Author Archives: Chris

A week without boating

We’ve been back at our mooring for ten days now and been fairly busy with various things.

One of our neighbours has had a replacement engine fitted which has been giving a few problems which I have been trying to help him overcome. The first was a leak from the injector pump, which we traced to the stop shaft, so we set about tracking down some replacement seals and found a helpful company in Leamington Spa, Bob Beck Fuel Injection Ltd so we took a drive down and came away with a complete seal kit for £8.00 (they also have an eBay Shop – No connection except as a satisfied customer!) They are near the canal too.

After fitting the seals we found that the leak had stopped but so had the starter motor, so I removed that and discovered that the bottom brush was stuck and the brush-spring rusted away. This was not a great problem as I was in the auto-electrical trade for over 25 years and still have contacts to obtain parts, so by the next morning the starter was back on and working. I also tidied up the wiring and made sure that the charging system worked properly.

I left him with the engine running nicely but within an hour he was in trouble again with clouds of smoke from the exhaust as oil was being blown out of the engine breather into the air intake, a sign of excess crankcase pressure, possibly worn piston rings. Sad to say, I’m afraid he has been ‘sold a pup’.

On Wednesday evening we drove the car down to Worcester to pick up our grandchildren for a couple of days. on Thursday we did some geocaching with them and had some success, them having sharper eyes than us.

On Friday we drove to Leamington Spa again where we wandered around the town and had a meal before going to a performance by the Alarum Theatre Company of
Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways with Kate Saffin & Heather Wastie.

 

To quote their Facebook Page “Heavy rain meant that the second half of last night’s show was rather more intimate than the first! Our lovely sporting audience crammed into the covered area of the magical Foundry Wood.”

Despite the car’s windscreen wiper linkage falling apart as we arrived at the car park I popped it back together and made it back up the motorway on a wing-and-a-prayer.

Jeremy, our son, came to collect the children on Saturday afternoon and we had a meal with them at The Lime Kilns before waving them off.

I think we saw the best of the weather for this week on Sunday morning when we went to Measham Car Boot and since then have been hunkered down on board away from the wind and rain. We’ve even lit the fire… In June!!!

 

Back to Base

P1020892

Hawkesbury Engine House

Wednesday 24th May

Well.. We never did get our pint at The Greyhound as by the time we got down there it was 6pm and both the bar and garden were packed with diners and there wasn’t a seat to be had. Never mind, we went back to the boat for our evening meal.

Thursday 25th May

Jade at her post 🙂

It was such a nice sunny mooring, near the old engine house we decided to stay another day and put a final coat of paint on the gas locker surrounds and touch up more spots on the handrail while Jade continued to survey the area.

We had been debating whether to continue on down to Coventry Basin, the consensus was that although the two hour trip wasn’t the most attractive journey, but the basin is a good base to look around Coventry. In the end the mundane need to empty the toilet tank made the decision for us, we knew Valley Cruises had a base there which surely must have facilities but didn’t know if these were available to the public and they didn’t respond to my email or phone call so we decided to give it  a miss this time.

 

Friday 26th May

Later this morning we were told there was a CRT card operated machine at  Coventry Basin but by that time we had made the decision to head homewards and call at in at Springwood Haven but first I started the day with a little walk to find some bread and milk and discovered Blackhorse Road Convenience Store just 5 minutes away from the footbridge by the engine house.

There are lots of baby water fowl about and before we left, a swan with her cygnets made an appearance. Later we saw some young moorhens (scruffy little balls of black fluff)

So we winded at the junction and started on our way home, near Charity Dock we we pleased to see a nice bit of hedge laying had been done and by lunchtime we were at  Springwood Haven. We spent a couple of hours there before travelling on the The Anchor for tonight’s stop.

Saturday 27th May

After a couple of scorching days, this morning was drizzly but before 10 it had cleared so we got on our way and arrived at the top of the 11 Atherstone Locks by half past eleven. The volunteer lock-keepers were out in force and so we had help all the way down to lock 5. After that we only met one boat coming up, and as we were following a hire boat we had to turn (refill) all the remaining 5 locks. By the time we were nearing the last lock the wind had really got up (about 20 mph apparently) but fortunately it was behind us, but no such luck when we went down to turn at the winding hole where the cross wind was so strong it made it difficult to turn, needing two attempts and a lot of power to achieve!

Mooring up was ‘interesting’ too but we got there OK in the end at just after half past two and spent the evening chilling out and catching up with news from our neighbours.

Onwards to Hawkesbury

Sunday 21st May

P1020880_crToday we made our way back to Nutts Lane moorings, Hinckley where I did a bit more work on the gas locker, including some non-slip tape which will also protect the paint work while changing gas bottles. I cut it to shape sitting cross legged on the front of the boat, to the amusement of passers by, but I was quite pleased with the finished job.

P1020882

 

I discovered the invoice for the non-slip tape was dated almost exactly two years ago, so it’s not taken too long in the planning stages, has it?

 

Rick, on fuel boat  Auriga arrived this afternoon and topped us up with diesel then moored behind us for the night.

We had a proper Sunday Roast this evening with a lamb shank which we bought from the farm shop yesterday.

Monday 22nd May

Our DVD player has been making funny noises and the scart output had stopped working so when we saw a second hand one advertised in Tamworth with Freeview & a hard drive we thought it was worth a go. So a bus trip from Hinckley to Nuneaton was undertaken, some shopping and lunch there then another bus on to Atherstone where we got a taxi to our mooring and picked our car up to go on to Tamworth. We took the opportunity to do some grocery shopping while we had the car and after picking up the DVD player we drove back to our mooring. Our kind neighbours offered to drive us back to our boat at Hinckley so we stopped off on the way at The Blue Lion at Witherley for a meal.

Tuesday 23rd May

We pottered about until lunchtime when Rick arrived back to moor up again, we then made our way back to the Lime Kilns Inn. On the way we spotted a terrapin sunbathing by the railway bridge!

It was a lovely sunny evening and we enjoyed a lovely meal in the garden and watch the antics of the pub’s ducks and hens.  Later went inside to listen to the guys at their Acoustic Music night again.

Wednesday 24th May

Sutton Stop MapToday we have done a few more miles than of late and spotted a few more water irises out in bloom, we stopped for lunch at Bulkington Road moorings then carried on to Marston Junction, took a left turn and are now moored at Hawkesbury Junction (aka Sutton Stop).

Miss Catty is now out exploring the area, she has checked in once but immediately went out again so there must be something to interest her here.

[I don’t think she can get to the pub???]

No, she’s in now and we’re going up to the Greyhound for a pint before our tea.

The Mystery of the Ghost Line

P1020861After watering up this morning, we left Sutton Wharf in bright sunshine and I needed to take my sweater off and put my hat on to shield my eyes from the sun, but within a short while the wind picked up and it was sweater on again. Just before we reached bridge 23 it started to rain, why couldn’t it have waited until we were moored up to visit the farm shop?

P1020862At Spinney Bank Farm Shop (did I mention before that they do lovely meat and veg?) we noticed a disused railway bridge in the corner of the farmyard, could this be part of ‘The Ghost Line’? [Yes it is, I asked. Apparently all the track is in private ownership but the bridges are still the rail network’s responsibility.]

Apparently when The Ashby & Nuneaton Joint Railway was granted it’s Act of Parliament it was required to include a branch line to Hinckley, this line was built to satisfy the Act’s requirement but was allegedly never used, it seems that some shenanigans was going on here. What changes?

 

According to Hinckley Past & Present:

14th January 1875 Local Hinckley and Stoke Golding residents petitioned for the Hinckley branch line to be opened, but their [sic] it was not to be. Under the terms of the Railway Act at that time, it had been necessary to build the Hinckley branch line and connect it up to the L & N.W.R line, but the legal opinion was that it was not necessary to open the line to traffic.

However… There is a ghost story published in The Hinckley Times in 2016 about a deaf old lady who was killed by a train on this very line (You know, the one that never had a train run on it) whilst looking for her dog, you’ll have to read it to make up your own mind, but remember the tracks were laid and taken back up again so I guess they used a train for that!

Oh well, the rain seems to be in for the day so we’ll just stay here until the morning.

 
Oh the joy of being retired boaters with no schedule to keep to. 🙂

Rain & Shine

Wednesday 17th May

P1020847

Ruth’s art work on doors

The forecast wet weather arrived today so we opted to stay put at Bosworth Wharf, our friends Barry & Ruth (nb Celandine) made no such decision and made the three hour trip through the rain from The Limekilns pub to see us.

P1020845

Ruth & Barry (fed & warmed!)

 

 

 

We felt quite honoured so I caught the bus into town and bought provisions at the Co-op and the market while Joy cooked a warming Lamb Tagine for lunch. We enjoyed seeing them and hearing about their latest boating adventures before they turned around to head back towards home.

Thursday 18th May

P1020857What a difference a day makes! Today was gloriously sunny and we decided to pootle down to Sutton Wharf and stop at the Aqueduct Farm Shop near Shenton Aqueduct for some sausages. The moorings have a reconstituted wood/plastic edging, but no rings and when we arrived at the farm shop at 11 o’clock it was closed, despite its sign declaring it was open from 10am – 5pm.

When we arrived at Sutton Wharf we did a load of washing and dried it in the sunshine and I did a bit more touching up of the paintwork on the gas locker and handrails. The moorings here are also made of the same ‘plastic wood’ which as I found, even in the dry, is incredibly slippery in hard soled shoes, when I slipped and launched a pot of dirty white spirits into the air which fortunately landed in a bed of nettles and not me!

Friday 19th May

Another damp and dismal morning so we are still here on the 48 hour moorings.

Back to Bosworth

Sunday 14th May

P1020786Up and boating by 9:30am on a Sunday? Unheard of! We made steady progress down to Shackerstone where the sound of a whistle told us that steam trains were running this weekend. There are some attractive offside moorings here too presumably owned by the adjacent farm. and there is a mound with an old tree growing in it which turns out to be the remains of Shackerstone Castle of the motte and bailey construction.

Wikipedia informs us

P1020788During World War II the remains of the motte and bailey castle in the village had an air raid shelter dug into it. It is believed that this still has a rocking chair within it.

Shackerstone is probably best known nowadays as the home of the Battlefield Line Railway, a preserved steam and diesel museum, that runs trains to Bosworth Battlefield. The railway came to Shackerstone in 1873 and continued providing passenger services until 1931 after which only freight ran on the rails of the Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway. The line was finally closed by British Rail in 1970 at which point the railway society arrived[6] and has restored the station and reopened the line to Shenton Station, the terminus for Bosworth Battlefield.

P1020803After Shackerstone the canal goes through Gospall Wood and emerges at Gospall Wharf before passing an attractive canal-side house and the remains of a railway bridge which once carried the Ashby & Nuneaton Railway over the canal.

Another few hundred yards brought us to the mouth of the 250 yard Snarestone Tunnel, which has a kink in it which means you can’t see if it’s clear until the last minute (one way traffic).

Soon we arrived at the last full length winding hole where we turned with not a little difficulty as the wind pushed us into the side and I had to pull us round with a rope. The canal past here is being restored by the Ashby Canal Association who have rebuilt the next bridge and made a 50 foot winding hole at what is now the current terminus. See here for their plans for the future.

We easily found a mooring as there was only one other boat who soon left and left us on our own, but not for long and soon the moorings were full, however it seemed that most people just used it as a lunch stop as soon we just had one other boat for company and passed a very peaceful night without a road or railway in earshot.

Monday 15th May

P1020829

Older but not necessarily wiser. 😉

We had arranged to meet up with four ‘old’ friends who we have known for the best part of forty years from back in Gloucestershire although one couple now only live 12 minutes away from Snarestone. The volunteers on site were very accommodating in letting them use their private car park, as one of our friends has mobility problems, and we patronised their shop to help swell their funds a little. The gang had lunch with us on board and we spent the afternoon catching up with each-other’s news before saying our goodbyes.

Tuesday 16th May

Today we just retraced our journey back to Bosworth, and managed to film an interesting private mooring just before the tunnel.

We took an enforced lunch stop opposite Shackerstone Castle to avoid a rain shower and arrived back at Bosworth Wharf ten past three just in time to avoid another deluge.

Map snarestone to Bosworth

Just to give an idea of how close we are to home, as the crow flies!

Battling on to Bosworth

No battle really, but it makes a good title.

Thursday 11th May

P1020761Our stop here was planned so that we could easily reach the bus stop at the end of Nutts Lane, so this morning we took the bus into Nuneaton to do a bit of shopping. We did the rounds of the charity shops and I scored a Marks & Sparks Panama Hat for the summer and Joy another handbag. TKMax provided her with a purse, a few groceries were procured and after brunch at Jenny’s Café at the bus station we caught the 48 back to Hinckley.

On our return we moved on about half a mile through the next bridge and moored opposite Trinity Marina as Chris wanted to buy some screws at Screwfix which was nearby, but they didn’t have the required type in stock nor available for ‘click & collect’.

Friday 12th May

A local firm, GoFix came to the rescue however with not only stainless steel bolts but an M8 tap too,another 10 minute bus ride took me to their door.
A bit more painting before lunch and then we moved on.

We passed the Triumph motorbike factory, and then encountered some bank repairs going on, a workboat with a small digger on board was driving in wooden stakes with a hydraulic hammer which was making a terrific din. They did stop as we went past but check out Catty’s ears to see what she thought about the noise level.

 

P1020772The oil seed rape is in profusion in the fields, while I think it looks lovely some hay-fever sufferers may disagree. Our 31/2 hour journey took us past Spinney Bank Farm Shop at Bridge 23 where we bought some eggs, veg and a piece of lamb, and we stopped here for a cuppa while a rain shower passed over.

 

We arrived at Sutton Wharf just before 5pm where we bagged the 24 hour mooring right next to the water-point.  The café had just closed and the adjacent car park was empty so Catty was allowed out to explore but much to her disgust it started to pour with rain within half an hour which had her racing back in. Dinner had been cooking on the way, Joy had prepared a small rack of lamb with roast potatoes and fresh leeks and carrots. It was delicious!

Map to Sutton Wharf

 

Saturday 13th May

This morning’s journey took us past Bosworth Battlefield Moorings which are now no longer on the offside of the canal, perhaps they made that decision as the battlefield is now thought not to be quite so near :-/ , however the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre is still nearby so to get there now involves going down to the road and under the aqueduct.

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • I saw what I think was a Catalina Flying Boat, perhaps someone can confirm from this dodgy photo?  The last one I saw was in Australia.
  • I was taken too by the brickwork on the ends of these otherwise utilitarian farm buildings.
  • And finally there was a glimpse of the Battlefield Railway line before we arrived at Bosworth Wharf.

After lunch we caught the bus up into the town (which was much smaller than we anticipated) and returned on the next bus after tea/hot chocolate and cake at Café Torte.

Slowly Slowly

Monday 8th May

P1020723We left our spot outside The Anchor and our bunny rabbit neighbour and made the short 20 minute trip to Springwood Haven to buy some gas & empty the poo tank. That done we moored up opposite their wharf and I made a start on treating some rust spots on the front end of the boat, I also decided to clean up and paint the gas bottle spanner which was also in a disgraceful state and Joy caught me spray painting the trees, or so she thought! P1020727a

Just before we arrived at Springwood we passed nb Campanula headed the opposite way, later Penny tapped on the boat and we had a catch up over a cuppa, we were then invited back to Campanula in the evening.  Amongst many other topics we discussed pubs and The Limekilns was recommended and particularly their Blueberry Lamb, so this re-enforced our plan to visit.

 

Tuesday 9th May

P1020738So it was a longer trip today as we set off for the Ashby Canal spotting some baby ducks, coots and moorhens. It was a cloudy day but on the rare occasions the sun broke through it was quite warm. We had an enforced lunch stop by Nuneaton Allotments as we had collected a large ‘Iceland’ carrier bag on the propeller which promptly dropped off when we stopped.

Map to LimekilnsThe turn under the bridge onto the Ashby is quite tight as there is the remains of stop lock just past the bridge. Those with keen eyesight will notice that having been travelling south, on reaching Marston Junction we are now headed north-east.

The trip to Limekilns is very rural and we arrived at the pub about 4:30 pm and were able to moor against their garden where their ducks & chickens were wandering about.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_20170509_214121302_crThe meal at Lime Kilns was every bit as good as we had been told, their menu is more varied than many, and not expensive, most main-courses being £8.25 and there are daily offers as well. We found that on Tuesdays there is a regular Acoustic Evening where local musicians get together informally for a ‘sing-around’ session. We thoroughly enjoyed their performances as they mainly had a 60s & 70s vibe.

Wednesday 10th May

Well, we’ve covered an immense distance today, something like half a mile in 15 minutes, we just moved a little closer to Hinckley and I’ve put a coat of undercoat on the pointy bit and de-rusted and primed the other fairlead for the centre-line.

Oh, I hope you noticed that we are moored at Nutt’s Bridge. 🙂

… and They’re Off!

Facebook Img1Saturday 6th May

Yes, it’s finally happened, we’ve started our 2017 cruising, but first we had an appointment with some “Young People”, Chris’ great-nieces Courtney & Hatty had arranged to visit Twycross Zoo with us along with Courtney’s little boy Noah and Hatty’s big boy(friend) Dom.

It was a  grey day but we really enjoyed ourselves and we enticed the crew back to the boat where after plying them with tea and cake we pressganged them into boating up the first six Atherstone locks as far as The Kings Head. We were lucky enough to find their mooring free and so were able to reward them in the bar, before they travelled back to Northamptonshire where my big sister, Jan no doubt had a meal ready for them.

For our part we enjoyed a meal at the Kings Head and with their permission spent the night their mooring.

Sunday 7th May

IMG_20170507_111041885aWe were up and out by 10 am, but first things first, a trip to the Co-op for breakfast in their café, a very reasonable £3 ‘5 item’ breakfast for me and a Salmon & Egg Bagel for Joy. Just a top-up shop at Aldi and we were off. Five more locks, of which the first was in our favour, the next two weren’t then we met a boat at the last but one and a volunteer lock-keeper opened the top lock for us.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I got into conversation with the locky and found we were both from Wiltshire, he had had a career on the railways, Swindon Works, we both attended Swindon College and he knew Marine Mountings (later known as R.A.Lister & Co.) where I did my apprenticeship including a spell in the Special Fittings department where the SR & ST range of engines were marinised, some destined to power canal boats. Who’d a thought it? 1

The sun came and we enjoyed it for out for the rest of the day as we made our way the few miles to Hartshill, where we moored outside The Anchor for a well deserved pint with our lunch.

In the afternoon I touched up a few rust spots on the roof then tortured passers-by by practicing my accordion while Joy started a new jigsaw.

 

1. There’s a pub in Lockeridge, Wiltshire called The Who’d A Thought It but that’s another story.

Spring Maintenance

Boat maintenance can spring upon you at any time, but I can always try to put it off… until it’s warmer, cooler, dryer or any other excuse I can think of! Sometimes, however, it can’t wait very long.

It was like this, we had just decided to take a little trip down to Alvecote and just as we set off there was a tinkling noise, just like somebody dropping a load of ball bearings. Well I should have expected something of the kind because the top tiller bearing had been creaking and groaning for a while which I temporarily alleviated by pouring a little oil into it.

s-l500Of course that’s exactly what it was, the bearing had finally collapsed, but nothing daunted we still continued our trip, albeit with not a little play and stiffness in the steering. On our return the next day I identified the bearing as a UCF208-24 obtainable on the ‘net for about £15 … but then there was delivery and waiting for it to arrive, so after a couple of phone calls to local companies with responses of “Nah mate, never kept them” but then I found URB Bearings Distribution (UK) Ltd in Hinckley who had a vague recollection of having some in stock. Did I need the whole thing or just the bearing? The bearing would do nicely as it simply sits in a spherical recess in the flange.

Off he went to check and indeed he did have the bearing in stock and better still I could have one for a fiver! So I hot-footed it to Hinckley to buy it and also learnt that nomenclature UCF208-24 meant the external diameter was 80mm and the inner diameter was 24/16 of an inch or more conventionally 1 1/2 inches, a bizarre metric/imperial cross breed.

Next came the fitting of the beast, the swan-neck was removed from its taper with the help of a sledge hammer and a wooden lever,  fortunately the securing bolts came undone easily and the outer bearing was easily tapped out, the centre was a different matter though, it was well rusted onto the shaft and I had to cut in in half with a thin disk in an angle grinder whilst supporting the rudder with a ratchet strap from the taff-rail.

The refitting was straightforward enough and now I’m pleased to report the steering is much easier.

fairlead_handrailLater the engine service was carried out without much drama, the heat-exchanger O rings were replaced too and the yucky bilges cleaned out with our wet-vac, so we’re almost good to go off on our travels, just a few rust patches to clean up, particularly where a fairlead had come adrift last season. Well quite a few more rust spots actually,  but I can always think of excuses to postpone doing them, just look what I said last May.

It will have to come off again soon because it was terribly rusty underneath.