Thursday 31 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 14

Having had the pick of spaces in Cosgrove when we arrived yesterday, by the evening the moorings in the village were full.  We set off this morning at 7.40 and the mile back to the marina took 20 minutes.  We got moored in our berth, and then I set off in the car to meet up with Andy the photographer for a boat test.  It was at Hillmorton, and for the external shots we went down the locks.

I was back at our boat by 1pm, and we picked the car and set off for home.

1 mile, 0 locks.  (103 miles, 62 locks)

Wednesday 30 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 13

There was a lot of rain overnight, but we woke this morning with the boat on a slight tilt as the water level in the pound had dropped a bit.  We set off at about 9, in much less rainy weather than forecast.  We we got the short distance to the lock, I could see that the pound below was severely short of water.

As the long pound was already a bit low, I walked up and started running water down through the top two locks.  As I was at the top lock I alerted Kathryn as to what was going on.  She said she’d been bringing Sculptor back from the Crick Show yesterday, and they’d waited more than four hours at Watford Locks.  Anyway, I ran water down for maybe 20 minutes, by which time there was enough in the empty pound.  Another boat had joined us, so we continued down together.  I later discovered that the lock below the empty pound had a paddle up just a couple of clicks, which was enough to empty it overnight.

Further down the flight, the pounds were full to overflowing.  We had to let some water out the bottom pound, because the lock would never have made a level otherwise.  However, we enjoyed our journey down the locks with two ladies who are classical pianists, and who have bought a mooring at Battlebridge Basin in London.  There was plenty of synchronised boating between the locks, which was a new concept to them as they’ve had the boat only a week.

We moored below the locks a bit after 10.30 as we were expecting visitors.  My sister and family were calling in on their way home to Cheshire from a half term visit to our father’s, in Kent.  We piled them with tea and cake, and we walked up to the bottom lock when some boats arrived to go up.  It turned out to be a busy time, as two also came down, and three more arrived to go up.  Before they left, Rachel insisted on demonstrating her trumpet playing on the lockside.  The trumpet, my sister explained, was a ‘gift’ from school for half term!  A lady on one of the boats described the performance as a ‘work in progress’.

Once the family had gone we had a quick lunch, then set off again.  I have a boat test to do tomorrow but it’s relatively close, so we decided to have another night out of the marina.  We carried on past, turned about Cosgrove Lock, and moored in the village.

7 miles, 5 locks.  (102 miles, 62 locks)

Tuesday 29 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 12

We set off just after 8 this morning, Adrian bringing the boat while I walked to the first lock.

As usual at Buckby, there was no rhyme or reason as to why we’d find locks either full or empty.  We had both, and then met a boat coming up at the bottom lock.  We started the long lockless pound towards Stoke Bruerne, and met numerous boats going the other way — several of them at awkward places such as narrows. We stopped for water at Stowe Hill, and started the washing machine.  The little house a bit further on, which I think could be a classic 1970s design and Adrian thinks is just awful, has been gutted.  It’ll be interesting to see what they do to it.

We had lunch on the move, and Adrian made a lemon drizzle cake as we have visitors tomorrow.  The season has moved on since we were last here only a little over a week ago.  The hawthorn blossom is mostly gone but the flag irises have come out.  There was plenty of other wildlife.

Blisworth Tunnel was very wet.  We passed two boats inside and caught up with a boat in front just before the end.  We came down the first two locks at Stoke Bruerne with them, and we both moored in the long pound.  A little while later, the rain started.

16 miles, 8 locks.  (95 miles, 57 locks)

Monday 28 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 11 (Day 3 of the Crick Show)

A murky start to the day but the sun came out late.  We had another walk round the show in the morning, went to look at a brand new Braidbar which was moored a few behind us on the towpath, and walked to the Co-op for some top up supplies.  After lunch on board we turned the boat around in the marina entrance, ready for the off.  At 3pm the winner of the Favourite Boat vote was announced. Boating Leisure Services were third, Smithwood were second, and Braidbar came top.

In the widebeam category, Burscough Boats were the winners, with Aqualine second and Elton Moss third.  We set off at 3.15 accompanies by Catherine, Nigel, Grace and Matthew, and reached the top of Watford Locks at just after 4.  We’d passed several boats going the other way, which suggested there had recently been an uphill convoy; we were sixth in the queue to go down, but the first one was on its way, so it was less than an hour before we could set off.

At the bottom of the locks we carried on to Norton Junction.  There was no space for us, so Nigel got off to go to the fish and chip shop while the rest of us worked down the top Buckby lock.  It turned out both local chip shops were shut, so we switched cuisine to Chinese.  Matthew steered us out of the lock and along to a mooring in the long pound.

5 miles, 8 locks. (79 miles, 49 locks)

Sunday 27 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 10 (Day 2 of the Crick Show)

There was an enormous thunder storm during the night, although Adrian slept through it.  I was up early, and started to write my mini boat reviews.  I’d done quite a few by the time the show opened, when we went over to have a look round and spend some money, most notably on some Craftmaster paint for the handrails.  In spite of the forecast being thunder storms all day, it was actually sunny and warm.

We went back to the boat and had lunch on board, and I wrote some more while Adrian had an afternoon nap.  By about 3pm I had pretty much done all I could, so we decided to go back over to the show for an ice cream.  Later in the afternoon it appeared there was weather on the way, and the site seemed to clear of people.  We had a chat with Tim Tyler, and then bumped into Amanda and David, the boat sharers of What a Lark.  After talking for a bit they came back to Briar Rose and we ended up demolishing a couple of bottles of wine (just bitter lemon for Amanda) over the next couple of hours as we chatted and experienced torrential downpours, thunder and lightening.  When the weather appeared to be clearing up, we headed back over to the show site as Amanda and David were going back to their car, while we had something to eat and watched the ABBA tribute band, ABBA Revival, who were excellent.  They started with Waterloo and ended with Dancing Queen, and of course we knew every song in between.

The marquee was a sea of mud, with the afternoon’s downpours having caused havoc on the site.

Saturday 26 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 9 (Day 1 of the Crick Show)

We had a very nice evening at The Moorings last night, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.  This morning I was over at the show site early, and Andy the photographer and I started looking at boats well before the gates opened.  Getting a head start really helps.  In all during the day we looked at 19 boats, and we took Andy’s drone along the tow path to get some shots of the whole site.  The day had started very murky, but when the cloud broke at lunchtime it really broke, leaving us with a very warm sunny afternoon.

I also saw a good number of people, including Sue from No Problem XL looking exceptionally well, who was there with regular blog commenter, KevinTOO, whom we last saw at Mercia a couple of years ago.  This evening my cousin Catherine along with Nigel, Grace and Matthew came for dinner cooked by Adrian and another very pleasant evening was had.  Twice during the evening one of the local ducks flew up and sat on the gunwale, looking in the side hatch.  He didn’t stay there long enough to have his photo taken, though.

Friday 25 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 8

It rained a lot during the night, and was still raining this morning.  With only a few miles to do to get to the Crick Boat Show, we had a very relaxed start.  After breakfast we got the washing machine going (even though it’s hardly drying weather), and set off once the wash part of the cycle was complete.

It took around an hour to get to Yelvertoft, where we stopped on the water point to top up the tank.   Being at the show until Monday means we won’t have another opportunity to fill up for a while.  Setting off again, we completed the journey to Crick.  We knew where our mooring was, so I turned in the marina entrance so we were facing the same way as our neighbouring boat.  Once we were moored up, we wandered over to the show ground and saw a few people we knew.  In the afternoon, I went back and helped Pete set up some of the Canal Boat stand.  As I walked back, Sculptor, the historic boat from the Museum at Stoke Bruerne was just arriving.

Tonight we’re going to The Moorings restaurant for the traditional pre-show meal with the Braidbar bunch.

5 miles, 0 locks.  (74 miles, 41 locks)

Thursday 24 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 7

This morning was overcast and decidedly chilly.  A coat was needed when we set off at a few minutes past 8 o’clock.  Just on the edge of Harborough is a big site that’s been cleared for building.  There will be lots of houses, and a small marina.

At the swing bridge which was broken the other day, Adrian got off to (he thought) press the buttons. It turned out the only electrified bit was releasing the barriers which pull out across the road; the bridge itself still needs to be pushed.  We held up a van as we went through.

When we got to the bottom of the locks, Adrian jumped off with a bag a rubbish to put in the bin, and went to see the lock keeper while I got the boat on the lock mooring.  There were a couple of boats going up, and then the lockie wanted to bring down a boat which had been waiting in the centre pound for quite a long time.  It meant we waited about an hour, in which time we put the kettle on, bought some postcards and stamps from the little shop we were moored next to, wrote them, and posted them in the post box by the pub.  I also went to the car park to see the new sign with the new CRT logo.  The logo itself I think is just OK, but the whole design with the two different blues is rather smart.

Once we set off up the locks, it took us only 45 minutes to get to the top.  We were the only boat moving, so we had the lock keeper to help.

By the time we reached the top of the locks the sun had come out and the temperature had risen.  We had lunch on the move, and went through Husbands Bosworth Tunnel.  There’s lots of lovely countryside around, with some far reaching views, lots of rolling hills, and some fields of barley shimmering in the breeze.

We moored up at 4pm at the same spot we used on Sunday night, just before Bridge 27.  This time, though, we were completely on our own.

19 miles, 10 locks.  (69 miles, 41 locks)

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 6

I’d managed to swap off my shifts on Monday and yesterday, but not today — so there was an early alarm and a walk down to Market Harborough station for the 0544 train to London.  When I bought the tickets several weeks ago, First Class was the cheapest on the way down, and that includes breakfast.

Adrian has spent the day restocking from the new Co-op just a little way down the hill towards town. It’s much more convenient that the other supermarkets.

Union Wharf at Market Harborough is really very attractive.  This was taken yesterday.

0 miles, 0 locks.  (50 miles, 31 locks)

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 5

We knew the locks opened at 8, and we were pretty much ready to set off by that time.  We thought we’d probably be second in line to go down as a boat had arrived last night after the locks closed.  But as we moved round the corner, it was actually moored on one of the water points and didn’t appear ready to move.  We waited on the lock landing and the lock keeper came to see us, to say that at present he was the only volunteer to have turned up and he couldn’t open the locks until at least one more arrived.  More lockies soon turned up and we were on our way at about 8.25.

As we went down the top staircase a boat who’d spent the night at the bottom was also coming up the bottom one, and the idea was that we’d pass in the pound in the middle.  In the event, more that one boat was ready to come up, so we moored in the centre pound while three boats came past.

I used the pause to take rubbish to the bins, and the yellow water bottle to the Elsan for a good rinse out.  Soon enough we were on our way down the bottom staircase.  Yesterday afternoon there had been very little water in the flight, but this morning there was masses, and the lock keeper kept having to run some off.  With a clear run you can do all then locks in 45 minutes; today it took just over an hour and twenty minutes.  At the bottom, Adrian turned onto the water point so we could get the washing machine going while filling up with water.

When the tank was full we headed down the Market Harborough Arm.  We haven’t been down here since our Debdale days (I’ve just looked it up — it was March 2008; we also came on a hire boat, which must have been in 2006) and we really didn’t remember much.  The swing road bridge was being fixed by a CRT man, who swung it manually for us; the bone works next to the canal smells terrible; the mile posts are nice and simple; and the whole thing is pretty rural and attractive.

We did remember the back gardens on the final approach to Market Harborough. We’d passed a few boats going the other way, so we’re pretty sure we’d be able to find a mooring.  When we got to the basin we turned around and moored just outside, tucking into the very first space so the solar panel was in the sun.  It was lunchtime and we had nothing on board, so walked down the hill into town where we had a cheap lunch at Wetherspoons — where I ordered using the app for the first time, so you don’t have to queue at the bar.  We remembered the square with the old grammar school and the church.

We located the railway station for tomorrow, and went to pick up a parcel Adrian had ordered.  When we got back to Union Wharf the boat in front of us had gone, so we pulled forward a little bit so we’re no longer across a bend.

6 miles, 10 locks.  (50 miles, 31 locks)

Monday 21 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 4

We both slept very well at our quiet and remote mooring.  This morning was another with plenty of sunshine, and we set off at a little after 8.30.  At Welford Juntion we turned left, staying on the main line, just in front of a boat coming out of the arm.  A little way past the junction bridge we passed Jubilee going the other way, with John and Jan on board.  Of course it happened on. Bend, next to moored boats, and with the other boat close behind us.  We’ll see them again at the Crick Show.

North Kilworth Marina appears to be open and full of water, but without any boats.  Just here we caught up with a hire boat from Weedon, which had waited for a boat to come through the narrows by the wharf.  Even after the wharf they continued on tickover, but soon waved us past on a long straight stretch.  A few minutes later we reached Husbands Bosworth Tunnel.

We passed a boat inside the tunnel, then carried on in lovely warm sunshine through very attractive countryside.  We got to the top of Foxton at about 1pm, and moored up on the 2 day moorings where there was plenty of space.  Since then, some boats have left but more have arrived so it’s pretty much full.  This afternoon we walked down to the locks to get an ice cream from the cafe at the top, then sat watching the boats.  There were four coming up.  The two staircases of five locks have a pound in the middle, which can have some unusual currents because of the lock water having just been emptied into it.  The first boat up came out of the bottom staircase with so littl power on that she nearly ended up across the pound.

Near the bottom of the site of the inclined plane is a bronze model of the area.

We walked back up to the top, talking on the way to the owners of an ex-OwnerShips share boat which is on its way to the Crick Show, then walked round the other side and over the bridge back to the boat.  Since then we’ve been lounging on the well deck in the sunshine.  The boat moored in front of us is called Gilbert the Pig, and hardly a walker has gone by without mentioning the name!

13 miles, 0 locks. (44 miles, 21 locks)

Sunday 20 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 3

Another fantastically sunny day.  We set off at around 8am, with Adrian walking up to Buckby top lock to get it ready.  As we got to the top, a boat arrived to go down so we could leave the gate open for them.  Then it was along to Norton Junction, where we turned right onto the Leicester Line.

When we got to Watford Locks I went to find the lock keeper.  He had one boat going up the staircase and another to come down, so he said we should come up the two individual locks then wait at the bottom of the staircase.  It wasn’t long before the downhill boat emerged and we could set off up.

Crick Tunnel was as usual dry at the south end and decidedly drippy for the final few hundred yards at the north end.  We moored up and walked into the village to go to the Co-op for a few things.  One thing to note is that they no longer have a cash machine.  Setting off again, Adrian walked up the towpath to see where our Crick Show mooring will be.  All the name markers are already up, and he found our spot fairly soon, just opposite the middle marina entrance.  There were some mooring managers there, who seemed surprised we weren’t stopping — a few people are already in their spots.  Coming back on Friday will be soon enough for us.

The journey along the Leicester Line summit is very pretty.  Lots of it is remote, and all of it is pretty shallow and rather narrow.  The hawthorn blossom is particularly vibrant white at the moment.

We had lunch on the move, then moored up about 2pm just through Bridge 27, where we stopped a couple of times at the same time last year.  As the boat headed towards the towpath a green woodpecker flew off — I’ve been hoping to see him again, but haven’t so far.  We got the chairs our and sat in the shade on the very little-used towpath, with a slightly weaker G&T than yesterday.

10 miles, 8 locks.  (31 miles, 21 locks)

Saturday 19 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 2

Today has been like proper summer — sunshine and very warm.  We set off a little before 8.30, with an appointment to keep at Heyford Fields Marina.  We were due at 10 and got there half an hour early, just as Andy the photographer arrived by car.  We were there to do a boat test, and the conditions were perfect.  As we left, as about 12.30, Andy put his drone up again to get shots of the marina, and got some great pictures of us.

We had lunch on the move, then made a stop at Rugby Boats for diesel and an ice cream.  We were served by Matty from Old Friends, and the CanalWorld Forum.  We made another stop just through the bridge to fill the water tank and start the washing machine, mostly with washing we’d brought with us.  Setting off again I said hello to Jim Birch at the boatyard at Weedon, then saw a familiar boat heading towards us.  It was the tug, Harry, and I was all geared up to shout that we knew the previous owners when I realised that the previous owners, Vicky and Kevin Blick, we actually on board.  They’ve bought another project boat, but are delivering Harry to his new owners.  Just beyond Weedon there’s been massive progress on the new road and bridge since we were last this way in September.

When we got to the bottom of Buckby Locks we decided to go up as it’s very noisy from the M1 at the bottom.  Two boats were just about to come out of the bottom lock (including Braidbar no 88, Symphony) and there was also a boat to come down the second lock.  It wasn’t until the sixth lock, our last of the day, that we had to turn one.  We moored up on the long pound, just by the canal shop. As it’s so warm we’ve treated ourselves to a gin and tonic.  It’s Silent Pool gin from Surrey, a leaving gift from Adrian’s work.

11 miles, 6 locks.  (21 miles, 13 locks)

Friday 18 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 1

Today started off quite excitingly, as I went to collect my new car.  It was ordered seven months ago, so it’s been quite a wait.  Then we packed our stuff into it, and headed off on its maiden journey up to the marina.  It seemed like quite a slow trip with several minor hold ups, and we also called in to Tesco in Buckingham to get a Click and Collect order.  Once at the marina we unloaded the car and prepared to set off .

We pulled out of the marina at 2.15; the plod along to Stoke Bruerne Locks took the usual hour and a half, and the locks also took the usual hour and a half.  The first few were full, then we met a boat coming down — newly bought from Gayton, and heading to London.

We’ve seen relatively few boats, and there’s plenty of space on all the moorings.  There were no boats moored below SB Locks, plenty of space in the long pound, and only a handful in the village.  There was loads of space at Blisworth, and at Gayton Junction.  We carried on to the piling beyond Nightingales Bridge, where we are on our own.  It was about 6.45 when we stopped, but it’s a lovely evening and ideal for boating.

10 miles, 7 locks.

Monday 7 May 2018

May Bank Holiday Weekend: Day 3

Today was even sunnier and hotter than yesterday.  We set off at 8am.

A boat was just coming out the top of the Soulbury Three Locks when we got there, but we had to turn the other two as we were following a boat down.  At Stoke Hammond Lock a Wyvern hire boat had just come up, and they went back to open a gate for us.  At Fenny Lock, the Lock was empty with a bottom gate open, but there was a boat coming so Adrian swung the bridge so they could go straight in.  By the time they’d come up and we’d gone down, two more boats were arriving to go up.

There was a bit of excitement at Milton Keynes Marina.  A plastic boat had just come out and spent quite a it of time on our side of the canal.  Then a narrowboat turned into the marina — and rather took me by surprise by reversing straight back out again.  It turned out he was winding.  Then the other side of Campbell Park, the breasted up coal boats went alongside a wide beam who wanted diesel, meaning there wasn’t much of a gap to squeeze through.

All through Milton Keynes we saw people taking part in the marathon. It really wasn’t the day for it, as it was much too warm.  Every now and them there would be groups of spectators cheering on the runners.

By the Black Horse, a day Boat from MK Marina came by.  It was listing at such an angle, I wondered whether it was in danger of going over.

We had lunch on the move, and arrived at the Wolverton Aqueduct moorings at around 3pm.  We moored up and walked down to see Mark and Sian, spending a couple of hours chatting on the well deck.  Back at our own boat, we had a slightly early dinner, then set off for the marina.  The aim was to get back in time to set off in the car for home when most of the traffic should have cleared.

17 miles, 6 locks.  (35 miles, 12 locks)

Sunday 6 May 2018

May Bank Holiday Weekend: Day 2

We woke to another day with not a cloud in the sky.  We had breakfast and set off at 8.15 for the rest of the long lock-free section through Milton Keynes.  It really is very attractive, particularly on a nice day.

There were a number of changes to interest us along the way.  The former railway bridge that’s now a footpath by the Black Horse pub is under scaffolding.  There’s a huge building site just last Bridge 82, with a new little mooring basin.  And there are lots of new houses just past Fenny Stratford Lock.

We’d been following another boat for the few miles to Fenny, so had hopes of sharing the lock.  However, it turned out there was a boat in front of them, so they went through together.

It’s such a small rise that it didn’t take long before it was our turn, and the first boat had gone onto the water point, so they swung the bridge back for us.  We caught up with the other boat at Stoke Hammond lock, where a boat was just coming out so we could both go straight in.  Then we also did the Soulbury Three Locks together.  The pub was very busy, and there was a barbecue and hog roast under way out on the side of the bottom lock.

There was a single boat going up ahead of us, and the pounds between the locks were very short of water.  I ran a bit down from the top while that lock was emptying.  We continued along to the Old Linslade winding hole, having lunch on the way, and turned around.  We returned to a favourite spot just south of Bridge 109; it was around 2pm.  It’s very warm; Adrian has had a little nap, and when it’s a little cooler we need to put some sealant round the rear porthole that’s now on the towpath side, as it’s clearly letting in water.

13 miles, 5 locks.  (18 miles, 6 locks)

Saturday 5 May 2018

May Bank Holiday Weekend: Day 1

I had to work today, so we were up at the crack of dawn to drive to London.  Adrian dropped me off in time for my shift at 7.30, then carried on up to the marina.  He stopped at Tesco on the way to stock up with food, and then topped up the water tank before setting off.  He shared Cosgrove Lock with another boat from our marina, and while there Mark from Mochyn Du appeared to help.  He and Sian were moored below the lock.  Adrian moored at Wolverton, and spent a couple of hours in the afternoon at the micro pub at Wolverton Mill, as Mark and Sian had walked along to try it out.

I got away from work at about 4 and got the train to Wolverton.  It was about 5.30 when I arrived, so we decided to head out of the built up area as it was lovely and sunny and warm.  At the Grafton Street Aqueduct, all the wooden edges, many of which were missing, has been replaced with something that looks like motorway crash barriers.

There were crowds of people at the New Inn at New Bradwell enjoying the sunshine, and the towpath has also been busy.  I thought it might be full at Stantonbury Bridge, but there was plenty of room on the piling, so we moored on the end.

5 miles, 1 lock.