WHAT CAME BEFORE

For all my new friends and followers I have been blogging on another site for a year or so but it is closing down 😥

So thats why I am on here now 😀

But for the last 6 months we have been traveling the waterways and I have been blogging our adventures so I thought it best if I shared these adventures with you all.

Helen

SETTING OFF IN MAY

Morning folks.

Well we have done 78miles and 63locks in our first week, not bad going and we only had half a day of ‘baton down the hatches due to the weather.

And that’s what I will start with, the Englishman’s favourite subject the weather. Overall it’s not been too bad, the wind has been more biting than we would have liked and we have had a few showers but we need to remember it is only the end of April. Saturday was eventually the ‘baton down the hatch’ day, the combination of rain and a very early start saw us mooring up at dinnertime and heading for the pub (where else) for our tea. Sunday and Monday have been a great improvement and the shorts have made their first appearance.

Now on to our next favourite subject the pub and we have done quite well on that score, 7 pubs in 7 days, although we had 2 nights off. We were greedy on the first 2 nights and tried 2 pubs. Staring with Hopwas and the Tame Otter and the Red Lion, both worth a visit, the Red lion is definitely more of a local but the Tame Otter’s food looked good. Next night onto Handsacre and the Crown and the Old Peculiar and yes the pub was named for Theakstons famous beer. Both pubs worth a visit. Weston on Trent next and the Saracens Head, there is also The Woolpack but we didn’t fancy the walk. Then surprise surprise 2 nights off. Friday night we had no choice as we were parked up ready to go through Harecastle tunnel and there was nothing near enough to visit. Saturday the Broughton Arms at Rode Heath, the Captain treated me to tea and a few pints, food very good and great service. Sunday and we were back in Wheelock (we visited here on our way down to Coventry last year), unfortunately the Commercial Inn which we considered the more characterfull had closed and we had to make do with the Cheshire Cheese, still not impressed.

We have passed through Stoke on Trent and as some of you will know I worked in the pottery industry for 9years, not in Stoke but due to my involvement with the union I did meet quite a few people from the city. Situated on the side of the canal is Middleport Pottery which in the last few years has been turned into a working museum producing Burleigh and Leeds Pottery. And it belongs to the company I worked for and of course I got to know their union rep Chris quite well. So we popped in for a visit, not before we had been filmed cruising by for some hush hush bbc programme. Chris had finished for the day as it was Friday (early finish Friday in the pottery industry) but we enjoyed looking round and seeing how the manufacturing process differed from the one I had known. Again well worth a visit if you’re ever in Stoke.

Saturday was an early start as already mentioned, we had got to Harecastle tunnel early as our guide book seemed to indicate that the tunnel roof was very low and in a bit of a panic we wondered if we would get through with everything on the roof, a post on the forum and the answers seemed to indicate the book was out of date with that bit of information but we needed to check. At the mouth of the tunnel there are bits of chain hanging down and it was with some trepidation that the Captain drove the boat towards and under them, we fitted yippee. However taking the advice of the tunnel keeper the Captain decided to remove the solar panels from the top boxes.

Tunnel info. Built by Thomas Telford in 1827 to replace an earlier tunnel built by James Brindley in 1777, it is 1 ¾ miles long and had a tow path to allow the horses to pull the boats rather than ‘legging’ them through like with the old tunnel. This towpath has now been removed. It is only wide enough for one boat and is operated on a booking system (we were first in the queue at 8am). Unpowered boats are not allowed and it takes powered boats about 35 to 45mins to get through.

And it’s scary.

Imagine being underground in a space 12ft wide and in places less than 6ft high with no way out. The tunnel keeper instructed us what to do if we broke down, not a worry or so we thought, never had a problem with the engine. But only a few feet into the tunnel and the engine seemed to want to cut out, we kept going, the Captain cajoling the engine a long and it seemed to calm down and behave itself. I spent the trip being a human spotlight, the Captain had fitted a number of lights on the front of the boat (tunnel keeper comment ‘lit up like a Christmas tree’) which illuminated the ceiling and sides of the tunnel but I was used to shine a light down the length of the roof giving some vital illumination there, 35mins later and we were through and into the murky and very red waters of the Trent and Mersey, the colour of the water has to be seen to be believed.

The problem with the engine seems to be fuel starvation at high revs and this is not a problem on the calm canals but will need sorting before we get onto the more turbulent rivers.

We have now left Wheelock and on our way to Middlewich were we hope to see an engineer about the problem with the fuel but being it’s a bank holiday for you working folk he might not be there. Only 5 locks I believe today so an easy day for me, feel a bit of baking coming on. Lemon drizzle cake anyone or chocolate I can’t make my mind up.

Lemon drizzle cake it was mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

AND RAIN STOPPED PLAY STILL IN MAY

We are having a quiet day today as the weather forecast is for heavy rain, so I thought I would do a quick catch up. (Still in bed, the joys of having a laptop).

When I left you on Monday we were making our way to Middlewich and the hope that the chandlery would be open. What interested me more was the beautifully situated pub at the top of the locks called the Kings Lock.

Lemon drizzle cake was in the oven when I heard voices and looking out I spied the Captain (who had been down to see if the shop was open) deep in conversation with a couple on the towpath.

Being the sociable type (and nosy) I popped out to see what was occurring. And yes it was the usual conversation starting with

‘We would love to live on a boat’

And the various questions that follow this statement. Politely we did our best to answer and for a change I thought they seemed to know what they were talking about until the gentleman said he would like to visit every race course in the country by boat. Not very practical as you are limited to where the canals can take you.

I invited the lady to take a look inside our floating home (needed to check on my cake too) she was mighty impressed by our layout but I was at pains to explain every boat has a different layout and what suits one may not suit another.

I think they went off with a better understanding well I like to think so anyway.

Then I noticed in the Captain’s hand a box containing another filter for the fuel system. Fingers crossed this would sort out our little problem.

The filter fitted and I got my wish a walk to the pub and a pint of Freedom lager sat outside watching the world go by. We only had the one.

In front of us were the 5 locks of the day and a very busy piece of canal.

Off we set down the first and through a whole load of moored boats which made the canal very narrow in places. Next lock and a lovely kiwi couple on a hire boat. They knew what they were doing as she was happy to tell me it was their 9th year of holidaying on the canal and they were out for 6 weeks. Their biggest regret was not buying a boat when they first got the bug.

Next lock and an American couple who didn’t have a clue, the lady didn’t want to do the locks or steer which was making life for the gentleman difficult. However the words that came out of his mouth displaced some of the pity I felt for him.

‘I want to get a boat to live on, this is my practice run’

Living on a boat must suit all parties and I couldn’t see his other half being happy doing it, hopefully I might be wrong.

The last lock was a double lock (fits 2 boats side by side) and lucky for me another boat appeared and joined us in the lock. A couple from Wigan this time which was great as the Captain lived in Wigan for over 20yrs.

Then off to Rudheath, pub called the Broken Cross and a chance meeting with Brian and Ann-Marie off the trading boat Alton. This was fortuitous as we needed a bottle of gas and some fuel. It was decided to do the trading the next day.

As we are lazy stop in beds Alton was ready for the off way before we got up. As they were going the same way as us before turning round at the Anderton boat lift it was agreed we would meet up somewhere on the canal and get the bits we needed

This done and the weather forecast showing very windy conditions on the way the Captains plan was to get to a sheltered bit of towpath were we could sit the wind out, first we had to negotiate 2 tunnels, Barton Tunnel, 572yrds long and one way and Saltersford Tunnel, 424yrds this is also one way but has a kink in it so you can’t see if a boat is coming through from the other end. To make it safe there are time restrictions at each end. Ours was on the hour til 20mins past. Although these tunnels are nothing like the Harecastle I still had to perform as a human spotlight.

And then we moored up but not before I had seen the most adorable sight. A pair of swans swimming towards us with one baby and as I commented to the Captain that it was unusual for swan to have only 1 signet I spotted the rest catching a ride on Mum’s back, beautiful. But, alas no camera or phone to hand to catch this for posterity or for you to see.

And to end on a happy note the new filter did the job and the engine is now running perfectly at all revs.

TO BLOG OR TO BAKE ? STILL IN MAY

Well baking won out this morning but after a prompt from a mate on Facebook I thought I better get on and do the blog.

Today is Tuesday so I have to backtrack to last Thursday, Wednesday was spent with the hatches well and truly batoned down in the middle of nowhere.

Thursday was an early start as we were going through the Preston Brook Tunnel (1239yrds long and one way). We were there are 9am and ready to go, me in position with my little light. When we came out the other end we were no longer on the Trent and Mersey but had now joined the Bridgewater Canal, built between 1759 and 1765 by Francis Egerton 3rd Duke of Bridgewater to transport his coal into Manchester but more about that later and surprisingly not controlled by CRT. Now if like me you assumed that all the canals and rivers came under CRT then you would be wrong. The Bridgewater and the Manchester Ship Canal are owned by a company called Peel Holdings but they have an agreement with CRT allowing boaters like us to use it for 7days. (There are canals and rivers which come under the control of the Environment Agency too). Only in England !!!

The Bridgewater would take us into the centre of Manchester, a couple of day’s journey. Our first stop was at a little marina in Lymm for a pump out and then on to Sale for the night. I quite liked the look of Sale and would have spent a little time looking round but for that we had to be in Manchester by Saturday. But we did overnight there and surprise surprise we had to try out a couple of the pubs. A Wetherspoons called the J P Joule, reasonable beer at a reasonable price. Then a lovely big pub right on the canal itself called the Kings Ransome again worth a visit.

Friday was an early start too (I like my lie in) the reason this time, the weather forecast, a nice morning but heavy rain in the afternoon. So we ventured into the centre of the city. I must say after our experiences with Coventry and Birmingham I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of litter (in the canal and on the bank) and graffiti. The canal basin at Castlefield was also very tidy with nice looking bars and restaurants

However the weather forecast was more than correct and the rain came and came. So we went nowhere and who can blame us.

Saturday, and into the shopping area, I hate shopping but a couple of things needed sorting, the main one being the Captains phone. Our attempts to dry it out had had failed miserably so it was decided to see if we could blag a new one with being a little sparse with the truth. But this was not our lucky day and the assistant said we would need to return it to the manufacturer, so the Captain bit the bullet and bought a new phone, this one will not be kept in his pocket when he is tripping down the gunnels.

Saturday night and Sapporo’s Teppanyaki restaurant with Neil and his family. Teppenyaki is when they cook your meal on a hot plate at your table and it is very entertaining. The chef’s at our table were throwing knives setting fire to the hot plate and one managed to get a piece of sautéed potato down my front (should have gone in my mouth but he missed). It was all in the best possible taste and the food was lovely a real treat.

Sunday, we picked Neil and his daughter up as we came out of Manchester so they could cruise with us for a couple of hours. As Neil is from the area he knows a lot of the history so was pointing various things out as we went along. At a place called Worsley we stopped to take on water and visit a place called the Delph and this is where we go back to the Duke of Bridgewater and his canal for not only did he build the canal above ground he also built 46miles of canals underground going to each of his collieries, this made the transport of the coal much easier and faster. All that is left of these canals in the Delph basin and you can see were the boats used to enter the underground system before branching off, the canals were on different levels and inclined planes were built to move the boats called ‘starvationers’ between these levels.

You learn something new every day, I just hope you know what an inclined plane is if not please feel free to Google it as I don’t think I am up to explaining how these work but I do know that if you want to see the remains of one then a trip to Foxton locks is in order.

We moored that night at a pub called the Moorings and tried a couple of pints with Neil. This is also the first place we let the cats of the boat and Bubbles was as good as gold and came back.

Monday, and we left the Bridgewater and joined the Leeds Liverpool canal at Leigh before spending the night in Wigan. A walk into the town and we found a very interesting real ale pub called Wigan Central. It is situated in one of the arches under the railway and is set out like a railway carriage, 2 decent dark ales on and not a bad price and most interesting it has a live feed to the arrivals and departures at the railway station, a pint while you’re waiting and you won’t miss your train. We ended up in the local Wetherspoons The moon Under Water were the Captain treated me to tea. And a lovely night was had by all.

Today, Tuesday has been a quiet day (well apart from all the cooking) as the forecast is for very windy conditions, gust of 40mph plus. But tomorrow that is going to be another story as we are doing the Wigan flight, 21 locks in a staircase plus 2 we came through yesterday before we moored up. Fingers crossed for 2 things, we will meet another boat to go up with (double locks) and a volunteer group on Facebook called the ‘Wigan Flight Crew’ will come and help us

I also had my first electronic lift bridge to contend with, easy you would have thought press a button and it stops the traffic and up comes the bridge, well it would have been if I could have seen the screen to follow the instructions. Will have to get used to them as I remember there are lots on the Leeds Liverpool.

One last word for my Star Wars friends we did celebrate Star Wars Day on May the 4th by watching the first 5 films (in the right order) just got Return of the Jedi to watch

Bye for now folks. 

WIGAN LOCKS (never again) PART ONE

Hello Folks, I know it is only a couple of days since my last post but I thought I would tell you the tale of Wigan Locks.

I mentioned in my last blog that we had 2 hopes for going up the lock’s, number 1 another boat to share the locks (and the work) with and number 2 help from the Wigan Flight Crew, neither of these exactly went to plan.

As mentioned there are 21 locks covering 1 ½ miles plus the 1 we had come through to moor up. All the locks are double and quite deep.

The morning started well, up and about at a good hour (after a very late night) and what looked like a number of boats going our way, this is where it all started to go a little wrong. 5 boats in total, 2 going the way we had come towards Leigh and 2 up the locks but they had already agreed to pair up and us but hay ho not to worry.

2 boats through the locks and then us, not a problem until we realised there was a lone fisher man on the bend (this is where I must apologies to my fishermen friends), we usually have a good relationship with these people and they pull their lines in and we slow down and give them a wide berth. Not this one, I really don’t know what he was thinking but he had 3 lines out about 3yrds apart down the bank and cast well out into the canal, the Captain gave a blast on the horn to warn him we were coming through but he didn’t seem to do anything and then as we drew level with his first rod he sprang into action but it was too late, boats can’t come to a standstill just like that and even though the captain slowed down to give him time to pull in his other 2 lines the momentum of the boat kept it going and so we end up snagging the 2 lines on the front of the boat. He was not happy but as far as I am concerned it was his own fault. Freeing off the 2 lines took time then he realised both his floats had disappeared, 1 was to be seen in the water but no sign of the other. We then wasted 15mins helping him retrieve this float. Thanks where not exactly forthcoming either for this help.

Anyway onto the first lock, heavy but not a problem then something we really didn’t want to hear, ‘water levels in some of the pounds were very low’ this did not surprise me as I had found the paddles on the bottom gate left open. Second lock still ok but oh no we could see how low the pound was, a steady course down the centre was set but it was not to be and the boat grounded about halfway. I walked up to the next lock and with the bottom gates open I opened the top gate paddles full (this fills the pound) eventually the boat floated and the captain started into the lock.

Then proper disaster struck, something was round the propeller shaft and propeller, we were going nowhere under power. The Captain threw me a rope he took the pole and between us we tried to get the boat into the lock but it was no go the water was still too shallow. The Captain then attempted to remove the offending obstruction and I was joined by the lock doers off the other 2 boats. Seeing the problem they tried to help pull us in the lock before deciding that the best course of action would be to walk up the locks and let more water down to fill the pound. Off they went and after what seemed an age we were able to pull the boat and the Captain who was still trying to free the prop into the lock. Once up the lock we pulled over to one side and let the other boats through.

It took the Captain a good hour to completely clear the prop, a few things he pulled out where a pair of jogging bottoms, an umbrella and loads of wire. (Picture to follow).

And we were off again 3 locks later and there were the 2 boats again moored up at the side, lunch time thought I but oh no not that lucky. No water in the pounds above so the 2 gentlemen (Steve and Busby) had walked up about 6 locks to let water down. So we waited again. 6 locks done in 3hrs and only 15 to go. (the whole flight should only take 4hrs)

Being in a group does help to keep your spirits up and the sun was shining so being relaxed laid back boaters we didn’t mind.

The gentlemen returned confident that they had solved the water issue and off we went again. The other lock doers helped me by emptying the lock ready for us to go in but it was still a heavy and long winded job. The reason for this, all the locks are double and have 2 gates at each end and they are very deep. I only opened one gate as the Captain is such a great driver he can manage to get the boat in and out no problem.

And to save my legs I only open the paddles on one side to. With these locks you have to open the side paddles first and then wait, as the door paddles let the water in so fast that you could swamp the front of your boat. So it took time to fill the locks.

One of the gates I thought I would never close, sooooo heavy.

End of part 1

 

WIGAN LOCKS (never again) PART 2

Back to the story.

After a few locks were the lock doers had emptied the locks for me I stood looking forward and couldn’t see them but could see the paddles were still down, decided it was because I had been a bit slow with the previous lock and they thought we had stopped for a break.

How wrong was I. I walked up to the lock preparing to empty it when I saw the 2 boats still in the lock. The 2 ladies (Pat and Shirley) were with the boats but no sign of Busby and Steve. The lack of water problem had reared its head again and the 2 gentleman had walked up the final 11 locks to let even more water down. And we waited, Steve returned but Busby had insisted are going to the top lock and ensure everything was ok (Steve thought he was being over fussy) this however caused a different type of hold up as Busby’s partner Shirley would not drive the boat and even after filling the lock and Pat taking her boat Nellie into the empty lock Horace did not move until Busby returned.

But then we were off again, now it was 5ish and the long day was starting to take its toll on all of us but in my opinion especially me, well I was on my own wasn’t I.

Heavy lock gates and stiff paddles were starting to get me down.

I mentioned earlier a facebook group called the Wigan Flight Crew and the Captain had requested their help before we started. But being it was a normal working day for most people help was forthcoming. He sent out a second sos to them when we were halfway up. At lock 69 I raised a weary head and spotted a very welcome sight of a man with a windlass heading towards me. Our prayers had been answered. Andy his sister Emma and his nephew James helped us through the last 6 locks.

Andy was teaching the teenage James how to do the locks and he took to it like a duck to water. The crew has quite a few members but a core group that come out to help boaters.

Andy told us he was looking to buy his own boat and I think he will make a great boater when he does.

I was never so happy to see the last lock and it is always this one that seems to take the longest to empty and fill but the end was in sight.

Round the corner and we moored up, there is a CRT sanitary station and bins there and whilst the Captain took the bins out we took on water  I fed and watered our helpers (I had done a baking session for this reason). Andy liked the layout of our boat and said he was always looking for ideas for his own. Too soon goodbyes were said and off they went.

We moved the boat off the water point but only far enough to ensure TV reception before collapsing exhausted, there was a pub in sight but no way we were going to make it there. So you know how tired we must have been.

I was never so pleased to have made stew I didn’t have the energy to cook. Even the Captain didn’t have the energy to get dressed after his shower and pinched my dressing gown.

After a full English, a short cruise to Adlington and a quiet afternoon that has been enough for us. But the pub might win out tonight there are 2 within walking distance. So we must be recovering.

More from Avalon two soon.

FRIDAY AND IT MUST BE SKIPTON.

Morning folks and as the title says we are now in Skipton. A town that holds a happy memory for us and as usual it involves a pub. We spent a very happy ‘baton down the hatches day’ here (in the local Wetherspoons) on one of our boating holidays and have been looking forward to returning.

But before any of that and I forget, an update on how far we have come.

26 days, 207miles, 132 locks and 9 swing bridges.

Not bad going.

After a hard day yesterday mainly down to the strong wind, locks and bridges we have decided to stay here for today and as tomorrow (Saturday I think) is meant to be dry sunny and light winds we will cruise on then.

Now for a rundown of the places, pubs and things we have found.

Going back to last Thursday when we were recovering from the horror that was Wigan flight I mentioned we had made it to Adlington and were contemplating a walk to the pub but this was not to be. In a moment of madness the Captain decided to tackle a couple of little jobs that needed doing, picture hanging first (a print of the Battle of Arnhem) and then investigating a damp patch I had noticed a few days earlier.

This patch had a couple of probable causes, the washing machine or the water pump and me. It turned out to be the water pump, bummer where do you get a new pump from at 4pm on a Thursday. Looking on the all knowing tinternet we could order one but wouldn’t get it till after the weekend, not a lot of good but maybe our only option. The Captain found there was a boatyard a few bridges down the cut but doubted that they would have one but maybe they could get us one. A quick phone call and YIPPEE they had just what we needed and were open til 7pm. Boots back on and we started to walk the mile or so to the yard. Then I stopped as it dawned on me that we didn’t need to walk we could take the boat as the yard was on the side of the canal. However it turned out there where no  moorings right by the boatyard and not wanting to go too far we moored (only for 10mins) on some permanent moorings. Pump fetched and we set off to find somewhere we could moor. This turned out to be in the middle of nowhere so no pub but the pump problem was solved so all is good.  

I will quickly go through the weekend Friday night Top Lock Pub at Heapy the Captain a happy bunny a decent oatmeal stout on, good price busy pub.

Saturday The Boatyard and Royal Oak at Riley Green, both a tad on the expensive side, the Boatyard modern the Royal Oak more traditional with nice beams and the better of the two.

Sunday the Captain treated me to a carvery at the Boatyard before setting off to Rishton via we hoped Aldi and Asda at Blackburn. I would not have liked to stay overnight anywhere in Blackburn, lots of kids and teenagers hanging about and nasty things round the prop again. Not a safe mooring area. Aldi turned out to be a no go, next to the canal but it was too shallow to moor. Better luck at Asda but it was a rush as they were just about to close, I grabbed all the essentials but that was it.

Rishton was quite a find a good selection of pubs and shops including a butchers. We tried a couple of the pubs, The Roebuck Inn, good beer at a good price but not so the Warmsley Arms one to be avoided the beer was definitely off.

Monday we went to the butchers Tom Duckworth, and I got a beautiful piece of steak for tea plus lamb and other bits. Wonderful produce and a great price. Had a walk round some of the other shops it was nice to see a thriving high street. Then on to Hapton and the Railway Pub again another worth a visit, although no hand pumps they did have a selection of bottled real ale at only £2.50 a bottle.

Tuesday and it was meant to be wet and windy but it wasn’t (bloody weather forecast) so we decided to cruise on and moor up just before the Foulbridge tunnel. We called at Nelson and went to Lidl which is about a 7min walk from the canal. I did get caught in one heavy shower just as I was doing the first lock in a flight of 3 and I thought just my luck but I had dried off by the time I had done the last lock. Beautiful views at the top of the locks were we stayed the night.

Wednesday and Foulbridge tunnel, 1640yrds long, one way but very straight. Run by a traffic lights system. The Captains old friend, Dave joined us to go through and took some great photos. The trip should have taken about 15mins but we followed a hire boat in and they crawled along on tick over so it took nearer 30mins. Later on we met another hire boat and went down a flight of locks with them. This was not a happy boat and the lovely Geordie lady doing the locks said never again boating was not for her but she said it with a smile. We cruised on and moored up at East Marton for the Cross Keys pub but this was closed for refurbishment and the walk turned into bird watching and we spotted a very nice Mistle Thrush. The views here are spectacular.

And on to yesterday, although a windy day we decided to push on and get here to Skipton. Of the 12 locks I had to do I did get help on the first 6 and this is where I saw it.

A beautiful deep russet brown stoat. It ran across the front of me about 10” long little legs svelte and supple carrying its lunch in its mouth an unfortunate field mouse with a long tail. Again no camera to capture this lovely beast.

Our wildlife is the best.

So we got to Skipton and went for Curry Night at The Devonshire, the Wetherspoons of course. Plenty of shops and other pubs in the town and one has a beer festival starting at 3pm this afternoon.

So happy bunnies are we.

More next time x

 

 

SWING BRIDGES AND STAIRCASES

Well we have about finished our time on the Leeds Liverpool Canal but before we leave I must tell you about 2 of its less endearing features.

Starting with Swing bridges and to put it mildly this canal has more than any other I have been on. A swing bridge connects various things, a farmer’s field, a public footpath or a main road but they all have one thing in common they have to be opened to let us through,

Easy you would have thought they are all one design and all open the same but my friends you would be wrong so wrong.

You have manual, semi manual and fully automatic and in each categories there is more than one design.

Manual and as it says you do everything by hand, unlock the bridge push the bridge open close the bridge lock the bridge. Great if the bridge is proper balanced but you get one that has been damaged in some way it aint going to move manually for anyone. One like this we had to pull open using the boat when even the Captain and 3 helpers couldn’t move it. And on reporting this to a CRT lock keeper we were told they had known about it for ages. Great, but not a lot of good for us boaters.

I will skip (for now) the semi manual and go on to the fully automatic, now these give me a feeling of great power. Push a button and it does everything for you puts the barriers down (manual ones don’t tend to have barriers) stops the traffic, unlocks the gate and opens the gate. Another button reverses this process. All you have to do with these is remember to keep your finger on the button and not look too guilty when someone is obviously in a hurry to get across.

Now on to the semi manual, there are more different types then you can shake a stick at. Ones were you put the barrier down but the gate is opened by using a button, ones where pushing a button only closes the barrier and you then have to push the gate open. The problem with these you never know until you insert your key which type it is. The ones I dislike most are the ones were you have to put the barriers down, you run from side to side of the bridge enduring glares from the drivers and pedestrians waiting to cross. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were well maintained but when you have people waiting struggling to close something that doesn’t want to close is to say the least embarrassing.

So on to a not so nice canal story. Coming out of Shipley after a lovely morning looking round the small town of Saltaire (more about that in a later blog) we came across the most annoying bridge I had encountered. Firstly it had manual barriers, opened using a special yale like key, the first barrier came down but the struggle was keeping the barrier down to lock it in place and retrieve the key. Second barrier (and this is where the problems started) key in and turn and stuck. The key went about a quarter of a turn and stopped in wouldn’t turn back and I couldn’t get it out, now after a couple of bad experiences were I have broken keys in lock I am always wary of trying to force them.  Now my problem really started as a local taxi driver had arrived and whilst I was trying to lower the barrier and shouting the captain for help he decided to shout abuse at me for holding him up. I couldn’t decide whether to open the bridge without shutting the gate or re open the other barrier whilst trying to sort out the problem. So I dithered a bit and the abuse got worse. In a attempt to restore the peace I reopened the other barrier but not before the Captain had had words with the driver culminating in him threatening to throw the Captain in the canal. Now I would have liked to see him try as the Captain is 6ft 1” and not of small build to put it politely. Even after I re opened the bridge the abuse continued as he drove across, I wish I had made him wait now. Barriers eventually down and in place the bridge was opened using my windlass, instructions so many turns unlocks the bridge then wind it open and repeat to close but again this wasn’t as simple as it sounds as it said 36 turns to lock and you should feel strong resistance but what is ‘strong’ for one means something else for another. So after 40+ turns I gave up and just prayed it was right.

Now on to Staircases and by this I mean staircase locks. In past blogs I have described flights of locks. The difference between a flight of locks and a staircase is that a flight has pounds between the locks this means you use the first lock and then there is a pound or pond between that and the next. In staircase locks there is no pound and you go from one lock straight into the next. This calls for different protocols when setting the locks.

We went down the Binlgey 5 and 3 rise which are huge staircase locks and are operated by lockkeeper and although I did help out I didn’t take on board exactly what I was doing and so when we came to the next set I never read the instruction and went into flight lock mode but the captain soon put me right (he did read the instructions). Going down you have to make sure the bottom lock is empty and if there are 3 or more locks that the middle locks are empty to a set level to and then you empty the top lock into the next and so on and so forth. Until the bottom lock empties into the canal. They do like all locks have gate and side paddles and my main complaint is with the way the side paddle raising mechanism is presented (encased in a wooden box) it is very difficult to see is they are up or down. But I got the hang of them eventually.

We are now in Leeds and having a couple of days enforced (due to the windy conditions) and well earned rest before tackling our first river The Aire and Calder Navigation.

I still have to update you on places and pubs we have visited between Skipton and Leeds.

So here’s to the next blog folks

SKIPTON AND ON TO LEEDS

Afternoon folks, I know I only did a blog a couple of days ago but that was more about the trials and tribulations we cruising folks face.

Now on to the fun side of it, the places we visit and the pubs we find.

The Woolly Sheep’s so called beer festival was to say the least a damp squid. A choice of only 5 beers and not a dark in sight. The actual pub had a Timothy Taylor dark mild on and a dark call Ram Tam, not bad but pricey.

However before we got to the festival we were advised to try the Beer Engine a tiny pub with 5 real ales on and a great mild by the RAW brewery.

After the festival we tried the Cock and Bottle still no darks and their policy only beers below 4.5% ABV not to our taste.

We walked out of The Black Horse, I know surprised us too but it had no darks ales on at all.

But Skipton is a bit like Ripley in the number of pubs it has so we were not to be beaten in our quest for a decent pint of stout for the Captain. On to the Castle Inn and a favourite of his Theakston’s Old Peculiar, things were looking up. The Red Lion and jackpot a very good pint of Bank Top mild. One for the road in The Devonshire, (wetherspoons). A good night was had by all.

Saturday and not up to bright or early we left Skipton and headed off for nowhere in particular. Plenty of swing bridges which I discussed in the previous blog. Just a note about number 183, there is a lovely memorial to a group of Polish airmen who lost their lives when the Wellington Bomber they were flying crashed into the hillside in fog. Their ages ranged from 22 to 31 a poignant reminder of those who lost their lives to ensure our freedom.

Saturday turned out to be a lovely day and a joint decision was made when we reached a little place called Riddlesden to stop and enjoy the sunny weather. The good weather bought out lots of walkers and cyclists and it was Bubbles who was the star of the show prowling the towpath and allowing people to stroke him. Then he took up residence on the top of the boat. I don’t know what it is about cats on boats but they turn the sternest of people to mush.

From Riddlesden we made for Saltaire, an unusual village on the outskirts of Shipley. The village was built in the 1850’s by a mill owner called Titus Salt for his workers. His horror of the back to back slums in Bradford meant he built with a thought to the well being of his employees. Each house had it own front door and backyard. They came in different sizes too from 1 up 1 down to detatched villas with 3 bedrooms. On the ends of the street were larger establishments used as lodging houses.  The houses are all slightly different from their next door neighbour with architectural features like false bricked up windows and different styles of chimney. The width of the back alleys varied too with the larger house having the wider ones. A park provided open space and a large church met the spiritual needs. The streets were named after himself, wife and children (and he had 11), Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and the architects of the project. The one thing the place didn’t have is a pub as Titus was tea total.

That is not so now and one bar has the tongue in cheek name of ‘Don’t Tell Titus’. It also has its own brewery.

Now, the Captain really wanted to stop here but we ran into a common problem the moorings looked great with a long run of arnco but when we tried to get into the side it was impossible and seemed that boulders had been deliberately placed so boaters could not moor.  The actual visitors mooring were restricted to max 6hrs during the day. After much frustration we found a place to moor which was also good for the cats. Moored up and off we went to explore the pubs starting with  Fannys Real Ale house and one very happy Captain a hazelnut stout called Ratella.

Whilst reading the local camra mag I came across a micro pub called the Cap and Collar just up the road so after a couple we went for a look. A tiny place with 4 real ales on tap and a good choice of bottled beers. We tried a black ipa, (can’t remember its name for love or money) lovely, which had sold out by the time we went for a second try and then a surprise a beautiful golden beer. Even the captain liked. Luckily the owner of the pub kept his own hours and closed at 10pm. A slow walk back to the boat and when we got there 2 pairs of golden eyes popped up in the torch light. Sam in a bit panic jumped on to the front of the boat but missed judged it and she ended up in the water with a loud splash. But as soon as she went in she was out again, wet and drippy and definitely put out by the unexpected bath but non the worse for it.

Next day we had a chance to look round some of the houses as it was an open day promoting local artists and using the houses as galleries.

Leaving Shipley and this was where I had my unfortunate encounter at the bridge (see the previous blog) and as the Captain said it spoiled our karma but this did not last when I spotted a Great Spotted Woodpecker amongst the tree’s. A lovely colourful bird.

So on to Appleby Bridge for the night. On the way we met and shared a couple of locks and bridges with another boat. Linda the first mate and lock doer was very new to the life and told me it had been a dream of her husband’s to have and live on a boat but not hers and she was very much learning on the job. I still say try before you buy. This poor lady had never done a lock or swing bridge before they bought the boat so she was having a baptism of fire. I think she will be fine, she loves her boat and seemed happy to take things in her stride. I wish her the best.

I have rambled on long enough so will save the journey into and time in Leeds for another day.

The pub is calling so bye from the folk on the boat.

LOVELY LEEDS

Morning folks and although we are no longer in Leeds I thought I would fill you in on our visit to the city.

The journey from Apperley Bridge into the centre was an enjoyable 8miles with 5 swing bridges and 11 locks but none that caused me any problems. Coming into Leeds was no were near as depressing as entering some cities we have been through. A little graffiti and slightly more rubbish in the canal but nothing compared to Birmingham and Coventry.

At the last couple of locks I had an audience and one gentleman who was very interested in how the locks worked and why. He did ask why the locks weren’t automated and I explained part of the fun and life of travelling the canals was doing the locks the way they had been done for over 200 years. It is all about our heritage.  Then I realised he thought I worked for CRT helping boats through the locks and when I explained no, I live on Avalon Two he was even more intrigued.

He watched me push and pull the gates open and closed and then offered to help and I never say no. He turned out to be Portuguese and had seen the canals in Holland but didn’t think there were any in his own country. I think his parting comment was the nicest

‘I never thought I would have done this (helped with the locks) in my life thank you’

And he left us, when he got to the next lock (only a short walk down the towpath) he tried the gate and opened it for us. So nice.

At the last lock before we moored up I had an audience of 3 older gentlemen, 2 sounded American and once again they seemed to think I worked for CRT and were surprised when I explained that we have to do most locks ourselves. They kept me chatting much to the Captains annoyance as the wind was getting up and he was having trouble holding it at the side of the canal.

So we moored and spent 3 nights on Granary Wharf. The first night we had a walk into the city centre and to the nearest Wetherspoons  Becketts Bank not very impressed and pricey so only had the one, Then we found a gem Whitelocks a very old pub hidden down a little alley doing an interesting selection of real ales and one pump dedicated to dark ales. The first was good but I have had a blank moment and can’t remember its name (I really need to start writing things down) but I do remember the second beer Bad Jesus 6.7% so we only had a half. Then off to a pub the Captain had read about, The Grove. The owners had refused to sell out when the new high rise developments were going up so now it’s sat, a little building in the middle of tower blocks a reminder of the past.  The beer wasn’t bad but more interestingly a jamming session going on in the back room, 5 oldish guys with guitars just having fun. What a lovely way to end the evening.

Next day and we walked round Leeds and of course we found the market, a strange mixture but lovely fresh fish stalls and a large selection of butchers and greengrocers. (Helen’s idea of heaven)

And I got my hair cut. Now my lady readers might think so what but if I said it is nearly 2 years since I last had it cut they might understand. I have very long thick dark hair and I am lazy when it comes to getting it cut and being a bit of a skint flint I don’t like paying the prices some salons charge. In a little booth in the middle of the market a hairdresser didn’t just trim my hair she put the layers back in and thinned it out all for less than a tenner. A bargain and I am very happy with it.

The Victorian Quarter has some beautiful arcades and very expensive shops. I will skip over going to another of the Wetherspoons (The Cuthbert Brodrick) for lunch and we called in The Ship, another little gem down an alley.

Our final day and we caught the free water taxi from Granary Wharf (where we were moored) to Clarence Dock, the home of the Royal Armouries and CRT offices. We needed to get prepaid cards for the pump out stations and ask a few questions about our onward journey. Getting the cards were no problem but the receptionist couldn’t answer any of our questions. A suggestion for CRT some kind of information desk to answer boaters questions.

Then back to the market to pick up some fresh supplies.

Our final drink in Leeds was at the Scarborough Hotel and a Portland Porter from Jurassic Brewery for the Captain a great way to end an enjoyable visit.

An early start next morning and through the lock and onto the River Aire. The next lock and my idea of heaven an automated lock so no winding or pushing or pulling for me. Just pushing buttons yippee. However we are now on a river which is quite a different kettle of fish to being on a canal. Out came the life jackets just to be on the safe side.

And that is it till the next instalment folks.

 

THE RIVER AND ITS JUNE

We are now on the Aire and Calder Navigation, this is a combination of a bit of river and a very wide canal. The boat is travelling faster as we are in deeper water and this water is flowing but the wind is causing us havoc. To my joy all the locks are automated and all I have to do is push buttons. They are also huge and would take at least 4 boats.

When we left Leeds on Friday the weather wasn’t the best and I got a wet bum pushing the first lock (and only lock I had to do manually) open and closed. But it did improve and by the time we moored up at a lovely little place called Woodlesford it was a lovely afternoon. This was the place we had arranged for my daughter Jess to come and join us for the night and in the village was a pub called the Midland which did food. This sounded great in theory but we decided to walk to the pub and see what time they finished serving food. To my disappointment it was an early 8pm and after speaking to Jess I knew I would be cooking that night. Not to worry there was a LIdl in the village too. So we went shopping and I produced a very tasty chicken dinner if I say so myself and it was appreciated by Jess and the Captain.

After a lovely night, a hearty breakfast and the Captain sorting her headlight out Jess headed off home to Cornwall and we decided to try the pubs in the village. The Two Pointers first and although they had 4 real ales on there was not a dark amongst them and the Captain had to settle for John Smiths smooth. Then onto the Old Masons Arms this time a little more luck and Doombar on so we had a couple in there. Then we went back to the Midland, it was very busy but we found a good seat and did some very interesting people watching, (a hobby of both mine and the Captain) an extended (grandparents, parents and kids) family sat near us and we both came to the conclusion that they had shares in a hairdressers.  Doombar again for the Captain so a good time was had by all.

When we returned to the boat I heard something tapping on the side of the boat (ducks like to eat the algae which grows on the bottom of the boat) so opened up the side hatch to be greeted by a large swan who was then joined by his mate and on her back were 3 beautiful signets. I had a couple of slices of brown bread and some bird seed so the Captain and I spent a happy 10mins feeding them all. The male was very forward and would happily take the bread out of your fingers but the female was much more reserved. The male must have been happy cos he kept wagging his tail. I dropped some seed onto the backs of the signets and it was fun to watch them peck it of each other. It was a joy to see.

Sunday and again the weather was not great for cruising so we decided to stay put another night. After a roast pork dinner this time we took a walk down to the river Aire which follows the same route as the navigation. And this is where we saw it..... our first kingfisher. Well what we saw was a flash of neon blue and orange as it zipped down the river and into the trees. But it was definitely a kingfisher. So one very happy Captain. He wasn’t so happy when he tried to get a picture of a gull like bird called a tern, they were just too fast for him and his camera. We had visitors again that night as the swan family returned, the male was even more adventurous and kept putting his head in the boat trying to get to the food. The female was a little more friendly taking bread from our fingers and again I showered the signets with birdseed.

We had a very early start the next day as the weather was set to deteriorate in the afternoon. It is very different to the canals we have been on, so wide and open. We went by Ferrybridge power station, quite a sight.

We needed to put water in and the Captain identified a water point by one of the locks, what the book didn’t tell you is that to get to the water you have to come through the lock and then basically do a 180 degree turn and go back on yourselves against the flow of the water. This wouldn’t have been a problem but for the fact that some bright spark had made each side of the narrow channel permanent moorings. The Captain had to make the decision to go in forwards or back in. Decision made and it was for backing in. Now the challenge started, it didn’t help that the majority of boats moored were cabin cruisers made of plastic or fibre glass. It is not very healthy for this type of boat to come in contact with a 16ton steel narrowboat even at slow speed. But the Captains marvellous steering meant we made it without damaging anything. Watered up and off we went. I just wish people who make these decisions think of all the consequences.  

We eventually moored at a place called Great Heck with a pub called the Bay Horse, I had great hopes for it as it belongs to the Old Mill Brewery but alas it was not to be and the only had one real ale on and that was a pale bitter so the Captain had to settle for Guinness. They do food and it looked and smelt very nice. The village is home to the Great Heck Brewery which we came across in Leeds when we tried their very nice porter.

 Tuesday and we stayed at Great Heck because of the wind. The captain planned our next few days cruising to get us to the River Trent for the weekend.

The Trent will be another new and maybe scary experience for us as it is tidal and we have 24miles to do on it. We will do it in 2 bites the Captain says. Then on to the non tidal Trent and then the Erewash Canal to Langley Mill.

Rambles over so bye for now.

BUBBLES ON TOUR

Good morning to you all. We are now moored at Torksey lock waiting to continue our journey down the tidal Trent to Cromwell and then to Newark.

But first things first I will fill you in on our journey to the tidal Trent. We were moored at a little village called Great Heck the last time I typed waiting for some rather nasty weather to go through. And oh boy did that wind blow.

We continued on the Aire and Calder navigation to its junction with the New Junction Canal, this link the A&CN to the South Yorkshire Navigations.

The New junction canal is also called the Oddball and I will explain why. Built in 1905 it is one of the last canals to be built, it is 5 ½ miles long and completely straight with only one lock and a couple of bridges for me to do (so a bit boring).

Now for the interesting fact of the day, it got its nickname Oddball from the Bucyrus Walking Dragline excavator used to construct the canal. Two of these huge machines (the bucket could hold 30 tons) were used to dig the canal, one being steam driven and the other using the new fangled electricity for motive power. As they were American machines it had to be modified to use the British electrical supply. This caused it to make many strange noises and was christened Oddball because of this. This machine was restored in 1999 and can be seen near Woodlesford on occasional open days.

At the end of Oddball we turned left towards Keadby and moored at a lovely pub called the New Inn at Stainforth. The beer garden is on the tow path and the moorings were great as was the pub and its staff. This is where Bubbles was the star of the show, we of course had to try the beer to make sure it was up to standard (and it was) and with it being such a lovely day we sat outside. It didn’t take long for Bubbles to start his act and he waltzed off the boat like some kind of celebrity. There were a few other customers enjoying the sun and he went to each in turn demanding attention and head rubs. The other customers found this highly amusing but gave him his due. His day was made when the barmaid (a great lover of cats) flew out of the pub to show him proper reverence. I will apologise to a gentleman who became over familiar with the visiting royal cat as Bubbles took, in his mind the appropriate action and tried to bite him. He eventually took up residence on the Captains knee and waited for the next “new customer” (sorry ”new subject”) to arrive and show him adoration

The Captain very kindly took me to the pub for tea and the meal was wonderful, if you can find this pub (it isn’t that easy from the road) it is well worth a visit. And they had a dart board and we had a few games which I let the Captain win (just joking dear).

Next morning after a lovely chat with the land lord and lady and making sure his highness was back on the boat we set off for Thorne to spend a couple of days here, again due to the weather. The Captain very sensibly didn’t want to go down the Trent when strong winds were forecast and decided the optimum days for our journey would be Sunday and Monday.

What can I say about Thorne, good moorings and the town has a number of shops including butchers, greengrocers and a selection of mini market type shops. It also has a Sainsburys. And plenty of pubs but more about them later. It’s some of the locals which gave us and interesting stay. After mooring up Bubbles once again alighted from the boat but this time there were no willing subjects to give him attention so he made the most of it and wandered off to check out the neighbourhood. It was while he was doing this and making the acquaintance of the local cats he drew my attention to one house were a couple of rather dodgy looking chav’s were knocking on the door, when there was no answer they preceded to give the car on the drive a good inspection. Strange thought I but after a next door neighbour had words with them and they wandered off and I gave it no more thought. That was until later that night and I mean a lot later when down to another of Bubbles adventures I looked out of the window to see the car being hoiked onto a tow truck and a police car outside the house. Being the interested citizens that we are (or nosy you might say) the Captain and I watched with interest as the 2 policemen loaded a number of boxes into the police car and then left with 2 other men. Very strange. Next day the plot thicken as more very dodgy looking chav’s came a knocking and on closer inspection (using the Captains very powerful binoculars’) it would appear that the door of the house had been forced open. The evidence suggests drug dealing but I really couldn’t comment further.

And what was Bubbles latest adventure that bought all of this to our attention, well he returned to the boat with a bit of bang and went straight under the table which I thought was strange so I got up to investigate and I don’t know how he had managed it but he had caught a tiny duckling and being a good cat wanted to show us his trophy. Much to his disgust I immediately took it off him and cooing like a fool released it back into the water. As it swam away it looked hopeful that he had done it no serious harm. But cats will be cats.

Now just a quick note about the pubs in Thorne, the Old Vault a proper real ale pub with 5 hand pumps and on Thursday only £1.50 a pint and not bad normal prices either. No darks but a very passable bitter. The Canal Inn worth a visit. But I would not recommend the White Hart or the Wither Spoons. The White Hart smelt of bleach as the lady serving seemed to be doing her daily clean mid afternoon, I would not recommend this to other landlords and it had a large group of very noisy and at times aggressive (not to us) what appeared to be gypsies in. Wither Spoons better than the Hart but someone should teach the barman how to smile also very noisy. Neither of the pubs had great beer on either. But we had to try them.

Wildlife we have seen on our way to Keadby, a very nice Yellowhammer and a family of Shellducks. But most stunning a deer launched itself into the canal just in front of the boat swam across before disappearing into the woods on the opposite side.

The lock at Keadby is huge and operated by a lockie, the times you can go through are determined by the tides so we had to wait for the tide to be right and off we went.

But that’s for next time, so bye for now.

‘ELLO ELLO ELLO WHATS GOING ON ‘ERE THEN’

‘Ello’ folks and as the title suggests we have had dealing with the boys in blue since the last time I typed but more about that later.

I left you last time as we were on our way to Torksey lock on the tidal Trent. Coming out of the huge lock gates at Keadby was daunting to say the least. One good thing was that we weren’t alone as 2 other boats left at the same time. Nnot so good we were first out and in the lead. Next was a young man who the Captain had met at Thorne having his engine looked at, then a more seasoned boater. The thought behind sticking the young guy in the centre was if he broke down we would be aware and able to help.

The Captain very wisely had every aid needed for the trip, including the latest navigational notes showing the positions of sand banks, shallows and the like, our VHF Marine Band radio, an anchor  and we had  our life jackets on. We really looked the business. Not the same can be said of the young guy who had nothing, at least the old boater had life jackets. Anyway off we went.

Running with the tide meant at time we hit speeds of 10mph almost supersonic for a narrowboat and the 27miles flew by and we reached Torksey by lunchtime. That was enough for one day and we moored just outside the lock which takes boaters from the Trent on to the Fossdyke Navigation and onto Lincoln and Boston (maybe another year for us).

The afternoon turned out to be lovely and sunny and after a walk to see the lock keeper in action we made for the one and only pub nearby, The White Swan unfortunately it’s not one I would recommend although it appeared popular with the locals. 2 reasons behind this, as always the Captain enquired about any dark beers and was told sorry John Smiths is the nearest so he had a pint however as we took a seat round the corner in the snug we noticed on the bar Manns Chestnut mild (it hadn’t been on the main part of the bar) and the price meant we didn’t stay to try it (£7.20 for 2 mediocre pints).

Anyway back to the boat and because it was so nice we sat on the back with a drink having a shouted conversation with the seasoned boater who was moored on the opposite bank. Then we spotted a black ferret like creature running along the opposite bank with something in its mouth but then it was gone. ‘A mink’ we were reliably informed. Another first for us and it didn’t end there when another appeared and the Captain was able to get some great shots of it. For those of you that don’t know the mink is not native to our beautiful shores but was imported at the height of the fur trade to make mink coats and the like (not our proudest moment). But the fur industry died off when the welfare of animals became more important than fashion. The mink(now valueless) were released and very happily set up home along many of our waterways, today they are considered a pest and a threat to some of our native animals but never the less  beautiful sleek creature.

The next leg of the journey was to Cromwell lock and this is where the tidal part of the river ends. We didn’t make such good speed and as we arrived and went into the lock the heavens opened and the captain unfortunately got a little damp. I was more fortunate as I was in the front cratch holding the front line making sure we weren’t tossed from side to side as the water was let into the lock. A very important job don’t you think.

Then on to Newark, according to the book there are moorings both side of the river near the castle but what it doesn’t say is that on one side is a high wall, you can still moor there but its bloody hard to get off your boat and this is where we spent the night (we still managed to get off and try a couple of the pubs). The moorings opposite are pontoon mooring with electricity (prepaid card operated) and water points. Luckily for us a couple of the boats moved off here next morning and we were able to move over.

Now onto one of the major bugbears of boaters. On these very nice visitors moorings, which are restricted to 48hrs stay, was moored a small yacht which obviously hadn’t been moved in a couple of months at least and on the opposite side a cruiser, the same. Now if this wasn’t bad enough these mooring are right outside CRT’s offices. CRT at times seems to be very happy to chase a legitimate boater, who pays their dues and demands on time, for a minor infringement of the rule, but when a boat is basically abandoned they don’t seem to want to know and do nothing about it. The knock on affect is reduced mooring spaces for legitimate boaters. We called in at the CRT offices and in passing mentioned the 2 boats and got the stock answer ‘yes we know about them’ but nothing on what they were going to do about the situation.

Off my soap box now and on to our run in with the boys in blue. This little incident was to do with the cruiser we thought had been abandoned that I mentioned earlier (the one on the opposite bank). After a day of shopping and a very nice tea of steak and chips we settled down for the night and I don’t know why but I got up and looked through the window. On the opposite bank much to my suspicion were 2 young men, whilst one was sat on the bank the other (with hood up) was in the process of climbing aboard the cruiser. Very strange thought I and mentioned it to the Captain. We watched as he searched the cabin. Then he seemed to be looking for a way of detaching the outboard motor. Out came the Captains trusty camera and he snapped away whilst I decided enough was enough and phoned 101 to alert the police. Not holding much hope out that they would attend such a minor incident we were quite surprised when 3 policemen turned up about 10mins later. One went to speak to the lads on the boat and 2 came to see us. I was mightily impressed. As it turned out it was a false alarm as the lad on the boat produced the paperwork to show he was the owner. We shouted our apologies over to him but he was happy that someone had been watching out for his interests.

And that was our good deed for the day.

More on Newark and its pubs and sights in the next instalment.

 

BEER AND BAD BOYS.

As the title suggests we have once again become involved with wrong doers. But more about that later.

I will first return to Newark. A place of interesting history (it played an important role in the Civil War), interesting buildings The Buttermarket a lovely arcade that houses quirky shops and above it the Newark Town Museum. And of course most important the pubs of which it has plenty.

We tried a few as most of you will have guessed. The Just Beer MIcropub was small and had an interesting Mile End Mild on from Ossett Brewery. The Prince Rupert a very old building housing a gastro pub and there we tried Black Hole from Oakham Ales and Magna Carter from Windsor and Eton. Then on to the Fox and Crown a Castle Rock tap house were we tried Elsie Mo and Preservation and lastly the local Wetherspoons  The Sir John Ardern were the Captain was a happy bunny with Jennings Sneck Lift. Just to assure you we were good til the end only having halves. But a good night was had by all.

When we left Newark we headed further down the Trent to Gunthorpe and the Unicorn pub nothing of great notice to report here but on the way we spotted a most unusual bird. Sat in the tree surrounded by black rooks was a pure white rook (the Captain took some snaps which I will blog later). An albino I thought at first but after some googling it turned out to be a  leucistic bird which means its plumage lacks the pigament melanin. Quite a rare sight so one to be noted.

The next couple of days were a bit boring as we moored up at Holme Pierrepont due to bad weather. The height of the river side meant it was difficult to get off and on the boat so I decided to stay put and cook. The Captain took a walk out and watched people white water rafting and canoeing.

Then on to Nottingham off the river Trent and onto the Beeston and Nottingham canal and back to the manually operated locks, a shock to my system I can tell you.

And this is where we encountered the wrong doers. We moored up in a lovely spot just before Castle Marina and went off to the pub (The Company Inn) to watch the England match (football for those of you who don’t follow sport). Just after half time a couple of lads came in and sat in a booth just across from us. They ordered food and that is when the fun started. Wetherspoons now have bottles of mayo, ketchup, brown sauce etc and you go and get which you want from a central point. The captain watched with interest as both guys went and fetched an armful of bottles each and returned to their table were they proceeded to put bottle after bottle into a rucksack, now we might have let 1 or 2 bottles go this way but this was seriously taking the biscuit. So being the good citizens that we are we reported it to the staff and sat back and watched as they retrieved all these bottles. They left on the table a bottle of brown and red sauce, mayo and mint sauce, salt and pepper. At the end of their meal I was amazed to see them once again put all these things into a black carrier bag this time, what a cheek and I couldn’t help from exclaiming (just as a member of staff passed by) ‘that’s unbelievable, not again’ she did no more than went straight over and again retrieved the bottles from the bag. At this point the manager had had enough took their remaining drinks off them and showed them the door. Minor pilfering we know happens but this was way past that. Another good deed for the day.

We spent a couple of enjoyable days in Nottingham the weather was good and the walk into the centre not too far and enjoyable. The Captain treated me to dinner at Peachy Keenes, very nice too. And not forgetting the star of the show Bubbles, he started with a standoff against a very friendly young dog whose owners assured me loved cats. But Bubbles for all his bravado lost his nerve at the last minute and flew back on the boat when he considered the dog to be a little too close for his liking. He then gate crashed a students  BBQ and had to be returned tail between his legs when he got a little too friendly with the sausages. Now a bit strange for us we didn’t give any of the pubs a try only The Company Inn but we made up for it at our next stop.

Trent Lock was our next stop after Nottingham, back on the Trent for a couple of miles and turn right and through the lock and you are on the Erewash Canal. And I bet you can guess what there is at Trent Lock yes you got it a pub. Called the Steamboat and oh yes we had to try it. To back track very slightly, coming through the lock we met up with another boat and fell into conversation with the Captain, Kevin and First Mate Lorriane, it was obvious straight away we had quite a bit in common were pubs and beer were concerned. No definite plans were made to meet up but it seemed a sure thing.

So dear readers we tried the pub and were not at all disappointed apart from one thing, on entering the bar it was noted that they had a number of beers on from Brass Castle Brewery the producer of one of our all time favourite stouts ‘Bad Kitty’ but unluckily for us they had had the said beer on but a recently run out. Disappointed or what but not to be put off we tried the dark ale on offer ‘Burnout’ 5.8% and very nice too. The Captain found it a little to bitter for him but they had Guinness Dublin porter on so he was very happy and the prices were good too (and they offer camra discount). After a couple of pints or three we were joined by Kev and Lorraine and so as not to be rude we had a few more.

As you can imagine it was not an early start next morning but I will save that tale for another time.

PUMP OUT PALAVARS. FAMILY REUNIONS AND NEW FRIENDS

When I left you last time folks we had arrived at Trent Lock to start our journey up the Erewash Canal and we had met a very nice couple Lorraine and Kev from Portsmouth (with the funny accents that southerners have). We had hoped to go up the Erewash together as there are 12 locks in 12 miles.

But things got in the way. The Captain decided we needed a pump out (the toilet for those of you who don’t know) but when he contacted the marina at Langley Mill he was told the ‘sorry but we no longer offer that service’. It turned out that there were no pump out facilities on the Erewash at all.

This meant we had to go back through Trent Lock and down to Sawley Marina, with sadness we explained this to our new friends but hoped we would catch them up sometime later in the day. But nothing is ever that easy on the canals and on reaching Sawley we found that their pump out machine was broken, now where? A few phone calls later and Shardlow Marina was found to be the nearest. So off we set. By this time the wind had got up which made the going hard but we didn’t know how hard it was going to get.

Shardlow marina entrance is difficult to spot from the river a narrow channel between reed beds. Once through the channel the wind really hit us and there was no sign of the pump out machine. The Captain struggled to control the boat whilst I looked for it. A resident of the marina eventually pointed us in the right direction. But it was not the direction the wind wanted the boat to go and the Captain had to leave the marina and return on the right tack, the wind still had something to say about this and it was a real struggle. Success at last and pump out complete off we set back up the Erewash. What should have taken us a couple of hours and 4miles detour took double that. We never did catch Kev and Lorraine that day and moored in the middle of nowhere when I went on strike after doing 3 very heavy and difficult locks (it was gone 7pm by then).

Face book is a wonderful thing. Lorraine and I had friended each other the night before and that meant we could plan the next day. Well kind of, the Captain said we were about 1 hour from then and we would set off early to catch up. It’s a good thing we did set off extra early as the 1hour turned into nearly 2 before we spotted them. I don’t know who was more pleased to see each other me or Lorriane. Doing locks together is so much more fun and the time flies.

The basin at Langley Mill has room for 4/5 boats and we were able to moor up together. It was Lorraine’s birthday so we went for a meal at the Great Northern. Now I start with the beers again, you knew I would eventually, we had Salem Porter from Salem Bridge Brewery very nice to and the night passed in a flash.

The idea of coming to Langley Mill was for me to catch up with family and friends, so on Friday a bus trip to Ripley and a few pints with Penny and Jack, Jaipur by Thornbridge  for me (only £1.79) and Leveller by Springhead for the Captain.

Where do I start with Saturday a 12hour session with my sister Diane and hubby Mick starting at 2pm at the Marlpool Brewery Tap and a rather unusually named Papa Jangles Voodoo Stout by Totally Brewed. Next door The Queens Head and Screech Owl from Castle Rock. Onto the Butchers Arms and I was going to have a rest from the real ales but Dark Drake from Dancing Duck (one of my favourites) put a stop to that. This is where my memory starts to fail me, we went to the King of Prussia and the Crown in Heanor and I think I had lager (don’t ask me what the Captain was on). Then back to the Great Northern and a bite to eat. We were joined by Tony a lone boater and Kev and Lorraine before we retired to the cut and out came the chairs and table and we sat round chatting and laughing and putting the world to right. I remember sorting out the sofa bed for our visitors and then it was 2am and I was having trouble getting on the boat.

As you can imagine no one was up bright and early next day I did manage to cook 4 full English breakfasts. My son Adam came to visit but the rest of the day was subdued to say the least and an early night was needed, I am getting to old for that kind of malarkey.

I am nearly up to date with the blog surprise surprise. Yesterday we came down from Langley Mill to Trent Lock with our new friends again, a lot easier going down than going up. We moored at the Steamboat again but on this occasion were seriously disappointed with the choice of real ales. However this didn’t stop the four of us chatting the night away until gone 10.

It was very sad to part company and if the pub had had a new selection of real ales on (me and Lorraine went and had a look) we might still be there tonight but it didn’t and after chatting til gone lunchtime it was time to go our separate ways. Us down the River Soar towards Loughborough and them up the Trent and Mersey towards Sawley. We have posted on facebook, them from the pub and us from the middle of nowhere.

Our paths will cross again I am sure of that.

FALSE STARTS AND ONTO LEICESTER AND INTO JULY

Yes dear friends I very much had a false start on this blog yesterday. Basically it was the hottest day this year and we were going nowhere. So I sat down with all good intention and started. But the heat had definitely frazzled my brain and nothing seemed to work.

So a day later and much cooler I will try again.

We left our new friends at Trent Lock last Tuesday and set off down the river Soar, not as wide as the Trent but very beautiful never the less. After spending the first night in the middle of nowhere we made our way to Loughborough and some very pretty visitor’s moorings close to the town centre.

We took a walk into the town for a little shopping, sightseeing and of course some beer. Shopping sorted and off to The Moon and Bell (a wetherspoons of course). The Captain was happy with Broadside by Adnams and I tried Decadence by Brewters of Lincolnshire. Peach/apricot flavours so very refreshing. We only had a couple before going off to see what sights we could find.

Queens Park is in the centre of the town and contains 2 museums and an aviary. We went for a look round the Carillon Tower (a war memorial) which houses a local military collection covering the 2 world wars. More unusual it houses 47 bells which are not rung like normal bells but are played like a piano. Interesting indeed. As it was getting late we did not get to see the Charnwood museum, maybe next time.

We did however call in at the local 14C church on the way back to the boat. A lovely building, what made it even nicer a junior choir practising and a very friendly welcome from the vicar.

An incident later that evening made us smile, what do you get when you cross 2 cats and 1 dog on the towpath and only a small means of escape. Mayhem. Both cats tried to get through the gap in the cratch cover at the same and landed in a noisy heap in the front of the boat before high tailing it to the back of the boat, where the dog was waiting for them. A few moments of panic on the cats part but much amusement for us.

Next day and a cruise to a pub the Hope and Anchor, on the way we met a day hire boat, the hirers seemed to think they were doing other boaters a favour by leaving the paddles up and not closing the gates. They weren’t I can assure you of that.

At the Hope and Anchor a chance meeting which only strengthened the Captains belief that I always meet someone I know never mind were we are. A boat moored at the pub had Langley Mill painted on its side. So I enquired of its owner if he had recently left there, thinking I had seen him before. And I had but not at Langley Mill it turned out he lived 6 doors below me on Wall Street, how strange is that.

And so into Leicester, as with other cities the closer to the city centre we got the more litter and graffiti we saw. At one lock I was not happy to see around 12 young men sitting on the lock gate, also there was a group of older men on the bench. So I put on my happy face and took a strong hold on my windlass and went off to do my duty. But I needn’t have worried as they were all very pleasant even the 2 that nearly ended up in the river when I opened the gate (with help) and didn’t realise the lock arm goes right to the edge of the wall, they soon moved. One of the older men was very interested in what we were doing and chatted happily with us. So the moral is you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

The main visitors moorings in Leicester are secure (locked and you need a key) and you walk through a very nice park into the city centre. But I wish CRT would get its act together and remove abandoned boats, as once again like in Newark there was such a boat taking up vital mooring space. There were moorings on the other side of the river but for once I don’t think I would have felt safe seeing and hearing the type of people walking down the towpath.

We stayed in Leicester a couple of days and visited King Richards tomb and the market. The tomb was amazing and interesting but it was the rump steak in the market that made me gasp. Over £9 a pound, not a cat in hells chance I would pay that but walk round the corner and £6.75 much more my price, so it was rump steak for tea.

On the Saturday afternoon we had discovered Abbey Pumping station was holding a vintage day and the website was encouraging everyone to dress up, well I didn’t need too much encouragement. The Captain was a bit of a wuss and said he didn’t want to walk through the town in his 40’s gear (we had to catch a bus) and it was too hot. I can’t blame him now because it was very hot. I was disappointed to find that I was one of only a handful that had made the effort, not even the staff had dressed up. I had a long and very interesting chat with a lady dressed as a suffragette about where to buy things and the like. But to make my day they had some miniature traction engines and a large steam roller which, although being from Derbyshire I had not seen before. I got chatting to one of the miniatures owners and it turned out we had friends in common, it is a small world.

And of course onto the beer in Leicester, although there are plenty of real ale pubs in the centre we struggled to find one that had dark ales on so of course we ended up in wetherspoons, The High Cross had Tuck stout on by Lincoln Green brewery nice but the Corn Exchange (a nicer pub) only had Doombar on. On the way back to the boat we called in the Derby and Rutland (a yuppie bar) but had Titanic Stout on by Titanic brewery, lovely but very expensive.

Sorry folks but I haven’t quite caught up with everything but I think I will save it for the next instalment.

MORE PUMPOUT PALVARS AND BULLOCKS

Hi folks and the last blog left us still in Leicester, Sunday was not such a nice day and we waited until the rain had passed through before setting off. At the first lock we were joined by a single hander called John and I got in trouble with the Captain for not listening. In my defence I had just seen the neon blue bum of a kingfisher and had also spotted a beautiful little egret on the weir so I was much more interested in getting my binoculars for a closer look than listening to my instructions.

Grumbles (on both parts) done and dusted we set off to do the 12 locks and 10miles to KIlby Bridge were there was a self pump out (planning ahead again) and a pub, even better planning.

As before the locks could accommodate 2 boats so we got into a nice rhythm with John and it made the journey easy and pleasant. We reached Kilby Bridge around teatime, just right to do the pump out, fill up with water and eat the lovely roast lamb dinner, then the pub.

But once again it was not going to be that simple. The pumpout machine was a CRT one which operates using a prepaid card. Plug the hose in, insert the card and bobs your uncle it starts to pump, you can pause the timer (you get 7mins) to add water to flush the tank out completely. Hose connected card inserted and nothing. Well you can imagine the Captains reaction; he was not a happy bunny. And what can you do on a Sunday afternoon, nothing, the CRT offices are closed and as this is not classed as an emergency (although it might be for you) you have to wait til Monday morning. Planning does come into its own here and we never let it get to the point that the tank is completely full making the toilet unusable but common sense is required at these times. But all this did nothing to help the Captains temper and I even had a little rant on a facebook page called Continuous Cruisers.

Nothing for it off to the pub, after a couple of pints and using the pub toilets tempers had improved and we returned to the boat and the lamb dinner.

Promptly at 8am next morning I was on the phone to CRT (the Captain was still snoring). Explained the situation and was told that the local office didn’t open til 8.30 (why they all can’t start at the same time I don’t know). So I asked them to pass on the problem and phone me back ASAP. The reason for this being if they were not going to be able to fix the pump we would have to make a dash for Debdale Wharf and the next pump out, 12 locks in as many miles would push us to reach there before they closed at 5.30pm. The return call never came however and after walking across to use the CRT toilets (clean and tidy) I again phoned them at 9.10 eventually I got put through to the local office. The gentleman Alex was very very apologetic and assured us he would send the nearest person to us straight away. I wasn’t that confident but we had to wait and see.

Lo and behold 30mins later and Brian turned up, even more apologetic than Alex. He reset the machine plugged us in and..... well it worked a bit but still not right so the Captain took over and after adding some water and rocking the boat things seemed to be happening and yippee that pump out was a success. Brian shared a brew with us and said he would send us a new pump out card for our inconvenience, very good of him and good customer service so no complaints there.

And off we went again, now we didn’t need to get to Debdale Wharf we took a gentle cruise to Fleckney, a conversation with another boater told us there were nice moorings and a 10min walk through fields to the village which had a pub and a co op but to watch out for the cows.

Now cows don’t usually bother me because as a young child we lived behind an abattoir and I used to help the old herdsman bring them in. So moored up and off we set no cows insight until we could see the gate leading into the village and there they were all making for this gate. Most just looked but one shook its horns at us and gave us the evil eye. A wide berth was give to this one. Then I noticed they weren’t cows but young bullocks.  So I thought bullocks to you to.

The Old Crown Inn was a noisy village pub and the good weather had bought out a lot of locals. We sat in the beer garden and tried Pig on the Wall by Black Country Ales and very nice it was to. On the walk back the bullocks were now congregated around the gate onto the towpath so they were given another wide berth.

Next morning and through our first tunnel for a while the Saddington Tunnel 880yrds long and built in 1797. Then on to Market Harborough.

This arm of the canal finishes at Union Wharf in Market Harborough and although there is a charge of £10per night if you want to stay in the basin the visitors mooring just outside are very nice even if the towpath gets very busy with dog walkers, runners and cyclists. The cats weren’t too happy about this but they survived.

Tuesday night and its steak night at Wetherspoons so off down town to the Sugar Loaf we went and the Captain treated me to tea. No interesting dark ales on but the Captain was happy with Broadside.

Next day and we needed a ‘big’ shop, Lidl was about a 20mins walk away and originally we were going to walk there and get a taxi back. Then the heat hit us and it was a taxi both ways. The afternoons excursion to the town museum and church followed by a pint in the Beer House were also cancelled and I couldn’t even get my brain to work to write the last blog. Even the cats didn’t want to move.

The heat abated sometime in the early hours and after watering up and watering my plants we have set off for Foxton and its flight of 10 locks, 2 staircases of 5 with a passing pound in the middle built in1812, not  forgetting the Foxton Inclined Plane. And of course it wouldn’t be us if there wasn’t a pub, highly recommended by Lorraine and Kev the Bridge 61 will be getting a visit.

I know by the time I blog this we will have been up the locks but for now you are up to date with our travels.

  

AND WHERE TO NEXT ?????

Rights it Tuesday and we are at Napton on the Hill. We camped near here a few years ago so have already tried one of the pubs.

I am waiting for the Captain to update his log so I can do the same with my blog (hey it rhymes, I’m a poet and don’t even know it!!!).

He might take a while so I will start were I left off last time.

Foxton Locks, after a stroll up the locks and a quick chat with the volunteer lockie who was on we ventured into the Bridge 61 which had been highly recommended by our friends Lorraine and Kev. Unfortunately we were not as impressed, the choice of real ales was not great (not a dark in sight). Whilst I tried the Inclined Plane Ale by Langton Brewery (hoppy and citrus flavours) the Captain had to settle for Guinness. So over to the Foxton Locks Inn and a happier Captain (Theasktons Old Peculiar) until he had to put his hand in his pocket (it was his round) it was very expensive so we only had the one.

Next morning and off we set up the Foxton Locks. 2 staircases of 5 locks with a passing pound in the middle. Two paddles to open one painted red and the other white and as the rhyme goes

‘Red before white and you’ll be alright. White before red and you’ll be dead’

This is due to the water management on the locks do the wrong way round and you will have a very irate lockie to deal with.

But I got it right all the way up and at the top found myself an audience of primary school children being instructed by a very strict school marmish CRT volunteer. Some of the children asked very sensible questions but as you know there is always one and on this occasion his name was Theo and I can well believe that his teachers got sick of hearing it by the end of the day.

Husbands Bosworth tunnel was our next experience, 1166yrds long and built in 1813.

Then off down the Welford Arm to yes that’s right Welford. At the end of the arm is the Wharf Inn and of course we had to try it. Plenty of real ales on but much to the Captains disgust no darks yet again. It must have been bad we only had the one and I can’t for the life of me remember what we had. It was a great choice don’t get me wrong just not for us.

And to top it off on returning to the boat Bubbles had a present for us, he had managed to catch and kill (ahhhhh) a tiny shrew and didn’t seem to happy when I unceremoniously threw it back in the hedge row and he got a real telling off including a good tap on the nose.

Saturday and back down the Welford Arm and onto Yelvertoft and shock and horror no pub.

But we made up for it on Sunday at Crick. After letting the Captain watch the British Grand Prix in peace we ventured into Crick, we have been here once before but had had only a swift half in one of the pubs but not this time oh no. First call was the Red Lion a very old pub but a bit dark and depressing inside. So on to the Wheatsheaf much better bright and airy with a selection of real ales on but once again no real darks or so we thought. The Captain plumped for Bombadier and I fell into conversation with the barmaid moaning that there are never any stouts or porters to be had. Then to our amazement she announced that there was a stout on the tap, London Stout, the Captain couldn’t believe his ears and so we had to try another.

As we sat at the bar on the table behind us were 2 couples and much to my enjoyment they were having an impromptu quiz and they were getting louder and louder by the minute. Most of you know how much I love to quiz but not wanting to seem rude I kept my answers to myself and the Captain of course. But a question about David Bowie was the straw that broke the camel’s back and we had to join in. Eventually all the people in that side of the bar had joined in (including the landlady) and it was girl’s v boys and of course the girls won. So a couple of pints turned into nearer 6 but the evening was pleasantly spent and when we got up to leave we were invited to come and join them when we were in the village again.

After a not so early morning we were off again and straight into Crick tunnel 1528yrs long and built in 1814 and very wet.

Monday night was spent in the middle of nowhere so you would have thought the cats would have had an easy time but it was not to be. 10pm and a lone dog walker appeared much to the surprise of them both and in their haste to get back on the boat  we think Bubbles shouldered Sam out of the way and into the water. So one wet pussy. And Bubbles caught another shrew and was not happy when we would not let him back on the boat with it. Bloody cat.

Now to the worst tunnel we have been in so far as it has a bad kink in the middle and was very misty going through. The Braunston tunnel is 2042yrds long and was built in 1796. We also met a boat coming the other way, yes you can fit 2 boats in some tunnels but there is very little clearance each side and you can never tell how far away they are until you are actually passing them.

So now to the title ‘where to next’ we have decided to take a little detour from our trip south to London and are going to call at Leamington Spa and Rugby before venturing into Coventry to catch up with friends and hopefully my daughter Jess and her boyfriend Stuart.

The Captain has finished his log so here are the numbers in 72 days we have done 480miles, 281locks 54 swing and lift bridges and about 8 tunnels. Not bad going and we ain’t finished yet.

Watch this space folks. 

STAG PARTIES AND RAIN !!!!

Let’s start with the rain and that’s just what it is doing now so we are going nowhere.

Its Monday morning and we have visited Leamington Spa and a couple of other places and pubs in the last few days. We are now one our way to Rugby, well when the rain stops.

So to back track, last Tuesday and the captain decided to take us a little out of our way for the night and off we went to the bottom of the Napton Flight of locks.

The reason being of course a canal side pub called The Bridge at Napton however we never got to try it as it doesn’t open on a Tuesday. Bummer. A quick look on google maps and another was found about a 15min walk away so off we trotted.

Was it worth the walk??  Well to be honest no. The Kings Head is a nice looking pub but with very little atmosphere and of course no dark ales and on the pricey side but after our walk we decided to try a couple. Then back to the boat.

Now what to say about Royal Leamington Spa, its handy for shopping with Lidl and Morrisons being right by the canal (you can even moor at Lidl). So we did a big shop and stocked up with the essentials, beer of course and wine and a few other bits.

After doing 23 locks 12 miles and shopping I decided I didn’t want to cook and took the Captain out for tea, down to the local Wetherspoons of course. The Jug and Jester and I am sorry to say the place was a joke. 2 separate bars and of course the ale the Captain wanted was on the one where no one was serving. After waiting a while and being able to see by TV monitor that every man and his dog was getting served in the other bar I went and waited my turn, the barmaid looked a little surprised that someone wanted serving in the ‘other’ bar. But they did have a dark ale on so the Captain was happy. I then went to order our food, the pub didn’t seem that busy and I was told it would be 10mins, not a problem however after 25mins I went back to the bar only to be told ‘sorry we are very busy will be another 5mins’ busy, I don’t think so. So eventually it arrived and it was ok however this really wasn’t the pubs night and when I went to get the required sauces I found that all the mayonnaise bottles were about empty. It took 3 bottles including taking the cap off one to provide us with enough. The Captain mentioned it to our server but it was just brushed aside. Very bad customer service. So bad we didn’t even stay for another drink.

The walk round the town next day was not exactly inspiring and I was surprised to see so many empty shops as most high streets seem to be picking up now. It does have a decent butchers so I picked a some lovely steak and lamb. Then off to the pub. We gave the Jug and Jester a miss and tried the other Wetherspoons, The Benjamin Satchwell slightly better but still not the best. Goggle maps consulted again and off to the Cricketers pricey so only the one. Then off to the Moorings at Myton again no darks but a very knowledgeable barman Tom and very expensive (I was on Estrella though).Then for the cats sake we decided to move into the middle of nowhere for the night.

Next day and we needed a pump out a quick ring round the local boatyards and off upto the Saltisford Arm of the Grand Union. The wrong direction for us really but sometimes this is what happens. The Saltisford Arm is very pretty and its only a 10min walk into Warwick so a note has been made for another time.

Then on to Long Itchington and the 2 Boats and a very happy Captain with Courage Dark Mild on. Across the canal in the Cuttle Inn, both pubs have tables outside and whereas the 2 Boats was rammed the Cuttle seemed empty. Then the fun started as a Stag party turned up, they all had hi vis jackets with various names on the back such as Whistleblower (and he did have a whistle) Dopey, Drinks Coordinator and Sleepy. The groom was wearing a different coloured vest and was 65yrs if he was a day. We fell into conversation with the designated driver who was also the official wedding photographer and it was him who told us that in the village there were another 4 pubs. So you know what we thought, ‘Pub Crawl’. Before leaving for the night we spotted a group at the Cuttle dressed as sailors but more about that later.

I will quickly run through the pub crawl, started at the Green Man no darks so I had the Mad Goose by Purity and the Captain tried London Pride by Fullers landlord very chatty. So off to the Harvesters and a very jovial landlord and knew his beers. Not hand pull but Double Stout by Hook Norton for the Captain and I tried Voodoo Juice by Tapstones. We had 2 in here and I tried the stout for my second, very nice. Next the Buck and Bell disappointing and onto the Duck on the Pond, 8 hand pulls but only had beer on 2 of them but a happy Captain yet again with Youngs London Stout. We had to try the Cuttle Inn not impressed so back to the 2 Boats for the final pint. (we only had ½’s up to that point).

And finally Sunday, up and after a hearty breakfast we set of to do the remaining 13 locks taking us back to Napton Junction. After the first 2 we were lucky enough to buddy up with a hire boat with 11 fellas on, another stag party. It made my life a lot easier. Found out that the majority of them were from and still lived in Scotland and there was one Aussie and they all had hangovers. They were the sailors we had seen at the Cuttle. As we reached the 10th lock the heavens just opened I was wet through before I could get my coat on. As the rain showed no sign of stopping we decided to moor up but the unfortunate Stags had to keep going, not only to get the boat back but to catch flights back to Scotland. The weather did improve but we stayed put and we didn’t even try the pub The Boat Inn which is just behind us. A quiet day, which was needed.

And now, the weather seems to be improving and we will be off.

More adventures to come.

 

 

 

A FLYING VISIT.

We have done our flying visit to Coventry and Swan Lane and now we are moored up at Hawksbury Junction waiting for my daughter and fella to come visit.

The journey since that rain drenched Sunday has been gentle and plodding, the weather has been a mixed bag to.

We completed the final 3 locks at Calcutt on Monday and spent the evening In the middle of nowhere, the bloody cat presented us with another little shrew. Strong words were had with him and his nose was flicked, hopefully this will get the message through. Although the weather still wasn’t great on Tuesday we set off to Rugby and moored at a place called Hillmorton. On the way there we met a boat winding (trying to turn round for those who don’t know) and they were struggling. The Captain offered advice which was taken and we tried to stop and help them. This shows how difficult it is just to stop a narrowboat and reverse, it’s not like a car. By the time we had managed to stop but not reverse they had got the idea and the boat was turning.

Hillmorton, not a bad place to moor and the bus stop for Rugby was just off the towpath and of course there is a pub, The Old Royal Oak, a Harvester so the Captain knew there was little chance of a dark ale. So we gave it a try, pleasant.

We caught the bus into Rugby next day, looked round the Church which I must say was lovely, one of the most colourful churches I have been in. Some of the stones were a strange lilac colour but looked great and the main stain glass window was beautiful. What made the church even more colourful was a display of vestments (the robes and stoles that priests wear) of all different and usually very rich colours. Well worth a visit.

We called at the Webb Ellis museum this was the guy who reportedly invented the game of Rugby in the 19C. It is set in a building which was used originally to make the rugby balls and explains the history of Rugby Union and why Rugby League was born up north. Something I didn’t know (good quiz fact). It also explained how the balls were made going right back to when it was leather and a pigs bladder right up to now and the synthetic materials used but the basic manufacturing procedure remains the same. Interesting.

A quick walk round the famous Rugby School and off to try the first pub of the day The Lawrence Sheriff (a Wetherspoons), very disappointing. They had Hobgoblin as a coming soon but the barmaid couldn’t say how long it would be, so we ordered and paid for Doombar but was then told sorry no Doombar, why they leave the pump clip facing the customers when its gone I just don’t know and it’s not the first time. So the Captain had to make do with the darkest bitter they had on. When we had been sat a while it suddenly dawned on me that the beer he had ended up with was 50p cheaper than the Doombar he had wanted, ok I know it’s only 50p but it’s the principle so back to the bar I went and eventually got a refund.

As you can guess we didn’t stay for a second and after a walk round Rugby, it has some old and interesting building we happened on the second Wetherspoons, the Rupert Brooke, slightly better service than the Sheriff but still a disappointing choice. Only one again and the Captain was now on a mission to find something dark but it was not to be. We ended up in a tiny old pub called the Squirrel but the Captain had to settle for Guinness. I did like Rugby and we will be returning at some point.

I will quickly mention there is a Tesco right on the towpath at Brownsover and that the Barley Mow at Newbold on Avon has a dart board were the Captain resoundingly beat me. We did call at the Church at Newbold, a beautifully kept churchyard but unfortunately and a sign of the times the church was locked. We went through the Newbold tunnel next day 250yds long and unusual for the fact it has a towpath both sides and on to Ansty were we met up with our single hander friend John (we came out of Leicester with him).  We tried the pub The Rose and Castle, small inside but large garden going down to the canal, nice.

And Sunday saw us back in Coventry, we called in at Swan Lane on our way down to the basin to check the post and see if Keith was about, then on to the basin, moored up and a walk into the city. We called at the Roadhouse never been in before and they had a dark ruby on from Lion Heart Brewery. It would have been ok but the first half was first out the pipe since it had been cleaned and it tasted terrible. The barmaid was very apologetic and pulled a couple of pints through before replacing our original halves. Still wasn’t the best. The brewery is based in Coventry and has its own tap so we will give that a try at some point.

Then on to our favourite pub, the Windmill on Spon Street, I know I have mentioned it before but it never fails to deliver. Today’s offerings were Hobgoblin, Old Peculiar and Old Slug Porter from RCH brewery. The Old Slug was lovely and we sat in a little room, a bit like a railway carriage listening to a folk song jamming session. Second pint and the Captain changed to Old Peculiar well that’s until I had a taste and we ended swopping pints, I found the OP a very creamy taste and he was happier with the Slug porter.

I treated us to tea at my favourite Wetherpoons in Coventry, The Earl of Mercia, now here is something I haven’t seen before, normally on a Sunday its Sunday lunch club but here they had Steak Club (usually Tuesdays) on instead, great just fancied a steak it was mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Then things started getting silly and the Captain couldn’t pass The Flying Standard without going in (its kind of on the way back to the boat). I had had enough beer so as a treat I had Jamesons and coke, lovely but then I had to have another as the Captain still had half a pint left. Silly season like I said.

We have spent a couple of days in Swan Lane itself, done a big shop, a bit of spring cleaning and engine maintence. We were pleased to see that improvements are being made to the facilities but didn’t manage to catch up with Keith (did see Alan though) and we didn’t nip to the Bricklayers, very strange for us I know, turning over a new leaf, I don’t think so.

Tomorrow, well then we continue on our trip down south calling at Milton Keynes and then into London.

Watch this space folks.

 

SMOKED OUT AND MAD AND ITS ONLY THE END OF JULY

Don’t worry folks these 2 events are only connected by happening on the same day.

Just a quick catch up first, we left Swan Lane and moored at Hawksbury Junction to wait for my daughter and her bf to join us for the night. And what a wonderful night we had. We went to the Greyhound for a meal and a catch up. The food was excellent and the company even better. Next morning we showed them how locks work as we had to go through a small stop lock (a lock between one canal and another) to continue our journey south.

As we knew the weather was going to be bad next day (Friday) we decided to moor the other side of Rugby (where the Tesco was) and sit out the rain. This we did with only one problem it was like Clapham junction with the number of boats passing us and many going much to fast much to the Captains disgust. You can tell the holiday season is with us.

Anyway after sitting in all day it was decided to take a walk to the nearest pub (I know surprise surprise) a Harvester, not the best but they sold beer and they had the new edition of Towpath Talk.

This is a monthly free paper for the canals made up mainly of adverts with bits of news about things happening on the canals and a reader’s letters page.

Now this is where I got mad, on the letters page they have a star letter and I couldn’t believe what I read. Phrases like ‘I was disappointed to find a liveaboard on the visitors moorings at Northwich’  and ‘I was amazed to how many liveaboards there were at Marsden with washing hanging on the towpath does CRT turn a blind eye’ and finally ‘come on CRT move these people on or off the canals as they contribute nothing to the people who pay for the service we love’

How this letter got printed was beyond me, if liveaboards or part timers pay their license fees and abide by the rules then they both have the right to use the canals and should respect each other life style choices. In fact it’s the liveaboards that keep some of the less well used navigations open as they travel the system constantly and part timers as the name suggests only go out for a couple of weeks at a time and stay mostly on the more well used canals.

Well when I get mad I tend to try and get even. So a pointed reply was sent to the editor and the salient phrases were put on a liveaboard page on facebook well you can imagine the response I have had from that.

Well before I got even I managed to do the other thing in the title and smoke us out. I like to experiment with foods and marinades and the like. So I had marinated some belly pork in a mixture of jerk seasoning, scotch bonnet chillies honey lime and various herbs which smelled great until I put the meat on my hot griddle in a matter of seconds the boat was full of smoke setting the smoke alarm off and making me and the Captain cough and our eyes stream. We had to open everything the windows side hatch front cratch back door, everything even then it took a while for the smoke to clear. I don’t think I will be doing that again soon but just to say the pork tasted lovely.

I bet you have never heard of a traffic jam on a canal, well we have just come past one. 11 boats are waiting at Hillmorton Top Lock to go down the flight of 3 locks. The Captain estimates it will take 1½ hours for the last boat to go down. So glad we are going the other way. Having said that the boats we came up with were all hire boats with first timers on, I try to be helpful but it can be frustrating at times, they should be given more instructions before setting off on their jollies on the water. I don’t blame them but the hire companies.

Now we are on the move again, with a rather slow hire boat in front of us, just hope we get to Braunston before dark.

Well we did get to Braunston and managed to find moorings, this is a very popular place with boaters so we were lucky and of course there is a pub, The Boat and of course we had to go and give it a try but not before another stag party a float had passed us by. Some members looking more jaded than other.

The Boat is a Marsdens pub and as we approached the Captain wasn’t holding much hope out for a decent beer but he was in for a pleasant surprise not only Hobgoblin but Snecklifter too. The stag party were there and had actually managed to moor outside the pub (much safer I think). They were having a whale of a time and I had a quick chat with them. They were not too impressed when I said the forecast for the next day was not looking great. Oh dear the great British weather strikes again.

And strike it definitely has and as I lie here still in bed listening to other boats passing us by in the pouring rain I thank god we don’t have a time table for our journey south.

That’s all for now folk’s, really ought to get up but what the hell 5 minutes more won’t hurt.