Wednesday, 15 August 2018

At Home In Crick. 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th August

Cracks Hill to Crick to Tilly’s Houdini’s Field

The last few days the weather has returned to normal English Summer. Overcast and at times rainy, thank goodness, I have to say I prefer the lower temperatures.

P1380574snP1380579snI’ve been working most days, gradually working my way through a box of set pieces. The box contents still seem very pale, there’s a lot more painting still to do.

On Saturday evening we were glad that we’d moved out of the village. Lots of gazebos had been set up at the marina and we guessed that it might be the moorers summer barbecue. It was, even with the constant downpour it sounded like everyone was having a jolly good time. Our mooring was half a mile away, but we could still join in and sing along with the music.

P1380566smSunday evening we met up with Lizzie and Gary, heading to The Wheatsheaf for a meal. Their Sunday roasts are meant to be good, but sadly as it was the end of a busy day there was only one left. Lizzie and I opted for the nearest thing on the menu, Belly Pork whilst the boys had beef fajitas and gammon and chips. All very nice finished off with puddings all round. There was lots to catch up on as it’s only a few weeks since Lizzie and Gary returned from a two week cruise up the Thames on NB Panda. They had moved her over to Cropredy in advance of their trip and had planned on leaving her there on their way back for a few weeks, but because of low water levels they legged it all the way back to Crick instead and got Panda back on her mooring. Quite a few long hot days.

P1380588smP1380592smIMG_20180813_160802996smIt just so happens that our friends Bridget and Storm were arriving on NB Blackbird this week. One of those coincidences that was meant to happen. On Monday afternoon the curly ears of a familiar black springer spaniel appeared in our side hatch Bridget followed soon afterwards. They had arrived in the village during the day and were moored towards the tunnel where mobile signal is very poor if any, so she’d decided to walk Max over Cracks Hill to find us. Plans for a meal out at The Moorings were made for Tuesday.

P1380610smSo on Tuesday morning we winded and returned towards the village mooring quite near the main entrance to Crick marina, this gives Tilly plenty of space to explore not too close to the busy road bridge. There were parcels to pick up from the post office and a bit of shopping needed. At the water point a familiar green boat was moored, NB Alchemy. Neil Stuttle was busy working away on the bow, but we couldn’t see anyone else to say hello to.

P1380612smIn the evening we walked down to meet up with Bridget and Storm. Crick feels like home to us all, a familiar friendly place we have all got to know through the years. Mick and I started off our journey four years ago here and when we pulled out of the marina on NB Lillyanne (Lillian), NB Blackbird was waiting for us, this is when The Wasp was formed. So it was only right that we were here for their last night on board Blackbird. We had a nice meal at the Moorings. Have to say that Mick and I remembered the menu being more extensive than it was and they do not cater for those with food allergies, a little disappointing. Having said that what we had was very nice and we had a lovely evening, finished off with a couple more glasses of wine on Oleanna.

On a previous occasion there was mention of doing the Ribble Link together, which happened last summer. On this occasion there was mention of exploring the Irish Waterways, I think that after our fourth glass of wine we agreed! So watch this space.

P1380614smThis morning we walked down the towpath to say our final farewell to NB Blackbird. Bridget and Storm were pulling her along towards the water point but had just been beaten to it by boats coming from the tunnel. Time for one last photo before they emptied their belongings into their car and handed the keys over to ABNB for her to go on brokerage. Big hugs all round, a sad day. Their next adventure is already on the horizon in the form of a maroon motorcaravan. So we’ll be expecting those black curly ears to pop through the side hatch again, they will have just arrived by road not by water next time.

P1380618smA parcel hadn’t arrived at the post office, so we shall have to return in the next couple of days. We reversed back past the marina entrance and then pulled in to fill the diesel tank. Since we were last here there is a new Harbour Master, we’d met him at Cropredy a couple of years ago. A very jolly chap who has brightened the marina back up after a year of it being in the doldrums. It was nice to see Him and Her in the office even if the diesel was a touch on the dear side.

P1380621smIn the past we would have waited for a lull in the wind across the marina (we’ve met all sorts of people when Lillian got blown the full length of the marina!) but today with bow thrusters reversing and turning out was easy. We then turned northwards and headed towards Yelvertoft.

P1380633smPassing Yelvertoft Marina we kept our eyes peeled. We needn’t have really because very soon we could see Lillian glowing on her mooring. Minus her pram cover she looked in good order from what we could see. Wouldn’t it be funny if once NB Blackbird is sold she ends up mooring at Yelvertoft next to Lillian, the owners wouldn’t know their past.

P1380643smThere was a boat loitering in a bridge hole, they kept looking over their shoulders and then at us. What had they lost? As we got closer they moved towards us and warned us that we’d be coming across three boats. The front boat was towing the second which had broken down. This was then attached to a third boat which they were using as a break when needed. Luckily we’d got through the bridge before they came round a bend and we managed to hold back for them to pass.

P1380649smA short distance on was our chosen mooring for the day. Houdini’s Field. As soon as the trip computer was off the doors were opened and Tilly and I went to have a look at the field. The crop had recently been harvested leaving the golden stubble. Tilly had a good shout at it all.

P1380655smIt is great here! Trees, sideways trees, friendly cover, someone though had stolen the tall grass that was here last time. That was fun I could pounce around to my hearts content, jumping high enough just to clear the grass before landing on top of an unsuspecting friend. The grass was short and spiky, but it did mean I could see any friends much easier.

P1380661_MomentsmThere was a really good boat too. It had a low roof and was all made of wood, very handy for sharpening my claws. I think it should be Tilly’s field, but she won’t change it’s name!

black pawDSCF7121sm0 locks, 5.3 miles, 1 wind, 2 reverses, 1 left, 3 rights, 2 meals out, 1 cottage, 1 final bye bye to Blackbird, 54 litres, 2 parcels, 1 still not arrived, 1 empty gas bottle, 4 days of part time work, 3 boats all in a line, 1 favourite mooring, 1 name not changing, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Seventeenth 11th August

Welton Hythe to Cracks Hill

P1380505smP1380510smWe pushed of at around 10am today, there was a newspaper to get, we couldn’t dawdle. This is the first time we’ve have been here in August and despite the recent dry weather the whole of the surroundings to the canal are so fat and green. Along one stretch there are quite sizable trees growing between the path on the towpath and the cut, you’d be hard pressed if you had to bow haul your boat along here. The closed Thai Restaurant is almost invisible behind all the growth in the garden and the very weepy willow trees. It’s normally a sad sight.

One boat had come past us this morning so we hoped there wouldn’t be too much of a queue when we reached Watford and we were pleasantly surprised at being the only boat. With a walkie talkie in hand I walked up the flight reaching the staircase before I met a volunteer lockie to book in. He said we could start our way up as we’d be following the boat he was with. Had we been through before? They always ask this, yes we think it’s our 17th time. I radioed down to Mick and he started to set the bottom lock. As it was ready for us a boat appeared behind us and the chap walked up the flight to book himself in.

P1380517smWe worked through the bottom two locks as one of the lockies emptied the bottom chamber of the staircase, open gates awaited us.

P1380519smP1380527smChatting to the chaps they made sure we were aware that both Watford and Foxton will be closed overnight from Monday to help with levels. Apparently there are still problems with water levels down towards Leicester, when we came through last year there were chaps letting water down all the time and that was before the several dry months of this summer! The Lockie today told me that they have to run water down from Foxton every night to cope with the falling levels below. He said that they pump water up from the river at Stoke Bruern, then water is pumped up the flight at Long Buckby followed by being pumped up at Watford. Of course during the day all the pumped water gets used by boats travelling up and down the flights of locks, so restricting passages means the pumps can work to raise levels when the locks are closed. That’s 40 miles from the river to the bottom of Foxton and another 7.5 miles to where the chaps were letting water down last year.

P1380531smP1380535smOur passage up was easy and by the time we were almost up the top of the staircase boats were arriving to come down, a line of three by the time they got started. We pulled over to fill the water tank and I helped myself to some Tarragon and Sage being grown alongside the top lock in sinks. A very healthy herb garden.

P1380538smIn the hut at the top Mick found some old instructions on how to use the locks. Blimey! So glad it’s colour coded now.

P1380542smOnwards to Crick Tunnel where we donned our waterproofs. As the bow entered the tunnel we could see that the light must have been nudged since yesterday, it was pointing to port and would blind any on coming boat. Nothing for it but to adjust it, I passed through the cabin and swivelled it to starboard before we carried on.

P1380553smMick thought the rain from yesterday wouldn’t have percolated through to the tunnel yet, but I was certain that the north end would be wet, it always is. I was correct, glad we’d warned a new boat owner to put his coat on before he got there. Part way through we could hear shouting from inside. Tilly wasn’t happy, Not happy?! I was NOT happy at ALL!! She is normally alright going through tunnels as the cabin lights are on, but for some reason she spent the next fifteen minutes shouting either out of the bathroom window or at the back door. Nothing much we could do other than get through to the other end and hope she’d calm down.

P1380556smBack in the sunshine the noise from inside disapated and we made our way to moor opposite the marina. We decided to keep Tilly in for a while to help her calm down, I was calm now, the outside had got light again. But no matter how many head nudges and licks I gave her she wasn’t going to let me out. So not fare, Tom got to go out!

P1380562smP1380565smMick cycled to the Post Office and checked they do Post Restante, which they do for any parcels we might want. But they didn’t have our newspaper, so he carried on to the Co-op where he succeeded. After lunch we decided to go a little bit further and see if the mooring at Cracks Hill was free. Here there is better internet and phone signal than back near the village along with rings to tie to. Contact has been made with our friend Lizzie and plans are afoot to meet up. We may also meet up with other friends whilst we’re in the area too, but now we have reached the long pound I have to knuckle down to work again.

DSCF7114sm7 locks, 4 of which are a staircase, 1 tunnel passing 1 with 0 mysterons, 7 day old boat owner, 1 tunnel light refocus, 2 moorings, 2nd shop lucky, 1 clean pooh box, 1 full water tank, 2 lots of herbs, 17th time through Watford, 1 calmed down cat, 1 better bell, 4 hours at last!

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Soggy Socks 10th August

Dunchurch Pools to Welton Hythe Marina

P1380384smThe temperature certainly has dropped and we woke to rain, constant rain. This is good as even more of the system is going onto night closures in the next week and now the eastern end of the Leeds Liverpool Canal is due to close, leaving the twenty mile long pound at Skipton lock bound for the foreseeable future. So any rain is good. We literally dusted off our waterproofs tops and bottoms and pushed off to cruise the three miles to Braunston.

P1380408smP1380398smA farmer rounded up his sheep as Swallows had a great feast under trees on the canal bank.  They swooped and dived and swerved to avoid Oleanna as we passed.

P1380415smThe first glimpse of Braunston spire (BANGERS!), we were nearly there. Our hope had been that arriving in the morning we’d find a mooring easily. Braunston is a popular place, the start of the Grand Union heading south to London and the Thames, the south Oxford heading to Oxford and the Thames, routes to the River Soar and Leicester, towards Hatton Locks to Warwick Leamington Spa and Birmingham. Because of this there are a lot of marinas in the area, therefore lots of boats.

P1380427smWe were lucky as we pulled round the bends to find the customer mooring at Midland Chandlers free right opposite Braunston Turn. Here the two arched bridges span the junction towards the South Oxford and very pretty they are too. Midland Chandlers didn’t have a Vetus fuse for our bow thruster. It hasn’t blown again, it’s worked fine since Finesse put a new fuse in, we just want to have a spare at hand. So we disposed of our rubbish mountain and then found a mooring.

P1380430smP1380432smWe walked up into the village past the church the day was starting to dry out now and I slightly regretted leaving on my waterproof trousers, gradually getting sweaty knees. There are a lot of properties for sale in the village, The Shambles being the prettiest and most expensive at £750,000.

P1380438smFirst port of call the butchers for some bangers. Several other things also went into our shopping bag including a caramelised onion pork pie, some burgers, a couple of pork steaks and some veg. The freezer would be slightly fuller and all we should really need for a couple of weeks is bread milk and fresh fruit and veg.

Then we headed to the bottom lock to Wharf House Chandlers. They didn’t have the fuse we were after either but did have a filter and some new fender hooks as we’ve broken a couple recently. Time for lunch and then make our minds up whether to cruise on today or not. The weather reports suggested that there would be more rain this afternoon, but not until 4pm, so enough time to get up Braunston Locks. The cratch was rolled up ready, waterproofs close to hand should we need them and we pushed off.

P1380460smThe bottom lock was full, so we decided to wait for another boat to either come down or for a boat to join us to go up, doing our bit to save water. A boat appeared behind us and kept coming towards the lock, I walked up and zoomed my camera to the next lock and could see bottoms sitting on the back of a couple of boats, we were following. So I set the lock for us and NB Ottawa who had four on board so plenty of crew to get us up the flight. It was sunny and warm, no need for jumpers now. Well until a very big black cloud made it’s way towards us, it was only 3pm.

P1380471smP1380474smDrops of rain, we were following four boats up. The waterproofs were handed out and I’d head on up to the next lock to set it for us. I think it was about lock 3 that the heavens really opened up, rumbles of thunder, fork lightening on the hills. Mick even lifted up the pram cover for a bit of shelter. No matter what clothing you were wearing you were going to get soaked. Up ahead there was a hire boat sitting in a lock, water pouring over the bottom gates. I popped up to see if they were okay, they were waiting for another boat to join them from the lock above. Wise, except that boat was already sharing so a full locks worth of water headed over the bywash and the gates as they waited to be joined, the other boat then had to wait their turn. By the time we reached the fifth lock everyone was soaked, but in good spirits and the sun came back out and made everything steam.

P1380475smP1380496smWe kept our coats on and headed into the tunnel. We thought there were two boats heading our way, but only passed one, the other one was either a kid with a torch or it vaporised before we met it. Luckily we passed north of the big kink so no new scrapes on the gunnels. As we emerged from the dark the sun was streaming down through the tree cover. Works are on going near Norton Junction with a long length of armco going in, so no mooring there yet. We turned left and made our way to Welton Hythe, passing NB Happy Daze (another boat who won’t recognise us now) with a very colourful bow. Our usual mooring opposite the marina was free so we pulled in a tied up for the day.

P1380498smWaterproofs were nearly dry but shoes most certainly weren’t, meaning very soggy socks. Once a warming shower had been had I popped some nice cosy socks on. The lamb steaks I’d planned to barbecue went in the oven with some roasted new potatoes, helping to warm up the boat and put us off lighting the stove.

DSCF7114sm6 locks, 1 straight on, 1 left, 1 tunnel passing 1 with 2 mysterons, 1 wet morning, 1 torrential downpour, 8 Braunston Bangers, 2 pork steaks, 1 ring black pudding, 2 burgers, 1 pork pie, 10 new potatoes, 4 carrots, 2 pints milk, 2 fender hangers, 1 filter, 0 fuse, 2 hours curtailed, 1 cat home and locked in by 7pm!

Friday, 10 August 2018

Restocked And Blue. 7th 8th 9th August

Newbold to Bridge 68 to Dunchurch Pools Marina

P1380246smTuesday we stayed put hiding from the sun under our tree canopy. My model pieces came out from the cupboard and I started to work on the smaller details of some of the elements and traced out a section of the set to see what colours would be good. Tilly explored when she had the energy to move and Mick sat out on the towpath trying to sort out one of his pensions, they’d lost a form then found it but then lost a birth certificate! Luckily it was only a copy, another copy printed off and popped in the post, fingers crossed they don’t loose it this time.

P1380238smP1380239smIn the afternoon we had a walk down into Newbold to the shops. The Barley Mow had an interesting bouncy castle in the garden, a dog playing dead. A visit to the Co-op for an onion, milk and some chilled medication, nothing special but still worth having on what turned out to be the last very hot day. In the evening we finished off emptying the freezer with a sausage slop for tea. Only a couple of crusts of gluten free bread and some coffee remained, so it was turned off, lid removed so it could warm up and defrost over night.

P1380256smP1380259smWednesday and the freezer was cleaned out thoroughly, how does cat hair get in there Tilly? After breakfast we pootled onwards to Brownsover to find a mooring to be able to go shopping. Four heavy bags came back from Tescos with us, I wondered if we’d over done it on things for the freezer (not everything was destined for the small box under the dinette, some wine might have sneaked in there too!). As Mick moved us over to the water point I repackaged the things that were to be frozen. I chicken jointed, mince, turkey steaks and salmon repacked into meal portions, bread, the freezer gradually filled up leaving enough room for some purchases from Braunston Butchers.

P1380277smP1380279smWith the chores of water and yellow water done we pootled out of town. We paused at the nearest mooring to the station for lunch, this may be handy for my next meeting at Chipping Norton and then carried on a little bit further. The works on the new housing estate seem to involve a lot of mounds of sand and the works seem to stretch from Brownsover all the way to Hillmorton. A new bridge is being built over the canal and the foundations on one side look like they are in.  We passed quite a few boats moored up and then found a stretch of Arnco for ourselves, managing to pull in out of the almost constant flow of traffic.

Yesterday we’d been passed by Riverknits whom I follow on Instagram, I’d been busy rummaging for something as they passed, so Becci had sent a message to say if we passed them to come and say hello. I could see what I thought was her boat up ahead so took Tilly for a walk to see if it was them. I like going for walks with her usually, trotting along in front having chance to sniff things as I go by. There was a big bridge which needed a slight detour to check out but then I rejoined her. She didn’t go that far before she stopped at a boat and started to talk to a lady, this was boring, so I popped through the hedge to find immaculate grass with those funny little holes that my arms fit down. My afternoon was sorted.

P1380288smIt was very obviously Becci’s boat, inside there were shelves and shelves filled with of skeins of different coloured yarn and a small notice in the window. Having followed each other for a few months, me being jealous of her having got the good spot at Tixall Wide twice this year had kicked off conversations. We had a long chat about boats and yarn. I was invited in to have a look at the new yarns she is working on at the moment. Black Faced Leicester DK in some wonderful colours, all very tempting, but luckily she wasn’t willing to let any go yet as they are for a collaboration with someone. I’ll be keeping an eye on her website for when she adds them as they were lovely. She and her partner hand dye the yarn on their boat in big pans, once it is rinsed and ready to dry it is hung out on large hooks from their grabrail. Some of her dyed yarns are named after places on the canal, Hillmorton and a popular one is Idle Women.  It was nice to meet, our paths may cross again, hopefully when my panto model is off the boat and I’ve been paid.

P1380298smToday we waited for a gap again in the constant flow of boats passing us before we could push out. Passing Becci’s boat she was occupied adding colours to her next batch of yarn a deep indigo blue, more skeins hanging out drying.

P1380304smA mile ahead was Hillmorton locks, one of which is the busiest lock on the network. Today certainly wasn’t going to be an exception. We expected to join a queue, but only had to slow our pace a bit before one of the paired locks was in our favour. Two volunteers manned the bottom locks and we were soon up and on our way to the next one. A brief wait here where a single hander looked like he was about to jump infront of us but he just ended up being in the way for a boat coming down hill.

P1380309smAbove at the last lock one boat impatiently refilled a lock instead of waiting for the next boat heading up, so nearly 100% efficient use of the locks. These locks are now being locked overnight to help the back pumps restore levels for the next day. It looked like the pumps were on full time anyway  with a flow entering the cut above the flight.

P1380334smP1380338smOn we pootled. Boats coming towards us all the time. Along Barby Straight you could see at least three boats in both directions slowing to pass all the online moorings. The tree house we’d spotted a couple of years ago has gone and so has the old Ambulance that has been a landmark to us since we first came along this stretch. One of the rather nice moorings had a For Sale sign, wonder how much these go for with their gardens.

P1380349smUnder the M45 we came across C&RT staff working on the towpath. In parts the path has been eaten away by the canal making it very narrow. Here the chaps were adding wooden poles and filling behind them with the hessian sausages that help wild life and hopefully stop bank erosion.

We passed fellow Scarborian boaters on NB Bessie Surtees and then between Bridges 80 and 81 there was plenty of space for us to pull in for the day. Tilly was given 6 hours of shore leave and off she went. Lunch followed by an afternoon of work for me whilst numerous boats came past, others moored up leaving git gaps making us look like we were at fault.

P1380354smI’d been getting bored of red for a while, it is so last year! For a cat to be up to date with fashions I have to go to quite long lengths. Today I saw an opportunity and took it. The sideways trees here have had a mesh fence added to them which is quite hard to climb, but the sideways trees are dense and climbable. When I reached the same height as the top of the fence I noticed that it had prongs, this was going to be very handy. Being a cat and not having opposable thumbs means that unless I can make my collar ping with my mouth then it won’t come undone. My latest collar wasn’t a pingable one (believe me I’ve tried), but it stretches instead. I took a risk that she had fitted it correctly and I managed to loop it over the fence, I then carefully lowered myself to a lower branch. Brilliant it slipped off like a dream Fantastic! It’s quite liberating not having a collar on, this usually only happens when she puts that horrid stuff on my neck saying ‘It’s for your own good’ Pah!!

Feeling a touch hungry I headed home. Whilst calmly munching away at my biscuits there was a rush to close the doors. After much rumaging around in the cat proof cupboard she produced a new pristine clean collar in a rather fetching shade of dusty blue. That will do nicely I thought. But they will insist on adding a cat tag and dinging the bell lots. Apparently it didn’t sound like me, neither did the spare one in the pot. Tilly Too had to donate her bell to me as this was from an Easter Bunny like my previous one. I sat patiently whilst I had several collar fittings, the bell on the wrong side, a different bell, cat tag etc. Then when she was happy the back door was opened back up and I was given an hour. An hour! I had to parade along as many cat walks as possible to show off my new collar to other boaters I was going to take my time.

P1380374smShe did take her time, far too much of it! She was out through a thunder storm, ignored being called several times. We watch TV for an hour, then another hour, it was dark, her litter tray went out the back. Another walk along the towpath with the big torch in hand and still no sign. Where was she? At about 11pm she nonchalantly walked in the back and stuck her head in her food bowl. The bell on her collar must have been a substandard Bunny bell as it wasn’t making the right noise anymore, it was far too quiet. New tags have been ordered, now we need to find a better bell and a spare collar for the next time.

3 locks, 7.64 miles, 1 new bridge in the making, 1 empty wee tank, 0 boats at Clifton Cruisers, 12 skeins of wool, 10 degrees temperature drop, 1 thunder storm, 2 sunsets, 1 walk being deserted, 0 ambulance, 2 Scarborians, 1 marina more than it was, 2 collars, 2 tags, 0 spares, 4 ordered, 7 cat walks, 18 jealous people, 1 collar hanging on the fence at Dunchurch Pools (possibly!), 2 boaters relieved to still have a cat even if she doesn’t sound right.