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.
Yesterday evening as we sat in the cratch, Sue became aware of a cow lying under some trees at the bottom of the field on the opposite side of the canal to us. She was very concerned about the animal’s welfare whereas I was convinced that it had just found a shady area to lie down in.
We went to bed and slept until 4am when we were awoken by a thunderstorm. Eventually we got back to sleep and didn’t wake up until nine o’clock. It was still raining so we had coffee in bed while we caught up with the news and checked out the weather forecast. We eventually got up, showered and dressed and Sue discovered that the cow hadn’t moved since the night before. It was clear to see that the BBC/Met office were completely wrong again (heavy rain forecast, blue skies above) so we untied and set off until we reached bridge 79 where we were able to tie up and walk up Barby hill to the farm where we reported that we had seen a cow in some sort of distress. The farmer confessed that he had not checked his herd the night before but he knew which cow it was because he said that it had been sick for the last couple of days. As we walked away from the farmhouse, the farmer zoomed past us on a quad bike, driving in the direction of the stricken animal.
We returned to Caxton, untied and carried on with our journey. It was warm and humid as we travelled along the Barby straight before we turned around at the winding hole next to the B&B next to the Kilsby lane road bridge. Once turned, we opened the bar and then Sue made some bread, the granite worktops being ideal for kneading dough on.
When we reached Onley and the spot that we had left earlier in the day, we saw that the cow was no longer there, we’ll never know what it’s fate was but at least we know that one way or another, it’s suffering is over. Sue of course is still feeling that she should have done something last night that would have prevented the beast lying in the field overnight.
We carried on with our journey and then reached Braunston turn where we took the right hand fork on to the G.U. Oxford section. We pulled up just beyond the winding hole and moored for the night, there has been the odd shower since but nothing to merit the amber warning issued by the Met Office for this area.
Regular readers will have realised that we are dividing our time almost equally between living in our house and on board Caxton. We stopped off at the marina on Thursday morning before continuing our journey by road to Pinewood studios to watch the recording of an episode of “Through the Keyhole” which will be broadcast next month. We arrived back at Braunston around 9.30pm, settled in and went to bed.
Friday dawned and I got up and went to work, well one of us has to! Sue, meanwhile pottered around and did some shopping in the village. On her way back she spotted nb Yarwood being tied up just outside the marina by Joe and Lesley who of course were the original designers and owners of Caxton. We had briefly made their acquaintance on the weekend of the Braunston Historic Boat Rally so Sue said hello and was invited in and enjoyed a glass of wine with her hosts. I of course was oblivious to all of this as I toiled away at work trying to keep the country going. Eventually I finished what I had to do and returned to Braunston where Sue was waiting, sunning herself in the cratch with a glass of wine. Our plan had been to take Caxton out but we popped back to Yarwood and spent a few hours with Joe and Lesley instead. The conversation flowed well and we covered many subjects from Scottish independence to life afloat. We got a great insight into the economics of being a liveaboard from our new friends, reinforcing our belief that our plans for the future are the right ones. Joe gave me the stem to stern tour of Yarwood and I have to say that it really is a superb vessel, completely different to Caxton in most ways but with some of the same characteristics evident. Eventually we had to say goodbye but not before we made some tentative arrangements to meet up next week and go out for a meal with the pair. The time had flown by so when we returned to Caxton it was after seven o’clock and a bit too late to venture out. We had dinner in the cratch, lit by the late evening sunshine.
When we awoke on Saturday it was already very warm inside Caxton, a bit too warm and a quick glance outside revealed why. The sun was beating down from a clear blue sky so we got up and got dressed and by nine o’clock we were pulling out of the marina and on to the Grand Union. We had a brief conversation as we left with Paul, the marina manager, mainly about the lemon drizzle cake that Sue had made for the office staff last week.
This was the sort of day that we all love boating and as a result there were a lot of us about. We made our way on to the Oxford and headed towards Rugby and eventually reached the locks at Hillmorton. The descent was easy with enough boats moving in each direction between the locks to reduce the work for everyone. Once clear of the bottom lock, we passed the long term moorings and the water points before finding our mooring at the end of the armco piling. We toyed with the idea of walking into Hillmorton but it was so hot that we decided to sit in the cratch where there was a bit of shade instead. The afternoon slipped by and slowly gave way to an early evening which in turn made the transition to a sunset which at last brought a coolness to the air. So that was it, we had managed to while away yet another day doing bugger all!
Before bedtime, I switched on my iPad and tapped on the Newsify app. This is a news aggregator which picks up a series of RSS feeds of the users choice. I have a number of boating blogs that I follow and I find that this is the easiest way to keep up with my “correspondents” as I like to think of them. I read that Steve and Chris on board nb AmyJo had begun their big cruise which would move their boat from Crick to Tattenhall. They had reached Braunston where, like us 24 hours earlier, they had found Yarwood and spent some time with Joe and Lesley.
After a good night’s sleep we awoke to see that the weather had changed again and we faced a dull and damp morning. It was dry so we got ready and set off again hoping to turn just beyond Clifton wharf which is marked in the Nicholsons guide as a full length turning point. It isn’t as we found out when we tried to wind Caxton there half an hour after we had untied, perhaps there were no boats moored in the old arm when the guide was written. We motored on until we reached Rugby wharf, yet another disused loop from the original canal but one in which we were able to turn Caxton around. I thought that it might be worth trying to buy some diesel so once turned, we headed into the arm itself. This was our first time down there and we were surprised at how far it was before we reached the end. Sue got off and went to find some signs of life, she returned with the news that there is no-one around to sell diesel on Sundays. Unfortunately the heavens had opened and with me in the process of turning Caxton in the winding hole, we both ended up getting wet. As soon as Sue was back on board, the rain stopped of course but with it being warm, we both dried out soon enough. We re-emerged onto the cut and turned again in the winding hole, our third turnaround in fifteen minutes! We began our journey back to Braunston by picking our way through the bridges and moorings between Brownsover and Clifton. The sky remained cloudy until we reached the bottom lock at Hillmorton and as soon as we pulled up on the lock landing, there was a sharp shower so we donned our raincoats and started our ascent. Since Sue had her operation, she isn’t allowed to work the locks so I took my windlass and got to work. Sue recognised the lock keeper who we had met at Foxton last year and who was moored in Market Harborough basin, he has now been promoted and is based at Braunston where he is in charge of 126 volunteer lock keepers as well as the locks between Hillmorton and Buckby.
Fortunately there were more boats coming down the flight than going up so our progress was fairly good. When I walked up to the top lock there was a restored working boat already in the chamber with the crew just about to open the bottom paddles. It took some time to drain the lock, the boat left and Sue began her approach. In the meantime a boat had arrived on the top lock landing and I recognised its distinctive colours, it was nb AmyJo and striding towards me was Chris with windlass in hand. Of course we’ve never met before and I had the advantage of seeing their boat before she saw ours but I went to her and said hello. Steve brought AmyJo into one lock as Sue brought Caxton into the other and we all had a bit of a disjointed conversation as we worked the two locks together. The photos of AmyJo look great but in real life, even under a dull sky, it looks amazing – a fantastic paint job. Sadly we didn’t get to spend any more time with Steve and Chris but we will continue to follow their exploits through their blog posts.
After Hillmorton we plodded along without incident, the sky gradually clearing as we made our way back to Braunston. Six hours after we had untied, we were tying up on our pontoon in the marina, a weekend that had seen us make new friends who share the same interests as us and who write about their adventures on blogs like this. We bumped into our favourite lock keeper and we explored an extra bit of the Oxford canal in the form of the Rugby Wharf arm.
So what is the meaning of contentment…….We have stayed in Braunston this weekend because it has been the weekend of the ” Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally” and I think that this has been pretty close to my idea of contentment. Friday night George received a message off Mike which said ” I am in the beer tent and I owe you a pint”. George knows Mike through work but I had never met his wife Jane, who turned out to be great company, so Friday night was great fun. Saturday there was a lot of rain so we hung around the boat but Sunday was a different kettle of fish altogether. I was cooking breakfast and there was a knock on the boat. It turned out to be Lesley and Joe who were the people who commissioned and designed “Caxton”. I love our boat so I really admire Lesley and Joe and it was lovely to meet them.
Sunday was hot and sunny so we met up with Mike and Jane again and enjoyed sunshine, wine and great company while sitting outside the beer tent. It is now 7.30 and we are now sitting in the conservatory..aka cratch, enjoying the sunshine while drinking wine and beer….
It’s the weekend of the Braunston Historic Boat Rally so we moved on to Caxton on Wednesday evening, stopping off at The Boathouse for dinner. We could see that there was some sort of private function going on in one of the marquees but otherwise it was quiet.
On Thursday morning I got up and went to work in Coventry for the day. It was gone five o’clock when I returned to the marina and I could immediately see how Sue had spent her day, the port side of Caxton reflected light like a mirror, it looks like the Greased Lightning product is as good as its reviews.
I got changed and then turned Caxton around on its mooring, a tricky move but it was executed beautifully and of course there was not one single person around to witness it. Once we had re-tied, I gave the starboard side of Caxton a good clean down ready for a coat of Greased Lightning.
We had dinner and then walked over to the beer tent to watch the play, a production call “The Bad Pennies”, performed by the Day Star Theatre Company. It was a very good show as usual but we were pretty tired and were glad to return to Caxton once it was finished.
I awoke briefly at 2.30 to the sound of torential rain battering on the roof of the boat but by the time my alarm went off at 6am, it was dry again. I went to work in Coventry again and despite my best efforts, didn’t manage to escape any earlier than normal. It had rained for most of the day so Caxton’s starboard side remained un-polished. We had dinner and then walked over to the beer tent where we met up with Mike, Jane, two of their three children and Jane’s dad, John. Mike and Jane live in the building that was once the Braunston bakery (it is the house with the Hovis sign on it for those who know Braunston). We had a drink then gave them a tour of Caxton before returning to the beer tent where we listened to the band playing there. The heavens opened again and the tent quickly filled with revellers from outside escaping from the rain. We all had a good singalong with the band until they had to stop at half past eleven.
It was overcast but dry when we got up on Saturday so I got up and emptied the cassettes before too many visitors arrived. We filled the water tank before we got ready and ventured out just after ten o’clock. There didn’t seem to be as many traders this year and there definitely wasn’t as many artists displaying their works. We returned to Caxton where Sue cooked some bacon and sandwiched it in a couple of bread buns that she had baked the day before. We took up our position in the cratch where we could watch the parade and shelter from the rain.
It absolutely hammered down for the duration of the parade and as the time went on, the crowds just dwindled and dwindled until there was only a handful of stalwarts left on the bridge. Like the number of traders, there seemed to be far fewer boats on parade than in previous years at this event. Within minutes of the parade ending, the rain stopped and shortly afterwards the sun came out. We watched the second parade with the cratch covers rolled up but it wasn’t too long before the rain came again so we called it a draw and retreated to the comfort of Caxton’s lounge where we just dossed for a while before we watched the Brazil v Chile match on television.
We knew that this year, the Mikron theatre group were performing in the beer tent at five o’clock and assumed that there would be some sort of musical act following on into the evening. The group turned out to be a very noisy tribute band. We didn’t go to listen to them, we didn’t need to, we could hear every word from inside the boat. I walked over to see what was going on at about nine o’clock, the noise was unbelievable and the tent was nowhere near as full as I would have expected.
On returning to Caxton I did a bit of boater’s blog reading and saw that our boat’s original owners, Joe and Lesley were at Flecknoe and heading towards Braunston. I left a comment on their blog to the effect that their old boat was in the marina and that if they were passing on Sunday, maybe they could stop by and say hello. I neglected to mention this to Sue so she was rather surprised on Sunday morning when there was a knock on the side of the boat, the penny dropped quickly when she saw Lesley and recognised her from pictures on their blog. We chatted to them and to their two friends who were with them for a little while and then said our farewells and let them go and enjoy the boat rally.
The weather had greatly improved by comparison to the day before so we just spent the morning looking at the boats before walking along the towpath to Braunston turn. This of course is where the rally boats have to turn around so we lingered for a while and watched the action from on top of one of the twin iron bridges that span the junction. All that was left to do was to call in at Midland Chandlers to buy a new chimney and a cartridge for the water filter. This done, we stopped off at the Boathouse for a refreshment or two before making our way back to the marina. We spotted Mike, Jane, Olivia and John who were sitting in the sunshine having a drink. We joined them and listened to the live music until everything finished at five thirty. That was it, the Historic Boat Rally was over for another year so we wandered back to Caxton and sat in the cratch, faced the west and took in the beautiful evening sunshine.
George went off to work at 7 o’clock this morning and I turned over and went back to sleep because I am a lazy bugger. I dragged myself from my pit at 9.20 and ground some coffee beans for my cafetiere which I drank in my conservatory..aka cratch. About one hour later I got myself cleaned up and dressed and decided that I had better do some work to justify being a stay at home housewife or domestic goddess as I prefer to be known. I made some multi grain bread rolls by hand, dusted the inside of the boat, sorted the clothes in the wardrobes, cleaned the windows and put the pots in the dishwasher and sat down in my conservatory again because that is enough work for one day in my opinion.
The boats have begun to arrive today for tomorrows parade of ” Braunstons Historic Narrowboat Rally ” and we will have a great view of it because I am a nag. When we brought Caxton back to Braunston we were shoved at the back of the marina in a dingy hidden mooring because we were told that there was not another mooring available for a boat of 68 feet, so for several weeks I went to the marina office and nagged and nagged and now we have a super mooring right near to the marina entrance with a full view of the parade as it passes through the marina, plus we are only about 25 yards from the chip van which suits me and 100 yards from the beer tent which suits George.
I polished the side of the boat this morning and the product works because it looks lovely.
Everyone seems to be very busy here in Braunston getting ready for the boat show and I have made my preparations too because I have been up to the butchers to buy a piece of shoulder of pork. I know that you are thinking ” What has a piece of pork got to do with the boat show”!!!!! well I will explain. When we visited the boat show two years ago we went to a stall called “Smithy’s”…named and shamed…to buy two hot pork rolls. The girl made them up and then said ” That will be £10 please”….I was well and truly gobsmacked at the price but it gets worse. We sat near the stall eating the rolls and the girl had a break. She smoked her ciggy, picked some dried mud from the bottom of her shoes and then went back to serve people without washing her hands.
I now make our pork rolls as a tradition every boat show and they are much tastier and I know that my personal hygeine is good too.
I am excited today because we are going to the boat this afternoon for four days. George is going to travel to work from the boat on Thursday and Friday. Tonight we will wash one side of the boat and then I am going to polish it tomorrow while George is at work and then we will turn her round Tomorrow night and do the same on the other side. I have bought a product called ” Grease Lightning Showroom Shine ” from Amazon. It has rave reviews stating that “You just spray it on and polish it off and the shine it leaves is amazing, and it also stays cleaner for longer”. At £34.99 for 3.8 litres it had better be bloody good. I will let you know tomorrow. Sue xxx