Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Difference a Day Makes - Sunday 19th April

Today started cloudy with a very cool breeze which meant we needed to wrap up well as we were heading straight into it. Just around the corner from our mooring, the owner of this land seems to enjoy old commercial vehicles. Each time we pass they seem to change, this morning it was an excavator and an old dumper type truck last time it was a gypsy caravan.AD

At the next corner just before Tusses bridge this swan had decided to make her nest on the land filled with old cars and vans but a great habitat for wildlife, as a mallard had made a nest on the windscreen of a van and a cat was living inside another.A3

We rounded the bend to Hawkesbury Junction to find it surprisingly almost empty of moored boats on both sides of the stop lock.A4

Leaving the Oxford Canal and moving onto the Coventry Canal requires a 180 degree turn through the bridge on the left.A5

Looking back the well known Greyhound Pub which fronts onto the junction is easily spotted. It houses a large collection of Toby Jugs and is a popular venue for a Sunday lunch.

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The Navigation Inn at Bulkington bridge has now been turned into a spectacular private residence, I would suspect that it must be owned by a property developer as there is a selection of ground works machines in the garden and work never stops being undertaken on the site.A7

Approaching Nuneaton, June took the opportunity of stretching Ecco’s legs and giving her chance to spend. Very difficult at the moment as she is in season.A8

Lots of people were making use of the towpath for a Sunday morning jog, walk, bike ride, or just walking the dog; but as we passed Hartshill  C&RT Yard we expected to see lots of boats moored beyond the bridge but again to our surprise there was only one boat where normally it would be full.

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We love the spring because it is the time of year when all the trees are begining to sprout and the baby ducks are taking their first swim. Here we passed 8 as we went under a bridge and I was concerned they might get squashed so gave them as wide a birth as I could. Later we saw an even larger  family of 11 ducklings.

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We moored in one of our favourite spots which was again empty of boats and after lunch when the sun came out and it warmed up we walked into Atherstone to Aldi for a couple of items. Yet again the Atherstone moorings only had 2 boats there and they moved off as we walked back to the boat. Yesterday had been busy with boat movements in both directions but today we hardly saw a boat moving, very strange.

The town has some very old streets and a lovely Market Square in front of the Church. The High Street was once the Roman Road known as Watling Street and to us the A5 but has now been bye passed as it is very narrow

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Atherstone was once an important hatting town, and became well known for its felt hats. The industry began in the 17th century and at its height there were seven firms employing 3,000 people. Due to cheap imports and a decline in the wearing of hats, the trade had largely died out by the 1970s.

An annual tradition in Atherstone is the Shrove Tuesday Ball Game. It is a complete free-for-all played along Watling Street (the old Roman road) at the point where it forms the main street of Atherstone town. The ball is decorated with red, white and blue ribbons that are exchanged for money by who ever is able to obtain one and is made of thick leather to make it too heavy to kick far. It celebrated its 800th anniversary in 1999

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Saturday, 18 April 2015

Blue Skies - 18th April

A later than normal start today saw us heading out of the marina in a beautiful clear blue sky with hardly a cloud in sight. There was still that strong easterly wind however which helped keep it cool. No sooner had we turned onto the cut than we started to meet lots of boats heading in both directions, presumably the nice weather had encouraged people out early.IMG_5766

Passing through All Oaks Wood we were bathed in sunlight now that the trees have been dramatically thinned out as part of the woodland management.

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Two years ago you would not have seen any light through the trees even with no leaves on and now there is blue sky everywhere.

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We motored through the Easenhall Cutting which cut out the long loop of the canal which took it to Brinklow village and back through this now defunct foot bridge. We have managed to wind the boat here in the past but it is very tight now.

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On reaching Stretton Stop we had a boat close behind us and two more approaching the swing bridge (which joins the two sides of Rose Narrow Boats Yard) from the opposite direction. Here another of the old loops of the canal goes off to Brinklow Services and other boating facilities and it is now used for moorings.

We motored on through Ansty village, on the way passing the golf course which is on both sides of the canal linked by an underpass and on to the Coventry Cruising Club entrance bridge. This is a very narrow entrance at an acute angle to the canal and must have been a devil to get into if coming from Hawkesbury Junction.

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The CCC arm was once the entrance to the old Wyken Colliery and is in a nice setting but unfortunately over shadowed by the M6 motorway which splits it into two halves. To get into the second basin there is a sharp left hand bend into the tunnel under the motorway.

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This part of the arm is quite wide and provides room to wind narrow boats and is full of cruisers and a few narrow boats. It is also the main entrance to the Club with its club house and facilities block.

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The Blackthorns are a sight to behold with masses of white flowers looking as though it has been snowing.

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The lambs are frolicking around in the fields and came down to the canal to drink the water just opposite our mooring.

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The lovely weather gave the time to do a little more boat polishing and touching up those odd spots which have suffered through the winter.

Friday, 17 April 2015

At Last - Friday 17th April 2015

After many months of Doctors, Hospital and finally Dentist and Opticians visits we have made it to the boat and are ready to start our Spring Cruise. Autumn Myst has been serviced and polished and filled with water ready for the off tomorrow.a autumn myst

The Daffodils around the marina have been spectacular this year as they were allowed far more time to put the energy back into the bulbs before they were mown over.

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The swans are also back on their nest with at least 6 eggs and hopefully more after the successful season they had last year.c swans

Whilst mom sits on the eggs dad is prowling around the marina keeping a close eye on who is going near the nest but as everybody is very careful with them they do not seem frightened even when Ecco, on the lead, went close to the nest.d  daffs

Whilst it looks as though we have missed the glorious weather we had over Easter the forecast is quite good for the forthcoming week so lets hope it is right.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Back to Base - 22nd August

Last night we moored just outside Braunston and the spire on the village church is a beacon for all canal boaters as it can be seen from a long way off.

1 Braunston Church

As I walked jimmy along the canal for his morning walk we saw about 100 – 150 swallows sitting on the barbed wire fence and in the hedge row along the towpath. At first they did not move but then all flew off together swooping and diving for insects across the canal, a real spectacle. When I went back with the camera most of them had gone off to another part of the canal with just a few left sitting on the wire.

2 Swallows

Around bridge 70 the canal begins to wind about and here is Autumn Years going in the opposite direction to Autumn Myst but actually ahead of us on the canal. The allotments just before Clifton Wharf were a picture and these apples were the reddest I have ever seen.

3 AY and Apples

One of the unusual boats we have seen today. It belongs to a mobile boat fitter and that is his advertising board on the roof.

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Autumn Years stopped for a pump out at Clifton Wharf whilst we waited in the arm entrance and then we both continued on to Rugby where Graham and Carolann managed to squeeze into the last available mooring spot as they have arranged to meet friends tomorrow. We breasted up for a moment to say our farewells after a very exciting and interesting cruise. With sadness on both our parts we motored on back to our base at Brinklow and moored up on our usual pontoon.

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Our summer cruise has included travelling down the Oxford Canal, The River Thames, The Paddington Arm, The Regents Canal, The Hertford Union Canal. The River Lee, The Lee Navigation, The Limehouse Cut, and the Tidal Thames.

Miles covered  =  385,    Locks  =  233,    Tunnels = 6,    Moveable Bridges = 5,    Engine Hours =  200.4

Canal Planner says  Miles = 396,  Locks =  238,  Hours = 178

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Busy Busy - 21st August

We left Buckby Top Lock at about 8am after Autumn Years had taken on a full tank of water and headed for Braunston Tunnel passing on the way Welton Wharf where Dog and Cat Grooming was being advertised. Might have stopped for Jimmy to have a bath if we’d had time. We entered the tunnel and could see 2 boats about 600 metres ahead of us so we knew we would have to wait going down the locks. Unlike Blisworth, Braunston tunnel (2042yds long) is very wiggly although you can still see the other end.

However, the locks were the busiest we have seen any over the last 9 weeks with pairs of boats coming up at each of the 6 locks as we went down.

1 Braunston Locks

The Crooked House beside the lock, but it does not look so crooked now.

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At the bottom lock it looks as though a new bench is being installed alongside the towpath. On the one side of the lock is the Union Canal Carriers Dry Dock and on the other side is The Boat Shop which sell provisions and canalia and is where June bought our companion set to go with the morso stove.

2 braunston Locks

Below the last lock is Wharf House Boat Builders and Roger Farrington’s yard making it very crowded around the lock entrance particularly with boats waiting to go up.

3 Bottom Lock

Autumn Years moored up in Braunston, there were plenty of spaces, to go and do some shopping and to dispose of some waste oil whilst we carried on turning off on the North Oxford and mooring up a short way outside the village in a nice sunny spot. After coffee I took Jimmy a walk back along the canal and over the fields to Braunston village to buy a paper and provisions from the village store and butchers.

The village has some lovely old cottages and All Saints’ Church which has overlooked the village and the villagers for over 10 centuries and the canals and the boat people for over 300 years. Otherwise known as the "Cathedral of the Canals", it has existed since the early 13th century. However the land on which is stands has been sacred for longer still, as it was used as an ancient tumulus for the local farmsteads, as early as the 10th century, although little evidence to this time is available.

There is also the remains of the windmill, minus the sails, which is now self catering holiday accommodation.

4 Braunston Village

A couple more different boats we saw today including Sharpness (top picture). She was built as an icebreaking tug and spent all her working life on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal until she was sold into private ownership by the British Waterways Board in the 1960s. She retained her external appearance and was seen at many Inland Waterways Association rallies in the 1960s and 70s. During the 1970s she had her cabin lengthened and lifted to give more headroom. At the same time more patches were added to her hull. She was found for sale on the bank of the Kennet & Avon Canal in 1995, her hull and frames needing major repair. In recognition of their hard work the present owners received a Transport Trust Award in 1996. She originally had a single cylinder Petrol/Paraffin Kromhout 30 horsepower engine. This unfortunately suffered frost damage and was replaced by a lorry engine. Her current engine is a Gardner 4L2 engine built in 1932, 3 cy, bore 4 3/4 x stoke 7 1/4, producing 40 hp. The builder's plaque is not original.

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Today we have seen the most moving boats since we left the marina in June. Mostly hire craft returning to Napton, Braunston, Rugby or further afield but also a lot of privateers presumably going out for the bank holiday.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

New Bridge - 20th August

As we left Bugbrooke this morning we could see this disguised mast partially hidden in an artificial tree, still it looked better than a metal one. There we some nice houses in sunny positions as we motored on and in the distance we could see Nether Heyford on the hill.

1 Mast and houses

At Whilton we came to the bottom lock of 7 up to Norton Junction and passed by Whilton Marina where it seems most of the boats down in London have come from. At the side of the first lock is Whilton Pottery in the lock cottage. As we went up in the lock we could see the water pouring over the bottom gates of the next lock as there are no by-washes on this flight. There are side pounds but again they are no longer used 

2 Wilton marina and pottery

This stretch of the canal shares the same route as the railway, the M1, and the A5 so it is quite noisy, but I am glad we are on the slow canal route rather than with the traffic flashing by on the others. At Buckby Top Lock is the The New Inn with plenty of gongoozlers watching the antics at the lock.

3 railway and mway

In the pound before the top lock are some nice houses with gardens down to the canal. The occupants were enjoying the sun whilst having their lunch in the gardens and watching the world go by. There is also Anchor Cottage Crafts which had a lovely range of Buckby Cans, hand painted by Tricia, and many other canal paraphernalia. Adam assures me that unless they are from Buckby they are just water cans and not Buckby Cans.

5 houses and shop

Norton Junction follows the the top lock from where it is 41.25 miles to Leicester and 4.25 miles to Braunston. The cottage on the junction corner has this old caravan in the garden.

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The Junction is also home to a C & RT yard and these guys there were making a new oak wood bridge to replace the old one at bridge 1 on the Leicester Section of the GU. and very nice it looed to.

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A few interesting boats seen today. Not sure if the Reckless in the top RH photo is the one Guy had in the TV series.

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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Blissworth Tunnel - 19th August

We made an early start this morning and were up the 7 Stoke Bruerne  locks by 8.45am and ready to enter the tunnel.
Blisworth Tunnel is 3,076 yards (2,813m) long and is the third-longest navigable canal tunnel on the UK canal network after Standedge Tunnel and Dudley Tunnel (and the ninth-longest canal tunnel in the world). At its deepest point it is143 feet (43m) below ground level.
Work began in 1793, but errors by contractors left a wiggle in the tunnel, and after three years work it collapsed due to quicksand, claiming the lives of 14 men. It was then decided to begin again with a new tunnel. By the time the rest of the Canal had opened between London and Braunston in 1800,  the section from Blisworth to the lower end of Stoke Bruerne locks was the only section unfinished. This was despite the tunnel having been under construction for seven years: the gap was filled by a temporary horse-drawn tramway over the top of the hill, with goods being transported from boat to wagon and back again.
In the 1980’s British waterways carried out some major rebuilding of the tunnel which was completed in 1984 at a cost of £4.3million. The middle section, approx. 950m from each end, is lined with pre-cast concrete rings. It was also used to test out the materials that were later used on the Channel Tunnel. One of the unused rings on display just outside the south portal was featured on yesterdays blog, you can clearly see the water line protection points in the bottom RH photo. The LH photo shows the original brick construction section of the tunnel.
I was surprised at how straight the tunnel was as you could see the other end as soon as you entered it and we followed another boat  through very slowly as it did not appear to have a tunnel light.
1 Stoke Bruerne
At the northern end of the tunnel we came out into a short cutting and then passed Blisworth Mill and the yard of Blisworth Narrowboats.
2 Blissworth Mill and NB
This lovely old wooden boat called Jenny Wren was spotted on route today; I loved the front window etchings.
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We passed Blisworth Marina and then the Junction where you can turn to off go to Northampton and the River Nene. The Mountbatten Crusader was moored across the canal to pick up some clients at the wharf, but posed no problem to navigation. The next bridge is a Turnover Bridge which was constructed to allow a horse towing a boat to cross the canal when the towpath changes sides by placing two ramps on the same side of the bridge, which turned the horse through 360 degrees.
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We moored up in Bugbrooke and went to the Wharf Inn and Restaurant where we had a splendid lunch, definitely a place we will visit again. After lunch we walked into the village of Bugbrooke and visited the local shop for a paper and provisions. Taking a back lane we came to St Michael and All Angels Church. There is an hourly bus service from the village to Northampton which is only about 5 miles away by road.
5 Bugbrooke
On Jimmy’s evening walk we passed by Hayford Fields Marina and the views over the Northamptonshire countryside were lovely in the evening sunlight. 
6 Hayford Fields Marina and Views


Monday, 18 August 2014

A Tacet Surprise - 18th August

This morning Jimmy’s walk took us around Campbell Park with its off side mooring and and cricket stumps artwork.

1 Campbell Park

We had a very pleasant cruise around Milton Keynes and were soon crossing the Grafton Aqueduct and then the trains painted on the wall adjacent to the railway which give distances to the various villages and towns along the canal.

2 Aqueducts and Trains

Next came the Great Ouse Aqueduct (a square cast iron trough carried on stone pillars)  followed by the Cosgrove moorings where we spotted another Autumn Mist although spelt differently.

3 aqueducts and Autumn Mist

Just above Cosgrove Lock there is an arm which was once the Buckingham and Stratford Canal but now used for moorings. There are some nice moorings above the lock and as we left Cosgrove we passed under Solomon's Bridge a splendid stone gothic style bridge built in 1808. There does not appear to be any obvious reason why such a unique bridge should have been built here. Perhaps the owner of the Cosgrove Hall had some influence with the Canal Company.4 Cosgrove

All along this stretch of the canal there were lots of Crab Apples trees loaded with fruit so Nb. Wandering Bark will have a field day if they venture down this way in the next few weeks.

5 Crab apples loaded

Yardley Wharf has a couple of interesting signs, the first on the bridge urges boats to slow down due to “Elderly Ducks Crossing” and the one on the wharf suggests that you “Do not let your dog pump out on the wharf”

Baxter's have their dry dock here where Nb. Briar Rose had her bright new paint job done.

6 Yardley Wharf

A Surprise awaited us outside Kingfisher Marina for who should be there but Nb. Tacet of Ian and Karen fame. Hope that you two are not missing her too much. Thought that these pictures would bring back some very happy memories.

7 Tacet

We moored up on the visitors mooring just below Stoke Bruerne Locks and after lunch walked up to the village. It was very busy with tourists from all over the world and the Cheese Boat was doing a roaring trade. The entrance to the car park was framed by this Iron Support form the Pontcysytte Aqueduct in North Wales. The trip boat was also doing a good trade taking people up to and into the mouth of the tunnel.

8 Former Chees and SB

Beside the last lock is one of the abandoned original locks with iron gates and tubular beams and it contains an old boat. The village does have a few nice cottages like the one below.

8a Locks and cottages

I took a tour of the museum, which although only small has some interesting exhibits including these painted wears, boatman dress and back cabin and details of how gauging was carried out to charge boats for the use of the canal.

8 b museum

At the entrance to the 3057 yd. Blissworth Tunnel is a ring beam which was used in the rebuilding of the middle section of the tunnel. The protrusions on the inside of the ring are where the water level will be and the wooden protector strips fitted.

8b Blissworth tunnel

The Navigation Pub below the top lock is a very popular place to eat; and several of the locks still have their side pond together with paddle gear but they are no longer used and just form a wild life habitat. Bridge 54 has some interesting Mosaic pictures underneath its span.

8c Bridge art

A couple of interesting boats we passed today, the blue one Nb. Woodbine is steered from the front and we have seen it several times across the network. The Bolinder and Russell Newbury Engines are exhibited in the Museum Shop and Cafe, which is a shame as you cannot get a good look at them with people enjoying their coffee.

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