Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Peaceful Ashby

Yesterday saw us move onto the Ashby Canal in glorious sunshine. We like the Ashby for the rural landscapes and the fact that it is generally very quiet. It's a couple of years since we were last on this stretch and its amazing how many sections you forget in that time. 
Our friends David & Sarah phoned us to say that they were moored just north of Hinckley. We weren't too far away, but the lure of the Lime Kilns pub beside bridge 15 got the better of us for lunch. The lamb & mint pudding went down a treat - well, in fact, it went down with a pint of Pedigree and Louise enjoyed a baguette and glass of white wine - large one of course. 
Suitably refreshed we cruised the short distance north to join up with David & Sarah and get our long awaited tour of The Hodma'dod (East Anglian for 'snail').
The Hodma'dod
Built by DJ Narrowboats at Crick, it was really evident that a lot of planning and hard work had gone into this project. David & Sarah had clearly thought of lots of issues and been able to fit lots of things on their new boat and we are sure they will enjoy the rewards of their hard work as they cruise the waterways. Hoddie is a lovely boat. 
We planned to cruise for another hour or so in the evening, but were thwarted by a heavy thunderstorm so stayed put for the night.
Black & white seemed right in the damp conditions
Today we have cruised to the terminus at Snarestone. We set off reasonably early as the forecast was for rain, but it has been generally dry. A few boats moving, but very peaceful. We watched a red kite hovering over fields around Congerstone for a while. Although more and more common now, not that often we see them around here, and Louise thinks its a first for her. 
We will spend the night here at Snarestone as it is so quiet and then head back towards Stoke Golding tomorrow and meet up with David & Sarah for dinner......that is the plan.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Coldplay......and a bit of boating thrown in.

The morning after the night before.....and we're still buzzing. 
Yesterday saw us travel from Hartshill to Hawkesbury, a reasonably uneventful journey. Nuneaton is not our favourite town to cruise through, but it didn't seem as full of litter as in the past. We had a slight coming together with a hire boat at Marston Junction. The steerer was so intent on reading his map, he forgot the job in hand, but no harm done. 
Hawkesbury Junction - the bridge was made in Derby !!
At Hawkesbury we had a chance meeting with our friends David & Sarah on their new boat 'The Hodma'dod'. They had just negotiated Hawkesbury Junction as we approached it and it seemed to take a while for the penny to drop with them as to why two ''strangers' on a vaguely familiar boat were waving frantically at them. We bought Blue Moon from them last year and have kept in touch since. We had arranged to meet up on the Ashby later this week, but there's no time like the present, so we enjoyed lunch sat outside The Greyhound in the sunshine. 
There was a shortage of moorings in the area, so we hopped into their spot as they headed off onto the Ashby and we will meet them later this week for a tour of 'Hoddie'
Louise outside the Ricoh
So, onto the main event of the week - Coldplay in concert at the Ricoh Arena. Quite simply an awesome experience. We've done a few gigs and concerts in our time, but this, for me anyway, topped the lot. The stage set, lighting (aided by the use of the fabulous 'xyloband' wristbands), crowd and oh, not forgetting the music, were incredible. An absolute must for any music fan. I've 'borrowed' the video below because, quite simply, it's better than the ones I took.

So today we say goodbye to Liam who is heading back off to university and we are heading off up the Ashby, still buzzing.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Polesworth to Hartshill

The sun is still shining but the traffic is much lighter today. We were in no rush to get away this morning as we wanted to get to Atherstone for midday as we were expecting an extra crewman to join us today.
We had a pleasant cruise to the bottom of the Atherstone flight and, as the water was with us, decided to go up the first couple of locks. We could see a boat waiting above lock 10 as it was empty and as we entered the bottom lock, another boat pulled in behind us to wait. The chap from the boat above lock 10 had already opened the bottom gates for us, so having filled and then exited the bottom lock, Louise then went to shut the top gate as I went to go straight into lock 10. Before she had even started to close it, a member of crew from the boat behind opened the bottom paddles to empty the lock resulting in the top gate slamming shut very hard and leaving Louise grasping fresh air.....and not a hint of an apology !!
It is so frustrating that some boaters don't seem capable of looking after the equipment and infrastructure that we all have to use - but will no doubt be the first to moan when it's broken.
We had a short coffee break above lock 10 and then continued on into Atherstone. Our eldest son Liam is home from Cardiff University for a few days, so he had caught the train from Derby and met us just below lock 5 and was a welcome pair of extra hands for the remainder of the flight.
We are now moored at Hartshill Yard and have enjoyed a pleasant evening chatting and drinking whilst sat outside in the sun. This time tomorrow we will be watching Coldplay....can't wait !!
Hartshill Wharf

A lovely summer evening

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Huddlesford to Polesworth

The Coventry was more like the M25 this morning. Another glorious warm morning greeted us along with a string of boats in either direction. Everyone must be moving before it gets too hot. We had a bacon sandwich before finally getting a lull in traffic and we headed off towards Fazeley. Whittington was particularly busy with both moving and moored boats, but we had a pleasant journey down to the services at Fazeley office where we stopped briefly. 
On to the two Glascote Locks which fill so slowly, but not much boat traffic now. The pubs above Fazeley were certainly doing a roaring trade as we passed. Pooley Hall looked splendid just above the canal a you approach Polesworth - the former home of Edwin Starr. Now we can't get the song 'Contact' out of our heads!!

Moored at Polesworth
Polesworth is quite busy but we have a lovely spot on the first mooring. We had a bit of time to wash the boat down as it was covered in dust from the marina and apply our new CaRT licence numbers. We are now enjoying a glass of wine whilst sat in the cratch - what a lovely day

Our new CaRT vinyl decals... very smart !!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Off we go....Coldplay here we come

We arrived at the boat at 2pm today having dropped our boys at different cricket matches around Derby. All provisions safely aborad and a chat with our neighbours who we hope to meet out on the cut sometime on our trip. 
We set off at 4pm in glorious sunshine intending to get through Fradley, which was absolutely packed with moored boats.
The weather was just perfect with a light breeze. Lots of boats moored up along the Coventry, but we finally moored up just beyond Streethay around 7pm. Having eaten on board, we wandered down to The Plough at Huddlesford and enjoyed a drink. It's nice to see the boards off the windows and the pub alive again, and refreshing that they are trying to cater for everyone, allowing dogs in certain areas. Very enjoyable.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Meeting a legend - Sir Garry Sobers

Not a boating post today, but one I had to make for a keepsake. As I mentioned in a post not so long ago, I am a sports fan. I've tried most sports in my time and even though I say so myself, am pretty reasonable at most things I have a go at. One sport I wish I had more time to play in the past is cricket. I was a decent bowler in my youth, but having left school, it was a sport I put on the back burner and have really never played much of since, apart from socially with a works team a number of years ago. 

Both our sons have had alot of enjoyment from the game, and tonight our youngest son Luke had a cup game against bitter rivals Mickleover CC. To add to the occasion it was his 17th birthday, so Louise and I decided to make the most of the weather and go and support, which involved sitting in the sun (yes sun) with a glass of beer / wine. Unfortunately Quarndon lost the game to an impressive batting display by Mickleover, but imagine my delight when who should turn up to the club but the one and only Sir Garfield Sobers !!

It is not the first time he has visited the club, but he had been playing golf nearby and dropped by as part of a sponsorship deal. Amazingly, the kids weren't that interested, but a legend of the game he will always be, and I managed to grab a quick photo opportunity with him - a photo I shall cherish !!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Happy Birthday Mum.

Today saw us have a nice leisurely cruise from Kings Bromley to Huddlesford Junction and return. The occasion was an excuse to get out the marina really, but it coincided with Johns Mums birthday this week and she's always up for a trip out. She used to holiday with us on the boats, but due to poor health, limits her time now to days out, so what better 'present' to celebrate her 88th birthday.
'The birthday girl'

We left Kings Bromley at about 10am and tootled down towards Fradley. The rhododendrons are beginning to bloom, but the hot spell this coming week (fingers crossed) should mean they are soon spectacular. 

A short queue at Wood End lock (as always) and then down into Fradley and through the swingbridge. We noticed that the volunteer lock-keepers were again on duty at Junction Lock. Not sure yet whether I'm for the idea or not, but I do find it hard to knock folks with such enthusiasm, although we didn't require their services today.

At this point Louise realised she had omitted to bring a crucial ingredient for lunch....... bread !! Off she went to the shop at Fradley Junction telling herself to stay calm in the event that they didn't stock a loaf, but as luck would have it there were two left and so she relieved them of one and they relieved her of £1.50 for the privilege.

Once we had the full requirements for lunch, we cruised down as far as Huddlesford Junction and winded before mooring up for lunch near to the proposed new Pridewater Marina just beyond Streethay. We had passed a couple of months ago and were expecting to note some progress, but there appears to be none at all. Having checked the internet tonight I see that the opening has been delayed until May 2013 due to issues regarding connection of services....Hmmmm I wonder !! It was also nice to see The Plough has reopened and it was quite busy. Just hope that the prices are more sensible than in previous times.
It's been a long day zzzzzzzz 
Nest in the brickwork

After lunch, John walked Jasper back towards Fradley. He is now 14 weeks old and quite happy to walk alongside us off the lead and enjoyed the sounds and smells of the towpath, before spending the rest of the journey fast asleep. 

There were plenty of gongoozlers at Fradley, not that Joyce noticed as she was fast asleep, much to the amusement of those on the towpath.

As we got up to Wood End Lock, our marina 'neighbour' appeared on his bike  and was rewarded with a cold beer for locking us through. 

On entering the lock we noticed a nest in the brickwork of the bridge which was full of baby chicks. We presume swallows, but no adults about to raise the awareness of passers by. We just hope that they survive their precarious position

You can just about see the chicks
Next weekend sees us off out for 9-10 days, heading for Coventry initially as we have tickets to see 'Coldplay' in concert, and then off up the Ashby for the Diamond Jubilee weekend. Let's hope the weather improves as predicted.

Total 12.5 miles  6 locks

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What's in a name ??

When we first bought our boat, we never really gave any thought to the effects that the name may have. I am a rugby man at heart, but, as a keen sportsman, I still follow football and today was always going to be an exciting end to the Premiership season. Normally, I wouldn't really be too worried who won, but today I have to say I had a bit of an interest. 
Firstly, I had got a small wager with a friend of mine who is a Man Utd fan, so there was money to be won. In fact our bet earlier in the season when Man City won 6-1 at Old Trafford, has kept me more interested in the season than maybe I would have been otherwise.
Secondly, I have become a follower of Man City (you notice follower and not supporter) because the number of people who have asked us as we cruise along as to whether we are Man City supporters due to the name of our boat has been alarming to say the least. It has become a very regular occurrence.
So when City grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat this afternoon I was more than happy. Well done City, but we are fully intending to change the name of the boat in time - but that's for the future.

This evening we went a walk along our local stretch of canal at Willington, still smiling about the dramatic end to the football. We had to have a chuckle at the 'advertisement' on the front of a widebeam boat 'Old Speckled Hen'. Louise was going to knock and enquire about an 'interview' but the 'dig worms' put her off !! We wondered if there is anyone out there to fit the criteria ??

Saturday, May 12, 2012

At last....... some sunshine

Looking a bit smarter now
At last a pleasant weekend weather wise and we had a trip down to Kings Bromley today hoping to get some jobs done. We have been wanting to gloss the gunwales for some time, but the recent weather has thwarted our efforts. If there is one negative about Aqualine boats, it has to be the fact that the gunwales were skimmed with a filler type substance to make them perfectly smooth. This is great until they get bumped and scraped and then you end up with white scuff marks which look awful.

I had prepared them as best as possible over the last few weeks and undercoated, but at last today we managed to get two coats of gloss on as it dried really quickly in the warm sunshine and I have to say we are really happy with the result. Good teamwork with me applying with a small roller and Louise following along behind with a brush to get a good smooth finish. Just hope we can keep it looking good now over the next few trips.
A walk around the marina between coats, allowing Jasper to socialize with both people and dogs, we came across swans and 5 very fluffy cygnets......what a lovely sight.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Gone..........but never forgotten.

A sad update to our blog, but also exciting times ahead.

Sadly, before our last trip we took the difficult and heart wrenching decision to say goodbye to our beloved French Bulldog 'Brad'. He was 12 and had been suffering ill health for some time. For those 'doggy' folk amongst us, you know how hard it is to let 'mans best friend' go, but it was the kindest thing to do. Brad had been a loving member of our family and had enjoyed his time on our boat trips for the last 6 years. If he was around us he was happy, and the same feelings went the other way. Our trip over Easter was the first time he hadn't been with us and he was sorely missed.

However, life goes on as they say and we have started a new chapter with our new puppy, Jasper. He is a 12 week old Border Terrier and seems to enjoy the surroundings of the boat and marina on the brief trips we have made so far. Our neighbours at the marina are keen to 'kidnap' him for themselves, so we have to make sure we keep a close eye on him. We're sure he will approve of life on the waterways.

'Jasper' at 6 weeks

Friday, May 4, 2012

Drought..........Are you sure ??

Our first trip of 2012 at the end of April saw us head off for the River Soar, intending to travel to the northern outskirts of Leicester. Much of the country was in drought with hosepipe bans, and the GU was due to be closed to through boating traffic on 13th April.

We set off at about 1.30pm on Saturday 31st April . The weather was cold and some wintery showers accompanied us as far as Alrewas. We managed to get a mooring near to the footbridge in the centre of the village. We intended to visit the Crown pub in the village for dinner, but on ringing to book a table, we were told that they weren't doing food that night ???? What a shame as the last time we visited, we had a lovely meal there. We settled for a Chinese from the local takeaway - and very nice it was too.
The following morning we were up early and greeted by quite a hard ground frost. We walked as far as Wychnor before returning for breakfast and then setting off about 10.30am. A few boats moving, but we weren't held up. We made contact with Louises's cousin Paul who planned to meet us at Barton and travel with us for the day. We duly met up with him about midday and enjoyed his company to Findern where we moored behind the Nadee restaurant and were met by Paul's wife Annette. We were tempted by the thought of a curry and it is one of our favourite local Indians, but a friend was due to visit us here and she had already eaten, so we ate on board.
Tattenhill Lock
Monday saw us travel down to Swarkestone where we met up with another friend of Louise. Debbie eventually managed to find us !! She then stayed with us down towards Weston-on-Trent before the thought of the distance back to her car at Swarkestone got the better of her and she hopped off to make the walk. We continued on through Shardlow as far as Sawley Cut and again ate on board.

Weston Lock
Tuesday was forecast to be wet after lunch, so we had a quick walk into Sawley to post our Easter cards before we set off for the Soar. The cloudy skies became darker as lunch approached and we decided to moor up at Zouch cut before the rain came. Once it started it kept coming, and rained almost continually for the next 30 hours. We had a nice meal in the Rose & Crown at Zouch.

Wednesday saw us stay put. We ventured out around tea time on Wednesday evening to find the water level below the lock well into the amber -  a rise of a good 2-3 feet from Tuesday. Hopefully it wouldn't go any higher !!

Mooring above Kegworth Deep Lock
Well into the red !!!!
We got up on Thursday morning and the rain had subsided. I walked to Zouch Lock to find the water level right on the border between amber and red !! A quick decision to turn back as quickly as possible and get off the river before it got any higher. We set off towards Normanton on Soar and were horrified to find the current of the water flowing over the weir just beyond the road bridge looking very menacing !! No turning back now, so full throttle and we got across the top of the weir quite easily, but the feeling in our stomachs was far from easy. We winded by the boat club at Normanton and then headed back to Kegworth. The flow meant we travelled at tick over.......I say 'we'.....that would be Moonie and I, as Louise decided it would be safer to walk !!! When we got to Kegworth I had a look at the water level indicator below the lock and it was a good two feet in the red - didn't expect that!! We moored up in a lovely spot above Kegworth Lock, the only boat there and had a good hearty breakfast, and there we stayed waiting for the level to drop. That afternoon we walked the 3 miles or so to Redhill. The flood lock was closed and the traffic lights were on red for boat traffic travelling onto the Soar, although green if going out onto the Trent. We walked back and into Kegworth village to get some provisions before returning to Moonie.

A beautiful frosty morning in April !!
Friday morning saw a drop in the water levels and we decided to leave our moorings at Kegworth. Our eldest son, Liam, was home from university in Cardiff and he had rung to say he was going to catch a bus and meet us at Shardlow. The water levels were safe enough to proceed and we met up with him at Derwent Mouth Lock. We travelled up to Weston for lunch and then on as far as Findern where we couldn't resist the temptation of Nadee and enjoyed a good indian meal. Liam decided to stay the night with us. The following morning we travelled up to Willington to make use of the services and then had a good breakfast before Liam got a taxi home and we continued towards Burton. We travelled as far as Wychnor and moored just above the river lock in a spot we had liked the look of on the way down. It proved popular with other boats, but despite being close to the A38, was really quiet and peaceful.

We had a good breakfast on Sunday before making the trip back to Kings Bromley. No real queues to contend with and we made our way up through Alrewas and Fradley and then back to base. A nice trip out but thwarted by the weather and we didn't get as far as we hoped, but then again does it really matter ?

Total 75 miles and 54 locks.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Our first year with 'Moonie'

Having only recently decided to 'blog' our adventures, we are having to track the movements of the first year retrospectively, which is not ideal, but unavoidable.

We have spent so much time either cruising or pottering about at the marina (which is only 30 minutes drive from home), we couldn't possibly remember it all, but we have spent many days, weekends and even just summer evenings with a bottle of wine sitting in the cratch enjoying a wind down from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. So you can probably work out that so far we have no regrets whatsoever about getting out of shared ownership and purchasing our own boat - the freedom is priceless.

Our first trip was a weekend run down to Mercia Marina to have 'Moonie' blacked. It was three years since she was last out of the water. We also had the gunwales re-painted at the same time as they were looking a bit shabby. Justin and his team did a great job for us.

Easter, and a gleaming boat, and we were off on our first 'holiday' of the year - a trip down onto the River Soar to Leicester before returning back up the Trent & Mersey to our base. Lots of friends and family met us along the way and had a 'free boat trip'. We really enjoyed the Soar and intend to return sooner rather than later. 

Tattenhill Lock
The end of May, and we headed off along the Staffs & Worcs and onto the Shroppie, getting just beyond Shebdon Embankment before making the return trip. Two very different canals, but both very enjoyable. We shall remember the meal we had at the Wharf Tavern at Shebdon for some time - a bigger pie you will struggle to find. When we ordered, the landlord replied with 'Hungry are we ?? ' You can see why !!! The chips and onion rings came seperately !! We managed without a pudding.

Not for those of a nervous disposition
The last two weeks of July saw us embark on our longest trip of the year. We had been thwarted by flooding the previous year on the River Avon and so we were determined to complete it this time. We travelled the length of the Staffs & Worcs to Stourport and then down the River Severn to Tewkesbury. Just as we were about to enter Tewkesbury Lock, we had a chance meeting with one of our old 'shared' boats, Marbury. Aboard, were our friends Steve and Trish together with their family. As it was quiet, the lock keeper allowed us to moor on the lock landing for half an hour as we showed them round 'Moonie' before we headed our seperate ways. It was great to see them.

Blue Moon & Marbury together at Tewkesbury
We were absolutely taken by the River Avon - what a beautiful waterway. The work which has gone into opening it up again is fully justified and although a licence is not cheap, we thought it was worth every penny and we shall certainly be heading back there in the future. We travelled all the way up to Stratford and then back home through Birmingham, taking the shorter route via Knowle. A thoroughly enjoyable trip.

Moored outside the RSC Stratford
A short break back at work (ugghhh !!), and we were off again on our final 'holiday' of the year at the end of August. We took a short trip towards home, enabling John's elderly Mum to have a short break with us for a few days. We travelled down to Shardlow, also managing to have some close friends out with us for a day, before winding and travelling back up to Findern. We said goodbye to John's Mum and 'replaced' her with our youngest son, Luke. He stayed with us for 3-4 days before he left us at Kidsgrove to catch the train home. We were then on our own as we completed the rest of the Four Counties Ring at a leisurely pace.

Early start to the Audlem Flight
Our final excursion of 2011 was a little unusual. Louise and her work colleagues arranged their Christmas celebrations at 'The Waterfront' at Barton Marina. What better way to travel than by boat !! We travelled down on the Saturday in cold and wet conditions, but moored right outside the venue. 14 people on board for drinks before the function was a little tight, but a great night was had by all. We staggered the 50 yards back to 'our room' at 2.30am and had a couple of friends stay on board with us and accompany us back to Kings Bromley the following day. A great weekend was had by all.

'Moonie' has performed well over the year. I have got to grips with servicing the engine and doing other maintenance jobs and thoroughly enjoyed learning about it. One or two minor issues to deal with such as new leisure batteries, we suffered a leaking pipe under the kitchen sink which was no doubt as a result of the previous harsh winter, we changed the 240v fridge for a 12v version and changed all the lighting to LED to lessen the drain on the batteries. We have also had a digital satellite system installed. 

We have had a great first year and really hope that 2012 will be even more fun.