Nature Preparing For Winter

After a beautiful day yesterday, today started off with drizzle. We thought we’d delay breakfast, and get going as soon as we could, in an effort to dodge the predicted rain. We’d planned to go as far as Springwood Haven Marina,  tomorrow we’ll cruise into the marina for services, coal, and dump the rubbish.

We’re booked into the marina next Tuesday to have a little more work done, and John wants to confirm a few things first.

Amazing how some of the trees are still hanging onto leaves, despite the frosts, and winds.

Though where the leaves have fallen, the scene is still beautiful. I suppose it wont take long before the crispy russet coloured leaves turn into black mush as we go deeper into winter.

I suppose you could call this the precursor to WiFi! Telegraph poles; who’d have thought all those years ago that this object would become a historical ‘monument’.

We literally saw one moving boat, coming towards us on today’s journey, and as sod’s law would have it, we passed each other at the moment we were passing a moored boat. This always appears to happen, ‘perfect timing’!

Atherstone Top Lock is closed until 15th December for maintenance, the reason no doubt there’s not many boats about.

We don’t really know what these birds are, except they’re probably getting ready to migrate. At a guess, perhaps they are starlings? They were making quite a din.

Just as we moored up, and were cosy inside Cyan, the heavens opened. We were glad we didn’t get caught in that downpour.

We got an email from the local police station about the safe that was on the towpath. They thanked us, and said they’d be sending someone to check it out.

Looking forward to tomorrow as we’ve got visitors, Anne and Terry, John’s sister. Hope the weather is better than today!

By Gum It’s A Nippy Night

Not sure how low the temperature dropped last night. At a ‘call of nature’ at 2.30 a.m. the towpath looked magical in the light of the bright Hunter’s moon. I did no more than give the fire a bit of a rake, and threw some more coals on it and went back to a warm bed!

We woke to a beautifully sunny day, and a C&RT employee recording Cyan’s details on their iPad ‘thingy’, checking up on us. As we’ve got a ‘Continual Cruiser’ licence, there are restrictions on how long we can moor in one place. Though I ‘think’ in the winter months the restrictions are relaxed somewhat, allowing us to stay for 14 days in a 24 hour mooring. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) Think this system is rather a mockery; as we see many boats moored along the towpath that look to have been abandoned. They sport years out of date licenses in their windows. C&RT have a battle on their hands for sure.

We’re not in any rush to be anywhere at the moment, so we took our time to prepare for the day. Leaving our mooring around 12 noon.

Passing Charity Dock as we went. Funnily enough, John found a old ‘Waterways World’ (Nov 2016) magazine with an article about Charity Dock only this morning. The article is available online, for £1, here is the link. The Dock’s history goes back quite a way.

The Dock is ‘AS SEEN ON TV’, to be precise, the article says Charity Dock was features on ‘Salvage Hunters’, there was a YouTube link, but that seems to have been taken down.

We moored up by Gypsy Lane around 1.30 p.m.  On a walk to stretch Rusty’s legs we came across a safe, dumped under a bridge which had been broken into. It’s most probably been fished out of the canal by C&RT workers

We’ve sent details and a pic to the local police. I expect they’ve had hundreds of pics of this safe already 🙂 – we’re just doing our ‘bit’.

Settling Down For The Weekend

We left Ansty with the sun shining this morning. Hardly any wind, nor boats for that matter. Think we’ve only seen 4 boats on the move for the whole of the day.

After about an hour and half of cruising we passed through Hawkesbury Junction, and turned left towards Coventry. We’d ran out of milk, and one or two other items, so our plans were to visit Tesco at the Ricoh.

Can’t help but think that when they built the Ricoh Centre, Tesco missed a trick. It would have been great if they’d embraced the canal, and built moorings for shoppers with boats. Perhaps this would help regenerate this bit of the Coventry Canal? It’s a shame really. We had to dodge a floating easy chair, a couple of supermarket trolleys, and other sundry detritus.

We cruised on past the Ricoh until just before Bridge 6 where there’s a winding hole.  We ‘about turned’ Cyan, and retraced our ‘swim’ until we moored just after the bridge by Tesco.

John and Rusty stayed behind on Cyan, while I got out the ‘old lady’s’ shopping trolley. Perhaps I am an ‘old lady’ now, though I don’t feel it. Maybe I’ll feel old in three days time, after 5th November, as that’s the day I’m formally going to be an OAP! The cheery cashier in Tesco said, “Good bye dear“. She called me DEAR! Isn’t that what old ladies get called? It’s starting….

It was rather nice to have a good mooch around M&S, and Tesco. Christmas shopping was also officially started.

When I got back to Cyan, John was sitting on the stern ‘sunbathing’! Best make the most of the weather as I think it’s going to be a cold weekend.

We made our way to our ‘regular’ mooring just after Hawkesbury Junction, passing underneath the M6. The M6 bridge carrying busy motorists on a Friday afternoon, who were no doubt relishing their weekend off work. Been there, done of that, now I’m going to enjoy the result!

Wondering what makes a boater moor under a bridge when there’s plenty of room before and after?

Or what makes a boater leave two empty plastic coal bags in a hedge? Surely they’d know what it’s like to have one of those wrapped round the propeller?

Babies are changing the colour of their feathers. Can’t help but wonder if this process is itchy?

One of the 4 boats on the move we’ve seen today, manoeuvring outside the Greyhound pub at the Junction.

Looking forward to a lazy weekend….

Didn’t Expect To Cruise 14 Miles!

For us, we were out of the ‘traps’ early this morning. Our plans at breakfast were to descend three Hillmorton Locks, and perhaps moor somewhere below the locks for the night. The locks were only an hour and half away, and seeing that the day was grey and damp, we thought that would be enough cruising for the day.

When we passed this way about 10 days ago, growth on the off-side of the canal was a pain. Since then it looked like the ‘fairies’ have been, and have cut out the overhanging branches that makes the canal appear so narrow. Miles and miles of the Oxford now looks pristine!

Sometimes there’s an ‘uncomfortable’ cruising to experience. Poor old, cracked bridge, hope it can take the strain of the van while we pass under.

It was my turn to take Cyan into the three locks. This time all 3 pairs of locks were working. With two lock volunteers, and a boat coming up as we were going down, we’d gone through them in minutes.

Surprising to see birds of prey on top of a narrowboat. Obviously they were tethered to their perches, and we just had to take a snap of these magnificent birds. The owner was nearby, I did ask, as we cruised by if I could take a picture, luckily he agreed.  He said they were Harris Hawks. Looking up their spec on Wiki, they are awesome birds, but not birds that are native to the UK. They are the only raptors who hunt as a team. Pretty awesome! I loved the opportunity to see them, but I’m not a fan of having birds caged or tethered.

The part of the Oxford we travelled today was mainly through cuttings, meaning there were high banks either side of the canal. Plus there’s not a lot of moorings. Eventually we’ve moored at Ansty. It’s really been too long a cruise for us today, and we were cold through the dank weather. Still after a hot lunch, a glass of amber nectar, and being toasted by a hot fire, we soon dosed! This is one of the few joys of winter!

I’m also pleased to have now caught up with the diary. If I don’t keep it up, we’ve got no ‘register’ of time and places. It’s our memory aid!

Stunning Sunset

John wanted to pay a visit to Midland Chandlers at the Braunston Junction.

While John bought his bits and bobs for his electrical project, light switches, power sockets, and an LED tunnel lamp, Rusty and I watched the canal traffic.

By the length of time it took John to shop (and chat), we were frozen and now bored!

We were soon on our way again, and passing the famous Braunston Church. I’m pretty sure this view of the church, and the ridge and furrow field, hasn’t changed in a couple of hundred years. Baring the changes in the trees of course.

We moored just before Barby Wood Bridge (# 78). Where the sunset over the Oxford was amazing!

Monday And Back On The Cut

Services done, diesel tank brimmed (70p per litre), and a couple of bags of logs purchased, we left Wigrams.

Turning right onto the Oxford Canal, in the direction of Braunston, we moored before Braunston Junction.

John was itching to fit some under gunnel lights, we’d bought them over the internet, and had them delivered to the Marina. Wigrams are as good as gold regarding accepting packages for owners of boats staying with them. Some marinas, we’ve found, are rather stuffy at accepting packages on behalf of their ‘visitors’.

John got stuck into his project as soon as we stopped.

We were in no rush, so we stayed Monday and Tuesday night, cos we can!

Onto The Windy Oxford, And Visiting Wigram Marina At Napton Junction

It was an early start on Sunday (for us), first duty was to visit the services at Hawkesbury Junction, for rubbish and Elsan chores. We passed through Sutton stop lock, onto the  Oxford Canal from the Coventry just before 9 o/clock. We were on our way to Napton Junction, staying from Monday, 23rd October for a week in Wigram Marina.

There was a fair amount of hire boats on the canal thanks to half-term holidays. Patience was needed in the high winds, and not many hire boat ‘captains’ realised that the slower the boat travelled, the more the wind would take ‘control’ of their boat. It’s the engine that needs to be the controlling power, which obviously works best when worked by a confident hand on the tiller.

Leaving Ansty we met a boat coming towards us, and I’m afraid it stopped my brain dead. I knew the boat… then it dawned, it was NB FreeSpirit. I normally follow their excellent blog everyday, except over the past few weeks I’d been out of ‘the groove’ and hadn’t kept up with the many blogs I normally follow. It was great to meet FreeSpirit on the canal, except I didn’t react until they’d passed!

Bother! I do hope our ‘bow waves’ meet again, and I can thank them for their brilliant blog, which has some amazing pictures of wildlife and fauna along the canal. It’s impressive how Irene can spot the creatures, let alone take lovely pictures.

There was a 3 boat queue to climb the three Hilmorton Locks, and all three locks next to the tow path were sealed off, not in use.

Eventually we arrived in the Marina. There’s a field where dogs can be let off their leads for a run about. On the gate there’s a warning notice saying “Un-leashed dogs” for those who have nervous dogs (or is it nervous dog owners?)

On Wednesday we had a fabulous day with Mairi and Brian, and they came bearing scrumptious gifts from their allotment. It was great to have a good old chinwag and catch up. Thank you both for taking the time out to visit us on Cyan.

Each evening in Wigram Marina we had a super treat. A spectacular display of a murmuration of starlings against a peach coloured sunset. We’ve not seen such a display for years, and I can’t remember when I last saw such a spectacle. Just wish we had a better camera. Must write a’ begging’ note to Santa, it’s not that long now till Christmas! (Only about 6-7 weeks.)

Returning To Cyan

On Monday, 16th October, we returned to Cyan in Springwood Haven Marina where Steve had done a cracking job of ripping out our old galley, and replacing the kitchen with a completely different layout. Having removed the old, full-sized, and very heavy Belfast sink, Cyan now sits much better in the water. The weight inside our boat now appears to be better balanced.

We’re that delighted with Steve’s work! Literally his work is flawless, and his finishing touches perfectly shows his expertise. We’re over the moon!

To cut costs down, we tiled behind the sink and cooker, we added the handles, and we’ll be putting in the plinths. We’ve found some drawers where you kick the plinth, a drawer springs out. Perfect for stashing bottles of wine.

The beauty of working with Steve is that we can do some of the easier work ourselves, resulting in keeping down down costs. Though we’re quite handy, we know our limitations when it comes to carpentry, we lack the expertise which make renovations look professional.

The kitchen still isn’t completely finished; where space is tight, as in a boat, there’s a lot of ‘suck it an see’ going on. It’s now become clear we can have two corner cupboards either side of a 1000mm base unit under the hatch, making the most of the space available. Steve will be fitting these in a week or two when we return to Springwood Haven Marina.

Anyone who’s experienced having a kitchen ripped out and replaced in their house, will understand the trauma. Now multiply this trauma several times to have an inkling of what it’s like in a boat!

Once outside Springwood Haven Marina, we moored up for a couple of days while ‘Storm Brian’ did it’s worse, using the time to tile the galley.

We’ve booked into Wigrams Marina (Napton Junction) for Monday, 23rd October, for several reasons. The first reason was because our feet were getting itchy; we needed to get back in the ‘groove’ of cruising with the rhythm of living afloat.

The second reason is that we liked Wigrams and its laundry facilities. We needed somewhere to get our laundry dry as it had built up to an alarmingly huge mountain.

Thirdly it would give us to time to organise the kitchen, and to get Cyan ship shape before Wednesday. On Wednesday we’d arranged to meet up with friends, Mairi and Brian, who were passing through the Midlands on their way from Kent to Scotland.

Despite the wind, and intermittent sun and rain, on Saturday 21st October, we left our mooring near Springwood Haven Marina, stopping to moor by Hawkesbury Junction for the night.

Taking Time Out From The Canal System

We have had a week in the Forest of Dean while Cyan had her kitchen revamped.

The Forest of Dean was brilliant, despite the rain, and moi being held up for 24 hours with a tummy upset!

We met up with friends we hadn’t seen for a while, Barry and Val who are lucky enough to live in the area. Thank you both for a gorgeous lunch, great company, and putting up with our hairy monster, Rusty. It was a real treat to see you again.

We visited Tintern Abbey (for me) in the rain,

and we had a trip on a Wye Valley steam train (for John).

We were rather disappointed we didn’t get to see the Severn Bore due to the tide not being high enough, and that was despite renting a holiday cottage just across the way from the part of the Severn where the bore manifests. Think we missed the phenomenon by two days.

We also manged to get our lock ‘fix’ (as we were feeling a little ‘home sick’) at the historical Lyndey Harbour, which has it’s roots from Roman times.

The countryside verges looked rather messy (we thought), until we were told the verges had been ‘turned over’ by the snouts of feral wild boar in their hunt for food. Glad we don’t have to contend with wild boar on the towpaths (yet!). What should you do if you come face to face with a 20 stone beast? Answer: back away from it. Apparently boar have pretty bad eyesight, though they can ‘feel’ vibrations in the ground on what’s approaching them, or what is moving away.

Galley Planning and Treading Water

We’ve not travelled far over the past week; we’ve merely cruised up and down the Coventry Canal. Cruising between the two CRT Service Points at Atherstone Top Lock, and Hawkesbury Junction.

We’re ‘hanging around’ to get our galley upgraded. Recently we’ve been shocked by a quote, which we thought was OTT. The value of the quote was nearly 11k, for what basically is a very small fitted kitchen. We’ve spent time chatting with two very good narrowboat joiners, and we listened intently to their advice. It was tough choosing between them, but we had to choose one of them to refurbish our galley.

We’ve sourced the base units, sink, taps, cupboard doors, door handles, worktop, and flooring; arranging for it all to be delivered to the boatyard who’s doing the work. The boatyard will be buying the cooker/hob as they get a good trade price through Midland Chandlers. The ‘original’ fridge/freezer we’ll be keeping.

Work starts on Monday 9th October, and will take around a week. For the duration we’ve booked ‘a break’ at a ‘holiday cottage’ in the Forest of Dean.  Already I can’t wait to be back on Cyan and her brand new kitchen!

Meanwhile, this morning we left our overnight mooring when the sun was shining.

Cruising towards the services at Hawkesbury Junction.

We were about to cast off when a vintage, and beautifully looked-after, working boat passed us. The boat was carrying a load of logs.

Volunteers were busy along the towpath filling-in holes. CRT volunteers/workers must have been clearing the canal through Nuneaton, because when we passed yesterday we saw around 15-20 rusty bikes on the towpath, obviously fished out of the canal, and ready for collection by CRT. Hope they hurry up and collect them before some little tykes kick them back in the canal.

It’s always a magical moment when a ‘Red Admiral’ pays a visit. This one was warming its wings by the sun on our folded canopy,

John and Cyan doing a ‘little dance’ to avoid bumping into other boats at the busy Hawkesbury Junction.

With rubbish and Elsan services carried out, including adding a newly ‘fished-out-of-the-canal’ traffic cone, to the family of cones by the services, John reversed Cyan into the entrance to Hawkesbury basin, doing a 180 deg wind/turn to temporarily moor up on the water point just beyond the bridge, filling up our water tank.

At the junction sits one of Britain’s smallest police stations.