‘Neptunes Staircase’

Friday 25th April

Friday was, as suggested in my previous post, a full on ‘Domestics Day’ with me being assigned to the ‘Blue‘ duties such as the emptying and filling, as appropriate, of the on-board tanks followed by a good wash of both ‘Big Momma’ and ‘Wuxly’. You may recall that when we lived ‘conventional‘ lives like ‘sane‘ people and had a house, we also each had a car with ‘Wuxly’ being Shazza’s mode of transport. However, as part of our de-cluttering I sold my car and now ‘Wuxly’ has become ‘our‘ vehicle but more so when it comes to the ‘washing & waxing’ part, or as Shazza prefers to call those type of tasks, ‘Blue Jobs’. Shazza on the other hand would be conducting the ‘Pink‘ tasks, namely two lots of Laundry, a good clean of ‘Big Mommas’ interior, her first attempt at making me some ‘Eccles Cakes’ and then preparing this evenings meal of ‘Mexican Chicken‘, which I guess is just a Chicken wearing a Sombrero and laced with a ‘Tequila’ sauce !!! Now, back to the all important ‘Blue’ jobs, which are not in themselves a full day commitment, unless of course they are being conducted on a campsite where Eric has an opportunity to ‘socialise’ and engage in ‘Pleasantries’ with fellow campers !! Well it was a nice day, those who had not elected to go out sightseeing had quite wisely, like myself, decided that our pride and joys were in need of some TLC, just for clarification, that’s the vehicles and not the those engaged on the ‘Pink’ jobs !! Anyway, the socialising went well, lots of pleasantries were exchanged and we all just about completed our ‘Blue’ jobs just before the last light of the day had faded !!

Shazza's very first attempt at making 'Eccles Cakes' and boy were they good !!

Shazza’s very first attempt at making ‘Eccles Cakes’ and boy were they good !!

It turned out to be one hell of a ‘Wild’ night, not due to any kind of all night rave with my newly acquired ‘blue job’ friends, or coming to that, the intoxicated chicken, just in case your minds were straying in that direction !! The gale, accompanied with heavy rain, became one of those ‘Lionel Richie’ moments ……. “All Night Long” !!

Saturday 26th April – A Walk Along The ‘Caledonian Canal’ (3.6 miles)

It had not been a good nights sleep, we were sure that we had heard voices outside during the night, perhaps awnings or furniture being strewn about, but when we had looked we could not see anyone. I thought that we may have witnessed a few ‘Awnings’ getting airborne and making a dash for freedom but they had obviously all been batoned down quite well, in the morning there was no sign of carnage as I made my way across to the shower block and although there was a stiff breeze blowing, the rain had stopped and it looked as if we would get a reasonable sort of day.

We had already decided that today we would go and take a look at the flight of eight locks on the ‘Caledonian Canal‘ known as ‘Neptune’s Staircase‘. If you were heading West on the canal from Inverness then these would be the penultimate set of locks before reaching the ‘Corpach Sea Lock‘ heading towards ‘Loch Lihnnie’ and then the Atlantic Ocean. Fortunately, these set of locks are all automated and operated by a resident lock keeper. The other thing about ‘Neptune’s Staircase’ is that boaters, after having negotiated the flight of locks, have to wait to pass through both Rail and Road Swing Bridges, but again these are operated by the lock keeper.

We made another picnic lunch and headed, in ‘Wuxly’, just one mile North from Fort William. ‘Neptune’s Staircase’ is well signposted off the main road and the ‘free’ car park, with no height barrier and which could easily accommodate a Motorhome, is conveniently located right at the foot of the flight of locks.

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The gate from the car park that led straight to the Caledonian Canal and 'Neptunes Staircase'

The gate from the car park that led straight to the Caledonian Canal and ‘Neptune’s Staircase’

 

Looking down 'Neptunes Staircase'

Looking down ‘Neptune’s Staircase’

 

At the top of the flight, in the basin, there were a number of boats waiting to descend. This one had the crew putting out fenders to protect the concrete mooring from scratching and gouging the boats paintwork !!

At the top of the flight, in the basin, there were a number of boats waiting to descend. This one had the crew putting out fenders to protect the concrete mooring from scratching and gouging the boats paintwork !!

 

This looks like a nice spacious 'Liveaboard' barge wouldn't it Shazza ?...... Shazza !

This would make  a nice spacious ‘Liveaboard’ barge wouldn’t it Shazza ?…… Shazza ! Where did she disappear off to ?

After our look around the top ‘basin’ and no sign of any impending boat type activity through the locks we started our descent and circular walk towards the sea loch at Corpach. It was quite a warm and sunny day but with a stiff breeze blowing. The towpath was well surfaced, if a little wet after the previous nights stormy conditions but the main thing was that the visibility was excellent and all the reports we had had about this walk was that we would have some wonderful views.

They never mentioned views like this, a 'HM Coastguard' helicopter, but it did seem to be flying towards the 'Ben Nevis Range' which was in the wrong direction to the Coast !!

They never mentioned views like this, a ‘HM Coastguard’ helicopter, but it did seem to be flying towards the ‘Ben Nevis Range’ which was in the wrong direction to the Coast !!

 

Can you imagine being on a boat, going slowly through a flight of locks with views like this ?

Can you imagine being on a boat, going slowly through a flight of locks with views like this ?

 

A quite peaceful but scenic walk !!

A quite peaceful but scenic walk !!

Now there we were, enjoying our peaceful walk when I saw out the corner of my eye something on the water, one minute it was there, the next it was gone ! As we drew closer we could see that it was a bird, don’t ask me what sort, as all my friends will tell you, I have never been any good with birds !! This ‘unidentified’ water fowl kept diving under the water, it was gone for absolutely ages and emerged further down stream. We must have watched it ‘dive’ on at least ten occasions but each time it surfaced with nothing !! Did these birds eat weed or fish and surely they, like us humans, have to hold their breath, so they cannot eat underwater so I could only assume that this individual was expending a great deal of energy for very little reward. But then I just managed to get this photo………

I apologise if the photograph is slightly out of focus but hopefully you will be able to make out the fish in its beak !!

I apologise if the photograph is slightly out of focus but hopefully you will be able to make out the fish in its beak !!

 

Looking from the Towpath, across 'Loch Lihnnie' to Fort William

Looking from the Towpath, across ‘Loch Lihnnie’ to Fort William

 

And then......... 'Ben Nevis'

And then……… ‘Ben Nevis’

 

Before long we arrived at the end of our walk, we couldn't go any further without a Boat !! This was 'Corpach' and the point where the Caledonian Canal ends.

Before long we arrived at the end of our walk, we couldn’t go any further without a Boat !! This was ‘Corpach’ and the point where the Caledonian Canal ends.

 

If you were entering the Canal from the Loch then this is the sign that greets you.

If you were entering the Canal from the Loch then this is the sign that greets you.

There is a nice grassed area with picnic tables and benches that overlooks both the ‘Corpach Basin’ and ‘Loch Lihnnie’ so we sat and enjoyed the views whilst eating our lunch before setting off again but this time on the towpath on the other side of the Canal.

The final lock that gives boaters access to the Loch and then the Atlantic Ocean.

The final lock that gives boaters access to the Loch and then the Atlantic Ocean

 

Now if you have to moor up somewhere then why not somewhere with views like this !

Now if you have to moor up somewhere then why not somewhere with views like this ! The Canal, Loch Lihnnie, Fort William all overlooked by  ‘Ben Nevis), the one in the centre of this photograph

 

And again !!

And again !!

It hadn’t been a strenuous walk, in fact most of it was fairly flat and although the scenery was absolutely marvellous I have to confess at being slightly disappointed at the lack of boats actually moving on the canal. Well someone must have been reading my mind because our timing back to the bottom of the locks at ‘Neptune’s Staircase’ couldn’t have been better. In the bottom lock, waiting to pass through the last lock gate and the road and rail swing bridge were two boats, one a fishing vessel on its way to the summer fishing grounds in the Northern Atlantic waters and the other a smaller sailing yacht.

The two boats waiting for the Lock Keeper to open the final lock of the 'flight', however, lucky for me, their progress was delayed due to a train just about to cross the bridge.

The two boats waiting for the Lock Keeper to open the final lock of the ‘flight’, however, lucky for me, their progress was delayed due to a train just about to cross the bridge.

 

But not just any old train, oh no ! This was the 'Royal Scotsman' no less.

But not just any old train, oh no ! This was the ‘Royal Scotsman’ no less.

 

And then the barriers came down across the road to stop the traffic, the rail signals changed to 'Red' and then lock gate was opened, then the road and the rail bridges were swung open and the two vessels were given freedom to continue their journey.

And then the barriers came down across the road to stop the traffic, the rail signals changed to ‘Red’ and then the lock gate was opened, then the road and the rail bridges were swung open and the two vessels were given freedom to continue their journey.

So all in all a very pleasant walk, nothing too strenuous today but not all our ‘Expeditions’ need to be akin to route marches. This was very likely to be our last ‘sightseeing’ trip or ‘Expedition’ in this area, well for this visit at least, there is a lot more to see and do in and around Fort William so a return visit is not out of the question. One trip we would like to return for is the famous journey on the ‘Hogwarts Express‘, a steam train journey from Fort William to Mallaig which is a distance of around 46 miles. It is called the ‘Hogwarts Express’ because this is the train that is used in the ‘Harry Potter’ films. But there are so many other things to see and do, Historic Castles, Bicycle Routes, Walking Routes and even the Whisky ‘Distilleries’, oh yes, I may have been underwhelmed with Fort William as a town but as a place to use as a base to explore the wider area it is perfect.

Although we had one day left before travelling the last Seventy or so miles further North to our final destination and allocated Caravan Club site for our first summer season, we would be using that for another major re-stock of provisions. Our helpful and informative Wardens at this site had pre-warned us that where we were going was pretty ‘remote’ as far as shopping opportunities were concerned. Whilst there were local shops, the availability of the larger Supermarkets would be a choice of either Fort William or Inverness !! So, we needed to make sure that the ‘larder’ was full so that for the first couple of weeks we could concentrate on learning our new roles rather than worrying about what we had in the cupboards to eat !! So our last day would be a visit to Fort William to both the ‘Aldi’ and ‘Morrissons’ supermarkets, then upon our return it would all need to be carefully stored in ‘Big Momma’.

We returned from our walk and after a mug of fresh hot coffee I decided to take a walk along the shoreline whilst Shazza put her feet up and relaxed in the van. There is something quite soothing about being on or near water, I wandered as far as I could possibly go along the rugged and rocky foreshore before the sea would let me go no further and I found a suitable rock and just sat there with my thoughts. I reflected on what we had done in the seven months since we drove away from what had been our home, half of that time had been spent on an Autumn/Winter mini-adventure in Spain and Portugal and the other half on a Winter/Spring mini-adventure touring parts of the UK. In that relatively short period of time we have travelled to many different places, all with different memories for many wide and varied reasons, we have met many different people of all Nationalities and we have loved every minute if it, well almost every minute !! We are now about to start another chapter in our ‘Adventure’, a Summer in Scotland where we will be working, but also, through that work, meeting lots of different people, hopefully of mixed Nationalities and during our four months we still expect to be doing some sightseeing ourselves and I dare say countless more ‘Shazza Expeditions’. I do intend to keep publishing my blog posts but I am not sure, at this moment in time, how frequent that may be. I do hope that you have enjoyed being on this journey with us and that you will continue to stay a little while longer on ‘Big Mommas Great Adventure’………………………

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18 Responses to ‘Neptunes Staircase’

  1. Thomas Hope says:

    Great read and pics, thank you.

  2. Debs says:

    I cant believe its been 7 months !!! What you have both shown us and done it that time is Amazing ,
    It has been wonderful to be able to follow you on your Journey and look on Google maps to see where you have both been and where your heading too and all the lovely people you have met and get insight in to the lifestyle you are both leading .
    Good luck to both of you in your New Adventure ……. and look forward to hearing all about it when you have time to publish a blog its been a amazing journey so far 🙂

    • As one of my most frequent followers I thank you too, I can rember the days when you were giving me my No.2 and I was talking about starting this great adventure. At times it feels as if we have been ‘on the road’ for ages and not just 7 months, but we havn’t been rushing around just enjoying it all. I will keep the blogs going so hope you continue to enjoy them :0)

  3. tick59 says:

    Keep the blog going i love your adventure and i love eccles cake well done Shazza.

    • I know you may think me biased when it comes to Shazza’s baking but in truth I am her biggest critic. Those Ecclees cake were some of the best I have tasted !! As for the blog, yes it will keep it going and I hope you continue to enjoy it :0)

  4. anteater says:

    I look forward to hearing about your campsite duties, guys, since it is something we/he(!) may do one day, possibly in Europe. Lovely photos Eric.

  5. Tracey says:

    I absolutely loving your blog and look forward to it . We are hoping to follow in your foot steps in about 7 years time. So are learning all the good and bad through your experiences. Your rambles are truly inspiration.

    • Why thank you, I am blushing with humble embarrassment !! I am just pleased that you are enjoying my ramblings, I hope that you continue to enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them :0) if I can keep your dreams alive through ‘Big Mommas Great Adventure’ then that will be a good thing but as I have said recently to Tom & Jo, a dream will always just be a dream unless ‘you’ make it happen. But I temper that with saying, do it when the time is right for you because rushing in to it with rose coloured spectacles on will generally lead to disappointment. If I am able to assist you by answering any questions you may have then do please feel free to contact us, Shazza can always give the ‘female’ perspective if needed :0)

  6. DebsK says:

    Fab blog Eric, great photos and again read in my lunch time :). Good luck with the new job, having just spent 3 days with other CC assistant wardens (the female half used to be my kids child minder) I have no doubt you will enjoy yourselves. Stay in contact. For us each month is a month closer to our dream and each of your blogs is further confirmation that we know we will be doing the right thing.

    • Thanks Debs, we are now settled into our own ‘Compound’, home for the next four months and our Office environment is absolutely stunning, photos in next blog :0) Phone signal is a bit iffy but WiFi is excellent so perhaps we can Skype occasionally, best in the evenings after 7pm though. We must stay in touch and who knows you may even be tempted upp this way ;0)

  7. chris says:

    great photos and thanks for a very interesting blog. Nice to know what other folk are up to. Looking forward to hearing about your elf and elfette experiences. Good and bad!!! no glossing over the worst bits.

  8. mike says:

    Keep up the good work Eric! I get through them in the end if not when you immediately post…..work & ‘normality’ get in the way 😛
    Just reading through here you may not be on your site if you’re there for four months as we plan to head over the border mid-september?? If not we’ll have to arrange something for your journey south when we can cross paths again 🙂

    • Yes, our last working day is 6th September, we head South on 7th :0) we have to drop the car off and then sort out a few bits with the van and Shazza’s electric bike but if we can arrange a meet on your way North and our way South that would be really great :0)

  9. Mike says:

    Also i believe your mystery bird is another Cormorant!!

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