Friday 31 May 2019

It's a mug's game

We still have plenty of cloth bags from last year's Crick Show, so we didn't collect any more this time. One freebie I did pick up, though, was a rather nice mug from the Environment Agency's Anglian Waterways stall.

The mug features a topographical map of the Anglian waterways, many of which we covered last year. It's attractively done in the style of a London Underground map.

Unfortunately ... there are several mistakes. Not necessarily in the layout, although some of the Middle Level navigations seem to be missing, but in the spelling.

The Cambridgeshire Lodes, for example.


And the River Wissey has gained an extra "e".

It's a pity the EA doesn't seem to know their partner navigation authority is the Canal & River Trust.

I wasn't going to mention the missing apostrophe in King's Lynn, but it looks like I just have. Oh dear.

Sorry to be such a nit-picker! I'm sure it will hold a portion of tea perfectly well.

Thursday 30 May 2019

New mooring restrictions on Welford Arm

I seem to have somehow got a day behind with these blog posts. I blame the poor signals at Crick.

We moved on from Crick after a very pleasant few days there and headed for Welford. Our intention was to leave the boat there for a while so we could come home for lawn mowing etc. This plan was thwarted, as I shall explain later.

Travelling north from Crick, then, we passed under the A14 bridge. Here a boat had tied up with its mooring ropes across the towpath at perfect tripping height.

Near Welford Junction we saw gliders being given aeroplane tows.

At Welford Lock our first surprise was to find ourselves third in the queue.

Our second surprise was to find that the 14 day moorings have been reduced to two days. This was done, according to CRT, in advance of the celebrations a couple of weeks ago marking the 50th anniversary of the Welford Arm's re-opening. The CRT man I spoke to, who owned up to being the person who had actually put up the new mooring restriction signs, was unable to say whether the restrictions - applying from April to September - were permanent, but he thought it was likely. The signs look permanent enough (sorry, no photo).

There is, in fact, room for two 60' boats immediately above the lock landing, just before the first mooring restriction sign. But that's not much, and it's a fair walk from there to the pub and village.

Given that wherever we moored within reach of the end of the arm we would be on a two day mooring, we nabbed the single space on the offside immediately beyond the last winding hole. The Mikron Theatre's boat Tyseley was one of the two at the very end; I bet that will be there for at least another week as they are putting on a show on 5th (I think) June. Again, apologies for the paucity of photos.

Having tied up and had lunch I cycled back to Crick to get the car.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Nothing new under the sun

On our last full day in Crick yesterday we walked into the village again. I took the opportunity to photograph this apparently traditional gypsy caravan.

But closer examination reveals a solar panel on the roof.

It just appeared by the roundabout with three horses ...

... secured by mooring pins.

We walked up Crack's Hill via Jubilee Wood. Amongst the trees there are lots of wild - and some not so wild - flowers, attracting the bees.

Down on the canal a few boat chimneys were dispensing smoke.

Monday 27 May 2019

Crick cracked

Last night I was too tired to blog, so here's a double dose. I will keep it short, though.

Today the rain clouds threatened, but didn't really produce much more than two or three very short showers. Nothing to deter the crowds.

Yesterday the Boaters' Christian Fellowship held a service in the Entertainment Marquee, otherwise known as the beer tent. Mark Chester, the head of the Waterways Chaplains, gave the talk: a cautionary tale about Little Jimmy.

About 60 people came to the service.

The BCF stand was busy most of the time, with people enquiring about us and entering our "find the duck" competition. With plenty of BCF members willing to run the stand in one hour shifts the task was not too onerous. Many stands had just two people for the whole extended weekend - I'm thinking of, for example, Paul and Christine of Waterway Routes and Mark and Catherine of the Cut Glass Gallery - they must be completely shattered.

On my way back from taking stuff to the boat I saw Kathryn steering Sculptor back towards Stoke Bruerne.

Saturday 25 May 2019

Beer beats band

Today was the first day when the majority of the public were admitted to the Crick Boat Show (a small number had been allowed in on a "preview" day yesterday). The weather was perfect, with plenty of warm sunshine. In the afternoon there were a few spots of rain, but nothing to send people scurrying to cover.

Raymond, Nutfield and Sculptor
The BCF stand, sharing space with the Waterways Chaplains, was busy, with many people stopping to talk.

In the evening I returned to the site to see the main band of the night: Los Pacaminos. While queueing for the bar, which took at least 20 minutes, the band started up.

I enjoyed the ale (Delapré Dark Mild) much more than the music; when I had finished the drink I walked the mile back to the boat.

As I came out of the post office with my newspaper Adrian from Briar Rose was walking along carrying shopping bags, so we talked for a while. Later I saw and waved to Adam at the site, but he was talking to someone so I didn't stop. Another well-known (ex-) blogger I talked to was Andrew Denny of Granny Buttons.

Friday 24 May 2019

Puncture count: five so far

We spent much of the day helping to set up the BCF stand in the marquee at the Crick Boat Show, ready for the main influx of visitors tomorrow, Sunday and Monday. Robert helped me put up the banners and bunting, while Elaine, Sandra, Margaret and Jan sorted out the table and other stuff.

One of the show staff came up with a step ladder - it would have been almost impossible without it.

The people who are usually opposite us, Caldwell Windows, were miffed that they have been moved to the next position.

Somehow the BCF leaflets small display stand was missing, so I went back to the boat and spent 2.5 hours making one.

Not terribly elegant, but it will have to do.

I bumped into Andrew Denny and chatted to him briefly; later, Indigo Dream came past with Richard steering. He stopped for a quick chat; we invited him to join us for tea but he couldn't get close enough to the bank near where we were so he went on. After tea Catherine and Mark joined us for drinks. They run the Stained Glass Gallery stand in the craft marquee.

Oh - there's something else to report. I mended four punctures today. All in the rear wheel. One was from last night, but I picked up the other three from the towpath today. I hope all the other towpath cyclists appreciate my clearing all the thorns for them.

Thursday 23 May 2019

Crick's Indian restaurant: excellent

We did no boating today, but I retightened the mooring ropes every now and again. We are now as close to the bank as I think we'll get. Photo tomorrow if I remember.

I cleaned the top of the boat with a microfibre cloth and propped up the solar panels with soup tins to face approximately south as we'll be here for a few days. The boat is now covered in hawthorn blossom again - it's that time of year.

Boats are continuing to arrive for the boat show; May Contain Nuts came in in front of us. Nigel has an interesting boat, with the engine not at the back, or even amidships, but at the bow, powering a hydraulic pump. Everything is hydraulic drive: main propulsion plus both bow and stern thrusters. It doesn't seem to be very efficient. I said we use about 1.25 litres per hour of engine running; Nigel said his consumption is about three times as much. Oo-er.

Walking to the marina for a cup of tea with Robert and Margaret on Blue Iris took an age as we stopped and chatted to loads of people on the towpath.

I put down my mug to take this photo of a yellow biplane overflying the marina and show site.

In the evening, as promised, we went to the Indian Lodge restaurant in Crick. We were joined by Margaret and Robert and had a very good meal. We ate quite early at 6pm, and found we were the only diners. Perhaps it gets busier later in the evening - I hope so, as it would be a real shame if it doesn't last. The restaurant is attached to the Royal Oak pub, which means that you can have a proper ale with your food. The menu was refreshingly short; I had lamb chilli garlic for the main course. The meat was tender and tasty. Before that I had a spicy chilli chicken starter which I won't have again. The menu described it as Indo-Chinese, which should have been sufficient warning. It was more Chinese than Indian - very nice if you like Chinese food, I'm sure. Overall, though, it was a good experience; I can see us going back there before too long.

When we left I found my bike had another puncture, in the back wheel this time, so I had to push it back to the boat. A job for the morning.

As we walked back the sun was setting over the canal.

Tomorrow we'll be helping to set up the BCF stand in what used to be called the Kingfisher Marquee (Boating Marquee?), so there'll be quite a buzz around the place as the other exhibitors set up their stalls.

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Discovering something new and potentially hot in Crick

We made a reasonably early start from Weedon today, being under way by 0830. I have to confess it was a bit of a relief to get away from the Virgin trains thundering by on the West Coast Main Line. Don't get me wrong, I like trains as much as the next man, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. We had tied up on the piling just south of Weedon Bridge 24 with the railway just a matter of yards the other side of the canal.

At Buckby Top we briefly saw Jan and Bob in their Waterways Chaplains uniforms while we topped up with water. Then we pushed on up the Leicester Section to the bottom of Watford Locks.

Just before reaching the locks, as expected, we passed Dodona on its usual mooring. Now it sports a For Sale sign.

£35,000 "job lot", whatever that means.

We were the fourth boat in the queue at the bottom, so we thought we'd be allowed up behind the first three, but were told we'd have to wait as there were two boats at the top waiting to come down. So we had lunch.

The two boats turned into four. Hmm.

Jubilee at the top of Watford Staircase
After a passage through an increasingly drippy Crick Tunnel we ticked over past all the boats which have already arrived for the Crick Boat Show and tied up in the shallows south of Bridge 15. The bow is close enough to solid ground, but the stern is sticking out a bit. The price we pay for not paying the price, if you see what I mean.

We walked in to the village after tea and discovered ... an Indian restaurant! It's attached to the Royal Oak pub. We got a menu and will probably eat there - for research purposes, of course - tomorrow.

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Crocodile spotted in Grand Union Canal

Jan was steering the boat along the short pound leading to Stoke Bruerne Top Lock. She looked round to see me closing the top gate of the previous lock ... and saw that she was being chased by a creature in the water.

As I came up I saw it swim away. I thought it might have been a dog, but then it came towards me.

Yup. A crocodile. But who was that sitting on the opposite bank? And what was he holding?

Could he be connected in some way to the scaly swimmer?

Ah yes. By remote control. The radio controlled reptile was causing heads to turn, but the only snapping was from cameras by amused onlookers.

Back in the real world ... we navigated from Old Wolverton to Weedon Bec via Gayton Marina for a top-up of diesel. At Cosgrove we passed under the ornate Solomon's Bridge.

Tomorrow we should make it to Crick, where we shall be for the boat show this weekend.

Monday 20 May 2019

Standing on one leg on the edge of an aqueduct

No, not me. I'll come to that in a bit.

First, the three-legged footbridge at the new Campbell Wharf Marina in Milton Keynes will make for some good photos. Here's my attempt, as we passed on our way from Peartree Bridge to Galleon Wharf today.

Shame it's not level.

A couple of days ago, while we were moored at Peartree Bridge, the resident heron was nonchalantly dealing with a fish it had just caught. I got my camera out as quickly as I could and fired off a safety shot before attempting to zoom. This is the result. The camera had switched on at its widest angle, hence the poor quality after my cropping.

By the time I'd sorted out the zoom it had swallowed the fish.

Another example of 'getting one in the can' before fiddling around, and hence possibly missing the shot altogether, was this photo of a duck standing on one foot on the offside of the Iron Trunk Aqueduct at Cosgrove.

And after cropping:

Again, by the time I'd zoomed in, the moment had gone. The bird had flown.

Today we had the pleasure of Ally and Ben and our two grandsons on board; tomorrow we will continue our journey to Crick for the boat show.

Sunday 19 May 2019

An army of robots to deliver your shopping

We walked from the boat to Ally and Ben's church this morning. Our very pleasant route took us through Woughton on the Green, the Ouzel Valley Park and Monkston Park, largely across open fields (but on proper metalled MK-style paths throughout).

In Monkston we were astonished to see a robotic vehicle trundling along the footpath.

Looking round, we saw a group of the lawnmower-sized machines gathered outside the Co-op, some of which were beginning to move.

We followed one as it drove along our path; this gives you an idea of its size.

Where it wanted to cross the road it waited while a car passed, then crossed ...

... following two others up the redway.

We could scarcely believe what we had seen. Looking up the website revealed the information that the Starship robots can deliver groceries or packages within a four mile radius, requested and monitored via a mobile app. According to the MK Citizen the robot delivery service was launched about six months ago. Each robot can carry 10kg and deliveries cost the standard fee of £1.

Ally and Ben were not at all surprised when we told them that we'd seen the robots. They have become quite used to them, as must have all the locals. One has to wonder how kidnap-proof they are.

At church we witnessed our second grandson's dedication (like a Christening but with no baptism).

At Ally and Ben's house in Cranfield we enjoyed a splendid lunch party in excellent sunny weather.

Micah, Josiah and our great-nephew Angus

Saturday 18 May 2019

An extra (small) temporary crew member

We had the pleasure of our grandson, Josiah, staying with us last night. This morning he enjoyed the cruise from Old Wolverton to Peartree Bridge, some of the time sitting on the slide ...

... and some of the time on the Morse control.

Progress through Milton Keynes was slow on account of the many moored boats. We passed the new Campbell Wharf Marina ...

with an interesting, although rust-coloured, three-legged footbridge connecting the opposite bank to both sides of the marina entrance.

Ally and Micah met us at Peartree Bridge and we all we went to the pub for a carvery lunch. After A, J and M had gone we relaxed on the boat, going for a towpath walk to Simpson after tea.