Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Monday 30th July
Phoenix woke up early (5.30 am) thwarting our planned lie in, so I decided to take her a walk back along the arm and in doing so passed two boats which were displaying out of date licences. I checked on the C&RT site and found that the narrow boat had a licence but was still displaying an old one and there was no record of the cruiser, which looked as though it had not moved since early 2011. They were both moored on the permanent mooring spots next to the visitor mooring so it would not be just the licence but also the mooring fee which C & RT would be loosing.

* Un-licenced boat
After breakfast we walked into Market Harborough, to do some exploring and found to be a delightful little town with a good range of local and national shops, including the usual Tesco and Sainsbury. We did our shopping and made our way back to the boat as the sky suddenly looked very threatening. As it happened it only turned out to be a light shower.
We left our mooring just before lunch and turned in the basin heading back up the arm. The visitor moorings were now completely empty. Just past where we moored I spotted a snake about 3ft long swimming across the canal, but as usual I could not get the camera out fast enough.

* My Spot as ships dog
We had a good trip back up the arm and did not meet another boat. We had a few heavy showers but as we reached the first swing bridge the sun came out again and a kind gentleman helped June open the bridge which he said was much easier now that it had been fitted with new bearings.

* Waiting to go up Foxton Locks
As we reached the bottom of Foxton Locks we found 5 boats waiting to go up and others already on the way up. We followed the last one, a hire boat which had come down to turn around and go back up. The hirers were new to boating and so June helped them through the first few locks when a young gongoozler helped the man and his young son through the rest of the flight. On reaching the middle pound we found a boat waiting to come down, they said that they had been waiting there for 2 hours and were not a happy bunch, particularly as the pound had been drained leaving them high and dry.
We reached the top lock with only an odd shower but mostly lovely sunny weather in just under an hour and moored up at the top for the night.

*Foxton Locks in the Sun
After dinner it was such a nice warm and sunny evening that I took Phoenix a walk around the Incline Plane which must have been a magnificent site when it was operating 1900-1911.

* The Incline Plane

* Top of Incline Plane where boats entered the caissons.

Tuesday 31st July

* Am I not the Cutest Guide Dog Pup

The weather forecast was bad for today and we awoke to rain so decided to stay where we were for the day. However, at 9.30 it stopped raining so we decided to move off and see how far we could get before the rain came back.
We stopped for lunch and to let Phoenix have a run at Welford Junction and had seen more boats on the move in that short trip than we had seen in the whole of the last week. There were a lot of the Canal Boat Club boats but there were still a similar number of private boats. After lunch the weather was still sunny so we decided to carry on again and I eventually dropped June off at Bridge 24 to walk Phoenix along the bank whilst I went on ahead to a mooring spot near Yelvertoft.
Whilst we were having dinner June noticed over 100 Swallows sitting on the power cables opposite the boat. As I got the camera out most flew off, isn’t it always the way.
* Swallows on the wire

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Sunday 29th July
* Bronze canal horse at the top of Foxton Locks
Once again a lovely sunny morning with the mist curling off the water as the sun burnt it away. We made another early start and were at the top of Foxton locks just after 9am having not past another moving boat all the way. However we were 4th in the queue to go down the locks with two boats already on their way up.

* Foxton Locks
As we had some time to wait June chatted to the other boaters in the queue and I went and fetched us Bacon and Sausage Baps from the Café at the top lock. They were delicious and we are looking forward to one on the way back.

* Bacon and Sausage Baps from the cafe
After just over an hour the group started to descend the first set of 5 Staircase locks and June was assisted by a very friendly volunteer lockie. At the bottom of this set a boat was waiting in the middle pound to come up, so we past it slowly and entered the next set of locks which lead down to the junction with the Market Harborough Arm.

* June working the locks with the help of a very nice volunteer lady lockie.
Under one of the lock bridges I encountered an enormous spider guarding his latest victim and had to avoid his equally large web.

* Foxton Spider
We turned down the arm and immediately encountered a swing bridge which was not marked in our Nicholson Guide. June had come aboard at the bottom of the locks so she now had to get off again to open the bridge. She had just shut it when along came another boat so we carried on to the next swing bridge and having opened it along came 4 more boats out of now where which we let through with our best good grace as we were now concerned we might not be able to find a mooring space at Mkt. Harborough.
The weather took a turn for the worse and we had a couple of heavy showers on the way down the arm but the sun kept coming out to quickly dry everything off.
No need to have worried about mooring however as two of the boats turned around at the first winding hole and there were several spaces on the entrance to the basin. The other 2 boats went into the basin to turn and so we moored up immediately outside the entrance in a nice sunny spot, they then moored up behind us.

* Entrance to the basin

* Inside the basin

* Our Mooring spot
I took Phoenix for a walk around the basin and found The Waterfront Restaurant and as they were serving food until 6.45pm and would take Guide Dog Puppies decided we would have a late Sunday lunch/early evening meal at 5.00 pm. We had been recommended to the restaurant by some boaters at the top of Foxton locks and we must say the meal and service were excellent and at £14 for two courses excellent value.
Earlier in the day Carolanne had texted us to say that they were stuck in a pound on the Aston flight into Birmingham, the C&RT boys were trying to get water down to them but they had no idea of how long they would have to wait before they could get on their way again. I phoned them when we returned to the boat to check on progress and they had reached Birmingham after being delayed just over 2 hours. We had encountered low pound levels when we used that route in March but were surprised that the same problem existed now after all the rain we have had.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Saturday 28th July

* Evening Sunset

* Early Morning Mist

We awoke to mist drifting across the window but after I had made the early morning tea it had gone and a bright sunny morning developed. We left the mooring at 7.15 and after two and a half hours of cruising had only seen 2 boats on the move and very few moored up. This part of the canal is very narrow and winding and reminds one of a pretty river navigation rather than being man made. This was emphasised by the new Mallard chicks which were probably no more than a couple of days old and the very young Signets.

* New Mallard Chicks

* Young Signets
After seeing all the new chicks on the canal in March and April it seemed strange to see the process being repeated again now.

* Welford Junction
At Welford Junction we came across a few boats moored up and then turned into the narrow entrance to the arm. The Arm was built to link the canal with the Welford and Sulby reservoirs in 1814 and is a narrow winding stretch of water with just one lock (unusually it only has one paddle on the high water side). Navigation ends rather abruptly with the services unit.

* End of Welford Arm
We turned the boat and moored up on the visitor moorings opposite a small marina and headed through the Pocket Park and past the Postman Pat wood carving to the local shop for a paper and a few provisions.

* Pocket Park

* Postman Pat Wood Carving
On the way back to the boat June was chatting to a lady about her lovely Hollyhock display in her garden and the she offered to save June some seeds in the Autumn.
After lunch we headed back up the arm to the junction and reversed back towards Crick so that we would be facing the right way for the morning and moored up for the night.
June had walked Phoenix back up the arm to the lock and she lay quietly by the side of the lock gate waiting for June to finish before coming back on board. What a difference to Tucker.
* Phoenix waiting for Mom

Friday, 27 July 2012

Thursday 26th July

Turned 11pm last night Nb JJ passed us with lights blazing into the bedroom, the next morning we passed him moored a mile further on at Braunston, is it really worth the risk of sailing in the dark.

* Braunston Church early in the morning.
Only passed one moving boat on our way to the first lock of the Braunston flight and there were unusually many empty mooring spaces as we crept our way through the sleepy village.
No other boat was in sight so we proceeded to empty the first of six locks all of which were to be against us. At the third lock June found a boat loose across the canal being hauled back by its owner. The local Lockie told her that the pound had been emptied over night stranding 2 boats and snapping the mooring ropes of the third boat. It had taken considerable time to refill the pound so it was a good job we had not left any earlier.
We made good progress through the remaining locks and were soon in Braunston Tunnel where we met a hire boat coming the other way otherwise it was all quiet along a lovely stretch of canal before we turned off at Norton junction onto the Leicester Section of the Grand Union.

* Norton Junction
We soon reached the Watford locks and went to find the Lockie who was half way up at the Staircase locks assisting a couple of boats through. He said that we could start our ascent straight away as no boats were waiting to come down. He helped us through the second and subsequent locks as it was a very quiet day. His assistance was greatly appreciated by June as it was now very hot, although she did say that the paddles were very easy to operate.

* June working the Watford Locks

* Chatting up the Lockie at the Top Lock
We moored up just beyond the Kilsby Road Bridge (No8) so that some friends could come and visit us after lunch.

* Pimms at 3
Sue and Roger duly arrived closely followed by Dennis and Karen. We started the party with ice cold Pimms and ended it drinking Champagne as Den and Karen announced that they were getting married the next day after 25 years of living together. They had kept it quiet, only telling their families that morning as they only wanted a quiet affair. June managed to rustle up some dinner for us all and we continued the combined hen and stag party until dusk.

* The Happy Couple
When our visitor had left I checked the temperature in the boat and it was still 32 deg C.

Friday 27th July

We had a late start this morning and headed through the Crick Tunnel, passed the marina where the annual Crick Boat Show is held and on to Yelvertoft where we filled with water and took a stroll down to the local shop for a paper and some provisions. We had hoped to moor there as my sister and brother in law were bringing my great niece to see us in the afternoon but mooring was only permitted for 1 hour or for water which seem a great pity for the village. However we moved on to moor just after bridge 22 which is on the same road. The
Haddon Road
actually crosses the canal 3 times in under a mile as the canal winds and twists so much.

12 Noon Dennis and Karen are Married at Stratford Registry Office

Lovely Flower Show spottted on way to Crick Tunnel

My sister arrived about 3pm as they had been held up on the A5 as the M1 was blocked in both directions due to an accident. Olivia had a great time waving to the passing boats although she was a little worried about Phoenix who wanted to play with her all the time. Puppy play is a little rougher than how a young girl sees play.
It sun was so hot that we spent most of the time in the boat but later as it cooled down we took Olivia and Phoenix a walk up the canal before they left for home.
After dinner June settled down to watch the Olympic Opening ceremony.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Tuesday 24th July
Arrived at the boat in the late afternoon as June had had an earlier appointment at home. It was so hot that once we had unloaded the car we just wilted in the heat.
Phoenix was very good and we just took her several short walks so that she was not adversely affected by the heat.

* Marina in the evening sun

So many boats were out of the marina that it looked empty and as I walked around the edge there were large shoals of small fry darting everywhere and jumping out of the water as a pike chased them. In between most of the pontoons were small shoals of very large Carp, I would estimate between 2 and 3 feet in length.

*Carp Shoal

*Typical size of Carp
I am told there is even an orange Carp but I did not manage to see it. It shows that the water quality in the marina is good and the no fishing rule has encouraged the population growth.
We had to wait until 8pm before it was cool enough to wash the dust off the boat and as we did so the moon came clearly into view.

* Marina Moon

Wednesday 25th July
A bright and sunny morning woke us up early and even though we had thought it would be too hot at night to sleep when we fell into bed at 11pm, we all slept like logs. Phoenix didn’t even wake up when I made a cup of tea at 5.30am.
We had an early breakfast and left the marina at 7.15am with hardly a ripple on the water (where has windy Brinklow gone).

* Marina Morning
Not a sign of a moving boat as we headed through the Newbold Tunnel towards Rugby, a boat finally coming into view as we passed Rugby Boats. We rounded the corner near the park side moorings and came across a boat partly across the canal with no stern rope attached. We manoeuvred passed and moored on the towpath side when a very apologetic gentleman emerged and started to get the boat back to the side, not sure if the pins had come out or he had been set adrift.
Took Phoenix down to Tesco for the paper and some provisions and then headed for Hillmorton.
Phoenix soon settled down to the role of a ships dog and stayed asleep all through our ascent of the locks. We were pleasantly surprised that we did not have to wait at any of the locks and the volunteer lockie at the top lock told us that it was quieter now than when the weather had been wet.

*First Pound of Hillmorton Locks
As we came around the blind approach to bridge 80 a boat coming the other way told us to stop as there were divers in the water repairing the bridge. Why they put the warning sign on the bridge and not before the bend I will never know. The divers called us through and they appeared to be using some sort of cement to seal the under water part of the crumbling structure.
We moored up for the day about a mile before Braunston  in nice spot with a lovely shady tree. Sat on the bank and enjoyed the rest of the beautiful day. It was only disturbed by an enormous Bull on the opposite bank trying to attract the attention of the cows in the field on our side.


* Cute Phoenix tries it on

Friday, 20 July 2012

Thursday 19th July

Neil on Nb Nerus, who moors on the next pontoon persuaded me to join in with the Lapworth C&RT Volunteers who meet on the third Wednesday and Saturday of each month. I thought that as C&RT was now a charity that I should at least put something back because as a boater we make good use of the system.

I duly arrived at Kingswood Junction workshop a little before the appointed time of 10 am and wondered down to the first lock on the Stratford canal where three boats were waiting to go through and discovered that the beam on the bottom gate had split and C& RT employees were trying make a temporary repair with a wooden plank secured with bolts through the beam. Not an easy job as a steel plate had been previously fixed to the other side and the bolts were protruding through the side where the plank was to be fixed.

I ambled back to the workshop and met with Mike the volunteer coordinator. Mike is currently an agency worker on contract to C&RT. Whilst he was explaining that this is a new venture and that they were looking to do things like painting and vegetation clearance etc and then develop local groups, another volunteer, Phil joined us.

Today’s task was to fix C&RT logos over the existing BW signs down the Hatton flight of locks to ensure that the public become aware of the changes. So we duly made our way to Hatton where we met up with Nick and Carol, two other volunteers.
*Affixing the new C&RT logos
Unfortunately there did not seem to be any correlation with the signs and the stickers we were given so it was a bit of a mish-mash but we managed to fix most signs even though four of us to do the job was overkill. Despite that it was good to be with interesting people enthusiastic to help with keeping the canal system working well.
* Hatton Flight with the volunteers walking back up to the café.

Whilst this is a new initiative for C&RT and they have a great deal to learn in a very short space of time, my initial impression is that a lot more planning needs to go into what the volunteers will do on each day and ensure that their time is used efficiently. Otherwise it is likely that volunteers will become disheartened and not return. It will be interesting to see the progress over the next couple of months.

In chatting to some of the C&RT employees one can detect a great deal of concern in the use of volunteers, after all, several other aspects of their jobs have gone out to contractors, and they need reassurance that their skills and knowledge are vital to the organisation. Perhaps it would be appropriate to involve some of the local C&RT employees with organising the work of the volunteers which would help alay their fears and create a better understanding between the two groups. From my past experience in industry good communication and building robust teams is critical to the success of any new project.
I also wonder how much C&RT are taking on board from the way the current independent Canal volunteer groups work  as they seem to have developed a very successful formulae.  

I will keep you posted about my experiences over the coming months, in the meantime why not try a spot of volunteering yourselves.

Friday, 13 July 2012

12th July

Today was the first free day we have had when the forecast was reasonable, so we were up early and off to the boat to see how Phoenix can cope with her sea legs, all be it that we were not leaving the mooring.
We were surprised at just how many boats were out despite the recent weather; the marina looked quite empty.

* Phoenix on board

I had a few jobs to do so set to with those whilst June took Phoenix a walk around the marina along the roadway as we still have a couple of days to go before her vaccination is fully effective to take her on grass.

The first job was to sort out the TV which had mysteriously stopped working on freeview whilst on our last trip. The reception had been so good that we had rarely used the satellite system. Mark from Sandhills had given me a new aerial and booster kit to use to check which bit had stopped working. After checking the whole system I found that the signal booster had failed and used the one from the kit to replace it so that we now have freeview TV again.

*  Phoenix takes a look into the saloon.

 Decided to take a rest and headed for the Bulls Head at Brinklow (in the car) for one of their lite bite lunches, excellent value at £3.50 per head. Phoenix was a real pain and would not sit still while we had our lunch, not sure if it was the baby in the high chair dropping food on the floor or just being in a new environment.

Back to the boat to fit the filler board which Gary had made and inlaid to one of the lower shelves to form a magazine rack and somewhere to keep the folding table secure whilst we were moving.  It fitted like a glove and only needed gluing in place.

* Phoenix checks out the hatch

After completing a few other jobs including replacing the licence with the new one, now with the     C & RT heading we sat down to watch the quiz show Tipping Point and have some tea. Low and behold the weather could not help itself and it started to rain.

We decided to make an early exit and head for home before the heavy stuff decended on us.