Tuesday 26 December 2023

Christmas Cruise: Day 4

An alarm at 3.45am, as I had work this morning.  It was a ten minute walk along the towpath to the car, which we had moved into Cosgrove on Christmas Eve.  It was clear and cold, with bright moonlight.

I came back to the marina after my shift, and Adrian had walked along to meet me.  We walked back to the boat, passing these characters in Cosgrove.

After lunch we set off back to the marina.  

The lock needed turning, and we had an audience of walkers to watch us come up.  

Unlike every other day this short trip there wasn’t a breath of wind.  Even the marina was still, which sometimes means it’s harder to spin round to reverse into the berth, but actually it all went extremely well.  An hour after setting off, we were all secure in our berth.

We have nothing planned for this afternoon; tomorrow we head home — me via work, and Adrian via his aunt and uncle in Kent.

1 mile, 1 lock.  (3 miles, 2 locks)

Monday 25 December 2023

Christmas Cruise: Day 3

Christmas Day, and the wind had finally dropped.  We treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast, then as it wasn’t raining, set off.  We were very shortly crossing the Wolverton Aqueduct.

A little bit further on, we turned around in the wide section at Galleon Wharf, and headed back.  We were very shortly crossing the Wolverton Aqueduct.

We moored up a couple of boat lengths along from where we’d been, mostly to get away from our neighbour’s generator, which seems to be running most of the day.  As we had coats and boots on, we headed off for a walk round the Ouse Valley Park, walking all the way to the railway viaduct.  On the way back, we passed the ponies, in a field up by the farm.

At lunchtime we started cooked our Christmas dinner: rolled turkey breast, massive pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips, stuffing balls and brussels.  With a bit of juggling, everything fitted in the oven and got cooked.  This afternoon it has been raining on and off; we’ve been binge watching series two of Vigil, three episodes yesterday, one so far today, and two more which will almost certainly be completed later today.

We hope everyone is having a lovely Christmas, and if it’s not a good time for you, we hope you are at the very least having a peaceful one.

1 miles, 0 locks.  (2 miles, 1 lock)

Sunday 24 December 2023

Christmas Cruise: Day 2

The forecast for today was for 40mph winds, so we were always unlikely to be going anywhere.  We also had a visit planned, from my second cousin Catherine and Nigel.  Grace was at work and Matthew was being a teenager and had gone back to bed!  We started with tea and then moved on to mulled wine, along with some of my mince pies and Catherine’s Christmas rocky road.  We haven’t seen them since the end of our trip in September, and it turned out we had a lot to catch up on.

Afterwards, we had lunch then went out for a walk.  It’s been very blustery but at least it’s been dry.  Our walk took us round part of the Ouse Valley Country Park, with nice views of Wolverton Aqueduct on the way back.

Lots of people are out and about walking the towpath, and all seem very cheerful and Christmassy.  Merry Christmas to all the readers of this blog!

0 miles, 0 locks.  (1 mile, 1 lock)

Saturday 23 December 2023

Christmas Cruise: Days 0 and 1

Adrian wasn’t working yesterday, so came up to the marina first thing.  He did a stock take and then went shopping at a packed Tesco in Wolverton.  He’d also brought quite a lot with him.  Then it was a matter of getting the boat warm.

I came up this morning after my night shifts.  Part of the M1 was down to 20mph on the variable speed limits, due (according to the signs) to an oncoming vehicle.  I didn’t see one, but the slow bit lasted for several miles.  It had been very blustery in the night, and was still very windy this morning.  We debated whether to head out of the marina or not, and decided it was probably safer not to.  So instead we got in the car and headed off to Canons Ashby, which is decorated for Christmas.

The decorations are on the theme of King Arthur, because one of the house’s former owners had written an opera about him, with Purcell doing the music.  They were quite imaginative,  especially the enchanted forest and the dragons in the kitchens.

We’d got there not long after the house opened, so got a fairly early slot, and it’s not that big — so we ended up having a rather early lunch too.  We also went across the road to the church, one of only four in the UK that are privately owned, apparently.

On the way back, we had a walk up Buckby Locks, and talked to the owners of a boat going up.  We also decided the wind wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been, so we headed back to the boat and set off.  Although it was fairly breezy in the marina, outside it was fine.  We went down through Cosgrove.

We went down the lock, and moored towards the aqueduct.  It’s pretty calm here, and we’re not being blown about like we were in the marina.  The forecast is worse for tomorrow though, and we have visitors in the morning, so we may not go anywhere at all.

1 mile, 1 lock.

Friday 8 December 2023

Stargazer on test

The January Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on Stargazer, by Knights Narrowboats.

Friday 24 November 2023

Mercia Marina

Up to Mercia Marina today for a boat test — in fact we did two. Sunny, but rather breezy and pretty cold!  At least there are always good toasted sandwiches in the Willow Tree Cafe afterwards. 

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Prees branch

A long drive today up to Whixall Marina for a boat test. The weather was kind, and the lift bridges are picturesque. And we won’t talk about the incident with Andy’s drone!  On the way back, a horse came along and had to wait to cross the bridge. He’ll probably end up in the magazine too. 

We had lunch in the marina cafe, then I carried on north to see my dad in his new flat in Chester. 

Monday 6 November 2023

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Electric Dragon on test

The November Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on Electric Dragon by Ortomarine.

Saturday 7 October 2023

Wending to Wales: stats

Some stats from our trip to Llangollen and back.

385 miles, 314 locks (223 narrow locks and 91 wide ones)

Canals travelled on:

  • Grand Union
  • North Oxford
  • Coventry
  • Birmingham and Fazeley
  • Trent and Mersey
  • Middlewich Arm
  • Shropshire Union main line 
  • Llangollen
  • Montgomery
  • Prees Arm
  • Whitchurch Arm
  • BCN Old Main Line
  • BCN New Main Line
  • BCN Titford Canal
  • B&F Digbeth Branch
  • GU Digbeth Branch

The Llangollen was new water for Briar Rose but not for us, and the Titford Canal and Titford Pools was new water for all of us.

We went through the following tunnels:

  • Blisworth (twice)
  • Braunston (twice)
  • Newbold
  • Harecastle
  • Ellesmere (twice)
  • Chirk (twice)
  • Whitehouses (twice)
  • Cowley
  • Wolverhampton (really more like a long bridge)
  • Coseley
  • Summit
  • Ashted
  • Curzon Street (another bridge-like one)
  • Shrewley
In total, they add up to just over nine miles underground.

We did two major aqueducts, Chirk and Pontcysyllte, plus lots of small ones.

We went through the following counties:

  • Northamptonshire
  • Warwickshire
  • Staffordshire
  • Cheshire
  • Shropshire
  • Wrexham
  • Denbighshire
  • West Midlands

Tuesday 3 October 2023

Back to the marina

There was lots of thunder and lightning last night, and rain so heavy that once or twice I couldn’t hear the tv!  This morning things were much quieter.  I packed, made a trip down to the Elsan, and set off a bit after 8am.  CRT are currently shoring up the bank on one of the corners.  When I walked past on Sunday, some of these posts hadn’t been cut down to size.  They’ve got rolls of sticks in between, and from what’s on the workboat will be having coir sausages on top.

At the marina, our neighbours are currently out so I had a double sized space to aim at.  Sometimes I find this makes things more difficult, but actually I ended up right alongside our jetty.

I went through the leaving procedure, loaded up the car, and was on the road to my dad’s by 9.15.

1 mile, 0 locks.  (2 miles, 0 locks)

Monday 2 October 2023

Back to Cheshire

I was up early this morning and driving to Bicester to meet Andy the photographer.  I’d moved the car to the village yesterday afternoon.  We went in one car to Aqueduct Marina at Church Minshull for a boat test.  The weather was ok, no sunshine but light cloud and dry.  We had lunch at the cafe there, and then on the way home the rain arrived.  I stopped at Bicester library to have some documents printed, rather than trying to figure out whether I could do some sort of Wi-Fi thing with phone and iPad on the boat.  My walk back from the marina to the boat at Cosgrove was mostly in the dry, so I was lucky because the rain really came down after I got back.

Sunday 1 October 2023

Wending to Wales: Day 35

We had just a short distance to go back to our marina today, and set off about 8.30.  Adrian packed as we went along.  At Yardley Gobion, outside Kingfisher marina, we passed our old share boat, Debdale, and had a quick chat with Charlie, who was one of the owners back when we had our share.

When we got to Thrupp Wharf, there were three fishermen opposite the marina entrance, which is also a winding hole.  I don’t think they’d have been very pleased had I done my usual turn in, which would certainly have stirred up their water.  Because of what was happening next, I got the boat close to the entrance and then reversed the stern in.  Adrian got all the stuff he was taking home off the boat while I stood there with a rope, trying to stop the boat blowing over to the other side!

Adrian packed the car, checked he had house keys, and set off back home.  So that really marks the end of our trip — 35 days in total, plus three days when we were moored in Rugby having to work.  It’s one of our longest trips (I must check back to see whether it takes the title as the longest!)

5 miles, 0 locks.  (385 miles, 314 locks)

I jumped back on the boat (and it almost did require a jump, because the wind had already blown the stern away from the side in the few seconds it took me to get there), and headed for Cosgrove.  I passed four boats on the way, so I was pretty use there’d be space, plus two more as I tried to get over to the moorings.  I chose a relatively straight section, with no overhanging trees.

Once I was secure, I got the bucket out and washed, rinsed, and dried that side of the boat.  Then I thought I’d put some black paint on the gunwales; when we had them changed from blacking to paint last year, Steve let me have half a tin of leftover paint.  I got the fat tyre fenders out and tied them to the intermediate rings on the towpath, to keep the boat away from the side.  There are a few bits that really need a bit of proper work, but the paint has certainly covered up the surface scuffs and scratches.

Then I got the polish out and did that side of the boat.  Once all that was done, I thought I’d turn the boat around before having some lunch, so headed off to the lock where I spun around and returned to the same spot.

I’d only just finished tying up again when Free Spirit came past, so I walked down to the lock to explain what I was doing here rather than heading for home, and to help Ian and Irene through.

Back at the boat I had lunch, then did the whole cleaning process on the other side.  I have to say the novelty wore off some time before the boat was finished, and being stooped over for hours putting polish on and then off again is not much fun.  However there were plenty of people passing to say hello to, including a big group of kids on some sort of trip, who had lots of questions.  It was only when I went back inside I realised I should also have cleaned the windows, so I did that too — including standing on the gunwales to do the offside ones.

The main reason I’m still here is that I have a boat test to do tomorrow in Cheshire, so there was very little point in going home when this is halfway there.

1 mile, 0 locks.

Saturday 30 September 2023

Wending to Wales: Day 34

Another great evening with Catherine and Nigel last night.  It turned out quite a lot had happened since we last saw them on the August bank holiday weekend, so we got all the latest news and a little bit of wine was drunk.  This morning, there was mist hanging in the valley beyond the towpath hedge as the sun came up.

As we didn’t have a very ambitious day planned and it was our final Saturday of the trip, we treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast.  Even so, we were still away before 8.30, on a very pleasant morning.

These are very familiar miles, as we plodded through Nether Heyford and Bugbrooke.  But it was almost an hour and a half before we passed a boat going the other way.  Gayton Junction and Blisworth ticked by.  I spotted a couple of boat names, one of which I have no idea about, the other just made me chuckle.

In the tunnel in which we passed one boat.  At the locks, the top one just needed topping up before we could go down.

The flight took the usual hour and a half, helped by meeting quite a few boats coming up.  At the bottom we thought we might as well top up with water, and we had lunch while the tank filled.  Then we moved along to the moorings just round the corner, taking the first available space.

This afternoon we walked back up to the village to see Kathryn, and also bumped into Steve Furniss from Grand Union Narrowboats at Weedon, who comes down to give his hire boaters lock training.  We all had an ice cream from The Boat.  On the way back we called on Free Spirit, and were provided with tea, biscuits, and plenty of excellent company by Irene and Ian.

We haven’t actually seen them since we made it up to the Great Northern Basin in 2016, so there was plenty to talk about, although of course blogging keeps us all in touch.

11 miles, 7 locks.  (380 miles, 314 locks)

Friday 29 September 2023

Wending to Wales: Day 33

There was more heavy rain last night, but this morning was very still.  We set off at 8.15 with Adrian walking up to the lock and me bringing the boat.  The water was like glass.

As we got to the lock I could see a boat approaching from behind, so they joined us as locking partners.  Halfway up the flight we met some boats coming down, and there were more coming down the top lock.  We did all six in about an hour and a half.

We passed one boat in Braunston Tunnel, fortunately not at the bits where any of the kinks are.

As we approached Norton Junction, a boat was about to set off and asked if we’d like locking partners down Buckby.  Of course we said yes.  We carried on at the junction, while our Braunston partners turned towards Watford.

At the locks, a boat was just about to go in so we joined him — leaving our prospective partners on their own; but that’s just the way it happens sometimes.  The boat we were with was a single hander, but the whole flight was easy because we met boats coming up at every lock.  We must have passed eight in total.

There was a bit of a delay at the penultimate lock, because a hire boat was waiting for another boat to come up the bottom lock.  It seemed to take them ages, even when they were out of the lock it seemed to take forever to get across the pound to the next one.  But it was sunny and warm so no real hardship, and even so, we got to the bottom in around an hour and a half again.

Having seen so many boats in the flight, we then didn’t see another one for miles, in fact not until most of the way through Weedon.  We had lunch on the move, and stopped for diesel at Rugby Boats, where the price has gone up again, to £1.28.  We carried on just a few minutes further, to opposite the motorhome field.  Catherine and Nigel are coming to see us this evening, so it’s easily accessible.  The towpath hedge has been cut quite low, so we have views of Flore and the M1 in the distance.

10 miles, 13 locks.  (369 miles, 307 locks)