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20. Aug, 2017

And you know how much we like our beer, but on this occasion we were not alone. I will explain.

We got to Leicester and moored once again at Castle Gardens (a secure pontoon in the centre of the city). At the last lock another lady boater expressed horror at this, as she claimed she had been set adrift on more than one occasion from here, don’t ask me how, as the high fence and locked gates should make it impossible.

We arrived on the Wednesday, with plans to stay until Saturday to see our friends Heath and Jennifer on the Friday, but it was only going to be for a quick drink as Jennifer was at work the next day.

But of course this did not really happen. They came to the boat about 4.30pm and were very taken with it and our lifestyle. Then off for a pint starting at the Black Horse, no real darks on for the Captain but a very nice roof terrace, so just the one. Then on to the West End Brewery tap and a better selection of ales, so a couple in there. Time was passing fast as we chatted away and teatime came and went.

As we were all now quite hungry we decided to head back toward the centre of town, and I discovered that Jennifer and I share a love of reading menus. So each restaurant we passed we perused the one in the window. Luckily for us we didn’t find one we fancied and ended up in the High Cross, the local Wetherspoons, and it had a managers special on. For only £2.99 lamb shank with mash and veg, yes only £2.99 and it was lovely mmmmmmmmmmm And of course a couple more pints.

By this time it was 10.00pm, so much for a quick drink. They came back to the boat for a night cap and it finished a lovely evening. We will be seeing them again in September as guests at their silver wedding celebrations. We are really looking forward to it.

And yes Jennifer did get up for work next morning.

The Captains careful and clever planning meant we were well on schedule to get to Lincoln for the 5th of August, and we left Leicester on a bright Saturday morning.

The trip down the locks and out of Leicester were quiet and uneventful, even at Abbey park lock, where on previous occasions there have been largish groups of men hanging about (not been a problem to me though) there was nobody and a lot less rubbish.

And on we cruised. At one lock we met another boater who had been on the pontoon with us, he was already through the lock but said he would wait at the next lock. As I set the lock the weather changed dramatically and it began to rain, but not nice warm rain, but rain like little icicles hitting my skin. I was only wearing shorts and strappy top, so I turned my back to the rain and waited for the lock to fill. The Captain, true gentleman that he is, rushed back to the boat to protected the sarnies I had just made for our lunch and put his waterproof coat on. He did offer me mine, but by this time it was too late and I was soaked. When the lock was full, I opened one of the gates and went back to the boat to get dry and eat my slightly damp sarnies, whilst doing this a dayboat arrived to share the lock with us.

I was still eating when a woman appeared on the lock and made to shut the top gate I had opened. So sarnies half eaten, and by now a little drier, I went off to stop her and help the dayboat through the lock with us. I do feel for these people who hire a boat just for the day, and then the weather lets them down. Such a shame.

When we got to the next lock I was pleased to see the other boat waiting for us, I thought he was a single hander, but turned out he had crew on board who didn’t want to get wet, (the weather was now sunshine and showers) so was doing everything himself, not the way it should be but hey ho each to their own.

Then we met another dayboat heading back to its base at Barrow on Soar. They obviously had also been caught out by the rain, the poor guy on the back was sheltering under a small umbrella and going really really slowly and weaving from side to side, so we had to stay behind them until they pulled in at the marina.

Sunday and the weather was better, and we cruised all day whilst our Sunday lunch of roast pork cooked slowly in the oven.

Monday and we turned onto the river Trent and cruised as far as Beeston. We had a good mooring and it was an excellent hunting ground for Bubbles and Sam. As I looked out I spotted Bubbles devouring an unfortunate mouse he had caught, tail and all. Yuch

 I am also pleased to say Sam little wanderings seem to have been curtailed too.

Tuesday and we turned onto the Beeston and Nottingham canal which takes you through the centre of Nottingham bypassing an unnavigable part of the Trent. We moored nearer the marina and walked into town. On our way we were accosted by CRT employees, they were trying to get people to sign up to be friends of the Trust and give a donation every month, and a lively discussion ensued. The young gentleman did know his stuff, but so do we, and we covered many topics including the wage bill and salaries of the high up management, towpath use and maintence, and the lack of boater facilities. Overall a very enjoyable chat, but did he get us to sign up?? Don’t be silly we pay our licence fee, that is our contribution.

After a short walk round Nottingham we headed for the Joseph Else, the Wetherspoons on the Market place, but no darks on once again for the Captain so just one in there. Then on to the Roebuck Inn, another Wetherspoons but straight out again, not like us, but we made up for it at the Olde Trip to Jerusalem. Claiming to be the oldest pub in Nottingham, it is built into the base of Nottingham castle, and has a network of caves below it which are claimed to be part of an old brewery dating from 1189. They had a very nice dark ale on for the Captain, Dark Peak by Howard Town brewery from Glossop.

As we waited to be served I noticed that the young couple in front of us, they must have been foreign as they had not got used to our pounds shillings and pence yet, but what the Captain noticed was their names written on the back of their rucksacks. As we sat outside in the courtyard he googled their names and it would appear they were from Finland. As they got up to leave (they were sat opposite us) he asked them, and they confirmed he was right (google is a wonderful thing). They had only arrived that day and were spending a few days in Nottingham, then on to Castleton in the Peak District, and then to a wedding in Leeds. She spoke very good English but he was not so fluent.

To finish (not meant to be a pun) a lovely day, the Captain treated me to tea at the Company Inn (another Wetherspoons) and being Tuesday this meant steak. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

That’s all for now folks

15. Aug, 2017

After all the very hot weather we have had it has now turned cool and a bit damp.

We were leaving Milton Keynes and heading north. Our next port of call was Cosgrove and it rained so when we moored up we were both a bit damp. Then on to Blisworth but a quiet night in this time (we had a few in the local pub on our way down).

However, next day we made it to Weedon Bec. A nice little village and whilst the Captain went off to get his hair cut I went the other way down the towpath to get a few bits from the local shop. On my way  I recognised The Oak, John and Janice’s boat from Ilkeston. We had last seen them in London. So I got on FB and sent them a message to find out where they were. It turned out they were on the bus heading back to their boat. Great, this meant a pint with them in the Heart of England (it’s a great place for the Captain as they always have Hobgoblin on). This was the first time we had been to the pub together. So of course it turned into a session which was great fun.

To complete a very enjoyable evening the Captain treated me to tea from the local chippy. I asked for a Derbyshire favourite, a pea mix which only garnered strange looks from the lady serving. Basically its chips with peas on top but I got a portion of chips and a tub of peas. The thing is when the peas are put on top and then wrapped up. The pea juices soak into the chips mmmmmmmm lovely. As my friend Lorriane would say ‘it’s a northern thing’. The Captains had fish and chips and I pinched some of the batter as I thought asking for scraps (little bits of fried batter that fall off the fish and are scooped out of the fat by the fryer)would be pushing it a step too far for the lady serving us.

Friday and Long Buckby locks we didn’t stop off and go to the New Inn which is a very good pub right on the top lock. We did have a visitor after we moored up, a very excitable spaniel jumped into the front cratch luckily the cats were well out of the way but much to the annoyance of the Captain there was no apology from its owner.

Saturday we were rudely awakened when a very noisy boat went by but it meant we got up and off to the Watford locks. We found the reason for the boat being so noisy when we reached the bottom of the locks. It was full of scouts 18 of them in total on 2 boats aged between 11 and 15. The leaders, those brave (or should that be stupid) men told me they had not got to sleep til after midnight and been up again at 6am.

And then the heavens opened but it did not dampen the scout’s enthusiasm at all and made the passage through the locks most enjoyable for me. The Watford locks are a staircase so it is one way traffic and is usually manned by volunteers to ensure that there is a fair passage in both directions.

After our hard work doing the locks we stopped off at Crick and walked into the village. We called in at the post office were to my delight they had some home grown runner beans for sale, perfect for our Sunday lunch.

Of course we had to call in the Wheatsheaf and as they had London Stout on we had a couple or more.

Sunday and an early start, the Captain wanted to watch the British Grand Prix and as we were struggling for a decent TV signal we had to move.

At the point I will update you on our garden. Unfortunately it isn’t looking its best at the moment. We have managed to drown (yes drown) my sage oregano and thyme. Unbeknownst to us there was no drain hole in their shared pot and as it was so hot we had been watering them on a regular basis without realising they were sat in inches of water already. Also the hot weather seems to have bought everything on early and fast so the nasturtiums and pansies have had their best and I will have to replace them. Having said that my chilli plant has chillies on it and I have 5 tomatoes on my tomato plants but the radishes have not been a success at all and the lettuce are starting to go to seed. But we will persevere and we have been nominated in the Waterways in Bloom competition run by CRT.

I can happily report that Bubbles and Sam are being very well behaved at the moment.

Monday, and one of my favourite places on the system, Foxton Locks.  10 narrow locks split into 2 staircases of 5 locks with a passing pound in the middle.  They use side pounds for the water which raises and lowers the boats and have 2 paddles on white and one red which have to be operated in the right sequence.

Foxton locks were the first locks I ever did and the lockee on that day taught me a rhyme as to the right sequence

‘red before white and you will alright

White before red and you will be dead’

And with this in mind we descended the locks without any problems and I enjoyed chatting to the numerous gongoozlers watching boats going up and down. One group asked me what we called the people watching and were quite bemused by the term ‘gongoozler’, they had come up with the term ‘gawpers’ which I thought very apt too.

We spotted the elusive neon blue and orange kingfisher after the locks. It flitted along the canal in front of us never stopping long enough for us to get a good look. For such a colourful little bird they are sure hard to spot.

After we moored up the Captain managed to rescue an unfortunate mouse from the clutches of Sam and released it back into the wild.

On Tuesday we met up with NB Morpheus crewed be Paul and Rupert, a share boat, Paul was the Captain and had the boat for 2 weeks and was doing the Leicester ring. We came down a few locks with them and moored at Kilsby Bridge, can’t say they were the most experienced crew but we muddled together okay. Then we headed for the pub but not before a great chat with the Captain and crew on NB Canal Dog. The Navigation was ok but nothing to write home about.

Next morning and we set off before Morpheus and her crew but a major problem with low water meant they caught up with us at one of the locks.

At the previous lock we had grounded in the lock and it was only due to the Captains expertise that he managed to get us floating and on our way. I rang CRT to inform them of the problem and was pleased to hear that they had the situation in hand and workmen were letting water down to sort things out. However we had to wait at the lock and this is where Paul and Rupert and now Becky caught us up. The CRT guy at the lock was very chatty and turned out he knew my home town and surrounding area so we reminisced happily together.

Then down the locks and into Leicester before saying farewell to Morpheus and her crew.

Leicester, next time.

5. Aug, 2017

I have already blogged about the problems we have been having with Sam (the cat). She doesn’t seem to like to stay on the boat during the day maybe because of the heat, I really don’t know.

We got up Monday morning at Bulls Bridge, we need water and shopping and both are on the opposite bank. We called the cats and only Bubbles came running no sign of Sam. Bummer.

We decided to go and get the water and shopping and then return to wait for Sam to appear. Lunchtime came and went. I had spotted her behind the railings but could not get to her, and there was no way she was coming to me. So we waited and she eventually sauntered back on to the boat mid afternoon, so we set off.

We are on a bit of a timescale as we have to be at Lincoln for the 5th August, so waiting for the bloody cat is not really an option.

We got as far as Denham Deep Lock and moored up and off went the cats. Not a problem in the evening. As Sam was aboard early next morning I shut the front cratch thinking she wouldn’t be able to get out, but she did, and that was it for the whole day, much to the absolute annoyance of the Captain who wanted to get going. Whilst waiting the Captain got round to fixing the broken studs on the front cratch cover to ensure she couldn’t get out the next night, and the cat carrier was taken off the roof. Some of you will remember that when we had a similar problem with Bubbles, a night in the carrier seemed to do the trick.

Eventually at teatime she reappeared, and was captured and bungled unceremoniously into the carrier, and we set off. We had decided to do a couple of hours in the evening to make up for lost time, and it was actually really nice, as it was a lot cooler than it had been during the day.

We have had to adopt a new system to deal with Sam, she is allowed off when we stop for the night, and usually comes back on the boat as darkness falls, at this point everything is battened down (the new studs seem to be doing a great job) and she is not allowed off in the morning. We still let Bubbles off and he is usually waiting to be let back on when I go for my early morning wee.

Fingers crossed it is working well.            

Wednesday and we made it to Kings Langley and walked up the Rose and Crown, a very nice pub. We sat in the beer garden and people watched. The church bells were ringing (practice night) and there were red kites in the sky to admire.

Thursday and we made it to Berkhamsted after travelling part of the way with a single hander on the pump out boat, this makes doing the locks so much easier. I got a bit of an eyeful as a naked rambler rambled by as we moored up. Then a curry at the Crown (a Wetherspoons) and of course we had to call in Red Squirrel Breweries Beer Shop, they had some lovely beers on mmmmmmm.

We watered up before leaving Berko and then I spotted Steve Jay, and of course we had to have a chat before setting off. This meant it was gone midday before we really got going. After doing lots of locks in the hot weather we got to the top of Marsworth flight of Locks, and as I had had enough the Captain took us down the Wendover Arm to little Tring. It was a lovely place to moor and so peaceful.

The peace did not last, as the next morning we met a traffic jam as we tried to exit the arm and start down the locks. Two boats were waiting to go in the lock, and 3 boats were waiting to go down the arm, and couldn’t until we had moved from the entrance to the arm, and we couldn’t do that until the boats had gone into the lock. So there was a bit of waiting about for everyone, but that’s what boating all about.

We travelled down the 7 locks in the flight on our own, but there were plenty of people walking who I chatted to, and there was a fishing event on at the bottom which made life interesting. We could tell it was the start of the holiday season as there were loads of hire boats out, and one managed to ground itself. The Captain shouted them useful advice and they managed to free themselves eventually.

We did manage to pair up with another boat for the last few locks before mooring up for the night at Seabrook locks

Next day was even better, and after an early start we managed to pair up with Water Witch, and Jenny and Steve from Warrington. We went all the way to Leighton Buzzard with them before we both stopped to do some shopping. As we set off again we passed them having their lunch, and said we would be stopping at the Globe for the night. We had gathered they liked a pint as much as we do so hoped to see them there. We didn’t moor to close to pub, safer for the cats to be honest. After a refreshing shower, it had been another blisteringly hot day, we walked to the pub to see they had managed to moor right by the pub and were sat outside already with a pint. We had a very enjoyable time with them and covered numerous topics during our chat.

We didn’t agree to go on together the next day as they get up far earlier than we do. When we did eventually surface we found a little present from them, we had chatted about getting bitten by creepy crawlies (they love me) and Avons Skin so Soft lotion was mentioned, we have never managed to get this and try it (it come recommended by the SAS and marines) and she said she had couple of bottle on board, so she left one on the hatch with a little note. What lovely boaters.

They had left by the time we set off for our rendezvous with Sheila, Ann and Chris in Milton Keynes, but we caught up with them at the bottom of Three locks, and travelled to Fenny Stratford with them before we moored up and they continued on. Hopefully we will see them again soon. They are on their way back to their moorings on the Bridgewater Canal near Manchester.

We had a lovely time with the Captains family, including a meal at the Three Trees, were we were joined by Paul (Ann and Chris’s son) his wife Tracy, and their lovely daughter Charlotte.

Our journey continues on up the Grand Union canal, where we will eventually join the river Soar at Leicester.

 But more about that next time folks.

31. Jul, 2017

Our journey from Limehouse to Little Venice was a most enjoyable one but with a few hairy moments.

The gongoozlers on the towpath were full of questions and interesting observations. I did my best to explain the things they wanted to know about and the Captain said I should work for CRT but I don’t think so.

The hairy moments came from 3 completely different types of boat, the first one being a small punt (like the type you find at Oxford). A group of girls were being punted a long and serenade in front of us, not a problem until they just stopped right in the middle of the canal with us just behind them and as you know a narrowboat has no brakes. The Captain used a few choice words and they moved to one side.

The second boat was a CRT workboat which again was in front of us this time in a tunnel. We were going quite slowly when we realised that the work boat seemed to have stopped. It is very difficult to judge these things in the dark so we slowed right down. Then they set off again but weaving from side to side this time and very slowly. We could not work out what they were doing and discussed the possibility of some type of maintence in the tunnel which we thought strange and if so there should have been some notice at the tunnel mouth etc. It turned out that the boat was just terrible to steer and even out of the tunnel it was still slow and unresponsive. They waved us by and off we went.

The third and final incident was no danger to us but to the lock and lock gates. A wide boat decided to try and get out of the lock using just one gate and even I could see (I have no spatial awareness at all) it wasn’t going to fit. But using ramming speed he tried and was wedged between the gate and the lock wall. I went round and opened the other gate but he was truly stuck on the lock wall and took ages to get free losing a long piece of his side trim in the process. Actions like these are totally irresponsible and the damage caused affects everyone else pleasure of the waterways. Idiot.

And we got back to Little Venice without further incident and brested up against another boat no problem.

Our show this year was Half a Sixpence and it was amazing and fabulous. Bubbly and lively with great songs and dance routines. The whole cast looked like they were having a great time. Originally a vehicle for Tommy Steele in the 1960’s and based upon a story by HG Wells it has had a revamp with new songs and new dialogue written by Julian Fellows of Downtown Abbey fame. Well worth seeing and again we got half price tickets from the ticket booth in Leicester square. Bonus

Whilst waiting in the queue we got chatting to an American couple who were fascinated by our life on the boat and even offered us £30 a night to come and stay but we didn’t take them up on the offer.

Next day I decided to have a day cooking, a banana and choc chip cake and quiche but horror of horrors I had run out of lard (essential for my pastry). I made the cake whilst the Captain went to help a damsel in distress who could not get her boat started. As the cake came out of the oven the damsel’s boat spluttered into life and the Captain returned and we set off to track down the essential lard. But before we had got far a second damsel in distress approached the Captain with the words ‘do you know anything about batteries’. I left them discussing her problems and on my return the Captain had his head well into her engine bay.

The Captain is a very clever chap and he had her problems sorted before too long and she gave him a bottle of wine to say thanks.

We always try and help out people as much as we can it’s what life a float is all about.

Sam and Bubbles in the mean time had settled into a routine. After a night’s sleep and food on our boat they took up residence on the boat next door, Sam on the roof and Bubbles very cheekily in their front cratch.

Friday and we organised to pick Sheila up from Paddington station and go for a little cruise down the locks at Camden and have lunch (the quiche) somewhere on the cut. After being applauded by the gongoozlers at Camden lock we found it very difficult to moor up for lunch but eventually we managed it. We had a lovely time and after dropping Sheila back off at Paddington we spotted The Oak with Janice and John aboard so we pulled up by them and had a great chat before returning to our mooring at Little Venice.

Saturday and our day with Lorraine and Mr Kev. They should have been coming to London for a long weekend,  but due to a family problem could only stay for the Saturday so we definitely made the most of it. And it was back to Camden but not on the boat, they had never been to the markets there so we really enjoyed walking round the stalls, checking out the unusual things on offer and smelling the wonderful food. Before we got a bite to eat we had a couple of pints in the Ice Wharf. After sampling the street food we decided to go to Covent Garden and then to The Lyceum, the Samuel Smith pub on the Strand. It was here I discovered a not so good feature of Sam Smiths, they charge you to pay by card and as far as I could see there were no signs telling you this. I did ring their head office in Tadcaster and spoke to a very posh gentleman, Samuel Smith (a descendant of the founder, not sure) who apologised and assured me that notices explaining the charge would be more prominent in the future, so we will see. Sadly the time came and we walked to Waterloo station with our friends and said a final goodbye. We will be seeing them at some point on our return to Coventry I am sure.

Sunday, and time to say goodbye to London for this year and we headed for Bulls Bridge. On our way we spotted a very nasty looking house fire. I phoned 999 but the fire brigade were already on their way and the houses had been evacuated and everyone was safe. We hung about for a time but there was nothing we could do and off we went again.

At Bulls Bridge and our problems with Sam started again but more about that next time.

26. Jul, 2017

And that my friend’s is an understatement but I will do my best to catch up.

Starting with our journey up the river Stort.

I liked the Stort it is more rural and narrow than the Lee, at first I didn’t think the people were as friendly as we cruised past them but a few gongoozlers and a school party soon changed my mind.

The locks on the Stort are unusual (so what’s new) they are wide locks but not quite wide enough to take 2 narrowboats like the ones on the Lee and the Grand Union canal and you can’t fit through one gate which made extra work for me so the Captain helped out where he could.

As we cruised along we were joined by red kites lazily gliding with apparent ease in the sky and beautiful slick and slim line terns diving for fish around the boat. The Captain tried to capture them with his camera but they were just too fast. The hover and the dive were done at incredible speed.

We called in at Roydon and Strawbridge, pretty towns and of course we had to try the pubs. The Bell, Queens Head and George IV to name a few.

The moorings were very rural too which was a bonus for Sam and Bubbles but not so good for the local mouse population and another boater told of their success when they found a nest fetching one mouse after another out.

At the end of the Stort is Bishops Stortford and our ultimate goal. At the end of a long hot day we arrived to find mooring restrictions due to the local carnival at the weekend. According to CRT’s website the restrictions ran from 10am til 5pm on the Saturday but the notices on the mooring where from Thursday to Sunday and it was Thursday but we moored up anyway.

As we moored up another boater approached and said sorry but you can’t moor there he was met by short shift from the Captain and I alike. We explained our trip and the information from CRT and that we needed to do some shopping but to a degree it fell on deaf ears but we continued to moor and he went away.

When he returned he had the mooring plans for the event and said if we were willing to moor right at the end of the navigation then we should be able to stay. A reasonable compromise and with his help we moved. Later on the harbour master appeared (yes that is what they call people who organise boats at events, rather posh don’t you think) and asked if we would be part of the carnival and gave us his card and a welcome pack and an invitation to a meal, he turned out to be the Deputy Mayor of Bishops Stortford too. We have bunting so the Captain decorated the good ship Avalon Two and we really looked the part.

A second boater who turned up and tried to moor didn’t meet with the same fate and was told to leave but the third who came along ended up at the side of us for a couple of days.

Now this is when a problem with Sam started (and is still continuing). The weather as you know has been very hot and Sam decided to take herself off to find somewhere cool, fine but she doesn’t usually go too far and will come when called but call as we might there was no sign of her. So of course I panicked. We went up and down the towpath asking the other boaters if they had seen her, no. Rang the local vet, no. Put her on facebook, nothing. So after making a small notice and fixing it on the railings we went off into the town and of course we ended up in the pub, the Port Jackson (a Wetherspoons) and they had Hobgoblin on so one very happy Captain. Then my phone rang it was one of our boater friends and he had seen a cat by our boat which he thought was the missing Sam. So I hurried back and there she was, little bugger.

Well the same happened next day and the next but I managed to track down her hidey hole which meant that when we were ready to leave on the Monday we could fetch her back. Unfortunately she has continued to disappear in the morning and not reappear to teatime this has caused us to wait about when really we have needed to move but more about that later.

The carnival was a very jolly affair with great local support and bought back happy memories for me as I had been part of the Ripley carnival for many years in my younger days.

In a slight twist the boater who had originally helped us out happen to mention he thought he had seen us somewhere before and when I saw the name of his boat it rang some bells for me too. Unfortunately it was not the best first meeting on our side. Last year we had met up with a very unhelpful couple of boats which I dubbed the ‘shiny boat crew’ and he was one of those boaters. I reminded him were we had met but not the full circumstances and we parted on good terms.

I won’t go in to great detail about our return trip as we returned to places I have already mentioned and described.

We did meet some groups of teenagers their exams all finished who were making the most of the beautiful weather and using the locks as swimming pools. Not the best idea in the world but kids will be kids so won’t be told and I could have happily joined them at times.

So we returned to Lime House basin and then back to Little Venice.

That’s for next time folks.