Friday, May 29, 2015
It’s a Tuesday after a British Bank Holiday weekend and so the sun had to come out today. Not for long of course and the chill wind reminded us that winter was not that long ago and that summer was probably that nice fortnight we had in early April. Graham spotted the third water vole of our trip, a few metres shy of bridge 6 on the Ashby canal. A little further on we spotted these beasts all congregated in the corner of a field and so I decided to Photoshop a Where’s Wally picture.
Monday, May 25, 2015
Monday 25th May
After a quiet night at Brinklow All Oaks Wood, we set off at 10 under a grey overcast sky. At Stretton, Graham prepared to hop off to swing the bridge but noticed a pair of swans with their young sat on the offside bank, so he swapped sides on got off onto the towpath. We let a waiting canoeist pass through after Jannock has passed through.
At bridge 19 Graham spotted not one, but two water voles swimming across the cut. He wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get pictures. Two, so close together, suggest a breeding pair. We continued on to Ansty where we stopped for a water fill and were amused by the actions of the horses in the field opposite. A foal was laid on the ground and another pony then went and nudged it to get up. It then found it’s mum and stayed with her.
Later, as we passed the electricity works near Hawkesbury we did see some information boards about water voles. I love a good homophone, but why are CEGB paying good money for spelling mistakes on signage? “Coir rolls help voles get out of the water. And coir roles have a, erm, role to play in establishing a healthy vole population.” Good grief, how many people should have pointed out that error between inception to installation?
We called in to see our friends Christine and Terry, nb Grace, and were invited to join their scheduled visitors with tea and scones with homemade jams. Christine painted the lovely picture of Jannock at Chirk that Graham gave me for my birthday.
They say “one good turn deserves another” and I made a very good (for me) turn at Hawkesbury Junction. I then let Graham to avoid the chaos at Charity Dock as the steam tug Hasty was being extracted from the dock. In order to get the tug out of the dock, all of the cruisers moored across the entrance were moved into the main canal to make room. Graham managed to squeeze through without hitting anything but the southbound craft that we warned to slow right down, didn’t bother to heed our advice and ended up right in the middle of the shenanigans.
Graham then made a good turn into the Ashby at Marston junction. we continued north for a few bridges and then moored for the night near Bulkington, around which we went for an amble after dinner.
More info on Hasty can be found at http://www.tunneltug.org.uk/
Sunday, May 24, 2015
Sunday 24th May
Graham set off at sparrow’s a clock to do a car shuffle. I turned over and went back to sleep just to get the full value out of the new, and very comfy, mattress of course. It being a Bank Holiday weekend I have to get ready for shop-fest. All the TV and press ads tell us that we’ll not get through the weekend without gallons of cheap booze, a BBQ (in the drizzle today) and spending the kids inheritance at a super-warehouse or shopping village ( a pub, but no church or school, do they qualify as villages?) Canal life is different.
As we were considering a bowl of wheat-o-popsies, the diesel boat hove into view. Graham downed spoon and had the convenient ‘we bring your fuel to you’ man fill us up. G also had a need for a holiday special from Halfords. Internet, order and we’ll pick it up as we pass the Rugby store today. A changing world where your diesel, coal and wood gets delivered and you can ensure you have the tools for a successful journey to Switzerland will be waiting for you. No active shopping involved – result!
We set off from Braunston at 10 and were at Hillmorton locks by 12. Another quick and easy transit as they were very busy with boats passing through both ways and no queuing for us. We did have one lady turn our lock against us but Graham went and helped the other boat in the next door lock so we were soon on our way through that one instead. It amused him that she was having so much difficulty to open the top gate – that’ll teach her to turn a lock on him, no assistance offered inconsiderate people.
We stopped at Rugby and found that our hoped for, short walk past B&Q to Halfords was out of the question. Most of the retail park was a building site with all access fenced off. Never mind, down to Tescos and across the crossing. It’s not as if we didn’t need the exercise.
Our evening treat, calorie free, is to listen to a program from the complete series of “Cabin Pressure”, an excellent BBC Radio comedy series. Highly recommended, but a little strange to be told the emergency exits are here, here and here <titter if you recognise the allusion>. If you enjoy air travel, hate CheapyJet or just want a good laugh, then look it up – Brilliant!
An acute shortage of pictures today - Graham has discovered that his camera will let him take pictures all day and not save any when he’s left the memory card in the laptop!
Saturday 23rd May
Late spring bank holiday and late spring weather. The sun finally peeped through the clouds layer at 6.30pm and only hinted at what might have been. It wasn’t warm or bright, but was at least dry – even in Braunston tunnel which was so polluted it made our eyes smart. We had been strimmed whilst moored up near High House Wharf. First time this year.
We were followed into the bottom lock by nb Meandrine and made the easiest ascent of the Buckby flight ever with them. We changed partners for the Braunston locks, as there was a single boat waiting there. Oncoming boats were an asset for all locks today, although the newly started holiday hirers leaving Braunston threatened to crowd the canal.
A boat was moored in the pound above bottom lock. With two of us needing to pull over, two boats coming out of the lock ahead and another following us down, it was inevitable that she would get bumped. Twice as it happened (but only once by me, honest) She weren’t ‘arf cross, but if you will moor where it’s really a daft idea . . . . . . . I suspect worse was on it’s way.
For most of the afternoon runners passed us, doing the Grand Union run, 154 miles, Birmingham to London. Most didn’t look as though they were enjoying their sport. Many were walking and the shop at Braunston bottom lock was doing a roaring trade in Ice creams. Does Ranulf Ffienes run on choc ices? Loved this sign on the wall of the cottage next to the shop.
We moored just past the junction and has slow roast pork for tea, followed by rhubarb from Grandad’s garden. Yum!
Up to the Admirable Nelson for a meet up with John and Liz for a beer or two followed by a long walk back in the dark just before midnight. We noticed this wonderful bracket fungus on the way to the pub.
Monday, May 11, 2015
Saturday 9th May
We arrived at Jannock for 09:00 and started preparing to set off. It seems funny starting a Soddit cruise on a Saturday morning as we have mostly started on Friday night for too many years to remember. We ascended through Cosgrove lock after a wide beam had come down through it. We then pulled over onto the wharf above the lock to move the rest of our ‘stuff’ from the car, thus avoiding a repeat of the long walk carrying. Once loaded we set off Northbound towards Stoke Bruerne. We had no tight schedules to keep to so it was decided that this could be a relaxing cruise with a bit more fishing time (the Captain had a few jobs to do on Jannock ;^)
We decided to have lunch before we ascended the Stoke Bruerne flight and so we moored on the 14 day moorings at the bottom where Ian managed to catch five roach of various sizes. Brian did lunch of a Ploughman’s type meal and we were just thinking of setting off when a Wyvern boat with a crew of six happened along and so we shared the flight with them. It was a birthday celebration seven day cruise of five males and one female, it reminded me of when Brenda and I took our first ever holiday on a canal boat, she was vastly outnumbered on that trip. Just look what it’s done to us! We shared with them all the way up with the two boats moving from lock to lock, side by side, just like professionals. Brian and Ian took turns to set the next lock so it was ready when we left the last. Out of the top lock, in the land of the Gongoozler, and we pulled over on to the water point outside the Boat Inn. Whilst Jannock’s tank filled, we did likewise from the hand-pumps on the bar. Ian was disappointed that they were a free house but only did Marston’s beers. Not good considering the other pub in Stoke Bruerne is a Marston’s tied house.
We then entered the south portal of Blisworth tunnel, only to be struck quite hard by a southbound time share boat who refused to move over to his side of the canal. Even though I had almost stopped he still clouted us a hefty wallop. We managed to pass five more boats whilst transiting through without any further incidents. Brian was once again playing rousing music like ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘the Dam Busters march’ loudly on Jannock’s stereo for the length of the tunnel much to the amusement of boats heading South. It’s not often you get applauded by the crew of a passing boat in a tunnel. Once out of the other end we decided to moor for the night in the cutting as it promised to be a lovely quiet spot and wind free spot with a possibility of some good fishing. Our lock sharing friends passed us an hour later having eaten in the Boat Inn first. Only a single Perch caught by Ian tonight, Brian is not having a good trip fishing wise. After a ‘two pan’ stir fry (bit of a record for Ian, only making two pans dirty) we played four games of Soddit before retiring to bed just after midnight.
Sunday 10th May
After a quiet night, apart from the dawn chorus, it was decided to move off as soon as breakfast was finished to seek better fishing. The weather was overcast and the wind was gusting well making it interesting for the steerer when you passed gaps in the hedge. Just after Blisworth we watched a Heron take a big fish from the water and then carry it onto the towpath. Here he put it down, to flap around a bit, while he composed himself ready to carry it off somewhere safer in order to consume it in peace. We continued on past the Northampton Arm until we stopped in a patch of sheltered calm water to try the fishing there. Nothing was forthcoming and so we were soon moving again. We past our lock sharers from yesterday, moored up with all the curtains closed and no sign of life. We greeted them by repeatedly sounding our horn as we passed because they should be up and about at 11:30, not lounging in their pits.
On through Bugbrooke until the guys decided they had spotted a good fishing place to stop at for lunch. It was just past Heyford Fields marina by the Badger Sett. Ian caught a nice Bream here whilst I was preparing lunch. After we had eaten they continued maggot drowning without success whilst I check the electrolyte level in each of the cells in our four batteries. Once they had got bored we set off again heading towards Weedon. We finally stopped on a 14 day mooring and I went to fetch the car from Cosgrove while they cleaned and tidied the boat before trying more maggot drowning. Over the weekend Ian caught eight fish (three species) and Brian caught nowt. I wouldn’t mind but he says he enjoys fishing.
Thursday, May 07, 2015
Monday 4th May
Having moored amongst the members of the Lionhearts Cruising Club and having been told yesterday that they were sharing four to a lock we wondered, as we breakfasted on fried eggs and hash browns, whether we could share the locks with them. Crews began to assemble on the towpath but seemed in no hurry. Then along came another boat and so we cast off and shared with him instead. We had a happy share with him through all five of today’s locks. Even the sun graced us with its presence for a good part of the day.
National Nice Day seemed to morph into Nice Weekend as we chatted with fisherfolk, walkers and boaters. Milton Keynes was doing it’s bit. There were two charity runs going on.
As we passed the Lionhearts base there were a lot of empty moorings – we know why! Everything was lovely until Wolverton. A group of feral children were on the footbridge, some waved ever so slightly, some spoke and nodded but we could not hear what they said for the noise of the engine. When we replied that we could not hear them they decide the best fun they could have would be to spit on us from above. Not one of them was proud enough of their entertainment choice to stay and have their photo taken. Gits! I expect they aspired to to join the yoofs, the slightly older group – say 14+ – in the park trying so hard to be hidden that their behaviour stood out. Did they not know that drugs smell quite distinctly and that can’t be hidden? At least they caused us less bother than the spitters.
Once moored up and the car fetched from Soulbury, we had to call into Ikea on the way home. Our second bargain meal of the weekend. We chose slow roasted lamb shanks at under £3 each if you show your Ikea family card. Add our free cup of tea and a shared pud, not unlike a ‘millionaires rice krispies’ and we were well pleased. Delicious tender lamb!
Sunday 3rd May
When we awoke this morning it was raining so hard that we did not set off until 11:30. Whilst amusing ourselves before starting, we found that we had four leaking windows. They are all on the port side and two Graham managed to fix from inside without getting wet. He has plans to fix the other two apparently.
When the sun came out it was lovely, warm even, but it didn’t stay out for long. Then it was back to heavy rain again but at least we had cleared most of the locks and were on the long pounds near Linslade by then.
At Slapton lock there was a planning notice for a new marina to be built opposite the lock cottage. It is planned to hold 180 boats and the period of consultation has been extended by AVDC. Ref number is 15/00164. At church lock we met our first boat going the other way. They were members of Lionhearts Cruising Club who were on a Bank Holiday mass cruise. The others had all turned back but this boat was continuing on to Berko. Once through Church Lock there were lots of black lambs in the field alongside the canal. None of the Ewes were black so it must have been passed on by the ram.
We continued on through the rain and finally moored up early above the three locks at Soulbury. We didn’t fancy working our way down there in the rain. Moored immediately in front of us were the rest of the Lionhearts Cruising club who had tables booked in the pub at 7pm for an evening meal.
Having had a Spitfire fly over us last Friday, today we had a Catalina do the same.
The rain finally stopped so Graham did a car fetch from Bourne End using the might Di Blasi. He didn’t check the speedo before leaving home and the batteries had gone flat so it was not working. Never mind, there were no 20MPH limits to worry about en-route and it’s luckky to get to 30 flat out.
Saturday 2nd May
Today was national ‘Be Nice’ day, everybody that we met was nice and pleasant.
During last night, the two gas bottles in use ran out. Therefore we awoke to a cold boat. I went out and swapped over to the next two and spotted a diesel boat coming down the cut. He stopped to fill the boat moored in front of us with diesel so I took the opportunity to replace the two empty 13kg cylinders without having to lug them along a towpath.
After breakfast we set off and followed a pair of boats up through Berkhamstead lock. As we were leaving another single boat arrived to ascend so I told them we would wait for them at Gas 2 so we could share the Northchurch flight. They stayed with us all the way up to the summit where they pulled over to visit the chandlery whilst we ate our lunch and travelled on to Bulbourne.
We arrived at Marsworth and waited a bit before setting off down the top lock solo. As I was working Jannock through, Keith the friendly volunteer lock keeper arrived at the second lock down and started setting it ready for us. When we arrived there he introduced himself, enquired what our names were and then used them in every conversation with us to the bottom of the flight – almost wore them out he did! A foreign family (Dutch?) were watching with interest as we passed through the first couple of locks and assisted with some gates so we invited their two children to sit in the foredeck for a trip through the lock. They were then replaced by a Dad and his two year old son for the next lock. All the time Keith was setting ahead whilst I worked Jannock through and managed the gongoozlers. When ever we caught Keith up he warned Brenda about the cross winds on the flight. She assured him that she had coped with worse at this very location and she would be fine. She was and Keith got a bit sheepish. Not that windy at all today. I offered him a beer to take home at the bottom lock but he announced that he was tee-total. With a total lack of wind, a good lock setter and no other boats on the flight that was the best passage down Marsworth that we’ve ever had.
We continued past Marsworth and down another four locks before mooring for the night, out in the sticks, below Seabrook locks. Lovely and quiet here.
Friday 1st May
This morning I had to do an airport fetch from Gatwick, Matt and Alice were returning from their honeymoon. Once back to Thame, we loaded the car and set of for Bourne End to finally loose Jannock from here mooring. A very late start this year but we should still make it to our first destination, Husbands Bosworth, in time for the Home Brew Beer Festival in June.
As we were prepping for the off, a solo boat ascended through lock 59 and so we asked if we could share with them. They were going to Berko and so that suited us. It appeared to be a works outing. The boss wanted to move his boat up to Berkhamstead for a wedding at the weekend and so he closed the business for the day and the staff had a day out helping move the boat. The management even provided the beer and food – result! I wish I had a boss like that.
We shared with them up, to Raven’s Lane lock where we pulled over to moor for the night – a perfect mooring exactly half way between the fish and chip shop and the Rising Sun. They continued through the next lock to moor near Waitrose. I had promised Brenda a fish and chip supper as she has never tried those from the Berkhamstead Fish Bar which is located at the railway station. Debbi from nb Tiami popped in on her way to the Riser and so I went to join her and Simon for a swift pint whilst Brenda remained aboard the boat, she was still getting over her lurgi and not feeling up to being social. I then went and fetched our Rock Salmon and chips before returning to Jannock. As per MY previous visit, the quality of the fish and chips was superb. I do believe this is the best supplier for F&C that I’ve ever found.
I then spent the rest of the evening trying to top up my 3 data SIM without success. Hence the lateness of these posts. The ‘Verified by Visa’ part of the process always fails if you try to top up over the mobile networks. Never had a problem on the home broadband though. I retired to bed weary after my first session of locking and cycling for 2015.