Friday 31 May 2019


To Banbury today for a boat test, on a day which was rather more cloudy than we’d have hoped.  It did brighten up a bit during the morning, and the lift bridge and lock provided some scenery.  The drive home took three hours rather than two, though, which was frustrating.

Thursday 30 May 2019

Finesse Spec Boat on test

The July issue of Canal Boat is out and features my boat test of a new Finesse spec boat.

I’ve also written a review of Canal Pushers, a new crime thriller by former BBC exec Andy Griffee.  And can I also recommend a piece by Pip Leckenby of Oleanna, which has been abridged from her blogs about how their first commissioned boat went wrong.

I’m off to work again today, but will be coming back to the boat tonight.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Back to work

Back to work for both of us today.  I took Adrian to Wolverton station for an early train, and then went back to catch a later train myself.  I’ve come back to the boat, as I need to be here at the weekend.  This is really just to log another night on board.

Tuesday 28 May 2019

Post Crick

A boat came past early, and at about 8am we also moved forward past a couple of moored boats to join it on the lock landing.  The lock keepers were running water down the flight to top up a low pound, and then at about 8.30 the lock was unchained and we were allowed in.  Our locking partner was a professional boat mover.  We had a good run down the flight, but only met boats coming up at the penultimate lock; at the bottom, there were a few queueing to come up.  It was chilly, but generally sunny, and I always like the wooded section below the locks, when the M1 starts to diverge from the canal.

We needed to collect my car which has been at Heyford Fields since we picked up the boat last week, so I dropped off Adrian at the marina, and carried on.  He collected the car, and our bill from Gary at BLS.  Adrian then drove to the little car park near the bottom of Stoke Bruerne Locks.  He’d made lunch for each of us before he left, so I had mine on the move while he had his at Stoke Bruerne.  The time difference between car and boat travel is such that he was also forced to adjourn to The Navigation!

At Stoke Bruerne Locks boats we’re coming up and one was waiting to go down, so we had a locking partner.  Pretty much all the locks were in our favour, and as the other boat had a couple of crew on the bank, I was able to go and open the lock ahead each time.  Mike and Stuart from the trip boat, Charlie, also came for a walk down a couple of locks, so it was good to chat to them.  As we went down the flight, the clouds built; at the second to last lock it chucked it down.

The flight took little more than an hour, thanks to locks in our favour, and the ability to work ahead.  We stopped at the bottom to put the kettle on, then I set off the for final leg on the boat while Adrian drove the car back to Thrupp Wharf — adjourning to a different Navigation pub.  We got back into our berth well before 6pm, so it had been a long day but not as long as we’d feared it might be.

21 miles, 13 locks.  (39 miles, 35 locks)

Monday 27 May 2019

Crick Show: Monday

This morning at about 9 we set off to turn around.  As we needed to pass the water point we stopped the fill up, having to wait a few minutes for another boat to finish.  While we were there we put the washing machine on.  Before long, another boat came along and waited outside us.  As we filled up, Lesley and Joe came past on the newly acquired boat, Steadfast.

We went up to the winding hole, turned around, and retraced our steps.  The boat we’d had to wait for first thing had come from a space right opposite the water point, so as it was a bit nearer the show we pulled in there.  We walked up to the village, then had lunch on board, before going over to the show site.  In the CRT tent, one of their brickies had made a CRT logo in brick and stone.

I stayed over at the show to see the announcement of the winners.  Finesse won the widebeam class, with their Brigantine.  Boating Leisure Services won the Favourite Narrowboat with Two Hoots.

Braidbar were second (again) and Ortomarine third.  I then hotfooted it back to the boat and we set off.  By the time we got to Watford Locks, we were number ten in the group to go down, so we had over an hour to wait.  I managed to get three blogs done for the past three days, when we’ve been in Crick’s communications black hole.  The top and bottom locks have big water saving signs on the balance beams.

Once we were on our way down, the locks took no time at all, and we continued to Norton Junction.  We went down the top lock and were joined by a Wyvern hire boat.  The next lock is locked for water saving, so as we’re moored quite close we hope to be first down in the morning when it’s opened again.

5 miles, 8 locks.  (18 miles, 22 locks)

Sunday 26 May 2019

Crick Show: Sunday

Dull and rainy on and off today.  We went over to the show and did some shopping, including buying a new chimney.  While there we bumped into Lesley and Joe, and Amanda and David, whom we’d made plans to meet.  They had brought a picnic lunch with them, so arrangements were made for them to come to Briar Rose and eat it with us.  A few hours were spent catching up on news of boat purchases, and of course talking toilets.

In the afternoon it brightened up considerably.  We met Debs and Mark, friends of Andy and Helen Tidy, as they are thinking of buying a boat share and wanted some advice.  We then stayed over at the show site and watched the exhibitors canoe race, which is always fun.

We had dinner on site chatting to Debs and Mark, and were also joined by my cousin Jon and Carolyn.  We went to the entertainment tent for the Dolly Parton tribute act, finding somewhere to sit by taking a picnic bench in from outside,

Saturday 25 May 2019

Crick Show: Saturday

Saturday was another hot and sunny day.  Andy and I looked at more boats before he headed off at lunchtime.  The Canal Boat stand, which was a trailer and gazebo this year rather than the usual tent, looked rather good.

Chris, the editor of Canal Boat, came to Briar Rose for a cup of tea with his wife, Clare.  I wrote quite a lot of mini reviews in the afternoon.  In the evening we went over to the entertainment tent to see Paul Young and his band Los Pacaminos.  En route, we passed the Braidbar boat, Freedom, moored up by the bridge, and Jerry and Linda invited us for gin and tonics on the well deck.  Malcolm who owned Santiago, the show boat from a few years ago, was also visiting them for a boating fix.  We also met up with my cousin Jon who was there camping with his partner, Carolyn.

Friday 24 May 2019

Crick Show: Preview Day

Friday at the Crick Show is a new thing this year.  It was a trade and preview show, with a limited number of tickets sold, so it made it easier for Andy the photographer and I to get lots of boats looked at.  It was also a lovely sunny and warm day.

In the evening, Adrian and I went into the village and ate at The Wheatsheaf.  We were the last people who hadn’t booked to get a table.

Thursday 23 May 2019

To Crick: Day 2

With only a short distance to go this morning, we didn’t hurry to set off, finally letting go at about 9.  Crick Tunnel was as usual dry at the southern end and a bit drippy at the northern end.  We found our booked mooring, quite close to the first bridge; we were one of the first to arrive along this stretch.  Our neighbouring boat arrived an hour or so later, and moored on the inside of us as they have a dog.

In mid morning we walked up into the village so Adrian could get a bus into Rugby and then a train to London, as he’s going to a black tie awards dinner this evening.  I walked back along the towpath and bumped into some of the Braidbar bunch, and then went over to the show site.  This afternoon I’ve been helping Pete set up the Canal Boat stand.  This evening, I’m going to The Moorings for dinner with the Braidbar crew.

2 miles, 0 locks.  13 miles, 14 locks.

Wednesday 22 May 2019

To Crick: Day 1

We drove up to the boat first thing this morning, with the journey seeming to take quite a long time.  Briar Rose was back in the water at Heyford Fields, and moored on the far side of the marina.  As well as blacking, we’ve had a full engine service (I do the oil changes myself but it’s good to have a proper once-over every now and again) and we’ve had a new prop to replace one that was full of dings.  It was about 10.15 when we left the marina, and turned left for Crick.  Of course the good thing about starting from Heyford Fields is that it’s two thirds of a day closer to Crick than our home base.

By Flore Lane Bridge is a funny little house, which I’ve always thought of as being 1970s, but it could be earlier.  Over the past couple of years it has been completely gutted, but now it’s finished, and looks fantastic, with modern floor to ceiling windows, glass balustrades, and stylish furniture. It’s an upside down house, with the living accommodation upstairs and the bedrooms below.

We soon got to Buckby Locks, having had lunch on the move.  Bizarrely, we ended up sharing with three different boats.  Boats were coming out of the bottom lock as we arrived so we went in and waited for a boat we could see in the distance.  It turned out to be Snoozy Bee, with a chap on board who was also going to the show to help Gary and Dave from Boating Leisure Services.  The next couple of locks also had boats coming down, but then we needing to turn a couple.  We’d also caught up with a single handler, so we did a couple of locks with him.  At the top lock there was already a boat waiting to go up, so we went with them as the single handler said he was planning to moor at the junction.  We turned right onto the Leicester Line, and continued to Watford Locks where there was no queue and the lock keeper said we could go straight up.

It had been nice and sunny all day but by now was also warm.  We carried on to through Bridge 9 and moored up in a nice sunny spot.  The M1 isn’t too close, there are sheep on the other side of the canal, and Home Farm is through the towpath hedge.

11 miles, 14 locks.

Sunday 12 May 2019

To blacking

Adrian came up to the boat yesterday afternoon and did things like get shopping and top up the water tank.  I came up after work, arriving just after 11.30pm.  This morning we began with a car shuffle, both of us driving up to Heyford Fields, where we left Adrian’s car.  Once back at our own marina, we set off; it was just after 8.30 and it was a beautiful morning.

There was a decent sized flock of swans munching their way through a farmer’s field.  A bit further on were some goslings of varying age in a big group; and a pheasant, undoubtedly the world’s stupidest bird, was looking bemused on the towpath.

A boat moored below Stoke Bruerne Locks had a very impressive bow fender, a mermaid figurehead made from rope.

At the locks, the bottom lock was set for a boat coming down but they were still some way off, so we waited for about 15 minutes.  We were joined for the journey up the first five locks by a boat which had been on the water point, with a very pleasant couple on board.  They moored in the long pound while we carried on to the top.  In Stoke Bruerne we saw Mike on the trip boat, Charlie, and Kathryn who was giving a guided walk.  The tunnel was wet as usual, and we had lunch on the move once we were through.

It was at about this time that Adrian realised he didn’t know where his car key was.  We both looked for it to no avail, so the theory that he’d left it in the door pocket of my car, back at our marina, was looking increasingly likely.  I suggested he got a taxi from where we were, just through Blisworth, rather than waiting until we got to Heyford Fields.  So while I continued on the boat, he was picked up at the Walnut Tree and was soon back at the marina, where his key was indeed in my car.  He then drove up to Heyford Fields and swapped cars.  We met up briefly at Bugbrooke so he could collect a few things and leave my car key behind, and then he headed off to London.  While the taxi was expensive, the episode saved us quite a lot of time.

I continued a bit further and have moored up in a nice sunny spot opposite Heyford Fields Marina.  Being here means I don’t need to be quizzed by the marina wardens who swoop as soon as anyone sets foot on their frontage.  I’ll take the boat in in the morning, and watch it being taken out of the water.

14 miles, 7 locks.

Wednesday 1 May 2019

Jolly Good on test

The June edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on Jolly Good, which will be Braidbar’s boat at the Crick Show.