3. Mar, 2018

This immortal line from Tom Jones sums up the last week on board the good narrowboat Avalon Two, but inside the boat has been snug and warm.

I just checked my last comment on my last blog, and it mentioned spring, I think I was being a little forward and very hopeful after the snow and freezing temperatures of the last few days.

The question we get asked most often is ‘does it get cold in the winter’, our answer is a chuckle, and of course it doesn’t as we have a very efficient solid fuel burner, radiators and double glazing, but as with other aspects of living on the boat it’s all down to the planning.

When the Captain saw the weather forecast for the week he very sensibly filled the water tank, emptied the toilet and made sure we had plenty of coal for the fire. I made sure we had plenty to eat and drink. Luckily I wasn’t at work, having been laid off at very short notice on Monday, but I was so thankful that I didn’t have to leave before 6am to brave whatever road conditions were out there, and even turned a shift down, we were being told again and again not to travel unless absolutely necessary, and I was more than happy to take this advice to heart.

I have said in the past and will say again, the weather is one of the reasons we moor in the wharf during the winter. I take my hat off to the boaters who spend the winter on the cut, and have heard and seen many photos and stories of how beautiful it is, and how warm and cosy their boats are. On the other hand there are stories of boaters running out of water, coal or diesel, and not being able to move as the canal is iced over to replenish their supplies. The boating community usually comes to their aid in one way or another.

Boats can break through the ice, and there were specialist boats designed for this, one being Laplander who came to the Steam Rally a couple of years ago. Moving a boat on a frozen canal can cause problems and tension between boaters though, as the ice can damage the blacking on the underside of the boat as it is broken and pushed aside by the moving boat. Also the noise it makes can be quite scary. But some people have to move for whatever reason, and once again most boaters take it in their stride, with just a little moan on facebook.

Coventry where we moor seemed to have missed the worst of the snow until yesterday, and this was the day we decided to venture out. We had our reasons, Coventry beer festival at the rugby club. We got all togged up in thick coats, big boots, hats and scarves and off on the bus we went. It had been snowing for the last few days but hadn’t really settled, so the roads and pavements were ok. The beer festival was good with 75 beers on, not a patch on the Derby one the previous weekend which had over 400, but a good selections of darks for the Captain and some nice citrusy and hoppy IPA’s for me. We both agreed the best beer was a Forest Fruits porter by Flash House. The afternoon sped by, and to our surprise when we left the snow had come down in bucket loads, and now the roads and pavements were covered, and so were we by the time we got in the Windmill for a final pint and a pork pie.

On out return to the boat, the virgin white snow in the wharf and on the frozen water, shimmered and shone, but we were only too happy to be back aboard and in the warmth. It is a pretty picture to look at but not so nice when you have to venture out.

When I got up this morning I looked out to see the actual canal was frozen over, the previous few days the water in the wharf had been frozen but the canal was not. And the snow was quite thick on the boats so I took a few pictures through our window. I let the Captain venture out later to take some for me from the bridge, and will be putting them in the photo album on here.

News from the wharf, Carlos and Victoria who live in the flat have had their baby, a beautiful tiny girl called Sofia, and weighing in at a tiny 2kilos or 4.4lbs in old money. I was invited in to see her and she was perfect. One of our neighbours Roy has sold his boat and gone to live in a flat, sad to see him go but the boating life was not for him or his dog’s, we wish him all the best.

Col our newest boater has taken up the baton with regards to the amount of rubbish in the canal and on the towpath and offside with an eloquent rant on facebook. If you remember last year I had dealings with Ian Lane the area manager for CRT over this, and managed to get a promise of a work boat once a month for a week to clear the section from the Wharf to the basin, this did not last as long as I would have liked. After reading Cols rant, I passed on all the correspondence I had had with Ian, and fired off a new email to him expressing my disappointment in the state of the canal once again. In his reply he assured me that steps are being taken to improve the canal going into Coventry. Col will be monitoring this whilst we are away for the summer. So fingers crossed things will improve and boaters will be encouraged to visit the basin.

Sam and Bubbles do not like the snow and cold weather at all, so have not left the boat for the last week, and we took the decision it wouldn’t be safe for them to walk down the gunnels when they were covered in snow so closed the cratch cover down, Bubbles or Houdini as he is sometimes known can get out if he really tries, but we hoped that if he did one look at the snow would put him off trying it. Fingers crossed.

I think that’s about it for now folks, the weather is predicted to get better next week, and I am back at work for 3 days, and on Sunday we are meeting up with our great friends Lorriane and Mr Kev for a few pints and a long awaited catch up.

13. Feb, 2018

Sorry for the delay but as usual our time spent in the wharf does not really endear itself to writing this blog as we don’t really cruise anywhere, so no adventures or stories about the pubs and places we have visited.

But our life a board does continue, so what have we been up to?????

At the end of the last blog I was still looking for work and I am happy to say I have (fingers crossed ) found a job that should last me until the end of March, having said that I am laid off today due to lack of work, but hey ho that’s the joy of being an agency worker. I went back to Brett Martin for a day doing the easy job, and was hopeful of staying there for a while, but alas it was not to be. I went for an interview for a very interesting sounding job in quality, the firm produced fire damping systems for the motorsport industry (including F1) and army vehicles, but my conscious got the better of me as they were looking for someone permanent, and obviously I would have been off at the end of March. I did not want to waste their time training me, and it also took the chance of someone else finding permanent employment away, to honest for my own good (and it paid £10per hour).

The Captain has been beavering away improving things on our boat to make our lives easier. He was a very happy bunny when the boat passed its BSC, with only a slight gas leak in the gas locker. The very nice gentleman who came to do the BSC was very helpful, and the leak was fixed with his help so we are safe and legal for the next 4yrs. On a more annoying note (for him), he has been trying to contact the guy at St Pancreas Cruising club, about joining them on their cruise on the Thames down to and beyond the barrier in May, but as of yet has not managed to get an answer, will keep you posted on that trip.

We have had our first cruise out for the year 2018, although only down as far as the Ashby canal and back. It was to support Col and Mags on Regal Romantic. Col had serviced his engine and it was blowing a bit of white smoke out, so he wanted to give it a run to clear any muck out of the pipes. It was a cool and cloudy when we set off, but not too bad. We cruised to the beginning of the Ashby before winding and returning to the Greyhound for a well earned pint. As Col and Mags have never done a lock, we went to look at the little stop lock there, and as luck would have it there was a boat just coming through. This gave them a better idea of how a lock works, and the crew on board Honey Bee were friends of Fred and Lisa who we met at the IWA  boat festival, so that was nice. After our pint (I could have stayed there all afternoon) we made our way back to the wharf, it had turned colder and we were very happy to be moored up and back in front of our roaring fire. Regal Romantic performed excellently, but I am not sure the same can be said for Cols steering at times, but who am I to say my steering is worse lol.

Now to an Englishman’s favourite topic the weather, obviously its wintertime and so it’s cold, but it has also been very windy and the boat has rocked and banged, and I have lay listening to all the different noises that it makes hoping that nothing blows off the roof, or any damage is done to our home. I love the sound of the rain and the pinging of hailstones is something to be heard. In this inclement weather we do stay warm and cosy on the boat. The Captain has got keeping the fire in 24/7 down to a fine art, and I don’t do too bad either when called to.

Life on the wharf in the winter is very quiet, but we do see our neighbours now and again. Obviously we have seen quite a bit of Col as the Captain has been helping him out with bits and bobs. Paul has been working hard in the garden and keeping the bird feeder topped up for our feathered friends. He is doing a great job, and the garden will look wonderful in the summer. I am still going for a pint with Ange, and Jenny very often joins the Captain and me when we head off to the Bricklayers for a pint on a Friday. We did loosely organise a meeting in the Bricklayers for the wharf, well we sent out messages saying we would be there, and hoped people would come along, and they did, a great night was had by all. Will do this again before we leave.

And of course I couldn’t do a blog with mentioning our favourite topic beer. We have a number of excellent places to drink in Coventry including Twisted Barrel, The Windmill and now Byatts Brewery tap bar. In the future we will be going to the Derby Beer festival, over 400 beers so plenty of choice. Leicester beer festival to catch up with Heath and Jennifer, all being well. Coventry, which is the smallest but still worth a mention. We also discovered the Windmill is holding their spring festival just before we leave, so that’s another one for the diary.

And finally the cats Bubbles and Sam. As with all cats they dont like the cold wet weather of winter so tend to stay on boat. Sam, is an old lady now and doesn’t seem to like going down the gunnels, but is happy to jump off the back of the boat. Bubbles with his thick winter coat goes out at teatime and usually comes back licking his lips, really don’t know what he is finding to eat, and I am not sure if I want to know.

And on a final note Coventry had won its bid for the city of culture 2021, so it is to be hoped money will be spent on its canal heritage on the towpath and in the basin.

Spring is on its way so our adventures will commence, watch 

6. Jan, 2018

But first our journey over the summer

We have done

806 miles

548 locks

8 swing/lift bridges

10 miles in tunnels.

We have visited London, Aylesbury, Leicester, Hertford, Bishops Stortford, Nottingham, Newark, Lincoln and Boston to name but a few.

We have been back in the wharf for a couple of months so I must apologies for not blogging sooner.

My excuse, as usual I have been working and the festive season came a long a lot faster than I expected.

Work has been different this year and I have not been able to return to Parcel Force, and my friends in the international hub, due to the lack of work. So instead I have made new friends and learnt new skills working at Toys R Us. A simple job packing single items for the internet, but the place was so disorganised. When I started I just had to start re-organising things. The Captain did advise me to wait until I had been there a week, and I did take his advice to a point. I am hoping to return in the New Year, just waiting for the phone call. If not I will find something else.

As for Christmas it just came round too fast. Planned weekend visits to Ripley (my family) and Wigan (the Captains) meant that the present and card shopping had to be done early. This accomplished it was left to the Captain to wrap the presents, and write the majority of the cards. My job was to write and stick the gift tags on. Once this was done we could relax and plan our Christmas.

Once again the Captain has out done himself decorating the interior and exterior of the boat. We look like a true fairy grotto outside and in, and our little Christmas tree with its presents round it looks amazing.

Instead of a Christmas lights competition on the wharf this year, it was decided to have a Christmas curry for the moorers and friends. We suggested a Christmas party of some kind to Keith when we returned at the end of October, and he organised a fantastic evening of Christmas cheer and a very good curry. We were able to help serving food and drink on the night, and washing glasses and pots next day. It was lovely to get together with our boater friends.

Swan Lane Wharf is a happy community to be part of and we always look forward to returning after our summer cruise.

Continuing in this theme on the Saturday before Christmas, and the day after the party, we went down to Coventry for a drink with our neighbour Jenny, Twisted Barrel brewery first, were another moorer Sam, joined us before heading off to his family for Christmas day. We finished off in the Windmill of course.

Christmas day on the wharf was a quiet affair as most moorers went to visit family for the day but the Captain and I enjoy a quiet day together. Starting with presents ,and we were truly blessed this year with some lovely gift, then a walk to the Bricklayers for a couple of pints before returning to the boat for Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. The best way to spend the day.

The Captain has been spending his time helping out round the wharf. He has also been helping Col with things on his boat including bits for his Boat Safety Certificate (BSC). This is a bit like a cars MOT and has to be done every 4 years. One of the main things it deals with in the gas installation on boats, and unfortunately for Col he had more than a few issue with this. I am pleased to say that everything is now sorted.

Another problem that Col had was that whoever fitted his boat out (nothing to do with Col) didn’t give anything thought to things that you might need access to, like water and gulper pumps (these pump the water out of the shower tray). They had hidden them behind tiles and cupboards which meant a lot of work for Col when things went wrong. Again I am pleased to say (touch wood) that everything is now sorted. They are hoping to move into the wharf when a space becomes available which will make us neighbours.

We have booked to go to Benidorm for a few days in April just before we leave, maybe not the obvious choice for us, but we have our reasons. We both visited when we were quite young, me at the age of 8 in 1972 and the Captain also aged about 8 in the early 60’s. So we are returning to see the changes which we know are substantial. (We watch the famous TV program Benidorm you know.) We are staying in the old town, I really didn’t fancy staying in one of the high rise hotels in the new town, so we have a little B&B down a narrow side street. It will be fun and I dare say we will visit the Neptune bar of the said famous TV program.

And now an insight into our plans for the 2018 cruise. Starting mid April we will be heading for London via Milton Keynes to see the Captains sisters as usual, and hopefully when there join the St Pancreas cruising club on a little jaunt down the Thames to the barrier and beyond. A return to the wharf in early June is a possibility, as the Captain is due to become a granddad on the 14th.

Then on to the Erewash and Langley Mill for the beginning of July, this is my input to the journey as I want to go to the Elvaston Steam Rally near Derby, and hopefully the Captain will be able to use his Christmas present, if you remember I was getting him a microlight flight over the Derbyshire dams.

Then it will be up the tidal Trent, taking in the Chesterfield canal, and then the Sheffield canal before joining the Leeds Liverpool canal and going across the Pennines. Wigan and Manchester next before going into Liverpool. Then I am not sure about our journey back to Coventry and Swan Lane, but no doubt it will be via Birmingham.

Well the decorations are down and the first week of 2018 has passed and I still don’t have a job but I have applied for a few and I am waiting to hear back from them. It does mean I get to spend time with the Captain, which is lovely, but I do need to get active and hopefully lose some more weight.

The Captain has the Boat Inspector coming next week to do our BSC and we have everything crossed that the good ship Avalon Two will fly through without any problems.

That’s all for now folks.

27. Dec, 2017

But before that, an apology for not posting this final blog of our summer cruise sooner. A combination of my return to work and the preparations for the festive season have seen my dereliction in my duty.

But first our trip up the Ashby canal. As we discovered last year the Ashby is very rural with little in the way of shops close to the towpath, but we had stocked up well and were looking forward to a quiet gentle cruise to the end of the navigation at Snarestone.

However, the amount of boats on the move on this little canal was to be honest amazing. I don’t think we have seen so many boats on one short stretch of canal all summer, but it was fun seeing the same boats pass us and be passed by us. There are no locks on the Ashby so unfortunately we didn’t really get to chat to any other boaters.

We did see Pete and Ange on Miss Mollie, but they were heading back to the wharf and we just said hi in passing.

As always it comes back to beer and pubs in my blog, and one of the best things about the Ashby is a little village called Stoke Golding, and a wonderful micro brewery owned pub called the George and Dragon. Owned by Church End brewery it always has a great selection of beers on. We called in on Tuesday but there was a problem as they didn’t open til 6pm, and it was only 5ish, so we decided to try the Three Horse Shoes, no darks on for the Captain so his fall back John Smiths cream flow bitter had to do. We had a couple to pass the time. At the back of this pub is an Indian restaurant The Mango Tree,

We weren’t disappointed when the George and Dragon opened, Stout Coffin for the Captain and Fallen Angel for me, they had a steak night on but booking was essential so we didn’t get to try the food. Last year we tried the huge sausage rolls they sell which were yummy.

Next day and we cruised a short distance and moored in the middle of nowhere for the night, always good for Sam and Bubbles. Another boat did moor nearby and of course Bubbles had to go and visit. I had a chat with its Captain and it turned out they loved cats, and that Bubbles was so similar to their cat which was staying with their son, they took a picture of him and sent to him asking if he had escaped.

Thursday and we reached the end of the navigation. Unlike last year we moored at the end, rather than turning and mooring at the Globe pub. The Ashby is only 22miles long, but there are plans to reinstate a further 8miles to Moira. We decided to take a walk to see how the work was progressing. On the way we stopped off at the Ashby Canal Society shop and I spotted a sign for Draco crafts. I had bought the Captain a Pegasus tiller pin from them at Christmas and was very impressed with the service. It was nice to meet the owner and have a chat.

Whilst I looked round the shop the Captain wandered off to look at an old arm, from the beam engine of the original pump house, which had been preserved and served as a landmark. When I joined him he was chatting with a lady boater who was painting the railings. I recognised her immediately but had brain freeze on her name, it was Lisa, and we had met her and her husband Fred on the first night of the IWA boat festival and had a drink with them at the Gallows. Fred was about too and we spent a lovely time catching up.

We continued our walk and were impressed with the work being done, and after checking out things on Google were even more impressed with the future plans for this lovely canal.

So now it was time to cruise the last bit of this year’s journey. We called in at Stoke Golding, couldn’t resist the pull of the excellent beer, and after a couple in the George and Dragon we decided to try the third pub in the village The White Swan. The Captain wasn’t disappointed as it had Titanic stout on tap, but it was too cold in his opinion. The food looked good as well so might give it a try next time.

Monday and we were off the Ashby and heading for Atherstone, we needed shopping and it has an Aldi, a Coop and a very good butchers called Bates. We winded at the top of the locks and found good moorings behind a hire boat. Bubbles and Sam of course had to get off and explore. I watched as Bubbles disappeared into a garden whose gate had a ‘beware of the dog’ sign on it, but it wasn’t a dog that Bubbles found but another big ginger tom who didn’t seem very impressed with the interloper, and Bubbles quickly backtracked over the fence and back onto the towpath. Then to his joy he saw the hire boat with its doors invitingly open for him to explore. A gentleman was sat on the back and I went to have a chat to explain about Bubbles being a nosy cat. I told him that I hoped he wouldn’t disturb them. The gentleman was American and said they had had pets all their lives and not to worry but his wife was more of a dog person, so Bubbles was discouraged from going in the boat.

Back to beer, after doing our shopping and getting the best faggots from the local butcher we had to try the best pub in the village, the Angel. We had a couple of sessions in here last year, it has an proper record player and a selection of records you can choose from. We didn’t choose the music this time, but instead we were joined for a chat by another boater who had been at the IWA festival. His name was Eric and his boat was called Cherrie. Hopefully we will see him next year, somewhere.

Saturday brings us to the end of our summer cruising for this year as we returned to the wharf to see old friends and meet new ones.

The new friends are Col and Mags, Col had posted on FB looking for moorings in the Leicester/Coventry area and I had pointed him in the direction of Keith and Swan Lane. I always do my best to promote our little wharf. Luckily Keith was able to offer them an online mooring. What I didn’t realise at the time was that they had no real boating experience, but great enthusiasm and a love of life afloat, to be honest they are the most important things.

Col had to bring his boat from Trinity wharf on the Ashby to Swan Lane. On his first day of cruising he had the most awful weather, but it didn’t deter him one little bit. When he arrival at the Wharf he moored up outside on the towpath, and that’s where we first met face to face. After telling us his trouble mooring up the Captain took him in hand to share some of the knowledge we have built up over the last 4yrs.

The sharing of knowledge continued next day when we helped them move over onto their moorings and then in the Bricklayers over a couple of pints.

Although our journey has come to its ends the blog will continue so watch this space.

19. Nov, 2017

After our lie in we set off for Wigram Turns and managed to buddy up again with another boat for the locks. An Aussie couple Fearn and Diane on NB Into the Groove, they were heading back to Ventnor Marina were they would leave the boat and head back to Oz. They spend a good part of the summer cruising our waterways.

They were very nice and gifted me the plants on the top of their boat, well Fearn gave them to the Captain and I had to do a double take when I spotted them on our boat it looked so different.

Then disaster struck, I was winding up a paddle and was in a little world of my own when the windlass suddenly stopped and was knocked out of my hand. The paddle fell and the windlass handle hit me in the mouth and on the wrist. It was a huge shock and very painful. These paddles don’t have ratchets which stop this happening and you have to secure the paddles with a ‘c’ shaped locking mechanism by hand when it is fully open. Not very safe in my opinion.

So I stood with tears in my eyes and blood coming from somewhere and nobody noticed so I had to walk to the back of the boat. The Captain was very concerned and jumped off the boat to see exactly how bad it was but I wouldn’t let him. I was desperately feeling at my teeth to see if any had been damaged. Fearn had tissues to hand and was very sympathetic. As it turned out I was very lucky and no lasting damage was done. The blood was from my nose and my teeth were fine. I think the windlass must have hit my wrist first which took some of the force out of it when it connected with my upper lip. I had a lovely bruise inside my mouth but nothing really to show anywhere else even my wrist only went a light shade of yellow after a couple of days. But boy was my mouth sore for a few days.

After 2000+ locks it had to happen

We moored at Wigram Turns and I felt very sorry for myself but this passed when I discovered our friends Linda and Martyn off NB Bluestone were moored in the marina and we arranged for them to come aboard next day for a chat. We last saw them when they were moving aboard Bluestone at Whilton marina back in May. They have had a lot of trouble with the boat but touch wood it seems fine now and they are very happy with life aboard.

Whilst we sat chatting on Saturday morning a boat cruised by and someone shouted a loud hello and waved madly so we all waved back. Later on I discovered it was Jean Cooper a FB friend who was just returning to their mooring after 2 months out. Then later in the day another friend who we met on the Aylesbury arm Helen Pritchett messaged to say they were in the area but unfortunately our paths didn’t pass as they went into Dunchurch Pools marina and we passed by without realising they were there.

Sunday and we had to be in Rugby for 2pm as the Captain just had to watch the Malaysian Grand Prix and in our way were Hilmorton Locks. There are only 3 and they are side by side singles last time we went through there were 10 boats waiting at the top as one of the locks was out of action. On this occasion there was only one set of locks working, for various reasons they had shut the others. On the good side there weren’t as many boats waiting to use the locks and we were 4th in the queue so of course I jumped off and went to see who I could help and the Captain came to help as well. There was a volunteer lockee on but he was more concerned with the water levels in the connecting pounds. It didn’t take long to get us down and on the last lock there were a father and son just helping out so I could jump back on the boat while they did the lock. We made it to Rugby in time but the TV signal wasn’t great so after the grand prix we moved and went through the Newbold Tunnel and into the middle of nowhere for the night.

Monday, and a favourite haunt of ours the Greyhound at Hawksbury Junction. The beer is always good and the food even better but we didn’t have a meal on this occasion.

Tuesday and back to Swan Lane wharf for a couple of days. One of our neighbours, Jenny invited us to the pub to celebrate her birthday and of course we couldn’t say no. It was great to be back in the Bricklayers and the staff where pleased to see us and we had a lovely time.

Wednesday and off I went to sign up with the agency. The security guard recognised me and just sent me on my way as I knew were to go. I was pleasantly surprised to see 2 of the young people I worked with last year now manning the office and dealing with new staff. They both were very helpful and I was soon signed up however it was not all good news I have always worked in the international hub. Last year there was loads of agency staff in there but no longer. Apparently there is very little work and all the agency staff had moved to the national hub. This I do not want to do so will have to wait and see what the situation is when we return to the wharf at the end of October. I have started putting feelers out just in case.

On my return we went to Ikea not a favourite place of mine at all but we needed some kilner jars for the crab apple jelly we were making. So £20+ later we found our way out with lots more than we intended on buying including this year’s Christmas tree.

We managed to catch up with Keith the guy who runs the wharf and complimented him on the improvements which had taken place over the summer. The car park had been resurfaced and new main gates and fencing fitted, the gates are a lot better as they have been recessed. Unfortunately a couple of days after the fence was put up a car ploughed into a section and destroyed it, the driver didn’t hang about so no insurance details were forth coming to claim against. Paul off of The Forest Oak has taken over the garden and is making good progress and has repotted our 2 christmas trees and they are coming along nicely but are now too big for the inside of the boat hence the new one from Ikea. We have new moorers too who we will get to know over the winter I hope.

And now my favourite day of the week, Thursday and the beer festival at the Windmill on Spon Street. They had 6 beers on the bar and a stillage with 10 and another 10 in the wings. We had to try most of them, only halves of though. My favourite was Fair Lady by Dhillons and the Captain enjoyed Hot Dog Chilli Stout by Binghams and Mutiny on the Bounty a milk stout by Campervan. Unfortunately the beer we would have liked to try the most wasn’t on until the next day and that was Cherry Dark by Titanic.  Feeling a bit peckish we had the festival special of pulled pork cobs with all the trimmings mmmm

Friday and a good shop as the Ashby canal were we are heading is a little sparse on the supermarket front.

So off up the Ashby, next time folks.