Saturday, May 26, 2012

Deer deer

My defences against the predations of deer in the Hollow are getting ever more elaborate:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Back on Derg

The new Meelick Bridge

We brought the boat to Meelick Lock (properly known as Victoria Lock after the old English queen) with a plan to cycle to Banagher to pick up the car. First I took the dogs for a walk across the car-width timber bri..... no! Wait a minute. The bridge was no longer timber but had been reconstructed from concrete. The land around was scarred and open.

There was a new sign too, on the other side of the bridge.

This type of sign makes me feel immediately guilty. I hadn't, after all, been authorised by anyone to pass this sign. Did having a boat on the jetty secure my access? Joe is quite different. To him a sign like this is a challenge.

Concrete and clearings

The dogs didn't care anyway. There are advantages to not being able to read.

This bridge crosses a section of the Shannon - the bit that doesn't rush through the weir above Victoria Lock. It looks like a broad canal here, but it is river, widened in an attempt to alleviate the regular winter floods - Meelick is in the Callows, the flood plain of the River Shannon. I don't think it was terribly successful. Such a lot of water needing somewhere to flood into.

Cloonaheenogue Canal

Onto the bikes and we followed a small backroad along the banks of the old canal for a while, though this waterway is hardly reconisable as a canal - only the straightness gives it away.

Here it is from one of the bridges that crosses into farmland.

Cloonaheenogue Canal was the original Shannon navigation built in 1755 by Thomas Omer to bypass the Keelogue rapids at Meelick. There is an old lock too, and a lock house (still lived in). You can easily get confused by the many channels of water running towards Lough Derg from Meelick.

Bonfire barbie

In Meelick we'd frozen, but had a barbecue anyway. I wore 49 layers and we kept the barbecue going with the many hedge cuttings piled beside the road that goes to the lock.

In order to easily cycle back for the car from our planned next stop at Portumna, we needed to leave the car on the western side - the roads to the east of the river were too circuitous. Meelick Quay would do the trick, a short distance upstream, so I drove there via Banagher while Joe brought the boat. Here she comes:

Winter Solstice close
Winter Solstice closer
Winter Solstice closest

Back on Derg
In Portumna the weather changed to almost balmy. About time - it is nearly June for heaven's sake. We tucked into a corner of Castle Harbour, great for walking the dogs and for counting camper vans. There were more vans than boats when we arrived. There's even a sign asking van owners not to park next to the harbour wall.

It was good to be back on Derg after a two-year absence. The views are always magnificent.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

From Shannonbridge

Aoife on the aft deck at Shannonbridge.
Since having the new bicycles we've been doing a lot less cruising, but it doesn't matter. When you're on the river each place you stop could be a hundred miles away from the last. This time we started off in Shannonbridge with the plan to leave the boat in Portumna as the next stage on our way south. We arrived to the boat on a cold but dry Friday evening - always a relief to have no rain when transporting goods from car to boat.

I cooked on board, the usual favourite of penne pasta with a tomatoey sauce, easy to do on a two-ring stove. I'm enjoying the re-arranged galley even though it has yet to be tiled - a job for closer to home. Too tricky keeping a newly tiled surface dry when it's next to the sink.

Looking across the river from the cockpit.
 After dinner there was the joy of a long bright evening followed by a river sunset. And then there was Killeen's, the tavern at the top of the Main Street much loved by visitors for its eccentricity - a shop that sells everything being taken over as part of the pub, the handwritten signs pinned up everywhere, the games, the snuff catapult (use your imagination).

There are those who think this is all a ridiculous affectation, something to attract the tourists, which I suppose it is to an extent, but Killeen's is a true family run pub making a good living, and it is one of the friendliest bars on the waterway. Whiskey and chat on the first night of a weekend away. Just the business.

Power station or mirage?

There's always a background noise in Shannonbridge from the power station. We walked the dogs before bed alongside the river, the power station all lit up across the field.

Wiinter Solstice second boat back on the right.

Next morning the best way to unfuzz the slightly thick head was to get on the bikes. We took them on the car rack to a bridge on the Grand Canal a couple of kilometres from Shannon Harbour and cycled back to the boat. Then Winter Solstice to Shannon Harbour below the lock for lunch and onto Banagher. We'd cycle from here to pick up the car. But what was going on?

Banagher Harbour on Saturday afternoon.

The harbour was full. Not just normally full but boats doubled up full. Damn. How would we get the car now? But there was a space. A skinny little gap in the corner behind a marker. We slipped in at the back of a big cruiser whose skipper assured us there was enough depth. And there we were. Off on the bikes to pick up the car. It was on the way back we saw the signs. The Munster Fleadh was in town and there was to be riverside music that night. This was the explanation for all the boats.

Dome and dancers.
It was getting increasingly windy as we watched the practice from the boat. A blow-up dome had appeared, and a wooden platform. On the platform was flowing gold, pleated wings caught by the wind and wrapped around the gyrating dancers. It looked quite beautiful.

Later on when the real thing began we got a closer look. It was very pretty, but not as ethereal as those first gold dancers in the distance.

And that was as far as we got. The wind rose throughout the night, but didn't worry us. We were well tucked in the corner and protected. The next morning we considered our position. There were now three big cruisers rafted behind. There was a marker post a metre out from midships. A gale was blowing us onto the wall. There was no sign of life from the boats behind. It wouldn't be easy getting out at all. And actually, wasn't the boat safe here? We could leave her for the week, come back next weekend to bring her down Lough Derg. And I did have a huge amount of garden work to do.

Decision made.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Storms and sunshine on the boat

Hail stones. Thunder. Navy blue sky and lightning. I couldn't get out of the boat in this. It had been beautiful all the way down from Athlone. I was bringing the boat while Joe did train and bike, and just as I turned into the new Shannonbridge jetties it started. By the time I'd turned the boat to face upstream the decks were white with hail. I waited. And waited. Good thing the engine was going so the dogs didn't get in a tiz with the thunder.

Finally there was a break, but it was going to be small. There was another half-sky of navy blue coming. Safely tied up and it all started again. But at least I could relax now and wait for Joe.

So we're back south. We left Albert Marina on Saturday for the last time and did bike and car shuttling as far as Tarmonbarry. Here's the beauty without her covers in the sunshine.

And that's all I'm writing for now. More will appear in my IWN article, but that won't be online for a while. And I'm in a fierce rush. I have to get ready to go back up to Shannonbridge so we can bring Winter Solstice back to Lough Derg. Garden stuff to do. Things to pack.

More after the weekend.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The new bridge

The bridge
We've a new bridge in the garden. It doesn't go anywhere except to the Other Side.  I love it. Every day on my way along the riverside after walking the dogs I cross it. Or sometimes I stand on it and watch the water go underneath. I haven't done it yet when the river is roaring, but I'm planning to.

Everything is growing. The potatoes were showing through, leaves a bit scorched by frost, so I earthed them up yesterday. Good to see a tidy row of ridges. Tried to weed in the polytunnel (completely weeded before, though you'd hardly know it) but it was Too Hot. Unbelievable. I had all the fires in the house lit on Tuesday I was so cold.

The first of May, Bealtaine, makes summer official, but I knew it by the first midge bites and nettle stings. There are tiny little nettles hiding in among the strawberries in the polytunnel ready to sting the barehanded weeder, and it's too hot in there for gloves. Dock leaf balm at the ready.

Slightly out-of-focus orchid

The first early purple orchid is flowering on the bank in the Hollow.  There are bluebells everywhere and the common spurge is taking over - that's what's in focus in the orchid photo.

Small beginnings

The greenhouse is getting full. I had to turf out the overwintered terracotta pots today to make room for the staging extension. The runner beans seeds are in pots - the timing is always a challenge with the beans as you can't plant them out until all chance of frost is passed which means the first week of June. Put them in too soon and they're twining themselves around other plants, the spade handle, the staging itself while your back is turned. Put them in too late and you've lost valuable growing time, though to be honest they always catch up.

 A few pretty pictures of the garden:



Auntie Sybil's azalea, resurrected