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Tuesday 22nd September 2015 – HERE IN THE NICE AND QUIET …

canadian national railway locomotives fort beausejour new brunswick canada … isolation of my litle spec on the edge of the marshes I was having the best night’s sleep that I had had for quite some time.

However, as I have said before, one of the things that you need to do when you arrive somewhere to stay for the night in North America is to check the immediate area for railway lines, and I forgot to do that yesterday, didn’t I?

This isn’t the train that woke me up of course, but it is one that is very much like it, shuddering, clanking and blowing just about 100 yards away from my quiet little spec

bay of fundy fort beausejour new brunswick canadaWhen I did finally heave myself out of my stinking pit this morning, this is the beautiful view that greeted me. I’m shrouded in a fog rolling in off the head of the Bay of Fundy, something that many Ancient Mariners would tell you all about.

I’m shrouded in condensation too inside the truck cap – or at least, the truck cap is. I’m going to have to do something about this in the long term because as the weather cools down even more, the condensation will become worse and worse

I’ve had a little play around inside the back of Strider too and I’ve made piles of extra room. I can actually move around in there now, as well as unfold my chair and sit down. What with that and my little fold-up table, I’m really comfortable in there now. Next trick is going to be a solar panel on the roof and a battery inside so that I can run some lights in there and a little inverter to power a couple of things like my slow cooker.

I still have a couple of plans about the bed too and I shall put them into practice given a nice afternoon and a quiet spot in which to work.

bay of fundy fort beausejour new brunswick canadaThat’s Strider way down there, in the spot where I parked for the night. And beyond it is the head of the Bay of Fundy. I’m actually standing on the ramparts of Fort Beausejour and you can see why the French chose this site for the building of their fort.

We’re on the southern shore of the narrowest part of the isthmus of Chignecto, on the edge of the Tantramar Marshes – and you may remember if you were with us on our voyage in October 2010 we went to Fort Gaspereaux, on the northern shore of the isthmus.

fort beausejour new brunswick canadaFort Beausejour was built in 1750 under the orders of the French Governor the Marquis de la Jonquière, and with these two forts, the French could bottle up the isthmus.

Nothing could pass by here without the French knowing about it and so quite naturally they became prime targets for the British Army during the mid-18th Century. The British under Robert Monckton laid seige to Fort Beausejour in June 1755 and it fell after 13 days. Fort Gaspereaux fell a couple of days later and that was the end of French rule in Acadia.

fort beausejour new brunswick viewed from site of fort lawrence nova scotia canadaThe British had built a fort – Fort Lawrence – in Nova Scotia across the marshes from Fort Beausejour in order to put pressure on the French fort.

The fort didn’t last very long – the British preferred to occupy Fort Beausejour once they had captured it – and so there is nothing left of Fort Lawrence. But the site is well-known in the area and so I went for a wander over there for a look. And while there is nothing of the fort left to see, there’s a splendid view across the marshes to Fort Beausejour

fort beausejour new brunswick viewed from nova scotia tourist information board offices canadaBut that’s not the best view of Fort Beausejour by any means. From the offices of the Nova Scotia Tourist Board’s information office, the view of the fort is even more spectacular. You can see its five-star pointed design and it earthen walls quite clearly from here with a good telephoto lens.

In fact, such is the dominance of the site where I am standing over the surrounding area that I’m surprised that the British hadn’t occupied and fortified this point instead. I know that this is the point that I would have chosen.

chignecto ship railway nova scotiak canadaFrom up here on this eminence, there’s another good view – this time of an object that is just as spectacular as the fort, even though it’s much less well-known.

Right in the centre of the image, surrounded by cows, is the dock that was intended to the the entrance to the Chignecto Ship Railway and had this been built, it would have been a really impressive structure.

As I said, this is the narrowest part of the isthmus and if ships could find a way across it, they would save hundred of miles and several days, as well as avoid many of the risks of shipwreck, as they sailed between the Gulf of St Lawrence and the eastern seaboard of North America.

chignecto ship railway nova scotia canadaThe plan was for the ships to sail into the dock, to be raised up by a hydraulic ramp and loaded onto railway wagons, and then transported by train across the isthmus to the other side – to the dock near Tidnish that we visited in October 2010.

Unfortunately the works on the southern side of the isthmus are on private property and not able to be visited, but what we are looking at here are the earthworks that would have carried the track bed of the railway, which were completed for several miles.

Why this all went wrong was that the same technology that enabled the construction of the engineering works of the railway also enabled shipbuilders to build bigger and bigger ships – and so the railway quickly became clear that the railway would be inadequate for the task, and funds could not be raised to rebuild it to larger dimensions.

trans canada highway nova scotia canadaAfter lunch I set off down the Trans-Canada Highway through the mountains towards Antigonish. Hannah is at St F-X University there and I hadn’t seen much of her while I’ve been over here so I went to visst her.

We went out for a meal and a chat for a couple of hours, and then I hit the road again. There’s a big Irvings truck stop down at the Canso Strait and while I’m not a big fan of truck stops these days for sleeping purposes, it’s the nest place that I can think of to settle down for the night.

At least all of the facilities are there.

Tuesday 26th October 2010 – NOW LIZ, WHO READS THIS BLOG …

rainstorm pictou nova scotia canada… saw my photo of Pictou last night and asked me what the place was like and how it looked in broad daylight.

And the answer to that is “no idea”.

I came here the first time in 2003 and it was absolutely p155ing down so I didn’t stay long. And today, as if in keeping with some kind of tradition, it was likewise p155ing it down. And how.

main street pictou nova scotia canadaBut this time I’m made of more sterner stuff and went for a nosey, getting thoroughly drenched in the process.

We’re lucky in that many of the buildings are quite substantial – made of stone, not your usual timber framed stuff. North American urban settlement is famous – or infamous – for being ravaged by fire and these stone buildings will have resisted that quite well.

However, escaping from the ravages caused by human modernism and “progress” is another thing, and Pictou has suffered some from that.

Now for those of you familiar with North American history, you will know that Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts is significant as it was there that the Pilgrim Fathers landed in late 1620 in the Mayflower.

replica hector pictou nova scotia canadaAnd Pictou has a similar kind of significance for Canada as it was here in 1773 that a group of Scots landed in the Hector – a replica of which is on display here – and laid the foundations for Nova Scotia – or New Scotland.

Look at any of the graves of people who were born in this area during the following few years – there are dozens of people called Hector interred there.

And after that it was a drive to Springhill to do something else that I … errrr … overlooked when I was here before.

memorial springhill mining disaster nova scotia canadaI didn’t visit the Anne Murray Museum this time (so I didn’t meet Anne Murray this time like I did the last time) and I didn’t have time to visit the mining museum even though it was open today.

Instead I tracked down the monument to the hundreds of miners who died in the dozens of mining explosions and collapses in the shameful situation that passed for coal-mining here from about 1820 until just a few years ago.

If you know Peggy Seeger’s song Springhill Mining Disaster – made famous by U2 – then that is about one of the explosions here.

mural wall amherst nova scotia canadaNext stop was Amherst to look for something interesting and really I must have been asleep the two times I’ve passed through here and not noticed anything worth photographing.

Apart from the fact that it’s a beautiful sandstone-built town, there’s tons of other stuff that’s well-worth seeing.

I was having health issues both of the times I came here and that’s my excuse anyway.

fort beausejour amherst nova scotia canadaWhen I was here in 2003 I went to visit Fort Beausejour – the second-last bastion of the French army in Canada, not the last one (despite what most history books tell you – that dubious honour belongs to Fort Gaspereaux across the isthmus).

Here they hung on grimly to a toehold at the head of the Bay of Fundy as the French possessions all around them crumbled away into nothing, and eventually they too were swept away with the tide.

fort lawrence amherst nova scotia canadaThe British built a fort – Fort Lawrence – about 5 miles away from Fort Beausejour in order to blockade the latter and so I went in search of that.

It appears that this is in fact the site of the Nova Scotia Tourist Board offices and once I had realised that, it wasn’t all that difficult to track down. It’s not easy to miss all of those flags fluttering away up there.

acadian dyke tantramarre marshes chignecto isthmus nova scotia canadaFrom up on the heights I noticed what looked like early Acadian dykes across the Tantramarre marshes. The Acadians had done their best to drain the marshes and ended up with, what one commentator called “the largest hayfield in the world”.

So I had a wander out across the flats and, lo and behold, indeed they were, complete with a handpainted sign, displaying the Acadian flag. That’s the “Stella Maris” there on the pale blue background.

In the 19th Century, technology began to catch up with human ambition. And one of the ambitions was to make a short-cut across the Chignecto isthmus between the Strait of Northumberland and the Bay of Fundy so that ships would save days of sailing time and all the risks of circumnavigating the Canso Strait.

Someone had the idea of building a ship railway, where ships would sail into a canal and then be loaded onto railway trucks in order to be transported to the other side of the isthmus.

chignecto ship railway canal nova scotia canadaBut just as technology made this a feasible proposition, making larger ships became more feasible too and the ship railway was overwhelmed by events.

Work had actually begun but was soon abandoned. Nevertheless there still remains considerable evidence of the earthworks and I managed to track them down too. This would have been quite an impressive achievement had it been completed, judging by what remains.

nova scotia nouvelle ecosse canadaWhenever I see this sign, I always end up laughing, even though I know that I shouldn’t. Coming from an oppressed minority myself, I can understand the feelings that minorities have about defending themselves and their cultures. But this sign is the kind of thing that brings this policy into disrepute.

I often ask about this sign – what’s the purpose of the “Nouvelle Ecosse”?. I’m always told that Canada has a policy of bilingualism (except in Quebec where their Anglophone minority is oppressed much more than the French minority ever was, but that’s another issue) and so every public sign in English has to be translated into French.

And I always wish that I had a camera handy to photograph their faces when I explain to them that “Nova Scotia” is Latin, not English, and so under the terms of the bilingual policy, there needs to be an English translation.

railway port elgin pivoting bridge new brunswick canadaI’m now in Port Elgin just down the road.

Port Elgin is famous for its hand-cranked (so much for modern technology in the 1890s) pivoting railway bridge that moved so that ships could enter the harbour here.

Just on the edge of the town is not darkness but a motel, and next to the motel are the remains of Fort Gaspereaux. This is where i’ll be staying the night (the motel, not the remains of the fort).

There’s also the Confederation Bridge, the world’s longest bridge across iced-up waters. I saw that in 2003 but taking a photo of that with a compact digital was … errr … interesting so I’m going to do it again.

I hope that it’s still standing – I don’t seem to have much luck with bridges over iced-up waters – and that will be effectively my tourism over. It’s all downhill from here.