Wednesday 31 May 2023

Post-Crick: Day 2

It appeared to have rained in the night, which wasn’t forecast, and it was still dull and dank this morning.  We set off at 8, along the familiar waters to Blisworth Tunnel.  Three boats came out just before we got there.  As we went through, I could see a light behind us.  At Stoke Bruerne Locks, the top lock was ready for an upcoming boat, so we waited a few minutes, by which time the boat behind us had arrived.  It was Elk, who’d been at the Crick Show.

There were several volunteer lock keepers on duty, all in radio contact, so all the lock were set for us.  Things were going well until the penultimate lock, which always takes a while as there’s only one bottom paddle.  It seemed to be particularly slow, however, and we couldn’t get the bottom gates open.  Then I noticed that the pound below was getting lower and lower, so walked down to see what was happening at the bottom lock.  It was set for us, but the volunteer had left a paddle half up, gradually draining the pound and meaning our lock was unable to make a level. I pointed it out and he closed it, and by the time I’d walked back up to the previous lock the gates had been opened.  As the boats came into the lock, the volunteer came up with a story about how the previous lock gates sometimes close in such a way that they’re then difficult to open.  It’s funny how him closing a paddle he’d missed sorted it all out though.

The five miles back to the marina took the usual hour and a half.  I did a good turn into the marina, but could have done with some more help from the wind to reverse into the berth.  We had lunch, packed up (although Adrian had already done most of it), and set off in the car,

10 miles, 7 locks.  (96 miles, 44 locks)

Tuesday 30 May 2023

Post-Crick: Day 1

We set off at 8 this morning, with me walking down to the top Bucky lock and Adrian bringing the boat.  It was grey and rather chilly — last week lulled us into a false sense that we were already in summer.  As I got to the lock, I could see that two boats were about to go down.  They turned out to be being moved by CW Boat Mover so I knew they were going to be efficient.  I went and opened a bottom gate for them, and later they lifted some paddles for us which was very kind of them.  As we waited for the lock to re-set, a boat came round the corner.  The couple on Venitia had been moored on the Braunston side of the junction, saw us, and got themselves moving!  They were very good locking partners, and we made rapid progress.  Eventually we started meeting boats coming up.

At the bottom, the boats being moved were moored outside Whilton, and Venitia was stopping for diesel, but we carried on.  We stopped for water between Weedon and Stowe Hill, and even though we haven’t topped up since Thursday, it didn’t take too long to fill up.  We also got a wash load on, to reduce the amount of dirty clothes we’re taking home.  We had lunch on the move, and then stopped for the night on the piling before Nightingales Bridge, which is a favourite spot.  It’s the sort of place you start off on your own, and then more people join you later in the day.  It was only 2pm and we could have gone further, but it was really quite cold and windy, and we have time for the rest of the journey tomorrow.  We have the trains for company, and among them has been a Greater Anglia branded one, which was empty and looked as though it might have been brand new and been on its way to its home area.  

During the afternoon, Adrian has checked my Crick boats reports and they have gone off to the editor, and I have made an apple crumble.  We’d thought the wide towpath here would be ideal for getting the Cobb barbecue out, but with the sun having failed to make an appearance I think it will be sausages and roasted veg in the oven instead.

12 miles, 7 locks.  (86 miles, 37 locks)

Monday 29 May 2023

Crick Show: Monday

It was pretty grey and cold this morning.  We went for a walk up the steps by the tunnel and into the village, then through the Millennium Wood and up Cracks Hill.  There’s a massive solar farm beyond the canal in the Rugby direction, and we also got a view of the show site in the opposite direction.

We went over to the show site for a further wander round, and watched Mark from Brinklow playing in the Aquavista stand.

We had lunch and some doughnuts, then returned to the boat where Adrian made a chilli for this evening.  I needed to go back to see who the winners were of the public votes for Favourite Widebeam and Favourite Narrowboat.  The wide title went to the Bespoke Boat Co, and Braidbar won the narrowboat title, much to their delight.

I dashed back to the boat and we set off at 3pm, straight into the tunnel, and then onto Watford Locks.  There were a couple of boats ahead of us about to go down, and we followed them, so the wait was pretty short.

At the bottom of the staircase a boat was waiting to go up, so we could leave the gates open, and another boat was waiting at the very bottom so we could leave those gates too.  We carried on, first trying to moor by Bridge 3, but the stern was sitting on the bottom way out, so we gave up.  There’s room for three boats there, but the two already there weren’t as far forward as they could have been.  We got a spot just before Norton Junction, though, so it worked out ok in the end.

5 miles, 7 locks.  (74 miles, 30 locks)

Sunday 28 May 2023

Crick Show: Sunday

As it was Sunday, we had scrambled eggs on toast with mushrooms for breakfast.  Then I carried on writing up the mini reviews of show boats, while Adrian made another visit to the Co-op.  I can’t really do much more work on the boat reports until I know who’s come where in the public vote for Favourite boats.  Later we walked up to the show site, over the temporary bridge.

I needed to check a few things out that I’d either not noted down or had forgotten.  We had interesting chats with the guys on the Water Freedom stand, about their canal water filtration system, and various other people, before we had lunch and returned to the boat.  A little later there was a knock on the boat and it was Lesley and Joe, formerly of Caxton, Yarwood, and Steadfast — now of Toulouse.  We gave them tea and caught up on the news.  It was really great to see them, after quite a big gap.  I ducked out just before 3 because I needed to go to one of the seminar tents, to watch a discussion with Richard Parry of CRT about future funding of the waterways.  The government grant runs out in 2027, and news of the replacement settlement has been ‘imminent’ for months.  I got a couple of news lines out of the session, which was good.

This evening we went to The Wheatsheaf in the village for dinner.  The food was good, and I was particularly pleased with my choice of lamb chops from the specials menu.  We’ve been amused all weekend by the antics of a family of swans who live on the grassy knoll by the water point.  They were absent all day yesterday but arrived back this evening with all four cygnets clambering out of the water via the slightly collapsed concrete edging.

Later we’ll probably go back over and see the Queen tribute band, Mercury, who are playing tonight.

Saturday 27 May 2023

Crick Show: Saturday

Another sunny and warm day. I did some writing in the morning, then we headed over to the show site, seeing a few people we knew and having lunch. More writing in the afternoon, then back over to the site when it was a bit quieter. We had dinner there and went for a walk along the towpath, then I headed back later as Dr Feelgood were playing the beer tent. 

Friday 26 May 2023

Crick Show: Friday

Friday is press, trade, and preview day — so it’s much easier to get on board to look at the boats.  Andy the photographer arrived just before the gates officially opened at 10, and we were quickly under way looking at boats, him taking photos and me taking notes.

In the past few years, wide beams appeared to be taking over the show but this year they seem to be in retreat — with only six fully fitted wide beams plus two sailaways. There also seem to be more narrowboats this year.  In all, we looked at 27 boats, giving us options for which ones to feature.

Adrian meanwhile went for a walk, did some shopping in the village, and went for a drink at the pub in order to get Wi-Fi.  The signal here is as dreadful as usual.

Thursday 25 May 2023

Pre-Crick: Day 7

Last night’s mooring was very quiet and felt very remote.  There were more bats flying around at dusk.  This morning was another sunny start.  First thing, I put a coat of primer on the Houdini surround, which has had rust treatment in the past couple of days.  Then as we were on our own, we got the washing machine going before we set off.  We got going at about 8.30, and were shortly at Husbands Bosworth tunnel, which has an old BWB blue and yellow sign at this end.

It was a lovely sunny day that made for very enjoyable boating.  The landscape is rolling hills, with crops and occasional livestock.

At about 12.30 we reached Yelvertoft where we stopped on the water point and filled the tank.  We had lunch while we waited.

From there it was just a short hop to Crick, and into our mooring.  We are three boats down from the road bridge, which is much closer than in previous years and also has the advantage of not being breasted up.

A hawthorn bush was overhanging and touching the solar panel, so needed cutting back.  We thought one of the Braidbar crew might have some secateurs, but in fact Austin and Liz came up trumps with a little Japanese saw; once I’d started cutting branches off, it was a job to stop.  We then wandered over to the show site and saw a few people we knew, including Del and Al, and Mark.

14 miles, 0 locks.  (69 miles, 23 locks)

Wednesday 24 May 2023

Pre-Crick: Day 6

Last night we watched bats swooping and whirling over the water after dusk, and early this morning (4.41 to be precise) a cuckoo could be heard repeatedly calling.  It was a lovely morning when we set off, leaving our mooring at 8.15.  We went round the junction, past North Kilworth Marina, and into the wooded section which then leads to Husbands Bosworth tunnel.

There is some lovely countryside out the other side, with hills on the left and glimpses of views across the valley to the right.

It took about two and a half hours to get to the top of Foxton Locks, where we winded in the entrance to the inclined plane arm, and moored on the almost empty moorings.  We were now round the right way to clean that side of the boat and have a go at the windows.  The towpath was busy with people enjoying the sunshine, and there was a group of people in canoes on the water, complete with an instructor.

As lunchtime came around, we went for a walk down the locks, taking a bag of rubbish with us to the bins, and then having lunch at Bridge 61 (who, I’ve noticed, is using one of my photos on their website without asking — they might get an email about that).

There were boats going up and down the flight, with plenty of volunteer lock keepers on duty.  We walked back up to the top and got an ice cream at the little cafe there.  The boat coming up the top lock was Tacet, and eventually we and Clinton and Sharon recognised each other.  They came on board BR at Fazeley for tea and cake in 2015!  We might see them again at the show.  We set off on our return journey at about 1pm, in really quite hot sunshine.  It really is a lovely stretch of canal.

We moored just before the pipe bridge near Theddingworth, on a bit of piling highlighted in the Waterway Routes map, which feels really in the middle of nowhere.

11 miles, 0 locks.  (55 miles, 23 locks)

Tuesday 23 May 2023

Pre-Crick: Day 5

Our mooring last night was very quiet.  We set off this morning at 8.15, and there were quite a few boats moored round the corner, so I’m glad we stopped where we did.  I always like the little pool between Bridge 10 and Crick Tunnel.

We passed one boat in the tunnel, which as usual was dry until the last few hundred yards when it was very drippy indeed.  As we left the tunnel, we looked at the signs on the towpath, to identify our Crick show mooring.  To our surprise, our name hadn’t appeared by the time we got to the next bridge — and we were even more pleased when we spotted it the third boat down from the road bridge, which is a single mooring not a doubled up one.  Basically, a much better mooring than we’ve had for the last few years.  But we weren’t going onto it yet.  We stopped at the water point to fill the tank and get some washing going, then carried on north.  At recent Cricks, we’ve escaped for a night, gone to Bridge 27, and then used the winding hole at Bridge 28 to turn and go back; this time we were going further, so it was quite exciting to go beyond that winding hole!  At one point, there are a couple of glamping pods with hot tubs, this one had its fire going, although I’m not sure if this is to heat the pod or the hot tub.

There are many lovely places along the summit level, and the hawthorn blossom is spectacular this year.

We didn’t pass many moving boats for hours, but then we saw quite a few, including some heading for the show.  There are also lots of moored boats; I came over a bit Brenda from Bristol as each one appeared round the next corner: what, another one?  But one of them was quite interesting — what looked like a former Anglo Welsh boat called Bluebell.  We hired an Anglo Welsh called Bluebell on the Llangollen in 1997 — could it be the same boat?  Having fished out an old photo from back then, it certainly looks like it.

We moored on the rings at Welford Junction at just before 1pm.  Adrian had been working all morning, and had a call at 1, which was why we really needed to be stopped.  A slight issue was that neither of his phones had much signal, although mine had enough for a video call.  While that was going on, I washed the roof which was a disgrace, particularly after the tree sap from the other night, and also did a bit of prep for repainting round the Houdini hatch.  I also dusted the towpath side of the boat and cleaned the windows.  When I put the plank back on the roof thought it turned out to be swarming with ants.  There then followed a bit of an ant massacre, as they all seemed to fry on the hot roof.  The next job was sweeping the chimney, and blacking the stove.  I then took a walk along to the junction, to look back to where we are moored.

Next to our mooring are some steps down the embankment, where you can see the River Avon flowing under the canal.  At the bottom is a sea of stinging nettles, so this is the best photo I could get.  The river is the boundary between Northants and Leics, so we are just moored in Northants, while the boat in front of us is in a different county.

12 miles, 0 locks.  (44 miles, 23 locks)

Monday 22 May 2023

Pre-Crick: Day 4

I reckon doing one night shift is worse than doing three — I was in bed by 8pm last night, but was awake early this morning.  Consequently we were off at 7am.  It was a bit cloudy and rather chilly, but at least the flag irises were adding some brightness.

Adrian had a work call scheduled for 9.30 so we needed to be stationary in a place with a decent signal, so we stopped just past the big new A45 bridge, in a place we moored a few times before the road was built over the adjacent field.  About an hour later we set off again, then stopped below Buckby locks for another call at 11am.  We had lunch after that and set off again at about 12.30 up the flight.  We were following two pairs of boats up, but there was nothing for us to pair with.

By the time we were in the third lock, we’d met four single boats coming down.  One of the locks has no bar to lift one set of gate paddles meaning they’re out of action, and another has one ground paddle completely missing.  However, the sun had come out and the temperature had shot up.

At the top lock, Sheila from Salodin walked up, being moored round the corner.  It was great to have a brief catch-up with her, and of course we’ll see her at the Crick Show.  We turned onto the Leicester line — the moorings in all directions at Norton Junction were busy — and carried on to Watford locks, getting there a bit before 4.  I wandered up to find the lock keeper and get us booked in.  There was a boat coming down the bottom lock of the staircase and the two singles were set for it, so they asked us to wait until they were down.  We used the time to put some water in the tank, but within about ten minutes they were down and we could go up.  With two lock keepers on duty, I had to strategise just to get to wind a paddle myself!  Adrian made a great turn from the second lock into the staircase, which is a tricky one.

We fair sped up the locks, and with a boat arriving at the top we could leave various gates open.

At the top, we carried on a bit.  When a lovely length of piling in a sunny position with no boats on it presented itself, we moored up for the night.  Bridge 9 is visible ahead; I think in the last we’ve moored the other side of it.

13 miles, 14 locks.  (32 miles, 23 locks)

Sunday 21 May 2023

Pre-Crick: Day 3

I got the train back up from London this morning after my night shift, and at about the time I was arriving at Milton Keynes Central, Adrian was setting off from Cosgrove.  I parked the car in the marina and walked over the bridge, just as Adrian was arriving.  It was 9am, on a lovely sunny morning.  Our trip to Stoke Bruerne was behind a very slow boat.  His tickover was much slower than ours, meaning we spend plenty of time in neutral, and he often seemed to forget to speed up again after passing moored boats.  Consequently it took two hours to reach the locks rather than the typical hour and a half.  In a field near Yardley Gobion, we saw a number of lapwings.  At the bottom of the locks, Catherine, Nigel, and Matthew were waiting for us — Grace has a weekend job, so she was off doing that.  A boat had just come down the bottom lock, so we and the boat we’d been following could go in.  Then with two lock side crew from that boat, and Adrian, Nigel and Matthew from our boat, we made rapid progress up the locks — none of which needed turning and between which we did synchronised boating.

We got to the top at just after 12, so the half hour we’d lost earlier we had regained.  An hour and five minutes is by far the fastest we’ve ever come up the seven.  There were plenty of people about enjoying the sunshine and watching the boats, and we felt very much like a spectator sport, especially at the top lock.  Lots of kids were put to work; Nigel said he had around ten little helpers with the top lock gate, but with a combined age of about 22!

We moored up in the village and had a picnic style lunch, and a good catch up with the family.  We set off again at 2pm, with Nigel going back to get the car while Catherine and Matthew came through the tunnel with us.  Matthew is a very good helmsman but had never steered through a tunnel before, so naturally I gave him the tiller.

We passed three boats inside, and managed to dodge the worst of the waterfalls from the ceiling.  Matthew really showed his skill in passing another boat on a bend just before Blisworth.  When we got to the mill, Nigel was standing on the bridge waiting for us, so we pulled in and said our goodbyes.  We might see them again at the Crick show.  At the railway bridge at Blisworth I just managed to catch a train going over, and then shortly after Galton junction was a field full of buttercups.

We could have stopped beyond Nightingales Bridge, but it seemed a bit early.  It was a bit too busy before New Banbury Lane Bridge, so we carried on round the corner and stopped just before Evans Bridge.  I see to recall stopping here at lunchtime the first time we came down this way, but we’ve never overnighted here before.

12 miles, 7 locks.  (19 miles, 9 locks)

Saturday 20 May 2023

Pre-Crick: Day 2

We woke to sunshine, and first went for a walk round the Ouse Valley Park.  We did the route I did yesterday afternoon, but in reverse.  The ponies were keeping a distance today, but we heard a cuckoo, which was either moving about or there was more than one.  We had realised we’d forgotten a few things on our shopping trip yesterday, so at 10am set off towards Wolverton.

At Galleon Wharf, a new building is going up, with curved wooden roof beams.  We need to look up the planning, but Adrian’s guess is that it might be an upside down down, with bedrooms on the ground floor and living above.

Immediately before the bridge, a duck landed on the roof and came for a short ride.

A bit further on, a boat is displaying a sign saying ‘bird’s nest’, and sure enough, there’s a moorhen nesting in one of its tyre fenders.

At Wolverton I dropped Adrian off to go to Tesco, and carried on to turn around at New Bradwell.  It’s not a favourite winding hole as there are so many dangly trees; I was a bit concerned about the chimney, which I should have taken off beforehand.  Adrian jumped back on at Wolverton, and we continued to Cosgrove Lock.  A boat was coming down and closed the gates behind them, but the steerer couldn’t get his boat into the landing so sent his crew back to open the gates so we could go in.  They’d also left the paddles up, which wasn’t ideal.  We moored in a nice sunny spot in the village, and had lunch.  Then we walked back to the marina and I moved my car to the village — I have a night shift to do tonight, so will be driving to Milton Keynes central.  We came back to the boat via the shop at the caravan park, so we could have an ice cream.

6 miles, 1 lock.  (7 miles, 2 locks)

Friday 19 May 2023

Pre-Crick: Day 1

We are able to set off for Crick a bit earlier this year (or kind of set off, anyway).  I came up to the boat after a Breakfast shift, and Adrian came from home; I arrived just after 11 and had time to re-set the loo before Adrian got here about 45 minutes later.  We unloaded the car, then went to Tesco in Wolverton for a big food shop.  We had lunch back at the boat, during which there was a feeble attempt at rain, and then set off at 2pm.  We turned right out of the marina, which is the opposite way to Crick!  We were soon at Cosgrove lock, which was in our favour and with a gate open, and going down.

We moored up on the aqueduct moorings, which were quite busy, and a boat coming the other way immediately pulled in behind us.  This afternoon Adrian has been doing some work, and I went for a walk round the Ouse Valley Park, where one of the grazing areas was occupied by lovely grey ponies.  Of course one of them thought the grass was greener on the other side of the fence.

1 mile, 1 lock.

Thursday 11 May 2023

Reginald on test

The June issue of Canal Boat is out, and the boat test is Reginald the 200th boat by Braidbar, which will also be at Crick later in the month.