After A Blustery Weekend

We didn’t move over the weekend, preferring to stay in one place while Saturday’s grey and dull doldrums were blown clear away by Sunday’s high winds. Just wished the towpath was a lot drying and even. Slipping and sliding down an uneven path is a bit harsh on arthritic knees. Though Rusty didn’t appear to mind, still it must be easier when you’ve got 4 legs.

This morning we left our mooring on Tixall Wide. Looking at the sky we didn’t really know how the weather was going to turn out.

All three of us are hoping to get a good sleep tonight, for the past couple of nights geese have disturbed Rusty, and he kicked off. Obviously, geese don’t sleep in the night, but you’d think they could keep the noise down.

We went through one lock today and cruised 3 miles, in parts we cruised in the rain.

Rudely Woken By A Choked Chimney.

Yesterday we left our mooring outside of Great Haywood Marina. We only travelled the minuscule trip into the Marina for Sani duties, and a diesel top up.

The diesel tank was brimmed with just 50 litres of diesel. While we were there we made a reservation to stay in the marina for a week at the end of January. John also had a chat in the boatyard regarding having Cyan’s bottom blacked. Blacking was only done around September 2017, but it looks like it needs doing again urgently. Ideally the end of March would be a good time when danger of ice should have passed.

We returned to where we were moored, only this time Cyan facing the ‘other way’ round, with easy access to the chimney. We’d planned to give our chimney an urgent brushing as we had an issue a couple of nights ago where we were woken by the CO alarm, it was showing we had Carbon Monoxide in the boat. A pretty dangerous situation!

It was rather shocking to see how much the chimney had been blocked.

John gave the chimney a good brush with the huge bottle brush, he rattled a chain down the chimney, and he clawed at the clinker with a metal hook.

It was a good job well done! We made a promise to give the chimney another sweep in a couple of weeks, and not to leave it too long next time.

This morning we left our mooring, stopping a short time at the Junction where the Staffordshire and Worcester canal branches off. After filling the water tank, and disposing of rubbish, we set off, turning right onto the Staffordshire and Worcester canal.

Anglo Welsh hire boats look to be waiting for their first crews of the year.

We stopped just after the widest part of ‘Tixall Wide‘, and facing a splendid building. It does look rather spooky though. The building is ‘Tixall Gatehouse’ a Grade One listed building. For two weeks in 1586, it was used as a prison for Mary, Queen of Scots while her previous residence was searched for incriminating evidence. Originally it was thought Tixall was going to be Mary’s permanent jail, but Elizabeth I had planned for Mary to stay in Fotheringay Castle instead.

The Gatehouse was also a place where the assasination of Charles II was plotted.

Built in 1555 by Sir Edward Aston, this gatehouse was once the grand entrance to an even grander house.

The main house was rebuilt, demolished and rebuilt again over the next 3 centuries, until in 1928 when the house was demolished, with the material re-used to build the Saint John’s Church Chancel at Littleworth.

Near to where we are moored, there’s a memorial patch in memory of Beau the Bassett Boater, a much loved boater’s companion. It’s lovely to see the primroses.

Waking Up In A White World

After rolling up the galley blinds, the outside world looked lovely this morning. A heavy frost lay over the ground, over trees and hedgerows. It was ‘picture beautiful’. By the time I’d got myself decent to take a picture, the sun had appeared, and the frost all but disappeared.

It was a perfect day for cruising, It was cold, but being dressed to keep the cold out made travelling a pleasure.

We passed Shugborough Hall. The Shugborough estate was owned by the Bishops of Lichfield until the Dissolution of the Monasteries around 1540.

The Hall was until recently ‘a council house’, housing Staffordshire County Council.

Following the death of the 4th Earl of Lichfield in 1960, the estate was allocated to the National Trust in lieu of death duties, and then immediately leased to Staffordshire County Council. Management of the estate was returned to the National Trust in 2016. More information….

The Hall is open to the public and comprises the hall, museum, kitchen garden and a model farm.

We had one lock to pass through today, Haywood Lock (#22) and we were pleased to see the lock has had new runners replaced along the top gates, with the wooden runners being longer, allowing someone with shorter legs like me, the ability to get to the other side of the lock. There’s no bridge to access the other side. We used to call this lock ‘devil lock’ when I did the locks because I hadn’t learnt to steer Cyan.

Today we travelled around 2 miles, and through one lock.

I Know It’s January, But It Feels Like Spring!

We were woken early this morning, about 6am, by the Carbon Monoxide Alarm sounding off by our bed at the stern of the boat.

John rushed to the back of the boat to open the stern doors, while I raced to the front, opening windows as I went down the boat before opening the bow doors, and unzipping the cratch covers to get more air into the boat.

The stove was riddled, ash was emptied, and the stove was turned up to burn the smouldering cinders. We couldn’t see any reason why any CO had escaped. The alarm at the front near the stove registered 45ppm (this one didn’t sound the alarm), and the stern alarm which had woken us up, registered 55ppm.

Thank goodness it wasn’t such a cold night seeing that Cyan was now open to the elements, though the wind was rather high which could have been the culprit; blowing down the chimney.

We’ve promised to give the flue a good brushing at the first opportunity we get when the towpath is on the chimney side.

We had stayed at our spot by the aqueduct over the weekend, though it was rather quiet. With the weather being in the doldrums, we stayed indoors keeping cosy.

This morning, after breakfast, the sun came out, just at the time we were leaving. It was such a pleasure to cruise in the sunshine after the bleak weather we had over the weekend.

Colwich Lock

After going through Colwich Lock, we found a good spot to moor for the night.

Today we’ve travelled just under 3 miles.

Where Is The Promised Sun?

We set off a little late this morning, we weren’t in any rush and it was rather a cold morning. The weather forecast had promised Rugeley to be in full sunshine for several hours from 9 this morning. Somehow that never materialised. It was about 11 when we eventually pulled Cyan away from the towpath, wearing several layers to keep ourselves cosy against the cold and damp

We had no plans where we were going to moor, except Shugborough Hall was going to be as far as we intended to travel.

Christmas Decorations being carefully dismantled (someone likes Christmas)
We don’t often see ‘speed cameras’ on the canals 🙂

Poor Christina Collins! Apparently, she was murdered by 3 bargemen. Christina, aged 37 was a paid passenger on the barge, she was going to London to be with her husband. Perhaps her story has been embellished over the years, though apparently she was raped and murdered by the 3 bargemen, a 4th man was aquitted of the crime.

Two of them were hung, Capt. Owen and George Thomas, the third, William Ellis was transported. The fourth member of the crew, a young teenage boy named Musson, was cleared and released.More information

Christina Collins’ Grave in the local churchyard

Rumour has it: “The aqueduct that’s next to the steps where her body was carried, is supposedly haunted by a woman in a pale dress, her face frightened but defiant… “

Brindley Bank Aqueduct over the River Trent
Here’s where we moored, right next to the Aqueduct…. “Should we be worried about the lady in the pale dress?

Today we’ve travelled just under 2 miles.

Depending on how we feel, we might be staying here for the weekend, the internet is brilliant, which is always a good excuse.

Chilly Damp Day

It was a chilly and damp when we set off this morning. Before we left, the stove was glowing red keeping the boat nice and warm.

‘Wee Willie Winky’ used to stand at one end of the Armitage ‘Tunnel’, he looks now to have been spruced up and has moved. He now stands in front of Spode house.

We stopped near Bridge 66, a well know spot to moor for the shops. We’re in need of a new frying pan, so I thought a quick trip Tesco would solve my problem. Unfortunately, it was the ‘wrong sort’ of Tesco, they sold everything else except a household section.

No big deal about having a new frying pan, as in a couple of weeks we’re planning to hire a car for a few days, a good shopping trip is such an overdue treat.

Another reason for mooring near to Tesco is the quality of the WiFi signal. Essential for accessing Sky Sports’ coverage of a rather important premier League match taking place in Manchester tonight! Retail therapy is important, but……….:) (John)

Today we’ve travelled 3.5 miles.

With Each New Year Comes A New Crop of Resolutions

Firstly, ‘Happy New Year!’ one and all!

In case you’ve not guessed, one of my new resolutions is to keep up our diary/blog. As I’ve not maintained the site for a while, I’ve had to delete over 1500 spam comments, and learn the new upgraded version of WordPress. All maintence completed, I’m vowing to keep on blogging.

We’ve let our on-line diary run away from us over the last few months. Since then we’ve wasted far too much time backtracking, trying to remember where we were and what we were doing on a specific date, during the ‘non-diary’ months.

Since our last post,

  • We headed up from the Grand Union until we reached Braunston,
  • At Braunston we headed towards Wigrams Marina.
  • Turning around again to go back to Braunston
  • We turned left onto the Oxford Canal
  • Stopped at Rugby while we re-vamped the bathroom (see pic below)
  • Onwards we cruised towards Sutton Stop
  • Turned right onto the Coventry Canal,
  • We then turned onto the Ashby, going as far as Snarestone tunnel
  • At the tunnel, we winded Cyan and continued back towards Hinckley
  • At Hinckley, we hired a car to attend a family funeral
  • Back onto the Coventry, and down the Atherstone Flight
  • We turned right at Fazeley
  • Then at the end of the Coventry, we turned right at Fradley onto the Trent and Mersey Canal
  • We spent a few days at Barton Turn Marina and thought it would be a great place to spend Dec/Jan/Feb. So while we were there we booked the mooring.
  • We popped out of the Marina for a few weeks, cruising as far as Swarkstone Lock where we turned Cyan around.
  • We returned to Barton Turn Marina on a very rainy 1st December.
  • Just before Christmas, we realised we’d made a big mistake. We were feeling ‘cooped in, suffering cabin fever’ despite our lovely neighbours. So we decided to move on 1st January 2019.
Before and after pic of the Bathroom revamp

Yesterday, 1st January, we left the marina after a Tesco delivery, filling up with water, and dismantling the Christmas tree. We had a bit of a shock when we studied the ‘Winter Maintenance Schedule’ and found we shouldn’t dawdle as Keeper’s Lock near Fradley Junction was scheduled to be closed for 6 weeks on 3rd January.

Trent and Mersey Canal

One of the first ‘things’ we noticed as we left the marina, back onto the canal system, was the lovely bird songs. Two blackbirds were singing on top form, as was a Thrush, and quite a few robins. Heaven! We didn’t realise what we were missing while in the marina.

At the top of Keeper’s lock we moored for the rest of the day, and of course the night (well there were three football games on….)

This morning before we left our mooring, we watched C&RT Contactors gathering materials and barricades ready for tomorrow’s start on the lock. We were a bit concerned though, of the 4 boats we met at the locks yesterday, two of them didn’t realise the lock was going to be closed, and both needed to return within the week. Unless they do a quick turnaround, they are going to be stuck on the ‘wrong’ side of the lock for 6 or so weeks :(.

After climbing up three locks, we’ve moored at Handsacre Visitor Moorings.

We’ve cruised through these parts several times, but not for over a year, and we’re a bit uncertain as to whether Rusty remembers he’s been here before.

Today we’ve travelled 4 miles and through 4 locks.

Catching Up On The Grand Union

The best place to catch up is to start where we left off!

Week last Thursday (9th August)

We left our Ditchford FOTRN mooring on the Nene fairly early for us.

We’d booked to stay the night at White Mills Marina, a promise we made when we’d previously stayed at the marina on our way to the Ouse. We were in need of topping the diesel tank, using the sanny service, and to off load our growing rubbish mountain. A huge Tesco order had also been booked for delivery at the Marina.

The weather forecast advised us that rain was on the way again, and with having 6 locks to go through before we get to the marina at the anticipated time of 2pm, an early start was planned.

With the recent heavy rain, sailing out of the locks was a bit of a nightmare as there was a gentle flow on the river due to the recent rains, the flow had washed downstream a huge amount of weed, which had congregated at the top lock gates.

Just as we were going through White Mills Lock, our last lock of the day, the heavens opened. As fast as we could, while at the same time manoeuvring the tight marina entrance, and going dead slow in the marina, we reached the service jetty where we were helped to temporarily moor. The staff took cover from the rain while we battened down our hatches, and waited for the violent thunderstorm to pass.

When the storm had passed, our diesel tank was brimmed, together with sanny and rubbish duties carried out, an empty gas bottle was exchanged for a full one, and we were helped by obliging staff to our overnight mooring.

Saturday (10/11th August)

Our Tesco delivery arrived on time, though it took quite a while finding space in Cyan for all our delivery.

Looking at the weather forecast, we thought it best to stay another night in the marina. The weather forecast was once again spot on; only this time hailstones was added to the mix of thunder, lightening, and torrential rain.

Sunday (12th August)

Waking up to a fine sunny day, we’d planned to travel through five locks, and hopefully stop on the 48 hr EA mooring just after Weston Favell Lock Flood Gates.

This is a great mooring for Rusty as there’s a park alongside the mooring where he could have a good run.

Monday (13th August)

Not a good day weatherwise, and it was an easy decision to stop on our mooring one more night. By the afternoon the rain clouds had passed over, and it was quite a pleasant afternoon. We were tempted, despite windy conditions, to continue our journey. In the end we plumed for a good start in the morning, and perhaps even climb the 17 Northampton Arm locks, including the Rotherthorpe Flight.

Tuesday (14th August)

A sharp start to the much calmer day, saw us leaving our mooring before breakfast around 7:30 a.m.

We had 3 locks to go through before we reached Northamption Junction, and the end of the Nene.

Just after we’d gone through Rush Mills Lock, once again the heavens opened. We found a spare gap on the EA mooring before Northampton Lock, where we had a good breakfast while we waited for the rain to stop. Luckily it wasn’t long after breakfast that the sun came out, and we were once again on our way.

After Northampton Lock, my lock duties had been completed! It was now John’s turn to work the locks, and the first one, Cotton Lock no.17, took us onto CRT waters.

The journey through the Norhampton Arm was fraught trying to avoid the weeds, but the crystal clear water was fabulous. There’s a huge stock of fish in the canal, and it was fascinating to watch them swim about, some were quite big too.

At the last two locks we were helped by a CRT employee. Luckily we were in time, though we hadn’t realised there was a ‘curfew’ on the locks. The flight of locks are being padlocked between 6:00 pm, and 9:00 am, due to water shortage. See CRT Information.

It had been a long day, and we were pleased, yet very satisfied, to moor just before Gayton Junction.

Wednesday (15th August)

We’d been thinking about having a few adjustments done to Cyan once we got back onto the canals. One of the urgent jobs was  Cyan’s drainage system. The waste from the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink, and the shower flows into a sump. Once the water gets to a certain level in the sump, the ‘Whale Gulper’ kicks in and expels the water into the cut. This has been such a pain, as every 6 weeks or so the sump has to be dismantled, and cleaned of grease and gunge that had built up. As you can imagine it’s not a job we look forward too. Plus it’s a pain (literally) for John to get on his arthritic knees to access the sump. There is also, with this system, the potential to flood the bilge should the ‘Gulper’ fail to work.

As we were across the ‘way’ from Gayton Marina, we made enquiries via a telephone call to see if they’d like to quote for the work. Unfortunately the guy who could help us was having a day off, and that he’d give us a call when he returned.

In the meantime, John was chatting to another boater about the work we wanted doing, and he recommended the boatyard next to Gayton Services (Grand Junction Boat Co). John walked to the boatyard, and after having a chat with the manager, we were booked into the boatyard on Friday to have the work done. They will be cutting two holes in the hull, one for the kitchen sink waste, and one for bathroom basin, so the waste from the sinks are drained straight into the cut. A pipe will be welded into each hole, and attached to the sink’s waste pipe. The shower waste will be connected directly to the gulper, and the water evacuated through the original sump hole.

Thursday (16th August)

We had a gentle cruise to Bugbrook winding hole where we winded Cyan, returning and mooring just before Gayton Junction.

Once moored, John dismantled panels in the bathroom so the boatyard staff could access necessary areas.

Friday (17th August)

We set off early on Friday as we were booked into the boatyard for 9:00 am.

As soon as we arrived we were direct where to moor, and the work was promptly started. All went to plan, with one snag, which is no big deal.

The bathroom sink waste pipe is now lower than the hole in the hull where the waste water will flow out. Meaning the water will not flow out through the pipe, water doesn’t travel uphill. The hole in the hull had to be 10 inches above the waterline for obvious reasons (we don’t want to sink), the hole was just on 10 inches. We’ve planned to have a cabinet made in the bathroom to support the sink, rather than the chrome pedestal we presently have, it’ll make better use of the space for storage purposes. This job now looks to be a priority. Presently the bathroom waste from the sink is draining into a bucket.

Work wasn’t completed until after 5:00 pm. After paying our bill to the boatyard, we pulled forward onto the sanny services to take on water, use the Elsan services, and dump our rubbish.

It was late for us when we finally moored at basically the same spot we were the night previous.

Saturday (18th August)

Time to get straight again. John ‘rebuilt’ the bathroom, and completed the project of installing new/extra LED lights in the bathroom. Trouble was, the bathroom ceiling fan came on automatically when the light was switched on. We don’t always need the fan, and it was decided that an isolater switch be installed so we could switch off the fan, and turn it on when needed.

Sunday (today)

We stayed put today, we’ve chilled, and I’ve caught up with our blog. This morning we picked about a kilo of blackberries for a pie, and make a couple of pots of blackberry jam. The weather was rather windy this morning, and I doubt it would have been a great idea to battle with the wind by cruising. Lots of boats, especially hire boats, have passed us, but we’ve not envied their challenging wind conditions.

Tomorrow the weather looks to be a calmer, and dry.

We’ve planned our next journey which will take us through Braunston, down the Oxford, and onto the Coventry. We’re hoping to call into Springwood Haven Marina on the Coventry where Steve fitted out our kitchen last Autumn. He made such a perfect job of it that we’d like him to build the new bathroom cabinet/sink unit. Hopefully he’ll be able to fit us in quite soon, then we’ll be on our way again. Down the Coventry, turning right at Fradley Junction, through the Trent & Mersey…. and onto Crick down the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union…. and who knows where after that!

An Enthusiastic Gongoozler

We left our mooring around about 10, weather wise it felt much cooler, what a relief.

We nearly made a rather  embarrassing mistake at our first lock of the day ‘Lower Ringstead Lock’, saved only for a man that was lying full length on a hammock next to his boat. What was he shouting at us? Had he been drinking? Was he telling us to slow down? We were already going very slow as we were trying to work out where the lock was, we could only see a weir in front of us, and we wanted to see which side the lock landing was. At the last minute, we understood….. he was shouting “Go Left!” Normally there’s a sign with an arrow directing boats to the correct navigational channel, but this time it was missing. “Thank you that man! Sorry we misjudged you!”

Irthlingborough’s beautiful 14th century bridge.

We met a lovely young chap (about 14 years old), at Higham Ferrers Lock. He was with his mother and brother on the bank by the lock. But he came running up to me at the lock as he was so interested how locks worked, and was desperate to be hands-on. Higham Ferrers lock was the first lock for months we’ve had to work that has 2 gates at the top, and two at the bottom. Apparently boaters (for some reason) don’t have to leave this lock empty, so I had to let the water out first, obviously before I could open the gates. The boy asked so many questions, he’d never seen a lock worked before, and wanted to know all the ins and outs. He did me a favour though, as he helped with the really heavy gates. It was fabulous to see a youngster so enthusiastic to learn. Perhaps he will one day be a dedicated boater?

Just before our last lock of the day, Ditchford Lock, with its electric ‘up and over’ bottom gate, Cyan managed to get stuck in the mud by a nettle infested bank. This stretch of the river is quite narrow in places, with several 45 deg angled bends. A couple of times John sounded the horn as he couldn’t see 10′ beyond Cyan’s bow. Coming around one of the bends, at quite a lick, was a narrowboat (John thought it was a hire boat), with 2 or 3 young kiddies sitting on the roof. We were very nearly t-boned! The other boater could hardly get around the bend in time, and as he swung around, his stern was inches off our bow. John successfully, thank goodness, took avoiding action which put us into the bank. After shuffling and pushing off with the pole, we eventually were freed. Not that the other boater cared, he just sailed away with a couple of, hopefully embarrassed, backward glances.

Today we’ve travelled just over 8 miles, and 5 locks.