Saturday, 3 October 2015

Journey’s End (for a while!)

The last week has been similar to all the other weeks we’ve had on “Chance” in the last two months – a sort of relaxed mania!


After we’d moored up all three boats at Crick it was time to walk the 15 minutes to The Red Lion for a meal. Just as we left the boats we had the most glorious sunset – no real justice done by this pic.


Here we are: Tony, Jan, Pauline, Neil, James and Doug just before the food came. It was a great night and in the morning “Waterlily” and “Chance” left Tony and Jan behind at Crick to continue our journey to Market Harborough.


AT LAST! We got a photo of a Kingfisher! Apart from this lovely little bird that gives us so much pleasure along the canals, the pic gives an indication as to the wealth and quantity of berries which grace the hedgerows this autumn. It’s been truly splendid.


After a good old 6 hours of lockless cruising we got to Foxton Locks where, as it wasn’t busy, we had only a short wait before going down.


It’s a special feeling we get as we embark down this flight of two lots of five staircase chambers with this tremendous view from the top.


After Foxton it was a gentle run into Market Harborough where we had a lovely evening on board “Chance” with Pauline and Neil. James and Pauline skivvying in the galley ………..


…….. while Neil takes a hard earned rest! The next morning Doug caught the train to Leicester to pick up the car from the MGM boatyard and Pauline and Neil went with James on “Chance” to help him back up the Foxton locks.


On a slightly negative note, if you catch Foxton in the day time it can be quite a wait for the next ‘slot’. On our passage back up we found out why! The volunteer lock keepers do too much talking. On one occasion, after a chamber had been empty for some time we had to ask for the gates to be opened. Added to that, they didn’t fully understand the sequence of the ‘red and white’ paddle operation! This resulted in unnecessary inefficiency so no wonder we had to wait ages at the bottom. We weren’t impressed!


Anyway, at the top of the locks James said a sad farewell to Neil and Pauline and embarked on the six hours back to Crick where he met up with Doug again. Blinding, but glorious sunshine ruled the day for James!


A quick ‘overnight’ in Crick we were on our way again and soon going down the Watford lock flight – always a snug fit in it’s deep chambers!


Stopping on Thursday night in Braunston to meet up with boating friends Alison and Dave on nb “Freespirit” we were surprised by two lovely people, Roger and Liz on nb “Meander” who we’d met two years ago on the Stoke Bruerne lock flight. They had just taken over their boat and were very new to the canals. James helped Liz steer the boat through her very first lock and, two years later, Liz had just done her thousandth lock! They brought two bottle of Prosecco on board for us to help them celebrate. We weren’t going to say no!


Coming down the Braunston locks we’d met blog readers Marilyn and Dave on nb “Waka Huia” who, bringing their own lovely contributions with them, also came along to join the celebration. When Dave and Alison (nb Free Spirit) turned up we had a full house and a very impromptu party!


It’s a poor pic but we all headed to the Boat House for a meal together. Roger, (Kiwi) Dave, Doug, Alison, James, (UK) Dave, Marilyn and Liz. A great night and thanks all of you for an enjoyable last evening on “Chance”


On Friday morning we cruised out of Braunston for our last journey this year. A lovely autumn morning, great countryside, ………


…….. passing the hoards of hedgerow fruits and ………..


……… the wonderful sights of autumn with the colours becoming sensational. “Chance” is now tucked up for the winter, we’re on our way with a full car and exciting expectations of the next few months ahead.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Treble Trouble.

On Saturday morning we left our mooring below Long Itchington, teamed up with nb “Tamarisk” for a very pleasant journey up through the 15 locks on that stretch.


Our timing up the Stockton lock flight was a bit unfortunate as we passed two boats teamed up and going down. We knew both boats! – Chris and Jennie on nb “Tentatrice” and Tony on his new Hudson boat “Lydia” We’re really sorry not have been able to have more time to catch up with both but it was great to see them all the same.


At the top lock we (nearly) bumped into steam boat “Adamant” as it seemed very impatient to get into the lock before we, and “Tamarisk”, could get out – very strange!


Changing from the Grand Union canal onto the Oxford canal at Wigrams Turn the scenery changed to open countryside with a very autumnal feel about it, with all the ploughed fields, despite the lovely bright sunshine.


Our destination on Saturday was Braunston and the meeting up of three boats for some fun and laughter. It wasn’t  long before “Aylmer” with Jan and Tony on board turned up and then a moment later “Waterlily” arrived with Pauline (the cup cake queen of the canals!) and Neil. This pic shows all – when Pauline and Doug get together it’s Bedlam!


In the afternoon we had wine and an huge array of nibbles courtesy of Jan and Tony on “Aylmer”. Enjoying the sunshine on the rear deck is Tony, Jan, Pauline, Doug and Neil.


The evening saw us on the opposite bank of the canal in the The Boat House for a meal together and then ……. 


………. back to “Chance” for coffee and chocolates (and more alcoholic beverages). The state of intoxication of some by the end of the evening was to be the cause of great hilarity when Neil chose the wrong pair of shoes when he left to go home. Not only did he put them on and walk back to his boat but he took them off and put them in the wardrobe! The shoes which Neil should have put on were left for Tony, who concluded that his feet must have swollen while he was enjoying himself on “Chance”. James offered a shoe horn but that was to no avail either. Feeling a bit like one of the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella, Tony just could not get the shoes on. By this time hysteria had set in, Pauline (realising what had happened) retrieved the stolen shoes from Neil’s wardrobe and brought them back to their rightful owner. Most of us were close to wetting ourselves at one point and we must have woken half of Braunston! (for which we apologise!)

P1030875 mMonday morning saw “Waterlily” and “Chance” teamed up for the lock flight at Braunston while “Aylmer” followed up the rear.


After a very efficient rise up through the locks we were soon entering the Braunston tunnel and, once through that, …………


………. we briefly moored up at a ‘secret’ location to enjoy bacon toasties and coffee on board “Waterlily” and then to indulge in a bit of sloe picking.


Onwards after the sloe picking and turning onto the Leicester section of the Grand Union, we were at the Watford Locks in no time.


Even more efficiently than they did the Braunston locks, Pauline and Doug got us to the top of the Watford flight in a trice. This is Pauline at rest for a split second for a photo shot.


This is James, taking a well earned rest from steering the boat!


The lock keepers on the Watford flight keep things very pretty – in the distance, “Waterlily” is leaving the second lock on the way up ………


…….. and heads into the depths of one of the staircase chambers.


With Monday’s mooring destination of Crick within a stone’s throw, the canal surroundings are now taking on a distinct autumn feel.

All three boats are now safely moored for the night outside the Crick marinas – this evenings activities start with Gin and Tonics on board “Waterlily” followed by a meal at The Red Lion in Crick village. So far we’ve all had a ball this weekend.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Wizard Warwick.


From our mooring Tuesday night we journeyed through the lovely Warwickshire countryside …………


…… through the odd looking Shrewley tunnel where the canal builders were forced to tunnel under the village. Although the tunnel was wide enough for two narrow boats to pass there was no room for a towpath – so the horses enjoyed their own separate tunnel above and to one side of the main.


We were soon being helped down the 21 locks of the Hatton Flight by a very nice volunteer lock keeper. The flight covers just about 2 miles and raises (or lowers) the canal 150 feet. The workshops about a 3rd of the way down are in excellent condition and still used.


This massive flight is rather daunting if you look too far ahead but, if you dare to, there’s a great view of the tower of St Mary’s Church, Warwick in the distance. The paddle gear is monstrous and it takes 23 turns to raise each paddle. As there is only 45 seconds between emptying a lock with one rather than two paddles, we opted to use just one set. (Facts courtesy of the lock keepers!)


Half way down the lock keeper bade farewell to us and left us to the last half on our own. We thanked him for his help and had given him a cup of tea and a biscuit on the way down.


We didn’t spend too long on our own as we caught up with nb “Musu Maja” which, remarkably is an MGM boat like our own, which Chris and Karen have recently purchased.


With the Hatton Locks behind us we found moorings in the delightful arm of the Saltisford Trust. We were welcomed by Jo and Keith on nb “Hadar” who were to be very helpful over the two days of our stay. We were scheduled to meet up with Doug’s parents and a dear friend, Rose, during our stay.


A walk around Warwick is a joy for those interested in history and architecture. The tower of St. Mary's Church was now a lot bigger than our view of it from the lock flight. Originally 12th century it was rebuilt around 1700 after a fire.


We briefly chatted to a young couple who were about to open a cafe (called Lobster) which was intriguingly decorated by their amazing collection of antiques.



Just a couple of pics - the town is full of wonderful things.


The reason for our stay in Warwick was to welcome Doug’s parents Vilma and Derek who had travelled up from Devon to see us. We had a lovely time catching up with them and enjoyed a ‘family’ evening meal in “Ask” on Wednesday evening.


On Thursday, family friend Rose arrived to meet up with us all. Sadly, husband Peter was unable to be with us but instead, Rose brought their two rescue grey hounds Bella and Toby with her.


The Saltisford Arm had been given some remarkable improvements since our last visit and this lovely seating arrangement made from old lock gates is just one of them.


Vilma and Rose walking Bella and Toby around the moorings.


Saying farewell to Doug’s parents at mid day on Thursday, Rose and the two of us walked into Warwick for some lunch and we found the most stunning Pizza Express we’ve ever seen!


And, in a quiet corner of this amazing building we found a few members of the Japanese Rugby team – like you do of course!


Leaving our Japanese guests to enjoy their own lunch we sat in our little corner and enjoyed ours.

It was marvellous to catch up with Vilma and Derek and Rose (with Bella and Toby!) – definitely a grand stay for us in Warwick.