Saturday 28 February 2009

Not just a phone that went missing

In yesterday's post I mentioned that I found Penny's mobile phone under my feet while driving with her from Stockton to Welford. It transpired that the phone wasn't the only thing to have fallen out of her bag on that journey. The day after I got back home from Shadow Jan spotted a set of keys in the passenger footwell. Oops. They were the keys for Penny's car, parked up at Stockton in Warwickshire, and David didn't have his keys for that car with him. The scenario is this: David, Penny, Jemima, Florence and Fergus will arrive at Stockton Top Marina with a boat-load of possessions, and be faced with the problem of getting home to London with two cars, one of which had no keys, and the other had only a smallish boot.

Jan phoned David as soon as she discovered the keys; David took it very calmly. Let the insurance company sort it out: they could arrange for the keys to be couriered to him. But the insurance company didn't want to do that. Instead, they'd transport the car home for them. My idea was simply to post the car key to Braunston Post Office for David to pick up on his way through, but it was too late: the recovery operation was already in hand. What a palaver! It all worked out in the end: cars, people and possessions got home; and the keys were handed over when we saw David at Alison's baptism the following Sunday.

Friday 27 February 2009

Market Harborough to Welford

Wednesday 18th February 2009

Another moderately early start: away at 0745. Well, it is only February, after all: we wait until summer for proper early starts! We had moored on a bendy bit of towpath, fortunately we were getting on and off at the back.

Returning along the Market Harborough arm we ran into some mist which had collected on the canal between two bridges. It was clear apart from this stretch.

A little further on we met an apparently laden boat. I was fumbling with the camera and didn't catch the boat's name, but learnt from the steerer that it was built to look that way, i.e. laden. An unusual and evocative sight.

When Fergus wasn't steering he enjoyed operating the swing bridges. After this road bridge is a swing footbridge just before the junction with the Leicester Section at the bottom of Foxton Locks.

On our ascent of the locks the lock keeper suggested at one stage that I crack open a paddle to refill a leaking sidepond. He remarked that it was going to be interesting in the height of the summer if sideponds don't hold water - there's a second leaky one as well as this by the museum.

How do you find a leak in a sidepond, I wonder?

At 1345 we tied up at North Kilworth to await the arrival of crew shift two: no more cruising for me now. As this coincided with lunchtime, and as we had no mayonnaise to go with the tuna fish for the baked potatoes, I cycled a mile into what looked like the village to look for some. The closest thing to a mayonnaise shop seemed to be a garage, but they didn't have any. The spotty youth at the till told me there was no other shop nearby: perhaps I could get some in Market Harborough? Between the garage and the canal must be one of the most frightening roads I've cycled along: heavy lorries ignored the 30 mph speed limit and charged up and down the busy narrow road, buffeting me as they swept past. Penny and Jemima arrived and put their things aboard; then began the Great Car Shuffle. While David cruised peacefully (I assume) to Welford, I drove with Penny to Braunston to get my car. Penny patronised the butcher's, and then we drove in convoy to Stockton (Warks.) to leave Penny's car there. By the time we'd driven in my car to Welford it was dark, and David had been moored quite a while.

An interesting thing happened on the journey from Stockton: I was aware of something on the floor under my feet. I reached down and picked up Penny's mobile phone. How did that get there? Perhaps we should have checked to see that nothing else had gone missing. Correction. We definitely should have checked that nothing else had gone missing.

By now it was 6 pm, and I had to decide whether to drive straight home, two hours away, in time for choir rehearsal, or stay and eat before driving home in time to see everyone in the pub afterwards. My stomach decided that eating now was the better option; it was a shame the food at the Wharf Inn wasn't up to it. I ordered a rump steak, supposedly rare, which was tough. Tough on me for attempting to eat such a tough steak. And the peas were like bullets. Why am I such a bad complainer? I battled on, knowing that if I sent it back it would delay things too much. And I'd already eaten half of it before I realised how poor it was. We were all eating there: I must find out how the others got on. I left while they were still eating.

edited to help it make more sense

Thursday 26 February 2009

Husbands Bosworth to Market Harborough

Tuesday 17th February 2009

We made an earlier start than of late (does that make sense?), getting away at 0745. There was still some ice in the canal as we cruised towards Foxton Locks.

approaching Foxton Top Lock

At the top lock we waited for NB Gerald to come up the last staircase of five locks. As I helped the boater through I found out that he was called Roy, and that his air-cooled Lister engine was as old as him. I've recorded their ages as 86, but can that be true? Perhaps I got that wrong, and they are only 82. Gerald is an ex-BCN Joey built 112 years ago. Boat and boatman soon left the top lock, allowing us on Shadow to begin our descent.

NB Gerald exiting Foxton Top Lock

Shadow descending Foxton Locks

The top lock cottage had a tempting sign advertising an all day breakfast for £3.90 ... but there was work to be done. Down we went, among the customary hordes of gongoozlers. Actually, there aren't many to be seen in the above photo: perhaps 11 o'clock, when I took the photo, was still a bit too early (or they'd hidden behind me).

At the bottom we tied up and explored the site of the inclined plane.

looking down to one of the basins, still with ice on it, and the lower arm

I wanted to have a look round the museum, manned by the Foxton Inclined Plane Trust, but David wasn't that bothered. So while he returned to the boat to make crepes I stayed behind with my bike so I could easily catch up afterwards. The first thing I did was to go to the top lock cafe for that cooked breakfast which had tempted me earlier. It was a pity it came in an expanded polystyrene tray, but I enjoyed eating it sitting outside in the sunshine. Then I looked round the museum and bought a second-hand book (The Water Road) and a second-hand Waterways World magazine before returning along the towpath to find that Shadow hadn't got much past the road swingbridge.

This was the first time I'd been along the Market Harborough Arm: another waterway done.

At about 1700 we came to Union Wharf and the basin at the end of the arm. Birds had been singing loudly from the large gardens which meet the canal on the offside.

We were initially unsure about where we should tie up, as each of the two possible spaces had a water point by it. Then we realised that there are water points all along the visitor moorings: an excellent provision!

We walked into the town of Market Harborough. It seems well provided for and with lots of interesting buildings. The Old Grammar School, built in 1614, is next to the church. It was built on stilts to provide shelter for the market traders in times of foul weather.

After dark I tried my hand again at some more night photography, aided, as always, by artificial light.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Crick to Husbands Bosworth

Monday 16th February 2009

We left Crick at 0900 and were quickly among the ice floes again.

Inside, David cooked up a magnificent breakfast, but Fergus had other things on his mind.

Then a spot of sunbathing to help the digestion.

At 1400 we came to Welford Lock, having diverted along the Welford Arm. Despite the straggling snow it felt spring-like: warmth in the sun; and birds singing.

We walked into the village for provisions from the Post Office stores. The Harborough Mail was evidently struggling for Welford news.

We didn't stay long in Welford as we wanted to make it to Husbands Bosworth before dark. We tied up just after the bridge after the tunnel and walked up to the Bell Inn, where there was a good "2 for 1" menu. I had a nice piece of rump steak. Much better than what would be served up two days later in another pub, but that's another story. The track leading up from the towpath was very muddy.

The Husbands Bosworth website has a good page of information on the Grand Union Canal. The bricks for the tunnel were made on-site, close to its east end.

All Saints' Church, Husbands Bosworth

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Top Twenty, 2009 week 9 (almost)

Better late than never (what do you mean, better never?) here's the UK Waterways Sites ranking chart (top twenty) as it stood on Saturday 21st February 2009. I didn't take a screen grab of last week's chart as I was away boating.

1.....Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=) (=)
3.....Pennine Waterways (=)
4.....Granny Buttons (=)
5.....Ten Bob Note (=)
6.....No Problem (=)
7.....UK Canals Network (=)
8.....Bones (+1)
9.....Caxton (+4)
10...Gypsy Rover (-1)
11...Jannock (-1)
12...Derwent 6 (+2)
13...Epiphany (+2)
14...Hadar (-2)
15...Khayamanzi) (+2)
16...Lucky Duck (-8)
17...Lazy Days (+3)
18...Seyella's Journey (new entry)
19...Warrior (-1)
20...UK Waterways Ranking Site (-1)

There were 59 sites ranked, with Halfie at number 30.

Monday 23 February 2009

Crick to ... no, this is MUCH more important!

Yesterday our daughter was baptised in Egham parish church. It was a wonderful occasion: friends and family witnessing Ally's public acknowledgement of faith in God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, by being dunked in a specially constructed baptismal pool. Ally getting the soaking, that is, not the friends and family; and the miniature swimming pool wasn't built just for her, you understand. But I digress. Before getting wet Ally was invited to tell the church how she became a Christian.

The actual baptism was straightford (straightbackward?): Ally followed the curate and a friend down a few steps into a coffin-shaped pool of warm water. She then turned so her back was towards the larger part of the pool; then allowed herself to be quickly lowered back first and raised again, the actual dunking taking a couple of seconds.

emerging moments later

Then she went off into a vestry to get dried and changed while the rest of us sang a couple of hymns. I've just realised that the coffin shape is significant: in becoming a Christian one dies to one's former life. The raising out of the water signifies rebirth. It's all rather more graphic than infant baptism.

After the service the water is drained and a cover replaced over the pool. And 28 of us had lunch in The Fox and Hounds, Englefield Green, on the edge of Windsor Great Park. In a moment of inspiration - or insanity - I offered to foot the bill. I have to get used to spending money: Ally and Ben are getting married in the summer.

The Fox and Hounds, Englefield Green, Surrey

son Andrew has a few more horses under the bonnet of his new car...

... than in this scene in Windsor Great Park later in the afternoon

Saturday 21 February 2009

Feb 2009: Norton Junction to Crick

Sunday 15th February 2009

A relaxed start today, as we were waiting for the ice to melt a bit more, and to see if anyone would make the first move up the Leicester Section. As we pottered around the boat we heard an engine revving, and the sound of crunching ice: a BW boat had started charging up the cut. Excellent. David and I walked a short distance up the canal to check that it had got through OK, and to see how bad the ice was.

The floes were about 3/4" thick and still fairly big, but we'd now be able to get along the cleared channel. First stop, though, was at Hadar, not far away, to buy some coal. We intended to come alongside, but Jo asked us to pull in in front, as she doesn't pass bags from boat to boat. In the event, we couldn't get in to the bank on account of the ice, so Jo handed over a bag from Hadar's bow to our stern. While this was going on another boat overtook us. Good. More ice clearance!

We soon reached Watford Locks and were quickly up the flight, made interesting by the staircase of four locks with their red and white paddle gear housings. I first encountered these locks in the early 1980s on Savoy Hill, and I remembered the saying, "Red before White and you're all right; White before Red and you're dead". You have to get the right red and white paddles, though.

On the summit pound we came to NB Derwent 6 and Al waving in the window. We pulled up, said a quick hello, and said we'd talk at more length when we'd had lunch, which David had just prepared. I was glad I had a complete cake with me: after lunch we took it round and were pleased to be invited on board for a cup of tea. Del and Al were just great, and were actually rather pleased to see us: we were only the second boat to have passed since Derwent 6 became ice-bound 17 days previously! (The first boat was the one which overtook us as we were getting coal.) They apologised for the lack of alcohol, but tea was perfect for the early afternoon.

We were privileged to be given a tour of Derwent 6 - what a lovely boat. I can vouch for the comfort of the red leather sofa! We reciprocated by showing Del and Al round Shadow: a bit of a tip in comparison (well, there were four of us including two children!)

After that excitement we moved on, passing through Crick Tunnel to Crick, tying up opposite the marina at about 1630.

Fergus steering through Crick Tunnel

Three of us then went for a walk round the village, Florence preferring to stay on board listening to her ipod.

the parish church of St. Margaret of Antioch, Crick

a street in Crick

Back at the boat David put up the aerial so Fergus could watch the football on television; then it was time for this cruise's traditional Pasta Baake.

The evening was rounded off with another David tradition: Monopoly, which David always seems to win. Here he's raking in more money, having hotels on every property between The Angel, Islington and Vine Street. This game didn't go on much longer!

Friday 20 February 2009

Feb 2009: Braunston to Norton Junction

Saturday 14th February 2009

David had driven to Stockton Top Marina the previous night, so he and Florence and Fergus had taken Shadow up the Calcutt flight and were making their way along the Grand Union/Oxford Canal towards Braunston. I drove from home to Braunston, got my bike out of the car, and set off down the slippery towpath to meet them. In Braunston itself the snow on the towpath had been compacted by walkers into a rough icy nightmare. I gave up trying to cycle, and pushed instead. After Braunston Turn the snow became easier, but there was another problem. When my front tyre punctured I realised that the hedges had recently been trimmed, leaving thorny twigs all over the place. Having established that Shadow was nearing, I waited at Bridge 99. At about half-past one I hoiked the bike into the well deck and joined the crew.

Cycling along Braunston Puddle Banks I'd noticed a submerged plastic cruiser blocking half the cut. Almost the only evidence for it was some red tarpauline and a bit of chrome bar below the water. Why didn't I take a picture?

I'd left the car by Braunston Bottom Lock, so while the boat was going up I loaded my stuff on board and then drove it into the village. The high street looked a good place to park up, so I left the car there and walked back to Shadow, which was, by now, a couple of locks further up.

ascending Braunston Top Lock with another boat (with life-jacketed crew)

The land slip at the entrance to Braunston Tunnel presents no problem to a 58 foot narrowboat such as Shadow. I would think even a widebeam would be able to get past with a bit of careful manoeuvring.

approaching Braunston Tunnel

looking back to the land slip

There had been no ice at the Braunston end of the tunnel, but we emerged the other side in the gathering gloom to patches of ice floating in the canal. As we neared Norton Junction the ice thickened. We struggled to get in to the bank to tie up for the night, breaking the ice with the shaft and pushing it out of the way. Unfortunately the original shaft broke in two during this exercise. Perhaps it was already known that it was weak, for on the roof was a spare, unpainted, shaft.

where we tied up for the night (illegally) on a BW workboat mooring (photo taken the next morning when the ice had thinned a bit)

Thursday 19 February 2009

Back from February cruise

I'm back. Back from a lovely five days' cruise which included the Market Harborough arm, which I'd not done before. A fuller report, with photos, is to follow, but here are some highlights: met bloggers Del and Al of Derwent 6; saw, heard and felt signs of spring; Foxton Locks in the sunshine.

Too tired to say more just now (feeble excuse, I know!)

Wednesday 18 February 2009

Last day (for me) (for now) on Shadow

By my calculations today is Wednesday, and I have to be at work tomorrow. So the plan is to cruise Shadow to within cycling distance of the car, put the bike in the boot, drive back to Shadow, load my stuff, and drive home.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Today should be Tuesday

If I've got this scheduled publishing thing right today will be Tuesday and we should be, could be, in the vicinity of Market Harborough. According to the original schedule we would be returning up Foxton Staircase towards North Kilworth. That was the intended stopping place, but I expect that, when I come to write up what we actually did, I'll find we were nowhere near (in boating terms). I still haven't bitten the bullet and bought a mobile broadband dongly thing, partly because there's unlikely to be a laptop computer on board (Jan needs it at home) and partly because I don't like spending money!

Monday 16 February 2009

Market Harborough (possibly)

Today, if we've caught up with the original schedule, we should get to Market Harborough, having descended the Foxton Staircase locks. I've a feeling, though, that we might be a little behind, so we could be mooring at the top of Foxton ready for a descent tomorrow morning.

It's got a bit tricky forecasting where we're going to be. I'm writing this on Friday (three days ago), and David has the possible use of Shadow this coming weekend (21st/22nd Feb) as an extra couple of days.

I'll be looking out for fellow bloggers - will Lesley and Joe of NB Caxton still be in this vicinity?

Sunday 15 February 2009

Narrowboats (fleetingly) on BBC Look East

BBC Look East recently covered Prince Philip's naming of the Cambridge University Blue Boat. As it is being launched into the Cam there are some narrowboats briefly in shot. No doubt James and Amy of Lucky Duck know the boats ... and the rowers who are hobnobbing with the Prince.

The Look East item can be viewed here.

On board Shadow, we should be leaving Braunston this morning, heading for the Leicester Section of the Grand Union. The original shedule had us tying up tonight at North Kilworth, but that was assuming we'd started with the ascent of Watford Locks at 0800. We could catch up with the schedule, or we could go to Welford. David's the skipper: it's up to him.

Saturday 14 February 2009

Fenced in, and boating today (probably)

As the houses and garages went up, so our view was gradually eroded.

Four days ago a six-foot fence was erected, blocking the aspect altogether. I expect we'll get used to it, and I know we're still very fortunate to have what we have, but it makes me look forward to a time of extended cruising even more.

By the time you read this I should be on my way to NB Shadow at Stockton Top Marina on the Grand Union. I might even have arrived. Then, with my brother David as skipper, and his children Fergus and Florence as crew, we'll probably head towards Braunston, aiming for Watford Locks on the Leicester Section. Given that we'll not be slipping our mooring until lunchtime we'll not get as far as Watford, so we may stop at Braunston. I read that the Admiral Nelson was closing/closed. Shame - I've had some good beer there.

Friday 13 February 2009

The events next door

For 18 years we have lived next to a house with a large garden. Now the house next door has been demolished, and the land sold to a developer. The developer is building 18 houses there. And "there" is, of course, very near here.

Until a year ago we have enjoyed being next to a grassy area dominated by a line of majestic poplars and weeping willows, which screened us from the road 250 feet away. Thirteen months ago a temporary steel fence went up, and the tree fellers moved in.

the poplars

diggers move in

The poplars, a feature of the village for decades, disappeared in days.

Then it was the turn of the demolition gang: Orchard House, which had stood for 150 years, was knocked down in a few hours.

next door before


and after

The noise, outside our bedroom window, was bad enough, but then the rubble was loaded onto a conveyor belt and fed into an enormous grinding machine. The din could be heard all over the village. But the tree trashers hadn't finished. The next weeks were filled with the shriek of chainsaws and the rauc of shredders as nearly every tree was cut down. One small positive: I blagged enough logs to keep our woodburner going for a couple of winters. But I would have gladly gone without to keep the status quo. For quite a while after the land was cleared we had a respite from the noise, but then construction began. Every weekday in the summer, and some Saturdays, began with our house being shaken by heavy tracked construction vehicles trundling past our house. The bangs and reversing bleepers usually started at seven o'clock. What I missed most was being able to sit outside with my breakfast with just the sound of the birds around me. Now the birds have lost their homes, and the peace was shattered.

Thursday 12 February 2009

The ice question

Coventry Canal, 31st January 2008

...and the ice question is: is it icy on the Coventry, Trent and Mersey around Fradley, Grand Union around Braunston and Leicester Section between Norton Junction and Market Harborough? Or is it likely to be from this weekend 14th Feb for a week?

Wednesday 11 February 2009

boat pic

Virgo by Bridge 24 on the Grand Union at Long Itchington last November. Not a particularly good photo. But there you go. We can't all be Granny Buttons.