Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Spot fell in Zouch Lock!

We moved off early today so as to avoid travelling in the heat of the day. In no time we arrived at Loughborough basin, taking the last available mooring. Then a trip to tesco to pick up food for dinner tonight, take on water and off.

We had decided we would spend the night between Zouch and Kegworth as it is one of our favourite picnic spots on short days out.

All went fine until we reached Zouch Lock. We locked down with another boat which I let go in front as we intended to stop before the next lock. I had just left the gates when a shout came from the top gates and the chap on the bottom gate said your dog has fallen in the lock! Panic!
Jan and Spot crossing the locks
We are not sure what happened but one second she was behind Jan crossing the gate and the next she has standing on the cill of the empty lock. She is generally very careful on the gates but not this time. As soon as she realised she couldnt jump out she bark so Jan saw her and told her to sit. By this time the first boat going up had started to enter the lock. This was not a problem as Spot was not in the water, so I reversed TM back into the lock until the stern fender touched the cill and Spot jumped onto the stern.
Fortunately Spot appears to be in good health, which is amazing as the drop to the cill must be six feet.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink

Yesterday was a long hard hot day back on the boat. Not that we are complaining, any day on TM is a good day especially if the sun is shining.

The day started with Colin giving us a lift to East Midlands Parkway station followed by a short train journey back to Leicester. You have to walk past the Market to get back to Castle Garden so we thought we could get some provisions, but the Market is closed on a Monday! Never mind we picked up some milk and bread and headed for a butchers we saw on the way home, but the butcher did not sell cooked meat so no ham sandwiches! Back on the boat by 11:30 just in time to see Brenda, Mick, Lynda and Ken return to their boats.

To fill in the gaps, we decided to go home last Thursday as it had rained for most of the day and the locks were red boarded so no movement. I didn't blog as I thought it not good to advertise TM was left unattended in the middle of Leicester. On that note, the secure mooring at Castle Gardens is good and secure. The pontoon gate is locked with a BW key and the whole park is locked at 8pm. We will stop here again as it is only 10 mins walk to the city centre.

We needed more water and a pump out so we pushed on looking for services as the extended stay in Leicester had put some pressure on our resources. No water points no marinas with pump out, even the water point at the Hope and Anchor was switched off. By 7pm we reached Mount Sorrel Lock and decided to call it a day and go to the pub!

Today was a short run to Barrow and a pump out at Meadow Farm Marina. We moored at the marina while I went to look for Clive, as instructed by the folks on the boat opposite. Clive was a very nice chap who arrived with the mobile pump out which soon sorted out growing problem. We also managed to take on water so when we moored above Barrow Deep Lock we were both in need of a shower.

Had a very good take away curry from the Indian opposite The Boat House pub and now off to bed.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Castle Gardens Carnival

Yesterday we pulled pins from Aldi and headed down towards home, not certain how far we would get.
Freemans Weir

Spent a half-sleepless night worrying about the "huge" unprotected weir at Freemans Weir just past Aylestone, particularly as the Soar was in spate (or so we were informed by various 'authorities').  Set off in trepidation - Jan had to have a brandy as she too was full of nerves of passing this nightmare icon.

We just checked the board at each lock and found the weir to be no insurmountable problem - all ok as long as we kept to the tow path side; also weir was half barraged off.  Eventually we arrived in Leicester centre at Castle Gardens.  All the moorings on the secure pontoon were occupied but a chap stuck his head out and said all was red boarded below and that we could breast up to their boat. The boat was Amarantine and the couple were Lynda and Ken. Ken took Jan by surprise by talking to "Spot" by name and saying you must be Jan. It turns out Ken reads our blog.
The Carnival of Boats

After settling the boat we went for a walk onto High Street where we sat outside a bar and people-watched for a couple of hours. Just next to the bar was a Chinese Restaurant called the Shanghai Moon which was full of Chinese people - menu was also in Chinese with English sub-titles so we decided to have a take way from there and take it back to the boat. Let me say, If you moor at Castle Gardens walk up to Witherspoons on the High Street and eat in Shanghai Moon on the opposite side of the paved street about 100 yard down from the pub. You will not be disappointed, this was one of the best Chinese meals we have ever had. 

When we returned to TM the group of 3 boats had turned into a flotilla of 7 boats all breasted up with a further 2 later arrivals which moored across the cut. So we all sat and had a chat. It was gone nine by the time we stopped gassing to Ken and Lynda - what a great evening.  It's what boating is all about!!

This morning the EA station at Syston has dropped 25cm overnight but by lunch time it has pi**ed it down and the Soar was up and we were back to square one.  We walked into the centre of Leicester, exploring the 'Lanes' and had a great afternoon. Leicester is a much better city than we expected. The market, particularly for fresh fish and meat is fantastic and the Lanes are a joy to walk around. I'm sure we will be coming back here instead of going to Nottingham.

Note: This post is dedicated to our friend Dave Palmer. I had decided I was to tired to finish the post when my phone beeped with a text from Dave "Where's the Blog?" Cheers Dave!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Aldi for the night with complementary balls

Today was a slog on from Kirby Bridge to Kings Lock in Leicester. We broke the journey for an hour or so to miss the rain that came in buckets.
Jan spotted a new Aldi by the canal with some new railings and a large area of cut grass. As there was already one boat moored to the railings we decided to join them and get some provisions. By the time we got back to the boat is was pi**ing it down again, so we decided to stop the night.

As we came out of Aldi we spotted an Indian Restaurant across the road so it was curry for tea with a complementary side dish of some sort of minced lamb balls, they tasted great.

For the last few days we have had our eye on the river levels on the Soar as it all looks in flood. The plan tomorrow is to push on past Freemans Weir and get on to the secure pontoon at Castle Gardens, then reassess the water levels.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Knackered at Kilby Bridge

12 locks today and we only saw one moving boat all day. The wide locks between Kibworth Top Lock and Kilby Bridge were all a pain in the arse. No matter how slowly I entered the lock through one open gate, the other gate opened as I entered. No matter how slowly I left the lock through one gate the other gate opened! Had a couple of pints to relax the muscles  at the Navigation when we arrived, and returned for a meal which was ok. 

As you can see Spot was even more knackered than us. Also say a  very nice church in the middle of nowhere. 

According to my map is is St Wistans Church and it has 6 bell but I don't know about bell ringing practice.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Rain and the Okefenokee Swamp

Left Yelvertofot area and headed towards the ultimate destination of Foxton Locks - knew we couldn't do it comfortably in one day. Headed towards the Welford Arm, one of the prettiest journeys seen so far: really beautiful countryside, farmland and surrounding copses. Lots of woodland and serenity; came across very few fellow travelling boats.

Decided to take a detour down the Welford Arm - Jan calling me Tits Magee going across the Okefenokee Swamp. Moored at Welford; tow path closed directly to village so had to go round the small marina to The Wharf Inn (again, good food). In marina, wow, amazing species and variety of fish seen lurking in the waters: jack pike under the pontoon, huge carp, loads of bream. Not being a course fisherman but a nature watcher (Jan too) had to watch this spectacle! Lots of boats moored, some short-term, some long so roped up under some over-hanging trees. In the night rained heavily so in the morning, was not sure whether it was still pouring down or if was dripping off trees - the latter proved the case.

Following morning moved onto North Kilworth for the necessary pump-out. Helpful people.

Then to Husbands Bosworth Tunnel wondering whether the tunnel light would hold out for the 1166 yards - it did!! Jan still fixated by seeing real live bats: none seen!

Meandered to top of Foxton flight where we met Pat and Tracey on nb Tilley heading to Market Harborough (if anyone comes across them say hello from us as they were such friendly folk). Having seen the piscatorial species the night before. It was amazing to see a red kite flying freely and so low you could almost count its feathers!
Jan, Master of Foxton

Moored above Foxton, Jan woke up in the middle of the night trying to rescue the windlass (she had apparently lost in the lock in her nightmare of going down the staircase) - new experience for us going 'down'.  BUT: volunteer Fraser to the rescue -  another volunteer who helped us through the initial passage until he was sure we knew what we were doing (small hope but all went well).  Spot tethered on boat at Foxton so she had to stop on the boat with me. She sat between my legs trembling every time we descended into a lock. I'm not sure I blame her the Foxton locks are bloody deep (see photo).

Deep Locks at Foxton
Next through Saddington Tunnel with the confidence that the tunnel light worked previously - not this time!  Got about 2-thirds through and all went dark.  Fortunately got new batteries for torch so managed to get through without any problems.

Stopped for provisions at Fleckney, good Co-op with other facilities (including pub!!)  Now moored just above bridge 74.

Home made fried rice tonight! Yum!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Elkington and an Alternate Reality

According to Nicholson's Waterways Guide Elkington is a long abandoned village just down the lane from bridge 28 on the Grand Union Leicester Section. I cannot validate the truth of the statement as we moored at bridge 27, but the idea of a long abandoned village here helps me draw you a picture of this spot of heaven.

Yesterday started with a stroll into Crick to get some milk, a quick stop to top up the water and onward towards Welford. The weather threw a few showers at us but mostly it was sunny until lunchtime when we decided to stop for a cup of tea and wait for the rain, which we could see heading our way.  After an hour of heavy rain the sun came out and we decided to stop for the night so I could walk Spot through Yelvertoft Covert.

One of the main attractions for me, of cruising the inland waterways is the tangible sense of travelling in an alternate reality. It's like the bit in Harry Potter when the kids run through a wall in the train station into another world.  Moored by a bridge that appeared to go nowhere, in the middle of fields, the nearest road was a small lane at the next bridge which went to an abandoned village.

The clouds were heavy but the sun shone through the gaps and illuminated the newly washed trees and grass.  Everywhere was clean and green and beautiful. As an encore nature gave us a storm and a rainbow before we called it a night.

This morning me and Spot walked to the top of the wood by the derelict barn (see photo). The small plate on the gate to the wood said "Dedicated in memory of Edith Mary & Malchus Henry Malpass 1902 - 1985, The Woodland Trust". I have no idea who they were but their wood is fantastic. I found a large Badger sett at the top of the wood and disturbed a Buzzard from the eves of the old barn.

So where exactly is this piece of paradise? 
Between Daventry and Rugby, 1 mile south of the A14 and 3 miles east of the M1/M6 junction!

I include are a few photos to give you an idea of how yesterday prompted the above poor attempt at prose.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Crick and a Good Curry

Yesterday was a short but interesting day. The two main attractions for the day were Watford Locks and Crick Tunnel before an overnight stop at Crick. Watford Locks has a four lock staircase in the middle of the seven lock flight. We had not encountered a staircase before so another steep learning curve.
Watford Locks

 Fortunately the flight was manned by 2 CART volunteers, who proved to be very friendly and extremely helpful.  Jan had been told previously about the 2 colours of gate paddles, red and white: "red then white, you'll be alright, white before red, you'll probably be dead".  The lock keeper who helped us through the lock explained in great deal what this old adage meant - extremely useful as we will no doubt come up against the same colour scheme at Foxton.  While waiting to go up the locks we met a very nice couple on nb Mallard from Crick Marina. I happened to mention to them that we had had problems with the tunnel light through Braunston tunnel and the chap promptly furnished us with the appropriate bits of heat shrink to fix the problem - he had a real Aladdin's cave of bits and bobs for repairs, maybe a lesson to be learnt! They also waited for us at the entrance to Crick Tunnel so we could go through behind them just in case the light went out again. Fortunately the light worked fine, but a big thanks to Mallard (don't you just love canal folk!).
The view through Crick Tunnel

I thought it would be a good idea to take Spot for a good walk so she would be knackered when we went out with Mike and Elaine. I walked back down the tow path to the tunnel entrance and walked back up the track used to walk the horses over the tunnel. Big banks, and grass fields full of rabbits, Spot heaven, an hour later we returned with one of us dragging its tongue along the ground - not me!! A big drink of water and a short rest restored Spot to a state to eat. A few bits of dog food topped with half a Walker's pork pie, it did not touch the sides. Now you may think pork pie is not the norm for a dog, but I had this thought outside the butchers in Braunston. If I feed the dog with the pie from Tesco it would give us a good excuse to buy two much better hand made pies. Everyone wins! I get two pies, the butcher gets business and Spot eats pork pie for two days (At this point all the readers who know me are shouting "Yet again he ate all the pies").

6:30 and Mike and Elaine arrived to look around TM then we set off for Long Buckby for a curry. We left Spot in the boot of Mike's Range Rover, where she slept all evening without a whine or howl.

Mike is my cousin, he lives in a fantastic house near West Haddon (just down the road from Crick) so I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet up. For many years we only saw each other when our mums arranged some sort of family do, or someone got marred or died. Now both our mothers have died and virtually all  their immediate family have gone too. It then dawned on me that it was now up to us to keep in touch else the next time we meet one of us might be in a box. Besides, we like Mike and Elaine they are great company and we had a great evening and a good curry. Next time we come through this way we will arrange to pick them up for a day on TM. We look forward to that, and thanks for a great evening.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Tits McGee, The Prince of Darkness

No trip for Jan and me to Braunston can pass without a trip to the butchers in the village. We stocked up with dry cured bacon, pasties, sausage rolls, and various pies and pickles (many of the latter home-made and to die for).  Back to the boat on the pontoon, fill up with water and off towards the Grand Union Leicester Section. At Braunston locks we were lucky to pair up with nb Georgiana B crewed by a nice Cornish couple on their way back to Weltonfield Marina (their home mooring).  Despite the general female lock-handling, this lady chose to take their boat through - her first timer.  Hats off to her courage, she did really well!! Welcome team work to get through the locks!

Now we come to Braunston Tunnel. We had never been through a tunnel before so all was exciting; amazing how many bats we spotted on the tunnel roof; also the ventilation shafts through the tunnel to above ground showed how deep we were plus it showed an amazing feat of engineering - in the middle of this we were dodging the water streaming from the roof through the shafts.
It's all to much for Spot

At almost exactly half way through the tunnel Tilly May's tunnel light went out - woops and more woops!!  Jan ran through the boat switching on all the internal lights, found a torch and sat at the bow with a torch shining on the roof.  I must say we coped well, no panic, just slowed down and watched the tunnel walls illuminated by the internal lights until we emerged without a scratch. It might have been different if we had met another boat coming the other way! (Jan: amazed at Chris's calm throughout!!)

We moored opposite Weltonfield Marina and walked over to see if we could sort the tunnel light.  It looked like a short in the wiring where the wires came out of the boat.  The office staff at the marina - and our previous Cornish chums who offered a spare bulb - were very helpful and furnished us with some extra connectors and wire so all seems to be working fine now.  We will, however stop tomorrow and get a big lantern torch (or 2) just in case it happens again in Crick Tunnel.

We have now moored in the middle of nowhere  between bridges 2 and 3. Any further and we get sandwiched between the main railway line and the M1 - Too Loud Man!  But if we need KFC, burgers, etc we're only a short walk from 'civilisation'.  Think we'll stick with what we've got from local butchers!
Todays mooring

We will stop at Crick tomorrow and meet up with Mike and Elaine.

Authors Notes:
Let me explain the title of the post. I am currently reading Terry Darlington's new book "Narrow Dog to Wigan Pier". He has a fictitious superhero he turns into in times of trouble: he calls himself "Tits McGee". Jan is reading Ozzy Osbourne's autobiography (after reading all 3 of T D's books); Ozzy is known as The Prince of Darkness. Thus when trouble hits us in the Tunnel, I become Tits McGee and by conquering the tunnel became The Prince of Darkness. Not wearing my underpants over my shorts this time (or as TD fans will appreciate, not back to front) I conquer all!!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Back to Braunston despite Chaos Theory

We were due back on TM yesterday but I made the mistake of taking notice of a very poor weather forecast which turned out to be rubbish, so a good day was wasted. Note to self: get fir cone and some seaweed and stop taking notice of the Met Office.

When we left TM she needed a clean so last Wednesday we popped back and spent a couple of hours cleaning and scrubbing. The biggest problem is getting Spot fur out of the pale coloured carpet in the living room. We also managed to find time to have a lunch of chicken wings and a pint of Hooky at the Admiral Nelson.  The food was so good we booked a table for Sunday lunch.

After dumping all our stuff today on TM we nipped over to the Admiral Nelson for lunch washed down with a couple of pints of Hooky. We sat in the bright sunshine next to the canal and ate rare sirloin of beef with Yorkshire pud, potatoes roasted in goose fat and perfectly cooked veg - a separate dish contained cauliflower cheese, the sauce had horseradish in it - unusual but delicious. You could cut the beef with a fork!
Sunset over Braunston Marina 7pm (No Rain!)

So yet again today the prat from the Met Office was totally wrong! £10M on two Cray supercomputers, a bucket full of PhD's in non- linear maths and chaos theory, and they can predict the weather with the same amount of certainty as I can with a fir cone and a bit of seaweed!

Getting back into the boat mode - a few slurps, radio on and a good book on the Kindle.  Jan reading Ozzy Osbourne's life story "I am Ozzy" at the mo; says she can't understand how he's survived so long particularly after the abuse he's given his body but he was still awesome when we saw him at Download.

This week we are hoping to meet up with my cousin Mike and his wife Elaine as they live only a few miles from Crick, no doubt, more food and drink!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Music in the Park

Yesterday was the Music in the Park event in Castle Donington. It is organised and run by the Parish Council with sponsorship from Live Nation (the company the put on the Download Festival at Donington Park). For me the day started at 7:00am, marking out the area for the various stalls, and finished with the final litter pick at 8:30pm. See photos below for a list of the bands.
Leicester Co-Op Brass Band

Take That Tribute Band

Ed Safell

Kyle Tribute

The Standards

A Great Day
We estimate that about 2000 people turned up and had a good free day of entertainment

Linyl Vinyl  

Various Artists
I think this is the best community event that we do, you feel a tangibly growth in the community spirit at the day progresses. If you want to see more photos of the day click HERE.

Back on the boat in Saturday, cant wait!

Friday, 29 June 2012

Napton and a Wet Spot then Home

Tuesday saw us pull pins and descend the Napton flight. Not a good day for Spot as she decided to re-enact the scene from Robin Hood when he meets Little John at the river and neither will give way. At Napton Top Lock Spot went to cross the lock when a collie from the boat coming up the flight decided to cross at the same time. Neither dog would give way so they tried to pass each other in the middle of the lock. The collie dog was smart enough to take the inside path which left Spot with nowhere to go but in the cut, big splash, grabbed by the scruff and pulled out by Jan, very depressed dog for the rest of the day. Now don't get me wrong, Spot loves a swim, but at her time of choosing. Falling in results in howls of laughter from mum and dad, Spot hates to be laughed at!

Moored at Napton, just around the corner from the Folly Inn so we popped in for a couple of pints of Hooky at lunchtime and booked a table for the evening.

Wednesday we stayed at Napton, had a walk around the village plus the obligatory pint in the Red Lion in the middle of Napton, Abbot Ale kept and served well. Talking to the landlord the pub is owned by Punch Taverns, this company, along with Enterprise Inns, are doing their very best to destroy thousands of village pubs. Their strategy makes it almost impossible for landlords to make a living. Both companies are making massive losses and are selling pubs to make ends meet, but they seem incapable of a change of strategy.

Thursday was a short run back to Braunston to leave TM for a week while we come back to help with the Music in the Park event in Donington. Home by 4pm and missed all the rain, spent 10 mins in the shower watching the water go down the plughole!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Dreaded Flies

Sunday started with the Cropredy church bells, this continued for about 2 hours. Now I like church bells as much as the next man, but 2 hours gets a bit monotonous. We walked to the local Spar shop (quite a good shop with quite a wide range of consumables) and topped up with supplies before heading back towards Fenny Compton. It was a longish day with 9 locks before we were back onto the Oxford summit.

As we came through lock 22 a chap heading to Cropredy said he had encountered a swarm of horse flies between lock 22 and 21. He was right, in the half mile between the locks I got bitten 4 times, Jan stayed in the boat as she reacts badly to horse fly bites usually resulting in large blisters.

We arrived at Fenny Compton to find that all the moorings were occupied. This was the second time in four days we had arrived to find nowhere to moor. There are two 14 day and one 48 hour moorings here, probably more than at Cropredy which is a more interesting place to visit. So why so popular?

Three of the five boats moored on the 48 hour mooring were the same boats that were moored there on Thursday. At least 5 boats on the 14 day moorings looked like they had not moved in 14 weeks. I assume its popularity stems from a large car park and a main road with a bus service. I am sure this practice does the pub no favours as we finally moored way past the end of the long term moorings and spoke to at least half a dozen boats that wanted to go to the pub but couldn't find a mooring.

Monday was a lazy day, a couple of hours ambling through the beautiful countryside of the Oxford summit in glorious sunshine (plus the odd encounter with more horse flies). We moored on a remote spot below bridge 122 just after lunchtime, then out came the chairs and parasol.
Moored on the Oxford Summit

We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the sun, with the odd boat that moored for lunch then moved on. By evening we were alone, watching the sun set and listening to the birds singing.

It's a hard life afloat!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Onward to Chiropody (another of Jan's misnomers!)

After all the visitors over the previous few days we decided it was time for some peace and quiet. We waited for the rain to stop then walked to the CoOp in Fenny Compton for some supplies - lovely village with lots of re-builds in local stone, then pulled pins and headed for Cropredy. The weather held fine if a little windy, and we had a very present cruise until we reached Claydon Middle Lock and decided it was a nice spot to moor.
Tilly May moored above Claydon Middle Lock
We took Spot for a long walk, cooked tea (no pub!) and had an early night. The highlight of  the day was Jan's super fast recue of the parasol as it opened in the wind, pivoted on its end and plunged into the cut. Fast as lightning she pushed past me and grabbed the end as it went past the stern. It was returned to the roof with some string around it to stop same happening again.  Jan got collared by a chap on the bank walking his greyhound lurcher Badger.  He was full on describing the tatty jacket he had on saying he had a "posh one on the boat", that the one he was wearing was'nt very waterproof - Jan was in short sleeved tee-shirt.  As he regaled his life history the heavens opened and he bemoaned he was going to get wet yet continued his rambling while Jan got absolutely soaked.  Nice chap though!

Next morning the sun shone so we made a relatively early start aiming to moor at Cropredy by about 11am. We went through Cropredy lock, took on water, winded, and went back through the lock to moor just above bridge 152.
Africa Linx

As we walked through Cropredy we noted that there seemed to be a fair few people about. It turned out today was the Church Fete and the 'Africa Linx' Festival at the Brasenose Arms. We spent the afternoon at the Festival with a lot of folk who, I think forgot to go home when the last Fairport Convention concert finished (or maybe even the first!) Finally a meal and a pint at the Red Lion.

The plan today is to head back up the Oxford so we can leave TM at Braunston again next weekend. 
Africa Linx Drummers

We return to Donington for  "Music in the Park" then back down and south on the Grand Union to, hopefully meet up with my cousins at Stoke Bruerne. This, however may change as all plans on canal journeys seem to evolve daily.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Visitors then on to Fanny Craddock.

Kate, Jake, Shaun & Steve arrived from Donington about lunchtime on Wednesday. We had a great afternoon lounging about in the sun drinking Spritz and eating picnic; this consisted of the home-made pies and pickles we had bought from the butcher's in Braunstone - if you have the chance, they are a must to get, absolutely delicious! The picnic gave us a chance to try out our parasol which has been sat on the roof of the boat since we set off at the beginning of May.

To make life better some kind chap from British Waterways cut the grass on the tow path so we had plenty of room without blocking folks' way as they walked by. 
An added bonus of the day was Shaun's obsession with cleaning, which saw him lying on the roof of the boat cleaning the brass! Thanks Shaun!
In the evening we went to the Folly Inn for a few pints and a meal. I had the faggots because yesterday they had sold out and I had felt deprived. They were worth the wait!  In fact everyone said how good the food was. The Folly Inn is definitely worth a stop, the beer is good, the food excellent, and the landlord is a bit eccentric, who could ask for more? After saying farewell to the troops we retired, happy, full, and tired.

Yesterday saw us head back (after a tricky little manoeuvre  which required reversing TM back past half a dozen moored boats so we could spin around in the winding hole) to Napton Marina for a pump out as all the visitors over the last couple of days had had its toll on our poo tank.  Then spin around again and up Napton Flight and on to Fenny Compton.  All the locks except one were in our favour - who could have asked for more?

At Napton Top Lock we were surprised to see a herd of Buffalo grazing in the field next to the canal. Obviously Oxfordshire is famous for mozzarella!

The South Oxford canal is a joy to travel on, it's very rural and very winding. From Napton top lock to Fenny Compton we saw one farm, no tow path walkers and three boats. We stopped in the middle of nowhere so that Spot (aka Kiera) could have a walk in a wood by the canal and we finally arrived at Fenny Compton about 5pm (Jan Quote "Where the hell are we, Fanny Craddock or something").

Just as the Met Office had predicted the weather turned for the worst at about 3:30 so we were wet and tired and became very pi**ed off to find that all the 48h and 14d moorings were occupied. Some of the boats on the 48h moorings looked like they had been there for weeks! We eventually  moored on a long term mooring that we were told had not been occupied all year, as the saying goes "what's good for the goose is good for the gander", if you can't beat 'em join 'em.

Guess what!
We went to the Wharf Inn last night and had yet another great meal. If you stop here you have to try the Steak and Stilton Pie with mash, roast root veg and pickled cabbage -  Fantastic!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A slow run to Napton, Not

Well yesterday we did it, we managed to get lost on the canal. Let's be honest, navigation on the inland waterways is not rocket science, mostly you can go forwards or backwards. Sometimes things get complicated when you get to a junction, but normally you have a choice of left or right, and with a small amount of research the correct decision takes moments, and in any case, a guess will work 50% of the time.   So how come we ended up heading towards Rugby on the Oxford Canal when we should have been heading south on the grand Union Canal. This minor miscalculation was detected by Jan after about 20 mins steaming in the wrong direction. "What bridge number was that........ There isn't a bridge with that number! Oops!". The next winding hole was an hour in the wrong direction so we finally moored at the Folly Inn in Napton at just after 5pm, three hours later than expected.

During our journey south we had a call from James and Irene in their new motor home. They were heading south from Scotland and were looking for a meet-up.  We first met James and Irene about 15 years ago when they took over The Cross Keys pub in Castle Donington. They later ran a fantastic hotel, The Forest Inn on Dartmoor. So in a way they have been responsible for the general state of our livers and the instigators of some of our worst nights of over indulgence. They too have sold their business and are about to depart for the continent for unknown destinations and for unknown duration. We had a great night in the Folly Inn, the Hooky was excellent and the food top drawer (can't write a post without mention of food!). Had a cuppa and a chat with them this morning and said our fond farewells; however this was after Irene had managed not to throw up as "the boat moves" - god knows how she's going to cope with a ferry crossing over the Channel!! Hope you have a great time chaps, keep in touch!

Today we stay at Napton and are expecting Jan's sister Kate, her son Jake, and Steve and Shaun, mind you, Kate's navigational skills are worse than mine so we hope they at least head out in the right direction. We hope to have a nice picnic with the Pork and Caramelised Onion Pie and the Stilton, Chilli Jam and Pork pies from the butchers in Braunston. More of this later.....

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Wesleyan Chapel & Sabbath in the Mud

I have been very remiss in not posting since we left the boat. It was disappointing to have to leave TM but Jan needed time to get over her cracked ribs and I had a wedding to photograph with my mate Colin.

Colin was also returning from a two week trip on the canals with Rick and Mark on  Asanewt, maybe you were unfortunate enough to be moored next to them on the Asbly or Coventry Canals. We hoped to meet up with the boys for a beer while they were cruising but it just didn't happen, maybe later in the year chaps.

Anyway, Christine and Shaun's wedding went well despite the constant rain. The Old Wesleyan Chapel in Derby is a good venue for a wedding, if a little dark for taking photos, but we coped ok.

On October 10th 1975 a long haired 17 year old youth went to the Birmingham Odeon to see Black Sabbath in concert. This was the year before I went off to University in Nottingham.
Black Sabbath @ Dowload 2012

Black Sabbath @ Dowload 2012

On June 10th 2012 a grey haired fat bloke went (with his lovely wife) to Donington Download Festival to see Black Sabbath close the festival. This was the year I retired.
When Ozzy walked on stage he did look like a man who had lived a full life  (let us be honest, he has done bloody well to live as long as he has), but when he just seemed to flip into Ozzy mode and he took we straight back to that night in 1975. The performance was fantastic, I even forgot how badly my legs ached after standing in one place for 5 hours.
Live long Ozzy, you give me hope!

Jans ribs are still not up to par so we have extended our stop at Braunston another week. The plan is to be back and rolling by next Tuesday. I am looking forward to getting back afloat.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

59th Street Bridge Song

We are now back home with a pile of washing to do and a garden that looks like the Congo. The boat is booked into Braunston for 3 weeks, which will give Jan time to recover. The break also fits well with the wedding I have to photograph, an appointment with the doctors, and our retirement present to each other, Tickets to Download to see Black Sabbath!

The break also gives us time to reassess the boat kit out and more importantly reflect on lessons learned so far.

1. In the words of the great Simon and Garfunkel "Slow down you move to fast. You got to make the morning last."  Time is a commodity that we now have in spades, so we have slowed down a little, but by no means enough. We can now take the time to stop and appreciate life.

2. There is no point in having a large frying pan as only the centre will get hot.
3. Estimate how long it would take to do some thing at home then double it on the boat.

4. You only need half the stuff you put on the boat.

5. When you go back to dry land everyone has kindly saved you all the shit you missed.

6. Taking photos using my pocked digital is fine but it is nowhere near as satisfying as using the big SLR (see below). 
Polesworth Abby and the Anker River 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Cod, Evolution and Christianity

A lunchtime start and a steady run to Braunston today - could'nt believe the weather: from hail only a few days ago to glorious sunshine today. Passed fellow blogger Derwent 6 en route. We were moored in the marina by 3pm and by 5pm Dave Palmer had driven down from Castle Donington to pick me up and take me back to get the car ready for an exit and homeward bound tomorrow. Thanks Dave! The novelty of having wheels again prompted us to drive over to the Admiral Nelson Pub at Braunston Lock 3.
Rural Northamptonshire

The pub has only just reopened with new owners, new decor and a really original  menu focusing on quality local ingredients but done sometimes in a very innovative way - they pride themselves on the old adage of not doing fast food but doing good food as fast as they can. The beer was extremely palatable and, when we arrived the new landlady gave us a bowl of chicken wings that were perfection in a very original bbq-type sauce. Jan was not hungry so I just has Cod and chips with mushy peas. A simple dish well done. Yesterday we ate at a Hungry Horse chain pub, beer and food for 2 for less than £20. Would I eat there again? Only if there was nowhere else. Would I eat at the Admiral Nelson again? Yes without a doubt. We sat outside the pub at a large picnic table. As there was only us two we made room for two chaps to have a seat. We spent the rest of the evening in a most enjoyable conversation about life, the universe, evolution and Christianity. Thanks for a great evening Tom and Nigel.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Cracked Ribs and Poo

What we failed to tell you yesterday, dear reader, is that Jan had a bit of a fall and we think cracked a couple of ribs making her somewhat immobile. It was decided we would take it easy and just motor on to Newbold on Avon then have a meal in the Barley Mow. We badly needed a pump out, but didn't see that as a problem as there were a number of places in the way marked on various maps. We had, however, forgotten it was Sunday and most places we went past were closed (seems a local thing of sucking through teeth with the "don't think you'll find anything open today"). We managed to phone a chap from Brinklow Marina, who was very helpful but 30 miles away from the marina. He gave us the mobile number of a chap on site who could sell us a token, so in we went. Unfortunately I do not remember the name of the chap from Brinklow Marina who came to our aid, he was kind and helpful and a credit to the marina (very concerned that Jan could'nt even handle a rope - kept saying "you'll be alright mate"; also recommended using Tiger Balm but not so good in this country as you can't get it with the opium found in other countries. Whoever you are, you were a life saver and thank you so much.

The Barley Mow pub was a bit of an experience. The food was ok but the entertainment was "different". First some old chap (not supposedly part of the stage crew) who was legless and refusing to get into numerous taxis that were called for him. Then the live music turned up! Two more old chaps with an organ and the other a saxophone. They tried hard, bless them.
Jan on Tilly May at Newbold on Avon

On the way to the pub, Spot disappeared over a foot bridge and returned seconds later wet. This is not new, but this time her top half was wet and the bottom half dry, all very confusing. The following morning we went for a walk over the bridge and found a field of rape. See photo below of Spot after her walk.
Spot wet and covered in rape petals

Today we did the three locks at Hillmorton but with a difference. Jan cannot operate the locks as it is now too painful, so she had a crash course (no pun intended) in controlling the boat into locks and I did the hard work. It all went very well until the third lock when she had'nt realised she had her knee on the bow thruster and could'nt understand why the rudder was not behaving as it had in the previous two locks - this was the 'crash' course. Things also improved weather wise, the sun came out and the countryside looked fantastic again.

We have decided to go to Braunston tomorrow, where we have arranged to leave the boat for a few weeks, We had to go back home for the start of June as I have a wedding to photograph, so it seemed a good idea to go a bit early and give Jan a chance to recover before continuing down the Oxford.

We are now moored outside the Old Royal Oak at Hillmorton.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

No No Not Nuneaton!

We finished off the top 5 locks at Atherstone this morning which took about an hour and a half and pushed on through Nuneaton and Bedworth. What can I say! I am sure that there are some nice bits of Nuneaton but you can't see any of them from the canal. They certainly like their allotments around here, we must have passed at least 200 plots today. We also passed a couple of boat yards which if you listened carefully you could hear banjo music. The photo below shows one yard which looked more like a scrap yard than a boat yard.

What also spoke volumes about the area was the razor wire (not your normal barbed wire) around some of the derelict buildings.  Also some of the housing estates had double lengths of railings - not very picturesque from the canal scene, we wondered if they were to keep in the guarding rottweilers!

By the way, did I mention it was bloody cold today!

We are now moored at Sutton Stop.

Had a good meal in the Greyhound, and spent a pleasant evening chatting to Tony and Michelle. We hope your plans workout and look forward to meeting you again on your boat.

Friday, 18 May 2012

To Fazeley and a Curry then on to Atherstone

Yesterday started badly, with a mad dash to Streethay following an 8am phone call from the boiler man asking where were we [thought these guys started at 9.00am!]

On arriving, after a great deal of the proverbial sucking air through teeth and tut-tutting, the boiler was fixed: there appeared to be a "problem" with the wiring which meant that the nav lights are no longer on line, but hey ho, don't think we'll need them in the short term as will not be travelling in the dark nor on tidal waters - good news though that the towels are dry and all is right with the world.

Just as we were about to leave Streethay Wharf we were passed by Sanity Again so shouted hello's to Bruce and Sheila, we passed them again mooring at Whittington.

By 11am we were heading back towards Fazeley but only long enough to get the water hot so we could stop, have a shower and clean teeth. Not much to say about the journey as it was the third time we had made it in the last three days. We stopped at the BW facility at Fazeley, turned right at the junction, then past Fazeley Mill Marina, winded and moored for the night next to said Marina - amazingly our mooring was only about 20 feet away over the fence from where we originally bought TM [then known as 'La Vuelta'].  Today's mooring was obviously a tribute to our first ever narrow boat trip from collecting our beloved Tilly May for her first trip back to Shardlow. We celebrated the moment by  eating a very good  take away curry from The Ivory Tusk restaurant [lots of Rennies in the night].

This morning we pushed on towards Atherstone. It was about 1pm before we got back to the point we had winded to go back to Streethay. As we approached the rail bridge just after Polesworth I saw a huge beach ball bounce above the rail embankment [do these guys have a real sense of adventure or no fear?!!]  Having seen huge swathes of bare earth on previous visits a few days ago, it became too obvious what the tracks were in the hillside. Once on the other side of the rail line we could see it was one of those adventure days which must have included being put into the centre of a large ball and bounced down a big hill. Not for me I think!
Big Bouncing Balls

As we passed the place where we had previously been held up while the police took a body out of the canal I noticed that someone had placed flowers on the spot. At least someone loved him - a nice touch.
Flowers in Memory of a fellow boater

We finally moored above Atherstone lock 6 and went to the pub. Had a big fry up for tea as the bacon was getting to the end of its best before date. Knackered, time for bed!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Police SOC and Faggots

Apologies for the short blog yesterday, things had not gone well. The weather was most definitely inclement so we had wet coats and dog towels to dry, but the Adle boiler (for central heating) decided it was not going to work so cold evening and damp clothes resulted. Fortunately the sun shone hot and bright this morning so coats etc went out first thing, and dried quickly. Also the man from Streethay Wharf phoned and said he could service the boiler on Thursday. Half an hour later we had winded and were on our way back to Streethay; we should be there by about 4pm, no problem!!

However ........all was well until we reached Alvecote Bridge where we were told the canal was closed because a body had been found in the water and police were in attendance . It turned out that a poor unfortunate chap that lived on a boat had apparently been socialising nearby and sober had fallen in the canal - due to his dog being found alone alarms had begun to ring hence the search for him.

Along with a number of other boats, we waited until about 2pm before the canal was reopened so, as part of a convoy (do not mention rubber duck!!), we had to push hard to get close to Streethay ready for a 9am start tomorrow on the service.

We finally moored at The Plough at Huddlesford at about 6:30, tired and hungry.
You have to eat at this pub!

Jan and I both had faggots chips and mushy peas, and I have to say we both agreed they were the best faggots we have ever tasted (and I have tasted a few). The beer was good, the staff friendly, and the food outstanding. In fact it was so good we intend to stop again tomorrow on the way back from Streehay.

All in all a good end to a not so good day.

On another note: a helicopter was circling around last night while we were moored at Polesworth and we later heard sirens (aka blue flashing lights).  We have since been told that a lady and her husband had a row and she ran over him in a 4x4 and, just to make sure she had done the job, reversed back over him.  Not sure how much of this is true, but if anyone has any info .........?

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Weather Changeable !

Sun, Rain, Thunder, Hail, More Hail! Cold, wet and tired, going to bed, will blog properly tomorrow when I'm in a better mood. Love and kisses peeps.

Hopwas Wood and the Tame

Jan had a lay in on Monday, she went to bed Sunday night at about 8:30 and didn't wake up until 8:00, most unlike her, but she said she was fine and felt better for almost 12 hours sleep. By the time we have sorted the rubbish, had a shower, topped up the water etc it was 10:30 before we set off.  The first stop was at Streethay Wharf for a pumpout, however, as you can see, they were a little busy when we arrived, so we spun TM around and had lunch. 
Streethay Wharf

We sorted the pumpout after lunch and and spent a while chatting before spinning around and setting off again.
When we bought TM I did not see the use of a bow thruster on a 45ft boat, but it does comes in very handy when you want to wind in a tight space.
We pushed on towards Wittlington passing fields of poly tunnels and some poor devils picking in the fields. It always looks back breaking work, not my cup of tea.

We eventually decided to moor at Hopwas Wood (an MOD firing range) next to the River Tame, where the canal is lined by trees and the only sound was birds singing. Although there were lots of well trodden paths through the woods we saw very few people so we have a pleasant evening listening to a Cuckoo. 
Hopwas Wood

I took Spot for a long walk through the woods and allowed her to have a swim in the Tame. She loves a dip but the canals are a bit smelly so we try to limit the swims to rivers. She did need a bath as Denis in the Swan spilt a pint of beer over her.
The sharp eyed amongst you will have noticed this post is dated Tuesday morning, this is because I had a touch of Jan disease last night and went to bed at 8:00 and slept through until 7:30 this morning. We think it must be something to do with getting used to this new lifestyle.
Raining this morning, don't mind  as I got sunburnt yesterday.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Fradley Junction and Sunday Lunch at The Swan

A bit of a lazy start this morning as the weather was hot and sunny so we sat on the deck and drank tea until about 10:30.  I took Spot for a walk along the tow path and came across Bruce and family on nb Sanity Again. Bruce is the first fellow blogger I have met on our travels, it is good to put a face to a blog. Nice to meet you Bruce I sure we will bump into each other again.
Finally we set off only to stop at the next lock to remove a large woven plastic coal sack from the prop.  The intention was to push on down the Birmingham and Fazley, but after talking to the crew of nb Tilly, we decided they had the better idea and went for Sunday Lunch at The Swan. The Calvary was very good, lots of meat and 10 different vegetables, Apple and Pear Crumble for pud.  We sat at a table with an 80 year old chap called Denis who eat there most Sundays. He entertained us with stories of his last years holiday, a 2500 mile road trip around Norway! I hope I am up to that sort of trip when I'm 80.
Got back to the boat about 3:00 and fell asleep.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Alrewas and the Cobb BBQ

Nice day, lots of sunshine, thousands of chicks skidding across the water like clockwork toys. Today we saw our first batch of swan chicks, see below.

Finally moored at Alrewas and just managed to get to Coates the butchers before they closed. Two sirloin steaks for tea, plus a hand raised pork pie the size of my head for later in the week.
As we have the steaks it is now time to put the new Cobb BBQ into action. Its the one the Hairy Bikers used when they were doing their first series. It has some advantages over other portable BBQ's, the most important of which is, it is cool to the touch, so you can put it on plastic tables or the roof of the boat without any fear of damage.
Cobb BBQ in action

Overall the Cobb experience was not great, the steak was overcooked and steamed rather than grilled, but some important lessons were learnt, so next time things will work better.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Quick Hop to Willington

After failing to make Willington yesterday we decided today would be a rest day. A short hop through Stenson Lock had us mooring close to the Green in Willington by about 11:30am. This gave us plenty of time to have a wonder around the village and pick up a few supplies. Amongst the boring stuff I managed to find some nice unpasteurised Lancashire, and traditional red Leicester cheese from the deli/cafe opposite the railway station. We also called into the Dragon pub to book a table for tonight and have a quick pint before returning to the boat for a spot of lunch.

As you can see from the photo, taken in the garden of the Dragon, Spot is finding all the cruising a bit to much.

How about this for a hard working mum, this mallard had 15 chicks in tow,  I was not fast enough to get them all into the photo.

The food at the Dragon was, as usual, excellent and good value, I am pleased we decided to have a short day to stop in Willington.
Weather forecast said sun tomorrow yippee, Alrewas here we come!

3.8 Miles 1 Lock