Thursday, 18 September 2014

Oh What a Day!

Yesterday started off with minor collateral damage sustained in the Braunston tunnel while passing a fibreglass cruiser.  They were concerned, quite rightly, that we might crack them like a walnut.

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But instead, we took the damage when the taff rail struck some protruding brickwork.  The rail is easily repaired and the debris from the tunnel was the only real sign of the “unplanned event”.

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At the top of the Braunston lock flight we took on board some VIPs in the form of daughter Vicki, Ian and, of course, ‘Ernie pups’.  On the way down the flight we briefly met up with John and Jan on nb “Jubilee”, and nb “Brindley”.   Buoyed with excitement it didn’t take long before the Champagne came out. (Even Ernie has learnt to pose for the camera!)

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Vicki and Ian enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

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A bit further along in the Rugby direction we noticed that C&RT have started to employ contractors to keep the grass down on the towpath!

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We had a very pleasant cruise, with the autumn weather looking favourably on us and with lots of conversation, drinks and nibbles “Chance’s” rear deck came into its own once more.

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Manel and Ernie became good friends.

 

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We came across steam nb “Hastey” gliding silently past us.

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After a splendid lunch of quiche, boiled potatoes and salad followed by apple and blackberry pie with custard it really became a very lazy day.  Lucky that hand rail’s there Doug (he really was asleep!).

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Chance is certainly a very fine thing and it reared its head again yesterday evening after we’d moored in Rugby.  After a logistical challenge of getting both Vicky and Ian’s car from Braunston and our car from MGM in Thurmaston and getting back to Rugby, Vicki and Ian returned home.  Later in the evening we were “accosted” on a dark footpath near Tesco by, who other than friends James and Debbie on nb “Lois Jane” who happened to recognise our height difference even on a dark night!  Needless to say we had a splendid evening with them and their daughter Jess in The Harvester next to the canal.  It was a great way to spend Manel’s last evening with us.

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As they passed us this morning we said farewell to James, Debbie and Jess on “Lois Jane”.  While Doug took Manel to catch his plane home and James took “Chance” to Brinklow Marina as we’re taking a short break from the canal world (again!).

This evening we’re having a meal with John, the marina harbourmaster, at a local hostelry before heading home in the early hours of the morning. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Easy Cruising.

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Before setting off from our mooring at Bridge 55, we had to feed the local wildlife.  They seemed to think we were a cafe when we opened up the side hatches!

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Our journey yesterday was lockless and, to some extent, listless.  Humming along at a constant 4 mph for six hours, with the weather very fair for the time of year, was relaxing indeed.  The only real interruption was the wonderfully named Husbands Bosworth tunnel, the approach to which always seems to feel rather primeval.

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Cutting a long six hours short we arrived at a very quiet Crick and moored up for the night.

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Today our journey promised to be much shorter than yesterday. We had the Crick Tunnel to negotiate as soon as we got going and it dripped a lot of water as usual so it was rain coats at the ready.

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As we reached the top of the Watford Lock flight the noise from the M1 shattered the normal silence of the canal (and it stayed with us all the way to bottom and beyond – the Watford Gap motorway services are only the other side of the hedge!)

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The Watford flight incorporates a staircase set of four locks so there’s often a wait at the top before the lock keeper gives the all clear to proceed.  Time enough this morning to wipe down “Chance” after the wet and mucky confines of the Crick Tunnel.

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Manel, an expert at locking procedures by now, became firm friends with the lock keeper ………

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……….. and showed off his skills by knowing that he should wind the red paddle gear before the white.   Staircase flights (moving straight from one lock into another) makes a great change from the usual locks – especially for Manel, where a lock of any kind in Fuerteventura would be a novelty!

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The workforce take some exercise after the locks!

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After the 42 miles we’ve travelled since leaving Leicester we arrived at Norton Junction. Turning right onto the main London – Birmingham Grand Union line towards Braunston we passed the picturesque little toll house.

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Mooring up early in the afternoon and leaving the Braunston Tunnel and locks until tomorrow there was time to give “Chance” a good spruce up and to go foraging for blackberries.  Instead Doug and Manel found a stash of sloes that looked more like grapes hanging from a vine.  Fifteen minutes later and we had two bowls of sloes to add to the gin making AND the most amazing blackberries that have already been added to an apple pie. Could things get much better?

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Centre Stage.

This morning we left Kilby Bridge and, making good initial progress, we were soon to halted by the rather dry pound between Turnover and Bottom Half Mile Locks.

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Luckily the pound was very short and it didn’t take too long to run water down from the next pound which, luckily, was a long one.

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Once on our way again it was lovely to see an autumn scene of a newly ploughed fields.

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This whole stretch of canal follows the valley of the River Sence and the countryside is very unspoilt.  The locks are also attractive and peaceful. This is Newton Top Lock.

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After Kibworth Top Lock (the twelfth of the day) we meandered along the 345 feet contour, through Saddington Tunnel (so straight you can see the other end) …….

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……. and ending up in the very quiet junction of the Market Harborough Arm below the Foxton Locks.  Quiet boat-wise that is but it was still teaming with people.  Here’s us moored outside the Foxton Locks Inn.

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This view of the junction from Bridge 62 shows the lack of boats …

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…. and this pic of two hard working lads having a pint (purchased at the pub) on the back of “Chance” also shows how deserted the junction was on this Sunday afternoon.

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After a 40 minutes wait for one boat to come down the flight, the lock keeper gave us the all clear to make our way up the famous flight.  Being the only boat in the area we were definitely the centre of attraction.

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The guide book says that Leicestershire folk seem to regard this lovely flight of locks as “their own personal street-theatre”.  This was certainly the case this afternoon!

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We had the help of four young sisters (by kind permission of their mum and dad!) to open and close all the gates for us from bottom to top.  At the end of this enchanting 75 foot rise in the canal we paid them suitably for their heroic efforts and continued our journey with waves from many of the ‘friends’ we’d made on the way up.

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We’re now pretty much in the middle-of-nowhere again nestling beneath the Laughton Hills with gorgeous views over the valley below.  Amid the afternoon sunshine we’ve picked sloes and set next winter’s sloe gin in motion.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

A brief visit to Manchester then onward we go.

Very late on Thursday we collected our friend Manel off his flight from Fuerteventura at East Midlands airport.

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Taking advantage of having the car at the moment we had a day out in Manchester on Friday. It’s difficult to know where to call home these days as, like London the other day, it seems we’ve never been away.  Knowing where to park for £5 / day has it’s benefits and we were soon having coffee / beer in The Wharf at Castlefield.

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As Manel hadn’t been to Manchester before we did a walkabout to see the sights ……..

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………. then lunch in Tiger Tiger followed by a bit of shopping (and a quick pop into Whitewall Galleries where we were treated to a glass of Champagne and then sent away with another two bottles!) and then on with a bit more sightseeing ………

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…….. including the magnificent Town Hall.

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James just can’t resist drooling over a bit of first class design combined with first class engineering.

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In the evening it was into Canal Street ……….

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…. where we introduced Manel to the famous ‘Via’ with it’s distinctive and stylish interior adorned by woodwork and artefacts …….

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……… reclaimed from an Irish church dating back to 1830.  (Yes this is a pub!)

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Later in the evening we met up with friend Lewis “Nb One thing after another”  - James drew the short straw and had to drive back to the boat but, as can be seen, the others had a really good time!

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Today we left MGM’ Boats for our journey through Leicester and beyond. Here we are entering Belgrave Lock with the National Space Centre looming above the trees.

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Some of Leicester’s bridges spanning the river are very splendid.

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Manel worked extremely hard on the 17 locks on today’s journey but here he is sitting down on the job.

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He and Doug also managed to pick a bowl of blackberries while  Gee’s Lock was filling.

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Before we could escape from Dunn’s Lock we had to retrieve a 40 ton C&RT working barge and put it back on its moorings. 

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Anyway, after six hours of good cruising on a warm and sunny Saturday we arrived at the Kilby Bridge moorings at 4 o’ clock to find them almost deserted. Since settling in Doug has added the blackberries to some apples and made a superb pie, James has touched in two rather nasty scratches on the gunwales which he has to lay claim to and Manel – well Manel’s asleep!

This evening we hope to partake in the fare on offer in The Navigation – something we’ve been looking forward to for a while now.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Home Alone.

The last few days have been incredibly busy for both of us although in different places.  Doug took the train home to Chichester on Tuesday (and came back by car today).  His efforts are unrecorded but included much gardening, housework and catching up with friends and neighbours.

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James stayed behind on the boat to do the inevitable – cleaning, maintaining and repairing things.  We had a small repair to the rear door done by MGM and James did the rest – Mikuni service, varnishing of woodwork, stove blacking (horrendous job!) etc. 

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There was the usual cleaning and polishing of course and much needed sorting out out of lockers.  Even the engine room wasn’t spared the polish!

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Today James took “Chance” up to Leicester marina for a  pump out.  The one and only lock was a devil as it was losing more water than the top paddles were delivering and, not being that familiar (!) with lock operation, he needed some help with the gates.  On the way back James followed two boats down – one had a very unusual Captain!

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As an aside, MGM have a 70 foot “paint job” in at the moment which is amazing.  This is the boat before (actually it’s the bit sticking out of the paint shed that hasn’t been given the makeover yet) ……..

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……. and this is after!  The artwork on the rear panels is superb and the colour scheme very pleasant.  James had enough on his plate with jobs on “Chance” but, as he enjoys something different occasionally, did manage an hour or two giving a hand on this job.  Doug drove back and arrived late this afternoon equally as tired as James but we have a lot of good work under our belts.