Saturday, 30 June 2012

Calling anyone who reads my blog via Google Reader….

I’ve discovered over the last few days that anything I write on the blog before the first photograph is not appearing when the blog is read through Google Reader.  I usually share the blog to Facebook too, and the first bit is also missing on the link to the blog, although it’s all there on the blog itself.  Any ideas anyone?

Bradley Green to Hopwas….

Coventry Canal

Before leaving Bradley Green this morning we pulled onto the service wharf to fill with water and empty a cassette, and just after we’d got the water running we realised that we’d chosen a bad time!  The ’honey wagon’ pulled up to pump out the septic tank, and a bloke and his wife turned up in a van with 4 loo cassettes to empty into the Elsan, which was an open-air one right by our open side hatch!  I hurriedly shut it but it was too late, and probably pointless anyway as the honey wagon was ponging up the place already!  By the time we left the boat was well stinky, and all hatches, ports and doors were opened to help blow away the pong!  After such an inauspicious start to the day, we hoped that the rest of the day would be better.  It was sunny and cloudy with stiff breeze still blowing, but not much else happened that was memorable.  We continued through Polesworth, the only item of note here is Pooley Hall, which dates from 1509, and is probably the oldest occupied building in Warwickshire.  More recently, it has been the home of Edwin Starr, the soul artist.  When we first started cruising this route it was easily seen from the canal and the wooden door was adorned with a shop dummy in full Guardsman uniform, bear-skin and all.  Sadly, he has now disappeared, and all that remains is the canon.  The trees have grown up along the canal  bank , and all but hidden the hall, with just the one spot for a photo opportunity.


Pooley Hall


Crossing the River Tame by aqueduct – not usually anywhere near this wide!

Past Alvecote Priory, and Alvecote Marina where we used to moor our old boat ‘Teasel’ many moons ago.  It’s always interesting to boat past and see how the place has degenerated, with several pontoons visible from the canal which have been broken for some years.  Obviously nobody is spending any money on it!  Onwards through Amington, Having a nosy into all the gardens which border the canal, some beautiful, others no more than rubbish dumps, and down through the two Glascote locks.

Fazeley Junction, where the Coventry meets the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal is being treated to some regeneration, but progress seems very slow as not much has changed there since this time last year.


Approaching the Junction


The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal


Old and new – the regeneration at Fazeley

There is not much mooring to be had between Fazeley and Hopwas, and what little there was had no room for us, so we continued on to Hopwas.  Meanwhile, Rog get very wet in a short, but extremely sudden and viscious shower of rain.  When we arrived we thought we were going to be disappointed as there were signs everywhere saying that mooring was suspended between Friday 29th June and Sunday 1st July.  However, boats seemed to be ignoring the signs and mooring anyway.  It wasn’t until we were almost through the village and adjacent to where we usually moor when we come this way, that we found out why – there was a sign in a boat window telling boaters to ignore the no mooring signs as ‘the flame has already passed’.  Then it dawned – the Olympic Flame relay was planned to pass this way today on it’s way to Birmingham, although why that should mean no mooring is a mystery!  Anyway, plenty of space here, so we are now moored for the night.

11.1 miles and 2 locks

Friday, 29 June 2012

Hartshill to Bradley Green….

Coventry Canal

The weather was very uncertain this morning as we set off for Atherstone Locks – very windy with scudding grey clouds.  We hoped that it would stay dry for the 11 locks – we really hate doing locks in the rain.  We didn’t plan to go far today.  The first few locks were very slow going as we had a boat in front of us so they all needed to be filled before we could descend, and they are notoriously slow fillers.  However we soon started to see boats coming the other way, so after that quite a few were ready for us, and things speeded up a bit.  We were at the bottom in just over two hours which isn’t bad.  We had a very short shower of rain in between two of the locks, but as we came down the last, there was a huge, very black cloud following us – we decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and moored up sharpish today to save another soaking!  In actual fact the rain missed us again, but we decided to stay where we were as the wind was beginning to become troublesome.


Cassie intently watching a pair of ducks who got out of the water above the lock, waddled purposefully around it, down the bank and into the water below.


Pretty garden beside one of the locks


Rog doing some work!


Approaching the last lock


Our mooring for tonight, with the bottom lock in the background of the photo below


The following photos are of the River Anker, which flows very close to the canal at the bottom of Atherstone, and is in flood, the water reaching far into the fields beyond the main course of the river – we’ve travelled this stretch a lot of times over the years and have never seen this before!




The water is almost to the fence in the foreground, which is only a few yards down a bank from the towpath just behind our mooring!  The water is flowing very fast indeed – thankfully there is a fence between the towpath and the river or Cassie would have been washed away had she ventured over to it!

4 miles and 11 locks today

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Hawkesbury to Hartshill….

Coventry Canal

We left our mooring at Hawkesbury Junction this morning in sunshine, but by the time we had emptied the loo cassettes and filled with water, the clouds had rolled in and it was beginning to look like we would get wet at some point today.  By ‘we’, I mean the royal ‘We’ of course – I scuttle off inside the boat and put my feet up and leave the captain to get wet! The humidity shot up and it became very uncomfortable.


Hawkesbury Junction – very peaceful this morning


The ‘stop lock’, all of 8 inches deep


Negotiating the bend


Round in one – no problem

We could see the storm gathering over to our left and the thunder and lightening started, but we must have been on the very edge of the storm as we only got a few spits and spots of rain, then the sky lightened again.

Through Bedworth, where we saw the old ‘Navigation’ pub had been completely gutted.  So gutted in fact, that we thought they were tearing it down at first.  It looks like some developer has bought it and is turning it into apartments.  I can’t see the brewery spending so much to refurbish a pub which closed some years ago due to lack of trade.


The old ‘Navigation’

and on past Charity Dock, which was as chaotic as ever, with a few new mannequins on show.



We had to look twice at this one to make sure it wasn’t a real person!


Passing Marston Junction – the start of the Ashby canal

We went on through Nuneaton, with it’s towering quarry spoil tips, Mount Judd being the largest, but no photo as I was inside the boat. The heavens were darkening again by this time, and we realised that this time we weren’t going to be so lucky.  I did my disappearing act as the rain started, and left Rog to get wet


The photo doesn’t really show how dark it got – darker than it was at 10 o’clock last night

Eventually the rain eased as we reached our planned mooring spot for today, just after Hartshill yard.  We got fairly wet mooring up as the grass is knee-high and the towpath had turned into a small stream, but we are so glad we stopped when we did as 10 minutes later we had the most horrendous thunder storm.  The thunder and lightening were right overhead, and we were looking around to make sure we weren’t the highest point around, so close was the lightening!  It hammered down for a good twenty minutes, hail mixed in with the rain – I can’t remember ever having been in a storm as bad since we have been boating!  It’s rained on and off for most of the afternoon, but we are having periods of sunshine in between so at least we can open the side hatches from time to time to let in some breeze – the thermometer is reading 26 degrees and the humidity is 82% inside the boat.  Gonna be a hot night tonight!!


Throwing it down!

8.7 miles and 1 lock (if you can call it a lock!)

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Rugby to Hawkesbury Junction….

Having made what for us was an early start, we hit Tesco and were on our way again, shopping completed, around 10 o’clock.  Not a great deal to say about this stretch of the North Oxford, and not a lot worth photographing either, hemmed in by trees as it is for much of it’s route.  I took the obligatory photo of the lights in Newbold tunnel, only one in every set of three is lit  – the Council has obviously had to cut costs!  I bet they are wishing they hadn’t wasted all that money installing them now.  Much of the towpath is very muddy and overgrown, but that’s normal for along here!



This stretch is a bit boring with not much to look at and no locks to break the monotony


A lot of the towpath is like a quagmire – I needed my ‘clarty boots’ on when I took Cassie for a tiddle run!

We are moored now on the visitor moorings above the stop lock just before the junction – the first time we’ve ever managed to moor here, much nicer here than the other side of the junction, lots of grass for Cassie.

A whopping 13.2 miles today and 0 locks!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

A nothing sort of a day….

North Oxford – Braunston to Rugby

A warm, cloudy and very humid day today.  We set off for Hillmorton under threatening skies, and that’s how it’s stayed all day.  Since yesterday evening actually, when the clouds darkened and a storm threatened, but didn’t actually happen.


Storm clouds approaching yesterday evening

The locks at Hillmorton were much quieter than normal, we met only 2 boats going the other way, and, because of that we were down the three locks in record time as there was always one of the paired locks ready for us


Paired top locks at Hillmorton

The skies were getting increasingly dark by now and we knew the forecast rain wouldn’t be long in arriving, so instead of continuing on to Tesco’s, doing some shopping and then having to go on in the rain until we found a mooring, we decided to moor by the golf course just outside Rugby and sit out the rain until tomorrow morning.  We will have to move then, even if it’s still wet as we need to get to Hawkesbury Juction hopefully tomorrow or by Thursday morning at the latest because by then we will be getting pretty desperate to empty loo cassettes!  It’s been raining quite heavily on and off since lunch time, so I thought I’d try out my new baby, and I’m in love!!!!

My new baby is a Baby Dyson!  I’ve always hated ‘cylinder’ vacuum cleaners (which is what we had), it takes as long to put them together as it does to do the job, and then they don’t do the job very well!  Consequently, the floors on the boat didn’t get vacuumed as often as they should have.  I’ve used a Dyson at home ever since they first became available – Cassie’s (and previous dogs) constant moulting means we need a good vacuum cleaner, and I’ve always been pleased with the job they do.  We went and looked at the new Baby version with the fold down handle, and decided that we should have one.  Not cheap, but we thought that if it got used more often and prevented us from wading ankle deep through Cassie’s tumbleweed it would be well worth it.  It does the job in half the time, and actually picks up the dog hair from our rug, which was a nightmare to get clean before. As with all upright Dysons, the handle detaches and the hose pulls out from the back, making it very simple to vacuum the edges where the brush doesn’t quite reach. The handle pushes down into the hose at the back, so it fits very easily into our storage cupboard, and the ‘ball technology’ makes it really easy to manoeuvre.  So that’s why I’m in love – anything that makes cleaning easier gets my vote!


Ready to use


Ready to put away

7.5 miles and 3 locks

Monday, 25 June 2012

Buckby to Braunston…

Grand Union,  Buckby top lock – North Oxford Canal, n of Braunston

A better morning, weather-wise, when we set out for Braunston tunnel and beyond.  The tunnel was, to say the least, interesting!  Having expected to meet the odd ‘historic’ boat on it’s way from Braunston before this, it dawned on us that we were sure to meet them in the tunnel, and, guess what, we did!!  Two not so historic boats were just exiting the tunnel as we arrived



Entering the tunnel

and we could see another headlamp shining in the darkness.  And, by ‘eck, did it shine!!  We couldn’t see a thing as we drew close to it – I had to lean over the side and tell Rog how far away the wall was as he was almost totally blinded by it. 


The headlamp coming towards us is just visible in the centre of the photo

It’s quite scary to see those huge bows looming out of the darkness at you!  We managed to pass the mammoth boat with a mere scrape against the wall, but of course, like the No 9 bus, there’ll be another one along in a minute.  And another, and another, and another.  The second one was towing a butty at least as long as himself, all 70 feet of him!  They came in twos with a bit of a gap between due to the way they had come up the locks, which was a bit of a relief.  The exhaust fumes nearly asphyxiated us, all those vintage engines belching out such a lot of crud that our eyes were watering before long, and it was quite hard to see through the fog that they left behind.  We passed 6 in all, with an ordinary boat bringing up the rear.  Never was ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ so welcome.

There were two ‘lockies’on duty at Braunston locks today, and one of them very kindly helped us down most of the way as we were alone this time, with two boats following a lock or two behind.


I love the stained glass picture in this lock cottage’s front door – it must look great from the inside

Once down the locks Braunston was as busy as ever, with many of the boats that had taken part in the rally still there


And of course, we couldn’t possibly pass the Gongoozler’s Rest without indulging in a bacon and egg butty for lunch while we filled with water – it’s against the law!  (having eaten so much junk in the last few of days I really must make sure we get some green stuff tonight – salad it is then!)



Nom, nom, nom! (the fried spuds come with it as standard)

Having failed to moor by the junction to empty a loo cassette, we turned onto the North Oxford and continued on our way.  We have found a nice quiet spot to moor just a little way out of Braunston.


Our mooring for tonight

5.2 miles and 6 locks

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Not far today….

Grand Union,  Weedon Bec  - Buckby Top Lock

We set off this morning in drizzle and expected to have to put our wet weather gear on, but it soon stopped.  Still very windy though!  We shared Buckby Locks with a lovely couple on nb Polestar, who, when asking which way we were heading, reminded us that Braunston Historic Boat Rally was on this weekend!  After a extremely short discussion  (about 2 milliseconds)we decided that we didn’t want to be caught up in that (been there, done that before!)  After the locks we had a quick look down the Leicester Section for a mooring, but it was rammed, so we reversed and moored up just a little way above Buckby top lock.  Rog checked that we had a telly picture for the ‘torture’ tonight, and then we went to the New Inn for lunch.  Deciding that we didn’t think we could do the full Sunday Lunch justice, we settled for a fish finger sandwich and a chip butty each!  Great – we both love fish finger sandwiches and hadn’t had one for ages.  We will do Braunston tunnel, and the locks tomorrow – there should be plenty of boats leaving the rally and coming towards us that it should make short work of the locks!


Part way up the Buckby flight


Waiting for Buckby top lock – plenty of water here!

4.3 miles and 7 locks

Saturday, 23 June 2012

We’re on our way….

Gayton Marina to Weedon Bec

This morning dawned bright but a little cloudy and still quite windy, but with no rain forecast we slipped our moorings and were away!  And then we weren’t -  because some tosser chap in a car buggered up the automatic swing bridge which spans the boat entrance to the marina.  It is normally open to boats, but when in a car, you press a button and the bridge slowly closes to complete the track around the marina.  After a minute and a half with no weight on the bridge, it sounds an alarm and opens again.  It was half closed when the car came along, and instead of waiting for it to complete it’s cycle, he pressed the button straight away.  It closed again then didn’t open after the requisite minute and a half.  We waited, and waited and after about 5 minutes Rog went and messed about with the ‘electrikery’, pressed a button on the control panel and eventually it decided to work!  Good start!!

We stopped at Gayton Junction to fill with water and empty a cassette (yes the marina does have an Elsan, but it’s a car ride away from our mooring, and the boat is moored stern end in, the pontoon isn’t full length and it’s a pain to run the hose either all along the roof, or through the boat.  Much easier to do both at the junction 5 minutes away!


And we’re off!!

It’s a pretty run to Bugbrooke, with lots of flora along the way – absolutely tons of these:


Are they Dog roses?  I think so

Through Bugbrooke, with a look at one of our favourite watering holes – The Wharf pub.  Hmmm, bit too early to stop for lunch!  On towards Nether Heyford


The Wharf at Nether Heyford always looks lovely, beautifully kept.  I’ve always wanted to moor there, but all the moorings have a BW reserved sign – presumably for the working boats that are often there.

We stopped at Stowe Hill Marina for diesel (the pump at Gayton Marina is always rammed due to the hire boats – we should have done it another day!) We were very pleased with the 84p a litre price, and they are quite happy to accept any split! (For the uninitiated amongst my new blog readers – the ‘split’ is the amount of diesel that you estimate will be used for propulsion, on which you pay the higher rate of duty and VAT, and the amount you use for ‘domestic’ purposes, ie heating, charging batteries etc, for which you pay less duty and VAT)  Obviously those boaters who travel for 8 or 9 hours a day are using more for propulsion than those of us who only travel 3 or 4 hours a day.  We always estimate that the first 3 hours of cruising is charging the batteries so that knocks the amount used for propulsion down a fair bit!  Nobody wants to pay more duty for their fuel than necessary – 70% domestic and 30% propulsion is what most boaters seem to declare to stay legal!)

It was heading for lunchtime after filling with diesel so we debated whether to continue on and go up Buckby locks, with the possibility that we might not be able to moor, which would mean doing Braunston tunnel and Braunston locks as well, or stopping short of Buckby and having a quiet afternoon.  No prizes for guessing which option we chose!

Passing a camp site near Weedon we came across something you don’t see very often.  A German Shepherd outside a caravan and awning, laying quite unconcerned with a pair of swans and their very young cygnets no more than 10 feet away – the swan family were also unconcerned!  Very well trained dog!  Cassie would have tried to see them off and probably been attacked by the cob for her trouble!



I think this is the same little family who swam by us a little while ago – very cute!

We are now moored just north of Weedon Bec, about half an hour short of Buckby locks.  We have found a reasonably sheltered spot (it’s still very windy!) and we have a nice view and good telly reception for the footy tonight.  Rog is dangling his tackle and I’m, well, I’m writing this!



View from our mooring


I decided to risk putting my newly planted pots on the roof, although how the petunias will fare in this wind is anyone’s guess!

8.5 miles and 0 locks