Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Plan B is now Plan A

Monday 28th  April to Tuesday 29th 2014

Lovely to see the sun again as we upped "pins" (so to speak - we were on chains); leaving our departure late enough to make sure that Jim was up and out of bed after his morning coffee.

Diane had one last go at installing Viber onto Joan's iPad - no luck.

So after goodbyes alround we continued our northward heading - passing through Burton this time without stopping - we didn't need any supplies this time - the usual moorings at Shobnall Fields were completely empty - not seen that before.

Diane had volunteered to do Dallow Lock - a lady approaching from the opposite direction gave help - "Are you Sheila?" "Yes" came the reply.

Sanity Again was approaching from below - now to two Australians used to the stereo-typical comments of numerous English - the names Sheila and Bruce arise all of the time - but here are an English couple who some would think had been transposed to the other side of the world.

Needless to say, Diane did have a chance to have a bit of a chat at the lock - no doubt we will see you both again soon enough.

Closer to Willington we came up behind a boat travelling on the slower side, but not so slow that it was any inconvenience. We simply slowed a little and enjoyed more of the sun and the countryside.

We met up with them at the services at Willington - breasted up alongside as they watered up - we only had rubbish and the cassette to concern us.

Chatting to them (sorry no names - just the boat name nb Kyozen) - a young couple - everyone looks young to us these days - they live aboard and are self-employed (repair and fix Land Rovers) and simply love the lifestyle - next time we will get names.

With everything done we were off but only as far as Stenson (above the lock) - that's enough for the day.

As we near a destination, Diane is keenly looking for a walk somewhere that will engage us. Spotting a bloke walking along a path on the non-towpath side, she saw a public footpath heading up towards the village of Findern - haven't been there before, so we headed off after mooring up.

Following a combination of the OS in Nicholsons, the phone maps and public footpath arrows we made it to the village.
1 Church, 1 store (with PO), 1 investment/finance company, 1 bus stop, 2 hairdressers.
Findern church in the background

This water pump was used up until the 1930's
when the village finally had mains water put in

We saw it all in 5 minutes, but it was a peaceful little place with just a bit of road noise from the nearby A50.

The walk back to the boat was far easier - it was essentially downhill all of the way.

Tuesday was not an early start, but we were making for Shardlow today.

Just after entering Stenson Lock and had opened the paddles to start going down, a boat was coming near to the lock - so a quick about turn and lower gate paddles back down and refill the lock - 2 boats to share the locking - he was a single-hander - no problems, no extra work to do really, but the boats are more stable in the lock with 2 boats there.

We shared the locks all of the way to Shardlow and forgot to get his name, the name of his dog, or the name of his boat - gee Diane was really slack about that.

I think Diane was more interested in keeping a lookout for Irene and Ian on nb Free Spirit who were on their way towards us.

Coming along to Swarkestone Lock, Diane signalled that there were boats coming up - so I hung back, just sitting alongside the moored-up boats waiting (as one does) - gates open up but not a lot of movement initially - Diane was chatting away, then I realised that it was Irene and Ian, as I found out a few minutes later - hellos and immediate goodbyes - seems to be the boating way.

In the meantime the second was eager to move in to moor up for water, so an exchange of hand signals and we all knew what was going on.

Look - we made it!!

Finally moored up at Shardlow, there were two things to do before anything else - pop over to Lockgate Marine to pickup some cleaning tablets for the Reflecs - whilst the doors were open - hard to catch them like that - bit of a chat with Paul; then to Millar Marine the chandlery for a new soft rope - got the last one at a reduced price.

It didn't take too much discussion on the way back about detouring via The Navigation Inn for a late lunch - Diane had had enough of salads for a few days - she has been good with cutting out the rubbish food and upping the exercise - so a treat.

So here we sit tonight having enjoyed lunch and not keen or eager to have anything else to eat.

The only other thing that we have done over the last couple of days is agree to abandon our intention of cruising the North-East rivers and canals due to the continued closure of Holme Lock in Nottingham - even if it was to reopen on May 16th it leaves us short of time to do it justice - so that will be next year.

Our plans now are to head down the Leicester line and visit Crick - mooring and tickets organised and with Andy and Sue (nb Festina Lente) doing the same there is a feeling that there will be a few late nights awaiting.

After that it will be off to Birmingham to discover more of the BCN; after which we will depart via the Wolverhampton flight and cruise the Shroppie at a more leisurely pace than we did when we had a hire boat 6 years ago. After that we will see what happens.

That was Plan B for the year but it is now Plan A.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Old Friends

Friday 25th April to Sunday 27th April 2014

The last few days has all been about beating the weather - in particular the rain - much thought and expertise has gone into studying the prognostications of various sources of varying reliability.

Friday was the trickiest - we wanted to perhaps make it to Fradley Junction but we always knew that might be impossible - the rain was due between 10 and 11am, so our fall back would be Huddlesford with a nice little pub -The Plough - for Friday drinks photo.

An early start was necessary and all went well under prop trouble as we went through Hopwas - a short length of rope caused us to stop, but we were back underway very quickly.

Sure enough 10am ticked over and some telltale spots appeared as we passed The Plough - we have it down to a fine art and within 5 minutes we were moored up, hood up and feet up as the rain came down.

The Reflecs was fired up and pretty soon we were very cosy.

Later on we ventured over to The Plough for a drink - the problem with some pubs these days is that the no-smoking rules are slackly enforced - smoking in the entrance is not the same as smoking outside - firstly you have to walk through the smoke and secondly it is dragged inside with every person coming in - we only stayed for the one drink.

It was much cosier back on the boat and the air was clearer.

Saturday - today's goal would be Alrewas - today's hurdles - weather with rain suggested to be heavy in the afternoon; elsan trip and water tank to fill whilst at Fradley Junction.

Cruising was very pleasant with the sun bright but the air was cold - the thermals overcame the latter.

Surprisingly we made very good time without meaning to and we were at the junction in just 90 minutes.

Our marina neighbours, Wendy and David (nb Twelfth Night) were just coming through the swing bridge as we moored up for water - so a bit of a chat ensued, but they needed to carry on - as is usually the case.

For Andy and Sue - the name is almost too common
Finally fully watered and cassette emptied we continued, round the corner and down a few locks when we were met by Andy and Jean (nb Josephine) - also marina neighbours - they were moored above Fradley but had walked to Alrewas and were returning - as there were no boats in the immediate vicinity wishing to use the lock we stayed for a good few minutes catching up on things before all of us were off again.

Just a half later we were in Alrewas and moored up, still with no sign of rain.

For quite a while now Diane has suggested that when we are in Alrewas next we should walk over to the National Memorial Arboretum (we last visited back in 2008).

It was just over a mile away and with the now seeming prospect of the sunshine remaining for the rest of the day we ventured off - the only obstacle being the A38 - but we found a place where provision had been made for hardy pedestrians to cross with care and we did so - save for the long cherished cap which flew off and was crushed under the wheels of a fast passing car.

For those who haven't been the NMA, it is a memorial to all armed services personnel who have fallen in service to their country since WW2 and there are also dedications to various campaigns, military units and individuals.

This being just after Anzac Day, it was appropriate to be here.

The Gallipoli memorial

The walls at the top of this mound list the names of all service
personnel to die - since WW2.
There are too many names

One of the many air force memorials

We did battle again with the A38 on the return journey - this time there were no further casualties.

We collapsed on our return - from the walk and the dabble with A38 disaster - the late afternoon nap taking over.

By late evening we had still not seen any of the earlier forecasted rain - mmm, what is happening to the integrity of good forecasting.

Sunday morning came, a reasonably early start - this time so that we could stop at Barton Marina for a look around - we had been there twice previously and "she who must be obeyed" had related everything that she had seen to me after I had taken care of the needs of the boat and we were again underway - this time I thought I might see first hand.

Moored up early, but first thing was to ring our son, Mitchell, to wish him a happy birthday - after that we could have a good look around.

A cinema, pub, three cafes, butcher, farmshop, restaurant, shoe shop and a couple of gift shops - as well as a 300-berth marina complex and boat services - this is my idea of a marina - sure, we can see that they are catering for a lot of outsiders to be coming in, but looking and listening there appears a clear intent that everyone belongs.

We visited two of the cafes, wandered through the farmshop and had a look at the stalls of the monthly market (last Sunday of the month) before we headed off.

If we are back up this way in need of a marina mooring, we would stay here.

Our destination for today was the Branston Water Park, which we reached in good time and without any threats from the weather.

I had settled down to install a tyre fender on the front, when a familiar boat approached from the north - Diane animatedly telling me it was The Two Jays (Joan and Jim) - a quick line thrown ashore and as we held the boat steady, Jim secured her to the rings.

Coffee was made and Diane set about installing the Viber app to Joans new phone and connecting her to the rest of the group who were in constant contact - another voice to join in.

Jim and I discussed football and the Hull match of the previous day as well as a few boat things before Diane, after success with the phone, turned the conversation to toilets - nothing unusual about that subject coming up.

The much anticipated rain did appear, but fortunately not in downpour mode until we were safely back on Ferndale.

After the rain and a bit of lunch, Joan, Diane and I decided to undertake the route march around the lake - Jim obviously had foreknowledge of the consequences of such an epic and sensibly stayed in contact with today's matches.

The path around the lake presented a pleasant walk with plenty to see and plenty of walking to boot!

Branston WaterPark Lake

Joan and Diane resting and supporting this tree

The leaf is not of the fig variety and also
a bit too small

We emerged at the end, back where we started - none of us feeling the need to visit the inside of the pub - instead we eventually returned back to our own boats and that was about it for another full day.

This little fellow was overseeing and overhearing our conversations.

16 Miles, 9 Locks, 1 Swing Bridge

Totals: 2371 Miles, 1704  Locks, 77 Tunnels, 32 Lift Bridges, 147 Swing Bridges


Our dear and lovely son turns 25 today - a very mature and well rounded man - now married and ready to face the world as a responsible adult.

Unfortunately we are not able to be with him (and Sara and Sam) today, but we have spoken with him to wish him a happy birthday.

But to make sure that he remembers that we still have all of those wonderful photos of when he was younger, here is one to go with this blog...

here he is at 8 years of age - and now he is 25

Friday, 25 April 2014

ANZAC DAY - Lest we forget

Friday 25th April 2014

War, police actions, skirmishes call them what you want, invariably they are the result of the actions of politicians, but the end result is that the men and women of our armed forces are required to be involved in any armed conflict that results from decisions taken by others.

Australia like all other countries has had too many of its citizens fall in the line of duty for their country.

Anzac Day is the day that we take time out to remember all of those who have died as a result of all wars.

We share this day with our Tasman neighbours, NewZealand, with whom there have been many concurrent battles.

To all men and women who have not returned "we will remember" you.

courtesy http://www.army.gov.au/Our-history/Traditions/The-Rising-Sun-Badge

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Easy Cruising

Monday 21st April to Thursday 24th April 2014

With the skipper out of action with a bung knee, it was indeed fortunate that there were many lock-free miles ahead of us.

She would be able to sit and relax her leg, but getting medical people to do as they are told / should be doing is practically impossible.

A man's work is never done
After watering and emptying rubbish and cassette at Sutton Wharf it was simple plain cruising for quite a while.

We filled the diesel tank at Trinity Marina (not too bad at 92p/l) and then onward to the moorings at Bulking Road Bridge.

a bit too expensive for propulsion
Tuesday was not so great weather-wise but put the foot down firmly with her and so she was consigned to the chair in the cratch with her book and on boat lookout duties -  for once she accepted it - mainly because we were due to eat out that night and she need to walk a bit, and we would have a harder day following.

There were plenty of comments about the "lady of leisure" in the cratch.

Approaching Marston Junction
Mooring right outside The Anchor Inn at Anchor Bridge was fortunate.

We were due to catch up with Linda and Richard (nb Mary H) with whom we had cruised last year along the Leicester branch and then up to Warwick, and of course Muffin their spoodle.

It was really great to see them again.

The food was acceptable - nothing that is likely to drag us back again but that was of little consequence as we chatted away.

Richard with his ice-cream and custard dessert

Linda - (n)ice cream

"I'm not sharing much of it"
The following morning we needed to get ourselves into Atherstone, which fortunately was not too far away at all.

We had Post Restante parcels arriving - 1 was already due to be there and 2 would be arriving that day.

Taking advantage of water and Elsan facilities at the top of the locks before starting the flight, we also enjoyed the sunshine that had made an appearance.

The lockies were on duty, with the fellow at the top confirming to us that Holme Lock in Nottingham likely to be closed until the end of May - this would now require a re-think on our cruising plans for the summer.

We only needed to go down 5 locks before mooring up; Diane took advantage of the sun and wind to have the washing out the back, whilst we took off into town to the Post Office (2 parcels down, just 1 to go); a relaxing coffee (Costa); then off to the bank for funds for the solar panels; then some shopping at Aldi and the Co-Op (she doesn't miss a chance to replenish the milk stocks.

The smile was for the washing drying nicely
Diane also purchased a child's small fishing net - some talk about tadpoles and ducklings - maybe an exotic escargot/canard pate.

The cash from the bank (we needed to seek teller assistance) was given to us in an envelope; the teller not counting it in front of us, and we not checking; so I decided to make sure - ₤40 short - we stared at each other as we always check cash like that - so back to the bank and explained the problem - there were virtually no problems and the balance was given to us.

If I was a suspicious person then I would be thinking something not at all nice - wait! I am a suspicious person and I was thinking of a few things that indicated something was amiss with the bank's procedures.

Anyway, as we headed back down the main street, it was about time for package number 3 to be available - and it was. In the end it was a good result.

A bite for lunch and we decided to head off to finish this flight of locks and moor up near Bradley Green which has always seemed a nice place to stop and so we did.

Lock 10 on the flight was slow filling on our way up 12 days earlier and so it was again - seems from what another boater told us, it has been this was for quite some time.

We are still travelling roughly 3-4 hours a day and then mooring; Thursday was similar with the exception that Diane wanted to get to Sutton Road Bridge which allows better access to Tamworth Retail Park - she would shop whilst I finished working.

We were carefully navigating our way past the moored craft at Polesworth when another boat was approaching - a familiar boat at that - it didn't take long to realise that it was Mick and Elly on Parisien Star on their final voyage; we helloed and good-byed almost in the same breath, there being no possibility of mooring up and both steerers negotiating a narrow piece of canal without any hitting of boats; it was not possible to avoid getting grounded and Mick being on the outside met this fate, but they were soon away.

Elly and Mick (Parisien Star)
It is a lovely stretch of canal from where we had moored through to Glascote Locks - depth of water was fine and free of rubbish.

gave her the chance to do one lock today and here she is -
sitting down on the job

Canal protection system
We arrived with a boat leaving the top lock and one coming up in the lower one, so we were through both in 15 minutes.

The sun was out and it had turned out to be a most enjoyable afternoon - even the shopping bill was pretty good.

33 Miles, 13 Locks

Totals: 2355 Miles, 1695  Locks, 77 Tunnels, 32 Lift Bridges, 146 Swing Bridges

Monday, 21 April 2014

Season Over for Diane

Sunday 20th April 2014

Wow, where did that half-decent weather disappear to - for a week it has been pretty good and today we wake up to cloud and a bit of rain.

It did however mean that it made it a easy going morning and a bit more relaxed.

In deference to the weather that we could see outside we carefully consulted the weather app on the phone and the BBC - we estimated that there was a period between 9:30 and 12:00 that we could travel in the dry.

Lo and behold, 9:25 and the rain stops - if only the wind was of a like mind with us and wishing it could drop down a bit.

Off we went and the captain decided that she would take the boat through the tunnel on her own - and naturally she came through with flying colours - the boat and I made it as well.

The name says it all

Into the tunnel...

...well into the tunnel...

Is there nothing that this woman cannot do?

What she won't be doing again for a while is much in the way of walking, nor will she be playing for the rest of the season - her usual spot in the middle of the front row will be handed to the reserve.

She has somehow injured her knee which is limiting her movement and so we shall be keeping her as still as possible - not likely that we can keep her quiet.

Today's schedule was making for Market Bosworth and Sunday roast - by the way we are already a day ahead of the original schedule.

On Saturday when we came up to Snarestone we were caught up behind a particularly slow moving hire boat - to be commended in their caution and care - when we approached carefully from behind they moved over and we passed by them slowly.

Today we were again behind the same boat - this time we caught up with just before Bridge 53 and with moored boats for the next half mile it was a case of tickover followed by out-of-gear, but again to their credit when there was an opportunity they again allowed us to pass.

Slow boater some would say - he was careful as well
Not all hire boaters are fast and there are some who are cautious and proceed within their abilities and understand what to do.

The "Do Little Bros. and Co" - seems like they did little with the van
Something else that I neglected to mention from Saturday was that we passed nb Chyandour - they heading south, us heading north - today we passed them again - directions obviously reversed. We will moor near to each other soon enough.

This one is for Mitch - a turtle tiller pin - Diane needed to spend
some money
The moorings at Market Bosworth, although somewhat reduced due to the entrance to the new marina reducing some of the space, were somewhat empty - just a couple of boats there, so no problems getting.

The new marina at Market Bosworth

For Paul - railway line for the Battlefields railway and some
miscellaneous railstock
Despite her knee, Diane is not likely to miss the chance of a Sunday roast and so the 3/4 mile up the hill into MB was an ordeal endured with an end purpose.

Creative sculpture - a pair of giraffes in the front yard

Always love a catchy name - this one "The Batter of Bosworth"
encompasses the smart thought process
The return trip - downhill - was slightly more bearable but the lounge chair at the end of it was the goal.

She will recover; she will be walking again soon; but in the meantime I will be trying to get her to rest as much as possible - something tells me snowballs in the desert have more chance.

6 Miles, 1 Tunnel

Totals: 2322 Miles, 1682  Locks, 77 Tunnels, 32 Lift Bridges, 146 Swing Bridges

Saturday, 19 April 2014

A schedule, a schedule, an easy life for a schedule

Friday 18th April to Saturday 19th April 2014

Prior to turning at Marston Junction on Thursday, Diane had generously offered to set all of the locks on the Ashby - she is a kidder; probably going to come back in the near future to laugh at again.

See - eyepad purchased and it was on sale as well
She had studiously looked at the villages and towns along the way and made notes from reading other blogs about places to moor and to see, so there was a plan of where we would head to - for Thursday it was to be the Battlefield moorings with a brief stop at Sutton Wharf for an Elsan stop.

As has been the case for the past week almost, the sun was again out and casting warmth onto our backs, but there also was the cold air, which with a lack of a breeze was OK but we were still a bit cold as well.

Diane says - hope the grass is mint flavoured - saves having
to put in on later
All went well until we neared Sutton Wharf - rounding a corner we had suddenly caught up with a boat we had been following - the reason - there were another two boats in front of them - the first slowed by the moored boats and the rest of us in convoy.

Fortunately at the wharf, the first and third boats carried on and just the two of us pulled in and breasted up together - each for the same reason - Elsan and rubbish.

As is generally the case, you get chatting and the fellow on the other boat advised us that the battlefield moorings were no more - due to Richard III having the audacity to conduct his battle in a different location, the farmer has rescinded permission for boaters and others to cross his land.

A quick decision was made to moor up on the jetty moorings for the day (and night). This decision was primarily decided on one of us (that would be the one that eats bacon) thinking that the SuttonWharf Cafe would be a nice place for a light morning tea.

Diane's idea of a light snack
A quick look through the Nicholsons guide showed another footpath from the cafe up to the Bosworth Battlefield exhibition - problem solved.

Off we went - a casual stroll up the gentle incline. It went so well that Diane spent most of it on the phone sorting out the plans for our flights back to Australia later this year and then return flights via NewZealand and the US.

(We got the email through later and it is practically perfect for dates and most importantly the price as well!).

Anyway we were suddenly at the destination; paid our money and had a good look through the display.

her knight in shining armour

just taking the mickey

and her knight's horse

critical to discovering where Richard III was probably killed
was the finding of the silver boar
It is well worth the effort to go through - especially for us foreigners who may have heard that there was a battle and not completely sure about all of the intricacies of it all.

another part of the display were these magnificent birds

sundial - not adjusted for summer time

Market Bosworth in the distance

There was a self-guided walk around the area - no access to the newly-found actual battle-site (seems the owner of this land wasn't giving permission for the general public to go wandering about his land), but we did find the railway station and as luck would have it, the steam train had just arrived and was in the process of shunting for the return journey - it would have been semi-heaven for Paul.

A little bit more walking around before we opted for a return to the boat via the towpath.

We were a bit tired when we got back and took the easy way out - flopped down to recover.

Saturday was a slightly later start for us - must have been a bit more tired from our walking the previous day, but the day itself couldn't be much more different to yesterday - cloudy and very cold - even a little ice on the pram hood at the back.

So we untied the ropes a bit later.

Today's destination was planned to be Shakerstone and from Friday we had planned to make the train journey down to Bosworth station - as we had seen yesterday.

Cruising along - there were a few shallow sections to negotiate - we thought about it a bit and decided to reappraise the schedule - we would make for the terminus at Snarestone - just a few extra miles and not much longer.

As we passed the Market Bosworth moorings, the new marina was very evident - the first part is in water, but there appears to still be a fair amount to be done - no power or water to the pontoons.

We carried onto the end, passing through the Snarestone Tunnel, winded and took the last mooring spot at the end of a group of boats - which included a couple of CaRT vessels.

Timing can be everything, and not long after we moored up there were three other boats that had come through - a couple left and the other stopped for water and other services.

A short walk back into the village (just about a km), a visit to The Globe for a quick drink each and then back to the boat - it hadn't got any warmer, but at least the walk made us feel better.

just a pair of big kids....

...trying to get warm
At least one of us relaxed a bit too much in the lounge when we came back - I did feel better for the nap.

17 Miles, 1 Tunnel

Totals: 2316 Miles, 1682  Locks, 76 Tunnels, 32 Lift Bridges, 146 Swing Bridges