The rest of our adventures from August to October

OH MY MEMORY !!!! AND ITS AUGUST

The reason for this rather strange title is because me and the Captain have had to spend the last ½ hour trying to remember where we went and when. My memory is usually great but the days just slip one to another on our poddle round the canal system.

Before I start filling you in with our adventures I will return to the subject of my previous blog the terrible star letter in the Towpath Talk. You would have thought that a letter like that would be a one off but, OH NO. Another free magazine for us boaters called Tillergraph had as their letter of the month one echoing the sentiment of the Towpath talk one. With phrases like

 ‘Over the years I have noticed considerable changes to the waterway network and sadly not for the better. The significant increase in the number of ‘liveaboards’ is affecting the whole ethos and culture of the waterways which is likely to worsen if further action by CRT is not forthcoming’

And                                                                                                                                 

‘slum boats’ ....  ‘shanty town on water’..... ‘ waterway ghetto’.....

I know not all boats are shiny and new, ours definitely isn’t and some could do with more work doing on than others but they are still people’s homes and as long as boaters pay their dues and demands and stick to the rules and regulations then their way of life should be respected.

As you can imagine a strongly worded reply was forwarded to the editor by me and many others. Now we will wait and see if they print these replies.

Rant over.                           

Now to consult my notes on our journey and a quick catch up with a few stories thrown in.

We stayed put at Braunston due to weather on Sunday and on Monday we moved to the start of the Napton Flight, went up the first lock and moored up for a couple of days. And of course there was a pub, The Folly. We had actually been to this pub a couple of years ago when we were camping in the area. It was 2012 and the Jubilee Bank Holiday (told you my memory was good). For those of you who don’t remember it was the worst summer in living memory and never stopped raining. But being as it was the late May bank holiday we thought it could only get better. After sitting in the tent in the pouring rain we decided to walk down to the pub, wet weather gear on and off we went. Walked in the pub and everyone turned and looked at the 2 drowned rats. But when we stripped off we were as dry as a bone underneath and a good time was had by all. Happy memories.

The Folly had a dark on so one happy Captain and the food looked wonderful.

We walked into Napton on the Hill and oh boy did it live up to its name. The Captain had to pull me up the hill to the Church. But it was worth it the views were spectacular and the church lovely. On the walk down we had a lovely conversation with a local farmer (he looked like Seasick Steve).

On Wednesday we went up the Napton flight, 6 locks, had lunch and turned round and came back down the 7 locks and on to the Bridge at Napton (we had called there on a Tuesday a couple of weeks earlier but it had been closed) I can’t say I was impressed.

And back to Braunston, after a pump out at the very pretty marina there we set off south.  Through Braunston tunnel again, 2042yrds built in 1796 with a kink in it. This time we managed to negotiate the kink without hitting the side and 8 locks later we moored up at Long Buckby Wharf. There is a pub, The New Inn on lock 10 and as we were going through the lock everyone was sat outside and the food smelt lovely. Of course we had to give it a go and we weren’t disappointed. We both had a lockkeepers salad, huge slice of pork pie, a chunk of mature cheddar, salad, pickle and a proper pickled onion the size of a golf ball. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. The beer was good too. So a lunch time treat turned into a session with lots of people watching thrown in. I would highly recommend this pub.

Saturday and on to Bugbrook, 3 pubs here The Wharf, The 5 Bells and the Bakers Arms, checked them and they sounded good but unfortunately none of them lived up to the descriptions.

Sunday and we turned down the Northampton Arm, 16 locks over 5 miles, it joins the river Nene at its end. Things were going great, single locks, easy paddles and lightish gates me and the Captain got into a great rhythm. Then we reached lock 5 we could see in front of us that the bottom gates on lock 6 were open and a boat was in the pound and there were people on lock 7. So we waited for the boat to go into the lock but it never moved and the people on lock 7, well I couldn’t tell what they were doing. After waiting a while I decided to walk down and see what was happening. And what I found was more than worrying. The boat in the pound was moored up but the problem was in lock 7 were a boat was well and truly stuck half way in. Behind them was another boat waiting. I looked at the boat from of the top lock gate and could see that its gunnels were just too wide and it had become wedged in the lock. The people on the boat were trying to pull it out but in vain. It was decided to try and float it out by letting water down whilst the boat behind pulled and the stuck boat was put in full reverse but nothing. Then the Captain came down for a look and they tried again, still no joy but what they did manage to do was empty the pound and the moored boat was then grounded. It seemed a hopeless situation, me and the Captain went up the locks and started letting water down to refloat the grounded boat and hopefully help the stuck one. I really thought it was going to be a job for CRT. Then suddenly movement they had managed to free the boat and we were all on the move. The owner of the stuck boat said he was going to try again when it was quieter. And we know he did because on the CRT website on Monday a stoppage was announced on the Northampton Arm due to a boat stuck in a lock. Again they got him out but I don’t know what he is going to do now.

So now we are in Northampton, the moorings aren’t bad and a few other boats have come and gone. We are staying till Wednesday and then on the Blisworth were there is canal festival at the weekend.

Memory sorted, stories told that’s all for now folks.

 

COLOURFUL CHARACTERS OR THE NUTTER ON THE BUS SYNDROME

For those of you who don’t remember Brummie comedian Jasper Carrott that well ‘the nutter on the bus’ is one of his stories. Are you one of those people who attract people who ‘aren’t all there’? Well me and the Captain definitely fall into this group.

You know what I mean you’re there minding your own business and a complete stranger has to come and talk to you. I don’t mean a sensible conversation but random bits and observations. And sometimes their complete life story.

Well over the last couple of days we have come across 2 such characters.

The first was on the locks coming out of Northampton. We spent a couple of happy days there exploring the town and of course its pubs (the Malt Shovel is worth a visit) but left on Wednesday to make out way to the Blisworth Canal Festival at the weekend. 16 locks to do and I was quite looking forward to the work, easy paddles and single gates makes for a good day and the weather was beautiful.

First and second lock done and with a boat in front of us a little more work for me. Third lock and a helper. I never look a gift horse in the mouth so let him help and as I went up to the next lock I saw him following shouting instructions. I was to do the top gate and he would sort the bottom not a problem. As the Captain came into the lock I realised this funny little man had put his rucksack on the boat but was still carrying his bottle of ....... I would have said water but it was fizzy, cider a bit early in the day for me personally but each to his own.

This is when I realised we had him for the long haul and the conversation started. Don’t get me wrong I believe what he told me that he had had a hard life but some of his tales just seemed too farfetched even for my rampant imagination.

Apparently it was him and his mate that had freed the boat stuck in the lock even though CRT and Canal Rescue were there and couldn’t get it out. He had lived in a barn for a long time with the blessing of the farmer, when he eventually got a council flat he left the caravan that he had bought on the farm but the farmer managed to ‘loose it’. Are you getting the idea? He was happy to point the barn out and a shed on the canal that he had lived in for some time.

At only  44years of age he had had heart attacks and the doctors wanted to chop his leg of due to blood clots, he hated his father had lost a partner (suicide) and a child. I did feel for him but he lived a rather unusual life. When he said he nearly had enough money to buy his own boat. I did start to think at this time what job he might do if he spent his time helping boaters up and down the locks and I found out when we got to the top and he wanted paying. We offered him cans but when he mention £20 I saw the Captain blanch. I had some change in my purse and offered him that at first he looked disgusted and wouldn’t take it but as we set off he said ‘go on then’ and took it off me.

Just to clarify most people who help on the locks don’t expect paying but do it because they enjoy being on the canal.

He was a cheerful chap but just a bit weird.

The second meeting was at Blisworth, I was on the boat doing my chores when I realised the Captain had struck up a conversation with another funny little guy. I popped my head out but popped straight back down and left them to it. I eventually had to go and see what was occurring and of course I was drawn into the conversation. Were as I believed the lock guys stories this one was just spouting rubbish. He had bought a boat for £27,000 and left it for 5 weeks and it sank. When it was recovered he was asked to pay £1500 but told them to keep the boat or the other version who ever recovered it had cut it up for scrap before he could stop them. He liked to shake hands when he perceived you agreed or liked the same things as him. Stories about 2 cats having 22 kittens and dumping them at the RSPCA who didn’t want them and advised him to put them in a sack and throw them in the river. Having a house in Spain and being arrested by the police because it was an illegal build but they knocked him out before they arrested him.

I think you can see why I didn’t believe his stories and I wasn’t happy when he made to get on the boat to ‘see the cats’. Luckily they were asleep in the cratch so I was able to open the side so he could see.

And what did the Captain do, he abandoned me to this nutter and disappeared back on the boat with some feeble excuse. Eventually I managed to free myself but not before he suggested I put the kettle on. I watched him saunter off down the towpath and try to engage the couple on the boat in front but they were having none of it. Sensible people.

Such characters do make life interesting I just wish they would pick on someone else for a change.

BUBBLES NEW TRICK

Have you ever seen it when a high jumper runs at the pole and performs a perfect ‘Fosbury Flop’? Well this is how Bubbles has taken to joining us on the bed after his nightly wanderings.

First I hear the run up and for a small cat he makes a lot of noise and then the launch but the problem can occur when he lands especially if I am having one of my hot moments and have thrown the duvet off. He lands with all claws out and if they come into contact with my bare skin it’s like a 100 little hot pokers and if I wasn’t fully awake before I am now.  Then he settles himself down, I prefer if he is on the Captains side of the bed but usually he gets in the middle between us and heaven help you if you start moving your feet he has sharp teeth as well as claws.

Then he sleeps the sleep of the dead for most of the day.

I should not be happy at reporting the next episode but he had it coming. Bubbles as you know  has managed to stay out of the canal, well up to now.

Our last night in Northampton and a hire boat moored in front of us and they had a dog but good on them they had it on a lead. But later on they must have let it out for a quick wee just at the time as Bubbles had woken up and started his night time activities. What did we hear? Frantic scrambling on the cratch covers, a sliding noise, splash and into the canal he went. After a delayed reaction me and the Captain popped out of the front cratch just in time to see him swim round the front of the boat and to the side. I tried to grab him but missed and he started to swim between the boat and the bank, not the best idea as the boat is always moving and he could have got squished. However the narrowing of the gap seemed to give him some purchase and he hauled himself out of the water and all that was seen was a wet white streak heading for the hills, well the flats. The owner of the dog was most apologetic and asked as he set sail next morning if Bubbles was ok.

When he did return sometime later that evening he was just about dry and his little dunking doesn’t seem to have had any long term affect on him.

And now there is only me to fall in so watch this space.

BLISWORTH CANAL FESTIVAL 2015

We have just spent a very enjoyable few days at the little village of Blisworth for their canal festival. I don’t know how long it has been going but it is a credit to the village as everyone seems to get involved.

We have met up with a number of other boaters who before this had only been comments on Facebook. New friends made and ideas swopped at the boaters get together on the Friday night. Beer was expensive but they had a decent stout on for the Captain. It was great to put faces to names.

The weather was gorgeous on the Saturday and the Captains sister Ann and her husband Chris came and joined us for the afternoon. After a walk round the festival field and a drool at the Welsh cheese boat we retired to Avalon Two to sit out the heat, chat and catch up.

After Ann and Chris left us we ventured to the village pub an outside disco and bbq were in full swing. This left me with a hankering for a beefburger but being mean I wasn’t willing to pay £4+ at the pub. We called at the local shop but to no avail, buns but no burgers. Shame but nothing could spoil the lovely day we had had.

Next day and the most important thing on the agenda was back to the cheese boat to pick up some of their most excellent cheese made with port and brandy mmmmmmmmmm. But horror of horrors they had sold out (knew we should have got it Saturday). We had to make do with a white wine and leek one, nice but not what the doctor ordered (they had even run out of the chillie and red pepper our second choice).

We left the festival still in full swing passing boats still selling their wares to people enjoying the sunshine and through the Blisworth tunnel, the third longest in the UK at 3057yards and opened in 1805 and on to Stoke Bruerne.

Our next port of call was the new town of Milton Keynes, the Captain was unexpectedly surprised at the pleasant cruise into the town, lovely parks flanked the canal with very little graffiti or litter. We were meeting up with Ann and Chris again as they live in the town. First on the list was a big shop at Lidl and Chris very kindly provided the transport. Shopping done and we took Ann, Chris and their granddaughter Charlotte on a little cruise. Charlotte loved the boat especially the cats she was up and down checking on them, feeding the ducks and just having a great time. Chris helped me with a small stop lock were Bubbles made a bid for freedom through the side hatch. He wasn’t hard to catch being still half asleep.

We returned to our moorings and Charlottes parents came to pick her up I was sorry to see her leave she is a credit to them. As a thank you we took Ann and Chris to the pub opposite which was a Crown Carvery, lovely I thought lots of veg and 3 roasts to choose from.

This is where it all went a bit wrong, we luckily didn’t buy our drinks on the way in but found a table in the restaurant first and perused the menu (they don’t just do a carvery). But it was the carvery we all fancied then I heard it, a gentleman at the table next to us was complaining that there was only turkey left and not a lot of that. Oh dear but not to be put off we decided to go with the half roast chicken, again luckily for us as I went to pay I checked with the chef to be told sorry we only have fish or sausage left. What a disappointment. What to do? Whilst out shopping we had passed another pub advertising rump steak for £5.99 so we had to give this a go and we were pleasantly surprised as it was a Wednesday the 8oz rump steak was only £4.49 and it was great.

We spent the next day doing and going nowhere due to the weather, we were very kindly invited to tea by Ann (second night no cooking for me). We had on board some old picture albums of Pete’s mums which we gave to Ann, it’s always a worry that something like this will be lost or damaged if something happens to the boat.

And on to Soulbury and the Three Locks pub. Lovely old canalside pub with good beer and as it turned out entertainment on. Two youngish lads with guitars taking turns, they were very good and we decided to have tea there (no cooking for me again, 3 nights on the trot unheard of). A sharing platter of spicy wings and ribs, beautiful.

Next port of call Leighton Buzzard.

OH DEAR

I am very sorry to those who are following our journey round the canals. I am miles behind, the days just meld one into another and it’s making me lazy. I will do my best to catch up with this instalment so sit back and let me do the driving or should that be steering.

I have to go back I don’t know how many days but we went to Leighton Buzzard for a few days, a lovely little town and not at all what I expected, what did I expect, something more....... rough I suppose. It had everything we needed in very pleasant surroundings. A Tesco right on the canal with dedicated 2hr moorings and just passed the bridge nice open moorings for us and the cats. Plenty of other boats, we always like that (in a town) safety in numbers. The walk into the town was easy and it had the usual selection of shops. And of course a Wetherspoons, The Swan however we didn’t really like it even with its cheap beer, it seemed dark and noisy. So we moved on and found the jewel in the crown The Black Lion a proper real ale pub with staff who knew their stuff and a choice of 2 darks on for the Captain, it was also a great people watching pub as the locals seemed to be celebrating someone’s birthday and there was much chatter and laughter and interesting characters to observe. So we decided to stay another day and surprisingly I remember it was a Sunday and why I remember this we went to listen to a brass band in the park, a definite Sunday activity. Disappointingly we couldn’t get in the church to take a look round so off to the pub. We tried another of the recommended real ale pubs The Golden Bell, very busy as the footy was on and not as homey as the Black Lion so after one we returned to our favourite but horrors of horrors they had sold out of the dark the Captain had enjoyed so much. The mild on offer was unfortunately not a patch on his first choice, don’t get me wrong it was nice but it was on the weak side for us at 3.8%, we tend to like the stronger beers 4.5%+.

It was with sadness we moved on next day, we had thought of going down the Aylesbury arm but after receiving reports of low water we decided to give it a miss this time, so on to Marsworth Reservoir and a chance to do some birdwatching, at first it seemed like it was all mallards, swans coots, moorhens and the stunning great crested grebes. I did spot a Red Kite hovering in the distance with its distinctive forked tail. Then a couple of ducks that definitely weren’t mallards after much looking and consulting the book we came to the conclusion that we had spotted 3 quite rare breeds, all females, a Mandarin, the male is quite stunning but the female apart from its beautiful eye markings is quite plain and the same can be said for the Red Crested Pochard and usually only a winter visitor to these shores a Scaup this duck has a pink tipped beak which makes it quite unique.

So we were both happy bunnies and off to the pub we went The Anglers Rest, not a lot to say about this pub only it’s getting more and more expensive the further south we go.

A quick trip down the Wendover arm for the night and on to Berkhamsted, again I didn’t know what to expect and was even more surprised than when we got to Leighton Buzzard. A small, and as Wikipedia describes it ‘an affluent town’ with plenty of shops and pubs. It has a lot of timber framed building one dating from 1280 which is the oldest in Great Britain but it is hidden behind a Victorian facade, shame. The church is worth a visit to.

And the pubs. We started in the Wetherspoons (of course) The Crown and very nice it was too with great staff. Looking through a local Camra magazine I happened on an article about a local brewery which had opened a beer shop and tap house in the town. This we couldn’t miss so off we went and again we hit the jackpot. A Milk Stout on for the Captain and a black IPA for me and the most surprising thing was the price less than £6 for 2 pints

Then we went from the sublime to the ridiculous and called at the Rising Sun a canal side pub near the boat. My round and I decided to try something different and ordered a Brooklyn Lager and a London Stout for the Captain, then nearly died £8.50 for 2 pints, GULP !!!! we won’t be returning there.

I have already said the town is affluent and this was driven home on Sunday (yes I remembered which day it was again surprise). We had seen a banner advertising a Ferrari Festival in aid of the local school. The cars would be parading down the High Street at 11.30 so off we popped. We never made it to the High Street but were lucky enough to walk up the side street leading into the school grounds, a much better view and we waited. The first group came through Ferraris of all ages mainly red but some blues and silvers in there, then another group, red yellow and white this time, they just kept on coming each time we thought that was it another group would come round the corner.

After the last group had passed by we went into the school grounds in time to see them being lined up we counted over 60 cars the worth in money I wouldn’t like to guess. The proud owners opened up the bonnets or in most cases backs to show off the immaculate engines, some were letting people sit in the cars (for a small donation). Soft tops down and hard tops open. Some of the most beautiful powerful cars I have ever seen. Then as with the British summer in started to rain, a flurry of activity to get the tops back up and on but nothing spoiled the splendour of all these magnificent beasts in one place.

It was a wonderful finish to our visit to Berkhamsted.  Although we didn’t leave till Tuesday morning due to the weather. Monday was spent doing little jobs we have been putting off, cleaning the kitchen blind for the Captain and sorting out my tax claim for me. These jobs still have to be done. I had hoped to make my claim on line but after filling out the relevant form I discovered I had to print it off and send it by snail mail along with my P45’s. This gave us another excuse to enjoy the very nice Crown and with it being the Monday club a pint of Guinness and a Kronenburg came to £4.64 not to be sniffed at.

Wow I think I have managed to catch up. Today is Wednesday and we are in Hemel Hempsted but more about that next time.

BLACKBERRIES AND MICE

Well what a wash out the Bank Holiday Monday has turned out to be. We are now in Little Venice brested up (moored on the outside of another boat) with a lovely couple called Nick and Emma and their big black dog. The cats will not be going out whilst we moored up in central London so the dog is safe.

Right back to journey that got us here, Hemel Hempsted was where I left you. We managed to pair up with another boat as we left and shared the locks with them all the way to Rickmansworth. A lovely couple, Caroline and Tony on NB Strange Magic. We chatted away and it was very interesting for me as Tony had grown up in the area and could point out interesting things and places like where the Roses Lime Cordial factory had once stood. He had seen big changes over the years and where now the canal is flanked by houses he remembered all the old papers mills that had been there.

On reaching Ricksmanworth I asked him if there was a Wetherspoons in the town but he said it was doubtful as the town was too posh but I proved him wrong, The Pennsylvanian on the High Street. Thursday so its curry night and since it had been a long day I offered to treat the Captain. After mooring we chatted to Tony and Caroline mentioning we were going for a curry but they said they needed to walk the dog so I didn’t think we would see them later. How wrong l was and what a late and boozy night it turned out to be. Caroline was at the bar ordering food as we walked in, so we joined them at their table and chatted and chatted and suddenly in was gone 12 and the staff were waiting to close. A stagger back to the boat and a lie in in the morning. Unfortunately we did not get to continue our cruise with them, they had to be back in the marina that night (Caroline had to go to work Saturday morning) so they set off before us, but we are now friends on Facebook so we will meet again sometime.

I love blackberries and picking them, it looks like being a bumper year too, I have been picking them whilst waiting for the locks, big black juicy and sweet. A crumble and pie made and eaten up to now. Some in the freezer and plenty more to pick. Last year was a good crop and I made blackberry vinegar with the surplus, might do the same this year or maybe wine.

And on to the mice, yes Bubbles has been at it again and jumped on the boat as we moored at Denham Deep lock with one in his mouth but for a change it was still very much alive. I pinned him down in the cratch and prised his jaws a part until he dropped it, but before I could scoop it up to release it the little thing made its own dash for freedom unfortunately the wrong way and straight into the canal. It valiantly started swimming down the length of the boat and the Captain went to the back and set up the fishing net we bought should we ever need to fish a cat out of the canal. And he waited but the poor mite suddenly seemed to lose its way and instead of following the side of the boat it struck out into the middle of the canal far out of our reach and met a wet and sorry end.

Bubbles was severely chastised and had his nose flicked a couple of time but to no avail as when we got up next morning he had left us a gory present in the middle of the floor. The Captain bravely disposed of the decapitated body. I will say it again BLOODY CAT.

After Denham deep lock we were advised by other boaters that mooring in and around Uxbridge was not the best idea until Willowtree Marina so we kept going, the towpath looked tidy and there wasn’t too much litter or graffiti but everybody we had asked had said the same. We eventually moored on the offside amongst a mixed group of boats, the very helpful neighbour helped pull us in and informed us were the local Tesco was.

It was an early start next morning the Captain wanted to get down the Paddington Arm and find somewhere to moor in Little Venice, what we didn’t realise was 1, the Bank Holiday and 2, The Notting Hill Carnival. As we travelled down the canal the music was getting louder and louder and we had a great view of parts of the Carnival. At one point we passed a bank of speakers that were actually bouncing. People were smiling and enjoying themselves a couple of times we were invited to brest up with another boat and join the fun but we kept on going and going and going.

It was busy is an understatement, we cruised past boat after boat looking for an elusive slot for our home but nothing. Up to Paddington basin still nothing, down the Regents canal lots of space but no mooring rings. Things weren’t looking good after discussing the alternatives it was decided to go back the way we had come and see if we could find someone to share with. Luck was with us and we came on 2 boats with space at the side of them, as courtesy demands we asked the owner if we could moor beside them and they had no problem but first we had to turn round, the Captain picked his spot perfectly and turned us without a hitch. Early in the day another boater had commented on us just missing a spot next to them but I had not given it any thought as we passed them again I realised it was someone we had met at Marsworth and shared a lock with and they came from Langley Mill it is a small world. We said we would pop back and have a chat when we were moored.

Moored with Nick’s help no problem and decided to go to The Tyburn, a Wetherspoons on Marble Arch but not after a long chat with John and Janice from Langley Mill. They know a cheap place to drink in Kilburn so tomorrow (Tuesday) they are going to take us and I don’t dare to think what will happen. Unfortunately they had met with 2 very unpleasant boaters when they first tried to moor a couple of days earlier see there are good and bad in everything but it had turned out ok.

The trip to the pub was a nightmare, we are no longer used to crowds and we hit the tail end of the Carnival let me get back on the peaceful waterways.

Baked a couple of cakes today not fit to do much else and brought the blog up to date so a good days work. Tales of London and a surprise in the next instalment

 

 

LONDON AND ‘THE SURPRISE’ AND ITS SEPTEMBER

Good morning folk’s and once again I must make an apology for not keeping my blog up to date. Two main reasons for this, 1 the atrocious internet service in London and the south and 2 I simply haven’t had the time.

Right back to London, the week definitely improved after the very soggy bank holiday. Our trip to the cheap pub in Kilburn never happened and we didn’t see John and Janice again but I am sure we will catch up with them at some point.

Instead we went into central London, Covent Garden, Leicester Square and just had a very enjoyable afternoon pottering about and we got to try out another Wetherspoons, The Moon Under Water on Leicester Square. Very small for a Wetherspoons (but it had a good dark ale on so the Captain was happy) and rammed which made it an excellent people watching place and we had a great view sat at a high table by the front door. People came and went. Most couldn’t find anywhere to sit even though there was space at our table they passed us by. The Captain even had the idea of writing a sign saying these seats are free but I had to stop him, it’s not really the done thing. But eventually 2 very sensible people pounced on our spare seats and of course we got chatting. They were very interested in our life on the canals but he would have liked a sailing boat rather than a narrowboat, each to their own. Our curiosity eventually got the better of us as they both had foreign accents but was very obviously from different countries. He was Swedish and she was from Mauritius, they had met in London when working and had married, had 4 children and stayed in England, he quite liked the idea of moving to the cheaper north but I don’t think she was quite so taken with the idea. It was lovely to chat. When they left the 3 girls which replaced them were the complete opposite and extremely rude and off hand with us (even when the Captain obtained a third chair for them). Ah well it takes allsorts.

Next day and the reason for our trip to London a visit to see Pete’s sister Sheila and her husband William. As William was at work we took a very enjoyable stroll with Sheila down the side of the Thames stopping off at a pub called the Town of Ramsgate were we sat outside watching trip boats whizz up and down a very choppy Thames. A Thames we would be going on in a few days, it did nothing to in still any great confidence in me as I watched the waves bash against the side of the buildings. We had a lovely meal with William and Sheila before wending our way back to the boat and to disaster. Houdini had done it again, yes Bubbles had managed to get off the boat and there was no sign of him, Bloody Cat. We had decided not to let the cats off as we were moored on a very busy towpath with lots of dogs, no bushes for cover and a busy road. But there was nothing we could do just go to bed and hope he would return and of course he did not before giving me a rather sleepless night. After a severe telling off we ensured the cratch cover was completely escape proof and then we moved but not far, forward first for a pump out and water and then backwards onto the 14 day moorings. And that was it for the day, William is a very generous host with the wine and although I don’t get hangovers a mixture of rich food and plentiful vino had taken its toll on my stomach.

Then, an invitation to meet one the Captains nephews at Camden Lock. Paul is the son of Ann the Captains other sister and we haven’t seen him since his wedding to the lovely Suzz. So off we went. Getting there a little early it was great to walk through the market and past the tattoo and piercing parlours and some very old punk rockers with spiky Mohicans. At the lock we found there was an international food market on and you know how much we like to try new things, a few tasters here and there and then off to..... Yes another Wetherspoons, The Ice Wharf which is right on the lock. A very nice Wetherspoons it is too. We met up with Paul and it was lovely to catch up and to see pictures of his lovely baby girl Tabitha. We couldn’t leave without going back to the food festival and now feeling very peckish we had to try a couple of things. Scrummy.

Imperial War Museum next day and there is so much to see there. We only managed the WW1 exhibition on the ground floor. We will be going back to see the rest.

Saturday and William and Sheila came to the boat, Sheila had been before but not William. I think he was quite impressed but it is difficult to tell sometimes with William.

Sunday and this is where to surprise comes in but I think that can be for next time I have rambled on plenty for now.

AND NOW THE SURPRISE

The surprise is I didn’t spend Sunday night on the boat, I deserted the Captain and left him to his own devices whilst I travelled back to Ripley

And the reason for this it was my lovely sister Diane’s birthday and I wanted to surprise her like she did me in Birmingham.

The idea had come to me one night in bed after a conversation with her which ended in her saying wistfully that she wouldn’t see me on her birthday. I remembered that when the Captain had taken me to see Angela Lansbury (Murder She Wrote) in Blithe Spirit he had got a very good deal on National Express £11 return. I checked to see if this price was still available, it was, then checked with Mick her husband what plans they had and then my lad Adam to see if he would pick me up and run me round.

Everything fell into place lovely, the coach left at 10.30am (not to early) and got me into Derby for 2.10pm, Adam had texted Diane to say he would nip over and see her, then her and Mick were going for a meal in Ripley then a band at the Nags, so Adam said he would give them a lift into Ripley, meaning she would have to wait for him to turn up just in case there was a problem with the coach times.

But there wasn’t and Adam was waiting for me and off we went to Diane’s. Adam knocked on the door and I stood to one side, Diane opened the door and went back in the house expecting Adam to follow which he did, I waited a few seconds before following him in, as Diane had her back to the door she didn’t see me but was chatting away to Adam as she paused which isn’t really like her I said ‘and what about me?’ her face was a picture and she was lost for words, again not like her at all. Eventually she asked what I was doing there, silly question I know.

It was great to surprise her and we had a lovely meal. The band was extremely noisy so we escaped across the road to the Talbot were my mate Penny joined us and Adam left us. We did go back to hear the last few songs of the band (my ears are still ringing) and it was time for Diane and Mick to catch the bus back to Alfreton (I was staying in Ripley with Adam). Sad farewells were said and a promise to come to the boat as soon as we are back in Coventry.

But my night didn’t end there, me and Penny made for the Red Lion to finish off and what a finish it was. Penny is great but when she has had too much to drink she tends to just disappear which is fine but not when she takes my handbag with her not her own, bearing in mind hers was brown leather and mine black corduroy. I had gone to the bar so didn’t see her leave. Luckily Adam knows where she lives so I had to get him to take me to retrieve my bag and return hers. What a palaver, good thing I have a great sense of humour and know Penny very well.

It was good that the bus next day didn’t leave till 11.20 so I had time to do some shopping in Ripley and pay my tax rebate cheque in at the bank. I know you are asking yourself what on earth did I want from Ripley, Paul Walkers is my favourite butcher and I know exactly what I am getting when I buy from him and that the price is good. So having stocked up on meat and a few other essentials Adam treated me a a MacDonald’s breakfast and dropped me off in Derby to catch the bus.

The journey up had been a very quiet affair but it was not to be going back and I must have encountered the most chatty bus driver in the world, Darren. I sat at the front as I like to do and by the time we reached London I knew his life story in out and backwards. But oh boy did the journey fly.

So back to the boat, the Captain had missed me even though I had made him one of my chillies to remember me by and I settled down for a quiet evening but it was not to be. Another surprise a phone call from my cousin Gary asking if we wanted to meet up, he lives in Kennilworth but has an osteopath practice on Harley Street which means he is in London 2/3 days a week (he treats the likes of Jude Law and Kenneth Brannagh). We both think he is lovely so it was no problem to meet him in the pub and catch up. After a few pints it was time to say goodbye and an open invitation was extended for him and his family to visit us on the boat.

Tuesday and it was time to leave London and continue our journey towards the Thames. It has been a hectic, exhausting but very enjoyable time for us and we will be returning at some point. I can’t say the same about the River Thames but more about that next time.

AND WE’RE OFF AGAIN.

This time up the Thames.

Before getting on the Thames we spent the night at Bull Bridge junction which is great for shopping as the moorings are right next to a big Tesco, so we did a big shop as you never know when the opportunity will arise again, well that’s not completely true the Captain keeps a good eye on where our shopping (and everything else) opportunities are. It’s all about the planning a head.

He decided to push on after shopping and look for mooring away from the noisy car park but this turned out to be a big mistake (strange for him to make one). When looking for moorings we like to see litter free towpaths and properties in a reasonable state of repair. As we progressed towards Brentford the towpaths were a right mess and the houses shabby. So we turned round and went back to the junction mooring on the opposite side to Tesco. We then watched the Tesco mooring fill up with other boaters and a couple of CRT work boats.

After a happy night we needed to turn the boat round and moor outside Tesco once again, a couple of reasons the main one being the Captain needed to get the anchor out and fix its chain and rope for our journey on the tidal Thames  and I needed to couple more bits from  the shop. The CRT work boats left and there was a lovely big space for us that was until a small narrowboat (35/40ft) who had been moored at the end moved into the middle of the big space leaving not enough room for us at either front or back. This caused a rant on facebook by me but oh boy do I wish I had saved for later and more about that later. I know we could have simply asked him to move up but it was the lack of thought that got me more than anything. Luckily for us and maybe him the 2 boats left on the moorings left and we moved over and the jobs got done.

So off to Brentford for the night were we caught up with 2 other boats, I thought at the time that Paul and Jan on Last Flight where going with us on the Thames and that Rick and Ann on Theresa Ann were heading off somewhere else. After talking to Jan I was confused they didn’t seem to know where they wanted to go or where they wanted to live, a year on the boat and then a year living in Spain before deciding. You can’t get two more diverse life styles can you? I wish them luck.

Next morning and the plan had changed Rick and Ann were coming up the Thames with us and Paul and Jan were going back the way we had come (something to do with needing a marina). As Rick had done the Thames before we let him lead us out of the lock and off we went. It turned out he wasn’t that sure of which channels to use were the river split to go round an island and we ended up in the lead and waiting for him to reverse back on to the right course (not easy on a tidal river).

I had been more than a little worried about going on the tidal Thames as I expressed in the previous blog. But it was fine and I enjoyed the scenery and even the gentle rocking motion as cruisers and little power boats passed us.

At Teddington lock we both had to stop and obtain our river license. Just to explain not all rivers are run by CRT and the river Thames is run by the Environment Agency and requires a separate license. You can buy a transit 1 day license to allow you to get on the river Wye (controlled by the National Trust so a different license again) or a 3 day or a week or a month. We had the week license at £60+.

This is where the rushing came in and it made the Captain very unhappy. We had 90miles and 20 or so locks to do in 6 days. I know it doesn’t sound a lot but when you can only do 4/5mph at most then you are looking at 15 miles a day and no stopping to look round any of the interesting villages and towns on route.

But first back to our first night on the Thames and this is where I should have saved my rant for. We decided to moor at Walton on Thames at a pub called the Angler (although we never went in) with Rick and Ann, as we approached the moorings we could see 2 spaces, one with a short boat in and one that could accommodate one of the boats no problem. The Captain of the short boat was asked if he minded moving on the end of the moorings where there was room for him but not us and although he told us they weren’t staying overnight he made some excuse that it was too shallow for him to move. So we ended up bresting up with Rick and Ann, now the guy in the boat behind us was a completely different kettle of fish and couldn’t have been more helpful and sympathetic. He had a long talk with Rick as they were going down the River Wye and informed us that there was a decent Wetherspoons in Walton. And it was Thursday so curry night yippe.

We invited Rick and Ann to join us and were amazed when we discovered they had never been in a Wetherspoons before so didn’t know what to expect. We had a great night made even better by one of my favourite beers being on. Jaipur by Thornbridge (and only £1.99 a pint and the Captains tipple even better at £1.49). The Captain hates Jaipur as it tastes like grapefruit. At 5.9% you don’t need many. Rick and Ann also had Jaipur. I think they were quite surprised that the curry meal came with a drink so had to have another Jaipur. But the second pint was enough for them and off they poddled back to their boat leaving us having another pint.

A final observation, at times it felt like we were back in Barcelona as large groups of Parakeets were flying around making their usual racket. I knew there were colonies of these birds in the south of England but had not expected to see and hear them. A lovely surprise to finish off a lovely day.

On up the Thames next time.

KINGFISHERS AND RED KITES

Two of our favourite birds.

The kingfisher, elusive and fast. All you usually see is a neon blue blur as it flies down the water in front of you before disappearing into the vegetation on the bank. It’s not very often you get to see them perched looking out for a fish or even more rare one actually plunging into the water and catching one.

On the Thames we saw all of this and the Captain managed to get a couple of decent photos which I will be blogging later. It was wonderful to see this small brightly coloured bird up close and personal. Then when it dived into the river and came up with a shiny silvery fish what a sight.

And onto the red kite a completely different kettle of fish a medium size bird of prey with beautiful auburn plumage. Hovering in the sky with its distinctive forked tail and creamy under wings. We fell in love with these birds on a visit to West Wickham a few years back so it was great to become acquainted with them again. Graceful and deadly scouring the fields for its unfortunate prey and diving like a speeding bullet to catch the said prey. Astounding.

I must just give a nod to other beautiful bird that we saw a few of, the Jay. Pretty in its mauve and pink colours with a black rump. It was great to see 3 of them flying from side to side on the river.

Right now back to the rest of our journey on the Thames, it had its highs and lows. The lows did drive me to declare I wouldn’t be going back but in hindsight that was a rash statement and I think we will be back at some point.

This rash statement was due to the poor moorings we found going into Henley on Thames. And they wanted to charge you £6per night for the privilege. We are not used to paying for moorings and after paying for the extra license we thought it a bit of a cheek to be honest. Luckily we only paid for one night and that was in Henley (£8) and as we went through the town the moorings were much better. After that we found much better mooring places and didn’t pay again. We did however stop in Goring and got into a bit of an argument with another boat.

Here’s the tale, we had decided to stop at Goring and as we came up to the visitors moorings we could see there was room, however a small cruiser was loosely tied in the middle of the moorings, there was just enough room for us to get in at the back of him but we moved the cruiser forward slightly as we didn’t want to damage it. Then along came a small narrowboat we had passed early speeding in the opposite direction. The captain of the said narrowboat demanded to know if we had moved the cruiser we said yes and he asked who gave us permission. We explained when we got there there was no one to ask and not wanting to damage the craft we moved it forward. He then got very stroppy as it turned out the cruiser and the boat in front of that belonged to him (as well as the narrowboat) and he had put the cruiser in the middle of the moorings because he had friends on a big boat coming to moor there. The captain took a very dim view of the gentleman’s attitude and asked if were we had moored were private or visitors and as we were moored next to the sign that said they were visitors he knew he didn’t have a leg to stand on. So the Captain pointed at first come first serve and all that. Anyway after much juggling about with his 3 boats and his friend’s big boat they managed to get them all moored up. If the gentleman, and I use the term loosely, had been more diplomatic he may have persuaded the captain to move but not with his attitude and tone of voice. I quite enjoyed Goring, an old town with a couple of decent pubs.

I must try and describe the sights we saw from the river, the house were stunning and very expensive (I know cos I checked one out that was up for sale). We saw huge ocean going cruisers, small dinghies and the old fashioned wooden gentleman’s launches from the 1920’s and 30’s. House’s had the proper boathouses at the end of the garden which I had only read about in books by Christie and Wodehouse. Stunning gardens but the downside there were so many notices, ‘private no mooring’ on both sides of the river. A very exclusive area.

We also met up with a lot of rowers in their long sleek boats and these became the bane of the Captains life. He was always worried as they did not seem to understand that with a narrowboat you can’t just stop or change course. And of course they row backwards and he was concerned that they did not always realise we were there as they crisscrossed in front of us. One group on young lads did get a bollocking from their trainer for stopping in front of us and then deciding to go across us again when the captain had valiantly changed course to avoid them.

So on we went drinking in the beautiful countryside but being unable to stop anywhere long enough to explore, we only had a week’s license and the weather forecast was not looking great. The final day on the Thames and it was a big push to get to Oxford and rejoin the Oxford canal. Through the last large river lock just as the lock keeper was going home (he stayed and helped us through bless him) and then we missed the turn that would take us off the River Isis (that’s what the Thames is called when it gets to Oxford) and onto the canal. There was no sign and it looked like a little channel that went nowhere. So we passed it by and had to turn round. On the return I did notice a crude sign on a moored boat that said ‘canal this way’. Through the Isis lock and back on the narrow canals. This is where I boobed a bit. There were moorings near the lock but I suggested going up the canal a little further as I saw the sign for a pub on the map. But what I didn’t realise the moorings near the lock were very close to Oxford city centre, so we ended up a couple of miles out.

I will save our very enjoyable visit to the dreaming spires of Oxford for next time.

 

DREAMING SPIRES AND CHEAP BEER. AND ITS OCTOBER

You might not think these 2 things go together to well but I can assure for us they did.

I left you as we had moored in Oxford but not as near to the centre as we would have liked (my fault) but being a 57ft narrowboat it’s not that easy to turn round so we stayed put and in the first instance used shanks’s pony to get us into Oxford. It was a pleasant stroll down the canal to the old basin which unfortunately is now a car park. We did read somewhere there might be a plan a foot to rebuild the basin but to be honest we couldn’t see how this would be achieved without major investment.

Getting our bearings and checking out were the local wetherspoons was (the Four Candles) we walked into the town and had a little look round this was cut short when off one of the main shopping streets we spied a sign ‘Fire sale all real ales £1 a pint at the Crown’ well not ones to miss a bargain we ventured in. The Crown is part of the Nicholson’s chain and very nice it is too. Thinking there may be a catch (but there wasn’t) we approached the bar tentatively and was served by a very friendly Aussie (found out later he had been bought to England to play rugby and was biding his time whilst things got sorted). To make things even better there was a stout and Hobgoblin on so one very happy Captain. The stout was called Silkie Stout by Loch Lomand Brewery and very silkie it was too but a little too rich for more than a couple of pints so the Captain went on to Hobgoblin whist I tried Molecatcher by Moles Brewery at 5% so not a session beer. We had a couple or so before having tea out at The Four Candles and catching the bus back (definitely didn’t feel like walking).

Next day and the intention was to see more of Inspector Morse’s Oxford. And yes we did the bits you could see but access to the sacred quads of the colleges was poor and most were not open to the public. I did manage to get a glimpse into a couple and oh yes they are as serene and quiet as you see on the TV until someone is murdered.

Thinking that the £1 a pint sale would be over we still had to go and check but lo and behold it was still on so we had to have another few pints. Haka Roo from Wychwood for me and the Captain stuck to Hobgoblin from the same brewery. The Haka Roo was very citrusy so not to the Captains taste at all. So our time in Oxford came to a close, we will definitely be back.

It was great in some respects to be back travelling on the narrow canals rather than the wide river but it also has a draw backs when passing other boats and a shock to the system for me back to doing locks manually.

We spent the night at Thrupp and tried the 2 pubs there, the Jolly Boatman which although nice was abit guppified for us and when a large and very loud group of lads came in from a day at the races we decided it was time to move on to the Highwayman. This pub did not have such pretentions and had a curry night on which smelt lovely and the rugby for us to watch. Although not great rugby fans the match soon had our attention as it was Japan playing South Africa and the Japanese under dogs were giving the South Africans a good run for their money and in the dying seconds of the match scored a winning try. A great upset for the world cup.

Then on to Upper Hayford and Banbury were we spent a great couple of days.

Banbury would have looked better if the weather had been fine so I don’t think we saw it in all its glory. We moored right in the centre of the town, actually outside the lovely Castle Quay shopping centre. Plenty of mooring’s and full of boats. That’s what we like to see. There were 2 wetherspoons, The Exchange and the Fleur De Lis. We only tried the Fleur again due to the weather it was ok and out of the rain.

Now on to some exciting news the friends we met on our trip up the Erewash canal, Lorraine and Kev have kept in touch and from Lorrianes facebook posts and bits we could see we were going to cross paths again. They were making their way south to Wigram Turn and we were heading north past the self same place.

Too good an opportunity to be missed and it was decided we would meet up at Long Itchington, you remember the village with 6 pubs within walking distance of the canal (and we tried them all), in a couple of weeks time.

But before that the weather was not kind to us well me mainly. As we left Banbury we needed to do a serious shop and luckily there is a Tesco just by the canal and a Aldi to little further up the hill (or so I thought). We did our best to get all our shopping from Tesco but I looked at the price of some of the items and having a good memory for these things remembered the price of these items was a lot cheaper in Aldi and as it more than a couple of bits I decided to walk up to Aldi whilst the Captain returned to the boat with the Tesco shopping.

It was a little further than I thought but not too bad. Well that’s until I came out of the shop (saved £10) and found that the heavens had opened and the rain was pelting down but there was nothing for it and off I set back to the boat.

By the time I got back I had discovered not only did my trainers leak, my waterproof coat wasn’t that waterproof. It looked like I had taken a shower in my clothes.

Time for new trainers and a better coat me thinks.

Now here’s a shock in our story we didn’t go to the pub for 4 whole nights, the first night there were a couple of pubs in the village of Cropredy but after my drenching I really didn’t feel like turning out and then we spent 3 nights in the middle of nowhere. Beautiful scenery but our bar on the boat took a bit of a hammering but that’s other story.

So more next time folks

JUST A MINI BLOG

This short blog is just to update you on the miles we have covered and the locks and bridges I have opened.

Upto Banbury we had covered 851 miles in 5months and I have opened 64 bridges and done 539 locks, well this figure does included the few that were lock keeper controlled on the Trent and the Thames.

Not bad going don’t you think ????

We have met alsorts of boats and boaters, dayboats, hire boats, shiny boats, not so shiny boats, downright wrecks, work boats, houseboats and boats like ours a home. We have seen a shed on more than one boat a boat selling icecream with a huge 99 on the back.

Boaters have come in all shapes and sizes some completely loveable, some completely miserable and some just downright rude.

Stag parties, hen parties, true water gypsies, traders selling anything from cheese to gas and coal to beer making kits. Precious boat owners who don’t like to see one scratch on their boat to boats so covered in wood and plants you wonder if there is a boat under all the stuff.

A real diversity in every way.

DOESN’T TIME JUST FLY.

 I know we have a leisurely life cruising along the canal but I do wonder sometimes were the days go.

I can’t believe I last blogged about staying in for 4 whole nights and you that know me, or should that be us, you knew it couldn’t last.

So back to Napton and The Folly, not as impressed this time, there were no dark ales on and when challenged the barman said in one breath they didn’t sell well, and then in the next but when they did have them on they went really fast. Work that one out if you can. But that is a story we hear quite often.

You know I go on about having to plan this that and the other, well our well laid plan didn’t work so well this time. The 4 days in the middle of nowhere meant our beer and wine supply had taken a serious hit and we were in great danger of running out (don’t panic don’t panic). Along with this and just as important, I suppose we needed some food. Looking at the map. and remember we were making for Long Itchington to meet Lorraine and Kev, we could see there was no suitable shops before which meant we had to go past Long Itchington and on to Leamington.

This actually worked in our favour and we met up with Lorraine and Kev a couple of days early in Leamington. However I am much to honest for my own good. The shopping trip to Lidl turned out to be well worth the extra miles. There was an offer on spend £40 get £5 off. So we split the shopping into 2 lots (we wanted a lot of beer and wine). The Captain went first with most of the beer and food. I came next with 2 boxes of wine (not running out ever again) and enough bits to make it up to £40. I put one box on the conveyor and then told the nice young man that I had a second still in the trolley. Well he rang everything through and said ’£29.50 please’ now bearing in mind the boxes of wine were £15 each this obviously couldn’t be right. Did I walk away and think thanks very much. Oh no not me I had to query the amount. The nice young man at first thought I was saying it was too much but when I pointed out the wine (stupid or what) he realised that he had only put one box through. So the bill was £41 less my fiver. I will never learn.

I do remember the actual day we shopped, it was a Monday and why do I remember this, because its Monday Madness at Wetherspoons cheap beer. I know when we visited Leamington earlier in the year we were not at all impress with The Jug and Jester but we just had to go and try it again. A great and late night was had by all.

I must report however on one incident that occurred as we cruised through Leamington. Our friends on Dragonfly had a bottle of god knows what thrown at them from one of the bridges by 2 teenage lads. Unfortunately the contents drenched them. Not knowing what the contents actually were was the disgusting part. We have been lucky in the most that this type of incident has been very few and far between. But I do wonder at the mentality of people sometimes.

On the upside we did some foraging and came away with damsons, blackberries and apples. Lorraine picked some sloes for sloe gin but not my cup of tea. So now I am the proud guardian of the said gin, blackberry vodka and damson vodka until Lorriane and Kev return from their holiday but that will be another story.

So onto Long Itchington and 4 lovely days in the company of Lorriane and Kev and of course Molly the black Labrador. We were quite good and didn’t try all 6 pubs this time but on the second day we did a pub crawl round the ones we did like, The Green Man, The Harvesters and the 2 Boats. After that we stuck to the 2 Boats and finished the week with a meal in there. We had tried to get something to eat in there the night before only to be told at 8.15pm they had stopped serving although the girl behind the bar was very vague about the actual serving times.

When we went in for the meal we were surprised to be told that they served food til 8.30. I can tell you the landlady was not too pleased when we told her of our experience the previous night.

The meal was not a good as I thought it could be and both me and the Captain were disappointed but we will probably give it a second try next time we pass by.

We also took the time to visit each other’s boats, it’s strange but you don’t seem to go in peoples boats that often but it was great to see how different their boat was to ours (they have a reverse layout, bedroom at the front). Lorraine’s kitchen is much too small for me, I like to spread out when cooking. What works for one and all that.

We took our leave early on Saturday as the Captains friend Neil was coming to visit and we were meeting him in Leamington so back there we went again. Although we almost didn’t get there. We had to go up a couple of locks to turn round which meant we ended up behind 3 hire boats in convoy (a 40th birthday party on the water). Usually not a problem but the last boat was going soooooooo slow we were even catching up when in tick over and the Captain kept having to put the boat in reverse. We had to get past otherwise we wouldn’t have got to Leamington in a month of Sundays. Luckily for us the first boat pulled in to take on water and the others stopped to wait for them and we managed to get past YIppeeee and onto Leamington we sped in time to meet up with Neil and make our plans for a very special day out on the Sunday.

Neil bought gifts, beer and wine and I prepared a very scrummy buffet and we had a lovely night and a very early start next day. The planned trip to Maccy D’s was cancelled as the restaurant was closed for refurbishment so I cooked a very nice (if I say so myself) fry up to keep us going.

And what was this special event?

Next time folks

WHERE DO I START ???

I am having a lot of trouble starting this blog, how do you put into words the most incredible sight in our skies.

I am talking about the Avro Vulcan Bomber XH558, the last one of its kind still flying.

The day started after breakfast with a short car journey to Gaydon, Neil had been given for his birthday a special day out with the Vulcan at the motor museum there. Culminating in a prime spot to watch a display by this magnificent bird.

He dropped us off in the village and went off to his special day. Unfortunately at 9am there was very little happening and the Vulcan display wasn’t due to start til 3.30pm and even worse the pub didn’t open til noon. After a short walk round the village (it’s not very big) we called in at the petrol station and picked up a paper, found somewhere to sit in the sun (it was a lovely morning) and read the said paper and start on the crossword and sudoko.

We moved into the pub went it opened and had a couple of very slow pints. As the time drew near for us to take our positions to see the display Neil was able to supply us with insider information that the flight plan had been changed this meant we had to find a new spot for the best view.

It was very lucky we did too, we walked out of the village and already there were large groups of people waiting to see this wonderful sight. The Captain eventually decided on the best spot at the side of the road and we waited. Then along came a local farmer and opened up the gate to his field which meant the waiting crowd and us got a spectacular view over the open countryside.

We were not disappointed, a shout went up as this huge aircraft came into sight and flew over the top of the waiting crowds. The noise it makes (the Vulcan howl) has to be heard to be believed, and then as it pulls away, an eerie silence from something so huge. For 10minutes we all followed its every move in awe. Flying low and fast pulling up into a vertical climb, tipping this wing and that at us. Showing everyone there the true ingenuity of the British aero industry after the second world war because this is when this wonderful plane first took shape.

For those of you that don’t know it was a Vulcan bomber (not this one unfortunately) that flew all the way in 1982 to the Falklands Isles on operation Black Buck and bombed the runway at Port Stanley, ensuring that we maintained our sovereignty. Vulcan XH558 is the only flying Vulcan but sadly this is its last year in the air. The Captain had been desperate to see it for one last time but all its flight plans had missed us one way or another until now.

It made all the waiting around well worthwhile. Unfortunately for Neil the new flight plan had taken the Vulcan away from his prime position and his view was limited and at a distance.

A disappointed Neil picked us up and returned us to the boat before setting off for home back in Bolton. There is a happy end to this story as Neil was able to get a great view a week later at Woodford and we are still hopeful that on one of its last flights we will catch a glimpse of this amazing fete of British engineering.

So back to the quiet ways of the canals after all that excitement and on to The Cape of Good Hope a beautiful canalside pub at the top of the locks. We decided to stay here a couple of days due to the wet weather forecasted and moored right outside the pub.

Just before our first visit to the pub another boater commented on facebook on being moored at the same

 pub and we replied jokingly we would see them in there later.

An interesting old pub with a great range of real ales and a warm homey feel. They did food which was reasonably priced and looked good. After getting our drinks we looked for somewhere to sit and spied the boater of facebook, Rick with a couple of other boaters Chris and Rick so we joined them for a very enjoyable evening.

But can you guess who was the star of the show?

Bubbles of course, it was raining quite hard when a young lady rushed in and asked who owned Avalon Two, well us of course why? ‘do you own a cat’ yes ‘well its outside getting wet’. The stupid animal had managed to get out by forcing one of the zips up but couldn’t get back in. I went out to see what could be done and he followed me back into the pub(meowing pitifully) well that was until he saw Rick’s dog and out he went. I managed to cajole him back in but then to be told by a member of staff he would have to be on a lead, have you ever tried putting a lead on a cat, well I have and they definitely don’t like it

The captain came up with the solution of course and went and opened the cratch side so Bubbles could get back in and then fastened it down securely.

Next day we went in for a game of darts and I won 4 -2 unheard of. So we will be returning to this pub at some point. I also managed to cause a small flood by leaving the cratch cover and back doors open, the Captain wasn’t a very happy bunny so I won’t be doing it again

The rain abated next day and we moved on to the Saltisford Arm just outside Warwick. A lovely bit of canal run by a charity with long and short term moorings and good facilities. We had called here earlier in the year but only for a pump out. Close to the town centre so we stopped for a couple of days and explored Warwick but more about that next time folks.

A TALE OF TWO DISASTERS

Well disasters might be a bit strong.

One was a disaster and the other well more self inflicted pain.

The disaster my oven stopped working whilst moored at Saltisford, the thermocouple again. When we first got the boat it had gone and we had replaced it and now it had gone again. Luckily for us I had kept the email with the part number on and after searching the internet there were a couple of place we could get a new one from. Now here’s the problem order it on line great but were to have it delivered, we won’t be back in Coventry for another 3 / 4 weeks definitely need it before then. Ask at a local pub, possibility but don’t like to ask someone we don’t know. So we spent a time racking our brains before I chanced on the idea of inviting my lad Adam to visit us and getting the part sent to him so he could bring it down. But would he agree that was the million pound question and was he free? Only one way to find out a quick phone call and surprise surprise he was very willing and able to do us this great favour. The part was ordered and now I only had a few days to wait to have my oven back.

But first the self inflicted pain, well maybe not self inflicted more the Captains fault. Getting his own back for my little flood I bet.

When I left you last we were on the Saltisford Arm and about to explore Warwick. We had been to the castle on our second date but never actually went into the town itself so off we set. There is a lovely church in the centre St Marys with an unusual outside tower. Its on the outside as the original tower wasn’t on very firm ground, so it was rebuilt on the street which was able to take the weight. On entering the church a very helpful lady explained about the church and told us the tower was open and it was 160 steps to great views over Warwickshire. From the glint in the Captains eye I could see he really liked the idea of going up the tower so stupidly agreed. The going up the 160 steps was not too bad and the views were spectacular. It was the coming down that caused the pain in my upper legs which lasted 3 or 4 days. Very narrow winding steps which put a lot of work in muscles I don’t use that often. I was in agony by the time I got to the bottom. The nice lady suggested a rest in the crypt to watch a short film about the history of the church, I could hardly get down the steps to the crypt and after sitting for half an hour couldn’t get up. But being one for not giving up I explored the rest of the church and very interesting and well set out all the information was. Then a walk round the town itself did nothing to help my poor legs or my temper by this time.

Next morning I could hardly walk.

I must admit I never thought that the pain would be so intense and last as long as it did. It also didn’t help that when we left the Saltisford Arm next day we went straight into the Hatton Flight of 21 locks. It must have been bad because as most of you know I am not happy steering but on this occasion had to give in and have ago. The Captain very kindly said I did a good job.

We were making for a pub called Tom ‘o’ the Woods at Rowington were Adam was coming to meet us with the all important part for my oven and of course we had to try the pub just to make sure it was worth a second visit. And it was the staff where excellent as was the beer, so we were happy to go back there next day with Adam and have a meal and a catch up

The meal was lovely but I think what impressed us the most was the staff, very friendly, happy and helpful. Would definitely recommend it.

It was great to see Adam and try and find out what is happening in his life, he tends to keep things to himself but I always find out in the end, that’s what mothers do.

Still in pain the next day we set of up the Lapworth Flight 18 locks and again I did some steering, getting better all the time but I soon give it back to the captain as another boat comes into view, I think the nasty boater we met when we first set out who shouted at me because I panicked when trying to pass knocked my confidence more than I realised but I will get there.

After Lapworth we stopped at a highly recommended pub the Blue Bell Cider House, everyone we had spoken to had said how great it was unfortunately I couldn’t agree with them and found it pretty mediocre and dull. I didn’t find the range of real ales as good as expected although they did have Theakstons mild on tap so the Captain was happy  but not the best I have tasted and not a patch on the Greyhound at Hawksbury Junction. The lager was so so. It was all about the cider but I don’t drink cider as it goes straight to my head or at least it used to maybe I should give it a try or maybe not.

Now we are making our way into Birmingham for a few days.

See you there.

BACK TO BIRMINGHAM AGAIN

Yes folks we are back in Birmingham once again. We were here the same time last year on our trip from Hyde to Coventry for the winter and then again in March (not on the boat this time) for my birthday. So we must like it.

I do enjoy central Birmingham but as last year the trip in by boat is depressing with lots of graffiti and rubbish and not many safe places to moor until you reach the Gas Street Basin area but this won’t stop us visiting this vibrant city.

Since our last visit by boat a year ago they have finished the building work nearer the Sea Life Centre and it is very swish with bars and restaurants. Happily it is a safe place to moor and we even let the cats out.

Wanting to do something different this year we took the advice of our good friends Lorraine and Kev and tried the museum out. It was so interesting that we spent a whole afternoon there and still didn’t see it all. I liked the Pre Raphaelite paintings and the exhibitions of stained glass. The Staffordshire horde was amazing, I can’t start to understand how people 1400years ago could produce such intricate work. In the pottery exhibition I found one piece from Belper pottery which was the forerunner of Denby. Always like to find things from my home area. 

Last year I was able to pick up a great pair of trainers to fit my long and wide feet. So next day we went in search of the same stall on the Rag Market, but unfortunately there was no sign of it this year, sigh. I had a look at a couple of the other stalls but with no luck, will have to try in Coventry.

On a happier note I did manage to find a great butcher’s in the Bull Ring Indoor Market next door, and with rump steak at only £8.99 per kilo had to treat the Captain didn’t I.

Our time over we took our leave of the city centre and back to the depressing graffiti and at one lock the signs of drug abuse and a warning to watch out for used needles (yes I did spot one) so sad, not just for the canal but for our society as a whole.

With this in mind the Captain had used the wonderful tinternet to find out the best place to stop for the night, Star City a large retail/pleasure complex on the outskirts. Secure moorings on the off side made for a peaceful night.

I will quickly run through the next few days, we stopped at a motel called the Cuttle but weren’t impressed, then on to the Dog and Doublet, stayed here and had a meal last year so the Captain treated me again, very nice but with one complaint from the Captain his carrots were over cooked and mushy, the landlady didn’t seem to take to kindly when he pointed this out but did come over later and had quite a chat with us.

Then on to Fazeley Junction and we rejoined the Coventry Canal so nearly home for the winter, we stopped in Fazeley and tried 2 out of the 3 pubs there, the Three Tuns had a very sociable and knowledgeable landlord and a couple of good beers on, the Three Horse Shoes more of a locals pub but a good drink.

I must at this point admit a dirty secret of mine. I really enjoy a good kebab from time to time and had been on the lookout for a reasonable establishment to get one from. After our visit to the Three Tuns we decided to try the local chippy out (the Fazeley Fishbar) and lo and behold they did kebabs so I just had to try one and the Captain decided to join me. I must admit they were very good and made me very happy.

One thing about Fazeley I must mention, the number of takeaways and restaurants in a small area, mainly Indians and Chinese (and of course the chippy) and all seemed to be quite busy as we walked by. You will never go hungry even though the small Tesco Express was a big disappointment.

With this in mind we needed to do a largish sized shop at our next destination, Tamworth. Having been here last year we knew there was a Lidl somewhere near the local Wetherspoons, The Bolebridge. After a walk round Tamworth Centre we called in at the Wetherspoons and much to the Captains delight they had 3 darks on (it’s the beer festival). A Smoked Porter, a Nordic Stout and John Bull Stout, I had read the tasting notes on the darks at the festival and wanted to try the Nordic stout so I did and the Captain had the John Bull stout, they were quite similar in taste and body and very enjoyable. For our second pint the Captain tried the Smoked Porter, now this was truly an acquired taste, unfortunately to us it smelt and tasted a bit like TCP for those of you who remember this well known antiseptic. So of course to clear his palette we had to have another, then off to Lidl and a taxi back to the boat, there really was too much to carry, honestly.

On a sad note for the British pub industry, when we called last year there had been a pub called the Anchor right at the side of the canal and of course we tried a couple. Not anymore it’s a Co op now. A loop hole in the planning laws means it’s easy for the big retailers to turn pubs into stores and this was a prime example of this practice. So another great British pub bites the dust.

But to end on a lighter note Sam has now become ‘that bloody cat’ since she managed to catch a harmless mouse and bought it onto the boat. Catching her and getting her to drop it was a bit of a palaver but this was made worse when the mouse came alive and made a bid for freedom in the boat. If it had got behind any of the units I don’t know what we would have done but after a bit of scurrying about I managed to grab it and place it outside on the grass but it just lay there so sadly I thought the shock had been just too much for it. I looked out later and it was still there, (so sad) but after giving it a little prod just to make sure it came  alive and shot of into the undergrowth. So a happy ending to the story.

So we are nearly at the end of our first adventure but the blog will continue, so sit back and enjoy.