Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A long day today, and hard work with the heavy gates and paddle gear on these locks. Each gate weighs over 3000kg, and the paddles require around 20 turns to lift or lower. Still, it’s been enjoyable, with the locks in pleasant settings and the weather clear and sunny after an early frost.

We moved off at 10:45, 150 yards and into Stockton Top Lock. It took us just over 2 hours to drop down through this flight, and to pass the next two as well. We stopped for a bite to eat, and Carol and I went to the local shop for essentials.

Descending Stockton Locks.
Lots of boats around near Stockton.
Opposite the Blue Lias pub we passed NB LAPLANDER. This was a 1830’s icebreaker on the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigations), and has been converted and fitted with steam power, hence the tall stack.

Under way again, and we arrived at Bascote locks at around 14:00, having stopped for water at Bridge 27. The first 2 of this group of 4 are a staircase, where the lower gates of the top chamber form the top gates of the lower one.

Bascote 2 Rise Staircase
Guardians of the Locks, Swans at Bascote.
The intention was to moor just after the locks, recommended by Adam from NB DEBDALE. But unfortunately someone had beaten us to it, so we moved on and moored just above Welsh Road Lock.

Locks 14, miles 5¼.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Woke up this morning to a dry but breezy day. Odd glimpses of the sun lit up the green fields dotted with sheep. No lambs to be seen yet, though.

Got away just after 10:30, and 2 miles took us to Napton Junction, where we turned right heading for Warwick.
We passed the village of Lower Shuckburgh with its unusual Victorian church.

Lower Shuckburgh Church.
Corbiere going round a bend near the junction.
Opposite the junction sits Wigrams Turn Marina, one of 3 within a mile of each other. The other 2 are Calcutt and Ventnor Farm. It must be interesting around here on Bank Holidays!

Around ¾ mile from the junction we arrived at Calcutt Top Lock, the first of the Grand Union broad locks. We’ll see another 39 in the next 21 miles. Being broad though means we can get both boats in at once.

Calcutt Middle Lock
We pulled in to Calcutt Boats for a gas bottle (£20.17 after last week’s price rise) after the first lock while Carol set the next 2, then, the first 3 done we had another 2 miles or so to the top of Stockton Locks, where we stopped for the day. The 8 locks are in a flight, followed by 2 more widely spaced to Long Itchington. But that’s for first thing tomorrow……

Stockton Top LockIt’s been a pleasant day’s cruising today.

Locks 3, miles 5.

Monday, January 28, 2008

We had a pleasant weekend, took advantage of yesterday’s almost springlike weather to get all the rugs out of the cabin, give them a good cleaning and do the floors right through the boat.

Quite a few boats about, including this ex BW workboat “BARROW”
I misjudged our water supply, and we ran short last night but managed to scrape through till today. After getting off at 10:15, we arrived at the sanitary station at Braunston Turn at just after 12:00. Filled with water and got rid of the rubbish, but the elsan disposal was out of action so we had to motor into Braunston proper to the facility near Braunston Marina.

Braunston Church
Braunston Marina

We turned in the marina entrance, and set off back to Braunston Turn in Carol’s wake. She’d spent the weekend here in the village with friends from Derby.

A left turn at the junction took us on to the Grand Union (originally part of the Oxford), and unfamiliar waters.

Braunston Turn
There’s quite a few boats along the first mile or so, some in various stages of decreptitude.

I’ve not awarded a Seen Better Days Award for a while, and had considered this bridge, No. 80. (No reason why I can’t include structures, is there?).

Bridge 80 North Oxford Canal

That was until we left Braunston and spotted these two…..

The first one has burned out down to the waterline, including the bankside bits and pieces, and the second is sitting on the mud.
I think a joint award is in order. It’s always a shame though to see boats with a proud heritage in this condition.

We ended the day moored in a lovely spot between bridges 102 and 103.

Locks 0, miles 7½

Friday, January 25, 2008

A fairly uneventful day today. We got away from Newbold in Avon around 11:00, and just over a mile took us to Bridge 59 in Rugby. Moored here for a trip to Tesco, then off again, arriving at the bottom of Hillmorton Locks around 13:00.

The History of Rugby Football under Bridge 59
These 3 locks are paired to ease congestion like some on the Cheshire locks on the Trent and Mersey. A very kind gentleman, working his boat through a lock ahead of us, set the adjacent lock for us as he went. So we arrived at each lock with it empty and the gates open.

Hillmorton Top Locks

There are moorings at the top, and we’ve stayed here before a couple of times, but we’d planned to get a bit further away from the Rugby conurbation.

An unusual method of propulsion on the ex GUCC butty LICHFIELD.

We moved a couple of miles further on to near bridge 75, where we’ll stay the weekend.

Moored near Bridge 75

We’ve had another dry bright day, but the wind has been a nuisance.

Locks 3, miles 5½

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I fitted the new Centaflex coupling his morning before we set off to Newbold on Avon. It took a little longer than expected as I had to shorten the gearbox mounting bolts, but we were still ready to go by 13:00.

Old Coupling……
And the new Centaflex

Disappointingly, the new coupling made no discernible difference to the prop shaft noise. Ah well, I’ll have to look for something else. At least the batteries are charging OK now.

I had a chat with a couple of guys doing a channel survey this morning. They are taking depth measurements across the canal every 10 metres or so, all the way from Hawkesbury Junction down to Oxford. The distance of 77 miles will take them maybe 8 weeks!

2 Men in a Boat
Shortly after this photo Meg decided it was time to get off – unfortunately forgetting that we were still in the middle of the canal! She climbed out of the water onto the bank, shook herself and gave me a dirty look as if it was my fault! Then she had to trot along the towpath for a couple of hundred yards till I could get the boat close enough to pick her up.
We’d been threatening her with a bath anyway…….

Through the fancily lit Newbold Tunnel, and we met Carol moored at the other end.

Newbold Tunnel Lights
Couldn’t get close enough to the bank near Carol, so we went through the next bridge and moored.
Although pretty windy, it’s been fine and dry, with a fair bit of sunshine.

Locks 0, Miles 3

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A steady day today, away from Hawkesbury just before 11, arriving at All Oaks Wood not long after 2.
A dry and fairly mild trip, but cloudy. The wind is getting up again now, though.

Mags took over for a few minutes while Meg and I stretched our 6 legs on the towpath.
Saw this chap, maybe taking a break from filming Lloyds TSB adverts?

Quite a bit of work had been done on the towpath
approaching Ansty

This section of the Oxford Canal was straightened out in the 1820s, chopping 14 miles off it’s previously winding route. The civil work left several “oxbows” of the old line, some used for mooring, and some, like this one, closed off. All on the towpath side are crossed by these elegant cast iron bridges.

Bridge over Old Line
To straighten the canal it was necessary to employ the same techniques as used on the Shroppie. So embankments and cuttings are regular features. Some of the cuttings are showing their age though, nearly 200 years on!

Warning Sign

Slippage in Cutting

We stopped off at Rose Narrowboats at Stretton Under Fosse. I’d noticed a couple of weeks ago that the wire from the alternator to the domestic batteries gets hot when the engine is running, and Martyn, when he was servicing the engine, agreed that it was undersized. So I bought a length of 10mm² wire, and a new battery to replace one that is looking suspect. Also, for the last few months we’ve put up with propshaft noise between 800 and 900 RPM. I think it’s caused by sympathetic vibration resonating in the hull. So I bought a Centraflex flexible couple which should act as a damper.

After we stopped today, I dropped in the replacement battery and rewired the charging circuit with the higher capacity wire. That will sort that out. Maybe tomorrow I’ll fit the new coupling and see if it has the desired effect.

Locks 0, miles 8

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

We postponed our departure from the Ashby till today. Yesterday was very windy and it would have been hard work to hold the boat in the channel.

Iain and Alison on NB Gosty Hill gave us a wave as they headed up the canal in the afternoon, so I flagged them down and topped up our solid fuel stocks. But I finished up getting wet up to the crotch as I slipped off the bank at the front of the boat, rushing to help them tie up alongside. Ah well, it’s been a while since I fell in so I guess it was due. And, statistically, yesterday was the unluckiest day of the year.

Tried to get a shot of this swan taking off, but he was airborne by the time the camera was ready. I’m always fascinated by the amount of effort required for them to get off the water.

An hour and a quarter took us to Marston Junction and a left turn onto the Coventry Canal.

Bridge 2 on the Ashby Canal

Contractors were towpath trimming on the Coventry….

And further along they were engaged in towpath repairs.

Down to Hawkesbury Junction were we “used the facilities”, then negotiated the hard left turn into the stop lock onto to the Oxford Canal, and moored about 50 yards along.

Stop Lock onto the Oxford Canal. This was known to the boaters as “Sutton Stop”, named for the first lock keeper based here.

Moored Just Up From the Junction.

So after spending nearly 5 weeks on the Ashby, today we’ve been on 3 different canals in the space of 3 hours!

The weather has been kind today, cool but dry and the wind has dropped.

Locks 1, Miles 5¼

Saturday, January 19, 2008

It was very mild last night, continuing into this morning. It was drizzly and damp first thing, though.

We got away at 11:20, and the first stop was at Nutts Lane Bridge. I nipped up to the Londis shop on Coventry Road for some basics and then we were off again.
Just past here is a short branch which led to Hinckley Port, the major transhipment basin for the town. Here coal and raw cotton for the hosiery industry were unloaded, and finished goods shipped out. It was also an important facility for Leicester, 11 miles away. Until the Leicester line of the Grand Union Canal was finished, Pickfords (then major canal carriers based in London) used to unload cargo at Hinckley and complete the rest of the journey to the city by road.
The arm is now leased to Hinckley Boat Club

Hinckley Wharf Arm

Next stop was at Limekilns for water, then we pressed on, leaving Hinckley behind.

Filling up at Limekilns

Meg’s Spotted a Bird in the Bushes

The odd short sharp shower accompanied us to Burton Hastings, where we pulled over. The towpath isn’t too bad here, though it gets worse further on, and it’s nice and quiet. We’ll stay here for the day tomorrow.

Seen four or five boats on the move today, probably just weekenders taking advantage of reasonable weather.

I see the initial report from the AAIB on the Boeing 777 crash earlier in the week blames an engine or system failure, the engines not giving extra thrust when required.

Locks 0, miles 4

Friday, January 18, 2008

There’s 152 lucky people after yesterday’s Boeing 777 crash landing at Heathrow. It could have been so much worse. It’s all very well some specialist on the TV last night saying that it’s statistically a lot safer flying than driving, but most road accidents don’t end in fatalities. Unfortunately most air accidents do.
It’ll be interesting to hear what was the cause; the aircraft type has a very good safety record.

Today started wet, but by the time Martyn had arrived to do the engine, the rain had cleared. The oil and filter change didn’t take long, and we were ready to move off by 13:15.
The next time I might be doing this myself, as the warranty expires in the summer.

We didn’t want to stop here another night. It seems to be a popular spot for feeding the ducks and swans, and several people, turning up with their bags of bread, gave us sour looks as if we shouldn’t have been there.

So we set off, just a short cruise of ¾ of an hour, just past Barn Lane Bridge (no. 19) where we’ll stay tonight. Then tomorrow into Hinckley, get some bread and milk, and the plan is to stop near Burton Hastings till Monday.

Locks 0, Miles 1½

I’ve just read on Sue’s blog that Mike and Liz of NB Snecklifter are retiring onto the bank and selling the boat. They'll be missed, I'm sure. They’d extended their plan by another year last year and we met them on the Maccie in April.

And APCO (the Association of Pleasure Craft Operators) has balloted it’s members concerning licence fees for continuous cruisers like us. I’ll not add my views, suffice it to say that I agree wholeheartedly with Sue. Read her comments here. (Tuesday 15th Jan posting)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I knew we should have moved yesterday! Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing. Yesterday was fine, dry and with barely a breath of wind. Today is wet and windy once again, and we’ve got to move to find somewhere for Martyn to come and service the engine.

Wet and Windy Trip
The first option was “Duck Corner” near Stoke Golding, but as usual this was full up. It’s popular with those boaters who still rely on a car; they can park right alongside.

Duck Corner (Taken last Year)
The next choice was at Basin Bridge, with similar opportunities for parking. But there’s only room for 1½ boats! With a 60 footer already on the mooring, there was just room to get our stern on the bank.

(Almost) Moored at Basin Bridge.
Not a nice day for cruising, drizzly with heavier bursts, and quite windy. The towpath around here is very muddy.

Martyn is due tomorrow, and then we’ll move closer to Hinckley.

Locks 0, miles 2½

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

We’d intended to stay near Shenton till the weekend, then head a bit further South. But the wet and windy weather encouraged us to stay put.
Today wasn’t much better, but with full loos and empty water tanks we had to go to Sutton Cheney Wharf. As luck would have it we caught a window of dry weather this afternoon, so apart from a couple of light showers early on we did OK.

Meg and I took advantage of our extended stay to thoroughly explore the Bosworth Field Country Park and surrounding area. The moorings we were on were a short distance from where Richard III lost his life and throne to Henry Tudor, later crowned near Stoke Golding as Henry VII.

Sunset over Ambion Hill

Meg Playing Ball

King Richards Field
Shenton Station, the Southern terminus of the Battlefield Line, was also a short distance away. No steam engines running at this time of year though.

This station building was brought from Leicester and rebuilt brick by brick to replace the original demolished structure.

Shenton Station

We got away around midday, and in 35 minutes were at Sutton Cheney Wharf. The 48 hour mooring is still closed, with no change (apart from a bit more yellow tape!).

Plastic Landing Stage
Another 30 minutes saw us moored just before bridge 32. We’re hanging around again near Stoke Golding as I’ve arranged for he engine to be serviced by the same chap who did it last February. It’s got another 1200 hours on now though!

We’ve lost Carol on Corbiere for a bit. She went down to Hinckley for the weekend to meet some friends, and now is off down to Hawkesbury. We’ll catch up again in a few days.

Locks 0, miles 2¼

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What a wet and windy night! We were sheltered from the worst by the thick hedge along the towpath, but even so the rain pelted the side of the boat and woke Mags up a couple of times. Me, I slept peacefully through it all.

This morning the sky had cleared and the wind had dropped to a breeze, so, after the Tesco van had been and gone and the groceries were stowed away, we got on our way.

A couple of light showers, 4 miles and a stop at Bosworth Wharf for water and we were tied up at the Bosworth Field Battlefield moorings near Shenton.
I think we’ll stay here a couple of days.

Over Shenton Aqueduct
Back on the Battlefield Moorings
We could see Richard III’s pennant flying on Ambion Hill as we approached Bosworth Field.
Locks 0, miles 4