Friday 24 August 2012

A tale of two bridges

A day on the upper Thames today, for two boat tests.  First stop was Lechlade.  I parked the car in the town, then walked over Halfpenny Bridge to the meadow where the boat was moored.

The sunshine didn't last long and at times the rain was quite heavy, but the photos for this boat have already been taken so it didn't matter.

In the afternoon, I drove to Eynsham -- a day away by boat, but half an hour in the car.  The second bridge of the day was the Swinford Toll Bridge.  The toll for a car is 5p; there were quite a few cars crossing, but I still wonder whether the tolls collected actually pay the wages of the guy collecting them.  We passed under the bridge when we took the boat for a little spin, before turning above Eynsham Lock.  I didn't get chance to take a photo of the bridge today, so here's one from our Thames trip last September.

Sunday 19 August 2012

August weekend - Sunday

Last night we took our director's chairs out onto the tow path, and sat outside to eat our dinner -- staying there until it was pretty much dark.  The evening's entertainment consisted of dozens of Canada geese flying round then landing either on the canal, or the caravan field opposite.  We could also observe from a distance the activities of the various caravanners, as they had barbecues/visits from friends/tried to get the baby to sleep.

This morning was sunny again, but thankfully much fresher, at least to start.  We set off at 9am, and thoroughly enjoyed the stretch past Nether Heyford to Gayton Junction and Blisworth.

At Blisworth Tunnel, we passed three boats without incident.  Going south, the side shaft is much easier to see.  If fact, I spotted two.  The first is bigger, about the size of a door, but it's dark inside.  A little further on is a smaller opening with an arched top, which appears to have a light inside.  One day, I'll try to stop and take some photos.

We'd decided we'd stop at Stoke Bruerne and go out for lunch, and there was a convenient space in a prime position above the locks, so we tied up and went to see what we fancied.  The place was smarming with people -- not surprising on a sunny Sunday in August.  We ended up sitting outside at The Navigation, where we had an excellent Picnic Board to share.

It was 2pm when we set off again.  I went to work the locks, while Adrian steered.  The top lock was empty, so after checking that no-one was coming up I filled it.  For some reason, the walkway across the bottom gates is taped off, so to get from one side of the lock to the other you have to battle through dozens of gongoozlers.  We also had a big audience at The Navigation as we made our way to the second lock. which surprisingly was almost full.

After that we started meeting boats coming up, so could swap locks.  At the bottom lock, there were three people with an inflatable boat with an outboard, who asked if their boat could come down with us.  They started off with its rope round a bollard, until I pointed out that the boat was likely to end up hanging in mid air as the depth of the lock was longer than the rope.  Adrian ended up taking charge of the boat.

The next section is canal is very familiar territory now.  It's much quieter down here than the pound above Stoke Bruerne.  All day we've seen boats that we saw yesterday, heading back to their marinas, just like we are.  But here there are just fewer of them.

In order to extend the holiday feeling for a few more hours, we've moored up between Bridge 61 and Bridge 62, to sit out on the towpath in the sunshine.  We'll have dinner here, then do the short hop back to the marina this evening.  There's an early start tomorrow: I'm due to catch the 0623 train from Milton Keynes so I can be at work for 0730, and Adrian will drive to his work once he's dropped me at the station.

15 miles, 7 locks.  (47 miles, 16 locks)

Saturday 18 August 2012

August weekend - Saturday

It was a lovely sunny morning today.  We had scrambled eggs for breakfast, and set off at 8.30 up the top two Stoke Bruerne locks.  I sent a photo to my sister to show little Rachel -- she knows about Stoke Bruerne because it features in the Muddy Waters books.

We had Blisworth Tunnel to ourselves.  I had my eyes peeled for the side shaft, but didn't see it at all.  This, of course, reinforces it ghostly qualities: sometimes it's there, sometimes it isn't! As there were no boats coming the other way, we could steer round the worst of the cascades of water coming from the airshafts.

We carried on in increasingly hot sunshine, through Gayton junction and on to Flore, where we stopped for lunch.  I was forced to change into a long sleeve shirt, because my arms were burning in spite of plenty of sun cream.  After lunch we carried on through Weedon and on to Whilton Marina, where we turned in the marina entrance.  We stopped for an hour so so, because our friend Brian, who's visiting Long Buckby for the weekend, called in for tea and cake.

We started our return journey at around 4pm, and worked our way back through Weedon.  This whole section is full of moored boats, so it feels as though you hardly get off tickover.  We've moored up for the night opposite the caravan and camping field by Bridge 28, where we've stopped a couple of times before.  The view from the side hatch isn't too bad.

20 miles, 2 locks.  (32 miles, 9 locks)

Friday 17 August 2012

August weekend - Friday

We came up to the boat last night.  Adrian picked me up from work, and we arrived at about 11.30pm.

This morning, the promised rain hadn't arrived -  there was just a bit of drizzle blowing in the wind (and the wind was blowing).  We set off at 8.30 and headed south towards Milton Keynes.  At Cosgrove Lock we shared with a couple who were moving a boat to the River Lee for its new owners.  At Wolverton, I jumped off to go to Tesco, while Adrian carried on to the winding hole at New Bradwell and turned around.  Typically, he met one boat at the Grafton Street Aqueduct, and a hotel pair just as he was starting his turn.

Of course we could have gone to Tesco by car, but adding the few extra boat miles on suits our timings for this three day weekend on board.  Going by boat meant that it took about three and a quarter hours before we were passing our marina again.  We kept going towards Stoke Bruerne, having lunch on the move.  We passed a heavily loaded working pair, Clover and Fazeley.  The amount of water they displace when loaded like this is incredible - it makes just passing them seem like a bit of a fight.

At Stoke Bruerne locks, there was a sharp shower to add to the blustery wind, and it was heavy enough for us to put our waterproof jackets on.  It didn't last long, though, and the coats were soon off again.  We were going up alone, as by now the hotel pair were behind us, having pulled in to get all their guests onto the motor boat for lunch.

Having gone up five locks of the flight, we moored in the long pound at 2.30pm.  I quickly made a crunchy-topped lemon cake, then while that was cooling down we went for a walk up the remaining two locks.  We were surprised to see Waterway Routes, not realising they'd finished their exploration of the fens.  We walked up to the tunnel entrance and back, then continued down the flight to help Paul and Christine finish the last few locks.

During the afternoon, the weather front has passed over us.  It's gone from cloudy and windy to sunny and hot.  The rest of the weekend looks as though it could be good too.

12 miles, 7 locks.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Widebeam special

The September issue of Canal Boat is out, and has a couple of my pieces in it.  There's a boat test on a 60ft widebeam by Burscough Boat Co, and a piece about the growing number of widebeams being built.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Gold post box

I was up and preparing to leave for home at a reasonable time this morning, and soon had everything loaded into the car.  I took a slight detour into Milton Keynes, to find the post boxes which have been painted gold to celebrate Greg Rutherford's Olympic gold in the long jump.

Monday 6 August 2012

Work and Family

A two hour drive up the M1 and M6 to Sandbach this morning for a boat test.  The forecast for today had changed every couple of hours over the past few days, so we were hoping for the best.  In the event, it was a bit cloudy, there was some rain (including a torrential downpour just before we started), and a bit of brightness.  We just about got away with it.

Once the boat test was over, I went to my sister's, about half an hour away.  We went to Abbeywood Gardens where there's a children's play area much enjoyed by my neices Rachel and little Emily, as well as some lovely gardens.

I got back to Briar Rose at about 9pm.

Sunday 5 August 2012

Day of contrasts

I came up to Briar Rose this morning, at the end of a night shift, stopping at Tesco in Wolverton on the way, and arriving at about 9.30.

Normally, I'd head out of the marina straight away, even if only to Cosgrove.  But today I stayed put for several reasons.  I had a article which needed to be finished; there were Olympics to be watched; I have a boat test tomorrow morning, so I need to be close to the car; and the weather looked very changeable.

And changeable is the word.  It was quite nice at first, then there was a torrential downpour at lunchtime.  Most of the afternoon was sunny with blue skies, then just a couple of games before the end of Andy Murray's final, there was a tremendous thunder storm with rain so heavy that the satellite signal was completely knocked out.  I temporarily had to resort to streaming on the BBC Sport website.

The sun has now come out again.  There have been quite a few boats going by today.  A few minutes ago, a boat headed out of the marina just as boats approached the entrance from both directions.  One of them wanted to turn in, so there were a few moments of confusion as everyone tried to work out who was doing what, and who was going first.  They all got where they were going eventually.