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….

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.

Our Present Journey’s End

Eleven Atherstone Locks before breakfast!

We thought we’d be ‘out of the traps’ early this morning to climb the 11 Atherstone Locks. Everywhere’s saturated after last night’s heavy rain, and despite the morning’s drizzly rain, we focused on the locks; forgoing breakfast for a late brunch when we eventually moor.

The first lock was the only one we had to empty, we were lucky as there were three/four times more boats going down the locks as were going up, which meant several lock gates were left open for Cyan to sail straight in. Think we transited the last/top lock 2.5 hours later.

We were also fortunate the top lock services were empty, after topping up with water, dumping the rubbish, and using the Elsan service; we relaxed!

With the ‘heavy work’ and chores done, we had a lovely cruise to our planned mooring, supping coffee, with a couple of yesterday’s Co Op custard doughnuts, knowing we were at our ‘100 mile/61 lock/11 days’ (Middlewich to Coventry) journey’s end!

On the whole the weather was very pleasant.

We’ve noticed on the wall of the bridges there’s a blob of florescent yellow paint. John says it’s a surveyor’s mark, marking the bridge has been inspected. I think it’s reflective paint, so cyclists don’t bump into the bridge at night. Wonder if anyone knows?

Wonder what these two are gossiping about?

There’s always one!

We’re now concentrating on getting sensible quotes for our new galley refurb, so we intend to hover around the Coventry, Ashby, Oxford Canals for a couple of months. But then again… we might have other ideas.

Today we’ve travelled 3 miles, and 11 locks. WiFi is amazing! Digital TV is great.

Shouldn’t Have Prejudged The Situation!

We left our mooring at Fazeley, just after the rain stopped.

After turning left at the Junction, we noticed a smallish narrowboat coming towards us, and it seemed to be skipping about over the canal. As it passed we noticed it was the Boaters’ Christian Fellowship, and recognised the helmsman. He’s a friendly face, whom we remembered from February/March time when we moored in different places above Glascote Locks, waiting for the Lock’s ‘winter stoppage’ to finish. The man appeared to make it his duty to say ‘hello’ to boaters on ‘his patch’ of the canal, making sure, at a very cold and lonely time of the year, that no boater was left in dire straights. I’m sure what he does is extremely worthwhile. As he passed I think he recognised us, shouting out “Hello, welcome back!”. It was a lovely to be welcomed back! The reason he appeared to be skipping about the canal (we think) was because he had an out-board motor on his little narrowboat.

As we entered the Tame Aqueduct, we passed a WW2 pillbox, which must have guarded the River Tame and the Coventry Canal during the war. The Coventry Canal was extremely important to the ‘war effort’, and it’s easy to imagine the chaos if this aqueduct was blown up by the enemy.

We cruised over a very ‘tame’ River Tame.

It wasn’t long before we were cruising towards Glascote Bottom Lock. We could see there was a boat descending, and there was a boat on the lock landing waiting to ascend. When the lock’s gates opened, and the boat inside had left, the boat in front of us didn’t move, the man at the helm didn’t cast off his boat. His boat was tied to a bollard by it’s centre line and he made no effort to get into the lock. Windlass in hand to help, I walked towards him, asking what was the matter. He said his engine gave way in Birmingham and he was on the way to Rugby. There was a boat in front going up the locks with a crew, who’s towing him to Rugby, and who’ll come back to pull his boat into the lock. I was confused, I didn’t ‘get’ what he was on about. So I returned to Cyan, trying to explain the situation to John. Another boat pulled up behind, and wanted to know the situation. It was daft having a lock open, set ready, while there were now three boats waiting to ascend.

The man in the boat behind us marched towards the first boat, I followed hoping there wasn’t going to be any conflict, though I was now getting very annoyed myself.

Long story short, the man had recently had a stroke, leaving him with legs that don’t work (his words) and that the crew from the boat towing him, was coming to pull him and his boat into the lock. The man from the boat behind us said, well I’ve only got one leg, but I’m sure we can at least pull you in the lock and make a start. So we did just that! His ‘crew’ did appear soon after we’d pulled him into the lock, they’d had trouble finding a place to moor . The man and his wife (who appeared with the ‘crew’) was so grateful for our help. Imagine what a mess they were in, he was made incapacitated through illness, their boat’s engine had failed, and their home/boat was in the wrong place. What a terrible situation for them. I was ashamed I’d prejudged.

At the top lock, I took a pic of a plaque that was on the fence. Another reminder!

The Tale of Leaky Lock

Just a note, to let you know, that this here Lock, is very slow.
So take a breath, relax and smile, (you might be waiting here a while.)

The problem is, (or so we’re told) is Lock Thirteen is very old.
Her paddles shot, through wear and tear, the water pours out here and there.

We’ve had them fixed, then fixed again, by some of Waterways finest men.
And for a while, the Lock works well, until again they leak like hell.

I pray this pause in your sojourn, has made you stop, to think and learn.
That on the ‘cut’ there is a pace, that’s not for those who want to race.

So if you’re rushing, running late, this tale of Leaky Lock you’ll hate.
If you’ve no time to gently float, then why a bloody Narrow Boat?

The Bard of Glascote

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At the top of Glascote Lock we moored while I visited the Co Op shop by the bridge. Filling my new ‘old lady’s’ shopping trolley with fruit, veg, milk, bread etc. – but I forgot the sugar! (BTW I’m amazed how long Hovis 5 Seed bread stays fresh!)

We’ve been looking for crab apples to make ‘crab apple jelly’ while cruising. Crab apple jelly is glorious on roast pork and crackling! Today, very near to Polesworth, we found a tree with crab apples on it. The tree was on the edge of a wood, next to the towpath, but the apples were high up. John managed, with the help of the extending boat hook, to lob enough apples down. He’s been keen on ‘natures bounty’ since he brought damsons back from a walk, and I made jam with them. He’s been going on about a ‘jilly piece’, aka as a jam sandwich all week!

Now I’ve a problem with having no sugar! We decided to moor at Polesworth, while I scooted down the hill to the Spar shop to buy some for the jelly.

The weather once again, threatened us for most of the day.

The geese are getting fat!

We just loved these baby alpacas with their mums, I didn’t realise how playful these little chaps are. They were having a great time chasing each other, and skipping about, they must have a great sense of humour. (A baby alpaca is called a “cria”, a female’s a “hembra” and a male’s a “macho”.)

Nature’s takes over the remains of a bridge.

Despite the day’s interruptions, we’d planned to climb the first six locks of the Atherstone flight, but it started to rain quite hard, so we decided to call it a day! We’re moored for the night at the bottom of the flight, ready for a good start up the flight tomorrow.

Today we’ve cruised over 9 miles, and 2 locks. WiFi is 30+ Mg, digital TV signal is great.

Moored By Fazeley Junction

Under 3 miles from our overnight mooring by ‘The Crown Inn’, we came across our first of three locks of the day.

Sailing through the 3 miles was very pleasant.

We were lucky at our first lock ‘Wood End Lock’ (# 20) as a boat had just ascended, and it didn’t take long before Cyan was descending in the lock, helped in part by a C&RT lady who logged our licence. Cyan’s licence is up at the end of this month; it was only this morning John made the comment that we should pay for the new licence this weekend, taking advantage of the early payment discount. John’s quip to her, ‘the cheque’s in the post’ was ‘almost’ right!

At the next 2 locks, ‘Shade House Lock’ (# 19), and ‘Fradley Middle Lock’ (# 18), there were two very pleasant and chatty lockies on duty. At the last lock the Lockie said he wouldn’t mind if I started walking towards Fradley Junction to set the swing gate for Cyan to enter the Coventry Canal, while he ‘locked’ Cyan down.

The Junction looked like chaos, with 4 narrowboats, including Cyan, doing a little ‘dance’ at the junction as each one manoeuvred. Cyan ‘treaded water’ while a boat left lock #17 sailing straight ahead towards lock #18, another boat sailed into lock #17 to go down, and a boat left the Coventry queuing to go down lock #17, eventually it was Cyan’s turn to turn 90 degs to the right, and sail through the swing bridge to enter the Coventry. (Phew that was difficult to write, let alone ‘live it’).

We’re once again on the Coventry, familiar territory for us. Every canal we’ve been on appears to have it’s own mood and character.

We’re back to where bridges contain little cubby holes, believed to have been where messages, food and drink, were left for the bargees of old. These cubby holes did the work of mobile phones, Tesco deliveries, and no doubt were the same ‘lifelines’. So far, the only other bridges we’ve seen with these little cubby holes was on the Llangollen – there could easily be others.

Approaching Streethay Wharf…

… where a boat was about to be lowered into the water by a huge crane.

The wind has been quite gusty at times, with the threat of squally showers despite the bright sunshine. I’m sure the weather has caused many boats to be moored up.

We did encounter a ‘Mr Angry’ who was moored on the Coventry. We always take it slow going past moored boats, but sometimes, like when it’s windy, passing at tickover is impossible. It’s easy to lose control of steering to the wind. Another boat was also coming towards us at that crucial ‘passing’ point. Mr Angry stuck his head out of his hatch saying “We are moored up you know!” The burly Welshman who was in the approaching boat gave Mr Angry a mouthful! Sometimes when we meet a Mr Angry, I’m very tempted to offer a lesson on how to moor up, securing their boat properly, especially when they’re on loose lines.

Within half an hour we met another boat that was about to cast off from its mooring, the lady boater was holding tight to the centre line, so we took it slow. The lady boater shouted out “Hurry Up!” We just laughed, and shared the ‘joke’ with the lady boater who (luckily) also laughed, saying “You just can’t please everyone!”

We’ve moored just before Fazeley Junction Visitors Mooring. On approaching the moorings they looked like they could be full, so we picked a spot where we’d moored before, just before the ‘official’ moorings.

We’d hoped we could moor at one of our favourite moorings, between ‘The Tame Otter’ and ‘The Red Lion’ public houses at Hopwas. Unfortunately there were no spaces left for us.

Today we’ve travelled 14.25 miles, through 3 locks. WiFi is 30+Mg, our digital TV signal is poor.