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!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Emerging from Husbands Bosworth tunnel

We knew we were going to have to leave Foxton eventually, and yesterday was the day. We were keen to cover the boring 19 miles to Crick as quickly as we could, so set out early. Pete returned his lock keeper's keys to the cottage, made his farewells (with promise of return), and we set out. 

Setting out included untying the bow line. Clearly, we always do this! But the bow line is not usually tied around a post in the deep woods with no mooring edge to be seen. At Foxton top, we were moored with half of Bella at a mooring edge and half hanging out in the water, the edge curving away into a small wood. The centre line was tied to a bollard, the stern line to a bollard, a short stern line (abreast line) to a pin and the bow through the woods. Pete's Royal Navy skills came to the fore as he threw the line to tie up, with Elizabeth in the wood to catch. Untying, Pete threw from the wood and Elizabeth caught it at the bow. 

And away. In all, we covered 23 miles, travelled 2 tunnels and the seven locks of the Watford flight, including a four step staircase. Pete was grumpy! The water was shallow, the edges were overgrown and it was windy. Elizabeth took the tiller for long breaks and otherwise cleaned, cooked, knitted, got through the post (collected from Rugby the day before when she took Reg to Hilmorton and bussed back).
We moored up at Buckby Top lock, Pete having reversed us sweetly indeed from Norton Junction - where the Grand Union Leicester section joins the Grand Union Main Line.  We'd travelled over 10 hours! Not a usual day for us, but we were on a mission! The G&Ts on deck were very welcome!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Lock Keeper's last Foxton day of 2011

Here's Pete, looking at the boat movements book while Glyn poses. It was a stunning last day for this year's Foxton lock keeping. Yes, there will be more!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

A sober tale today

A family lost its dog in the sluices today.  Poor things. The dog was off the lead and decided to take a swim in one of the lower side ponds of the Foxton flight. They look pretty, these ponds. But their purpose is to take 100 tonnes of water each time a lock empties and to feed that back into the lock below. All that water empties within 3 - 4 minutes. The dear dog had no chance and was washed straight through the sluices. Both bottom ponds had to be emptied, boats wait and family comforted... but still the dog remains somewhere in the system.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Usual evening view

This is the lock-keepers cottage at the top of the flight, the other side from our mooring. The cottage is used for the lock-keepers upstairs where they have an office and kitchen for the regulation cups of tea. The downstairs is the Top Lock Cafe which makes excellent lock-keepers bacon butties.

This is the quiet night view.

Foxton Top

And here we are. The top of Foxton flight with our own little garden, opposite the towpath with the most amazing views. This is such a privilege to be here, just for Pete to volunteer. Wonderful.

Foxton journey night 2

Here we are in the middle of utterly nowhere. Or so it seemed. If we took a country path, we could make it to the tiny village of Theddingworth a few miles east, but that's about it. Heaven. Josie loved it, running up and down the towpath. It must be said - our Jose does not like boating. At. All. She loved this!

Watford Flight on day 2 to Foxton

This is a half version of what Pete will lock-keep. This is the Watford flight, immediately west of Watford motorway services on the M1. It's a hoot to be in Bella on the canal and to see the heap of cars and lorries at the services!

This flight is two regular locks with small pounds between, a flight of four in a staircase and another lock after a small pound at the top. Foxton is 10, two five lock staircases.

Funnily enough, it was Watford flight, two years ago that gave us the idea of Pete lock-keeping. We saw the lock-keeper then and thought - what fabulous fun for himself! And here we are on the way.

Top of Watford flight

This is the Lock-keepers cottage. Now - listen - M1 just the other side of the trees and the services in between!

First night to Foxton again

Ah. Such a view!

Just a view in the way to Foxton

So, after the Easter cruise, we spent a few days in Hilmorton, cracking through the laundry. Oh - and driving to Clayton, Cropredy and Banbury in Reg to get Bones back down the Oxford. Elizabeth drove Reg and Pete worked locks for Bones. Great fun!

We were due in Foxton in May, what with Pete having done his training and being approved as a lock keeper. This view is from our first night's mooring of the journey. We stopped after Braunston tunnel just before Norton Junction where the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union peels off north from the main section of the Grand. What a tranquil night!

Braunston view

Here we are on the Elsan point. This is stunning view up the hill.

Braunston yet again

It feels like home in Bronny. So much so that we've hardly photographed it. After we left Bones with the visiting crew from Morning Mist aboard, we set back to Hilmorton on the Saturday after Easter. Elizabeth decided to sit in the bows for a different view.

This is the entrance to Braunston marina on yet another stunning day.

Bones and Bella fit nicely

Here we are, a usual sight during our Easter week cruise. This is travelling back north from Weedon in the Buckby flight.

It is SO much easier travelling in wide locks with two boats rather than one! With one boat, we drive in, and if we don't know the locks already, we lift the first paddle gently to work out where the water will come in and which way it will move Bella. We then sort of follow the water flow and let Bella rest in the side she's most comfy. Then we try to keep her there as we go up or down. Banging about in large locks does Bella no good and sends Josie into irritable bowel mode. Not good.

With 2 boats, we just glide in, generally biggest boat first and both boats stay put easily. When there's a flight, it's fun if the boats can almost stick together between locks, rather than move in convoy. Once, Pete and Ms Bones managed this amazingly! But usually, there was a pair coming out of the lock ahead, and convoy it was. But the good thing about boats coming is extra crew!

Our Lock Keeper

We've been stationary-ish since the beginning of May. After we left Gayton junction, we travelled back through Braunston with dear Bones.

We then stayed a week in Hillmorton then set out for Foxton. We'll fill in on the journey, but the picture shows why we're here! Pete is now a certified lock keeper, seen here in his kit. Though Elizabeth calls it working (though volunteer), Pete calls it playing. He loves it!