Wednesday, 30 April 2014

An Epic Cruise !!!!


The last week has,by our standards anyway,been a bit of an epic cruise.We have covered some 68 miles and done 25 locks on 5 canals,that’s an average of nearly 10 miles and 4 locks a day,which is what we would normally like to do in a week.One of the reasons for doing this,in spite of what I said last week,is to get closer to Oxford a bit sooner so that we could spend more time around there.We’ve decided that all the places we have passed on our way here will still be there when we go back so our current plan is to enjoy them on the return trip.I must add that we have a new plan virtually every other day which seems to be the standard for boating on our canals.Another reason for traveling so much is we want to spend some time with our good friends Robbie and Suzie,off the good ship NB.Swamp Frogs,we haven’t seen them since saying au revoir in Cyprus back in December.We caught up with them this Monday afternoon when we arrived in Banbury on the South Oxford Canal and it was great to see them again.They haven’t changed much but the suntans have worn off.

We set off from Carlton last Tuesday morning with no plan as to when we would get to Oxford,but,as each day got us a bit closer we decided to push on the following day if the weather was kind to us.That is how it worked out,in spite of dire threats of torrential rain on the nightly weather forecasts,each day was mainly dry.There was the odd light shower which can be expected in April,April Showers and all that,but bye and large we had very little rain until after we had moored up for the day.When it does rain having a narrowboat with a traditional stern helps ‘cos you can pull the hatch over,leaving just enough room for the Helmsman of course,close the stern doors as well and then just carry on.You could then get by with just an umbrella for shelter if you wanted.

Anyway,we left Carlton and made our way down the Ashby Canal to Hinckley for our first night,stopping at Trinity Marina to fill our diesel tank and then moored just outside the marina.I wanted to go over to Nuneaton so it was across the road to the bus stop near the marina and out with our trusty Bus Passes.There’s a bus every twenty minutes so,business done,a bit of shopping and then back on the bus again,easy,who needs a car?On Wednesday we carried on to the end of the Ashby,turned left onto the Coventry for a few miles and then turned left at Hawkesbury Junction,through Sutton Stop,and onto the North Oxford Canal.To the uninitiated,Sutton Stop is the Stop Lock at the Northern end of the Oxford Canal.Because the water levels between the Coventry and Oxford Canals are different,the Coventry being a tad higher then the Oxford,the stop lock protects the water level on the Coventry.It’s named Sutton after the first Lock Keeper.That night we moored just outside the village of Ansty,just as the predicted rain arrived.

North Oxford 001  North Oxford 006

Sutton Stop with Lisa working the lock as usual and Chyandour almost ready to leave,the water level only drops a few inches.

On Thursday we just did a few miles down to Brinklow in the morning.We were expecting a visit from our eldest Daughter and our Grandchildren and Rose Narrowboats kindly gave us permission for our daughter to park her car on their drive while she visited.After they left we did a bit more cruising because it was such a pleasant evening and where we had moored at Brinklow wasn’t that good,we couldn’t get Chyandour close into the Towpath.Friday was the day we did the least,the weather forecast proved to be right and it rained,so we only did five miles before calling it a day.On Saturday we left the North Oxford at Braunston,turned onto the Grand Union Canal for about 5 miles before turning off at Napton and onto the South Oxford.We had a lovely mooring for the night in the middle of nowhere but,as is often the case,we had boats moored ahead and astern by late afternoon.It didn’t spoil it in any way and it’s nice to think that others share our preferences.

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Just a couple of the views we enjoyed as we cruised down the North Oxford.

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A flying visit !!!! She landed on the solar panels and then made her way to the hatch,presumably looking for food.We don’t feed them with bread because I believe it’s not good for them.

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Braunston,the church to the right and the Windmill minus it’s sails to the left.Going under the towpath bridge at Braunston Turn.This had me puzzled at first ‘cos I didn’t expect a choice.They’re both for entering the Grand Union but I suspect the far one is difficult to turn under from this way

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We don’t think he fancied Chyandour.For some reason Swans like to attack the stern button at this time of year when they are nesting and they can be quite aggressive.A strange looking vessel moored on the Grand Union,as both the front and the back look the same it’s difficult to know whether it’s coming or going !!!!

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The Windmill on the top of the hill at Napton just after we turned onto the South Oxford.A Buffalo farm as you go up the Napton Flight,we’ve been told they can be quite aggressive.

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The last line of defence perhaps? After the invaders have managed to cross The Channel we will halt them on the banks of the South Oxford? Having looked at it again and seen another one very much like it I don’t think it’s a prefabricated Pill Box of WW2 era,I think instead that it’s just a farmers store.It’s not all hard work doing the locks as Lisa is happy to demonstrate.

Sunday was Lisa’s Birthday so after opening all her cards we set off to Fenny Compton Wharf and The Wharf Inn where we stopped for lunch as a treat before continuing to the top of The Claydon flight of locks.We did have a minor hiccup as we approached Fenny Compton though.We came around the bend and across the canal was a plastic cruiser,there was no room to get past so we had to stop.There was no way I would try to push it out of the way,18 tons of steel pushing against a fibreglass hull is a recipe for disaster.One of her mooring pins had been pulled out so I got a line onto her,pulled her back in and secured her so we could carry on our merry way.

We knew by now that Swamp Frogs was moored in Banbury so on Monday morning we set off down the Claydon locks to meet up with them.On the way down the locks we helped a boater who’s wife was non too well,Lisa working the locks for both boats bless her,and some of the paddles weren’t easy I can tell you.Robbie was waiting as we approached Banbury and guided us to a mooring in front of them.It was good to meet up again and swap a few stories over a beer or three before going to the nearest Wetherspoons for a meal.Don’t we just live the high life hey ???

Well,that’s it again for this week,slightly delayed due to the celebrations I hasten to add.Since our last blog we have cruised 68 Miles and gone through 25 Locks,giving us a Grand Total of 692 Locks and 1236 Miles since October 2012.Take care everyone.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

On the move again.


Well,as the title suggests were of to pastures new again.This time were on our way towards Oxford some 95 Miles and 42 Locks from Carlton Bridge 44 on the Ashby.Don’t know for sure when we are likely to get there but it wont be any day soon.We’ve planned to get there for around the middle of May so that should give us plenty of time to enjoy what lies ahead of us.

Since our last blog we have had quite an interesting time up here on the Ashby.As you know we moved up to the end of the canal on Monday then on Tuesday,after helping our youngest move house,we rounded off the day with Jeanne and Pete in the Rising Sun at Shackerstone,one of the best pubs on the canal system.On Wednesday I mowed a bit of grass for the Ashby Canal Association ready for the next day and watched the two coal boats,Aquarius and Ilford,being loaded with the coal that they’re to take around the Inland Waterways,Lisa meanwhile,had a “Girly Day” with Jeanne.Thursday was the big day,we had a few local dignitaries helping to promote the event and though it was a bit cold a few people made the effort to dress for the occasion,myself included.We had an impromptu BBQ on Thursday night despite the cold wind and had a great time with some new found friends,sitting around a brazier filled with some of the leftover coal that isn’t on it’s way round the system.Thanks to Rod & Eleanor,Tony & Sue,Pete & Jeanne and Colin & Sue off the boats,and Andy,Charlotte & Zoe from the old Pump house.

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The stars of the show.Aquarius loaded and Ilford being loaded on Wednesday.

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A couple of boats at the show.Pete & Jeanne’s Castellan and Rod & Eleanor’s Storm Petrel.

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The dignitaries arrive and the token shovelling of the coal onto one of the boats.

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The speeches,they were worth listening to,and Peter,Jeanne and Myself,not sure that a flat cap suits me,looks a bit like a flying saucer.

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The BBQ at the end of the day.

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Some of the inside of the Snarestone Pump House at the side of the canal.It was built in 1884 to pump water to Hinckley from a 700 foot deep shaft below the house.Andy,Charlotte and Zoe,the new owners,proudly gave us a conducted tour on Thursday night.

We moved from the end of the navigation on Friday because Lisa’s sister Heather and her husband Steve were coming out to us again,this time for the Easter weekend.Shackerston seemed like a good place to meet up and then we could have the evening meal in the Rising Sun which I had booked a few weeks previously.As always,the food and drink there were excellent.On Saturday,after cruising for a whole six and a half hours,which is an exception for Lisa and I,we moored near the little village of Carlton.The Gate Hangs Well in the village had live music that night and we’d been reliably informed the band was well worth seeing.This proved to be correct,Waxies Dargle,an Irish Folk and Skiffle band,gave us a very enjoyable night with some unusual renditions of some popular tunes.They get their name from a song by the Pogues by the way.The evening was enjoyed along with copious amounts of that wonderful falling down juice, Marston’s Pedigree,and a great time was had by all.

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Some of the life alongside the Ashby Canal.

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Moira Furnace and the short stretch of restored canal that runs alongside it,looking in the direction of the current end of navigation some six miles away.

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Steve,Heather & Lisa earlier on Saturday evening in The Gate Hangs Well and a not so good pic’ of Waxies Dargle performing.

Then on Sunday,after a long lie in we shuffled the couple or so miles back to Shackerstone where we got into Steve’s car and drove over to Moira Furnace which is on a short stretch of canal that will eventually be joined to where we moor at the current end of the Ashby.Thursdays event was about getting the canal just a little bit closer to Moira Furnace.Then it was back to the Rising Sun,where we enjoyed the lunch,before cruising back to the end of the canal and an early night.I think one or two of us had consumed a little bit too much,if you know what I mean,no names of course.Steve and Heather left us on Monday and then Lisa and I finished the day back at Carlton,not in The Gate I hasten to add,we’ve signed the pledge for a while,honest !!!

Well,that’s it again for another week.Since our last blog we have cruised 33 Miles,mostly over the same stretch of canal so Steve could have a go at the Helm,and 0 Locks.That gives us a Grand Total of 667 Locks and 1168 Miles since we set of in October 2012.Take care everyone. 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

End of Navigation.


This week we are back at the end of the Ashby Canal moored up ready for the celebration of the commencement of the next phase of the canal restoration.There’s to be a ceremony with the presentation of a cheque from UK Coal to Leicester County Council towards the restoration and then two traditional working boats,loaded with coal,are to head off around the waterway system.Motor boat Aquarius and the Butty Ilford,that’s the unpowered boat being towed behind,will recreate the spectacle of the last loads of coal carried from the Ashby to Croxley on the Grand Union Canal.Along with the coal they are to be decked in banners highlighting the restoration.Lisa and I may have a little roll to play in all this but I’m not sure of all the details yet,that will be in next weeks blog.

We moved from our mooring near Burton Hastings last Tuesday morning,when the weather had improved somewhat from Monday,and made our way along the Ashby to Sutton Wharf.It’s a useful mooring there with facilities that include showers along with the usual Elsan and water and,if you want,it’s a nice walk from there to the Bosworth Battlefield site.There’s also a very popular Cafe bar alongside the wharf.We left there the next day to get to our first port of call on the Ashby,Carlton,where we wanted to see our youngest Daughters new home and enjoy a pint or two in the village pub,The Gate Hangs Well.It’s a bit of a walk from the canal to the village but it’s worth it,the road isn’t too narrow and in most places there are wide verges.The new house is lovely and the pub was good too,friendly customers and proprietor as well as a good pint of Pedigree along with a couple of other real ales.If you should ever take the opportunity to visit Carlton have a look at number 44 Main Street and see if you can work it out.We stayed near Carlton till Friday morning and then we moved a couple of bridges further along the canal to be close to Congerstone.

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Our mooring near Carlton & the view behind us.Apparently there was a Wharf here for a nearby quarry but we couldn’t find any trace of either.

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A couple of shots of our mooring at Congerstone.Nice and peaceful.

The Christening of our latest Granddaughter was to be at Congerstone church on Sunday and we wanted to be nearby to help with the preparations for that and also give any help we could for the house move.Our mooring just past Bridge 49 on  the Ashby was excellent,we we’re completely in the countryside with owls hooting in the evenings and the sound of the Battlefield Line steam engines puffing and whistling during the day,idyllic.On Saturday we met up with old friends Pete and Jeanne off NB. Castellan and went to have a look at the new marina at Market Bosworth.There’s still a lot of work to do there but there was a lot of interest and quite a few of the 150 berths were reserved,though it’s not due to open till September.As things stand we are only likely to make use of it for short periods through the winter months,if we should be in the area that is,and of course,if they have room.Their prices seemed to be about the average so we shall see.From the marina we went up into Market Bosworth itself for lunch and had a nice meal in a pub we’ve visited before,Ye Olde Red Lion,the foods good but the Pedigree is a bit pricey.On Sunday the Christening went very well,the church was full and we had an enjoyable reception afterwards in the village hall.This morning we untied our ropes and set off to do the 4 miles to here at the end of the Ashby Canal navigation where we shall stay till Friday.

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The cake for the Christening which was made by our eldest Daughter.The Baptism,Beatrice’s Dads family have a tradition of using a particular spoon for the service.


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A boat moored at the end of the Ashby Canal.A Moorhen has built a nest and laid her eggs.The owner can’t move his boat now till the eggs have hatched and the chicks have fledged.

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Lisa busily planting some shrubs to improve the area here at the end of the navigation.The plinth has now been started.The two beams in the background will be mounted on the plinth when it’s finished.

That’s all for this week folks.Since last week we have done no locks and just 19 miles.That gives us a Grand Total of 667 Locks and 1135 Miles since we set off in October 2012.We’re looking forward to seeing a couple of you over the Easter Weekend.Please take care everyone.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Back on the Ashby again.


As the title says,we are back on the Ashby Canal.We got here yesterday and our mooring is just a short distance from Burton Hastings,a little Warwickshire village North East of Coventry.It’s nice here apart from the weather which has been a bit wet and windy.As a result,we haven’t bothered moving,though a lot of other boaters have been brave and cruised.At times it’s been a bit like the canal equivalent of Piccadilly Circus,we’ve lost count of the number of boats that have gone past.

We’ve nipped back up here on the Ashby for a few reasons.One,our newest Granddaughter is to be Christened this coming weekend at a church just a few hundred yards from the canal.Two,we’re going to catch up with some friends who are moored at the end of the navigation where we will attend an event that is being staged to highlight the restoration of the Ashby canal.A couple of traditional working boats are to be loaded with coal and will tour the waterway system adorned with banners.Lisa and I are members of the Ashby Canal Association and it’s nice to get to some of the functions and help to support their aims.Three,our youngest Daughter will be moving house and like all nosey parents we want to have a look at the new home,the pictures look amazing but there’s no substitute for the real thing.

We left Curdworth last Tuesday morning,not quite bright and early just a bit earlier than we would normally expect to set off,but we didn’t get far.We want a Tiller Tassel to decorate Chyandour and the guy that makes them,Dave Edwards,was moored just a few hundred yards ahead of us.After placing our order and having a very entertaining hour with Dave we set off again to do the 11 Locks and 6.5 Miles to our next stop at Fazeley Junction.This junction is the Eastern end of the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal where it meets the Coventry Canal.There are water and Elsan facilities here plus a few shops,its also only a short bus ride to Ventura Park retail outlets and to the nearby town of Tamworth.The most important thing for me though was to wash off the Saharan dust that had settled on Chyandour over the previous couple of nights.I like my shiny boat you see.

March 2014 009  March 2014 011

The Pleasure Grounds below Tamworth Castle.They have some lovely floral displays.The River Anker as it flows through the Pleasure Gardens.There are two rivers flowing through Tamworth,as well as the Anker there is the Tame from which Tamworth gets it’s name.

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The Mill that stands alongside the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal as you approach Fazeley Junction.It was built in about 1883 and called Tolsons Mill,it was used to make bootlaces,webbing,corsets,clothing and upholstery.Only the ground floor is now in use.On the right is the project that I have been engaged in for the last couple of months.It’s a Rag Rug,it’s 7 foot long and a little under 2 feet wide and I got it finished while we were at Fazeley.I can now get back to having the odd drink or three in the evening.

On Thursday we set off down the Coventry canal heading for Atherstone,another place we have stopped at before,and moored about a mile or so below the Atherstone Flight of locks,leaving the flight for Friday morning,no rush you see,so nice and easy.Before we set off on Friday,I took advantage of Midland Chandlers latest Freaky Friday,when they have 20% discount off their stock.I phoned and ordered the few bits that we want from their Distribution Depot,which is only a half hour bus ride from Atherstone,in the nearby town of Nuneaton.Thanks to Phil and Kevin my order was waiting for us when we got to their depot on Friday afternoon.On the way up the Atherstone flight of locks we saw a familiar boat,Miner Bill,the crew are Tweeters on Twitter and it was great to introduce myself to Nikki and put a face to the tweets.We spent Saturday with our eldest Daughter and eldest Granddaughter,they came out and picked us up.I got to watch The Wizard of Oz in the company of our Granddaughter while her mum and Lisa went shopping,it was the first time I’ve seen it all the way through.

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Our first Ducklings,swimming in formation along the Coventry Canal at Atherstone.Our mooring near Burton Hastings,I didn’t take this today,the view is the same but with rain instead of sheep.

Yesterday we set off from the Visitor Moorings at Atherstone and just cruised till we felt like stopping.The mooring here on the Ashby,between bridges 6 and 8,there’s no 7,was empty and tempting so here we stopped,with the intention of doing a bit more today.The weather forecast on last nights Countryfile wasn’t too promising and so it turned out.It’s lashing it down with rain as I write this and I’m glad we decided to stay.I don’t envy those intrepid boaters who have cruised past.

Well,that’s all again for this week.Since our last blog we have done 24 Locks and 28 Miles,quite a lot,it’s time we slowed down.That now gives us a Grand Total of 667 Locks and 1116 Miles since we set off on our travels in October 2012.Take care everyone.