Tuesday 21 May 2024

Pre-Crick: Day 6

More work, I'm afraid.  Adrian had stayed in Reading overnight, but came back this evening via a supermarket for a top-up shop.  I used the train from MK again.  Tomorrow, we will be setting off properly.

Monday 20 May 2024

Pre-Crick: Day 5

Adrian was up early and went off to work in Reading, via a train from Banbury Station.  I went to work a bit later, using Milton Keynes again.  

Sunday 19 May 2024

Pre-Crick: Day 4

Yesterday evening we could hear a cuckoo.  I walked along the towpath as it sounded quite close, but I didn’t manage to see it.  I did record it though.


This morning we were in no rush at all, and set off around 9.30 for the marina.  Once back in our berth we plugged in the shore power and got the washing machine on.  I left for work via MK station, and Adrian headed to IKEA to get some new wine glasses — as we’re now down to three matching ones!

1 mile, 0 locks.  (18 miles, 14 locks)

Saturday 18 May 2024

Pre-Crick: Day 3

Gayton Junction continued to provide entertainment yesterday evening.  Another hire boat went the wrong  way — this time turning towards Weedon when they wanted Stoke Bruerne.  However, their reversing and getting the right direction was really good.  Later on, Catherine and Nigel came for a drink or three; we haven’t seen them since Christmas Eve, so we had quite a lot to catch up on.

This morning, we did our own turn in the junction.  I gave the stern a good shove off, and we spun round very neatly, heading back under the junction bridge.


Back through Blisworth Tunnel, it was just as wet as yesterday.  At the locks, a Gayton hire boat was setting the top lock — and it turned out to be the one mentioned above: a boat-load of people from Stockholm, who were also sailors, which might explain why they had some idea what they were doing.  This was their first lock ever, though, so they had lots of advice from many quarters.  A volunteer lock keeper also joined us, so I ended up going down to set the next lock.  In fact, I worked ahead the whole way down.  In the main part of the flight, Adrian suggested some synchronised boating, which worked well.



We caught up with a single boat towards the bottom of the flight, so I set the bottom lock for them.  All in all, we had a very quick passage through the locks.  At the bottom, we carried on, then moored up at a favourite spot before Bridge 63, where we lined up the dinette window with the footpath through the hedge.  We had lunch, as the sun finally came out.  We have had a busy afternoon.  I decided the bow needed some attention, with the red paint on the nose and the bow flashes having faded a lot.


I rubbed down the red sections, then masked it all up.  The curves took quite a time, and kneeling on the bow to do it was murder on the knees!


Then out came the paint and the roller.  At the same time, Adrian had washed the towpath side of the boat, and while the paint dried we put some polish on.  Then it was time to take the masking tap off and put the button back on.  It’s not perfect, but it looks a lot better.


8 miles, 7 locks.  (17 miles, 14 locks)

Friday 17 May 2024

Pre-Crick: Day 2

We had a pretty relaxed start to the day, and left the marina just before 9.  It was already sunny and quite warm, with none of the mist which had been forecast.


We soon caught up with a boat which we gained on even when we were on tickover, but he let us pass.  When we got to the bottom of the locks, a man was just opening the second top gate for a downhill boat, which was in the next lock up.  This one is notoriously slow to empty, and it wasn’t helped when the lock above that was emptied, sending more water over the top gates.  Eventually the lock made a level, and the widebeam could come out.  It was a big one.


By the time the widebeam was down the bottom lock, the boat we’d passed had arrived, so we thought they could come up with us — but they wanted to fill with water first so we went up alone.  The second lock had been left for us, with a boat waiting above; then the volunteer lock keeper asked us if we would wait, as another uphill boat had arrived.  Things seemed to be taking a long time at the bottom lock, so I went down to investigate.  The boat wasn’t even in the lock yet — and then the watering boat had finished and was going to join them — so the lockie changed him mind and said we should carry on.  The people waiting for the lock were relieved that things were finally moving.


We swapped with a boat further up, then at the penultimate lock a boat was coming out.  It turned out to be Burnt Oak, with Marina and John, with whom we did a very quick Hatton flight a few years ago.  In the long pound, a swan was making an effort to take off, but then changed his mind.


Boats were also coming out of the top lock.  At the top, we had a quick chat with Kathryn.


We carried on through the tunnel.  It was exceptionally wet inside, with water pouring down in places I don’t remember previously.  Adrian made lunch while we were inside, which we had once we’d come out the other end.  We continued through Blisworth to Gayton Junction.  We were hoping for a mooring as near to the junction as possible because we need to head back tomorrow, and fortunately we got one.

This afternoon we have done bits of cleaning of the boat, but it’s been a bit too warm to do much.  We have been visited by ducklings and cygnets, and there have been plenty of boats through the junction.


After 3pm, the hire boats started being released from Gayton Marina.  I’d gone up to the bridge to take a photo of us across the junction, when this hire boat came by, which I thought made a nice addition to the picture.  I went down the steps to get another shot, when the steerer said ‘We are going the right way for Banbury aren’t we?’  They weren’t.  There then followed more than 15 minutes of turning around, not helped by another boat which almost made the same mistake.


This evening, Catherine and Nigel are coming for a drink.

9 miles, 7 locks.

Thursday 16 May 2024

Pre-Crick: Day 1

I did a Breakfast shift this morning, and came up to the boat after that.  There had been a crash on the M1, which meant the drive took longer than it should, so I stopped off at Tesco at Wolverton for lunch and then a shop. It was cloudy and a bit rainy.  Having unpacked the car, my plan for the afternoon was to get the cratch cover off and scrub it, but I found we had no cavas cleaner.  So I spent some time touring Milton Keynes trying to find some.  In the past I’ve used a soft-top cleaner, but a garage I tried had none, nor did B&Q (online only for them), and Halford’s was also a no.  So I went across the road to Go Outdoors and got a tent cleaner which was half the price. The cratch was looking very green, following a winter just sat in the marina.

By 4pm the sun had come out and the temperature had shot up.  I took the cover up to one of the picnic benches and scrubbed it.  Lots of green came out, but past experience suggests it won’t look totally non-green.  Then I laid it out on the bank, got the hosepipe out, and rinsed it off.  I then left it to dry, while I removed all the spiders’ nests from the cratch board.

I had an early dinner, then folded up the now almost-dry cover and put it in the car (there was a slight delay because when I picked it up, I found the underside was swarming with ants! They took a bit of removing).  I drove down to Stoke Hammond, to Lena of Infinity Boat Covers, who’d agreed to re-stitch one of the zips which came adrift last year.  She was moored along from the bridge.


As I walked along the towpath, she was measuring another boat moored there for a tonneau cover.  We went to her boat where she did the stitching.  Her husband was also there, carving a face and a mushroom into a big lump of wood.

I’ve come back to the boat and put the cover back on.  Re-proofing will have to wait until tomorrow.  Adrian is on his way up and should be hear shortly.

0 miles, 0 locks.

Monday 6 May 2024

Bank Holiday Weekend: Day 3

We had a quiet night at Campbell Park, and this morning was much better than forecast.  We set off just before 9, and crawled past all the moored boats most of the way home!  There was an unintended pause at New Bradwell, where there are boats moored on the offside and there was a boat coming the other way, and we got stuck on a rock or something, a meter or so from the towpath.  It took quite an effort to get us moving again.  The house with the tower by the next bridge now has a huge hole in the garden and another extension going up.


At Cosgrove Lock, Walhalla, the big widebeams was coming down.  I did a boat test on it back in 2012.  As there was a boat on the water point, I waited before the narrows so he had room to come past.



We we all secure in our berth in under four hours, then we had lunch and headed home.  While we were eating the rain arrived, and it was a pretty wet drive home.

8 miles, 1 lock. (17 miles, 2 locks)

Sunday 5 May 2024

May Bank Holiday: Day 2

We both slept really well, and woke to bright sunshine.  We had a pretty relaxed start to the day, and set off about 9.30.  Lots of people have said there seem to be very few boats about, but they must all be in Milton Keynes, because we passed loads.  At one point, the Jules Fuels boats were serving a customer, so there wasn’t much room to get by.


We continued past Campbell Park Marina, where the flats and townhouses on the other side are progressing.  There are shops and businesses open now.


We turned round at the winding hole before Bridge 83, and returned to the Campbell Park where there was plenty of space on the park side moorings.  The fuel boats arrived for the other direction and moored in front of us.  A very large fish which looked a lot like a koi carp drifted by.


We had lunch, then went for a walk across the park to the new development.  The electric trip boat, Electra, was back on its mooring.  We walked across the rusty bridge and walked a loop.



This afternoon, my Radio 2 colleague Niki came to see us, while her husband and daughter went for a walk.  We had a good natter about all sorts of things.  The towpath has been quite busy, with lots of people keen to have a good look in our windows!

8 miles, 0 locks.  (9 miles, 1 lock)

Saturday 4 May 2024

May Bank Holiday: Day 1

We left home at 7am, and drove up to Brinklow Marina, to attend the Electrika electric boat show.  We listened to some of the talks and spoke to a lot of people, and I’ll be writing a piece for Canal Boat.  It was good to hear from electric boat owners, and see some of the latest tech.  We left about 2pm, made a stop at Tesco in Rugby, and headed for Briar Rose.  We were soon unpacked and setting off, heading for Cosgrove.


Before the lock we passed a couple of boats going the other way, and then at the lock a boat was about to come up.  As the lock landing is a bit awkward there, when the gates were open I went in to give them room to come out.


We’d realised that we probably hadn’t filled the water tank at the end of our Christmas trip, so we stopped on the water point below the lock and filled up.  It’s just as well we did, because it appeared the tank was quite low.  We moored a few hundred yards further along towards the aqueduct.  I still needed a few thousand steps so we went for a walk round the Ouse Valley Park, and were delighted to find the ice cream man by the aqueduct.  We had to walk through a field of cattle, then headed back towards the aqueduct.



It’s got really quite warm this afternoon, and we’ve been wishing we’d brought some shorts with us.

1 mile, 1 lock.

Friday 3 May 2024

Saturday 27 April 2024

Annual Report


Twelve years of Briar Rose ownership completed.  This year's usage went back up again as we had a long autumn cruise, and our Crick trip had a few extra days at the start too.

During the year we travelled on the following waterways:

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

Saturday 13 April 2024

Curiosity on test

The May Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on Curiosity, by Boating Leisure Services.  This boat will also be at the Crick Boat Show at the end of May.

Thursday 4 April 2024

Rain

I came up to the boat after work yesterday.  The Eberspacher took a couple of goes to get running, but everything else was fine.  I was woken several times in the night by torrential rain, and this morning the marina road was more like a lake.


I had to go to Dunchurch Pools for a boat test, but I was ready early so I stopped at the little car park by the penultimate Stoke Bruerne lock and walked along to see how the Tove was doing.  The overflow entry of the river was running, showing how much water there is about.


The boat test went well, and despite there being some rain, the sun struggled out for the five minutes we needed it.

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Andy Dence boat on test

The April Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on a spec boat by Andy Dence.

Thursday 8 February 2024

Halewick on test

The March Canal Boat is in the shops, and includes my boat test on Halewick, by MGM.

Friday 5 January 2024

Russell Narrowboats on test


The February Canal Boat is out, and has my boat test on a stock boat by Russell Narrowboats.