Saturday, 26 September 2009

So many apologies oh Blog readers!

Oh, dear blog readers, we do apologise.  We have been trying to work part time in this last two years, but recent demand has meant that we are either working or cruising to a new place.  In the working phase, the last thing we want to do is open a computer for pleasure!  And in the cruising phase, neither one of us wants to sit inside at a computer when the scenery we float by is so lovely.  We have, of course, taken pictures which we will upload. 

But the quick summary is that we moved from Sawley Marina on the river Trent to the Trent and Mersey canal via Derwent Lock over a week ago now.  We moored up in Shardlow, then moved on to a wonderful country spot just opposite the end of a fabulous lawn.  We could even put the chairs on the towpath and have dinner on deck.  From there we moved to Stenson Marine in the south east of Derby for both of us to be able to take the train into Birmingham and leave Josie in safe peace.  We set out from there late Wednesday afternoon and travelled a huge TWO miles to Willington where Pete walked back to Stenson to get Reg.  The next day we set out to Barton Turn Marina and moored up in visitor moorings, with Elizabeth taking busses into Burton on Trent then Willington to collect Reg once more.  She is now in Cheltenham on a working weekend, Pete is moored up doing grant assessments and they have both decided that the end of September will be a weekend.  Who knows, we may just want to turn the computer on for the fun of it!!

The interesting thing about this set of months out is that we have taken advantage of visitor moorings at marinas.  We have not noticed so much opportunity before, and we enjoy being able to do the laundry without having to turn on Loud Levi.  In both Sawley and Stenson marinas, we had canal side moorings which allowed us to have electricity and water on tap, but also enjoy the open canal. Barton marina (, where we are now, is a boat park, but it is a lovely one.  The buildings are a bit Disney, but there are real materials and lovely hints to previous wharf buildings.  And it is deliciously quiet, close to water meadows and wildfowl.  So we've enjoyed the open cruising whilst also enjoying what we have only had in Blue Haven - water and electricity.  In Nell's Bridge Acre on the Oxford Canal near Aynho, we had electrics, but there was no access to water.  We feel we have the best of both worlds right now.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Now on the Trent

We are moored up in Sawley Marina, on the river side enjoying the waters of the Trent. We are also hugely enjoying the visitor moorings with electricity and water all in!!! Wonderful. Laundry without Levi on deck awaits.

We set out from Barrow upon Soar just before 9am having had a few great days of work making us feel as if we earned this glorious day on the canal and river. The weather was sunny and dry, sort of warm and not too windy. Wonderful, really. We were delighted that the first lock was set and open, so sailed straight though. We enjoyed the travelling through Loughborough, one of the best kept canals in an urban area we have ever experienced. Lovely brownfield sites have been transformed into housing and light industry keeping many of the original wharf buildings. We circled Loughborough to the east then north, coming to a T junction to turn right (north) onto the Loughborough Navigation.

We stopped at Bishop's Meadow lock to use the BW services (v slow water!!) and then made our way north to meet the Trent. Along the way, we saw housing we have never seen, shown in a few photos. Clearly, the River Soar floods. Extensively. We saw holiday cottages and homes on stilts, something Elizabeth recalls from the southeast coast of the USA. We also saw moorings where there were huge poles. If you enlarge the photograph of Pete lockside at a rather large lock, you can see the poles along the far bank. These are either poles on which the boat's mooring ropes travel up with the river level, or they are poles on which the whole pontoon along which the boats are moored rises with the water levels.

We stopped for diesel along the way at Kegworth Marina and were told that the water has made its way to nearly the bottom of the hanging sign. The building in the background is on stilts.

From the Loughborough Navigation, we then joined the Soar again and made our way past Kegworth and on to the Trent. One photo is of the large weir separating the navigable section from the non-navigable. And one photo is of Bella on her largest river EVER!!

She rather likes it.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Barrow upon Soar is still lovely

We're still here and its still lovely.  The river mooring is gentle in a different way than the canal, mostly with the clear water.  As we have posted in the past, canal water is largely still water held between locks and only refreshed by rain.  River water flows from source to sea, refreshed by rain and cleaned by its movement.  That means that when we look in the water in this mooring, we see reeds, fishes and depths.  The plant detritus flows by.  When we look in the canal water, we see mostly brown opaque water, fishes only just beneath the surface and the detritus seems to hang about.  With the flowing water comes a freshness of air and a sense of being connected to further climes.  We love the canal for so many reasons, but it is a refreshing change to have river for a while.  The downsides of course are the potential for flooding, the difficulty in finding mooring places and the unknown water bed.  But it's nice for a while!  We anticipate being here another day or so, then traveling on to catch the Trent.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Barrow upon Soar for September 4

We set out from Birstal just after lunch after trying again to work with bad communications. We then tried to moor first at Cassington, then at Silby, then at Mountsorrel. River moorings are hard to come by. But we finally found a lovely spot just up from the BW services point at Barrow upon Soar on Friday the 4th. Pete took three trains to get to Rugby on Saturday the 5th and we are now reconnected with Reg. A trip into Rugby on the Monday meant that Pete got his replacement SIM. And we're on mega FAT band connectivity. Things are already feeling better!

Out of Leicester an on to Birstal

Out of Leicester, then, now on the river Saor. We joined it in the middle of Leicester and with it came weirs and lovely bridges. We also had the wind so strongly all day. The open river shots show the trees bent sideways and the choppy water. Yes, the river has current and this makes a moving surface compared to the stillness of the canal network. But this choppiness is not just the river. The wind was incredible.

We finally moored up north of Leicester in Birstal next to a granite stone wall. And looking for a mooring reminded us of our journey on the Avon a few years ago, moving on to it from the Kennet and Avon Canal, where it was so hard to find a mooring that we eventually tied to a tree!! Mooring up on canals is generally easy. The edges are largely managed (though bits of the Oxford canal would argue!) and it is usually easy to find a spot to either put our mooring chains on the steel edge, or hammer our pins in a bank. But the river is a very different beast. There are set mooring areas with edges like the one we found or there is open river with traditional river banks, sliding down like small beaches to the water's edge or edges filled up with reeds. Mooring on open river is not an option, so we have to find a prepared edge where there is room. Not always easy. Even in Birstal, we sat on rocks, listing to one side.

Through Leicester and aground in a lock

We often receive feedback from our blog telling us how idylic our life and the landscape looks. Regular readers will note the slight change in tone in the last few posts. Our frustration with lack of communications and awful weather have put a slight damper on our usual enthusiasm. And our journey through Leicester shows that not all the scenery is lovely. We have shown scenes from Birmingham and from Atherstone which were not quite so nice, and have certainly not always seen beauty. We thought we would film much of the Leicester journey to give other views of what we see.

The journey began at 9:30, pulling away from Kilby Bridge into Kilby lock. After a gentle drop to the next pound, Bella was aground - IN the lock. The lower pound was so low, almost 2 feet below normal, that we were just stuck. Elizabeth was at the tiller, so Pete went to open the top gate paddles again while the lower gates were open to give a rush of water to get Bella afloat and out of the lock. This worked, yet Bella was again aground just out of the lock. The wind was fierce, so every time Pete tried to close the gates again to fill the lock again, they swung open. He finally got a rope from Bella, tied the gates closed, then filled the lock again to bring more water to the lower pound. We were joined by Lindisfarne, a single hander, who allowed the lock to be filled one more time to bring more water down. Finally both made their way to the next lock with great stuggle through the shallows. With both boats next to each other immediately at the top gates of the next lock, Pete and Mr Lindisfarne then filled the next lock so both boats could go in together. After that, all was well.

We moored up in the middle of Leicester around 3pm to do some essential food shopping to find that we were right next to a Sainsbury's Local. Not ideal, but food! Yet look at where we are moored. The middle of the day, still the boating season and not one other boat moored up. We use this an an indicator for choosing moorings. Are other boats there? If not, why not? Having earlier thought we might moor up in the middle of Leicester for the night, we noted the lack of moored boats, the lack of evidence of moored boats (no exhaust smoke on the mooring edges, unworn though dirty meaning long standing but unused painted bollards, unworn therefore unwalked on grass) and decided to keep going.

September takes us to Leicester and makes us realise we need Reg

At the end of the long day with horses, we ended up at Kilby Bridge, south Leicester. Oddly enough, it was very remote. Reg had gone back to Rugby, taken back the morning when we left Welford. We realised at Kilby Bridge just how much we needed a car! The nearest small shop was a half and hour away, the nearest buses run infrequently and only on weekdays and we ended up taking a taxi to Leicester centre. We resolved to collect Reg again at the next opportunity. Elizabeth is a slight nerd with regards to train stations and just happened to own a Rail Atlas. This, next to the map of Inland Waterways, showed us that there are enough stations well placed around the Leicester Ring to be able to car hop again.

We stopped at Kilby Bridge a few days, moored up opposite a BW yard. Not good communications again... Pete took a train to Sheffield from Leicester station, Elizabeth and Levi did laundry as she tried to work and we both tried not to be frustrated by lack of communications. The weather remained dreary, hence Levi pictured under his brollies.

Foxton to Kilby Bridge 30 August

What a day. Wind, rain, shallow pounds, locks and more locks. We set out nearly 11am and thankfully were joined soon by Merlin and her crew of mum, dad, two children and a lovely Sheep dog. That meant there were teams for each of the now double width locks. The Foxton and Watford flights are single locks and with all the other locks on the Grand being double, the Foxton and Watford flights were always a difficulty in the old working boat days. That is why the Foxton inclined plane was built to try and carry more boats more quickly. So having had lovely single locks in those flights, it was a shock to have doubles again! We had quite forgotten that this would be the case. And they occurred not in spurts of say, 5 or 10 (or 20) right next to each other and then lovely miles of open pound, but the 12 locks were spaced at 1/2 to 3/4 mile intervals over 10 miles. So there was never 'time off', just what felt like relentless hard work.

A fun moment in the midst of the day, we had quite a visitor at one of the locks. Two horses graze on the grass at the lock. One of them decided that our garden looked very interesting and came for a smell, starting with the herb shrubs on deck and moving to the roof. Elizabeth, at the tiller, held the camera and Pete watched on from the lock arm. What a surprising visit!!

From Theddingworth through to Foxton - August 28 & 29

After we left Welford on the morning of the 28th, we moored up west of Theddingworth, having travelled through much more very shallow canal. It was very hard steering again and the wind was strong with the temperature dropping. By the time we moored, Pete was getting ready to light the stove. The 28th of August, late summer Bank Holiday weekend, saw us lighting Squirrel to get warm (!!!).

We waited nearly two hours in the queue for Foxton locks, but this is not unusual! A few bacon butties from the top lock cafe, a little shopping in the bottom lock chandlery and much knitting made the time go. Sadly Pete managed to lose his phone into the canal, but there we are. By the time we write this, he's already got his new SIM and a new phone. How easy these days!! At the end of the day, we took Josie for a walk to the pub at the bottom lock and we all had a lovely Bank Holiday evening.

Moored up in Welford

We had high expectations for Welford. Our friends, Dom and Helen had been moored there for a few months a few years ago and enjoyed it. As the rest of the arm, it is shallow, but the fun bit was that having gone through the Welford lock, we were on the highest pound on the Grand Union Canal. Not Everest, but a high point for us! The pictures show the lock and the lovely landscape.

We were moored there on the 25th and stayed through to the morning of the 28th. On the 25th, Elizabeth knitted her way through two bus journeys to collect Reg from Crick via Northampton. on the 26th, Pete took a train from Market Harborough to Doncaster for a piece of work while Elizabeth welcomed the glaziers to fix Reg's windscreen. On the 27th, Elizabeth took Reg for his annual service, MOT, etc in North Oxfordshire and knitted her way to and from Oxford for a few errands, collecting Reg and getting back to Welford very late in the day.

On the morning of the 28th, we were pleased to pull away. We had absolutely no connectivity, it was raining or mizzling or just cloudy almost the whole time and the wind was awful. No day was without some kind of headache. It was not Welford's fault, clearly. But the lack of connectivity was much harder than we ever expected that it would be. Learning point.

From Crick to the Welford Arm - August 24

We turned on the engine at 9:30, did a few hours of work with communications being not too brilliant and then set out north just before 2pm. For the first time in a long time, we were on a new section of canal for us. This is the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union, taking us north to join the river Soar.

We decided at this point to go on and do the Leicester Ring before mooring up for the winter. This will mean we go through Leicester and Loughborough on first the canal then the river Soar, then when we meet the river Trent, we'll turn left and west, travel the Trent for a while then join the Trent and Mersey Canal. We did this canal a few years ago and so enjoyed it that we are looking forward to doing it again. From there, we'll turn left and south onto the top section of the Coventry Canal, another new one for us, then travel down to a familiar section, turn left and east on to the north Oxford Canal at Hawkesbury Junction and end up in Hillmorton sometime the end of September or early October.

We do not want to do the Leicester Arm past Crick again soon. It is very shallow, very overgrown and generally hard to steer. Yet, the scenery is wonderful and this pic is of the mooring just short of the turn to the Welford Arm.

Crick - August 22 and 23

We had a fine day to set out to Crick. Very few clouds and no mizzle. Amazing. Strong winds, as ever, but we enjoyed the journey. We do enjoy Watford flight and though we had to wait in the queue, we enjoyed the trek.

We moored opposite Crick marina, then took a taxi back to get Reg, do a little shopping and return to Bella. We stayed put on the Sunday so that Elizabeth could travel out to sew a bit for a friend and Pete could listen to the Cricket (last day and successful English end to the Ashes!).

Buckby Top Lock - 21 August

We moved up the Buckby top lock from just below it to just above it on Friday the 21st of August. HUGE move; all of .5 miles and 1 lock. We moved because we needed to visit the BW services point. Carrying three full cassettes with Bella is far easier than taking each one a half a mile with a trolley with too short handles... And we decided to set out early on Saturday for Crick and this mooring, just next to Norton junction into the Grand Union Leicester Arm was a good place to be. Elizabeth knitted her way in a taxi to collect Reg and parked him up at the New Inn on the A5, this being the pub which sits at Buckby top lock. And we decided to spoil ourselves and eat dinner out! We cannot recall the last time we saw gammon with pineapple or prawn cocktail on a menu, but it was all good stuff and filled holes from such an exhausting day.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Sorry - no comms and a drowned phone

Our last post was the 20th of August. From there we travelled to Crick, with hardly any connectivity, but we thought, oh well, it's the weekend. We'll post on Monday. Monday the 24th, we travelled to Welford and realised we had no comms whatever. We even had to stand outside facing one direction to get a phone signal - and even then, the wind was so bad, interspersed with rain, that we hardly did that. So until our present mooring in south Leicester, we had zip connectivity. Odd for us. We managed to survive, but we felt profoundly disconnected. At least at Foxton we had phone connectivity and managed a telephone call with James in New York with the speaker phone on. We had to use Elizabeth's phone as Pete managed to drop his in the canal when going for lines. This was all because he used his phone to telephone Andrew, who, with Sarah, had visited Foxton with us, so we wanted to tell him we were there in a boat not a car! He slipped his phone back into his outside top jacket pocket, funnily enough, the same pocket used to house his Ray Bans, now gracing the bed of Blue Haven Marine. He usually puts his phone in the lower side pocket, but was in a rush with lines. Hey ho! Virgin Media had a giggle and has put a new sim in the post. After this post of catch up, we'll do a journey by journey record, but this is a quick "Hello again!"