Friday, June 30, 2023

A meeting

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an old couple in possession of a narrowboat must be in want of some friends to bump into now and then like ships in the night.  And so it was that just after breakfast on the moorings near Brinklow that a knock on the boat roof enticed me outside to see a lady I thought I didn't know.  Then she introduced herself as Marilyn from nb Waka Huia and of course we knew each other well, just not in the flesh, but from our respective blogs.

It's astonishing that in meeting someone from the other side of the planet (Marilyn and David are Kiwis), that you find you have so much in common, and by the end of the day, during which Marilyn had supplied us with her delicious fresh baked cheese scones, we had discussed canals (of course), politics, literature, sourdough baking and goodness knows what else and found that we agreed on pretty much everything.

Next morning we said our fond farewells and were happy to have consolidated our on line acquaintance into a proper real life friendship, and here's the photo of Marilyn and Kath to prove it.

We walked into Brinklow village to see what it was like and came way with mixed feelings.  It's a pretty enough village with a wide main street, but very little in the way of victuals.  The village shop, which the lady in the little adjacent delicatessen cafe described as an Alladin's cave, had tins and packets and fresh meat, but not a single vegetable or salad item.  Maybe the residents of Brinklow are strict carnivores.  It was a hot day so we popped into a pub for a drink, only to find that they were short on ales and the cider we suggested was 'out of stock'.  The one cider they did have was refreshing enough though to fortify us for our walk back to the canal across fields and down a lane.  Returning along the towpath we were pleased to see that someone at CRT has found a sense of humour.

A day earlier we left Stoke Golding on the Ashby after an early start and were at Hawkesbury junction by late morning.  Glad to see en route that Charity Dock had lost none of its ramshackle charm and the usual mannequins were on duty to delight us.

Sunday lunch at the Greyhound was, as you would expect, good value with ample portions.  I expect somebody somewhere doesn't rate the Greyhound, but I've never met them.  I think we've given them Herbie Awards on numerous occasions.

And so on to Hillmorton top lock moorings for the night then on next day round Braunston turn and on to the popular bridge 102 moorings near Flecknoe  for an assignation with another Marilyn.  This time it was Marilyn and Rick who picked us up in their car and tootled up to the splendid Old Olive Bush pub where we hoped to find a meal and perhaps a Thursday night quiz.  However we were cruelly disappointed to find the Landlord/Landlady had gone off on holiday leaving only a skeleton crew doing drinks only so we diverted to the Folly and ate there.

I've been doing a bit of remedial work on Herbie's roof which had got pretty scabby in places.  I was thinking  I must have done a poor job last time I repainted it, then I looked back at the blog to find it was in August 2017, nigh on six years ago, so now I feel a bit better about it.  Boat roofs take quite a hammering from the weather and wet leaves in the winter and from the various items of equipment laid on them, so six years is I suppose an acceptable time for it to need a bit of TLC.  So far I've just been scraping and sanding, so it's at the stage where it gets worse before it gets better, especially where the Fertan has turned the rust black.  So regard this as the 'before' picture.

Hopefully I'll be able to post an 'after' picture sometime this summer. I think I need a few days moored up to get the job done.  If things go according to plan, we're off back home tomorrow so I'll have to come back soon armed with all the tools and stuff to finish it off.  The trouble with painting the roof is that it needs just the right weather, dry and not too hot.

Now (Friday) we've arrived at the Folly, this time by boat, for what we think is our final night of this cruise, providing our daughter Claire comes to pick us up at Ventor tomorrow evening.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Ashby adventures

Now where were we last time.  Aah yes, Coventry.  Well we had a pleasant run out of there and now we're up the Ashby canal- in fact we're on our way back down it having turned round near the battlefield moorings.  The battle in question of course being the battle of Bosworth field at which Richard III, having failed to swap his kingdom for a horse,  met his come uppance at the hands of the smaller army of Henry Tudor thus ending the wars of the roses and starting the reign of the Tudors.

In typical fashion we now find out that the battle was not at Bosworth at all but a few miles further south around Dadlington and Sutton Cheyney.  It was reputedly all looked down upon by the villagers of Stoke Golding from their lofty church tower. on the hill.  As well as having the splendid George and Dragon pub, which serves astonishingly good ales, Stoke Golding also has this to brag about.  You pass it on the walk up to the pub.

Poor old Richard III of course, as we all now know, was carted off the Leicester and buried under a car park.  

As well as the pub  the village also has an Indian restaurant and there's a  farm shop near the canal and some decent moorings (with mooring rings) by the bridge leading up to Crown Hill.  What's not to like?

That's the Ashby Boats hire base you can see through the bridge.  They'll sell you an ice cream if you ask them nicely.

After having given the George and Dragon sufficient of our custom, we moved up to Sutton Wharf which looks like this

Gongoozlers galore and a cafe doing good home cooked lunches and teas.  They also have a CRT pontoon mooring a few yards further on which we took advantage of for  bit of R&R and a bit of gunnel touch up painting in the heat of the afternoon.

Then in the cool of the evening we tootled up to the battlefield winding hole, turned round and headed back to Stoke Golding for the night - which is where I am typing this.

Years ago, when we thought of the Ashby, we said 'Nah, no locks, it'd be boring'.   Well this is now our third time up here and we're warming to it.  Despite what people often say, there are plenty of good mooring spots - I would say at least every half hour you'd find one. And of course the open countryside is very seductive.  Turning into the Ashby from the Coventry canal, we were quickly struck by the increase in insect life, as demonstrated by the swallows swooping around the boat.  Lots of damselflies in the reeds too.  Being so remote and rural, the thing there is a shortage of is grocery outlets apart from Hinckley, the only half sizeable town on the canal.  Its a good thing the farm shops are near the canal.

Anyhow, we're now starting on our return trip having abandoned our early idea of heading for the Trent & Mersey.  Hot weather and short cruising days are why that is so, and we're completely content about it. Why rush about when you can take a leisurely pace and really take in the surroundings.  I got a bit of touch up painting done and I've read two novels this week -and I only read two or three a year normally so that's quite something.

I think tomorrow is going to be another hot one, so it'll be an early start and probably an early finish.  How far we get, we have no idea.

Toodle pip.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Pudding in the Basin

 I couldn't resist a headline like that.  Tonight we have some fresh fruit and creme fraiche in a basin in the Basin.

 The trading boats have all arrived for this weekend’s floating market in the basin, and although we’re in one of their spots they’re cool about us staying until the morning.  Nice people.

As for the tourist bit, today we’ve done the Transport Museum -really excellent if you like old British made cars for example this one

and truly amazing early bicycles, tricycles etc (plus the Thrust record breaking jet cars), then the Holy Trinity Church next to the Cathedral -worth a visit to see their 15th century Doom painting (pre-dating Da Vinci) showing the Day of Judgement, with the dead climbing out of their coffins and loose women chained up and cast into the pit of hell. Cheery stuff.

then the Herbert gallery just over the road, to see the huge Diplodocus skeleton, and some art works - here's one we liked

Old ladies on a park bench

and in the same building a really good general museum of Coventry’s history right up to the 1960s, then the Cathedral for a sit down to recover while we gawp at the windows and the tapestry, then lastly Wetherspoons where we had a really nice pint of beer (and I’m quite picky) for £2.46!!  

Now you see why we’re a bit tired.  I would have taken photos, but my phone battery expired on me so these are courtesy of Kath.

Tomorrow after a breakfast in the basin cafe, we hope to get as far as the first mooring up the Ashby canal.  They’re a bit few and far between so fingers crossed there’ll be room.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Into Coventry

Time was, when you were at Hawkesbury and suggested cruising down to Coventry basin, people would look at you as if you were mad or at least heroically foolish. "You'll be picking your way through floating sofas, supermarket trolleys and rubbish bags or pestered by winos and attacked by gangs of yoofs" they would warn.   

Well we came in today seeing barely four or five floating coke cans in the five and a half miles and no floating furniture, litter or rubbish bags at all.  What locals we saw gave use polite waves and the bankside vegetation was bursting with flowers in lots of places. Honeysuckle, elderflowers and roses wafted their scents at us as we passed, and overall we had a lovely cruise.   The big disused industrial sites that used to sit by the side of the canal how now been replaced by retail centres and tidy new housing estates.  I'm tempted to use the word 'gentrified'.

Arriving at the basin there was plenty of space and a couple of locals on the bank helped us moor up.  Normally you can moor here for 7 days, but this weekend they have a floating market so we have to be off by Thursday morning, so that the traders can move in.  Fair enough.  We could stay on longer just outside the basin if we wanted.

The little cafe at the basin has changed hands since we were last here, but the current incumbents were welcoming and did us some nice toasted sandwiches for lunch.  We may well investigate their breakfast in the morning.

For those who don't know the basin here are some of the photos I took today.

So the moral is Don't listen to the nay sayers - give it a go, you might be surprised.

Yesterday we lunched at the Greyhound at Hawkesbury junction, and people who know it won't be surprised when I say it was very good as was the beer.  

That's what I call a ploughman's - Pork pie, thick cut ham, cheddar, stilton, sliced apple, bread and butter, pickled onions ,chutney, piccalilli and a dressed salad.

(No I didn't have chips with a ploughman's, the chips are with Kath's meal)

I wish we could get beer at midlands prices where we live, it's at least a pound a pint cheaper up here.

Tomorrow we do the Coventry tourist bit. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Should we move here?

 Kath and I are 152 years old (in total of course).No surprise then that we're slowing down a bit. Our current cruise is now 5 days old and we've done just over 20 miles, 6 locks and 8.6 hours on the move. In a year long gone by we did the four counties ring  (110 miles and 94 locks) in 6 days!

No matter, it's been hot and we've found nice places to stop, like where we arrived yesterday near All Oaks Corner- one of our favourite spots 

and very peaceful so we're staying an extra day.  I've done a couple of boaty jobs too, so I don't feel too idle.

It all begs the question, if we are not going to travel so far, and if we don't want to do too many locks, where should our base be?  Our current base is Ventnor marina, which is lovely, pretty and peaceful, but although there are nearby places to pull in and relax for a day or two, there's only one direction without a lot of locks.

So yesterday, as we were passing Brinklow marina we popped in for a look.  Brinklow sits on a long long stretch of lock free cruising, 53 miles of it if you include the Ashby canal and exclude the tiny stop lock at Hawkesbury.

The staff at Brinklow are friendly and jolly and the whole place is very lively.  They have 80 live-aboard boats and the place was bustling.  There's plenty of recreational space and they hold frequent get togethers and events including the well known Brinklow bash mini festival.

It's fair to say, the marina is still not that old  - still a work in progress.  Visually, pretty it ain't.  Cars and vans parked all round. 

Two boats each side of each pontoon and not much greenery other than grass (there is a large open field with a small lake).  

Walking round we were immediately struck by the friendliness of the place, people were more than happy to chat to us.  So is it for us?  Well, probably not.  Although it sits in a long stretch of very attractive canal countryside, there are not that many places along the canal to pull in and stay for a bit.

We cast our minds back to the South Oxford where there are so many good spots to pull in and settle for a day or two.  Of course there are locks to work, but at least they're spaced out so you get a break in between.  Ideally we'd like to have a base mooring somewhere like Thrupp - a pleasant spot, easy access to the Thames in one direction and a number of favourite spots in the other.  I think there's a waiting list though. Or should we go back to good old Cropredy?

Meanwhile we'll tootle on our current cruise. Next stop Hawkesbury and the fab Greyhound pub.  That's about three and a half hours from here, a long day by the standards of this cruise.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Herbie's ladder in a dramatic rescue , and some interesting aqueducts

 Well who'd have thought it after yesterday.  Coming past Clifton cruisers boatyard, there was a hire boat across the canal and some elderly gentlemen in somewhat of a fluster trying to extract an even older and more portly gentlemen from the canal.

He was up to his armpits in the water and there was no way they could lift him out.  They had no idea of what to do and their engine was still running (although mercifully out of gear as the man was barely a couple of feet from their propeller).

Quick as a not all that quick flash (I'm not so sprightly myself these days) I grabbed our ladder and ran, or walked probably, back to their boat and handed it over, telling them to stop their engine. The ladder did eventually allow the man to clamber out, but not before one of the slightly younger men jumped in to help him.  Kath took this not very clear photo from where we pulled Herbie into the bank.  That's me holding the rope to steady the boat because it kept moving from the weight of the man on the ladder.

Personally I would have preferred that they used the ladder to let them man climb onto the bank, but he wouldn't let go of the arm of the man on the boat.  The poor man was exhausted and each step on the ladder took him a couple of minutes.  Anyway, we were pleased that our ladder fulfilled its purpose.

Then we tootled on for only a short run to the Rugby Tesco mooring where we shopped and decided to sit in the shade for the rest of the day.

I did walk up the towpath to the two aqueducts nearby which are short but pretty high and the canal embankment here is big.  They don't look much from the canal

but they're quite high and very substantially built. 

Here's one viewed from from the top.

and the other, not many yards away, viewed from the bottom

Looking closer, we see the inscription 


A bit further up the canal is one of the many Oxford Canal iron bridges over the bit of canal that used to run there before they straightened it.

All in all an interesting and pretty stretch.  No mooring allowed though.

Tomorrow we have a cunning plan, but more of that in the next post.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

At the scene of former drama

 Here we are at the very spot at Hillmorton where Kath fell in the canal last year.  Strangely Kath opted not to deliver a repeat performance.

The boat won't get right against the bank which is what caused the problem.  Anyway this year we are prepared, having now got a ladder with us.

We only cruised about two and a half hours today so we were done by mid morning, having worked down Hillmorton locks.  Here's Kath bringing Herbie into the top one.

I haven't wasted the rest of the day. I've been doing such important things arranging my magnetic lettering to keep passers by amused.

On the other side it just says 'Scorchio'.  I did also do a bit of gunnel scratch rubbing down and sploshing on of Fertan ready for black paint later.

We decided not to eat at Badsey's cafe today - on the way back maybe.  I see the boat is still there though so maybe it's not sold yet.

Unusual sight of the day is this wall of pallets at Barby Moorings. Art? Yes, probably.

There are some cracking bankside moorings along there with little summer houses and wotnot.  If I had one I'd stay there all summer.  I wonder what they cost.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

TV Star gets a special thrill.

 How lucky is Robbie Cummings*? He was just emerging from the front of his boat, the Naughty Lass as we passed him at the northern Braunston moorings.  Here nearly missed us and that would have spoiled his day. He and Kath exchanged cheery waves and we continued our merry way to Bridge 85 on the North Oxford which is where I’m now sitting.  Not on the bridge, need I say, just near the bridge.  Have some sense!

As promised we made an early (for us) start to avoid the heat, and by 8am we were through Calcutt locks.  

Interesting thing here.  Sometime ago we were watching instructors from the Willow Wren school showing trainees how best to operate these locks (and all those like them on the northern Grand Union).  Their technique when ascending these locks is to open the top paddle on the same side as the boat just 5 or 6 turns, wait a couple of minutes while the boat settles against the wall, which it will, then steadily open the remaining 15 or so turns.  Remarkably for such large and quick filling locks the boat sits nice and steady with no need for a rope.  It works! All very serene and reasonably quick using just the one paddle. Don’t try this on other types of double width locks folks, the boat’ll be all over the place if you’re not careful. You also need judicious use of the gate paddle on other Grand Union Locks - despite what CRT tells is trainee lock volunteers

After a quick stop at Midland Chandlers for a can of oil (£44!!!) and a filter, we arrived here at bridge 45 at about 11am.  No more moving today, it’s too flippin’ hot.  En route, we passed this cheery gentleman with a novel approach to canal relaxation.  I hope he’s careful when he gets out.

So after a simple but tasty  lunch consisting of  Melton Mowbray Pork pie, a French stick, tomatoes and Tracklements’ “Peculiarly British Piccalilli”, I may turn my attention to redesigning the little mobile phone rest which we use to rest the phone up to the boat window to get a better signal.  The mark one version has done sterling sevice but the design has its flaws .

Tomorrow we hope to dine or lunch at Badsey’s Cafe at Hillmorton.  Interestingly their converted historic working boat “Badsey” which sits outside the cafe is up for sale.  It’s a good ‘un.  Despite me being born and raised in the village of Badsey, I shall sadly not be putting in a bid.

Just as I finished typing this, Kath’s mobile fell off the mark one phone rest.  Nuff said.

*For any reader who don’t know who Robbie Cummings is, he does a TV series about life as a continuous cruiser on the canals.  Worth a watch, as for once he does it ‘warts and all.’

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Herbie awakes.

Yes at last we've managed to find time to take a Herbie trip.  In all the 17 years we've owned her, we've never left her alone so much.  So, fingers crossed, (I'm tempting fate by posting this before we ;eave home) we're off out to her today, and tomorrow morning, providing the engine starts we'll be off up the north Oxford, probably to Coventry and then north, possibly diverting up half the Ashby then on to Atherstone and beyond.  We might make it as far as Kings Bromley on the Trent and Mersey - we'll see.  

Did you see in the news that for the first time in months they've had to burn coal to make electricity because solar panels aren't efficient enough in very hot weather? They like it sunny and cool. (What about those big solar farms in deserts etc? How do they fare?) Steel boat roofs get mega hot so presumably our panel on Herbie might not do so well this week.  However sunrise is early and there'll be a few hours before the roof heats up, so we should be OK.  Of course the fridge on the boat will be working hard, so that'll take up quite a few amp hours.

We were careful to install our panels with air space underneath, but I imagine boats with stick on panels will suffer most.

As well as the solar panels doing their best work in the early morning, we might follow suit and get each day's cruising in before it gets too hot. Normally we are not early risers, but needs must.  We won't be rushing any way. Five hours on the move would be a longish day for us.

Stay tuned for pictures and stuff (internet signal willing).

Toodle pip.