Moore 2 Life:Exploring the waterways

|Home|Book|Canals|Rivers|Places|Nature|Oddities|Work Boats|Boat Systems|Chas'life|

Book:'LIFE WITH A NARROWBOAT' © Chas Moore

Chapter 10: Serindipity, 2004

Back to the boat

We returned to the boat in the New Year with Chris driving us here. The boat was found safe and sound where we had left it. First thing, light the fire then get the water, gas and electric back on, while Chris and Ann unpacked the car. After a coffee and a bite to eat Chris returned home. We thoroughly enjoyed our two weeks away over Christmas and New Year. It was a bit of a wrench to say goodbye and our thanks go to Chris and Tracy for the transport arrangements this time.

Unexpectedly our friends from No Problem also arrived the same day. We set off west the very next day and got to Great Bedwyn as they were expecting a delivery of coal. The day started with light snow falling but it was warm and dry during the trip. Stew was once again cooking on the fire. Ann had an appointment with the Dentist back at Hungerford so Sue went with her on the train.

Playing a DVD

Our new computer is capable of playing DVD's so we are enjoying watching a few films using that super new technology. Chris gave us a set of extension speakers so the sound is better.

Go west to Bath

A bright sunny day saw our two boats climbing up the Crofton Flight to the summit. Through the tunnel and stopping at Wooton top lock. That night it was windy and wet. Next morning we found our mooring pin had nearly pulled out! Sue and Ann went for a walk when the storm cleared. Next day we moved on and stopped short of Pewsey Wharf because it was known to be full of boats. At least eight boats are double parked and occupying the visitor mooring. While the girls went shopping the boys took the boats to the wharf for water and to use the other facilities. The girls returned by bus.

Problem below deck

We continued on and got to within half a mile of our planned destination when the engine alarm went off. It was over heating! "Quick stop at the swing bridge," I cried. Stopped the engine to let it cool off. No Problem was behind us at the time and our friends kindly offered a tow. It was dark by the time we got to the pub mooring by the Bridge Inn at Horton. After a meal we all went for a drink to drown my sorrows and celebrate the fact that Sue had sold her Laurie print on E Bay.

Next day I refilled the engine with coolant and prayed as I started the engine OK and slowly moved on to Devizes Marina another mile away. They were expecting me as I had already rung to book a service. The engineer recommended re routing the plumbing to prevent air bubbles forming. When he had finished the system looked much neater and simpler. Basically the skin-cooling tank was on the wrong side for the engine.

Quiz night

Wednesday is Quiz Night on the Internet so we went round to No Problem in the evening. Got into a chat room with about six names potentially from all over the world. Sue had prepared loads of questions and added my bunch about the Kennet and Avon canal. Each name is associated with one of two teams, Fairies or Elves. As the names came and went the numbers in each team changed. It became clear very quickly that my questions were too special for them. I kept the score while Sue did all the typing. It was quite tricky keeping up with the flow as answers came flooding in. The mobile phone disconnected a few times making it even more difficult.

We spent a few days at Devizes moored opposite the wharf on nice new visitor moorings. We can stay 72 hours here, longer than most other places. Time enough to explore the town with three supermarkets and a brewery. Got a whiff of that one morning as they started brewing more beer. Wadworth 6X.

Caen Hill

It was actually mid January when we went down the Caen Hill flight. Next week the flight closes till the end of February for maintenance. Mary and Ray came up to help and provided egg sandwiches on the way down. Went all the way down to Lock 29. That is a total of 22 locks from the top, which took six hours. But we did stop for lunch in a lock half way down. The lock keeper would not have approved had he seen us! We are going down with No Problem side by side. Vic and Ray going ahead setting up locks. The boats in front are not shutting the gates behind them, which is not helpful, then a boat coming up leaves the locks full, which is. The day was dry, bright and mild making for an enjoyable time for all. The view to the horizon was clearly visible.

Cold n icy

Woke next day with ice on the canal. Switch on the boiler and stoke up the fire. Set off at 11 to go down the next seven locks. A hire boat in front was seen stranded half way down. The engine was not driving the prop and a man was standing helpless out of reach on the bank. Once we had got out of the lock we towed the boat back to the towpath side. They had already called an engineer. We continued to Sells Green for the night.

Next day we crossed over the new aqueduct at Semington. A new road has been dug under the canal after the aqueduct was built! It will be closed later in order to finish it off and should be open again in March, giving us time to explore the canal to Bath.

Bradford

So on to Bradford on Avon, a town in the valley with the canal above clinging to the hill. The Visitor Moorings above the lock here are limited to 48 hours so we go down the last lock between here and Bath and stop by the ancient Tythe Barn in a sheltered wooded section of canal. A sudden and short storm passed over. Thunder and lightning, wind and snow. Then it froze over night and the b…fire went out! Once it was re lit ash was spread over the plank and icy towpath. Much appreciated by the local walkers. The road above the canal leads up to the supermarket. Gravity assists our return with the goods. The stone buildings of the town have ornate character and can be seen across the valley in sunshine.

Ann and Sue went off to Bristol by bus. Sue wanted to get some armchairs from Ikea. So they took both trolleys to bring them back. Proved too bulky returning on the bus and had to get the train. Got a taxi to the station then two trains just to get back to Bradford! It proved to be a struggle getting off one train because the commuters were trying to get on and would not give way!

As you may know £25 million was spent on this canal over a period of five years. We have seen many improvements but also experienced a lack of working facilities. Many locks are still in a bad state. Apparently the backlog of lock gate replacements was not included in the lottery project. A British Waterways facility in Bradford on Avon, built of creamy Bath stone, was opened by Prince Charles a year ago, is still closed because it is not yet plumbed in!

The Aqueducts

We all walked the two miles there and back to Avoncliff Aqueduct that takes the canal over the Avon. The river has swollen to a torrent and is brown with mud and silt. It would not be wise to go down on the river with the boats at Bath. A few days later we moved on to Dundas Aqueduct. A sunny day providing good light to see across the valley as the canal followed round the contour of the hill. Both aqueducts are built of Bath stone in a grand classical style. They were built to enable the canal to remain at the same level for nine miles from Bradford to Bath. Much of the stone facing had weathered badly and has now been replaced. It is a marvel to look up from below to see the new and old stone together. Good to see we still have the skilled masons able to do the work.

The Somerset Coal canal joins the K and A at Dundas. Only a mile of this narrow canal remain. The canal once served 30 collieries in the 19th. Century. The canal is in a sad state. A lift bridge at the entrance is locked and the water level is a foot lower beyond the stop lock that is under repair. The canal is full of boats unable to get out as they are sitting on the mud. When we returned a week later the water was level and the canal open again.

Old boats

On we go through Bathampton full of old boats. It is a pity BW cannot get rid of them. Many look worse than old garden sheds with rusty wheelbarrows on the roof and are covered in plastic sheeting. Some have been given winter moorings on the visitor moorings. So we cannot stop there and continue to Bathwick where the visitor moorings are quite pleasant. Although the trains rumble past ten feet lower than the canal. A grand view of Bath in the valley can be seen from here.

Bath

Bath was being built when Jane Austen was born. She moved there suddenly in 1799 and lived at 4, Sydney Place. We walked down the hill past Sydney Place on our way to the shops. Sydney Gardens are opposite the terrace and was once a place for Jane to enjoy. They provided entertainment such as music, fireworks and public breakfasts. A moveable orchestra, two bowling greens and a labyrinth are shown on a map of 1803. The canal came to Bath in 1800. It enabled the supply of Bath stone from the quarry and coal from the Somerset coalmines near Limpley Stoke but the canal and the railway cut the gardens in half.

Returned to Bradford and went up through the lock to get diesel at the marina. Several boats are out and about this weekend. One boat had just come out of the wide lock. The gate started to shut in front of our boat as we approached then opened again. Both our boats went in and went up. At the top yet another boat was waiting to go down. Why, I wondered, did they not join the other boat going down? We then had to go out one by one as the boat was partly in the way and would not move! Thankfully we don't meet too many awkward boaters.

Internet shop

Sue and Ann placed an order to Tesco using the Internet. The local supermarket does not stock Ann's non-dairy milk or the dog food that Allie likes. If you can supply a postcode that is near the canal they will deliver to the boat. Some difficulty was caused by a slow and unreliable connection using the mobile phone. The delivery was made as arranged to the canal at Bradford at the time specified.

An Accident

We had got back to Bath when one day I stepped off the boat and in an instant I was a fish! Looking up, the surface of the canal was above me. I saw the mooring rope and reached up to grab it. I found that the canal was only waist deep but could not pull myself out. So I shouted "Help, help, get me out of here." I did not have time to feel cold. Ann, Sue and Vic got me out. Back in the boat quickly getting all my wet clothes off and wrapping me up in dry towels and the duvet from the bed. Sat by the fire drinking warm tea and being told to breath deeply. Sue and Vic had rushed out of their boat so quickly that they and the dog got jammed in the doorway! Sue had no shoes on! Apparently I felt as cold as ice. Not surprising for that is what I had slipped on!

Visiting

In February and while still in Bath we visited Sue and Graham on Shendish. They live on board as well, and our three boats are the only privately owned boats here. The others are hired, shared or residential boats that don't move much. Another boat has just gone by breaking up the thin ice so we follow behind travelling east away from Bath. Only a mile to Bathampton but it is a start, lucky to find a space on the Visitor Moorings. Ice has been forming over night for a week or so as the temperature goes down to minus five degrees c.

Coal and wood

We are getting a bit short of coal now. The local Boat Yard has some coal but there was no body about when we passed. We had travelled between Bath and Bradford on Avon several times because it was interesting crossing the Avon valley and along the wooded sections. We stopped and harvested many large logs, which were just lying there asking to be picked up! When we got to Devizes, Vic started up his chain saw and converted all the wood into short logs for our fires. And we ordered more coal.

Barge Inn

Stopped at Honey Street and had to double park because the mooring was so full. The old Barge Inn is a popular pub here. The Bargees used it a lot because there was an old wharf here. We all went in for a drink in the evening. Then on to Pewsey so Sue can get a train to Portsmouth. The wharf here is also full of boats right by the Trust Shop so we had to moor further away. While we wait for Sue to return we get on with some work on the boat. Made some seats and started clearing out items not used last year. Then walk into town across the fields, under and along the railway. On the way we found an old boundary marker belonging to the Great Western Railway Co. dated 1898. Got some meat and veg at the farmers market and some plants for Mum for her rockery on Mothers day.

Summit

The sun came out and we moved on to Crofton, over the summit and through Bruce tunnel. The canal has been dredged here so the water is deep and clear. It is almost blue with a chalky bottom. The fields near by are now covered with a thick layer of mud from the recent dredging. We had stopped by the old pumping station and next morning noticed that smoke was coming out of the tall chimney. No public access to day as they were testing the old boiler after it had a major repair. On our way down from Crofton we got some diesel from Tipton, an old working boat, the first and only one seen on this canal. Better value than at marinas and we like to encourage the canal trade.

Stormy weather

Weather forecasts are quite good now. The expected storm arrived and we were well prepared. Four ropes tied to double pins in firm ground. Plenty of rain and water is now rushing past the lock. Next day we moved early heading for Hungerford and relative shelter. It had been a bit windy moving across the exposed marsh making it tricky getting into the lock. Once in the town we rushed off to the shops before another storm passed over. Had to tie down the back cover to prevent it blowing up in the wind that was whipping up the canal into a choppy sea. Then a walker told us that a boat behind had broken away from its mooring and was drifting towards us. It was on the other side and the owner was not on board. Another boater came to the rescue and jumped on board. He pushed it away from the bank and the wind blew it across. Vic and I grabbed the ropes and secured it to the towpath side.

Family visit

Then family came to visit. Good to see them all again. After a drink on board we all went to the John O'Gaunt pub for lunch. Returned across the bridge so Josh can feed the ducks. Then it rained and we rushed back to the boat. Josh is now exploring the boat from end to end. His toy box came out and we played together. After tea they left, leaving Mum to stay a few days with us as we progress to Newbury.

Kintbury ducklings

Stopped at Kintbury for a night and saw the first ducklings this year. All ten of the fluffy things are trying to keep up with their mum. But next day there were only nine because the Pike got some food! We moved off leaving Sue and Vic behind. On the way Mum saw a Kingfisher sitting on a branch as we passed. Close enough to appreciate its plumage and long sharp beak. Then it dived in and got a fish. We continued to Newbury and stopped at West Mills just past the swing bridge. Next day Mum got the National Coach back to Winchester. Our friend Sue had booked the coach using the Internet and given me a disk so I could print the ticket!

Overstayed our welcome ?

The BW man came and asked us to move as we had stayed two nights and he had to respond to a complaint. There are some houses near by occupied by people who do not seem to appreciate the boats. I wonder why they live next to the canal. So we moved on down one lock to Newbury wharf. Here the river Kennet is flowing quite fast. The collection of young swans spends the night on the pond in the park, as it is more restful for them. They are loosing their dark feathers, becoming aggressive and needing to find their own territory.

Pete and Deanna paid us a visit. They gave us some nice flowers, which we put in a jar, and some mince pies, which got eaten. After lunch on board we went for a walk along the canal and watched the canoe race arriving from Devizes.

Next day we moved on to Aldermaston while it was warm and sunny. The clocks had changed to summertime so we enjoyed an extra hour in the evening light. Met up with Sue and Vic again who are having their Alternator replaced. The old one had stopped charging and the fridge stopped. Their milk is being kept cool in the canal!

Reading

On a bright sunny day we travelled to the eastern end of the Kennet and Avon canal. Our plan is to get to Banbury for Easter. It should take seven days with three on the Thames to Oxford. The K and A is a pretty canal west of Newbury but returning east we are reminded how hard the locks and swing bridges are to operate. We were pleased to meet up with Sue and Vic to help and together we got to Bath and back. At Reading we stayed in Chestnut Walk again, a quiet backwater by the old castle.

The Thames, River Thames pictures

Off out with three other boats on to the Thames and stopped at the Tesco moorings. Quite something to go shopping by boat! By the time we had done the shopping the other boats had gone through Caversham Lock. Here with No Problem we both have to pay the Lock Keeper for three days travelling on the Thames. To Oxford, stopping at Goring and Abingdon for free moorings at night. Did well to get to Goring by seven o'clock with its high concrete ledge almost up to the roof! Made for a different type of boat.

It was difficult to get off the next day with the river pushing the boat on to the mooring. On the way saw several rowers as we came out of a lock. They turned round behind us and overtook on both sides making us feel in the way. A sunny day ended with a violent windy storm with rain just as were mooring up at Abingdon. There are no other boats here, such a contrast to last summer. Moved off early through the lock. The lock keepers are not dressed like they used to be. No uniform, just casual and no hat but are pleased to see a boat moving and helped by ringing ahead to the next lock keeper so the lock is open for us.

Isis lock, Oxford, Oxford canal pictures

Saw some nesting Grebe on the river as we head for Oxford and got through our last lock at Osney and on to the junction leading to the Oxford canal. A sharp right turn across the river flow pushing us sideways. Under a low metal bridge, thankfully not hitting it as we pass through. A low railway bridge forcing us to lower our heads and our chimney just cleared. Past the rusty remains of the old railway swing bridge. Then sharp left to face Isis Lock with No Problem just going in. We waited for our turn because it was the first narrow lock that we have seen for some time. Then we saw Shendish again. Once seen at the Bath end of the K and A now at the Oxford end of the Oxford canal. It seems that our three boats are travelling north together now.

Visitors

After filling up with water we find a mooring near Bridge 231 and the sun came out. George, Ann, Nicola and Katie came up to visit. Mobile phones were used to good effect to find us. A kind farmer allowed them to park their van near the boat. After lunch on board we went for a walk to the lock near Dukes Cut. The girls enjoyed their day and after tea they all left.

We continued north to Banbury, stopping twice on the way. Already noticing that this canal has more boats moving about, almost every other lock waiting for boats to go through. Arranged with Vic and Sue to meet up at a destination mooring. Sunny days made for pleasant travelling and we passed Shendish, this time near Aynho.

C, T and J came up to Banbury to see us. Went to the shops and got Josh a pair of shoes. After looking at some pictures they left to stay with their friends in Swindon. Next day Brod came up with Mum. Brod listened to my music and looked at our pictures. It was Easter Sunday and all the shops were shut. Wandered about up to the lock to watch boats moving through. They left after tea.

Next day both boats were moved up into town. The boys stayed on board while the girls shopped for plants at the garden centre. It became obvious that the same group of nippers kept walking past our boats and rocking them! When the girls returned we made a hasty retreat along with many other boats. Eventually got up to Fenny Compton travelling on a quiet weekend through the countryside. After visiting the chandlery we moved on to Napton in five hours.

Braunston

We continued to Braunston the next day past many more old boats near the town. Met Barry from a boat called Pulse as we said good buy to Vic and Sue who are continuing north. Having been travelling with them since the start of the year it was quite a sad parting. After getting water we went up to meet Terry and Myra at Hillmorton for the weekend. They had come south having done the Leicester ring. Comprising parts of the Trent and Mersey, Grand Union and Coventry canals joining to make the ring. Passing such towns as Leicester, Loughborough, Burton on Trent, Tamworth and Rugby. Good to see them on their boat again. Parted company as they return to Springwood Haven marina and home for a wedding and we return to Braunston.

Looking for a boat

Now we are looking for another boat. Been thinking about it for some time and know what we would like. Visited some builders and were told that we would have to join the queue for two years! Then Barry told us about a Sailaway being fitted out in the marina by his friend. A Sailaway is a steel boat ready fitted with engine, windows and floor. A standard fit out reduces the cost and the boat goes on the market when it is finished. The marina had two for sale. The second one was the one for us. As we looked round it a queue formed outside. We went to the office and were signing the papers when another customer called in for the same boat! Less Wilson built the shell and Oak Tree Narrowboats made the fit out. It is a 57 ft. Trad with a Beta 38 engine, has foam insulation and is 90% of what we were looking for. It seems that we were in the right place at the right time, serendipity perhaps?

Boat for sale

We asked the Broker to come and value our boat. He told us that now would be a good time to sell because of the boats age and the time of year. He knew exactly where our boat had been made with out being told. So into the marina we went. Several people came to look even before it had been advertised. Four days later an offer was made for it. The deal has been done. Chris and Joy made an offer for Moore To Life at the start of the month. They had a buyer for their old boat and were in the process of selling their house. Joy was over the moon about our boat. Could say joyous. While Chris was a bit hesitant even after the trial run. It took Tim Cogland the broker all his powers of persuasion, and I suspect Joy's, to clinch the deal. We have been given five days to leave the boat! Chris had decided not to have it surveyed and had to sign a disclaimer.

We had left a message with Mary and Ray that we would be in Braunston for a while. Then we saw Mary directing Ray and the campervan into a parking slot very near the boat. Ann tapped on the window and Mary was surprised to see us so close!

Accommodation

Tim offered us free accommodation until our new boat is ready. The flat was opened some years ago by the IWA as a facility for boaters. Rang Vic and Sue with the news. They were travelling north at the time and kindly turned round and headed back to Braunston to help. We faced a daunting task and welcomed any help. Meanwhile we got on with it and collected boxes to pack. Everything on a boat has its place. Every nook and cranny had something in it. As each box was filled it was transported to the flat on our trolley. It was an opportunity to sort out things but we simply did not have the time. Then Dave and Georgina turned up. They had sold their boat last year and were here to see their new boat, an empty shell, arriving on a lorry. We took time off to watch it being launched by crane into the water.

Friends come to help

After three days we had removed a lot of stuff and were still living on board. Then Sue and Vic arrived. They had another trolley and while Ann and Sue packed, Vic and I transferred the boxes to the flat. We had cleared the majority and were eating dinner at 11 pm that night. Next day we realised that it was our last night on board Moore To Life. She was riding high in the water having removed a lot of weight. After breakfast our friends arrived and by lunchtime we were clear. After we cleaned through, Sue and Vic provided a welcome sandwich lunch. Oh my aching back!

64 Shares

The new owners finally arrived at five o'clock having been delayed by traffic. They had a bottle of wine to celebrate, which we did with plastic cups provided by Tim Cogland. We finally signed the agreement to sell all our 64 shares in the boat. The Merchant Shipping Act assumes that all registered ships have 64 shares so they can have up to 64 owners. In the early days many ships left port never to return. So an owner could share the profit or loss. We owned all 64 shares in this boat of course. It was a very sad moment as we watched MTL leave with new owners. They assured us that they would look after it.

The new boat, Moore 2 Life pictures

Although not yet painted, we were happy with the choice of colours available and are able to have our new name for the boat painted on. A '2' instead of 'To' to signify our second boat. Then the grey boat was surveyed out of water in the dry dock at Braunston. While out of the water we named her. "I name this ship Moore 2 Life, may god preserve her and all who sail in her." Once re floated we got a trial run on the way to the painter near Warwick. Sue and Vic followed with Allie on board but had a job trying to keep up. We were returned to Braunston with Allie by car. In many respects we have upgraded. The major improvements are better insulation, diesel fire, a longer saloon and a sofa bed. The quality of the carpentry is very good, a vast improvement on the old boat. One look at the electric installation convinced me that they knew what they were doing.

Living in the flat

Now we have to wait some time for the painting process. Time to sort out our stuff if we can. Very strange for us being unable to move and are suffering from some loss of freedom. Don't know how we could have managed without the offer of the flat. Suitable really for bed and breakfast with limited cooking facilities and a convertible settee for a bed all in one room. We shared cooking dinners in No Problem with Vic and Sue until they left after a couple of weeks.

Then we got a message saying that the painting will take another week! We will just have to cope, living out of boxes, for a bit longer. Even the animals are fed up now. It has been difficult to live normally, nothing to be found in its right place. Went to Daventry by bus and got some plastic boxes so we can store clothes under the bed when back in a boat. Margery on Watermouse was in Braunston so we saw her. She is getting on quite well on her own and even got into maintaining the engine. She has one dog now.

Spent a day just sitting round the marina watching people and boats. The weekend gets busy, all out on Friday afternoon and all back on Sunday. Some weekenders seem to drink a lot. Within the space of half an hour we saw two boats attempting to turn by the entrance of the marina. Full speed forward and reverse. Hitting the grass bank behind or the concrete in front! Several bodies were out on the roof without a care in the world.

Some more boats came in for sale, the owners unpacking their boats and going off in a car looking sad. Within minutes people were picking up keys and looking over the boats for sale.

The painted boat

We were taken to see the boat painted and it looked very smart. John Kingham, the painter has even done roses and castles on the door panels. Andria, the sign writer had painted the boat name and ours on the panel. She had interpreted our requirement in a very professional and boat traditional way. Now at last it was our boat and we drove it ourselves to Braunston Marina in about five hours. The boat fitters kindly assisted getting up the eight locks at Stockton and then we were on our own with this brand new boat. Three more locks at Calcutt then a clear run. Take care. Don't scratch it! The painter had said that it was all down hill from now on!

Moving in

We got back just before six and were able to borrow the van to transfer much of the heavier stuff that evening. Food, bedding and computer went on as well so we could spend our first night on board. Next day we continued early with the van before the marina staff wanted it back for the day. Then we used our trolley for the rest of it. We were allowed to move the boat down a narrow arm nearer to the flat for a while. This was a prime brokerage site so we had to move again before we had cleared everything out of the flat. Now surrounded by boxes on the boat! Gradually unpacking them, putting things away and returning boxes to the skip.

Another day was spent in the marina doing a major washing session. Several machines and dryers are available there. Then we both had a wonderful shower after all that hard work. Moved out of the marina after filling up with diesel and water. Now fully loaded the boat was not that much deeper in the water though still a bit high at the bow.

Up to Rugby

We can now head north for Rugby in order to stock up with food at Tesco. Going north is up, but the old boaters would have said down to Rugby because the canal goes down hill! It is our spring bank holiday week and every body is out and about in their boats. Only three locks to deal with and unusually they come in pairs at Hillmorton. So just pick a lock that is available. Ended up moving between Rugby and Braunston a few times to get the boat ship shape.

It feels good for us to be on the move again after last month when we got this new boat. She does move a bit quicker and the domestic water gets hot in a very short time. Even the batteries are charged better so they last longer in the evening. Once at Rugby there are many hardware shops where we can get lots of items to make the boat our home. Got a bookcase so we could unpack another box. There are never enough shelves in a kitchen, sorry, galley. So each cupboard got another shelf fitted and plastic storage boxes were used to advantage. Got pictures back on the walls, and some hooks to hang coats. After two weeks the inside was looking much more like home.

While at Braunston we got a cratch cover made. It has side windows in it so we can enjoy the view even if it is not very nice outside. The cratch at the front of a narrowboat is a short copy of the old working boat cargo cover sheets.

Stop over visit

When at Braunston Chris, Tracy plus (pregnant) and Josh came to visit and stay over. Their trip up in the car was tiring with lots of traffic on the road. They had enjoyed driving over in France where they had a holiday. We took them down the South Oxford to Calcutt and back. Thankfully the early rain had cleared and it was sunny when we moved. Josh waved at all the boats as they passed and through bread for the ducks. When we had got to Calcutt we tried to fly a kite for Josh but the wind was too light. He has always enjoyed a bath so it was a new experience in ours. When he pulled the plug he wondered what the noise was. Had to explain that the water was being pumped out. Tara, our cat does not seem to enjoy our visitors and she keeps out of the way. When Josh found her she told him off! Returned the next day to Braunston and our guests went home. Good to see them again.

The Ashby canal, Ashby canal pictures

Then we set off down the canal towards Rugby. Our intention was to meet Terry and Myra on the Ashby canal before they returned home again. The weather was against us and we were forced to stop half way at All Oaks Wood. However the next day, although windy, we did manage to meet them at Bridge 13 just before the marina. Celebrated the fact that we had been boating for no less than ten years. They are planning to go south on the Grand Union towards London. Had a meal at the Lime Kilns by the A5 as it crosses the canal. The roman road is called Watling Street and is the boarder between Leicestershire and Warwickshire.

Difficulties up north

We keep in touch with our friends on No Problem travelling on the Leeds and Liverpool canal. They have had some difficulties going through Wigan, Chorley, Blackburn and Burnley. There are not many boats moving about and some rude yobs speaking obscenities have been heard. Some facilities were locked and water not available. The police called one evening about a stone throwing report and the next day Sue realised that a pot of flowers had been removed from their roof. There are fewer BW lock keepers around these days to keep an eye on things. They have now passed through Foulridge tunnel and into Yorkshire over the Pennine Hills. Should get better for them there.

Off to Winchester

We need to go home for Ann to see the Rheumatic specialist at Southampton. We had booked a mooring in Trinity Marina as we had also found a car hire garage. The car was delivered to us. We packed it up put the animals in and drove for three hours to Winchester. Reminding us how noisy and frantic the traffic is.

The specialist confirmed that there are no signs of rheumatism in the joints but there are indicators in the blood. We are both relieved, as Ann has now been discharged. We were able to spend some time with Josh down in Eling. Chris and Tracy are having another bedroom built on as they are expecting another child. I was able to help with the electrics. Josh is getting to know us as we play with him and help at bath time. Went to Bon Marshe in Southsea to get curtains made for our boat. Sue's daughter Wendy helped us and as promised the curtains were made and ready for our return to the boat.

Trip for mum

We returned with Mum, unpacked the car, drove it to the garage and got a lift back. We had enough food on board to last the week! We travelled up the Ashby canal to Market Bosworth and back, then on to the Coventry canal, heading for Nuneaton. At one stop an angry Swan that kept pecking at the boat disturbed us. The sleeping arrangements for Mum were acceptable with a thin duvet to soften the settee bed. Mum wrote to say that she had "A very relaxing and pleasant trip, seeing vast areas of countryside within 20 miles of Birmingham." We also had a meal at the Lime Kiln. Mum had already got a train ticket from Birmingham to Winchester. A taxi got Ann and Mum to Nuneaton station and they got the train to Birmingham.

Electrics

From Nuneaton we travelled slowly on to Atherstone. On the way we met up with Des and June on Jemima. It is not often we make more friends but they invited us on board one evening. They are both retired and elderly and waiting for a visit from their grandchildren. Their old boat had a few problems with the electrics and I was able to give some advice. Electrics are not well understood by builders let alone owners and it is amazing how badly boats are wired.

We have not been happy with our Inverter. Its Quasy Sine Wave output produced interference on the TV picture and makes a buzzing sound in the extension speakers for the computer. The Inverter's fan had been on most of the time even on low loads blowing hot air downwards. (Hot air normally rises, so that was poor design in my book). A mains changeover switch had to be operated if a landline was connected. There was also no means of charging the batteries when the landline was connected. We have replaced it with an Inverter / Charger made by Victron Energy. It provides 1.2 kW of Pure Sine Wave power. The landline goes into it as well so if we ever plug in it will charge the Domestic and Engine batteries. It was installed at Springwood Haven marina. With the five batteries and the engine running the power was enough for the washing machine.

Bonus! Our TV remote control works better now! Strange to think that was affected. Have also got our selves a Freeview box. It connects to the TV using the Scart and picks up the digital signal! Perfect pictures when near transmitters and many more channels.

Allie the dog 1990-2004

She had suffered a few strokes and had not been out for many walks since the winter months. She was 14 years old and we called the Vet out from Atherstone. He said that it was the kindest thing to do.

We have gone out for walks together in the afternoons. Just for us now. Tara gets to go out more often. Friends ring up most days to see how we are coping.

Holiday boaters

It is holiday time; the kids are about being aggressive towards boaters. Boaters are out in their shorts and naked tops drinking cans of beer, mostly unable to slow down past moored boats or even help at locks. At one lock, which was being difficult, they just stood and watched. So they can wait.

Serendipity

We arrived at Cannock Chase near Great Haywood. We are lucky to be here at this time, an unplanned happy accident and have been told of a weekend event at Shugborough Hall now owned by the National Trust. Once owned by the Anson family, Lord Lichfield's ancestors. Boats are gathering here on a mile length between the locks. There are about 30 with some being double-parked by Friday. The locals know about this annual event.

John and Jean arrived on Omega and moored along side us. We watched in the rain as tents and a huge covered stage was erected. When the sun came out we all walked round the gardens with green grass, yellow roses and purple English lavender to see. Boaters have cleared the undergrowth between the towpath and the fence, set up tables and chairs and lit bbq's. There are Alder trees on the opposite bank with their distinctive grey bark. The music system has been tested. Sounded like the thunder we had earlier in the week with the powerful speaker system booming out across the countryside. We watched as all the cows turned and ran away from the sound.

A Rock and Pop concert first. Queen B, Fab Beatles and Brotherhood of Mann performing familiar music that was not as loud as first expected. It all ended in the warm night with a firework display. Next evening the Prom Spectacular started with a Spitfire flying several times over the canal giving us a splendid view of it swooping and diving round us. Then Angela Rippon introduced The City Concert Orchestra, which proceeded to play film theme music. Dam Busters, ET, Superman and Star Wars. Later treated to Nimrod and Land of Hope before another display of fireworks. Sunday afternoon treat was a Glen Miller Orchestra playing 1940s music. This time we walked up to the gardens and listened from there. Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of D Day with a Winston Churchill speech!

Help or not, Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal pictures

The boats slowly dispersed and on a wet Monday we moved towards Penkridge on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal. A good place for shops and facilities and it was market day on Tuesday. After stocking up with goodies we all moved on to Gailey. The canal goes under the Roman Watling Street and up seven locks with many boats moving up and down. Most are very helpful, some dangerously not so. Opening up paddles fast like macho man, "See I can do it quicker than you." The boat lurched forward in the rushing water and hit the front gate. "That's because you were too quick", I shouted. Two thousand revs backwards and still going forwards, such is the force of the water in the lock.

To Burton, Trent & Mersey canal pictures

Omega and M2L are travelling together to the Hatherton Branch, an old canal that used to go down to Birmingham. We were unable to walk down it because the local boat yard uses the lock as a dry dock! We turn here to head for the Trent and Mersey canal again this time going to Burton on Trent. The IWA boat gathering is being held there this year and we want to get past before it gets crowded.

On the way we walked round the new Nature Trail at Fradley. It has been very wet this month and we are concerned about the rivers Trent and Soar being in flood. Stopped at a nice village called Alrewas where the river passes through the canal. The village was once called Alder Wash because of all the Alder Trees and was famous for basket weaving. Got past the river section safely and stopped at Willington. We stayed a few days while John and Jean went home for the weekend. Several boats are gathering here waiting to go on to the show at Burton.

Floods

Our friends on No Problem have been stopped at Newark on the River Trent as it was in flood. They have now got away and are continuing down the river Soar. So it seems that way is safe at the moment. J and J are going back to the show so we continue on to Shardlow near the end of the Trent and Mersey canal. Some boats have been seen coming up from the Trent and there were no flood warnings here. A hire boater who needs to get down to Sawley joins us. So we go down the lock onto the River Trent. The River Derwent joins the Trent here. The boat slides sideways as we quickly passed the weir. The other boat is following behind and we both get to the lock safely. Here the indicator showed that the river was in fact in flood.

We got through the lock together and into safety at Sawley Marina. The next lock is under the control of a lock keeper and the RED light is on. So we stay here till the river level goes down. A local boater has told us that the river is at least two feet above normal levels. After very heavy rain and a thunder storm the level went up another inch. Two days later it has gone down a foot. The river below looks very angry, with whirlpools all over the place. Lets hope there is no more rain in the midlands next week.

Safe to go

During our stay we have seen many boats going up and down through the locks. The lock keeper is helping those coming up off the river. Surprising that the lock keeper is not stopping those going down. One of the short plastic boats was seen spinning round in the turbulence. We are sorry for those on holiday for the hire boats are not allowed out. Went for a walk up river to see that the level was just down below red and into the orange. (Proceed with caution). Then in the afternoon of our fourth day the red light went off. Waited a while for the queue of boats to disperse, and then off we went with another boat into the lock. "Full ahead both", and we rushed across the Trent and round the corner. The river is still quite fast and we just go with the flow. Past the entrance to the Erewash canal, the Cranfleet cut to Nottingham and round to the right to the river Soar. Keeping well away from the Thrumpton Weir where all the water was going.

City stop

We stopped in Loughborough, down a short arm to the old wharf. There were some floating pontoons to tie to and a way off to shore, but we were cut off from the shops by locked gates and brick walls. We had read about development here but all we found was dereliction. So we had lunch and continued our journey. There are several weirs where the river goes off before locks. Some of them are cluttered with debris and huge rolls of hay that have come off the fields in the flood. It is no wonder that the towns get flooded if the river is blocked with rubbish.

It took all day to get through Leicester. Many old factory buildings are being cleared away for new development. Crowds of people are walking to the football ground this bank holiday Monday. On the south side of the city the locks are being vandalised and have padlocks fitted. Seven locks and four miles out we feel safe enough to stop for the night. We were lucky to get through because later we heard from a boater that part of the canal had run dry! The wide locks were heavy and difficult to open.

Together with friends, Grand Union canal pictures

We have reached Foxton and met up with our friends on No Problem. The Grand Union canal goes round to Market Harborough from here. A set of narrow locks branches off up the hill going south. Relaxing now after the hard journey.

BW has had plans to develop the site of the pub and boat yard but so far nothing has happened. The buildings have been boarded up and the site cleared. The boat yard business has been moved towards Market Harborough. To get diesel a boat now has to back up down to the pump as there is no turning point. The Foxton Inclined Plane Trust has now raised enough money to clear trees and undergrowth. This will expose the lower feeder canal where boats used to be hauled up the incline sideways.

Moving on slowly south up the locks one by one. The resident lock keeper seems to let several boats down at the same time rather than one up one down, which would save water. So it is first come first served now. One boat and crew were so slow coming down that we were not able to go up that day. The lock keeper locked up and went home at five. During the summer months it was usual to stay open later than this. Went up the locks next day and continued to Welford after visiting the museum. While we were at Welford Sue arranged a delivery from Tesco. We placed the order using the Internet via a mobile phone. This was a new trick for us.

Lime kilns

The old Lime Kilns at Welford have been exposed and renovated so you can see the construction. There used to be six kilns here indicating an important busy site back in the 1800s. The Romans had used lime mortar for building but here much of it was used for fertiliser. The industrial revolution reduced the labour force on land so it became necessary to improve productivity for growing food.

Boat systems

A much better month is September as we relax in the sunshine. Time to look after the engine by changing the oil myself. Tightened up the stern gland to stop the water coming in. Checked the batteries to find that they were 80% full in the morning, much better than the other boat. As winter nights get darker we will be using more power for lights. Running the engine for an hour and a half each day seems to be enough now. Been lighting up the diesel fire for an hour or two just to keep the chill off in the evenings.

Tunnels

There are three tunnels between Foxton and Braunston. The one near Crick is very wet usually and this time it was raining inside! We had so much rain in August. As you enter the black hole it is just that, black. Then you see the little bright light at the end. If a boat is coming towards you the boats light tends to blind you. Slow down to a crawl to pass trying not to hit the sides or the other boat. Must realise that these tunnels were all hand built and lined with bricks. The one at Braunston has several bends in it so you suddenly find that the boat is on the wrong side. Then out in the brightness again.

Then down the locks past the Admiral Nelson with its new sign and fresh paintwork and into Braunston. We saw Butty Lark for sale in the marina. A sad moment as we remember the happy times we have had travelling together. Our friends Terry and Myra have moved out and returned home. They are looking for a smaller boat for use in the summer and intend to keep it on the Kennet and Avon canal.

British Waterways

BW has closed the office in Braunston at the centre of the canal system. No body can understand why, as it was used by the boaters to get licences and pay for moorings. A friend on a boat coming down from the north found many other offices closed. The offices were also used to collect post for boaters. If you do not have a home address it could prove difficult for some to get licences or information. A breach down near Oxford has now closed that canal for a while. A culvert at Thrupp collapsed and let the water out while it was being cleaned. Two temporary dams were constructed so that the culvert could be rebuilt.

Napton

We have moved on down to Napton, turned round and found a space. There is enough room for No Problem as well when they arrive. Several boats coming and going and they jump in a gap. Then we saw Ivor and Mel on Mountbatten and Jellicoe the coal and diesel supply boats. Vic got some coal. Went to the Folly Pie pub for an evening meal. The pub was known as The Bull and Butcher back in the 1940s when L.T.Rolt paid a visit while touring the canals. He wrote the book Narrow Boat.

Low power TV

Electronics and technology are forever producing more efficient gadgets. Been looking for an LCD TV that uses less power than our old 60 watt TV with its Cathode Ray Tube. Tried to buy one on the Internet but usually found to be out of stock. Then tried at some shops. Curries at Rugby was closed due to a fire and Comet only had one but could not find the remote control or box to pack it! Sales people do not know the power ratings so we have to look on the back. Ann and Sue went to Coventry by bus and train and eventually found a TV at Argos, which uses only 40 watts. Works well with our Freeview Set Top Box. Several more channels are available and ITV3 has a film several times a week. Now have a super clear picture with several new channels to watch this winter on a thin flat screen.

Back to Braunston

From Napton we have moved to Braunston and a chance to meet our friends Bob and Jane on Hobo who had just returned. We exchanged stories of our journeys during the year. They had spent most of the summer on the Thames.

Chris, Tracy plus and Josh came up to visit and stayed the night in the Mill House. We went for a walk and managed to fly Josh's kite in the field by the canal. A good breeze kept the kite up as Josh held on tight. Then we had dinner at the Mill. Spent the evening watching Captain Corelli's Mandolin on the boat.

Next day we all had breakfast on the boat before moving off on a trip all the way to Shuckborough where we could turn. Only three miles out from Braunston but got to see the countryside and several old boats on the way. Had lunch on board. Returned on this warm sunny day and found the same mooring we had left just before it rained! It was great to see our young family again. We went to Daventry by bus for the shops and the Medical centre so Ann got a Flu jab there. Happened to be market day as well so we got some nice fresh veg. "Makes a nice change to get away from the boat sometimes."

Major refit

Sue and Vic are having their boat blacked down at Calcutt so we now move on down there. No Problem is out of the water and four feet up on a trolley. Sue finds it quite strange. Their dog Lucy actually jumped off before they could stop her, luckily no harm done. Vic has to carry the dog up and down the ladder. Luckily the painting only took two days. The boatyard are now fitting a new engine in No Problem. One reason for the change is to have two alternators to charge the batteries. They have no less than six for domestic use! We are here for moral support really. Sue felt quite sad when the engine came out. Her boat home was no longer complete and unable to move till another engine got put in. A day of rain stopped work because there was no covered dock to use. The whole job from blacking to new engine took just under two weeks to complete. We were able to use the launderette and other facilities while there. We went to Napton by boat to stock up with milk and bread for them.

Shake down cruise, Oxford canal pictures

We all decided to head north for Rugby. Sue wanted to catch a train home from there. It was a chance to run in the engine and return to Calcutt for final adjustments later. But on the return journey they had to stop at Hillmorton because their throttle cable broke. While waiting for a replacement we arranged for a Tesco delivery having placed the order on the Internet on Sue's computer.

The Jam 'ole run

There is a gathering of workboats at Braunston this month. We saw them all pass us on the way up to Atherstone and return on the way down to Southall. Back in the 1960s Samuel Barlow at Braunston had a contract to supply coal to the Kearley and Tonge's jam factory. Baddesley Colliery at Atherstone supplied the coal on the Coventry canal. As trade declined Michael Street's Blue Line took on the contract, which finally ended in October 1970. At that time Capella was to replace Belmont. The last wooden butty to be built at Braunston for the trade was called Raymond. She and her motor Nutfield have both been restored and went on the run. Many other original workboats still exist being looked after by their owners. So here are the names of other motors and butties as they passed:- Jubilee, Lupin and Indus, Skylark, Corona, Clover and Sunny Valley and Adamant.

Improvements to electrics

Not moving about so much this month. Just up and down the Oxford canal between Napton and Rugby. Been back to Calcutt so that S and V can get their engine checked over. I helped Vic with some extra wiring from batteries to fuse box as advised by the engineer. Fridges need a good strong supply and had been complaining about low voltage. Also the radio had mysteriously gone off and on together with one of the lights!

Internet access

We got a Mobile Office Card from Orange that plugs into my Laptop computer and uses GPRS or the fast 3G if it can. So I am expanding into Internet territory. I hope to post our newsletter so anybody with Internet access can read it.

My computer got a virus from somewhere. Sue was amazed that I got it, and such a vicious one at that. It prevented me getting on to the Internet and also stopped my Virus Checker from finding it. Luckily my Firewall prevented it transmitting any personal data. Had to re install the operating system and all my own files. Luckily I had just saved it all on to CDROMs. "Why is it that some computer users are intent on spoiling things for others?"

A puppy for us

Mel on the supply boat told us of a puppy at the re homing centre at Braunston. The dog warden found Molly in Rugby and took her to the Braunston Kennels so we went to get her. We think she is a Jack Russell Terrier but has long legs and big ears.

Molly is mainly white with some black and tan patches and is less than six months old. We had newspaper down for the first few nights but we did not have any accidents. Ann took her out every hour to be a good girl.

Tara the cat kept out of the way for a while. Molly looks up at the cat and Tara looks down at the dog. If Molly gets too close the cat growls at her! If they are both on the floor there is some confrontation when they try to pass. Do hope the puppy will calm down later on.

Tesco delivery, Grand Union canal pictures

I placed a Tesco order on the Internet using my new Mobile Office Card. It took over an hour to search for items to put in our basket. Delivery set for the next day at Norton Junction on the Grand Union canal. It all arrived between 10 and 12 as arranged. The van came all the way from Rugby.

Shops n post

When we got down to Bugbrooke we walked across the fields to the shop. Sue needed to post a parcel and we were happy to find the Post Office still open. As I waited outside with Molly and Lucy the dogs, I saw the postmen on their bikes returning to the sorting office. One postie had a cart full of post to be delivered and wished me good day as he passed. We do rely on the local post offices when we need our letters sent on.

Maintenance

I have been having a problem with the coupling bolts between the gearbox and prop shaft. It was fitted as standard with our Beta 38 engine and PRM 120 gearbox. It was back in August when Vic noticed that a few nuts had come off! We were changing the engine oil at the time and put the nuts back on. Thought no more about it till the drive got all noisy and fell apart in November. Thankfully Sue and Vic on No Problem pulled me out of the bottom lock at Wilton. Got some more nuts and bolts at Wilton Marina and put the coupling back together. I have to tighten them after a long run now.

Blisworth tunnel

We have passed through Blisworth Tunnel. One of the longest canal tunnels in England at 3057 yards or about 1.7 miles. First opened in 1805 and partly relined in 1984. It took us 35 minutes to pass through the black hole, a portal into Stoke Bruerne and the south on the Grand Union canal.

Winter warmth

A number of people ask "Is it cold inside?" We now have a fire that burns diesel and keeps us warm. The majority of boaters burn coal or wood. Our fire uses 0.2 litres an hour and keeps the inside at about 20 degrees centigrade even when it is below 10 outside. The fire also heats three radiators which helps spread the warmth to the other end of the boat. Our previous boat was insulated with polystyrene and the fire managed to keep the inside about 10 above the outside temperature. This boat has foam insulation, which is much better.

Puppy behavour

Went over to No Problem, as it was Vic's birthday. Molly came too as she gets on well with Lucy. Molly is very active, jumping and running about. Thankfully coming back when called. Lucy lets Molly drink her water and lie in her bed. Molly was sniffing around a lot and found a chewy bone in Lucy's bed. Next thing we saw Molly creeping out the door with the large bone in her mouth! She had gone past our boat before we could call her back. Ann baked a birthday cake for Vic and we all enjoyed an evening of celebration.

Wanted

Mr. Finch is about down this way, an ex SAS man looking for free accommodation in boats on the canal. He is often seen but difficult to catch. Been in jail many times but is so good they let him out early only to carry on invading boats. Had hoped to leave the boat somewhere down here but the marina's are all full. It is obviously not a good idea to leave the boat unattended now.

An English village

One of the pleasures of canal life is to be able to visit so many villages. Stopped at Yardley Wharf and walked up the hill to get to Yardley Gobion. There stands the original water pump set above an ancient well. The villagers would have met there to fill their buckets and tubs. The original cottages all built of stone with a roof of thatch.

Supply boat

We are on the Grand Union Canal in December. There is a coal/diesel supply boat that travels between Cosgrove and Leighton Buzzard. Ascot is an old Woolwich Town Class motor built about 1935. She is paired with the butty Beverly, which is now converted to live on. We always try to get our diesel from these commercial boats on the canal.

Milton Keynes

We were all very impressed with the canal going round this town. Clean and tidy with good towpaths and cycle ways. All lined with an avenue of trees. We stopped near Willen Lakes and walked round them. They were created to prevent flooding in the town. So the floodwater goes into the lakes first then is slowly released into the river. On our walk on a mild day early this month we found a bird hide. There are two lakes. This one is for the wild life and we saw many varieties of birds from ducks to waders. The other lake is used for water sports.

Water Eaton

A few days later we had got to this lovely quiet village to the south of MK. It lies between the canal and the main road. On the way to the post office and store you pass a couple of thatched cottages. Molly got her follow up inoculations at the local Vet.

Christmas pudding

A Tesco delivery was made at the arranged time and place, having placed the order with them on the net the previous day, stocking up for the next few weeks. Including, this time, ingredients for a Christmas pudding. The exotic ingredients includes mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, apple, carrot, luxury mixed fruit, nuts, orange and lemon rind and some strong beer! All mixed together with a wish and left over night. Then put into two basins to be steamed on our diesel fire all day. For many years Ann's Christmas puddings have been a tradition in our family. On the day it would have a twig of holly stuck in the top and hot burning brandy poured over it. Then served with brandy butter. Many years ago a silver sixpence may be found in your serving!

Leighton Buzzard

Just north of this town we found a very good pub right by the canal. British Waterways rated it highly in 1996 so we just had to check it out! Stuffed our selves with a grand meal one evening at the Globe Inn. Moved on to the town and passed the Tesco with its own two hour moorings. Round the corner under the bridge to use the facilities while Sue and Ann went to the first class Launderette in Linslade.

Our post has not arrived yet so we decide to move on down to Grove Lock where we were told of a new turning point. Returned the next day to find the Tesco moorings almost full of boats. Sue n Vic found a space after removing a shopping trolley from the canal. We backed up under the bridge and stuck our pins in round the corner. Had to wait yet another day for our post. Busy now that it is close to Christmas. After all we did post 40 cards ourselves.

Christmas shopping

Headed back up to Milton Keynes and took a bus into the shopping centre. There is a huge modern shopping mall, cinema and theatre within easy walking distance of the busses. We spent most of the day there spending money at the many large stores. The Snowman story was depicted in moving displays complete with an ice rink. Father Christmas grotto was in a mock Brighton Pavilion.

Getting off the boat

Filled up the diesel tank to prevent condensation, changed the oil in the engine, checked the batteries, turned off the fire and cleaned it out ready to light when we got back. Removed loose items from the roof and stowed them safely inside, turned off gas and electric and drained off the water. Put the cat in a cage and we were away with the dog as well. The lift kindly provided by Wendy and her large vehicle. Once again the trip back reminding us how peaceful the canal system is.

Thank you for reading Chapter 10. Return to Book.