Friday, April 27, 2007

Through The Harecastle Tunnel

We left Great Haywood and travelled through the locks up to Stone, where I saw a hairdresser next to the canal so I decided to have my usual short cut. Eric took Ben for a walk but Ben still had plenty of energy when he came back, while Eric was tired! Later after they both had an afternoon nap we travelled up to stay above Barlaston near the Wedgewood factory, but very quiet.

Ben is getting used to the boat, he likes to see where we are going and enjoys getting off to 'help' at the locks- he thinks it's fun to pull the ropes and chew them. Our next stop was at Westport Lakes and Ben really enjoyed seeing all the ducks and dogs. Also lots of people to make a fuss of him. In the morning we got up bright and early- who needs an alarm clock when Ben wants to go out for a wee!

Today was Ben's first trip through a tunnel and the Harecastle Tunnel is a long one to start off with. We all waited patiently at the south portal until it was our turn to go through- in a convoy of four boats. Ben slept through the 35 minute trip- he missed the drips, the dark and the cold, cold tunnel! After that we stopped at Kidsgrove to visit Tesco before we travelled on through six of the locks before we stopped for the evening. Ben has conquered his fear of walking over bridges over the locks- he's getting much braver! He also waits for me to use the windlass , so he can look after it for me and chew it! He has learnt so much in the two weeks we have had him and our boat will never be the same.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sally's Visit At Great Harwood

After a quiet night above Fradley Junction we set on our travels. Ben and I had a nice walk along the bank enjoying the scenery. He is bothered by bikes and sits and waits til the way is clear. We stopped at Rugeley so I could go shopping at Morrisons, which is nice and close to the canal because the cupboards were bare. Lots of narrowboats are out since Easter so finding a space in visitor moorings is becoming more difficult.
Ben is into everything but sleeps through until about 7am which I can cope with. His favourite trick at the moment is to take the end of the toilet roll and unravel it- just like the Andrex pup. We have to remember to shut the bathroom door!
We arrived at Great Haywood and filled the last mooring space above the lock. Sally (eldest daughter) came to visit for the day and this was a good place to meet us. We filled up with water at the BW waterpoint and diesel from the Anglo-Welsh Boatyard. They have started charging £1 to use the elsan disposal point. We decided to travel up to Tixall Wide to give Sally a ride and luckily there was a space. We had paella for tea and then we all walked back to Sally's car at Great Haywood. Ben enjoyed the attention from Sally but he didn't appreciate having a wash when he got back to the boat. He was a very dirty dog! Now he's clean , dry and fast asleep!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ben's First Narrowboat Trip

We had already decided to set off on our travels again, this time we are heading up to Llangollen to see some welsh scenery! Wednesday was Ben's first boat trip and he wasn't bothered by the engine noise. He slept on the boards covering the engine on our traditional narrowboat, with the hatch open and the rear doors closed to keep him safe. We did the locks together but Ben just watched as I opened the lock gates and raised and lowered the paddles. Ben thought the lock key (windlass) was great to bite. He stopped and watched the ducks , another new experience.

Several locks later we arrived at Fradley Junction- much quieter today than the Easter weekend. We moored next to Fradley Nature Reserve giving us lots of fun walks for Ben the dog. We also needed to stop near a road so that the engineer could come and install a new silver box (Travelpower Generator) provided under warranty by Beta Marine. We have had some lovely walks around the lake and Ben follows us faithfully off his lead- but there have been no other dogs to investigate. He greets everybody he meets and loves the fuss he gets from adults and children alike.
Our generator has been replaced- thanks to Sam at Foxton Boats- and it means I don't have to find a lauderette. Rugeley has a good one. Ben enjoyed chewing and carrying the ropes when we stopped for water and to empty the toilet. We travelled up the locks from Fradley Junction carefully opening the gate paddles so as not to repeat our smashing time! We were enjoying the quiet above the locks as we stopped for a doggy walk followed by lunch until the grass cutters arrived , but they were soon finished and peace returned.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Introducing Ben The Dog

We decided last week to get a dog- every day we see all varieties of dogs and we really miss having a pet. So we asked our daughter Clare to find us a border collie pup as we felt it would cope with boat life. She chose us a pup at a farm near Crickhowell (she wanted them all) and put down a deposit so we could collect him we came to Newport for the weekend for my dad's 80th birthday (April 15th).
So last weekend was hectic! It started with hiring a car from Enterprise, as they would pick us up from the marina near Burton on Trent. We travelled to Newport with a few deviations as we didn't have any maps or a satellite navigation system. In Newport we caught up with some shopping (mostly for the pup) as we had the car to transport stuff back to the boat. On Saturday afternoon we collected the pup (Ben) and the fun began! He did not like the noise of car and cried pitifully until we got to Eric's sister's house. He loved all the attention he received and later we went to stay at our daughter Sally house in Abercarn, of course there was a repeat of the miseries as we travelled there- (but I'm scared said Ben I've never been in a car before!). Paula's neighbour Alison lent us a puppy pen which was useful as at least we could sleep without worrying what he was up to.

On Sunday Ben stayed at Paula's while we went out for a meal at the Groes Wenn Inn in Penhow for my dad's birthday. The company and food was really good- it was nice to have a chat with relatives we hadn't seen for a while. We picked up Ben from Paula's (he had a lovely time) and took him back to Sally's house for the night. He slept well and woke me up to go outside- he likes to relieve himself on grass not paper. Monday included a visit to the vet ( a nightmare- he cried all the way!) to begin his inoculations, we were told to keep him off the ground until after his next jab but as we don't have a garden it's impossible. He slept all the way back to the marina- obviously he was shattered and so were we. When he's awake he is into everything and then he just drops off a to sleep where he is. It's seventeen years since we had a pup - I'd forgotten what it's like! He's already got the hang of steps on the boat and is not afraid of the TV any more. I'm still getting used to midnight walks, so I hope he sleeps through the night soon!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Visitors At Easter

Eric's brother Robin and son Joe met us at Barton Turns Marina and spent the Easter weekend on the boat with us. We decided to take a trip to Fradley Junction and what a trip! I think all the boats from everywhere were at Fradley , we queued for the locks and had great difficulty finding any where to moor as anywhere that was deep enough was occupied. We spent the night with the boat partly floating miles from the bank!
We have never seen so many boats. We found it great to have extra crew to help with the locks but Robin was easily distracted by any female crew he met at the locks! We did not appreciate one lady helper who raised the paddles so quickly on one set of locks at Fradley and caused the boat (even though it was in reverse gear) to crash the lock gates and empty my high level glass cabinet all over the floor. My Ikea glasses survived but most of my crystal glasses shattered! I was annoyed and spent the next finding glass everywhere and we are still finding it days later.
We did meet lots of friendly, helpful boaters and one man with a new boat said he hadn't been told that narrowboating was a contact sport and this made us smile. We found this out on the first day we had the boat and there were no other boaters around. This is the reason I leave the steering to Eric and do the locks myself ! Also the exercise is good for the figure!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Travelling Towards Shardlow And Back!

We travelled along the Trent and Mersey Canal staying at Willington and Swarkestone. Along the way the buds are bursting and new green leaves showing on the trees, spring has come! We saw geese sitting on their eggs and the first baby moorhen that we have seen.
Swarkestone visitor moorings gave great views of aircraft landing at the East Midlands Airport but luckily we couldn't hear them. The cycle route to Derby passes nearby at the lock , so it was quite a busy spot. Also the Canaltime boaters from Sawley come quickly by. The only shop nearby was a garage but we could get milk and a paper. As there is a turning circle we decided to turn around and head back to Willington to wait for the man sent by Beta Marine to fix our generator. He came but the part he had was a dud so we still can't use the washing machine.
Willington visitor moorings is a pleasant spot and very popular with boaters as there are several pubs and shops including a hardware shop. We also had a visiting swan who stuck his head through the side hatch with his breakfast order! After our 48 hour stop we headed back to Branston to stock up at Morrisons for the Easter weekend. I never thought I'd see the day when I used a plaid shopping trolley (OAP style) to carry the shopping but it is pink and it saves my arms growing any longer carrying shopping bags!

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Visit To Branston

After a night in the marina we set off towards Branston, as we approached we could smell the yeasty odour from the breweries. On the way we stopped at Jannel Cruisers for diesel and a visit to the chandlers as the armco had destroyed one of our pipe fenders. We were like kids in a sweet shop and spent more than we intended on boaty bits and pieces.
We also needed provisions as the cupboards were bare, so we set off to the visitor moorings just outside Branston which was nearest to Morrisons. First of all we sampled their beef dinner and it was very nice too. After that we collected a small trolley to begin our shop, as we had to carry the shopping back to the boat, which was quite a distance with heavy bags. We spent the night there and it turned out to be a quiet spot, even thought it was near the industrial estate.
In the morning we travelled through the brewery town of Burton on Trent stopping for water and cassette emptying at Horninglow Wharf. It was a very windy day and this made it difficult to steer the boat so we stopped at Willington. This village has the usual quota of shops and pubs and is popular with the boaters on their holidays. As the moorings are next to a mainline railway the noise of trains thundering past started quite early in the morning, so we will be moving on looking for quieter spot where only the birds wake us up!