Friday, 10 February 2017

Coventry Canal. Ashby Canal. Hawkesbury Junction to Basin Bridge.

By no means could our time at Hawkesbury Junction be described as wasted. First there was a day spent making marmalade...
...whilst at the same time cutting and splitting all the remaining ash that we had on the roof. The next day Diane came to visit, which of course involved cake, scones and craftiness. That evening we went over to Lindsay and Paul’s boat and had a takeaway. We were going to go out for a meal to celebrate Lindsay’s birthday, but they’d had to take poor little Jack to the vet’s and were waiting for a phone call to say they could go and get him. It wasn’t quite the celebration it should have been, but it was good that we were able to be there and be a bit of support for them. (Good news - a week later Jack is almost back to his old self.) Lindsay had once again very kindly put our licence discs through her photo editor and we were very impressed with the results.

In the morning we were up early for another of our road trips. Going away from the boat in the winter requires planning. All the pipes from the water tank to the taps have to be drained to prevent them from freezing. Because we have a gas water heater this involves one of us opening the drain valve while the other one blows into the hot tap in the kitchen. Ideally we’d have emptied the freezer so we could turn the power off but there was still stuff in it. Plan b was to run the gennie for a couple of hours with the fridge on its coldest setting and the battery charger on, then turn the fridge to its least cold setting just before we left. The forecast was for temperatures between -2˚C and +4˚C, so hopefully, even with only a small amount of sunshine, the solar panels would be able to keep up with the power  drain.  As we knew we’d be coming back at dusk to a cold boat, we let the fire go out then set it again so we’d be warm as quickly as possible.

Our first port of call was Bristol to see Dave’s sister Anne. In the afternoon we had a walk through the city and round the floating harbour.

That evening there just happened to be a lantern parade in the city; local junior schools, playgroups and nurseries had all come together to form a brightly lit musical carnival that snaked through the streets just as dusk was falling. We had a quick half in the Spotted Cow while we waited for it to start, then followed the parade through the streets to the finish.

The amount of effort that had gone into constructing all the various illuminations was quite moving.
On the way back to Anne's bedsit, we came across this...
"Help Yourself Fresh Bayleaves"

...which was very serendipudosious as we'd run out about a week before.

Leaving Bristol the following morning we carried on into the West Country to a little village near Bude, where our old friends Jacqui and Al have bought a beautiful cottage.

We had an evening of catching up and they taught us how to play 5 Crowns. Great game!

Another morning and another sunny drive westward, this time to Sancreed, near Land’s End to see Kate, another of Dave’s sisters. We had posh fish finger sandwiches at Sennen Cove with Kate and Rod, followed by a stroll along the beach...

...then we all went over to Land’s End to watch the sunset.

After dinner back at Kate’s flat we sat down and played Cluedo which, despite Dave’s best attempts at cheating, Ann-Marie won, with Kate hot on her heels.

In the morning we filled up the screenwash bottle for the third time in as many days and set off up the A30 back towards the metropolis. We popped in for a cuppa with John on our way, then left sunny Cornwall behind. By the time we got to Karen’s it was foggy and cold again.
We’d gone to Karen’s because the following morning at 6am we were working at Heathrow. Not quite as glamorous as you might imagine, we were counting passengers boarding and alighting the Heathrow Express deep in the bowels of the airport.
We finished at 2pm and drove back to the boat via the chippy at Brinklow (excellent cod & chips). Within an hour of getting back we’d got the fire lit, refilled the water pipes, had dinner and were in bed with hot water bottles watching catch-up. The plan for the batteries had worked and they were at 12.9 volts. Very impressive.

On a cold and sunny morning we left Hawkesbury and headed north up the Coventry canal to Marsworth Junction where we turned right onto the Ashby.
 On the way we came across a boat that had come loose and was half way across the cut.
On inspection, after we’d pulled over and hauled it back in, we found that it still had a piling hook (sometimes called a nappy pin) attached to the back rope; either it hadn’t been hooked onto the Armco properly or, more likely as we were on the outskirts of Nuneaton, some jovial young prankster had unhooked it.
As we came past Burton Hastings the clouds gathered and the sun started to disappear. We pulled up at the next likely looking spot at Goodacres Bridge and had lunch while we decided what we were going to do in the afternoon.
Our view at Goodacres Bridge

As the weather was still OK we plumped for moving the car forward to Basin Bridge where there was a very handy car park.

When sold our house, we gave Digs and Bailey, our two cats, to Mum & Dad. Digs died about four years ago and on the walk back for the car, we got the very sad news that Bailey, after using up far more than nine lives, had gone to join her. He’d lived with Mum & Dad almost as long as he’d lived with us and they were really upset, but we all agreed that at seventeen he’d had a good innings and he’d been on borrowed time for six months or so. He was a fabulous cat, everyone’s best mate and the world is a sadder place without him.

After one night at Goodacres Bridge we moved up to Basin Bridge where the car was parked. 
Dave had a clear-out in the engine room then went wombling for firewood while Ann-Marie started sewing up the jumper that she’d knitted for Caleb. About six weeks previously Ann-Marie had injured her wrist by a combination of twisting it while pulling a lock gate followed by some feverish cross-stitching, all of which had resulted in a Repetitive Strain Injury and a period of wearing a splint. That afternoon she tried knitting again and happily reported it to be pain free in short bursts.

We’d only been back at the boat for a week and we were off again. Unlike the spur of the moment Cornwall trip, this time we’d had a fair amount of time to organise ourselves. That meant we’d eaten all the food in the freezer (the final few meals had been interesting to say the least) so just before we left we could isolate the domestic batteries and leave them connected to the solar panels. Once again we set the fire, but as the forecast didn’t have any sub-zero numbers on it we didn’t have to drain the water pipes.

Our off-boat travels this time were to Antrim to celebrate Caleb’s Christening. We’ll tell you all about it next time and try not to bombard you with hundreds of pictures of the most gorgeous baby in the world. 

Thursday, 19 January 2017

North Oxford Canal. Hillmorton to Hawkesbury Junction.

Our first mooring of 2017 was one of our favourites. We refer to it as All Oaks Corner because it‘s next to All Oaks Wood near Brinklow.  
Frosty Boating from Hillmorton to All Oaks Corner

Chilly Day at All Oaks Corner.

Last time we were there, the ewes in the field on the other side of the cut had just given birth and we watched the new lambs gambolling down to the canal for a drink. This time when we looked out of the window the sheep looking back were way past their gambolling days and just looked cold and miserable. The day after we arrived the canal froze over and remained frozen for most of our stay.
Sunset at All Oaks Corner

When we walked back for the car, instead of following the towpath we cut across the fields back to Newbold. If we’d got up a bit earlier and got out before the sun had time to defrost the mud it would have been lovely. Well it was still lovely, but in a very muddy kind of way.  On the plus side there was a fallen ash tree in the field alongside our mooring, so with the help of Dave’s Christmas present... the time we left most of it was on our roof.
 Dave's Workshop.

This is our sixth winter on the cut and so far we think we’ve got away quite lightly. The year before we moved aboard Legend other boaters told us that the temperature in some places was as low as -15˚C and the canal was frozen for seven weeks. That length of time without moving creates a whole raft of problems and over the years we’ve tried to address as many of them as we can to make sure that if it gets as bad as 2010 then we’ll be prepared. One of the less savoury problems is this – If the taps are frozen, having emptied the toilet cassette, how do you then rinse it?  Our solution, which we had cause to test out at Hillmorton services, is to take a bucket along and, after making a hole in the ice, fill it with canal water.  Cassette rinsed, sluice flushed and a happy boat again.

As it was a new year, and as we’d bought a new duvet and some pillows for when the kids came to stay, we felt we ought to embark on a rather ruthless boat clear out, starting in the wardrobe and proceeding towards the bow. This resulted in a bin bag of stuff going to charity shops and another bin-bag going in the clothing re-cycling bin at the tip. There is now more air circulating in the wardrobe and all the spare bedding fits in the cupboard under the bed again. We have yet to address both the engine room (which used to be tidy and now isn’t) and the bathroom cupboard.

Over the first January weekend we had a round trip in the car. Our first port of call on Saturday was Great Haywood marina where Laura and Alison were moored for the winter. We all went for a walk past Tixal Wide...
...and through the Shugborough Estate before returning to Large Marge for delicious pork chops from the farm shop for tea. In the morning we had what is fast becoming a tradition with the Margees; a pyjama party with bacon butties.

On Sunday we were off to Mytchett and a celebration meal out with birthday girl Karen, birthday boy Andrew, Mum, Dad, Wendy and Alex.
No pyjama party this time as Karen had to go to work on her birthday, but we got up and made her scrambled eggs on toast and had pancakes for when she got home. In the evening we were back to a very cold boat, where we sat and ate steaming soup...
...before snuggling into bed with hottie bottles while our little Morso worked its magic.

The horrendous storm that had been forecast for the second week of 2017 was, when it arrived, a bit of damp squib. There was some mild gusting, a light sprinkling of snow and then it went back to being grey and cold. We walked into Brinklow and back along the cut where our day was cheered up no end by some beautiful snowdrops holding their heads high and banishing the winter weather.

Lindsay and Paul were away from their boat for a night so we looked after Jack, their spaniel, while they were gone.
He’s a lovely dog and it was a pleasure having him to stay, although we’re not sure he was all that happy about the arrangement. Every time we went past our car he stopped and looked at us as if to say “When am I going home?” In the morning Dave took him out for a walk in the pouring rain and then just after they’d both dried out Paul rang to say he was back. We picked Paul up from the station and took him back to Happy Daze where Jack was a whole lot happier.

 We waited till the afternoon when the rain stopped before pulling the pins and setting off from All Oaks to Ansty and moored up opposite the pub just as the light was fading. On the way our trusty old Lister engine was a bit lumpy to start with, but it cleared up after a mile or so and was fine the rest of the way. We put it down to air getting into the fuel line from not being used for a fortnight, however, two days later, when we set off for Hawkesbury Junction we found the real reason. On the day in-between Lindsay and Paul saved us a very boggy walk or a wet cycle ride back to our car. The towpath between Brinklow and Ansty is rubbish at the best of times, but after a week of rain in the winter it’s like a swamp.

We’d arranged to meet Bob and Mandy at Hawkesbury. They were coming over in their car for lunch, so we wanted to get Legend filled up with water and moored up in plenty of time. As soon as we’d finished breakfast we set off but before we’d even got to Ansty water point the engine went from fine, to lumpy, to very lumpy, to stopped. With no forward propulsion and therefore no steering capability, we casually drifted into the mud on the off side. Why narrowboats seem drawn to brambles and overhanging branches is one of life's unsolved mysteries. With as much dignity as we could muster we untangled ourselves and like Venetian gondoliers gently punted Legend back across to the towpath. Once there, and with lots of "to me, to you", we carefully maneuvered ourselves round the moored boats to the water point. While we filled up with water we pondered our predicament. Dave dipped the diesel tank and found that there was still about 25 litres in it; we’d been purposefully keeping it low as we were going to fill up in Hawne Basin when we get there, however, we’ve never let it get that low before. We wondered if perhaps we might have got to the point where the circles in the Venn Diagram depicting the end of the intake pipe and the surface of the contents of the tank had overlapped.

In other words we’d run out of diesel.

Plan a. Our first call was to the nearest boat yard, Rose Narrowboats in Brinklow. The very nice lady told us that there’d be no problem getting some diesel from them, but they could only put it in a 20 litre or bigger jerry can, due to their pump foaming up with anything smaller. We could get a jerry can from Screwfix, but at £20 each that made it rather expensive diesel, and we didn’t really want to buy one because we’d have nowhere to put it.

Plan b. Go to a garage and buy a couple of plastic fuel cans, fill them with road diesel and put it in the tank. The first garage Dave went to (Texaco) did sell plastic fuel cans, but at £7.99 each. For that sort of money we might as well have a jerry can.

Plan c. Buy 2 plastic fuel cans from Asda (£4 each) and the diesel from Asda (2p cheaper)

So that’s what we did. Two trips gave us 20 litres; enough to prove our diagnosis correct and, once we’d bled the pump, get us going again. All in all we were stopped for an hour and a half, and for most of that we were filling up with water anyway so we were quite proud of ourselves. With seemingly perfect timing we arrived at Hawkesbury Junction just as Bob and Mandy were walking up the towpath from the car park. It would have all looked incredibly well planned if we hadn’t already phoned them and told them of our plight.

We had a lovely afternoon with Bob & Mandy, after lunch we all went for a little walk up the Coventry canal, then they very kindly bought us a beer in the Greyhound and gave us a lift back to Ansty for the car. Another boggy walk avoided - our friends are so good to us.

In the evening we got the Nicholson guide out to find the next boatyard or marina that we’d be passing so we could get another 50 litres or so. We needn’t have bothered. The next morning while we were eating breakfast, we heard the steady thump..thump..thump of a traditional engine and looked out of the window to see Mark on the fuel boat Callisto coming through the stop lock, loaded to the gunnels with fresh supplies.

While we were making our purchase, Mark told us that due to a delivery hold up that morning, he was running late and should have been through Hawkesbury an hour and a half earlier. We would have still been in bed and would have missed him. That’s Karma being nice to us again.

We’re now in the lovely smug position of having a full water tank, a spare gas bottle, enough diesel and two empty cassettes. The car is in the car park just the other side of a very nice pub and there are bins, recycling and toilets there as well . As far as boaters are concerned, this is heaven.
And it Looks Pretty Too


Friday, 6 January 2017

River Lea. Limehouse Cut. Regents Canal. Paddington Arm. Grand Union Canal. Leicester Line.North Oxford Canal. Dob's Weir to Hillmorton.

Happy New Year one and all!

Our New Year Resolution is to resurrect this blog after four months of nothingness during which you, Dear Reader, have been rudely forsaken with not a clue to our whereabouts or what jolly things we have been up to. Some of these we'll expand upon in due course, but for now here's a brief synopsis of the our travels to date. 

We retraced our steps back down the Lee and through London, this time via Bow and Limehouse Basin.

The slide in the Noodle. We went down that! 

The East End from the top of the Noodle. 

Pea Soup at Bow.

Bow Locks. 

They named a bridge after us. 

Legend in Limehouse.

Thames Sailing Barges in West India Dock

After not very much deliberation at all we decided not go down to Brentford on the tidal Thames...
A proper River Boat leaving Limehouse.

...but instead to go back to Little Venice and the Paddington arm before heading up the GU towards the Midlands. 
As summer turned to autumn we wound our way northward...
A lovely welcome to Berko.

Narrow locks take us down the Aylesbury Arm. 

Arriving in Aylesbury Basin.

Just below Stoke Bruerne at dusk.

...then, in a replay of last year, we worked Legend back up Buckby locks jut before they shut for winter maintenance.

While all this was going on, Chloe was advancing relentlessly towards motherhood, and on the 18th of November while we were still at Norton, our grandson Caleb James Shand made his arrival into the world.
Ann-Marie's Beautiful baby cross-stitch. 


Because we enjoyed it so much last year, our plan was to once again spend Christmas at Welford with Lindsay and Paul, so after a fortnight at Norton Junction, and with Bob and Mandy on Matilda Blue right behind us, we turned right and made our way up the now familiar Leicester Line again. 
Legend and Matilda Blue at Norton Junction. 

Cruising the Leicester Line.

We stopped to kick our heels for a while at the top of the Watford flight then Bob and Mandy carried on to their winter mooring at Debdale Wharf.

For the week before Christmas we had a Holiday cottage in the Forest of Dean with Mum, Dad, Karen, Andrew, Alex and Ben to celebrate Mum's birthday and have a family Christmas Day, allbeit a week early.
Christmas week at Cornerstone Cottage. 

Santa's Been!

Between all the yummy food we managed a day out in Chepstow and we even ventured into to the forest for a couple of walks.
Chepstow bridge.

Having a happy day out in the forest.

Chepstow town trail.

Frankie, Harry, Chloe, Shandy and Caleb were all coming to stay on Legend for two nights between Christmas and New Year. So that's six people and a baby on a 57' narrowboat.
Luckily Lindsay and Paul just happen to be the most generous couple in the world and they offered us their spare bed. Fabulous. Two happy boats having a lovely Christmas and baby cuddles at Welford. 
Except we weren't at Welford. To cut a rather long story short, we had a four day cruise and moved both boats to the bottom of Hillmorton locks, just round the corner from Lindsay and Paul's new mooring and had a lovely Christmas and baby cuddling time there instead.

"Two boats" Lindsay working through Braunston. 

On New Year's Eve Legend was still at Hillmorton and Dave's Sister Kate was on board for the night. Kate had been our first overnight visitor, coming to stay about four weeks after we bought the boat and she hadn't been back since, so it was all very different from the last time she saw it; talking to her reminded us just how far we've come and how we've made this little tin box into a beautiful home.

After nearly a month of dashing about visiting folk and celebrating birthdays, Christmas and most of all Caleb, the excitement was all too much; by the time Big Ben announced the end of 2016 we were already in our pyjamas. We had a quick look out to see Rugby apparently in the grip of an air raid, then had a New Year hug before gratefully diving into bed.

We started 2017 with a very wet drive over to Wrexham to deliver Kate to the embers of a Wood cousin party. From there John and Linda would take her back to Exeter with them the next day where she could board a train home to Penzance. If the party embers were anything to go by, the main event must have been a blast. We left at around 6pm having eaten far more than necessary and with oodles of hugs, kisses and promises to visit all round.

This year we have Sharpness as a destination. We're looking forward to that, but not as much as we're looking forward to the journey that will take us there.

Have a brilliant year. Much love, Dave & Ann-Marie.