Wednesday, 31 December 2008

This morning!

Temperature dropped to -5.5 deg overnight and is only zero deg now.

Wash Day Cruise.

0 Locks, 2½ Miles. Now moored near bridge 69.

Yesterday saw a complete change at Brownsover where it went from being empty except for 2 boats to becoming full by mid afternoon. There were quite a lot of hire boats among the arrivals.

This morning we decided to head off to Hillmorton again for water and do some washing along the way. The day turned out to be a real cracker with the sun finally breaking through. After we winded below the Hillmorton locks we stopped for water and then moved up to our present mooring which is about 300 yards South of the bridge.

After mooring we spotted an agricultural contractor spraying the fields opposite so we closed the windows on that side of the boat in case of spray drift. As it happened the drift was away from us but we could still smell it. After lunch we took advantage of the sunshine and went for a walk into Hillmorton via the Kent road. At the main road we headed south to the church by Hillmorton locks, through the church yard back to the towpath at the locks and then along the towpath back to the boat. Being a housing state there wasn't much of interest except for sighting a nicely restored Morris Oxford with the same body style as the Morris Minor, 1950's era. I hadn't seen one of these for a long time.

1587 locks, 3322 miles, 53 Tunnels, 43 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

View from our backyard tonight

Any ideas as to the colourful spinning ball in the foreground?.
New kind of scarecrow maybe? If it is they dont work!
The birds were having a ball.

Midwinter at Hillmorton Locks

Monday, 29 December 2008

Pottering Around

0 Locks, 2 miles. Now moored at Brownsover Park.

After our peaceful stay at Newbold we have to return to Brownsover for Tracey to catch the train on Monday morning to Holyhead and then the ferry to Dublin. Before winding we watered up at the Barley Mow pub and within an hour we were back at Brownsover. We expected to see the place packed out with no spare moorings but too our surprise there was only 1 boat left here. We had passed 2 boats near the aqueduct that had been moored at Brownsover previously but the rest of them had gone.

1587 locks, 3319 ½ miles, 53 Tunnels, 43 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Done and Dusted for Another Year.

Still moored at Newbold.

After a very pleasant Xmas day with very little activity and plenty of feasting Boxing day saw us out and about walking off some of the extra calories. We walked all the way into town, about 3 miles, as there were no buses running. Our main objective was the "Walkabout" pub because Tracey wanted to watch the Arsenal v Aston Villa game on the big screen and we dined out at the same time.

It was quite strange walking into the pub because behind the bar were 4 Maori's (native Kiwi's) which make us feel as if we were back in New Zealand. We had a chat to them and it turned out that only 1 of them was resident in the UK, she had married a Pom and been here 14 years. The other 3 were whanau (family) but only here on a short working holiday from Christchurch NZ.

Well Tracey wasn't very pleased when Arsenal only managed a 2 all draw against Aston Villa because they needed to win by 2 goals to climb the championship ladder. Ah well better luck next time.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Our Christmas Menu!

This year we will have a traditional Christmas fare.

Entree
King Prawn Cocktail

Main
Stuffed breast of Turkey with Bacon and Apricots with Cranberry Jelly
Roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots served with Brussell Sprouts

Dessert
Steamed Christmas Pudding with Irish Cream flavoured Custard

All this accompanied with whatever beverages take our fancy. Not forgetting the Christmas mince pies and Christmas cake. Where will we put it all? Boy will we be be ready for a nod off after this!

Merry Christmas to One and All

Sunshine, hurray.

0 Locks, 1 Mile. Now moored at Newbold.

With all our Xmas day provisions aboard it was time to move on to Newbold where we hope it will be quieter than Brownsover. The first call was the water point just on the other side of bridge 54 where we finally met Ernie from Nb Ten Bob Note. He was just topping up at Tesco's before heading off down the Barby straight to a quiet mooring that he knew about.

After leaving Brownsover we passed 3 south bound boats but Ernie had told us that most of the boats at Newbold had left first thing this morning. Sure enough there were plenty of moorings available so we just found a clear spot where the satellite dish could get a signal and here we will stay until Sunday. Since tying up the sun has made its presence felt and its delightful sitting here with the sunshine pouring in through the windows, long may it last.

1587 locks, 3317 ½ miles, 53 Tunnels, 43 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

It's been a busy day.

0 Locks, 2 Miles. Now moored at Brownsover Park.

From the time we got up this morning there have been boats on the move, probably the most we have seen for a couple of weeks. Just as we were about to reverse back to the water point one boat came through heading North and while we were on the water point I had heard this distinctive engine sound coming from some distance away. It turned out to be Nb Hadar who we eventually followed all the way back to Brownsover. When we were here on Friday there were no spaces available on the park side but this time there was one just big enough to squeeze our 55 foot into. Adrian on Nb Debdale is now moored on the other side before heading for Braunston tomorrow after Adam arrives tonight from London.

After a quick early lunch it was off to the railway station to pick up Tracey. All the alterations at Rugby station are now nearly complete and the Virgin Pendolino's that are not scheduled to stop here fly through at 125MPH on new track well away from the platforms. Just as well as the slip stream would be horrendous sucking everything off the platform. Once we had Tracey safely in tow it was back to the bus stop. The traffic was bumper to bumper backed up as far as the eye could see but it was about to get worse. An articulated truck (lorry) tried to squeeze his 13 foot cab aerofoil under the 11 foot rail bridge, now I would have thought that the driver would know the dimensions of his vehicle. Luckily he managed to stop in time only inches from the bridge. However cars were now bumper to bumper behind him and he had only 1 option and that was to reverse back to a car park entrance to turn and return from whence he had come. The car drivers just sat there even though they could see the truck was in reverse. After about 5 minutes I couldn't stand it any longer so I got out there and started to direct the traffic, bought back memories of my old traffic police days in NZ. There were a couple of idiot drivers who were only interested in their own personal journeys but I eventually got the artic: truck into the car park with the help of the car park attendant. After letting some of the traffic clear we again held up the traffic to get the truck out of the car park. He had to use the full width of the road but he made it. As he passed me I suggested he get an up to date map book showing bridge limits.

When the bus finally arrived it was full but we managed to get aboard and we found out that due to heavy traffic the buses were all behind schedule so they were just doing the best they could under the circumstances. We saw 3 buses going back into town only about 2 minutes apart so they were well off the timetable.

After a quick cuppa back on the boat Dot and Tracey went off to Tesco's for some last minute Xmas shopping while I took my fuel cans to Tesco's service station for some diesel which is now only 97.9p per litre, most boat yards are £1.05 to £1.15 for propulsion. If I am going to pay top dollar for fuel I might as well get good clean diesel rather than the red stuff, it will dilute what red stuff is already in the tank and perhaps help the engine and central heating unit operate more efficiently. I rang Nb Ghosty Hill, the diesel and coal boat and he will be in Rugby on Xmas eve so we will get some more diesel from him then.

1586 locks, 3317 ½ miles, 53 Tunnels, 43 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Monday, 22 December 2008

Saturday, 20 December 2008

A week-end in the country.

0 Locks, 2 miles. Now moored at Hillmorton bottom lock.

Needing a pump out we headed off to Clifton Cruisers. While there we collected some more mail. We enquired about the diesel only to be told that they were only doing a 60/40 split to simplify the paper work so we declined. If I get stuck I can go over to Tesco's service station where it's 99.9 per litre which in actual fact is cheaper than what boat yards are charging for the propulsion rate. Doesn't make sense to me, I think we might be getting conned somewhere along the line.

After a quiet cruise we winded at the Hillmorton bottom lock and stopped at the water point before moving a hundred yards to our present mooring. We will stay here until Monday morning when we will return to Brownsover to pick up Tracey from the railway station and depending on the mooring situation we may move on up to Newbold.

1586 locks, 3315 ½ miles, 53 Tunnels, 43 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Changing face of Rugby

Still moored at Brownsover.

This morning we were up and away bright and early for our six monthly checkup with the doctor. After this necessary chore was completed we wandered into town to see what's been happening since we were last here.

I suppose the biggest change is the old industrial site next to the towpath. When we were here last they had just finished demolition of the old factories etc. and levelling the site. The site has been named Caldicott Manor and the first row of about 20 terraced houses has been completed and occupied. These face towards the Tesco supermarket. Probably due to the current economic situation work seems to have come to a stand still.

This is what the site looked like when we were here last

On our way back to the boat we walked through Caldicott park which is under going a big make over with new seating, kiddies play area and changes to the area around the refreshment cabin. A couple of cheeky squirrels came over to see us so we gave them some nuts that we had with us, not that they appeared to need feeding as they were quite plump and had a healthy sheen on their fur.

Caldicott Park always was attractive

Once back on the main road the first thing to catch our eye was "The Peacock" pub all boarded up and covered with For Sale signs. This grand building could be used for a hotel, B & B or guest house as well as a pub of course. Another thought is that there would be space for several apartments nice and handy to town.

Another site under development was on the A426 between the old Great Central railway arches by the Peugeot dealers new showroom to the retail park along side the canal. An extension of the retail park perhaps? Other than a few empty shops and a half empty Woolworths in town everything else was unchanged.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Back to Base (well sort of!)

0 Locks, 4 Miles. 1 Tunnel, Now moored at Brownsover Park.

The final leg of our current journey took only 1½ hours to Brownsover with a watering stop at Newbold. We were quite surprised by the amount of available moorings at Newbold as every time we have passed through here in the past the place has been chocker block full. One boat we spotted was that of fellow blogger, Ernie on Nb Ten Bob Note. I love that name as it takes me back to my younger days when ten bob (shillings) was a lot of money. Sentimental old fool I am.

Upon arrival at Brownsover we found the park side moorings full of old live aboard boats so we have had to moor on the tow path side. As this situation is unlikely to change, once Tracey arrives we will head up to Newbold and stay there.

1586 locks, 3313 ½ miles, 53 Tunnels, 43 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Back on the Oxford.

1 Lock, 8 Miles. Now moored All Oaks Wood, North Oxford Canal.

Once again the sky was overcast and misty as we set off this morning. First job was the water tank which we filled before turning onto the Oxford and locking through the 6 inch rise of the Hawkesbury stop lock. There are still plenty of boats moored along the towpath around here making it slow going for a while. Once clear of bridge 4 it was plain sailing shall we say.

Reaching Stretton Stop we were confronted with all of the Rose Narrowboat hire fleet breasted up along side the diesel and pump out point so we had to breast up 3 deep. The diesel hose only just reached the boat which was fortunate as we took on another 85 litre's. Due to the cold snap we have been experiencing lately the Mikuni central heating unit has been working its little butt off chewing through a fair amount of fuel. The staff member who served us told us that they hadn't sold much diesel yet under the new pricing regime so were still on a learning curve. Majority of the local boats have been buying diesel at the service station which works out about the same price but being white diesel their engines run better. I don't know if the white fuel would improve the consumption though. As for a pump out, no show, the pump was out of action but they did tell us where we could get it done.

We travelled on for about another mile and moored between bridge's 34 and 35 where we knew  we could moor without being up to 2 feet from the bank. Most of the North Oxford Canal has sloping sides resulting in moored boats having to use their gang planks to be able to get on and off the boat. Tomorrow Rugby where we can visit the doctor for our 6 monthly checkup and then will spend Xmas in the vicinity.

1586 locks, 3309 ½ miles, 52 Tunnels, 43 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Monday, 15 December 2008

Fou(w)l deeds on the towpath.

0 Locks, 8 Miles. Now moored North of Hawkesbury Junction.

Overcast,cold and dry was the order of the day as we set off from Hartshill this morning. We don't usually move on the week-ends but at this time of the year it's a case going while the going is good. We passed a couple of boats on the move and the inevitable hardy fisherman some of whom I think were involved in a competition as there were about 12 of them in a row all with keep nets in the water.

At one point when we were in a rural area we spotted a mass of white feathers all along the towpath and at the end of the trail was a cleanly picked carcass about the size of a domestic duck. Looks like Mr Fox or Mrs Mink had been lucky enough to score Xmas dinner early.

At Hawkesbury Junction we pulled in just north of the water point so that we can fill up before we leave here tomorrow. The boat immediately behind us must have Kiwi connections with the name "Tui Mk III" on it, Tui being a popular brand of New Zealand Ale.

A quick walk to the convenience store for an onion for dinner (we don't often run out) we stopped for a chat with Bruce and Sheila on Nb Sanity who are moored a little way south. They are heading for Alrewas for Christmas so we may cross paths again in the new year when we head back up north again.

1585 locks, 3301 ½ miles, 52 Tunnels, 43 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Saturday, 13 December 2008

300 Yard Crawl.

Still at Hartshill South of bridge 31.

Once again we found ourselves iced in but by midmorning the ice seemed to be melting as there had been some light drizzle and a breeze had sprung up. However, looks can be deceiving and water was laying on top of the ice concealing its true thickness. It took about 5 attempts to even get off the bank before moving forward. We pushed on through the first bridge hole to the BW yard and water point to fill the water tank. The conditions past bridge 31 were no better so a nice mooring next to the Sea Scout hall look very inviting and here we will stay until conditions improve. If all else fails we can catch a bus to Coventry and then Rugby if need be.

The Remains of Hartshill Castle

Unfortunately now in private hands.

That's Apple Pie Lane Bridge!


Another view from Hartshill British Waterways Yard. You wonder how the Lane got its name?

Friday, 12 December 2008

Who's this Intruder?

Winter Towpath Maintenance

Out in force at Hartshill today

Hartshill BW yard

BW cleared the way.

5 Locks, 3 Miles. Now moored at Hartshill.

We only found a light coating of ice on the canal this morning but while having breakfast BW came past with a tug and work boat so they cleared a pathway for us all the way to our present location. Before setting off we made a quick visit to the Aldi supermarket just for change and got just a few bits and bobs to keep us going until we reach Rugby.

We found that there was only one lock set against us as the second and third locks appeared to have self drained and we then encountered the BW tug coming back empty so they had left the last two locks in our favour, bless them.

Hopefully we may be able to get some sleep tonight as last night's mooring turned out to be very noisy, what with 2 roads, the railway and the T.N.T freight depot working all night the noise never stopped. Must remember not to stay there again, shopping stop only.

1585 locks, 3293 ½ miles, 52 Tunnels, 43 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Thursday, 11 December 2008

The Remains of Alvecote Priory

Hello, An early start for some!

6 Locks, 6 Miles. Now moored above Atherstone lock 6.

I hadn't been out of bed long and was busy wiping the condensation off the windows when a boat heading North went past. It wasn't until it's stern was level with us that I saw that it was Nb Moore 2 Life. I called out a greeting to Chas who I don't think had recognised us at that stage but he soon pulled the boat into the bank and was moored up with the kettle on the hob. We had only just made a hot drink so we took this along with us for a chat with Chas and Anne and of course Molly the dog.

After about an hour Chas was wanting to get moving again so that they would make Great Haywood in time. I don't think he would have that much of a problem as several boats had already started to move breaking the ice in both directions. However the same cannot be said about their travelling companions Sue and Vic on Nb No Problem who are still out on the recently flooded River Soar. Come on Sue rattle your dag's girl, something about some train tickets kept cropping up in conversation. Ahem L.O.L.

Once we reached the Atherstone flight we were joined by another boat, Nb Utrecht who had followed us for a while yesterday and who also stopped at Alvecote overnight, the crew of which were quite happy to work in with us making locking a bit faster.

1580 locks, 3290 ½ miles, 52 Tunnels, 43 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Gypsy Rover at Alvecote

We are the second boat back

Detour.

2 Locks, 6 Miles. Now moored at Alvecote, Coventry Canal.

We waited until a short shower of rain passed through before untying this morning and heading off to Alvecote. It wasn't too bad a day to be on the move but there was still smatterings of ice around here and there. At Fazely junction we turned onto the Birmingham and Fazely Canal to travel a short distance to Fazely Mill Marina where we understood the price of diesel was only 62p per litre for heating and £1.05 for propulsion. The lady at the marina is a chatty sort of person and it took longer than usual just to take on 54 litre's of diesel,say no more.

Back on the Coventry Canal we found another boat going up through Glascote locks ahead of us. Once they had cleared the second lock they very kindly emptied it for us allowing me to go straight in from the first lock.

1574 locks, 3284 ½ miles, 52 Tunnels, 43 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Goodness Gracious me, who's this I spy?

0 Locks, 1 Mile. Still moored at Hopwas.

We again awoke to find a thin layer of ice on the canal but by 10am it appeared to be melting so we cast off. Well after several attempts to get away from the bank we finally got under way, the ice was still a bit thicker than I imagined. As we passed the "Tame Otter" pub we came across 2 moored boats the first of which was bearing the name "Pania". Could this be Baden and Ros we thought, it must be. We had only met them  twice before in the UK although Dot met them through her work in Lower Hutt when they were preparing to move over here. The first time was in Mirfield, Yorkshire on the day "Gypsy Rover" was launched and the second in Guildford when we became live aboards. They travelled by car to visit us as their boat was up North while we were still down South. Baden and Ros come from the same city as us in New Zealand and are known by some of our caravan club mate's, so how's that for a small world.

We stopped and dropped 1 of our cards through the pigeon hole as it was partly open but then decided to give Baden a quick call on the phone. After some discussion and a later text message we finished up mooring up behind them and will await their return from work. There will be plenty to talk about, catching up with the last 12 months happenings over dinner and a beer or two.at the "Tame Otter". Personally I think Dot just enjoyed her birthday lunch there yesterday and wants to go back for another, crafty isn't she!

1572 locks, 3278 ½ miles, 52 Tunnels, 43 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Monday, 8 December 2008

Happy birthday Dot.

Still moored at Hopwas.

As it was Dot's birthday today we decided to stay for a couple of days. To celebrate her birthday we went to the "Tame Otter" pub for lunch hoping that it was a better lunch than we had at "The Star" at Stone. Well we needn't have worried because everything was good, food, drinks and service. We guessed that it might be a good pub because the car park was always full.

We wouldn't have moved today even if we had planned it because we awoke to find ourselves all iced in AGAIN. This is becoming a bit of a worry as we have not struck so much ice previously which makes me wonder are we in for another winter of 63 when the canals iced over for about 6 weeks. Another frost is forecast for tonight so we will have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.

Now I have been browsing through the November issue of the "Towpath Telegraph" and a couple of things got me thinking. First of all an item about the Ellesmere Port Museum. The writer advocated leaving the boat at Christleton and catching the bus into Chester or the train to Ellesmere Port Museum rather than traversing the very deep locks at Chester. What is the point of owning a boat if you are not going to travel by water. We travelled all the way to Ellesmere and enjoyed it because if the waterways don't get used they are just going to finish up in the state they were back in the 1960's.

His other comment was about the lack of activities at the museum. Here I have to agree with the writer and like him I can see sense in utilising the stables and having a horse drawn boat as they do at Llangollen. The word that comes to mind is TOURISM, the biggest money maker the world over. Surely there must be somebody out there that would love to keep their "Neddy" in the stables and have him working for his keep. A pony club or riding club or even somebody that owns a suitable horse and would love to keep it in a warm, dry environment. It would attract kids who love nothing more than patting a horse or even a ride. As for the host of sinking vessel's around the site, there are volunteer groups that look after boats like "President" and others. How about "Adopt a Boat" groups who with help can choose a vessel they want to restore. They say kid's these days get into mischief because they are bored, there are plenty of things at Ellesmere for them to sink their teeth into and at the end of the day have something to show for their efforts.

The other topic was the ongoing saga of Continuous Cruisers versus Continuous Moorer's. What good is going to come out of BW charging Continuous Cruiser's an extra £150, I suspect nothing except to appease the boaters that pay thousand of pounds for having their boats in marina's. We choose to be CC's so that we can tour the country and see the sight's. We don't want to spend our time penned up in a marina which brings me to another point which is most marina's don't allow full time live aboard's to stay in their marina's.

It's the continuous moorer's that give genuine CC's a bad name and one way that I can see around it  is for genuine CC's to have a log book that they record all journeys and periodically get it signed by a BW staff member or for arguments sake the manager of a canal side pub as proof of their whereabouts' and being continually on the move. What some people overlook is that during the non season month's CC's are still on the move and can be the ears and eyes on the cut being able to report problems to BW that they might not know exist until something major happens like the 2 recent canal breaches bringing everything to a halt and costing million's to rectify. If BW want to charge anybody extra fee's it should be the continuous moorer's who inevitably hog the moorings for weeks on end.

BW/Govt need to come up with a firmer policy on what constitutes a CC which they are able to police and enforce but of course with all the cut backs in man power they probably are not in a position to do so unless they get more of the pen pushers out of the office and onto the towpath where they might get a better understanding of what the canals are all about.

Like it or lump it canal's are very much a part of Britain's heritage of the Industrial age. They spend millions on Stately homes etc; they should be doing the same for the canal's. Here endeth this gripe.

Gypsy Rover at Hopwas on a cold frosty morning

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Beautiful Winters Day!

0 Locks and 8 Miles. Now moored at Hopwas, Coventry Canal.

It was too nice a day not to cruise with not a cloud in the sky and quite a bit milder than we have been getting lately. We were 1 of 4 boats that we knew were on the move and 3 of us all finished up at Hopwas, what a coincidence.

Along the way we spotted a bunch of kids enjoying a morning at a pony club putting in some time on riding lessons and the Mum's and Dad's looking on from a distance. I say pony club but one young lady was riding a horse that I felt sure would have been quite at home pulling a barge along a canal, he was a solid looking individual with a broad back.

Close to bridge 80 we found a sunken narrowboat which BW had attached a notice stating that they were aware of it. It was an old boat with what appeared to be a wooden hull and presumably the owner had removed all identification from the boat making it difficult to trace leaving BW with the expense of another mess to clear up.

Just north bridge 80 Coventry Canal

North of Whittington we came across 2 kayakers and as we passed them one followed on in our wake getting a free ride. Probably the most exciting part of his day out.

Great day for kayaking

Once we were moored up it became apparent that the boat in front of us was having trouble getting power to his batteries, it's funny that the cold weather always brings out battery problems because that's about the third boat in as many days we have come across with this problem.

1572 locks, 3277 ½ miles, 52 Tunnels, 43 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Saturday, 6 December 2008

It had to happen! Sooner or later

3 Locks, 7½ Miles and 1 swing bridge. Now moored at Fradley Junction, Coventry Canal.

We left Rugeley just before 10am with clear blue skies and a nip in the air. We had 1 boat ahead of us and by the time we reached the first lock there was another following us. The first boat had suffered battery failure and had to wind just before Fradley Junction and head back to Great Haywood for assistance. The lady on the boat introduced herself as Ngaire and told me her father came from Christchurch, New Zealand and that she had been christened with a full Maori name which was a bit of a mouthful so I won't even try to write it.

As we turned onto the Coventry canal Dot had to operate the swing bridge across the narrow entrance to the canal and we pulled into the water point about 100 yards further along. I got off the boat to help Dot on the centre rope and when the boat was close to where we wanted it I went to get the stern rope. Unfortunately as I went to step onto the stern the boat moved away from me and I didn't get a firm enough foot hold and my foot slipped and the next thing I knew was that I was standing on the canal bed up to my chest in freezing cold water. I soon managed to scramble out and had to leave Dot to secure the boat so that I could strip out of the wet clothing and have a quick shower and change of clothing.

Luckily Dot had a saviour on the next boat who came and gave her a hand. When I spoke to him later he said "Welcome to the club, you are not a boater until you have fallen in" The last time he fell in the canal it had an inch of ice on it. Other than a grazed shin I'm still in one piece.

1572 locks, 3269 ½ miles, 52 Tunnels, 43 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Friday, 5 December 2008

Snow, what snow?

Still moored at Rugeley.

Well last night's prediction of snow came true in the North but it didn't seem to extend any further South than the Manchester area so all we got was wind and rain.

We spent last night here all on our own but there have been quite a few arrivals over the course of the day and we are now 1 of 6 boats spending the night here. Majority of the crews went off to Morrison's for supplies as this is the last supermarket for quite some distance.

This afternoon Nb Hector with Rosemary and Paul who we met in Braunston 18 months ago pulled in to replenish their larder before heading north again.  Rosemary showed Dot through their boat and the many improvements they have made since we saw it last,  A quick chat with Michael and Geraldine of the Cheeseboat on their way past heading for Great Hayward before returning to Fradley Junction for christmas.

Tonight's TV news had photo's of Robin's which viewers had sent into the TV station and this reminded me about yesterday when a little Robin landed on the rear cover a mere 2 foot in front of me while I was waiting to enter a lock. He sat there chattering away for a couple of minutes before flying off. They certainly are not shy. Tomorrow we will head towards Fradley Junction on our way south.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Ice breakers a plenty.

2 Locks, 5 Miles. Now moored at Rugeley.

Again we were ice bound at breakfast time but by 11 am plenty of boats had passed through breaking up the ice sufficiently for us to be able to reverse back to the Anglo Welsh yard for diesel and a pump out. We eventually got under way about 12.30. after taking on 95 litres at 72p per litre. The Mikuni diesel fired central heating unit has been working pretty hard lately.

It was cold and crisp but we had a clear blue sky as we headed off to Rugeley. Even if the predicted snow does disrupt our travel tomorrow we are only a couple of hundred yards from a Morrison's supermarket so we won't run short of supplies.

1569 locks, 3262 ½ miles, 52 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Another improvement.

The canal was covered in a slushy mixture of ice and snow this morning but plenty of boat movements have dispersed this during the day.

We had thought of moving but we had to wait for the courier to deliver our new shower pump which didn't arrive until after lunch. No time like the present so I had the old pump out and the new one fitted with a minimal amount of modification. The new pump is quite clever in that the pump mechanism can be rotated on the electric motor to fit any situation and is actually quieter than the original. I will service the old one at my leisure and keep it as a spare or an emergency bilge pump.

Hopefully there will be an improvement in the weather tomorrow and we should be able to get under way again after we fill and empty the relevant tanks at Anglo Welsh.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Iced in.

Still at Great Haywood.

Our plans have been some what disrupted in that we awoke to find ourselves iced in. There have been a couple of boats on the move but they all gave up after a short while battling the ice.

In some ways it is rather fortuitous as our shower pump needs overhauling and as we are next to Anglo Welsh  I have ordered a service kit from Cleghorn Waring (Jabasco) to be delivered to Anglo Welsh. I have also ordered a new pump which has been designed for easier servicing. The old one will be overhauled and kept for standby purposes.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Time out in Great Haywood

Along with a greater proportion of the country we spent yesterday severely fog bound with visibility reduced to several hundred yards. We did manage to get out for a stroll to re-acquaint ourselves with the town.

This morning the fog had lifted but we were blessed by a heavy frost which has since thawed as the sun has finally broken through the cloud cover. With it becoming milder as the day wore on there has been quite a few boat movements, more than we have seen in the last 2 weeks.

Our Internet signal has not been the best here and Dot has been busy trying to put up some piccie's without success. These will be uploaded when internet is more stable. Tomorrow we will continue on our way south but we are in no hurry as we only have 33 miles and 10 locks to do before we reach the stoppages at Atherstone which hopefully will finish on Friday 5th. Once through the Atherstone flight we should make good time to Rugby.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Pheasants, Frost and Fog!

5 Locks, 10 Miles, Now moored at Great Haywood Junction.

There was a really heavy frost overnight and it took until mid-morning for the sun to break through and start thawing things out. As I had a few last minute jobs to do, like putting a bird nesting box up a tree opposite the retirement flats it was no hassle.

Our gift to the birds of Stone

When we finally got away the sun was really starting to make an impact and it looked like a good cruising day but that was to be short lived. By the time we had travelled a couple of miles the sun was becoming heavily shielded by the fog/mist and was not seen again. Visibility on the canal was also becoming a worry as the fog was getting heavier the further south we came.

One sight that amazed us was 5 cock pheasants on the towpath but as we approached they flew across the canal into a field where we spotted up to 3 dozen of them, all cocks birds. I would hazard a guess that a farmer raises young birds on his property for an annual game bird shoot but why no hen birds it seems odd.

Did the Apprentices need arch building practice? Count the arches on this bridge.

1567 locks, 3257 ½ miles, 52 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Friday, 28 November 2008

I'd rather this

Than derelict like this seen on the Trent and Mersey Canal recently

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Continuous Cruisers! like us

Its nice to see BW have seen sense not to place a surcharge on our licence (for this year at least) The proposal regarding a roving mooring permit to me seems a much fairer solution.  We will see!

Stone

7 Locks, 4 miles. Now moored at Stone.

There was a crisp frost on the ground when we got up this morning, needless to say we didn't hurry ourselves in getting under way again. We waited until the sun was high enough to make it's presence felt, no matter that the temperature was still pretty low.

We made good time with most locks being set in our favour and only passing 2 other boats on the move. We reached Stone just after noon and found a mooring next to the resident restaurant boat which is a nice sunny location. After lunch I finished a couple of jobs on the boat and then we wandered up into town for a look around.

After a meal at the Star Inn this evening we went into town after dark to photograph the Xmas light's.

Thanks for all the birthday messages he's now gone shy and into hiding.

1562 locks, 3247 ½ miles, 52 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Who's the Birthday Boy?

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Potteries

9 Locks, 11 ½ Miles, 1 Tunnel. Now moored at Wedgewood Potteries.

As we were booked for the Harecastle tunnel at 8.30 we had to be up at 6.am and on the move by 7.am and it was only just breaking daylight as we entered the first lock. We had a good run through as we were the only boat on the move and arrived at the tunnel just as the BW staff were pulling their work boat out of the tunnel where it is stored overnight. The reason behind this became obvious when we found one of their butty boats across the canal blocking our way. The local hoons had let it loose overnight. I managed to squeeze alongside and pushed it back out of the way.

We didn't have to wait long before we were given the all clear to proceed. At the south end we expected to see the doors shut with the Stop sign facing us to let us know we had reached the southern portal but the door was already open which was handy. We stopped and watered up and had a chat with the BW guy who told us that there was another 2 boats booked South bound and 1 north bound but we were the only boat to show up so far. With the tunnel now working winter hours to free up staff for other jobs it's a bit rude not to either show up on time or cancel the booking.

Pottery Kiln at Stoke-On-Trent

As the day had turned out bright and sunny we opted to keep moving as it was still quite early by the time we exited the tunnel. Of course we are now retracing our steps of our 2004 trip from Mirfield in Yorkshire to the river Wey in Surrey. There were quite a few changes including the new bridges through Stoke on Trent which were only in the early build stage in 2004 and we had to negotiate a temporary tunnel to get through. As we passed through Trentham we also recognised the spot where a tree had been blown down and blocked our way for 24 hours.

Geoff and Richard do you remember this tree?

By the time we reached the Wedgwood potteries factory it was well past lunch time and the temperature was starting to drop so we decided to call it a day. We are well ahead of schedule as we cannot get through Atherstone locks until the 5th December so depending on the weather we can pick and choose if we move or not.

Oh dear how long has this been on the bottom at Stoke-On-Trent?

1555 locks, 3243 ½ miles, 52 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Monday, 24 November 2008

Time out in Taddington

Still moored at BW Red Bull yard.

Red Bull lock 43 taken from the Maccesfield aqueduct

On Friday morning we deserted ship and were picked up by our boat friends Iain and Myra of Nb Martlet who we first met on the River Thames last year. Thank you both for such a fantastic and enjoyable weekend. We hope to meet up again in the new year. What bliss to enjoy a bath for the first time in two years! When they are not out on the "Cut" they spend some of the time in residence in the charming little village of Taddington, Derbyshire in the Peak District. The view from their lounge and kitchen was nothing less than spectacular looking down the valley across rural land with its stone walls marking out the farmers fields.


Saturday we went out to have a look at the local scenery and what is left of the railways of the district. The local station was still standing but the tracks have all been ripped up but there is still a freight line from 3 quarries in the Buxton area where bulk hopper wagons are loaded for shipment to all parts of the country hauled by class 58 and 66 diesel's.


Sunday morning we were greeted by snow and very cold temperatures. The snow was only a light smattering but enough to give the hills a whitish tinge. Icicles hung off the shed roof and didn't disappear until early afternoon. Mid afternoon and we had to farewell this enchanting village and head back to the boat and get ourselves organised for the Harecastle tunnel tomorrow morning. The tunnel is only a mile and 3 locks away but when we booked our passage we were told to be there by 8.30 so it's an early start tomorrow.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Lost Locks.

11 Locks, 3 Miles. Now moored at Red Bull Yard, Kidsgrove.

It was a beautiful start to the day but it didn't last long. There were no surprises waiting for us today but we were amazed at the amount of locks that had been filled in or are in a dilapidated condition. All the locks along this stretch of the Trent and Mersey Canal were twinned or duplicated to speed up the movement of boats. Over the years many have fallen into disrepair due to subsidence through the salt mining in the area. Locks 47 and 48 were 2 such locks which are closed but have a public notice attached stating that they are grade 2 listed buildings and subject to restoration. So it seems that it is not only the canals that are under going restoration to re-open but existing canals like the Trent & Mersey that have some serious maintenance problems to remain open.

1546 locks, 3232 miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Tracey's Day Today!

05

With love from us to you.

Together with Granny Buttons

Ferret at Heartbreak Hill!

12 Locks, 2 ½ Miles. Now moored near bridge 144 Trent and Mersey Canal.

Yesterday afternoon we went for a walk up into the village hoping to find a very unique truck/lorry which we had seen earlier but had no camera. Our luck held out as we found this beautifully restored Foden tractor unit with no other vehicles obscuring it. I believe that it one that would have been seen around circuses or fairgrounds. After talking to a neighbour it transpires that the guy that owns it used to work for Foden who had a factory in the area. He also has another one under restoration we were told.

The weather forecast for the end of the week is not looking brilliant so this morning we set off with the intention of going as far as Hassle Green and mooring up there but the noise from the M6 motorway would drive you mad so we carried on further to our present position which is only marginally quieter.

We had quite a surprise at the fourth lock because after Dot had closed the gates behind me I was eyeball to eyeball with a ferret sitting on the ledge half way down the wall behind the gate. I knew they could swim so as the lock filled I just had to keep on eye on him to see where he went and not to squash him against the lock wall. Eventually he swam the full length of the lock and climbed in behind the steel rubbing plate on the top gate above water level.

As we had 2 boats following us this created quite a bit of interest among the crews. As he appeared determined not to come out of hiding we left the others crews to it. I suspect that they may have spent some time at this lock because it took them quite a while to pass us after we had moored up for the day.

This boat opposite us caught our eye with the name Stobbs on it as Dot's family has an association with that name.

1535 locks, 3229 miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Bathroom modifications.

Still moored at Wheelock

Well it's definitely quieter here than Middlewich. As we have some time to spare I have taken the opportunity to fit the new wet wall lining around the bath/shower. Having to re-varnish the walls every year is not really protecting the walls as we would have liked as water damage is still appearing in various place's. We have found this plastic sheet moulded like tiles at B&Q's which will be more serviceable.

The preparation has taken quite a while but I have now got one panel on the wall and hopefully the other will go up tomorrow. The panelling is easy to work,only requiring a sharp knife to trim it to shape. All that will be required after that is to silicone all the edges and put the shower fitting back on the wall.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Salt Country.

3 Locks, 5 ½ miles. Now moored at Wheelock

What with traffic noise and heavy overnight rain we were both feeling a bit jaded this morning. When I went down the engine hole this morning I found an unwelcome sight in the stern gland having worked loose and parted company. It was only last week that I tightened it up after repacking so I don't know what caused it to work loose. However it's just as well I keep it well greased so it didn't take long to rectify the problem.

By the time we cast off this morning the weather was improving and as the day wore on we watched the black clouds racing away to the south ahead of us leaving a clear blue sky.

After mooring up we walked into the village for a nosey around and found  an old railway that has been converted into a cycle/walkway from Malkins Bank to Ettily Heath (Sandbach). It turned out to be just a freight line that serviced the Brunner Mond works at Malkins Bank bringing in coal and taking out salt which survived until 1970 and in it's final years a passenger service was introduced. We found the old station but have been unable to find any info as no station is listed under Wheelock. The line appears to have been LMS ex North Staffordshire railways.

1523 locks, 3226 ½ miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Night light's.

3 Locks, 5 Miles. Now moored above King's Lock Trent & Mersey Canal.

It was a bit eerie at our moorings last night with a full moon turning the night into day. Looking around the horizon we could see the orange glow in the sky from the lights of Chester, Liverpool and Northwich on our port side and Greater Manchester on our starboard side. It was quite spectacular

With a fine, mild but overcast day we set off this morning for Middlewich. Along the way we came across Steve and Barbara on Nb Silver Knot so we hove to in the middle of the canal for a quick chat and catch up. We may see them again in the new year around the Peak Forest or Macclesfield Canal's.

After watering up and visiting Kings Lock Chandlery we moored a short distance up the canal. Unfortunately we are beside a main road which up until now has been very busy so we will have to wait and see if it quieten's down later tonight. The weather looks to be OK tomorrow so we will able move to a better location.

1520 locks, 3221 miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Saturday, 15 November 2008

That was a surprise!

Finally!

2 locks, 10 miles. Now moored at Church Minshull, Middlewich Branch.

With all our chores in Nantwich now complete we are free to move on and start our trek to Rugby for Christmas. Due to various stoppages we are having to go via the Trent and Mersey and Coventry Canal's but that's no problem.

The first job was to head south to the winding hole before we could head back towards the Middlewich branch. Surprisingly we passed 5 other boats on the move so we haven't got the canal all to ourselves just yet. After the first lock we pulled into Venetian Marina for diesel which was hassle free I'm pleased to say. The guy who served us was in total agreement with our 10/90 split as we are an all diesel boat. Their prices are £1.12 and 69p. We spotted this notice in the window which we thought interesting. Shows even the paparazzi get things wrong.

Just a bit further along after the second lock we saw the contractors busily preparing the entrance to the new Church Minshull Aqueduct Marina. The marina is due to be filled in early January.

A short time later we spotted a kingfisher sitting on the top of the hedgerow. Normally they fly off the moment you start getting too close but this little fella just sat there and Dot managed to get some photo's off which this one is the best.

1517 locks, 3216 miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Friday, 14 November 2008

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

That's where the money goes!

Nantwich Embankment.

This morning we had a visit from the local mooring warden and she told us that all BW staff will be busy over the next 2 weeks scouring the towpath's for unlicensed boats. Apparently this is a regular event that takes place after the cruising season comes to an end.

In our recent mail was a survey from BW and some of the questions had me searching the log book for answers. One surprise that came out of it was that we had spent £1800 on diesel in the last 12 months. Considering our boat is all diesel with only diesel fired central heating that isn't too bad. Other expenses included maintenance £1000, propane gas £126, insurance £188 and licence £833. That's the way the money goes.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Canal's in Flood?

0 Locks 6 ½ Miles. Now moored at Nantwich.

We had quite of bit of rain and wind overnight but it wasn't until this morning we found out that there had been more than an inch of rain and rivers were again in flood, no surprise there. What did come as a surprise was that the Grand Union Canal was in flood at Cosgrove and Stoke Bruerne and the canal was closed until further notice, unbelievable.

Our trip back to Nantwich was a cold and windy trip as we were heading straight into strong winds but at least the rain held off until this evening. We have a few engagements over the next couple of days and then hopefully we will be heading for Rugby via the Trent and Mersey Canal later in the week.

1515 locks, 3206 miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

An Improvement after the weekend

Monday, 10 November 2008

Lest We Forget

We Shall Keep the Faith

'Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.'

Moina Michael

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Biding our time.

0 Locks 6 ½ Miles. Now moored at bridge 4  Middlewich Branch.

As we had been on our mooring at Nantwich for 48 hours it was time to move so we cruised down to the winding hole at bridge 91, winded and worked our way back to our current mooring. We try to abide by the rules but we notice plenty that don't.

After lunch I did an oil change on the engine and changed the oil filter so we are all set for winter. I also had to tweak up the stern gland as it has now bedded in after re-packing it recently.

We plan to stay here for the weekend when we will return to Nantwich so that I can attend Leighton hospital on Wednesday for further tests. Dot has an appointment for a haircut on Tuesday and then for her annual flu jab.  We were lucky the local doctors accepted us as temporary patients as our own doctor suggested that the supplies of flu vaccine may have run out by the time we get to see her in December. In the meantime I have a few small jobs on the boat that I have to attend to which will keep me occupied over the week-end.

1515 locks, 3199 ½ miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Red Diesel Minefield

4 Locks, 3 Miles. Now moored at Nantwich.

Today we travelled down through the Hurleston flight to leave the Llangollen Canal and return to Nantwich. There was a mist hanging around making things damp but other than that it was a good day to cruise. There are still a few hire boats on the move but most private boats are now snugly tucked up in their Marina's for the winter.

Reading the various weblogs that we follow it would appear that there is a lot of confusion around regarding the new taxation of red diesel. It would seem that some boat yards are insisting on the 60/40 split which HM Customs have only put up as a guideline NOT a hard and fast rule. The boatyards are missing the point that boaters can self declare their own percentage rates as every case is different and that the responsibility lie's with the boater, NOT the boat yard. In actual fact the boat yards are committing an offence by not allowing self declaration. We will carry a copy of the document with us when refueling as a reference. For a copy view here.

One yard has come up with a rule that they will only sell at the 60/40 rate unless you have a separate tank for heating which is a bit unreal as very few boats would actually have been built that way.

What I would suggest is that all boaters with weblogs publicise what yards they buy from and what price, problems or feedback they experience so that we can warn each other of problem yards and boycott them. Once their sales start dropping off they may change their attitudes.

1515 locks, 3193 miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Back in the water on the Llangollen Canal

0 Locks, 1 Mile. Now moored by bridge 4 Llangollen Canal.

Well seven days has flown by and today was the day we were going back into the water. We more or less got everything done but it would have helped if our paint had arrived on time, the main thing is that there is now 4 coats of blacking on the hull. The paint finally arrived at 11.30 this morning so at least I now have the paint to touch up with in the future.We spent the morning putting all the gear back on the boat and tidying up the shed and the trailer finally arrived just after lunch.

Once back in the water we moved across the marina for diesel, pump out, gas tank and settle the account for the shed and power. The latter worked out quite reasonable, 7 days in the shed plus lift in and out with power came to £340.

We were the first customer to buy diesel at the new taxed rates but not before we had some lengthy discussion over the percentage's. The marina had a form with the 60/40 split on it and their computer was set to charge out at this rate. We told them that as we have an all diesel boat we were claiming a 90/10 split as majority of our diesel was used for power generation and heating. Eventually they conceded to changing the form to the 90/10 and charged us accordingly.

After hosing all the dust and dirt off the boat we finally got underway and just travelled a short distance from where we are in a handy position to make a short run into Nantwich tomorrow.

1511 locks, 3190 miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006