We began our trip on Tuesday afternoon, 20th July, in pleasant sunshine, so well covered with factor 50 the first mate and I prepared to depart Ratho for Glasgow, a journey that we expected would take us four days travelling. Jessica was pointing in to Edinburgh, so I had to reverse her back to the basin and turn for the West. This manoeuvre took us about 15 minutes, and we collected weed that had to be released from the propeller. Finally, after having a bite to eat, we were off at 13:45.
The canal banks at this time of year are blooming with such a variety of plants. Predominant in their cream fluffy panicles are the meadowsweet, indigo vetch climbs secretly between, and in broad swathes the rose bay willow herb glows with the sun behind it. Such sensations of colour, heady fragrance and light delighted us. When my heart is lifted by such joy I give thanks. Do people who do not believe in God give thanks? If so to whom?
We headed directly for Linlithgow, not stopping at the Almond aqueduct. Coming out into open farm land the fields of barley were ripening. The canal, which is a contour canal with no locks for about 30 miles, winds up the river valleys and down again round the hills. Past Broxburn it is not so much hills as old oil shale bings [Sc. = deposits]. Again the colours impressed us; on the red background pioneer plants had colonised in drenching patches. This time the yellow ragwort joined the rose bay willow herb, and bright red poppies were in evidence.
The wooded stretch between bridges Winchburgh and Philipston [Bridge 33 and Bridge 38, see the map http://www.waterscape.com/media/documents/90 ] afforded us a time to tie up and let the engine cool while we had R&R. From about 6pm we made the last stage in to Linlithgow arriving at the visitor moorings at 20:20 in time to get some supplies from Tescos which is open till 10pm.
I was woken by ducks quacking loudly next morning, but have not yet mastered the art of recording them and uploading the media so you will have to take my word for it.
We had hot cross buns for breakfast, yes I know it is perverse, my family kept many food customs inherited from my mother’s church-loving family in South Wales, and cross buns were only had on Good Friday (fresh) and holy Saturday (toasted). But nowadays the shops begin selling them as soon as they have got rid of their Christmas stock so in panic I buy cross buns during Lent and put them in the freezer in case I am not able to get any on the day when we traditionally eat them. These ones had been in the freezer since Easter, and I brought them and other frozen foods to the boat because they would help the fridge cool down.
The morning’s weather was dull. I took no photos, but again we delighted in the plant life. One of the most noticeable plants on this stretch is the Scottish docken. It grows much taller than its English cousin, and the leaves are longer and more pointed than dock leaves. Some of the plants must have been nearly 1.5 metres tall. We also saw a heron, and of course swans and ducks with their broods.
By the time we were approaching the Falkirk tunnel it was raining. First mate at the helm was holding our umbrella [a gift from British Waterways on the occasion when Her Majesty the Queen opened the Falkirk wheel] above his head while he steered the boat. Now it was my turn to take her through the 620 metre long tunnel. As we approached the warning light was red, and I saw the headlight of another boat coming towards us, so I tied up and waited. After about ten minutes the Seagull Trust Boat emerged [ http://www.seagulltrust.org.uk ] they were on a trip with passengers. We took our turn and coming out just at Falkirk High railway station, we found a place to moor just before the next bridge, [62 Walkers Bridge]. We tied up and as we walked away we saw the holiday boat Freya pass us and the crew wave.