Monday, 29 August 2016

Bank Holiday Weekend

Thursday 25 August. 6 1/2 miles, 11 locks.

We meander through the countryside passing the Hartsill boat yard where there are old canal buildings, one of which has a lovely clock on top. Diana wants to take it home to put on our sheds out the back. It would really suit the property. We have been past here twice before but going the otherway you don't see it coming as it is just after a bridge. This time there is time to slow down and get the cameras out. As we approach the Atherstone flight I check the weather as we have always struck rain here before, no exception today as we enter the 3rd lock the drizzle starts. Nothing like the first time through when a thunderstorm struck going up. It was so bad we put the boat in a lock and waited inside for it to pass. After the 5th lock we moored up and walked into Atherstone  for a look around and a bite to eat. It is a town I enjoyed the first visit so was keen to walk around again. It has one of the best looking railway stations I have seen. It would have been even better in the days of steam when there was not all the electrification gantry & lines around. Late afternoon we continued down the last 6 locks of the flight, which are in 3 pairs mooring up just before the next downpour. 

Friday 26 August. 3 1/2 miles.

Just a short run to Alvecote where a number of historic boats are heading for a rally this Bank Holiday Weekend. Arrive and have some lunch before we walk to the pub where the boats are. But first we catch a taxi to a chiropractor in Fazeley. Diana has had a sore back for a few days now and it isn't getting any better. She was lucky to get an appointment at short notice. After the treatment it is a taxi back to the pub. There are about 20 - 30 boats in the marina with a row of working boats all backed in so it is easy to have a look at the boatman's cabins at the back. There is not a lot going on as everyone involved are doing there own thing. Diana's back needs a rest so a quick meal (average quality) to support the event then back to the boat.

Saturday 27 August. 6 miles, 2 locks.

The Historic Narrow Boat Gathering officially starts today so we are off down there again. First up we talk to a Canal & River trust volunteer who is showing off one of the trusts work boats. This is used for education so is decked out as it would have been during it's working life. We are taken into the boatman's cabin and shown how every nook and cranny was used by a family of up to 6 living in a space only slightly bigger than 6' by 6'. Next we walk down the line of boats. These people are fanatics and every cabin was decorated to the nine's. Many photo opportunities here. It was good to be there but it was a bit like kite flyers getting together. They wanted to be and play with their friends and not concentrate on the public. We went back to the boat for lunch and then set off at 1415. At 1400 the old boats started one of their competitions. They come down the canal and  turn in a wining hole then go about a mile and turn again. They are scored on their ability to turn. So as we come around the corner three boats have turned and 20 plus are heading towards us. We pop in behind number 3 and at snails pace weave our way past the oncoming boats in front of the public. Molly got a mention over the PA system as we went past. The next mile was probably the slowest done so far. Clear of the parade we continue through Tamworth, mooring up for a while as a thunderstorm goes through. Stop for milk & bread, fill with water then down the last two locks this year. They are all up from here on. Through Fazeley Junction and stop short of Hopwas for the night.

Sunday 28 August. 8 miles.

A mix of quiet countryside and noisy highway on a busy canal. It seemed like every boat coming the other way wanted to meet us in a bridge hole. Some didn't see us coming till the last minute so reverse gear was getting a bit of use. Arrived at Fradley Junction, where the Coventry meets the Trent & Mersey canal, in time to meet up with Roger and Pat who moor their boat about 10 miles and 14 locks down the Trent & Mersey. They came by car. The four of us partook of a Sunday roast in the "Swan", the pub at the junction. They then took us the two miles to The National Memorial Arboretum at Airewas. We made our first visit on the 27th August last year. A very moving place to visit. Back to Fradley junction for a cuppa before we returned to our boats.

Monday 29 August. 7 miles, 3 locks.

Up to the, reportedly busiest junction on the network, around the corner and straight into the first and open lock. There are volunteers to help so Diana doesn't have to put any strain on her back. Second lock much the same. Who said it was busy? About a mile further on at the next lock there is are no volunteers but we are second in the que to go up and there are 3 waiting to come down. Nothing unusual in that But, one of the paddles is broken so the lock takes an age to fill and the gate arms are short making them very heavy. No way Diana will move them without help. Lucky there are many boaters hanging around. 45 Minutes later we settle in at a stately pace until we stop for lunch on a beautiful day before continuing on to Rugeley and a stop at Tesco's. It is a day to enjoy so here we stay tonight.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Northern Oxford.

Monday 22 August. 9 1/2 miles, 3 locks.

Set off from Braunston at a reasonable hour and turned right up the Oxford Canal. A nice warm day to just cruise along at under 3 mph with the noise of the M45 to interrupt the peace of the country for a short time. Stopped short of the Hillmorton locks for lunch before walking down to the Canal settlement for a look. When we went through here in 2010 everything was closed up. Now every thing except the cafe is closed. Back to the boat to set off down the locks. Well it's Monday and there are hire boats every where and one of the paired locks is broken. As we are behind about 5 boats going down we get to enjoy the entertainment of enthusiastic amateurs. One kid fell off the top of the boat onto the front deck and I saw a 4-5 year old with a bleeding nose while a 6 year old sister was happily swinging a windlass. Eventually we are through and heading for Tescos at Rugby before a planned mooring outside Rugby for the night. As we approach Rugby we spy a kiwi flag and then recognise the name Waiouru on the boat. Quick reverse and try to fit into a 58ft gap behind. As it doesn't fit we hang off the back and chat for a good half hour before continuing to Tescos. It is now later than planned so stay the night there.

Tuesday 23 August. 8 miles,  1 tunnel, 1 swing bridge.

I pop back into Tescos to pick up another loaf of bread but it appears I got the last one last night. We leave Rugby and once through the Newbold tunnel it is countryside again. We find a spot with some shade and a wide towpath for lunch. Out with the generator and two loads of washing get done. With the hot weather it should dry quickly. We move on and after passing the M6 decide to get a bit away from the motorway noise before stopping for the night. We don't mind trains as they go past quick and reasonably quietly. We have nibbles and drinks on the towpath on a lovely warm summers night. We have changed our minds about quiet trains. They are passing every 5-6 minutes and a number of them are freight trains which don't go past quick as they are so much longer. Note to self, Make sure there is some form of vegetation between trains and boat.

Wednesday 24 August. 13 miles, 1 lock.

Under the M69, then alongside the M6 we reach Hawkesbury Junction where we pass through the 1 foot stop lock before doing a 180 deg turn onto the Coventry canal. Fill with water and head off north around Bedworth and past the Entrance to the Ashby canal. Went there in 2010 and would have liked to do it again but it takes 2 days to get to the nicest bit, so we go straight through. Next is Nuneaton where we meander through with a stop for diesel. Once out the other side into the country we moor up for the night. The rain starts about 2 hours later.


Saturday 20 August.

Bit of a sleep in this morning. Pat & Roger came to visit. We meet them on the way into Liverpool in 2014. They have a daughter in Wellington so come down under every southern summer. We introduced them to Art Deco last year and they will return for the third time next year. Their boat is moored about an hour away so they drove over. After much talking on Molly Rose we walked back up the canal to a canal side pub for a late and enjoyable lunch. After we walked them back to their car we took a familiar stroll through Braunston before returning to the boat for tea and sleep.

Sunday 21 August.

Today we are picked up by Dave who drives us the 35 minutes back to the new house they moved into 3 weeks ago. We meet Dave and Angie on the way out from Liverpool and doubled up with them going up the Wigan flight. Later on we joined them down the flight and had a few days cruising with them to Manchester. Most impressed with the design of this modern house and although mostly white interior the colours used in the furnishings blended it all together. Had a great feeling about it. They took us to a pub on the outskirts of Leicester for a Roast, it was Sunday after all. Roger and Pat joined us for the roast. We all adjourned back to the house for coffee and had a good old chinwag before returning to the boat where we finished the day with a light snack before bed.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Done with Doubles

Friday 19 August. 9 miles,15 locks, 1 2000yd tunnel.

We wake to a rainy day so motivation to move is not high. Mid morning it is looking better so off we trot. A couple of miles along we are following a familiar boat so it is looking good for pairing up on the locks ahead. There is a bit of light drizzle but not unpleasant to be standing on the back steering. It is quite noisy with trains close by to the left and the M1 to the right. A little further on the noise reduces as there are roadworks on the M1and I smile to myself as of the three forms of transport we are the second fastest. We join the other boat in the first lock. We have not traveled with them before but first talked to them on the Thames before we did the tidal bit. Since then we have criss crossed with them several times. So up we go and at lock 2 the drizzle turns to persistent rain and continues all the way up. At the last lock they didn't arrive so we went up by ourselves and stopped for lunch. Now we are inside eating the rain stops. About an hour later they come past, they had stopped at a wee shop beside the canal. We follow them as we turn left towards Braunston. This completes our new canals for this year. By now the rain has stopped and, surprisingly, there was no dripping water in the tunnel. Out the other side and down the last 6 locks, This went quickly as there were a number of boats coming up so the locks were full. As we approach Braunston around 5pm we are not optimistic about finding a good mooring but luck was with us. I spy a small gap, that I'm not sure we will fit into, but as there are people on an adjacent boat I am prepared to ask them to move forward to give me room. They must have read my thoughts as he appears and says that we will fit as a 60 footer has just moved on. From when we left the River Thames, 12 days ago, we have done 100 double locks and now we are back onto narrow canals. Quite looking forward to only 51 locks left and 3 1/2 weeks to do it in. Although we have been pushing it along we have enjoyed the canal and there is nowhere really that we feel we missed out on.

Thursday, 18 August 2016


Thursday 18 august. 10 miles, 7 locks 1 3000yd tunnel.

It was a foggy day to start with an eerie feeling, the trees poking through the fog and great reflections on the canal. We were almost ready to leave when a boat goes past going our way so I ask them if they would wait 5 minutes for us. They agree. We had been through a lock with them earlier. The couple and their two younger teenagers had spent a month in NZ a couple of years ago. With their help we raced up 5 locks where we were to moor up so we could walk up the last two locks to the village. No chance of a mooring up there. On the way up the locks I discussed what we were doing and they chose to do the same except they would stay the night. When we got up to the village we did the tourist side of the canal then stopped for a coffee, after which we crossed to the other side where there were just as many photo opportunities. The other boat is owned by her parents who live on it fulltime. When it is holiday time the couple and their two kids drive to where the boat is and her parents drive the car back to where it had come from. After two weeks holiday the parents drive to wherever the boat is and they swap over again. Seems like a great arrangement to me. We saw the family a couple of times in the village. So why so much about them? They were a delightful family with well balanced and mannered kids. The people that give you faith in the future of our world. I do hope they get to NZ again and meet up with them. About 1300 we set off up the last 2 locks with help from the public as this is a place where many come to see canal boats. As we approach the Blisworth tunnel I am reprimanded by the Smithy at the entrance for going too fast. Into the hole we go. It is double so the concentration is not as intense as a narrow tunnel. I have time to look around. What do you see? Brick linings, water dripping and in some cases pouring in. This has been happening for years and many interesting stalactites have developed. Not long after leaving the tunnel we pass the junction to Northampton, 17 locks down and 17 back up does not make it an attractive option to visit. We continue slowly through mainly open country with few buildings to see until mooring up for the night at Weedon next to the west coast main line with trains passing every few minutes.

The reference to Merlin's. Yesterday as I was walking down the locks I heard an aircraft with an obvious powerful engine and thought to myself, nothing special. As the Spitfire went past I looked up to see him complete a couple of barrel rolls. Today as we passed the Northampton Junction I was concentrating on taking a photo. When I put the camera down I look up to see a Lancaster disappearing in the distance.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

1 Step up

Wednesday 17 August. 10 miles, 1 lock.

Looking to put in a big day. Away before 0900 traveling around the edge of Milton Keynes. Mostly amongst trees and parkland with a few clumps of houses. Many moored up boats to trickle past until we get to Wolverton where we spend 1 1/2 hours supermarket shopping. I decide not to stop for lunch to make up some time. 2 miles later we are into the first of the locks up to Bilsworth tunnel. For 5 miles there are no towns on the canal but the view and atmosphere make for a nice days boating. We reach the bottom of a flight of 7 locks but because of the heat moor up for a while. At the top of the locks is Stoke Bruerne, a well known canal centre where CRT have a museum. I walk up the locks to check it out while Diana puts her feet up. Too much walking to villages recently and her hip is playing up. I don't know what the Temperature is today but working locks with no shade doesn't seem like a good idea. I spend some time in the museum and make  plan for tommorow. I wont tell you the plan I will blog what happend later.

Bottom of the hill.

Tuesday 16 August. 8 1/2 miles, 1 lock.

About an hour into the morning travel we go down Fenny Stratford lock. The drop is a masive 1ft 1inch and takes us to the bottom of the hill with 11 miles before we start up the other side. The Canal Guide suggests we vist Willen and Great Linford so stop for lunch at the bridge giving us access to Willen then off to find the Church of interest. 20 minues later we arrive to find the church locked and the main point of interest is inside. Wander around for a while ad then see a note with a phone number to ring for access. Shortly after we are in. The ceiling is very tall for the relitvel small church and inerior is painted pink, picked out in white and gold. Quite different. Back to the boat with less than a mile to moor up for Great Linford. We take what looks like the quickest route and end up at the top end of the interesting part with thatched, brick and stone buildings. Then down past the pub to the old Manor House and associated church and buildings. We walk back to the boat along the tow path and this isn't the quikest route. Back on the boat and move to moor up opposite where we have just been. Not a long day travelling but a lot of walking so we are left with a few miles to catch up tomorrow.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Charity shop fix

Monday 15 August. 5 miles, 5 locks.

Walked into Leighton Buzzard for a look around. It is a Market Town with a good selection of shops in the main street. There are a few chain stores but they are generally in adjacent streets so don't detract from the Market Town Feel. Diana had a fix of Charity shops, before lunch & internet at Costa. Bought a small amount of food before going back to the boat and headed off around 2. We went past a large hire boat company before the first lock and were imediately followed by hire boats. Very pleased we didn't leave any latter as we were 2nd in the que already. We meandered through the country side for 3 miles before reaching a flight of 3 locks. Volunteers were on hand to help and organise who should do what. Interesting results some times with pairs of boats going up and down which requires a crossover in small pounds between the locks. Carried on to do one more lock and as we approached I could see it was going to be difficult to moor up with a boat on the lock mooring. When we got there the couple of the boat were pocking around in the hedge so assumed they were picking blackberries. No the were trying to catch a baby Moorhen. It was covered in green paint. There was paint stuck to tree roots and the side of the canal. Looks like a pot of paint had been dropped while painting a boat,  We have past a number of boats moored up with crew out with paint brushes today. Back to the moorhen, The one in the hedge was eventually caught with a net when it came out into the open. When we left they were trying to entice another one with bread and the net at the ready. They were planing on taking them to a vet to get cleaned up. Soon after we moored up. Interestingly the bloke on the Green boat behind us was removing masking tape from his boat. I finished the day preforming an oil change.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Sunday Roast

Sunday 14 August. 5 1/2 miles, 9 locks.

Away a bit later this morning but still at a good time. A couple of old boats had gone down the lock so I went to fill it up before we got underway, and what did I find? A windlass. Even the long time boaters can have a memory lapse. As we are following the old boats we have to fill each lock before we go down so progress is not fast. At the second lock we are pleased to see a boat catching up but alas they are travelling with another so we are still left to go down by ourselves. The locks are spaced out a bit more now so there is a sence of a rest between each one. We are in open country and in many places there are no hedge rows so we can enjoy the panaramic views. Around lunch time we see an advert for a nearby pub so phone to make a booking. Not interested in walking the 880yrds to find out they are booked up. It was a 16th century Thatched, village pub with a carvery. In the past most places with a carvery are big and very commercial, this retained its village character and provided a good range of meats and veg with a complimentary ice cream to finish.  Diana had a Stem Ginger sticky pudding. No room for tea tonight! Took a few photos around the village of Slapton before walking back to the boat and continuing on through 2 more locks before mooring up just short of Leighton Buzzard. In the distance we hear a brass band playing and contemplate walking into town but, enough is enough, we have been on our feet all day.

An Up & Down Day

Saturday 13 August. 7 miles, 16 locks.

Away at a reasonable hour and slowly worked our way through the first 4 locks by ourselves. Although we were still in Berkhamsted it felt like a country canal. At lock 5 Diana gives a gasp "Where's my windlass?" Yep it is at the last lock. There was a Heron there and the camera was in full flight and the usual sequence of events when we leave a lock was broken. Most of the climb so far the locks are reasonably close, this one was a good 3/4 mile behind us. Off she went at a good pace hoping that no one would have taken her most precious windlass in the collection. This gave me the chance to prove to myself that I could, if need be, take the boat through a lock solo. Well I can. Takes time and one doesn't want to rush and get something wrong. Once I was through it was about the time I expected Diana back so moored up and wandered back down the canal and found her at the first corner with a happy face. 2 locks later we are at the top of the hill. 420ft above the river. We trundeled along for about 3 miles and stopped for lunch before it is time to change the mindset and start down the otherside. There is a flight of 6 locks and while trying to get enough water into a leaky lock to open the gate another boat appears. They were a great help as their boat lives nearby and they are very familiar with the locks and they have a crew of 3.  We were going so well until a boat comming up got caught by the wind and turned him right around so that he had to go into the lock backwards. This all takes time. Last lock has an ice ream shop so we managed to lick away at one of those. The other boat left us at the bottom of the flight and we continued managing to join another boat through the next 2 before they stopped for the night around a couple of corners to a swing bridge which was opened by a nearby fisherman and we stop before the next lock. Generator out and 3 woads of washing done before diner and an early night.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Climbing the Chiltern Hill

Friday 12 August. 3 1/2 miles, 11 locks, 1 Swing bridge.

Another beautiful day. After 3 locks we arrive at the boat yard to find the oil filters sitting waiting. Next was the vehicle swing bridge, Diana's favourite, Yeh right. The next 5 locks were close together but more than walking distance apart. By now it was hot and a lunch stop was required. We are on the eastern end of Berkhamsted and Diana had been told, by a passing boater at one of the locks, that it was worth a stop. We are not sure where town centre is so we head off down a couple of locks where the canal is graced with two canal pubs and a boat yard. Best place to moor but of course every one is taken so it is through the next lock and then not much further on we find a spot. Walk off the tow path past a supermarket straight on to High St. The intention is a quick look and then a few more locks in the cool of the evening. After a stop at Costas for a coffee, internet and charge the devices it is onto the photo taking. As we head back to the boat we have a change of plans. Fish & chips for tea with the promise of an early start and a long day tomorrow. We Will See!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Wayward boats and photos.

Thursday 11 August. 4 1/2 miles, 9 locks.

The boat in front moves off and we decide to let them go until I spy activity on the lock behind. Looks like a solo boater and we prefer not to go through with some of them as it means more, rather than less for the Lock Girl. A quick crank of the engine and we are away. By the time we get to the first lock the other boat is in and going up. Diana helps them and they will wait for us at the next lock. They are an older couple (our age) and their grandson. We go through the next 7 locks with them. At one of the locks there is a bit of a wait as divers are doing a survey of the lock walls. It did mean that there were others to help us through. Most of the time the other boat would leave the lock first. The one time when I went out first there is a widebeam boat drifting loose. It looked like we would get around behind but it drifted quicker than I could get there. Diana grabbed a rope from the back and we tried to pull it back then with a bit of maneuvering we pushed and pulled it to the bank. It had been attached to a couple of old sticks one had come out and the other broken off. We left it tied to another old stick and a fence post. Probably adrift again by now. After the 8th lock we stopped for lunch and the others went on. I tried to find out if the oil filters I had ordered had arrived but with no luck. I wasn't keen to go too far in case we had to pass the boat yard before we could moor. I will pick up the filters tomorrow. Where we were was not the best place to moor so we go through one more lock and find our companions had moored up for the night so we are now just in front of them. The disaster of the day was: 
Diana tried something different in downloading her photos.but hit the DEL button instead of the Import button. So no photos of Divers, wayward boats or a number of pretty lock cottages. Good news is that it wasn't a 680 photo day.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Moving North

Wednesday 10 August. 6 miles, 12 locks.

Left our smelly mooring and went up the first two locks before we pass aTesco supermarket with moorings provide, would be sill not to stop. At the next lock  we are joined by another boat. First time we have shared a lock so far. At this lock there is a Canal Centre so we plan on stopping and loosing our companion. As it turns out there are no moorings so we see them again at the next lock. After that we let them go when we stop for lunch. With lunch over we  are preparing to move when a boat goes passed so we race off behind them and go through the next 8 locks with them. We had seen them several times before on the Oxford, Thames & Grand union. After the last lock they have a spot ahead where they plan to spend the night and we take the first available mooring which is behind the first boat we shared a lock with. Finised the day with a walk around the old part of Hunton Bridge.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

A mucky day

Tuesday 9 August. 7 miles, 6 locks.

No rush to move. I spent some time on the phone trying to locate an oil filter as the next oil change is not far away. After talking to abou 5 boat yards the best I can do is hope someone will ring me in the morning to have the filter ordered and delivered to a boatyard 2-3 days away. Next thing is a pump out. I ring the yard across the canal  and he tells me to come on over. Well before we leave I ring him to check where to go but he can't see me. Not surprising really as he is in their other yard about 5 miles away. We set off late morning and are assisted through the first lock by volunteers. Next we pass the boat yard that is sorting out the oil filter so I call in as I have now found some alternative brands and they may have them. No they don't but fortunately the person who was going to ring me tomorrow had turned up and I was able to sort it all out. With luck the filters will be waiting for me on Friday. We carry on to the next boatyard for a pump out. Takes some time to manoeuvre into the entrance of the marina, turn around and moor up. "Sorry we can't do a pump out, our tank is full", to which I reply, "that makes two of us". Did another lock and stopped for lunch. I give the next marina a call to confirm they can do a pump out and what time they close. This is the next objective for the day. Another tricky entrance, not helped by someone tied up to the pontoon giving little room to manoeuvre. At least now we have an empty tank. Moved on a bit further and passed through a lock beside Cooper Mill. This place had a nice feel about it with modern houses and the old mill was now flats. Decide enough for the day and moored up just out of town. After a while it seemed like something was wrong with the pump out as we were getting an unpleasant odour. Guess what, behind the trees is the sewerage plant. Can't be botherd moving so shut the windows.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Around LHR

Monday 8 August. 15 miles, 13 locks.

An early start today as the Teddington lock keeper only lets you onto the Tidal Thames 20min before high tide. This has you running with the outgoing tide for the majority of the trip. High tide today is 0650. The drop from Non-tidal to Tidal is only a couple of feet. Two boats set off and as the others had done it before we followed. Very pleasant conditions with the sun low in the sky. We pass some rather nice houses but not as elaborate as those around Henley.There is also a variety of boats from lovely old timers in pristine condition through to the rust heaps people choose to live in and the odd sunken boat. As we pass Richmond we pass under the raised sluice gates which are open for 2 hours each side of high tide. The rest of the time they are lowered to keep a constant depth of water upstream and then boats have to use a normal lock to get through. Below this point there are no further locks. After travelling for  an hour 15 it is time to turn up the Brent river, There are about 4 channels in the same area and even the boat we were following had difficulty in identifying the correct one. It was quite obvious once you were in there. Through a lock and back onto the canal system. Took on water then headed north with 12 DIY, double locks to start the climb back to the Midlands. Very heavy gates and winding gear so Diana had a good workout and with me having to assist on some. When we got to the Hanwell flight there was a notice to say if you wanted help then ring the volunteers. Did this and they were helping someone else at the time but would get to us soon. We set off up and occasionally saw a volunteer but they were busy with other problems of water management so in the end we went right through basically unassisted. We had intended to stop for lunch half way up but with all the water shortage issues and three boats behind us we kept going. Stopped for lunch about 1400. We got away later heading up the Grand Union Canal until reaching the Slough Junction where we stopped for the night. Went to a local pub for tea. I think I identified all the characters from "Last of the Summer Wine" in there. The day started Southwest of Heathrow then crossed both approaches before we ended up to the North. It was morning rush time as we went down the Thames with a continuous line of large aircraft on the approach.

Interesting point: When we left the Thames were were just 4 miles upstream from the Hammersmith bridge where I had walked along the river when visiting Richard back in 2003 also we were about 3 miles direct to where he and Mel lived. Guess I can say I have been to London in my boat and that there is very little of the Thames I havent seen when you also consider I had done the tourist boat trip to the Thames Flood Barrier back in 1990.