on the wet paths, not as sure-footed as I once was, it was okay though, because the first part of the walk was on a boardwalk and the rest on a paved path. So, straining our necks up into the wooded canopy, we hoped for a glimpse of a red body and tail, but it was not to be. We both came to the conclusion that if we had been squirrels, no way would we have got out of a nice warm dray on a day like this.

There was a feeding station tucked away in the trees. If squirrel food was in it, we would hang around for a while to see if any came. Up Ian clambered, even with that dodgy leg, and confirmed that it was indeed filled to the brim with black sunflower seeds. 

So we waited, all of 10 minutes, but the rain was relentless and we gave up as a bad job.
 


Lunch was had in the Dingles car park, the weather also appeared to be improving but instead of heading back into the woods, we drove to Newborough Forest in Newborough. Apparently this is a hot spot for the squirrels, and although I still desperately wanted to see one, I wasn't going to raise my hopes.

Pulled into one of the many forest car parks, which happened to have a squirrel sign by the entrance, and  I couldn't believe our luck because the first thing we saw by a feeder, a squirrel! 



A sign by a path showed a circular 1.5 mile Red squirrel walk. Would there be more to see? Well no, it was a nice walk, though, now the rain had stopped. 



Tonight we stopped at The Holland Arms, Conwy, another Brit stop. The journey to it took us over the Menai bridge, which was designed by Thomas Telford. It was opened in 1826 and was the World’s first iron suspension bridge. 



 


A meal was booked for 18.30, could have just gone for a drink (it's the done thing to put money behind the bar if staying the night) but decided as it was our last but one night in Wales, we would treat ourselves.

Tomorrow we head for a place very well known to us on FS. Chirk! Off to see the castle and gardens and preying the weather will finally improve.

And wildlife today,






Sunday, 26 June 2022

Step after step after step...on and on it went, just to get to a lighthouse.

 One very big downside to parking at the yacht club....so very windy that all we could hear was the boat's rigging beating against the mainmast and with intermittent howling and whistling, sleep was nie on impossible. MB continually rocked and shuddered, and a distinct knocking came from the satellite dish. All in all too very weary eyed people surfaced very early this morning, if we had 4 hours sleep we were lucky.

As I've mentioned before, the early bird gets the parking spot and with it being a weekend, we knew the RSPB at South Stack would probably be chocker block. Such was the case because by 10 am nearly every spot had been taken. We wanted to go up the lighthouse, a notice on the kiosk window said closed. Blast....but then a very nice lady popped out and said she had forgotten to take down the sign. Mind you, I did wonder if the high winds would be an issue. Forecasted for gusts over 50mph, wouldn't it become dangerous? Well, we were told the gusts at the moment were under 40mph, so that was okay. Two tickets purchased as OAP's for £12. 

OMG. The walk down to the lighthouse was impossible, not because of the 400 steps leading down, but because of that wind. I could hardly stand at times and if it wasn't for a wall surrounding the steps...well I might be history now. Half we down, we stopped to look for the Puffins. We were assured they were on a grassy bit on a rocky outcrop. Well, could we find any... Not one hide nor hair of them could be found! My disappointment was great! Plenty of razor bills, guillemots and Kittiwakes but no bl**dy Puffins!!! Continuing down and it's a good job this isn't smelly vision! The smell of thousands of seabirds guano was nearly overpowering. The wind in our direction didn't help either.


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Onwards to the lighthouse, down some very steep metal steps, over an aluminium bridge and then up to be met by a guide.

 


 From there we ascended a steep spiral staircase which ended up as an almost vertical ladder to the top. The only way was to hang onto the handrail and make very sure to return down them backwards.  Goodness knows how many steps in total, I didn't count, but another 100 at least. The guide was brilliant, told why the lighthouse came to be, how it worked and how this particular place was also haunted. I took this excerpt from the whole world or nothing 

 In 1859 there was a particularly violent storm which is now believed would have been classed as a hurricane. It wrecked devastation, claiming 800 lives in 200 shipwrecks. Including that of the Royal Charter which had 500 on board.

Unfortunately one of the keepers, John Jack Jones, was also killed by falling rock as he was heading on to duty.

The story goes that he dragged himself part way along the path, but his cries were drowned out by the battering wind and rain and he wasn’t found until the next morning. And that it is his ghost who now haunts South Stack lighthouse.

It was visited by the team from Most Haunted, a British reality TV series that investigates paranormal activity in different locations and they certainly thought so.





 

That journey back to the top of the cliff, my muscles felt every one of the 400 steps. Ian seemed to suffer more because of his hamstring, we stopped often! Why do we do it? I ask that to myself often! Anyway, the push the wind gave us helped, but it took a lot longer going up than it did down.

 

Back to the visitor centre for a bite to eat. I fancied a sausage roll and was shocked with the price of £5. But when it arrived, it was huge, also homemade with coleslaw and salad on the side, so I suppose the price wasn't as bad as first thought.

We almost tossed a coin, leave for the Dingles, Llangefni and those Red Squirrels or go for a cliff path walk. Judging by the amount of cars in the car park, we believed the Dingles car park would probably be the same, parking MB would be impossible, so we plumped for the walk.

Bad move! The first part had steps, but from then on it was clambering over boulders and climbing up steep paths. It was the sheer strength of that wind that made me suggest turning back. I felt most unsteady with those gusts. Ian was more than pleased, confided that he was unsure how much further he could have gone with the pain in his leg. So back we went and as we passed the entrance to the lighthouse, noticed the closed sign was up. Yep, those gusts had reached 50 mph and the cliff walk down or up would have been too dangerous. Good job we did it first thing then!





 I left Ian at MB. In the distance, I had spied what I thought to be those Choughs. Another walk down in the direction of those birds, crikey, a long way down again!

That's MB, the white blob, middle right.

I did see those Choughs, not on the ground but flying. To see a decent photo (not one of mine) of the bird click HERE

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A Heather wonderland.

Ever the glutton for punishment, we headed back to that park 4 night at the yacht club again. It was much to late to find somewhere else to stop, and we knew if we left it too late, nothing would be found. The only saving grace was the wind seemed to have changed direction slightly, and the fact we have moved to a different place helped.  Ian had also secured a towel over the Houdini, which seems to have deadened the noise somewhat. Only time will tell if we get a better night sleep tonight.!

And wildlife today



 




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