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IMG_1022_resize_0.jpg After emerging from a very cold winter, we looked forward to a holiday break in Scotland. In April we boarded a train in the company of our friends Sally and Mark and family and headed north to Falkirk. Our aim? To ‘do’ the Falkirk wheel, one of the ten top features of the canal system.

The Falkirk wheel was designed to link the Union Canal (which links Falkirk to Edinburgh) to the Forth & Clyde Canal (linking Falkirk to Glasgow) which lay 35m below it. In the past these two canals had been joined at Falkirk by a flight of 11 locks that stepped down over 1.5 km, but these locks were dismantled in 1933 thereby breaking the link between the canals. The objective for the ambitious Millennium project was to restore navigability across Scotland and provide a corridor through central Scotland.  The project was completed and officially opened in May 2002. This one-of-a-kind rotating boat lift is a magnificent feat of engineering and we wanted to experience it.

The canal system in England doesn’t link to the canals in Scotland so we had no way of getting our boat to Falkirk other than by road. We did the next best thing and hired a narrowboat (Kimberly II) on the Forth & Clyde Canal. The weather was great and the scenery spectacular, not to mention the extraordinary experience of the wheel itself.

Sharing a boat with another family is not easy at the best of times and many a friendship has been broken by such an attempt so it was testimony to the strength of our friendship that we were still talking to each other at the end of the week despite the fact that Ian spilt a tin of tuna (in oil) on the galley floor and Sally spent an hour and a half cleaning it up for him.


The week was crammed with activities besides the boating. We visited the Royal Yacht Britannia and spent a day immersed in ‘How the other half live’ and followed that up with a day at Edinburgh castle. We had time for shopping and lots of eating out – much to the detriment of our expanding waistlines.

But the point of the Scotland trip was to experience the wheel as well as the canals. Our boat had a lovely layout – for tourism that is, and coped very well with all of us; however the guys were not impressed with the performance. The boat had been fitted with an extraordinary small propeller which meant that the engine was revving on the high side and we were going nowhere. Even by canal standards, the pace was extremely slow. Although it irked a little, it certainly didn’t spoil the holiday and the warm weather was a bonus.

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All too soon it was time to board the train and return home. ‘Home’ was experiencing a mini heat wave and Easter took on an almost summer like atmosphere which was quite a contrast to the snowbound Easter Sunday of last year.

Back to work again and we could only dream of our next adventure which was scheduled for July. Ian had work to do on the boat in preparation for the summer while I continued to commute to the office and back. Sadly, an incident at work left me with no choice but to admit that I was not as fit as I thought I was and made me realise that I still had a long way to go to fight the side effects of the cancer treatment. On the bright side, it gave me more time to spend on the boat with Ian.


 

At the beginning of July, we left the marina for an epic adventure and didn’t return till mid-September. Our aim was to take Winedown to the Inland Waterways boat festival, meeting up with Sally and Mark on their boat Liberty along the way. We were able to spend a lovely summer with friends and family alike and even managed to introduce Chris and Jo (Ian’s daughter and son-in-law) to the delights of boating.


The trip wasn’t all plain sailing I must admit. On the very first day, the gear linkage on the engine broke and we were forced to call on the services of a welder with a mobile unit. In no time at all he had us on our way again. Fortunately, with the exception of a small breakdown when the impeller on the generator’s raw water intake failed, the mechanical and electrical systems held up very well. I even tried out the washing machine with some satisfactory results.


IMG_1353_resize_0.jpg Our excursion, which later proved to be 487 miles, 353 locks, 26 movable bridges and 9 tunnels took us 217 cruising hours at an average speed of 2.2 mph. This was the first long trip that tested all the fixtures and fittings that we have installed over the past 4 years. We started off on the Kennet & Avon canal and went down to the river Thames. Turing north we followed the Thames to the South Oxford canal, traversed the South Oxford to the Grand Union then onto the North Oxford before continuing onto the Coventry, Birmingham & Fazely and finally onto the Trent & Mersey where the IWA boat festival was held at Burton-on-Trent. On our return after following it northward we left the Trent & Mersey at Great Heyward to navigate the Staffordshire & Worcestershire canal to Dudley. From there we joined the Birmingham Canal Navigation (BCN) through the heart of Birmingham (where we moored for a couple of days) then back to the Grand Union via the Stratford canal, heading southeast to Brentford. We rode the tide from Brentford upriver to Teddington on the Thames then enjoyed the delights of the Thames for a further 15 days before returning to the Kennet & Avon canal.

IMG_1198_resize_0.jpg We learned a lot along the way and if you thought that navigating the canal system was easy, think again. We found ourselves in some tight spots at times. Bridge 35on the North Oxford canal was a tiny bit over 7ft wide and Winedown is 6ft  10inches. That didn’t leave a lot of room for error.

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The grandchildren spent a week with us and were a tremendous help to us, learning the ropes very quickly.


IMG_1310_resize_0.jpg On the Grand Union canal where the locks could accommodate two boats abreast, Sally and I became really proficient at getting the two boats in and out of locks together, in order to save time, while the guys and children worked hard at filling and emptying locks.

Sunset15_1.jpg We made the most of fresh produce that we found in the countryside. Maddy Forth showed us how to recognise horseradish in the wild and I made some amazing horseradish sauce to go with the Sunday roast beef or even smoked salmon. It made a good base for dips too.

In Mid-August, we left Winedown at Harefield Marina near Rickmansworth and returned home for a couple of weeks. This gave us time to catch up with the real world although I must admit that with modern technology, we were never really out of contact.

At the beginning of September, we donned our ‘Glad Rags’ and enjoyed a splendid Diamond Wedding Anniversary celebration weekend with Ivor and Shiela and their friends and family. The well-orchestrated Saturday started with Champagne and cake at their house and continued at the Cave Castel hotel where a superb dinner was served. At the end of the weekend, Ivor and Shiela joined us on Winedown for a relaxing week on the River Thames. The evenings were drawing in by that time but we were still treated to some spectacular sunsets.

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Since returning home, we have renewed efforts to sell the cottage. A new agent was intended to bring in more prospects; however 1 viewing in 5 weeks was not exactly what we had in mind. Best laid plans? We certainly hope that next year will bring better luck.

Seeing my book ‘Dreams Really Do Come True’ in print was a highlight and I have had some excellent reviews, however, I need to get to grips with marketing strategies if I am to get more copies sold. I have learned quite a bit about turning the printed word into eBook format but obviously I have a lot more to learn. So if you or your friends haven’t yet secured a copy, it is still available Amazon.co.uk. 


IMAG0132_1.jpg As November drew to a close, we awaited, with great anticipation, the arrival of a new addition to our extended family. Jo and her husband Chris were expecting their first baby on 28th November. With much courage, they decided to leave the baby’s gender a surprise, which only added speculation to the excitement. They also elected to keep the baby’s name a secret until they have given it to baby. So with this air of expectancy (excuse the pun) I put my fingers to work and began knitting to welcome the tiny bundle into our world. 

Baby Hollie Seren Mackin was born on  Sunday 27th November. ..And the child that is born on the Sabbath day shall be Bonny and Blythe and Good and Gay...
Mum Jo and baby Hollie are doing well and proud dad Chris can hardly keep the grin off his face. Congratulations to the happy trio. 

 

Christmas will soon be with us. The days are short and chilly but the Christmas season is in full swing. Mulled wine in front of a cosy blazing fire is certainly the order of the day. So to all our friends and family, we wish you peace and prosperity and a very happy Christmas and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

Love and God's richest blessings to you all,

Cherryl & Ian


 
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