Sunday, 27 November 2016

Easy does it all

Saturday 19th November to Saturday 26th November 2016

We headed out from Coventry after an enjoyable day or so there – we had previously seen most of the tourists spots, but dare say that there are some that we will have missed, but we do like mooring up in the basin area – and of course it is nice and quiet as well.
There were signs that it had been cold overnight, but no ice on the canal itself ....

It might have been after 8am but the sight of the sun was lovely.

There are a few spots where we needed to be slow – cases where the bottom is too close to the top, but we made good time to be back at Hawkesbury Junction before the rain arrived.

It meant that we could head off to The Greyhound and meet up with Stella and Dave, who advised us that nb Oakapple had moved along and were no longer there – so we couldn’t now see Sharon and Richard – I guess we all have places that we must be!

Diane had cleverly made a booking for Sunday lunch and thus we were able to enjoy some lovely time with the two of them and in a relaxed atmosphere – no rushing about and the meal was very good.
Stella is one of our oldest friends during our time on the canals - we first
met way back in 2011
It was not quite so good outside, with the rain pelting down – certainly would not want to be out there on the back of a moving boat.

There was however, a bit of a beer festival taking place out the back at the smaller pub/brewery behind the Greyhound, called The Whippet, with some entertainment and a couple of guys in a mock sword fight with almost full armour on – fortunately their timing was good both with the break in rain and the knowledge of where each other would be swinging their heavy swords – no damage to either and a bit of enjoyment for the small crowd of 20 or 30.
The medieval way of doing things.

Stella actually ended being the match referee
the four us during a break in the music and ready to replenish our drinks

We had a couple of drinks there before a last one back in the Greyhound, before we have to say goodbye to the pair of them – it was now getting a little dark and we headed back to the boat.

More rain was forecast for Monday so it was definitely a day that we spent not going any where at all – unfortunately for Stella and Dave, they needed to be back at Barby and so they were in the worst of it for a fair length of time – making it as far as Newbold.

Diane had enjoyed the dessert on Sunday – the Chocolate pot – and fancied another, so we only moved as far as the pub and had lunch there again – again the rain continued, but it was cosy warm inside.
The evil dessert - just too good to not have a second one - this is day two
By the time Tuesday had arrived it was definitely time for us to be moving – the continual review of the weather forecast had told us that it was the better day to be going and so we did.
As we had done last week when moving this way, Diane took the tiller, whilst I was busy inside working – she did get a few more breaks along the way, but it was interesting to see the difference that a couple of days of rain had made to the canal depth. Pretty soon – well after 4 hours of cruising – we were moored up again in Rugby at the Brownsover bridge.

We didn’t have anything particular that we needed to do whilst we were here, except that we had Chris Jones, our engineer, coming to fix a couple of problems that we had – one being a leak with the water separator (which had been by-passed) in the meantime and the other was the need to change the rear seal packing (whilst we were in the water).
People had told me how easy it was to change the packing without the need to take the boat out, but I was concerned that if I did remove the packing it would just allow water to rush in – seeing Chris do the job and the tiny amount of water that dripped in, I now believe that if I had to do it I could do it – it is amazing how much you continue to learn.

We did manage to visit the movies again on the Meerkat deal – this time seeing Fanatstic Beasts (and where they come from) – for people used to the Harry Potter series it is worth the visit; even if you are not, it is a good movie and Eddie Redmayne grows in strength as a great actor.

It was also another chance to just relax – i.e. not moving – but we finally decided to continue our progress and get through the locks at Hilmorton and moor just above them.
A visit to The Old Royal Oak on Saturday was worthwhile – lovely and comfortable inside  - but we only went for a drink.

We will move off again on Tuesday – the current plan – but as with most things, that is subject to change – the only thing for sure is that we will have a relaxing weekend.
The final word (or words)!

21 Miles, 4 Locks, 1 Tunnel, 1 Swing Bridge
YTD:  836 Miles (1345 km) , 452 Locks, 12 Tunnels, 21 Lift Bridges, 5 Swing Bridges

Total: 4631 Miles (7453 km), 3151 Locks, 124 Tunnels, 66 Lift Bridges, 172 Swing Bridges

Friday, 18 November 2016

Things that need to be done.

Sunday 13th November to Friday 18th November 2016

Our primary reason for being in Rugby was to be somewhere for rail access; Diane had a doctors appointment in Watford on Wednesday and would travel down the day before to stay with her aunt and uncle and then come back on Wednesday afternoon.

So naturally we had a bit of sitting around and to be perfectly blunt it was just nice to be inside in the warmth – winter is only just around the corner – and it really felt like it.

We did a bit of shopping but mainly it was just relaxing; planning for next year; sorting out things that we would need to do before the end of the month.

Come Tuesday and we walked along to the station; Diane bought her tickets and then she was off; I was on my own, but under instructions – something to do with getting myself off to get a haircut – when I did some figuring,it had been June when I last had it done, so it was no wonder that it was long and scraggy and Diane was nagging me about it.

Anyway, that done, I made my way back to the boat, got some work done and settled down to see the England v Spain match on the TV – it is always that last hectic 10 minutes and this was no exception with Spain pulling off a dramatic draw.

The following afternnon and Diane was back – we had decided to go to the movies and see Inferno with Tom Hanks – and with the Meerkat 2-for-1 offer and senior discount – two of us were in for under £9 – can’t beat that.

We had seen the previous two in the series, but to be honest this was not the best of them; still a good movie and plenty of great locations, but…

Having got the appointment out of the way, we wanted to get up to see Coventry again – we are in the mode that we have to take advantage of our locations (wherever we may be) to see places again, if we can – it will be the last time to get there on the boat.

So with that being a priority we headed northwards – it being a particularly coldish day – luckily I had work to do on route, so Diane was out in the cold, I was inside where it was not so cold (well that would really be warm) – but I did keep her well hydrated with coffee and tea and nourished with lunch as well.

The occasional whistle summoned me outside for her to head inside to visit the head.

This is a lovely canal and we have traversed it many times and the going is neither quick nor slow.

There was one lock to negotiate – at Hawkesbury Junction – just beyond a line of moored boats (as usual) – we spotted nb Oakapple moored just there and I could see Sharon in through one of the portholes and waved to her; also saying hello to Richard who had poked his head out to say the same; unfortunately for us, our priorities were elsewhere and we had to continue our journey.

Bit annoyed to see that we were criticised publicly (on social media) for not stopping there.

We have been into Coventry just once previously and wanted to see it again – we love the basin, even with the hire boats now occupying one of the arms.

We made our way into there and winded before reversing down the northern of the two arms and mooring right at the end – enjoyed that exercise – but as usual, when you do it well there is no-one there to see it.

Our plan is to spend a couple of days here before we head back to Hawkesbury Junction to meet Stella and Dave and no doubt catch up with Richard and Sharon – we have a booking for Sunday lunch at the Greyhound.

After that it is south down the Oxford from whence we have just come.

We have to commend the Canal and River Trust for the new on-line system of being able to book passages along some of the routes that are around – particularly The Ribble Link and the moorings in Liverpool (others include the Standedge Tunnel and Frankton Locks) – we spent about 20 minutes on-line and made bookings for both of these to our satisfaction for next year (2017).
The system is so much easier that the old way of doing it and you have immediate confirmation by email and/or text message – well done CaRT.
If you want to look at it or make a booking then use the following link

Whilst you are there, you may also want to have a look around at all of the other things that they now have on-line, such a change to when we first started just 6 years ago.

17 Miles, 1 Lock, 1 Tunnel, 1 Swing Bridge
YTD:  815 Miles (1312 km) , 448 Locks, 11 Tunnels, 21 Lift Bridges, 4 Swing Bridges

Total: 4610 Miles (7419 km), 3147 Locks, 123 Tunnels, 66 Lift Bridges, 171 Swing Bridges

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Our world is always the better for spending time with our friends

Monday 7th November to Saturday 12th November 2016

For most of the week we could be described as being in the really boring mode – not much was happening – I know that I was busy with work and Diane has been busy with some craft work; we ventured out for each of the days, but really for not much of a walk – the truth was that we were just too comfortable and cosy inside the boat and had no real reason to go outside.

There were a couple of days in there where we had good reason to be out and about – Tuesday saw the return of nb Much Gigglin’ and we had a lovely meal over at The Boat House with Tone and Julie before they needed to be moving on towards Hilmorton where they needed some electrics seen to, but it was simply nice to sit and talk with them for a while – the previous Thursday was a bit rushed as they got through the locks.
These guys were the very first boaters that we encountered back in 2008 and we worked down the Hatton Flight with them – us being complete novices with barely 3 days experience under our belts; they helped us and showed us so much – most of which has stayed with us all of these years; we had a lovely meal at the Cape of Good Hope at the end of that day and we learnt what it was to be a boater in England (not that we could have classed ourselves as such way back then).

Love these guys - it will be too long until we see them again
We bid them farewell as they cruised off – this time with at least an hours daylight in front of them.

Come Thursday we had a very busy day – first of all we decided that we had to clear away some things that needed to be done – elsan and rubbish heading that list; after that we did decide to take a longer walk – heading along the towpath past the junction we came off at Bridge 89 – through a couple of gates and past a paddock full of sheep – at least for Diane they were better than cows – then up the hill and we came out on the other side of the church – we hadn’t been that way before.
The views from the top across the canal and away to the north-west were completely different to what we have seen before.

It is almost as good as I saw it; the brilliance of the sun behind the cloud

This was the prelude to what we had been waiting for – Bev, Dot and Roly had driven down from Stone for a visit – it was catch-up time with more dear friends – part of the best group of friends that anyone could wish to have.

Crazy people - there should have been a warning on the packet -
(from L to R) - Bev, Dot, Roly, me and Diane
We had pre-lunch coffee and tea in The Boat House, followed by lunch and then back to Ferndale for more the drink and eat – Roly just loves Diane’s Welsh cakes – there were presents and cards handed over each way – we won’t see them again this year and probably not until April next year at the earliest.

Roly and Bev - see Roly, Bev really does love you and we love them both
It was sad to see them go, but we have a schedule of things to do for ourselves now, which must be done before we too can head off.

Friday morning and we untied early-ish; watered up; winded and then headed north on the Oxford. We were planning on going only as far as some mooring just above the Hilmorton flight and then spend Saturday there as well – there was rain that had been forecasted for then.
Along the way we planned to fill all of the diesel tanks and cans at Hillmorton Wharf, but after mooring up, we found that it was closed (on Fridays); mmm, we were down on diesel, so the decision was made to carry on; down the locks and we filled at Clifton cruisers, and although the diesel was a bit more, it was a pleasing feeling to have everything full again, and with that we eventually moored up at Brownsover (Rugby).
Number one issue was always going to be TV signal – afterall it was Friday – Strictly was the prime concern to the top management – luckily that was all OK, so settled in we did.
Lunch - Staffordshire oatcakes (courtesy of Roly) -
at the bottom with sausages cheese and bacon;
the top with tomato and cheese - mushrooms on the
side for both - simply lovely
Friday night and Saturday early morning were as predicted – at least the boat was geeting a bit of a clean. It seems to be that Saturdays are becoming a bit more relaxed for both of us – we had no need to rush out for anything, so we took our time; went out and picked up a few things that we needed and for the rest of the day it is in the boat, cosy and warm and doingas little as possible.
Saturday - McDonald's day and the big kid was let out again -  here with
her new Troll and a book of stickers
Well that has been the essence of this week – the last thing to do is to wish my aunt, Brenda, a very Happy Birthday – she is just a few years older than me, so we spent a lot of time together when we were much younger –so have a Happy one!!

10 Miles, 3 Locks
YTD:  798 Miles (1284 km) , 447 Locks, 10 Tunnels, 21 Lift Bridges, 3 Swing Bridges

Total: 4593 Miles (7392 km), 3146 Locks, 122 Tunnels, 66 Lift Bridges, 170 Swing Bridges

Sunday, 6 November 2016

The Queen of Countdowns does it again!

Wednesday 2nd November to Sunday 6th November 2016

Wednesday morning was quite refreshing (read that as bloody cold) – there was frost on the ground outside and ice on the inside of the pramhood – a sure sign alround that winter is fast approaching – as if we needed any at all!

But still, we made a relatively early start, our intention being to just go down 5 locks and moor up where we had done last year.

It doesn’t matter how early you start off, there always seems to be a boat just in front, and that was the case for the boat behind us – how they must have thought to themselves “we’ll get an early start and get through these locks before anyone else and be on our way” and then upon seeing us at the first lock it may very well have been “dammit!!”

After about 4 locks, their supposed thoughts became ours – every lock had been empty and even when we met a boat coming up, the very next lock was then empty – “dammit!!”

We reached our intended stopping point but a couple of boats were where we would have liked to have moored so we carried on, eventually mooring just below Lock 9 (the one that is being closed) - the one we had been seeking to get through before next Monday.

The sun was out and we thought that a walk into the village would be nice as well.

There is a lovely café/store there and with freshly baked croissants still warm, who could resist.

The rest of the day was sunny and quite lovely – we are really enjoying these lovely late autumn days as we drift towards winter.

After a couple of emails, we had a schedule to be in Braunston for Friday – a guy is coming to look at our cratch cover and pram hood cover to do some minor repairs; we also thought of spending a day at the mooring by Bridge 100, so if we were to do that we would need to be moving on Thursday – probably needed to move anyway – to get water and empty the elsan (although that could have easily been walked down from where we were).
Early morning, cold, bright sky and a balloon - Diane managed to capture this
whilst steering toward the first lock - I told you she was good!
So, 1 lock down, elsan emptied, water tank filled, sun out, thermals on, coat on, hot tea and coffee at the ready – I would say that we were set.

It was absolutely fabulous cruising in the morning – if you forget the understeering at a corner and the boat approaching from the other way – collision avoided – we carried on past the junction and then thought, that with the prospect of rain for Friday morning, why not go all of the way into Braunston, so we did and found our spot – right opposite The Boat House, so we are now here for a little while – all moorings have now changed to 14 days.
I think only an Australian will see the sense in this - with one star and
the word blue both filled in with red
We ventured up to the village; Diane was disappointed that the chippy was closed at lunchtime; we stopped for lunch at the café; and then enjoyed more of the sun on our way back down to the boat.
The afternoon was carried through with usual things that you get up to, but about 4:30 a boat was passing by, fairly close, as happens here, when I noticed the name “nb Much Gigglin” – Tone and Julie.
Out we popped to see them; they stopped and we had a brief chat, but they needed to get to Norton Junction that evening – 4 miles and 6 locks in the rapidly fading light – only one thing to be done – we could chat on the move.
So with windlasses in hand, we hi-tailed it to the first lock and we all worked through the six Braunston locks in a bit under an hour; said our goodbyes to them and now looking forward to their return journey when we can catch up with at a more leisurely pace.
Dear dear friends Tone and Julie with Diane - after all of the locks were done
and they only had the tunnel to go - it was darker than the photo may indicate
As forecasted, the rain did arrive on Friday morning, which justified our decision the day before to come right through.
After getting through some work in the morning, there was a knock on the outside of the boat and the guy that we had been waiting for had arrived – Allan, who has a business on the cut – repairing cratch and pramhood covers, as well as making new ones.

Over the last couple of years there has been a little bit of wear on the covers as well as few minor accidents – all of which required some attention before they got worse.

He was able to explain what he would need to do to rectify them, advised how long he would need to take them both away for and the bad one – the cost. Fortunately we have an understanding of most things, and equally some idea of what we are prepared to pay for services – everything met our thoughts on the subject and Allan took away the covers, leaving poor old Ferndale just a tad naked in these cold times.
But we were rather snug and cosy on the inside thanks to the Reflecs.
She's a good girl really and should not be this naked...

...we had a little trouble recognising her

Later on we ventured over to The Boat House for a drink with friends – Stella and Dave – and met a few of their friends from around Braunston; I managed to get chatting with a guy called Crocket who was on a boat on moorings west of Bridge 98 – amongst other things we both extolled the virtues of diesel heaters and the ease of keeping a boat really warm with them, as well as the low cost in running them.

Friday night and Saturday morning were a fair bit colder than we had experienced for a while, Ferndale was relatively unprotected on the outside, but the previous nights discussions emphasised the fact that the boat was indeed very warm and lovely inside.

We didn’t do too much during the day, but come 4pm, we heard a thump on the roof – it was Allan back with the covers – everything fitted back into place and even though I was confident in talking to him the previous day about the work that he intended to do, we were both ecstatic about the quality of work that came back – could not be any more pleased.

So if you need any work done on your covers, give him a call –

On the Cut Cratch Repairs – Allan – 07403 550 058

Yet another onto our list of people for services on the cut.

Sunday, being Sunday, meant that it was out for a roast lunch – our choice today was The Old Plough in the High Street – we had already sussed out the likely venues and this one looked like it would be nice. We have had drinks there previously, but had not eaten there, but with a dedicated dining room, we suspected that it would be fine.

I can highly recommend it – the food was great, the servide was great and the price was great – 3 stars if ever I have seen them.

Only problem for us was that just before we were due to leave, it started to rain and so we had to brave the wet stuff in making our way back to the boat where, dare I say it – we were cosy and warm yet again.

Oh yes, now for the reason for the label for this post - as some will know, Diane is a fanatic about countdowns - usually involving a soon to take trip, a birthday, anniversary, or as the photo shows - Christmas.
Well, she now has an official countdown board for Santa -  and believe me she will be awake on Xmas day at 5 am 

9 Miles, 9 Locks
YTD:  788 Miles (1268 km) , 444 Locks, 10 Tunnels, 21 Lift Bridges, 3 Swing Bridges

Total: 4583 Miles (7376 km), 3143 Locks, 122 Tunnels, 66 Lift Bridges, 170 Swing Bridges

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Not everything that grows on you is mould

Friday 28th October to Tuesday 1st November 2016

We have had a quite lovely few days since we left Thrupp, which is not to say that anything before was not lovely – just in a different way.

Our moorings have predominantly been very very rural and very very quiet – both in terms of noises from traffic or trains and also with respect to passing foot traffic.

On our way down in June we found a lovely mooring south of Bridge 212 and wanted to moor near there again, but with it being a lot cooler and less bright we opted for one a little more south (just north of the quarry moorings) – so very quiet and there were no lights around at all and nobody wandering past – could have been almost anywhere, nobody would have found us.
Only problem was that the pins were in softish earth and a boat going past early the next morning was a bit fast and the back ones came out – it was a good 5 minutes later before I noticed and the stern was on the other side of the canal. No real problems.
Somerton Deep Lock
Next mooring along was south of Anyho and was really only just beyond Bridge 193 – this was even better – we had armco and chains – and nothing stirred anywhere around us.
Could easily have stayed there for a few days – which we might do if we ever come this way again.

We managed to stop for a good 45 minutes at The Pig Place on our cruising along – just for breakfast – we had missed the opportunities to stop before, but for Diane’s sake we would stop again next time as well.
Very happy with her breakfast...

...but don't tell Diane,
but this is where the bacon and the sausages come from.

Following that we spent a couple of nights in Banbury – and it was over a weekend – that would also be Halloween weekend.

Yep, we did it again - another picture of Banbury Cross

I think that everyone must have been really spooked as it was exceptionally quiet – a little noise on Saturday night but no problem near us – and Sunday night – it was just like all of the church mice had gone on holiday because there was nothing at all.
We needed to stop here as we wanted to get some shopping done; there was a Sunday in there, so that meant a roast lunch; we had some boat chores to get done also, but come Monday morning we were away and on our way – we still have the upcoming stoppage ahead of us and we would like to see that behind us sooner rather than later.
Cropedy Marina - looking quite splendid in the bright sunshine
Next mooring was just above Elkington’s Lock and beyond Clattercote Wharf – at first it didn’t look much but again it was really quiet and just very nice.
Spot the difference with the earlier photograph at Somerton Deep Lock -
That's right, we have swapped sides
This is the first time we have signs of occupation on this
landlocked boat

When we first came along the Oxford canal heading south, last year, we didn’t think a lot of it, to be absolutely truthful – a means of getting to the Thames.

The pound between locks 20 and 19 was very much down and
we had an effort to actually get through - everywhere else was quite OK
A combination of shallow pounds, areas of bad (or non-existant) internet and TV signals, small villages without much of interest, long meandering around obstacles – it didn’t enthrall us at all.

But now that we have traversed it a couple more times it has grown on us immensely and we do like the rural character of the canal; the picturesque countryside – still not enamoured about the signal issues – but you can't have everything.
We are now moored just above the top lock on the Napton flight and will be heading down there to ease our concerns about getting past the proposed winter maintenance on the flight.
We will miss the (South) Oxford.

33 Miles, 22 Locks, 2 Lift Bridges
YTD:  779 Miles (1254 km) , 435 Locks, 10 Tunnels, 21 Lift Bridges, 3 Swing Bridges

Total: 4574 Miles (7361 km), 3134 Locks, 122 Tunnels, 66 Lift Bridges, 170 Swing Bridges

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Why is this river so narrow?

Monday 24th October to Thursday 27th October 2016

We are still pretty much ahead of the time to make it past the stoppage on the Napton flight in early November so we decided that a day or two in Oxford would be worthwhile and allow us to see a few things that we still had not done.
There was also the matter of re-stocking the pantry and fridge.
Spotted this litlle place coming up towards Oxford - make a nice weekender
One place that we had never visited in any of the many times that we have been to Oxford was the Ashmolean Museum, which has a fine reputation, but as we found out on Monday, it is closed and only open for business Tuesday to Sunday, so we headed off to the covered market to seek out The Pieminister for lunch.
This establishment has been here for a few years and with a great reputation for great pies, as the name suggests.
mmmm - The Pieminister

So we had lunch there and also got a bit of shopping done for ourselves and for Diane’s mum, who had asked us to source a book for her.

We could wait for Tuesday to re-assault the Ashmolean.

And so it came to be; after getting my work done (well most of it!) we launched ourselves from the boat – by this time we had come off the Thames and were moored in Jericho opposite the new waterside development.

We were a bit “surprised” at how narrow these other little “rivers” are when you do leave the Thames and there are plenty of boats close by.

Standing right opposite another Oxford institution, the Randolph, the Ashmolean has gone through a bit of refurbishment, which is easy to see.
You could imagine a stuffy old museum, as they used to be, and now there is a bright building – inside and out – with fine collections of relics from history with excellent and illuminary descriptions of the empires that have gone before us.

It was well worth the effort, but we have to admit that all of that walking around has had an effect on our legs and we did need to have a bit of a sit down and relax – think we must be getting old or something.

During our few days here we did manage to get the shopping done as well – although Diane was very disappointed that the Aldi was closed for renovations and so we repaid all of those free Waitrose coffees by getting the replenishments there – as well as having another free coffee.
Looking across Port Meadow back towards Oxford

A blog cannot be complete without a picture of cows - just because I can!
It was now time to move along and we left Oxford, for what may be the last time on the boat, and headed northwards.
The day started off just a little bit foggy, not misty, but not cold at all – there was no breeze and with all of the moored boats we just took it slowly.
By the time we were at the junction we had caught up with another boat so we were back to waiting at the lock – they were new to boating so it took them time; the hire boat coming down the lock were new as well, so they took their time, we were almost blocking the bridge hole for Duke’s Cut, so the boat coming through there took their time.
Eventually after 30 minutes we made it through the lock and continued north.

Coming to Roundham Lock (Lock 42) we noticed that there was a boat just coming out of the lock – I could clearly see the boat and the skipper, the weather had brightened up considerably – but I needed to sound the horn to let them know we were there as they were closing the gates.
Diane by this stage was already walking towards the lock; the other woman apologised saying that her husband didn’t tell her we were there – he did look a bit dim!

A very fine mooring was found at Thrupp – not on the 7-day mooring rings, but then we weren’t staying that long.
Whenever we stop in Thrupp there always seems to be a need to visit Annie’s Tea Rooms and since it was nearly lunch time, then why not.

The day had by now brightened up well and truly – the sun was out and it was quite lovely. The days are getting noticeably colder, and will get even colder in another month or two, but for now the presence of the sun, even a bit warm, is really nice, so we enjoyed it all.

There is such a huge difference between the Thames and canals – we have been quite used to the depth of the river, allowing us to cruise quite easily; little need to adjust speed when passing other boats; the canal with some shallow stretches, proximity to moored boats and the consequent need to slow down – there is a certain intimacy about the canals which you do not find on large rivers; but a sort of freedom on the rivers that is missing from the canals.
Love them both, we do!

14 Miles, 8 Locks
YTD:  738 Miles (1188 km) , 411 Locks, 10 Tunnels, 14 Lift Bridges, 3 Swing Bridges

Total: 4533 Miles (7296 km), 3110 Locks, 122 Tunnels, 59 Lift Bridges, 170 Swing Bridges