Tuesday, 3 October 2023

Back to the marina

There was lots of thunder and lightning last night, and rain so heavy that once or twice I couldn’t hear the tv!  This morning things were much quieter.  I packed, made a trip down to the Elsan, and set off a bit after 8am.  CRT are currently shoring up the bank on one of the corners.  When I walked past on Sunday, some of these posts hadn’t been cut down to size.  They’ve got rolls of sticks in between, and from what’s on the workboat will be having coir sausages on top.

At the marina, our neighbours are currently out so I had a double sized space to aim at.  Sometimes I find this makes things more difficult, but actually I ended up right alongside our jetty.

I went through the leaving procedure, loaded up the car, and was on the road to my dad’s by 9.15.

1 mile, 0 locks.  (2 miles, 0 locks)

Monday, 2 October 2023

Back to Cheshire

I was up early this morning and driving to Bicester to meet Andy the photographer.  I’d moved the car to the village yesterday afternoon.  We went in one car to Aqueduct Marina at Church Minshull for a boat test.  The weather was ok, no sunshine but light cloud and dry.  We had lunch at the cafe there, and then on the way home the rain arrived.  I stopped at Bicester library to have some documents printed, rather than trying to figure out whether I could do some sort of Wi-Fi thing with phone and iPad on the boat.  My walk back from the marina to the boat at Cosgrove was mostly in the dry, so I was lucky because the rain really came down after I got back.

Sunday, 1 October 2023

Wending to Wales: Day 35

We had just a short distance to go back to our marina today, and set off about 8.30.  Adrian packed as we went along.  At Yardley Gobion, outside Kingfisher marina, we passed our old share boat, Debdale, and had a quick chat with Charlie, who was one of the owners back when we had our share.

When we got to Thrupp Wharf, there were three fishermen opposite the marina entrance, which is also a winding hole.  I don’t think they’d have been very pleased had I done my usual turn in, which would certainly have stirred up their water.  Because of what was happening next, I got the boat close to the entrance and then reversed the stern in.  Adrian got all the stuff he was taking home off the boat while I stood there with a rope, trying to stop the boat blowing over to the other side!

Adrian packed the car, checked he had house keys, and set off back home.  So that really marks the end of our trip — 35 days in total, plus three days when we were moored in Rugby having to work.  It’s one of our longest trips (I must check back to see whether it takes the title as the longest!)

5 miles, 0 locks.  (385 miles, 314 locks)

I jumped back on the boat (and it almost did require a jump, because the wind had already blown the stern away from the side in the few seconds it took me to get there), and headed for Cosgrove.  I passed four boats on the way, so I was pretty use there’d be space, plus two more as I tried to get over to the moorings.  I chose a relatively straight section, with no overhanging trees.

Once I was secure, I got the bucket out and washed, rinsed, and dried that side of the boat.  Then I thought I’d put some black paint on the gunwales; when we had them changed from blacking to paint last year, Steve let me have half a tin of leftover paint.  I got the fat tyre fenders out and tied them to the intermediate rings on the towpath, to keep the boat away from the side.  There are a few bits that really need a bit of proper work, but the paint has certainly covered up the surface scuffs and scratches.

Then I got the polish out and did that side of the boat.  Once all that was done, I thought I’d turn the boat around before having some lunch, so headed off to the lock where I spun around and returned to the same spot.

I’d only just finished tying up again when Free Spirit came past, so I walked down to the lock to explain what I was doing here rather than heading for home, and to help Ian and Irene through.

Back at the boat I had lunch, then did the whole cleaning process on the other side.  I have to say the novelty wore off some time before the boat was finished, and being stooped over for hours putting polish on and then off again is not much fun.  However there were plenty of people passing to say hello to, including a big group of kids on some sort of trip, who had lots of questions.  It was only when I went back inside I realised I should also have cleaned the windows, so I did that too — including standing on the gunwales to do the offside ones.

The main reason I’m still here is that I have a boat test to do tomorrow in Cheshire, so there was very little point in going home when this is halfway there.

1 mile, 0 locks.

Saturday, 30 September 2023

Wending to Wales: Day 34

Another great evening with Catherine and Nigel last night.  It turned out quite a lot had happened since we last saw them on the August bank holiday weekend, so we got all the latest news and a little bit of wine was drunk.  This morning, there was mist hanging in the valley beyond the towpath hedge as the sun came up.

As we didn’t have a very ambitious day planned and it was our final Saturday of the trip, we treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast.  Even so, we were still away before 8.30, on a very pleasant morning.

These are very familiar miles, as we plodded through Nether Heyford and Bugbrooke.  But it was almost an hour and a half before we passed a boat going the other way.  Gayton Junction and Blisworth ticked by.  I spotted a couple of boat names, one of which I have no idea about, the other just made me chuckle.

In the tunnel in which we passed one boat.  At the locks, the top one just needed topping up before we could go down.

The flight took the usual hour and a half, helped by meeting quite a few boats coming up.  At the bottom we thought we might as well top up with water, and we had lunch while the tank filled.  Then we moved along to the moorings just round the corner, taking the first available space.

This afternoon we walked back up to the village to see Kathryn, and also bumped into Steve Furniss from Grand Union Narrowboats at Weedon, who comes down to give his hire boaters lock training.  We all had an ice cream from The Boat.  On the way back we called on Free Spirit, and were provided with tea, biscuits, and plenty of excellent company by Irene and Ian.

We haven’t actually seen them since we made it up to the Great Northern Basin in 2016, so there was plenty to talk about, although of course blogging keeps us all in touch.

11 miles, 7 locks.  (380 miles, 314 locks)

Friday, 29 September 2023

Wending to Wales: Day 33

There was more heavy rain last night, but this morning was very still.  We set off at 8.15 with Adrian walking up to the lock and me bringing the boat.  The water was like glass.

As we got to the lock I could see a boat approaching from behind, so they joined us as locking partners.  Halfway up the flight we met some boats coming down, and there were more coming down the top lock.  We did all six in about an hour and a half.

We passed one boat in Braunston Tunnel, fortunately not at the bits where any of the kinks are.

As we approached Norton Junction, a boat was about to set off and asked if we’d like locking partners down Buckby.  Of course we said yes.  We carried on at the junction, while our Braunston partners turned towards Watford.

At the locks, a boat was just about to go in so we joined him — leaving our prospective partners on their own; but that’s just the way it happens sometimes.  The boat we were with was a single hander, but the whole flight was easy because we met boats coming up at every lock.  We must have passed eight in total.

There was a bit of a delay at the penultimate lock, because a hire boat was waiting for another boat to come up the bottom lock.  It seemed to take them ages, even when they were out of the lock it seemed to take forever to get across the pound to the next one.  But it was sunny and warm so no real hardship, and even so, we got to the bottom in around an hour and a half again.

Having seen so many boats in the flight, we then didn’t see another one for miles, in fact not until most of the way through Weedon.  We had lunch on the move, and stopped for diesel at Rugby Boats, where the price has gone up again, to £1.28.  We carried on just a few minutes further, to opposite the motorhome field.  Catherine and Nigel are coming to see us this evening, so it’s easily accessible.  The towpath hedge has been cut quite low, so we have views of Flore and the M1 in the distance.

10 miles, 13 locks.  (369 miles, 307 locks)

Thursday, 28 September 2023

Wending to Wales: Day 32

The promised strong winds certainly blew yesterday evening and night.  The rustling of the bushes was quite loud, and we were glad we were moored on rings and without any big trees nearby.  This morning we set off about 8.15, Adrian bringing the boat while I walked up to Itchington Bottom Lock.  There waiting for a locking partner were our friends on Conqueror. We went up that one, then Shop Lock.  Lola the dog was keeping a lookout.

We started up the Stockton Locks, but at the second lock a dog Walker told us the pounds further up were empty, and there didn’t appear to be a volunteer lock keeper about to sort it out.  Richard went off on his bike to investigate, and started running water down, while we came up the lock.  I walked up to see what the situation was.  The pound with the bridge was empty, even with some water now arriving, and so was the one above.

A lockie had arrived and said it was a daily occurrence for the pounds to be empty.  But actually it didn’t take long before we were on the move again, and by the time we reached the top half of the flight there was, if anything, too much water — with cascades over the gates.  Towards the top we also met a single hander coming down.

At the top, we did the couple of miles to Calcutt Locks, where Adrian and Sharon did the work while Richard and I steered.

We were following a boat up, but the three locks didn’t take long, and a boat arrived at the top as the rose. Conqueror carried on, while we reversed onto the water point to fill the tank and get another load of washing going;Adrian also went to the marina shop for some milk.  We’ve really enjoyed the past few days travelling with Sharon and Richard.  It’s amazing how sometimes you just click with the people you’re sharing locks with.  From Calcutt it’s just a short hop to Napton Junction; the boat in front of us turned right towards Oxford, while we turned left towards Braunston.

The next section is shared between the Oxford and Grand Union canals, and I always repeat the quirk that boats going north on the Oxford go one way, but boats going north on the GU are going the opposite way. Along this section we passed Mary H with Richard at the helm, and also a boat whose steerer I recognised as the woman who’d been steering the Brindley trio boats in Birmingham at the weekend.  We also passed Conqueror moored up, and Derwent6 where we had a brief chat with Del and Al.  Then it was the right turn at Braunston Junction.

After some investigations about the availability of moorings, we slotted into a spot after Butcher’s Bridge.  It’s been quite busy with boats in both directions.  We went to Tradline Fenders to get a mooring line to replace one which got a broken strand at Grindley Brook, then to the butcher’s for some bacon and black pudding for a cooked breakfast, and finally the Bottom Lock shop for a Llangollen Canal bridge plaque.  We also treated ourselves to an ice cream, even though the sun has only been out for brief moments today.

10 miles, 13 locks.  (359 miles, 294 locks)

Wednesday, 27 September 2023

Wending to Wales: Day 31

It was gone 8.15 when we set off this morning, with Adrian going down to set Cape Top Lock.  There was a boat coming up the bottom one, so we could swap in the middle.

The crew of that boat had useful info to impart: the moorings right outside Warwick Tesco were full, but there was a gap between two boats just before the bridge.  Before getting there, though, we passed the now closed Kate Boats base, where there’s massive building going on, both sides of the canal.  The new places opposite have been given features matching the Kate building, such as grey bricks over the windows and a circle of grey bricks in the gable end.

We stopped before the Tesco bridge and walked down to the supermarket to do a decent sized shop, including fresh stuff and more wine.  Just before we set off again, the boat that was moored in front of us went past, and we followed them all the way to Radford Bottom Lock.  We also passed Momentous, who’ve done just slightly fewer miles and locks than us, since we saw them on the bank holiday weekend!  We teamed up with Atlast at the locks, and gradually worked our way up.  I walked the whole way.  Before Welsh Road Lock, the conveyor that was over the canal at the HS2 works has been taken down, and is now in bits in the field.

Adrian, being on the boat and more able to see over the hedges, could see tunnel portals.  We’d caught up with another boat, who had waited at the lock for his locking partner who must have stopped without telling them.  We then followed up.

At Bascote, the single boat was going up and two were coming down so we waited again.  Then the single boat said we should do the staircase ahead of him.

The wind was beginning to get up (there’s a weather warning for a storm much further west).  We carried on to the rings just before Bridge 26 at Long Itchington.  It was gone 2pm so we had a late lunch and then did a circular walk down to Long Itchington village, and back via the cycle path and the canal.  I’m about to make the batter for a toad in the hole, and a crumble.  The blackberries on our route have been a real disappointment; most of the hedges we’ve stopped by have had no brambles and all (but loads of rose hips and hawthorn berries).  So today we actually bought some blackberries to go with our apples.

9 miles, 12 locks.  (349 miles, 281 locks)