Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Bus trip to Daventry.

Still moored at Stowehill.
Total of 159 locks and 1411/2 miles and 1 Tunnel since 5th Nov 2006

For the first time since we have been aboard “Gypsy Rover” we had to catch a bus to go shopping. As there is very little by way of shops here at Weedon we caught the bus to Daventry and spent the day there. The bus station at Daventry is well placed between Waitrose and Tesco’s with a Somerfield store nearby. We also found an old fashion hardware store that had most things that I wanted.
Dot managed to find a hair salon that could fit her in today for a hair cut so she is all nicely shorn again for the next couple of months.
As I have not had any success fishing using worms or bread for bait I decided that if I found a fishing shop I would get some maggots. Well it turned out that the local pet shop is also the fishing tackle shop so I struck lucky. I wonder if he sells many maggots as pets?
Back on the boat with all provisions stowed it was on deck for some fishing. I managed to catch 3 gudgeon and one small roach. I was letting the line drift in the flow of the wind and the water when it stopped moving. I suspected I had snagged something on the bottom so started to reel the line in. There was something heavy on the line alright and I didn’t realise it was a fish until I had it near the
surface. I didn’t feel it pull or fight at all until it was near the surface but because I hadn’t’ hooked it properly it threw the hook and I lost him. From what I saw of it I think it was a decent sized roach or bream. At least I now know that there are some decent sized fish in the canal because I was beginning to have my doubts.
Bathroom modifications are coming along slowly, just got to wait for the filler to dry and then sand the walls and varnish them before the vanity goes in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY KAREN,
We won’t say which one but the big one's getting close now



Monday, 12 March 2007

Working week-end.

Still moored at Stowehill.
Total of 159 locks and 1411/2 miles and 1 Tunnel since 5th Nov 2006

We are moored at the aquaduct Stowehill and very pleasant it is. The aquaduct is actually an earth and rock aquaduct built across a low lying area between Weedon and Stowehill. Just north of us are a church on the non tow path side with a tunnel under the canal and the cemetery on the towpath side.

The weather has been good so I have been catching up on some jobs aboard. Now we have the vanity basin I have made a start on fitting this which has proved to be harder than originally planned. The old basin appeared to be mounted with just 2 brackets but with all fittings and connections removed the basin refused to part company with the wall. No matter what I did the basin held firm. Eventually I had to get a hacksaw blade and cut the damned thing off the wall which took me for ages. I don’t know what adhesive was used but it was better than super glue. We now know why Heron boats were reluctant to change the basin for a vanity using the excuse they didn’t have time. They would have had to replace the bulkhead the basin was mounted on.

There is a bit of damage to the wall but nothing that a bit of filler won’t fix with some nice new tiles over the top it will look good as new. The next problem to rear its ugly head was the new vanity unit was too low for the waste outlet. I cannot change the outlet so with a few calculations I made a plinth for the vanity to stand on which appears to be spot on. I have painted the plinth with varnish to protect it from water damage and when that’s dry I will cover it in spare vinyl left over from doing the floor. Should look good.

In the meantime Dot has got out the bottles of Barkeeper’s Friend and Brasso and been polishing the mushroom vents which have never been polished and the brass tiller arm and pin. The boat is gradually starting to look cared for.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Just cruising.

Now moored at Stowehill. 0 Locks/ 7 Miles
Total of 159 locks and 1411/2 miles and 1 Tunnel since 5th Nov 2006

Rotherthorpe Lock 2 looking towards lock 1

After a very quiet night on the Northampton arm we winded above lock 1 and headed back to the GU mainline. At Gayton junction we stopped to top up the water as facilities further north appear to be scarce.

The journey was a bit mundane as it is reasonably flat through this area which is all agricultural. The only interesting sightings were a pheasant cock bird and the pretty little Mandarin duck pictured who had adopted a pair of Mallards for company.

The one mystery of the day was a huge mound of earth under the hedgerow on the towpath side of the canal. There were fresh diggings from the entrance hole which was far too large for rabbits but may have been a Badger or Fox. It seemed unusual in that it was so exposed although I don’t think the towpath would get that much use there as it was miles from anywhere. I was under the impression that these 2 creatures preferred to hide in woods or copses.

We have now moored between bridges 25 and 26at Stowehill which is about a mile from the village of Weedon. We took a stroll up there to see what shops were there only to find 4 antique shops, a bridal shop, a baby & toddler shop, a couple of pubs and a couple of takeaway shops. We asked a couple of locals who were out walking their dog if there were any grocery shops around, only to be told that there was a village store about a mile over the hill in one direction or a service station convenience store down on the A5 which runs across the other side of the village. Just as well we have stocked up with food because there doesn’t seem to be much around for about 40 miles.

Mandarin Duck

Friday, 9 March 2007

Day of highs and lows.

Now moored at Top Lock Northampton Arm. 0 Locks/ 3 Miles/ 1 Tunnel
Total of 159 locks and 1341/2 miles and 1 Tunnel since 5th Nov 2006

It was a lovely sunny morning when we set off for a walk to find the old railway and the old Stoke Bruerne station. We took the pathway up over the Blisworth tunnel towards Blisworth and found the old bridge abutments quite easily. We then veered of in the direction that we thought the station was when we met up with the local game keeper. He told us we were not allowed to follow the old track bed as this was now all overgrown with trees etc and was his breeding grounds for pheasants. The birds would be pairing off soon and nesting.

He had actually been out feeding the birds to encourage them to stay in the area. The farm owner actually buys in 500 chicks a year to rear for the annual pheasant shooting season which runs from November to February.
When we told him what we were looking for he said that the boss’s son lives in the old station house and as he was away he would take us onto the property for a look.

He showed where the goods siding were and that the railways had stored carriages there for some time until vandals had caused so much damage that they were removed.
Just before lunch we slipped our moorings to encounter the Blisworth tunnel, all 3057 yards of it. The tunnel has 7 ventilations shafts along its length and the 3 closest to the Blisworth end had absolute torrents of water pouring down them and it is just about impossible to avoid the deluge. It was not one of Dots better experiences of canal life.
On arrival in Blisworth we ran into David on n/b Gwyniad again and he told us where to find the local shops. We only needed a few essentials to keep us going.
Old Railway Abutments

Now Dot always has her camera with her which is it firmly attached to her arm by a wrist strap or so we thought. Upon returning to the boat she pulled her hand out of her pocket with the camera attached and the camera slipped off of her wrist straight into the cut. We tried to retrieve it without success but being digital the water would soon knacker the electronics inside. Needless to say she is gutted as she has had the camera for quite a while and it took good pictures. Don’t know if our insurance will cover this but that’s life.

We left Blisworth in a rather somber mood and just before Gayton Junction we saw the earth works on the new marina they are building which is supposed to be open spring 2007. Somehow I don’t think so as they are still driving pilings and doing the earthworks. We stopped to water up at the very good facilities at Gayton Junction before proceeding on down the Northampton Arm. We only got as far as lock 1 which had a large sign stating that due to flooding the canal was closed.
I rang the phone number on the sign only to be told that this number was incorrect and no longer valid but they would transfer me to the correct number.
After being transferred I was given various options to choose from which I did but the Environment Agencies answering machine was faulty and kept putting me back to the main menu. Eventually I found an 0800 number which only told me what I already knew so that was a waste of time. Come on EA you can do better than this, at least get your answering/message machine fixed.We will stay here over night then return to the mainline and carry on Northward to Weedon Bec where we will have to wait for a lock closure to re-open on the 16th. We will have to re assess our movements until the end of the month to see if the Northampton Arm/River Nene re-open or not.

Old Stoke Bruerne Railway Station (now privately owned)

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Water conservation.

Now moored at Stoke Bruerne. 7 Locks/ 51/2 Miles
Total of 159 locks and 1311/2 miles since 5th Nov 2006

Sign reads elderly ducks crossing
Woke up this morning feeling strange, we couldn’t walk upright as the boat had a distinct list to starboard, we were moored overlooking the River Tove that was in full flood. Several sheep had succumbed to the floodwaters as the land is so lowlying. When we moored last night we had plenty of water beneath us but overnight the flood waters had receded and left us sitting on a ledge. We managed to get off OK and started cruising towards Stoke Bruerne where we had been told that lock 19 had been closed and was not scheduled to re-open until 5pm.

When we arrived at Lock 20 we moored up and went for a walk to see what was happening only to find n/b Gwyniad about to depart lock 19 for lock 18. What happened to the stoppage BW had told us about? Who knows, completed earlier or didn’t do it or what? Anyway as Gwyniad was a solo boatman we asked that if he cared to wait for us to catch him up we could lock through together which he jumped at the opportunity. By the time we had “Gypsy Rover” in lock 20 the gentleman on “Gwyniad” had set lock 19 for us and we were away racing. Between the 3 of us the Stoke Bruerne flight was a piece of cake. Upon arrival in the village we both moored up for lunch.

As the afternoon was still young we went along to the canal museum and took the self guided tour with the supplied personal portable commentary machines and thoroughly enjoyed it. The commentary was very informative and well done.

As we walked back to the museum from the Blisworth tunnel entrance we saw n/b Gwyniad again and the gentleman told us he was off through the Tunnel and was going to moor in Blisworth overnight . We wished him well.
(We will be following tomorrow after our morning walk)

A walk around the village was the next priority and a closer look at the thatching being done on “The Boatman Inn”. This Inn has been owned by the same family since 1877. There are also still quite a few thatched properties in the village.
Tonight we cannot believe how quiet it is here as everywhere else we have been you could always hear the traffic noise even if you couldn’t see it.

Photo shows a metal sculpture on the tramway at Stoke Bruerne
built by a David Gosling and his son Adam in 2002.

Real minature daffodils spotted at Stoke Bruene
compare the sizes with the snowdrops with them.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

True to their word

Now moored north of Cosgrove, 1 Lock/ 51/2 Miles
Total of 152 locks and 126 miles since 5th Nov 2006

Well the Met office got it right last night as it rained and blew a gale as predicted and we got bounced around all night making sleeping near impossible.
However this morning was a complete change with the skies clearing and eventually sunshine.
The forecast for the day was showers so we thought we should get moving while it was still fine, although it stayed fine all day and we had brilliant sunshine, the forecast is for more tomorrow. Great.
This stretch of canal must be one of the longest lock free stretches in the system with a rural outlook all around.

The kiwi connections crept in again today when we passed a moored narrowboat bearing the nameTane Mahuta which to Kiwi’s is a giant Kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest in Northland. Tane Mahuta meaning ‘Lord of the Forest’.
I called out a Maori greeting as we passed but the occupants were not at home. The other was something I forgot about yesterday. While we were watering up at Peartree Bridge another boat tried to pull in behind us but was having difficulty with the wind. I went to their aid and after we had secured the mooring we got chatting and the lady asked me what was a Maori greeting with 5 and 3 letters, as she was doing a crossword puzzle, well that was easy, Haere Mai.

Along the way we passed over 2 aquaducts, the first is relatively new concrete structure opened in 1991 over Grafton St, New Bradwell and the second was a short Iron trough aquaduct built at the end of the 1700’s which crosses the river Great Ouse. The Great Ouse was in full flood after last night’s rain and acres of farm land were under water as was a local holiday camping ground. The other site of interest was the old railway workshops at Wolverton. These have stood empty and forlorn for decades but now the site is being redeveloped and the good news is that the fa├žade of the workshops overlooking the canal is being retained with the new structure being built inside.

As we approached the only lock on today’s run we met another coal and diesel barge so we pulled alongside and filled up. From here it was up through the lock and stop off at the rubbish and water point again. While all this was going on we missed several phone calls which we did not notice until a short while later as we were going through the sleepy little village of Cosgrove.

As we suspected it may be Homebase trying to contact us we moored up right at the end of the main village street which was only 20 feet from the canal. Sure enough the calls were from Homebase wanting to know where we were as they had our basin and wanted to deliver it today.

The Manager (Ian) said he would bring it out and could I give him a postcode for his Navsat GPS system. A quick dash to the first house that appeared occupied with my phone still to my ear and the necessary info was obtained. An hour or so later and Ian arrived albeit on the wrong side of the canal but I went through the tunnel pictured and relieved him of his precious cargo. If you read this blog Ian, many thanks for your troubles. With the basin safely stowed it was off into the village with cameras at the ready before moving on again.

This photo is of the local fishmonger who travels over 1200 miles a week with his specially fitted van delivering fresh fish door to door. A sight we have not seen before.


We only travelled about another mile before stopping for the night opposite the village of Castlethorpe. In the distance there is a weird looking tower structure which I photographed with my zoom camera. The picture added no clues as to what the tower was but a Google search came up with the answer. The tower dates back to the time of steam railway engines (pre 1964) for those old enough to remember. The tower was part of a water softening plant which fed the water into troughs between the rails so that steam engines to refill the water tank in the tender with water while travelling at speed.

Castlethorpe Water Tower

Between the canal and the village which is about a mile or so away runs the river Tove which is also in a state of flood and low lying farm land is inundated with water also.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Gremlins

Now moored at Great Linford, 0 Locks/ 6 Miles
Total of 151 locks and 1201/2 miles since 5th Nov 2006

After spending the week-end at Fenny Stratford it was time to move on but the gremlins had other ideas. Those little tikes had got into our gearbox and stolen our oil. No oil = No go. Of course by the time I had realised there was a problem we had already cast off and were being blown by the wind across the canal to the opposite bank. The engine was working fine but the gearbox was dead.

Luckily there were end of garden moorings opposite and the one that we were heading for was vacant. We tied up while I tried to sort out the problem and a gentleman from 2 doors along who was working on his narrowboat came to see if he could help. Murphy’s Law prevailed and the owner of the house also returned home to find a strange boat at the end of her garden and came to inform me that “This” was private property. After explaining the situation she went away reasonably happy. In the meantime a 20 minute walk into the local shops to procure some fresh oil and we were in business again.

The trip up to where we are now moored was getting windier by the hour and at times we were travelling more sideways than straight ahead. After mooring up it was down the engine hole to see what I could find amiss with the gearbox but found nothing so I have cleaned it up to see if I can find any tell tales signs at the end of tomorrows cruising.

We are now moored by the medieval village of Great Linford which dates back to the Doomsday book and the church tower is 12th century. A foray into the town with cameras at the ready was the next priority before the forecasted rain arrived. On our walk we found what appears to be the old village green with the cricket club pavilion and a beautiful wooden building with an immaculate thatched roof that appeared to be the grounds man’s shed.

Now it’s a case of batten down the hatches as it looks like we are going to be in for a wild and windy night being buffeted around (according to fairly accurate metrological forecasts).

The Old Manor House

And........... the groundsman cottage...which is the most interesting?

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Retail Therapy Day

Now moored at Fenny Stratford (Bletchley).
Total of 151 locks and 1141/2 miles since 5th Nov 2006

After heavy overnight rain the morning turned out fine again. With the aid of Google maps we have worked out the lay of the land and found a quicker way into town which we took this morning. Along the way we passed a lake at Mount Farm Park which as the name suggests used to be part of a local farm before urbanisation took over. The lake is a worked out gravel pit that was worked from 1928 to 1937 and is now part of the towns water drainage system to avoid flooding. It apparently is well stocked with fish presumably for the local fishing club and is a wetland haven for birds.

We spotted a Great Crested Grebe sitting on a nest in the long reeds which we managed to photograph.
Our first retail call was to the Ikea store which was a real eye opener. Admittedly everything is modular and to set sizes but you could refurbish a whole house from the one store. The Milton Keynes/Bletchley store is on 2 levels with escalators, lifts and moving walk ways to help people get around the store which is enormous. We were very impressed although we only found a few bits and pieces we were in need of.
The B&Q DIY store is right next door so we called in there to see if they had anything new or different from other stores we had visited. We came away with some dowelling which I have to cut into 2mm pieces to plug screw holes and a drawer kit which if I can adapt to fit I will buy some more.
Back aboard the boat it was back to work to finish the radiator cover/bookcase and cut the timber for a new set of front steps/storage boxes. Heron originally just made a step which of course is a waste of valuable space even though it is a well made step.
As the evening creeps in the weather is turning nasty. Heavy rain and a hail storm have lashed the area so far tonight.

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Cruising weather.

Now moored at Fenny Stratford (Bletchley),5 Locks / 61/2Miles
Total of 151 locks and 1141/2 miles since 5th Nov 2006

What a cracker of a day, sunshine and clear blue sky again. What more could we ask for.

To start the day we went for a walk up to the main road and had a browse along the railway line and saw the ornate tunnel mouths pictured. Railway designers in the days when railways were just being built had a bit of imagination and liked to make a lasting impression a bit like canal builders I suppose.

Once we got under way it was lovely feeling the heat of the sun on our backs.

Sure sign that spring is here as the willow trees are just starting to show signs of leaf buds opening and we saw our first lamb which looked to be a few days old.

The box hawthorn hedge along the towpath was absolutely abuzz with bird life and the rabbits were having a ball hopping and running around the paddock in the sunshine. I knew I should have bought a shot gun, nothing like a bit of rabbit pie.See how many rabbits you can spot in the photograph.

At one point I was cruising close to the tree line looking for snagged fishing tackle in the branches to retrieve when there was a huge splash alongside us. It appears that we must have surprised a large fish lying in the shallows among tree roots probably enjoying the suns rays as we were. All I saw was part of its tail and it was no tiddler.

The canal was quite busy with only 1 boat going the same way as us and 5 boats passed us heading to Leighton Buzzard for a week-end Save Our Waterways campaign rally. It’s good to see that the S.O.W campaign is still alive and kicking.

We eventually moored up between lock 22 and bridge 94 in Fenny Stratford. Once we had got ourselves organised we walked into town via the Fenny Stratford railway station and got an idea of what was available. Tomorrow we will go back into town for further perusal.

One thing that caught my eye while wandering around was a double decker bus that had been converted into a motorhome. I would have liked to have got a closer look but it was on the back of a tow truck.

Derek at the Soulbrey flight of 3 locks

Fenny Stratford Railway Station

Friday, 2 March 2007

Good news and bad news.

Now moored at the Globe Pub, Leighton Buzzard. 1 Lock / 11/2Miles
Total of 146 locks and 108 miles since 5th Nov 2006

Well the good news is we are moving again. We haven’t gone far but as we got away to a late start and we had to do a quick grocery shop and diesel up at Wyvern Shipping Co, we at least have a change of scenery.

The bad news is that Homebase have lost or misplaced our vanity basin (for the second time, the first was the cracked one before Christmas, which mysteriously turned up in their warehouse weeks later). It apparently was dispatched from their main warehouse on the 26th but nobody seems to know where it went. However the Apsley store staff have told us not to wait any longer but to start heading North and when they find the basin they will bring it out to us regardless of where we are. Now that’s what I call customer service.

The Wyvern Shipping Co I mentioned before also run a fleet of hire narrowboats. Dot and I both agree that they would be the best kept hire fleet we have seen. While the attendant was filling up our diesel I asked him if a particular boat was new as it had that look about it. He told me that it was 15 years old and the boats along side were 30 years old but they were so well maintained you wouldn’t know. Apparently they all go through the workshop at the end of every season for hull blacking, painting and repairs or up grading of equipment. They have a 5 berth for sale at present for ₤20,000 and it looks really tidy, not what you would expect an ex hire boat to look like.