Monday 17 June 2019

Return to Calcutt

Wednesday 5th June: Braunston to Calcutt

This was a very peaceful mooring last night.  Just one boat on the move, and they were only going to get water before returning.  There was no unseemly rush first thing to get to the locks either as the locks are closed this week. I took this picture yesterday afternoon.  So quiet!

We were woken at daybreak by orange flappy feet slapping across the roof.  Luckily they weren’t crappy feet too, so no extra roof-washing today.  We didn’t get up though, as we are only going to Calcutt.  We knew that a rather splendid Dutch barge was being craned out of the marina, but by the time we reversed and winded in the marina entrance it was already on the low loader.

There was a dutch barge in that space

It is only going to London.  You would have thought the owners would have cruised down, but perhaps they are just going to live in on a permanent mooring somewhere.

and there is is on the low loader

Unfortunately by the time we decided to move, two other boats had had just had the same idea and were occupying the two water points.  But water could wait; we only needed the Elsan point this morning.  We turned left under the first junction bridge, unfortunately having to stop and wait when a bow suddenly appeared from the Napton direction causing us to drift in the wind and made it more difficult than it should have been.  Bow thrusters would have been very useful!

The sun was shining, but we’ve been along here so many times I didn’t take many photos.  Meg likes leaning on the steerer as we cruise; unfortunately she leans on the Morse control at the same time, so revs drop unexpectedly according to the level of cuddle she requires.

A pair of tufted duck were floating about, but there was no sign of ducklings.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tufty duckling.

Mrs ....
 ... and Mr
It was cloudy by the time we arrived at Calcutt locks, but not raining.  We stopped on the water point to fill up – you need to reverse into the visitor moorings here and the taps are not close.  Luckily there were plenty of boats on their way up the locks, so we had an easy descent before turning into the marina.

The visitor moorings are in the workshop area, which is much more sheltered than the main marina moorings, so the rising wind didn’t cause a problem as Dave neatly reversed in.  The workshop was busy; as we packed up an engineer was servicing a nearby boat and NB Merlin had just been tractored out and the hull was being jet-washed.

We had rather a slow journey home, but thankfully it only rained once.  We are not sure when we will be back – we have a lot of commitments at home.

6 miles, 3 locks

Sunday 16 June 2019

More spring cleaning

Tuesday 4th June;  Braunston outskirts to outside the marina

Up early-ish, in decent weather for outside cleaning! So after breakfast, out I went to clean the bird poo off the roof before getting a bucket and toothbrush and cleaning the algae and grot from the window frames on the starboard side.  With the doors and windows open to the sun, Dave finished blacking the stove, which now looks very smart indeed.  We love this mooring; close enough to Brauston for shopping but far enough from the busy road crossings to hear the birdsong.  The towpath is not wide and a bit overgrown, but foot traffic is very light.

See Meg at the stern?
 After lunch we wound our way along the twisty cut into Braunston, taking some photos of the lovely views along the way.

Now what do these cattle know that we don’t?

Passing the junction bridges, we cruised towards the Stop House.  It was very quiet boat-wise because Braunston locks are closed for emergency work on lock 4.  There were hardly any pedestrians either.

Then we turned into the marina, where Paul admired the clean condition of the engine hole and the shiny windows.  Dave really likes to keep the engine clean and it’s nice for your efforts to be appreciated!  Paul assured us that Chuffed is eminently saleable (I suppose he would, wouldn’t he?) but we are nowhere near making our mind up yet.

So, with rain threatening we reversed out and took the first mooring past the entrance.  We expected few boats to be on the move, but we weren’t the only ones taking advantage for a quiet mooring.  As we secured the ropes the rain started in earnest so we retreated inside for a cuppa. We were really glad we hadn’t gone along to the other marina entrance to wind first or we would really have got soaked!

By 4.30 Meg was desperate for a walk, so, with the rain easing to a drizzle we got our waterproofs and walked up the locks to have a look at the work.  Nothing had been done yet, but it must have taken most of the day to get the work boats into place and erect the safety fencing – all the way from lock 3 to lock 4.

Lock 3

Lock 4

 And the pound between

Lock 4 I think is the one being repaired to ease water loss.  Restrictions on Watford, Foxton and Buckby flights have been in place for a while as the reservoirs are so low. I am writing this nearly 2 weeks later when there has been just a bit of rain …. I hope it has made a decent difference to water levels.

The Buffer's Lady is showing her bottom
It would have been very impolite to have failed to visit the Nelson. It was a bit early for a beer, so we had a bowl of chips to soak up the alcohol!  Jolly nice they were too.  
Unfortunately the rain started again as we left and we were a bit wet when we got back.  But the Mikuni fired up first time and we were soon warm and dry.

Just a mile and a half today.

Saturday 15 June 2019

A walk and a rescue

Monday 3rd June; Hillmorton to outside Braunston

We woke to early sunshine, which lasted for most of the morning.  I took Meg for a walk as far as the railway bridges, to start with in blissful peace

but then past the diggers which were already hard at work.

Who knows how quiet this stretch will be once the building is complete?  Will the towpath be ‘improved’ for people to cycle to Rugby?  It’s still lovely now, and quiet apart from the nearby railway line.

We carried on with cleaning the carpets (me), mostly of dog hair, and touching up some paintwork in the stern (Dave).  We left at 11, just as the cloud was coming over.  A problem with the edge along here is that you can be tempted to bang a pin in to a convenient gap – but then you may find it is totally immovable when you leave. This one is hard to spot, but very useful if you do!

We stopped for lunch near Dunchurch Pools, before continuing on to moor at one of our favourite spots about half a mile from Braunston Turn.  Along the way I managed my first photo of this year’s goslings.

Guess what the previous occupants of this field were.  If I had been up to date with this blog, I would have beaten Pip on Oleanna to this photo!

We don’t use the Pearson’s waterway guides much but happened to look at the local one yesterday.  There is a little nugget of info about the disused railway which ran near the canal, so we looked out for the concrete signal post mentioned in Pearson’s.  Near bridge 85, Dave spotted it.  We’ve never noticed it before.  Not a good photo I'm afraid - I had to wait for a gap in the hedge.

Once we had moored up, it was time for a long and interesting afternoon.  We started by writing our shopping list and setting off for Braunston with dog and rucksacks. Meg got menaced by a concerned parent while the other kept the babies safe near the other bank.

Then by a narrow part of the towpath with a dodgy edge was the share boat NB Stolen Time, sitting quietly a couple of feet from the bank, with no-one on board and all three ropes vertical in the water.  I managed to get the end of the extending dog lead caught under the edge of the sliding hatch so we could pull her close enough for Dave to get aboard, remove the mooring pin from the trailing centre rope, and throw the rope to me so I could pull the boat in.  He retrieved the other mooring pins, still attached to the bow and stern ropes, but couldn’t find their lump hammer.  While we were wondering how to secure it, a passing boater stopped – he could see a hard edge further along, and towed Stolen Time to it, with me on the bank clinging to the end – just – of the centre rope.

Using his hammer, between us we secured the boat and were just finishing when the owners returned with their shopping.  They just could not believe that their well-hammered-in pins had been pulled out, but then they hadn’t had a lot of experience.  The bank is very soft along here, the towpath narrow, the canal not particularly deep and there had been a deep-draughted boat and a speed merchant going by after we had moored, so we were not surprised at all.  This picture was taken as we continued on our way.  The rescuing boater is just about to leave and the relieved owners are behind him.

We crossed the road bridge to the chandlery, where we got some stove blacking and a new piling hook (one seems to have got left behind a day or two ago) before returning to the canal and walking to Braunston Marina to meet Paul from their brokerage.  He was just as nice as he sounded on the phone and told us about the process of selling through a broker, and how to prepare your boat for sale.  We may not use this info, but we’ve got it if we need it.

Then it was over Butcher’s Bridge and up to the village for some milk (too late in the day for Braunston bangers from the butcher, unfortunately), and back past the church to the footpath leading to the canal at accommodation bridge 89.  After a long chat with the grateful owner of Stolen Time, we eventually got back to the boat for yet more jobs.  Dave cleaned the bilges and blacked the stove, while I replaced the shower curtain, which was looking very tired, and cooked tea. It was a beautiful calm evening with a pink sky, though the photo doesn’t show it well.

The photo below shows Chuffed with Braunston on the hill in the distance.  Unfortunately the boat ahead of us had its pram hood up and it rather spoils the effect.

5½ miles

Friday 14 June 2019

Something to think about

Sunday 2nd June; Brownsover to above Hillmorton locks

Ooh, I am getting a bit behind with this blog, over ten days now.  Never mind.  On a lovely sunny morning, not at all like yesterday’s dreadful weather, I popped over to Tesco for the Sunday paper before we pushed over to the water point to fill up before leaving.  Unfortunately the Elsan was out of action, but we’ve got 2 spare cassettes so that didn’t matter over much.  

It was a lovely morning as we cruised through Clifton, passing another load of elders in full bloom.  They were the remains of a hedge that used to extend over the building site;  what will become of it i wonder?

More poppies were in full flower on the banks hiding the devastation of the building works at Hillmorton.  But the weather was changing.

By the time we were approaching the bottom of Hillmorton locks, the cloud had come over, the wind had come up, and as we came into the bottom lock the rain started.  Just too late to moor up and wait it out!  We didn’t notice when we came down a few days ago that there is a herb bed by the lockie’s hut.

They herbs looked so fresh and delicious that I was sorry we didn’t need any.  We decided to pause in the bottom pound to empty a cassette.  The Elsan point is quite a walk away over the bridge and as Dave started on his way across the canal, the rain got heavier … and heavier.  He was not best pleased and returned with water pouring off his wet weathers – at least I had sheltered inside.  But we couldn’t stay there and we had all our gear on, so up the locks we went, with Meg curled up inside.

At the middle pair of locks, the towpath one was already empty, so of course we used that.  The other one was busy emptying itself.  The boat a way ahead of us must have used that side, but the leakage was so appalling – both sides of the gate and the middle were gushing – that it was half empty.  The pound above was pretty low.

At the top pair, the rain was still hammering down.  We rose, slowly – with a top paddle out, it was bound to be slow.  As we waited, and waited, a single-hander came into the other side, where TWO paddles were out, one top and one bottom.

We discussed, naturally, the dire state of the busiest lock flight in the country.  I must get round to sending a comment to CRT.

There was no space for us on the moorings directly above the locks, so we went on under the next bridge, where the edge is ok, but the iron beam holding the piling back doesn’t have gaps to put your nappy-pin piling hook.  Luckily there were lots of bits of rope looped through it, so we were able to moor fairly easily for a rather late lunch.  The rain didn’t stop till nearly 5, and it was wellies for Dave when he took Meg out.  She, of course, doesn’t mind wet grass at all.

Oh yes, that post title.  We have been wondering for a while about our boating future.  Cruising will be considerably restricted this year because of hospital visits and family commitments over the summer. We would have called in to Rugby Boats for a chat yesterday, just to find out whether Chuffed is likely to be saleable, but the relevant person was not in.  The wet and windy weather today was certainly not conducive to turning and going back. Anyway, no decision has been made.

3 miles, 3 locks

Sunday 9 June 2019

Something special

 Saturday 1st June; Grimes Bridge to Brownsover

At last it was warm and sunny when we surfaced!  So, time to spend a couple of hours spring-cleaning.  By 9 we had removed the lockers and matting from the well deck and were sweeping out the coal dust and bits of stick that had accumulated over the winter, and generally cleaning round and removing mud splatter and dog fur.  Then we emptied out the lockers, generating a small heap of rubbish, mostly old paint tins, but at least the bits of stick and leaf could be chucked under the hedge.  We scrubbed the matting before putting everything back and admiring our handiwork.  The canal had been very quiet up till now, with just one or two boats passing.  Time for coffee, maybe?  Then suddenly there were two boats coming from each direction, and we realised the vegetation behind us was obscuring vision - meaning that we were slightly in the way.  So as soon as it was clear we moved off.

Just a quick snap before we left, as you can tell by the trailing bow rope which I'd already untied.  The weather continued as it had started, lovely sunny cruising weather.  At Stretton Stop (Rose Narrowboats) I stepped off to open the little swingbridge, but then two employees arrived and closed up for us.

This permanent mooring always looks an idyllic spot in the sunshine, even though the edge is shallow and there is a big gap between the boats and the edge.

Not far along the canal the elder trees were in full bloom – long stretches on both sides of the canal. There should be a bounteous harvest for the birds and wine-makers this autumn!

And then, the most amazing thing we have ever seen from the boat.  Dave said, ‘What’s that creature?’  We thought probably a deer, but why is it that odd shape?  Was it injured? The answer, though you can’t really tell from the photos, is that it was a doe suckling her fawn.  How special is that?

We only got a tiny glimpse of the fawn because of the grasses, but the mother ignored us completely; we were very quiet, hardly moving a muscle and Dave didn’t change the engine revs so she wasn't startled.  When the fawn had fed, she would leave it lying in a concealed spot in the grasses and go off to feed herself.  This is the reason we should never assume a fawn has been abandoned, and certainly not touch it or move it.  If you are worried, the recommendation is that you come back later on – it will almost certainly have gone, been moved by Mum.

Our decision last night not to continue to All Oaks had been the right one – it was rammed.  The sheer beauty of the wood, with the dark of the trunks and branches against the still-fresh green of the leaves, was stunning.  It will still be beautiful in high summer, but won’t have this amazing colour contrast.

We stopped for an early lunch beyond Brinklow marina, then cracked on, wanting to arrive at Brownsover mid-afternoon to ensure we had a good internet signal for tonight; a rather important football match …. Spurs (Dave’s team) are playing Liverpool in the European Cup Final.  Annoyingly it’s not on BBC or ITV so must be streamed.  We used to moor between the aqueducts and the road bridge, but mooring on this stretch was suspended last year.  The signs are clear, but some people just won’t be told.

Anyway, we got a suitable space. Just one boat between us and the road bridge, so a bit noisy, but we were glad to get in at all.  I nipped to Tesco and, once Dave was sure the internet connection was satisfactory, he went along to Halfords via the aqueduct steps.  I took Meg round to the park for a play, along with the armful of rubbish we generated this morning.  I took this photo from the path down from the road to the park.

Sadly there was no win for Spurs.  I think Lisa’s David (nb What a Lark) would have been delighted though …..

6½ miles, 1 mini swing bridge, Newbold tunnel.