Thursday, 30 October 2014


David thought we ought to have an early night last night because there was so much to cram in today. He hinted strongly about an early night by switching off the telly and then the lights.  To be fair I was yawning and had been most of the evening so I didn't argue too much.
So Himself up with the larks today and off to get his newspaper and milk from the shop in Braunston.  Early this year he was jolly cross with the shop when it failed to open early enough, he was up there chuntering and in the end gave up and came back to the boat, however all was well today.
Supplies fetched next wash and wipe the boat down,  he had completed this before I was dressed, so out I went to apply the polish.  He was the buffer-upper today.
Just as I was bending down buffing myself when I almost fell in as the boat moved out....
David!!!! I yelled, yes he replied calmly and as I turned around there he was cool as a cucumber, he had untied the ropes and was walking the boat along to the water point.  Didn't think I should be informed of his plan, I reckon he had put money on me falling in.
So I finished buffing as the sun came out at and as the water finished.
All aboard to the chandlers with the list of requirements.  The most important thing after loo cleaner was a new fat dangly thing.  I had almost set fire to the old one, inadvertedly, it had been put over the engine outlet and had cooked nicely, luckily it was the same one that had burst so not all bad.
As we waited in behind a chappie in the chandlers who was buying masses of stuff a hire boat appeared, David shot out the door and ran around to secure a place with them in the locks, the crew was emptying the lock and David ran back to WaL jumped on and whizzed along to join them, leaving me still in the queue, happily not for long and I hopped out to off load the shopping.
This was one of David's better ideas as the family of five consisted of a big strong dad and his two lovely KEEN sons plus the grandparents, all from Yorkshire, hirers of twenty years standing.  The dad was ahead turning the locks and I was with the two lovely boys and their Grandma.  It turns out they were from Worksop and live near to Mr Straws House
A place I have wanted to visit for years and years, but when you live in the south Worksop isn't really on the way to anywhere, however I have an invite for tea when we do visit next year!

As I walked along beside the boat the sunshine showed up the bits we had missed polishing to a horrid degree.

Braunston Locks with lovely family

It seemed that we had completed the locks so very quickly, almost a shame as I would have liked to have spent more time with such a lovely family.  But off we headed for Braunston tunnel, another record was set today, us having to pass 5 boats in the tunnel, the previous record was 3.  

Look carefully to see a blue haze, this was some of the fumes from the tunnel today making me cough.

At Watford Locks I went up to book in with the Lock Keeper, so nice here to be told yes come straight in, nothing waiting at the top, so 
Bish Bash Bosh up and away through here in record time too.

WaL in the bottom pound at Watford
Not a breath of wind here and full sunshine, that doesn't often at Watford Locks.
Reader that is the M1 passing overhead right at the top of the flight.
Last year Crick had this whole side for winter moorings, it wasn't the case this year.  In fact the signs which say no mooring opposite the marina entrance had gone too.  Curious.

Plenty of moorings if you want them here at Crick.

We ended our day at my favourite place, I call it The Hares Field as I watched five playing one spring but today the crops are far too early so no cover.  It was here in the spring I watched a water vole too.  Nothing this time.

Supper was courgette and chorizo pasta.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Love Nest and fish wrappings.

A couple of days at home to see my mother, she is well thank you for asking.  While I was there I took this;

There is a very thin sail boat in the middle there.

Looks like a storm but actually it was just a striking sunset, but what great colours nature sends.

Braunston beckons and as our boating season heads towards its conclusion the final round of boat polishing has to be fitted in whilst the weather is dry. 
This can be handily done in Braunston on the towpath side side.
So just a quick flit up the Grand Union Canal, we passed some curio's,

This boat had been there a number of days, no owner to be seen, the old fittings discarded on the towpath, so that's alright then.

Oh what a sweet Love Nest they have themselves.

 This was listing and open, no tax to be seen, it maybe saved of course.... however in its garden was the carcass of a Land-rover and other pieces of treasure.

Another abandoned boat????  Nope, this one had the fire going and a figure moving about inside.

 We found the canal pretty busy, far more so than we had expected.  Half Term seems to be the reason, lovely to see so many grandparents taking their grandchildren out, hire boats all over the place.  There were spaces in Braunston to moor but not loads.  We handily got on very close to the water point, which is next to the rubbish bins, one of my hobbies is disposing of rubbish, my husband says I am obsessed, however any housewife or rather boatwife will tell you the same the bin smells long before it is full, especially as we are having fish tonight.

Braunston, its been a while since we were here. 

David hopped off and moved the car from god knows where to considerably up the road, while I unpacked and pleased that I had restricted packing to one bag each.
Skinny supper was haddock steamed on a bed of mediterranean veg with chilli and couscous. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Dawn, well almost.

This was dawn today, well 8:30 anyway

This was my view this morning as I opened the side hatch, nice me thinks.  
We were just short of Long Ichington.  So we set off to complete the run towards Braunston on this section of the Grand Union Canal.
A nice run along here with every lock in our favour, that was a nice change.
The sun was shining and as the day progressed the wind picked up to a breeze and then later to being pretty strong and as we climbed all the locks developing into a small hurricane at Calcutt marina where we wanted diesel, our map had the marina at the top of the three locks but in fact the services are between the second and third lock coming up.  So to get diesel David had to do a nice cheeky bit of reversing across  the pound at one point getting a tiny bit wedged on the concrete but how nice that on this occasion the button being  in exactly the right place and saving the paintwork.  
So the last locks done, 13 today and we just wanted to moor up out of this wind.  So onward to the junction, no boats coming, a left turn and along to shelter under the hedge.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Heading eastwards

Off we go then heading out of Leamington and towards the Stockton Locks, quite a nice run along, with some pretty autumn colours

Not supposed to be an arty shot, I was just in a hurry and snapped.

Here was one of the pair of staircase locks, here I met a sweet young chap who even though he was a single hander, had gone back to the upper lock to fill it for me.  
So a nice day even though no Lock Buddy and we had to empty about half of the locks, it was a nice day. plus it was sunny, always helps.
We moored up out in the countryside, first time in ages, short of Long Itchington.

Pasta again for supper, with chorizo and mascarpone. 

For god's sake turn left!

Today was a short bit of cruising today around the corner, along a bit, down two locks and into Leamington Spa.  Well this was the plan...

He accidentally almost drove into here, the Saltisford Arm, he missed this turning....

Easy mistake to make and a quick bit of reversing had it sorted.
Leamington Spa proved quite jolly, we got there after lunch and found a branch of Bill's.  Bill's started yonks ago in my home town of Lewes


Actually if you read this link you will see that he started just about after leaving school, (We went to the same school), so we went in and had a platter of delicious dips and toasted pittas plus coffee and two newspapers, all of a sudden we had been there almost 90 mins and thought we had better hoof it.
So away to the museum to see a couple of beauts

This is a Duncan Grant picture, he was one of the Bloomsbury group, Charleston Farmhouse, their  holiday home is world famous and also in my neck of the woods in Sussex.

Lucy Kemp Walsh painted this and David's mum has it on her wall.

Afterwards we did some mooching around some nice classy shops, always such fun. 
Back to the boat for an interesting supper,  sardines whizzed up with up pine nuts and raisins on pasta.  Much nicer than it sounds and next time we'll use two tins of sardines.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Buckets of blood and hooting

So on a nice and bright sunny morning we arrived at the water point at the top of the Hatton Flight.  We wanted, like all sensible middle-aged people "A Lock Buddy", there were none to be seen.  While I applied lipstick, David went forward and set the first lock, he carried on and set three.  When he returned, he implored me to drive the boat.  Said the paddles were going to be too hard for me, said something like we'll never get anywhere if you do them.... Ha! We'll see about that.  We had agreed that as there was no one waiting, that we would make a start and if a boat appeared we would wait and allow them to catch us up.  I was feeling pretty assured that if we could make it through the dreaded Kennet and Avon then frankly Reader we could do anything.
"I'll start off darling and we'll see how we get on, of course I can do them." Famous last words.  
Well Hells Bells and Buckets of Blood Reader is all I can say, Oh my word they weren't half heavy, I felt my favourite short windless slightly bend with my heaving on it...
So over the course of the first three locks developed a system, it mostly considered of David asking me (Yelling) to drive the boat and me ignoring him.  But the bike did come out.
So he drove into the full lock and shut the gate, some of them he shut the paddle done too.  Then I valiantly would up the paddle to empty the lock, now using the long handled windless which rarely comes out of the locker.  Then he drove the boat out and into the next lock with the previously opened (By me) gates.

Rather a nice piece of sculpture

Reader these are the unusual paddles here

This went on for a few more locks, Reader if you are unaware the Hatton Flight has 21 double locks and they are heavy beasties.
So as we carried on I was going ahead on the bike to prep three locks at a time then biking back uphill to close the gates of the lock behind him and then downhill to catch him up again,  now I do yoga, aqua aerobics and cycling so I think I am pretty fit,  but I was flagging pretty quickly. 

So David ended up going ahead on the bike to prep the locks and open the gates whilst I held the boat on a rope and if time pulled it out of the lock too, but I think that only actually happened twice, then he climbed back on, and off we went again.

So here he is opening the paddles 

Running carefully and safely back to the steering wheel.

So this was a bit later, off to prep the next few locks

He said he preferred to do all this than to wait for me, him doing nothing....

You can see that some pounds were long

It was pretty wonderful when finally the last four locks were in sight.  David went off on the bike and prepped them and came back, as he drove the boat off  I heard our hooter going off in a frantic sort of a way, it was a longer pound and  I was wondering what he had met out of my vision, I soon found out as on the bike I met a couple, Oh how they laughed, they had walked up from the bottom car park and found the towpath side gates opened so had closed three of the four.... "But we opened that one again for him" they declared generously, still laughing.  Small sense of humour failure on both our parts, but no punches were launched.

It had taken us three and three quarter hours to descend, that was us two alone and having to fill every single lock first.  We thought that pretty good,  I also couldn't help thinking of the more elderly couple we had met the day before on the Lapworth Flight who go to Birmingham each year via this route. Respect!!
Just out of the final lock and moored up immediately. We had delish egg mayo big rolls, then after David had collected the car from the top of the flight, we went here to Baddesley Clinton, yet another National Trust property....

Baddesley Clinton
 A stone house dating back from the 1300's.  It comes complete with a moat and three priest holes all used in anger too.

I do love a nice bit of Dogwood

Just loving these lime greens yellows and purples

I think this is Red Oak.
Supper was puff pastry tart with fresh figs, goats cheese, olives and capers and salad.
Delish I have to say.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Leaving Las Vegas, finally.

We had moored two tics from the water point at The Cube the day before so at early o'clock in the chilly damp we arrived to find one boat moored exactly on the said water point.  Not at all annoying.  We tried to fit in front of them but they were long and so are we and the hose didn't fit.  I gesticulated through the window as David had to pull alongside.  It was a Time Share boat and they popped their heads out.  It turned out Reader that it was their second day, they had had rudder problems and had called out the engineer who had said the rudder was very worn, they had spent 7 hours getting the boat there and were heartily sick of everything.  Poor things, they were trying out narrow boating to see if they liked it.  As of that morning they were not terribly.

We filled up and departed.  Down the Birmingham to Worcester canal.  A tree lined route going through Edgebaston which I liked very much and on.  We didn't really see any traffic that afternoon and as time went on we arrived at Hockley Heath for what proved to be a bit of a treat.  David fetched the car from Edgebaston, and that evening we met Nick and Lynda (Pub recommender extraordinaire) to have supper at The Boot Pub in Lapworth.  Just a smidgeon further on down the flight.  Well it was great but totally different from the glorious Black Country pubs he sent us to, they were all great too. We had a lovely evening, thank you Nick for all your help and advice during our stay.
Here is The Boot HERE

The next morning we toddled off to the do the Lapworth Flight.  I thought these locks were pretty rickety, nice scenery around these attractive single locks but the workings to my mind were rickety.  We met a pretty fit looking pair coming up I would estimate they might have been in their late sixties, he was doing the locks and as we waited we chatted, they too loved going to Birmingham and moor at Calcutt, they go to Birmingham every year, which means that they have done the Hatton Flight, the Stockton Flight all on their own. Phew I say.

David in full golfing wet weather gear.

First half of this guillotine type thingy lock

Second half of it.

Lovely green weed that beautifully messes with your prop.

We got to the bottom of the Lapworth and carried on to moor at the top of tomorrows little challenge.  Good Oh.

Just for a change, rain.

Well today we were to have departed but it was bucketing down again.  Terrifically heavy unrelenting rain.  
David refused to go out, (Obviously I wasn't going to sit out on deck with him as I usually do).  So we stayed in the warm until  12:30pm, so we went to a concert at the Town Hall, to hear the Birmingham City Organist Mr Thomas Trotter, no relation to Del and Rodney.  That was pretty wonderful and I have to say to see the Town Hall was a treat.  It had been closed each time we had passed by and for £6 each it was wonderful.

Marvellously decorated organ

How beautiful is this?

So with just a little tiny bit of time left I thought it an excellent idea of going to the Bull Ring as I had located Selfridges and felt the suitcase hunt could continue there.
When we came out again, it had started to rain again.  We headed back to the boat and by the time we got halfway it was pelting down and so it continued for the next 15 hours or so.

Skinny supper of chicken tomatoes and olives.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Battle lines were drawn up

So out time was almost up.  Great pity as I have really enjoyed being in a city,  such a novelty.  Birmingham is such a good place to visit because everything is very close to the centre and the canals.
The weather was very wet again so I suggested we went to look in Harvey Nicholls for luggage for this trip to New Zealand in January.  At the Mailbox there is great improvements going on, so great are these improvements that they have closed all access onto the Mailbox, we had to walk three sides of a square then to enter via the underground car park.  Reader you can imagine what David was like.....?   He didn't really want to go there anyway let alone a Commando Course to gain entry.  
No luggage dept in there after all that.  Marvellous.
So we walked northwards to the cathedral.  Now  you couldn't help noticing that there was a small army of Police on duty, with big packs on each hip and long intimidating baton truncheons.  I asked a group of four the way to the Cathedral and they all looked blank, (Sue, two got out their phones and found the way for me!!!!)  None of them were from this area all drafted in to Police the March that was happening that lunchtime. YIKES.

On one side was the EDL and the BNP on the other were people from the other side of the political spectrum.  We spotted three GREENS to add to the mixture.  I asked the Police Persons who were the Goodies and who were the Baddies.  No answer was forthcoming, they weren't completely sure who they all were anyway.  All I knew was that I didn't want to get caught in the middle.
The Cathedral was lovely.  
Bit blurry, not sure why.

We didn't stay too long as we were the wrong side of the 
Maginot Line.  We made a dash for it and got through making our way past the Library and Symphony Hall and round past Gas Street Basin back into the Mailbox where we had tickets to a tour of The BBC Studios.  
This was good fun.  We got to meet Nick Owen and see the studio where The Archers is recorded, some members of the tour even recorded a play and made all the sound effects.  On very corner around the studios were examples of some dresses that have been used for 'Strictly Come Dancing', well some of them were almost dresses.

Nick Owen being a bit stiff, this was due to him being made of cardboard.

The Archers sound effect props

On the way back from there we popped into a Tapas Bar for a drink, later some tapas, later still some more tapas, much much later after almond tart and Spanish doughnuts to dip into melted chocolate we went home to the boat for the last night.

Arty Farty shot of The Cube from my seat at the Tapas place

Too late home to get the local news so not sure there was a battle after all.

No supper.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Well push the bloody thing then....

Woke up to the forecasted heavy rain.  We were in a bit of a quandary in that we needed water, a pump out, diesel, gas and to my mind most importantly deposit rubbish in a suitable receptacle.  There is this boat yard in the very centre of the canals in Birmingham, its on a loop with one end of the loop impossible to make the turn to the right back towards the majority of the moorings, where we were moored.  So the only way to get in there was for us to reverse past moored boats, in the swirling wind and pouring rain.  The very thought filled me with horror but David was game.  Well he was game when the rain stopped.  No point in going off for the morning as we felt that other boats may all be wanting to do the same thing.  So a couple of hours later, (A couple of hours spent mostly writing this blog), we set off.
Me waiting for clear precise instructions of my part, I wanted them given to me calmly and politely….
Well there was a bit of..
“Push the bloody thing then”
“No not there here, no, yes back there then”
and a
“Best get on the front” so I hotfooted it through to the front, then a very loud “No I need you here pushing that boat here NOW”
“Get on the side and push that boat away”  So there I was on the slippery side, in the rain,shoving or maybe creating distance between us and the parked boats with my weight and our dangly bits. Then a trip boat came pooling past, (They don't even slow down even though we were somewhat over his side just then), reversing through a bridge,  well I have to tell you Reader, he may get shirty but he did a truly splendid job, no tinks, no bashes and certainly no scratches.  Into the arm and the jetty section for services runs along on a wooden jetty, but is very short for us being a 70ft boat and so with this wind pulling the front and back end in turn we moored up and David went off to find a man.  In his absence of  5 mins another boat came along, a shorter boat and got onto the service section and nicked our turn, he nicked it because he was “Blocking” us being served first.  This did nothing to improve the weather I can tell you.  David was livid, the poor lad doing the services was helpless.  We really had no option but to let him go ahead of us.  So after a few sharp words the man said he would settle on a pump out and come back later, which is what happened.  So then pump out, gas, rubbish, water and diesel all done.  Off we set to re-moor again and when we had, the whole task had taken two hours.  TWO HOURS.

So we had lunch and went out for a walk having a look at the moorings all around the place the rain returned with a vengeance  as we were outside the CART offices at Cambrian Whalf, so cold and wet we returned to the boat.

embers of the Lunar Society.  Good eggs for the founding of Birmingham
HERE   click here to learn a bit more about the Good Eggs.

Gas Street  Basin in the shadow of The  Regency Hyatt

Gas Street where we couldn't see any visitor moorings today.

Confluence of three canals

Cambrian Whalf

Last two locks for the Brimingham to Fazeley canal.

WaL in the shadow of Brindley Place on the left.

Supper was steak, sweet potato wedges and veg.