Saturday, 28 January 2012

Island Odyssey continued…….

As promised from the last blog, here are a few photos of our Thursday trip along the south coast of the island………


This is the view from above Blackgang Chine looking west.  On top of the the white cliffs in the far distance is Tennyson Down and beyond that the Needles.


This is what is left of the Blackgang Chine theme park!  Doug can remember it from his childhood days -most of the buildings are now in the sea or abandoned to their inevitable fate.  We think that what’s left of the park (and is safe) is still open.


The end of the road!  The island has been battling with land loss for a long while and land is currently lost at the rate of between 1 and 3 meters a year in some parts.


We travelled on further west to find that part of the coast road has been undermined and is now only safe as a single track.


Further west still is this surfing beach just before Freshwater.  Most of the car park has now disappeared but there are a few spaces still left on the “safe” side of the railings!  There are two surfers in the water (black dot at centre of picture and black dot far left).  Great view of Tennyson Down.

Friday (yesterday) was our last day on the island and we awoke to brilliant sunshine and 10 degrees.  We had to remind ourselves it’s still January.


Luccombe Manor Hotel on Friday morning.  It was obviously a grand cliff top villa back in Victorian times and is still well cared for today.


This is the landing  – very richly decorated with details picked out in gold.  All the main rooms were the same but in blues and greens.

After checking out of the hotel we took the “thousand” steps down the cliff to a completely deserted beach where Oscar could enjoy his favourite pastime!


Doug had to take his coat off as it was so warm.  We didn’t fancy all the steps back up the hotel where we’d left the car so we walked along the beach to Shanklin seafront and from there………


up to Shanklin Old Village and back to the hotel.  A long walk for Oscar but he made it.  The old part of Shanklin is very picturesque – especially in January and in the sunshine.

We’re back home now after a very relaxing few days on the Isle of Wight. 

Thursday, 26 January 2012

“Abroad” for a few days!

Yesterday we travelled “abroad” for a couple of days (The Isle of Wight actually!)  It only takes a couple of hours for us to get there  and we enjoy the peace and quiet of the island out of season.


Here’s Doug and Oscar on the 12 o’clock ferry from Southampton – a cruise into the bargain!  We normally leave from Portsmouth but decided on a change this time.  However, it’s quite a boring trip down Southampton Water so we think it’ll be Portsmouth again next time (it must be a terrible anti climax for transatlantic travellers after leaving from New York!)


This was our view of the cruise liner terminal but all we could see were two freight car carriers (yellow hulls).  Enquiries found there will be no cruise liners until 2nd Feb so we wont see any on the way back either.

We’re staying at the Luccombe Manor in Shanklin old village – a very nice hotel overlooking the cliffs (pictures tomorrow).

Today we had a trip out along the islands’ south coast – stopping for a while in Ventnor where Oscar likes a walk along the beach.


Ventnor sea front looking west.


Ventnor sea front looking east.  The rain clouds did deliver! – but it was all over very quickly.


The very quaint “Spyglass Inn” underneath a threatening sky at the end of the seafront.

Heading west, and just outside the town centre, we stopped for a walk around the Botanical Gardens.  It was amazing to see just how much was in bloom at this time of year.  The gardens are quite famous for their sub tropical micro climate and have now recovered very well from the devastation caused by the hurricane in the late 1980’s.


This olive tree has recently been brought over from Cyprus and is said to be 700 hundred years old.  It seems to be doing very well.


This could be somewhere in New Mexico but it’s just round the corner from the olive tree!

Still heading west we enjoy the coast road along the south of the island because of the fantastic views and because there is usually  a new landslip somewhere – the island is losing a lot of it’s land on the south side.  We weren’t disappointed by either the views or the landslips on this occasion – photos on the next blog!!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Back to Brinklow Marina

Our morning start was a very frosty and misty, but absolutely fantastic, affair.  There really is something very special about the canal on one of these mornings.  We understand it was about  -4 degrees last night (more than we expected!)


The view from our side hatch at 7 o’clock this morning.


After defrosting the rear deck area we started on our way back to Brinklow at 10:30 – this was the steerers’ view.


It was a good job we didn’t need our centre rope – it was far too pretty to disturb!

At bridge 79 we passed nb ‘Barbara-Anne’ coming the other way and they told us they enjoy reading our blog – that’s very nice of you guys – so sorry that we were the only two boats on the cut and we have to meet in a bridge hole! 

We trundled along past the new Barby Marina which has a few more boats than the last time we passed by but still woefully short of pontoons.   Each time we’ve passed the linear moorings at Barby we can’t  help but notice this little renovation project in the “garden” of one of the boats…….



……a 1963 (Bedford / Comma ?) ambulance – still in pretty good condition for it’s age!

Further on and we see the familiar wireless masts of the radio station at  Hillmorton…..IMG_0100

……these are just a few of them!  Some are 820 feet tall.  The station dates back to 1926 but today it transmits all over the world and also broadcasts the time signal to an accuracy of one second in three thousand years.  Amazing when you think we just dum dee dum dee dum our way along the canal at 4 mph!

Just after the radio station we come upon the lock flight at Hillmorton. 


Here’s Doug setting the middle lock.  Just as we were leaving the bottom lock another boat was coming the other way and was able to go straight in, so that was good timing for them.

We’ve had another fantastic sunny day to end our little mid winter excursion.  It’s been the most brilliant week weather wise and for meeting up with friends old and new (quite by ‘chance’) – we’ve been very lucky.  68 miles and 32 locks of a fun filled week.  We’re now back in the marina – toilet pumped out and some damage to the blacking already touched up.  It will be another cold night tonight and tomorrow we will finish a few more jobs, pack up the car and head home. 

Thursday, 12 January 2012

And on to Braunston

The sunshine this morning was fantastic – we’ve been having to remind ourselves during this last week that it’s still January!  Long may it continue for everyone living on board  this winter.


This was our mooring this morning at 10 o’clock

We got to the bottom of the Buckby lock flight after experiencing a very heavy shower of rain but it was back to bright sunshine as we ascended the flight.  All the locks were against us – having to empty every one – and there were no other boats to share with, in fact, we have seen only one moving boat today (at the Braunston Marina).


Half way up the flight and we thought we should have another little “Oscar moment”.


By the time we got to the top lock we thought we would treat ‘Chance’ to a bubble bath!  No we didn’t drop our Fairy Liquid bottle overboard but perhaps someone else did.


After we came out of the top lock we came across fellow blogger Les moored up on nb ‘Valerie’ – we passed him on our outward journey but was nice to see him again – even if it was just a wave from inside.


There’s always something exciting about going into a tunnel – this is going back through the Braunston tunnel.  We’ve had four tunnel journeys in just over a week - this one is particularly dry,  There are no streams of calcium enriched water pouring down on us and causing James having to wash the boat down after!

The lock flight at Braunston comes immediately after the locks.  As per usual today they were all against us.


Lock 3 with the little “Crooked Cottage”


The weather changed during the afternoon and became quite cold -  a slight frost threatens tonight.  We passed swiftly through a very quiet  Braunston and have now moored up just outside, with nothing around us except some Canada geese.  This was our view tonight from the side hatch.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

U-Turn at Stoke Bruerne

We left Bugbrooke yesterday morning and had a good run through to Stoke Bruerne, meeting Les (fellow blogger) on nb Valerie, passing through Gayton junction (where you can divert to Northampton if you wish) on the way.  Junctions, like tunnels, usually add a bit of spice to the journey but Gayton seems a bit of a let down – perhaps it’s because it doesn’t have the usual awkward little footbridge to get through if you want to turn off.  Anyway, Blisworth Tunnel came upon us quite quickly so the “spice” was quickly restored!


Here we are at the northern portal of the Blisworth tunnel – not quite so pretty as the south end but hay ho here we go!  The tunnel is 3076 yards long, and two way, but as there was so little traffic around we thought we’d have it to ourselves.  Not on your nelly – we met a boat coming the other way so James had to tap into previous experience from our last boat when we did quite a lot of passing in tunnels!  Thankfully, the other boat slowed down very well and we passed without incident.

Stoke Bruerne is virtually upon us as we emerge from the tunnel into the daylight………


……..the very pretty Stoke Bruerne with equally pretty, pure white swans.  In the background is the working boat ‘Towcester’ , which, in the morning will be loaded to it’s gunwales with coal, gas and diesel ready for a weeks’ work on the cut.

One of the attractions at Stoke Bruerne (although only temporary) is nb ‘Matilda Rose’ with follow blogger Graham, who we haven’t seen for three years, (wife Jill is away visiting her mum at present and it was a pity to have missed her).  Anyhow, that didn’t stop the three of us enjoying a splendid meal in The Boat Inn -  washed down with a few glasses of ale.


Graham, James and Doug finding it hard work to enjoy the evening!

Today, we moved up from our mooring to meet up with working boat ‘Towcester’ to take on a full tank of diesel.  Winding ‘Chance’ in the pound was just possible –‘Chance being 58 feet and the pound width being 58feet 6 inches!


Refuelled and ready for the off, we passed nb ‘Matilda Rose’ and Graham (hanging out of the side hatch!), and soon entered the more attractive southern portal of the tunnel to begin our return journey back towards Brinklow.


Heading for the tunnel.


Inside the tunnel – yes two boats can pass!


‘Chance’ passing back through Gayton junction.


Back through the lovely, and beautifully manicured, Flore Lane – is this the “Coffin House” Ross?


Almost at our mooring for tonight (just round the corner) Oscar and Doug having a little moment together – Oscar in his favourite place on the roof but these days he has to be held in place.

Monday, 9 January 2012

To Bugbrooke

Today we set off towards Bugbrooke in yet another sunny day!– travelling through the lovely Nene Valley.  The canal winds it’s way through 15 miles of lockless pound and sometimes rises way above the valley floor.  We stopped at Weedon Bec to get some very needed supplies!IMG_0017

The canal is well above the village at this point.  Here’s ‘Chance’ at the visitor moorings.


This is a view taken from the churchyard – ‘Chance’ is the bit of blue at the top of  embankment!


While we were in the churchyard we noticed these snowdrops.  Coupled with todays’ fantastic warm weather this was a wonderful bit of spring well ahead of time.


After Weedon Bec we passed through the little hamlet of Flore Lane – all along this section both sides of the canal are kept in really good order and this little bit at Flore was very pretty.

We arrived at Bugbrooke at about 12:30 just in time to pick up friends Ali and John from nb Triskaideka (but this time they came by car as their boat has been winterised)  We moored up and had a good lunch at “The Wharf” pub and then back to ‘Chance’ for a glass of wine (or two!) and cheese and biscuits.  We had a great catch up of info and gossip and Ali and John left at 8 o’clock to travel home.


Doug, John, James and Ali.  Thanks for coming to see us guys we had a good time and hope to see you again soon.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

A late start!

After our very enjoyable late night with Del and Al we weren’t about very early however, at 11.30am as prearranged, we met up with them again, this time on nb Derwent 6, for coffee and cake and to have a look around their very nicely finished boat.  There are some very innovative ideas especially the expanding bed and the foldaway office!


Doug, Del, James and Al in one of those awkward self timer shots!

By 1.30pm we thought we really ought to make a move and get down the Buckby flight of 7 locks while the daylight still allowed us.  There was no one else to team up with so we were on our own and, although all the locks were against us, we were through in less than 2 hours.


Doug working the  locks (as usual!)


Yet another mild afternoon with the occasional sunny interval. Lock 12

The short journey from the bottom of the locks to our chosen mooring was very noisy due to the M1 being about 3 feet away(!) and very messy due to a great deal of floating hawthorn hedge debris which built up in front of the bow and caught around the prop.  However……. 


tonight we are safely moored just after bridge 22, away from the M1 but still with the hawthorn debris.  We’ve had to relight the stove as its been so mild today we let it go out!  Here’s us (in a very poor photo) under a wonderful crimson sunset.

Braunston to Norton Junction

We left our mooring yesterday in beautiful sunshine again -  this weather really is amazing for the time of year!  Correction to our mooring position from yesterday – should have read between bridges 80 and 81)


We were soon moored outside Midland Chandlers in Braunston for a  few bits and pieces we needed.

After mooring further up we took a walk into Braunston village for a few supplies, had lunch on board and waited for another boat to share the locks with and along came nb Teal.  This made made the 6 locks a much easier passage.  Very bizarrely the owners came from a village in Oxfordshire very close to where James was born so there was much discussion about '”how things have changed in the Vale of the White Horse” as we ascended the flight. 


nb Teal following us into Braunston tunnel.


‘Chance’ just about to enter the 2000 yard long Braunston tunnel – always exiting!

There being very little boat traffic around we continued to Norton Junction and who should be waving at us from their hatch but fellow blogger Al and Del on nb Derwent 6


We moored up behind them and had a quick chat before they joined us on board at around 5pm for drinks!


Del, Al and James catching up.

Chatting away we suddenly all realised we hadn’t eaten so we put all the food we were both going to have together and made a very good meal. 


With great company and good food, (and lots of wine) was it 6 bottles?


Del and Al finally stumbled back after 2am!  This was a great impromptu ‘chance’ meeting and a brilliant night – Thanks very much guys and we hope to do it again sometime.