The sun was shining when I awoke this morning, joined quickly by the realisation that our next canal barge holiday was upon us. But, before I could get too excited, I had to take our four-legged midshipman for his morning constitutional.
Little did Jerry know that just after we were to get back from our early walk, he would be bundled up into the back of the car and wedged in amongst the many (so many!) essential items that we simply just had to take away with us.
As always our Midshipman was politely accepting of his lot in life, and proceeded to curl up on the back seat, whilst the Captain navigated, and I drove.
In what felt like no time at all, we were at our first pit stop of this holiday (before we’d even picked up the canal barge): Skenfrith Castle.
This castle is now just a shell of a place, a large shell though, with a single, circular tower at its heart. It made for a worthwhile start to the trip, and gave us one more location to tick off as “visited” in the National Trust book.
We checked out the nearby ancient church as well, looking for photo opportunities whilst the sun was shining. The building looked more like a dovecote than anything else, but there wasn’t very much in the way of visual interest on the inside.
Jerry, however, enjoyed a few minutes of sunbathing before we drove off to our second location (we thought we’d make the most of the morning, given that we couldn’t pick up the boat until around 2PM).
This second location turned out to be Weir Garden, just back over the border into England. It’s a small country walk (no dogs allowed, so Jerry had to wait behind – giving him a chance to study the canal map and get his bearings), and would probably be lovely either slightly earlier in the year (when the daffodils are in bloom), or slightly later (when the remaining spring flowers have really kicked in). But we made the most of it. The river Wye runs parallel to the garden walk, and it looked beautiful in the dazzling light.
By this time my tummy was definitely starting to rumble, so we picked up some sandwiches in nearby Hereford (which appears to have roadworks on every single street) and munched our way through them whilst heading to the boat yard.
Checking in at the boat yard involved confirming our names, enjoying a delightful practical demonstration of how canal locks work (the Captain was especially pleased with being taught how to suck eggs, as you can imagine), and finally standing around watching the obligatory canal safety video. Twice. The first time I tried to skip through it when no one was looking, but unfortunately the trick didn’t work as the boat yard attendant simply played it again!
Then, after the Captain did a sterling job squirrelling away all of our belongings, we were on the water and under way. Babychams all around, hurrah!
Talking of squirrelling, Midshipman Jerry had the huge and unenviable task of ensuring that the hundreds of squirrels that live alongside the canal kept their distance. He did a very good job, not a single grey furry creature made it onto the boat.
The Monmouthshire and Brecon canal is, as we have discovered today, very narrow and very shallow. This has resulted in two distinct situations.
One, there has been a lot of necessary pole work (thrusting a long wooden pole into the solid side of the canal, and pushing with all your might) just to get the boat to turn sharply enough to get around the corners.
Two, we have had to walk the plank tonight for the very first time. The canal is so shallow at the edges that you simply cannot moor up close to the bank!
Well, we have tied up now, had tea, taken Jerry for a walk, and now it’s getting close to settling down time.
It has been a very good start to this trip, let’s see what the next few days have in store.