Friday 31 May 2013

Cheddington to Linslade, and an interesting way to park your car

We made a relatively early start this morning in order to be absolutely sure that we were at the right places at the right times for meeting various people.

So at 0750 I was at the helm with tea in my insulated mug, and on my way. The first obstacle was the swing bridge immediately to the north of the railway bridge. I was lining up for dealing with this single handedly when Jan appeared to make things easier. (I would have relished the challenge, though.)

What to do if you can't think of a name for your boat?

We stopped at Tesco in Linslade for more supplies, and I spotted this car parked at an interesting angle near Aldi.

Bernard didn't phone, so we carried on a mile or so to The Globe where we were due to meet up with Ruth and Edward (not Steve and Sue as I reported yesterday). As we had plenty of time I started washing the boat. A Wyvern hire boat approached, obviously looking for a mooring. As there wasn't one we invited them to breast up to us, which they did. Ruth and Edward came, and we enjoyed a catch-up chat with them. After they went we joined Maurice and Tom from the Wyvern boat for drinks at a table outside the pub. There is more I could say, but it's late.

Thursday 30 May 2013

Slapton to Maffers to Cheddington

Today it didn't rain much! And that made a pleasant change. It was not a warm day, though, and I lit the fire this evening.

We saw John Wonfor off this morning, and then got going ourselves straight into Slapton Lock. We didn't stop until the middle of the Seabrook flight, when I thought it might be time for coffee I was surprised to find out that it was 1230, more like lunchtime! (I had my coffee first, anyway.)

While we were stopped I attended to the control lever which had come loose. I'll post pictures of how I did this in a later post. I also sawed up lots of pieces of pallet which Ben had provided for firewood. The well deck is much tidier now.

We got going again after lunch, and encountered a sudden downpour at the first of the Marsworth locks. At Marsworth Junction we winded and Jan investigated the Red Lion in Marsworth. The report wasn't astounding, so we carried on to Cheddington where we knew there was the Old Swan. We both ate from the two-courses-for-£14.50 menu, and we both chose the liver and bacon. It was very good.

Here are a few images from today's cruise:

lots of Sids here

Jan steering along the Grand Union


The Old Swan where we ate this evening

Tomorrow (Friday) we're heading for the Globe at Linslade where we're meeting up with Steve and Sue. Another friend might be joining us on the boat in the afternoon, so we'd better make sure it's presentable. I bought some Carnauba Wash and Wax from Aldi which I'm looking forward to trying out. Early start tomorrow methinks.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Milton Keynes to Stoke Hammond; Stoke Hammond to Slapton

I mentioned that we had the use of our boat for a few days. Yesterday (although it feels longer ago than that) we set off on the Grand Union from Campbell Park in Milton Keynes. We wanted to go south, so we reversed round a few bends and under a few bridges until we got to the winding hole, winded, and then continued in the more conventional forward gear. I thought I might have picked up something round the prop, so I stopped and checked, but it was as clean as a clean whistle. I don't know what it is about Jubilee's prop, but we hardly ever seem to get anything caught on it. And Jubilee handles very well in astern, with virtually no prop walk.

You get some unusual boats on the GU ...

... this looks like a Broads cruiser

It was slow going past dozens of moored boats, and it was raining. We stopped for lunch on board at Fenny Stratford, and then walked, in the rain, to Bletchley Tesco for provisions. It was further than we had realised - by the time we got back to the boat we were both pretty wet.

Nevertheless we set off again, and stopped for the night at Stoke Hammond, just above the lock. After another meal on board we walked to the Dolphin pub and admired the landlord's collection of football shirts hanging from the ceiling. Oh, and I had a tasty pint of Adnam's Broadside. I was a bit worried that it might have been sitting in the pipe too long as we were the only customers, but the landlord obviously knows how to keep ale in good condition.

sunset at Stoke Hammond

At dawn a cockerel crowed and woke us up. It did it again at 7.30, after which we didn't go back to sleep. The Grand Union south of Milton Keynes passes through some very pleasant countryside, as others have observed. We stopped in the rain at Linslade and called in to Tesco (again) and had lunch on the two hour mooring. Then we moved up to just before the bridge, where there was a free 14 day visitor mooring. After emptying the loo cassette we walked round the town of Leighton Buzzard and bought 30m of hose (from Wilkinson) and a hose reel (from Aldi) to replace the tatty hose on Jubilee.

entering Grove Lock

More cruising in the rain brought us to Slapton where we stopped for the night. On the way to the pub in the village we helped John Wonfor on his converted catamaran Listen down the lock. He is doing a big cruise raising money for MacMillan Cancer Support. We talked to him for a short time and then he decided to tie up and join us (later) in the pub. Which he did. Now it's bedtime again - tomorrow I think we'll just go as far as Marsworth Junction and have a gentle day.

Another donation for MacMillan Cancer Support

Tuesday 28 May 2013

To Crick and beyond

Four days with no Halfie blog post? What happened? Crick, that's what. Jan and I have been putting in at least two hours every day on the Boaters' Christian Fellowship stand in one of the marquees at the Crick Boat Show. OK, nothing like the hours which Andy and Helen have been at their Wildside Preserves stand in a nearby marquee, but we have some faint inkling of how shattered they must feel.

Oh, and "stand" is the word. I tried sitting behind the BCF table, but found that people are far more likely to ignore you if you sit. When you stand you're on their level and can much more easily talk to people walking past.

Jan (standing) at the BCF stall

Andy and Helen (standing) at their Wildside Preserves stall

Time to catch up on some sleep now, but in a future post I'll mention a few bloggers we met at the show. Meanwhile ... we have the use of Jubilee for a few days while Ally and Ben go on holiday themselves. As Ally says, some people go on holiday to a boat; they're going on holiday to a house!

Friday 24 May 2013

Great Northern Basin

Easter Cruise day 7, 7th April 2013

I'm writing this from home seven weeks later. The weather seems hardly any warmer in Norwich than that cold, cold cruise - it's only 6˚ outside! I hope it's warmer in MK as we're off to visit Ally and Ben; then Crick; then we may even go boating - hooray!

Back to the Erewash Canal. Jan, as usual, steered into the lock while I, as usual, worked her through.

At the top there was a scattering of old boats: here is Dane ...

... and here is what looks like an Admiral class with an unusual cabin extension.

I always like to go to the very end, if possible, so I winded opposite Yorkshire Rose. There wasn't a lot of space, but we got round all right, and looked for a mooring. Well, it appears that there are no visitor moorings in the basin, as much of the pedestrian access is behind locked gates (non-BW key).

A fine old BW sign explains that this is the junction of the Erewash, Nottingham and Cromford Canals. The Cromford Canal meets the Erewash end-to-end just below the lock; and the Nottingham Canal - what's left of it - joins at an acute angle. The boat Electra in the photo below is moored on the Nottingham Canal.

And here is the Nottingham Canal seen through the swing bridge across its entrance.

There are more photos to come, including some of Birdswood, the Cromford Canal's trip boat which came up through the lock while we were there.

Right, the rain has stopped so I'm off to finish loading the car. No - I spoke too soon. The appearance of sunshine fooled me. It is actually still raining.

Thursday 23 May 2013

Arriving at Langley Mill

Easter Cruise day 7, 7th April 2013

While we were having breakfast a canoe paddled past on the still water.

After we'd been to church in Ilkeston with Alan and Hazel we set off up the Erewash for the head of navigation.

On the way I felt the boat not as responsive as usual, so I stopped and removed this lot from the prop.

For a little-used canal we picked up surprisingly little rubbish - but worse, much worse, was to come on the Leicester Section. I'll come to that in a few posts' time.

Meanwhile ... here it is. Langley Mill.

So rare was the passage of boats up here that more than one person took our photo. One towpath walker even stated that they'd never seen a moving boat on the canal before!

The top lock and the basin are hidden behind a utilitarian bridge with a rusty pipe.

There's a welcome from the Erewash Canal Preservation and Development Association, and I'll post more photos later.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Blue-top boating booked ... and playing the train fares game

For a week next month I shall be helping friends move their blue-top boat Kew from Stourport to Braunston. To that end I have bought my rail tickets - most of them anyway.

Not only am I saving money by buying the tickets in advance, I am also saving a considerable amount by breaking the journeys into discrete legs.

The quoted fare from Wymondham to Kidderminster is £41.50 (advance) but I'm doing it for just £20.00 over the same route. How? By splitting it into Wymondham to Liverpool Street (£8.00); Euston to Birmingham New Street (£6.00); and Birmingham Moor Street to Kidderminster (£6.00 "anytime" fare - not yet bought).

I shall be taking my folding bike, so will cycle from Liverpool Street to Euston and Kidderminster to Stourport. Coming home I'll cycle from Braunston to Long Buckby and get the train to Euston (£6.00 advance); cycle to Liverpool Street; and then get the train to Wymondham (£8.00 advance). Total for the homeward journey: £14.00, saving £7.20 on the quoted "one hop" fare.

One more ridiculous anomaly: if I wanted to go by train from Long Buckby to Milton Keynes and bought the cheapest ticket for that journey it would cost me £11.20. However I could get a ticket to Euston for only £6.00 and get off at MK. I pity visitors from overseas who are not used to this malarkey. I'm sure they wouldn't understand how it is that it costs twice as much to go half the distance. I don't.

I'm looking forward to steering Kew again. It has an air-cooled Lister engine and a large wooden rudder - it is a converted butty. Now, what do I need to pack? Bike, windlass ...

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Sandiacre to Ilkeston

Easter Cruise day 6, 6th April 2013

At Sandiacre there is a junction with the now derelict Derby Canal.

A short time earlier we saw our first ducklings of the year.

On the outskirts of Ilkeston, on the bridge by Gallows Inn Lock, is a plaque commemorating the bicentenary of the opening of the Erewash Canal in 1779. The plaque was unveiled on 26th May 1979 by Sir Frank Price, who was then chairman of the British Waterways Board.

And this is Shadow under the bridge waiting for the lock to empty. The graffiti is appropriate, given my cruising guide of choice.

Our destination today was Barker's Lock, where our friends Alan and Hazel had a lovely canalside house with offline moorings and a boatfitting business.

I say "had" as, although they were still there, they were in the middle of moving. That night we had an excellent curry in the Shah Jahan restaurant.

Monday 20 May 2013

Long Eaton: moored boats and chimneys

Easter Cruise day 6, 6th April 2013

This was the climax of our Easter Cruise. We'd not been on the Erewash Canal before, so this was a voyage of discovery for us on Shadow. The sharp left turn from the River Trent brought us immediately to Trent Lock, which we had to empty before going in.

Nicholson states that Trent Lock should be left full, so that flotsam coming down the canal will escape over the bottom gates. Fair enough, but every subsequent lock was also full, i.e. against us!

You don't see many boats like this on the canals.

I remember seeing similar-looking house boats on the Grand Union below Bull's Bridge Junction, and on the Thames.

The first couple of miles was slow going, as there were moored boats all the way to Long Eaton Lock.

Trains were a constant feature of this lower end of the Erewash, mostly freight, looping around all over the place.

We were obviously holding up our locking partners on Jack Daniels, so we let them go ahead. This was a mixed blessing for them, as this meant that they got the work of turning all the locks. By the time we got there they were either ready, or very nearly so.

There are lots of lovely old chimneys along the canal in Long Eaton. I wonder if they are all listed buildings.

This chimney had an amazing brick industrial building to match.

I don't think I'll be able to condense this trip for the blog - there's just too much to show!

Sunday 19 May 2013

Pulling strings at the fête

A nearby village held its summer fête today, so Jan and I went along to join in the fun and help raise money for the church.

I found a new test of skill. I don't know what it was called, but you had to pull on a string in each hand to manoeuvre a marble up a surface with more holes than an Emmental cheese. If the marble fell through a hole that was it. Game over.

I pulled on the strings ... eased the marble up the slope ...

... and got it to the top! My prize? A mini pack of mini cheesy biscuits.

We enjoyed tea and cake ...

... and then it was time for the real challenge. Getting as many marbles into the upturned flowerpot as possible in a set time. This had a twist: you were allowed only one marble on the spoon at any one time.

Jan had a go ...

... and so did I.

My competitive nature meant that I got the highest score of the day (by one marble!), and won two day passes to the local fitness centre.

(I also won a similar event at Jan's school fête last week, the prize for which was a box of chocolates. So the two prizes complement each other.)

Top Thirty, 2013 week 21

There's a message from Tony Blews below this week's chart ...

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 2125 on Sunday 19th May 2013. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 CanalPlanAC (=)

3 Pennine Waterways (=)

4 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

5 Boatshed Grand Union (-)

6 Living on a Narrowboat (-1)

7 Water Explorer (-1)

8 Retirement with No Problem (-1)

9 UKCanals Network (-1)

10 Waterway Routes (-1)

11 nb Epiphany (+1)

12 boatshare (-2)

13 Towpath Treks (-2)

14 nb Waiouru (-1)

15 BCBM Ltd (=)

16 Canal Shop Company (-2)

17 M. B. Willow (+9)

18 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-2)

19 Narrowboat Briar Rose (+1)

20 NB The Manly Ferry (+4)

21 Narrowboat Chance (+1)

22 Milburn Boats Ltd (-1)

23 Baddie the Pirate (-5)

24 boats and cruising (+5)

25 Rock n Roll (-6)

26 boatrent (-3)

27 Halfie (+4)

28 Boats and Canals Forum (-1)

29 Seyella's Journey (+3)

30 'Eileen Inlanding' (+3)

31 Narrowboat Starcross (-)

32 Narrowboat Dreaming .... Parisien Star (-15)

33 NABO (-8)

34 Contented Souls (-6)

35 The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife (-)

36 Herbie (-)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart;
(-) denotes new entry or re-entry into the chart;
(=) denotes no change.

There are 106 entries, up from 94 last week.

If your website has been using the old piece of code linking to Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking System then you will find that it no longer works. You will have to update your website to use the address instead of the one.

To update my Blogger blog I logged in to; clicked on the Manage Site option in the top left of the page; and copied the code from the appropriate box. Then on my blog I clicked on Layout; found the HTML/Javascript "gadget" corresponding to the ranking position; and replaced the code there with the code I'd copied from UKWRS.

Saturday 18 May 2013

Onto the Trent and the Erewash Canal

Easter Cruise day 6, 6th April 2013

After Shardlow, where we didn't stop, we went down Derwent Mouth Lock ...

... and Sawley Lock.

We shared Sawley Lock with Jack Daniels, who were also headed for the Erewash Canal. We saw a lot of them over the next day or two.

They let us out of the lock first, and we zoomed along the Trent.

Shadow liked having plenty of deep water, and a bit of current helped too.

It's not often that 1600 rpm gives 5 mph on this boat.

And I said there was still snow around: here it is on the right bank of the Trent.

Moments later we arrived at a watery crossroads. Straight on and slightly to the left is the Trent's Cranfleet Cut; slightly to the right is Thrumpton Weir; further to the right is the River Soar (which we would be going up later); and sharp left, hidden behind the sloping masonry wall, is the entrance to the Erewash Canal.

I could see from Nicholson's that it was a sharp turn, but it was even sharper than I was expecting. We had no problem, though, as there was plenty of room and benign conditions.

Here we were at Trent Lock and the start of a new waterway (to us). Exciting!