Rugby, Our ‘Home’ For Four Days

Nothing much has changed with the weather, it’s still grey, damp and brrr cold! Though having nighttime temperatures just above freezing makes such a difference. I can remember kicking off the duvet because it felt too ‘hot’ in the night.

We set off at about 11:15 am., with an anticipated destination being the moorings at Rugby, very near to the Bell and Barge PH. Just as we were setting off another boat past us. We followed the boat (at a distance) until we arrived at Rugby.

Our journey today took us under the M6.

At Brinklow the boat in front left the swing bridge open for us, and we closed the swing bridge after we went through. Here we met a young swan who was busy trying to ‘preen’ itself of its cygnet feathers.

On leaving Brinklow we spotted a bold clump of snowdrops – a welcome sight!

Cruising through cuttings, there’s plenty of trees blown down through recent winds, making it an ‘interesting cruise’. The badgers (or is it rabbits) have been busy undermining the cutting’s bank, and loosening tree roots. Don’t think I’d like to cruise this culvert in high winds though.

Rusty still has a fit of shivers as he travels through tunnels, and he always gets a cuddle which I hope helps. The lights on Cyan’s roof automatically turns on as we travel through the dark tunnel.

Towpaths are pretty dire around this area.

Looking back through the bridge towards the Barley Mow PH.

We arrived at our destination at 1:30 pm. We quickly moored, and were soon toasting our feet by Cyan’s stove.

After the problems we’ve had regarding our old fridge/freezer hammering the batteries, and recently our new fridge/freezer which has been filled with food (consequently the food had to be frozen or cooled down), we’ve had to run Cyan’s engine to charge the batteries late at night, just before retiring to bed. This has been the reason why we’ve moored away from homes, and other boats. Tonight will be the first time in a while we’ve moored next to houses. According to the Canal & River Trust license TOC’s, boat engines and generators have to be turned off between 8:00 pm, and 8:00 am. Tonight we’ll keep a close eye on the batteries, and if necessary, we’ll have to be frugal with the electric.

Our plans are to stay here in Rugby for a family visit and retail therapy, until Wednesday.

Warning, Diesel Thieves Are About

Love this ‘tweet’ from BBC Weather: “Noticed how much lighter it’s getting yet? We’re racing to more daylight with an extra 2 mins today on yesterday. By 21st Jan it’ll be up to a rate of 3 mins/day!” That’s a cheery thought on a grey day such as today!

Last night’s fog had lifted by the time we rose at around 7:00 am. We were soon on our way to Hawkesbury Junction for Elsan and Rubbish services.

We bumped into one of the boaters we’ve met quite a bit on our travels around the Oxford and Coventry canals, after telling him we were on our way to Braunston, probably staying overnight at Ansty, he gave us some good advice. He said to be careful as he’d just had some diesel stolen from his boat’s diesel tank. He wasn’t sure whether the crime was at Ansty or Brinklow, though his friend had recently lost about 100 litres of diesel, siphoned out of his boat’s tank at Ansty. Since hearing that, John’s now locked our tank; I know we should have done this anyway, it’s a bad habit we’ve got into. Think from now on we’ve got to be more careful.

There were ‘some’ anticipation that the day might brighten up, but it wasn’t a ‘real’ prospect.

Despite the ‘grey’ day, it’s a different world cruising along the canal, while the ‘rest’ of the world is busy rushing about. In the pic, we’re just about to sail under the M69 motorway.

We passed Ansty’s ‘resident’ geese. They’re looking very well too.

Think we’ve had enough water now, the Oxford is full!

One boater and….  

….his dog! (Who’s never far away).

John didn’t want to moor at Ansty, he said the towpath was too muddy, he was right, though I think there’s more to that decision.

Eventually we’ve moored next to the Trent Valley Railway line. The trains are quite close, though with Cyan’s hatches battened down, the noise of the trains is not a problem. What’s good about being here is that the towpath is hardly used, especially by bikes, so it’s relatively mud free.

Make Bed While It Rains

We haven’t been too happy with our bed, the mattress of thick foam, layered on top with a couple of inches of memory-foam, is brilliant. It’s so comfy. But the bed’s base of marine ply is awkward, and it’s difficult to get to the storage area underneath, it needs two pairs of strong hands to lift the 16mm ply base.

I’ve had this idea in my mind for a while now, to have a bed base like an ottoman, that easily lifts up on gas struts. I found just the base, compete with beech slats, sold on Amazon (made by Bishops Beds). We had the base delivered to Springwood Haven Marina for us to pick up while we were visiting. Together with the ‘gas strut ottoman hinges’ needed to lift up the bed.

The base is extendable, and is suitable for a single, small double, or a double bed frame. It’s just perfect for what we need.

Seeing that the weather was very wet, and the bed base was taking up too much room, and scaring the dog. We decided to moor up and rebuilt our bed.

Three days later, we’ve a lovely comfortable full sized double bed that retracts by 12 inches during the day, giving us the space we need. Another success, though the gas struts do need to be replaced, as the 900Nm pressure is far too fierce, so much so we can’t close the bed! We need to replace the struts with a much lower pressure, possibly 400Nm. When we bought the gas strut hinges, the seller did say he’d replace the struts to a suitable pressure foc. (This problem will have to be shelved for a short time.)

Over the next few days, it was a cold damp cruise to Rugby, where we moored on the public moorings by Tesco, Debenhams, etc., plus of course next to the ‘Barge and Bell’ pub and restaurant.

The fridge engineer visited us here, we temporarily moored (only one day mooring) on the services side of  the canal, right next to a car park, which was convenient for a visiting engineer.

The image shows our first hard frost and snow of the winter.

Dave gassed up the fridge/freezer, and over the next couple of days, I enjoyed a little bit of retail therapy. Three days after Dave’s visit, we phoned him again, as the fridge still wasn’t cold enough. Dave returned, bringing with him a new thermostat. After changing the thermostat we started our journey back to the Coventry Canal, but not before continuing down the Oxford and winding (turning) Cyan at the bottom of Hillmorton Locks.

We had another cold journey through the Oxford canal, before mooring at Ansty, where we woke to a freezing cold morning.

There was nothing for it, but to batten down the hatches for a few days. Eventually we left our mooring on a beautiful sunny winter’s morning.

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.)

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.

Fantastic Autumn Weather Turns Snappy

We had a few hours days to kill, so we took a slow cruise back towards Willow Wren Training Centre for John’s date (Saturday, 29th) with his ‘day course’ on maintaining marine diesel engines.

We had phoned Willow Wren Training Centre, and said we would be arriving by our boat Cyan on the 28th; Willow Wren offered us mooring in their ‘arm’.  We were delighted to see a huge board on the side of the canal saying “Welcome NB Cyan” (nice touch Willow Wren!).

John was one of 8 or so students.  After his course, at the end of the day, John was buzzing with ideas, and he had a confidence boost in his technical abilities.  He was able to ‘bounce’ his technical worries regarding Cyan off the tutor; which was a huge relief for him.

On Sunday morning (30th) we set off on our trip to Trinity Marina in Hinckley.  There’s a fantastic website we use to plan canal journeys (canalplan.org.uk/), the website advised that we need to travel just over 39 miles miles to our destination.  Travelling for just 5 hours a day; the journey will take 3 days!  This is us from now on….. such is our pace of life!

We cruised back to the Braunston turning, where we left the Grand Union Canal, and joined the Oxford Canal.

The Oxford is such a beautiful canal, and as a special treat it was clothed in beautiful autumn splendour!
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Pictures (especially taken by our old camera) do not do justice to the pleasant views we’re lucky enough to experience.  It’s magic, like a world time forgot!
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It was great to see canal-side pubs, boaters, and boatyards entering into the ‘spirit’ of Halloween!
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Here’s a ‘traffic jam’, boater style!  The boatyard was totally full of hire boats, and boats for sale, in fact they were moored up two abreast.  So when a ‘customer’ needs the services of the boatyard, they have to moor up ‘three abreast’!  On this occasion stopping the traffic on the cut, which is frowned upon by the C&RT (Canal & Riverside Trust)!

We had the option of chilling out and ‘going with the flow’, or getting ‘excited’!    We chilled!

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Eventually we arrived at Hawkesbury Junction, where the Oxford meets the Coventry Canal.  Before we could enter the Coventry we had to go through a lock.  After the huge flights of locks we’ve been through during our ‘October Cruise’, this lock was minuscule! The levels of the canals was less than a foot!  Reputedly so the canal authorities could charge a toll for ‘barges’ entering ‘their’ canal.

This wasn’t the only ‘minuscule thing’ at this junction, we’ve also been told the smallest police station in Britain is built here!
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Here is where we left the Oxford behind us.  The history of the canals is so fascinating, for example this bridge was built just after Wellington had defeated the tyrant, Napoleon!

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At Brinklow, on the Coventry Canal, we saw a mother duck with a brood of about 8 day old ducklings.  Lovely to see, but so sad to think that their survival prospect is practically nill due to being hatched so late in the year.  The mother duck no doubt has been confused by the mild autumn we’ve experienced.
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At Marsden Junction, we turned right onto the now familiar Ashby Canal.

We arrived at Hinckley Marina during Tuesday afternoon.  We will be moored in the Marina for the month of November, though we’ll probably pop out of the marina several times during the month.  We’ve got the option to stay here during December, which will depend on how cold the weather is, and whether our newly discovered ‘wanderlust tendencies’ need exercising.

We’ve got several jobs to do on the boat, and being on shoreline electricity will help.