Tuesday, 9 August 2022

Eau de Folles on test, and Weedon Depot

The September Canal Boat is out and includes my boat test of Eau De Folles, by Ortomarine.  There’s also a little feature on the Weedon Ordnance Depot that we visited back in June.

Monday, 8 August 2022

Blacking Weekend: Day 4

Adrian left for work early this morning, and a bit later I packed up and loaded things into my car. Then at a bit before 9am Steve Furniss at Grand Union Narrowboats appeared at the yard opposite, and I reversed the boat alongside.

We had a chat about what needed to be done, then I walked round to my car and set off to Glascote for a boat test. It was a lovely warm sunny day, and we were done in a couple of hours. The drive home, though, was long and quite slow. 

Sunday, 7 August 2022

Blacking Weekend: Day 3

We started off the day with a car shuffle — going to pick up the other car from the marina and putting it in Weedon. Then we drove back to the boat, and set off about 11.15. We passed Momentous and had a quick chat as we drifted past, and at the Wharf Inn at Bugbrooke saw our former share boat, Debdale, moored up. It’s now based at Gayton so we’ll probably see it quite a bit.

At times the canal was very busy — we passed four boats coming the other way just between Evans Bridge and Skew Bridge. But at other times we saw no-one. 

We got to Weedon after about three hours and moored up opposite the boat yard ready for tomorrow, then drove to Blisworth to collect the other car. By the steps down from the canal to the road there was a sign about cream teas at the churchyard this afternoon, so once we were both back we walked under the canal and the railway and through that part of the village to the church. It was very pleasant sitting outside with tea and a cream scone.

We returned by continuing along the road, back under the railway and canal and up the other steps to the towpath.

8 miles, 0 locks. (17 miles, 7 locks)

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Blacking Weekend: Day 2

We had a lazy start to the day, then just before 11am we could be seen walking up the towpath in suits. We had a car at the bridge, and drove up to a place near Mansfield in Notts for a wedding. It was a very enjoyable afternoon.

We got back just before 11pm

0 miles, 0 locks. (9 miles, 7 locks)

Friday, 5 August 2022

Blacking Weekend: Day 1

I came up to the boat after work and Adrian came up from home, doing shopping on the way. I arrived just after 11 and Adrian about 45 minutes later. We then went and dropped off a car at Stoke Bruerne locks. Back at the boat, we set off and headed north. It was warm when the sun was out, but also quite blustery, although fortunately not while I was turning out of the marina. It took the usual hour and a half to get to the bottom of Stoke Bruerne — where we had help in the form of Jenny and Pete from Momentous who were moored at the top. We were joined up the locks by a family on a Gayton hire boat, who’ve been hiring for thirty years and had been to London and back. There was even some synchronised boating.

The Momentous dogs, Sassie and Frisbee were great fun  Frisbee likes going back and forth across the lock gates.

We moored up at the top, along towards the tunnel, and Jenny and Pete came along for a cup of tea as a small thank you for their help. Plus we had a good chance to catch up of course. Then while I set off through the tunnel, Adrian walked back down to the car and drove to Blisworth. There was nowhere to moor in the village, but we’ve slotted into a very tight space just before Bridge 49. 

9 miles, 7 locks

Tuesday, 26 July 2022


To Birmingham today for a boat test — the first time we’ve ever done one in the city centre.

I’d stayed on Briar Rose overnight and met up with Andy the photographer at Bicester so we could travel together. The weather didn’t entirely play ball, with the sun only really coming out once the boat was heading off down the locks, where we have the owners a hand with the top couple. 

Sunday, 24 July 2022

Night on board

Came up to Briar Rose after work as I need to be up this way on Tuesday. I’ll do tomorrow’s shift in London by getting the train from Milton Keynes. 

Saturday, 9 July 2022

Eventide on test, and other Crick boats

The August Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on the Crick Show winner, Eventide by Oakums Narrowboats. Plus there are mini reviews of all the other Crick boats.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

That mile again

It was supposed to be less windy today, but it was still pretty blustery when I set off at about 8.45.  It made the turn into the marina a bit of a struggle, but at least the direction of the wind helped me line up to reverse into our berth and I managed it without touching the sides.  I was quickly packed up and on the road home.

1 mile, 0 locks.  (10 miles, 0 locks)

Monday, 27 June 2022

Pottering about

It rained on and off this morning, often much more on than off.

As I didn’t have any particular need to go anywhere, I spent the morning pottering about the boat, enquiring about blacking which needs doing, and chatting to my friend Orna in Manchester, and Adrian who’s having a day in Nashville.  Around lunchtime I almost set off a couple of times, but each time it started raining again so I ended up having lunch first.  When I finally go going, at about 1.45, it had really brightened up a lot, and all the Canada geese were in the water having a right go at each other.

I went along to Stoke Bruerne to turn around below the locks.  There was a massive widebeam getting ready to leave the water point, so I was glad I managed to get round before he set off; I really wouldn’t have waited to be behind him.

The afternoon got better and better weather wise.  I moored up just before Bridge 63, in a spot I have used before.  This morning’s rain had washed off quite a lot of the dust from the side of the boat, but I still got out a bucket and gave it a bit of a going over, and it did look better once it was done.  Then I thought I’d better go for a walk, as I hadn’t really done anything all day.  I knew there was a path on the opposite side of the canal, so I walked along to the bridge and turned onto it — only to be defeated by massive thick stinging nettles.  There were some very delicate seed heads on the towpath though.

Instead, I walked down to Bridge 60, by Kingfisher Marina, and took a path which looped across fields.  One of them was full of very tall grass.

Another had what looked like thistles in it, and the route of the footpath wasn’t clear.  I walked around the edge instead, and eventually found Bridge 59, the one the other side of Kingfisher.  For a while, I’d been able to head a boat engine, and eventually cause up with Hood, a Samuel Barlow boat which had been at Braunston.

I said they’d done well to get so far, but they explained that they’d left the rally early yesterday.  I got to Briar Rose before they did, and as he went past the helmsman said he could have given me a lift!

6 miles, 0 locks.  (9 miles, 0 locks)

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Braunston Rally

A beautiful sunny morning to start, and after breakfast I washed the towpath side of the boat, as there’s clearly been some very dusty rain in the past week.  The other side is even worse, but that will have to wait until I have turned around.  At about 9.30 I set off walking back to the marina to get the car, and drove up to my second cousin Catherine’s house in Norton.  From there we all went in one car to Braunston.  Catherine, Grace, and I all got out there, while Nigel and Matthew carried on to Watford, where there was a classic car rally.  The three of us walked down Dark Lane to the bottom lock, and then down the canal to where all the historic boats were moored up.

We wandered round the marina, where Catherine went to speak to her favourite canal artist, Pete Tuffrey, in the Guild of Artists tent.  Round the other side of the arm was Lamprey, owned by Sarah Edgson from Norton Canes.  A parade of boats was fairly imminent, so she asked us if we’d like a little jaunt on the boat; she was going to head home, so she’d drop us off after the junction.  So once she got the all clear from the organisers (in spite of appearances, there are organisers of the parades), we jumped in the hold and set off.

We got off at the road bridge just beyond the junction, and walked back to the junction bridges to watch the boats which use the triangular junction to turn around.  Quite a few boats were heading off, though, it being past lunchtime on the second day of the event.  We saw Ryan and Southern Cross and Alan and Kath on Sickle.  The stiff breeze across the junction didn’t help many of the boats do their manoeuvres.

We walked back up the canal to the marina, mostly to see the chaos in the narrow sections, where historic boats in each direction are also passing moored boats.  There was a bit of gridlock for a time.  We had very nice bacon rolls from a van in the marina, and found some chairs so we could watch boats coming back into the marina.  Once Nigel and Matthew had joined us we had an ice cream, and did another circuit down to the junction and back, before heading for the car which was parked up in the village.

I drove back from Norton to our marina, dropped off the car, and walked along to the boat.  It was about 4.15 by the time I got back, so I quickly made some tea and got ready to set off.  I just did 2 miles to Grafton Regis.  Much to my surprise, my favourite spot, with views on both the canal and the towpath side was free so I pulled in and tied up.  It’s been a really lovely day, and thoroughly enjoyable.

2 miles, 0 locks.  (3 miles, 0 locks)

Saturday, 25 June 2022

A mile

I have been at work today, and didn’t get to the marina until after 6pm, having stopped at Tesco in Wolverton for some shopping on the drive up from London.  I had brought with me a load of things that we’d borrowed from the boat to take to the Black Deer music festival last weekend.  Once I was unpacked, I put a centre line on, did the engine checks and pulled out of the marina, turning towards Stoke Bruerne.

I wasn’t planning to go far, just past Bridge 63.  When I got through the bridge I could see that someone was already occupying my favourite spot, where you can line up a window with the gap in the towpath hedge, so I stopped at a bit of piling before there.  Someone has obviously moored here in the not to distant past, as the very long towpath grass is trampled down for about 60ft.  Tomorrow I’ll be walking back to the marina to get the car, to head to Braunston for the historic boat rally with my second cousin, Catherine.

1 mile, 0 locks.

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Post Crick: Day 11

Another beautiful start to the day, and we set off at around 8am.

We made our way past Gayton Junction, through Blisworth, and through the tunnel without seeing another moving boat.  Stoke Bruerne looked lovely in the sunshine.

The first few locks were empty and needed filling before we could go down.  Then we could see that there was a widebeam going down ahead of us.  At the penultimate lock there were a couple of lock keepers, and then had taken the locking device off the second paddle, as the lock wouldn’t drain without it.  It turns out it’s there not because the paddle doesn’t work, but to prevent too much water going into the pound at once, as it was flood and affect the cottages alongside.  Once the widebeam was down, we then had to wait for a narrowboat coming up.  Even so the flight didn’t take much more than the usual hour and a half.  As we had plenty of time, we moored up in the prime position at Grafton Regis where you get views on both sides of the boat, and had a rare stationary lunch.  When I was here back in March, the River Tove was flooding the fields, and the weir from the canal was dumping even more water into it; today, you could only tell there was a river there by a lush green stripe of reeds across the field.

We set off again about 2pm and arrived back at our marina about an hour later.  Since then we’ve been sorting things out, including going to collect Adrian’s car from a car park in Milton Keynes.  Tomorrow we are off to the Black Deer music festival for the weekend, so everything we need for that is going in one car, and everything we’re taking back but don’t need there is going in the other.

10 miles, 7 locks.  (109 miles, 60 locks)

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Post Crick: Day 10

We set off a little after 8am, just after another boat had passed us going in the same direction.  Our Plan A had been to stop on the water point at the top lock and get some washing going, but if the other boat was going down the locks we’d go too.  As it happened, he was going to the water point, and as the top lock was full we headed into it.  Then a boat which had been moored at the far end of the lock landing showed signs of life and indicated that they’d come with us.  It turned out they were boat movers taking the boat down to Whilton Marina, and had still been in bed when they heard us go past!  We made good progress down the locks, in lovely warm sunny conditions.

By lock 12, there’s a little hut containing eggs for sale.  I wish I’d taken a photo when I looked in it yesterday, because there was a goose egg in there.  Today, it was gone.  Half a dozen hen’s eggs are £1, which we thought seemed quite cheap, and goose eggs are £1 each, we thought seemed expensive in comparison.

At the bottom of the locks we paused to get the washing machine going (during the washing part of the cycle, when the machine is heating water, the Travel Power needs the engine at about 1600 revs, so we need to be stationary).  It only takes about 15 minutes, and that times was used by Adrian going to get ice creams from the marina shop.  Once we were on the move again, there was an idyllic scene if you ignored the M1 alongside the canal, with fluffy seeds coming off the trees like snow.  The air was full of them and they were making a carpet on the water.

When we got to Weedon, we tied up opposite the boat yard, because we wanted to visit the Ordnance Depot.  I’ve been before but Adrian hasn’t.  We walked down from the embankment and under the canal and the railway line.

The depot dates back to 1802 and was used to store arms, cannon, and gunpowder.  What’s now the boatyard was the start of an arm which still runs through the site.

There’s a little visitor centre, staffed by very enthusiastic volunteers.

The buildings are now used for businesses.  We had lunch in a cake cafe which only opened on Saturday; there are also gyms, motorsport places, pet food shops, antique centres and a bookshop.  It’s well worth a visit from the canal.

We made one further stop, at Rugby Boats, where the diesel is now up to £1.50 basic price.  We took on 54 litres; the guy there was telling us about a woman who had bought a boat that had huge diesel tanks at the bow, and turned out not to have much diesel in them.  She asked them to stop filling when it got to 500 litres!  We plodded on along the very familiar canal, and stopped about 3.30 at the stretch of piling a little before Bridge 46.

11 miles, 7 locks.  (99 miles, 53 locks)

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Post Crick: Day 9

A really beautiful sunny and warm day, and our mooring was quiet apart from lots of birdsong.  It really is lovely round here.  We were up fairly early and treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast.  Adrian wanted his work shirts washed, so we started a wash load before setting off, and got under way once the washing part of the cycle had finished.

As well as being sunny, it was also very still, with great reflections in the water.  We were soon approaching Braunston, and the turn always seems to feel quite exciting.

We gambled on their being a space to moor by the marina, and we were in luck.  We walked up to the village to get food for the next few nights; the butcher there always has plenty to choose from.  As we set off again, a few boats came past so we knew we’d probably be queueing at the locks.  I walked up there while Adrian brought the boat.  Sure enough, two boats were going up the bottom lock, with two more waiting below, then us.  Then a boat moored between locks 1 and 2 threw a spanner in the works by turning around and going into the second lock with one of the boats, leaving a Napton hire boat without a partner.  The two boats waiting said they were travelling together and didn’t want to split up, so I suggested to the volunteer lock keepers that if the hire boat didn’t mind waiting for us, we’d join them for the locks above.  So the two boats travelling together came up and continued into the second lock, then we came up along and joined the hire boat.

There were eight people on board the Napton boat, a British couple and her Canadian relatives, and we all got on very well.  There were enough of them working the locks that I was always able to go up to the next one, and as we met plenty of boats coming down we made decent progress.

At the top, we were through the tunnel first, then continued to Norton Junction, hoping for a space just before the bridge, with a nice view.  And we were in luck, finding plenty of space in a prime spot.  This is looking from across at the Leicester Line (and although it looks as though we’ve moored leaving git gaps in between, it’s happened like that because other boats and come and gone!).

We were tied up by 1pm, and in the afternoon decided to walk down to Anchor Cottage for an ice cream.  But the shop turned out to be closed, so we walked down to the chandlery at the bottom lock instead, where they also sell Magnums.  On the way, we passed our Canadian friends going down the locks.

7 miles, 6 locks.  (88 miles, 46 locks)

Monday, 13 June 2022

Post Crick: Day 8

After our stationary weekend while I went to work, we are on the move again.  I arrived back from my night shift at 9am and we set off shortly afterwards.  After a few minutes we saw a dog jump in the canal from the towpath after a duck.  The duck didn’t want to just fly off because she had five ducklings, so she was quaking furiously.  The dog’s owner was calling it repeatedly, but it was completely ignoring her, just swimming around after the mother duck.  It didn’t appear to be interested in the ducklings, who gathered together and kept away anyway.  Eventually the dog gave up and got out of the water, and was put on a lead.  Let’s hope it’s kept on a lead in future.

At Hillmorton Locks, both locks were empty, and a Rose hire boat was just going into one.  We used the other, but because our lock had two working top paddles and theirs only had one, we were up first.  We continued side by side up the locks, with Adrian giving the two ladies on board some advice on what they should be doing.

After passing all the moored boats on the Barby Straight, we soon caught up with a boat ahead because they never went faster than tickover.  I had to keep dropping into neutral to avoid getting too close.  We were behind them for a very long mile before they pulled in to moor up.  Soon after that, the familiar Braunston church and windmill came into view.

We wanted to stop for water at the junction, but there were two boats already on the water point, one of which had only just arrived, so we decided to go up to the Stop House water point instead.  There were also two boats there, so we thought we’d turn round in the marina entrance and see what the situation was then.  Mid-turn, there was a slight misunderstanding from a boat which had been on the pump out point in the marina, as he came flying out backwards.  He’d thought we were waiting to take his place, and it was only when he was right in my way that he realised what we were doing.  He was very apologetic though.  By then, one of the boats was leaving the water point, so we took their place, got a wash load going, and filled the tank.  We had lunch while it was doing its thing.  Once we were full, we returned to the junction and turned onto the shared Oxford/Grand Union section.

There’s lots of lovely countryside along this stretch, which we probably appreciate more these days than when we were based round here and did it all the time.  There were a few fields of blue flowers, which I think might be linseed.

We carried on through Bridge 107, where we turned around in the wide section there, which according to CanalPlanAC is called the Thick Thorne House winding hole.  On each pass through the Lower Shuckburgh moorings, we had a brief chat with Mark on Mjor.  We returned to a nice quiet spot with a nice view which we have used before, just short of Bridge 102.

15 miles, 3 locks.  (81 miles, 40 locks)