This is just a quick catch up on what we have been doing over the last week since our last post. We remained moored at the top of Hillmorton and caught the bus into Rugby where we did a bit of shopping and had a birthday lunch at Prezzo, courtesy of Rebecca, Don and the children. Thank you very much, it was delicious!
On Wednesday we untied and made our way to Braunston, blue skies had returned and with the very gentle winds to accompany us, our journey was very enjoyable. It was around one o’clock when we arrived at Braunston marina where had arranged to leave Caxton for a few days while we travelled to Hampshire for my retirement party. We found our temporary berth which was on the adjacent pier to the one that we used when we moored here permanently a few years ago. After wiggling our way into position with only inches to spare, we tied up and then went for a walk along the towpath to the tunnel. After a quick refreshment stop at the Admiral Nelson, we returned to the marina and paid our fees.
We had arranged to meet some friends who live in the village so after dinner on board, we trotted up to the Wheatsheaf for a couple of hours and had a great time catching up with them.
We were up and ready early on Thursday, despite it being Sue’s birthday. We needed to catch the bus into Rugby so that we could start our train journey to Winchester and that bus leaves the village from The Green so we had to climb the hill from Butchers bridge once again. When we first moored in Braunston, the village was well served by bus services running between Rugby and Daventry with some of them stopping on the A45 outside the marina. That ended and then the nearest stop was outside the Boathouse pub, also on the main road. Today, the hourly service only just touches the top edge of the village, stopping by the village hall. Judging by the small number of passengers on the bus, I wonder just how long even this service will remain in place.
Anyway, after the bus to Rugby we caught a train to Coventry and then boarded the Cross Country service to Winchester. We continued the birthday eating theme with afternoon tea at the hotel and very nice it was too. Winchester is a lovely place to wander around at any time but on warm spring days, as we had on Thursday and Friday, it was glorious. We rounded off the birthday week meal festival with lunch at Rick Stein’s retaurant which was perfect.
On Friday evening, I had my retirement bash in a Spanish restaurant in nearby Arlesford with colleagues from work, some of whom I have known for thirty years. We all had a good time and they even presented me with a leaving present – a Nikon DSLR camera. Once I get to grips with that, expect to see a more feature filled blog. There were many messages of good luck and some other personal gifts which will be cherished. All in all they gave me a good send off – thank you everyone.
Saturday dawned and we made the return journey to Braunston, re-tracing our route via Coventry and Rugby. It was after four o’clock when we got back and Sue used the evening and the fact that we were plugged into the mains to catch up with the washing and drying.
Our original intention had been to travel south on the Grand Union and return on the Oxford canal later in the summer. However, by the time we were ready to leave on Sunday morning we had decided to go the other way around. It doesn’t make any real difference to us which way we go but we were slightly concerned that there have been some predictions of drought and figured that we might be better crossing the summit of the Oxford sooner rather than later just in case low water levels start to have an effect on lock operations.
We turned left out of the marina and found a place to moor, halfway between the two bridges that carry the A45 over the canal and close to the two bridges that carry the towpath over the junction of the canal. We were surprised at just how empty the moorings are in Braunston but I suppose that it is still early in the season. The reason that we didn’t go so far was because the weather outlook for Monday was for high winds and lots of heavy showers. Sunday was still fine so we walked up and around the village, calling at the Chandlers and the village shop along the way.
The rain started in the early hours of Monday morning and continued on and off throughout the day. We did manage to get a walk around the village again during a dry period after dinner but the rain came again shortly after we returned to the boat.
And so to today, Tuesday. It was still windy but thankfully no rain, although there is a horrible outlook forecast. We took advantage of the relatively good conditions and set off in the direction of Napton, just after eight o’clock. Normally, this stretch of canal irritates me but today it didn’t because there are very few boats on the move and not many moored up either. What normally happens, usually on sunny, summer, Sunday afternoons is that as boats converge at Wigram’s and Braunston turns, convoys get formed. Lines of moored boats then force everyone down to tickover speed and the convoys become condensed. The real fun starts when two convoys meet at a bridge! Anyway, it wasn’t like that today and three hours after setting off, we were moored just above the bottom lock at Napton. After lunch, we took a walk to the village shop where Sue bought some provisions and then we returned to the canal. The rain started mid afternoon and the forecast is that it isn’t going to stop until Thursday morning so it looks like we will have another day here tomorrow. With a bit of luck, who knows, there might be a tiny break in the rain, a small window of opportunity to nip to the Folly for a pint before then!
So now the journey can really begin, we have no timetable to stick to, no set route to follow and very few restrictions to hamper us on our big adventure.
When we looked at the weather on Thursday morning and saw that we were to expect rain and high winds on Friday and Saturday, we decided to make the best of the weather and head for home.
It was nine o’clock when we got underway, later than we would have been had we been planning to travel but still early enough to get some distance behind us. We weren’t alone, it seemed like fifty percent of the boats in Braunston had decided to leave the area at the same time so there was the usual chaos at bridges, water points and of course at the junction. The traffic soon settled down as we got out into the open countryside and although there were plenty of boats on the move, we encountered no problems and reached the locks at Hillmorton just two hours later. A sufficient number of boats and lock keepers meant that we cleared the three locks in forty minutes before pulling on to the water point. The great progress that we had made thus far was wiped out by the slow running water tap, taking almost an hour to fill Caxton’s tank. By the time we set off again, the sun was beating down and the temperature was soaring with just a light breeze blowing to keep things bearable. No mooring space at Rugby and nothing really suitable at Newbold although we did tie up temporarily before the tunnel for a shopping stop at the local Co-op. We were on our way again just after three and had decided to aim for somewhere between Ansty and Hawkesbury. Sue took the helm for a few hours to give me a break and we had a great afternoon. The miles and hours flew by as we listened to music in the afternoon sunshine. We passed through Ansty and sort of forgot that we should have been looking for a mooring spot, suddenly we were at Hawkesbury and had to stop for the shallow lock there. Safely and smoothly around the 180 degree turn in front of the Greyhound pub where the outdoor customers always take an interest in boats in the hope that there will be a mistake made. Their heads automatically turn towards the water but soon turn back again when they realise that there is no entertainment for them. Clouds were starting to build and the sun was getting lower in the sky by the time we turned at Marston junction on to the Ashby canal. Finally, we stopped and tied up just before bridge three, had something to eat and then flopped in our chairs for the evening. Our twenty six mile trip with its six locks had taken us ten hours, an average of three lock miles per hour – not bad going at all.
The rain came overnight, the heaviest being just before five o’clock but it had slowed to no more than a steady drizzle by the time we awoke on Friday morning. I got up and dressed at half past seven, Caxton’s engine burst into life fifteen minutes later and we were off. The cabin door opened a few minutes later and a coffee appeared, a short while later the door opened again and this time a bacon sandwich was thrust into my hand with the promise of another when I was ready. As expected, the trip back to Hinckley was quiet enough with only a handful of boats on the move, partly due to the time of day and partly down to the rain. We were back on our berth in the marina before ten o’clock and back home a short time later. Two hours of rain in two weeks is a pretty good result and we were glad that we made the long trip on Thursday because it has rained all day today.
We had a peaceful night on our mooring last night and awoke to a beautiful clear blue sky. We only wanted to get to Braunston so we didn’t set off until nine o’clock, thinking that it would take about ninety minutes to get to our destination. In the event, it was ten o’clock when we arrived and we couldn’t see any spaces that were big enough for Caxton, so we carried on until we reached the second entrance to the marina and luckily enough, found the perfect mooring right on the end with a perfect view of the canal up to the bottom lock.
Last night, we encountered a couple on a hire boat from Kate boats, today we bumped into them again as we tied up. They’re thinking of buying a boat and have hired this week to see what it’s like to live afloat. Grab your dream folks, jump in, the water’s lovely!
We walked to the bus stop by the Boathouse pub only to discover that the services have changed and there is no longer a bus into Rugby from there. We walked up into the village instead and did some shopping before returning to the boat where we had a sandwich for lunch.
At four o’clock we decided to take a walk up the locks and ended up assisting a couple on a share boat up through the first three. We had an ice cream along the way and once we saw that the share boat had help from oncoming craft we retreated to the Admiral Nelson and had a refreshment or two.
We returned to Caxton and after sitting on the front deck for a while, we went back inside and settled in for the night.
I forgot to record in the last post that we had encountered a wide beam boat on our way into Braunston. Nothing unusual in that if you are on the Grand Union section but this one was heading north on the Oxford canal which is a narrow canal. In theory, they can travel to Hillmorton before meeting an obstruction at the locks but I think that they might have struggled with some of the bridge / bend combinations.
Anyway, after a quiet evening moored opposite the pub, we got up with the intention of emptying cassettes and taking on water at the marina before turning around and heading back to the junction. The only other boat showing signs of life at eight o’clock was moored opposite us on the pub side of the canal. As they pulled away, I reversed Caxton out into the middle of the cut and straightened up ready to fall in behind them. However, by the time we were straight, I realised that if I kept reversing, we would be back at the junction in a few minutes and we could service the boat there. Three boats back, a boat crewed by an oldish couple who looked like they had been dealt a bad hand in life, was being untied as we approached. We watched in disbelief as the rough looking pair pushed their boat out behind us and into our path causing us to have to take avoiding action. We arc’d around their boat using tiller, gearbox and bow thruster into and out of the space that they had vacated before we straightened up again and carried on our way. While I was doing all of that, Sue was engaged in a short, sharp exchange about courtesy and consideration although that was probably wasted on the half wits. Their parting shot made us laugh, “Put it on your blog!”, they shouted. That took us by surprise because they didn’t look to be the sort who could read, let alone use a computer. I expect that because they sell cheap brass tiller pins that they think they are canal workers and therefore have some privileges on the water. I won’t name their boat, that wouldn’t be fair as they have no right to reply but I will check with CaRT that they have a proper trading licence. All of that was over in a minute and as we passed the next moored boat, the steerer shook his head and said, ” I don’t know why he didn’t wait and let you pass”. In the short conversation that we had with him, he told us that he was delivering the boat from the Kennet & Avon canal to the river Weaver.
A few minutes later we reached the junction where we tied up, dumped rubbish and emptied cassettes. No other boats were moving as we edged out again and rounded the junction under one of the bridges in the direction of Napton. Soon we were meeting a steady stream of traffic but we had expected it on this stretch since it is really two canals between Braunston and Napton, the Oxford and the Grand Union. Once we had passed Wigrams turn where the Grand Union turns off to the right and disappears down into the Avon valley, the traffic eased again and we reached our mooring just before eleven o’clock.
We were soon showered and dressed and on our way along the towpath to the Folly Inn where we presented ourselves at two minutes past twelve and demanded lunch. Alright, we didn’t demand anything, we found a table and ordered our meals and very good they were too. We were back on board a couple of hours later and then we just lazed around for the afternoon.
Last night, after dinner, we walked along the towpath to the next bridge and then walked up the main street of Newbold on Avon before settling for the evening. By nine o’clock we were both yawning and by ten we had turned in for the night. We were up and on our way by seven this morning and as we left, it looked like everyone else was having a Sunday lie in. Our early start paid off and we met nothing as we ticked over through the usual pinch points at Brownsover and Clifton Cruisers. In fact we only met two oncoming boats before we reached Hillmorton although that would soon change. The locks were all in our favour and we left the last one at nine o’clock so we were well on our way to Braunston. It took just under two and a half hours to reach our destination and along the way we met around thirty boats, many of them in convoy including three at the bridge by Willoughby Wharf which caused us to have to pull over and wait. Our final encounter was under the first A45 road bridge, well where else would it be? No harm done as both boats were travelling slowly and we backed up to let the American crew ease through. Once around the corner and as expected, we pretty much had our pick of the moorings so we’ve tied up opposite the Boathouse pub although we’re not planning to pay it a visit.
Once again it’s been a beautiful day, albeit a little windier than yesterday so again we sat on the front deck for a while and watched the boats go by. It’s been so busy with boats coming and going, some stopping temporarily, many just passing through but by five o’clock it’s starting to quieten down. Mooring here is the boating equivalent of pitching up a caravan on the hard shoulder of the M1 so after lunch on board we decided to go for a walk in the afternoon sunshine. We walked along the towpath past the marina and up to the third lock where the Admiral Nelson stands before turning back along the roadway up to Braunston village. After a stop at the village shop for a few essentials, we walked downhill to the canal and re-boarded our floating home where we took up residence on the front deck again. It’s been no surprise that the pub has been busy all afternoon on this sunny August Sunday and although there has been a constant background noise drifting over on the wind, it has all added to the ambience.
Of course we’re now down to the last few days of our holiday and back on very familiar territory so we got up when we awoke at six, got ourselves organised and set off forty minutes later. With two hours between us and the locks at Hillmorton, I steered while Sue got on with some chores. When we reached Hillmorton we saw that there were two lock keepers on duty and that meant that we were out the other end of the flight in about 25 minutes. There were now a lot of boats on the move, mainly narrowboats and then a cruiser came into view, it was Stormin Norman who we hadn’t seen since we parted company on the Staffs & Worcs a couple of weeks ago. We had a laugh and a joke with them as we passed each other again.
We pulled over to take on water at Rugby next to the new retail park, only to discover that the tap is out of order while construction work is being carried out. Shortly afterwards we met another acquaintance, the river Avon, as we passed over it for the last time. Having travelled on it from Tewkesbury to Stratford and then crossed it again near Warwick, it seemed strange to see it below us again near Rugby. So it was on to Newbold on Avon where we filled with enough water to see us through to the end of our holiday.
With boat traffic having eased off, the trip became very easy through these familiar waters and by two o’clock we had reached Ansty where we moored for the night. A phone call to the Rose & Castle secured us a table for our evening meal.
The rings at Ansty aren’t quite spaced right for us so I hammered a couple of pins in at the back and put a spring in the stern line. This next bit is specifically for Steve (nbAmyjo). The picture below shows two hammers. The one on the left is what most boats carry to bang in mooring pins, the one on the right is one that I found in a container sent from Costa Rica. The one on the left makes the sound “dink, dink, dink, dink, dink, dink, dink, dink, dink” as it hammers a pin into the ground. The one on the right goes, “dink, dink, dooff, dooff” and that’s all it takes, it is made from a piece of steel pipe welded to the head from a sledge hammer after all!
Rain continued throughout yesterday evening so we didn’t venture out and assumed that Mikron’s performance would have been cancelled.
The early morning sunshine encouraged us to get up and get going, tackling the final thirteen broad locks of our trip. Like the day before, we were unaccompanied for the first couple of locks. While in the third lock, we saw a lady with a windlass and two dogs. When I asked if she was coming up the flight, she said that she was but that they had paired with another boat. By the time we reached the next, she ran up and told us that a third boat had arrived so if we would wait, she and her husband would join us and leave the other two as a pair. We agreed but this turned out to be a mistake on our part. Their method of working was to use one gate only with the first boat into the lock then shuffling over behind the closed gate. In my mind, this doesn’t save any time or effort at all but nevertheless Sue drove into the next lock and started the manoeuvre. It takes a bit of doing in the limited space with Caxton being sixty eight feet long but the impatient steerer of the other boat thought that he could still get into the gap. As a result we gained some of his blacking at the expense of some of our paint from the counter of Caxton. He apologised but the damage was done. At the next lock, his wife who had gone ahead, opened both gates. Sue drove in first and I closed the gate behind her but the fool on the other boat then managed to hit the other (open) gate; thankfully no impact on Caxton this time. Under other circumstances I would have pulled over and let them rush haphazardly through the remaining locks. However the pounds are short here and with boats coming down as well as coming up behind us, this wasn’t a realistic option. Sue and I swapped places for the remaining locks and at the top we let the other boat get on its way while we closed the gates behind us.
As we approached the bridge by The Boat Inn just a few minutes later, a Rose narrowboat pulled away from the bank. In his desparation to get out in front of us, the steerer had forgotten to fit his tiller so there was a mad scramble as the crew struggled to the boat under control before they reached the bridge. A few minutes later we saw and heard the tell-tale signs of a steam engined boat up ahead. The smoke and steam had engulfed the boat that we had shared the locks with but we knew that it was in that cloud somewhere – not that we laughed of course! A mile or so later, we saw that our lock buddies had pulled over and as we passed them, they told me that the smoke had filled their cabin so they were waiting for ten minutes to let the steamer get through the Calcutt locks. The Rose narrowboat which had been so keen to get underway just twenty minutes earlier pulled over and moored up just a few minutes later even though the steamboat was by now, nowhere in sight. It was just exiting the bottom lock as we arrived but wasn’t throwing out much smoke that we could see. With boats coming down, it didn’t take long to get up through the short flight.
We turned left at Wigram’s turn and became part of a convoy heading towards Braunston at the same time as an equally long convoy of boats headed in the opposite direction. At Braunston turn, we went left while most others turned right and once we had passed the usual long line of boats on the visitor moorings, we found a peaceful place to tie up for the day between Braunston and Willoughby.
We settled in the cratch for the afternoon, relaxing in the sunshine and watching the steady stream of boats go by. We now need to plan the final part of the trip and avoid the wet weekend weather that has been forecast.
We were awake at half past six which was too early but what can you do? We had a coffee before getting up and getting ready for the first day of our trip. After filling the water tank, emptying the cassettes and throwing our rubbish in the bin, I disconnected the shore lead and took the electricity meter to the shop to be read. We had a cheese omelette for breakfast then the engine checks were done, the ropes untied and we were off!
Nb Alfresco was winding hastily in the marina entrance as we approached the iron bridge but that didn’t impede us or hold us up in any way as we made our way out on to the G.U.
It was a windy morning but the few boats that we met were not encountered at bridges or narrow parts of the canal. We’ve travelled this route many times in the past and it’s not always been without incident. I was thinking about one of those trips as we neared the junction and I noticed that Tony and Paul Redshaw have left their premises. I checked later and discovered that they have moved to Daventry. Previous adventures here and here.
We caught up with nb Alfresco again outside Braunston where he had managed to get grounded, he was so far over that we couldn’t get near enough to help him unfortunately. He waved us on but even as we passed, our wash made no impression on the stranded boat. As we made our way between Willoughby and Barby, we passed by a number of boats preparing to leave their mooring and by the time we were approaching the Barby straight we had a Napton narrowboat, a Rose narrowboat and a privateer in tow. The Napton boat had been travelling very close behind us for half an hour so with the Barby straight in view, we slowed and signalled to him to pass. He was wearing a captain’s hat after all and therefore outranked me. Actually, he was wearing a white jacket too, Sue guessed that perhaps he thought that he looked like Richard Gere – sorry mate, the similarity ended at the clothing!
He didn’t pass but drew closer so that his wife could inform us from the bow that they were about to stop for lunch. We increased our speed again and they then turned into the unfinished Barby Moorings marina. By the time we had reached the end of the straight, crawling past the moored boats, the Rose narrowboat, Fanfare, was right behind us asking to pass. We let them go at the next opportunity, they explained as they passed us that they had to get their boat back to the hire base and they were short of time. Would you not get up early rather than wait until 10.30 or so to leave your mooring. Anyway we caught them up at the top of the Hillmorton flight and travelled down in parallel with them before theyo zoomed off into the distance.
Our descent of the flight had been relatively easy with enough boats coming up to halve the amount of work involved. As we worked the final lock, Richard Gere arrived in style by crashing into the gate of the other lock, there seemed to be a bit of confusion as they tried to work out that they had to run water into the chamber before using it. Presumably they had met ascending boats at the previous two locks and hadn’t had to think about the process. We finished our day’s travelling with a further forty minutes before we tied up next to the park at Brownsover. A short trip to Tesco followed and then back to Caxton for dinner – sweet and sour pork with rice and excellent it was too!
The hot summer continues.
We drove to Braunston on yet another sunny Thursday evening with the intention of eating out before boarding Caxton. Both the Admiral Nelson and the Boathouse were packed so we settled for cod and chips from the Braunston Fryer and they were delicious!
After sitting out in the cratch we had a relatively early night as I had to get up at 4.30 on friday to fly to Edinburgh.
I awoke before the alarm went off, showered and got dressed before driving to Rugby where I caught a train to Birmingham Airport. Sue meanwhile was carrying out work on Caxton – well she said she was!
It was almost 6pm when I returned to Caxton where I quickly got changed, had dinner and then went for a walk with Sue up and around the village.
On our return we invited Mike and Kim, who moor their boat Claire Louise next to us, for a few drinks on the bow deck of Caxton. We had a good old chinwag for a few hours until we parted company around midnight.
Despite the late night, we were up and about reasonably early on Saturday morning. I paid a visit to Midland Chandlers where I bought a new water filler cap which I fitted upon my return.
At midday we walked up to the village where we met Joe and Lesley from nb Yarwood at the Old Plough for lunch. A couple of pints of Doom Bar and a lime and soda for Sue washed down a variety of delicious meals. We chatted for more than a couple of hours in the sunshine before we went our separate ways.
After we had done a bit of shopping, Sue and I returned to Caxton where we sat in the cratch. Sue baked a couple of cakes for our visit to Bosworth marina on Sunday and then we waved goodbye to Mike & Kim as they took nb Claire Louise out of the marina and started their journey towards Oxford.
Our main reason for not taking Caxton out this weekend was we wanted to visit Bosworth marina to view the progress and to meet some of the other boat owners who will be mooring there. It didn’t take us too long to get ready and leave Caxton for a few days. We drove straight to the marina, arriving just after ten o’clock. Helen, the owner of the marina was chatting to a couple of people who were moving from Springwood Haven which lies between Nuneaton and Atherstone on the Coventry canal. We were soon joined by Martin and Caroline from Somerset who are having a new boat built by Bluewater Boatsand will be mooring just two berths away from us. Their build slot is booked and we are hoping to follow the construction of nb Sonia Louise, a semi-trad reverse layout boat of around 65′. Caroline found our blog after first following Joe & Lesley and then Paul & Elaine who were of course our predecessors as custodions of Caxton. We all had a wander around the marina, found our new berths and then made our way to the new facilities building where we bumped into Chris Hubbard who is the marina manager and a friend of ours from Hinckley. The building is impressive and there still seems a lot to do but the plumbing and electrics are all at the first fix stage so their target to finish in September is probably achievable. We expect to move Caxton sometime in late September or Early October and that is also when Martin and Caroline are going to be cruising around the Leicestershire ring with a short diversion along the Ashby to Market Bosworth. We hope to catch up with them, our new neighbours to be, when they visit.
We left the marina and drove to Market Bosworth station which is the midpoint of the Battlefield line preserved railway. This was the weekend of the annual “Rails & Ales” beer festival organised by the local CAMRA group. When we arrived in the old goods shed, we discovered that they had experienced a really busy day on Saturday and had almost run out of both beer and cider! They still had some though and so we had an experimental half pint of beer and a half cider, very nice too. There were a number of old motorcycles on display, mainly BSA and Triumph alongside traction engines, steam rollers and tractors.
After we had taken a look around, we wandered over to the other side of the tracks, bought a couple of tickets and waited for the train to arrive. We travelled 1st class to Shenton and then moved to a different coach for the return journey to Shackerstone at the other end of the line. We had a light lunch in the station tearoom at Shackerstone before walking around the village and back to the station to catch the next train back to Market Bosworth.
We ended our day with an ice cream before driving back home.
Here are a few links.
After another peaceful night’s sleep, we got up and got dressed around nine o’clock. Rather than go on to bridge 107 to turn, I thought that I would reverse the 400 yards or so back to the winding hole which nestles almost hidden in the middle of offside long term moorings. The towpath side behind us was completely empty and I almost considered pulling Caxton back by hand but decided against it, preferring to use engine and bow thruster. No sooner than I had untied, a GRP cruiser appeared under the bridge in front of us so I waited until it had passed by before engaging reverse gear. Unbelievably, they pulled in about twenty feet behind us and started to tie up! This meant that I had to get mid channel before I could pass them and in the meantime two narrowboats appeared from the front and one from behind. I patiently waited until everyone had gone past and started my move into the middle of the cut, as soon as I had, the couple on the
tupperware boat cruiser, untied and set off again, unbelievable behaviour again!!!
After that, it was a relatively easy reverse back to the winding hole where we turned Caxton around and headed back to the junction. It was warm and humid as we chugged past the line of boats moored opposite the Boathouse although the pub moorings themselves were empty, maybe not too surprising as it was only 10.30am.
As usual we entered the marina from the private entrance and then reversed on to our berth. After securing Caxton to the pontoon and doing the necessary chores, we took a walk up to the Admiral Nelson and had lunch. By the time we returned, the washing machine had finished its cycle so Sue hung the washing out to dry in the cratch. We then gathered the very few things that we needed to take home, locked the doors and left the marina by car.