Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking back (3) North-East back to the Midlands.

Leaving Ripon we had another decision to make. Do we stick on familiar waters to head back to the Midlands, or do we do something different?

I’ve always wanted to go over the Pennines on the Huddersfield Narrow, although Mags wasn’t too sure, but I managed to convince her that it’d be fun… So that was our route south.

But first we had to wait out yet more floods, stuck at Selby for over a week as the Aire rose. We were luckier than some; we’d cleared off out of York on rising water, dropped down through Naburn Lock on the last day it was passable, and arrived at Selby on a very fast ebb.

The Huddersfield Canals were very enjoyable. Hard work as expected; a steep climb up to the summit and a steep descent down to Manchester but a grand trip nonetheless. And of course the icing on the cake was Standedge Tunnel….

Near Linthwaite on the Marsden side
SAM_3847 near Linthwaite
The horror stories about the Narrow were unfounded, at least in our experience. Leaking locks with gates in poor condition, low pounds and no where to moor were encountered, but no worse than we’d come across on other, busier, canals.
The worse bit was putting up with the teenage nuisances at Staleybridge.

Dropping down from DiggleSAM_3967

Rather than go back through Manchester, we chose to use the Macclesfield Canal to head south so turned left at Dukinfield onto the Peak Forest Canal, spent a few days back at Bugsworth Basin, then moved on south from Marple.

Our plans went badly awry at Macclesfield when Mags suffered a TIA (mini stroke) on the evening of November 2nd. This was followed by a full blown stroke on the 4th, which led to her staying in hospital there till the 20th, by which time she was well enough to go to our friend’s house in Wales for a week.
Meanwhile, with considerable help from friends on the way, I made the trip down the Macclesfield, onto the Trent and Mersey and down to Fradley, where once again flood conditions put a stop to onward travel.

Misty morning at Colwich Lock

I’d intended to be in Mercia Marina for the winter for Mags to convalesce, but stoppages forced a change of plan and we finished up here in Barton Marina instead.

So that’s it for another year. Mags is improving steadily, so all being well we’ll be able to continue our life on the water. We were prepared to sell up and move back on to the bank if necessary, but would both have missed this wonderful life.
When Mags feels up to it and we have a window of fine weather, we intend to go for a cruise, maybe just a couple of days down to Burton and back, to see how she copes with the locks.

This year we’ve cruised 1044 miles and passed through 548 locks, and been lucky enough to visit three of the waterway’s iconic structures, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Anderton Boat Lift and Standedge Tunnel. We also achieved our aim of reaching the furthest points on the connected system on both the west and east sides of the country.

We’ll have to see about next year, no firm plans as yet, although there’s a convoy crossing the Wash in March that we’d love to be able to join….

cart-logoDespite misgivings the newly fledged Canal and River Trust, which took over from British Waterways in July, seems to be doing OK. Yes, there are some odd initiatives, but work on the core structures of the canals seems to be going on. I, for one, am reserving judgement…

Meanwhile, have a good New Year, and all the best for 2013.

  Oh, and I took this this morning, at one of the lakes next to the marina…DSC_0047
Made me chuckle.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Looking Back (2). South and North-East.

I mentioned on the previous post that the decision to head for the Thames for the summer was maybe not the most inspired. We arrived just north of Oxford only to find that the Thames was now on “Red Boards”.
However we only had a couple of days to wait before the river had dropped enough for us to proceed, and headed onto the second longest river in England. What’s that? Howls of protest? Sorry, but the Severn beats the Thames by 5 miles, and rises and reaches the sea in England, even though it spends a short time over the border in Wales. So that is the longest.

On the Thames, Eynsham Lock
SAM_1162 Eynsham Lock

We reached Lechlade and spent a week there as the river came up again, but did get to see a lot of the planes heading to and from the air show at RAF Fairford.


A week later and we were heading back downstream, an exhilarating trip with the fast current making drifts around the sharp bends and lining up for the bridges interesting.

After another enforced stop at Bablock Hythe we headed on downstream, arriving and Reading towards the end of July and meeting up with Del and Al (Derwent 6), and Chas and Ann on Moore2Life.

Gathering at ReadingSAM_1871

It was here that we split away from the group, heading back to Oxford and northwards, while the other three boats headed towards London and the River Wey. We had an appointment at Ripon…

An overnight mooring alongside Sue and Vic (No Problem) at Day’s Lock was very pleasant, as we hadn’t seen them for some time, but we had to push on, making our way north to Braunston, then east and north again along the Soar, downstream on the Trent and onto the South Yorkshire Navigations to the River Aire. Unfamiliar waters here as we headed still further north, onto the tidal Ouse at Selby, through York and onto the Ure to Ripon.

Doesn’t sound much when it’s in one paragraph, does it, but it was actually 337 miles and 144 locks. And we had to deal with an infected paw on the way!


Sue, Vic, Meg and Penny near Day’s Lock
SAM_1984 Sue, Vic and Clumps

We caught up with most of my family as we cruised the Soar north of Leicester, and had a fast trip downstream on the Trent, with rising water causing us a bit of concern at Hazleford. At Newark we met up with Dave and Barbara (Liberty Bell), and Dave and Jan (Yesdear) and had a very enjoyable evening, before pushing on up into Yorkshire.

Big boats on the Aire and CalderSAM_2936 Fusedale H

Knottingley Junction was where we left familiar waters, turning onto the River Aire, then the Selby Canal, then the Ouse up to York.

Bank Dole Lock takes you down to the River AireSAM_2948 Bank Dole Lock

Selby Lock, down onto the tidal Ouse
SAM_2997  Selby Lock

Through YorkSAM_3085 Ouse Br and waterbuses

From York we followed the river upstream, changing it’s name at Ouse Gill Beck to the River Ure, then turning onto the short Ripon Canal to the terminus in the town.

Ripon Canal Basin
SAM_3219 Ripon Basin
That’s Mag’s son Neil on the counter. He and his wife Val joined us a couple of days earlier at Boroughbridge. They’re over from Canada.

We took up a temporary berth in Ripon Marina so the boat would be OK when we drove north for the Great North Run on September 16th, then Mags had a pleasant surprise as her grand-daughters and their kids all came back to the boat after the race.
It was very quiet aboard when they all left…

Last leg tomorrow.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Looking Back (1). West, North and the Midlands.

Well, 2012 has been a mixed sort of year, the high point (in a couple of senses)  being the summit level of the Huddersfield Narrow and the passage through Standedge, the low point coming a few weeks later when Mags was admitted to Macclesfield hospital following her stroke.

Standedge Tunnel, Marsden

We saw the year in company with the Rockers and the Lifers last year, but this year we’ve no plans, just we two I guess. We were over on the Shroppie, at Market Drayton, then moved up and across to spend a couple of months on the Llangollen Canal.

Ellesmere Basin
SAM_0011 Ellesmere Basin

Leaving the Llangollen on the last day of February our little convoy headed east across the Middlewich Branch, then north to Anderton to spend some time on The Weaver before our flotilla broke up, we headed north, M2L and R’n’R heading south.

PartingsPartings at Anderton
SAM_0006 Partings

After a fine early spring the weather started to go downhill again as we spent a few days up on the fine stretch of the Trent and Mersey above the Weaver Valley, then retraced our route and headed down the Cheshire Flight to Hardings Wood Junction, picking up the Macclesfield Canal and heading north again to Marple.
The first of the flooding was occurring at this time, but didn’t affect us on the canals.

The end of April saw us in Bugsworth Basin, at the terminus of the Peak Forest Canal, before we headed back to Marple and dropped down the locks and into Manchester, joining the Ashton Canal at Dukinfield.

Magnificent Bugsworth BasinDSCF0557 Middle Basin

Castlefield Junction, at the bottom of the Rochdale Nine, was our mooring for my first running event of the year, the city centre 10k. By now I would normally have done a ½ marathon in Liverpool, but decided to back off this year. I’ve been plagued by niggling injuries for the past 2 years, disrupting my training, and this one turned out to be no different.

The dry winter and early spring had left reservoir levels low, BW having to place restrictions on summit level lock flights to conserve the supply. We’d arranged to meet George and Carol at Braunston and from there to drop down into Northampton and onto the Nene. But we had to get there to catch one of the restricted opening windows for the flight down from the Grand Union.
So we had a fairly fast (for us) cruise down the T&M, then the Coventry, meeting the Rockers as planned in the middle of June.

Instantly recognisable Braunston TurnSAM_0831 Braunston Turn

A discussion between the two crews resulted in a decision to shelve the Fens trip, the Nene was regularly in flood conditions (now that the locks were open!), so headed south for the Thames instead. Not, as it turned out, the best of ideas….

More tomorrow.

Monday, December 24, 2012

To all our readers…

….Thanks very much for joining us on our travels for another year…..

Here’s wishing everyone a …...
Geoff, Mags and Meg.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Marina living

We’re settling into a routine here. I get up around 8, make a brew for Mags, sort the fire out then take Meg out for an hour. Breakfast for all three of us on our return, then read, listen to the radio, or just potter till Mags is ready to get up.

More pottering till noon, when Meg goes out again, this time for a pee and 20 minutes chasing a ball before lunch.
Then we do a bit of physio (Mags and I, not Meg!) followed by a game or two of Scrabble, dominoes or ludo. By this time it’s getting on to take Meg out again to be back in daylight.
Then it’s dinner followed by settling down for the evening.

Of course, all this goes to pot when we go out, as we did on Tuesday, shopping in Lichfield. Mags enjoyed getting out, but was tired by the time we were back home.
Yesterday we tripped over to my parents house in Sileby, and had a very pleasant afternoon chatting. We’ve had a day aboard today, and tomorrow we’re heading up to Yorkshire to see Mag’s family before Christmas.

Today is of course the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, but it has turned out quite pleasant after the appalling weather of the last couple of days.
Sunrise this morning was 08:17, setting at 15:52. That gave us just over 7½ hours of daylight.

Sunrise at the marina this morning
I’m not surprised to see that the river section at Alrewas is closed again.

From here on the days get longer but we’ll not notice for a while, by this time next week we’ll have gained all of two minutes!

With the wet weather and waterlogged fields getting Meg dry several times a day is a challenge. Meg and water have a curious affinity….

DSC_0039I spotted a “Dog Drying Mitt” in the Co-op the other day, and it’s excellent!

It soaks up an impressive amount, rinses out and is dry in a couple of hours. I’m going to get another for the other hand…

Locks 0, miles 0

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A couple of good days

After the arctic weather early in the week, then the deluge on Friday, we’ve had a pleasant weekend here.
Sunny spells, daytime temperatures still in single figures but nearer ten than zero, and not much wind. One shower last night was the only rain, but I understand that’s all to change next week. Rain most of the time, I hear.

Chimney smoke adds to the low mist hanging over the marina this morning.DSC_0033

The mist on the lakes soon burnt off as the sun rose.
That’s my long shadow left of centre, and Meg has found a stick to chew.

Not much to tell, I fitted a grab rail in the shower for Mags to hang on to while abluting, got that left side above the gunwale painted today after rubbing down yesterday, and just generally pottered.
I went off and shopped at Morrison’s and B&Q yesterday morning, made easy ‘cos  we’ve now got wheels! Not just the inestimable John Sage, but also my Dad’s Peugeot hatchback. He won’t be needing Flossy (yes, I know….) through the winter, so we’ve kindly been lent her for the duration of our stay.

Talking of John Sage, my brother Andy came to pick me up to collect the car, that’s him with the steel fabrication business. He’s now got the blueprints for my bespoke bike rack that will hang off the counter, so he can knock that up for me.

That’s it really. Nothing planned for next week, apart from getting all the cards written and sent. I know, a little late, but there’s still time.

Locks 0, miles 0

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A bit brassic…

It was certainly a bit on the cool side as Meg and I trudged over frozen fields this morning….



The temperature was down to –6.2° last night, but it’s due to rise steadily overnight, leading to showers for tomorrow. In fact the week to come is looking warmer, but unfortunately wetter. It should be fairly dry over the weekend, I might get the other gunwale painted.

Apart from doing a bit of baking (getting very domesticated) I also finally put the Christmas decorations up, under instruction from Mags.

She’s doing well, making steady progress, enough to whup me at dominoes today!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jack Frost has called…

Our roof thermometer recorded -5° last night, much as forecast. There was ice on the water in the marina, but none out on the canal.

Near 180° stitched panorama of the marina from the bridge over the entrance channel.Panorama
Seyella is three boats in on the right-hand side. You might want to click to enlarge. What a lot of boats!

Ice across the entrance turning to clear water along the canal.SAM_4469

Meg loves this weather. She takes every opportunity to roll in frost and snow.

Not done so much today. A couple of jobs outside, tidying up on the roof, but that was a bit fraught with the frost underfoot. A downside of good internal insulation…

Had a very close game of Ludo with Mags this afternoon, one of the games that improves dexterity in her left hand. We’ve also got a dominoes league going…

I took Meg out for her last walk just before four o’clock, and she did a spot of bunny chasing in the woods behind the office buildings. She came back on a whistle, as always, but without her collar! She must have got it caught on a low branch and with a practised twist of her head pulled out of it. She’s done it before. We’ll have a look tomorrow morning, but I’m not holding out much hope.

Locks 0, miles 0

Monday, December 10, 2012

Relocation, relocation

Today we moved from our mooring opposite the shops to another close to the entrance from the canal.

C&RT have had to extend the stoppages that caused us to come into Barton Marina in the first place. More repairs to the brickwork are required than originally thought. Barton and Tattenhill Locks will not be open now till the 19th, rather than the 15th. Pretty irrelevant to us now, but it will affect those still on the canal.

Talking of those still “out there”, this week’s forecast will have continuous cruisers heading for moorings where there’s access to facilities. With sub-zero overnight temperatures every night till Friday, there’s a very good chance of ice on the canal.

Our friends and regular winter companions will be among those looking for good moorings, while we’re snug with water and electricity available, solid fuel and loo emptying just a stone’s throw away. Where would we rather be? Out there, of course!
Missing all you guys! Chas and Ann, George and Carol, Sue and Vic. Not forgetting the canines, big Molly, little Molly, Meg and Penny. Take care.

I took advantage of the reasonable weather over the last few days to get the right side gunwale rubbed down and recoated with gloss black. It was a bit of a rush job, usually it would take the best part of a week to do a proper job, scraping out and treating any rust spots, then building up layers of primer to level the surface before hand flatting and applying two coats of gloss, levelled off by brush. All to leave on locksides….. Still, it looks good for the first few hundred yards.
This time it was a rub down, treat the rusty spots then slap a heavy coat of B&Q non-drip gloss on by roller. It looks OK from 20 feet away…
Now we’ve moved over to Pier 1 the left side of the boat is against the pontoon, so I can tackle that, now.

I’ve got to find things to do. We’ve been here a week and I’m already feeling the strain! This afternoon I’ve made mince pies, jam tarts and a loaf of bread. Gotta keep busy.

Locks 0, miles 0, but about 400 yards….

Friday, December 07, 2012

Decision made.

We’ve chosen to stay put for the winter, rather than move on to Mercia Marina. Thanks for the comments, they helped us make up our minds. We’ll be changing berths, though, moving nearer the entrance but more importantly nearer the “facilities”.
Our new location will be Pier 1, Berth 24, but we won’t be moving till maybe Monday. It’s too windy at the moment for delicate manoeuvres, we’ve still some credit left on our power supply here, and I may as well pull onto the service wharf for diesel and solid fuel en route.
Another factor is the dog walking. There’s lots of footpaths around here, apart from the walks around the lakes formed from abandoned gravel pits.

Out with Meg on a frosty morning


Work is still continuing at Barton Lock.

We’ve had a fair old mixture of weather. Hard frosts down to -5°, winds and heavy rain, and warm sunshine. Typical December, I guess.

I’ve been working on a little project, designing a rack for John Sage on the counter. I don’t want to keep it on the roof, it’s not tidy and sooner or later it’ll get squashed under a low bridge. The plan is to mount it on a rack hanging off the back of the counter, above the stern button.

Where it’ll go

It’ll bolt onto the mounting points for the fender chains.

Today I made a mock-up out of a couple of broom-handles and some scrap plastic rail to see if it would work.

The horizontal section will be channel to roll the bike wheels on, then the bike frame will lean back against the A frame and be secured by straps.
Construction will be of box and channel section steel and I know just the chap for the job. My brother Andy has a fabrication and welding business…
A cover will complete the job.

At 5’9” overall, there’s 6½ inches of clearance at either end, and the widest point will be around 2’6” above the water. We’ll just have to watch out when turning against high banks. It sticks out behind about the same distance as the tipcat and button that protect the rudder.

Locks 0, miles 0.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

What to do, what to do…

As our regular reader will know, we’re here at Barton Marina for two weeks, then the plan is to move on to Mercia, where we’ve provisionally booked a three month winter mooring.
OK, that’s the plan. I’ve been to the office today to check up on fees for a winter mooring here. Turns out it’s considerably cheaper. All things being equal we’re looking at nearly £200. Not to be sniffed at, considering we hadn’t budgeted for a mooring at all.

On the downside is the distance you have to tote loo cassettes and rubbish, and the fact that we’re a little further from my family than we would be at Mercia.

There is a surgery and pharmacist in Barton, as well as the usual range of shops you’d find in a large village, and it’s only 15 minutes away on foot. Not much more than Willington would be from Mercia.

Fine looking church, too.DSC_0031

Meg likes it here, plenty of open space and woodland to chase about in.

It looks like we’re going to have to make up a pros/cons list….

I met Terry and Pam from NB Rooster’s Rest today. What a very pleasant couple. They’re friends of Mo and Ness on NB Balmaha. I think I’d consider them ours, too, now. They’re here for a winter mooring, but are on the far side of the marina to us.

Mags continues to improve steadily, still working at getting those fingers fully operational.

The marina is going all festive.SAM_4432

Locks 0, miles 0

Monday, December 03, 2012

Change of address

From our usual address – somewhere on the ??????? Canal, we’ve got a location for the next two weeks.
Berth 269, Pier 5, Barton Marina.

It’s a big place this, and pretty full, too. All the normal visitor berths are occupied, so we’re on a regular mooring opposite the shops.

First thing this morning the overnight rain lingered on a bit, but the sun was making it’s presence known as well.

Rainbow over Barton village

We left it till after noon before moving; we didn’t have far to go, Mags was dozing and I cleaned the cooker (very domesticated!).

Just 300 yards saw us turning into Barton Marina entrance
I tied up on the visitor moorings and went over to the office to get booked in, then moved across onto our allocated berth.

We’ve a boat either side but they appear to be unoccupied, in fact there don’t seem to be many residents here. I don't think it’s encouraged, the facilities are oddly placed, right at one end of the site. From here I’ve to trolley rubbish and loo tanks half way round the mooring basin. It’d be easier to move the boat over!

Still, it’s not for long, only till they get Barton and Tattenhill Locks open again.

Have you ever used the butcher/grocer in the lean-to at the bottom of Audlem Locks? If you haven’t you should, they’re very obliging. But you may not have long, C&RT are trying to get them shifted.
Sign here if you think they’re worth keeping. Thanks, Keith, for the link.

Ray, glad you got the blog sorted, and Maffi, sorry about that, senior moment. At least I didn’t call the boat Molly M!

Locks 0, miles ¼