Norton Junction to Yelvertoft

Sunday 16th July

William

Shortly after I sent my last post we heard the distinctive “Chuff, chuff, whiffle” of a Bolinder semi-diesel engine and there was the impressive sight of  Royalty Class boat William approaching.

They moored behind us and I discovered that William is operated by Inland Navigators as a ‘back to basics’ canal camping boat and is the only boat of its type, currently available for skippered charter.

In the morning there was no doubt when they were getting ready to leave, although not being driven as enthusiastically as in the video below!

I should have said we are now on the Grand Union canal which has locks big enough for two narrowboats side by side. We had heard murmurings that there were problems with one of the locks at Braunston so we reconnoitred as far as the Admiral Nelson last night and found all was now well, so we set off up the [double] locks alone this morning which went well until the last one where an oncoming boater thought he should bring his boat in before we had exited.

Then it was through the 2,042 yard tunnel, which was fairly dry, only meeting one boat on the way and moored at Norton Junction where we decided to have lunch at the New Inn Long Buckby Wharf. Their on-line menu looked promising and we chose our food beforehand but on arriving found only their Sunday Roasts or snacks were available. What a pity they didn’t state that on  their website, so we settled for a drink and ate on board. [for reference their full menu is not available on Sundays OR Mondays.]

Monday 17th July

Almost at the top of Watford Locks

We now headed off up the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union, called at Welton Haven Marina for diesel and a pump out and were soon alongside the roar of the M1 and Watford Gap Services. When we arrived at Watford Locks there was a queue so we had a bacon & egg brunch while we waited about 1½ hours until it was our turn. The volunteer lockies were most efficient and with Joy at the helm we accomplished the seven locks in an incredible 45 minutes according to my GPS.

 

Joy in charge

We covered another 5 miles through some pleasant countryside, through the not-so-dry Crick Tunnel, past the adjacent Crack Hill with its beacon and found a sunny mooring at Yelvertoft Wharf for a day or two.

Crack Hill

Biding our time at Braunston

Monday 10th July 2017

From Hilmorton it was an uneventful 2 ½ hour journey including the Barby Straight (Much of this section of the canal was straightened out in the 1820s, and remains of the original less direct route, which hugged the chosen contour, can still be seen in places. ¹) until we reached the outskirts of Braunston.

Braunston is often regarded as the ‘Heart of the canal system’ and Braunston church, which we moored in sight of, was the place for working boat families to meet and celebrate christenings, weddings and funerals. There’s much more information on the Village Website and on the Church Website we learn:

With Braunston at the “heart of the Canals” there was a tendency for passing boatmen to meet and marry local girls and set up homes in the village…… Other immigrant boatmen also came to the village and set up homes. All Saints Church, the “Cathedral of the Canals” was very central to the boatmen’s lives for performing Wedding, Baptism and Funeral Services, indeed many well known boating families have ancestors buried in the churchyard.  It was the most central of locations for families afloat to meet up.

The “Cathedral of the Canals”

So this was the view from our idyllic mooring for the past few days, a footpath from the nearby bridge took us up the left side of this field to access the village from the church in order to buy supplies from both the butcher and village shop. It’s a walk of about ¾ mile each way trying to dodge the ‘deposits’ which  the sheep had left for us.

 

 

The sheep kept us amused as they had the choice of three fields to choose from and would follow from one to the other, er, like sheep!

The church obviously has a fine team of bell-ringers as they could be heard practising at times no services were advertised.

Mad Hatter hat

We spent 5 nights here and Jade enjoyed the freedom to roam the hedgerows here and we got to chat to several boaters including Lorraine aka The Mad Hatter (a travelling canal trader on the way to Cropredy for the festival) from whom Joy bought a hat.

Sea Otter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just near the next bridge was the sad sight of this burnt out Sea Otter (a aluminium narrowboat) such was the intensity of the fire it had melted parts of the hull. We understand no-one was aboard at the time.

Friday 14th July

John, Jill & Yours Truly

Today  we were delighted to have visitors, our friends Jill, John & Tricky (the lurcher) from our old mooring in Banbury. We had lunch together and spent the afternoon catching up with each others news.

In case you were wondering Catty occupied the bedroom and Tricky was in with us and seemed un-bothered with each other.

 

Saturday 15th July

This morning we have moved up to The Stop House moorings filled up with water and visited Braunston Marina to use their launderette and plan to set off again tomorrow.
Oh the bell-ringers are off again, a wedding I suspect, hence the practising!

1) Wikipedia

Sutton Stop to Hilmorton Locks

Wednesday 5th July -Thursday 6th July

We stayed put here for a couple of days by the Old Hawkesbury Engine House taking advantage of the 7 day mooring.

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Thunder was forecast for Thursday afternoon which was another factor in our decision as we didn’t fancy boating through a thunderstorm, in fact it never came so we just spent time idling around and managed a couple of odd jobs. I had a go at splicing the ends of our centre ropes, they are synthetic and were supplied with the ends just heat sealed and had started to come apart, after studying some instructions on the internet I was reasonably pleased with  the result..

 

Friday 7th July

This morning we set off about 10 ish did the turn through the junction bridge without touching anything and once through the stop lock onto the Oxford  Canal we filled our water tank before heading off toward Rugby. Just before Tusses Bridge where the B4109  crosses the canal tree surgeons were working and Joy snapped the guy dangling from a harness, his colleagues on the ground posed as well but were told they weren’t glamorous enough.

I was surprised and pleased to see no less than three gangs of C&RT staff working on repairing the coping stones on a bridge and improving the towpath, well I say working, the last gang were on lunch-break!

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Just before we left Hawkesbury our gas ran out so we stopped at Rose Narrowboats for a refill, but after mooring up against their hire fleet, which all seemed to be back at base, were told that they had run out of gas. Armada Boats at Falls Bridge Wharf were able to oblige however and at a very reasonable price of £25.50.

Then it was a quick transit through the Newbold Tunnel before mooring within easy walking distance of The Barley Mow for a refreshing pint of Doom Bar.

Saturday 8th July

Just a quick hop into Rugby this morning after a fry up and and once at Brownsover caught the bus into town visiting the market, Clocktower shopping centre and charity shops. In the afternoon we tidied out one of the food storage cupboard and I concocted a divider to stop all the rolls of cling-film and so forth descending into a chaotic heap as it usually does.

Moored opposite us is Rose Narrowboats’ “Buckaroo” (remember the kid’s game?) I always imagine it flying apart when the last person steps aboard.  🙂

This evening we treated ourselves to a meal at the Bell & Barge (a Harvester pub) just across the road.

Sunday 10th July

After a visit to Tesco this morning we covered another 3 miles and 3 locks and have stopped at the top of  Hilmorton Locks. The locks here are duplicated (2 side by side) and we were able to reassure a couple of first time hirers from Rose Narrowboats they were doing OK as this was the first locks they had encountered.

We plan to go on to Braunston tomorrow, but the internet signal there is reputed to be poor so don’t be surprised if I can’t blog for a few days.

Bradley Green to Sutton Stop

Sunday 2nd July

We bade farewell to our mooring and neighbours at 9:30 this morning and started off up Atherstone locks, after an early morning flurry of boats coming down, the first few locks were not very busy so we had to empty each one as we ascended up to town. By the time we reached The Kings Head things started to change and we met boats at most locks and there was a solitary volunteer lock-keeper at the top lock. Although barely over 2 miles this journey took 3 hours 10 minutes and we were not sorry to find a mooring, after lunch we took a walk into town and patronised Aldi and Co-op for last minute supplies. We spent a quiet night here, apart from a boat which went through about 10:30pm and  found folk were out walking the towpath from 5 am onwards!

Monday 3rd July

Our journey today was somewhat longer, but there were no locks! There was, however, a pit-stop at The Anchor to chat briefly with Kate Saffin who is on tour with The Alarum Theatre Company’s production of “The Idle Women: Recreating the Journey” and performing at The Anchor tonight.

Then it was on to Springwood Marina were we stopped for lunch and then used their facilities to fill and empty our tanks.

We slogged on through the seemingly never ending ‘delights’ of Nuneaton, past Marston Junction where we were only a few weeks ago on our trip up the Ashby Canal and ended up ‘almost’ in Hawkesbury at the end of the piled section. As we were mooring up a young collie from the next boat decided ours was much preferable and jumped onto our front deck promptly curling up and making itself comfortable much to the embarrassment of its owners. Catty soon discovered that two cats lived on a boat the other side of us and hissed and growled ever time she caught sight of them, so we kept her in. Part way through the evening there was a loud splash from the front of our boat and on investigation one of the neighbour’s cats had walked along the outside gunwale but slipped off while trying to negotiate the cratch cover. I went to rescue it but by the time I got there it had swum to the back of its own boat, and hauled itself up on board via the rudder and the back fender and disappeared inside looking like a drowned rat. The owner came out to check and commented that it hadn’t had a dip for a while but was prone to visiting other boats, sorry no photos!

Tuesday 4th July

This morning we waited until we judged a few boats had left their moorings and made our way up half a mile to moor next to The Old Engine House where we have spent a quiet day watching a pair of coots looking after their baby. Narrowboat Tench (part of  “The Idle Women: Recreating the Journey” team) passed us late afternoon and swung through the junction to moor up outside The Greyhound for their performances there tomorrow and Thursday evenings.

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

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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.

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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.

Life as Liveaboards