Flecknoe (pumpkins and butterflies, real and otherwise)

By Sunday we’d had enough of mooring in Braunston and wanted to get out into the countryside again.  But first we put a couple of small Chalkhill Blue vinyl butterflies towards the front of the boat.

Two more Chalkhill Blues

We then filled up with water and cleared the roof of the leaves that had gathered over the last few days whilst we had been moored under a large ash tree. 

Heading out of Braunston

We were going to cruise to Flecknoe and as it was only three miles away Karen and Buddy walked there.  It wasn’t a particularly sunny day but it was dry and mild and Karen was fortunate to see a fairly fresh red Admiral butterfly.

Red Admiral on the towpath outside Braunston

Once we moored for the day Buddy was expecting dinner even though it was only about one o’clock.

Buddy standing on the back deck expecting food

Needless to say, Buddy didn’t get fed and I walked back to Braunston with him to get the car.  When I got back Karen had been busy with the pumpkin that Mike and Lesley gave us on Friday.

Our pumpkin and chilli soup

Just to prove you don’t need to waste any of the fruit, Karen had also roasted the pumpkin seeds.

Roasted pumpkin seeds for nibbling during the afternoon

I did think Karen had made a good job of the carving – don’t worry it wasn’t left on the stove for long!

It was really quite foggy on Monday morning but it started lifting when Buddy and I got back from our first walk in the morning and the sun started to burn through.

I love seeing boats with their chimneys smoking on misty mornings like this morning

Braunston (surprise visitors & winter cruising nearly here)

On Friday morning, Lesley (a work colleague from those pre-retirement days) got in touch as she and her husband, Mike, were in the area.  They came over for the morning and we had a good old natter and catch up.  They brought us a pumpkin which Karen will make into pumpkin and chilli soup over the weekend and display the carcase on the roof.  Fortuitous really as this is the first year we haven’t made pumpkin faces for the  roof at Halloween.

I have mentioned Mike and Lesley before as they are our lucky friends who have bought a plot of land in the middle of Cropredy, complete with canal side mooring.  Not only are they designing a new house they are also designing the layout for a new narrowboat they are going to have built.  They were pleased to see that our boat was of the same layout that they think they want so picked up lots of useful measurements and information.

After Mike and Lesley left we had the boring job of trekking to Redditch to put more stuff into storage and also retrieve a few items we will need whilst winter cruising.

Buddy, as usual, not sure what to make of our bricks and mortar house which now seems to be in a big box

After Redditch we drove to Kiln Farm marina near Rugby to visit a seamstress.  We need to get our dinette seating covered so we can then decide on the colours for the curtains in the saloon – our last major inside job.  We managed to choose the material but Sarah can’t get them ready for a few weeks as she is going away for a while.

On Saturday we were land lubbers for the day again and helped our daughter, Catherine, move from Nottingham to Loughborough.  When we moved Catherine into Nottingham it only took one car journey.  She has now amassed more stuff so we ended up having to make two trips – at least Buddy got a train ride as he and Karen made the journey from Nottingham to Loughborough by train.

Full to the gunwales!

She is now living very near the old railway line where engines are in steam most weekends.  It always makes my spine tingle when I hear a steam locomotive passing and we were fortunate that one went off on a journey whilst we were unloading the car.

Catherine and Karen outside Cat’s new home

Poor old Buddy has had a couple of boring days so we must make sure he gets plenty of walks on Sunday.  We will probably move on on Sunday and find somewhere quiet like Flecknoe where we can be on our own for a few days.  We are surprised how long we have stayed in Braunston as being in a long line of boats is not really our thing.

Moored in a line at Braunston although some boats have already left this morning

Now that half term is over the canals will be less busy.  This is also the time of year when the main maintenance work is carried out and sections of canals are closed for a few months at a time.  This also reduces the traffic but does make it interesting picking and working out winter cruising routes around the stoppages.

Buddy telling me that he really wants to go on a longer walk and not towards the car again

Braunston (no movements today)

After getting the washing done on Thursday morning Buddy and I went to find a local upholsterer whose workshop I had noticed in the marina we visited yesterday.  We had cushions cut for the dinette seating/bedding whilst we were in Middlewich but have yet to permanently cover them.  We have put some temporary material round them to stop them getting damaged but they really need to be covered and fitted properly.

Unfortunately the shop was closed but I found out some interesting information about the canal strike of 1923.

Boats blocking the canal in Braunston during the strike organised by the TGWU in 1923

Plaque explaining the strike

The Gongoozlers’ Rest café is a boat moored just outside the marina but we have yet to visit it although the smell of cooked breakfasts are always inviting especially on wintry days.

The Gongoozlers’ Rest café boat

During our walk we popped in to see our friend Nicola who lives on her boat in Braunston.  It was nice to have a quick catch up and find out that she works several shifts a week at the Wheatsheaf, one of the four pubs in the village.

At the entrance to the marina is a milepost indicating that this was the original northern end of the Grand Junction canal.

The Grand Junction canal was fully opened in 1805 and ran from Brentford on the River Thames to Braunston.  It was 93 miles long and had 105 locks.  It has mileposts the entire length and we have seen them all but not taken photographs of many of them.  The ones we have taken can be seen here.

The marina was originally a boatbuilders yard and this plaque commemorates two generations of a famous boatbuilding family who owned the yard during that time.

The Grand Junction canal was a very successful canal as it cut the journey length from Birmingham to London by 60 miles; the previous route had been via the Oxford canal which joined the upper reaches of the Thames at Oxford.

In 1929 the Grand Union canal was formed and combined the Grand Junction canal and seven other waterways, including the Erewash canal (north of the river Trent near Nottingham), the Soar Navigation, the Leicester line (confusingly, originally called the Grand Union canal) and the Regents canal.

Sketch map showing the extent of the Grand Union canal in 1929.  The Grand Junction canal ran from Brentford at the bottom to the number 4 which is Braunston.

In the afternoon we went for a longer walk in the fields around Braunston and it felt surprisingly warm.  I forgot to mention that I had seen a Small White butterfly on the towpath yesterday; it’s always warming to see butterflies on the wing at this time of year.  Friends of mine were really lucky yesterday and saw Clouded Yellows and Common Blues whilst out on a walk in West Sussex.

Having shown pictures of the galley and saloon on previous blog entries here is our bedroom: The bed is a standard double (4' 6" wide) which means the corridor is quite narrow but as the bedroom is at the front of the boat people or wet dirty dogs won't be passing through.  The bed on the previous boat was 4' wide and it's surprising how much bigger the new one feels.

Looking towards the front with the cratch through the doors

The bed is a standard double (4' 6" wide) which means the corridor is quite narrow but as the bedroom is at the front of the boat people or wet dirty dogs won't be passing through.  The bed on the previous boat was 4' wide and it's surprising how much bigger the new one feels.

Looking from the cratch with the door to the bathroom on the left

The boat builders fitted porcelain knobs, with butterflies on, to the cupboards and wardrobes.  The knobs were a present from my children and I didn’t want to leave them on the old boat so had replaced them with wooden ones before we sold it.

Braunston (and now we can relax)

Turning into Braunston marina for a pump out

I knew we were low on water and it ran out just as Karen finished showering on Wednesday morning (luckily she had finished!).  Unbeknownst to me she left me a cake, a gift and a card on the dinette table as it was my birthday – a lovely surprise when I got up.

Birthday treats from Karen

My main job of the day was to get to Braunston so we could take on water and then continue onto the marina to get a pump out.

After a couple of miles Braunston church spire appeared through the mist so I knew we were nearly there. 

Braunston church spire

As we spent from February to August this year cruising up and down between Braunston and Leamington Spa it felt like we were nearly home again.  We tended to move every two weeks at that time but with a smaller water tank we may have to move more often in order to make sure it doesn’t run out again.

Taking on water with Buddy playing his favourite sport, 'Kill that branch'

We joined the Grand Union canal at Braunston Junction and headed east towards the marina.

We haven’t got used to how warm the new boat gets yet and often end up being far too warm.  The stove seems a lot more efficient than our old one and, coupled with having good insulation, getting the adjustments wrong can make us too cosy.  Anyway, we’ll get used to it and it’s not like it’s cold weather yet.  I’m sure we’ll have it sorted out by the time the snow and ice come this winter.

It’s always fun driving through Braunston as there are lots of moored boats and boats on the move.

Cruising past the Boathouse pub

We went past Nicola’s boat Martha; she has permanent moorings in the centre but didn’t appear to be on board today.  No doubt we will catch up with her over the next few days.

After visiting the marina we went back down towards the junction and moored at the last spot available right at the end.

Moored under a large ash tree sheeding its leaves

Trouble was we were under trees and therefore in shadow so not much good for the solar panels.  I have been really impressed with the power they generate.  I know we have had lots of sun lately but they seem to do well even when it’s cloudy.  They generate enough power to keep the fridge and freezer going constantly as well as lights and TV in the evening and also charging phones and laptops.  We have taken care to convert as much as we can to 12 volt so that helps too. The washing machine is 240 volt and draws a lot of power so we tend to run it when we're cruising. I have to remember that the panels can’t heat the water so if we are stationary all day I have to run the engine for a while in the evening to make sure we have hot water the next day.

We went for a walk in the afternoon and then popped up to the butchers in the village to get some supplies.  When I came to pay I realised I had no cash or cards with me but the butcher let me take everything and said I could pay him tomorrow: one of the benefits of getting to know and being known by the locals.

Returning from our walk we could see our mooring from the opposite direction.  I love the iron bridges on the North Oxford canal.

Looking out the dinette waiting for Karen to walk across the bridges as she was due home from work early

When Karen got home we walked up to the Admiral Nelson to celebrate my birthday.

Looking the worse for wear and I had only just started my first drink!