Friday, August 31, 2012

One up on the enemy at Foxton.

The Leicester section of The Grand Union Canal is very rural and one of our favourite stretches for peace and tranquility. Our plan for Thursday was to get to Foxton Locks by mid afternoon, giving us chance to descend in good time even if there was a queue. The weather was supposed to improve as the day went on, but we did stop briefly for a downpour as we approached Welford Junction.

It was a welcome relief when Luke & Annabelle offered to steer us towards Foxton, negotiating Husbands Bosworth tunnel in the process, whilst we enjoyed a beverage in the front deck. Annabelle had her first attempt at steering and did very well (judged by the fact that no wine was spilt).

On arrival at Foxton, we were soon beckoned to descend. Luke steered whilst the rest of us worked the paddles and gates. It is such a lovely place and as usual we got into conversation with a number of the gongoozlers. Annabelle soon learned the process of red before white and enthusiastically wound paddles up and down. As we emerged, Louise went to open the swing bridge and witnessed a lady fall in as she tried to get back on her boat on the other side of the bridge, much to the amusement of the clientele of Foxton Locks beer garden !!
The young 'uns doing the work

We moored a short distance along the arm and Luke enjoyed some good fishing and Annabelle also caught her first ever fish. We had an excellent meal at The Black Horse in Foxton - certainly one to recommend, especially if you like real ales. 

Today saw us continue into Union Wharf at Market Harborough. A lovely early morning trip in bright sunshine. Two kingfishers and breakfast on the move - what could be better. Luke & Annabelle were heading home today, so we walked with them to the train station and saw them off, before doing a bit of shopping on the way back to the boat - they were actually back in Derby before we were back at the boat !!

We left around midday and headed back to Foxton. Louise went to find the lock keeper to book us in, but he was no where to be found. Even the second lock keeper didn't know where he was. Twenty minutes later and he was located in a secluded spot having his lunch - not that he had bothered to tell anyone !!!

We were told to begin coming up the locks and then wait in the middle pound for three boats to pass us which were coming down, which we did. As we set off again, a family with two teenage boys got talking to me as I locked. I couldn't help but notice that one of the lads was wearing  a Nottingham Forest tracksuit top. Now I'm more a rugby man, but the rivalry between Derby and Forest is a good one, and I couldn't let this opportunity pass. They were mildly keen to help and open gates, but I encouraged them to help open and close each set of gates and by the top few locks, Mum was getting involved too.

The view back down the locks
As Louise brought Blue Moon into the top lock, I looked over at Mum and said 'It'll make their day to know they've helped two Derby fans'. If looks could kill - their faces were an absolute picture. Some banter was exchanged, but they were clearly gutted. I was assured that things would be put right on 30th September when the two teams meet. I don't think my comment about Derby only taking ten men to the City Ground was too well received - Derby fans will know what I'm talking about - as will any Forest fans :-)

We treated ourselves to a well deserved cherry ice cream as we filled with water at the top of the flight before cruising down towards Welford for the night.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Filling with water can be dangerous !!

Monday was a quiet day as planned and we only moved about four miles down to All Oaks Corner, which is one of our favourite moorings, arriving just after lunch. The weather was mixed, so we just relaxed on board and watched the numerous boats passing in both directions, including steam powered Adamant, making their way to next weekends Shackerstone Festival.
Nb Adamant
Tuesday saw us move down to Rugby and meet our youngest son Luke and his girlfriend Annabelle, who were joining us for a few days. Luke was recovering from four days at Leeds Festival but seemed to have had a thoroughly good time. We made our way up through Hillmorton Locks where only one of the duplicated locks were operating, and then on to Braunston in the sunshine. There were plenty of moorings available and we settled for one next to the marina entrance. We were treated to Nutfield and Raymond passing us as they returned from the Alvecote gathering. The way they were steered into the marina, breasted together, can only be described as deliberate and extremely precise !!

Nutfield & Raymond

We had planned to eat at The Plough in Braunston, but unfortunately it was shut due to a cellar problem, so we walked to The Boathouse where we hadn't eaten for some time as we weren't impressed the last time we visited. However following a change of name (from The Mill House) and chain, we were very impressed. Good deals on main meals with two for one offers and a huge menu choice, we will certainly be back sooner rather than later.

Today has been one to remember, and one that makes you realise that you can never take everyday events for granted. I walked into the marina to buy a new bow line from Tradline Fenders just after 9am. When I returned, there was a boat on the water point outside The Stop House, but I also noticed a man lying on the ground next to the standpipe and a lady crouched next to him. I went over to see what had happened and it transpired that 'Alan' had been pulling his hosepipe off the tap connection, when the hose gave way and he smashed his head onto the corner of the standpipe, causing a very nasty gash above his right eye. He was concious but very groggy, but said he wanted to sit in a chair as the ground was wet. I helped his wife to sit him in the chair and confirmed that an ambulance was on its way. However after a few minutes, he started to go grey and very quickly became unconcious. I lifted him out of the chair and back down onto the ground and checked he was still breathing. I then tried to get some reaction from him by pinching his ear and talking to him. After a short time some colour came back to his face and he started to respond to my voice and I kept talking to him and pinching him to prevent him drifting off again. After what seemed like an age, the paramedics arrived and I was able to hand over to the experts. Not the best start to the day, and we sincerely hope Alan quickly recovers from his injury.

Todays boating has been wet to say the least. We have travelled from Braunston to Yelvertoft. The rain started as we cast off this morning and hardly relented all day, until, that is, we moored up this evening. Luke and Annabelle have even had tea sat on deck chairs on the towpath - the good old British 'summer'. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

A rude awakening... and a big day.

The sight of all the working boats at Alvecote was one to savour, and they always get my attention when we see them out on the cut, so much so that I have often said to Louise that I would quite like to own one (which always falls on deaf ears). However, on Sunday morning at precisely 5.49am, we weren't quite so taken by the first boat passing us, obviously leaving the gathering. Now one wouldn't be so bad, but it was as though we had hit the 'snooze' button on an alarm clock, as by 6.15am, SIX had passed us. I must admit, the sound of the engines is much more pleasant than an alarm clock, but a lie in would have been nice.

They say if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, so we decided that as we were up we'd set off. We left about 7.15am and were soon rewarded by a flying display by an adult kestrel and three of her young - a birds version of follow the leader as they swooped and changed direction in line.

Atherstone locks are always pleasant to work and we dropped lucky as we arrived with just one boat ahead already entering the bottom lock. Two quickly followed behind and so many hands made light work. We passed quite a few boats going down, but were never held up and reached the top lock soon after 11am.
Atherstone Locks
The sun was shining and there were plenty of boats passing in the opposite direction, but for some reason today, so many steerers looked miserable and couldn't raise a smile. Louise nearly gave one a heart attack as she said hello quite loudly to him as we passed, causing him to raise his head - worse than some of the anglers we have encountered recently. Why do an activity that makes you so miserable - get off the water and try something different !!!

Louise took the helm as we left Nuneaton and I walked the dogs towards the junction with the Ashby Canal at Marston Junction. We always seem to meet boats here and today was no different. A cruiser was just leaving the Ashby as a 70' narrowboat was about to make the difficult right turn onto it. The narrowboat steerer was moaning that the horn of the cruiser had confused him and words were exchanged. Louise held well back until they sorted themselves out and then moved forward, just as another cruiser came into view from Hawkesbury. I signalled to her to stay back and waved the cruiser to come through which worked well. Louise then started to proceed through the bridge as a narrowboat appeared at speed. There was another narrowboat behind us by now, so I signalled to the steerer to slow down, to no avail. As it got closer I shouted to him to slow down as there were two boats coming towards him. 'Where?' was the reply !!! 'In the bridge, I suggest you hit reverse' was the advice. It was all a bit tight, but Louise coped with it all very well and didn't spill a drop of her wine.

When we arrived at Hawkesbury, there were plenty of moorings, but we decided to carry on and find a quiet mooring on the Oxford. I had forgotten how few opportunities there are along this stretch and there are certainly many sections of bank in need of attention. We wished we had stopped at Hawkesbury, but we finally moored beyond Ansty in a nice spot at Hopsford Aqueduct although a bit close to the railway line. I had a decent evening fishing catching some good roach and skimmers.

Monday will be a much quieter day... we hope.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Off to a good start

A cracking start to the trip today. We left Kings Bromley with clouds overhead, but the sun soon shone through as we approached Wood End lock and onto Fradley. No queues at the locks today and we were soon turning onto the Coventry.
We arranged to meet our friends, and previous owners of Blue Moon, David & Sarah, at Hopwas for lunch. We had a steady run down in the sunshine and moored in behind them. We had a lovely lunch at the Tame Otter and caught up on tales of their last three months cruising since we last saw them. They've clearly enjoyed the whole experience, if not the weather. It was great to meet up again and we may get chance again on this trip.
After lunch we said our goodbyes and continued on towards Fazeley and then up Glascote locks. Some light rain, but not the predicted heavy thunderstorms we were promised. Alvecote was packed with countless working boats attending a rally over the bank holiday weekend. What a great sight to see so many together.
Working boats at Alvecote
Unfortunately no mooring spaces, so we went a little further and moored at Pooley Nature Reserve which is reclaimed mining land. We climbed the spoil heaps this evening and got some lovely views for miles around - we reckoned we could almost see home !!
Tonight we have had a call from our eldest son who is at Leeds Festival and we were able to listen to one of our favourite childhood bands 'The Cure' who were playing there. The sound quality down a mobile phone in amongst 80,000 people was not good, but it was the thought that counts.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Always have a Plan 'B'

Well that's work finished until 10th September for both of us. We are off to the boat this evening and do our shopping in Lichfield before setting off tomorrow morning. The weather forecast looks a right mixed bag for the Bank Holiday weekend with heavy showers tomorrow, a reasonable day on Sunday and then rain, rain and more rain on Monday. A slight change of plan for us in that we are going to head off in an anti clockwise direction around the Leicester Ring and once we get to Market Harborough, decide whether to continue or re-trace our steps, depending on the weather, river levels on the Soar etc. We've also still got plans to meet up with friends and have guests with us for a few days, so we can't wait to get going on what will be our last major trip of the season - let's see some sunshine... please !!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ready to go

We think we have decided the route for our final trip of the season starting next Saturday. It looks as if we are going to go clockwise around the Leicester Ring and also take in the Ashby Canal again. Lots of reasons for this route in that we hope to have guests with us for parts of the trip, plus John could do with being close to Derby (top the Ashby will do) for 4th September. So all in all the route should fit in with our plans. We really wanted to head back down onto the Avon again, but the forecast is for 'changeable' weather with 'above average rainfall' and we certainly don't want to be caught out ourselves again or as others have been unfortunate this summer. It's getting on for 3 years since we were on the Leicester section and we have actually never been through the centre of Leicester, so that will be a new experience too.

Today we popped down to the marina and filled with fuel, changed the engine and gearbox oil as they were both almost ready to be done and I didn't fancy doing it whilst we are  away. A quick calculation of engine hours and fuel used over the 18 months we have owned the boat shows we are using 1.3 litres of diesel per hour overall, which, when you consider we also run the heating on diesel seems to be quite economical.

We also had a quick run out to Handsacre and moored up for lunch on board as we had John's mum with us for the day. Lots of boats on the move and everyone enjoying the sunshine...will it hold for another couple of weeks - we can but hope.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Golden Spot

It is said that you always remember where you were at significant events in history...the shooting of JFK, the death of Princess Diana etc. Well what about three Olympic gold medals in the space of 45 minutes at a home Olympics. The spot where we were moored on the Coventry Canal on Saturday night is our 'Golden Spot' - just beyond Hademore Farm Bridge.
We had decided to spend the weekend aboard with our good friends Steve & Madeleine. The forecast of 'torrential downpours' was not good, but we were determined to make the most of it. We left Kings Bromley just after midday on Saturday in bright sunshine and made our way down towards Fradley. Approaching Woodend Lock, we came across Louise's 'boss' and his partner who were spending their first weekend aboard their new boat 'Fly'. We had a chat with them as we descended the lock and then got through Fradley quite easily, turning right onto the Coventry.

We had a pleasant run down to Huddlesford with Steve taking the helm for a while before mooring up outside The Plough where we stopped for a pint (or two) and a meal. The food was good and reasonably priced, plus it is dog friendly too. We watched the Olympics, seeing the womens cycling team pursuit take gold in a new world record. As we ate, the heavens opened, so we were glad of our surroundings. 
We then moved down to our 'Golden Spot' surprised to see only a couple of other boats on a normally very popular mooring location. The atmosphere inside the Olympic Stadium was electric. It was pointless looking for a friend of ours who had been lucky enough to get a ticket - how lucky was she !!!
We had a great night shouting home Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah (what a race that was). At least we weren't moored too close to anyone else as we were a bit loud !!!
After one of Louises special breakfasts, Sunday saw us travel down towards Fazeley, before winding and heading back towards Fradley. The sunshine defied the forecast of heavy showers until we approached Fradley when we endured 20 minutes of torrential rain, just as we were working through the locks. By the time we cleared Fradley, the sunshine was out again for the run back to Kings Bromley. A great weekend with great company.