Thursday 25 August 2016

Tomlow (more family time)

Buddy doing as he is told

Last Sunday we went to Lauren and Lewis’s for the day.  They hosted a barbecue for my youngest children and some of their friends.  Fortunately it kept dry all day and it was really good to catch up with everyone.

Polly (my youngest) surreptitiously tucking into olives

Lauren and Lewis – proud owners of their first barbecue

This week has been too hot again for Buddy so we tended to go for walks early in the morning and later in the evening.  I got very cross with him when we went past Calcutt locks one day as he saw a dog on the other side and ran across the gates without asking.  He is usually pretty good and will wait until he is told he can cross.

The next day I thought I would take him out and do some lock training.  All was good and he would wait by the lock gate until he was called over – see picture at the top. We carried on doing this for a while and I started to feel quite proud of him, especially as he was getting congratulated by passing boaters and walkers.  We walked on a while and a collie appeared from nowhere and they started playing really nicely together.  The next thing I knew, the collie had run across a set of lock gates with Buddy in hot pursuit – all the training undone in one foul swoop.  I was cross again, but as it was hot we decided to call it a day and walk back home.

I have mentioned before that there seem to be few kingfishers on this stretch of canal but Karen saw one when she went to work on Tuesday.  She was walking along the road to her car and one flew off the canal, over her head and straight down the road as if it were flying over water.  When she told me about this in the evening it reminded me of when we were moored on the Birmingham & Fazeley canal near the M42 east of Birmingham last year.  We were watching a pair of kingfishers and suddenly one took off at right angles to the canal and flew straight across the motorway.  I can’t believe many people have seen a kingfisher flying over a motorway.

Our peaceful mooring for the week at Tomlow.  We will have to move on next week though.

I haven’t really done a great deal this week because of the weather but I did see my first Dark Green Fritillary butterfly of the year when sitting outside reading the newspaper.  

I spent some time planning how we are going to get the boat up to Northwich in Cheshire to drop it off and pick up the new boat.  We really have to get going after the bank holiday weekend as it is 120 miles away and there are 78 locks to go through.  We will have been at this spot for two weeks on Bank Holiday Monday so it will be time to move on anyway.

Our route north west over the next four weeks

For the first two or three weeks Karen will come back to the boat each evening but after that we will be too far away for her to travel each day.  She will need to find somewhere to stay during the week whilst Buddy and I continue our travels.  At least we will be together at weekends and hopefully get some good cruises in.

Next week we will head back to Braunston on the Grand Union where we will turn north up the North Oxford canal.  At Hawkesbury we will join the Coventry canal until it meets the Birmingham & Fazeley canal at Fazeley junction.  Continuing roughly northwards we hit the Trent & Mersey canal at Fradley junction and stay on that canal until we get to the boatyard at Northwich around 20th September.

The journey is along canals we have cruised several times before but it will be a pleasant change to be moving every day.  We will pass through towns like Rugby, Tamworth, Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent and Middlewich so there will be ample opportunity to stock up on supplies.  No doubt we will bump into boaters we have met along the way in the past too.

This coming weekend we are off camping near Ludlow with my sister, Judith, and Nigel.  We are really looking forward to this as it will be a novel experience camping with them without any children with us.  Not that we don’t enjoy camping with all the children of course!

It was raining earlier this morning so I spent a bit of time reading some of our blog entries from when we were in the north last year.  I am so pleased that we keep a record of what we do; even the basic entries bring the memories and the feelings at the time flooding back.

Buddy, having been told he can cross the gates

Saturday 20 August 2016

Tomlow (a week of all weathers)

One advantage of being back at Tomlow is that the towpaths are not so narrow as recent mooring spots.  This means I can take Buddy out on a bike ride each day.  Mind you it has been so hot this week that Buddy hasn’t been up to going for long walks – we have tended to go out before it gets too hot and then again in the early evening.

Buddy cooling off under his own parasol

I found another good circular walk on Tuesday that took in yet another site of an abandoned medieval village, the village of Caldcote.  As with the villages near Braunston, the landowner is not allowed to till this land.

The undulations of yet another abandoned medieval village

On our return I noticed the boat was rather loose on its ropes.  We are moored in the middle of a straight of about 200 yards in length and have chosen the optimum spot to make the best of the direct sun.  Unfortunately, the canal seems to be so busy with speeding boaters that the boat gets pulled in all directions when they pass us.  The names of many boats reflect the slow pace of life, e.g. Tortoise, Andante, Slowcoach etc. but one boater that seemed to think he owned the place and didn’t slow down when passing us was on a boat aptly named The Speedy Whippet.  It reminded me why we tend to moor near bridges and bends as there is more of a chance people will slow down in those situations.  I don’t want to make it sound that everyone speeds, it’s just that I get irritated by the lack of respect it shows.  We do make a point of being really friendly and thanking those that do pass at a considerate pace.

Our mooring half way down the Tomlow straight

I got out some chains, that I use for mooring sometimes, to help strengthen the mooring position.  Stupidly I dropped one of the chains straight into the water.  I resorted to my trusty magnet and managed to rescue the chain on the first sweep.

Mooring chain rescued by my trusty magnet

On Wednesday I met two guys, at different points, who were both cycling along the Grand Union canal.  They were both wild camping overnight; one in a hammock and one in a small tent on the towpath.  The hammock guy said he tended to put his hammock up by bridges so he didn’t disturb boaters but I didn’t quite follow the logic.  Although they both had the same objectives, one was covering about 50 miles a day and the other was lucky if he managed as much as 10.  The second chap said he spends more time talking to walkers and boaters than cycling.

We have cooked on the barbecue every weeknight this week as the evenings have been so balmy.

Barbecue long finished but still sitting outside

Drinking red wine from our favourite goblets purchased from a Yorkshire pottery

Whenever I do a job on the outside of the boat I always hear a voice saying things like, “That spanner should be attached to you by a piece of string” or, “You’re going to slip in if you lean out any further”.  I nearly always ignore these voices and Thursday was no exception when I removed the tow bar from the rear.  As it was, I didn't have any mishaps but it could so easily have been a disaster. The tow bar is used to put a car bike rack on to carry our bikes when we are cruising.  I was taking it off as we want it on the new boat and needed to take it to the boat builder when we visited him on Friday.  

Tow bar half removed ready for fixing on the new boat

It always makes us feel excited when we see the new boat - it's really not long until we get her.  It was also good that my Dad was able to join us as well as he is really interested in the joinery side of things.

Another reason for visiting the boat yard was to try out a sofa we had bought from John Lewis but was not available in any store to try before we bought it.  We had it delivered to the yard and fortunately we found it really comfortable.  You can’t tell from the picture but it is really small and cosy and rather suits us – it is only 120 cm wide!

Our new sofa, called the Little Professor, ready for the new boat.  Sophie said it looks very professory!

As expected, they are still painting the outside, so there hasn’t been any progress on the inside but here are the latest shots of the paintwork.

The masking tape will be off after the final coat due this week

Here the masking tape is covering up the cream coachlines


Tuesday 16 August 2016

Calcutt (and coincidences in Cropredy)

Big black man spying on us late on Thursday evening at Flecknoe

We’re getting lots of comments from passing boaters admiring our plants, some even taking photos as they pass.  The sweet peas have done really well but any fresh flowers have to be picked every day to stop the plants from going to seed.  The nasturtiums are now providing us with salad leaves and flowers and the tomato plants are keeping us in fresh tomatoes.  One of my daily tasks is to water and dead-head all the plants.  We use fresh water on the plants for eating and canal water for the display plants – hopefully I don’t get them mixed up!


Nasturtiums grown from seed and ready for eating

The harvest is in full swing around us at the moment and it is fascinating to see how technology has changed things.  We hardly ever see the traditional small bales of straw, farmers nowadays produce much larger bales which have to be lifted onto the trailers mechanically.

Loading a trailer with straw bales (means they must also have a mechanical grab at the other end to unload the trailer)

There are many ash trees in this area and it seems that the Chalara dieback disease has affected some of them.

Second tree from left affected by Chalara dieback disease which was first discovered in Europe in 1992 (in Poland)

Buddy’s next few months supply of food had arrived at Karen’s mums so on Friday we popped down to Wendover to pick it up.  As we were moored a fair way from the road, Karen kayaked the food back to the boat.

Karen grimacing because I was taking a picture of her!

On our way back from Wendover we went via Cropredy to catch up with Jan and Gordon.  They were at the Fairport Convention festival for the three days but came out to have a drink with us in one of the local pubs and listen to the fringe bands playing there.

On the green outside the Brasenose Arms

Jan and Gordon have a narrowboat too and they keep it in the marina at Cropredy so we all had a wander down there to have a look around the boat.  Coincidentally, other friends of ours, Lesley and Mike, have bought a plot of land right in the middle of Cropredy, complete with moorings on the Oxford canal.  They had very kindly offered to let us use the mooring if we had the boat down that way but our plans don’t include travelling down there until later in the year.  We were really envious that they had managed to find a plot of land in the middle of a lovely village like Cropredy.

Our water tank was getting dangerously low and the waste tank dangerously full so on Monday my main job was to get to a boatyard and then find a new mooring for the next two weeks.

Monday morning – our last at Flecknoe

It seemed to take all day to cruise five miles, go down three locks, take on water and get the waste emptied.  Well, it actually took five hours but it seemed longer because it was so hot.  Buddy lay in the shade of the balance beams at every lock.

Lowish bridge at Lower Shuckburgh but plants got through OK

Getting ready to turn sharp right onto the Grand Union canal at Napton junction.  The South Oxford canal carries straight on ahead

Pulling the boat out of the top lock at Calcutt.  I tend to drag the boat out of locks when going down so that I can keep Buddy near me.  I really don't want to leave him on the boat on his own in case something goes wrong

Using the services at Calcutt boatyard - Buddy is lying in the shade under the trees

Waiting for Calcutt middle lock to fill before we could descend

Third and final lock of the day - Calcutt bottom lock

Buddy in normal pose when we take on water

I always wear a life jacket when cruising on my own and I now think I should wear one even if Karen and are cruising together.  I have never been a good swimmer and I'm not getting any younger!

We ended up mooring west of Calcutt on a stretch little used by other boaters.  We were last here in April and had a pleasant two weeks without really seeing anyone come past us.  The path down from the road was really overgrown so I spent a while cutting back the brambles and nettles to make Karen’s journey from the car a bit easier.  As it was such a warm day we had yet another barbecue in the evening.

Our new mooring for the next couple of weeks