Sunday, 30 April 2017

Bank Holiday Weekend: Day 3

Late yesterday afternoon the sun came out and the temperature went up; we had the side hatch open until about 8pm. This morning wasn't as overcast as yesterday, or as the forecast had predicted, but it was a bit breezy. We set off at a little after 8.30; it seemed like a long time since we'd been beyond here into Leighton Buzzard. At Leighton lock I left the camera on the boat, so Adrian started snapping away.

At the Wyvern hire base we counted 14 boats moored up -- on occasions we've been past in the winter there have been as many as 35 there. It meant there was plenty of room to get through, and people had even moored on the towpath opposite.

I went cautiously through the bridge after the shopping mooring, as you can't see very much. Once I was through I found the Jules' Fuels boats coming towards me, breasted up. At least there's a winding hole there so there was plenty of room; almost anywhere else along here would have been worse.

We carried on to Grove Lock, where I used the little arm below the lock to turn around. The wind was pretty strong and not entirely helpful, but we got round easily enough and started re-tracing our steps. We went past the Jules' Fuels boats on the shopping moorings; we knew they'd be stopping to serve the long term moorers here, because one of them had asked if we'd seen them. Back at Leighton Lock, a boat had just arrived below but it was in our favour we we went down first. We passed last night's mooring spot about three hours after we'd left it.

Yesterday, one of the boats moored near the top of the Soulbury Three had been feeding the ducks, and I'd counted twelve ducklings. The lady said there had been thirteen to begin with. Today, all remaining twelve were still present and correct.

At the Soulbury locks, we had to turn the top lock, but could see another bkat coming up the bottom one and soon to go into the middle. That meant we could leave the gates open and cross in the pound. It was the Bromley Youth Trust boat, which we also saw yesterday.

There were a couple of volunteer lock keepers om duty, so the gates of the bottom lock had also been left open for us. A boat conveniently arrived at the bottom, too, so we did all three locks without having to close a gate after we'd left a lock.

We continued just a short way on, and moored in another favourite spot. One summer evening we watched lapwings in the field opposite. The water level is a bit low, and the chances are that it might fall a bit further tonight, but we'll see. After lunch we washed the side of the boat, as the really dirty side was now on the towpath, and I cut up some pallet that the new fridge arrived on for kindling. It's been in storage under the bed. It's been partly sunny this afternoon, but also very blustery at times.

10 miles, 5 locks. (27 miles, 11 locks)

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Bank Holiday Weekend: Day 2

We had a very quiet night at Campbell Park at Milton Keynes, but as we had trouble getting the fire going to any great extent last night, the boat was pretty chilly by this morning. We had porridge for breakfast, and set off at a little after 8.30. We had only about half a bag of coal on board, so were hoping to come across a fuel boat. Sure enough, a bit further through MK we found Gary on Ascot selling diesel to a moored boat; we went alongside too, and bought a bag of coal. A Wyvern hire boat coming the other way seemed a bit confused about what was going on.

As we went through Simpson a swan got up from her nest and started turning her eggs. The Canada geese at Fenny Stratford were a step ahead as they had lots of fluffy yellow goslings.

At Fenny we were looking out for Jaq on Valerie. There was a Briar Rose sized space right behind so we pulled in and knocked on the boat a couple of times; there was no answer, so we decided we'd carry on a try to meet up again when we're on our way back on Monday. Two boats were coming out of Fenny Lock so they left the gates open and the bridge swung put of the way for us. No sooner were we in the lock than Jaq appeared on her way back from the shops. We had a nice chat, then she waited for us to go through the lock and swing the bridge back. Here she is on the left, sitting outside the pub.

We swapped with boats coming down at Stoke Hammond lock, then at the Three Locks at Soulbury a couple of boats had just come down so the bottom lock was in our favour. We had to turn the other two, though.

At the top, it wasn't entirely clear what was going on, as there was a Wyvern boat on the lock landing but no-one making any sign of working the lock. By the time we'd come up, two more boats had arrived, one pulling alongside the Wyvern as it to make a point -- and the Wyvern crew were having lunch on the well deck!

I was aiming for a favourite mooring spot just through Bridge 109, and amazingly (considering how many moored boats there are in these parts) the whole area was free. We moored up at about 1pm, had the rest of last night's lasagne for lunch, and decided we wouldn't be going any further today. Adrian, who's been working lots of hours again, even went for an afternoon nap. Later, we did a circular walk, going across Bridge 109 and the railway line, picking up the Cross Bucks Way across some fields to Bridge 110, and back along the tow path.

9 miles, 5 locks. (17 miles, 6 locks)

Friday, 28 April 2017

Bank Holiday Weekend: Day 1

I've been on a set of night shifts, but I got away in good time this morning and had an easy drive up the M1, arriving at the marina at 8.15. Just half an hour later i was pulling out of our berth and heading south. I didn't go far -- just to the service block at Cosgrove, because i wanted to empty the loo. I last did it in September, and it hasn't been used for a while so it was well composted down. While I did that, I also filled the water tank, which seemed to be fairly empty.

I'd seen a small boat arrive by road down by the trip boat and be put into the water. As I approached the lock it was just going in, and turned out to be the electro-fishing guys, who I guess are getting zander out of the canal. I did wonder why they'd used the lock when you'd have thought they could have carried the boat down there.

I turned the lock and went down, chatting as I did so to a boater who moors at Taverners, just across from our marina. Next stop was Wolverton, but there wasn't a space to be had on the rings by the flats. One of the boats there was Silver Melody, last year's Crick Show winner, which I did the boat test on. The owners were just going shopping, so I was able to have a quick conversation. I went through the bridge and moored on the piling beyond; the only downside was that the railway lone was literally just a few feet away.

I did some work writing up Monday's boat test, then went to Tesco to fill the fridge and the cupboards. Adrian was on his way on the train, after meetings in London this morning, and he arrived at about 2pm from Wolverton Station. We set off again to get away from the trains. My original target had been Bridge 75 at Stantonbury, but when we got there it was only quarter to three, so i decided to carry on a bit. Just after the bridge we passed the Exbury Egg moored up.

We carried on into Milton Keynes, where I reckon the number of widebeams is fast approaching the number of narrowboats. When we got to Campbell Park, much to my surprise the park side moorings were completely free, so we moored up there. I've already made the meat sauce for a lasagne, so we'll have that and then it'll be an early night, as i will soon have been up for 24 hours.

8 miles, 1 lock.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Annual Report

Here are the figures for this year.  546 miles in the year isn't too bad; the number of locks, at 257 is surprisingly low.  I put this down to the fact that we spent quite a bit of our big trip in September on the Trent, where there are miles and miles between locks; some years we've done more locks than that in our big trip on its own.  74 nights on board is pretty good.

On to the waterways travelled this year:

  • Ashby Canal
  • Birmingham and Fazeley Canal (detatched portion)
  • Coventry Canal
  • Cranfleet Cut
  • Erewash Canal
  • Fosdyke Navigation
  • Grand Union Canal Leicester Section
  • Grand Union Canal Mainline
  • North Oxford Canal
  • Nottingham-Beeston Canal
  • River Soar
  • River Trent
  • Trent and Mersey Canal

Monday, 24 April 2017


A quick trip to Blisworth today for a boat test -- in, frankly, less than idwal weather. The forecast had been fine until yesterday when things changed a bit. As we tried tomposition the boat in front of the mill for photos, I could see a boat heading towards us through the bridge. When it was a fair way off, I recognised it as Waiouru; just time for a quick hello to Tom and Jan as they passed. After that it was a run up to the junction and back.

Once the boat test was over I drove down to our marina to check that Briar Rose was ok. My route too me over Blisworth tunnel with its telltale vent chimneys.

Briar Rose was fine. I was delighted to discover that the batteries were on 100 per cent. Last time we left the boat, I left the shoreline off, so we've been relying on the solar panel.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Hartland on test

The May edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of the Brayzel boat, Hartland.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Reedley Marina

Another fairly early start, as today's boat test was the furthest north we've been for one. I drove to Towcester and parked the car, and Andy the photographer picked me up at 7am. The weather most of the way was fairly murky, but once we were into Lancashire we could see the edge of the cloud out to the west. We got to Reedley Marina at around 10.30 and as the weather was still very cloudy and dark we did all the internal shots and note-taking. The winding hole was 45 minutes away, so at about 12.30 we decided to set out, in the hopes that by the time we turned we sky would have cleared a bit. This strategy worked pretty well, as conditions improved the whole way, and by the time we were back at the marina it was turning into a nice afternoon. We reckon the photos will also be sunny enough.
The Leeds and Liverpool canal is completely new to me, and the small stretch we did today has a lot going for it. There are views of the hills, old mills, and mile posts telling you how far you are from both Leeds and Liverpool.
It was around 3pm by the time we left, and past 6pm by the time I was back at the boat -- so a pretty long day.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Monday work

An even earlier start this morning, as I needed to catch the 0500 train from Wolverton to London. There was a frost, and I had to scrape the car windscreen. I was back at the boat by half-four this afternoon, and it had clearly been sunny because the batteries were up to a hundred per cent thanks to the solar panel. Not quite such an early start tomorrow, but it will be a day with a long journey in it.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Sunday work

An early drive to work this morning -- and a bit later Adrian headed home.  I've come back to the boat, as I have a boat test later in the week, so this is really just here to log a night on board.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Birthday Weekend: Day 2

We had a very nice evening last night. Somewhat to our surprise, Nigel turned up; Matthew was feeling so ill that only his mum would do, so Catherine stayed at home. The three of us chatted about boats, trains, garden birds, and a whole load of other things. The food at the Walnut Tree was, as usual, excellent.

This morning was blustery and chilly again. We set off at about 8.30, travelled slowly down to the tunnel, and went through without seeing another boat. At Stoke Bruerne we spotted Waiouru moored up, and Tom looked out for a brief chat. A boat had just come up the top lock and one was going down, so we joined him. It was a single hander. Once the boats had started descending, I went and knocked on Kathryn's door. She emerged with a couple of her famous cheese scones, still warm from the oven. We had only the briefest of chats today, but we both enjoyed a scone as we went down the flight. By now, Tom had arrived armed with a windlass, and kindly helped us all the way down. It meant the single hander was able to stay on his boat, which he was very grateful for. Here's Tom, working.

Progress seemed a bit slow, as we had a boat going down in front of us, and two hire boats in front of them. These were mob handed, yet very inefficient -- lots of running about, but very little gate or paddle action at times. We also started meeting boats coming up, which included a lock of three small boats. With us, the boat in front, and the three, one pound ended up with six boats in it.

Despite it seeming slow going, we actually made very good time down the locks. And as we were helping our single hander, and the boat in front, we all felt we'd done good deeds en route. It was about eleven o'clock by the time we reached the bottom, so we moored up and put the kettle on. Tom joined us for tea as a reward for his hard word (unless it's his Jan reading this, in which case he was working hard the whole time!)

Once Tom had headed back up the flight it was almost lunchtime, so we decided to stay put and have lunch. We set off again just before 1pm, in sunshine but more strong winds. There were lots of boats on the move, many of them from the Lionhearts moorings in Milton Keynes. The turn into the marine was difficult because of the strength of the wind, but at least it was blowing straight down the pontoons. That makes it a lot easier to spin round and reverse into our berth. Adrian said it was one of the best entries he'd seen.

Once the boat was secure we drove up to Heyford Fields to collect the other car. Since then we've washed the pontoon side of the boat (it was filthy from the hull having been pressure washed -- I gave the other side a quick wash down yesterday), we've filled the water tank, and we've taken everything off the well deck and given that a good clean too. In spite of a forecast for heavy thunder showers, we've had only about five rain drops. Tomorrow, I'm got an early shift at work, while Adrian will go home.

8 miles, 7 locks. (13 miles, 7 locks)