Saturday, December 24, 2022

The Herbie Special Award 2022 goes to . . .

Joining the elite few who have merited the Herbie Special Award over the years is a person who is cheerful, kind and generous.  

As we emerged from the Snarestone tunnel at the top of the Ashby canal this year, who should we see waving to us but  a good friend we normally see when we're down near Enslow on the South Oxford.  Later that day he caught up with us below Shackerstone and joined us for dinner on the canal bank, donating us a couple of wine glasses to keep as we had broken ours, then next morning he fired up his trusty wet and dry vacuum and made a thorough job of cleaning out our engine bay bilges. This wasn't the first time he had helped us out.  Previously has has made a chimney for Herbie and another time sealed off the cracks when our old stove was beginning to fall apart.  

Those who know him will already have worked out who it is and I'm sure they would want to say "Well done" and give a big round of applause to the year's winner of the

 Herbie Special Award

for being kind, helpful and generous

all with a smile.


(we don't even know his other name!)

Here he is standing on the back of the boat he built for himself

Will somebody please let him know of his new found fame.

Meanwhile may Kath and I wish a very Happy Christmas 

to all our lovely friends out there.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Herbie Awards for Scariest Moment and Best Cruising Waterway

 I wish I'd taken more photos this year. I didn't get one of the Scariest Moment, because I was too busy dealing with the scary event.  Way back in 2010 I did surprise myself in remembering to take a photo of that year's scary moment on the River Stort.  First I took the photo then I turned my attention to dealing with the fact that Herbie's engine appeared to be on fire!  Actually no real harm was done.

Anyhow, the Scariest Moment of 2022 is indisputably 
Kath taking the plunge at Hillmorton

It was a few yards below Hillmorton Locks that had me trying to keep calm after I heard a loud splash and turned to see Kath up to her neck in the canal.  We were tying up at the time ( or untying, I can't remember which) and she just slipped on the damp grass ad in she went.  The real scary bit was that I was unable to pull her out despite struggling for several minutes until a kind man from a nearby boat appeared and hauled poor Kath out like a beached whale.

Despite that happening on our trip up the North Oxford it is that very canal which wins this year's Favourite Cruising Waterway

The North Oxford Canal

The North Oxford is totally different from the South Oxford, being wider, only having three locks and having tall wide bridges, high embankments and deep cuttings.  For the most part, it's pretty too.  The best bit is that between Rugby and Stretton Stop. Even the moorings just outside Tesco is nice enough. 

A number of spots have a nice rustic feel too

The original twisty route was straightened long ago leaving little side arms crossed be these lovely old iron bridges

Maybe the last miles towards Hawkesbury aren't so special but then it finishes with the cute little lock at Sutton Stop where volunteers have made it look very pretty.

So there it is.  An under rated canal I reckon.

Which dear reader only leaves one award to award.  The Special Award for a Special Person - known to at least a couple of you.  Tune in on Christmas Eve to find out who and why.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Herbie Awards - so which was the best pub near the canal?

Well we've applied my new scoring system, giving points out of five for each of convenience and quality of mooring, the quality and value of the fare, and the general ambience of the pub. In the interests of peace and goodwill and all that I'll just give you a summary of the results rather than our raw scores for you to disagree with.

Best pub mooring was The Blue Lias , well you can moor right on the garden bank and it's a well kept garden too.

Top pub for quality and value of fare had to be The Greyhound which is a former winner of course and always does good food.  This year I had there probably the best Ploughmans Lunch I ever had.  The menu description doesn't do it justice.


The beer is always well kept too. The George and Dragon at Stoke Golding has indisputably the best  (and cheapest at £3.70) beer, but alas they don't do food in the evening so they lose points for that.

Top score for general ambience was shared by The Folly, whose gardens and Potting Shed 

are beautifully presented, and The George and Dragon at Stoke Golding which also has a pretty garden, a comfortable and welcoming interior.

Totting up the overall scores the overall winner would appear to be 

The Greyhound at Hawkesbury

Mooring 100yds from the Greyhound

They've got so many Herbie awards that I'm tempted to ban them next time to give others a chance!

Of course there are places of refreshment other than pubs and an Award worthy one can be found on the Ashby Canal at the wharf at Sutton Cheyney.

The light lunch we had there was very good indeed.  Were we to cruise the Ashby again we'd certainly plan to revisit.

Christmas is closing in on us, so we'd better get a move on.  Tomorrow we'll do 2022's Scariest Moment, and this years favourite cruising canal.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Herbie Award for Best Rural Mooring and 7 candidates for pub on or near the canal

 Hmm, Best Rural Mooring.  See previous post for the candidates. I'm torn between Radford Semele wood and the stretch just east of Wigrams Turn.  After consulting my co-judge Kath, we've plumped for one that we're looking forward to going back to for a longer stay and that is . . .

Radford Semele wood

It's probably not actually called that, but that's the best we can do.  There is loads of space there, wide path, sunshine and shade, peace and quiet and a charming woodland to wander through with bits of art work to search out.  Not only that but the owner of the wood walks there frequently and makes a point of welcoming boaters.

Now for Best Pub on or near the canal (on this year's trips only remember).  What a choice we have! There are some previous award winners here and a number of factors to judge on, so I've decided on a points system. Lets do, um, points out of five each for the availability and attractiveness of nearby mooring, the quality and value of the fare, and the ambience inside and out. Until I start, I have no idea who might win.  If you know these pubs, have a go at scoring them yourself.  Results in our next post.

1 Admiral Nelson at Braunston

Here's the lock side garden at night

2 Blue Lias at Long Itchington

3 Cape of Good Hope at Warwick

Taken from the covered seating adjacent to the lock

4 Two Boats at Long Itchington

There's Herbie just up the towpath

5  Folly at Napton

The now famous Folly Potting Shed veranda

6 Greyhound at Hawkesbury Junction

7 George and Dragon at Stoke Golding

We didn't take a picture of the pub, but here's their rather wonderful beer.

Of course there are other types of outlet offering food and refreshment by the canal and this year we discovered a good one.  We'll honour that one in our next post.

Also coming up in the awards  - favourite cruising waterway, 2022's scariest moment, and the Herbie Special Award to a special person.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Herbie Awards - Best gadget decision and favourite rural mooring candidates

 Apologies for the overlong intermission, life got in the way - now you'll all have drunk too much champagne I suppose.   Anyhow we're back, and after sleepless nights tossing and turning the Herbie Academy has spoken.  So after a fierce battle with the competition, the winner of Best Boater's Gadget 2022 is:

(compulsory annoying ten second wait while a bass drum bangs out a heart beat rhythm)

The In- Line Hose Tap

It's cheap (or am I supposed to say affordable these days), it always works and it saves a lot of dashing back and forth as well as splashes and spills. I would think other folks must have them, but in 16 years of boating on Herbie I don't recall ever seeing someone else using one! It's a no brainer. I think I got ours from a pound shop, so that's how cheap they can be.  I think you should get one.  Bung it on the free end of your hose then put another 15 inches or so on the other side so you can poke it in your water tank filler hole.

And so after thanking our producers, our mothers etc we can move on to our next award, Best Rural Mooring 2022.  I don't mean somewhere to keep your boat long term, just a pleasant spot to rest for a day or two, get out the deck chairs, maybe have a BBQ, walk around and explore the area, chat to other boaters, pick blackberries . . . you get the idea.

As in previous years we confine our candidates to places we have cruised this year, which is the Grand Union between Braunston and Warwick, The North Oxford, and the Ashby canals. Well that's a lot of rural space, but we can think of three places we would always try to stop just to enjoy the surroundings. No nearby shop or pub, just a quiet and pleasant retreat.

1.  North Oxford Canal - All Oaks Wood.  A bit of a cheat this one because no-one moors actually in the wood, but they do at either end of it.  The stretch through the wood makes a lovely walk and there is a spot at the northern end which would be good for a picnic or a BBQ. So we nearly always make a stop at one end of the wood or the other, and while we're there we always go for a walk through the lovely wooded stretch.

2.  Grand Union / Oxford Canal near Wigrams Turn

On the Braunston to Wigrams turn stretch there are loads of good spots to tie up.  Our favourite is on the last quarter mile before you reach Wigrams.  The bank is wide and grassy, there is shelter from wind, there is sunshine and shade and in season there are plenty of blackberries to pick. If there is a down side it's that you do get a bit of noise from the nearby road - the nearer to Wigrams, the less the noise. It's a popular stretch so you are unlikely to be on your own, but we don't mind that.  I always like chatting to other boaters. The other advantage for us is that it's only just 45 mins or so from our berth at Ventnor marina. Here we are in March this year:

3.  Grand Union Canal Radford Semele (near Leamington Spa)

Popular with walkers and cyclists this is an attractive stretch of canal with plenty of stopping places.  At the Leamington end you can moor below the lock and road bridge,


or further away from Leamington is a great stretch alongside a wood where the wood's landowner encourages boaters to enjoy the area and provides areas for picnics or BBQs and also encourages people to create art works.

Plenty of room for all

Woodland clearings adjacent to the towpath

a fire pit provided by the wood's owner

Well they're all very nice.  The committee will chose a favourite for next time.  Meanwhile we'll do a shortlist of good pubs on or near the canal and perhaps mention some not so good ones.  Stay tuned and keep warm.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Herbie Awards is back! Lots of gadget ideas

 Yes it's that time again, you can't stop it and why would you want to when you can get dressed up and come along to the glittering occasion to top them all.  Forget the World Cup, forget Strictly, ignore the Sussex's Netflix series and plug in to the real seasonal highlight -

The Famous Traditional 

16th Herbie Awards (est 2007).

(Rapturous applause)

Are you sitting comfortably?  Then we'll begin. With:

Best Boater's Gadget 2022

Everybody (?) likes a gadget -well I do any way, and this year I can think of quite  a few that I've been glad of aboard Herbie.  Maybe it'll give you an idea for a Christmas gift for  boater, who knows?  These are all things so useful that if we lost or broke one, we would immediately get a replacement. Here they are

1. Stove glove.  Why did we never think about using a glove to handle the hot coal stove handle and control knobs before?  Then one came with our new stove and we've never looked back.  Ours was a special black stove glove but I suppose a normal oven glove would work.

2. Magnetic hatch cover.  Herbie's side hatch used to let in rain water sometimes - just at the bottom. So this year we bought some waterproof fabric and some magnets and made this rectangular cover with bar magnets (easily available on line) sewn into the hem and bingo -no more leaks. Keeps out draughts too.

It's quick to take on and off, withstands strong winds and easy to make as long as somebody can sew a simple hem.

3. In line hose tap.  
Don't rush back and forth to the bankside water tap to turn the filler hose off and on.  Fit a cheap tap to the free end of the hose.  Something like this would do. 
We fit a short length of hose after the tap too, just enough to poke safely into the boat's filler hole. The tap also save spillage when you take the hose out when the tank is full.

4. Safety ladder.  Well I guess this is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, because we bought it after Kath fell in the canal at Hillmorton this summer.  It was a hell of a job getting her out.  So now  we keep a ladder on the roof. I think two metres is long enough on most canals to stand it on the canal bed, 

or failing that just hang it by a rope from a deck fixing such as a stern dolly.

5. Check list for leaving the boat.

A great peace of mind trick.  I print off a wad of these pre-made forms and use one each time we clear up the boat before we head off home after a trip. It not only ensures we don't overlook anything important (e.g. switch off the fridge, take your phone home etc. ) but when we take the completed tick list home with us, it stops the nagging worry that we might have forgotten to do this or that.  Even better when our kids use the boat and we're not there, it gives them the prompts they need to leave everything OK. I suspect it has saved us a number of return journeys  (100 minutes each way) back to the boat to do something we'd forgotten or to collect something left behind.

6. Phone shelf.  We're often in spots where we can only get a phone or data signal inside the boat by putting the phone in the window.  But we don't have window ledges wide enough, so I made a small wooden clip on shelf, only about 6 in long, which attaches to the rail that you tuck the bottom of the curtains into.  You can move it to whichever window gets the best signal.  The shelf has a lip on the outer edge so you can prop up the phone leaning against the window itself. (Sorry I forgot to get a photo of it.) Ours gets daily use and often makes the difference between signal and no signal.  Cheaper and easier than any sort of aerial or dongle.

7.  Cardiac pacemaker (!??!!)  - it's very unlikely that you'll need one of these, but I can assure you I need mine and without it I doubt I would ever be safe to boat again. Its a fantastic gadget and it really works.  However I accept that including it is perhaps outside the rules of the Herbie Award Academy so it can't be the winner.

Which one merits the coveted award?  A tough choice.  Let me know your thoughts on a favourite.  Results next time, as well as some nominees for Best Rural Overnight Stop 2022