Friday, 30 December 2011

Newbold for water and recycling

Here we are, well here Pete is, waiting for water in Newbold. Elizabeth took the tiller through the tunnel and we were happily on our way east deciding to have done with this particular winter cruise.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Moored up at Hawkesbury

We moored up about a half mile from Hawkesbury Junction, where the Oxford canal ends and we turn (sharply!) to the Coventry Canal. We turn into the Coventry 5 miles north of the city center. When these canals first joined, they had a mile of utter parallel courses, because neither canal company wanted to give up that potential extra mile of toll fees. Thankfully over the years, time won out over toll and the Oxford was shortened that mile. So the sharp turn is literally turning back on ourselves through a cutting which used to be embankment. This now makes a lovely basin in front of the Greyhound Inn, where we sit to write this blog post.

The pictures in this post show the pub and basin, Bella moored up and resting and the horses we saw on the way. It was a cold and windy day, beautiful as only winter days can be. Bliss.

Newbold to northwest

We woke to a rainy start which turned bright and dry; a perfect day for a winter cruise. As we cleared up breakfast, a heritage boat with a Christmas tree a'roof passed us, just seen in this photo. Then we set out and passed the Barley Mow, our Newbold watering hole. Just after, we passed through the Newbold tunnel, lit up beautifully all year, but looks especially festive just now.

When we passed Brinklow Marina, we just had to catch a glimpse of the iron bridge made by Horsley Iron Works. They dot the Oxford canal from Braunston north and continue onto the Coventry. They are a reminder of how beautiful engineering just was. This is what was made, that's all.

It has been a lovely day so far, this written as we travel. And with both of us spelling each other at the tiller, it's been a grand cruise!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas twinklies at dinner

We're moored in Newbold, really the opposite side to Rugby from Hillmorton. Not too far away, but a different world!

We set out just before 12 today after a bimbling start, full of excitement. We've travelled little this year, calculated a few hours ago at half last year's mileage. What with the drought, exhibitions and lock-keeping, life was a bit too full to travel along for life as we have done the last four years. So we were both delighted to get a few more miles through our engine!

We bimbled along even then, helping Callisto, a coal boat, make its way. Because of stoppages, Callisto has not been on the rivers for two months and her circuit is the Leicester Ring including the rivers Trent and Soar. So we were pleased to help. Then we stopped in Brownsover to let Josie stroll and as the light went down, we decided that Newbold would be a good overnight mooring. We've been here a number of times, so as with many moorings, it feels happily familiar.

Out for a Christmas cruise

Here we are heading north under the Hillmorton railway bridges. We spent yesterday doing laundry and otherwise getting ready and Pete did a shop this morning. We had to store up as we're on our way to the Ashby Canal, where apparently the shops are few and far between. We thought we'd take advantage of the lack of ice this year and have a winter cruise. You van just see our roof top Christmas lights!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The dining room vine

Here it is. And below, the lights illuminate our Nativity tableau.

Some Christmas twinklies

A slowly ending winter afternoon on this shortest day shows a few of our Christmas lights. We thread them around the ceiling from the lounge, through the kitchen, then around the dining room. Tiny lights dot Bell's roof and inside, the tree (pine stems) decorations add to the lights. We hang a wonderful lit vine in the dining room window. All quite magical.

A quiet winter

We've been quiet this year on the boating front.  A mixture of interesting work, the Midlands drought, Pete's volunteering as a Lock Keeper and Elizabeth's art exhibitions have meant the we've not put the miles in this year.  And yet, we so love this life!  As the fifth Christmas aboard beckons, we just wanted to mention that life is good and this life is fabulous.  Pete is meeting with the Canal and River Trust Trustees today as Elizabeth sits aboard and redesigns Bella's blog. The ice has melted this morning and the weather looks to be warmer than last year when by this time, we were frozen solidly in place.  We are still not level, the rain of the last few days being nothing near to what is needed to fill the reservoirs. Yet the Christmas decorations cheer us and we look forward to a wonderful 2012.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Thursday is Foxton Day

For a few Thursdays in November Pete spends the day at Foxton Locks as the only lock keeper. It is not particularly busy but it is still great fun to keep the water levels navigable for the few boats that transit the ten staircase lock flight.

November morning

If you follow our blog, you'll realise that we have not travelled much this year. Though we still have beautiful scenes like this one, we're missing a vital ingredient - water. This has been the driest summer since records began in the UK and the autumn looks to follow. We've been moored up on mud for some time! And even though the closure season is begun, there are still even more restrictions to reduce boat movements. To that end, Pete is still lock keeping and today is off to Foxton. So it's still fun!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Josie watches Braunston Marina

Here we are again in Braunston. We figured out that this must be our most frequent stop. Without getting Bella's log out, we've counted 15 times through the Braunston flight of locks and tunnel at least. Then there have been all those weekends just to take friends out or to be somewhere other than Hillmorton for a tiny stop. It's a good thing we like it so much!

Pete had a hot time lock keeping yesterday on the Buckby/Wilton flight. Seven locks in a mile and a bit, with a rise of 63 feet from bottom lock to top. Add walking up and down, doing the occasional paddle, moving an odd heavy gate or two (!) and it was a hot one!

Elizabeth took advantage of the shady mooring and deep cleaned all day, even not meeting up at the pub after Pete's day. Whatever next??!

We're here for the night then toddle off to Hillmorton tomorrow. Hectic month ahead!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Norton Junction Mooring

Very smugly moored! We will be here for a while, while Pete keeps locks.

The queue for Braunston flight

Restrictions or not, there is generally a queue for Braunston. It's always a hoot, as Braunston Canal Carriers are based just below the bottom lock, to the right in this pic. Opposite them is a significant working boat yard and Chandlery, and at the lock is Lock Stores, where we've bought three of our oil lamps let alone a number of ice creams. So it's busy most of the time!

Queueing means walking the boat forward, one foot on Bella's gunwhales and one on a hire boat's gunwhale, and tying our bow and stern lines where we can - on one or two boats! We step over the hire boats to hop up to the lock shop for the ice creams....

Waiting in the top lock

We had such lovely lock partners today as we ascended the six Braunston locks. They were taking their boat to Brokerage in Wilton (in no hurry) and were happy careful boaters. It is always good to double up, bit even better to double up with cheerful people.

Braunston top lock

Just a visual reminder. This is our lock life! We love it.

Solar lit tunnel

This made us giggle today in the Braunston tunnel. Mind you, we usually sing in the tunnel and today there were excellent renditions of The Sailormen's Alphabet, Bless The Lord and Just One Cornetto. But when not singing, we giggled at our solar lamp. We bought three at the end of summer sale, wanting a warm glow to walk Josie around the boat on dark evenings. Until our latest outing, they've been on spikes in our bank side potted plants, but we decided to leave most plants behind for this short jaunt. So we put this one in the roof lettuce. And hey presto, tunnel light!

(that took rather a lot of words..)

Stunning day

It was an amazing day today. It is hard to know if we should be worried. We've just heard that it's been the hottest September day on record in England. This may be the way life is now, but who really knows? It's glorious, but the other down side is that this dry sunshine is no way to fill the canals. The reservoirs are already drying and it's the restrictions which mean Pete has to lock keep, managing the use of water quite carefully.

But - we could get used to this!

Opportunity beckons

On the way between Braunston tunnel and Norton Junction, we passed this unexpected site. Clearly the water is shallower than usual and these cows worked their way under the fence and into the water. They looked perfectly relaxed as we passed!

Shadow tillerman and photographer

We just liked this - the fabulous long shadows of autumn days!

Tonight's moorings

We're just approaching tonight's moorings at Norton Junction, where the Grand Union Leicester arm juts north from the main GUC. At the top left of the picture, you can see the boats moored on the arm. We are now at the first mooring before the bridge and on Sunday morning, will use the arm to turn around. Tomorrow, Pete lock keeps the Buckby flight, just around the corner - whilst Elizabeth does a deep clean!

It has been a sunny stunning day, unseasonably warm for Autumn and the journey from Braunston glorious.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Beer cupboard complete

Here we are, a few hours after mooring, with our new beer cupboard. We had all the stuff in our DIY cupboards, so it was just a matter of sawing and sanding. Great fun! We only realised the solution to this gap yesterday. We've spent four years wondering, from rolling out shelving, to a ladder with drawers pushed in sideways, to, well anything. Finally we realised all we needed was a door. So we made it :-)

North of Willoughby

A glorious morning. Today we face an arduous journey from bridge 84 to bridge 89 followed by an afternoon of DIY to stop the beer falling over should we bump anything

Our morning visitors

Here is an unusually large family of swans, hoping for some breakfast. This family has five cygnets. Generally by now, most cygnets will have become food for foxes or herons, so it is lovely to see them. However, they won't soften us enough to feed them. If we did, they'd bully us by banging on the boat sides and windows until they were satisfied, then if they don't get enough, they hiss horribly. We have learnt to ignore them at best and send them away if needs be. We do this by putting an umbrella out the side hatch and quickly opening and closing it. Our wings are bigger than theirs.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A short hop to volunteer

<p>Ah, what a wonderful summery Autumn. We're on the cut, heading south, working our way to the Buckby flight of locks for Pete to volunteer as Lock Keeper for! He's been working Hillmorton on weekends in September, though we had planned to be in Stoke Bruerne for the volunteering there. The water levels have been so low that lock keepers have been needed at most of the flights to make sure boaters share locks when they can and if at all possible, don't go into a lock unless someone is coming out of it - therby saving more than 80 tonnes of water (per boat).

We have an unusually warm week ahead, 25 today and no lower than
13 tonight and all this anticipated for a small while. So we were so itching to get out! We worked our socks off this morning, pulled into the maintenance point for diesel around 3 this afternoon and enjoyed moving home! A glorious day and we're now moored up at what we call North Willoughby moorings, a few miles north of Braunston. Homemade tomato parmesan bread and veg soup happily await.


Monday, 26 September 2011

Jules' first visit of the season

Here's Towcester, with Jules at the helm, backing into the cut after having dropped off our first big coal delivery of the autumn/winter. Our neighbours collected theirs as well and by the time of this picture, Towcester was a tonne lighter!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Hillmorton for a time

So, an August evening. We're here for a bit, have done lots of laundry and have moved on into boat tasks inside and out. On the outside, Pete's been cleaning, de-rusting and re-painting the gas lockers and bow locker. Elizabeth's been scraping, sanding, de-rusting and re-painting bits of sides, roof rails and locker exteriors as well as sew the torn zip in the cratch cover (torn in a tunnel).

On the inside, we've been doing various bits of DIY and cleaning.

All fun!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The non rainy season

So, we got up Claydon flight in record time, considering. We anticpated, being the
15th in the queue, to not even enter the first lock by 1pm. As it was, we left the flight just before 1. Brilliant.

In the next pound, the summit pound, is where we could really see the results of the non rain. In this picture, the white line is the usual waterline...all that dark below usually in water. Though it may not look much, 8-10 inches is quite a loss when most places are 3 feet deep at best. It makes the difference between travelling afloat and cornering in silt.

We moored at the end of the summit, the top of the Napton flight and had a peaceful evening watching the beautiful Chestnut stallion and his friend, the Brindle stallion, in the field opposite. We were 5th in the queue this time.

We set out this morning after the flight opened at 10 and were in the flight just before 11. We enjoyed the journey past harvested fields and burgeoning berries to moor up at our usual spot in Braunston around 4:30pm.  Tomorrow, we turn around and make our way to Hillmorton - to do laundry! We expected to be out a weekend and ended up out three weeks. The drawers are empty and the bags are full!

And just a note - whilst travelling, Elizabeth made some raspberry cordial feom fruit brought by a dear friend (who collected Pete from Hillmorton after dropping off Reg on Monday). And made our usual spreadable butter. Oh! And the bread Pete made whilst we travelled to the water point in Cropredy on Saturday was utterly demolished by our 5 additional crew. So we made more on Sunday afternoon whilst Elizabeth was sanding down her tapestry wools box. Now sanded and refinished. Which is a good thing, because the stool we bought in Cropredy needs to be reupholstered. No end, eh? We love it.

Monday, 15 August 2011

And so we queue

Here we are, just two locks and one mile north of Cropredy "top lock" (Broadmoor), where we've been moored for two weeks.  We had a wonderful time. Elizabeth had her Heinz birthday (57th), Pete went off to Windermere for a few days and in between we've done heaps of happy entertaining.

On Saturday, we provided great entertainment whilst benefitting from 5 added crew as we set south the two locks and 1.5 miles to turn around and use the services. Gongoozlers from Cropredy festival enjoyed watching the dance of boats moving in and out of the services area, including a lovely shuffle of a small boat's rope being carried over the top of ours as we switched places - all the time with face painting for a festival drum band going on in their stern well. All in all, it took three hours, passing by festival boats, revellers, musicians and more.

We took advantage of the festival fringe and listened to each night from our deck. And, of course, we shopped and now have a tiny upholstered stool for our lounge.

And so now we queue. All the while we've been in dear Croppo, there has been little rain for reservoirs, leaving the canal low. But the big problem is that there's been a small breach in between Napton and Braunston leading to some in-season stoppages and restrictions. The Claydon flight which leads to the Oxford Canal summit pound - which ends in the Napton flight -  is open only 4 hours each day at the moment. This builds up a large queue, especially when only 16 boats a day are likely to move in either direction on any day. Add to that, one of the Napton lock gates was broken today and so that flight is restricted as well. We're the 15th in the queue, so tomorrow will be spent moving Bella forward a boat length each 15 minutes...yawn.

The story awaits!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


So this is how it goes. We plan to do the Four Counties Ring (including Chester) in August, turning north from the wedding spot. Pete gets accepted for a specialist church role and has to go to Windermere for training and Elizabeth would prefer to have Bella a few days on her own somewhere she knows. So, ditch the FC Ring idea, travel north and return to Hillmorton.

So we have to go south a bit from Priors Hardwick, the wedding stop, just to turn around. We aim to turn around at Fenny Compton, an hour south, and go north again. But the winding place was blocked. So we moored up instead, had a fun pub dinner and decided to go another few hours or so and 7 locks south to turn around at Cropredy, take on water and empty waste. As we approached Cropredy, the boaters' news is that it is full of boats. Chokka, ready for the famous Cropredy Folk Festival (think Fairport Convention). And, having made the decision to go to dear Croppo, we'd made a date with friends and had decided to moor overnight anyway, so moorings became an important issue.

So we did what we do. We moored up at the first available mooring, just below Varney's lock and a lovely mile walk from the centre of town. Then we looked at the moorings sign : 14 days.

"Shall we stay?" "Good plan!"

So here we are. Elizabeth is in a familiar place and Pete travels next week from nearby Banbury. And, we do the festival fringe!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Post Wedding moorings

We so enjoyed the wedding! Elizabeth, back to the hay field, led the couple and about 90 friends and family through the vows and promises. All only 10 minutes walk from our wedding moorings.

We set out this morning, after regulation morning after Bacon butties, to a stunning summer day.
We're moored a few hours south in one of our regular stops in Fenny Compton. We were frozen in here a few winters ago, we got our sofa from here and it was one of our first moorings on our first ever hire boat. So, Fenny is a little bit of home. Added to Bella, it's all quite lovely!

This shot is of our deck bench with our usual Sunday night resting drinks of coffee, something else, chocs and nuts all lit by the lovely lantern we bought in Market Harborough.

Nice night. Nice weekend.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Unhappy dog - not

We have discovered after nearly four years that Josie loves being outside on deck On. A. Lead. We are flabergasted. She is out there without us. Her lead is attached to the tiny step used by deck bench sitters whilst Bella cruises. While moored, it is Josie's lead tethering point. It means that she doesn't mind passing people, she doesn't pace and she actually sleeps in between watching ducks, birds and boats - all of which she doesn't bark at. Why doesn't she bark? Who knows. It's rather nice to have a happy dog every now and then.

Exhausted new windlass

Poor thing. First day out and it winds 9 locks in succession with Napton flight. We got a new windlass as a result of Pete winding Foxton Locks with BW issue windlii - all these lightweight aluminium types well balanced somewhat longer than our short steel ones and shorter handled than our long steel ones. And significantly lighter, making them much more friendly to carry. Hmmm. Perhaps a name is coming on...

Friday, 29 July 2011

Our Wedding mooring place

Here we are, rounding the corner to our mooring at Bridge 125 on the south Oxford Canal, 15 minutes walk to those white marquees you can just see in the hill. What an idyllic spot! Should be a wonderful weekend.

Round Napton

Napton is on a high hill with a windmill at the top, with the canal a watery ring road around the western edge. This was our view about ten minutes before the locks. Horses, sheep and cows all shared one field and included lambs, calves and foals. Stunning to see.

Towpath breakfast

We had a lazy start today, with Josie and Elizabeth walking out and picking berries a month early. We could hardly believe it. Yet, happily yums.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

By The Bridge in Napton

What a lovely lazy day! We travelled just over two hours south of Braunston and we moored up at the north end of the moorings by The Bridge in Napton. That's the day, then! Evening on deck, then tomorrow up the flight of nine Napton locks. Yeah!

Braunston as ever

Here we are, moored up for lunch and shopping. We set out yesterday at the end of a busy day. It was heaven to be out in the open again and to have such a balmy evening. We only travelled an hour south, but what a difference the hour makes. We admit to putting up the satellite dish in order to watch Sherlock, so didn't sit out until late. Josie fell asleep (!) on the towpath, she was so pleased to be out.

Today we set off mid morning having first chatted with the cows taking their morning drink. We had a lazy run to Braunston, stopped at the services point, then Pete did a textbook A* turn at the marina entrance and we moored up in our spot at the Boathouse. Now we're off to get more oil for the lamps. 

Ahhh. Holiday.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Summer night outside

We know it's dark. And wonderful.

On our way to a Wedding

We are delighted to be going to a wedding this weekend, where Elizabeth conducts the service in a field. The weather looks to be glorious and we discovered that the field is only a 15 minute walk from a lovely spot on our Oxford canal. It wonderfully coincides with the beginning of our holidays, so here we are taking advantage of a balmy evening to get started.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Jules' hat

This is Jules, our coal merchant when we're on the Grand Union Canal from Braunston to Stoke Bruerne. You saw a picture of her and her boat Towcester, delivering to us that freezing Christmas and that hot day when Pete fell in. Well here she is wearing the oddest hat we have ever seen. It is made from animal skin still with hair. Perhaps her little Lurcher loves it?

Traditional boat costume

Here's one of our neighbours in the boat rally, wearing traditional costume and crocheting more. She's wearing a bonnet typical of the early 19th century. It's very complex, the swathes of fabric around the neck designed to keep the sun out. As with many traditional garments, when one had time on one's hands, one developed a whole new set of rules and designs! Hence all the ruffling around the face. Extraordinary.

Another kind of boat

What a sight! This little dinghy was lowered into the basin from the back of a van! We were sure it was going to fill with water, but no. Three strapping men then took turns to whiz out to the main canal and whiz in again. What a hoot. 

Back in Hillmorton

Here's a quiet Sunday evening view by lamplight. We got back to Hillmorton last Wednesday after a marathon trek to just get here. We went to the Historic Boat rally by car, both on the Saturday and the Sunday. We had expected to walk around the show stalls on Saturday, but travelling in Chertsey in the historic boat parade took 5  hours! Boats went aground, there were traffic jams - it was all quite a hoot. So we had to return on Sunday.

This is our very busy month, mostly with Elizabeth being away on various work events and art commissions, so we're moored up where it's easy. But,by the end of July we'll be out again!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Braunston Historic Boat Rally

Here's our view, from sitting on the centre spine of the working boat, Chertsey. Today is the Braunston Historic Boats Rally Thanks to our friend, Bones, we're travelling in the boat parade and not watching it!