These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over nine years now and are still loving it. Our Ulster born Shih Tzu, Shannon, has grown up, and has taken over the boat! After three wonderful years in Ireland, we transported The Puzzler to The Netherlands, and spent a year there. In 2015 we went southwards, to reach the north of France by June. After glorious weather throughout the summer, we arrived in Roanne in late October, and enjoyed our winter in this friendly port. We cruised extensively in France in 2016 and 2017, returning to Roanne each winter.
While at the Castlecourt Hotel in Westport, all of our bowling takes place in the Dome Suite. The dome in the ceiling changes colour, so look out for it later. As the bowling mats here are laid on top of carpet then they are very slow. This means that each bowl has to be sent down the mat much faster than usual, to get it to the other end. It takes some getting used to, but is the same for everyone.
We were drawn in teams of four at the meeting on the first night. Andy is in team P in the green section, while Sally is in Red J. Sally's first game is at 9.30am on Monday. No lie-in this morning!
Andy is in action too, but not until later on.
Team Red J were pleased as this head of bowls began to develop. At this point we are holding three bowls, with the jack hidden in the middle of them, between Sally's second bowl and Marjorie's two orange ones.
Team Red J was made up of Ronnie, Marjorie, Sally and Jim Joe, our skip. We won three of our seven games this week, so we were pleased with that.
Meanwhile, Andy's team are fighting for a place in the Green finals. It all depends on this game.
With only the skips to deliver their bowls, this last end is crucial. Susan and Andrew are counting shot possibilities here for Team Green P, while Andy watches the shot. Sadly it was a drawn end, but they came a creditable second in their group.
Andrew, Marlene and Andy get together in the evening to celebrate their success.
We all enjoyed the Gala Dinner on the last evening. It has been good to get to know so many new bowling friends, as well as being with all those from Enniskillen.
Having left The Puzzler at the Round "O", we went to join our bus at the Forum, for a Bowls Break in Westport. Westport is on the West coast of Ireland, in County Mayo, so our route there took us down Glencar to Sligo, then South Westerly from there.
The clouds became quite impressive as we neared the Atlantic coast.
We were all staying at the Castlecourt Hotel in Westport. All our bowling will be in the Dome Suite, but there is also a swimming pool here, with sauna and jacuzzi too.
When not bowling or swimming we went out to explore the town. Carrowbeg River flows through Westport and is very picturesque.
We walked to Westport Quay, which is about two miles from the centre of town.The tide was out when we were there.
The lobster nets were piled up on the quay beside the fishing boats.
Across the bay we could see Croagh Patrick, which is 765 metres high. We met two people in the sauna at our hotel, who had just returned from climbing this mountain. They told us that it is quite difficult as the route to the top is over scree.
This crow did not mind our presence.
This hooded crow found a golf ball, and spent several minutes throwing it at stones to try and break it open. Eventually he accepted that it was not an egg!
The Greenway is a walking route along the former railway line, which skirts the south side of Westport.
The Greenway Insect Hotel was rather a contrast to our hotel! It seemed to be quite popular with its residents.
In places the path is cut through the solid rock.
Back at the other end of North Mall, the floral decorations on the bridge are still lovely, despite it being mid-October.
As our room was at the far end of the hotel, our quickest way to bowls was outside, through the garden, where we often met this friendly cat.
We worked out that the floor area of our room at The Castlecourt Hotel was very similar to the whole floor area of The Puzzler!
Details of the bowls side of our Bowls Break will be seen soon in Part 2!
The week has flown by, with bowls and bridge to keep us busy. On Friday no-one was allowed to moor on the outside of the jetty at the Round "O". This was to leave plenty of space for the three fishermen who had been allocated this spot today for the Erne Pike Fishing Competition, which lasts for three days.
Later on Friday we sailed up to the Ardhowen Theatre for An Evening of Country with The Stars. Our favourite singer was Hugo Duncan, of Radio Ulster fame.
Next day we enjoyed the view from above the Theatre, looking upstream.
Looking downstream from the same track is an interesting view of some building plots. They will have a wonderful view, once the houses are built. They are to have moorings on the river, but it will be quite a climb down to them!
As it is time for Harvest celebrations, we walked on into Enniskillen to visit St. Macartin's Cathedral, and see the harvest decorations there. This is certainly an impressive building. Songs of Praise is to be filmed here this coming week, for broadcast on November 11th, Remembrance Sunday, so we must be sure to watch it.
These flowers were arranged by the St. Macartin's Bowls Club, to make an attractive window display. Each window was decorated by a different group, and are all very good.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited St. Macartin's Cathedral, when they were in Enniskillen in June. These were their chairs for the service.
By Saturday evening there were twenty boats on the mooring at Ardhowen. Everyone had come, as we had, to see ABBA THE SHOW, featuring the tribute band, Smackee. The performance was great, with everyone on their feet to join in with the singing and dancing. Parties on the other boats went on well into the early hours, so Andy tells me. I didn't hear a thing!
We sailed back to Enniskillen quite early on Sunday, and the reflections were really good, with no other boats about yet.
When we arrived at the Round "O" there was nowhere to pull in, as all the fishing boats were there. They had to wait for the hooter at 10.30am before they could set off for their third day of the Erne Pike Fishing Competition. We pulled in beside a small cruiser to wait for a space. It was rather like Wacky Races when the hooter went, with all the outboards revving loudly, as everyone wanted to find the best fishing spots.
Once all the fishermen had departed, they were followed by two barges, as Maco and Glen set off to go through the bridge.
We moved round to the inside of the outer jetty, to leave The Puzzler in the charge of our boating friends again.
Back in Enniskillen, The Erne Model Railway exhibition took place at the Cathedral Hall, and we were very taken with this exhibit. The detail in it is fantastic.
Most people moor sideways on to the jetty! However this cruiser did have a good reason for being stern in, as he was waiting for a couple of newlyweds to arrive. He was to take them up the River Erne to the Killyhevlin Hotel for their wedding reception. It makes a change from a wedding car!
We were waiting on Jonhson Bridge to see the steam traction engines which were due to arrive at 2pm, but of course we are in Fermanagh here, using Fermanagh time! The bride arrived first, at about half past two. They were walking over to the little park over the road for their wedding photographs, before returning for their boat trip to the Killyhevlin.
The traction engines have spent the last three days following the route of the Great Northern Railway from Bundoran, on the Atlantic coast to Enniskillen. They have been stopping off at all the towns and villages once served by the railway. The first traction engine eventually arrived at a quarter to three, having come right through town, instead of over our bridge as expected.
This one was originally a threshing machine, and needed some manoeuvring to park it off the road by the Cathedral Hall. It was built in 1932 by Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies,and was one of the last engines built by the Ipswich maker.
This vintage fire engine was travelling with the steam traction engines, to keep them supplied with water.
Meave, a Garrett Showman Traction engine which was built in 1918, arrived next.
Star of the County Down is a McLaren scale model traction engine, and was built as an exact replica of a McLaren road locomotive. It travels quite quickly and, once the mayor was on board as a passenger, set off for a jolly around the town.
Back at the Round "O" the geese are moving in for the winter.
Off upstream to the Ardhowen Theatre.
This is still one of our favourite moorings.
On the way back to Enniskillen town The Puzzler was overtaken by two girls in a double scull!
After some more chopping, most of our wood is now inside the cratch.
We left The Puzzler at the Round "O" for a week, while travelling back to England. We had to get special permission from the warden to leave the boat in one place for over the standard 48 hours.
The weather was kind to us and we flew out from Dublin in the sun.
As we descended below the cloud to approach Birmingham, the fields looked much the same, but the weather was much worse in England!
We drove over to Norfolk, and visited Cantley Staithe, where these boats are moored. The sugar beet factory can be seen alongside the River Yare here, dominating the skyline.
The River Yare is part of the Norfolk Broads, with plenty of wind for sailing. This is an area which we cannot access from the main canal system with The Puzzler. In many ways it is similar to the Irish Waterways, but there seem to be a greater concentration of boats here on the Broads than there are in Ireland.
We visited the Strumpshaw Steam Museum, which was fascinating. This steam engine, Marshall, was built in 1928, but is in superb order, having been renovated at Strumpshaw museum in 1952.
An enormous fair organ was playing music in the museum. On looking behind it, the music could be seen in card form, with holes punched for each note to be played.
The Christie Steam Organ changed colour to blue, every so often, while it was being played.The music was wonderful and really added atmosphere to the whole museum.
On leaving Norfolk, we travelled westwards across England to Cheltenham.
Debbie and Matt took us to see Bourton-on-the-Water, which is a
typical pretty Cotswold village.The River Windrush flows through between the houses.
We went for a pleasant walk through the meadows from Bourton-on-the-Water. Here Matt, Debbie and Andy are by the River Dickler, which is one of the shortest rivers in the Cotswolds.
Our walk took us through Wick Rissington, a small village lying a couple of miles further on, where we visited the church.
We are back in Cheltenham, which is a lovely town. Neptune's Fountain, with Neptune driving sea horses, lies at the southern end of the Long Garden facing The Promenade. It draws its water from the river Chelt, which runs underneath it.
Cheltenham Pump Rooms are an impressive building in Pittville Park, but the rain was showing us what it could do today! We will be travelling back to Enniskillen tomorrow.
Toad Rawnsley, who has his own page on Facebook, thought he would like to have a ride on his African bicycle, while modelling his new olympic outfit! He has recently spent over a year travelling by bicycle from England to South Africa, with Debbie and Matt.