The Boathouse

October 31, 2010

For some reason (probably my addiction to Strictly Come Dancing) yesterday went without a blog so I’m working in retrospect. We were promised Saturday as our fix of sunshine before the clocks changed and it didn’t disappoint. Now that I have returned to Braunston with freshly appreciative eyes after visiting some frankly more dodgy places this year I feel as if I am feasting on beauty everywhere I look. The Autumn colours are at their best, the fields are green and grazed by sheep and cattle instead of huge swathes of ploughed mud and the villages are satisfyingly picturesque. Let’s make the most of it before the winter descends!

We caught the Amos bus over to Rugby to buy oil for an engine change. It was packed, with the aisles crammed with standing passengers by the time we got there. All the regulars were speculating about what might be happening in Rugby, apparently it wasn’t normal. We made a quick dive into the shops and then caught a bus back. We are looking forward to a good wander around Rugby but Alan has a tendon injury to one heel and is hobbling painfully so can’t walk far at present. The return trip was with Stagecoach and that was interesting as it took a different route through two very pretty villages: one was Barby and I’m not sure the name of the other. We came into Braunston through the back door.

We went to an early evening drink at the Boathouse as it was the nearest. When we were last here at the beginning of last year we had walked into the Boathouse and straight out again because Alan had scanned the taps and decided there was no real ale on offer. Whether or not that was correct they now offer Marstons and Alan had some pints of excellent Pedigree. We didn’t eat but the food going past looked good and its a two for one offer so we will try it out one night. We were there before dark so the view over the fields was great; the last evening that will be possible with the clock’s going back.

The Boathouse

Sunset

Lazy Evening

Statistics so far:-

2067.25 Miles, 1132 Locks, 118 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 34 Tunnels


A slow start

October 29, 2010

Having arrived back at the boat late afternoon yesterday we decided to walk to the village to get some shopping and a Chinese takeaway. When we got up there we discovered that the Chinese takeaway shop was either a figment of my imagination or somewhere else entirely so we went to The Plough. We had made a resolution not to visit a pub for some weeks after a period of overindulgence but needs must! Anyway Alan very much enjoyed his two pints of excellently kept Adnam’s Broadside and a steak and ale pie. I decided to give the lamb casserole another chance. We had eaten at The Plough once before nearly two year’s ago and were served a black and dried up version of lamb casserole that had given us a very bad impression of a pub that we know is generally rated quite highly. Luckily this wasn’t the case last night and the lamb casserole was much improved.

Alan has been suffering from a very painful heel and his hobbling up to the village and back last night hadn’t done it any good so we put off plans to explore Rugby today. Instead I caught the very reliable Geoff Amos bus to Sainbury’s and staggered back with a very overloaded wobbly wheeled shopping trolley. As it was a day of chores after lunch I took the still surviving trolley laden with washing down to the laundry at Braunston Marina. I noticed that they were advertising for sale NB Mr Bunbury that had moored next to us for four years at Cowroast.

Its been an immensely busy day on the canal with boats passing almost constantly and I noticed on my way back to the boat that every possible mooring space was taken. It will be interesting to see if things quieten down after the end of half term, though most boats don’t seem to be school holiday dependent.

In the mean time Alan drilled the hole for the power monitor that we are going to fit when we change the batteries. We have religiously measured the voltage every morning ensuring that it was over 12.3 volts, this did not do a lot of good as the batteries still only lasted a little over 2 years. Anyway the battery monitor will do away with that little chore and let us know how much charge we really are putting into the batteries.

Statistics so far:-

2067.25 Miles, 1132 Locks, 118 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 34 Tunnels


Back on the boat

October 28, 2010

We have had a few days up North to celebrate my dads 88th birthday. We had a great time and it was nice to see all of the family. Now we are back we have to get down to the serious business of doing all of the long neglected chores. So it is an early night and then down to the serious business in the morning. Only one pic from our visit and that was of high tide near where we were staying.

High Tide

Statistics so far:-

2067.25 Miles, 1132 Locks, 118 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 34 Tunnels


Braunston revisited

October 26, 2010

Our batteries have been concerning us for some time and they need to be replaced. We decided that Braunston was a suitable place to do this and other similar chores. I guess that’s another reason that Braunston is a popular stopping place because it has a good selection of chandleries, marinas and boatyards facilities in close proximity.

On route to Braunston we had a brief crisis when the connection to the water filter under the sink came apart and water flooded out, through the cupboard and under the fridge into the corridor. After it was sorted there was a lot of mopping out to do, and we also discovered that the water had run right through under the bed and the tanks under the bed. There’s little enough room at the best of times so when everything was taken out from under the sink and there were wet towels and mopping up clothes everywhere it was quite chaotic.

Alan left me drying things out (not a selfish action, it gave a bit more space to put things) and went off to see the chandleries about batteries. He returned to say that he had found Braunston Chandlers very helpful and late afternoon we returned to the shop to order the batteries and a battery monitor. Because we are changing to another brand of battery we need extra cables and they were able to make them up for us and did so while we were there. When we fit the batteries we can moor outside the shop.

This all took a fair bit of time and while we were in the shop we were chatting to another boater with two very patient and well behaved dogs who sat quietly while they waited for us to finish. We walked up the hill to the village with them and decided to all have a couple of pints and a good chat in The Wheatsheaf. So a good end to a busy day.

The junction

Canal at Braunston

Pump House

Busy Canal

Statistics so far:-

2067.25 Miles, 1132 Locks, 118 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 34 Tunnels


Braunston

October 25, 2010

The stretch between Hillmorton and Braunston is as pretty a bit of English countryside as any you could find. The sun was shining, the grass was richly green, the spire of Braunston Church was a welcoming beacon on the horizon. There were more boats moving on the canal than we had seen in a month further north. Was this a last gasp before battening down the hatches for the winter or are there more people moving on continuously this year?

Braunston is many people’s favourite stopping place on the system but we had never been in that club in the past. Maybe it was always overcrowded as we moved through, we had one rather poor meal in the Plough, it was the depth of a grey winter last time we were there: these little things can add up to a less favourable impression. But this time we really did feel that we were coming back to a well loved friend. Of course the beauty of the approach had softened us up, and as we moored up we thought ”Yes, its good to be back”.

Park Street

North Oxford Canal

Braunston

Today we did 6.57 Miles

Statistics so far:-

2067.25 Miles, 1132 Locks, 118 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 34 Tunnels


Hillmorton

October 24, 2010

We moved on down to Rugby where we wanted to shop at the nearby Tesco. The moorings that we had used a year ago before the water point were pretty full and looked unappealing so we went on under the bridge and managed to find a spot on the town centre side where there were lots of ropes tied by previous moorers that we could put our ropes through. I noticed that in the past year a large housing estate had been nearly completed where there was wasteland last year.

Its such a luxury to have a supermarket so handy to the canal, especially as our shopping trolley wheels are on the verge of imminent collapse. I feel very guilty because I am a very strong supporter of local shopping but its just so easy to do it all in one place.

After the shop we moved on down to Hillmorton and in typical fashion it started to rain as we went through our first locks for yonks. It was just plain miserable so we cut short our movement for the day and moored in the very pleasant moorings at the top of the locks. We weren’t that keen on Hillmorton last time we were there below the locks: a cruiser moored behind us was set adrift and caused all sorts of problems so it didn’t give a good impression. This time it seemed a real haven from the rain. We walked up past the church and could see why people like it so much.

Piston Broke are in the boatyard at Hillmorton at present after being stretched and we went round to admire the work and say hello. Paul & Lynne weren’t there so we’ll catch up with them in a few days. We need to get on to Braunston to get some bits and pieces sorted out ourselves.

Lock to nowhere

Hillmorton Canal Centre

Today we did 4.14 Miles 3 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2060.68 Miles, 1132 Locks, 118 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 34 Tunnels


Newbold Quary

October 23, 2010

We started off to walk down the towpath to Rugby but were diverted by the Newbold Quarry Park. The centre of the park is an old cement quarry that has been flooded. The side we entered wasn’t very exciting with a high wall of railings and scrubby stuff blocking off a view of the water. (When we got round to the other side we could see why the railings were necessary: there was a precipitous drop down a cliff into the water.) We wandered round the paths around the park including one that took us up some steep steps to a fine view over the canal and beyond. Opposite the cliffs the path skirts the edge of the water and there were tufty ducks, a pair of grebe, coots, moorhen and seagulls to watch, along with a pair of swans and one cygnet. It seemed that the swans had decided that it was time its offspring left to fend for itself because it was driven away each time it came near them: we guessed there are many parents nowadays that might wish they could do the same! Apparently the quarry is one of the few protected habitats of the native white clawed crayfish, the only crayfish native to the British Isles. They have been almost wiped out nationally by the North American Signal Crayfish and the crayfish plague that they spread but are themselves immune to.

Newbold Quary

Down by the water

Statistics so far:-

2056.54 Miles, 1129 Locks, 118 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 34 Tunnels


Newbold

October 22, 2010

Alan had an appointment to meet someone at midday so we needed to be somwhere convenient for a motorist. We had thought that we would go on to Stretton Stop and maybe have a look at the Brinklow village at the same time. It was just around the corner from our overnight mooring so didn’t take long. When we got there we discovered that the moorings as indicated in the books were very poor with a considerable underwater shelf and all the rings were taken by the Rose Narrowboats. We decided to go on, I was a bit deterred in any event by having to walk quite a way along what seemed to be a busy road to get to the village.

We went through the cut after Stretton Stop into a very pretty wooded section and then discovered that there was a very pleasant mooring area that would have been convenient for an alternative route into Brinklow but harder for our visitor to get to. So Brinklow must be saved for another day.

As we went on through the woods we were joined by a family of seven cygnets, real teenage swans if ever there were. They were having a great time travelling in a line next to us, for a mile or more, and they were obviously enjoying riding on the wash from our boat, peep peeping all the while. Suddenly, as we reached the open space and bend just before bridge 35, they beat their wings in unison and ran for yards on the water before rising together into the air with a great beating of wings, and then plopping down again in the water just short of the bridge. Just as Alan was bewailing the fact that he had been so mesmerised he had failed to click the camera shutter, they turned and walked and flew back just behind us. As they settled on the water it was obvious they we had played our part in their day’s entertainment and they were waiting for the next boat coming the other way to ride back with. All the time their mum was watching from a long way back: “Kids!!”

As we headed on to Newbold we passed the many white cast iron bridges heading so elegantly onto the back stretches of the old Oxford Canal route. Newbold Tunnel itself was quite spectacular in that it was beautifully wide and straight so we could see right through and lit up by coloured lights that gave a fantastic striped effect.

We found a great mooring just past the pubs and can see why this is a popular spot for boaters.

Special Escorts

Signets in Flight

Iron Bridge

Newbold Tunnel

Today we did 5.36 Miles

Statistics so far:-

2056.54 Miles, 1129 Locks, 118 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 34 Tunnels


Coombe Fields

October 20, 2010

It was with great reluctance that we left the Ashby. A sharp left turn onto the Coventry and we could have been in a different world. We need some bits and pieces for the evening meal (mainly rice, the system had broken down) and we briefly moored just before Charity Dock so I could walk to the two nearby shops. They were very small shops and I came back with only a small packet of rice from my list of requirements.

On we went past Hawkesbury Junction again, through the six inches or so of the stop lock and we were back onto the North Oxford Canal. This section is new to us, previously we have travelled from Braunston as far as Rugby only.

After Hawkesbury the canal is a complete contrast to the Ashby with first the M6 alongside which eventually swings away only to curve back and pass over the canal in a bridge of many pillars, the M69 also crosses and just past Ansty the train line comes snuggling up alongside for the best part of three miles. There are some pretty sections but its a matter of deciding if you can live with trains rushing past just yards away: we have managed to live with this in the past but it was early enough to keep going in the search for something better.

The train wasn’t the only obstacle. There weren’t many places where mooring is easily possible and two boats we passed where the occupants were sitting out enjoying the afternoon were quite a way out from very rough bank (and with the roar of the not too far distant motorway). Call us picky if you will but we have got rather used to mooring rings and pins are definitely well down our list of preferred options, particularly when all boats seem to travel so fast. Eventually we went past the long line of permanent moorings and found a nice spot with metal siding that we could hook onto and at least get into the bank. It was one of those lovely October evening with the sky a bleached out blue with tints of pink. Let’s make the most of it: in a couple of weeks we’ll be moored by 4.30 before it gets dark.

Charity Dock

Ships Cat

M6

Today we did 9.26 Miles and 1 Lock

Statistics so far:-

2051.18 Miles, 1129 Locks, 118 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 34 Tunnels


Water Voles at Marston Jabbett

October 19, 2010

We woke to a very cold and misty morning, with frost on the ground. Seems like time to change to the winter duvet and turn the sheepskin fleece underblanket to the warm side. We are moving into winter survival mode slightly earlier than last year it seems. Does that auger well or not?

In any event the mist and chill made it a very pretty view from the hatch and as the mist gradually disappeared a beautiful blue sky and sunshine was revealed. Its a great day for messing about on a river as Ratty might have said and off we went to find the true inspiration for Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows hero.

Alan was laden down with his camera and tripod and as we started along the towpath looking intently at the far bank a chap came along who I had noticed birdwatching from the nearby bridge for the better part of an hour or so. He was a wildlife expert, fanatic really, and this was his local stretch of the canal. He had already seen a buzzard and a sparrow hawk this morning. He told us that after a long absence voles had returned to this stretch of canal because many mink had been caught. There were two places that he often saw voles and he had been out earlier and left carrots by one of the bridges: when we got there they had been eaten. He told us to stand on the bridge where we would be able to see both areas. He had also stuck two thin branches into the bank to provide perches for kingfishers that were often on that stretch as well.

We stood quietly on the bridge for quite some time. Several boats went through and this maybe deterred any voles from emerging. We did however see a kingfisher which swooped under the bridge and down the canal. Eventually we went back towards the boat and stopped in the area that Alan had seen three voles on the way up a few days before. Opposite me the leaves were rustling. I could hear a faint sound of movement and as my eyes adjusted I was able to focus on a vole chewing away at some tasty vegetation. I hissed quietly but loudly enough to attract Alan’s attention (eventually!) and he managed to see the vole before a whole stream of boats came through and that was that. What a wonderful way to spend a sunny day.

Sorry no Vole pictures.

Early morning Sun

Early morning mooring

An early start

Statistics so far:-

2041.92 Miles, 1128 Locks, 118 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 34 Tunnels particularly