Sunday, 21 October 2018

Premier Inn and Premier Couple

Yesterday morning we were at the Premier inn at Walsall, right by the canal basin.  Adrian had stayed there overnight, having been at a conference in Liverpool for a couple of days; I drove up after a night shift.  This is the hotel that has a wall filled with one of my photos of Briar Rose in reception.  Adrian, who was steering, has been airbrushed out (along with a factory), so he stood in front of it instead.

The reason for being in Walsall was that we were going to the 30th anniversary lunch for Andy and Helen from the Jam Butty.  There were people from all parts of their life, and the boaters section also included the Halfies, Bones, and Sandra from the Homebrew Boat.  This photo was posted to Facebook by Sandra.

We enjoyed great food and great company, and the tables were full of typical Andy and Helen touches, including little things to take home.

We’d considered staying on the boat overnight but things are so busy at the moment we decided to drive home.  One advantage of this was that we could give Bones a lift back to her boat, and get to know her a bit on the journey.  All in all, a very enjoyable day.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Predator II

This little ferry across the Thames is one of London’s secrets.  It being a nice, warm, calm, and sunny day, and needing to get to North Greenwich to meet a friend for lunch, I decided to take the ferry rather than the tube.  Down at Trinity Buoy Wharf, you have to phone a mobile number, and the boat comes to pick you up from the pier.  This morning, I could see the boat on my side of the river, it just had to come round the corner to the waiting area.

The boat just puts its nose up against the pier, you step on, and you’re off.

There was a fair amount of traffic on the river today.

At the pier on the O2 side of the river, the ferry noses in to a specially designed space, you pay your £2 fare, and off you get.

The boat is mainly used for staff for the clippers, so the ferry service is a bit of an extra.  The crossing is just a couple of minutes, and you can sit inside or out on the stern deck.  The service runs from 5am to 7pm, but not between 11 and 11.30.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Thoughts on the River Nene

We thoroughly enjoyed the Nene, but it was much smaller and much prettier than we’d been expecting.  It came as a bit of a surprise that the only really wide bit is through the Northampton Washlands — but after that it’s much more intimate, with some very bendy sections.  There are some extremely pretty sections.  I particularly liked the reaches other side of Denford Lock, and around Oundle.

Moorings are a bit few and far between in places, nd you really need to have an idea of where you’re heading for because you can’t just stop anywhere like you can on a canal.  We joined the Friends of the River Nene for £12 to give us access to their moorings, of which we used three, at Hardwater Mill, Ashton Carr, and Peartree Farm.  We also liked the look of some of the others, particularly Ditchford and Stanwick Lakes.  We also paid £5 to moor at Fotheringhay (as must stop, really) £10 at Northampton Marina, and had lunch at the King’s Head at Wadenhoe to pay for our mooring on the pub garden.  We used Environment Agency moorings at Peterborough, Irthlingborough, Wansford Station and Northampton Washlands.  Ferry Meadows was a great place to stop: it’s unusual being in a lake, and even though the Country Park is busy during the day, it’s very quiet at night.  It’s also a great place for visitors because there are things to do.

For planning, I used the new Pearson’s which covers the Nene, because I like the commentary and I can have the book in a map case and it doesn’t really matter if it gets wet.  The Pearson’s also gives lots of information about what’s in the nearby towns and villages.  I also used Paul Balmer’s Waterway Routes maps on my iPad.  They’re great because they show exactly where everything is, and give useful extra bits of information like the depth of locks.

The Nene is blessed with lots of pretty places to stop.  We thought Wadenhoe was lovely, and that Oundle was rather special.  Fotheringhay is well worth an explore, and while Thrapston isn’t in the same league for looks, there are plenty of useful shops there.  Peterborough has lots of shops, and we enjoyed the Cathedral.

Facilities on the river are a bit scarce.  There are enough water points, but Elsans are rare and rubbish points are non-existent.  We ended up sneaking the odd bag into the park bins in Wellingborough and Peterborough.  When you consider that our two week EA licence cost £128, the lack of facilities seems even worse.

The locks make the river fairly hard work, and I can see why many people don’t want to travel it very often.  While most of the locks are automated, the ones that aren’t take a lot of effort — and even the automated ones take a lot of time, because they have to be left with the guillotine gate up.  At the Northampton end of the river the locks come very frequently, too.

All in all, we’d recommend the Nene as a somewhat undiscovered gem.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Ohm from ‘ome on test

The November edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of Ohm fromome by Tristar Boats.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Dunchurch Pools

Up fairly early this morning, to pack up ready for home.  With the car packed I headed off to the new marina at Dunchurch Pools for a boat test.  There are great views from the marina, as it appears to be on the top of a hill — but it does mean it’s a bit breezy.

With the boat test done around lunchtime, I headed home.  Later in the week, I’ll post some thoughts on the River Nene.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Look East: Day 17

We had a nice evening catching up with Kathryn, although The Navigation seems to have gone downhill.  It appeared understaffed, with queues at the bar, uncleared tables, and long waits for food.  The food itself was ok, but no more than that.

This morning, two boats started heading down then locks while we were still having breakfast, so we didn’t rush to set off.  It was 9 when Adrian walked down to set the lock while I set off on the boat.  We did the first couple of locks alone, but at Stoke Bruerne there’s always the chance of gaining a locking partner from the long pound.  As it happened, it was below the third lock that we joined another boat going down, a nice couple on a very old hire boat from Braunston.  After that, we started meeting boats coming up.

The locks took the usual hour and a half, and from the bottom lock to our marina also took the same amount of time — so it was 12 by the time we arrived.  After lunch, I drove Adrian to Milton Keynes station to catch a train back to London.  I’ve spent the afternoon doing odd jobs, such as topping up the batteries, and using cheap nappies to get the water out of the bilge that the pump leaves behind.

6 miles, 7 locks.  (164 miles, 122 locks)

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Look East: Day 16

Another beautiful sunny morning — we really have had some great weather this week.  We set off at 8.30 and did the few miles through Bugbrooke and Nether Heyford to Weedon Wharf where we turned around, and returned to Rugby Boats.  We filled up with diesel (more than 100 litres, as it’s been a while) and replaced a gas bottle.  Setting off again, at Nether Heyford a boat set off just in front of us, and they had a very slow boat in front of them.  He virtually stopped when a boat was coming the other way, and at each bridge. The already slow bit through the moorings at Furnace Wharf were mostly done in neutral.  Fortunately the slow boat pulled over at the pub at Bugbrooke, where there was also a Gayton day boat full of pirates.

It wasn’t long before we and the boat in front caught up with Poshratz towing their butty, Bakewell (which used to be owned by Sarah and Jim), so another mile or so was done mostly on tickover.

At the bridge before Gayton Junction, there appeared to be chaos.  I always approach this one slowly as it’s on a bend, you can’t see much in either direction, and there are boats moored on both sides of the canal on the junction side of it.  As I came through the bridge a boat facing me seemed to be in reverse, while two other boats behind him were trying to get out of his way and were on my side.  It didn’t take long for everyone to sort themselves out, and we carried on across the junction towards Blisworth

At the tunnel we were following a boat through, and passed a couple coming the other way.  In the village, we gambled on there being a mooring in the sunshine beyond the cutting, and there was.  When the boat we moored in front of moved off, we pulled forward a length so we were no longer on the bend.  We washed and polished the towpath side, which now looks pretty good.  This evening we’re meeting Kathryn and going to The Navigation for dinner.

16 miles, 0 locks.  (158 miles, 115 locks)y