Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ending our trip with a double celebration

We made it back home to the marina last weekend after a couple of pleasant days cruising in some lovely weather. We have been blessed with a couple of glorious weeks and thoroughly enjoyed our trip, meeting up with great friends along the way. 

Friday saw us cruise between Grendon and Tamhorn. We soon passed Grendon Wharf and then fields full of poppies which looked fabulous. 

Grendon Wharf
Poppy fields
By mid afternoon the sun had got the best of us as we tied up to get some shelter. A nice spot with some trees for shade as we sat out on the towpath with a bottle of wine and just the occasional boat passing us. One final piscatorial session brought this lovely chub to the net.

Saturday was a short trip back to Kings Bromley and the end of this particular trip. Normally we would be on a bit of a downer as we turn into the marina, but on this occasion it was just tinged with sadness as we had a couple of significant events to look forward to and celebrate.

On Monday we travelled down to Cardiff and booked into a very nice hotel overlooking the castle. We have got to know Cardiff quite well over the last three years as our eldest son has been at university there. It just so happened that his graduation fell the day after our Silver Wedding anniversary, and so we celebrated both events with the city break and had an absolutely wonderful time.
The 'still' happy couple
Tuesday was our anniversary and we spent it relaxing and wandering around the city. You can't keep us off the water and the best mode of transport was the water bus along the River Taff from the city down to Cardiff Bay, a 25 minute trip for just £3 seemed excellent value. Cardiff Bay was vibrant and the regeneration is just fantastic. On our return we met both our sons who had travelled down by train and we all enjoyed a family meal together in the evening.
Passing The Millennium Stadium on the Water Bus
Panoramic view of Cardiff Bay
Wednesday was 'proud parents day' or graduation. Cardiff University put on a great event at St Davids Hall which ran meticulously well and for us all to be together celebrating Liam's achievement was indeed one of our proudest days.

So, after all the goings on, it's back to reality and work. How depressing !! Still, on the bright side, we have now firmed up our plans for our re-paint next year, it's just five weeks until we head out again and 266 sleeps until retirement. It'll be here before we know it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Afternoon meeting at Mancetter.

We started the morning doing the last couple of miles down to Marston Junction before turning right onto the Coventry Canal again. Another beautiful morning greeted us, as did boat after boat after boat get the idea, and quite often at a bridge as always seems to happen. One boat we met was Marbury, a boat we used to own a share in until we decided to go it alone three years ago. A lovely boat but absolutely no regrets in our decision.

We had made arrangements over he last few days to meet up with our friends David & Sheena on nb Tombee Too around lunchtime today somewhere in the vicinity of Atherstone. They were heading towards us and we actually met out in the country near Mancetter, which couldn't have been more perfect. Having tied up, the bar was very quickly opened and we spent the next three hours sat on the towpath with deck chairs and table having a great catch up, swapping tales and putting the world to rights. The perfect afternoons 'boating' if ever there was one. Great to see you both and get 'blogging'. 
Our afternoon social.......fantastic.
Sadly we had to leave them as we need to get back home by Saturday afternoon, so reluctantly we untied and headed for Atherstone Locks about 4pm, which meant a bit of a later finish, but well worth it. Halfway down the flight Louise nipped to the nearby shops to find something for tea as I carried on single handed for a couple of locks.
Atherstone Locks
I was actually very pleased to see her when she caught up again !! We spent the night down at Grendon and just as a footnote, Jasper would like me to post this picture for all his 'fans' around the system. He's quite proud of this one. What a handsome chap - well you know what they say about dogs and owners ;-)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lazy days on the Ashby.

Gosh where does the time go. I've been chastised tonight for not keeping up to date. Well the week so far has been fabulous. Good weather, good boating and good fun. 

Monday we headed into Rugby so that we could visit Mr Tesco and stock up on provisions (and alcohol). Hillmorton Locks were quiet and the lockie helped us down all three locks. Nice chap but VERY LOUD. The moorings in Rugby were full both sides so we had a bit of a walk, but were soon back and away again. Lots of boats on the move and we finally picked a spot approaching Ansty for the night close to the railway line but we never heard a thing after lights out. 

Tuesday we headed off towards Hawkesbury. I managed to re-stock on maggots from the fishing shop at bridge 4 - really handy and a well stocked shop if you're that way inclined and we negotiated the junction at Hawkesbury easily enough.
Hawkesbury Junction - easy when there's no wind. 
After watering up using the slowest tap known to man, we headed off to Marston Junction passing the old Navigation pub which is now a fantastic residence and the lovely lousy Charity Dock before turning onto the lovely Ashby Canal.
Very nice !!
Charity Dock !! 
Well it's available if you can find it.......
Nice to see that CART were repairing the flag stones around the junction which have been damaged over the years by boats making the difficult turn onto the Ashby. I wonder how long they will last. We really do love it up here. 22 lock free miles and almost entirely rural. We ended up at Stoke Golding for the night in a lovely spot and watched the most bizarre World Cup semi final between Brazil and Germany which of course the Germans won 7-1. 

Wednesday we had arranged to meet Louise's Mum and cousin Paul at Sutton Wharf so that they could come out with us for the day. They duly arrived on time and off we set towards Market Bosworth. Paul has steered before and did a good job in quite a strong and sometimes challenging wind whilst Louise entertained her Mum inside. We seemed to keep meeting boats at bridge 'oles and  we have never seen so many boats on this stretch of canal, both moving and moored. We winded at Market Bosworth and had a good look at the new marina being built there which is watered and well on the way to being completed. It did cross my mind though that seeing the canal this busy and the marina to house 150 boats just what impact this will have. I suppose we will just have to wait and see.
New marina entrance
On the return we stopped off at the Battlefield mooring for lunch before returning to Sutton Wharf which was busy with folks. We were treated to coffee and cake and ice creams before saying our goodbyes and then headed off south and eventually moored at Burton Hastings for the night and watched the other semi final between Netherlands and Argentina. What a dull affair in comparison. 
Sutton Cheney Wharf coffee shop
Cruising on the Ashby
Our short trip onto the Ashby was all too brief this time around, but of course we will be back sooner rather than later. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Birds, Braunston and Bloggers.

We have been sort of planning to be in the Braunston area this weekend for a catch up with some fellow bloggers and a plan was coming together which meant that we needed to get down towards Norton Junction on Saturday. The trip from Welford Junction to Watford Locks is one of about five hours, but then the uncertainty of lock queues can scupper plans, so off we set mid morning along the summit level. 

We could never get tired of cruising this particular stretch. So much wildlife to see if you keep your eyes open. Yelvertoft Marina always looks appealing and people we know that moor there rate it quite highly. Maybe a future 'home'......who knows. 
There's a Reed Warbler in there somewhere
No introduction needed here
As we approached Watford Locks, there was one boat ahead of us. Would we be held up as we were at Foxton yesterday? As it happened the Lockie was already raising the paddles of the top lock as he saw us approaching and so both boats were straight in. Just time to empty a cassette and get rid of a bag of rubbish before Louise brought Blue Moon into the top lock and then through this pretty flight of locks before we knew it. A couple of boats at the bottom as we got towards the final lock and one lady who thought I'd stolen her water until it was pointed out that she needed to book in with the lock keeper as displayed on the numerous signs. What a shame she'll miss out on all the wildlife on offer !
Watford Top Lock
We turned right at Norton Junction and moored before the tunnel which we would tackle in the morning. There was lots of boat activity all evening and until quite late. As we shut up shop about 10pm, one boat came from the direction of Braunston, passed at tickover with a cheery wave and all lit correctly. Personally we have never cruised at night, but I can see the attraction. You would think that would be the last of the boats, but oh no. 12.45am and we are woken by another boat, not exactly at tickover either - now that takes the p!ss. 

After our broken nights sleep, we headed off just before 8am this morning only to be soon halted by a CART employee at the tunnel entrance as a wide beam boat was travelling towards us through the tunnel which was pre booked. Once clear we headed through and were soon at the top lock at Braunston where we teamed up with nb Soporific. There are some weird and wonderful names of boats and we quite often google them.....try it and see unless you're really clever and understand such words. 

Braunston was full of boats, some left from last weekend at the historic boat show and it is a place we quite like to travel through than stop off at. We headed to Willoughby before taking the short walk into the village and The Rose Inn where we met up with Lesley & Joe from nb Yarwood Lisa & David from nb What A Lark and their 'boat sharers' Amanda & David - read the blog - it's a great read and you'll understand.
Is there a name for a group of bloggers ?
What a great little pub. Friendly staff, excellent food and terrific company to top it all off. What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Back to Blue Moon then as Amanda had brought freshly baked scones from home and after the process of whipping cream was expertly demonstrated by Lisa, Amanda and David, before we enjoyed afternoon tea.
The 'Whipping Team'  Lisa, Amanda and David
Our very welcome guests
A final treat before we all went our separate ways as nb Nuneaton and butty Brighton owned by the Narrow Boat Trust passed us heading for London with a cargo of coal. What a fantastic sight to see these large 'Northwich' and 'Woolwich' boats doing what they do best.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Up Foxton........eventually......and on to the summit.

We left our mooring late on Thursday morning and after a brief stop at the service point, we started the climb up towards Kibworth Top Lock. The weather was again glorious and it was good to see the towpath had been mowed as so many seem to have been left to get out of hand. A couple of the pounds between locks were a bit low and there was again a distinct lack of traffic travelling towards us. At Taylor's Turnover Lock we caught up a couple of single handers and  helped them through. For one of them it was his first single handed trip and they travelled together from Thorne. Chatting away at the next few locks, he had just given up work and now hadn't got a care in the world, although he was still up and about at 5.30am every morning. 
Saddington Tunnel
They moored up just after Kibworth Top Lock and we carried on through Saddington Tunnel and found a really lovely mooring near to Debdale Marina - just room for one in a cut out in the reeds - marvellous. A good evening of maggot drowning produced this lovely Tench, probably my favourite fish to catch. I've spent many hours fishing for them on lakes in Ireland and to catch one in the canal was great. 
Mooring at Debdale
Prize catch
Over the last few days we've barely seen any boats. We had an early morning walk down to Foxton on Friday and it was all quiet. One boat passed us before we decided to set off for the flight so we were a little shocked to find that at 11.10am we were 8th in the queue to go up !! The basin at the bottom of the locks was chocka with boats and there were another four descending. There are worse places to get held up though, and we decided to observe the fun from the beer terrace of the Bridge 61 pub with a pint and a baguette. It seems that the other boats had all come out from Market Harborough and every boat that came down headed that way too.

Lunch at Bridge 61
Jasper enjoying the scenery too
We finally got in the flight at about 1.30pm and enjoyed the views as we climbed. This place never disappoints for us and you can only marvel at the engineering and vision of those responsible. We couldn't resist an ice cream at the top and then we headed off towards Husbands Bosworth and Welford, enjoying the views over towards Theddingworth. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Through Leicester...Bandits, Beer Cans or just myths?

The first decision for today was whether we tackle Leicester in one big hit, or have just a a couple of hours to Thurmaston and then do Leicester the following day. In the end we decided to go for it. I have to say that the rumours and myths about the potential for problems in Leicester are probably aired more than the good experiences, but you are always on your guard just in case.  

The first few miles were very pleasant, Mountsorrel and Sileby Mill are lovely locations and the amount of wildlife around the overgrown bank vegetation was vast. We met a charity trip boat at Thurmaston Lock. "Are you going through Leicester today?" asks one of the crew. "Yes" was the reply. A wry smile was followed with the words "Don't stop". Safe to assume he's not working for the local tourist board, but his comment was based on what I wondered. 

Sileby Mill
When we came through Leicester last year, Belgrave Lock was simply a disgrace. Full of cans, plastic bottles and plastic, but today it was unrecognisable from that scene. There were two rafts of people picking up the rubbish and doing a great job of making the place look tidy....well done to them and Leicester should be thankful.
Space Centre near to Belgrave Lock
The litter pickers doing a great job
On into the city and the old textile mill is being converted into apartments by the looks of things. New windows and clean brickwork really stand out.
Renovated Textile Mill
The locks are quite heavy and some of the paddle gear missing, but we got into a good routine of working the double locks alone. Lots of folks speaking and offering help, which we took at every opportunity. We met a few boats coming the other way, and each commented on us being the first boat they had seen all day. So why is it that we had to turn nearly every lock as it was full when we arrived? Yes lock gates leak, but not that much. We still haven't got an answer, apart from the obvious one that there was in fact a boat ahead and nobody saw it. 

We eventually ended our big day just short of Kilby Bridge in a lovely peaceful spot. A glass or two of wine and feet up was about all we were good for.
Tonight's mooring.....lovely
Our experience of Leicester today was another good one. Our only observation was the amount of folks who use the waterways area to go and drink. Leicester must be the centre of the universe for those that drink Carlsberg Special Brew, Stella Artois and Holsten Pils, and we know where they usually chuck their tins........

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bowled over to be back aboard.

Well we're back in 'Blogland' and back on the water after what seems far too long. We've been busy over the last few weeks,but not boating, and the blog has fallen by the wayside a little, but until they invent more hours in the day, something will have to give.

We've actually been out since last Saturday and have made our way from Kings Bromley and are now moored at Barrow on Soar where we were fortunate to drop onto the last available spot for the night.

Louise has been a bit of a 'bowls widow' so far this trip.....let me explain. The game of Crown Green Bowls is unique to this country, in fact to certain 'pockets' of this country, all situated above Watford Gap. For instance it is played in Derbyshire, but not in Nottinghamshire or Leicestershire. It is played in North Wales but not in South Wales, so one thing is for sure, we won't get beaten at this game by the likes of Italy and Uruguay and the World Champion WILL ALWAYS be British. Also, don't think old folks in silly white trousers and white shirts with cucumber sarnies.....think whippets, flat caps, and lots of banter around the green with a pint or two of a good northern bitter and you're getting the picture. Basically it's a good old northern game. 

So Saturday was an early start as we had to get to Burton as I had a game for one of my clubs that afternoon a stones throw from Dallow Lane Lock. We made it in good time and moored at Shobnall Fields. That completed we carried on as far as Findern for the night and enjoyed a lovely meal at Nadee Indian Restaurant. 

Early on Sunday, I was whisked away to a big competition I had qualified for in Derby. Good old Louise found time to wash the boat before I got back (her choice before I'm shot down) and then we welcomed friends aboard for drinks in the evening, funnily enough friends from ours bowls club. 

Monday was a very pleasant trip down to Shardlow where we lucky to have lock buddies all the way for the deep wide locks. We were joined by Luke and Annabelle for tea at The Clock Warehouse...nice food but awfully slow service, which made us (Luke and I) almost late for Mondays bowls match in Derby for my other club !! All in all a logistical masterpiece. 

I'm pleased (or Louise is) that the bowls are away for the next couple of weeks and we can settle down properly into our little trip around the Leicester Ring.

Today is Louise's birthday. 21 again plus VAT and a few hidden charges, but she enjoyed opening her cards and presents this morning and then walked down from Shardlow to Sawley (she's not a big river fan).

The lock cottage at Sawley Locks is to be opened as a Coffee Shop by the end of the year. The work they have been doing looks good.

This couple out for a picnic at Zouch looked at little nervous surrounded by cattle whilst sat in their deck chairs.

This splendid looking Piper built Dutch Barge followed us up into Loughborough. A wide beam water yes, but it still looked a bit of a squeeze.

Homemade curry followed by Strawberries and Champagne aboard tonight. Well, it is Louise's Birthday after all......