Living Close to Water

I love living close to water. Our house in Inverness is situated a five minute walk from the canal on one side, a ten minute walk to the river on the other, and a pleasant half-hour stroll following the canal to its final lock-gate will take me straight down to the sea 🙂

Water, Water, Everywhere

Clachnaharry Swing Bridge

I’ve got a real soft spot for this dinky little swing bridge carrying the single track railway line across the Caledonian Canal at Clachnaharry, Inverness. I walk past it regularly and there are myriad photographs of it in my image archive, often caught with a train crossing over, but so far I’ve never seen it open.

It swings open at right angles on a pivot to allow boats to pass through, either coming into the canal from the Beauly Firth through the Muirtown Basin or going out of the canal in the opposite direction. Apparently it’s a 126ft girder railway bridge that has been in situ since 1909, replacing the original bridge of 1862, and is painted white to reduce expansion in hot weather.

Luckily for me there is a pedestrian level crossing on either side of the bridge, allowing for some really up-close-and-personal images to be taken from the middle of the track itself. Maybe one day I’ll catch it opening up for a boat to go through! 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Myriad

Whatever Floats Your Boat

I have an odd kind of fascination with boats, even though I must admit I’m not particularly keen on being on one. I often find it funny that someone who loves being so close to the water doesn’t really like being on it so much, probably because I don’t want to end up in it! I love swimming in a swimming pool but not in open water – I once nearly drowned at the seaside as a child, and the experience has long left me warily respectful of large, powerful bodies of open water.

In idle daydreams I love playing with the idea of the potential freedom a small vessel floating along can bring – I imagine hiring a rental boat for the day to travel up and down the canal by my house, of having fun on the water in a very restricted and contained way, never far from land. But then reality hits and I think – I don’t like the undulating sensation of movement beneath my feet and anyway, the scenery looks just as nice from the bank where I can feel far more safe and secure.

I’m not someone who avoids being on water at any cost. I’m happy enough being on a ferry boat, because there’s a good reason for being on the water and the boats are robust. Or taking a short, tourist boat-trip, I’ve done that on occasion, too. But being on an ocean-going cruise for days of weeks on end has never been my idea of a fun holiday. Here in the UK I’ve been sailing with friends on a loch before, and have been out in a rowing boat, and a kayak in the sea for that matter. I’ve even experienced water-skiing behind a boat – but never again, once was more than enough for me. In Louisiana visiting my in-laws I’ve been out on small motor boats on the bayou, and have also visited relatives on their houseboat because living in the swamp as they do there, boats are simply a part of everyday life.

But basically, a life lived regularly on and off the water is not for me. Beaches and shorelines and riverbanks are more my scene. Close by but keeping my distance. Boats and me seem to have a truce, a mutual understanding because of their preferred location. They stay in the water and I admire them from dry land. Yet I continue my fascination with boats, drawn to photographing them and watching other people live their lives on and off their boats, whether for work or for leisure. Sometimes I wish I was more like them, clearly comfortable in stepping so easily from solid ground to floating free. But I’m not, and that’s all there is to it. Still, whatever floats your boat! 🙂

Caledonian Canal: Clachnaharry Sea Lock

One of my favourite walks close to home in Inverness is to tramp along to the very end of the Caledonian Canal where it finally meets the sea at Clachnaharry Sea Lock. I’m a creature of habit so walk here a lot, sometimes with my camera and sometimes just my phone, and tend to take very similar photographs every time I go. I’d really struggle to choose a favourite image out of all I’ve ever taken because I genuinely love them all in different ways. The scenery remains pretty much the same every time, but the weather changes along with the seasons and the tides. This morning it was dry and cloudy with intermittent sunny spells but OMG it was really windy – my hair was whipping about in all directions and was in knots when I got home! 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Starts with ‘Cal’

Photo A Week Challenge: All About the Scenery

Trains of Thought

As I took this photograph the other day I thought: I haven’t been on a train for such a long time – just over 18 months, in fact. The last train journey I took was the Caledonian Sleeper train from London to Inverness the day we moved pretty much from one end of the country to the other. The end of one line, and the beginning of another. Inverness station is a terminus for only three railway lines – one from the South, one from the East, and one from the North.

There’s a major suspension bridge carrying all road traffic north across the expanse of open water between Inverness and the Black Isle, first opened in 1982, but not a rail bridge. This little train is heading north too, although technically in this photograph it’s actually snaking slowly westwards along the edge of the Beauly Firth until the sea finally narrows enough to be crossed and for the train to begin to change direction – the only way the railway can go. In some ways so much has changed in and around Inverness over the last 20 years, but in other ways, not so much.

Transport infrastructure is still relatively minimal here – three single track rail lines, two main roads, the A96 heading East towards Aberdeen, and the dual carriageway A9 on the North/ South access. The lesser winding rural roads to the West tend to be more tourist-driven, or for those wanting to get away from it all. No motorways, one airport. All transport links in and out of Inverness are entirely dependent on the weather – in winter, if the main road and/ or rail line is closed due to snow in the mountains, stuff simply doesn’t get through. Food, fuel, people – the snow doesn’t discriminate.

I grew up expecting to be snowed in at some point during the winter. We always kept a well-stocked store cupboard at home, ‘just in case’. It’s a habit that has continued with me throughout my life, which has also helped when I’ve been stuck at home unable to go out for other reasons – like last month when we had to self-isolate when I tested positive for Covid 19. We only needed one online order and home delivery half way through to top up our supplies, and otherwise managed fine with what we already had.

There’s an inward-looking forward-thinking self-sufficiency involved in living up here, even living within the town itself, that seems to suit my introspective, introverted self and has definitely helped me cope with lock-down this time round. It’s a bit like being snowed in and unable to go to school or work or visit friends and family, but easier in that we can still access food shops and essentials, and thankfully the power is still on. Although of course we were never snowed in for months on end – more often days rather than weeks. But still, the mindset remains the same.

So it’s maybe been 18 months since I traveled anywhere beyond a few miles radius from home, but I realise I’m absolutely OK with that self-induced seclusion. In that time I’ve got used to being here, to a slower pace of life brought to a near standstill, while embracing the quietude that comes with a heightened awareness of night and day, sunshine and snow, frost and thaw. Small subtleties have grown in stature, nuances in nature more pronounced. I hear birdsong and raindrops, see patterns and shadows, feel at one with the world now we no longer feel we have to rush everywhere.

I wonder idly if my traveling days are over for good. Has whatever minimal wanderlust I once had been sated forever, or is this just a temporary hiatus due to global circumstance? Who knows, but for now I’m feeling OK in my own little corner of civilisation, safe and snug and secure. Trains come and go and I am not on any of them, and thankfully for the time being I have no desire to be anywhere else than here…

Winter Walk on a Monday

It’s been five weeks and three days since I last went for a walk along the canal, but today the weather was so lovely (well, for the middle of winter, anyway) I decided to give it a go, so wrapped up warm and off I went, taking my time, and my camera of course.

Inevitably I was out far too long and walked far too far for my first ‘proper’ post-Covid convalescent walk, but I felt the need to really get my lungs working properly again and however exhausted I may feel now I’m home again, it was well worth the effort.

Blue water, blue sky, rosy cheeks and a huge sense of satisfaction! Smiles all round for me today 🙂

Weekly Smile

Taking the Train North from Inverness

Although the opening of the Kessock Bridge in 1982 speedily carries the main A9 trunk road north across the water with no discernible diversion to its route, the main rail line north still necessarily snakes sideways west from Inverness along the southern edge of the Beauly Firth until it reaches Dingwall, where it then splits in two with one scenic line continuing west to Kyle of Lochalsh and the other heading north to Thurso and Wick.

On its way out of Inverness, the railway line crosses the northern end of the Caledonian Canal at Clachnaharry, where its single track is carried across the water by a narrow swing bridge with a pedestrian level crossing at either end of the bridge. Approaching trains sound their horn before reducing speed and creeping slowly across the bridge, making a perfect photographic opportunity for those pedestrians waiting to cross the line to access the continuing path to the sea lock on the other side of the railway line.