An Evening Beside the Water

Our British weather has been predictably unpredictable so far this ‘summer’, so when there is a sudden burst of heat it has to be grabbed with both hands. An after work trip to the coast was called for yesterday, with fish and chips from Crispys, Exmouth’s finest, a walk on the beach and the first Pimms of the season on the balcony at the Grove. Top this off with a stunning sunset at Topsham and todays return to rain didn’t seem quite so terrible.

Thames Barge Vigilant, Connections

Imagine being six years old and setting off to work in 1908. I compare my little granddaughter who is five when I think of it. Talking to a friend at work recently I learnt that her late grandfather was a ‘Barge Gypsy’. A what? I asked her.
Apparently Charles Willoughby Garner started work on the Grand Union Canal, just six years old. His job was to guide the horse along the canal bank as it pulled the barge owned by the Bromwich’s, his grandmother’s family. The barge carried grain, coal and wood, presumably towards London as the canal runs 130 miles from Birmingham.
Charles stayed with the family barge until he was fourteen and then moved on to be a tug man on the Thames.
The First World War began a couple of years before and thank goodness he was too young to be called to arms. He had a very important role during wartime, guiding boats in under darkness, and when the bombing was happening he would be away from home for days on end.
Charles stayed on the Thames until he retired aged 68. The Bromwich barge was last seen and catalogued as sunk at the bottom of a Manchester dock yard. I wonder if Charles knew that when he died in 1979. I’m sure he was justly proud of his part in Britain’s maritime history. Thank you to Michelle for sharing his story.
If you have been following Lucid Gypsy for a while you’ll know that I’ve been posting about the restoration of a Thames barge, Vigilant, here in Exeter at Topsham Quay, who knows, perhaps Charles even sailed on her. Yesterday I popped down to check her progress.
Stern in the Topsham mud.
She comes with her own garden!
Looking good on the port side.
Wonderful curves.
Traces of colour to her bow.
Imagine how beautiful she will be in sail, I can’t wait to see her.

Related posts
Postcard from the River Exe and its barge project

Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Tense

Michael Pick says, ‘We spend so much of our lives thinking back, or looking ahead, and even though a photo captures only one moment in time, with a bit of thought it can freeze the process of moving forward, or the promise of things to come. Your challenge this week is to seal one such moment in amber’ and invites us to share to join the
I thought this was an impossible task at first, but then I came up with these.

2013 Jan 06_2909

A connecting extension to a favourite walk.

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On the strip of ground between the river Exe above and the canal, out of sight on the left, Devon County Council are building a new world class outdoor education centre in Exeter. The spiral stairs to the left are the way up the abseil tower which was nearly completed when I took this photo in January and the centre is due to open in April. A real investment in the future.


This is sadly a bit more worrying. The South West Coast Path is a 630 mile walk, one of Britains National Trails. The Devon Red Sandstone section here at Sidmouth which climbs sharply eastwards has been closed because of erosion. The path has become unstable in several places, and some homes are at risk of plunging over the cliff. Diversions are in place for walkers until more permanent plans are made.


Thames Barge Vigilant revisited

At the very end of 2012 I told you about the restoration of the Thames barge Vigilant on Topsham quay, here I’ve been back a couple of times but just with my phone camera in fading light. In February I took these.

And just this evening some more.

Haven’t Mr McCabe and co. made good progress?

January Small Stone# Nine

Midweek. What to do to make Humpday pass well? On Sunday I walked at Bowling Green Marsh and the weather was dismal, damp and mizzely. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands of resting migratory birds, but I didn’t have my camera and I had my hands full with the dogs. This was the best I could do with my phone camera. DSC_0008

These out of focus sweeties are widgeon. Today, the sky was brilliant blue, so I checked the tide tables and convinced a hobbit that he needed to drive me. I promised him treats – he’s a bird lover, he prefers birds of prey really but has never been there.  I still only had my phone camera, but this was the view. DSC_0033I ran him down the lane, into the hide and then to the viewing platform. Pretty good for a lunchtime jaunt eh?


January Small Stone# Three

After work today my friend and I went to Topsham and had a gentle stroll around the empty streets, along to the end of the Goatwalk for a view of the estuary in the dark. Although the sun had set at four-thirty, the lights were shining down river at Exmouth and across the river to the west at Starcross. Occasionally the glow worm lights of a train travelled along the far shore, and a gap in the clouds, where the moon sprang through, created a reflection of the same oval shape in the water.

We were actually being peeping Toms – slowly walking past the windows that had curtains open.   Several homes had lights on, giving us a tiny insight into their world. Fairy lights and a few Christmas trees were still visible and the soft glow from hearths, plump sofas, cosy cushions and curled up pets. At one house where the kitchen was at the front, we could see an elderly couple chatting over a teapot at the table, as they must have for decades. A magical walk. DSC_1012