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, 2017 and 2018, returning to Roanne each winter.

Friday, 29 June 2012

25th - 29th June 2012. The Barrow line to Athy. River Barrow to Levitstown lock

We stayed at Fisherstown for four more days, going to the Fishersman Thatched Inn on Tuesday again for the Irish music. By Thursday morning, Noel, the lockkeeper at Athy, told us that the water levels were dropping in the River Barrow so, despite early rain, we set off. The next village is Vicarstown, where a small fleet of hire boats is based. The boats here are much tidier than those at Sallins or Hazelhatch.

The turnover bridge at Vicarstown has a stainless steel rail on the parapet, presumably so that any horse ropes will run along it smoothly!

The weather is improving further down the Barrow Line.

However the clouds behind us are still a bit threatening.

At the end of the Barrow line we reach the town of Athy. We pass through Athy as quickly as we can, and drop down lock 28 on to the river. Here we have to steer straight across the Barrow, so as to join the lock cut on the far side of the weir.

 The weir is just beyond the three right hand arches of the railway bridge, with the navigation channel to the lock cut being through the left arch. There is certainly quite a lot of water in the river.

Even in the lock cut it is important to keep to the left, as more water flows back into the main river.

Mud on the banks show how high the water level has been recently.

As horses are not usually allowed on the grassy towpath, we were surprised to see this trotter.

The lifting bridge soon before Levitstown is quite unusual.

It is raised horizontally by winding it up with a windlass.

We moored in the reeds above Levitstown lock, opposite Levitstown Mill. There are two other boats moored here behind us, but there is no-one aboard either of them.

This area of water above the lock is a real millpond, with superb reflections!
We measured the height of the water level below the lock last night. This morning we returned to see how much it had risen overnight, but could not reach the same spot as it was under water! Last time Sally measured it by the fourth upright. The water level has risen by about 16" here, while above the lock it has come up by only 9".

We will stay here above Levitstown lock until the water level goes down again.

Our feathered neighbours are mostly asleep just now!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

15th - 24th June 2012. The Barrow Line to Lowtown, then The Grand Canal to Hazelhurst and back to Fisherstown.

As the River Barrow is still closed to navigation, we are now cruising back up the Barrow Line.

Going back up lock 24 is quite tricky as there are no ground paddles at the middle gates of this staircase lock.

These donkeys are a popular garden ornament in Ireland.

The only boats on the move seem to be the weedcutters, which come in all shapes and sizes.

We can now see what he has done with the weeds he has collected.
At last we have found a water tap which will fit our hose. However, putting a water tap beside the bridge immediately by the bottom gates of lock 19 is not very convenient for anyone! The lockkeeper asked the council if it could be moved on to the jetty below the bridge, but was refused permission. We are now back on the Grand Canal, heading towards Dublin.
Mooring is quite difficult on this canal, but the stone wall above lock 15 is perfectly adequate. There is no lock mooring here. Our canal guide tells us that one of the lockkeepers lives at this cottage by the lock.

The paddles on the bottom gates are extremely heavy to work.
The relief lockkeeper told us he would let us work this staircase lock on our own as it would be fun for us! The top chamber holds much more water than the lower one, which certainly made it interesting! It is like this because an extra lock was removed in 1783, and lock 13 was converted into a double lock. The strange wider shape of the upper chamber is a remnant of an original larger lock.

Lyons House was formerly the home of the Cloncurrys, who were actively involved in the early days of the canal.
We went through Hazelhatch and on for three more miles before turning to return up the Grand Canal. At this point we are only ten miles from the centre of Dublin, and have decided to go no nearer. Hazelhatch is full of boats. We counted 61 boats there, and apparently 43 of them are liveaboards. Being non-continuous cruisers, they are all illegal, and are a real problem for Waterways Ireland. We did find one vacant mooring beside the pub here for our brief stop.

We found a mooring beside Stacumney, with deep water right up to the towpath. We seem to be specialising in mooring near to a ruin!

We decided not to climb inside this old lock house at Stacumney!
Two weedcutters were ahead of us at staircase lock 13. They filled the bottom half from a full top chamber of water without using any ropes at all. We felt sorry for the man in the front boat as he was really thrown about by the incoming water. There are only gate paddles between the two chambers.

The lockkeeper arrived while they were still in the lock, and was not impressed by their method. He let us up extremely gently by using an empty top chamber, and running the water through from the top.
Above lock 13 can be found the Village at Lyons. This is part of the Lyons Estate and incorporates a restaurant, a cafe and several shops, as well as a cookery school. There seem to have been a few barbeques in this building!

We moored above lock 15 again and found a good place for playing boules beside the lock.
The River Morell runs underneath the Grand Canal here, which lies along the left of this picture. We were surprised when a group of lads arrived behind our game of boules. They had been swimming on the far side of the canal, and must have come through these pipes to get under the canal!

This is the first time we have seen a heron in a tree.

We returned through Sallins. This is another place with many boats and few moorings.
Robertstown ahead. This is the most attractive village which we have seen on the Grand Canal. We went to Charlie Weld's pub for our Irish music. Grandad on the accordian with his 14 year old grandson on guitar and vocals were very good. Other ladies, including an 83 year old, also came up to sing, accompanied by a man playing the spoons. Another entertaining evening.

These weedcutters just keep on coming!
Back to Fisherstown so that John and Brigitte can go home. We have had a good time, despite not being able to visit The Barrow River.
 A barge came to share the mooring overnight. It is quite an occasion to see another boat on the move. We plan to stay here until The Barrow is navigable.

Monday, 25 June 2012

13th - 14th June 2012. Road trip to The Cliffs of Moher and The Burren in County Clare.

The River Barrow still being closed to navigation, we left our narrowboat, The Puzzler, at Fisherstown, and set off by car for the Atlantic Coast. Bypassing Limerick, we drove westwards along the south side of the Shannon Estuary to Tarbert, where we caught the ferry across to Kilrush in County Clare.

We continued westwards along the north of the estuary and this was our first scenic view of the Atlantic coastline.

Andy met a goat. In the guide book it says that they are wild, but Andy soon had the taming of it!

Further on, the cliffs and also the waves were more dramatic.

On the North West coast of County Clare we came to the Cliffs of Moher. They are Ireland's most visited natural attraction and rise to 700 feet at the highest point. They range for five miles along the Atlantic coast and are really spectacular.

Along the cliff top there is a wall to stop us throwing ourselves over the edge!

At the most northerly point there is a sheer drop below us.

O'Brien's Tower was built in 1835 as a viewing point for the Cliffs of Moher, which can be seen in the background. It apparently gives the best view of the cliffs, but it was closed when we were there.

Further to the South along the clifftop, there was no wall to protect us, but Brigitte could not resist sitting close to the edge. We were glad she did not try to jump!
We stayed overnight in Lisdoonvarna, at The Rathbaun Hotel. We would recommend this hotel to anyone, especially for the evening entertainment by Ceolan. This group of four talented youngsters played and sang continuously from 8pm until midnight, and belted out all manner of Irish tunes. If we had been in Lisdoonvarna in September then we could have joined in with The Festival of Love, which is reputed to be the Largest Singles Festival in Europe. It is probably better that we will not be here then, as none of us are single, and we might have had too good a time!

 This turkey gobbled at us as we passed him the next morning.
We are now in the area known as The Burren. The word Burren means stony district, and refers to the terraced carboniferous limestone hills and valleys found here. This dry stone wall has been made using the strange shapes of the stones here.

This young donkey foal is not very old, but is awfully cute!

This portal tomb at Poulnabrone on The Burren was built in the 4th millenium BC. Archaelogical excavations have shown that at least 33 people were buried in this tomb in the Neolithic, or New Stone age.

The Karst landscape of this area seems to be very barren, although we have seen quite a few cows, on lower ground, grazing among the rocks.

We visited the Ailwee Caves, where visitors are led deep underground. Long extinct Irish bears used to hibernate here in prehistoric times. This bear was just put there to frighten us!

Our guide showed us this hollow in the rock, where bears once slept throughout the long winters. They probably had a hollow each!

Water is constantly running down this solid limestone waterfall, deep underground.

This stalactite was growing for centuries before any of us were born.
Whereas these ones have just started to grow. They are still hollow in the middle.

At one point our guide turned out all the lights to show us the absolute blackness which is found in these caves. It seemed very bright when he turned them on again.