Sunday, December 31, 2023

Herbie Awards Resume -Dramatic moment and Best Boating on YouTube

 We're back! I hope your Christmas was happy and that unlike me, you didn't eat too much. I'm back on the Zoe diet on New Years day and actually looking forward to it.

So which was 2023's most dramatic moment?  Well that's hard.  Most dramatic for me was breaking down in the middle of nowhere in a strong wind and a bank too soft to take mooring pins.  However, for the elderly man who was up to his shoulders in the canal it was probably even more scary so the 

Award for Most Dramatic Moment 2023 

goes to the 

Rugby Ladder Rescue 

And now for a new award category.  Us old bloggers (I've been blogging since 2006) are now in the dinosaur league I suppose with our handful of readers.  Those folk who now do it with youtube videos are far far more popular.  For the most part I don't follow them unless they are travelling on a patch I know (e.g a chap who calls himself CountryHouseGent has been boating down to Oxford recently so it's been handy to see which locks and lift bridges have been fixed since I last went down there)

But there is one vlog I do look forward to each week.  A young couple who live aboard and do lots of interesting and impressive DiY  as they travel the canals, including fitting out an old Springer from scratch. I'm full of admiration for them, they work hard and they deserve the 30,000 (!!!) subscribers they have.  I think they're able to make a living from it too.  So I give the 

Best YouTube Boat Vlog


Ben and Emily

(and Alan the Cat)

Look 'em up, they post once a week and more often than not it's a good watch.

So the awards draw towards their close but it wouldn't be right (or traditional) to end without the Annual Special Award for a Special Person who has been Especially Good this year.  Tune in next time to find out who he or she is.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Herbie Awards 4- Winner of Favourite Stopping Place and nominees for Most Dramatic Moment 2023

It's Christmas Eve and in our house we should be ready for Christmas in about a week. Ah well, we're as ready as we'll ever be I suppose.  Lights are twinkling, boughs of holly and ivy hang precariously from picture hooks and our conservatory is doubling as an extra fridge because the proper one is over full.  Meanwhile back at the Herbie Wards there's work to be doine.

First we have the result of the 

Favourite Stopping Place 2023

.  After sleeping on it, the judges (ie me) have decided to give the Award to 

Coventry Basin

Poor old Coventry doesn't get anything like the recognition it deserves as a canal destination. Maybe it's because it's 5 miles down a cul-de-sac from Hawkesbury and because some years ago it was noted for having a lot of rubbish in the canal.  Well let me assure you that the canal is clean and tidy now and the 5 mile run in is a pleasant and interesting one. Go for it.

Boating is not all fun and games. Sometimes things go wrong and often the problem can be that things go wrong when you are miles from anywhere.  Getting help can seem almost impossible.  Last year of course we had the drama of Kath falling in the canal on a quiet afternoon when nobody was about to help.  Fortunately a nearby  boat we thought was empty, contained a strong young man who came to our rescue.  

Drama No 1

So it was nice this year when we were able to help someone else in a similar predicament.

Rounding a bend we saw a boat skewed across the canal with a bunch of snior citizens faffing about at her stern.  Then we noticed one man in the water looking helpless as he tried in vain to reboard the boat.  Luckily after Kath fell in I had bought a ladder should such a thing happen again and so we were able to deploy it to help the poor bloke out of the water.  He was very shaken, and even with the ladder he needed a lot of help clambering over the taff rail.  It was a team effort but I hesittate to think what would have happened if we hadn't have been passing with our ladder.

Drama No 2

South Oxford Summit.  The wind had been too strong for boating for 24hrs and we were moored up by the radio mast ( a popular spot).  Eventually in the afternoon the wind dropped somewhat and we set of gingerly towards Fenny Compton.  I suppose we'd been going for ten or fifteen minutes when I noticed the engine temperature gauge rising rapidly.  I slowed down, but to no avail.  The temperature rise was inexorable eventually reaching the point where we had no option but to pull over to the bank and investigate.  The wind was still pretty strong and we could hardly hold the boat as the wind tried to pull her away from the bank.  The bank was soft mud, and the mooring pins we hammered in weren't really enough to hold us for many minutes.  We were still some way from habitation.  After a while letting the engine cool, I opened the coolant filler and of course the engine cooling tank was empty.  I could see a lot of water beneath the engine.  In an hour it would be dark.  Yikes.  We couldn't stay there, we'd be blown adrift in the night.  I refilled the tank and we set off  at tick over desperately hoping we could make it to Fenny and safety.  The temperature was rising again and with luck it reached no-go point just as we arrived at Fenny bridge. Phew.  We retired to the pub to wind down.  Next morning a nice RCR man came to our rescue and replaced the hose which had broken away from its end.

So two dramas with a happy end.  I'll decide which was most dramatic between now and next post.

In the meantime I hope and wish that anyone who might read this  (there must be somebody out there)  has a Happy and Peaceful Christmas.

The awards will continue after boxing day

Friday, December 22, 2023

Herbie Awards -3: Best Pub Grub and nominees for Favourite Stopping Place

 British pub food is generally getting better over the years.  I remember when you could hardly get more than a cheese sandwich.  The one year when we were cruising down the Staffs and Worcester (it might have been on a hire boat so that would have been in the 1990s I think), the landlord of a pub showed us his first boil in the bag offering, supplied I suspect by Brake Brothers.  I think it was a Boeuf Bourguignon, and a good step up from anything we'd had in a pub before.  Pubs could now offer food of a 'reasonable' standard without having to have a trained chef.  Such ready prepared food is now the staple of loads of pubs.  Finding hostelries who prepare food from scratch is still not all that common.

Of our three nominees for best pub grub this year, I'm not entirely sure if they all prepared our meals from scratch.  The Greyhound surely did my ploughman's lunch that way, and at the Boat our pizzas didn't taste or look like pre packaged ones. My pork belly at the Wharf may well have been bought in, but the veg with it were certainly fresh.

I could well award the Greyhound the Award again, but their trophy cabinet is already stuffed with Herbie Awards from previous years so this years

Herbie Award for Best Pub Grub 

goes to

The Wharf at Fenny Compton

whose food is always wholesome and tasty and generously portioned.  This year they seem to have stepped up the range somewhat too.  So well done them.

Now onto the nominees for 2023 Favourite Place to Stop .

Of course, as ever, we can only choose from places we visited in the current year, so that limits us to North and South Oxford Canals, Coventry Canal and the Ashby Canal, plus Braunston on the GU.

Our nominees are:

1. Coventry Basin - always a pleasure, being a safe place to moor in the city in clean and  relatively quiet surroundings.  Here's Herbie in situ.  I mean just look at it. What's not to like?

It's a very short walk into the city centre, the Cathedral, the excellent  Transport Museum and all that good stuff.  And within the basin there's a nice little cafe, ideal for afternoon tea of a yummy breakfast. Lots of boaters we talk to seem afraid to venture into Coventry, but trust me it's absolutely fine, and the run in from Hawkesbury junction is fine too especially since they seem to have established a volunteer group to keep the canal free of rubbish.

2.. Stoke Golding on the Ashby Canal - a hidden gem.  It has two excellent mooring spots, one just the other side of the bridge from the Ashby Boat Company hire base, and the other on the bend at the other end of the village.  Both have access to the village 10 minutes stroll up the hill, and a pretty and interesting village it is.  The George and Dragon pub at the top is a cracker, serving the terrific Church End Brewery Ales in its very comfy lounge bar and pretty garden.  The decisive civil war Battle of Bosworth Field took place nearby, so near in fact that the action was watched by the Stoke Golding villagers from the top of the church tower.  After the battle, King Henry Tudor was given an impromptu crowning half way up the village hill and a plaque marks the spot.

Just down the lane from the bridge mooring is a handy farm shop selling enough food items to keep any hungry boater going (shops down the Ashby are a rarity). Here's one of the visitor moorings. It's got
mooring rings -woo hoo!  And the boat hire base opposite sells ice creams.

3. Sutton Wharf - Ashby Canal

If they are open, don't go past without stopping.  It's a very popular summer spot for canal watchers and the little cafe does very good real food (being real and made to order it might take a while for your order to arrive).  Lots of picnic benches, plenty of boats to look at and just a few yards away among the bushes, a cosy little landing stage visitor mooring.  

We stopped on a hot June afternoon and just enjoyed the ambience.  The canal from here northwards is some of the best of the Ashby and in the summer is pretty as a picture.

The golden envelope will be opened in our next episode.  Which one would you choose?

And well have nominees for Most Dramatic Moment.  Ooo Er!!

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Herbie Awards day 2 - results for Good Stuff, and nominees for Pub Grub

Welcome back folks to day 2 of the Annual Herbie Awards. Apologies for the longer than intended intermission.  I'm assuming you've been to the bar in the interval and you glasses are fully charged to toast the winner of  Good Stuff for a Boater to Buy.  After much soul searching the Herbie Academy has decided this year to make it a Double Award

1. for something I should buy

2. For something we all should buy.

Award 1. The thing I must buy in 2024 is A Phone Float.  It could be a floating case, or just a float to clip on to the normal phone case.  The loss of my beloved OnePlus 8 phone into the water  earlier this year was the cause of much regret.  Kath has already lost 2 phone that way (a line from The Importance of Being Earnest springs to mind), so we really ought to learn our lesson.

Award 2. For sheer simplicity, economy and versatility by recommending the 2023 Best Good Thing to Buy for your boat is . . .

A Cheap Foam Sleeping Mat  !!

- you could even sleep on it if you really wanted to, but we cut ours up and use bits of it for keeping our bums dry on wet grass or wet deck seats, as kneeling pads for diy jobs (or gardening at home), as shock proof  lining or thermal insulation for containers and a whole host of other things.  It's simple, it's cheap, it's readily available, it's easy to fashion. I'd be flabberghasted if you couldn't find a use for one.

And now, on to something more tasty. 

Best Canal Pub Grub 2023.

 Of course we can only nominate places we've patronised this year so that limits us a tad.  We haven't boated past Tom Kerridge's Hand and Flowers in Marlow for instance although I should think his grub is pretty good if a tad expensive. So from our limited travels this year, we'd like to nominate

1. The Boat Inn at the top of Stockton locks on the Grand Union.

When this pub first reopened and was refurbed a few years ago it got a bit of a reputation for being over priced and not as  'gastro' as they thought they were.  Well it seems that they've throttled back a bit and we think they're all the better for it.  We just each had a pizza there, but it was a good cut above yer average pizza.  Clearly home made with a proper stone baked base. In fact as nice as any pizza I've ever eaten and generously proportioned and topped too. Sadly some months later I can't recall what the toppings were but I remember they were juicy and flavoursome. We couldn't eat it all so we took the remainder back to the boat for lunch the following day.  The staff were attentive and friendly and the beer was very good too.  I'd be glad to eat there again any time.

2. The Greyhound at Hawkesbury - previous winners on more than one occasion.  I still remember the monkfish thermidor with saffron potatoes and samphire I had there some year ago.  This year I also remembered they do a belting ploughman's ( or do they call it a lock keepers?) so I ordered that on a hot Sunday afternoon as we sat outside watching the boats take the tight junction turn.  Here's a picture, of the meal

Ignore the fries, they were part of Kath's meal. Here you see thick cut ham, Stilton and Cheddar cheeses, pork pie, a sliced apple, a boiled egg, pickled onions a dressed side salad, chutney and piccalilli and bread and butter.  A feast.

3. The Wharf at Fenny Compton  - always known for generous proportions, the Wharf has in the past stuck to fairly plain food and often seems to be patronised by hungry young farmers.  Not that it is too 'cheffy' now, but some nice touches have crept in.  Here's what I ate there in August (vegetarians look away now)

A whacking gert slice of pork belly with crispy crackling, a little bon bon of black pudding (there's posh!), colcannon mash and fresh greens (kale if I remember rightly).  Was it good?  By 'eck it was.  Nice gravy too.  The staff there are very capable and efficient too and the beer is good.

So nothing too fancy in this year's choices but good fresh tasty food well prepared, and good value. All three pubs are right alongside the canal too so you can moor up close by.

Who get's the prize?  Tune in next time when we'll decide and also nominate some favourite stopping places.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

It's time for 2023 Herbie Awards -day 1 - Good Stuff for a Boater to Buy

 There's no getting away from it, Yuletide is practically upon us, so it must be time for that big event in Herbie's calendar - 

The Annual Herbie Awards (est. 2007). 

Yes we've really been going for 16 years.  Resisting the temptation to call it Strictly Come Boating, we'll nevertheless put on our tuxedos and sparkly gowns (whatever turns you on), crack open the bubbly and dish out some well deserved plaudits.  Sadly in these tough economic times, the budget wouldn't run to hiring Ricky Gervais to do the honours, so you'll have to do with me.  

(As an aside, I realised this year that some 40 odd years ago when I did an eight year stint in the Reading area as a schools Careers Adviser I was working some of the time in the school which Ricky Gervais attended.  It occurs to me that I may well have done his careers interview(, but sadly I have no recollection of it, although I'm sure it would have been entertaining.) Anyway enough of that and on with the show.

We used to have an award category of Best Gadget, but this year we've decided to broaden it a bit to include items which are useful to have on a boat (unlike a spirit level which is entirely useless on surfaces that rock and roll), but can't necessarily described as a gadget.  In the past we've had elbow length rubber gloves for going down the weed hatch, electric pumps for sucking out oil, a bluetooth speaker, a mobile phone and others I can't now recall.  So what have we got this year?

Our nominees for Good Stuff for a Boater to Buy are:

1. A Tin of Paint Not just any paint of course but this one.

Hammerite No 1 Rust Beater.

Unless your boat is made from aluminium, wood, or glass fibre, you will one day have to deal with the appearance of some rust. We all have our favourites for dealing with this, one of mine being Fertan -an excellent rust converter.  But even with Fertan which claims to act also as a primer you still need to add more paint fairly soon in the form of a traditional undercoat.  So I've been looking for something which cuts down the number of stages required and this year I tried Hammerite No 1 Rustbeater. Their claim is that you can paint it directly on rust pits and that it kills rust, primes and undercoats all in one.  So I tried it, and I have to say I like it.  Of course you need to sand off any loose rust first. But then it goes on easily, has the thickness to fill in little pits, but still flows and brushes out well and the colour is quite like the raddle colour I use on Herbie's roof.  A top coat will of course be needed but it'll hold the surface well for a reasonable time until you have time for that. Time alone will reveal it's efficacy in beating off rust, but so far it looks good.  If I were you, I'd get some.

Our second nominee is indeed a proper gadget, useful in the home but especially useful in a boat where spaces are awkward and tight.  it is . . 

2. A Laser Measure - the one I have cost less than £20.  From time to time we need to measure spaces on a boat to see if a chair or a rug will fit in or to measure up inside a cupboard.  A laser measure makes this quick and easy and you can use it one handed and of course if you need to measure a long way like say the distance from the front door to the back, you can do it at the press of a button as long as you have a line of sight. It's so much easier than  trying to use a tape or a rule in difficult spaces and accurate too. Not only that, it keeps a note of the measurement.

3. A Floating Phone Case -  Hands up those people who've dropped a mobile phone in the canal (I can tell you that both Kath and I have our hands in the air, in fact Kath has two hands in the air).  So this is a gadget I actually don't have, but I think I must get.  Something to slip onto my phone when I'm boating, so if I do drop it in the drink, it will float.  I can see several of them on the market. Losing a phone that way is frustrating, expensive and a real nuisance.  I resolve to acquire such a gadget soon.

4.  A cheap sleeping mat  - Get one of those cheap closed cell foam ones from Aldi or Argos or some such and cut it up to make a comfy dry kneeling pad for diy jobs, a dry seat on wet grass or a wet boat or anything else needing waterproof or protective padding. (Sudden thought -maybe I could make a floating phone case from one). You ought to be able to get one for less than a tenner, and they cut up easily with scissors. I even used one to line the inside of an instrument carrying case.  

So that's my choice for this year.  All good stuff.  Tune in next time for the judges scores and the nominees for Best Canal Pub Grub 2023.

Monday, November 27, 2023

If you're interested - more on Zoe experience

 Just a heads up in case anyone is interested, I've done an update on my Zoe experience here:

In short, it's proving fun and effective.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

A dark day

Don't get too worried, its not that kind of dark day. Kath came out of hospital last Wednesday and is doing fine (thank you to readers who sent their good wishes).  She was in there for 8 days in all, which will give you some idea of how ill she was.  However although she is recovering well she isn't yet strong enough to go boating in the cold, so something had to be done to return Herbie to Cropredy after she had been blacked and a couple of other jobs at Tooleys in Banbury.  So our daughter Claire and grand daughter Grace stepped up to the plate and did the job for us.  

It was quite a long job, driving 70 miles to Cropredy to drop off the car, getting a taxi back to Banbury, picking up the boat and taking it a mile up to the winding hole to turn and head back to Cropredy, then of course driving the 70 miles back home. I was at home playing nurse maid and directing operations over the phone, giving advice when they had a small technical hitch, then again when they ran aground by Slat Mill lock, chivvying them along. and getting anxious because I could see that they were unlikely to get the boat back to Cropredy before dark.  In the event that was the case. By the time they entered the marina, feeling cold and rain spattered, it was just too dark to find their way to our berth at the other end of the marina, so I advised them to  parked up on a vacant pontoon next to the services.  The marina office was closed but I managed to phone a member of staff who OK'd the idea and either he or I will move Herbie to her proper berth later in the week.  Phew!

Down at Tooleys, Matt and co  had blacked Herbie's hull, removed and renovated the chimney collar, cleaning up up a lot of rust around it which had caused a leak or rainwater into the boat and then located and replaced the Eberspacher heater fuses which had corroded to the point where they were not conducting.  They also cleaned up and repainted the stove and the flue where the water leak had dripped.  Add to that the work they had done a few weeks ago to replace the calorifier hoses, pump out the engine coolant spilled into the bilges when the old hose failed and refilled with antifreeze, and we ended up with a substantial but not unreasonable bill.  I wish car garages would only charge what boatyards do per hour for labour.

We'll stop off at Herbie later this week to do some winterisation on our way up to stay with our Peter in Cambridge.

December is nearly here and that means the annual Herbie Awards are drawing near.  Something else for me to think about.

Friday, November 17, 2023

One helluva week.

Well it's been quite a week.  Herbie was due in Tooleys dock on Thursday for blacking and the plan was for me and Kath to cruise down to Banbury on Monday or Tuesday and spend a day or two enjoying the delights of the town  before handing her over to Matt at the dock.  Well the best laid plans . . . 

On Sunday Kath took ill - severe abdominal pains, short of breath, low blood pressure, she was proper poorly. Next morning we went to see the GP and he sent us straight to A&E.  Although Kath was triaged within half an hour there then followed a three hour wait to get to a bed.  They did however fit her up with a saline drip while we sat in the busy waiting room.  Blood tests were taken.  It wasn't until 11pm that a doctor finally came.  He'd seen the blood results and said Kath needed to stay in hospital for at least one or two days.  Next morning they had diagnosed a bacterial gut infection and . . Covid! Thus far we weren't all that impressed with the speed of things at the hospital but after that things changed rapidly and since then they have been little short of superb.  Kath was moved to a private room in an acute dependency ward and she has had constant attention,  Tests, scans, xrays, the lot.  A nurse comes in every fifteen minutes and takes measurements. Visiting her was a bit scary with her looking pale and tubes sticking in both hand and up her nose.

What to do about taking Herbie to Banbury?  We didn't want to lose our slot.  Our daughter Clairedid the hospital visits.  Enter our lovely neighbour Andrew who drove me up to Cropredy and acted as crew and lock wheeler in chief to get us to Tooleys.  Andrew had never been on a narrowboat before but after the first lock he was as good as an expert.  We got back to Cropredy in a taxi driven by an elderly man from Kashmir who was a hilarious story teller and put a nice finish to the day.  Getting Herbie delivered was a real weight off my mind and I could concentrate on Kath.

Kath was very ill for a time with low blood oxygen, abdominal pain and shortage of breath and numerous other symptoms. The gut infection took buckets of antibiotics to clear.  Now it's Friday and she is so much better.  Infections have cleared and she is no longer breathing oxygen through a nose tube. In all likelihood they will allow her to come home tomorrow.  Big relief and many many thanks to the superb folk at Frimley Park hospital. The facility Kath was in was impressive and the care was brilliant.  Good old NHS.

There is a downside though.  Kath was diagnosed as type 2 diabetic a couple of years ago and the hospital tests revealed that it has got considerably worse.  This probably contributed to her condition this week. It was quite a struggle to get her sugar levels down to an acceptable level. Now she has to be very careful with her diet and will have to have daily insulin.  Happily the foods that Zoe have been recommending for me are very good in a diabetes context so we'll be well prepared for her needs.

So that's the story of the week.  Kath has gone through quite a serious illness and Herbie has been delivered for her blacking and a handful of other jobs which Matt has agreed to take on.  If we can't get back to Herbie when she is ready on Monday she can rest in Banbury on a 14 day mooring and even after that CRT will let us overstay on medical grounds if need be.


Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Cropredy marina goes posh.

 One thing we noticed when coming back to Cropredy Marina after being at Ventnor was that the bathroom facilities were not nearly so good.  Ventnor has a smartish suite of toilets, showers and washbasins. Cropredy marina has expanded so much that they really need to up their game in this respect.  Currently they only have two toilets and one shower for 350 odd boats.  So I was pleased to see today that Aquavista are going to remedy this and more with - I quote: 

  • High-speed Wi-Fi 
  • New main entrance gate and CCTV for additional security
  • 8 brand-new luxury ensuite bathrooms with power showers and hairdryers
  • A refurbished laundry area with 2 state of the art washer & dryer stacks, plus a pet laundry machine
  • A refurbished customer lounge and reception area
  • A refurbished Elsan with hot water sink
  • A new dog wash area with warm water
  • A new outdoor socialising pergola and BBQ area
Ooh there's posh!

Apparently this will all start construction in January and take 2 or 3 months, so it ought to be done by Easter. 

Which, as they say, is nice.

Friday, October 27, 2023

The luck of the Irish

 I see in the news that boaters on the Shannon are dismayed at the proposed introduction of a 200 euro annual registration charge and a new requirement for their boats to be insured.  200 euros irrespective of the length of the boat?  I wish we only had to pay that, we're about five times that in CRT waters. There's also some fuss about changes to winter moorings over there that I can't quite get a grip on.  It seems like they are doing away with some of them.  Surely they didn't have free ones did they?  Can anyone enlighten us?

Over on my other blog,  I've now finished blood glucose testing and I have photo's of what's been stuck to my arm for 14 days.  An amazing piece of bio-electronics.  Take a look.  I've learned lots from it such as how to mitigate the effect of naughty foods -  if you must eat fish and chips, have it with mushy peas - eat the peas first and then the fish and try and keep the chips till last.  The fibre in the peas and the protein in the fish will slow down the sugar spike from the carbs in the chips and you won't feel hungry again so soon. So there.

Monday, October 16, 2023

At last, bilges drained and engine protected.

 You may recall we had a breakdown on the way to Cropredy, losing all our engine coolant.  I was anxious to get the gallons of spilt antifreeze out of the bilge and to get the engine refilled with proper antifreeze as it's currently sitting with plain water in it.  With the weather turning colder I was fearing a heavy frost might do some damage. I really didn't want to tackle it myself as getting all that water out without a bid wet vac is a right pain in the wotsit.  I'd rather pay someone else quite frankly.

I had put in a call to Matt at Tooleys asking if he could come and sort it out but a couple of weeks had gone by without a response.  I was starting to think that he wasn't interested in doing it. So I was glad this morning to get a call from him to say he was at Herbie at Cropredy and had redrained the engine and was dealing with what now must be quite a few gallons of fluid in the bilge.  The whole issue was caused by one of the calorifier hoses being too tightly stretched and breaking loose, so Matt is returning in a couple of days to fit a longer hose before he refills the engine.  He's also seeing if he can wrap some better lagging round the calorifier tank, as being out under the rear deck, any hot water loses it's temperature overnight.

I seem to have a list of things to fix at home at the moment so it's a relief to have the boat problem sorted. One less thing to worry about.

Meanwhile my Zoe experiments and lessons are going apace and I'm already getting some interesting results.  If you're interested head over to my

Saturday, October 14, 2023

I've started a new blog! Take a look.

 Yes a new blog, but not about boating, which is why I'm not writing it here.  Just an intro and an invitation for you to join me. 

The new one is about my experimental journey using the Zoe nutrition programme.  Zoe is a huge scientific programme aimed at teaching people to understand the foods that are right for them on a personal basis. I won't go into detail here, take a look at the new blog

What is Zoe?  Go to to find out.  It's serious food science stuff offering you a chance to test and understand what food does to your body. No faddy diets, nobody tells you what to eat. You just learn about how different foods affect you -personally.

Zoe is not a cheap or trivial thing to take on.  I'm doing it because I'm interested. The more I get into it, the more I see that it is quite an undertaking if you want to get the best out of it.  So anyone thinking of doing it might find it useful to see what they are letting themselves in for.  Either way, you might enjoy seeing what shenanigans I have to get up to to do the programme.  It's science, it's fun and it teaches you a lot about what food does to your body.

I'm currently on day two and have already undergone numerous tests and can see more fascinating trials coming up.  I'll try to describe them all and let you know what I learn.  

Join me over at if you are interested.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Nature notes - inc spiders on boats

 As Roy Rogers nearly sang: 

An eight legged friend

An eight legged friend

He'll never let you down

Yes folks, autumn seems to be spider time, and I realise that I've come to enjoy and even welcome them.  The one I like best is the little one that hides overnight in the hole where the tiller pin goes through the swan neck on Herbie.  Perhaps I should call him Trigger after the Roy Rogers song. He's always there in the morning and I'm careful to let him escape before I drop the tiller pin in.  I still haven't worked out how he spins a single thread from the side of the boat across three feet of thin air to get there, but it's impressive.

Kath, although a nature lover is not quite so keen on spiders inside the boat, especially the bedroom.  Nevertheless we never remove them, preferring instead to just discourage them. She adopts the old custom of putting some conkers on the shelf in the belief that they give off some odour that deters spiders. I admit that it seems to work, although whether it's causation or correlation I'm not sure.

Although it's autumn there are still loads of bees about, and the best place to see them now is on ivy which is flowering at the moment. We noticed loads of them by the side of Claydon top lock last week.  Not just the so called ivy bees which are like smaller versions of honey bees, but honey bees themselves, bumble bees and even wasps.  If you have some ivy near you, take a look this week and you'll be amazed how many of the little critters are buzzing round it.  I think this first picture might be a honey bee.

This morning we took a stroll around the lovely old graveyard behind our house.  Half of it is left as a conservation area and it's a great place for wild flowers, grasses, butterflies and other insects.  And of course the birds come there to dine on them. Here's Kath looking at this year's abundant crop of holly berries.

People will tell you that lots of berries means we'll have a hard winter.  Personally I'm not persuaded that plants can tell the future, and it's more the result of the previous summer's weather. You might think otherwise.

We have quite a few varigeated holly trees over there, and one which has  some white leaves.

Soon the council workers will show up with their strimmers and cut the long grass back.  It's probably a good thing but I rather like it long. It makes the gravestones look more dramatic.  

That's our house you can see in the background.

The long grass also lets us see where the foxes have been. There are nearly always foxes over there. They frequently make their dens in the old graves.  This photo tries to show one of their paths but I'm not sure if you can make it out. I can see it, but then I know where it is, straight up the middle of the picture. 

We used to have foxes regularly visiting our garden but sadly because I've had to put chicken wire in the hedge to keep our daughter's little dogs in, it also keeps the foxes out. Instead we have to put up with squirrels trying to rob our bird feeders.  Bah!

There are still a few wild flowers out amongst the graves, most notably the not-all-that-common Devils Bit Scabious which is supposed to be good at relieving some skin ailments including of course scabies. I like it because it flowers late on and I love the colour.

Don't tell anyone but we harvested a bit of its seed today to see if we can introduce it into our garden.

Lastly a more winter flowering plant is poking through the grass

The good old cyclamen.  Is it a wild flower?  Probably not technically, but it grows wild.

The nights might be drawing in, but we still plan to go boating over the next few weeks and months.  Anyhow we have to take Herbie to Banbury in November to get her blacked at Tooleys.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Cool Running - The Herbie has Landed


Here we are on our new berth at Cropredy, only 4 boats along from where we moored four years ago.   The staff here are exceptionally friendly and welcoming and all the admin was easy.  Not a great deal has changed since we left despite the marina being acquired by Aquavista.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it seems to be their mantra.  The free wifi is beefed up a bit,  but still not as good as you'd like.  Of course there is the new basin up the other end, but that's well out of sight from where we are.

Speaking of moorings, I really like some of the offside ones you see above and below Claydon.  I wonder how you get one and what they cost.  Do people buy the plot or rent it?

How nice is that? You own little canalside garden with your boat right there alongside. 

It's interesting how many of them have shepherds huts like this one

One just above Broadmoor lock even has a gypsy caravan, but my photographer of the day  (Kath) was too busy with the lock gates to take a picture. Who said women were good at multi tasking?

What a difference a day makes in British weather.  Wednesday was all heavy wind and lashing rain, and next morning, all sunshine and blue skies.  We were somewhat trepidatious when we left Fenny in the morning after the engine problems we had earlier but everything went fine and the engine temperature gauge stayed exactly where it should be. Phew!

It's all getting a bit autumnal although some youngsters still think it's OK for a quick dip even if the canal is a bit shallow.  I guess the water is still warmish, but I don't think I'll be trying it.

On the subject of autumn pusuits, two of my uncles, Bert and George, used to make a barrel of cider every year from windfall apples from the many orchards around our village.  (You'd be right in assuming that I come from rustic stock).  Everything went in, bruised apples, partly rotten ones, any old variety, probably quite a few wasps and various grubs and as you'd expect, the cider they produced was strong but quite frankly, bloody awful.  Why do I mention this?  Well it was seeing these apples, mostly crab apples, on the towpath that reminded me.

You probably could produce some sort of cider from them but I'm pretty sure it would taste as bad as Bert and George's.  A pity, because this year's hedgerow crop really is a bumper one.


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Fixed! Thanks RCR.

After yesterday's breakdown (see previous post)  the RCR man arrived promptly at 9.30 this morning and by 10.30 he was gone and we were fixed.  The poor bloke opted to investigate and effect a repair in the rain and wind, but he remained cheerful throughout.  All it was, was one of the pipes that feed the calorifier heater coil had come adrift, so all it needed was a new jubilee clip and a good tighten up and a cooling system refill.  He did take a lot of trouble (more than I would have done I think) to get any air out of the system.  The engine has been running now for an hour and a half and all is good.  Phew!

We get a free basic membership of RCR along with our GJW boat insurance.  We just have to pay £65 for a callout which includes 2 hours labour on site.  I reckon that's a bargain.  Our man had to drive an hour and a half to get to us.

The weather forecast for the rest of the day is not conducive to boating if you don't have to, and we're in no hurry so we'll stay put.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Broken down!!

First things first.  Grace is now out of hospital (see yesterdays post) and doing fine.

Second things second.  More stress.  We've just called River Canal Rescue and you know what that means.  We need a repair.  Luckily we're at the Wharf at Fenny Compton so at least we're very accessible by road.  It was blowing a hooley up by the radio mast this morning, so we stayed put until after lunch.  Come to think of it you could hardly pick a more windswept spot.  Once we did get going we got into the trees and the high hedges and it was much calmer thank goodness.  About a mile before Fenny, I noticed the engine temperature gauge climbing rapidly.  We pulled into the bank just as it hit max :120 degrees C. Lifting the engine cover, a good amount of smoke/steam clouded out.  

It was a difficult spot to moor up in the wind but we managed it with a struggle and after half an hour letting the engine cool I looked in to investigate.  Peering in the coolant filler cap it was clear we had lost virtually all the coolant (I had only topped it up 2 days earlier), looking in the bilges, there was the coolant - a couple of gallons of it at a guess. Clearly we had a leak somewhere, probably a hose loose or split.  Only a mile to Fenny, so I refilled the coolant tank, topped up the engine oil, and we set off again at tickover speed.

It was ok for about 5 mins, then the temperature rose again.  We just made it to Fenny bridge when it hit max again.  This was our destination today anyway so it could be worse.  I just got a call from RCR and they'll be out to us in the morning.  That's fine. I just hope they bring spare hoses.  If my diagnosis is right then it's not that big a problem.  If I'm wrong . . . 

Monday, September 18, 2023

A nail biting afternoon.

 They say that moving home is often a very stressful time.  Well, we're on the move to Herbie's new berth in Cropredy and we are quite stressed but not for the reasons you might think.  As I write, our lovely granddaughter Grace is undergoing emergency surgery  to deal with a very painful abscess near the base of her spine. They have been giving her morphine, so you know that's proper pain. She's been complaining of back pain for a few days and it got so painful that paramedics were called and she was admitted to hospital  last night.  Poor Grace, she's in hospital and were in the middle of nowhere half way across the Oxford canal summit. It was her birthday a few days ago and she was not feeling well then, although she did enjoy opening her presents

and now she's 16 she's just started a part time after school job in Fenwicks store.  The timing could hardly be worse.  Hopefully once they remove the abscess she should feel better quite quickly.

Otherwise our trip is going according to plan.  We did a cunning car move on Saturday  when I delivered the car to Cropredy then got two buses back to the Boat inn at Stockton top lock near to where Kath had taken Herbie to pick me up.  Getting the bus from Cropredy is no simple feat, they only have one on a Saturday and one on a Thursday and the bus stops have no signs so you have to guess where the bus will pull in.  I asked three village people and each one said they didn't know where it stopped and that the service was rubbish so they don't use it.  Actually it did arrive on schedule although I had to flag it down because I was standing in the wrong spot.

Speaking of the Boat Inn, we ate there on Saturday night and I have to say it was really excellent.  In previous years we've avoided it because it was said it was very expensive for what you got.  Well they seem to have  opted for a less 'cheffy' menu now and it's a bit cheaper but the food and the service was top notch.  I had one of the best pizzas I've ever eaten, very generously topped with four cheeses, various bits of  charcuterie and olives.  It was juicy and delicious and too big to eat in one go, so I got a doggie bag to take back to the boat to finish later.  The beer was nice too. Still not cheap but worth it.

We're in no rush to get to Cropredy, so tomorrow it's a short cruise to the Wharf at Fenny Compton.  I see there's a yellow storm warning for  Tuesday and Wednesday, so we might hunker down.

BTW I said I would report on my new Pixel phone as regards how well it meets its reputation for photography.  I haven't taken many photos yet but here's one I took in Bracknell town centre when we were on the way to Grace's birthday meal.  I'm pretty impressed. Actually the compression to blog size doesn't do it any favours.  It looks a lot crisper in 'real life'

Saturday, September 09, 2023

Herbie moves home and a minor disaster

We're moving Herbie back to Cropredy.  Much as we love our berth at Ventnor Marina we've been considering a move for a while now so that we can cruise areas we enjoy more, and our recent trip down to Banbury reminded us how much we like the South Oxford, and it's nearer to home too.  

It was in 2020 that we left Cropredy, intending to move to Kings Bromley marina, but covid lockdowns came into effect while we were en route so we abandoned that and went instead into Wigrams Turn which we never really liked.  Then we popped into Ventnor, only a mile away and saw how much nicer it was so moved there.  These transfers are easy when the marinas all belong to the same group.  Our Ventnor berth is in a perfect spot and the staff and facilities there are top notch, but the big GU locks around there are not our favourites and there's only so many times we can tootle up to Braunston without getting a bit tired of it.

Down on the Oxford, the locks are easier and there are so many good mooring spots including some our all time favourites, and we always enjoy the opportunity for a few days in Banbury (also we can get a train home from there), so they are the main reasons we're doing this.

We dropped into Cropredy on the way home last week and met the team there (all changed since we were last there, but very friendly and helpful) and they showed us a good spot near to where we moored when we were last there.  We can get the car right to the boat for loading and unloading and we can sit out  on the grass alongside the canal and watch the passing boats.  

So we've asked to transfer from Oct 1st.  Administratively it's easy because it's all the same company.  We just fill out a change of details form and that's it.

On a less cheerful note, when we were leaving for home from Ventnor the other day I dropped my phone over the side of the boat.  The ever helpful marina guys came along with a net and spent some time fishing for it to no avail.  So I'm getting a new phone, which might be good news for this blog because I'm getting a Google Pixel 7 which is supposed to take superior looking photos.  We'll see.  Maybe I'll post one or two in a couple of days to try it out.  Apparently this phone will also tell me how many hours a night I've been snoring! You can have too much information.

If you are on my contacts list I may have lost your details so when my new phone is up and running I may ask one or two of you to text me (I think I'll have the same number) so I can reinstate you.

All for now.  Toodle pip.

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

How not to burn food, a brush with HS2 and an optical illusion.

Now where was I?  Banbury.  Well just a couple more photos from there.  Here's how the Castle Quays moorings look at night.

There were a few noisy yoofs about earlier, but by the time we got back to Herbie it was all quiet.

Now you can plug your boat into electrics - there's posh!

Apparently it's all done via a smartphone app and blue tooth which switches on the power for you and bills you for what you use.  We didn't try it, but might one day I suppose.

After Banbury we tootled up to our favourite spot below Claydon locks 

where all was really quiet, except of course for the birds.  It was nice to hear a wood pecker and a tawny owl, but the B$%*&y pigeons I could do without.  You can't get away from pigeons can you?  We have them in our garden at home, in the marina, everywhere we stop . . .  I wouldn't mind except they keep saying the same thing over and over again.

Next morning we had an easy run up the 5 Claydon locks thanks to some jolly volunteer lockies and then off across the summit, stopping for the night here

Most boaters know this spot and it's very popular and ultra quiet.

I thought at this point I's do a short photo sequence of how we cooked dinner on our Cobb BBQ (which isn't really a BBQ at all).  For any unfortunate soul who doesn't have one, this is how it goes.  First light a few coals (8 or 9 will do) in the centre basket. ( Firelighter needed). Once hot they'll stay that way for a good two hours.

Then bung in some parboiled spuds or mushrooms or whatever round the coals.  Here we're using mushrooms and falafels.  Despite being close to the coals, they won't burn.

Then pop on the hotplate and cover with your other veg, sausages, chicken, chops, whatever.  Here we're going veggie.

Some halloumi went on a bit later as it cooks quicker.
Pop on the lid and have a glass of your favourite tipple.

Unlike a BBQ there is little chance of your food burning and you don't need to interfere with it except for a single turn over half way through.  After a while, hey presto, a nicely roasted /grilled result.

We had ours wrapped in tortillas with some hummus and soured cream. Yum!

No we're not veggies (well our Peter is), another night we had sausages and spuds etc.

Cobbs aren't cheap but they're amazingly well made.  Ours is about 15 years old and apart from natural scorch marks inside the bowl it's as good as new.  What's more, the outside doesn't get hot so you can even pick it up with bare hands if you have to, and of course it doesn't mark the grass it stands on.

Next morning it was off beneath the new HS2 bridge

and past the inevitable bulldozers and diggers who seem to spend their lives moving earth from one pile to another.

Further we go along the bit where I always think the canal is going down hill.

How is that not going downhill to the trees beyond?  Obviously it can't be, but it always seems like it.

And finally on down the Napton flight for a final jar at the Folly before returning to Ventnor next morning, just in time to avoid the worst of the very hot sun.

So ends another all too brief cruise.  Hopefully we'll be back out soon.

Thursday, August 31, 2023


Coming down through Cropredy lock this morning Kath and I agreed that it felt like coming home.  We really like the canal down here and I'm sure we'll transfer back to Cropredy marina before too long. We got to Banbury by lunchtime and it was our first visit since before the new canalside complex was built.  It's at once quite daunting and also strangely familiar.

The left hand side as you see it here is restaurants and a cinema and the other side is a whopping gert Premier Inn. 

Of more interest to boaters is a big Lidl at the rear of the complex. Kath went in there for supplies while Peter and I went up to the Tramway winding hole to turn the boat.

The actual town centre towpath and moorings haven't changed at all,- same bollards on both side of the canal and of course just a few yards back there are still the more peaceful moorings alongside Spiceball Park.

The rest of the town seems unchanged, which is a good thing.  Lots of independent shops and eateries and the good old Reindeer Inn, which we thought it only right and proper to check out.  Here's Kath in her element in the Reindeer.

Down the alley opposite the Reindeer we were pleased to see that Steve Betts the butcher is still there with its slogan 'Pleased to meet you, meat to please you.'

Just after we arrived there was a knock on the roof of the boat and I instantly guessed who it was.  "Oh hello Maffi you old rascal".  Yes he's still there moored up outside Tooleys boatyard. Anyone hoping for Maffi to change will forever be disappointed. Full of controversial views nearly all of which I strongly disagree with, he is still a kindly and pleasant chap.

Herbie now faces the 'other way' and tomorrow we begin our return trip, hoping for no more rain.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Down off the summit

 After yesterdays somewhat damp and gloomy traverse of the South Oxford canal summit, today has been a joy.  Fortified by a bumper meal of belly pork with lovely crunchy crackling ( and a yummy little black pudding bon bon) with colcannon and kale at the Wharf last night,

we set off this morning in unexpected sunshine.  We've boated between Fenny Compton and Cropredy a good few times before, but I had forgotten what a pretty stretch it is.   Of course there's Fenny tunnel which thankfully had no boats coming the other way, but what struck me was the number of lovely offside moorings that have been created, with little orchards and shepherd's huts.

I was surprised to see volunteer lockies  at the Claydon flight.  Never seen them there before. Suddenly after a very quiet morning there seemed to be plenty of boats on the move and opportunities for exchanging gossip at the locks.

Something else I hadn't noticed  before were these plates on (comparatively) recently replaced lock gates.

We were looking for a good bit of towpath for our Cobb BBQ tonight and settled just above Broadmoor lock just north of Cropredy.

Just across the canal was another of those lovely offside moorings, this time with a gypsy caravan.

How nice is that?

Rain is promised for tomorrow so we plan to start reasonably early to get to Banbury for lunchtime.  We haven't been there since the canal side was redeveloped so it'll be interesting to see how it looks. 

(There will now be a short interlude, as  Kath has just appeared with a glass of Pimms with half a fruiterers shop in it)


Lovely, now where was I? In other news I notice that Herbie's BMC engine has clocked up 6775 hours.  If that were a car engine I reckon that would be about 200,000 miles.  I occasionally jot down the engine hours and the date when I do oil changes.  I must look back and see if it tells us how many hours we've done in particular years.  You know me, I love a bit of data analysis. This year it feels like we've got our canal mojo back after a few quieter years and we're eager to do more.