Thursday, 12 August 2010

August, a birthday and back to Blue Haven

We moved from Braunston to Stowe Hill on the Monday, August 2nd, then stayed put with some work and laundry to do. During the week, Pete and our friend had decided that a Birthday Party would be arranged for Elizabeth on the Friday. What a hoot! It was fabulous evening with the couples from three boats. We have realised a great wheeze for such a party - each couple brings their own plates, cutlery and glasses, then the washing up gets divvied out. Brill!

Saturday morning was slightly hazy... We all shared out again and had a cooked breakfast for six - at 2pm!!!

On the Sunday, we set out north again to make our way back to Blue Haven. We stopped in Weedon for food and flowers, stopped at a bridge for Elizabeth to do a small trek for the Heart of the Shires shopping village, then moored up above Buckby Top lock. It was hard work, again as the locks were busy and it was so very shallow, but we finally breathed in and squeezed into a mooring just above the top lock.

The next day we made it through the Braunston Tunnel and locks with very shallow pounds (again!). We moored up opposite the Boat House and of course, imbibed before dinner. Wednesday morning we made the cloudy but dry trek of only 2 hours and no locks to moor up again at our "home home" - Blue Haven. We'll be here a few weeks as we travel to places in Scotland and as we do a few interior design maintenance things.

August and back to Braunston

From Long Itchington to Braunston today in one hit - easily done, but we just meandered a bit on the way down.

The trip was hugely eventful!! First, the flight was very shallow indeed. There had been more early boats going up the flight of 9 locks than there had been boats going down. So the bottom locks were being filled slowly by the ones above, each time reducing the level of the water as the locks at the top were bringing no water from the pound at the top. By the time we reached the middle pound, the water level was almost half a metre too shallow. British Waterways was on the case, going up to the top to open sluices and get more water in, helping speed the top lock work to get boats down and slowing down the bottom locks work to stop the locks emptying before time. It was fascinating to be involved in and to be part of the water management.

Far more eventful to us was the behaviour of a hire boat family. Ooooooo. A list:
1) When we were waiting in a lock for the BW engineer to tell us when we could leave, Elizabeth went to the lock below (and behind) to let them know the BW plans. She found the boat managed by children, with no adult in sight. She told them to wait the boat until told, but worried...

2) At the same time, the adults were at the bottom lock gates of the full lock above where Bella was, with Pete at the tiller. The upward gates were open, clearly waiting for us to travel out of them. As the upward gates were open and Bella was in the lock, the adults started opening the bottom gate sluices to drain the lock so they could set it for themselves!! A sharp STOP from Pete and they realised....

3) After the Calcut locks, just before Wigrams turn, there is a long straight stretch of canal near Ventnor Farm Marina. Said hire boat was moored up and the three children and father were swimming. Swimming. In murky, filthy, somewhat toxic canal water. A dear canal boater friend of ours has been in hospital twice on serious antibiotics afer an open cut was exposed to canal water. It is not nice stuff. Yet, forgetting that, the canal is narrow (even when double width). We could see them from a distance as could the boat coming the opposite direction (!). They saw us both and didn't move (!!!). They finally swam in close to the boat to let both boats pass. The westward travelling boater told them he hoped they had lots of penicillin on board and we explained about our friend. Reluctantly, they clambered back on board.

Finally after all this, they were speeding so much that, having overtaken us when we moored to walk Josie (oh - about a 5 minute stop), we passed them travelling west OUT of Braunston as we travelled east into the village.

We had to call the hire company. So Monday, Elizabeth made the call. In the midst of the call with the hire company ("we tell people NEVER to swim!!" "We tell people never to leave a boat with children in charge!" "They did What at the lock??"), the company manager realised that the boat had not yet returned but should have been back and serviced by the time of the call. We do hope that the whole family did not end up in the hospital....

July 30 and 31st, Warwick to Blue Lias

We set out from Warwick on the Friday morning, having been met again by our Charleston friends, now travelling companions. We had thought we would set out west, taking us to Stratford on Avon. But in between that decision and this morning, we knew that our eldest would be visiting from New York early in September and that we had a friend, moored up on the eastern section of the Grand who needed a bit of a hand. So we set out and turned east. We went through the Cape locks then trundled through the countryside where our friends learned to identify the squeak of moorhens and enjoyed the aqueducts over both river and rail. We moored up at the Waterside, a pub just outside Leamington Spa, and enjoyed a pub lunch. We stopped in Leamington Spa to let our friends catch a train back to Warwick, and we carried on again to Radford Semele.

On the 31st, we made the 6 mile 12 lock journey back to Long Itchington, but this time, to moor outside the Blue Lias . Again, we took ourselves out for dinner and had a fab time.

July 23 and Warwick

We had booked a space in the Saltisford Canal Centre in Warwick, and arm created by the old end of the Warwick and Birmingham canal, now assimilated into the Grand Union. We have stayed here before and are members of the Saltisford Canal Trust. So it was lovely to be welcomed and to be given a lovely mooring. We had dinner on the deck at our very quiet end of the arm. The roses are a gift from Pete for Elizabeth's 22nd Ordination Anniversary. Can it be 22 years????

The next day we trained our way to Oxford and back and on the Sunday, we made our way to the Parish Church. We were delighted to find that it was a key player in the Warwick Folk Festival, another surprise for our visit. The worship included a folk singer and a Morris dancing side who danced us all out to Lord of the Dance. We spilled out to a busy sight of Morris sides dancing up and down the street between the Church and Castle. In proper Morris order, we went to the pub, the wonderful brick observer of such events over hundreds of years. Fabulous day!

We stayed in Warwick doing a few days of work aboard and in London and then welcomed friends from Charleston, Carolina on the Thursday. On their way up to Northumberland to work with churches including Holy Island, they stopped with us for dinner, having found a Warwick B&B. What a wonderful reunion!

July 20 through 22nd, from Braunston to Radford Semele

A short while after breakfast in Brothers in Farms, we set south for the Groxford (the Grand Union/Oxford canal shared section), preparing to turn towards Warwick. The shared section ends at Wigrams Turn, where the Oxford continues south and the Grand Union sets out west. We do love the canal sign posts. And we are always grateful that it is into a double width canal we turn; you can see how much visibility there is if anything is coming out (not!).

We travelled through the Calcut locks and moored up by the
Boat, at Birdingbry Wharf. On the 21st, we travelled through the 9 Itchington locks/Stockton flight and 1 1/5 miles in what Pete happily noted in our journal - 1.5 hours for 10.5 clicks!! We couldn't move too much, as Elizabeth was unhappily working on a document due the next day. We moored up by the Two Boats in Long Itchington and Elizabeth settled in to work. Harumph.

On the 22nd, we had the most frustrating canal communications EVER. The document was due at noon. Could we get comms? Orange was out of reach, Vodaphone had no spots at all, and Virgin only just connected. Elizabeth finally had to take the laptop and walk into Long Itchington in search of a signal, carrying open lap-top with phone attached. She found a field, struggled with only just a hope of a signal, spotted a pub and went in search of WiFi. None there, she was directed past a duck pond to an early opening pub with comms. Document send in a flash at 11:40. (*&%*%&£$&!!!!) We were both in dark moods which suited the darkening day, but as ever, the canal carries us along and we settle down. We went through the 10 locks in the next 5 1/2 miles letting the lock work take our frustration. Nothing like pushing against heavy lock gates to get rid of a bit of surplus energy!! We moored up in Radford Semele and took ourselves to dinner at the White Horse. In the afternoon, Pete scared away a few bully Swans by hissing and finally rapidly opening and closing the golf brollie (our side hatch awning!) - his wings were bigger than theirs!

July 19 to Brothers in Farms

So, as promised, but much later (!), here goes. We set out from Blue Haven on the 19th of July. We need to note here that on the 17th, a major event occurred. Pete serviced Bella's engine. He had been preparing, buying the odd tool and kit, stocking up when we were last at Oxfordshire Narrowboats. Elizabeth was up in Windermere on work so he had the time to himself. And it took no time at all!!! He was SO proud of himself, and rightly so. On the 19th, we made a huge journey (they smile) to what we call Brothers in Farms. Just an hour south on the Oxford Canal, it feels like another world. The name comes from the field full of bullocks on the north side of the moorings, all of whom nodded to us as we moored. The evening was stunning, the sun shone and we had a peaceful evening. [Sunny b-i-f]