Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Weekend At Braunston

Eric's Favourite Boats

The Pump House At Braunston

Cooperative Boating! Sharing The Double Lock

Braunston Church

Moored Up Together Near Braunston

We actually managed to find two places just before the visitor moorings at Bridge 90, so we could stay the weekend at Braunston . It's always busy here with lots of boats moored up, so we were really pleased to be able to stop. The lads just had to visit Midland Chandlers and they came back with chains to attach us to the metal bar along the edge of the canal.
In the afternoon we went for a walk with Ben the dog following the footpath up through fields to the impressive church in the village overlooking the canal junction. The bells were ringing out as a wedding had just taken place and they were all going to the reception in an old red London Bus which was decorated specially for the occasion. The fields we walked through clearly showed the old ridge and furrow system of farming where each ridge was the peasant farmer's strip of land.
We walked through the village which has lots of interesting houses including an old windmill and a well equipped shop/post office. Then we stopped for a refreshment break at 'The Old Plough' before following a footpath down the hill again to see the Double Locks of the Grand Union Canal. The boaters in the picture above sharing the lock obviously know all about cooperative boating. The Pump House had a chimney dated 1897 in the brick work, which you can't really see in the photograph.
Eric bought a new hat in 'The Boat Shop' to replace the one that sunk at Hawkesbury Junction and got my dad a postcard to add to his collection. The shop owner kept it to post for me which was great. We walked down to Braunston Junction stopping to chat to some friendly boaters moored up for the weekend. Eric took some pictures of NB Dover and NB Vulcan moored in Braunston Marina- He loves the old boats! If he won the lottery I know just what he would buy!

Friday, May 30, 2008

I Spy NB Khayamanzi

After the engine service we were in need of a mooring and we ended up near the golf course and then it was get out the plank to get the tow path. Ben was a good jumper and just jumped on and off rather than walk the plank.

In the morning we headed for Rose Narrowboats to get the batteries checked. It proved to be expensive as the domestic ones needed replacing. While we were there NB Khayamanzi was out of the water on a large trolley- she looked fine Andy! Then we headed out into the country and stopped before Newbold Tunnel. Some kind people had cut the grass for about 30 feet, so at least we didn't have to jump off into 2 feet of vegetation. We also bought an extra mooring pin at Rose Narrowboats so we were safely moored up even when the boaters who haven't got the concept of 'narrowboats do it slowly' whizzed by.

The next morning we saw the pretty lights in Newbold Tunnel and then did a Tesco shop. Alan and Eiddwen were waiting for us after the tunnel as they had kept going while we stopped at Rose Narrowboats as we didn't know how long we'd be there. We headed off and got to Hillmorton Locks and as they are twin chambers it proved to be quite entertaining. The best laugh was provided by a training boat not using the lock set for them but blocking the other chamber. They even started to close the gates to refill it to go down, even though there was a boat waiting to come up. If that's how people are trained it's not a bit of wonder they don't know how to do the locks.

As we head towards Braunston and the Grand Union we can sum up the North Oxford Canal in a few sentences. Pretty scenery and lots of boats which meant that mooring was difficult. The towpath sign posted as the North Oxford Canal Walk is in desperate need of attention. When we came this way last year it was just the same, very long vegetation and lots of mud with the towpath washed away in places. I thought I was going to end up stuck in the mud by my wellies!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bank Holiday Weather

We left Shackerstone and headed south to get water and empty the cassettes before stopping for the night near Sutton Cheyney Wharf by Bridge 34. After a quiet night we had an early start(8.30am) as we needed to be off the Ashby to meet the service engineer. I set off fifteen minutes before the boats walking Ben the dog. We walked five miles to Hinckley before the boats caught up. They had been hindered by the very windy weather and the shallow canal. A few trees had fallen near Bridge 5 but we were able to cruise past although the towpath was blocked for walkers. At Marston Junction the wind took us and we crashed and banged as we rejoined the Coventry Canal.
At Hawkesbury Junction, the U turn down to the lock for the North Oxford was also difficult with the wind. Eric lost his hat in a gust of wind! It soon sank- well he needed a new one anyway as it was all faded from the sun. We meandered along he North Oxford until we found a space near Bridge 4 and there just happened to be a pub nearby. An hour or so later we returned to the boat and the rain began. It hammered down all night and the wind blew and the boat banged against the bank.

In the morning we set off to meet Sam from Foxton Boat Services at Ansty as we could stop next to a road to make life easier. The walk along the towpath to Ansty was wet, muddy and boggy but Ben loved it, splashing in the puddles and drinking them as usual.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Time To Turn Around

We winded (turned the boat) and left the current end of the navigation and headed south once again. The people from the Ashby Canal Society are hoping there will be another 50 yards to its length this year, we'll have to wait and see. Eric led the way through Snarestone Tunnel and Alan followed then Ben and I walked the three miles to Shackerstone where we stayed for the weekend. Our travel pals Alan and Eiddwen's daughter and granddaughters were coming to see them so we needed to be near a road. She was kind enough to take us supermarket shopping in Hinckley as shops are not very easy on this canal. Eiddwen and I were overwhelmed with all the people about- we are certainly used to a quieter way of life.
Our journey back down this canal will be speedier (no we won't create a wave) as we have appointments for services and another to have the electrics checked out.
Spending some time on the web I went to Narrowboat World and found a picture of NB Shush and a mention about their unusual name.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Moorhen In A Tyre Fender

Moorhen In A Tyre Fender

This canal has few mooring places as it's very shallow and soft sided in places. The visitor moorings are all full by midday- if they were ever empty! Some boats seem to be permenently moored on the 48 hour moorings. We moored near Stoke Golding for the night and in the morning Ben and I went for a walk up the hill to post a card to my dad- he likes to see some of the places we've visited. It was impossible to stop near Bosworth Wharf to shop in Market Bosworth so we just kept going and moored in the countryside near Shackerstone.
In the morning we were up and off for a 'follow that boat' walk towards Snarestone and Eiddwen walked 2 miles today. We got back on the boat and went through Snarestone Tunnel and actually found two spaces at the visitor moorings. We moored behind a boat and we know it had been there for a while as a moorhen had nested in the rubber tyre on the stern of the boat. She was patiently sitting on her eggs! UPDATE The boat is broken down and has paid for it's mooring.
We went for a walk into Measham following the infilled route of the canal some of the way. Even with the map we were unsure where the footpaths were and large gates without stiles caused a problem as we had to lift Ben over. Our walk was rewarded by pie and chips sitting on a bench in Measham. Alan (NB Shush) was being good he had a filled roll. We got a few things from Tesco Express and then we had to walk back. In total our walk took two and a half hours- we were tired but Ben still wanted to play ball. He finally went for nap when Eric had an afternoon nap too.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

First Time On The Ashby Canal

We left Hartshill Basin after filling up with water and headed off past the extremely smelly works by the towpath. Eiddwen walked with Ben and I towards Nuneaton for a couple of miles. Lots of rubbish in the canal and graffiti on the road bridges showed us Nuneaton was here. Before Bridge 18 we could see Griff Hollows where the Griff Arm is visible as a double line of trees- without the water in between.
After a few hours travelling we turned into the Ashby Canal. We could still see 'Mount Judd' a large waste tip near Hartshill in the distance. The soft sides and vegetation here made me think of the Montgomery Canal. We hunted out some armco to moor up for the night with a clear view SE for the satellite signal and ended up by Bridge3. I walked Ben in the late afternoon and heard a voice from Bridge 4 saying 'I am waiting for a train'. He told me he was a photographer taking a photo from the same spot as a previous photo was taken for a now and then article for July's Waterways World. He was still waiting for a passenger train to cross the adjacent railway bridge when Ben and I walked back to the boat.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Weekend At Hartshill

We re just leaving Hartshill water point after spending the weekend at the visitor moorings. A quiet spot with quite a few boats moored this weekend. The towpath was mostly long grass with a pathway worn through but we were fine- at least it wasn't muddy. We were able to walk up the hill top village of Hartshill with Ben the dog and play in the playground field where an old quarry used to be and Ben was soon tired and ready for an afternoon nap when we got back to the boat. The shop provided some reading material so a quiet afternoon was had by all. Eric spent an hour or so in the engine bay giving the batteries a drink of distilled water as they sure needed it. It seems to be a constant battle to keep them charged up enough. The freezer and fridge work hard this time of the year and we love to watch TV. Today we are planning to cruise through Nuneaton and get to the Ashby Canal.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Rest Of Atherstone Locks

Ben the dog and I went for a walk to see where the Co-op was and found it was a superstore. I tied him to some railings and did a bit of shopping. Later I showed Eiddwen the way and we filled our shopping trolleys (proper OAP's!) with the weekend shopping. We returned to the boats to find the blokes itching to be off and through the rest of Atherstone Locks. At least the rain had stopped. Five locks later we used the services and set off to find a mooring for the weekend. At Atherstone Locks we met the folks on NB Trundle DD who recognised our boat waiting below the lock as they left it. They told Eric they read the blog when they weren't on their boat- nice to meet you! He should have asked what DD meant.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Queues On The Coventry Canal

NB Shush near Amington

Queues at Glascote Locks

Another lovely sunny day's cruising and we stopped to spent the night near Sutton Road Bridge, surprisingly quiet since we were quite near the A5. When we took Ben out for a walk we followed a track to Sainsbury's to pick up a few odds and ends- thanks to Narrowboatworld for telling me where the supermarket was! The next day we set off to Fazeley Junction to use the facilities and we had to queue for water! I walked Ben as far as the Glascote Locks and here we queued again and the queue behind was soon building up. We met some blokes from Newport on a holiday boat and very chatty they were too which makes a change from some of the miserable people we saw yesterday. Perhaps boaters in this part of the world are not so friendly!
We decided to stop near Alvecote Priory as there was a Nature Reserve next to the towpath and a view of bluebells from the boat window was quite pleasing. It proved to be OK for the satellite TV and armco to moor against but the towpath was extremely busy with dog walkers and speeding bikes. Ben has a thing about moving bikes he just barks at them, so it wasn't such a nice spot after all.
The next day we set off for Atherstone Locks. Ben and I walked two of the three miles to reach them mostly along a deserted grassy towpath- hurray no bikes! We worked through six of the eleven locks before rain stopped play. We stopped for a tea break and decided to stay as satellite reception was excellent.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Streethay On The Coventry Canal

Eric's photo of the swans and cygnets

We left Fradley after a pleasant weekend and worked through the two locks to the junction. Lots of boats about but we were soon through and moored at the water point to fill up- NB Shush had to moor alongside us as there was no room. The refuse was got rid of and the cassettes emptied and a quick visit to the shop for bread and milk while the blokes waited for the tanks to fill up. A shiny narrowboat gave us a laugh- they complained about us doubling up as they didn't like trees! Then brandishing a pair of shears the women stood on the bow of the boat to cut off any greenery that came anywhere near their immaculate boat. As they followed us along the cut we noticed they stayed on the towpath side (left) and made approaching boats go on the right (wrong) side causing great confusion. We think this shiny boat rarely left it's mooring!

After a few miles we stopped near Streethay as it was far enough away from the busy A38 to give us peace and quiet. Ben and I walked from Fradley as far as the A38 road bridge so he should have flopped down on the long grass for a rest but he had other ideas and gave Alan his ball to throw for him. A few bikes passed by and Ben would have loved to chase them and he still barked at them.

We spent a lazy afternoon enjoying the beautiful weather and the wildlife. The photo shows the first cygnets we have seen this year. Ducks and ducklings and moorhens too waited patiently to be fed at the side hatch with any spare bread. A field of horses were next to our mooring- lovely to watch. Lots of boats passed slowly by but a few whizzed by causing waves in their fibreglass boats and Eric shouted slow down and some did.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Great Haywood To Fradley

Ben and I began our morning walk down to the Haywood Lock . Just a small lock and soon NB Bendigedig and NB Shush were through and on our way. Lots of boats about and the weather was amazing. At Colwich Lock we struggled with the heavy double gates which wouldn't stay shut when the lock was empty. Then we were delayed as the cows and calves returned to their field across the canal bridge. It was a pleasant walk to the outskirts of Rugeley there we planned to do a big shop as Morrison's is close to the canal at Bridge 66. The blokes went off to Wilkinson's and we started the big shop. They arrived back to help us finish off shopping and carry it from the car park to the boat.
We then set off to find a place to moor for the weekend. The trouble is every piece of armco was full of boats and so we ended up above Fradley where a gap in the trees meant we could get satellite TV. It was away from traffic and the pins stayed in! Saturday came and the weather was still great so we had our first barbecue of the year. The kebabs and chicken was tasty and Ben patiently waited to see if there was any for him. Alan fished a wet soggy football out of the canal and Ben enjoyed playing with it. A pleasant evening was had by all and we went back inside when the mossies came out in force. The only bit showing was my feet and they got me!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Joys Of Being A Grandma!

I have just come back from a few days in Newport staying with my dad. It involved catching the bus from Great Haywood (hourly) into Stafford and getting a train to Birmingham. At Birmingham I caught the train to Newport. It gave me the opportunity to go and see my new granddaughter Gwenllian and enjoy some cuddles! I was so busy enjoying my cuddles that I didn't think to take any photographs. It was great to see two of my daughters but Sally is away in America at the moment as she works for Virgin Atlantic. While I was away Eric took over the dog walks and is glad I'm back so I can resume my dog walking duties. We filled up the diesel and water tanks and set off cruising again heading off in the direction of the Trent according to the sign post at Great Haywood along with our pals Alan and Eiddwen on NB Shush.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Bank Holiday Weekend

We have enjoyed a pleasant few days at Tixall Wide which is near Shugborough and it gave Ben and I the opportunity to go for lots of walks including a long one (4 miles) through the estate to Milford and back along the canal to Tixall Wide. Eric was busy painting as the sun was shining so we left him to it. NB Shush with Alan and Eiddwen are here too and Alan's been busy blacking the boat below the gunnels to the waterline.

Ben had a funny moment, he wouldn't go past a large green umbrella on the towpath and ran back to the boat and jumped back on, much to Eric's surprise as I was nowhere to be seen. He finally ran past at the speed of light when the boat owner put it away! It's very busy here with lots of boats and lots of dogs and Ben can't wait to get off the boat to say hello to all of them. Some are delighted to meet him but others warn him off with a show of teeth and a growl so he makes a hasty retreat.

On Sunday evening NB Granny Buttons went past as I was walking the dog up to Tixall Lock. We said hello at the lock and he told me he'd just done a loop-the-loop on Tixall Wide just for the hell of it! He took some photos of his boat in the lock and Ben gave him a lick when he made a fuss of him.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Birds And Boats

We have been watching the wild life at Tixall Wide. The female swan is on her nest and the male is chasing away anything that comes near. At one point it was difficult to walk the dog past the opposite bank although it's about 50 metres away from her nest. The Canada geese have little bundles of fluff following them along as have the Mallards. There is a pair of Crested Grebes here too and the picture shows one of the pair with a Canada goose. (If you click on it you will get an enlarged version). The Canada geese are extremely noisy in the early hours of the morning.

Not far from here is Great Haywood with a nice butcher's shop in the Spar. It's a useful place to stop with shops, pubs, post office, hairdresser/barber, pet shop, doctor's surgery and a pharmacy. There's also an hourly bus service to Stafford. Eiddwen and I have been there to visit the shops including M&S. It seemed so hectic after our quiet life on the canals. We didn't buy a great deal as we had to carry it back along the tow path to Tixall Wide.

At Great Haywood Junction the Staffs and Worcs Canal meets the Trent and Mersey Canal and the Anglowelsh Boat Yard which provides elsan disposal at a £1 a visit. There is also diesel, gas and coal as well as a water point and rubbish disposal. The water pump was making a funny noise one morning- we'd actually nearly run out of water, the tank had lasted five days. So we had a trip down to the junction to fill up with water and empty the cassettes. When we got back our mooring space had been taken but there was a space a few boats down so we were OK. As the weather has improved the number of boats out and aboat has increased and we've enjoyed watching them all go by.