Saturday 31 August 2013

Big Trip - Day 5

We were up reasonably early, and set off at 8am in lovely sunshine, although it was a bit chilly.

About 45 minutes later, we arrived at the top of the Atherstone locks.  We had to turn the first one, then crossed with a boat, and we met boats regularly as we went down.  It's a rather pretty flight, especially in the dappled sunshine.

At lock 6, there's a working side pond (the only one in the flight, and one of only a handfull on the network) so I feel duty bound to use it.  The lady from a boat which was just setting off from the pound above hadn't realised it was there, but seemed quite interested.

Further down the flight we met several old working boats who'd been at last weekend's gathering at Alvecote, and were on their way to next weekend's Shakerstone Festival.  Among them were Darley, and Lamprey, with Sarah Edgson working the locks.

We continued through Polesworth, and passed Alan and Cath Fincher on Sickle.  The building in the background is Pooley Hall, which used to be the home of Edwin Starr.

There were plenty of old boats still at Alvecote.

At the two Glascote Locks, we swapped with Telemachus, a boat owned by Nick Norman, a regular on the Canal World Forum.  Neither of us realised until it was too late!

At Fazeley Junction we bore right, staying on the Coventry Canal (although this bit was actually built by the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal Company).  We stopped at Peel's Wharf to top up the water tank, and started a wash load.  As it was still early, we continued to Hopwas, mooring at around 3.30pm.  We then had a bit of a boat cleaning session, washing the roof and the towpath side of the boat.  We've also been up to one of the two pubs just through the bridge for a drink in the sunshine.  There's not much doubt about which way to point the tv ariel tonight: this is the view from the dinette window.

15 miles, 13 locks.  (72 miles, 37 locks)

Friday 30 August 2013

Big Trip - Day 4

This is another 'bonus' day on the Big Trip, as Adrian was originally due to be at meetings near Heathrow this morning.  But they were postponed, so he's been able to work on the boat all day.  We came up to Rugby yesterday from London -- Adrian in mid afternoon, me a bit later after work.  Using a car, a train, and a hire car, we ended up with everything where we needed it.

This morning, Adrian took the hire car back while I hoovered (making the most of being on shore power), and got the boat ready to cruise.  We paid for our four nights mooring (and can recommend Clifton Wharf), and set off at 9.20am.  A few boats had already gone by, including fellow Braidbar Cala, who are presumably going to the same place we are, and Festina Lente.  I reversed out of the arm and headed towards Rugby.  Shortly afterwards we passed Hadar, but Keith was too busy looking where he was going!

As this part of the network is very, very familiar to us, the idea was to get as far as possible, so we can spend more time in the places we haven't been so often.  At Newbold, the lights in the tunnel are now pretty pathetic, with only three still working.

The vegetation on the offside is seriously out of control in places, and the canal was also pretty busy.  We passed four boats in the narrow section through the cutting near Brinklow.  At Stretton Stop, a boat was coming through the narrow, so we then went through and closed the little swing bridge.

The only lock of the day was at Hawkesbury Junction, and even then it's only around a foot deep.  A disabled trip boat was just leaving the lock, another was coming through the junction, and another was behind it.  We worked through the lock, and Adrian did a great turn round the 180 degree junction, and on through the narrow.

The next bit is very dull, with long straight sections, and nothing much to look at.  But the pub at Bridge 14, which has long been closed and pretty much derelict, is being refurbished as homes, and is already partly occupied.

Charity Dock was its usual eccentric self, and we then passed Marston Junction, where the Ashby Canal heads off.  Nuneaton's allotments are still there, but there's also a lot of new housing which wasn't there when we last came this way a couple of years ago.  Springwood Haven marina looks even smarter than we remember -- difficult though that seems.  We carried on past the waterways yard at Hartshill, which looks rather unloved.

We moored up shortly after the next Bridge, at just before 5pm.

23 miles, 1 lock.  (57 miles, 24 locks)

Monday 26 August 2013

Big Trip - Day 3

We went to bed pretty early last night, and slept well.  We set off at around 9.30 under cloudy skies.  Dozens of boats had already been past, heading for the locks, and there were more going that way as we made for the junction, where the crew of Festina Lente said hello.

We went straight ahead onto the North Oxford Canal, and the sky eventually cleared to give a lovely sunny warm day.  Nic continued his steering tuition for yesterday, and, it has to be said, is a natural.  The particularly nice thing from my point of view was seeing this stretch through someone else's eyes.  We've done this part of the network dozens of times, but it was a first for Nic who was enthusiastic about its rural charms.  He was very keen to steer into some locks, so that was what happened at Hillmorton.  We were expecting a queue at the top, but there was no-one there at all, and only a couple of boats in the flight.  The middle pair has the famous poetry on the balance beams.

At the bottom pair, a newly painted boat was going down backwards, and its skipper then had great difficulty trying to wind below the locks.  He managed it eventually.

We stopped for lunch at the bottom, then completed this part of the trip with the short hop to Clifton Wharf, where we moored up the arm.  Having sorted out electric etc, we packed what little stuff we were taking home, and adjourned to the Clifton Wharf Café, Bridge 66, for tea and cake before heading off.  We dropped Nic and Paul at their car, then went to collect my car from the marina, and set off for home.  There will be a short break in the Big Trip for a few days of work, before we resume on Friday.

8 miles, 3 locks.  (34 miles, 23 locks)

Sunday 25 August 2013

Big Trip - Day 2

It was pretty murky this morning, but the rain didn't last long.  We shared the Buckby Locks with a boat called Rambling Rose, so it was two roses together.

There were dozens of boats in the flight, so we didn't have to turn any locks.  At the top we stopped for water.  While we were there, James and Debbie from Lois Jane, which was moored at the bottom, walked up to see us.  It was great to finally meet them, having only waved at each other before.

We then went past the junction and moored up for lunch.  This afternoon, we had family visitors.  My second cousin Catherine with children Grace and Matthew, and Catherine's dad (who I haven't seen for several decades!).  Grace and Matthew had particularly wanted to go through the tunnel, having previously come with us through Blisworth Tunnel.

In the tunnel we passed four boats.  The second one stayed determinedly in the middle, and even though I was up against the wall and virtually stationary, he gave us a hefty whack.  At the locks, the sun had come out, and there was lots of traffic.  We had to wait while the lock keeper ran some water down because a pound had been significantly lowered by someone sitting in a lock with the paddles open at both ends.  We had a good run down the locks, marred only by a bit of an incident involving Grace's head and a windlass.  An ice pack followed by an ice cream made her feel better, and by the time it was time to go home, she seemed quite proud of her bump.

We found a mooring in Braunston, just past the marina exit, where we just fitted.  The people behind us obviously didn't like sharing a ring with us, because an hour later they pulled back so they had a ring all of their own.

In the evening, we walked up to the Admiral Nelson for dinner.  Being Sunday evening, they were doing only the bar snacks menu, but the food was excellent, and we were treated to a rather nice sunset.

8 miles, 13 locks.  (26 miles, 20 locks)

Saturday 24 August 2013

Big Trip - Day 1

We came up to the boat yesterday - Adrian in a long slow journey in the afternoon, and me when I finished work at 10pm.  The overnight rain didn't materialise, but it was pretty murky when we got up.

First job of the day was a car shuffle.  We took a car to our end point for the weekend, then drove back to Thrupp Wharf and were ready to set off at 9.15.  It rained for about an hour, but not heavily, and by the time we got to the bottom of the locks, the roof had dried.  On the approach to the locks, they've been doing lots of cutting back on the offside.

At the locks, we had two Canal Boat Club boats behind us, travelling together, so we went up alone.  There was plenty of traffic coming down, so we had to turn only two of the locks.  There was also lots of traffic through Blisworth tunnel; we passed five boats.

We carried on past Gayton Junction and through Bugbrooke, and called in at Rugby Boats at Stowe Hill Wharf for diesel, a gas bottle, and a pump out.  The timing was perfect, because while the boat was being serviced, our friends Nic and Paul arrived; they're spending the rest of the weekend with us.

We carried on through Weedon and moored up for the night just short of Dodford Bridge -- a place we last stopped in November last year.  Tea and cake was first on the agenda.  Adrian is cooking a lasagne for later.

18 miles, 7 locks.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Harry on the Thames

How many bloggers can you see doing the Tidal Thames in one summer?  Well, quite a lot, apparently.  After Chance came Indigo Dream, Chance again, and Caxton.  And today there was Harry, the boat Kevin and Vicky Blick have restored from a burnt out shell.

I was standing on the footbridge alongside the Charring Cross rail bridge, and spotted Harry coming round the bend in the Thames ahead, then under Waterloo Bridge.

As they approached, I was a bit concerned as a trip boat set off from Embankment Pier.  No-one on board looked worried, not even Brian the dog.

Then, with the tide flowing pretty fast, they were underneath the bridge and gone.

Monday 19 August 2013

Big Trip -- planning

This time next week we'll have started our Big Trip for the year.  In fact, we'll be coming the end of the first leg.  We're going to use the bank holiday weekend to get a bit of a head start, then go back to work for a few days, before setting off again at the end of that week.

Our first target is to get to the Braidbar open day on 7 September.  From there we'll go to Bugsworth, then down into Manchester and on to Anderton.  We'll take the boat lift down onto the River Weaver, then the Manchester Ship Canal to Ellesmere Port.  This bit has taken a bit of organising, as the Ship Canal Company requires various paperwork, CRT has to be asked to work the locks at either end, and the local council has to swing a bridge for us.  We'll also need the weather to be reasonable that day.

Once that excitement is over, we'll go down the Shroppie, along the Staffs and Worcs to Great Haywood, then return via the Trent and Mersey, the River Soar, and the Leicester Section of the Grand Union.

Canal Plan reckons it's 443 miles and 275 locks.  It's a mix of waters that we're very familiar with, some we haven't done for several years, and some that are completely new to us.  We can't wait!

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Short return trip

It was a lovely sunny morning, and I set off when I saw another boat pass so that I could share the lock.  The area below the lock was busy, with one boat on the water point, another coming out of the lock, and the hire boat waiting.

Back at the marina, there was hardly a breath of wind.  This made getting back into our berth a straightforward procedure; the last couple of times there's been a stiff wind, which has made things tricky.

I sorted everything out, topped up the water tank, and headed for home.

1 mile, 1 lock.  (3 miles, 2 locks)


I came up to Thrupp Wharf at lunchtime, because I had an appointment with a surveyor this afternoon.  He was assessing Briar Rose for a seaworthiness certificate, which is required by The Manchester Ship Canal company before they'll let pleasure craft onto their canal.  We're planning to do a short section of the MSC during our big trip during September.

Most of the approved surveyors are based in the north west, but there's one in Warwickshire, and I spoke to him a few weeks ago and agreed that he'd give me a call if he was due to be in our area.  As it happened, he had a job in our marina, so it worked out quite well.

The survey isn't very onerous.  There are requirements such as two 50ft ropes (although enough ropes that can be lashed together to make two of 50ft also satisfies the requirement), fire extinguishers, horn, and life jackets.  Anyway, we passed, and have our certificate.

As I walked up with the surveyor to let him out of the marina gate, I was surprised to see John and Jan Halford and their daughter Ally standing a bit further along.  They're discussing the relative merits of various marinas, and came back to Briar Rose for tea.

Then, as I don't like spending more time in the marina than necessary, I headed out for the night.  I went down to Cosgrove, where there were plenty of mooring spaces, down the lock, and along to the aqueduct.  I turned in the wide bit of canal at Galleon Wharf, and headed back to the aqueduct moorings, whe there was also masses of space.  I'm sure both Cosgrove and these moorings regularly used to be full, but this year there always seems to be plenty of room.

Once moored up, I reinstalled the sockets on each end of the cable from the freeview ariel to the junction box, in the hopes this would solve the problem of hardly ever getting a signal.  It worked, as we've gone from no tv in this location, to full signal strength and quality.  Of course, there's nothing on tv tonight I want to watch, but at least it means we should be able to get tv in more places now.

This evening I've also washed the fore deck.  The swallows (or a they swifts?) in the marina a lovely, but they do like to sit on the front of the cratch and leave calling cards all down the front of the boat.  The sun has been out, and it's a quite pleasant evening, especially with the bells of Cosgrove church wafting down the canal.

2 miles, 1 lock.

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Top Notch on test, and composting loos

The September edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on the Top Notch boat from Crick, and a feature on composting toilets.

For the loos article, I must thank Jaq and Les on Valerie and Carol and George on Rock'n'Roll who kindly shared their experiences with various types of toilets.  A boater's favourite subject!

Thursday 1 August 2013

Caen Hill

The marina, not the flight, that is, for a boat test.  It's a nice marina -- although as we discovered, it's just as windy as every other marina -- and has a particularly sturdy lift bridge over the entrance.

But just look at that sky.  Not surprisingly, the canal was busy, mostly with hire boats.