Saturday, 24 September 2016

Recycling on the waterways? Don't you believe it

At the bottom of Stoke Bruerne Locks there is a "customer waste facility". In this one, as well as the skips for general waste is a wheelie bin marked "Glass only". You would think that this would be for recycling. You would be wrong.

I witnessed a Biffa lorry come and empty the large waste skips into itself; then the operator emptied the bin with the glass in into the same lorry. Now, admittedly, the wheelie bin didn't claim that the glass would be taken for recycling, but that would be the assumption anyone would make. What a waste. It will all go to landfill. CRT should either arrange a separate collection of the glass, or remove the bin or its labelling.

Jubilee is now back at Thrupp Wharf Marina. We got back yesterday; this is Lock 16. We had only four more after this, and then a similar number of miles.

We had been away for so long that we couldn't remember which was our pontoon; fortunately we recognised our neighbour and slotted into position. It felt a bit of an anticlimax coming back, but we've had an excellent time away which many would be envious of.

After checking the car started - it did - we did some packing and I washed the car. We ate with Ally and Ben, slept on the boat and drove to Essex this morning to join the celebrations for Jan's mum's 91st birthday.

I took this photo on the way to Wolverton yesterday.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Coaling up

We called into the well-stocked Whilton Chandlers this morning to agonise over what we could spend our voucher on. We'd won it in a raffle at the IWA Northampton Branch gathering back in the spring (remember spring?). I'd only just bought oil and blue, and we were struggling to think of something useful to buy. We were saved from having to make an immediate decision by the sudden appearance of our friend Tony from Paws 4 Thought who had driven down from Fazeley for some fenders and blue. His purchases came to very nearly £50; our voucher was for that amount, so we paid with the voucher and Tony gave us the cash. I will try to ensure that we buy stuff from there the next time we pass so as to be within the spirit of the voucher.

It was only later that I realised I should have bought coal from Whilton. I was intending to get some from Rugby Boats at Stowe Hill as they had Supertherm at a good price last year. On the way we passed Southern Cross, with Supertherm on board, but no-one was in. I had hoped to top up the diesel as well.

A laden working boat looks good.

Just before Weedon there were major earthworks taking place either side of the canal and railway where they come close together. I wonder if this is to be a bypass road.

Oh yes, there's a boat in the field. More than one, actually.

We stopped for lunch at Weedon, then stopped at Rugby Boats for a couple of bags of coal. They had no Supertherm, a brand I have got used to, and I allowed myself to be talked into accepting Excel. I hope it does. Their diesel price was 60.9 p/l, but I didn't get any as I hoped to bump into another fuel boat. We also stopped at Bridge 32 - Fred Tarry - where I discovered their diesel price was 63 p/l. I bought a bag of Supertherm. All our recent log acquisitions and the three bags of coal should last us into spring next year.

We had a very good, sunny, run down to Blisworth. The countryside is delightful, enhanced by the blue sky and fluffy clouds.

Just before Blisworth Tunnel a large branch had come down on the towpath. It didn't hinder navigation but is a real hazard for towpath users.

Look at the broken-off branch high up. It is completely detached from the tree.

I have e-mailed CRT. I haven't yet had the automated "thank you for contacting CRT; we will try to get back to you in 5 working days" response.

It was good to see Kathryn when we tied up at Stoke Bruerne. She has now had a proper hip replacement and this seems to have gone well. She certainly seems very happy with it and looks much more nimble. No stick!

Tomorrow we have just the seven Stoke Bruerne Locks and a few miles - then we'll be back at the marina.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Delayed at Buckby Locks

We set off from Braunston, knowing that we would be joining the queue for Buckby Locks later on. There was a problem with a bottom gate paddle necessitating the draining of a pound for its repair. We topped up with water and emptied the Elsan just past the A45 road bridge and shared the Braunston Locks with Chris and Jennifer on Pearl, a Wyvern hire boat.

In Braunston Tunnel we encountered a boat with its tunnel light pointing straight in front and thus dazzling oncoming boats. If this wasn't bad enough the boat had come to a complete halt, although - fortuitously - staying on its side. Pearl, following us, reported that they had the same problem, only the back end of Boaty Dazzler had drifted across, leading to an inevitable collision. Apparently the boat had even switched off its engine!

Just before the bridge at Norton Junction we joined a boat at the back of the queue for Buckby Locks. Hearing that it could be up to two hours before the flight reopened we had lunch. Then I got my bike out and cycled down to Lock 8 where the problem was to see what was going on.

CRT was just rolling up the orange netting having completed the repair.

With the lock refilled it's impossible to see the repaired paddle frame; it's the other side of the gate, anyway.

Another view of the scene.

Withe the paddle frame repaired, and the lock filled to check it would be all right, it still took a while for the pound to be refilled. We eventually started our descent at about 1630, behind a dozen or so boats. We shared with Thetis. Rob was on his way to Ely, having bought the boat just 11 days ago. For someone who claimed never to have done any boating before he was a very competent single hander.

At the bottom we tied up for the night and I went back to help a couple of lock-loads of boats down the bottom lock.

Some boats had been delayed for more than a day; we were fortunate in being held up only for four hours. The original plan had been to get to Weedon; tomorrow we'll get to Stoke Bruerne and be back at the marina on Friday.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Nice idea, but will speeding boaters take any notice?

Fixed to Bridge 97 on the shared Oxford/Grand Union is a sign "borrowed" from the road network.

It made me smile - "Try your brakes" is a variation on "Slow down" I hadn't seen before. I don't suppose it will make the slightest difference to the speed of passing boats.

Earlier we'd had a good chat with Julie from Heaven Sent. We came alongside and she came on board for coffee. We stopped for lunch just below Calcutt Locks, where I started chopping the logs from the Worcester and Birmingham. This might just be our last boating al fresco meal of 2016.

The house at Napton Junction has a curious excrescence on a wall.

Is it foam cavity wall insulation which has oozed from a crack? Or a weird decorative feature?

We tied up for the day on Braunston Puddlebanks. I expected there to be space opposite The Boathouse pub but that is always gloomy being overshadowed by trees. We enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine, which imparted a warm glow to the scene.

I lit the fire for the first time since - ooh - July as it was beginning to feel a bit chilly. We walked to the pub for a good meal; on our return to the boat we had to open all the windows/pigeon boxes/front door to let some of the heat out!

Monday, 19 September 2016

Apple bobbing

I thought it was supposed to rain this afternoon, not this morning. It actually rained most of the day. Still, as we'd got up earlyish we set off - in the drizzle - before 0900. At coffee time we spotted Chrissie tied up above the Bascote locks, so we pulled in. It was good to see Rob and Jill again. After coffee on their boat Jan and I returned to Jubilee for our lunch, leaving them to their online search for a winter mooring. They had promised to share locks to the top of Stockton with us as long as it had stopped raining; in the event we went on our own.

Ally and Ben came to visit with Josiah; they parked by Birdingbury Wharf Bridge 21 opposite the Boat pub and walked down the flight to meet us. Ben steered while Granny and Mummy looked after the baby; I did my usual lockwheeling.

We tied up by the bridge, a familiar location from our days with Shadow when it used to be moored at Stockton Top Marina. A pair of swans were trying to eat an apple which kept sinking and which they kept retrieving by plunging their heads into the water.

When our visitors had gone we moved on half a mile to tie up where we weren't under trees, opposite our friends Steve and Julie on Heaven Sent. We exchanged brief greetings then got in out of the rain.

It is beginning to feel like our six months afloat for 2016 is coming to an end: we are on our way back to the marina. We shall be there by Thursday or Friday - less than a week! I shall have to calculate how many miles and locks we've done.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Waterways-themed wallpaper

After going to Saltisford Church this morning (good sermon on Mission Impossible) we went to the Cape of Good Hope for lunch. In my change I got my first plastic fiver. Not sure if I like it yet.

The wall in the gents is papered with pages from old copies of Waterways World.

And here's the five pound note.

After lunch we set off down the Cape Locks, stopped for Lidl (and Morrison's) at Leamington Spa and tied up above Wood Lock. All the locks were in our favour, unlike Hatton where I had to turn nearly all of them. Did I mention that on Friday we did 38 locks?

Approaching Leamington Spa was a tug ...

... towing GWR Butty no. 65.

The rain forecast for tomorrow seems to have been put back until the afternoon, so we'll try to get the remaining locks to Wigram's Turn done in the morning. An earlier start than usual is called for, methinks.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

A proper Dutch boat

We stayed at Warwick today, on the 48 hour moorings above Cape Locks. Ally and Josiah came to visit; we walked round the town and took Josiah to Little Monkeys Fun House for an hour or so.

At the moorings was this lovely Dutch boat.

Kokanje was built in 1910 as a sailing barge to carry tulips; in 1968 a Mercedes diesel engine and the superstructure were fitted. The boat was transported from the Netherlands to Shepperton Marina in January this year; Ken, a former narrowboat owner, bought her in March and is absolutely delighted with her.

I got talking to him on the towpath as he was carrying a bundle of Celotex insulation; he invited me on board for a look round. He likes the fact that there's plenty of headroom and, for a shortish boat, it feels spacious. The 9' beam helps in this regard. The Celotex was for the roof lining, a job he has already started. Ken intends taking the boat to Ireland next year (by lorry).

Friday, 16 September 2016

Danger of falling

We carried on down the Lapworth flight this morning and had the luxury of a volunteer lockie for most of it. Lock 20 was the last narrow lock we'll be doing for six months; it's all wide locks from now on.

We stopped for lunch at the top of Hatton Locks and then ... as it was perfect locking weather we decided we might as well knock them off as well.

Many of the balance beams have been fitted with "Danger of falling" signs.

Rather nanny state-ish. What's next? Trip hazard signs by the raised bricks you push against to move the beams?

After an abortive visit to the Saltisford Arm looking for a mooring - no-one offered a breasted-up mooring although lots of people were in, and the winding hole was obstructed by a boat with a bicycle on the back making things very difficult (we reversed all the way out in the end) - we tied up near the Cape of Good Hope and went to the Warwick Spice for a curry.

This was on Ian's recommendation from yesterday and was good.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Pressure washing the towpath

It's happened again. I was too tired last night to write the blog so here are two days' worth. We woke up on Wednesday morning to a fresh and sunny Cambrian Wharf.

We reversed out of the mooring, winded and headed for Worcester Bar where we joined the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. At Edgbaston we paused to chat to Peter on Solar Kingfisher. A little before King's Norton Junction we had to wait while a contractor's boat cleared a fallen tree from the canal and towpath.

We were eventually waved on past; as we did so I remarked that there was a nice load of logs for someone. Immediately I was offered some; this was my haul.

And this is the result of applying the bow saw later.

As we made the sharp left turn onto the Stratford Canal there was more work going on.

This time there was actually someone in the water, trimming off the tops of wooden stakes securing coir matting.

We tied up at Bridge 5 (Yardley Wood Road) where I did the log sawing. In the evening we went to our favourite curry house, the Sweet Chillies, for a lovely meal.

This morning I got a surprise as I looked out. Fog.

By the time we'd chatted to Dave who is renovating Canal Cottage, watered up and had a brief conversation with Brian and Diana on Harnser who came along the fog had gone to reveal sunshine.

Here is Harnser passing Canal Cottage.

One of the reasons we had reversed to the water point was to get out of the way of contractors pressure washing the brick towpath.

Our journey down the Stratford was uneventful until, just before the top lock of the Lapworth flight, a hire boat appeared in front. They were quite slow, and we had planned on having a barbecue in the long pound below Lock 5. To speed them up I cycled ahead and set the locks for them. Returning from setting Lock 5 I dinged my bell as I came up behind a man walking his dog along the towpath. This turned out to be our friend - and my former colleague - Ian. This unplanned meeting quickly turned into an invitation for him to join us for the barbecue, so we stopped above Lock 5 in the sun, lit the BBQ and had a really enjoyable evening. At one point Ian's friend Clive joined us for a drink. Clive used to be the chairman of the IWA. Ian gave us a top tip for a curry house in Warwick, so we'll go there on Saturday and check it out.

It was good to see you, Ian, and good to catch up on some BBC news.

Tomorrow's plan is to finish off the Lapworth Locks and get to the top of Hatton, leaving that flight for Saturday's little workout.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016


The computer's battery died without warning last night so here are two days' worth of blog posts in one. Yesterday morning started with sunshine (we had a small amount of rain later); here is Nansen II preparing to tow Leo from the Black Country Boating Festival.

The butty looks huge compared with the tug.

The combination will steer better with a tiller; it took a moment or two for the steerer to realise that the rudder was still tied back to the stern.

This is what I have been doing a lot of over the four and a half days we've been here at Windmill End: litter picking.

Jan has done a lot too, as well as helping in the office, table clearing and cleaning, marquee dismantling etc. Yesterday was a rubbish day. I shifted vast amounts of the stuff into skips.

In the evening we went for a meal at Ma Pardoe's, aka The Old Swan, in Netherton. I had an excellent lasagne which came with a load of delicious molten cheese on top. Barry and Sandra from the Homebrew boat Areandare joined us for drinks later.

And so to today. We went down to Hawne Basin for diesel and gas. Poor Jenny, who was manning the shop, was struggling with the computerised system and managed to overcharge me by mistake for the fuel - to the tune of £23. I realised only after we had returned through Gosty Hill Tunnel. We stopped and I phoned her; she apologised and implied I wasn't the only victim of the computer problems. I'll have to phone again tomorrow to give them my contact details and sort out how I can be refunded.

As we approached Gosty Hill Tunnel we observed two people acting strangely by the portal. At first we thought they were graffiti vandals; when we got closer it seemed as if they were inspecting the brickwork. When I asked them what they were doing they told me they were geocaching.

Jan steered through Netherton Tunnel; on the other side and all the way to Birmingham I saw quite a few herons. Most were on the bank; this one was high in a tree.

A minute or two before we arrived at the services at Cambrian Wharf we found ourselves under a sudden thunderstorm. The lightning and thunder were accompanied by heavy rain. We tied up on a pontoon at the wharf; shortly afterwards the rain stopped.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Black Country Boating Festival: the Sunday

The weather was much better for the traders today, being warm and sunny. First, though was the service in the beer tent at 1000 led by the local churches. This was a more muted affair than last year as one of the participating churches had had a lot of musical equipment stolen. Nevertheless we attempted to raise the roof.

This give some idea of the crowds of visitors to the site today.

One of the volunteers, Pauline, was singled out as having worked exceptionally hard. She was in charge of catering and put in long hours. One of the local mayors presented her with a trophy.

In the evening, after the public had gone and after making a good start on dismantling marquees etc., we had more of Pauline's fine food. Just for my benefit really, here are some of the main people of the Black Country Boating Festival: Paddy, Peter and Mark.

Paddy is the boss man.