Thursday, 30 June 2016

May your summer sound of ducks

I have just listened to a delightful programme on iPlayer narrated by Jo Bell about her 13 years living aboard nb Tinker and her feelings on moving on to her new boat.  Along the way she talks about the blissful bits of life afloat, the less good bits – fouled prop half-way through Harecastle anyone? – and adventures such as crossing from Bristol to Sharpness.  Although we’ve never spent more than about three weeks on board at a time, I could relate to everything she said and I’m sure liveaboards would get a lot more than I did.  Oh yes, and there is a bit of poetry in there but she doesn’t read her poems the droning dreary way some poets do and I couldn’t always tell whether it was poetry anyway.


Jo was the first Canal Poet Laureate and excerpts from one of her poems are engraved on the gates of lock 9E on the Huddersfield Narrow which we visited last year.

The programme is only on iPlayer for a bit so don’t leave it too long if you want to catch it.  The picture below is from her blog and is captioned  ‘It’s not all like this, you know. But quite a lot of it is.’  I’ve tried to put a link to her blog from the picture and I’m not sure if it’s worked but this link should do it.IMG_2638

“It’s not all like this, you know. But quite a lot of it is.” (Jo Bell)

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Flecknoe and Crick, Calcutt and home

Friday 27th and Saturday 28th May; Braunston to Flecknoe, Crick.  Sunday 29th and Monday 30th May; Flecknoe to Calcutt

On Friday we had an uneventful cruise under grey skies as far as the moorings near bridge 102 at Flecknoe, one of our favourite spots.  Quite a few boats were near the bridge, so we went along a few hundred yards.  One of the moored boats was the strange-looking liveaboard with the amazing front fender.

1 unusual liveaboard

I was standing beside a little hen coop belonging to the boat moored behind.  We had to keep Meg on the lead as we passed, as the hens are often let out to scratch about in the hedge.

As soon as we had moored up, Dave got the bike and pedalled off to Calcutt to fetch the car ready for tomorrow.  There is plenty of room to park up at the bridge.  Apart from one very uneven and muddy bit nearer to Napton Junction it was a fairly easy ride.  He spent the afternoon painting the red coach lines on the starboard side while I got on inside with cleaning and baking.

We walked up to the pub at beer o’clock for a welcome pint after our labours.  It’s a long long walk up the hill …

3 long road to old olive bush

but with wonderful views as you come back down from the hill.

3 miles, and almost as much on foot.

On Saturday we were up bright and early to give Meg a walk before we drove to Crick.  We parked on the edge of the village and walked to the show along the canal, avoiding the long queue for the car park.  Meg did not enjoy the footbridge at all – her claws kept catching in the metal mesh on the way down the other side.  It was my first time at the show; Dave had been just once, before we got our share in nb Padworth, so that would be over ten years ago now.

We booked ourselves in to see several boats but couldn’t get a slot on the one we really wanted to see, Silver Melody, which was the eventual winner. 

crick show

We couldn’t take Meg into the boats of course but she was happy to be left with minders as she got a treat every time!  She loves people anyway, it’s dogs she’s less friendly with.  Luckily none of the dogs seemed to be taking much notice of each other, all looking rather resigned to a boring day as they trailed along by their owners.  We spent some time talking to Wilson’s and Kinver Canopies as we will need to replace our cratch cover this year.  The rest of the time, between dotting back and forth to view boats, we just browsed the stalls and sat in the sunshine.

Before we drove back to Flecknoe we walked up the towpath from the bridge to let poor Meg off the lead for a run.  She had been extremely patient and well-behaved all day.  The moorings when we got back were still uncrowded with plenty of space.

2 flecknoe

On Sunday I took Meg and drove to Calcutt to take the car back to our marina mooring, then we walked back along the canal.  Yet again the day had dawned cold and grey with the cloud cover lifting for a glorious afternoon and evening.  We decided to stay put for the day; it’s bank holiday weekend on one of the busiest stretches of canal so we got on with a few jobs and generally lazed around.  Apart from a lull over lunchtime there was a constant stream of boats in both directions.  Quite a few seemed to be doing a day out-and-back from the marinas around Napton Junction.

Of course we Dave had to expend some energy chucking a ball about ….

2 ball fun

with the inevitable result.

3 inevitable result

By evening there were boats tucked in behind and ahead of us, with boats as far as the eye could see in both directions.  That’s a bank holiday for you I suppose!

On Monday it was cold enough for hats and fleeces as we set off.  The locks were very busy but we were still moored up in the marina by 11.30.  There is a swan family close to the junction; Dave was menaced as he went past the other day but the adults hustled the babies into the water and followed them when I approached with Meg.

swan family napton junction

We left for Devon mid-afternoon; the benefit of end-of-bank-holiday travel to the West Country is that the traffic is mostly going the other way!

3 miles, 3 locks

Trip stats; 106 miles, 14 locks, Newbold and Snarestone tunnels (twice) and the little swing bridge at Rose Narrowboats.

In a few weeks’ time we are hoping to cruise the Upper Thames, which will be new waters for us.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Repairs at Hillmorton

Thursday 26th May; Brownsover to Braunston

A motor chugged by at 5.30 towing butty Gosport (that’s all Dave could see through the chink in the curtain), though it didn’t keep us awake for long.  Somewhat later I popped down to Tesco for a newspaper and to dispose of some recycling, only to find that the bins have been replaced, as in our local Tesco in Devon, by a car-wash.  Very annoying.  We stopped off to use the sanitary station at the park, and also to dispose of a rubbish bag chucked by some idiot boater into the trees the other side of Newbold Tunnel.  Most of the contents had dropped out and drifted in under the offside vegetation so there was room in the bag to put our empty paint tins. It’s hard to see in this photo but both these boats are called Harlequin.  There are 28 Harlequins registered with CRT; I wonder what the odds are of two mooring at the same location at the same time?

1 both called harlequin

We cruised on to Hillmorton in cloudy and cool conditions, looking forward to doing a bit of work!  At the middle locks repairs are progressing on the towpath side.  The coping stones had started to lean in and some boats were getting their gunwales caught as the lock filled.  Another course of stone still has to be removed before they relay it all.

2 hillmorton middle

The stone and bricks are being cleaned up for re-use by this patient chap.  It looks like a long job.  The stone blocks have all been numbered to ensure they are refitted in the right place.

3 cleaning bricks for re-use

There is a crack opening up at the top lock too but although it will be repaired it is less urgent and they shouldn’t need to close the lock.

4 hillmorton top

The canal was very quiet once we had left the locks and we stopped for lunch at the first stretch of piling past the motorway bridge.  We were so cold that I made some soup for lunch to warm us up.  But soon after we got moving again the cloud began to lift and by the time we approached Braunston the sun was breaking through. 

It is quite hard to get a shot at this time of year that clearly shows the ridge-and-furrow fields along the canal.  The grass is quite long and lush but you could see the position of the furrows when the cattle walked along them to graze.

5 cow in furrow at braunston

We stopped out in the country, about half a mile from the first visitor moorings, to be sure of a quiet spot as Dave has some painting to do.  Good decision as it turned out – there was no space at all on the approach to the junction, and although we could have moored outside the marina it was much quieter where we were.  Dave got on with his painting and Meg and I did a circular walk via the field path to the church, up to the butcher and back down Nibbetts Lane and past the marina.  I do love the artwork on this oil tank at the top of the lane.

6 oil tank in nibbets lane

I stopped to talk to a couple on a hire boat who turned out to live a few miles from us in Devon.  They had been to the Boathouse for lunch and been extremely disappointed with the food so were about to try the Gongoozler’s Rest.  Back at the boat, the swan family were visiting.  Meg got thoroughly hissed at.

7 lovely mooring near braunston

It was a lovely warm evening in a beautiful spot.  I had the side hatch open and listened to the birds as I made a pie for tea.

3 locks, 8 and a half miles.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Cold, damp, and a tediously slow cruise to Rugby

Wednesday 25th May; Hawkesbury Junction to Brownsover

Oh, what a change from yesterday!  Woolly hat, fleece and gloves for me, and Dave went back below after a while to put his thermal vest on.  Into the cold headwind on the North Oxford, and as we passed the wildish sub-station area on the offside I thought I might have seen a water-vole; they do live round here apparently, but another I saw a bit further on turned out to be a rat.  As we passed the garden opposite the tackle shop at bridge 4 I took a couple of snaps of the variety of motor vehicles there, and wondered again how on earth the owner managed to get the newer-looking ones in past all the overgrown old ones ……  my car expert tells me this one is a Ferrari.

3 another ferrari

The passenger window is a little open and the windscreen wiper must have been in use when the engine stopped.  It doesn’t look as though it has been in an accident so what’s the story?  The vans and larger vehicles seem to be in use as sheds.

4 are they his sheds

We managed to squeeze in at All Oaks Wood for lunch, after which we waited for a boat trickling along the line of moored boats to go past. Then a work boat hove into view coming towards us round the bend, so it was a good few minutes before we left.  But it didn’t take long to catch the first boat up as it was still going at boat-passing speed.  The steerer appeared to be new to the game, so we hung back to avoid stressing her.  There was plenty of time to take a photo of the entrance to the old Brinklow Arm with its lovely bridge.

5 old brinklow arm bridge

Occasionally someone else took over from the steerer in front so she could open a can but went no faster and it began to get annoying as we had to keep dropping into tickover to keep our distance.  Eventually we thought they were pulling in to let us pass but no, they were just making a meal of lining up for Newbold Tunnel.  The sign at the entrance gives the estimated transit time as 2 minutes.  Now, in general it doesn’t take as long to go through tunnels as the notice says, especially a wide tunnel like Newbold, and as my watch has a stopwatch I timed them ….. THREE minutes!  Thank heavens they pulled in on the pub mooring.  It wasn’t a hire boat and they all had cans of Special Brew in their hands, maybe they were just extremely relaxed …..

We only wanted to go as far as Brownsover where we took a space on the 14-day stretch in case we couldn’t get in further along.  Dave went straight off back to the aqueduct where he took the steps down to the road and went to Halfords.  I went the other way to Tesco as the cupboards were pretty bare.  I’d made a cake yesterday so we had a slice of that before getting on with jobs.  For the first time since we got the boat I have a working light above my side of the bed – Dave had finally managed to get a replacement switch for it.  Then he repaired the bike puncture, as he’ll need it to fetch the car so we can go to Crick on Saturday.

12 miles, 1 lock, 1 tunnel