Sunday 25 September 2016

Aberdour (a painted lady on the beach)

Whenever we stay away in a house it reminds us how living on a boat has made us conscious of water and power supply.  For example the apartment we are in this week has a good shower but it needs to run for five minutes before the water is hot enough to use – I couldn’t imagine running water on a boat for five minutes just to see it drain away!

When we arrived in Aberdour for our holiday yesterday it was extremely windy but we went for a walk along the coast.

Karen and Jo getting blown away

Looking back to Aberdour – we are staying in one of the white houses overlooking the beach

It’s still surprisingly mild for the end of September and we were especially reminded of it when we visited the new boat on Friday.  The central heating was being run for a couple of days to test it all out and the boat was so warm that we couldn’t imagine having a stove lit.  Mind you, the current boat has little or no insulation and no central heating so we are going to be really spoilt when we move aboard the new one with insulation, heating and a stove.

When I met up with John and Sue (nb Nuthatch) at Fazeley junction recently we got talking about losing things in the water and I mentioned I had lost an expensive pair of glasses in the Kennet and Avon canal a few years back.  We couldn’t retrieve them with a magnet as they were titanium.   Over the years John admits to losing five pairs of glasses overboard.  It reminded me of this pair that my children rigged up for me to ensure they float if they land in the cut.

Clever use of key floats

Sunday dawned clear and still so we went for another walk along the shore. 

Clouds beginning to roll in but it was lovely and warm

This time we took a ball so Buddy could chase it up and down the beach – he particularly enjoys digging up the sand all around the ball to make it roll into the hole he has made.  Buddy is still very timid about water and it took him ages to retrieve the ball when it went into the water.

Just reached the ball before he was out of his depth

I saw a butterfly flying across the water and realised it was a Painted Lady – see picture I took at the top of the blog.  It must have crossed the Forth – not a great feat as its parents would have flown over from North Africa in the Spring.  

I expect all will be quiet on the blog now until we return home and make the final preparations for moving to the new boat.   I have added a link on the menu at the top called "CHB2" which tracks the progress of the new build.

Saturday 24 September 2016

Aberdour (and a visit to the Yorkshire Dales)

The Dalesman café in my parents' village in the Yorkshire Dales

Friday was the start of our week’s holiday but first we had to makes some deliveries to the boatyard.  I had already disconnected the washing machine and fridge and had them in the cratch ready for loading into the car.  At about 7 in the morning we backed the car up to the boat and loaded up then I went to the boatyard to drop them off.  Even though the washing machine is a domestic one, it is smaller than the standard size; with only two of us it’s not like having loads of washing as a family with children would.

Even though it is smaller, the washing machine is still really heavy and took both of us to get it into the car.  When I got to the yard, Andy the carpenter, who’s a big lad, just picked it up in his arms and carried it into the boat shed.

The fit out has continued apace and the only major things left are the flooring, kitchen worktops and our bed.  The worktops were due to go in on Friday and the flooring finished by Monday. 

 Stove installation in progress – they assured me that a proper chimney flue will replace the wooden board!

Apart from dropping off the white goods my other task was to go through the spec in detail just to check nothing has been missed.

Little things like the ball hitch at the rear for mounting the bicycle rack could so easily be missed

My children had bought me ceramic butterfly knobs for a present one year and we are having them fitted to all the doors in our bedroom – again something that could easily have been forgotten as we dropped them off about two months ago

The check was well worth doing and there were two easily rectified things that seemed to have slipped the net; a couple of sockets without USB slots and a 12volt razor socket in the bathroom. What was surprising to all of us was that there were no pole and plank holders on the roof.  These are usually cast when the shell is built and it seemed amazing that none of us had spotted they were missing in the three months since the shell was delivered to the yard.  It means they will have to retrofit some chrome ones.

We set off for Scotland mid-morning but called into the boatyard again so that Karen could see the progress and answer some questions about where she wanted shelves and hanging poles in her wardrobes.

On our drive up we stopped off to see my parents in the Yorkshire Dales.  They live in Gargrave which is on the northern point of the Leeds and Liverpool canal and is one of the reasons for getting the new boat.  We haven’t cruised the Leeds and Liverpool and some of the other northern canals because our current boat is too long for the locks.  We have always found this ironic as my parents live on one of these canals.  The new boat, being 12 feet shorter, will enable us to explore these canals once Karen finishes her contract.

When we visit my parents (and especially when we have our children with us) we like to have lunch in The Dalesman café in their village (see top of this blog entry).  It has a good old fashioned sweet shop attached to it and the children, even as adults, still enjoy spending loose change in there.  

We had a good journey up to Aberdour which sits on the north shore of the Firth of the Forth opposite Leith and Edinburgh.

Bit murky when we arrived but this is our view across our garden to Leith and Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh from the dining room.

We gave Buddy a run along the beach as he had been cooped up in the car all day.  He loves beaches and races around then stops to dig a hole and then races around again – he’ll repeat this behaviour all the while he is on the sand unless a friendly dog joins him of course.

Buddy running down to the little harbour at Aberdour

In the evening we drove into Edinburgh to drop some furniture etc. off for Jo.  She has moved into a new flat for her final uni year and it was good to see where she will be living.

Our plan is to take it easy today (Saturday) as Karen has been working so hard and needs to relax and , after all, we are on holiday! 

Thursday 22 September 2016

Bramble Cuttings (a very proud father)

I was really nervous on Wednesday morning as my youngest daughter, Polly, was retaking her driving test at 9 o’clock.  In the end I decided to start moving the boat to keep my mind occupied.  It didn’t work and I gave it until 10 before making contact.  My middle daughter, Lauren, had taken her so I sent Lauren a text asking her to tell Polly we would pay for the next test as she had obviously failed because there had been no contact. As I sent the text, Polly rang in fits of laughter – she had passed and was so happy.  So now all nine of our children have passed their driving tests.

Well done Polly – she even hugged the examiner and told him he was the best guy in the world!

The other aim of the morning’s cruise was to find somewhere where we could moor next to a road.  We are removing the washing machine and fridge on Friday and taking them to the boatyard to be fitted in the new boat.  I had a place in mind but knew only three boats could moor there.  When we turned up there was no room so I decided to temporarily moor further back and wait for a boat to move.  I was in luck and after an hour a boat moved off.  By mid-afternoon all the boats had gone and we were on our own; however, later on another boat did join us.

Moored with easy access to a road to get heavy things into the car

On the way we passed a marina that we have watched being built over the years.  When we last came past in April we had begun to think it was never going to open and that maybe the builders had gone bust.  Anyway, this time it was obvious that it had just opened as there were a few boats in there.

Plenty of room for more boats although those gulls must be making a mess of the pontoons

We also went through Billings Flash which was packed with moored boats enjoying the late September summer.
Not a very clear picture as I caught the sun I’m afraid

I’ve probably mentioned before that I take pictures of all milestones/markers/posts along the canals and rivers we travel.  The Trent & Mersey is particular good as the mileposts are recent (around mid 1970s) and very large and heavy so unlikely to get stolen.  They are all in place from Shardlow (near Nottingham) right up the 92 mile length to Preston Brook near Manchester. 

I passed four today and took pictures from the boat as we cruised past them.  Once we moored up I realised that none of them had come out so there was nothing for it but to cycle back and retake them all.  Buddy didn’t mind because it gave him a good run.

One of the mileposts we passed today
Many, like this one, have a plaque dedicating the sponsor of the post

I was surprised when the skies darkened and we had a hailstorm about four o’clock as only light clouds had been forecast.  Anyway, after it stopped I took Buddy out for another walk.  He wasn’t happy as it was so near his dinner time.  He kept stopping and just sitting on the towpath.  In the end I gave up after just over a mile (measured by mileposts) and let him come back home.

Thursday is going to be a day of clearing the boat out and getting ready for a week’s holiday in Scotland.

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Bramble Cutting (an emotional day of lasts)

Tuesday night's mooring

I had thought I wouldn’t be writing many blog entries for the last couple of weeks we have left living on the old boat before moving onto the new one, but somehow I seem to be writing one nearly every day.  Although we are both extremely excited about moving to our new home I find it quite sad leaving the current boat.  Karen doesn’t feel it in quite the same way, probably as she is working and therefore not at home practically all day as I am.  

Karen is very pragmatic and looks at the move in a positive way.  We have lived on Chalkhill Blue long enough to know exactly how we want the new one to be.  It’s not just the layout it’s practical things too like engine size, having central heating and 12v and 240v sockets where we want them etc.

Buddy and I had a walk on Tuesday morning around the Wheelock fields and then set off for Middlewich.As we walked along the towpath we came across this metal monstrosity.  It seems to have been built to deter walkers, cyclists, dog owners and boaters.  That is, until you look to the left and everyone just walks or rides round it.

Serving no purpose that I can see

The four locks we had to descend before Middlewich were well spaced apart but none were in our favour.  We were following a boat and as none were coming in the opposite direction I had to fill each chamber before going into the locks.

First lock of the day – Crows Nest lock

The last lock before Middlewich – appropriately named I think

We moored up for lunch after going through Rumps lock - well, Buddy went exploring

Kings lock signifies the entrance to Middlewich from the south

We seem to have spent quite a bit of time in Middlewich over the years on the boat .  I suppose it’s not surprising as it is on the Trent & Mersey canal which links to so many other canals in the north. 

At Middlewich there is a link to the Shropshire Union called the Middlewich branch which we have
used a few times and has one of our favourite pubs along it.  Well, it’s a walk of a mile or so through the woods at Church Minshall.

Leaving Kings lock with the Middlewich branch of the Shropshire Union going off to the left

Strictly speaking the first 50 yards or so of the Middlewich branch is actually the Wardle canal and is the shortest canal in the UK.

When going down locks I have to find out which side Buddy will have to come down to get back on the boat.  Most of the locks in this area only have steps one side so he needs to know which side to wait.

A rare lock – steps on either side at the bottom so Buddy can get back on the boat from either side

Our next stop was to empty the black water tank.  Hopefully this will be the last time we have to do this on this boat and, to be honest, wasn't an emotional last.

I had the pump out here but for reasons of taste didn’t’ photograph it happening

We then descending three locks in quick succession and they were really busy with hire boats learning the ropes.  There are two hire boat bases here and they have to cut their teeth on the locks as soon as they set off.

The bottom lock of the Middlewich 3 – as you can see I was having to wait whilst it filled before I could go in

The bottom lock was another ‘last’.  It was the last narrow lock we would take Chalkhill Blue through. The next thing we had to do was fill up with water – yes, another last.

Taking on our last tank of water – such a shame it was next to a dilapidated wharf building.  Hopefully one day this area will be rejuvenated.

We decided to go right through Middlewich and moor at one of our top ten favourite locations out in the country the other side.  Before we left we had to negotiate Middlewich Big lock.  It is named this because it is a double width lock.  Barges (twice the width of a narrowboat) used to come up the River Weaver by the Anderton boat lift, onto the Trent and Mersey and come down to Middlewich Wharf (where we took on water).

Another ‘last’ – our last double width lock and also our last ever lock on Chalkhill Blue

I hope I haven’t scuppered things by mentioning all these 'lasts' but is does feel like Chalkhill Blue 2 is nearly ready and can't be delayed any longer.

As we left Middlewich we crossed the River Dane on an aqueduct.  The aqueduct had to be replaced many years ago and the replacement was only 8’ wide so in fact no large beam boats or barges can reach Middlewich Big lock any more.

Crossing the ‘narrowed’ Croxton aqueduct.

We have always enjoyed the stretch through Croxton and beyond as it is probably the furthest you can get from a road or railway on the canal system.

Vermin (Canada Geese) on Croxton Flash

The picture at the top of the blog entry is us moored for Tuesday night at Bramble Cutting.  We may take it easy and stay here tomorrow and find a good walk.

Our view from the back deck whist reading the paper in the evening sun (mind you Buddy was willing me to go inside as it was past 5 o’clock – his bedtime)

Later on it was still enough to get my first ‘upside down’ picture for what seems like ages