27th October 2017

The weather here, which has been very kind to us so far, is due to turn colder next week so we thought that while it was still pleasant it would be a good day to visit Loch Ness. It’s always cold on the water, so better to do it while the temperature is holding up. It took us just over an hour to get there. We’d passed the Exhibition Centre on the way home from Skye, so we had a fair idea where it was.


The exhibition was so interesting. It covered the formation and geology of the area, the searches that have been done looking for ‘Nessie’, eye witness accounts of people who believe they’ve seen the creature and other information about events that have gone on in and around the Loch.

The Loch is 23 miles long and 1 mile wide and is the largest volume of fresh water in Britain. It is only 7 miles from the ocean, connected by the River Ness. The first recorded sighting of Nessie was that of St Columba, an Irish saint who had come to Scotland in the 6th century to convert the inhabitants to Christianity.

On this day, August 22, in A.D. 565, Columba was said to have been on his way to visit a Pictish king when he stopped along the shore of Loch Ness. Seeing a large beast about to attack a man who was swimming in the lake, Columba raised his hand, invoking the name of God and commanding the monster to “go back with all speed.” The swimmer was saved and Colmbas praised for his efforts.’

Whether the report of this is accurate or not, the accounts of some of the modern eye witnesses, given on video, are certainly very credible. There have been extensive searches made for Nessie, without success. Not even bones have been found, but listening to the personal accounts, it seems impossible to disbelieve that these people saw what they report. And hard to find another explanation that fits. Several are offered, but the mystery remains.

Once we’d been around the centre and absorbed all the information, we went off on our own little Nessie hunt in the form of a boat ride around the Loch. There were around 10 of us on the Lady Beth. The surrounding scenery is beautiful – and quite different to the landscapes we saw on the Skye boat trip. The autumn colours haven’t come out too well on the photographs, but they were stunning.




Urquhart Castle seen from the loch:






24th October 2017

We decided to have a look at a couple of local places today. Elgin was recommended to me by Judy who is the other lady in my Spanish class – turned out she had lived in Forres for 7 years and so knows the area well (how bizarre is that? To end up in a 2 person Spanish class in Spain with someone who has lived in this tiny town – and then we decide to visit it!).  On the way home from there we stopped off for a walk around Findhorn Bay.

So Elgin first. It is a former cathedral city – the cathedral is now a apparently a ruin but we didn’t see it. We actually went because there is a fabric shop there and I wanted to get the fabric for a ‘Belle’ dress (the dress from beauty and the Beast) for Anaya for Xmas and some fabric to make Kit’s personalised Xmas stocking so he’s the same as the other two. We found the fabric shop and I got the stocking fabric but not the dress fabric – it was all too expensive.

Some pictures from Elgin – below is St Giles Church

The fountain:


Dandy Lion: Dressed in his best estate tweeds and cashmere cardigan from Johnston’s Mill founded on the banks of the River Lossie in 1797. His top hat monocle moustache and cane representing the dapper fashion of the early 1800s  when Andrew Anderson and Alexander Gray gifted the Elgin Institution and Gray’s Hospital to the town on their successes with the East India Company. His fish tail is for the fisherfolk who brought their produce to sell here in the market. Last but by no means least his name and persona from the ‘feeing marts’, where in springtime, men and women who were looking for agricultural work would carry a dandelion which he wears in his buttonhole.

Dandy Lion

In the days before people had personal watches or alarm clocks, the people of Elgin were roused from sleep by the town drummer, who made his first rounds at 4 am and then again at 5am. The poet Robert Southey visited the town in 1819 and noted in disbelief ‘the abominable drum’ sounding the curfew at 9 o’clock at night.


But who woke the drummer?

Then a sunshiney walk around Findhorn Bay:


We rounded the day off with a quiz at the Mossett Tavern at which we didn’t do very well, but at least we weren’t last!! We’re obviously missing the other half of our team…

18th October 2017

Day 2 on Skye started with a hearty breakfast and then a drive to get on a boat trip around some more of the islands. We really hadn’t allowed for just what sort of a drive we had ahead of us and didn’t leave enough time to do it, so it was a bit of a panic to get there before the boat sailed. I kept trying to contact them to say we were on our way, but there was no signal whatsoever. The road was narrow and windy – single track with passing places most of the way and with cows and sheep lazily wandering right in the middle of it! Sometimes high up, sometimes along the water – it was nothing if not interesting, but not what you want to do in a rush like we were!

We were lucky that we didn’t leave it any later to go to Skye as a lot of things had already closed for the winter and the rest of them were just about to. The guest house closed as we left and the guys on the boat said that that would probably be their last trip of the season. The boat left from Elgol – the other side of the island to Kyleakin:


The sat nav said 45 minutes, but that wasn’t taking into account the sheep and the cows!

Anyway, we’d phoned in the morning and paid for the trip, so they did wait for us and it was very enjoyable. I do love being on the water but I’m not a very good sailor so I’m always a little nervous. No need to be though, it was like a duckpond, so I really enjoyed it.

We saw the Black Cuillens (mountains) and the islands of Rhum, Eigg, Canna and Soay. Only 3 people live on Soay and 2 of those are shortly moving back to the mainland! If memory serves me correctly, Rhum has a population of 22, Eigg has 87, Canna has 11. Hopefully, I’ve got those right.

We also saw some of the wildlife inhabitants – the seals…


…and the deer


And waterfalls aplenty:


Everybody else on the boat got off to have a walk around near this little beach, but we stayed on as we wanted to get to Eilean Donan on the way home – and we had that road to navigate again!


These are just a few more shots of the places we saw from the boat:


And the view over the bay after we got off – island of Rhum in the background:


Then off to Eilean Donan. We had a bit more time to drive the dreaded road this time, so we could enjoy it a bit better rather than stressing!!

Eilean Donan is a 13th century castle standing on its own little island and is one of the most iconic images of Scotland. The site was first inhabited around the 6th century, but the structure we see now was the fortification built to stand guard over the lands of Kintail. Since then, at least four different versions of the castle have been built and re-built as the feudal history of Scotland unfolded through the centuries.

Partially destroyed in a Jacobite uprising in 1719, Eilean Donan lay in ruins for the best part of 200 years until Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911 and proceeded to restore the castle to its former glory. After 20 years of toil and labour the castle was re-opened in 1932.


What a fascinating history it has – from the dance on the roof the night before the battle of Glenshiels (that left 57 of the women at the party widowed), the story of its restoration and the architect who died just before completion and so never saw the full glory of his work, to the destruction of the castle with 16 barrels of gunpowder that was  left behind after the battle for just that purpose. No photography is allowed inside so my pictures are just a few taken outside and from the battlements.


We set off back to Forres around 4 and got here 6.30-ish so we thought we’d drop into the local chippy for tea. That was an eye-opener. There are a few interesting offerings on the menu there – chip and cheese butty, deep fried pizza and best of all – what we can only assume is the vegetarian option – curry sauce, beans, gravy and coleslaw!! We stuck with plain old fish and chips, thanks. Call us boring if you like….








17th October 2017

We wanted to see at least one of the islands while we were here so we booked 1 night on the Isle of Skye. The day we were setting off (Tuesday the 17th) was the day after the storm Ophelia had been due to hit the whole north of Scotland, so we were a bit dubious about whether we’d be able to go. We kept an eye on the weather all day Monday which was supposed to be the worst day, but nothing happened – in fact everything was eerily still even though the sky was a very peculiar colour – yellowish, which was, apparently, sand kicked up from the Sahara and carried along. We have that in Spain many times, but I’ve never been aware of it in the UK before. Anyway, it seems the storm must have changed course, because nothing happened here, but Manchester got battered which hadn’t been forecast.

As it was the day started out looking like this…


…but soon cleared up and was quite pleasant, if cold.

The drive to Skye was spectacular. We went past Loch Ness which we want to visit in more detail, through Inverness and through some stunning landscapes. Waterfalls everywhere, some tumbling right at the side of the road. We spotted Eilean Donan Castle on the way there, sitting out on its little island and determined to get a closer look at that as well.

We stayed in Kyleakin (Pronounced Kylackin), which is literally just the other side of the bridge. The island is bigger than I had thought, so we had to cram in what we could in the 2 half days available to us and there really wasn’t time to drive the whole area. The first day was just a good walk around Kyleakin which is a tiny town on the waterfront that is very proud of its local history and which has information boards around the place to tell you about it.

Blairdhu House, where we stayed was perfect. Walking distance to the main town but just a little bit outside. Lovely, modern rooms, good food and a stunning view from the dining room window. Would recommend it to anybody.

Blairdhu House and the view with Kyleakin town in the distance:


The ‘Ring of Bright Water’ visitor centre celebrates Gavin Maxwell’s book of the same name and is set up for those unable to visit the island where it all took place. Lots of interesting information and great for children – lots of activities for them. There’s also some local history information  – the one that struck us the most were the binders which held full information for every combatant who died in each of the wars – where they lived, who were their parents, siblings, how and where they died. What a thoughtful memorial for the town.

The other outstanding feature of Kyleakin is Saucy Mary’s Castle , or to give it its proper title, Caisteal Maol (Gaelic: Caisteal, ‘Castle’, Maol, ‘bare’), now just a ruin, but the story goes that it was an ancient seat of the Mackinnon clan and was a fortress commanding the strait of Kyle Akin between Skye and the mainland, through which all ships had to pass or else attempt the stormy passage of The Minch. The present building dates back to the 15th century, but is traditionally reputed to be of much earlier origin.

According to that tradition, Alpin mac Echdach’s great-grandson Findanus, the 4th Mackinnon chief, brought Dunakin into the clan around the year 900 by marrying a Norse princess nicknamed ‘Saucy Mary’. Findanus and his bride ran a heavy chain across the sound and levied a toll on all shipping vessels. The Princess lies buried on Beinn na Caillich on Skye, her face reputedly turned towards Norway.

Whatever the veracity of the castle’s traditional history, there is good reason for supposing the existence of a connection of some kind with Norway.  King Haakon IV is thought to have assembled his fleet of longships there before the Battle of Largs in 1263 (hence the name Kyleakin – Haakon’s kyle). Haakon’s defeat at Largs effectively ended Norse domination of the Scottish islands. Medieval and early modern documents also refer to the castle itself as Dunakin (Dun-Haakon), which is again strongly suggestive of a Norse connection.

The ruined castle:


Some more shots of Kyleakin and the Skye Bridge:


006Kyleakin Lighthouse

And some of the artwork around the town – love that they put the children’s drawings on to ceramic:




I couldn’t find any information about these so I’ve approached the Kyleakin Historical Society to see if they can shed any light on them. I don’t read music so I have no idea if the notes are a real tune that has a connection to the town. I wonder what prompted the children’s artwork to be put on to ceramic? We’ll see if any details come back.

In the evening we found a suitable seafood restaurant (if you’re by the seaside…)…


And this is what we got:


Oysters, langoustines, lobster tails, crab legs, mussels and prawns. You had to work hard to get your dinner, but it was an adventure!!

Followed by:





10th October 2017

Our first day out here was to Logie Steading which is very local. There’s a lovely little shopping area with quirky, unusual, independent shops, lovely gardens and a river to walk along. For those in Cheshire, a cross between Lady Heyes and Blakemere.

The entrance to Logie Steading:

Entrance to Logie Steading

We had a mooch around the shops and made a few purchases (as you do), then headed off to see the river Findhorn which is beautiful:

Some huge logs lying on the riverbank:


Logs 2

We spotted Logie House from the river – didn’t know what it was or anything about it, so good old Google was consulted. Details of the recent history can be found here: www.logie.co.uk/estate/family-history/

I couldn’t find anything on its early history though.

Logie House – what a setting:

Logie House 2

The gardens are beautiful – very well laid out, little stream running throughout, dry stone walls and more butterflies than I’ve ever seen in one place. Not something I expected in the Scottish Highlands in October!

Look at the markings on that rock!

I think we got the best out of the day – it was bright and sunny and not too cold, but deteriorated once we’d got home.


4th October 2017

We arrived in Forres  the afternoon of Wednesday the 4th after a flight to Inverness from Gatwick. We briefly met Elspeth and James, our exchange partners, for a chat. They had to hotfoot it to Glasgow to return a hire car. It’s always nice to meet your exchange partners if you can – and we’ve certainly met some lovely people doing this.

The house is in a fabulous spot – high up on a hill with view from the upstairs windows over the whole town. This is the view from the lounge window from where I’m sitting on the sofa:

View from Lounge Window

View from upstairs:

View from upstairs

The back gate leads straight into the woods where there are paths to follow for woodland walks. The washing line is in the woods! What a lovely place to hang your washing out.

Washing Line

Steps leading to the front door:

Steps to front door

And look at the angle of the car on the steep drive:


The garden is lovely and has clearly had a lot of work put into it over the years:
GardenGarden 2

Although it feels like we are out in the sticks, the town centre is only a 10 minute walk away – and we’ve already sample the local hostelry (The Red Lion, locally known as The Beastie) for both food and drink. They put on a Malt of the Month for £2.50 a shot! Wonderful – except for when you mix up the water jug and the milk jug, as I did. Ever had malt whisky with milk in? No, thought not. Not to be recommended. I rescued the situation by putting the whisky into my coffee.

I’m writing this on the 10th and we’ve spent the first week just investigating the local area, finding shops (there’s a great butcher, Macbeth’s), pubs, eateries and supermarkets. The swimming pool is literally at the bottom of the road, so we’ll be going there a few times, I think, as I missed my usual swimming season in Spain!


28th September 2017

Stonehenge. What can you say? So much and not enough all at the same time.

There is a lot of information in the visitor centre and on the audio guide that you get at the site – but so much is still unknown about it. I’m not at all convinced that we can even be certain of the date that has been allocated to it. If you read Graham Hancock’s books Fingerprints of the Gods and Magicians of the Gods, he makes a very good case for other structures (notably the pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx) being far older than we are currently told so who knows?

One thing that is for certain is that this is an awe-inspiring monument that must have held great importance for those who built it and used it. One of the interesting facts on the audio guide is that it may, at one time, have been used as a place of healing, a bit like Lourdes. This is because there are a lot of bodies buried around it that have unusual diseases or broken bones – far more than would have occurred naturally in a normal population. I wonder quite how they used it for this? Would it have been enough just to be inside it? Would you need to be touching the stones? And for how long? There is evidence that bits of the stones have been chipped away – bits and more bits that have resulted in deep hollows in some of the stones, so might they have been using the stone in the way some use crystals for healing today?  For people to continue to go there must have been results. Wouldn’t it be nice to know?

The stones themselves are around 7 metres high with a further 2.5 metres underground. Some that had fallen have been reset in their places and others have had repairs made to them to preserve their upright position.

001 (32)

008 (27)

009 (30)

010 (26)

The picture below is the Slaughter Stone – so named by the Victorians who were convinced that its lying down position meant it must have been an altar used by the Druids for the slaughter of sacrifices. The fact that the stone has a red tinge when wet would, in their eyes, have added credence to their theory. There is no evidence, though, that this was the case.

The slaughter Stone

The surrounding landscape is full of Anglo-Saxon burial barrows. We didn’t notice them on the way in, but once your attention has been drawn to them, you spot loads of them when you’re driving back out again. They’re everywhere.

We’re nearing the end now of our stay in West Sussex and we’ve done loads while we’ve been here, so I think a couple of days chill out is in order. Tuesday will be packing and cleaning day and then we set off on Wednesday morning. We’re flying from Gatwick to Inverness and being picked up at the airport and taken to the house in Forres.

24th September 2017 – Part 2

In the afternoon, we went to Chichester to meet up with Liz, Graham’s sister and to see the house where their mother grew up. Before our meeting up with her Graham and I had a look around the cathedral.

The photos in this blog aren’t mine. I managed to delete mine by accident!! Fortunately, I’ve been able to find most of what I photographed online in various places.

Chichester is a lovely little city – very compact and seems to have everything you need right there. The first thing we spotted was the Market Cross where we were meeting up with Liz. It’s quite a feature and has recently been cleaned. There’s a nice seat running all around the inside where we flopped while we waited (we were pretty tired after doing Fishbourne in the morning):

Market Cross

The Cathedral is right there in the middle of town…

Chichester Cathedral

…and is well worth a visit – even if it is only to see the John Piper Tapestry. What a treat:


The tapestry forms the background to the High Altar and John Piper said it was the most frightening commission he had ever undertaken as he had never deigned a tapestry before.

Everything in the tapestry has been very carefully researched and worked out; it is a complex web of doctrinal symbolism.  Piper studied the presbytery, the area in which the tapestry would hang, and noticed the sixteenth century wrought ironwork on two sides.  At the two ends of the tau cross, the red swirls show the blood of Christ’s wounds where the nails pinned his wrists to the Cross – note the spiral pattern is exactly the same as on the iron grille:

iron grille

The stitched kneelers in the same chapel are also very beautiful. Sadly, I can’t get a photo of these without paying far too much.

Another lovely feature of the cathedral is the Arundel Tomb which commemorates Richard Fitzalan III, 13th Earl of Arundel (ca 1307-1376) and his second wife Eleanor. He had stipulated in his will that they should be buried together.

According to the plaque in the Cathedral, “the knight’s attitude is typical of that time, but the lady’s crossed legs, giving the effect of a turn towards her husband, are rare. The joined hands have been thought due to ‘restoration’ by Edward Richardson (1812-69), but recent research has shown the feature to be original. If so, the monument must be one of the earliest showing the concession to affection where the husband was a knight rather than a civilian.”

Knight and Lady

The tomb is celebrated now in one of Philip Larkin’s best-known poems, “An Arundel Tomb,” in which the poet suggests that while the historical and political importance of people may disappear with time, something more enduring continues to resonate — their capacity for love. However, in his typically nuanced way, Larkin indicates that this may be only (or largely) wishful thinking:

            The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

Look at this ceiling – I got a crick in my neck trying to get a decent picture. I’m sure this one is as good as mine would have been (laugh!):


The other thing we wanted to see in Chichester was No.13 Cavendish Street where Graham’s Mum grew up along with her 11 siblings. It is just a small terraced house, only a short walk from the town centre and is now a Grade II listed building. Where did they put all those children? I don’t suppose they would have all been at home at the same time – the older ones would probably go off into service somewhere as they reached the right age, but still…:

13 Cavendish Street (2)

We finished the day with a lovely meal at Cote – very good food and very good value. Did some shopping on the way home and got home at 8.40 after leaving the house at 9.30!! A long day.



24th September 2017

Today was a busy one – we did Fishbourne Roman Palace in the morning, then drove to Chichester (where Graham’s Mum grew up), to look around, see the cathedral and meet up with Graham’s sister, Liz, who took us to see the house that their Mum grew up in. More of that later.

First of all, Fishbourne – the Roman Palace at Fishbourne was discovered accidentally in 1960 when they were digging the trench for the water pipe for a new housing estate. The housing estate is long since built and a some of the houses are on top the rest of the unexcavated parts of the palace. It was a huge place when it was active; bigger than Buckingham Palace and right on the waterfront (at that time, but no longer) for the arrival of goods from many parts of the world.

This is a model of the whole site as it would have looked:

1 026 Palace Model

It was abandoned after it burnt down. There is evidence of the fire, but nobody knows if it was accidental or arson. There were pirate raids up and down the coast at that time, so arson is a possibility.

The part of the palace that has been excavated and exhibited is the North Wing which would have had views across the gardens and to the harbour beyond. It is possible that this wing housed the owner of the palace and his immediate family. We do not know for certain who the owner was but it may have been Tiberius Claudius Togidubnus, a client king. His role would have been to look after Rome’s interests in this part of Britain. The palace may very well have been built at the Emperor’s expense in recognition of the king’s faithful support.

There were probably over 60 mosaic floors adorning the newly built palace, all laid by immigrant craftsmen who brought the designs with them. The majority were black geometric designs on a white background, a style which was particularly popular in Italy at that time. The coolness of the colours suited the warm Mediterranean climate. Of the original mosaic floors over 20  survive in various states of completeness.  These are some of the earliest floors yet found in Britain.

Full design of one of the floors as it would have looked when complete:

The palace buildings enclosed a rectangular area of 75,000 feet laid out as a remarkable formal garden, the only one to be excavated in Britain. Across the centre and around the edges were paths lined with parallel rows of hedges designed to form ornamental recesses and niches. The plan of the hedges was discovered by tracing the bedding trenches which the Roman gardeners cut into the clay and gravel.

The pathways were served with a continuous water main which supplied a constant supply of running water for fountains and marble basins which were placed at regular intervals. The pipes below the garden paths were made of baked clay units carefully socketed together. Elsewhere in the building, they were of wood joined with iron bands.

The West wall of the garden, which rose to a height of 5 feet, was camouflaged with a bold painting of foliage and in front of it were planted 3 rows of bushes . Anyone walking along the West path would hardly have been aware of the enclosing wall.

Inside the palace, the most common form of wall decoration was painting. This reconstructed wall was found in fragments lying in rubble in one of the central rooms of the North Wing.

4 014 fragments

The room as it may have looked at the time:

5 018 room6 019 room

We went into the store room for a talk from one of the guides. There are shelves and shelves filled with boxes full of all sorts of things that they don’t have room for in the exhibition or the museum – but they all need to be retained for further study. The site has clearly been occupied for many centuries – as sites near water and especially natural harbours, usually are.

We had the opportunity to hold a 500,000 year old Stone Age hand axe – surprisingly comfortable to hold and you can feel that it would be easy to work with:

7 005 hand axe

A tiny, sharp, piece of flint

8 006 flint

And a weight that would have been used to keep a warp thread tight on a loom. The story behind this is that the weaver would have just scooped a handful of clay from the soil, shaped it and stuck a finger through to make the hole and then put it in the fire to bake hard. It’s just a rough, useful, everyday item which people probably made all the time as and when they needed them. The black part is the bit that was lying in the fire and the red part is the part that was facing away from the fire. Fascinating:

9 007 loom weight

Below is a gravestone for a woman called Catia Censorina who died at age 23. Interesting because the name Catia is a Celtic name but Censorina is a Roman name. Is she a Celt who married a Roman?


Some other bits and bobs from the museum – I wasn’t aware that the Romans had glass, but look at the clearness of it and the lovely colours – there is the neck of a bottle and some beautiful glass beads as well as glass for window apertures.

10 012 Glass

Some ceramics with designs scratched into them – these scratchings were sometimes decoration and other times merely a key for the plaster to stick to:

11 011 tile

And a pieced together flagon from the museum.

12 013 flagon

I had to include this one because of its shape. There is a story here. I first heard about Fishbourne Palace in my schooldays – our Latin teacher Miss Diamond (known as Dilly!), had visited the site and purchased a flagon the same shape as this but much smaller. For some reason, they must have allowed people to buy some of the artefacts in those days – maybe to raise money to keep the dig going. Anyway, she had paid £125 for it – a lot of money then. This must have been some time in the 60s. When she was teaching me she had received a letter from whoever was in charge of the archeology at Fishbourne at that time to inform her that the flagon had been incorrectly dated and they offered to buy it back from her for the same amount she had paid. The new date they gave her for it was older than she had originally thought – which meant it was actually more valuable; but she didn’t want to part with it whatever its value. She did agree though that she would stipulate in her will that the little flagon was to be returned to Fishbourne on her death. It’s probably in one of those boxes that we saw that we stacked up on shelves.

Although they were clearly selling items in the 60s, they must have kept records of who bought what and when and details of the item in order to have known exactly what she had bought and to have her contact details. I mentioned this to the guide to see if he knew anything about it, but he was as surprised as me that that had happened.

Last but not least there were some lovely pieces of textile art about the place – a quilt:

And a wallhanging celebrating the housing estate and showing the types of houses and names of the roads as well as some of the local flora and fauna:

15 003 wallhanging

And a couple of details from the wallhanging:

This piece below seems more papery – maybe mixed media art? I couldn’t get close enough for real observation and I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to touch it anyway. Nor was there anything to attribute it to the person or group who made it. The piece incorporates many of the floor designs in the palace:

paper hanging

I’ll do Chichester in a separate blog otherwise it’s just too much reading. Fair to say though, that this was another fascinating visit and another tick on the list of places I never thought I’d get around to seeing.

24th September 2017

This is Sunday and it dawned glorious – warm enough to eat breakfast in the garden! What a treat!

We booked a canal trip for today on the Wey and Arun Canal which is very local to where we are staying. This canal was opened to great fanfare in 1816. It linked the Wey Navigation near Guildford to the south coast via the Arun Navigation. The canal was conceived during the Napoleonic Wars and was intended to provide a safe, efficient rote from London to Portsmouth to carry goods supplying the dockyards. In its heyday the canal carried many tons of cargo, but the end of the war with France and the arrival of the railways sounded its death knell and by 1871 it was formally closed.

The canal fell into disuse but 200 years after it first opened 3,000 members and volunteers worked to reopen the canal for leisure. The canal is now in use by small boats, canoeists and the Trust’s own trip boats. It was one of their canal barges that we went on for our trip:

Canal Boat

200 years after it opened, over 3,000 members and volunteers of the Wey and Arun Canal Trust are working to reopen the Wey & Arun Canal for leisure. With your help we can achieve this seemingly impossible task, and already several miles of the Canal are in regular use by small boats, canoes, and the Trust’s own trip boats.

A bit of traditional barge decoration:


Graham looking forward to the trip:

We’ve been on canal boats before but never been through a lock, so it was fascinating to watch how it worked. We went through 2, one of which is known as the Devil’s Hole. On our way out, the lock had to be filled and on the way back emptied. Here is the first lock filling up step by step:

Lock 1Lock 2Lock 3

Then the heavy gates are opened and the barge floats through.

It did start to rain while we were on the barge, but we were under cover, so it didn’t matter. At least one of the children on board had a go at steering, so there was a bit of veering about, but they didn’t do too badly at all. The trip was very relaxing and we enjoyed it. The rain had stopped again by the time we were getting off and it was still nice an warm, so no complaints about that!

We finished the day with a meal in a pub called Sir Roger Tichborne. Anything named after a person tickles my curiosity, so who was Sir Roger Tichborne?

According to Wikipedia:

The Tichbornes, of  Tichborne Park near Alresford in Hampshire, were an old English Catholic family who had been prominent in the area since before the Norman Conquest. After the Reformation in the 16th century, although one of their number was hanged, drawn and quartered for complicity in the Babington Plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I, the family in general remained loyal to the Crown, and in 1621 Benjamin Tichborne was created a baronet for services to King James I.

In 1803, the seventh baronet, Sir Henry Tichborne was captured by the French in Verdun during the Napoleonic Wars and detained as a civil prisoner for some years. With him in captivity were his son, James and a nobly born Englishman, Henry Seymour of Knoyle. Despite his confinement, Seymour managed to conduct an affair with the daughter of the Duc de Bourbon, as a result of which, a daughter, Henriette Felicite, was born in about 1807. Years later, when Henriette had passed her 20th birthday and remained unmarried, Seymour thought his former companion, James Tichborne might make a suitable husband. Although James was close to his own age and physically unprepossessing, the couple were married in August 1827; on 5th January 1829 Henriett gave birth to a son, Roger Charles Doughty Tichborne.

There were 3 more children after Roger’s birth, but the marriage between Henriette and James was unhappy so the couple spent much time apart, he in England and she in Paris with Roger. As a result, Roger spoke mainly and his English was heavily accented. In order to remedy this, his father decided he should complete his education in England so in 1845 he placed him in the Jesuit boarding school, Stonyhurst College, where he remained until 1848. In 1849 after completing his education he sat the British army entrance examinations and then took a commission in the 6th Dragoon Guards in which he served for 3 years, mainly in Ireland.

When on leave, Roger often stayed with his Uncle Edward at Tichborne Park and became attracted to his cousin Katherine Doughty, four years his junior. Sir Edward and his wife, though they were fond of their nephew, did not consider marriage between first cousins desirable. At one point the young couple were forbidden to meet, though they continued to do so clandestinely. Feeling harassed and frustrated, Roger hoped to escape from the situation through a spell of overseas military duty; when it became clear that the regiment would remain in the British Isles, he resigned his commission. On 1 March 1853 he left for a private tour of South America on board La Pauline, bound for Valparaiso in Chile.

Roger travelled through various parts of South America and then he secured a berth on a ship, the Bella, which sailed for Jamaica on 20 April. On 24 April 1854 a capsized ship’s boat bearing the name Bella was discovered off the Brazilian coast, together with some wreckage but no personnel, and the ship’s loss with all hands was assumed. The Tichborne family were told in June that Roger must be presumed lost, though they retained a faint hope, fed by rumours, that another ship had picked up survivors and taken them to Australia. Sir James Tichborne died in June 1862, at which point, if he was alive, Roger became the 11th baronet. As he was by then presumed dead, the title passed to his younger brother Alfred, whose financial recklessness rapidly brought about his near-bankruptcy. Tichborne Park was vacated and leased to tenants.

Encouraged by a clairvoyant’s assurance that her elder son was alive and well, in February 1863 Lady Tichborne, Roger’s mother, began placing regular newspaper advertisements in The Times offering a reward for information about Roger Tichborne and the fate of the Bella. None of these produced results; however, in May 1865 Lady Tichborne saw an advertisement placed by Arthur Cubitt of Sydney, Australia, on behalf of his “Missing Friends Agency”. She wrote to him, and he agreed to place a series of notices in Australian newspapers. These gave details of the Bella‘s last voyage and described Roger Tichborne as “of a delicate constitution, rather tall, with very light brown hair and blue eyes”. A “most liberal reward” would be given “for any information that may definitely point out his fate”.

In 1866, a butcher known as Thomas Castro from Wagga Wagga came forward claiming to be Roger Tichborne. Although his manners and bearing were unrefined, he gathered support and travelled to England. He was instantly accepted by Lady Tichborne as her son, although other family members were dismissive and sought to expose him as an impostor.

During protracted enquiries before the case went to court in 1871, details emerged suggesting that the Claimant might be Arthur Orton, a butcher’s son from Wapping  in London, who had gone to sea as a boy and had last been heard of in Australia. After a civil court had rejected the Claimant’s case, he was charged with perjury; while awaiting trial he campaigned throughout the country to gain popular support. In 1874, a criminal court jury decided that he was not Roger Tichborne and declared him to be Arthur Orton. Before passing a sentence of 14 years, the judge condemned the behaviour of the Claimant’s counsel, Edward Kenealy, who was subsequently disbarred because of his conduct.

After the trial, Kenealy instigated a popular radical reform movement, the Magna Charta Association, which championed the Claimant’s cause for some years. Kenealy was elected to Parliament in 1875 as a radical independent but was not an effective parliamentarian. The movement was in decline when the Claimant was released in 1884, and he had no dealings with it. In 1895, he confessed to being Orton, only to recant almost immediately. He lived generally in poverty for the rest of his life and was destitute at the time of his death in 1898. Although most commentators have accepted the court’s view that the Claimant was Orton, some analysts believe that an element of doubt remains as to his true identity and that, conceivably, he was Roger Tichborne. Who knows? The case captivated Victorian England during the 1860s and 1870s.

Whether the claimant was Roger or not, the pub serves up some fine grub and has a magnificent view from its dining room: