Thursday 27 April 2023

Annual report

Eleven years of ownership completed.  This year is towards the bottom end of usage, mostly because our autumn trip was shorter than normal.

During the year we travelled on the following waterways:

  • BCN New Mainline
  • BCN Oozells Loop
  • Birmingham and Fazeley Canal
  • Coventry Canal
  • Grand Union Leicester Line
  • Grand Union Mainline
  • Lapworth Link
  • North Oxford Canal
  • North Stratford Canal
  • Worcester and Birmingham Canal

Monday 24 April 2023

Sheffield and back

I was up early today and driving to Sheffield for a boat test.  I was there by 9.30, on a day which was much sunnier than forecast.  On the way back, the M1 southbound, which had been closed first thing, was still closed — meaning a bit of a detour.  I was back at the boat around 2pm, so having spent so much time in the car went for a walk down the towpath to Cosgrove.  The trees behind the offside permanent moorings have been cut right back.  It makes the whole area look very different.

I carried on past the lock and along to the aqueduct, where I saw my first ducklings of the year.

Further on, I took a left hand path off the towpath and did a loop through the Ouse Valley Park, returning by the aqueduct.  At about this time it started trying to rain although it didn’t come to much until I’d been back for a while.  Once it started raining properly though, it was pretty persistent.  Tomorrow I’ll be up even earlier, and going to work.

Sunday 23 April 2023

Back on board

I came up to the boat this afternoon, as I have a boat test further north tomorrow.

Monday 17 April 2023

BSS weekend: Day 3

The birds round here seem particularly noisy.  The ducks were making a racket late into the evening, and this morning I was woken up by the dawn chorus at about 5.30.  I’m not sure if it rained in the night, or if there was a very heavy dew.  Either way I was pleased to see that the polish I’ve put on over the past couple of days had made the water form into droplets.

I set off about 8.15, heading for the lock.  There was a boat at the water point below the lock, which is also the lock landing — so I was wondering how I was going to tie up the boat while working the lock.  But the chap from the boat signalled to ask if I wanted water, and I signalled back that I was going up the lock.  He then grabbed a windlass and emptied the lock for me and opened a gate, which was really nice of him.

Once in the lock I got off the boat and worked my way up.

I was back in the marina shortly afterwards.  There was no wind at all, which actually made spinning to reverse into the berth more difficult.  Once secure I drove down to B&Q and got new smoke and CO alarms, which were easy to install.  The BSS chap, Bim, was due between 11 and 11.30 so I had some time to kill.  I took everything off the well deck, gave the whole area a scrub, and polished the paintwork.  Bim arrived at almost 12, saying the boat he’d just been doing was terrible and had failed on multiple aspects.  He completed our test is under an hour; there was just one thing I had to do to ensure the pass, which was get a strap to secure the batteries down; we used to have one, but must have been mislaid when the batteries were changed.  What was quite pleasing was that Bim was very complimentary about Briar Rose and the state she was in.

I had a few other things to do and a bit of packing, and set off back home at about 2.30 — on what turned out to be quite a long slow journey.

1 mile, 1 lock.  (11 miles, 2 locks)

Sunday 16 April 2023

BSS weekend: Day 2

As I looked out of the side hatch yesterday evening at about 7.30, I saw a barn owl flying along the opposite bank of the canal — quite remarkable really given the huge housing estate just the other side of the park.  I slept really well and had a leisurely start to the day.  To get some steps in, I decided to go and have a look at the ponds they restored recently at Great Linford, which you can see from the canal.  I walked along the towpath, then over the old railway bridge.  Signs say these were the pleasure gardens for the Manor House.

There are also some nice new interpretation boards.

On the way back I walked up the old railway line and eventually came out opposite the Asda at the far side of the park and housing estate, and returned back through that part of the park.  The lady from the boat in front was about, and we had a nice chat about their live-aboard life.  I set off about 11.30, heading for the winding hole.  The one before the bridge had a boat moored where my stern would have swung round, and a fisherman at the apex, so I decided to go through the bridge and use the one the other side.  As I was halfway through the bridge, I saw a boat coming the other way, but we were able to dance round each other, and I was round in no time.  In fact, going back through the bridge I caught him up almost immediately as he was barely moving; he waved me past, and I noticed he did the same for another boat a bit later.  The new houses by Bridge 76, which were not finished last September, now are — and most are occupied.  I rather like the shape of them, and the detached version has a double height section in the middle.

As I crossed the Grafton St Aqueduct, there was a rail replacement bus among the traffic, and as I got toward the Wolverton Rail Bridge I thought I could see why — there were lots of working trains sitting there.  I particularly liked the name of the one I could see.

Not all lines were closed though, because trains were still going through Wolverton Station.  At around this point, a lady on the towpath asked me how I keep my ‘tent’ so black — so any disappointment that the cratch cover still looked a bit green in places disappeared!  I had to confess that I’d scrubbed and re-waterproofed it only yesterday.  I moored up by the flats in Wolverton to make a dash to Tesco.  Earlier in the morning I’d tested the CO and smoke alarms, and found the smoke alarm wouldn’t make any noise.  While the CO alarm appeared to work the first time, I now can’t get that to change its display either.  Anyway, Tesco had no replacements and nor did any of the other shops in Wolverton, so it’ll be a trip to B&Q first thing tomorrow.  I had some lunch while I was there, then set off again.  The boat with the duck in the flower pot had gone, so either the duck wasn’t nesting, or they’ve taken it with them.  As I approached the aqueduct, I could see the familiar yellow umbrella of the ice cream man.

Would there be space to moor up today? I thought there might be because one of the boats I’d passed had been moored here yesterday — and sure enough there was a space.  In fact, there’s room for another behind.  Once secure, I walked back and got an ice cream.

Having seen all the caravans in the park below the embankment, I wondered if their shop might have alarms.  They don’t, but the shop has been completely re-done since I last called in, and now includes a smart cafe.  Back at the boat I washed the towpath side, put some polish on it, and did the first stage of dealing with the scratches below the gunwales.  It’s a busy towpath, and a few people stopped to chat.

5 miles, 0 locks.  (10 miles, 1 lock)

Saturday 15 April 2023

BSS weekend: Day 1

We have a BSS examiner coming to do his thing on Monday, so I’ve taken the opportunity of another weekend on board.  I came up after finishing my third night shift this morning.  Even calling in to Tesco at Wolverton for food, I was still at the marina by 9.  After sorting out the stuff I’d brought up with me, I tackled the cratch cover, which was looking very green.

I took it up to one of the picnic tables and used a car soft top cleaner on it, giving it a good scrub.  The greenest bits made the suds go green, so I knew stuff come coming off.  Then I laid it on the bank behind the boat and gently rinsed it with the hosepipe, then used a squeegee to get the worst of the water off.  I did a few other things to give it a little time to dry, then put it back on again.  Of course the best way to dry it off would be to go boating, so that’s what I did.  As I pulled out of the berth, a huge red kite was circling over the marina, with a particular interest in the spit of land between the marina and the canal.  I only really got silhouettes for photos, but you can still tell it’s a red kite.

I turned right out of the marina, towards Milton Keynes.  It was about 11.15.  The Taverners Cruising Club seemed to be having a work party weekend, as there was planting going on, and a bit tea round had been made.  At the next offside moorings, a moorhen has nested in a floating tyre.

Cosgrove Lock was against me, so I tied up and filled the lock.  When it was ready I hauled the boat in, and spotted that a boat which had been on the water point had set off — so I waited.  The chap arrived on foot first, and his opening gambit was to suggest that I push Briar Rose over to the other side, to save him going round to the other side.  Of course it would have meant me going round instead, and it would have been impossible to pull the boat out of the lock that so, so I declined.  The lady steering thanked me for waiting for them, but when the lock was empty and the gates were open, she shot out, he closed his gate, he jumped on the boat and they were off.  I’ve always understood the etiquette to be that if you arrive at a lock second, you let the boat that was there first go first — or at least offer that option, particularly if the first boat has waited for you.  However, it then took me a few moments to pull the boat out by which time they were long gone.  Fortunately, a boater walking up the towpath said he’d shut the gate for me, which was nice.

There had only been one boat moored in Cosgrove, but below the lock was choc a bloc.  I think there was only one space which would have been long enough, had I wanted to stop.  As it happened, I didn’t.  Between the Galleon and Wolverton, a duck is nesting in a boat’s rooftop flower pot.  I will attempt to get a decent photo tomorrow, as I failed this morning.  There were lots of boats moored either side of Bridge 74, so I was worried that my planned destination before the next bridge would also be busy.  However, there was plenty of space, so I picked a nice open spot.  As I had my lunch, the clouds disappeared and there was suddenly bright sunshine.

To make the most of the weather, I washed the towpath side of the boat, then prepped the scratches on the gunwales and put some Fertan rust treatment on.  I polished the washed side too, which took a while, by which time the cratch cover was dry meaning I could paint it with Fabsil to re-waterproof it.  I’m sure it will look greener again when the Fabsil is dry, but right now it looks really good.

There was a fifteen minute period when lots of boats passed in both directions, including two day boats from Cosgrove.  I’ve had a really productive day, especially given it’s a post night shift day, and I’m expecting to sleep well tonight.  Even though it’s really warm now, I might light the fire later because clear skies could mean it gets pretty cold.

5 miles, 1 lock.

Saturday 8 April 2023

Stewart Simm spec boat on test

The May Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on a spec boat by a new builder, Stewart Simm.  The designer is making great use of Andy’s photos — I particularly like the way this drone shot has been used on this page.

Thursday 6 April 2023

Back to the Marina

There was lots of rain in the night and it was still raining on and off this morning.  I chose a moment when I didn’t think it was too wet to go for a walk — but in fact I got soaked.  This time I went the opposite way down the lane from Bridge 57, to where the Tove goes under the road at what seems to have been a water mill.  On the way back I noticed a stile in the fence by the road, opposite Bridge 56.  There was no footpath sign, but I went over the stile, walked across the field to the bridge, and came back via the towpath.  At 10am I had a Zoom meeting to attend, and shortly after than finished the sun unexpectedly came out.  The towpath side here is the offside in the marina, so I took the opportunity to scrub the green algae stuff off the gunwale tops.  I did a few other odd jobs, had lunch, and then left at just after 1pm, heading for the marina.  You’d never know how miserable the day had been earlier.

I’m convinced that many of the trees are showing green shoots which they weren’t just a couple of days ago.  The towpath hedges look greener too.

When I got back to the marina, the gusty wind had dropped, and I did an even better spin into our berth than last week.  Of course no-one was watching.  As I tied up, a shower passed through.  I was out of food, so made a quick journey into Wolverton for something for dinner.  All afternoon there have been periods of sunshine followed by a shower.  Occasionally the rain and sunshine happened at the same time, at one point there were some big claps of thunder, and there’s just been a load of hailstones.  I’m at work very early in the morning, and will go home from there.

3 miles, 0 locks. (10 miles, 0 locks)

Wednesday 5 April 2023

Grafton Regis again

I decided I would stay up here until I go to work on Friday — which meant I needed to do some washing as I was running out of clean clothes.  I’d originally planned to go home on Saturday, so hadn’t brought much with me.  So I got the washing machine going and then set off to Stoke Bruerne.  The forecast suggested it would be ok in the morning but rain in the afternoon, so I was under way but about 9.  There are lots of fields of sheep and lambs round here, and in one the farmers had arrived with a trailer of new arrivals, presumably for, the lambing shed.  They were trying to make sure the ewes and the lambs knew who belonged to who before leaving them to get on with it.

I turned around at Stoke Bruerne bottom lock, I think disappointing a boat ahead who were waiting in the lock.  I reversed onto the service mooring to fill the water tank, as the washing machine had been on.  This also gave me chance to get the washing out, make some tea, and dump rubbish.  As it was still quite early and not yet raining, I decided to go back to Grafton Regis, where some of the nice moorings were available — the ones with the view both sides, one of which I stayed on for a night last week.  I was all secure by about 11.30, so I started to write up yesterday’s boat test.  One of the lambs in the field on the towpath side decided that in spite of having a whole field of grass to eat, he’d prefer the string that’s been used to fix a hole in the fence.

Before long it began to rain on and off.  I had some lunch and continued to write.  In early afternoon I felt I needed a walk, and the rain was only light.  I walked back to Bridge 57 and up the lane, past Grafton Regis church, which sits right on top of the hill.

There are some nice houses up there, with fantastic views across the valley.  The old part of the village is set much further back from the A508 than I’d expected too.  I walked a loop at the top, taking one lane to the main road, going along it for a bit, and then the next lane back.  Back at the boat I finished my boat test and even got the check call done with the builder.  At about 4.30 I lit the fire, having been ok without it all day.  I need to get that washing dry by the morning!

6 miles, 0 locks.  (7 miles, 0 locks)

Tuesday 4 April 2023

Higher Poynton

I spent Sunday night in a hotel as I was going from a late shift to a much earlier one.  But last night I was back on the boat.  I arrived about 9.30 and immediately got the fire going.  This morning I was up early and found that the forecast cold night had materialised.  There was frost on the boat and the car, but the marina looked lovely in the clear light.

It was a boat test day, so I met Andy the photographer in Towcester and we went up to Higher Poynton in Cheshire in one car.  The bridge over the arm where the yard is has some lovely old cobbles.

The sun shone and there was no wind so conditions were ideal.  By early afternoon we were heading home, and I was back at the boat at about 5.30.  The evening was too good to stay in the marina, so I quickly made preparations and set off.  One of the moorers on the outside of the marina complemented me on simply leaving the berth and getting to the exit, which is basically just driving forwards and steering a bit, so I hope she was even more impressed by my left turn onto the cut.  It was a lovely time to be out.

One of my favourite spots was free, about half an hour from base, so I pulled up.  I’m hoping the engine was on long enough to heat some water for the morning.  It’s the place where I line up a window with the view down the footpath through the towpath hedge.

I might go home tomorrow, but Adrian has had to go down to Weymouth again, so if he’s staying there I might stay up here.

1 mile, 0 locks.

Saturday 1 April 2023

March visit: Day 5

I went to work by train from Milton Keynes, and Adrian headed home in the car.  I returned to the boat for an extra night, and this is really just to log that.  I got back about 1030pm, and got the fire going straight away.