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.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Bye-bye Birmingham

Surprise arrivals of boaty friends continued on Sunday with the arrival of John and Louise on nb “Ploddin Along” with their friends Rob and Fiona aboard.


They joined us in The Malt House in Brindley Place while we were having some lunch with Russell and Julie(nb Nauti Lass) Not ones for shying away from a good get-together we pushed some tables together and we all enjoyed Sunday lunch. It’s a poor pic but here’s Russell, Louise, John, Rob, Fiona and Julie and we’re on the end out of sight. 


Monday started very wet so we decided to stoke up the fire and stay put. That didn’t mean that we should turn down an invitation by John and Louise to have coffee with them on board “Ploddin Along”.


Later on Monday, when the rain cleared up, we had a bit of excitement in Brindley Place with some filming of James May driving a car in the canal!


Today (Tuesday) we left Birmingham having had the most marvellous of weekends and headed out of the city – past the enormous “Cube”, which was just a giant hole in the ground when we first came in 2008, ………….


………. past a very important piece of British Cultural history. Where would be without Cadbury’s ?!


Turning left onto the Stratford Canal at King’s Norton Junction we were soon passing through the lovely old disused guillotine stop lock. Sadly now covered in graffiti.


The problems of low water levels in the last few days on this canal had, thankfully, been solved before we arrived. Water difficulties were not on the problem list today but Doug was. He woke up with no voice (all thoughts and comments welcome!) so James took over the windlass for the journey down the Lapworth flight of 20 locks.


A quick zoom in on James’ face will show how he felt when Doug asked him to do the whole flight!


Anyway, not looking too far ahead (20 locks!) he set to work with gusto …….


…….  and, in a very reasonable time, the flight was a distant memory. We passed through Kingswood Junction and moored up for the night just short of bridge 63 at Turner’s Green and James will sleep well tonight!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

So Much to do – so Little Time to do it!

The first thing to do after arriving in Brindley Place, Birmingham was for James to change the engine oil. We just marked the 2500 engine hrs.
This is Julie – running to get the first hug from Doug ……..
…….. and this is Doug with Julie and Russell (nb “Nauti – Lass”) after the initial excitement of this chance meeting had died down. We haven’t seen them since we spent a Crick Boat Show weekend with them 3 years ago. They too are in Brum for the weekend so there’ll be much to catch up on!
Also in ‘town’ for a few days were friends Adam and Adrian on nb “Briar Rose” and, apologies for no pictures, they came on board with a bottle of bubbly (bless ‘em) which was very much enjoyed by all of us before walking the short distance to “Waggamama” for something to eat. As always, so good to see you both A & A.
The area around Brindley Place is beautiful. Clean and tidy and vibrant with lots of goings-on day and evening.
The canal area is very much in contrast to the chaos and mess that abounds in the city centre – more of that later.
We took some time to visit the library building which was still under construction when we last came to the city.
A stunning contemporary inside requires a while to take in the proportions …..
…… and the space!

In contrast to the rest of the building the carefully installed Shakespeare Room is quite different. Part of the redesigned Central Library from 1882 it was built in the Elizabethan style.The niches at the top of the bookcases at either end were intended to take busts of the Bard but they were never produced.
The views from the “secret garden” at the top of the building ……..
……… give great views over the city.
The garden is so ‘secret’ that it took us quite a while to find it! The directions for getting around the building are designed to out-weird the visitor and, at one point, we found ourselves in the staff area unable to get out!
Victorian Birmingham. like all our major cities, is a  wonderful example of past industrial wealth.
We had to chuckle at the “Floozy in the Jacuzzi” in front of the Town Hall which now has its water replaced by a flower bed!
We took a light lunch on Friday in the rather awesome and atmospheric Bacchus Bar under the Burlington Hotel.
The city centre chaos is being caused by the mammoth reconstruction of New Street railway station which now seems to be called Grand Central.
The construction site was being very efficiently cleared and washed down when we when we were walking back to the boat at 3 o’ clock on Saturday morning (after a very good night out!) ready for the opening this weekend.
The design of the station and shopping centre complex will not be to everyone’s taste – it looks like a UFO has crash landed! It’ll be all right on the night probably!
On Saturday afternoon we had the great pleasure of welcoming friends Claire and Leigh.
The sun was shining so it was wine and nibbles on the back deck …….
…… before a wander off to find some food. Brindley Place was heaving with people ………
….. and there was little chance of food as it was so busy. In fact, at one place we were told (at 4 o’ clock in the afternoon) that we’d have to wait until 9:30 for a table!
There’s little else to do in this situation but to up spirits and walk on a bit further for a hostelry.
We found “Nosh and Quaff” in the city centre who could give us a table. Here’s Claire and Doug with bibs at the ready waiting for their lobster to arrive.
Here it is – it’s name was Norman according to James (the veggie!).
After a good meal we all headed into town for a few drinks before we had to bid Clare and Leigh and sad farewell. Thanks you two for coming into town to see us – we loved being with you.