As I write this, it is almost a week since the carnival ended with a firework display and a ceremony where a giant sardine was paraded through the town and then burned on the beach.
With the sardine being accompanied on its final journey with a steady beating of drums, it was all reminiscent of the fateful scene in the film, The Wicker Man. In the week leading up to the fiery finale there were various events to find the carnival queens; senior, junior and drag. Last Saturday, the penultimate evening before the sardine got sizzled, was the highlight of the week with the big parade taking place down the main street. There was a retro theme for this year’s carnival and as the sun started to set, the locals started to assemble, dressed as they were in all sorts of imaginative costumes. The photos below hopefully give some idea of how entertaining the evening was.
There are more photos here.
We have rented an apartment in Corralejo, Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands until mid March, by which time we hope that the winter weather at home will have passed.
Before I retired, we always had a winter holiday on one or other of the Canary Islands and that started with a drive to the airport, usually Birmingham. After I handed back my company car, there didn’t seem much point in having another while we were boating so we’ve done without and as a result have done a lot more walking. Of course it isn’t always practical to walk so we have become quite adept at using public transport and since we didn’t fancy walking to Birmingham airport, we went by train instead. Birmingham International station is right next to the airport and the two are linked by monorail so it’s all very easy and civilised. We like to take things easy so we went to the airport the day before we were due to fly and spent the night in the Novotel, which is a two minute walk from the terminal.
The following day, all we had to do was to get up and have a leisurely breakfast before checking in and although the flight was delayed slightly, we still enjoyed it. All went smoothly on arrival and we were picked up by Keith, the property manager, who brought us to the apartment and showed us where everything was. We made a quick trip to a nearby supermarket where we bought some basic essentials and after dropping those off, we headed into town for something to eat.
We’ve visited Corralejo many times before on holiday so you might be forgiven for wondering how we have spent our time in a town which is essentially a holiday resort. We’ve made a point of walking every day, anywhere between four and twelve miles but generally averaging around seven or eight. From where we are living, there are many different routes to follow that take in the beaches, the harbour and even an out of town supermarket. Inevitably we will stop somewhere for morning coffee or if it’s afternoon I can usually be tempted by a cold beer.
We have travelled by bus to other towns in the north of the Island including the capital, Puerto del Rosario. The bus services are regular and they have a card system similar to London’s Oyster card so it is very easy to get around. Buses are known locally as Guaguas (pronounced Wah-wah) – a term that is also used in the Caribbean, but not in Mainland Spain.
Because we are here for a few months, we have not eaten out as frequently as we would have done on a normal holiday so this has meant that we have had to do a lot more grocery shopping than normal. We have a good choice of supermarkets in Corralejo, Hiperdino, Mercadona and EuroSpar with the latter being the only recognisable name to us. All three stock pretty much everything needed by visitors and locals alike. They all have a wide range of fresh produce, their fish counters in particular are exceptionally good, putting the UK supermarkets to shame. Shopping has been interesting and fun on occasion because of course almost everything is written in Spanish. Some items are easy to recognise, others take a bit of working out but that’s where Google’s translate app is a Godsend (Download it here). After a while, product recognition becomes second nature and it seems as easy to go shopping here as it does at home. Nevertheless, that heady mix of confidence and complacency can soon lead to mistakes and it wasn’t too long before I bought a bottle of hair conditioner thinking that it was shampoo and then wondered why I couldn’t wash my hair properly! Embarrassingly, the Spanish word for shampoo is champú so I had no real excuse!
Top Tip: When buying fresh chicken, use the phrase “puedes cortar la cabeza, por favor?” **
When it comes to eating out, there really isn’t a language barrier because virtually everyone working in the cafés, bars and restaurants have a good command of the English language making it easy for us lazy Brits to order food and drink. We assume that English is a major subject in the local schools, it would make sense given the number of people who are employed in the tourist industry. We have probably eaten out once or twice a week on average and maybe the same again for snacks or light meals. The food and service has been good to excellent everywhere that we have eaten but needless to say we haven’t sampled anywhere near the reported 275 eateries in town. Top of that list, according to TripAdvisor, is The Ugly Duckling. We have visited it twice and have to say that it deserves its reputation and probably deserves its number one ranking.
Whether eating out or shopping in the supermarkets, the cost of living is more or less the same as at home in the UK even with the weaker pound. Even adding 10 – 15% tip to a café or restaurant bill doesn’t break the bank here.
So a combination of being a resort in which English is widely spoken and almost everything that can be bought in the UK is here, our time in Corralejo has hardly been a cultural revelation. However we knew that before we came here for the winter, all we wanted to do was to migrate rather than hibernate. The question of culture is about to be turned on its head in the next few days. February is carnival time in Fuerteventura and on Friday it is the turn of Corralejo to host its carnival. We’ve never been here during the carnival before but we can see from the preparations and from pictures of the carnival in previous years that the town is going to come to life in a much different way than we have experienced so far.
** puedes cortar la cabeza, por favor? means “can you cut its head off, please?”
Here are a few pictures of Corralejo and El Cotillo
It seems like ages since we ended our summer trip and I suppose that it is now that four months have passed by. The first month back on dry land was spent carrying out various jobs on the boat while the weather held up and we were in the marina. Eventually though it just became too cold and wet to get much done. Fortunately all of the main work was complete so there should be very little that needs to be done before we embark on our summer 2018 tour.
It had always been our intention to escape the winter weather by seeking refuge in the Canary Islands so in early December we flew to Lanzarote and had a couple of weeks at the Rubicon Palace Hotel.
We wouldn’t normally choose a hotel holiday but this last minute, half board offer from Jet2 was too good to pass up. We had a great time, the staff are superb, the hotel is lovely, the food was excellent and to top it all, we were given a free room upgrade on arrival so spent the two weeks in a spacious suite. We were equally fortunate with the weather, having flown out just two days before Britain was hit by freezing temperatures with snow and ice causing severe travel disruption. By the time we returned, just a few days before Christmas, the UK temperature had risen and it was as mild as the day that we had left. The only sign that winter had visited was a giant mound of snow that had been ploughed to the side of Birmingham Airport.
We had a quiet Christmas at home followed by a trip north to see in the New Year with my parents. We travelled back on January 2nd and that left us just three days to prepare for our next trip and our “proper” winter break.
More of that in the next post.
I’ve just completed a project which allows me (or anyone else for that matter) to monitor the performance of Caxton’s solar panels. This involved connecting a Raspberry Pi computer to the controller and storing the data in a MySQL database online. You can find the website with the solar info here solar.narrowboat.us .
It is better to view during daylight hours as the controller goes into sleep mode after dark – a bit like me!
We left Stoke Golding’s Duck bend reasonably early on Thursday for the trip back to our home in Hinckley and luckily we found that the mooring close to the apartment was empty so naturally we tied up there. We checked the post and moved a few more of our belongings from the floating home to the bricks and mortar one. It was strange walking from the apartment back to the canal and seeing Caxton sitting in the sunshine as it had done back at the beginning of May in the last few days before this epic trip began.
However, the epic trip was still ongoing and with the weekend temperatures predicted to be in the low 20’s we decided to head back to Hawkesbury for a few days. It was Friday afternoon before we set off but with no pressure of time on us, we were only aiming for a mooring somewhere on the lower stretches of the Ashby. We tied up just past Burton Hastings, opposite where Bramcote barracks and hospital used to be although new housing now occupies the site. The last time that we moored here was in November 2010 on our fateful trip to Braunston but this time around, we awoke to unseasonably warm temperatures on Saturday morning. As we approached Hawkesbury, we could see that most of the seven day mooring stretch on the Coventry canal side of the junction was free so we just picked the straightest stretch that we could find and moored up. Being the first boat to arrive meant that everyone else filled up the mooring around us and by early evening, the stretch was full.
Although the promised temperatures materialised, the sun only appeared sporadically and the wind sort of dominated on both weekend days – maybe our expectations were too high, given the fact that it was mid October and summer was living on borrowed time. We were treated to a magnificently colourful sunset on Saturday evening and perhaps it was a fitting sign for us, one which said, “that’s it, you’ve had a great time but now it’s over until next year!”.
With nothing much to hang around for, we decided to set off again on Sunday afternoon, turn around and head for home. It was just one of those afternoons when it would have been easy to cruise for hours on end, the conditions were so good. As a result, we reached the moorings before the A5 at the Limekilns and found that there was space for us there.
We walked into Hinckley on Monday morning, a warm day but backlit by that strange orange sunlight created by the outer edge of Hurricane Ophelia picking up dust from the Sahara desert. By Monday afternoon the wind was increasing in strength as Ophelia closed in on the western edges of the British Isles but by then we had returned to the safety and warmth of Caxton.
Tuesday morning brought a completely different sort of day, blue skies and sunshine, although the temperature had cooled by a few degrees. We moved on from the Limekilns and made our way back to “our garden” mooring. It had been our intention to spend the following few days carrying our remaining belongings back to the apartment before moving Caxton back into the marina on Friday. However, with wet weather forecast for the rest of the week we decided to make the most of the beautiful day, move all our stuff off and go back in later in the day. It was a bit of a slog, almost like moving house without the benefit of Pickfords but we managed it and by half past four we were untying Caxton, ready for the final leg of our trip. In a way, it was quite fitting really to set off from the same point as we had at the beginning of May on the first leg, albeit in the opposite direction. It didn’t take us long to make the short hop round to the marina and find our new berth for the winter. After tying up, we decided to call into the Marina pub for a celebratory drink to mark the end of our first epic trip.
This is what the trip entailed:
Number of weeks spent on board – 25
Miles travelled – 358 (573km)
Locks – 187
Tunnels – 6
Counties visited – 10
Blog posts – 45
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll realise that we’re just winding down now and making the most of the mild weather by dawdling up and down the Ashby Canal.
On Friday, we walked to the Globe at Snarestone and had lunch there which was excellent as usual. After lunch we walked back to the boat and then carried on along the restored section of canal to what is now the new terminus. On returning to the service area, we saw that nb Sonia Louise was moored up behind Caxton so we said hello and invited our friends, Martin and Caroline for a drink.
We had a good catch up over a couple of glasses of wine on board Caxton before retiring for the evening. On Saturday morning I helped Martin make some adjustments to the Mastervolt system on Sonia Louise before Sue joined us for coffee. Having stayed for the maximum 48 hours on the visitor moorings, we left and made our way to Snarestone tunnel where I was propositioned by Sue who suggested that if we tied up south of the tunnel, she would buy lunch at the Globe. Never one to pass up the chance of a visit to a pub or indeed a free lunch, I pulled Caxton in at the earliest opportunity and so we found ourselves back in the Globe having lunch. We were soon joined by Martin and Caroline who expressed some surprise at our lack of progress but as soon as we had eaten, we were on our way again.
We moored at Shackerstone for the evening and I paid a short visit to the Rising Sun for a couple of pints.
Sunday morning dawned and we were off again, this time bound for Market Bosworth where we tied on the visitor moorings. Martin and Caroline passed us a while later as they returned to their mooring in Bosworth marina and a short while after we saw Treena and Stuart on nb Carpe Diem. Carpe Diem was moored next to us in Hinckley when we bought Phoenix III and our paths have crossed many times over the years.
Our next port of call was the marina cafe where we had a cream tea before walking up to town. The 1804 cafe is a superb addition to the marina facilities and they are lucky that they have their own pastry chef who lives on a boat there. She happens to be the partner of my old friend, Daz who we know from Trinity and who also moors in Bosworth now.
We caught up with Treena & Stuart before we went to Market Bosworth and had a bloody good laugh with them, they really are a smashing couple.
On Monday we walked into town and re- aquatinted ourselves with the Dixie Arms where we had lunch and then did a bit of shopping in the local fruit shop and Co-op.
We were up relatively early on Tuesday and went into the marina where we filled up with diesel and bought a couple of bags of coal before setting off again.
Our next stop was Sutton Cheney wharf where we serviced the boat and then carried on to duck bend between Dadlington and Stoke Golding. On arrival, we bumped into yet another of our old friends, Jim Redhead on nb Billie. Jim is an artist who specialises in oil paints and we haven’t seen him since we left in early May so it was good to catch up with him after all of these months.
While I was chewing the fat with Jim, Sue was booking a table at the Dog & Hedgehog at Dadlington. It’s a ten minute walk from the canal to the D&H and as we reached the pub we met our friend Liz who is, or rather was, the postmistress at Stoke Golding. Sadly, the post office was robbed last monday and Liz was assaulted in the process. We were pleased to see that she was none the worse for the ordeal, however she has resigned her post and the P.O. remains closed.
Dinner was excellent as usual and our hosts were as charming as usual, so much so that Sue declared that she would buy lunch the following day. Therefore, on Wednesday, we walked back up the hill and had lunch at the Dog & Hedgehog.
Other than that, we have watched boats struggle in the high winds as well as suffering two boats as they collided with us as they either lost control of their steering or failed to judge the mooring space available.
A couple of lazy days were spent at Market Bosworth, we only managed one walk up to town but we did manage to catch up with Chris Hubbard, the manager at Bosworth marina. On Wednesday we decided to move on a bit further, this time getting as far as Shackerstone, where we tied on the deserted visitor moorings.
Following the usual pattern, we showered and had lunch before venturing out to the preserved station, home of the Battlefield line heritage railway.
There is a Victorian tea room on the platform so of course we had to pop in and have a cuppa before we returned to the boat and battened down the hatches, ready for the forecast wind and rain to arrive. The rain arrived at around seven o’clock and the wind speed built up steadily after that. By the time we were ready for bed, the noise of the wind blowing through the surrounding trees was terrific, so much so that Sue was unable to get to sleep until after two (I was out like a light within ten minutes though!).
There were more high winds forecast for Thursday but when I went outside just after eight o’clock to check that everything was intact and where it should be, it didn’t seem too bad at all. Just over an hour later, we set off again and made the trip along the last part of the Ashby canal to Snarestone. It was a quiet journey and we met only two boats travelling in the opposite direction along the way. The phantom leaf ball intervened a few times in some of the wooded areas around Gopsall but it didn’t hold us up at all. Snarestone tunnel seems quite tame after Blisworth and Braunston, despite the fact that it has a bend in it and a low roof caused by mining subsidence.
On reaching the end, we again found the visitor moorings deserted so we headed for the service block at the end and did the necessary. By now the wind was really picking up again but for once it was a good thing because after reversing from the services, I brought Caxton to a halt and just let the wind blow the bow into the winding hole. Having let the wind do most of the work, it was simple enough to complete the manoeuvre and tie up at the bridge end of the moorings.
After lunch, Sue walked back to the canal shop and paid for membership of the Ashby Canal Association. We’ll go and inspect the restoration development on Friday when the strong north westerly wind has dropped.
Our mooring at bridge 23 near Stoke Golding was quiet as usual and we remained there on Saturday. A few boats passed by in both directions during the day but it wasn’t busy by any means. At lunch time, I made the ten minute walk up to the village on a very important mission, I wanted to visit The George and Dragon for one of their sausage rolls, washed down with a pint of beer. The locally brewed pint of “Goat’s Milk” was alright but real ale isn’t really my thing. The sausage roll however, lived up to my expectations. Sue’s painful hip has been playing up again and she had remained on the boat so after my short lunch, I walked back down the towpath and joined her on board. The afternoon was spent reading in our peaceful surroundings. Silence, only broken by the braying donkeys, mooing cows, the geese, the ducks and the combine harvester. The farmyard noises being punctuated periodically by the cars sounding their horns as they approached the narrow bridge over the canal.
There wasn’t really a plan for our time on the Ashby, we had just wanted to travel to the end and back, stopping at the various villages along the way. We’ve visited them all before but never all on the same trip. The weather was always going to be a determining factor in our travel plans and more specifically help us to decide when it was time to return home and move back on to the land. For those who don’t know, the distance from Snarestone at the end of the navigation to Hinckley is only sixteen miles or around five and a half hours travelling so if the weather really turned nasty, we could be back home in a day!
A few days ago we were enjoying warm sunshine but today, the first of October, it seems that the season has changed as if by the flick of a switch! The signs were all there of course, shortened days, slightly cooler temperatures and if we had bothered to notice, the yellowing of the leaves on the trees. Overnight rain and winds that are stronger than of late have brought those yellow leaves down to the ground and into the water – and all over the roof of the boat!
The sun came up at seven o’clock, not that it was visible behind the thick blanket of grey cloud that filled the sky. At nine o’clock, we untied and moved off in the direction of Sutton Cheney. A few minutes later and the wharf where the Ashby boat company is based came into view, as did one of their day hire boats which was just setting off. Just as I was wishing that we had left a few minutes earlier, the staff member on the bank saw me and waved me through, instructing the hirers to reverse and give way – what a star you are, sir!
The next hour was spent pleasantly meandering around the contours of the land, despite the dullness, the temperature was mild enough so on balance it was a good cruise. At Sutton Cheney we pulled in and used the services there and after checking the visitor moorings, we moved on as there was no space available. While we were servicing the boat, the Ashby day boat had passed us so it was a bit of a surprise, as we approached Shenton, to see them tying up. As we got nearer I could see that the crew had the weed hatch open and were peering into it with puzzled expressions on their faces. The weed hatch was closed by the time we drew level and they were preparing to set off again, they were clearly mystified but I knew what their problem was.
For the uninitiated (boaters can skip this paragraph), the weed hatch gives access to the propeller and the only time that you need to go in there is when something is fouling the prop. It could be anything from reeds and weeds to plastic bags, clothing, a traffic cone or a discarded tyre. Having lost steering and power, I always dread lifting the weed hatch, always hoping for something simple and easy to remove. At this time of year, there are a lot of leaves in the water and the propeller churns them into a ball which swirls around and creates the same effect that something wrapped around it. By the time the boat is pulled over and the weed hatch opened, the ball of leaves will have dispersed and the boater is left staring, mystified at a clear prop. The phantom problem will return of course but eventually the steerer will realise that by just knocking the engine out of gear for a few seconds will disperse the leaves so no visit down the weed hatch is necessary.
It was still early so we plodded on, with only two or three phantom leave balls to hinder us and eventually reached Market Bosworth where we found that the single space between the road bridge and the marina was free so we pulled in and tied up as we have done many times before. It’s a quiet spot here because the towpath was diverted when the marina was built and therefore nobody ever walks past.
There were so many leaves lying on the roof that I decided to brush them off before they started to rot and stick. This gave me a front row seat for some entertainment a couple of minutes later when the day boat arrived, not that they did anything wrong, they seemed experienced enough. A private boat was passing the marina entrance as the day boat reached the road bridge but the lady driving kept going. As she drew level with Caxton, she called out to her husband who quickly joined her on the back deck. The day boat had stopped by this time and there seemed to be an impasse for a minute or two, neither boat seemed to be willing to reverse and somehow managed to shuffle around each other, helped no doubt by the fact that they were both pretty short in length.
With the excitement over and the roof cleared, we retreated inside and had lunch. Later, I took a wander over to the station to see which steam engine was on duty and here it is.
Unbelievably , it has been a week since my last post and I don’t know where the time has gone so it’s time for a quick catch up!
After spending Friday night on the Warwickshire side of the A5, we walked over the county border and then into Hinckley where we did a little bit of shopping and had lunch at Prezzo before walking back to our apartment. Noticing that the mooring outside was free, I walked back to the Limekilns and brought Caxton round to “our garden” where Sue was waiting to take the ropes and pull us in.
We spent the next few days moving bits and pieces that we knew we wouldn’t be needing in our final month on board, back into our apartment. The weather had improved again so it was also an opportunity to make the most of what must surely be the last few days of summer. Hinckley hosts a classic car show every year and that just happened to be on the Sunday that we were in town. We spent a couple of afternoons on fthe decking outside the Marina with a bottle of wine, had lunch in Tarro Lounge another day and on our penultimate day we had lunch at Cafe Espanol which was a superb dining experience.
On Thursday, six days after we returned to the area, we moved the short distance to Trinity marina where we filled the water tank and emptied our cassettes. A bit cheeky, since we are not yet officially moored back there yet but I’m sure that they won’t mind this once. Once we were finshed we just pushed Caxton away from the bank and let the momentum carry us over to the other side of the canal where we pinned the boat to the armco piling.
It rained overnight and well into the morning so we had a very lazy start to the day, only getting up and showered in time for lunch. Afterwards, we walked into town and did some more shopping before returning to our mooring. Seeing that more rain was forecast for Saturday morning, we decided to set off for Stoke Golding even though it was already five o’clock.
It made a nice change travelling in the early evening and we saw nothing else on the move as we made our way through the countryside. We passed the barge moorings north of bridge 21, the approach to which is one of my favourite views on the Ashby canal. There were moorings available near bridge 22 but we passed on by and found a good spot near bridge 23. We have tied up here on many occasions in the past, it is close to Spinneybank farm shop and is an easy walk up into Stoke Golding.
In the end, we decided to leave Hawkesbury on Friday morning rather than Saturday. We had toyed with the idea of travelling to Atherstone for a couple of days but in the end, decided to return to the Ashby canal instead. Looking at the forecast, we could see that Friday offered sunshine and light cloud whereas Saturday looked dull but dry. Either day would have been good for travelling but sunshine on our return to our home water seemed appropriate. I was about to start this post with, “We’ve lost count of the number of times that we’ve travelled along the first six miles of the Ashby canal” but then I remembered that all I had to do was to go through the log book that we have kept since we bought our first boat, Phoenix III. The grand total came to 88 times! (44 in each direction of course).
Most people find that when they are driving home by car that there is a point where, because they have driven it many times before, it feels like they are already home, even if they still have twenty minutes left to go. We’re like that with Hawkesbury Junction; once we’ve made the turn on to the Coventry canal, we feel that we’re nearly home even though we’re still three hours away. It makes the trip easy to do as there is never a time when you’re unsure of your surroundings, how far you’ve travelled or how long you have left to go. The trip on Friday morning was just like that; we worked the lock, passed under the cast iron bridge and reversed on to the service point where we did all of the necessary things before setting off in the bright sunshine. An hour later, we reached Marston Junction which we had to ourselves long enough to make the turn unmolested by other craft. Soon we were passing under the West Coast mainline for the last time on our trip, we have crossed it, run along side it and slept within earshot of it for most of the way on our return from the bottom of the Grand Union. Just for good measure, we even travelled on it when we returned from our short break in July. Now we were leaving this strange travelling companion for the final time, well until we make trip number 89! On we went, meeting the odd narrowboat now and again and being overtaken by a trailboat but that was on one of the few straight and wide sections of the canal so that caused us no problem. An hour on from the junction saw us at Burton Hastings, after passing the long term linear moorings there and rounding the first bend, we caught our first sight of the warehouses next to the A5 and we knew that half an hour would bring us to the Limekilns bridge where the A5 crosses the canal.
Sure enough, the A5 suddenly came into view with its constant stream of Friday afternoon traffic. Seeing that the visitor moorings on our side of the road bridge were completely empty, we pulled in and tied up.
Our mooring for the night is only a ten minute walk away from where we live so we had lunch on board and then went to check that our home was still standing. Everything was in order so we quickly opened the post and returned to the boat for the evening.