Thursday, 13 June 2013

Marsworth to Brentford

After a wet free Tuesday at Marsworth, on Wednesday 29 May Ebony woke me early, as usual, at 6am.  The sky was fairly good and the forecast was for rain at 9 - so I set off up the locks within an hour.  The grass and lock ladders were very wet so I pulled the boat into all the locks.  Met CRT man near top letting water down - but there was plenty where I had come from!  After 6 locks I reached the top - just as it started to drizzle.  3 wet miles on I reached Cowroast and moored up - just as the rain stopped!  Made coffee but really hungry - so had a fry-up brunch.  Walked down 2 locks, in sunshine, so decided to carry on.  At first lock - met CRT boat - and they helped me down and at next lock I was joined by Barrel of Ale - first seen at Milton Keynes and we continued thru third lock where I stopped.  More rain in evening and no TV - grr - DVD's then!

Rained overnight and by 9.30 Thursday, drizzling.  At my 1st lock I was joined by 'The 'Owd Fettler No 2 of Rufford (where I had overwintered 3 yrs ago).  The couple were very friendly (he English, she Canadian) and were boat moving to London, for a friend.  After 4 locks we reached the lovely moorings at Berkhamstead - I might have stopped but we were having fun so carried on!  Ravens Lane is another nice area - with a gorgeous house and a lockside pub, both with flowers.  Another 8 locks on we got to Winkwell where I stopped next to nice houses with small stream between and just before the Winkwell swing bridge - the Owd Fettler carried on.  Nice moorings and good pub opposite but there is little to see here.  It is from this point to Brentford that small rivers weaves in and out of the canal.  Later I was joined by two other boats for the night.

Friday I set off with nb Tom Kitten, another nice couple (Debbie and Ken?) taking their boat back to Harefield.  Debbie loves to walk and work locks so we made very good progress again.  After 6 locks, at 11.30 we both moored o/s Hemel Hemstead Sainsbury's, they then set off but I moored the otherside just above next lock - busy here!

After lunch I took Ebony for stroll then walked over modern footbridge to main road past old paper mill (with Basildon Bond clock outside!), to Homebase.  The town centre is 1 1/2 miles back but moorings not pleasant there.  After Eb's tea we took a stroll down 'my' lock to Apsley basin - walked all round and then chatted to boaters and manager in this very friendly BWML basin - which allows liveaboards.  A dry and sunny day and a very mild evening!

Saturday 1 June - Prepared lock and went through just as Barrel of Ale caught up - will meet them at next lock.  We shared 8 more locks before both stopping after lovely white bridge in the grounds of The Grove - a huge 4star spa hotel, with golf course and many leisure facilities.  Just round corner is Grove Mill - now converted to flats.  Another lovely warm day.

Sunday - walked up driveway to The Grove - told it is open to public so walked round the lovely gardens with a canal garden and beautiful modern sculptures.  Sat and chatted to a couple having a treat day out.  I have to leave by midday next day as there is to be a multinational financial converence at the hotel and moorings are suspended - for security reasons as a great number of protestors are expected in the area.

Monday - No signs of police or protestors!  I moved on at 9am - still no signs of life at Cassiobury Park as I went through.  Stopped for water, then diesel and continued on to Batchworth Lock at Rickmansworth, where the couple on The 'Owd Fettler joined me after a weekend away.  I stopped below for a couple of nights, just oppositve Tesco's and beside (behind a high hedge) a large fishing lake - which is next to a boating lake.
Easy walk into town, via footpath and through churchyard.

Tuesday - walked on to Stocker's lock below which is by a very old farm - used for films and TV programmes walking back via lakes.  Pm - interesting walk along old railway beside Chess basin.

Wednesday - Ex boating friend Wendy arrived for coffee and we set off to go thru 2 locks to moor above Copper Mill Lock at Harefield where we stopped for lunch.  Wendy then walked back to her car and I walked up into Harefield and back via steep hills to Black Jack's Lock.  Found some nice moorings (forgot these!) so back to boat, through the lock and moored opposite some lovely modern houses, many with moorings - and found Tom Kitten moored outside one of them!  So nice here, plus warm and sunny, so I stayed for 2 nights, enabling me to get on with some outdoor jobs - , sweeping chimney, cleaning fire, stacking wood and coal away and tidying bow.

Friday 7 June - Sad to leave the last of the nice moorings before reaching Uxbridge.  At 2nd lock - saw a girl shutting lower gates and opening paddles - and then disappear.  I tied up and walked to lock - to see girl lying flat out on roof - and not moving - I hoped not unconscious!  The boat had 2 bales of straw balanced in front.  When lock full I lowered paddles and opened a gate - then walked to speak to the girl - she had a beard!  It was a young Frenchman - wearing leopard-print leggings and a hairband over long hair!  I called out and he leapt up - said he had been travelling all night to reach Watford by 11am - some hope!  Another boat then caught me up - they had seen the French lad passing - with his feet up on roof!

At Denham Deep lock 2 more boats caught us up - the French lad had knocked on their roof earlier - he had lost his windlass - they gave him one of their 5!  Apparently he was going to the protest about the finance conference - and the bales of straw were towards building a huge boat!  The other boat stopped at Cowley Peachey marina and I continued on the next 2 miles through filthy, rubbish-strewn water  (please don't get on my prop - I don't want to stop).  I managed to get the last mooring outside Tesco at Bulls Bridge junction - a popular stop for anyone heading for the Thames or Little Venice.  Later I had 2 more boats breasted up beside me!

Saturday 8 June - No one else going my way so I set off at 8.50 - in sunshine.   At Norwood Top lock I was let down by 2 CRT men - behind 2 other boats who had spent the night there.  Oh no - there was a boat moored on the next lock mooring - but as I approached, someone went to prepare the lock and 2 others got the boat untied.  I then joined Ilsa Elizabeth with her 4 crew - who were taking the boat to Brentford.  We had a good journey down the Hanwell flight and then all continued on through the next 2 locks on the River Brent.  I was lucky - I got the last mooring in the sun, opposite a weir and beside a car park.  The restored basin is so nice now that it is lined with very attractive appartments, plus moorings below, but they do block out the sun.  I now have till Monday to explore and prepare for the Thames. 

That afternoon I had a walk down through a pleasant dock estate to the Thames - poignant because I found out only recently that a Great Aunt who had committed suicide in the Thames had actually been found in Brentford.  I then walked back along the River Brent to Thames lock and via Dock Lane to the High Street, opp Morrisons. 

Sunday I shopped in the Sunday market and in the afternoon went to Syon Park - about a mile walk away, so gave Eb short strolls before and after.  On Monday I will be joined by old friends and boat sharers Chris and Mary to go onto the Thames!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Braunston to Marsworth

Ebony's test results still had not been received at 9am on Saturday 18 May, 5 days later, so at 9.30 I set off to travel south down the Grand Union.  Quarter of a mile on at Braunston locks I joined another single hander on 30' nb Gadgit's Coral.  He suggested we breast the two boats, I drive and he worked the locks.  The first time I had driven 2 boats but we fair sped up the hill.  Steve (Gadgit) is a fast mover - has even done the Channel to France in his 30'er!  In Braunston tunnel I was struck by a boat coming towards me - no front light but a hand-held large one at the back - so no wonder I didn't see his front until he hit me - nb Isambard Kingdom Brunel - I was not impressed - especially as his lad laughed as we passed.

After a quick lunch I went on to Buckby Top Lock where I was joined by a couple on nb White Heather who were pleased share locks.  Halfway down we passed my old friends Tom and Christine on nb Lottie who I hadn't seen for 5 years - when we were travelling on the Great Ouse.  I moored at the bottom of the locks opp Whilton Marina and they walked down for a cuppa and catch up - it was great to see them.  Photos were taken of the reunion!

Next day I visited the local Garden Centre, then Farm Shop and after that walked round to have a wonderful 2-course Sunday Lunch at the Marina's Lock Cafe - run by a lovely boating friend Sandy from nb Stanley.  After lunch I set off to moor at Weedon - on the embankment high above the small town and nearly as high as the church roof!

On Monday morning I rang the vet - she feels Ebony probably shouldn't go back on her Cushings' tablets and with her spleen tumour probably affecting her levels, she should be left as she is.  So I don't need to get the 2 buses back to Daventry (my last chance from Weedon without going via Northampton) and I can continue my journey.

I travelled to Gayton Junction where I lunched and then walked Ebony round to the marina - unfortunately friends Roger and Pip I had met last June at Hopwas were not aboard their boat nb Windsong so I returned to my boat and carried on.  After the long 3,057 yd and double crooked Blisworth Tunnel (very glad to get out of there - only met one boat) I got the last good mooring at Stoke Bruerne and moored next to nb Dreams from Devizes.

Next day I approached Stoke Bruerne lock which was being prepared by 2 volunteer lockkeepers and I was joined by a hire boat from Gayton Marina - steered by a regular boater for his excited Uncles and Aunts and friends on their first trip.  Soon we were joined by a 3rd volunteer (only 1 other boat in the flight) and fairly sped down these locks.  All stopped for water - opp my winter fuel boat nb Towchester on its home mooring.  I continued on to go through Cosgrove village and at the lock met another boat leaving - a friend, Sylvia on nb Artlenburg (now featured in BMW adverts!).  I moored below opposite nb Regency which used to belong to Bob and Carol - sadly the boat doesn't look as good as when they owned it.  Sylvia and I shared lunch, nattered most of the afternoon and arranged to eat out at the local hotel.  Very strange - despite having no vacancies the bar/restaurant were empty - everyone was at the Jane McDonald concert in Milton Keynes.  I do seem to be doing a lot of socialising this week!

Wednesday 22 May  Have been having the occasional late evening fire but at 6am when Ebony got me up (as usual) I lit it again - perishing cold!  1 mile of cruising brought me to the outskirts of MK - but another 3 miles on is a lovely rural area where I often moor - now it is overlooked by a row of houses on the hill - and the cows are gone too!  The next MK section is mostly park-lined with smart housing estates.  Then I reached Campbell Park - a huge recreational area, with moorings beside large pond - very attractive.  Stayed there for 2 days.  It takes 25 minutes to walk up to the MK Centre shopping area, 5 minutes to bus down to the moorings.  Next day I cycled up - 15 minutes, but 12 down!  By breaking my shopping trips into 2 I saved my poor knees on the solid floors and Ebony was only left for 2 x 2+ hour stints.  Meanwhile we enjoyed lovely strolls around the park.  Very cold tho - fires needed all day now!

On Friday I travelled the 4 lockless miles to Fenny Stratford - an uninteresting, dying area but only 2 miles from Bletchley Park - famous for the Enigma code breaking during WW2.

It is now Saturday 25 May and a Bank Holiday weekend - so I set off through Fenny S lock - helped by one of my kind neighbours and then on to Stoke Hammond lock - very quiet.  A mile or so later I got to Soulbury 3 locks flight - very close to each other - but Joy oh Joy - the IWA were having a fundraising lock wind and I was surrounded by volunteers who sped me up the locks - for a fee - no problem there!  I continued on and moored 2 miles on at Old Linslade.  A lovely mooring where the canal opens into a lake with a bridge and church ahead of me, rolling hills beside.  Probably best I don't moor in the town this BH weekend!  After lunch I emptied my roof troughs of daffodils, tulips and still flowering pansies (now in a separate pot) and planted with petunia, lobelia and bacopa for the summer - plus tomatoes.  Have also various seeds growing ready to plant out later - marigold (to protect tomatoes from greenfly), swiss chard, spinach, dwarf french beans, lettuce, etc

Sunday I continued on to moor right outside Tesco in Leighton Buzzard.  Left Ebony aboard and walked up to the High Street - found a Milletts so now have a new waterproof map case - and then returned for a top up in Tesco's.  Made lunch, worked 2 locks (one with Canadians on nb Bobby Dazzler which they move at weekends) and then moored below Slapton lock - and next to nb Barrel of Ale last seen in Milton Keynes.

Monday 27 BH - was getting ready to go when I was passed by nb Calisto? Pearl and accompanied them through 8 locks - Jenny was on a keep fit mission and managed to get paddles up before I could get the boat tied and run to the lock to help!  They turned round and I continued through 2 more locks to moor by Tring reservoirs 1 up from the bottom of Marsworth locks - and here I will stay for 2 nights - it is due to blow rain all day on Tuesday!  The rest of the week is not too good either :-(

Tuesday - had a walk up the next 6 locks to the narrow partly restored Wendover Arm - built to bring the water from the reservoirs and feed the summit level - for the locks each way - north and south.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Starting Cruise 2013

Had a great, if cold and snow covered, winter in Braunston with plenty of visits, plus Christmas and New Year,  away with family and friends.  After Easter and 2 birthdays in Lancashire, then a wedding and time with grandchildren in Sussex/Kent, I eventually set off from my winter mooring.  My elderly (15 1/2) dog Ebony has quite a few health problems - she already had colitis, weak back legs (after tearing cruciate ligaments 6/7 years ago), Cushings Syndrome and in January had been diagnosed with a tumour on her spleen.  I decided to have a chilling time on the Ashby - just 3 short cruise days away - and see how I felt about travelling this summer with/without a poorly dog.

Had a lovely time there - enjoying short cruises between moorings and exploring the villages near to the canal - Eb can't walk too far.  Met up with friends and family in Shackerstone - in very windy weather.  At the end, just beyond Snarestone, I spent a couple of days, washing and polishing 1 side of boat and walking a short way up the unrestored section.  I got to Ilott Wharf - just a big flattened bend with no signs of buildings etc.  After a rest for Ebony we walked, very slowly, back to the boat. 

That afternoon I cruised back to Snarestone and in the morning took the bus to Measham.  Very interesting - walked to find where the canal went under the High Street, then to the south found 3 bungalows and a school playing field on old route, and where it then enters countryside.  Cut across to find the dismantled railway which is how the future canal will enter the town and passed old engine sheds (Harvey Boatbuilders installed - just waiting for the canal to arrive!).  The old station is a very interesting small local museum plus a marvellous collection of Measham ware.

On way back stopped overnight to explore Market Bosworth again and then to have 48 hours at Sutton Cheney (entrance to Bosworth Battlefield).  Here I was able to polish boat and have a walk along well worn paths to the very interesting battlefield visitor centre.  Of course it is now known that the battle took place a short distance away!

At good moorings nr Stoke Golding I walked up the hill to Dadlington - a lovely village and a superb pub (Dog and Hedgehog) - I sat in lovely sunshine to enjoy a glass of wine and a huge bowl of mussels.  Ebony enjoyed a good rest too!  Then explored their nearby tiny church (where battlefield burials are thought to be) which happened to have a Flower Festival - what a treat!  Next day I walked up to Stoke Golding - such a difference.  A mostly uninteresting village where the small shop has finally closed - 8 years ago they had hardly any stock, mostly tins.  The PO next door is still running.

Found that very windy weather was on its way so the next day I put in some travelling hours covering 20 miles and a long day, with a few stops for the dog!   Eventually moored at Easenhall.  Next day I went to Rugby and stayed there for 3 days in very strong winds.  Managed to spend plenty of money in Tesco's, Homebase etc!

Now back in Braunston - on Monday Ebony had a Cushings test at the vets - to see if she should go back on tablets and am now watching boats travelling to Crick Show while awaiting the results.  The vet did say she was surprised that Eb was still going, despite losing more weight and back legs weaker.  But have decided that I will carry on - she may defy all and live for a few months yet - I will have vet's phone numbers along my route, to be prepared.

So once I get Eb's results I will set off slowly down the Grand Union - to the Thames, River Wey and on to Oxford.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Napton, Fenny Compton and back to Braunston

After my few days at Fox's Gate I moved on 13 October just 1 mile as I wanted to explore Flecknoe from the south east.  From Br 103 I followed a level, somewhat wet, bridle path and followed a sign up a field boundary - from there I struggled to find the path round the edge of Bush Hill and found myself scrambling across ditches and along steep rough field edges, eventually emerging by the Vicarage - the next day I saw some walkers doing the exact route as me!  I knew it was the right way as I had kept seeing footprints in the thick mud!

Sunday 14 - I went on round Napton Hill and up 1 lock where I could get a reasonable broadband signal.  Monday - I got buses to Daventry and then Braunston to retrieve the car.  In the afternoon I logged on CRT to book my winter mooring which I successfully did an hour later.  Phew!

Tuesday and Wednesday I had to take Ebony to the vet - yet another test, this time to extract urine direct from her bladder and make a culture from it.  Took two attempts to get it done as each day she had a good wee as we left the boat and test can only be done with a fullish bladder - I ended up in the car park offering her many drinks of water but not allowing her to wee!

Thursday I was helped up Napton locks by two volunteers - one, Bill, now owns my summer crew Les and Kath's boat All Seasons, now at Calcutt.  Such a small world on the canals!
I stopped 2 locks from top to await Eb's culture results.  Saturday still no news so moved to lovely mooring I call 'Napton View' between Br 129/130 - just after where the proposed High Speed Train (HS2) is due to cross the canal!  Couple of dry days to carry on with jobs. 

Monday 22 - at 6am let Ebony out to have a wee - out of the corner of my eye I saw her walk along the edge of the canal and fall straight in - she then swam (she hates the water) 2/3 of the way across the canal.  As she is hard of hearing and seeing, I had now grabbed a torch and was flashing at her - and shouting.  She eventually turned round and swam back to me and I was able to haul her out - thankfully she was wearing a flashing collar and harness.  We then spent 2 hours in front of the fire drying off - Eb wrapped in a towell - she was shaking for ages.  I now keep her on the lead when I let her off - she is becoming a real worry to me.  Poor old Ebs :-(

Later I set off 3 miles to Fenny Compton, turned and moored on 48h.  From here I could walk/cycle the mile to the village - v sm Co-op (and much near sell-by date!),  PO in Village Hall (M, W, Fr - all 9-10am!!) and laundrette back in The Wharf pub.  All the moorings here are beside tall hedges and very dismal. 

Wednesday I headed north again and spent the night nr Priors Hardwick and Thursday continued on to Marston Doles (top of Napton Flight).  Managed to get 1/2 boat on end of 14 day moorings.  Saturday was spent preparing for my next lot of crew.  Son Graham, wife Becky and Edward 7, Tom 5 and Charlie 3 were driving up from Kent with their new caravan.  After a bad journey they parked at Lake View Camp site Napton and arrived at the boat for tea after setting up camp.  Eldest 2 boys stayed the night with me and the others went back to the caravan.

At 9.45am the rest of the crew arrived and we set off down the locks - good flight and the boys loved working the locks.  Even Charlie was able to open a gate!  Arrived 1 lock up from the bottom at 12.25 and all dashed off to The Folly for a booked Sunday Lunch. Not brilliant but  much needed!  After, we all went to the caravan (it is BIG!) and that evening we all slept there.

On Monday we drove to Warwick Castle and had a great time watching displays of archery, eagles (6' wingspan!), trebouchet (huge mediaeval stone thrower), mad Scientist, Merlin and Dragon, duelling etc etc - much with a Halloween theme.  A most enjoyable day, especially with and for the children, and although an expensive day out, I think we made the most of it!

That evening Charlie spent the night with me on the boat - he is a lovely, cheeky chappy and talked non stop until he got into bed - then the silence was eerily deafening! 
Tuesday 30 - the crew arrived at 10.45 and we set off again - 1 more lock then cruising to Braunston (the boys wishing for more locks!), with a stop half way for lunch.  We all returned to the caravan and spent that evening playing games before dropping off quickly to sleep.  Sadly they left the next morning for home and I returned to the boat to start my winter in lovely Braunston.  Will see them in 10 days tho - for Ed's 8th birthday weekend! 

And Ebony is now 15! (her test showed nothing after all and vet and I have decided enough is enough - no MRI etc - I will just put up with getting up at 6am, some times 5am, for her to have a drink and wee)

Already meeting up with old friends - had spent my winter 4 years ago here next to Nick Wolfe on nb Aldgate when he had big engine problems and today I helped him up Braunston locks in his newly painted working boat emblazened with his name and 'Canal Carrying Company' - so good to see the boat in real working order now.  I have volunteered to help in the Stop House infomation office - sadly it is only open to the public on Fridays, when I am needed, so it is not really a strenuous job!  Time now to slowly prepare for Christmas and do some family history - my strictly winter hobby!  (I found that my great grandfather and his parents ran the Barge Inn in Basingstoke!)  As well of course are all those daily jobs to keep me and the boat clean and warm!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

11 weeks - Warwick to Stratford, Droitwich, Stourport, back to Braunston!

When I last wrote in the blog on 28 July I had hoped to keep it going whilst I had visitors - but it didn't work out!

I left Radford Semele and, after Tesco stock up, I met Kathy and Les (ex of All Seasons) walking down to meet me at the Cape locks.  We spent the night in Saltisford Arm and next day tackled the Hatton Flight.  2/3 of the way up the 2 boats in front realised they could fit one in front of the other and we were able to join them!  Stopped that pm at Rowington - with a lovely view and enjoyed a great circular walk after a cuppa.

Next day we turned onto the Stratford Canal and after 9 heavy locks spent our 2nd night at Lowsonford, opposite the Fleur de Lys pub, where we enjoyed a fantastic meal that evening.  Les managed to stop my kitchen window leaking badly - removed rubber and tightened up screws! 

Thursday - 8 locks to Wootten Wawen, past some lovely lock cottages and under famous split bridges.  We moored just before the bridge, had a good walk in the afternoon and bought a few things at the lovely farm shop.  Managed to have a good BBQ that evening - weather perfect!

Kath and Les left next morning to get bus and train back to Warwick - only 3 days but a lot of locks and a great time.  I now had to prepare for my next crew in the morning!

Dau Lesley, husband Phil and Louise, 3.5, and Caitlin, 10m, arrived for lunch (supplied by farm shop!).  After, Caitlin had a nap and we set off (Phil steering) through the basin, over the road aqueduct and on to the lock.  Below found a day boat with great steering problems across the canal so by the time we got to Edstone aqueduct a big black cloud was over us and chucking rain.  Phil was handed umbrella which blew inside out, Lesley de-steamed his glasses and I escaped inside with Louise!  2 miles on we reached Wilmcote and moored up by huge muddy puddles.  Girls slept well that evening!

Next day we reached Stratford Basin after 16 locks (took it in turn to play with girls) - despite getting stuck in Wilmcote top lock (narrow - should have lifted fenders - no warning sign tho!)

Spent Monday in Stratford - girls enjoyed Butterfly Farm and making huge bubbles in Bancroft Gardens.  Had very good lunch at White Swan.  Tuesday afternoon went on to R Avon and moored at Luddington where we found a great mooring above lock for BBQ.  Wednesday went to W A Cadbury Lock, moored for lunch, then continued on to Bidford Bridge.  Vis moorings full so moored o/s The Frog pub.  Louise loved the enormous play area on the other side of river.  The weather was really warm all day again.

Thursday - after lunch at the pub we returned to the moorings at Luddington - and had another BBQ (little did I know it was to be the last this summer!)  Friday am we returned to Stratford to moor on river - with plenty of space for picnics under willow trees (hot and sunny!) and a good play area nearby. Louise made good use of the paths with her scooter.  Saturday - hot and sunny again - time to get the chain ferry into town (Lesley, Caitlin and I made an escape) and some shopping while Phil and Louise went to swings again.  Lesley and Phil were packed off into town that evening - to have a rare meal together and celebrate their Wedding Anniversary.
Sunday was their last day and said their farewells at 10.30, having retrieved the car from Wootten Wawen Farm Shop earlier.  A great time and what mostly wonderful weather!  After tidying up I walked to baguette barge and then watched parts of a free open-air production of The Tempest near the church.  Had fish and chip supper later (outside shop!) - chatting to Americans who were fascinated about my life on the boat!

Monday 13 Aug - Chris and Mary arrived for a late lunch, then we did huge shop at Waitrose.  After dinner on board, enjoyed walking round the basin, gardens and had fun on the human sundial near the lock.  Tomorrow we set off to do the Avon ring, plus Droitwich and Stourport!  in 3 weeks - so want to get in some cruising hours at first to enable sightseeing later!

Tuesday - worked 17 locks, many with bicycles, to Wilmcote.  Chris mostly steering this year as he is waiting for a new hip!  Walked round village in evening and had drinks at Mary Arden Inn.  Mason's Arms looks much neglected.

Wednesday - early start getting to Wootten Wawen for coffee, walked up hill to PO in steady rain, early lunch then cruised on - at first dry, then torrential rain - difficult/slippery cycling between locks!  Sun in Lowsonford so hung up wet gear - as did all the boats!  Lovely meal in Fleur de Lys - again!

Thursday - OK to lock 24 - which had a broken beam - had to lift it to move it!  Helped by crew from nb Hera in front.  After Kingswood Junction continued on to Lapworth flight.  In queue got lunch to eat as we worked - but heavens opened and got another soaking (sandwiches kept dry!)  Stopped by the time we got to top lock - that's 28 today!  Stopped Br 15 n. of Earlswood Yacht Club - and an early night!

Friday - early start, diesel at Lyons (very friendly), continued on to Kings Norton Junction (all quiet!)  Lunch en route and stopped at Alvechurch for C's paper, continuing on to Tardebigge.   Sang 'She'll be coming on a narrowboat when she comes' - we improvise the words - through all 3 tunnels!  Plenty of rain again and through night.

Saturday - Set off in perfect locking weather - white cloud and no wind - worked 13 of the 29 Tarde' locks before meeting a boat.  Stopped at bottom for lunch, then Stoke 5 and Astwood 6.  Got last mooring in reeds(!) at Hanbury.  Went for early meal at Eagle and Sun (fully booked but chef will squeeze us in at 6pm).  Soup - watery spicy vegetable.  Carvery - lots of well roasted meat (and fish) with odd vegetables!  All seemed rather Mediterraneanly spicy, including roast potatoes, mash and pasta!  We think the chef was Eastern European!  10 years ago we come here on a Bank Holiday Sunday - and they had run out of food!  41 locks today!

Sunday - Set off down the newly restored Droitwich Canal and 5 locks, past new marina.  Great entertainment as we removed more and more from roof to get under M5 bridge!  Another lock, then locked onto river and back up through Barge lock to appear in Droitwich's park - so pleasant.  Continued on through swing bridges (one exceptionally heavy) to the secure mooring basin.  Time to explore pleasant Droitwich.  All quiet over night but dissappointing, and very surprised, that there is no lighting on the wobbly pontoons - rather fraught with elderly dog who needs to wee frequently!

Monday 20 Aug - horrendous 1h of rain as we set off.  Pleasant countryside, villages and canal although, as expected, rather reedy so very few mooring opportunities.  Walked the wrong side between the last 2 locks - through brambles!  At 12.30 we turned onto the Severn and headed for Stourport, eating lunch en route - now hot and sunny!  After 2 locks we left the river and  worked the 4 Stourport narrow canal locks, then on into the 3rd basin to moor by BW office.  We had wanted to come to Stourport to see the new basin - but oh no - apparently residents in the new appartments surrounding it voted not to have boats below them - so the newly restored basin with mooring rings, water and electric hook-ups is fenced off and not possible to use - that is disgraceful!  Friend of C&M took us for a great English carvery at the Plough Inn nr Bewdley - thanks Hugh!

Tuesday - Set off back down on to the Severn to arrive back at the Droitwich Canal by 12.40.  A lovely journey in warm sun, with kingfishers flying past.  Wanted to do the Droitwich twice as it is so new to us.  Stopped at Salwarpe to look at the attractive village (but no facilities) then on to Droitwich (v quick shop) and beyond, reaching Hanbury Junction at 7.30 (drinking wine en route as we worked the last locks in sunshine!)  Turned south and moored just beyond the pub - in shade!

Wednesday - After 4 miles reached Offerton Top Lock and lockwheeled the 8 locks, heavy rain as we continued on to Bilford 4 (now dry).  Stopped for lunch after Br 12 as rain fell again.  Continued on in dry into Lowesmoor Basin but despite needing water, we refused to pay their diesel price and continued on.  Moored just before The Commandery in Worcester.  Next day C&M went to a family gathering in Birmingham while Linda had a good explore of the town.  All had a good meal at the King's Head nearby.

Friday - after a walk round old Worcester streets and tour of The Commandery, took on water in Diglis Basin and set off at 12.50 through 2 locks onto River Severn again.  One more lock then lockless all the way down to Tewkesbury.  On way went through Upton on Severn - as usual no moorings free for a narrowboat, so continued on.  Turned onto Avon and arrived Tewk. at 5.50 but, once in lock, the keeper said no moorings above, so down lock again to moor beside high tyres below - had to haul the harnessed dog up out of the boat!  Which meant Mary had to get up at 6.30am too - and it was pouring.

Saturday - Sun came out for day and we went up lock to find a vacated mooring by bridge.  Caught bus to Upton on Severn (at last!) and had a great time - it was a Music Festival weekend so pretty lively.  Visited Pepperpot church tower and Heritage Centre.  Coffee and cakes by river before getting bus back and after lunch on board walked up High St to see Tewkesbury Abbey.  Pouring with rain as we left (lasted to 6.30pm) and no dog-friendly places for tea so hot-footed it back to boat.

Sunday - Lovely and warm day!  Walked up High St and explored the many alleys off.  The new publican at Berkeley Arms invited us into the alley within the pub - which led to a magnificent barn dating from 1400.  After 2 hours of exploring we returned via Tesco to boat, made lunch and set off at 12.  This is a beautiful stretch of river - not to be missed!  3 miles on there is no sign of the Tithe Barn - yet from the M5 which crosses here it is right beside the river!  Another 11 miles and 3 locks we reached Pershore recreation ground.  All the moorings were taken but a nice chap moved his boat closer and we were able to hang off the end.  Later we invited nb Black Pearl to moor alongside.  At 10pm there was a fantastic firework display (luckily for Eb she is going deaf) from a riverside pub and reflected on the river.

Monday 27 August BH - We walked into Pershore and found it was the final day of the Pershore Plum Festival.  All the shops were decorated and most people were wearing purple.  There were lots of craft stalls, farmer's market (bought lots - and plums!), 400 or more vintage cars etc.  Mary heard bells and managed to get a ring on the Abbey bells - rung from a suspended metal cage above our heads!  Walking round town we found huge numbers of Georgian houses and shops - a really wonderful town and even better with the festival.  After lunch on board (from the market!) and a few chores, we intended to set off, but the wind was getting up (as forecast) so we stayed put and relaxed - heavy rain and strong wind from 4.30 and through evening.

Tuesday - Eb woke late and we overslept so left at 8.45 and had bacon sarnies en route.  More lovely countryside, varying between locks with many gardens reaching down to the river.  After 4 hours (11 miles, 3 locks) we moored at Workman Gardens, Evesham, in time for lunch.  Moorings OK but there were a few drinkers hanging about most of the day/eve which makes you more alert.  It was very pleasant round the town square, Almonry Museum and Abbey Gardens but the High St was dissappointing and with many closed shops (as in so many towns now).

Wed - Rain from 7-9.45.  Lazy start at 10.30 - by the time we got to Evesham lock it had started raining again then heavy from 10.30, deluge 2.45-3.45.  Sad to see Evesham A-shaped lockhouse ruined by floods in 2007.  Reach before George Billington lock very full and fast flowing, pleased to get into long lock cut above.  Boaters going down through lock were amazed how fast it was as it had been quite easy above!  After lunch there was another deluge so delayed start.  After that the sun came out and river was still easy going!  Moored on visitor moorings at Bidford on Avon - it was definitely a chilled white wine evening on return from a sunny walk up to the village centre - red for the cooler days!

Thursday - Ebony woke us at 6.30 and we saw river was higher.  Even more by 7.30 and by 8.30 we decided not to move as the flow was pretty fast.  Got 9.25 bus for 17min journey into Stratford.  Got on a Red Tour Bus which gave us a tour of the town then out to Anna Hathaway's Cottage where we got off.  The cafe was just a sandwich bar so got the Red Bus back to town and had a very good late lunch in the Black Swan (Mucky Duck) near theatre.  Did a bit more exploring before getting bus back to Bidford.  Water level had now dropped a bit (it had been quite normal level and calm at Stratford - probably kept that way for the rowing boats etc).

Friday 31 August - went on EA website and saw that the river level had peaked upstream at Warwick and we could see that we were about 6" lower in Bidford. Had quick breakfast and set off through the normally fairly low Bidford bridge (had watched a n/b go through earlier!), flow still a bit fast.  OK till we got to our third lock at Welford - a boat was in the lock and 1 gate opening.  C&M had got off bow and I was being forced away from the lock mooring by the water swirling behind me,  also sucked backwards.  Boat in lock stayed put - seemed to be horrified at the flow below and wouldn't come out.  I waved them to come out and put on more revs to get nearer the lock, but caught the lock gate before it was opened - they looked stunned as they past me - I was pretty relieved to be in the lock and glad WE were not going 'downhill'!  Binton Bridge OK - heard that yesterday a boat had been caught across the bridge holes and had to be pulled off!  Pound above Luddington was fast again - for 2 slow miles!  Then the next 2 up to Stratford were OK (2 sideways on weirs were pretty fast tho!)

We managed to get last place in the basin - linear, next to trade boats.  After a quick Baguette Barge lunch, Mary cycled to get the car and they were soon on their way home after a very energetic and exciting 19 day cruise.

Saturday 1 September - I spent 2 days chilling, cleaning the boat and exploring more.  A chap was performing magic tricks in Bancroft Gardens - I seemed to recognise him and asked if he performed there in 2001 and used to wear a straitjacket and pink tutu - it was him - although not supple enough for the jacket anymore!  At 4.15am almighty thud on roof and bangs the whole length - looked out - 2 lads nonchalantly walking away - they were free-runners!  Pretty scary tho.

Sunday 2 September - did a shop at Sainsbury Local then explored the basin where we had hired our first narrowboat (company since folded) - now smartened up.  Saw for sale a replica inspection launch - it's sister, Esperance, is at St Neot's on the River Great Ouse!

Monday 3rd September - time to tear myself away from Stratford and make my way slowly up the Stratford Canal - well the locks are heavy despite being narrow.  Nights spent at bottom of Wilmcote locks, Wilmcote (went round Mary Arden's house!), Wootten Wawen (2 days, explored Saxon church), Preston Bagot, Lowsonford (resisted temptation to eat for 3rd time at pub!) then on to moor at Kingswood Junction, on GU - where Ebony fell in the water by our moored boat - lost her balance and just toppled in!  Wearing harness lots more now.  Also met a couple who had just bought a very old boat for £26k cash - from a chap in Gas Street Basin who they can't get on the phone now - and the engine won't start - didn't ask if they'd had a survey!   Just heard on TV that it was the wettest summer for 100 years, the dullest on record - spring was the dryest on record!

Tuesday at Turner's Green, then Wednesday pm to the gloom (ugh) above Hatton Flight.  Thursday am Chris and Mary drove from Suffolk and by 10 we had started down the flight - which only took 2.5h!  Moored for the night in Salthouse Arm - Mary collected their car (mine was brought here from Birmingham last week by Chris), dropped mine at Calcutt Marina and we collected a superb Chinese tea.  Crew left in am and I moved the boat to The Cape (hotel boat due in Arm) and spent the afternoon in Warwick.  Saturday to Radford Semele - walked up in pm to look at church (visible from canal) still covered in scaffolding - what a shock - they had an arsonist attack on Palm Sunday 2 years ago and it was gutted - undamaged windows have been removed.

Sunday 16 Sep went on to Cuttle/Long Itchington with a regular hirer and their friends wanting to work all the locks!  Lovely and sunny.  Monday long walk into Long I. via the railway line - Eb exhausted after looking round lovely village so stopped for excellent posh sandwich at Buck and Bell.  Tuesday went up 2 locks for water, then 8 more with Barbara on Cloud Nine.  Stopped outside Ventnor Farm Marina.  Had new gear cable fitted by chap running TillerCycles on nb Brassfarthing  - also has local workshop. 

On Thursday I went into Calcutt Marina and left the boat for a long weekend to visit family in Lancashire.  Returned to boat on Tuesday and had to wait till Friday for the boat to have service and new tiller bearing fitted - luckily I had asked for a mooring in the newer basin as Ebony will not walk on open metal pontoons!  After work done I spent another night on mooring after testing the t. bearing - needed more grease but I had to wait till Saturday pm (every morning is turnaround day) - soon escaped once done and went to Napton Junction for night. 

Sunday went to Fox's Gate and had a few days chilling (and jobs!) before going to Braunston.  Moored opposite Boathouse pub and spend next few days having car MOT/service, opticians, Eb to vet for regular test, catching up with Nick on working boat Aldgate etc.  Sunday night - looking forward to meal and good TV when engine stopped charging - fan belts ok - must be alternator!  Monday struggled to find an engineer not on holiday but Braunston Marina tested, and fitted new alt in pm.  Tuesday - big Tesco shop and stock up from superb Braunson Butcher.  Wednesday returned to Fox's Gate - weather due to be good still and I can spend a few days touching up paint other side and do odd jobs.  Will then potter on Oxford and, fingers crossed, go online to get winter mooring. 

Well that is about 11 weeks boating crammed into 1 posting - wonder if anyone managed to read to the end! - or indeed if anyone reads it at all!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Braunston to Radford Semele - time to get ship shape!

I had a great weekend in Lancashire at my daughter and son in law's house with lots of family - having driven up from Devon and Kent.  On Sunday went to 10-month Caitlin's Thanksgiving service followed by a buffet feast with family and friends.  On Tuesday I drove back in hot sun to Braunston, did a quick shop in village butcher and stores before returning the car.  Another successful hire with Enterprise in Daventry.  Soon escaped the marina, to moor outside in part shade and next to a friendly couple on Marilyn Jane.  Ebony happy to be out too!

Set off at 9.30 next morning, Wednesday, (not as early as planned - I slept too well!).  Turned under the lovely double iron bridge and headed for Napton Junction - although I was tempted to stop at Fox's Gate but will stop next time.  I moored after 2 hours just before the junction to hang up washing and catch up on a few jobs whilst sitting out the very hot sun - 27 degrees.  Yet again I can't wash and polish - it has been going on for some time now, either too wet, too hot or in the wrong place.  Mind you I haven't seen much boat cleaning anywhere for the last few months!  My aim is to get to somewhere near Warwick where I have ex-boating friends joining me before I go down to Stratford - and yet more company/crew!

Thursday - managed to leave a bit earlier at 8.40 and soon arrived at 3 Calcutt locks where there was already a boat waiting to go down and 2 coming up.  Sped down as all locks were in our favour.   I continued on to moor before Birdingbury Wharf bridge on a long straightish stretch - along with quite a few other boats.  Another load of washing to hang up and time to do many jobs inside away from the heat.  Again about 27 degrees and still hot in the evening.

Friday - as due to be another very hot day, set off at 8.00 when it was mildly warm.  Met a hire boat coming up top lock and they insisted on helping me down - there was no other boats about.  Whilst boat was in 3rd I walked down to prepare 4th, when a lady (from Flora Dora) asked if anyone was coming up.  I said I would wait for them, so went back to prepare 2nd whilst they went into first.  Soon we were together and not long after met boats coming up as well.  By 10am it was very hot and we continued on to the bottom of the flight at Long Itchington/Cuttle where I moored next to an 'old' friend Brian on Kyle whilst Flora Dora continued on towards Warwick.  At 4pm it clouded over and cooled down - too late to wash and polish the boat, although I did clean the roof - to be covered with willow leaves by the morning!  That evening watched the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics - absolutely brilliant - and watched to the end at 12.50 - although I did drop off during some of the competitors entrances!

Saturday - Forecast - showers midday, now changed to 3pm.  Despite a late night, I woke at 6.40 - before Ebony!  Decided to get up and get moving - found boaters either side doing the same - but not in my direction!  At 7.50 I left the mooring and cruised nearly 2 miles to Bascote locks - to find BW/CRT workboat right in the middle of the lock moorings!  Prepared the staircase of 2, entered the top lock and opened paddle - just as a boat came round the distant corner.  Quickly filled lock and found myself in the company of Jane and husband on The Pearl.  We soon got into a rhythm only bothering to open 1 gate: I left the locks last and entered the next first, with the help of bowthrusters; only 1 paddle was raised and eventually the gate which I closed whilst the others went ahead to the next lock.  Met a few boats coming up eventually, many on their own.  The Pearl is making its way to Mercia Marina for the winter where the owners will become liveaboards.

I moored a bit further on after the locks, in the open and opposite Radford Semele, which can hardly be seen from the canal.  I will stay here to get the boat ready for ex-boating friends Kathy and Les (formerly of All Seasons) who will join me on Monday when I get to Warwick - we will spend the first night in the Saltisford Arm - if there is a vacancy - no booking!  But first I will need a large stock-up at Tesco's.

I have 3 crews (both friends and family) coming over the whole of the next 5 weeks - when we will be doing the Stratford Ring, also the Droitwich Canal and probably Stourport - not sure if I will have time to write the blog - will see!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Barby on St Swithins Day then to Braunston

On Saturday (drizzle in am but dry pm) decided to continue on after 3 1/2 days at top of Hillmorton.  Not far, as I stopped between bridges 80/81 - a popular long stretch of metal edging by Barby Hill with wide grass verge - and very near the proposed Barby Pools Marina site.  Had a walk up towards Barby from br 81 - but the footpath was flooded by the water coming off the hill.  Stupidly kept going thinking as I got higher up the hill it would ease - it didn't, so got very wet feet.  There were big muddy pools of water round the stiles and it was quite hard going.  Decided not to do the last 10 minute walk along a track into the village, but took the drier bridle path (amazingly not ploughed up by horses) back down to the road then along the canal.  The towpath was extremely narrow in places made worse by overhanging hedges and I nearly fell in when I slipped on wet mud.

Sunday was a lovely hot and sunny day so made the most of it by trimming the rotten end of the too long and heavy plank, scrubbing the dirt off the roof then washing the sides - considered polishing as well - but it looked as if it might rain so had a look at the proposed marina site - by old railway line, tumbledown farm house and old farm sheds - and not too near Onley village and prison.  Today is St Swithin's Day - and it didn't rain - any chance of 40 days of dry - hah!

On Monday I set off for Braunston, mooring at first on 14 day moorings.  Booked into the marina for a long weekend away then visited  Braunston Chandlers - always a huge selection here and lots of interesting bits and pieces - very helpful staff too!  Thanks Diane.

Woke to find the roof covered with pigeon poo from overnight!  Moved boat to opposite Boat House pub and in pm walked up into village.  Whilst letting the dog rest by the bench nr Butchers Bridge I met 2 boaters - Ron from Inkie and I, Sheila from Olivia. Sat there for quite a while chatting!

Today am moving boat into the marina and tomorrow will be hiring a car to go to Lancashire to my youngest grandchild's Thanksgiving and big family weekend.  Looking forward to another gathering - with 3 of my children and spouses, and 6 out of 8 grandchildren!