Onto The Coventry and Down The Ashby

Christmas was approaching fast, and our thoughts turned to what we’ll be doing at Christmas, and that we should start preparing pronto.

We’d had an email from our good friends Mandy and Chris, and their new addition to their family, Henry, a lively pup whom we’re dying to meet. They were asking if we could meet up on the 11th December as they were visiting Mandy’s sister in Oxford. A plan was formed for them to drive to Hawkesbury, where we’d meet them, and where there’s plenty of room for Henry and our Rusty to have a good run around.

In the run up to Christmas, we thought it would be a good idea to moor Cyan in a marina for a week, and for us to hire a car so we could pay Christmas visits, and stock Cyan up with Christmas goodies. We could also take in a Christmas treat of a restaurant meal.

We formed a plan to cruise down the Ashby to Hinckley; I used the post office to post our Christmas cards, visited the corner shop, called into Trinity Marina booking Cyan in for a week, and stocked up on diesel, coal and logs.

We didn’t want to stay in a marina for Christmas, therefore we planned to leave on Friday 22nd, and to cruise to one of our favourite places where it’s quiet, and the TV and WiFi signal is brilliant.

On Friday, 8th December, we moored at another of our regular places, just before Hawkesbury Junction on the Coventry canal, where it’ll be handy for us to make a short journey to Hawkesbury to meet Mandy, Chris and Henry.

What a surprise we had when we woke (on 9th December) to find this at the back of Cyan….

Now that’s cold….

But we were snugly warm inside because of this….

Our daft dog Rusty saw a lady German Shepherd dog on the other side of the canal, she was wiggling her tail at him, which was too much of a temptation. He had this crazy idea to go to her over the ice, resulting in….

Luckily he had his safety jacket on, so he could be yanked out of the canal by the handle. Result, one wet dog….

The saddest bit about all of this, is that Mandy, Chris and Henry’s visit had to be postponed because we couldn’t move nearer to Hawkesbury, and also the roads were treacherous.

We did have one scary moment though; remember the boat’s engine is the beating heart of the boat. The engine tops up the batteries, giving us light, charging phone, laptops, tablets etc. If the engine fails, it’s a disaster. One of the first things we do in a morning is to fire up the engine to recharge the batteries, and when it’s cold like this, it helps start up the central heating boiler. The engine started first time (good girl!), but when we came to turn the engine off, it wouldn’t. The ignition was turned off, and eventually the engine came to a spluttering halt due to lack of fuel. This wasn’t ideal. At this point I took Rusty off for a walk to get out of the way, while John put on his engineer’s cap. Like magic, on our return John had solved the problem. John changed the fuel filter, the filter had iced up with water that had managed to get into the system, restricting fuel flow to the engine.

We waited a couple of days for the ice to melt, but it was just so slow, we had our eye on the 15th December which was when we’d hired the car, and when we were booked into Trinity Marina. On Wednesday, 13th we left our mooring after a boat had passed us, breaking up the ice. We followed in the swim of the ‘icebreaker’!

We didn’t like doing this to Cyan, but needs must. Thursday night we moored outside the marina, ready for an early morning arrival. John was being picked up by Enterprise Car Hire at 11:00 a.m. to collect his hire car.

We didn’t like the marina at all, the pontoons were exceptionally slippy with ice. They have a policy of NOT putting down any salt or grit on the pontoons because of Health & Safety issues (?). They provide a bin of salt and grit, for us to use (at the far end of the pontoon), which is not a lot of use if your mooring is 30 metres away from the salt bin. I was terrified of getting on and off Cyan, and terrified of John slipping – Rusty was less than happy too!

We never managed to do much with the car, the roads were bad with ice, and the freezing fog didn’t help much either. Plus I’d forgotten how frenzied shopping is at Christmas time. It took us nearly an hour to get out of Morrison’s car park!

We were pleased when we left Trinity Marina on 22nd December. John returned the hire car to to Enterprise, and by the time he arrived back, Cyan had been topped up with water, she was prepped to leave, with her engine running. On the way out we brimmed the tank with diesel, and bought 10 bags of coal. John was a bit miffed that no one helped him with the coal, in fact an assistant told him to take the trolley and to help himself. With a parting shot that he was being trusted. Wow that didn’t go down too well with John! On top of that, while we were loading the coal, the assistant appeared asking if we’d settle the bill as soon as possible, he wanted to free up the pump because a man with a jerrycan was waiting to fill it with diesel.  Whoops…. I doubt we’ll be back there soon!

The weather was glorious as we started our cruise to our favourite Christmas spot, with lovely blue skies overhead, though it’s still very cold. As we cruised down the Ashby, drinking whisky and ginger (cos we can), and munching on Ferero Roches, we had a few renditions of our favourite carols too…. well it is Christmas!

Faulty Fridges, and Lovely New Galley Cupboards

We had a lovely meal at the Anchor Inn with Ann and Terry. The Inn is very dog friendly, though they are sensitive to some of their guests who might not understand the ‘delights’ of our canine friends. Word of warning though, their garden is beautifully set up for outside eating and entertainment, and it comes complete with a friendly family of rabbits. The rabbits hopping about on the lawn makes a lovely scene, and I’m sure the kiddies love to pet them. BUT Rusty isn’t so charmed at the sentiment as he views rabbits as prey! So when he’s with us, the lovely garden is out of bounds.

After our delicious meal, swapping Christmas presents, and saying good-bye to Ann and Terry, we cast off for our rendezvous with Mr Tesco. We’d arranged to meet him at the CRT yard, by the clock tower, just a couple of bridges from the Anchor Inn.

Once the shopping was safely on board, we cruised a couple 100 yds, and moored up, sitting tightly for a day or two.

Over the next couple of days, it was becoming obvious that the fridge, which we didn’t replace when we renewed the galley, wasn’t getting as cold as it should. A couple of weeks previously, a kind boater at Wigrams had given us the telephone number of a man who fixes 12v fridges (Daventry Refrigeration). After a phone call to ‘Dave’; Dave thought our fridge needed to be topped up with gas. He told us his shop was in Braunston, but he’d come out to Cyan if we could cruise to Hillmorton. As a new 12v fridge/freezer to replace our ‘broken’ one would cost around £650, we thought we’d take a chance to see if it could be fixed.

But first we’d arranged on 14th November for Steve, at Springwood Haven Marina, to complete our galley by adding a triangular cupboard ether end of a 100 cm base unit. He’d already made the cupboards in his workshop, and was waiting for us to arrive to fit them.

Our plan had to start with venturing to the top of Atherstone Lock to wind (turn) Cyan, dumping our rubbish, and using the Elsan facilities. Then make our way back to Springwood Haven Marina.

Passing the alpacas as we cruised to Atherstone.

We spent a day (and a night) in the marina while Steve worked his ‘magic’ – we’re so pleased with his work, his attention to the smallest detail really shows.

The next morning, we topped our tank up with water, and we were soon on our way back towards Hawkesbury Junction, and back onto the Oxford, heading for Hillmorton to meet with Dave, from Daventry Refrigeration.

Amazing how the roses are lasting!

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.