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)

Sunday 12 June 2022

Post Crick: Day 7

 More between-nightshift sleeping for me, while Adrian went for a walk along to Hillmorton and then back to the Canal Lounge at Clifton Cruisers for lunch.  He also did some admin.  One more night shift tonight, and then we can move again tomorrow.

0 miles, 0 locks.  (66 miles, 37 locks)

Saturday 11 June 2022

Post Crick: Day 6

I was at work last night, so spent the day asleep. I slept better than I’d expected, given that it was a warm sunny day and there must have been plenty of boats going past. As I walked to Rugby station for tonight’s shift, Adrian was walking from the station to the boat, having finished work for a few days. On one of the platforms there’s an edible garden in an old trolley.

0 miles, 0 locks. (66 miles, 37 locks)

Friday 10 June 2022

Post Crick: Day 5

Another sunny start to the day, and this time it continued.  I set off at 8.30, and immediately had to wait why a boat came past the moorings.  A hire boat was also setting off a little way behind me.  All Oaks Wood looked lovely in the sunshine.  Then just after the Brinklow Marina entrance I saw a familiar boat coming towards me — Sheila on Salodin.

I like the fact that the crane at the Armada boat yard claims to be a Tonka.

I passed Herbie at Newbold, but didn’t see Neil or Kath.  I was hoping that I’d timed my arrival at Rugby right, because I needed to go shopping and was hoping for a space to moor.  There was a choice, so I slotted in between two boats in one of the less vulnerable spots (all the moorings are on a bend, but some have more trees opposite, and less room).  The only trouble was that the mooring ring was missing at the stern; the boat behind me was using a very nicely made rope shackle, but I didn’t know if it was his own.  In the end, I improvised using the bike lock that I have for when we feel the need to lock ourselves to a mooring.

After my first trip to Tesco (I did two — the fridge was literally empty) the boat behind had gone and the shackle was still there, so I swapped onto it.  Other shopping was some sealant from B&M Bargains.  When I washed the boat yesterday, I found when cleaning the windows that the cabin porthole glass was a bit loose.  The engine room one leaked a few years ago and had to be re-sealed, so I wanted to do the same again.  I started making a chilli for the next couple of days, and had some lunch.  Then when the water point was free I pushed over to the other side to top up, which didn’t take long.  I’ve come along to the Rugby golf course moorings just beyond the new Houlton Bridge, because they’re handy for the station which will be used for various comings and goings over the next few days.

6 miles, 0 locks.  (66 miles, 37 locks)

Shlejody on test

The July Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on Shlejody by Trinity Boats.

Thursday 9 June 2022

Post Crick: Day 4

It was another day which started off with brilliant sunshine, but quickly clouded over.  I set off at 8.45, creeping past all the boats which had completely filled the length of piling in front of me.  There’s a lot of work going on at Clifton Cruisers, where the outside of the workshop has been removed, but everything inside it is still there.

When I got to Rugby, the water point was free so I stopped, got a load of washing going, topped up the tank, and made a cup of tea.  None of this took long, and I was soon on my way again.  At Newbold Tunnel, a squirrel ran across the portal brickwork as I went in.  None of the coloured lights in there are working any more.

I’d seen very few boats on the move, but as I came onto the long straight past Brinklow Marina, I could see one in the distance.  I caught up with it at Bridge 35, so they were going very slowly.  It was a Black Prince hire boat, and they let me pass at the big corner just through the bridge.  It wasn’t particularly sunny, but All Oaks Wood still looked lovely with the light through the trees.

At the moorings before Bridge 34, I made a mental note of all the gaps in the moorings — essentially one space quite early on, and then a long gap which could take two boats in a much better position further on.  I carried on through the cutting towards Stretton Stop.  Just before the bridge there, the towpath is being worked on with boats narrowing the channel.  There’s also a new stretch of piling where the Rose hire boats moor, which will be much better for them but I think has taken a foot or two off the width of the canal.  I turned around in the arm at Stretton Stop, which wasn’t easy because of the number of moored boats, and the wind direction.  Going back past the work, the guys signalled for me to come through and two boats approaching from the other way to wait.  The first one turned out to be the hire boat I’d passed earlier, but they were on the wrong side of the canal.  I passed them on the wrong side, and then switched to the correct side to pass the boat following them.  There were now also two more boats behind me, so things were a bit messy for a while.

When I got back through Bridge 34 the nicer mooring was still available — I’d been worried that some of the boats I’d passed might have taken it — and I pulled in, followed by one of the boats behind me.  I had some lunch and then went on a Zoom staff meeting.  Later I washed and rinsed the towpath side of the boat, and then it rained for a bit; I managed to get some polish on there once it had cheered up a bit.  We used this mooring a lot when we were based at Brinklow, and it’s nice to be back here.

8 miles, 0 locks.  (60 miles, 37 locks)

Wednesday 8 June 2022

Post Crick: Day 3

There was clear blue sky and bright sunshine first thing, but the cloud soon built.  I set off at about 9am.  Some of the lambs in the fields I passed were thoroughly enjoying themselves dashing about or squabbling with each other.

The old wharf buildings by Bridge 74 were looking better than ever.  There seem to be a few businesses in there now, as well as flats.  They’ve been done up over a long period of time.

Once through the double railway bridges, the vast new housing estate has come on since we were last this way, but there’s still a lot to do.

I’d been following a couple of boats for some time, so when I got to Hillmorton Locks it was no surprise that there were both heading down, and having to set the top lock to do so.  The back-pumping here made it tricky getting in to the lock landing.  I eventually re-set the towpath side lock and worked my way down.  Fortunately an uphill boat was arriving so I could leave the gates open.  At the middle lock a boat was coming up the offside lock, so I was able to go into that one after a short wait.  This lock has a long tail, so I pulled the boat out far enough to close the gates behind me, knowing that it couldn’t go far.  At the bottom lock, another boat was coming up the offside lock, and there was a volunteer lock keeper to lend a hand.  I seem to have been too busy to take many photos though.

The official moorings just below the locks have a slanting stone edge, so I carried on round the corner to where there’s a long stretch of piling.  There was only one other boat, so I could pick a nice straight bit to moor on.  After lunch, I wrote up yesterday’s boat test.  It’s been a bit blustery all afternoon, and I chose the wrong moment to go out for a walk as it began to rain.  The shower was quite heavy but not too long, and sheltering under a bridge kept me pretty much dry.  The sun has come out again since, and the weather hasn’t been half as bad as forecast.

6 miles, 3 locks.  (52 miles, 37 locks)

Tuesday 7 June 2022

Post Crick: Day 2

Today was one of those days where things appear to be going slightly wrong, but end up being just right.  We were due to do a boat test today back at Crick, with Andy the photographer picking me up on the way in Braunston.  It quickly became clear he was running late, so I used the time to wash and polish one side of the boat.  It was a beautiful day for that and for the boat test, in fact it was quite hot at times.  It was almost 3pm when I got back to the boat and immediately got ready to set off.  Hadar was moored just down the canal, and Jo and Keith were sat on a bench so we had a brief chat as I passed.

I needed water, but a hire boat had just stopped on the water point at the stop house, so I carried on to the one a bit further down by the Elsan.  I got a wash load under way, but then when I came to attach the hose pipe to the tap, I found it had the wrong size fitting.  So I had no option but to pause the washing machine and head off to the water point down by the junction.  As I approached, I was amazed and pleased to see Herbie on the Midland Chandler’s mooring — and once I’d got the tank filling and the washing machine going again, I popped into the shop to find Neil and Kath deep in conversation with a member of staff.  They said they’d come and see me in a few minutes.  I’d originally planned to go down the shared Oxford/GU section towards Napton Junction for the night, but now I was passed the junction and Neil and Kath were heading down the North Oxford I quickly changed my mind.  Before long, they were heading off, and I was about to follow.

We rejected the mooring beyond Bridge 88 as the towpath was a bit narrow for a barbecue, so I ended up leading the way to a spot just before Bridge 87, where there’s a wide and pleasant tow path.  We started with cups of tea, then moved on to gin and tonics, then the Cobb cooker came out and we had deliciously cooked sausages, pork chops, burgers, veg, and potatoes, all washed down with wine.

It was a really lovely evening, made all the better for not being planned, and for being the result of a series of incidents that meant we both ended up in the same place at the same time.  We stayed out on the towpath until it was dark, with bats swirling above the boats.  

2 miles, 0 locks.  (46 miles, 34 locks)