Saturday, 1 December 2012

December morning mist

Well, it's been a while. I post this at 0740 on a Saturday morning, a time I never thought I'd see at a weekend at home, rather than at a training weekend. This is a usual occurrance now that Pete is Chief Running Water for the northern Grand Union section for the Canal and River Trust. We wake at 6am every work day and once a month, he has weekend duty.

Today, he covers the canals from Hawkesbury Junction in Coventry where the Oxford canal ends and meets the Coventry Canal, through Hillmorton, bypasses Braunston, onward to Watford flight and Foxton, perhaps taking in Market Harborough, finishing up, after Kibworth flight, at Kilby bridge on the outskirts of Leicester. Tucked into all that is a peek at reservoirs at Saddington, Welford, Sulby and Naseby. Oh, and today he investigates the paddles at Cosford. By the way, he  l o v e s  this work. Countryside views as work, not lifestyle leisure, canals as challenging conundrums, water levels as puzzling management. Happy boy.

We see more of each day and are both enjoying this new world. Clearly travelling with Bella had been reduced, but with my new studio in Braunston, I can't say I'd want to be too far away. With a number of new paintings finished since I've been there, this is a creative time for us both.

We have gentle plans to travel to Braunston for Christmas, but the weather will be the decider on that front.

In the meantime, Bella stays tucked up in Hillmorton Wharf (Blue Haven Marina's new name) and we both venture to new places.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Bella had a weekend as goods transport

The new Studio! | Elizabeth Gray King

We used Bella to move the studio! A lot of effort, the use of planks and most of Bella's floor space used, but hey, we've got a home which can double as a moving van. Great fun!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Back at Hillmorton, three boat lock flight and a Bank Holiday weekend traffic jam!

We came back to our home mooring today, setting out to a cloudy but dry day. Around Norton junction, in to the Braunston tunnel, we arrived at the top lock to be ushered in beside two tiny boats, nose to tail. Storm, the first boat, was a deep draught large engine tug, first used to pull horse drawn boats through tunnels in the years of transition from horse to engine. Laura was a BCN Tug 10, once one of a small fleet of day boats to give day trips around the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN). A lovely bunch of boaters and much hilarity made the descent of these six familiar locks quite a fun trip.

We made our way out of the bottom lock to a teeming canal, packed with hire boats, experienced crews and novices alike and it seemed everyone and their cousin who had a boat. It looked just as busy as a festival weekend! We pulled alongside Wells Fargo for a chat just before the Oxford cut north from the Grand, then pulled into this much loved home stretch.

What a hoot. We just passed Bridge 80 (undergoing serious and welcome repair) and slowed our way in at the tail end of quite a traffic jam! A southbound hire boat managed to get itself across the canal and with all the traffic both ways, the boats kept piling in. No crashes, but a few friendly nudges, a crew member on the bank with the centre line and some helpful hand pushes meant that the heap soon unjammed. But then the boat behind us ran aground and the jam built up again!

We were welcomed back to our mooring by some delightful Moorhen chicks squeaking hello and we now have a very happy Josie.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Just made it!

Here we are, looking through the wet to Welton Hythe Marina, just north of Norton Junction, still in the Grand Union Leicester section. We set out this morning and covered 7 locks and 20 miles. All day we saw the clouds move and somehow managed to be in the patches of sun. Only when we cruised by Crick did we catch any drops at all and it was over in moments. We spotted threatening clouds after Watford flight when we were considering whether to moor up or cruise on towards Braunston. Rapidly scanning the bank for a mooring, we managed to tie up, walk Josie and pour the drinks before the heavens opened. This is what we call smugly moored.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Kicklewell Spinney again

Here we are on a delightful late August evening. After we both returned from work today (E, London; P, Leicestershire waterways), we untied from our beloved Foxton Top mooring and moved to the towpath side to fill up with water. We set out fully just before 6:00 and moored up here, a new favourite, by 7.

Time to put on the oven for Friday pizzas, fill up the oil lamps and let the Chianti breathe. Lovely.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Our temporary swan neighbours

So, we're sitting beside Bella in our deck chairs, look up and see...a swan family! We've seen this family before, but never out of the water and near so many people. There are several privileges to having this patch of earth as our home for a small while, but this one was utterly unexpected!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Back up to Foxton Top

We set out to a murky but warm day, preparing to stop at Debdale for fuel. But a boat hull was being steamed and there was no room, so we glided by. We got to Foxton bottom intending to moor there for the week. But all the 14 day moorings were full, so Pete booked in to rise up the 10 locks to the top pound.

The weather started to get worse, with blustery wind and tiny showers, but it was still warm. We had occasional chats with gongoozlers, lockies and bank staff and thoroughly enjoyed the flight. We were delighted to have permission to moor again at our dear top lock mooring, opposite the Lock Keepers Cottage and the opposite side from the towpath. A little bit of heaven for our last few days of holiday.

Oh, and within the half hour after mooring, the heavens opened!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Saddington for a quiet night

We set out from Foxton and went north on the Leicester Arm, deciding to turn just before Saddington tunnel. We love tunnels, but we need to be back in Foxton to make trains and work for next week. We're in a Site of Special Scientific Interest and it's stunning. What a privilege to catch the aroma of cedar, then to turn to see fragrant cedar trees. Dragonflies have darted on and off the boat, Moorhenlets have squeaked as we've cruised by and it has been a joy to see the clearer water. So far we've missed the rain, but we've seen it!

Moored up for water at Foxton bottom

We're in Foxton for a moment or two, taking on water and putting off waste. Here's Pete, Bella and Josie; Jose's head tucks out of the bedhole between the gas lockers on deck.

We loved Market Harborough's Union Wharf at night. Such magic! But with the morning came boat change over for the hire fleet and its associated noise and movement. So after Elizabeth ironed yesterday's cleaned linens and Pete checked the fan belt (do forgive the unusual gender stereotyping), we set out to a lovely morning.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Evening in a refurbished Wharf

This is magic. It reminds us so much of when we were on the Rose Emily in Bristol. Then, like now, we're on our own space in the middle of this hive of beauty and activity. Old industrial units in the heyday of canal transport have become homes and retail business units, a new kind of industry for new times. It is a magic atmosphere and we're delighted to be here.

Down Foxton flight and into Market Harborough

We woke to an overcast day today, anticipating rain in the afternoon. We set out into Foxton top lock with Pete at the tiller, ready to pass over to Elizabeth for the top half of this set of five step locks - 10 in all, dropping 75 feet. Elizabeth loves driving out of the top lock and the picture shows why. It seems that the whole Leicestershire countryside becomes visible through the open gates. Just magic.

We went down the first set of five steps, then waited in the cross over pound for three boats to finish ascending the bottom set of five. Then we went down, this time with Pete at the tiller, ready for his awesome turn on a sixpence to go to the Market Harbourough arm. Elizabeth had readied the swing bridge for the grand entry.

The 5 and a bit miles took us through one more swing bridge, spectacular countryside, canal reeds and lush canal vegetation. We even had a Kingfisher for company!

We moored up at Union Wharf, Market Harborough, just before 2pm. And just in time for the rain!

The other picture is the delicate fern on the inside lock wall at Foxton.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Refreshing Bella

Having become bored with watching Gongoozlers, Elizabeth decided that it was time to brighten Bella's name

Gongoozling gongoozlers

This afternoon we had a picnic lunch at the top of Foxton locks and spent some time gongoozler spotting

Monday, 13 August 2012

On the move again and life with BFG

We set out 15 minutes ago to moor up on the water point at Foxton top. We'd done a number of loads of laundry in the week, thanks to dear BFG and the water tank was gently gasping. So here we are, watering up.

The fun of BFG is doing other stuff while he's on. Like vacuuming. And anything really to take ones mind off the fact that he's LOUD. Very. So two laundry loads in one day is quite enough, thank you. We thought we might run BFG whilst we were on the move, but that would mean standing on top of him and Donk battling it out for attention. (no way.) So the routine so far is that we get up, Pete goes to play water and boats and Elizabeth puts on BFG after 8am (boat license rules) and gets thoroughly busy with domestics. Mind numbing distraction. But he's quiet again just after 9, so all's well. That is, unless we've still got boats too close for neighborliness in which case, he goes on for a mad lunch break of domestic frenzy. Noise aside, it is amazing to feel quite so independent of shore. Amazing. Still doesn't put us off the preference of some quiet leccy!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The side hatch view of our Foxton mooring

We set off from our gorgeous mooring late this morning. Within minutes, the rain started. Pete took the first wet tiller spell and Elizabeth took the second, passed an angling competion and brought Bella into mooring just south of Bridge 60 and just short of the top of Foxton Locks.

We were here in May and June last year for Pete to volunteer as Lock Keeper. It's what made him want to do all this full time! This year, we'll be here for him to pick the brains of a seasoned water manager and over the next week, Pete will travel this area learning reservoir management. He is SO excited!

So here we are. This is the view from the side hatch. Heaven. Or a small slice of.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Our Fabuloso lights

A word about the lights.  We used to run mostly 240v lights - the usual domestic. And it takes 11 watts of leccy to run Ivor to invert Bella's 12v to 240. And each energy saving 240v bulb of 5w would add up to three lights at total 26w. Our new lights work on 12v and are 1.5w of lovely LED brightness. So no Ivor drops 11w out of the leccy use immediately. We could light 17 LED downlighters and still not equal 3 domestic lamps.
Wow. Happy boaters!

The bottom line is significantly less diesel to run the engine to top up the batteries to give us electricity. When we were moored in Braunston for nearly all of this last week, we only ran Belladonk 2 hours all week. Previously we would have run it 3 hours each day. Each day (!). Mind you, the extra domestic battery and the new battery charging monitor have certainly added to this fuel saving! That's 2 fuel hours in six days, not 18.

And with them lit we have wonderful atmosphere all over Bella, not just a few mid level pools of light. If we could get better photos at night, we'd show you. Perhaps you'll just have to visit!

Moored up by Kicklewell Spinney, Leicestershire

What a good day! Light rain, sunshine, downpours, sunshine, thunderstorms, 19 miles, 7 locks, 2 tunnels and two downlighters installed in the dining room whilst on the move.

We got to Watford locks just before 9:30 in lovely sunshine. The photo of the green hill behind Bella's bow (and Pete lockside) is not any old hill. A closer look reveals steps, each one holding a side pond which manages  the lock water. The little cottage is at the top lock and is where Pete spent many a Saturday making tea when he was lock keeping this flight.

The other photo is inside Husbands Bosworth tunnel. We took advantage of the boat coming toward us to catch enough light to finally manage an inside tunnel shot. Magic.

As we did around 16 miles without locks, the travelling can be a bit boring. So Elizabeth did dishes with Pete at the helm, Pete dried up with Elizabeth at the tiller, Elizabeth vacuumed and dusted with Pete outside, then Elizabeth helmed again while Pete installed new lights. The next post is about those!

On to Watford flight

We woke early (well, late these days) and set out just as the tea was brewing. Here we are, travelling north on the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union Canal, just spotting Bridge 3 ahead. Today is the Watford flight, Crick tunnel and the boring Crick Summit. No matter, we're OUT.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Norton Junction for the night

It feels so GOOD to be traveling again! We set out this afternoon after Pete came home from work and after Colin (our engineer) visited the BFG for final snagging. While the BFG snagging was going on Elizabeth was happily vacuuming - on the cut! Yes BFG!

We stopped off at the water/waste point, dropped off rubbish and then started the Braunston flight of six locks. Heaven. Moving lock gates, winding paddles - oh, the muscles did enjoy being revived. We then revisited our dear Braunston tunnel airing an excellent rendition of "Bless The Lord my Soul" in harmony. No other boats and dear Josie scurried inside.

Now moored. Tomorrow the Leicester Arm. Good. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Diesel from Towcester in Braunston

This is Towcester, Jule's boat, and we're getting diesel. Jules usually delivers our coal in all seasons, but we've never had diesel from her before! If you follow the hose to a yellow shape, that's the top of the fuel reading tank (!). Just like usual garage tanks, but on a boat. We love this.

We're also enjoying all our 12v LEDs which we installed over the winter and are prepping to put up two more. It means that we hardly have to use Ivor (to give us 240v for table lamps), especially now that we discovered that the 12v laptop charger works. That's because, in all the electrical work prepping for BFG, Pete fixed the 12v sockets which had been dead since we took over Bella years ago. Less Ivor, less fuel to create the electricity we need. All good!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Out! At long last.

Well we're out. We should have set out yesterday, but as we started the engine, we saw that the rev counters was not counting and we heard that the familiar diesel engine warm up squeal was not stopping. A few lovely boat neighbours offered help and advice, but no go.

Today, we called River Canal Rescue, the boaters' AA/RAC, and they told us that the problem is the starter motor alternator. And he said we were safe to set out. So we did RCR will bring an alternator to is tomorrow whilst we are in our present mooring in Braunston. The pic is of the throttle stantion wrapped up to muffle the squeak sound!

We'll be here for the week as Pete works out his time in Napton and then we'll set north so he can take up duties in his new patch of the Canal and River Trust.

After 7 months at Hillmorton, it is Fabulous to be OUT!

Oh - and I found all those lost posts on my phone, so re-posted them.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Somehow, I've removed a year of the blog

Well there we are.  Elizabeth lost a year of the blog by deleted drafts and too late realised that they were not draft.  Lesson learnt.

Not much happened, thankfully, as we didn't travel much in this last set of months.  What with the drought, then the floods, and our boat works, we've been in our home mooring since last October (!)  A bit of a shock for us, but it meant that Elizabeth had much more time in her studio.  Finished works abound So, a bullet point summary:

  • We have a new generator called the BFG which will allow us to be fully independent of shore electricity.  It means that we can go anywhere and not have to look for laundrettes or marinas with visitor moorings. This is stupendous news.  Here is Simon doing the final connecting:

So now we'll travel around the network of his work.  Not a small area, he'll be managing water in reservoirs, rivers and canals in the northern Grand Union section, covering the area from Stoke Bruerne to Braunston on the Grand Union Main line and from Norton Junction to Kilby Bridge on the Grand Union Leicester Arm.

We've been around the whole of the area in the past and we do look forward to longer visits!

  • We wrote about Jules Fuels keeping us warm in the winter and here is Towcester, her boat, and Richard, her Man, pulling alongside to deliver.

So that's it!  We've been keeping our home mooring occupied, having different bits of electricity and engineering done, working hard and trying very hard not to be impatient about not travelling. 

A whole year in one post!

Monday, 2 July 2012

The BFG close to complete

We spent last weekend cleaning, wrapping, sealing and replacing much of our steel ballast rods. They nestle in the newly painted engine bay alongside the BFG. This is Simon the sparky, making sure that the electrics work.

We're almost there. This past Friday Simon made sure that the BFG can run the full 240v on his own. This is good; it means that we can run the washing machine whilst we travel or are away from shore power. The next thing is to ensure that the BFG talks to Ivor (the inverter) to ensure that we can charge our batteries from either Bella donk (prop engine) or the BFG.


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Pete pulls the guest room into mooring

Here is Hector. He was our guest room a year or so ago and just a few weeks ago when James and Kelly visited. He's come alongside again as he's still a bit of a project and Elizabeth's been commissioned to make him new cushions.

What fun!

Friday, 3 February 2012

First snow of the winter

It's just a dusting, but seen on top of the frozen canal, it looks amazing. It's hard to believe that by this time last year, this had been a usual site for over two months.