Saturday 27 August 2022

Return from blacking: Day 4

I was expecting family crew mid-morning, so I went out for a walk after breakfast, following a circular route which took me up through Stoke Bruerne churchyard, across fields to Shutlanger, and then back alongside a stream which feeds into the River Tove.  On cue at 10.30 my second cousin, Catherine, arrived, with Nigel and Matthew; Grace was at work at her Saturday job.  We set off down the locks, with Matthew at the helm.  At the first lock were Jules and Richard with Towcester, with a modern boat tied alongside.

An upcoming pair of boats two locks further down topped up the next locks and opened it for us, then we swapped with them.

A boat had just come up the fourth lock, which just needed a bit of a top up, and two boats were cominup the bottom lock meaning we could go straight in.  The five locks had taken barely 40 minutes, which felt like some kind of record.

As it wasn’t even yet 11.30, we came up with a plan for the next part of the day.  Catherine and Co stayed on board for the journey to the marina, with Matthew steering. At one point we could see a boat across the canal up ahead, but we still don’t know why; another boat coming the other way eventually got through and the crossways boat sorted himself out and carried on.  We caught him up as he was going on tickover the whole time.  After Bridge 62 we pulled in and moored up, and I rustled up some ham and salad wraps for lunch, where we had a good catch up of events over the past few weeks.  Matthew steered the remaining mile or so, but did let me take over for the turn into the marina and the reverse into our berth.  We all jumped in my car and I took the family back to their car by the locks in Stoke Bruerne.  It was a really lovely few hours, and all the better for being semi-unplanned.

Back at the marina, our neighbours had gone out so I have a bit more of a view.  I have filled the water tank (which must have been pretty empty as it took ages) and I’ve also taken everything off the well deck and given the whole area a mop. It will almost certainly be full of cobwebs again within days, but there’s not much I can do about that.  I have also been ‘entertained’ by some sort of jazz band at the Navigation pub.  At first I thought it was a case of cruelty to cats, but some people seem to have enjoyed the vocalist; I’m hoping they were only booked for the afternoon and not the whole evening.

Back to work tomorrow.

6 miles, 5 locks.  (17 miles, 7 locks)

Friday 26 August 2022

Return from blacking: Day 3

I was in no rush to get going this morning, but even so I was away by 9am.  I made my way through Gayton Junction and on to Blisworth, where the mill looked particularly fine in the sunshine, and the cutting on the approach to the tunnel had a sort of magical air, with dappled sunshine and mist rising off the water.

I’d hoped to get through the tunnel without meeting any boats, so I could keep the new blacking well away from the walls, but of course I met three.  At Stoke Bruerne the top lock needed filling, and Mike from the trip boat, Charlie, came along to say hello.  A friend who was visiting him today, Jane, helped me down the lock.  There was quite an audience.

A boat had just come up the next lock so they left the gate so I could go straight in.  I was soon down.

There was plenty of space to moor in the long pound, so I put my stern on the very first ring.  I was all secure by about 11.15, and began to wash the dust off the towpath side of the boat.  I’d only done about a quarter of the boat when I spotted that the boat coming down the lock was Debdale, the boat we had a share in before buying Briar Rose.  On board we’re Stuart and Jo Bilsland, who were in the syndicate back then.  I said I’d see them at the next lock, and walked down to give them a hand.  They provided me with a windlass and I ended up helping them down the rest of the flight.

We were following a couple of boats down, but there were also a few coming up so progress was pretty good.  At one of the locks, someone has repainted the cill markers, but has had a bit of spelling trouble.

At the bottom, they moored up and we all had a drink and a catch up.  It was really lovely to see them after such a long time.

This afternoon, I wandered back up to the village, had an ice cream, got given a trip into the tunnel mouth on board Charlie (thank you, Mike!) and knocked on Kathryn’s door for a chat.  It’s been a thoroughly pleasant day.

5 miles, 2 locks.  (11 miles, 2 locks)

Thursday 25 August 2022

Return from blacking: Day 2

We had a pretty relaxed start to the day, then set off to take my car to our marina.  There was an enormous amount of traffic queuing north on the A5 through Towcester, with several miles of pretty much stationary cars and lorries.  It turned out the M1 was shut between junctions 15 and 15A; at least we knew which way not to go back.  Instead, we went through Roade and Blisworth, but there was also a queue there, so we diverted cross country again to get over the A43 and onto the A5.

We decided we’d make a quick detour as we had a little time, and went to the National Trust property, Canons Ashby.

We got there almost the same time as the house was opening at 11.30 so went for a look around.  It’s a really nice house, and unlike some, you could actually imagine living there.

We went to the cafe for an early lunch, during which time the rain started,  it absolutely lashed it down for a while, and even though it had eased off a bit, we still got soaked going back to the car as we had neither coats nor an umbrella with us.  Adrian did at least have an umbrella in the car, so the walk back along the towpath to the boat was a little drier.  He then headed off back to work at about 1pm.  I waited until the rain had stopped about an hour later, then went out with a cloth and dried off the towpath side of the boat, hoping the rain will have washed off all the dust.  As it looked to be cheering up, I set off.  One of the guys from a caravan in the field opposite came down and said that Briar Rose was the prettiest boat they’d see all week!

There were very few boats on the move, but I did meet two of them at bridges, naturally.  The portaloo company by Banbury Lane Bridge appears to have a new line on bright pink ones.  I’m sure I would have noticed them before if they’d been there.

I moored up on the nice stretch before Nightingales Bridge, and went for a walk to get my steps up.  There’s a footpath over the bridge and the railway towards Gayton village.  I didn’t go all the way because it started raining again and I didn’t want to get a second soaking.  But I did get far enough for a view of BR on the moorings, with the Northampton lift tower seemingly not that far away beyond.

On the way back, one of the increasingly rare Avanti trains came along.

Of course by the time I got back to the canal the rain had stopped.  I found far more blackberries in the next five minutes than I’d got in half an hour of hunting yesterday, so I think I’ll be having stewed apple and blackberry this evening, to use up the bit of custard left from last night.

5 miles, 0 locks.  (6 miles, 0 locks)

Wednesday 24 August 2022

Return from blacking: Day 1

I worked a night shift last night, and drove up to Weedon straight afterwards.  I did food shopping at Tesco in Towcester on the way, but was still at the yard before 9.30. After unloading the car, having a chat with Steve who has done the work on BR, and taking delivery of the bill, I set off.

It was only a journey of a mile or so, but it was all on tickover because of the number of moored boats.  I moored up opposite the little camp site just before Bridge 28.  The morning’s tasks included giving the inside a bit of a clean, as everything was very dusty and the spiders had been having a field day.

When we bought BR, the blacking had been done right up to the gunwales (even though it must have been paint on the top plank originally), and we’ve continued that each time up to now.  But over time, bits of the blacking have fallen off and it’s all looked a bit rough.  So Steve at Grand Union Narrowboats has removed all the old blacking and paint from the top plank and started again, and it looks much better.  He’s also repainted the tunnel bands, which were definitely in need of a freshen up.

We’ve also had a full engine service, because while I’m quite happy doing my own oil changes, I’m not confident with the fuel system and all the belts are definitely beyond me.

After lunch I walked back to the yard to get the car.  Adrian is arriving this evening after work and we’ll do a car shuffle in the morning. I’ve also made a chilli for dinner tonight, and went to find some blackberries from the hedgerow to go in an apple crumble.  This proved harder than expected; the hedges here have very few brambles and fewer blackberries — and I came back with barely a dozen.  They’ve added some colour to the apples if nothing else.

Also this afternoon, a boat tried to turn in the slight widening of the canal here by the camp site — the trouble is there’s actually piling just under the water line, so they gave that a clattering.  I was able to let them know that the winding hole is actually just through the bridge.  As they returned, I heard the couple d wondering where Lord Vernon’s Wharf is, and deciding to ask me.  It’s the question we get asked the most — at least once a week usually.

1 mile, 0 locks.

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