Sunday, 19 May 2019

Newbury to Bradford Upon Avon

Newbury to Bradford Upon Avon

Its been a busy week since last report done. We are still in the company of Allan and Annie Cox. He's a bad influence!! We were talked into going for a pie and a pint at the local pub at lunch time.. the ale was excellent but when we looked at the menu, it was so expensive (again) we passed and returned to the boats to make our own lunch, £14.99 for a beef burger..???….. no way!! ….that would have been nearly £60.00 for the four of us.
The Ocado delivery sent some quarter pounders on our last supplies order and they taste wonderful. 10 minutes cooking time with onions, as they say the jobs a 'gud un'.
Also we are better off with the money in our pocket than theirs.

With the bosun (Jenny) doing all the planning on a day to day basis, we know roughly what to expect regarding locks and any obstacles, ie weirs etc. We have two books that give the directions and tell you where the water points, sewage disposal points and towns are.

We are, one week later, still running with Allan and Annie. They are also going to Bristol so it make sense running together, it makes so much difference with the wide locks, half the work and not so much bouncing about in the locks themselves. We are managing about 9 locks a day and four hours cruising. There are 107 locks on the Kennet and Avon. Next week we have a flight of 21 in one hit ..the Caen Hill flight, lifting (or dropping dependant on which way you going) some 130 ft. Not for the faint hearted.

We can’t get over how quiet the canal is. Not many people moving in either direction. Its been a routine run with no real problems from Woolhampton down to Pewsy. Monday last was May bank holiday and there was a raft race being held over some few miles of canal. We debated whether to hold off because of it or sail straight through..we sailed straight through.. great laugh. . lots of youngsters enjoying themselves, some boats sank, but it was a laugh. Shouting out too them as we passed. 

Newbury Festival

Annie and Allan are like us and like to moor before the other people start to look for places, normally about 2 pm, we have a routine sorted out. Tie off bow and stern. Jenny takes the two dogs for a squat or leg-lift.. I grease the stern gland (that’s where the propshaft goes though the back into the water) it stops water entering the engine room. Remove the tiller then tune in the that time I'm ready for my afternoon kip. Then 5pm its G&T time or glass of beer and debrief on one or others boat.
While talking the other night the question of age came up. Jenny said her birthday is in’s mine said Annie …  Jenny said the’s mine said Annie..and believe it or not they were born in the same year !!       yes said both ..not sure of the exact time but they are claiming to be twins separated at birth. Yes !! they are as mad as we are a nice way.

Sadly we saw a full grown deer float past us in a part of the cut through some trees. Must have fallen in during the night and was unable to get out. Being a wide canal with wide locks there are a lot more wide beam boats on here. Must be lovely to live on but very restricted to where you can go. We love to move about.

Spanish Grand Prix and afterwards onto Devizes for a couple of days rest before the 21 lock marathon.

We always said . . if it rains….we stop...however when we started on our way on the Monday it was a gentle drizzle. . we would be brave and just put up with it.
By lunch time the drizzle had stopped.. it turned to rain, followed by heavy rain !! followed by thunder and lighting !! followed by HAIL !! ….doh !!
We were dressed in welly’s, waterproof trousers and a good waterproof mac we were ok .. Quick chorus of singing in the rain and good company made the day go quite quickly and we had a few laughs. 
Carly was not happy in the rain but wont go inside.

When we moored up at Devizes Wharf I dropped into the museum there. We have seen lots of WW 2 pill boxes also big pointed concrete mounds (which we hadn’t a clue what they are / were.)

In the second world war as we were awaiting the German invasion a defence line of pillboxes was placed in a line roughly from Bristol to Dover some 1000 plus were constructed. As a last defence.. manned by ‘dads army’. ..The home guard.
The big piles of concrete are what they call the ‘dragons teeth’ designed to stop or overturn any enemy tanks. Some are now listed buildings and covered by preservation orders. When on private land some are put to use as garden sheds or storage.

The Kennet and Avon canal is really a link of various rivers by man made trenches. When we arrived at Pewsey Wharf, and old barge depot where grain, and lots of other commodities were moved to and trans shipped to various destinations. Allan went off too check out the old steam pump house which moves water about on flight what goes down must come up, as water doesn’t flow up hill, it needs assistance. What did I do? You may ask..
I toddled off to bed. I’m still struggling with energy levels, some days I'm OK, others I need to sleep in the afternoon. In the evening we went for a very pleasant meal in the converted barns and stabling areas. A good ‘real ale’ and very good company before the Caen Flight.
Steam pumping station

The canal has to rise some 130 feet to go over the peak. There are some 7 locks leading up to the main flight and another few after but its a long long day what ever way you look at it.
Jenny and Anne work really well together, sharing locks is so good, not only conserving water but conserving energy. Once the boats are in the lock, one of the girls would go ahead and prep the next lock. If we are lucky we meet another boat coming up the flight.
We did have a bit of a scary moment in one of the locks. We got wedged.

Before we did the flight we both topped up with water at the service area.
Normally when you arrive at these places there is enough room to moor unless, you get a selfish boater who moors there thus reducing the area.
I pull up first because I was in front and Forget Me Not drew along side. Fenders down and we laid together as we topped the tanks and disposed of the waste and rubbish.
20 minutes saw us back on our way again.
At the next lock, Allan went in first, I slid in along side, the girls opened the locks and we started to move. Not very far sadly.
All of a sudden the boat started to tilt.. I shouted to the paddle operator to stop the flow of water.!! . . . .we were wedged together.
Moving off quickly we had forgotten to stow the fenders. These are six inch go cart tyres.
As we moved, the walls of the lock forced us together, normally a tight fit but, with tyres down, an impossible fit.
Luckily enough, We sussed it quickly and re floated the boats and an indecent was avoided. Sadly a few inexperienced skippers don’t realise until its to late, resulting in sunken boats in locks. There are quite a few each year.

Caen flight

The end of the day resulted in a well earned few drinks on the last landing mooring at the bottom of the Caen fight. The sun was out, so was the gin and tonic. Chairs out and a lovely unwind. Early evening meal and an early night. Next morning we decided to have a day off and fully recover, however Allan and Annie needed to push on because of family commitments meetings planned. Sadly we waved goodbye to our companions of nearly 10 days. 

We had a day off and moved on the next day. We soon found another solo boaters and linked up for a few locks.
The last few locks on our own till we arrived at Bradford on Avon. Time for a big shop at S’bugs,top up the bar and wine cellar. Also have a look around. Its the Green Man festival here this weekend we have never seen so many Morris Men / Dancers in one place.
Nearly every pub, shopping area, village green had people dancing and performing. 

Bradford Upon Avon Green Man Festival

We left the dogs on board because Jake doesn't do crowds or cars, Carly is OK, but as Jakes getting older he’s a bit more temperamental. He, like me, gets very tired, quickly.

The next place we are off too is Bath for a few days and then plan how we tackle Bristol. As it is a tidal area we need to increase our boat insurance. Three days are planned then we are on our return trip. Its gone quicker than I though it would. Great fun ...met some lovely people, spent more money than planned, but that's life.

Over to Jenny for some pictures and bits to be added ..


Saturday, 4 May 2019

Continuing our travels.

Oxford to Newbury

Well its been 14 days since I tickled the keyboard on the laptop. On leaving the Jolly Boatman pub we have had a slow movement to Oxford. We left the Boatman disappointed (sad face imoji if I had one) the Abbott Ale had gone had to make do with something else..Dohh!! such is life.

A slow meander into the next major town which was Oxford. As many people know I spent a lot of time throwing 44 ton HGV’s about for a living, on and off. I have travelled to most parts of the UK via the wonderful road system we have. The times I would cross over the canal system on the various motorways with a longing eye, watching the water going under the bridge, the occasional narrow boat or working boat passing on its way to...who knows where. I must admit I was envious. I don't do envy normally, but the freedom used to call me even then. I never dreamed a retirement dream would come to fruition.
Mind you I had the reverse happen the other day ..saw a driver climbing into his cab.. something I'll never do last time would be good, King of the Road..

Approaching Oxford we were passing a park with a 48 hour mooring area so we stopped and made use of it. Lovely area, lots of kids laughing and enjoying the warm sun. There was a pub just over the road and we had a chance to sample the local brew. Very good but very expensive, compared to home.
Mooring, Infinity in distance
Outside pub....

After checking the map it transpired we were only a short walk into the city centre, as the dogs don’t do traffic, well Jake that is. He has always lived in the country and is not used to cars. He flips and gets very distressed, so we left them at home to guard the boat.
It was a 20 minute walk approx into the old area of Oxford. I wanted to have a look at a hotel I held interviews at when I was a regional sales manager for a national company.
The Randolph Hotel as seen on the TV in Morse and other programs.
Approaching the river bridge, I happened to look down into the river and there was a lady's head in the water ??...what was going on??
I shouted to see if she was OK ..silly question on reflection.. she ignored first time I asked if she wanted help ?? to which she shook her head.
Then I realised what she was up to as she took her glasses of rolled over on to her face.
I believe she was building up the courage to take her own life.
She blew all the air out of her lungs, we were joined by a young lad, by then.
I phoned 999 ...police... fire... and ambulance please. The lad was about to dive in and help her but, I told him not too, you don’t know what is under the water.
While on holiday once we say a man drowned. But another man who went in to help him perished as well. Shopping trolleys weeds or other thing that can incapacitate you.
Luckily enough the lady didn’t breath in under water.

Police arrived first and did a sterling job, They found her name from a handbag on the side seat, with the help of a life belt they managed to persuade her to come to the bank and taken to the awaiting ambulance. The local paper next day said she was physically OK. I just wonder for her mental condition. Hope she gets the help she needed. 
Services arrived and blocked off main road

A wander through the old part of the city..a costa coffee and look about ..sadly my energies gauge clock up empty so a taxi ride back to the boat and an afternoon kip and all was well again.

Leaving Oxford we were soon going to have a completely different environment to cope with. The wonderful River Thames. To say we were both a bit apprehensive for the first few hours was an understatement. The canals are approximately 30 ft wide and about 4 foot deep. The river is a bit different..ten times wider and how deep ?? don’t know.
Also a current. Not fast moving, but enough to let you know its there.
Old Infinity is quite happy with her engine running at usual 2000 revs per minute. Checking with sat nav that's about 3 mph.
On the felt as if we had stopped ..
Up to 2300 and we were off..up to !! also into the wind.

Dropping down though Abingdon on Thames, we had a few days and did a bit of shopping and tested a local pub. We are members of a few boaters sites on face-book. ‘Narrowboat Users Group’, ‘Canal Market Place’. We made a few friends on there.. cyber and real.
Another site we are on is Canal Photography. Jenny was looking thorough the pages for that day...believe it or not ...there was a photo of Infinity on the today's pictures moored where we were, taken from the other side of the river. Small world. He was a local photographer out for his daily shoot. 
He has his uses ….

One thing that we couldn't get over was the amount of wartime pill boxes that we could see..many hidden under the hedges and tree but some out in the open. One is quite prominent on a small island along with an, well what looked like an anti aircraft placement behind it, Some were on private land and had been incorporated into peoples gardens.
I did suggest to Jenny we might do some magnet fishing to try out our new magnet, we thought better of it.. knowing our luck we would find a ww 2 Uxb and be stuck here for hours.

How some people are expected to live in some conditions as we cruise past their residences, and in the 21st century is unbelievable.
Some of the house appear to be very least 5 or 6 bedrooms !! Some have huge gardens going down to the riverside. Many had gardeners working on highly manicured stripey lawns, trees and flowers everywhere.
There were quite a few who had big boathouses with sea going cruisers in them !!…
One has a thatched roof with a big balcony on it and a BBQ area. A few had huge green houses with swimming pools in them.
Personally I don't think is fair expecting people to live like this. .they must be worried sick wondering where the next fifty grand is coming from to pay for it all. 

Before we turned on to the Kennet and Avon canal we were happily chugging along at 5 mph and somebody, well a few people, wanted to go faster ...infact they over took us..on the wrong side they weren't even looking where they were going !! 6 of them in a racing boat ...going like the clappers !!
We had sailed into a boat race...a mixed one for all comers by the look of it, some single handed and all the way to way to a full complement. Both male and female. I've never seen so many lovely young ladies with wet tee shirts in one place !!
Made an old man very happy..I gave them a lovely smile ..only realised I didn't have my dentures must have looked more like a demented goofy grin ..Oh well that's life. 

We pulled into Woolhampton and found a good mooring place, we were getting low on supplies and there was a pub here. .surprise surprise I hear you its NOT one long pub crawl.
We are finding it hard work collecting supplies from the local supermarkets if they are not right on the canal side so an Ocado delivery was ordered.
I also contacted an old friend who lives in the area..we met in 1965 when we were apprentices in the motor trade. Bob Smith.. he and his wife came over from Frimley for the evening and we had a lovely meal and a catch was four years since we had met, but its funny with some friends, you might not have been together for many years but the minute you sit down the years disappear.

Ocado delivered ...when Jenny checked it off there was a box missing Guinness..two bottles of red wine and peanuts ..I can’t fault the customer service, one hassle free phone call sorted in 5 mins. Plus a £5.00 credit note added to our account for any inconvenience caused.
Next morning were off again, just about to have breakfast and another boat pulled in in front of us. Jenny made a comment as they came in ..they were just stopping for breakfast. We finished ours and started the engine up the skipper came up and asked if we could link up and travel together. That’s what we have been looking for !!...yippee !!

Doing the big double locks is hard work on your own. Allan and Annie are about our age and appear to have the same sense of humour. Yesterday was a good day half the work for Jenny on the locks. Moored at Newbury tonight. Alan is a CAMRA man... no not a photographer. CAMpain for Real Ale CAMRA.. guess what ?? we are off to check out the local real ale pub later.

That's it for now...over to Jenny for editing and photos...TTFN as they say.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Bobs rambles 2019.

Yelvertoft to Thrupp.

Oil level …….Check…
Water level …Check
Fan belt ……..Check.
Food cupboards full
Wine cellar ….topped up ...well enough for a fortnight if we are good..
Engine started ...Oil pressure good.. Slip her into reverse and pull slowly off our Yelvertoft mooring.
Our 2019 cruising adventure is about to start. Bristol on the Kennet and Avon Canal here we come.

Winter this year has come and gone very quickly. Doesn't seem five minutes since we moored up and went into hibernation mode. We soon settled back into village life.
Friday night, is doggie day care as we call it. Lots of us in the local pub with our dogs all off the lead and enjoying each others company. 5 pm till 7pm ..
The owners putting the world to-rights and the dogs playing ball and other run around games. .
Sadly someone who wasn't looking out for their animal spoilt it for us all, allowing their dog to ‘mark their territory’. A rule was passed by the management, all dogs must be on a lead.
It killed the atmosphere dead, such a shame. A few customers stopped coming as a protest, but life goes on.

Good to see the guys from the Independent Chapel and catch up over Sunday services and a drink at the local as well. A good village too me must have a good church and a good pub. We are so lucky we have both. Well 3 churches...Independent. . . CofE and a Roman catholic. At the local boozer, you never now what there is to drink, they keep changing the guest ale.

Winter was the usual health check ups and catching up with family. Diabetic check for me was OK, no change which was good.
Had to go back to dentist because my teeth which I had last year were causing a few problems. Badly fitting.
Had a new set made (which I had to pay for again) not happy but that's life. The second set were just as bad as the first !! but story of my life. Have learned to live with it.

Jenny is as usual in fine fettle. Keeping fit with dog walking and house work ...sorry boat work.

Had a few weekends away with friends in Norfolk and the Fens.
Christmas was good catching up with my family. Clive my son came back from Switzerland and we had a family reunion at my ex-wife's home.
We soon took our ‘duties’ up again, child minding for Darren and Karen, not a problem because Rebecca is a great little girl. She comes over for a sleepover occasionally to save us getting up at 5 am to get to her home, when mum and dad are on early starts. (policeman and nurse)

Jenny has been telling me for a couple of years that I've got ‘cloth ears’. Just to stop her moaning and to prove I wasn't deaf, I booked a hearing test at a local hearing centre.
Sat down and had a chat with the audiologist ..She checked my luggs… remove a bit of wax from one.
Then head phones on and the test began. I heard the beep...pressed the button. problems. I had been told years ago that the higher frequency was a bit suspect. Probably due to being a DJ in the late 60’s and loud music.
The computer did the analysis, then she showed me the graph that it made.
Conclusion...I would benefit from hearing aids. Right I thought. Here come the sell.
Would you like to try a pair… yes please … well !!!
When it was placed in my ear, I jumped !!. . . . Everything was so loud...
I didn't realise what a difference it would make. BUT then !!!
She came up with the price £3000.00 ...No way could I justify the cost… So after a ‘hard sell’ with a reduced price option offered. . we left.

A few days later I received a letter from our GP regarding my visit to the hearing centre, asking me to make an appointment with her. Because I suffer with tinnitus the centre have to notify our doctor, She asked if the aids made a difference. . . Err yes.
I was given an appointment with the local NHS audiologist. Two weeks later fitted with the same aids (the cheaper of the two offered privately) Free to me and I’m so pleased to be hearing again properly.

Jenny was joking about getting a wooden leg as well and I'd have a full house !!
Dentures ...Hearing aids but not funny really... as a musical friend from Norwich who is diabetic like me has just had his legs amputated.

Well we are off, our planned destination this year is Bristol via Oxford on the South Oxford canal ..onto the River Thames and the Kennet and Avon canal. Making a plan to go somewhere is a complete waste of time for us because we have never made the destinations yet.
Last year was the peak district. . failed. . ran out of water in the canals due to drought conditions.
The year before the Llangollen Canal ...failed. . we got stuck in the bottom lock at Hurleston. In lots of ways we are blessed but unlucky in others.

Leaving Yelvertoft 14 days ago we had lovely run down to where we are now.
Down the Grand Union and at Norton Junction ..right turn to Braunston...left turn on to South Oxford canal until Napton then after that... it’s been ‘virgin canals’ for us. 

Napton Junction

The first main town was Banbury. Arriving just before the town, we moored at about 2pm. Five mins walk up the towpath and we were in the town centre, literally. Right by the Quay shopping centre. We had a look around and what a lovely old town, lots of the old buildings have been looked after and preserved sympathetically. The local old fashioned market place with the greengrocer shouting out his wares and the price, something I haven't heard since a kid at Northampton market.

Carly is ok out and about but Jake was getting a bit stressed because of the people and cars. As it was ‘early doors’ time we found an old pub ...’Ye olde Reindeer’ which was doggie friendly and so sampled the local brew. It would be bad taste not too.

So much for a quick one…we started talking to a couple of locals, my favourite subjects..
politics and religion . . I know . . dangerous ground .. but I’m not bigoted.
It was a really fun hour or so, we all had our opinions and shared them. One guy was about to leave when we arrived, when we left he was still there, on his ?? bottle of cider. Another guy came over and joined in when he heard us, but it was all amicable, when we left a warm handshake all round. We had a three day stopover, a long weekend before moving on to Thrupp, a small town just south of Oxford.

Bridge to Banbury town centre

Banbury shopping centre by canal

We are now moored outside the local canal-side pub ‘The Jolly Boatman’. They do a lovely pint of my one of my favourite ales, Greene King’s ‘Abbott Ale’… a bit expensive, but a lovely, well kept pint. While having a drink, we were joined by the lady from the boat moored behind us. While chatting we realised we had met before, last year when we were at the Barley Mow pub on the North Oxford canal at Newbold on Avon, she had broken her leg and was in a wheel chair.

We met up with Jenny's brother and Sister in Law yesterday, George and Pat, when they drove over from Northampton. An hour by car 14 days by boat.
A lovely lunch in the pub and a good natter and catch up.

We are running low on some supplies (wine) so Jen has placed an order with Ocado, the ‘on line supermarket’, for a delivery tonight (Good Friday) to the car park, then tomorrow we will be off again, through Oxford and then onto the Thames…Turning west down to the Kennet and Avon canal.
Just checked out the costs involved...for a 7 day licence is about £100 !!
That is just one way ...we will have to pay again to get back..some one reckons he sits on a horse with a mask on !!...well Dick Turpin did!!

Well that’s the starter blog for this year.. let us know if you are reading it ..
if not I won’t bother...over to the censor...whoops, sorry ...the editor to be proof read and photo’s added (if you’re lucky) .
A happy and a blessed Easter to all our readers

Bob and Jenny ….. The old age travellers. 

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Birmingham and beyond....

If Robert spent as much time concentrating on his work in school, as he does looking out of the window, his work would be so much better. So was the text on one of my school reports. True … the one thing I have always lacked is concentration. I do have the problem of losing interest in things if they don’t grab me. My real worry when we decided to go off on our ‘old age travelling’ . . what will happen if the novelty wears off.??
Well nearly four years in to our adventure, so far it hasn’t.

Every day is completely different. Even cruising some canals again and again it’s different every time.
We have our routines, checks on the engine, animals to ‘battle stations’ when we approach locks or mooring. Carly is tethered to the back fence and Jake is below decks. Jenny says to him . . ‘Locks’ . . and he goes straight down into the cabin. Trouble is he has developed the habit of barking as he goes. To discourage him, Jen has a water pistol and a quick jet of water in the ear usually stops him. Jake being Jake though, has realised if he hides behind the bulkhead she can’t hit him, so its a case of woof woof woof then he pulls his head out of range for the water pistol.
That damn dog is too clever for his own good. But he does make us laugh. Very much loved doggie.

Since the last blog we have basically been retracing our way back heading towards Birmingham. We stayed in Gas St basin last year but only passed through and there are more canals in the city we hadn’t seen. Thing being different every day is quite true. All locks look the same but.. they all react differently. Jenny is the lock master and I do the driving. When you enter the lock slowly as the centre of the boat passes the gate you slip her into reverse, raising engine revs to 1200rpm and gently she slows to a stop in front of the other gate.
Now. . this is the theory. The practise is often totally different, every lock appears to be different dependant on various factors. Wind. . depth of water, people watching. That's when you or rather me screw it up. Sliding in gently, select reverse, 1200 rpm.
Nothing happens...panic !! engine to 3500 !! just stops in time ..big cloud of smoke, alarm in cabin goes off. As I said, every day is different. Met so many great people in our ‘five minute friendships’ at locks or at the various hostelries we have frequented.

As we approached the outskirts of Brum the surroundings started to change. Most of the bridges and walls started to be adorned by what I believe is called local art. Some of it is quite plainly poor quality graffiti but some of it is Urban art, and does cheer up a drab area.

One thing is we are not in a hurry. We take our time and enjoy our surroundings. On a long day (more than12 locks) we started to be harassed (in a nice way) by a young family on a holiday boat. . when you are on a hire boat you have time tables to keep too, to get around set routes to be back at the hire depot on time for the next hirer.
I asked if they were in a hurry and would they like to ‘overtake’ at the next pound.
They said that would be great and we pulled over and let them pass.
The problem is following another boat means one thing, all the locks are against you. Meaning you have to flood them before you can go in. This is time consuming but hay ho ..thats life.
Off they sped, and we toddled off again . . at our pace.
When we arrived at the next lock they had disappeared into the distance.
But the lock had been flooded and we could just open the gate and sail in. They had left a member of their crew to ‘set the lock’ for us. All the next locks were set for us.
A classic ‘one good turn deserves another’
Holiday makers helping out the old folk ..Hee hee.
We had heard some areas of Brum are not really safe to moor in because of anti social behaviour, but so far we have not had any problems on our adventure.
The one place I wanted to go to was the Black Country museum. . have a look on Google.
It is a fantastic place. If you are near, please go.. you will not be disappointed.
It is a living museum. A black country town all rebuilt on a canal side site. It was just like going back in time for real. All the buildings have been knocked down and rebuilt here. Some of the houses have people dressed in the costumes of the time. Some of the shops were actually doing business, sweet shops, bakery and cake shop, fish and chips, and the local pub. It was very expensive in the pub. We had a pork pie and a beer each and it was over £14.00, but if it helps to keep the museum going it was worth it.
Rode on a trolley bus like I did in Belfast as a child. 

We managed to moor up outside on a visitor mooring and promptly we were spoken to by a local. Friendly chap with 2 labradors, we asked about the area and were relieved to find out it was safe. He recommended a pub or rather a restaurant down the road famous for their pies. Mad o’Rourkes pie factory. It looked we thought . .hang the expense, we are ‘on holiday’ so off we went.

It was an old building with character, a bit like a wild west saloon. A few old bits and pieces hanging on the walls. Meat hooks and other butchery implements. An old phone exchange, the type the receptionist had when I first started work in the 60’s made me feel old.
One side was a pub selling real home made ales (which were very good). There was three types on sale a weak 3.2 abv through to a very strong 5.6 abv I tried one of each Lovely , and served in proper glasses. .ones with handles. On the other side of the room was the ‘pie factory’ the young girls who were serving were great. Obviously enjoyed their jobs, the atmosphere was great.

Jenny had a Steak and Mushroom and I had...wait for it ...I had a ‘Desperate Dan cow pie,
complete with horns!!. . It was huge !! but lovely, great big chunks of beef. At a very reasonable price as well. I wobbled back to the boat, with a very full tummy, I also received a certificate to say I had won the challenge. Some people fail to complete the experience.

The next day we did the museum and also the old Dudley tunnels on an electric narrow boat a great day out.

The only problem we had on the canal on the way in was….the weeds. The hot weather caused the weed to grow and when they do they wrap themselves around the propeller and the boat slows down. We had to stop every few mins (literally) and remove the same. We wanted to travel into Gas street basin on the other canal to the one we navigated last year but it was too weedy.
Gas street was its usual self. A bristling area full of atmosphere. The canal side pubs are great. Its a well known place for hen parties and stag do’s. There was a group of Irish fella’s over from Belfast for a wedding. They were on two hired narrow boats, all dressed in Peaky Blinders outfits. They were all very drunk, but still good company and acting accordingly. 

The bridegroom was dressed as woman from the era. They we very funny.
There was also a hen do going on as well outside the pub called the Canalside.
Sadly we were watching at 6pm and we knew .….some of the young ladies were NOT going too make last orders. . They were arguing (in a nice way) who was going to pay for the round !!….Until the barman pointed out . . one had already paid “!!

On the Wednesday we had a visit from two of our friends from Yelvertoft. Jim and Jan. . It was good to catch up and we had a light lunch on board. Jim is the leader of the local Independent chapel in Yelvertoft.

After 4 days in Gas St time to leave on the Monday morning. Again virgin canals for us. We had to wait on the top of the Butchers Bridge flight of locks while a guy filled up his tanks with water. There was a CRT guy there sorting out the rubbish and we had a few laughs with him pulling our legs and visa versa. 

Off we went down the flight until arriving at a lock..Jenny struggled to open it to go in so I helped. Then came the problem of closing it. DOH !! it wouldn’t..after a few minutes of trying (us, as well as passers by) we gave up and phoned up the Canal and River Trust. Within 10 mins the guy we were having a laugh with earlier turned up. A piece of wood had fell out of the collar on the gate causing it too fall down on the pivot, that was why it wouldn't close. Another phone call because it was two man job to replace the wood and we were on our way again only held up for about an hour.

Heading to Hawksbury Junction for the weekend then into Johns at Lime farm marina for the annual engine service before heading home for winter. Its been a great summer cruise. Again this year we didn’t make where we wanted.. last year we failed to get to Llangollen canal this year . . the Peak district canal, but we have had a great time. . met some great people and have enjoyed every moment of it. Thank you for following us old age travellers. XX

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Anderton Lift and the Weaver

Anderton Lift and the Weaver.

Back again.. the next chapter in our old age travelling.. I mentioned the Harecastle tunnel in the last blog. Before we left Westport lake at Stoke I was talking to a couple who were moored behind us. They had just bought a ‘new to them’ narrow boat and were on the way home with their pride and joy. They were asking questions about the best way to tackle the tunnel, my advise, in the middle and as fast as you can….the bow wave will keep you in the middle. It was a lovely looking boat, a Hudson semi tug in great condition. We wished them luck and sailed off to continue our adventure.
On Facebook, we are members of the Narrowboat users group where we can keep in touch with other boaters, ask for help, discuss issues and generally be sociable. There was a situation reported of a narrow boat sinking in a lock a couple of days later. Complete with pictures. I was shocked to see it was the boat belonging to the people I was talking too. It seems the boat didn’t have a rear button, that is a rope fender which stops the rear of the boat hitting and damaging the tiller or propeller. When they closed the gate on a lock, the tiller was caught between the gates. As she lowered into the lock the rear didn’t go down, causing the bows to drop into the water until the water level caused it to sink.
So sad, locks can be very dangerous places.
I just hope they were insured and the company pays out. Not a good start to their boating experience.

When we first told people of our dream to live afloat one of our friends Frank and Susan who lived on the same park as us in Norfolk, said to us ‘if’ you ever go to the Anderton Lift please let us know because I want to have a ride on it !!
Frank and Susan
To say Frank is a character is an understatement, eccentric is perhaps to far, but he is a great guy. When the lift fell into disrepair and a group raised money for the restoration Frank and his friends did various motor cycle events to raise awareness and cash.
He is into small vintage motors cycles and other memorabilia. When we knew a day we would be arriving we emailed them as they only live a few miles from the lift.
The lift drops narrowboats down the 50 or 60 feet onto the River Weaver. It’s a huge construction which works on a cantilever system. You sail into a big trough they seal the ends then you are lowered down as another boat comes up the other side.
To say Frank was pleased to hear from us was an understatement !! He was like a kid on Christmas morning.
We had a couple of hours wait before we could go down so it was time for a lunch and coffee in the restaurant and a look round the visitor centre before boarding the boat and having the downward trip. Susan didn’t go on the boat sadly, a bit of a phobia but Frank was in seventh heaven. It was great to see. 
Entering the Anderton Lift

Frank and Bob

Anderton Lift
We turned out of the lift on too the River Weaver moored up for the night and we set off the next morning. Before he left Frank asked for a passage on the return trip of course we said yes. The River Weaver runs from the Anderton lift to Middlewich its was only this part of the river we wanted to see. There were some really big boats here. One sea going tug. Various wide beam boats and big locks. 

The first lock we came to too was being repaired so we had to wait for the guys doing it ..a voice drifted out from the CRT (Canal and River Trust) barge ‘so you made it then’, it was guy called Steve who we had met in Wheelock a few days earlier. Turned out he worked for CRT and lived in the canal side cottage.
The main cargo being moved on the river in the early days was salt, there are huge and I mean HUGE piles of the stuff down the river on the right hand side going down. Also lots of broken down walls and brick work. . I wondered what they were in the heyday of water transport. 
Salt Works

Salt mountain
26th July was my birthday and after an overnight stop half way we arrived at the end of the navigable river, just by a pub called The Red Lion’ a new mooring outside under trees so had a very continental feel about it. We don’t usually use pubs in the lunch time but, it was hot, my birthday and the cider looked very inviting. A couple of pints later I remembered why we don’t drink at lunch time I was ready for a kip. Two hours later and refreshed it was decided we would go for a meal and a bottle of wine to celebrate my 68th year.
The staff were absolutely lovely, we had a great laugh, I have a habit of pulling bar staffs legs, especially if they are new. One was a beautiful barmaid who was a full time worker in a bank but does evening work to get out of her flat. She even came over and sat with us for a while after she found out it was my birthday. Ok... I was flirting !! but it was my birthday. We only had a fish and chip supper and a few bottles of white wine but it was good.
Towards the end of the evening there was some live music which just rounded it off.
A great day..two girls ?? Well one girl and a quite unconvincing transvestite but could he/she play that guitar. Yes he/she could, I didn’t know any of the songs in the middle set but jazz blues style. Having just seen the film about Amy Winehouse it could have been some of her works. When Jenny left, just before the end, to take the pooches for a walk I was left on my own, I took the long way home one step forward, two side ways and one back . . repeat until you arrive at the boat. Well it was my buff day. I don’t get wobbly leg syndrome very often these days. 
Red Lion Mooring area

While we sat outside talking, a guy turned up on a bike after riding up the tow path. Jake as people may or not know hates bikes !! As soon as he saw him, or rather the bike he went into a barking fit, and tried to bite his tyres. We obviously apologised profusely
for his bad behaviour and the guy just laughed and said he’d seen worse, after he obtained a drink from the bar he came and joined us on our table.
It turned out his name was Rick and he was a dog behaviourist. We talked about Jake and his problems, not that he really has any apart from his bike phobia. Then Rick put Jake through the paces. Took him for a short walk. He had him walking to heel, stopped him doing what he wanted and generally showed him who was boss. He was very good.
At the end of his drink he bid farewell and mounted his bike but before he pedalled off Jake said bye bye . .. by playfully biting his foot !!
It was Jake having the last word. As usual. So funny. 
Rick and Jake

When we awoke next morning we had to reverse out of the mooring as there wasn’t enough room to turn around. Manoeuvring a 62ft narrow boat backwards on a flowing river is easier to say than do, however it was completed with out running aground and/or wedging ourselves across the river. I was quite chuffed. Returning back along the river with the flow this time. On the way down because of the width and plenty of room we did run the engine up to 3200 rpm the fastest we have had her.

We phoned Frank and he again joined us on the lift and waved us good bye as we sailed off to the next chapter of our old age adventure. We are retracing our steps due to various canal closures. Heading back toward home now via Birmingham...Have to be back by end of September.. TTFN Over to the editor for the pictures and you never know a video. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Trent and Mersey Canal

Continuing North.

After leaving Handley Park it was a steady cruise back along the Caldon canal, a right hand turn on to the Trent and Mersey again and straight away we were looking for a ‘filling station’. Down to half a tank of red diesel, I don’t like to get lower that this, incase it drags up any muck at the bottom of the tank.
We were passing the Black Prince hire company depot so thought we could re-fuel here. . .after struggling to get on to the mooring we were told ...sorry... we can’t refill you because...we have two boats going out this morning. . ..WHAT.??..
It takes a maximum of 10 minutes to fill the tank. They couldn’t be bothered more like it.
So, onwards towards the Harecastle Tunnel. Luckily enough we passed another boat yard who were more than happy to have our custom. £120.00 later we have a full fuel tank and a 5ltr can of engine oil served by a lovely lady.

The lake we had moored beside was called Westport Lake, sadly it had been on the national news the previous week. Three lads went into the water to cool off, tragically only two came out. A body was found two days later. So sad to see the tribute of flowers by the visitors centre, a life lost so young.

As we came into our chosen mooring spot we noticed a narrow boat called ‘Barge Inn’. .it was a floating mobile pub !!
As we checked exactly where we were on our new app on the phone (big brother is watching you) Jenny had down loaded it before we left Yelvertoft.
If you open it, press a marker on the page, it shows you exactly where you are using sat nav. If you zoom in it shows all the surrounding area. Shops and other services we need. As we surveyed the surrounding area it was decided to go ‘hunter gathering’ Hunting out the bargains and gathering the food needed.. We were only about ten minutes walk from Aldi. Our favourite store, so off Jenny went, complete with our trolley, she set out in brilliant sun shine, dressed in shorts and T-shirt to said supermarket. As she came out there was a cloud burst !!She arrived back at the boat absolutely soaked to the skin..
Did I laugh you might ask, …….Err actually ... Yes !! …..It was funny. However a hot shower and dry clothes she was soon back to normal.

We had planned to go and check out the floating pub but as it was a wet evening we stayed in and left it till the next day. A slow stroll down the tow path. We were greeted by a happy chappy with his head sticking out of the serving hatch just about level with our feet. Checked out the beer on offer, a local brewery call Titanic.. I thought that will go down well !!….Just don’t ask for ice.. It was sensible pricing, Jenny with a glass of white wine, me with a pint of local brew. Jake and Carly being fed treats out of the window after asking permission. We had a couple of hours in some lovely company. Some locals, just walking their dogs, other boaters moored near by...good conversation, who could ask for a better evening. Geoff and Wayne the owners do mobile shows and events. A new venture, I hope it works out for them they have the right attitude for hospitality. Yes I admit it ...we went back the next day..sadly spent all our spending money for the week in two days. Doh !!
Monday morning we set off towards the Harecastle Tunnel.

Last year when we returned from the top of the Shroppie canal we chickened out of passing through the Harecastle tunnel. We didn’t trust the engine then, but we do now.

Mooring up at the entrance, the CRT official came over and did a run down of the ‘do’s and don't s’. When you enter the tunnel, its one way so its only wide enough for one boat.
They leave two minutes between boats, keep to the middle, don’t go too slowly, don’t try to stand on the gunnel's or the roof. Mind you that would be impossible due to the height of the tunnel roof. In some places its only about 6 inches. I had to duck my head to stop me hitting the structure.
Passing though was uneventful (thankfully) however if we had of broken down, a long blast on our hooter would have alerted the authorities, we were timed in and out taking 40 to 45 minutes to complete the passage. It is 2962 yards long and pitch black (one and a half miles). The original tunnel(s) were complete at 1827 taking 3 years to dig out. There were two tunnels built, but the other tunnel collapsed due to underground mining works and subsidence. It was closed in 1973 or 1977 (conflicting information).

The Boggart !!….The tunnel is haunted !!!. . Now that's a surprise. Again there is conflicting information regarding this. According to legend, a headless woman has been seen as you enter the tunnel. Trouble is, it could be mixed up with another incident.
A lady by the name of Christiana Collins hired a couple of bargemen (and a boy) to take her to London. Slower, but more comfortable than horse and carriage also cheaper. .10/6d one-way.
However the boat men liked the alcohol too much, at a stay over one night, at Rugeley, she complained to a company representative regarding the men's behaviour but it was ignored. Sadly she was raped and murdered and her body was dumped at Hopwas, (near where we stayed the other week end).
The boat men were tried and hung for their crimes. The cabin boy went to jail.
Some wag has painted a skelton trying to get out of a hole in the wall as you enter the tunnel going North to South. That was the only thing I saw on our passage.
Entrance to Harecastle Tunnel

Friday the thirteenth passed with no incidents but I’m not superstitious (touch wood).
As we arrived at a local beauty spot my energy levels had dropped to emergency tank level so we moored up for the weekend. 3 to 4 hours a day moving seems to be about right. Jake and Carly can manage that amount of time in between squats and leg lifts without any problems. They must come first to us. They are loving our lifestyle, different back garden everyday, lots of new smells and other four legged friends.
A five day week it plenty, I like to have the weekends off, there's no rush, as long as we are back by October that's all that matters. Only need to make sure we have a TV signal so I can watch the F1 Grand Prix.

We continued on our travels through Red Bull where we did the bits we need to do a couple of times a week. Bog empty.. rubbish dump.. and water filling.
Red Bull service area

The next stop will be the village of Wheelock. When we dropped down the last lock in to the village a person was running towards us waving their arms about. This usually means ‘leave the lock gates open’ ‘we are coming through’ but the there wasn’t a boat, that we could see.
As we got closer, it turned out to be our friends Gail and Chris, on the way back from their excursion further up North. Had a pint with them in The Cheshire Cheese pub, but as they were with other friends we didn’t gate crash, although we did sit opposite them in the Italian restaurant that evening. I made the waiting staff laugh when I asked if they would move them ...because they were hassling us ..did explain later they were our friends.

Enough for come next time...meeting up with old friends from Norfolk .. Frank and Susan..the ride on the Anderton lift...our trip on the Weaver... Jakes run in with a dog behaviourist ..and my birthday party.