Day 3 – That tunnel, those locks & Braunston

 

Yes, the well trodden route – back to Norton junction, down thru Braunston tunnel – 3 or 4 boats met us, including an old boat with a dazzling headlamp and no leeway given. Luckily we shared all the locks with a nice group on their timeshare boat from Gayton (Malvolio) and as it was so busy, we had lots of boats coming up, so all the locks were ready for us. A brief stop for lunch and we decided that it was too busy & noisy here. We likes it rural we does. So, on to Willoughby – a regular stop. Under some trees and it was pushing 30 degrees – again!! Here’s some graphs from the weather station (faithfully erected everyday):

This shows the outside temperature from June until today (max was 33.1)

This shows days of sunshine plus how many hours! Most astonishing for Britain.

Some fairly recent babies . . .

Big, old and heavy gates but we did have lots of help. Just six to do.

Under some trees and that’s it for the day. 1300 and time to stop – easy life, eh?

Strange pose from my crew member/admiral? Speak no evil? The herb planter is looking good – thyme, savoury, mint x 2, parsley and marjoram! Plus the two pepper plants are now producing fruit.  Not surprised in this tropical Summer.

A beef tagine has been cooking on the slow cooker – with apricots, chick peas and ras-al-hanout spices. Should be good.

Meanwhile, here’s the techy bit for today.

Steve’s new toy – the Victron BMV-712, battery monitor (with bluetooth – so you can see it all happening on your phone!). That’s the grey round dial. The Smartgauge, next to it is very good but it just gives you the %, which is nice but % of what exactly? Aha, the new gauge tells me how many amps have been eaten since we turned the engine off. Yesterday it was 36Ah and the Smartgauge said down to 91% – Oer, so that means, roughly that 100% should be about 370Ah? Hmm, our batteries are 3x200Ah=600Ah. So a fair bit down then, if this new bit of elastic trickery is to be believed.  Still, the lights stay on and we can also watch TV, DVD player & sound bar . . . but I feel a new set of batteries will be due soon.

 

Day Two – Watford Gap

 

A quiet night in Crick then up earlyish to bimble on to the Watford flight of locks. Just as we set off another boater quickly cast off and pushed in front of us – now is that rude/not part of the boater’s code? He also zoomed into the Crick tunnel, even though a boat was almost out. We waited. Saves the stress of going into a tunnel – for us and the outgoing boat, too. And down at the flight of locks was our old friend Adrian, on duty.

They do keep these locks looking good – with lots of flowers and even a batch of herbs.

Viv is driving this time and Steven does the locking – with help from the volunteers.

Bit of a nervous first one (does it show??) but after that Viv does well.

Seven locks and a drop of 16 metres – staircase locks in the middle – meaning, you can’t pass other boats!

Does she have her eyes closed?

This pic shows just how deep these locks are, as the top gate is also the bottom gate of the next lock, if you see what I mean.

The locks are not interconnected – instead you open the paddles (red ones then white ones) which allows water to flow in and out of the side ponds.

We did have a bit of a wait – about 2 hours before we even got into the locks but they let us down and by this time Viv had mastered the art of getting a 65 foot boat just 6’10” into a lock just 7′ wide – that’s just an inch either side!

And on to our mooring, just 20 mins away, past the Watford Gap services, outside Weltonfield marina. Quiet & scenic.

 

And very rural too but still bl**dy hot! 29 degrees in and outside the boat.

Cratch cover looks good. Better this burgundy than the old black one.

We did see dozens of narrowboats going to and fro – well it is Saturday, in August, darling. But this was a new one (tender to a widebeam, Great Escape)

 

Cruise #2 – a wee start

 

Well, after 17 nights in Whitstable, helping Mum to sorts all things out (she did make a huge list!) it’s back on the boat for our second cruise of the year.

A nice half pin of Oatmeal stout in the Tankerton Arms on Sunday.

Yes we did a fair bit of cooking and drinking! A nice lasagne – several portions still in your freezer Mum!

Well, the open (water) road is a calling and it’s time to be off . . . .

Not before the doggy gets his swim (and then a good shower afterwards) – when will it ever cool down???

Tha boats all polished. The fridge & larder is all re-vittled. Dog food collected and so we chug off at 3 ish, just an hour away, no sense in rushing, stands to reason. In fact less than a mile, as the crow flies from our mooring. To Crick and some shade.

Tomorrow – through the tunnel and down the Watford flight of locks to a quiet and shady mooring near Welton. Plan A is to head to the Ashby canal, as, well, it is August and the schools are out, holiday hirers will abound and the traffic will surely increase. So find us somewhere quiet and lovely and well, good pubs and what better pub than the George & Dragon in Stoke Golding.

 

Time Out – Visiting Whitstable

 

We’ve finished the first cruise of the year and before we  think about the second one, we’re off to Whitstable to visit with Mother.

Meanwhile here’s a few odd ones left over

The carp resurface in the Summer for food – some really big uns too

A brief clip of our resident Reed Warbler

It was getting so hot on the boat that we decided to take the boat out to bridge 27 and hide under some trees! Gail went too and we also saw Simon there later.

The above pic reminds me of the Windows desktop!

Tried to keep the boat cool but it still got up to 30 degrees inside. At least we can sit in the shade.

Simon & Charlie came by. They are now free and off on their continuous cruising. Although not quite continuous as they had a few teething troubles on what is their sea trial stage. Here’s a pic of the Rushton two cylinder engine.

We had to be back soon as Karl (KC Canopies) was coming over to fit our new cratch cover. Made in this new fabric “Top Gun” and in a stylish burgundy with grey edging. Very nice.  Highly recommended.

With our trip to Mum’s imminent, it’s time to clean the wooden floor, again and put some Osmo Polyx oil on – you can see the before/after scenes here:

Quick change of scene and we’re in Whitstable. Having crawled along the M25 for an hour.

It’s still touching on 30 degrees down here, so, Toby gets a swim and Steve gets his trunks wet.

A brisk day for sailing

Nice view of Seasalter beach

 

Meanwhile, back at  Swallow Avenue . . . here’s Mum

Next day . . . Tankerton Slopes

Something’s going on . . . down on the beach

They’ve discovered a 16th shipwreck . .

See the BBC news item

I was asked to mind these objects for 5 mins!  Lots of bits of wood salvaged.

 

End of Cruise #1

 

Yes, all good things come to an end – except a sausage, of course, which comes to two.

We left Hilmorton early and sailed through Braunston. Arriving at the bottom lock around 9 ish. We then teamed up with a hire boat full of young scouts who were being trained in all things narrowboat. Taking turns to work the locks and steer the boat. This made light work for us and we were soon thru the six big locks and into the tunnel.  We stopped for lunch at Welton but decided to push on for it felt like we were nearing home. Just three very hot hours up the Watford flight (we were third in a queue) but had help from the volunteers. Back in the marina by 4 ish and a quick pump out & restock of tokens, Elsan Green and a card for the electricity. Then it was a navigational puzzle to work out how to get back into our ickle mooring in a force 4 wind blowing east, and thus pushing us onto all the A pontoon boats! Viv called it supreme skill but I called it luck as we let the wind blow us sideways across the marina and then using reverse thrust & some bowthrusting, we slid into B1 without incident. Thanks also to neighbours Ron & Gail who stood by with ropes.

Lots of scouts plus their leaders – all helped to work the locks.

 

Which made it a bit easier for Viv . . . and very easy for Toby, who supervised

Up to the Norton junction and the smallest sign ever, welcoming boaters with good eyesight to the Leicester branch of the Grand Union. And bridge No 1. Just 17 to go then.

Up the Watford flight – it was very hot.

Water supplies holding up – for now – this heatwave is set for a further two weeks

Back in our mooring – lots of reeds have grown up but we do have our own Reed Warbler . . .

And lots of damsel flies

Back in B1 – lots of encroaching reeds

New acquisition – the Lytchett Navigation Station – ideal for maps, books, ipads, phones and drinks . . . even in the rain

Shows just how tight it is to get in this slot

Not many boats . . . . a lot have gone out for the Summer and a lot have just gone

Toby’s very happy – no more boating for a while . . .

 

Still Scorchio but nearing “home”

 

We inch ever nearer to our home base. Still only doing 3 or so hours a day. We left All Oaks Wood quite early and chugged on to Hilmorton visitor moorings. Met up with Barry (aka Baz the fish) for lunch at the Bell and then pushed on the next day, Friday to the outskirts of Braunston at Willoughby. Only 2 miles from what one might call the centre of the canal network but a very quiet and rural spot. Thankfully a breeze is blowing today so very hot but cooling too.

Here’s one for Stephen & Lucia – a bridge 42!!

Hilmorton VM – somewhat spoilt now by a huge house building programme that spreads out along the side of the canal all the way from Rugby to Hilmorton – see the big yellow truck behind the boat. Bulldozing all day – not a nice place to stop anymore.

Up to The Bell Inn on Hilmorton Road – just next to our dog’s vets, doesn’t look too much from the road – a big, white 70’s art-deco front-ish place, you’d think only good for lager & sports TV but it is surprisingly nice. A small lounge bar, a big restaurant and best of all, a huge garden with a fish pond.  Here’s Barry replenishing the beer stock!  Lunches were good too – £5 for 1 course, £7 for 2 and £9 for 3. Good grub it was too.  Beer not so with Sharp’s & St Austell fare (it is a Heineken pub). Bit of a trek from the canal in the heat (a mile or so uphill?) but worth it and all downhill going back.

Next day. Off at 0830 and up through the 3 double locks.  Vince the regular volunteer was on hand to help. Cheers.

Quite speedily through these locks – the busiest on the whole canal network but not today.  We noticed the unusual paddle gear, no ratchet but a stopper.

Oh, look, another Blue Moon! How often do you see these?

Round we go on a big southerly loop, past Barby marina and four alpacas

Lots of other more native wildlife

Past the new marina at Onley, Dunchurch Pools.

Looks fairly full of boats – some widebeams too.

And finally, just beyond bridge 87, we stop. Only a 30 minute walk into Braunston but with no noise from builders, cars, trains or planes . . . it’ll do us.

Just fields and a whole flotilla of boats passing by!

 

Cooler when Cruising

 

Yes, the SCORCHIO weather continues and it looks set for another five days at least. Slightly down from the 29 degrees but still peaking at 24 – 27 all week! We decided to keep moving as the three hours we do in the morning will mean a bit of breeze. So we left Springwood Haven and headed for Sutton Stop or Hawkesbury Junction – to take on water and to met up with Karl (of KC Canopies). He is going to make us a brand new cratch cover – in burgundy with charcoal gray trim. He was prompt at 1800 and set about making a pattern with a plastic film and took on board all our requests . . . two zips, windows, curtains etc We chose the new fabric called Top Gun (as recommend by Gary2 on Ermintrude), which should last, not leak and not stretch – a failing of our canvas one.

     

Our mooring at the junction – right up to the bridge. Luckily the old steam pump house gave us some shade. It was so hot Steve put the stove fan on the roof and guess what:

 It is a special type of fan on will rotate for as low as 45 degrees but that does mean our roof was > 45 degrees!! One other good reason for stopping here is the famous pub, the Greyhound. They do great pies and have good beer & cider.

Very rural and a bit overgrown this North Oxford canal. A famous stretch for Butter Burrs.

Viv steered for quite a bit – under the M6

Nice to see the usual double lane of stationary lorries . . .

Our final mooring down at All Oak Woods.

 

¡Scorchio!

 

Not much to write about today – just the heat!  “I don’t’ mind the heat so much, it’s those damned drums, will they never stop?!”, is one of Steve’s odd phrases.

They got it right – those Met chaps – pretty much 25+ degrees here all week.

As you can see – over 32 here in the boat (that’s over 90 in old money). With a dull grey metal roof it does rather heat up. Steve’s taken to covering the roof with tarpaulin, dog blankets and anything spare – just to keep the heat down.

Last night we saw another of those meteorological optical thingies – we saw one in Mountsorrel (see blog passim) , called a Sun Dog and now we have a Solar Pillar. Nice.

Not quite a candidate for the “photo of the year” but here’s the inside of one of the battery boxes – sexy innit? Steve bought that battery monitor from that nice Mr Kevin of Onboard Solar on Saturday and was going to fix it today (the BMV 712 if you’re into that sort of thing) and he set about the job with alacrity but with some trepidation. You have to uncouple all the negative wires and attach them to a shunt, connecting it then to the negative terminal. Sounds simple?  Hmm, four big chunky wires and one enormous one too. Got half way thru when he found that two of these blue wires had holes in their terminal too small for the new bolt, doh! Couldn’t drill them out, cos the elastic trickery had been turned off. Doh, indeed. Put it all back and do it in the marina next month.

But a big Thank You to said Kevin for all his help and advice. I know he helped install a lot of kit for Gail (Hello!) on Sleepy Otter and she was impressed.

I know, our sleek and neat Aqualine boat looking more like a skanky one but it does help reduce the insides from the usual inferno. I’m guessing we may move tomorrow, if only to find some shade.

And just for Gail, Jenny & Penny (Happy Birthday!!), here’s a much younger Toby at our old house in Blagdon, in the snow – it cools you down just to watch it.

From one rural idyll to another – Springwood Haven

 

Well, I can’t keep on calling each post Moving On, wouldn’t be right. Stands to reason. Sorry, been watching a lot of Endeavour – we bought the boxed set and are wending our way through them. They are very good. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin . . . Atherstone was great but Saturday looked to be a tad cloudy and then the forecast for the following week, the last in June was set to be Scorchio, so we decided to chug along – doing the 9 locks ahead of us but no rush.  If we go slowly, then maybe, just maybe, someone will come down, setting the lock in our favour.  I must mention, if only DT’s pleasure, that I discovered a new pub – the New Swan. This rather ancient but wonderful pub, in the market square, served 3 Church End beers and at good prices (£3.20) plus they have a new pop-up-van in their courtyard selling burritos and salad boxes – all very pleasant. The Angel Tap is the place to go but they don’t open until 4. Lovely.

Sunset – last night in Atherstone

Down by lock10

And Viv’s birthday seems to go on and on . . . the last bottle of Cava!

During the day that Solar Kettle does it job – 0.5 litre boiling water in an hour or so

Toby gets a new toy after a passing dog took (with our permission) his old piggie

Right 9 locks to do – Viv does 4 and then we swap round for the last 5

Here’s the Plant Boat – seen last year in Brewood – Neil on Jodarolo.  Bought a pot of marjoram from him to add to our herb pot.

And there’s Neil himself!

Top of the locks – ably assisted by 3 volunteers – made the ascent quite easy & enjoyable as they are all quite chatty.

Time to take on water and then on to Springwood Haven – just another hour.

Marvelous sunset – the water very still, so brilliant reflections.

And Sunday morning – here we be! A very rural spot. Ideal to stop for a few days as the solar energy will keep us going.

Just back round the corner is this delightful marina – with Onboard Energy – specialising in Victron products (so Steve went and spent money on a new Victron battery monitor – does Bluetooth, so he can be even more nerdy and watch all those ickle electrons coming and going via his phone!)

Here’s a long shot, showing just how rural we are. Only a few miles from Nuneaton.

 

Moving On

 

“Farther On and Farther Up.” All the locks are in the up direction now but at least they be narrow ones until we get to Braunston. After Viv’s birthday celebrations we moved off from Alrewas on the Monday morning – five locks to do and a corner turned into the Coventry canal. Down to Kings Orchard to moor for one night.

Fradley Junction – lots of volunteers to help here

Been here many times before – The Swan pub on the right but we turn left, into the Coventry canal.

A few hours later and we stop near Kings Orchard marina and near to the Plough at Huddlesford

Next day – off again, thru Fazeley junction, turn right here for the Birmingham & Fazeley canal and Brum. We fork left and stop pretty soon, near the Tame aqueduct and a safer place (than Glascote) for visiting Tamworth.

Fazeley junction and our herb box!

This is the view from our cratch – not much, thanks to the tomato plants taking over – be glad when they’re all done.

Kingfisher & robin pix – looking a little faded now.

Nearly there . . . longish day for us . . .

Viv went off with her trolley – to visit M&S, spend her 20% discount (birthday discount!) & 10% off food too. Bit of a trek but worth it.  Next day – off again, tad windy but Viv steers over the Tame aqueduct. Something surreal about water being carried over water.

An alpaca farm near? Dunno.

Nearing our final destination today – Atherstone, we espy Titanic II

Final spot – inbetween locks 9 & 10. A nice, quiet rural spot. Bit of a trek into town but better than being close to the railway & the A5.

Viv took this splendid sunset photo – Steve’s immaculate waxing of the boat gives a good reflection.

And another arty photo – the lonesome tree

Looking down at lock 9

A long shot looking back to our boat – just to show how rural we are! And then zoomed in:

Just up from the “bottomless bridge”

Chris had sent us some money for Viv’s birthday, so we made the trek into town and found the Red Lion hotel – they allow dogs in to the courtyard and have excellent food & more than that, Goat’s Milk – a Church End beer (a CAMRA winner).

Cheers!

We’ve been here before and can heartily recommend it.

Meanwhile here’s one of those signs that really tell you where places are