Sunday, 7 November 2010

SCOOP - Bumper Ice Cream Harvest Predicted

Monday 1st November to Sunday 7th November

7 Miles, 6 Locks – for this week

Totals: 358 Miles, 367 Locks, 10 Tunnels, 9 Swing Bridges

This week has been another week of mixed bag weather, but much more consistent – invariably the morning to very early afternoon have been brilliant sunshine (cold air) and then about 2:30 to 3:00 the clouds come over and the breeze comes up and then it is inside and close up.

Nothing like a bit of predictability.
Beeston Castle in majestical splendour

Life as a single-handed boater is not the easiest existence in the world sometimes and this was made absolutely no easier when trying to negotiate through Beeston Iron Lock – there is no ladder down to or out of the lock and a footbridge below the bottom gates further enhance the troubles of getting the boat out of the lock - but it was negotiated.

The end of the cruising came as well when I moved onto moorings in preparation for the winter and for preparation of the boat for winter – at Tattenhall Marina.
Sunrise at Tattenhall

Having not previously been in a marina I have nothing to compare this one too, apart from my expectations – I have to say that I am very pleased with everything that I have seen and experienced so far – there are no complaints and only praise for the people who are here.

The Marina

There are a few bits and pieces which will need to be taken care of and Mark the workshop owner has been to see what for and everything is booked in for it to start in a week’s time.

The days have been punctuated by visits into Tattenhall village and also into Chester. The village is only 1.5 miles away but not necessarily the safest distance to traverse by foot – there are no tracks for walking so it is with fingers-crossed (as well as other body parts) that the journey is undertaken – I opted for the bus. It is well worth the visit – 3 restaurants – take your pick – Indian, Thai and Chinese – as well as well stocked supermarket, a local butcher, PO, 2 pubs, good coffee shop and a lot more. I can recommend The Sportsmans Arms pub for good food and beer.

The Chester trip was vital for my sanity – any good Australian overseas will ensure that their stock of Vegemite is never allowed to run out – for 3 weeks I have been having withdrawals and finally was able to restock after a visit to Tesco’s in Chester – and it was on special – you little beauty.

Whilst on good things Australian – the UN Development Program this week announced that Australia was No 2 in the world of top countries in which to live, with our trans-Tasman cousins, New Zealand at 3; who were we behind? – Norway.

Quite rightly Australia is looking to limit EU country migrations, insisting that there are already too many Fish and Chip shops and Pizza places - but with Norway at the top we also won't be looking for any whale kebab houses to appear any time soon.

Went out walking today (Sunday) and came across a rather unique farm – The Ice Cream Farm – just a kilometre down the way – I was assured that they are expecting their best harvest for years – maybe bettering last years efforts and I have pictures to prove it to. So many paddocks and so many different flavours – some with chunky bits as well.

The Ice Cream Farm

Apparently harvesting is best fom the end of January to mid February whilst there is still a lots of snow about - just as the cones become visible.

the Honeycrunch field

Life can become a bit crazy sometimes - but there comes a time to just chill out.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Things of sun, wind, celaphods and pubs

Monday 25th October to Sunday 31th October

11 Miles, 3 Locks – for this week

Totals: 351 Miles, 361 Locks, 10 Tunnels, 9 Swing Bridges

I have spoken to a number of other boaters this week and without exception the consensus has been that the weather this week has been most unpredictable – not in the sense that the conditions have been terrible, but in the fact that the weather on any particular day has born no resemblance to the day before or the day after,

Invariably it has been sunny bright conditions one day followed or preceded by blustery winds and/or rain. Marvellous one day, miserable the next.

Sunset over Middlewich

I have spent time this week just staying put – a couple of days at Church Minshull mornings where it was particularly nice being sheltered from the wind; this was followed by two consecutive days at the moorings above the Venetian Marina; and lastly more stationary time at Calveley.

the beautiful Cheshire plains

I have to say that the last of these gave me further opportunity for more pub research – it has meant that the next time we visit here we have to spend at least two days so that we can visit both pubs.

My copy of Nicholsons only comments on one of them – under the name of The Goldmine Bar and Grill (at Bridge 104) which has been reopened under the new name of The Davenport Arms – good food and beer and I managed to take in the whole of the Blackburn v Chelsea game.

A bit further up the road (a nice one kilometre walk), and iconed but not named in the guide book is The Tollemarche Arms – again good food and beer – I did find myself drawn back to here for the Sunday roast – an excellent meal.

Mist rising
What a difference a day makes

I guess I also need to acknowledge what I would believe to be either the direct or at least indirect efforts of the Shropshire Canal Society – there are vastly more areas where the grass has been kept down, but more importantly where mooring rings have been placed to make it easier and more reliable to moor up and not have mooring pins move about in soft ground that we currently have in most places.

Sunday brought summer time to an end – officially, that is, as I am sure that summer actually ended some time in September, but the resultant early sunset (dark now by 5:30) are equally compensated by an earlier sunrise.

As an early riser, it makes no difference to me whether the clocks are set 1 hour or 2 hours ahead of GMT, but I guess it makes a difference to those who enjoy sleeping in.

The funniest comment that I heard this week was from a woman packing her things from boat to car at the Calveley BW water point when she said “I go home when the clocks go back as the nights are longer” – I know what she meant by this but in thinking about it in the strict sense of what was said – the nights are no longer really that the night before (I know they get progressively longer) – it reminds me of the statement we hear in Australia from Queenslanders who are against Daylight Saving – “more daylight in the evening will fade the curtains quicker” and from country people – “the cows will give less milk”.

Really this is a case of mind over matter – even the news on the radio this morning suggested that the changing of the clocks affected people so badly that some take up to a week to recover from the change – PLEASE give me strength.

That was my rant for this week.

One last comment “Vive le celaphod” – with the passing this week of one “Paul the octopus” and the extra-ordinary predicting powers, we must now reflect on the powers or lack thereof of Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes (nicknamed “the octopus) – if only his hearing had told him that the ref had not blown his whistle. Go ManU.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Cool, Cold, Colder

Monday 18th October to Sunday 24th October

24 Miles, 38 Locks, 1 Tunnel– for this week

Totals: 340 Miles, 358 Locks, 10 Tunnels, 9 Swing Bridges

It has been about 2 ½ years since I was through Stoke by canal – we actually went through there on 3 occasions – but I was most impressed with the feel about the place – it is lovely approaching Stoke from the south with the width of the canal as it is – feels more like a boulevard.

All through Stoke I was also impressed with the way in which it appears to be showing itself in a much better light towards the canal – parks are fresh and tidy and well maintained; the residential developments which have taken place are directed outward to the water; even many of the older buildings which are remnants of the original industry of Stoke have been tidied up – less rubbish and weeds.

That was Monday and after spending the night moored at Westport Lake – an inviting location, it was off to Harecastle Tunnel – the day didn’t look the best, but after some early showers, the sky looked imminently brighter and so I went.

The tunnel does not hold any worries – this is now the fourth through passage and whilst it was noticeably colder than any previous journey it remains uneventful. Sunshine greeted on the exit at the northern portal and then began the descent of Heartbreak Hill.

These locks are not especially hard and I had planned on getting through the first 12 and then mooring up for the night. After about 6 locks the heavens opened up and it was one drenched boater that then carried on through the remaining 6.

As is usually the case when you have been through heavy rain and the coat has started to leak through and the boots are letting more water out than they allow in, once you moor up the sun then appears to poke fun at you – anyway it was a mooring at Rode Heath. After a hot shower, it was time for some work and then for more pub research and then back to the boat for dinner.

Wednesday morning felt particularly colder inside the boat, than others in this last week – there was a reason for that – a very heavy frost overnight left a white carpet over the fields, the boat, cars in the pub carpark – in fact anywhere you looked. The back cover was frozen stiff and took some time to fold up; the mooring ropes were frozen and there was enough ice on the roof for a winter Olympics.

Even though it was as cold as it was, the sun was out in a bright blue sky – not a cloud to be seen and it was absolutely magnificent cruising along in the cold air and the sun, down the remaining 14 locks to Wheelock.

I was on a mission now – I had perused the BW closures list and found that I need to be through locks by 8th November or else I would miss getting to the marina, so I was going to make sure that I made it with plenty of time to spare.

 Having said that, I find Wheelock a pleasant place and decided that I needed to have a days rest here after finishing descending the hill. After that it was onto to Middlewich and a now having got to here on a Friday, it was necessary to again take some time off.

I had computer files to update and this would take at least half a day on the Saturday; but equally as well there were some long overdue housekeeping and maintenance things that needed doing – so the vacuuming was done; the kitchen and bathroom cleaned; the other side of the boat was washed, checked the battery electrolyte charge, oil checks and cleared the drains for taking water away from the back deck - and I continued on with the polishing – now have half of the boat done – I even had time to bake some scones – which don’t taste too bad.

So that was the week that was – a mixed bag as far as the weather was concerned; a very pleasant one with people met on the towpath and at locks on the way down; a week of hard work and a chance to rest as well.

A problem this week with uploading pictures - so will try again later

Monday, 18 October 2010

Nothing exciting doesn't equate to Boring.

Monday 11th October to Sunday 17th October

17 Miles, 14 Locks – for this week

Totals: 316 Miles, 320 Locks, 9 Tunnels, 9 Swing Bridges

Rugeley, would by many not be seen as the most likely of places to spend a couple of days, but it is a nice place without being especially brilliant, but it is a very friendly place I found,

Rugeley Power Station - in it's majesty

Most would only know it by the acknowledgement of the domination of the area by the power plant, but in many ways there is a bit of a European feel to the landscape when viewed the right way.

Not sure of the good use of time here - blowing leaves away in October?

St. Augustines - Rugeley

The town centre is functional without being elegant. But what appeals now that I have spent a couple of days there is that it is just nice; just quiet; just friendly.

Rugeley town centre

This has been a week of nothing special – nothing defines this week as has done with other weeks – perhaps eventually reaching Stone does say a little about it. Stone was from where we hired a boat in 2008 for 6 weeks and which determined our life to be; so in some ways it was a bit of a homecoming; I spent 3 days here as I knew it well enough to know that most of the things that I would need were here.

View from Aston Lock - back down the canal

I met a guy on the towpath and we started chatting – as you do – and he was telling me about a small business that he has started up called “Food Afloat” – he has 5 boats that cruise around as mobile supermarkets – I am going to get some more details about this; but if you see them, give them a try – helping small businesses helps them to survive.

Saturday was a extremely lovely day after the previous two non-descript days; it was very bright and sunny in the morning and very early afternoon before clouding over.

Mist rising; filtered sunlight; pleasant setting - all seems right with the world

Sunday showed what was to come – with some ice on the roof and front and back covers – very cold; but then a bright clear morning (probably why there was ice). Cruising along with the chill of the air, the freshness of a clear day and the warming sun on my back – this felt good – reminds me of the Mel Brooks line – “It’s good to be the King” and it was a morning to feel like a king.

Mooring up at Barlaston before lunch meant that I could once again visit The Plume of Feathers public house at Bridge 103 for their delicious Sunday roast – did not disappoint – virtually a serve yourself affair. We have been here before and it serves food to its usual standard – very nice.

Sad end to this boat

Monday, 11 October 2010


Monday 4th October to Sunday 10th October

27 Miles, 11 Locks, 1 Swing Bridge– for this week

Total: 299 Miles, 306 Locks, 9 Tunnels, 9 Swing Bridges

At the start of any week it is difficult to imagine the way that the week will pan out.
Mondays are unique in the week – they signify the end of the weekend and the return of work time and I remain completely fascinated watching others as they make that journey off to some remote office or worksite on a Monday morning – I say fascinated as it has been almost 7 years since I have trudged (I mean – gone) off to the office on a basis resembling more than even once a week and for most of this year not at all.

Really they are like ants travelling along one behind the other.

By way of saying all of this is that I have reached a level of individuality with which I am more than pleased.

Monday this week was a milestone for me – armed with the knowledge, possessing the right equipment and poised with the desire, I tackled the previously daunting task of changing the engine oil. Again thanks to Steve at Willow Wren, this actually became an enjoyable task, taking a little over an hour to fully complete – the only difficult task was fitting my frame down into the confines of the engine well with a warm engine (thankfully not going).

My previous visit to Atherstone had not realised a lack of suitable coffee shops and I have to say that this visit did not dispel that previous finding. I am sorry to say that it will remain the one point of disappointment about this lovely little town; but I will be returning and I will investigate the 10 or more pubs that I have located – so for now, I say adieu to Atherstone.

Tuesday was a travel day down the remaining 6 locks and a few more miles – I had spotted a likely mooring place when I had come the other many weeks ago, so I was determined to see how this would turn out.

The place in mind was opposite a pub by bridge 59 – Samuel Barlow – named after one of the early working boat fleet operators.

Samuel Barlow pub - by Bridge 59
The day was fine, if rather breezy, but managed to settle in early afternoon – the measures of a good mooring site were sated – good internet and at least fair TV – both settled for excellent – on that basis alone I will be back.

Wednesday was a chance to explore and also to stretch my weary legs, so off on a bit of a stroll along the towpath – found a Tesco’s to purchase more supplies and then back to the boat to investigate the pub. Over the bridge and through the carpark – started off slowly with a coffee – mmmm better than anything I had had for a while; but wait what that sound that I heard – it was the undeniable tones of a fellow Aussie – the owner of the premises, Paul, was originally from Cairns, via Sydney and Melbourne and had been here for about 15 years.

Sampling of the local product then became an imperative, and of course trading a bit of our life stories went along with that.

After a couple of more drinks a few of the locals arrived and introductions all round meant more people to talk with and to drink with.

A few more hours later I knew it was time to leave and said my goodbyes all.

I needed to return the following day to make sure that I had not embarrassed myself and I was reassured by Paul that all was OK.

I could not recommend this pub highly enough – friendly, passionate, lively – but a word of warning – don’t get to drinking too much with Swifty and Ronnie – they are evil people to the unwary.

Fazeley Junction

Away I must and Thursday saw a short cruise down into Fazely, an overnight stop - I looked back on our past movements and we/I have been through this junction three times now - each time approaching from a different direction and each time exiting in a different direction.
More movement on Friday to Whittington.

Saturday arrived and there amongst my emails was a message from Elly and Mick, two fellow Australians, in fact two fellow Victorians, over here to look at boats and other things in preparation for their trip in 2012 and buying a boat for 12 months ( I say it will be 2 years).

Elly and Mick
We had been in contact and I was looking forward to meeting them and chatting with them. A short cruise to Fradley junction gave them a better place at which we could meet – at least one they would be able to locate; and so we met on Saturday afternoon and chatted over a coffee about where they were up to and what I was doing and a lot of things about boats, banks and getting here.

Such a nice couple who have a plan for there lives and I await there arrival on the canals sometime in the next 2 years. They know that they are going to enjoy it. Catch them on their blog  Narrowboat Dreaming.

Good luck you two.

One for Diane - look at the boat named "Sanity?" - it's the "Fudge Boat"

And finally we come to Sunday and what I thought would be a short cruise rather extended itself to Rugely and mooring here for the night.


But along the way the evidence of autumn became so much more apparent than I had seen in the last few weeks – the trees are turning in colour, leaves fluttering down, leaves finding their way to the prop, the warm sun on your back and the gloves and coat to keep warm from the cold air – the season has changed and we move forward to what we need to do next in the cycle – for tomorrow will be Monday and the ants will be on their way again.

For those of us old enough to remember the world in 1980 and that fateful day in December when the news flashed with the story that John Lennon had been shot dead - Saturday marked his 70th birthday – what would the world really have been like if he had been lived - we can only imagine.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Yabba Dabba Doo

Monday 27th September to Sunday 3rd October

24 Miles, 6 Locks, 1 Tunnel, 1 Swing Bridge– for this week

Totals: 272 Miles, 295 Locks, 9 Tunnels, 8 Swing Bridges

This has been a week dictated by the weather and other timings. Needing a pumpout and the also to keep the diesel tank topped up I had decided that I would best accomplish these at Willow Wren hire base and they had indicated that Wednesday would be a suitably quiet date – so I did just that and set out on Wednesday morning, stopping to fill the water tank as well – it probably, in hindsight wasn’t the best day to do all of this – the misty rain had that penetrating effect, but there were increasingly longer spells of dry weather during the day.

Prior to leaving Rugby for a second time I saw this unusual little vehicle in the park opposite to where I was moored.

We should also acknowledge the efforts of Sir Frank Whittle, the inventor of the jet engine and native son of Rugby - the picture below is of the commemoration to this pioneer.

Not a long day cruising and moored up just after Bridge 35 with company from various animals on the other side of the canal. I had settled in for an evening being able to see a Man United game – this one a Champions League match against Valencia away from home – a great 1-0 result in the end, but the highlight of the night came about 8:30 – I could hear and then felt another boat outside breasting up alongside – this was a new and strange experience so I investigated through the window – sure enough alongside was another boat and friendly sounding chap asking for Derek and Dot ( the original owners of Gypsy Rover) – it turned out to be Ian on Gosty Hill who hadn’t heard of the change of ownership, but certainly introduced himself and we had a relatively short chat as he needed to round the bend to moor up.

The view opposite the mooring near Bridge 35

The following day I passed by as he was servicing another customer and briefly spoke – we will certainly be on the lookout for Gosty Hill next time we are back on the Oxford.

Invariably after a day of rain and with a cold night that we had, there is an early morning fog and Thursdays was really quite enjoyable – you just knew that when it lifted we would be in store for a very nice day – no disappointments here. Compare the pictures below - both of the same scene but about 3 hours apart.

Knowing that Friday was predicted to be a very wet day it was important to find a decent mooring spot and I had the intention of making for Hawkesbury Junction and the inviting Greyhound pub. So Friday was a day of peace and quiet save for the trip down the 200 metres past the lock to the pub and return.
This one is for Sam and her affection for cows

The rain really didn’t let up all day until about 5 – 5:30 when the clouds started to clear and we were treated to a delightful sunset.

A very uninspiring week, this week was and nothing much changed for Saturday with a cruise back onto the Coventry heading northwards – that will be the catchwords for the next month – ever heading northwards.

Through Nuneaton where I briefly moored up before a message from James in Birmingham to sort out Sunday lunch as Debbie was away and he felt the need to encourage me to the pub somewhere – we settled on The Kings Head in Atherstone, only because I had been there before and felt that it was not a bad meal – in fact it had been very good and had a nice relaxed and cosy atmosphere.

This of course meant that I would need to get myself a bit closer to Atherstone on Saturday afternoon to enable a better chance of avoiding impending bad weather on Sunday.

Not a chance of that happening, it started early and didn’t look like stopping any time quickly, so off I ventured – the only people with less sense than me this morning were those involved in a fishing match around Bridge 36.

Finally mooring up just before Bridge 40 for a short walk down to the designated meeting place, it was quite clear that the internet signal was sporadic at best between mooring and pub, and this precipitated the need for a later move down 5 locks to a previous mooring site where it was much better – this latter movement taking place after 5pm and in the dry.

The lunch was very good – the food being suitable, but getting a chance to see James, Katherine and Rachel once again was worth the effort this morning and Saturday to make it there.

James, Rachel and Katherine (she doesn't always look like this - sometimes it is less appealing)

It was very leisurely and after about 3 hours we decided that it was time to leave and say our goodbyes. James and I had a good chance to talk about things that had been happening and were to happen.

Finally I must end with the reminder that this week has seen the 50th anniversary of The Flinstones – a fact which didn’t escape the people at Google – so hope that everyone else had a Yabba Dabba Doo of a time.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

A week in Rugby - and boats going past slowly

Monday 20th September to Sunday 26th September

14 Miles,  1 Tunnel, 1 Swing Bridge– for this week

Totals: 248 Miles, 289 Locks, 8 Tunnels, 7 Swing Bridges

When you look back on any week that was, it will generally show that there have been particularly bright spots that you recall the picture and the scenery of the time – two of this weeks very bright spots were

Monday – around Bridge 16 I came across Waterway Routes filming as they travelled north – a quick shout and a few words from Paul and it was all over – we will catch up one day.

Tuesday – I was just about finished working for the morning when Del and Al on Derwent 6 went passed – I have been following their blog from day 1, and as they were mooing up just a couple of boat lengths up this was a chance to meet them and have a bit of a chat – which is what I did.

We did have a bit of a chat about a few things – they were just stopping for replenishments before heading further north, but like Waterway Routes we will catch up again.

Still on Tuesday the weather was extremely good – very warm and sunny

There has been no movement for the remainder of the week as on Saturday I have my engine maintenance course, so the action plan was more work indoors on the laptop and some work outside on the boat – Friday was not a particularly great day – in fact rain on and off and very windy as well as being on the colder side, but I needed to get one side the gunnels sanded in preparation for painting sometime next week – so an hour of effort and a job completed.

It is nice to know that there are people reading this blog; I had an email from my little “obnoxious” friend – I know it was him by the language – I am sure that he knows the Queen’s English, I am just not sure that he knows much of the actual language (apart from some words which cannot be repeated). I could not say all of what he had to say regarding what he would do to me if I knocked on the window again and advised for him to slow down – seems that his view is this “the canal is much deeper (in the middle) so (that) boats (can)..pass you quicker”. I feel sorry for him – he will someday find out for himself about the ettiquette that should be followed.

I didn’t much care for being called “old” either.

I can’t say that I would really care if I ever saw you again – at least there would be one less boat speeding past, but I do thank you for the time taken to read the blog.

You know, I have heard it said that “you should never argue with idiots – sometimes people can’t tell the difference” – so I won’t.

I need to make a correction to last week update – I indicated that the lock at Hawkesbury Junction was 300cm – I was a little too eager on the keyboard – it should only be 30cm.

A further note about something that I forgot to say last week – I have been amazed at the number of boats that are travelling at night – when it is completely dark outside – I saw a few boats doing this on various days on the Ashby and now again this week there has been 1 or 2 moving at 10 or 11 at night – pitch black – their lights are on and they are moving slowly, so they haven’t been annoying to anyone, but just not sure why they need to – one theory put to me last week was to evade BW inspecting licences.

Saturday was to be a relatively big day in the week – firstly there was the AFL Grand Final to “watch” – this was restricted to watching it on the net and then only to see the scores changing – in the end it was a draw and with no extra time we will be back there again next Saturday morning at 5:30.

After a small break it was off to the Diesel Engine course at Willow Wren Training – just a 20 minute walk away along the towpath. It was an excellent day and I now feel much more confident about tackling the servicing side for the engine. Steve was excellent and a really nice guy as well with plenty of experience. The other attendees were very friendly and I think we all got along very well. I would recommend this course to anyone who is thinking of doing their own servicing but need a bit of knowledge on how to do it properly.

Sunday was a rather bit more relaxed – a bit of work and some relaxing – the highlight being the weekly phone call from Diane in the morning – this is something that I do look forward to – so only another 7 days until the next one.

Took the boat down a mile and winded and back again – now heading the right way for the get away next week some time.

And the finale to this week is that there has been a great deal of boat traffic throughout the week, all of whom knew the correct speed to pass by moored boats - even all of the hirers - well done to them all !

Monday, 20 September 2010

Slowing down and less exertion

Monday 13th September to Sunday 19th September

26 Miles, 6 Locks – for this week

Totals: 236 Miles 289 Locks, 7Tunnels, 6 Swing Bridges

This was a somewhat lazy week in terms of travel and the travel that I did do was also of a non-exertion state.

As I mentioned last week the TV and internet signals were both good at Atherstone so I stayed put on Monday and got stuck into work. I did however take a wander around – firstly along the towpath down (or should that be up) to Lock 1 – the numbering was going down but the locks were going up – nevertheless I found Bridge 41 and walked along the road into the town centre – not far at all.

A new entry in the lovliest lock competition - Bridge 43 / Lock 5 at Atherstone

Atherstone High Street
I was very impressed with the High street – a good range of shops (excluding a decent coffee shop) and there were a great many people out and about – found a locksmith and had a spare key cut for the front doors as well as a replacement watchband – the other had almost broken through.

Tuesday came along and the first thing I noticed was that we had a decided list to starboard (away from the towpath) – mmmmm that wasn’t good – a quick look outside and the water level was down in the pound – quickly dressing and down to the lock – no paddles left up and all seemed OK; boats were coming down so I assumed that everything would resolve itself. Set off at 9:30 and made it to the first lock and the lock-keeper made an appearance – there would be a delay whilst water was let down to completely stabilise all of the pounds.

Only an hour delay, but where I might have lost an hour waiting, I made up in time and energy. You see, whilst hardly anyone gathered at the bottom locks – only 2 boats waiting to come up, there apparently was a fair sized queue to come down, so naturally everyone was dead keen to get the process moving as quickly as possible and be on their way – magic for a single-handed boater – there were plenty of people willing to work the gates and paddles – I didn’t have to do a thing, but of course there were gracious and grateful thank-yous all along the way – when I reached the top there was still a queue of 7 more boats waiting to come down.

A casual cruise down to Nuneaton as I had arranged to catch up with Les ad Pauline, which I did and very pleased to see them both again – didn’t get back to the boat until after 8pm, but a very nice afternoon/evening.

As I was very much ahead of the schedule that I had mentally penned out I decided to make a bit of a detour and head up the Ashby for a couple of days – which turned out to be 4 nights – moored up for 2 days by Bridge 16 where I was quite happy and then decided to cruise 2 miles up to wind and had every intention of continuing back to the Coventry, but became waylaid along the way by mooring up outside Trinity Marina – although the sign said ₤5 per night I was prepared to pay – a nice outlook. Started chatting with Mac from Painted Lady –“no, don’t worry about the sign – they never come along to collect it” – 2 more nights and no outlay, and right outside the pub – just the spot to have a pint and read the paper at lunchtime (oh and something to eat with all of that as well).

For the first time since I have been on the boat, Friday night was so cold that I needed to put the heater on – ended up being about 4C overnight and such a crisp Saturday morning.

Sunday was finally the day to move and cruised down to Hawkesbury Junction – I had never been through here before, but with boats moored on both sides and just enough for two boats to squeeze through the middle; a narrow section just before the junction; a 180o turn and then a lock; boats coming down through the lock and immediately winding to go back through – what a nightmare – but very organised and friendly as well.

Through the lock – about a 300cm rise; moored up just down from the lock around the bend; then it was back to The Greyhound for a Sunday roast lunch and a couple of pints of Theakston Mild (very nice indeed), but the pub was pretty well packed as well.

The Greyhound - excellent Sunday roast

It has been a very much lazy week – not too much in the exertion stakes, plenty of help on locks and plenty of relaxing in pubs (oops shouldn’t have said that – she who must be obeyed will be reading this – sorry dear, it was purely research)

Hawkesbury Junction -  not so busy here, but a nightmare on Sunday

Sunday, 12 September 2010

All things back to normal - but now moving much slower

Monday 6th September to Sunday 12th September

24 Miles, 46 Locks, 2 Tunnels – for this week

Totals: 210 Miles 283 Locks, 7Tunnels, 6 Swing Bridges

This has been a week of direct contrast to the previous two weeks – back online and able to work has relieved my state of mind – it is very apt to say that I was very concerned about the computer – but all is well again.

I spent an additional two days in the centre of Birmingham – I have thoroughly enjoyed the centre of the city as a place to spend an extended stay; I was also pleased not to see any BW people of wardens suggesting that I move or pay the 5 pounds a night – better in my pocket than elsewhere.

Farmers Hill Locks
Looking down into Gas Street basin
There is no way to extricate yourself from Birmingham without plenty of locks involved and the Farmers Hill flight starts immediately and then followed the Ashton flight – a total of 24 in all and I was happy to have some help going down; what I wasn’t happy about was the three forced stops to clear the propeller of rubbish.

I will however say that it appeared more to do with the amount of rain that we had during my stay and hence the run-off from streets and elsewhere going straight into the canals than necessarily the direct contribution from passers-by.

I (we) will be visiting the city centre again and we will encourage others to go there – it is a wonderful city with such a full variety of people and experiences.

It was however also good to be back out into the country again as the contrast is so wide. Not to mention some of those country smells that Diane would not really (and does not) appreciate.
Farm fields near Curdworth
Travelling this week was not so hectic as it had previously been and for the remainder of this month and also next it will continue to be the same.

Bridge 54 at Polesworth
View from the window
Friday was a funny sort of day – it threatened to bucket down but didn’t; threatened to get very cold but didn’t. It was pump-out day and diesel fill day as well and I can highly recommend Fazeley Mill Marina – 66 p/l and self-declare made it much better – the tricky bit was getting in there and winding – like a “long-time” boater I need a bit more practice, but I got there.

Moored up at Polesworth that evening and stayed for Saturday – this is a lovely village – two pubs; good butcher and a Spar as well. Next time through there I want to spend a bit more time to see through it in detail.

Moved further down the Coventry and have moored up at Atherstone and had a very nice Sunday roast at the Kings Head – near Lock 5.

I think I will stay one more day here as the signals for both TV and internet are very good.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Did I say a week for a decision - how about a fortnight of forced and optionals

Monday 23rd August to Sunday 5th September

73 Miles, 97 Locks, 3 Tunnels – for this fortnight

Totals: 186 Miles 237 Locks, 5 Tunnels, 6 Swing Bridges

This has been quite a week – well actually two weeks and really the second part of it I could have very much done without.

This became a bit of a week for decisions – the time was coming near when I needed to make some sort of finality to where I was going to moor the boat in November.

When I had the pump out at MK Marina I asked Richard there if he could do any better on a quote for a winter mooring but based on a more specific time frame rather than just saying 6 months; then on Monday I did the same with Great Haywood – both came back with much better prices but not to say that their originals were out of whack – I just defined my actual time criteria better.

I need also to go to Birmingham to see Debbie, James, Katherine and Rachel and this needs to be sooner than later.

But first another day of work on Monday – did I ever pick the right day not to move – it absolutely bucketed down for most of the day – intermittent rain-free periods but the rest was not fit to be outdoors.

Moored opposite Campbell Park, it is a remarkable area – we will be back here to explore this delightful town more – no-one should ever say that they just want to get through Milton Keynes – stop and look around and you will stay some more.

Having made my decision to go to Birmingham and be there on or about 3rd Sept, I needed to move and put some miles (and locks behind me – so I headed for Stoke Bruerne. It was such windy day and a colder rather than cool wind. Nevertheless with most of the journey being lock free it was only a matter of keeping the tiller pointed the right way – until I got to the locks just before mooring up – I made my way to the lock to prepare it and I spotted another boat in the pound above going the same way and I know that he saw me, but did he wait to share the locks, save some water and make life a little easier – not on your Nellie – he doesn’t want to cross my path in the very near future.

Still moored up relatively safe and sound – just very annoyed.

Setting off the following morning again in the company of Pauline and Les we made good time heading up through the remaining two locks and then through the tunnel; at the other end L and P had had problems again with their filter and needed to stop at the boatyard whilst I moored up to replenish supplies; they were still busy with it when I returned and said they would catch me which they eventually did as I was taking on fuel at Fred Tarry’s.

Next day and we travelled together to go through the Buckby flight of locks and then another tunnel; trouble was at the other end there was an hour wait for the first lock; the time seemed to go relatively quickly and we worked our way through the Braunston locks.

After this it was time to say our goodbyes – as they say parting is such sweet sorrow. L and P decided that they would moor up in order to see friends at Braunston, and I would continue on – along the Grand Union, but just before the turn some yahoo was shouting away at me abusing me for chastising him two weeks earlier for going too fast – he must be able to hold a grudge, but if he was going too fast then he deserved it – his boat name summed him up “Cream Cracker” – ah good luck to him in his quest to be obnoxious.

I eventually settled down above the Calcutt locks after a reasonably lengthy day – I was into the swing of doing some work that night when aghast, the computer froze up and wouldn’t do anything – no amount of persuasion would get it to budge; so I eventually forced it to close down and then tried to restart – absolutely no luck whatsoever. No computer means no work – mmm.

I spent Saturday travelling down Calcutt and then down the Stockton flight trying to figure what to do about my new predicament. Luckily for me I have such a clever daughter Samantha (Sam) (well our daughter) who suggested getting to Birmingham and PC World; so Sunday was a day out of the ordinary – up early and a “quick” 3 and ½ hour journey into Warwick to moor up, get to the station; train into Birmingham; taxi to Highgate – yes they can fix it – but can’t take it off my hands until Tuesday; luckily Diane’s cousin Debbie lived about 5 minutes away and yes, she would take it in for me; not only that but she gave me dinner as well - it was a very good day in the end with James (Debbie's husband) their two girls Katherine and Rachel and James sister Jenny and partner Viv.

After all of that it was a matter of deciding what to do – well a week off work was going to happen, so I have been on holidays this week. I got myself into Birmingham on the boat by Wednesday evening – through all of the locks – 25 in all – single handed – the last half dozen with the lady from the boat behind closing the top gates – some respite.

A note of a pleasant 30 minutes - whilst descending Camp Hill locks, I went up to a guy sitting on one of the seats and asked if he would mind closing one of the bottom gates for me (double bottom gates for a single lock) - we had a pleasant chat about a lot of things (no other boats around for the whole day) - yes he had been to Australia, but not to Melbourne; he had been on sponsored tours as a guest speaker and entertainer; he was a poet of some reknown - turns out that he was none other than Jim MacCool (a name that seemed familiar to me - more after I had got around to googling it) - ah I hear it now - "I would like to thank an Aussie boater for my latest poem - Ode to a Lock"     ---   royalties will be gratefully accepted.
A lovely man and just shows who you can meet along the way

I knew from the last visit, what a lovely place Birmingham is – and have completely confirmed it all over – moored just opposite the NIA, there has been no problem at all; the area is lovely and clean and tidy – a real pleasure to be here – there is not a nicer place for an enforced holiday when you would rather be working - Birmingham has embraced the canals and rejuvenated the city in conjunction with the waterways.

Anyway the end of the week arrives; the computer makes a late entry on Saturday afternoon and finally all up and running again by Sunday midnight - the grey hairs have grown in numbers this week.

Sometimes decisions are forced upon us that lead to reflect on where we start from – what started as a week about where I would moor the boat over winter, became so much more and something more to think about for the future.

The winter mooring is all sorted; the computer is back to almost normal; the sun did come up every morning; and the worry of what could be done has passed.

PS: photos to be placed shortly.

Monday, 23 August 2010

A week of discovery - new friends and an older past

Monday 16th August to Sunday 22nd August

30 Miles, 42 Locks, 3 Swing Bridges – for this week

Totals: 113 Miles 140 Locks, 2 Tunnels, 6 Swing Bridges

As I slowly head north I will at some stage need to decide whether I head to Birmingham on the Grand Union, with a continuation of double locks or will I head up the Oxford (North) – I need to go to Great Haywood and then back to Rugby by the 25th Septmeber.

A decision for later.

On Monday I was indeed fortunate to have the company of Peter and Bill again on nb Thingvellir (which is Icelandic and refers to the place of the Parliament of Iceland) – we ventured as far as Berkhamstead, where we all decided to call it a day
Tuesday was a non-movement day
 and got some work out of the way
and then decided to do some
exploring of Berkhamstead – first it
was to return to find a totem pole –
which was carved by members of
the Kwakiutl tribe in recognition of
 the years that trade took place
 between this area and Canada.

Berkhamstead really is a very pretty place and has faced her best sides to the canal, further walking and I came across Berkhamstead Castle.

By Wednesday it was time to move again and I was in the immediate company of Pauline and Les from nb Nibby (and of course I couldn’t forget Libby the pup).

A truly delightful couple and such a nice and wonderful time doing locks, sitting and talking and enjoying a meal together over the 2 days whilst we travelled through to Grove Lock. We will catch up again after they return home – they had been out since April and were on their way home to Nuneaton after their journey had taken them all of the way down to Bristol.

Friday was another day when it was more important to get some work done and not to move, but the offset was to have lunch (and a beer) at the Grove Lock pub – nice and relaxed.

Saturday, and back on the move just for a short way to begin with and moored up at Linslade for a Tesco’s expedition and back away to moor up after  the Soulbury locks.

Sunday morning and rain down upon the roof just after 6am – not the time to get up yet – just a few more minutes of listening.

A very pleasant early morning cruise through to Milton Keynes Marina for a pump out and then an hour wait for the water point back outside and as I remembered the water pressure is way way down so it is another hour before the tank is full and then off but only for a mile or so to more up after bridge 81B just in front of nb Nibby who have already spent a full day here and are off tomorrow – such a very nice spot – I think I might spend some time here myself.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Whiled a little while in Watford and then whiled away

Monday 9th August to Sunday 15th August

5 Miles, 15 Locks – for this week

Totals: 83 Miles 98 Locks, 2 Tunnels, 3 Swing Bridges

The clear intention of this week was to not move anywhere at all – I wanted to spend the week down in Watford and be able to start and hopefully finish a number of tasks that I had down on my To Do List.

I also wanted to get as much work (that’s paying work) done as I could, as there is a great amount that I have started and which is much longer term stuff – hopefully this week I can finish some and make a great dent in the remainder.

That is the intention – I will have to wait and see how they end up.

Tuesday was an extremely fruitful day in my quest for this week – I have finished turning the bed around – now have a 190cm x 137cm bed (for the imperial minded that is 6’3” x 4’6”) – it is a little bit tighter fit around but suits my height much better – so that is now done.
The weather was fantastic for ducks – it really did rain all day – didn’t stop boats moving and moving faster than they should – in a hurry to get to where they are going without ANY consideration for moored boats.
Workwise it was a pleasing day – plenty did get done.

Although I am not the seasoned liveaboard just yet and haven’t travelled all of the waterways yet – I am going to be surprised if there is a lovelier lock setting than this one in Cassiobury Park – Lock 77 and Bridge 167 – I think it will take some beating.

Weatherwise, if you were someone looking forward to enjoying some sunshine in this English summer then this week would have been sadly disappointing for you – essential outdoor wear was the wet-weather gear and umbrella.
As it was this is perfect weather for me and the ducks – love the rain and there has been a lot of it.

Maggie and Paddy came over on Thursday to give the boat a lookover

Paddy thought that he might be able to catch dinner – fishing from the back of the boat – he caught a fairly small bream, but by the time I managed to get the camera and position it for his attempt to kiss it, the fish had decided this was enough and jumped out and back into the water. But did get an after-the-fish-got-away photo

Well Saturday arrived and I felt that it was time to move northwards – so set off late morning and travelled only a relatively short distance but will be trying very hard to keep to short travel days. The rain continued in heavy bursts and I was fortunate only to get caught in one, but the coat was drenched through but I was not.
One of the many bursts of rain

Very nice weather for Sunday’s short cruise to end on the northern end of Hemel Hempstead; met a lovely German family over here for 2 weeks of cruising – the two boys were keen to look after the locks and in the interests of appeasing others – I let them. Another pair of boaters Peter and Bill accompanied for the earlier locks – Bill, according to Peter was around the 80 mark – he certainly looked mighty good for those years and able to handle the work of the locks with just a little help – after all they are all double locks.

In looking back on the week that was, plenty of work was achieved, some work on the boat (the rest will get done sometime), a relaxing time overall – yes I would say starting intentions achieved.
one for Diane to remember what i look like