We hope you have all had a lovely Christmas and are looking forward to a 2015 which will bring you all you could wish for.
As regular readers will know this blog tends to go into hibernation through the winter and we batten down the hatches until spring arrives and we do anything worth talking about!
This year, however will see some changes to our lifestyle as Chris reaches retirement age in February and already there’s a ‘To-Do List’
The first of which was to update this blog which you will notice has a new ‘Theme’, I’m still not totally convinced if I like it so let me know what you think.
Joy’s New Year’s resolution is not to fall over and injure herself and we both hope for a healthy year ahead of us.
I’ve promised to update a website for a local society.
In March Wrens-Nest goes into Tooley’s Boatyard for ‘blacking’ when the boat gets painted below the waterline. Their dock is the oldest working dry dock on the Inland Waterways and has been in continuous use since 1790.
There are plans to do much more boating this year, without work commitments there won’t be time constraints upon us and enable us to venture further around the canal system, so watch this space to find out where we visit.
Well… It wasn’t my fault, I mean… They left Fenny Compton, one of my favourite hunting grounds, way too early but soon I was up on top of the hatch checking everything was OK. When they got to Claydon Locks I went inside and kept an eye on things from on top of the sink unit.
By the time got to Cropredy they seemed to coping all right without me, although there were loads of boats there for the Festival, so I went and had a lie down in a cool and quiet place while they filled up with water and put rubbish in the bins, which, by the way, were a disgrace with stuff overflowing onto the floor like they were last time we came through, I bet I could get a full time job there as a rodent control operative.
We hadn’t gone very far when Mum came inside calling me, then Dad came in and looked in all my usual hidey holes, well I knew it wasn’t food time so I stayed where I was.
The next thing I knew they had stopped the boat at Slat Mill bridge and went off somewhere and left me. They were gone ages, so I just went back to sleep. Eventually Dad came back and looked for pictures of me on the computer and started to make a lost cat poster. Boring! I must have done a bit of a snore because then he found me under the settee, behind his guitar case.
After a bit he went and fetched Mum, apparently they thought I had got off to at Cropredy to stretch my legs and were worried, so they had walked back the 1½ miles looking for me. As if I’d ever wander off like that! Well they couldn’t tell me off could they, I hadn’t done anything wrong!
They must have been pleased to know I was OK though because later on when they moored up in Banbury town centre, they gave me some lamb from their takeaway from the Jaypur Restaurant after they had washed off the curry sauce of course.
Goodness me, day 31, a month since we left Banbury! I’m not going to bore you with locks & miles because I don’t know or care very much, but I do know we’ve had fabulous weather apart from two or three wet days, seen some great scenery and met some nice people.
We left Birdingbury Wharf on Sunday without so much as entering the Boat Inn (see, it was those people on Woodham who led us astray!). At Gibraltar Wharf we passed a number ‘historic’ boats including the tug Ruislip, which I really like the lines of. We ascended the three Calcutt Locks with another boat which we met along the way and made the right turn at Napton Junction.
Our plan was to get the Napton flight out of the way before it got too hot, the two boats who pulled off of the water point at Calcutt stopped for lunch at The Bridge so we thought we might not have to queue for Napton. Actually there were just four or five boats ahead of us at the bottom and once past the bottle neck of the damaged number 10 lock, where, apparently there had been a further ‘landslip’ the previous day, it was a straightforward climb to the top lock…
As we moored up for the last lock however, Catty decided she had had enough boating for one day and escaped into the hedge and despite attempts to bribe her back on board we had a cat-enforced early evening meal. After a two hour wait she sauntered back in at 7pm and we hurriedly went up the last lock as the water level in the pound we were in kept falling and we had no wish to remain there overnight, so it was a short hop to moor up near Priors Hardwicke where the blessed animal legged it again and didn’t come in again until eleven. Joy promised all sorts of punishment would befall the cat and that she would be confined to barracks tomorrow.
This morning we were away before nine as we hoped to bag a mooring for a couple of days at Fenny Compton and reckoned that by 11.00am most of the overnight moorers would have left. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together? Here we are on a 14 day mooring if we so wish and guess what, Catty has been allowed out and is on ‘hedge-watching’ duty, strangely today she is staying within sight!???
After the relatively short distance travelled yesterday we had to pay for it the next day with 17 Grand Union locks, ending up at the top of the Stockton flight at Birdingbury Wharf, opposite The Boat Inn. Our locking companions were so pleased with the progress that they were keen to press on to the bottom of Napton Locks, we were not so keen as rain was forecast, so we bid them farewell and Bon Voyage. They later sent a text saying they were enjoying a meal at The Folly but didn’t reveal if they got drenched!
Today was a ‘rest day’ but we hopped on a bus to Rugby and bought a DVD player at Tescos as the one in our TV had died, it was very reasonable at £24 and even better when we used our £4 worth of vouchers. It is capable of ‘upscaling standard definition DVD discs to near HD quality’ which I suppose means it will give us a better picture.
It’s OK, we haven’t got hopelessly lost , still around Warwick! Last night’s meal at The Cape of Good Hope was excellent and can be recommended. They were most helpful and allowed our locking partners, Ian, Chris & Heather on nb Woodham to moor outside this morning while Chrissy went to the hospital for a routine blood test. Meanwhile we headed on to Kate Boats for a pump-out and then on to do some shopping at Warwick Tesco where the others caught us up. While we were at Tesco’s we put the washing machine on so it was done when we got back.
After a bite of lunch we carried as far as Fosse Locks where thunder started to rumble ominously, so Joy called a tea-stop, by 5pm it had cleared a bit but we decided against further progress and tied up for the night. So we enjoyed a meal on board, of Pork & Apple sausages, new potatoes and runner beans followed by a crumble with the blackberries Joy foraged back at Warwick and Bramleys from Tesco.
Left Kingswood just before 9:00, trains woke us at 3:00am & I couldn’t get back to sleep for ages. It was nice fresh morning and we made the turn onto the Grand Union, which I always think of as the motorway of British canals, but the level was well down this morning and passing oncoming boats was tricky as it was easy to ground out when you left centre channel. We passed Willow Wren boat, Dipper aground but they said they had just got free.
A little further on we saw steam narrowboat Tixall moored up, this is a modern steamer unlike Laplander which we saw at Stratford, steam buffs can peek inside here.
We were through Shrewley Tunnel by 10 and at the top of the 21 Hatton Locks by 11 o’clock where we were met by two volunteer lockies who helped nb Woodham and ourselves down the first few locks before going back to assist new arrivals, one of which was nb Dipper who, we discovered had a group of Scouts on board, they chased us down the locks and helped us close a few gates as we left.
We met boats coming up at some locks, although more would have been nice, one of those we did meet was nb Wand’ring Bark & The Jam Butty from which Helen Tidy sells homemade jams and chutneys which she makes on board trading as Wild Side Preserves. This was the first time we’ve seen their ‘new’ butty Montgomery looked resplendent in it’s livery.
We got into a rhythm of working the locks which I might say were easier than those on the Stratford canal yesterday and by 3pm we were slaking our thirst at The Cape of Good Hope where we are going to eat tonight.
Just in case anybody wonders how that little picture pops up titled “Where are we now?” it’s all down to a website called Water Explorer where you can log your boat’s position, this can be done manually or by a gpx file which my phone produces with the GPS Logger App and hey presto we have a map of our day’s progress. So as you can see we have progressed from Wootton Wawen to Kingswood Junction, near Lapworth.
The Stratford canal boasts just six Barrel Roofed lock keepers’ cottages, a couple of which are currently for sale, this much enlarged example was up for sale in April for a cool £640,000 or there’s a more modest example which is reported as being up for auction here. Or if you just fancy one for a week or so The Landmark Trust owns one which it rents as a holiday let.
So today? 5.89 miles 7h34m Locks:17 Bridges:17 and tonight we are moored next to a railway bridge, so here’s hoping for a good night’s sleep.