Saturday 29 August 2015

Hillmorton (met a man who’s visited 11,000 post offices)

When I opened the side hatches on Friday morning I was greeted by a family of swans.

It was a beautiful morning so we sat outside reading for a while.  A family of buzzards were flying around above us but we couldn’t get a decent picture.  We decided to walk into the local town and get a bus to Rugby and have a look around.  Here is Buddy waiting for the bus – he seems to know when to conserve energy.

Karen spotted a Small Copper on the driveway of the house by the bus stop but unfortunately it didn't come any closer to us to get a better look.

Rugby was making a big thing of the world cup – I expect a lot of foreign visitors will make their way there whilst they’re over to see some matches.  When we got home we started chatting to a guy who was picking blackberries by the boat.  He turned out to be very interesting: his main hobby is visiting post offices and getting a stamp (franking not postage) from each.  His collection of franks shows he has visited over 11,000 post offices across the world.  He also has a claim to fame as being one of two local people who had won £125,000 on the TV show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?  His win was 12 years ago and coincidentally he was giving his daughter half of it this week to pay off her mortgage.
In the afternoon we cruised seven miles and down three locks to Hillmorton (south east of Rugby).  On the way we passed another boat named after a British butterfly.

This is a turnover bridge just outside Braunston – the towpath crosses from one side to the other and horses could cross over without being uncoupled from their boat.

Under the bridge was a rotting stanking plank.

This boat followed us through the beautiful (in our opinion) Braunston turn.  We are now heading north up the Oxford canal and to the left is the Grand Union heading east and then south to London.

This is the unusual spire of Braunston church where many working boat families were buried.

We were now on the northern part of the Oxford canal heading for Coventry.

It really is a very rural stretch…

…apart from going under the M45 of course.

I rather liked this picture of us going into the top lock at Hillmorton.

We descended the three locks at Hillmorton but there are actually six locks there.  Additional locks were built next to the originals because there was so much traffic heading for Coventry and Birmingham.  This was the second pair of locks.

And here we are going down the third set.

At the bottom a girl asked if I could help her retrieve her tennis ball that she had lost in the water.

I was happy to help her and I took the boat over to the other side of the canal so she could retrieve her ball.  Once she got it I told her that all she had to do was swim back across the canal.  I’ll never forget the look on her face – I felt so sorry for her that I had to say I was joking.  It worked out well because we decided to moor up where we were for the night in sight of the wind farm near the M1 south of Leicester.

In the lock flight we passed an old arm that is now used as a boatyard.

We had an early evening walk and came across this bridge that gave warning of a lower bridge within it – well, it tickled me.

On the way back to the boat Karen caught me resting on some lock gates.

It was such a warm evening that we sat on the bank watching the glorious sunset.


Friday 28 August 2015

Braunston (reliving memories)

We had a gentle cruise to Braunston during Thursday.  Braunston grew up as a canal village in the late 1700s and into the 1800s and sits on the junctions of the Grand Union and Oxford canals.  The stretch of canal through the village is the busiest in the UK and it certainly felt like the M25 today.  
As we have travelled through Braunston several times in the past we didn't take many pictures but here is one from a couple of summers ago when my youngest, Polly, took my Dad (when he was 85) in our kayak.

Here are a couple of the quieter moments we encountered on our cruise yesterday.

This area of Northamptonshire is what we call a ‘retirement tick’ – we would include the villages around here as potential places to buy a home for retirement.  The yellow Northamptonshire sandstone that many houses are built with gives a really mellow feel to the buildings.   

Because Braunston was a major canal village the graveyard contains the remains of many boaters.  I read that cholera came here in 1834 which was very early for outside London and Newcastle (the ports where it arrived from abroad).  Apparently a local woman washed bedding from a working boat that had come up from London.  The bedding was infected and the lady caught the disease and died; she was the first of 19 people that died from cholera in the village.  In all 90 villagers out of a population of 1,400 caught the disease.

On our journey to Braunston we passed what must be the shortest narrowboat we have ever seen - it even has a stove!

Within five minutes of mooring up Buddy was fast asleep on the towpath.

We took him for a walk in the evening sun and Karen took a nice picture of a Speckled Wood basking in the sunshine.

Thursday 27 August 2015

Lower Shuckburgh (Why do we feel so shattered?)

Heavy rain was forecast for Wednesday morning so we had a restful time reading on the boat waiting for the rain to stop.  It stopped just before noon so we set off for the Oxford canal.  There were a lot of reed beds on this part of the canal meaning we had to go extremely slowly in case a boat came in the opposite direction.

Even though the rain stopped and the sun came out it remained quite windy.

We went up the three locks on the Calcutt flight, sharing the first with another boat.  When we got to the second there was already a boat in it so we let the boat we had shared with go ahead.  We then went up the last two locks on our own.  Locks are one of the danger areas on a canal so you have to keep your wits about you.  As soon as something breaks your routine then that is when something is more likely to go wrong.  Having been through nearly 1,000 locks since November we have a well established routine.  As we went through the first lock we got out of our routine as we let the other boat go ahead.  Consequently we forgot to check the bottom paddles were closed on the second lock and were wondering for ages why the lock was filling so slowly.

After a couple of miles we hit the Oxford canal at Napton junction where we turned left towards Braunston which is all familiar territory to us as we have cruised around these parts a few times.

These private moorings were in a nice quiet location and were filled by many ex-working boats.

We moored for the night near a place called Lower Shuckburgh.  It was a bit like when we used to moor on the Kennet & Avon - lots of vegetation and having to use a gangplank.

In the evening we took Buddy for a four mile walk and felt shattered when we got back to the boat. We're used to long walks and being outside nearly all day every day but still get surprised when we feel tired - we put it down to the change of environment and routine when we went to Norway.

Our tomato plants survived being abandoned whilst we were away so we were back to salad for lunch and Karen made a good tomato and fresh chilli (boat grown as well) based sauce to go with our fish for dinner.

This was the view out of kitchen hatch in the evening when the clouds had nearly disappeared.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Back on board (still in Stockton)

We spent Tuesday getting back to the boat and settling in again.  Although we’ve only been away for a few days it feels like far longer. It’s probably because we went to Norway for the weekend to see Matthew in Oslo.  We had a brilliant time there and had the same heatwave that England seemed to have over the weekend.  I'm not going to write about our trip as that is not the point of this blog; however, I wanted to include this picture.  I still like to learn at least one new thing every day and on Saturday I learnt that there are such things as dry ski-jumps.  I suppose it’s obvious if you think about it - they need to practise all year round.  This guy was about 10 years old so had a lot of guts.

Back to cruising tomorrow as we head for Napton on the Hill and Braunston – places we haven’t been to since the end of last year soon after we moved on board full time.

Here are a few pictures at random from our trip to Oslo.