Monday, 12 October 2015

Canals & The Big Hoot - Sunday 11th October

Today we took Tiana into Birmingham to see the final day of the Big Hoot.

The Big Hoot captured the imagination of everyone in Birmingham and beyond this summer, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets with their Big Hoot Trail maps to explore the colourful invasion of 89 individually designed owls and 122 owlets. Taking in the city’s 10 districts, from the city centre to Sutton Coldfield, Winson Green to Bournville and many places in between, tourists and residents alike enjoyed their owl adventure, discovering and celebrating the extraordinary creativity produced by many of Birmingham’s artistic community and over 25,000 young people.

Birmingham welcomed cartoon owls, night owls, wise owls, celebrity owls, jewellery owls, the ‘Owl and the Pussycat’, owls from the pyramids of Egypt, Amazonian Rainforests and outer space, along with owls that celebrate Birmingham’s landmark architecture, history, people, places, cultural diversity.

I particularly liked this one which featured the Canals.



The final two days saw the owls being brought together at the Eastside Park and Millennium Point. Entry was by timed ticket and very well organised as there was plenty of time to see everything. Proceeds went to the Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity.20151011_110851



June particularly liked this owl with its glitter and LED lights. Not too sure if Tiana was so keen.


Just a few of the owls we liked. All the owls will be auctioned off on Thursday 15th October and will raise more money for the Charity.

Owl 1

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Puppy Walkers and Odd Job Day - Monday 5th October

Today we did the usual tidying and maintenance tasks on the  boat needed after a cruise and then decided to visit the shops at the enormous Ricoh Retail Park. Whilst there we bumped into two Puppy Walkers who had come to meet up with their Supervisor for assessment and training of their pups.  Carol with Sammy, had had 30 pups and we had a good chat about how our pups had got on and the changes we had seen over the years. The other PW was on his second pup and was to take him on a bus trip.

We also visited the Range a short way down the A444 from the Ricoh to buy some waterless wash and polish a boater had recommended. Well it was fatal as once inside it was like an Aldins cave and we came out having spent far too much money.


Back at the boat we packed away our clothes and got things ready to leave in the morning before the forecast rain arrived.This of course was interspersed with chats to the various boaters who were about and walking Tiana over the fields.

Gentle trip home - Sunday 4th October

On a lovely sunny morning we set off at a gentle pace, we were originally staying out until Tuesday but the weather forecast for Monday and Tuesday was for rain so decided to head home today. However, we soon caught up two share boats one of which seemed to be on their first trip and were very tentative with the steering and almost stopped when passing another boat. At one bridge there were 4 stationary boats behind  them with no where to go until they decided to go through or not. We stopped at Hillmorton Wharf to fill up with diesel (60p/Ltr.) and purchase a couple items and still caught them up at the top of the locks.


The locks were quiet and we were able to go straight down with June at the helm. We moored up for lunch adjacent to Rugby Golf Course and later in the afternoon walked down to the Bridge 66 cafe for afternoon tea and  lovely lemon drizzle cake. The view from the cafe was obscured by an old steam powered boat which they were breaking up. Whilst we were there they cut through the back end and were going to remove the vintage steam engine and re install it in a new day boat they plan to build and hire out.


They were using the tractor unit to drag the stern section away whilst they cut through the bow and central sections of the boat to sell the steel for scrap. Apparently the base plate was so poor it would have cost more to try and repair it than build a new boat. They have sold their other steam boat which we saw in steam on our outward trip.


The rest of the trip back to base was uneventful with plenty of mooring available in  Brownsover if we had needed it. As we were mooring up the family of swans from the marina were having a fight with, we suspect, last years babies and were nearly drowning one of them. I had to get the boat hook out to rescue him twice before he eventually decided to fly off.

Over the last 16 days we have completed 95 miles and 48 locks and travelled through 8 tunnels which covered 9972yds or 5.7 miles of the trip. Quite a nice leisurely trip with glorious autumnal weather.

Plenty of Locks - Saturday 3rd October

We made an early start this morning and arrived at Watford Top lock just as the Volunteer Lock keeper was opening up. He said that we could go straight down and that he would let some water down behind us as the bottom pounds were usually low first thing in a morning. At the bottom of the staircase we met a boat load of New Zealanders coming up; they were on their way to shut up their boat in a marina for the winter and return home after 5 months here.

The canal on the stretch from the locks to Norton Junction is very narrow and overgrown with trees but it does make it look very attractive.


At the junction we turned sharp right and headed for Braunston Tunnel passing a few boats coming the other way. We entered the tunnel and could see a boat ahead of us so we were hopeful of sharing the double locks. As it happens there were already 2 boats waiting to go down and so we were able to team up with a smart looking chugger with a Lister engine.


It was very slow going as the two boats in front were not very lively and at one stage they shut the gates after two boats had come up without letting their own boats into the lock; this made it very difficult as there were six boats in the same pound. The owner of the working boat who had just come up could not believe his eyes and made some very apt comments. At Bridge 3 next to the Admiral Nelson Pub we had a few gongoozlers peering over the bridge at us.IMG_6824

We soon reached the bottom lock after one of the two boats in front moored in the pound below lock 3 and there were at least 6 boats waiting to come up all moored breasted up and  mixed in with the hire fleet based there.  We moored up near to the marina entrance and I went up to the village shop for the paper and to take Tiana a short walk. After lunch we set off again through Braunston, passing the time of day with Dolce Blue the Dutch Barge Narrowboat we had met in Paddington Basin.


As we exited the village there was a large field of sheep just below the church and in the next  another field full of Canadian Geese, (June counted 76). But around the corner from where we moored for the night I counted 165 in a field so you can see why they are becoming a pest.


After we had moored up for the day the canal seemed to get busier and busier with boats going in both directions.  Work boat Jaguar passed by towing its Butty Northolt, a very impressive sight.


After a cloudy day the sun eventually broke through and we had a nice evening. As it set it turned a beautiful bright red with it reflecting on the streaking clouds.


Tiana’s favourite spot - Friday 2nd October

When  we set sail this morning there was no mist, as forecast, but the high cloud took till afternoon to clear away and give us a lovely sunny afternoon. Tiana occupied her usual place keeping a watch on the activities on the bank.IMG_6812

We motored on with June at the helm and did not see a boat on the move until we reached Yelvertoft  when from there until we reached Crick there seemed to be lots of boats moving.


Yelvertoft Marina has built a slipway and hard standing for boats to be taken out of the water adjacent to the Marina. Looks a good idea for DIY blacking and other jobs on the boat.IMG_6819

This stretch of canal varies all the time from being very wide like a broad canal to very narrow like a congested narrow canal and there are some nice sunny  mooring spots. As we turned one corner we came face to face with this field full of squabbling sea gulls and crows  and a little further on a Cormorant took off from the water right at the boat and at the last minute veered off avoiding a collision.


We stopped for lunch at Crick and visited the village shop to get a paper and then motored on through the tunnel where we passed two boats coming the other way, the first entered the other end of the tunnel once again at exactly the same time as we did and we passed in the middle of the 1528 yd length. We moored up in a nice sunny spot just before bridge 9 so that we could enjoy a relaxing afternoon.

Even More Kingfishers - 1st October

On route from Foxton we had three separate incidents of a Kingfisher flying in front of our bow. Their vivid colours were picked out by the sunshine and they make a wonderful sight to see.

In Husbands Bosworth tunnel we passed two hire boats the second of which stopped, making it difficult to pass them as their bow drifted out. Leaving the tunnel behind we passed through North Kilworth where work was still taking place on the marina which they had started when we came by 3 years ago. It looks like it will be a large marina when and if it is finished.


At Welford Junction we turned left down the arm and motored the 1.25 miles to the wharf at the end. The arm is quite narrow in places and feels more like a river than a canal. There is one lock to negotiate to reach the end and June took the boat through it both ways. There was quite a flow on the by-wash so presumably they were feeding water into the 21 mile long summit pound between Foxton and Watford Locks from the reservoir at Welford.


We moored up on the visitor moorings opposite the 2nd of the two marinas at the end of the arm. There is also a C&RT services block and the winding hole which has a wet and  dry dock at one side.


We walked through Welford Pocket Park to the village shop for a paper and some fresh veg for tonight's dinner and then returned to the boat for lunch.


On the road to the shop is a lovely wood carving of Postman Pat and  another of a Fox and Squirrel.


After lunch as we went to the bottom of the arm to turn around I spotted this interesting old caravan in the boat yard. It looks as though the boatyard also operates a Wall of Death fairground  attraction.


We continued up the arm and turned left towards Norton Junction and moored up for the night a little further on in a nice open spot where we could enjoy the afternoon sunshine and relax.

Kingfisher Bonanza - Wednesday 30th September

A lovely warm sunny morning as we walked into Market Harborough where June bought a couple of tops she had seen on Monday. We also called in Sainsbury’s for a few last minute items and noticed that there is also a Waitrose and Aldi on the other side of the car park.

The centre of the town is dominated by the steeple of St. Dionysius Parish Church which rises directly from the street, as there is no church yard. It was constructed in grey stone in 1300 with the church itself a later building of about 1470. Next to the church stands the Old Grammar School, a small timber building dating from 1614. The ground floor is open, creating a covered market area and there is a single room on the first floor. It has become a symbol of the town.

Back at the boat we had coffee before making our way back up the arm towards Foxton.


We passed about 5 boats coming the other way and then followed a Kingfisher for about a mile. He kept just in front of the bow flying low along the water and then up into an overhanging branches. These young bullocks just stopped drinking as we passed and they gave us a very quizzical stare.


June dropped me off to operate the two swing bridges towards the junction and manouvered the boat through them picking me up again on the other side before I took over at the junction.  There I  waited for her to book us in with the Lock Keeper to go up the flight. She had to go right to the top to find him but was given permission to go straight up as there was no one waiting to come down. Part way up the first staircase, a young Canadian over here on holiday, started to help her open the gates and then at the second flight asked if he could operate the paddles. June swiftly handed over the windless and we soon shot up the locks.


So what was June doing while this young man did all the work, why chatting to the Lock Keeper. IMG_6796

On reaching the top June called in the cafe for some more of their delicious Sausage Baps which we ate while filling up with water. I noticed that a boat going down the flight had a Standard Poodle aboard and so I went down the flight after them with Tiana to have a chat. The lady was very helpful as she had had 4 of them and gave me some useful tips on their foibles and habits. I am sure it will help with getting  Tiana into shape.

We decided to moor up at the top of the flight for the night and enjoy the lovely evening.

Meeting Richard III - Tuesday 29th September

This morning we had a leisurely start and caught the 10.00 am bus (X7) to Leicester  which takes about 45 minutes. We got off at the Train Station and ambled our way down Granby Street to the main shopping centre.  After a brief look around and a cup of coffee we headed for the Cathedral.


In the grounds is this statue of Richard III.


We went into the Cathedral just as a couple of large parties of school children were going in and after chatting to one of the volunteers we had a look around the church to give them time to clear the tomb area. It is a lovely old building and whilst we were looking around a call was announced over the tannoy for a few minutes of silence and prayer which everybody in the cathedral observed. It was a very nice session and is held on the hour unless there is a service already taking place. It was introduced after Richard was interred in the Cathedral.


This lovely drape was used to cover the coffin on its journey through the streets to the Cathedral and is a real work of art.


The Tomb is made in two main sections the upper one being a single piece of Swaledale fossil stone, quarried in North Yorkshire.  It was chosen not only because it will polish to a fine finish, but also because the fossils within it are long dead creatures immortalised now in stone.

The lower darker section is Kilkenny marble and provides a beautiful surface for letter cutting – the cut surfaces will appear white – which ensures that the details of Richard’s name, dates and motto can be clearly read.

King Richard’s importance and characteristics are recognised in the inlaid stone coat of arms (pietra dura) which is made in a variety of marble and semi-precious stones.


The ornate shield is made up of approximately 350 individual pieces and was produced by a Tom Greenaway  who is only 29 years old and is one of the few people able to do such intricate works of art in stone.


Outside the Richard III visitor centre where the remains were originally excavated and which can be seen through a glass floor is this amazing sand sculpture produced by Susanne Ruseler from the Netherlands.


Leicester is full of old building some dating back to the early 1400’s


After lunch we visited the Leicester Central Market with all its fruit and Veg stalls, a real colourful display.


We then had to walk to Castle Gardens to get our canal fix and visit the Castle Moorings. There is room for about 4 boats and they were full on our visit. The gardens are lovely and were full of beautiful Dahlias and other superb flowers and and shrubs and was a hive of activity on such a fine day.

Castle gardens

Ambling back to the Station we passed several of the De Montfort University buildings and lots of students in Magazine Square. We caught the X3 bus back to the boat which runs every 1/2 hour.

Blood Moon and not a Convenience Store – Monday 28th September

We set the alarm clock for 2.30am so that we could get up and watch the eclipse of the moon by the earths shadow. As the moon was at its closest point to the earth in its orbit and the colour changes to red it is known as a Super Blood Moon.  The first photo was taken at 2.30 when there was a slight mist which gradually cleared.

Moon 1

We were lucky as we had moored in the open countryside and we could see the moon from our bed through the porthole. I did get up to take the photos through the open hatch way, it was quite cool outside. As the moon gradually came into the earths shadow and the night sky became dark the number of stars we could see increased dramatically, a real thrill in itself.

moon 2

Later as the morning mist cleared we set off for Debdale Wharf for a pump out, which they did professionally for £12. They have a very wide range of services including DIY Blacking and Painting in a heated workshop. We winded and returned to the bottom of Foxton Locks where we turned left down the Market Harborough Arm.


First June had to operate the swing bridge which was not easy as you have to lift a lever and at the same time swing the bridge by pushing on a beam. It opened Ok but would not lock easily when returned to the closed position. Fortunately a young couple were waiting to cross and gave June a hand. They said that they had a similar problem on Saturday. They had just bought a map for the Leicester Ring as they planned to do it in the following 2 weeks. They were not sure how long it would take so I gave them a hard copy of my Canal Plan route with all the distances and times on for which they were very appreciative.


We motored on down the arm passing through the second road swing bridge and then through some lovely scenery. As we approached Market Harborough there are beautiful houses and bungalows with gardens down to the canal. IMG_6787

The visitor moorings adjacent to the basin were occupied so we decided to moor in the basin itself and moored on one of the pontoons in the sunshine. June went ashore and booked our stay with the management company where she received a very warm welcome. Once settled in I went ashore to pay the mooring fee of £10 which included electric.


The permanent mooring in the basin are on the other side  and are in the shadow of the apartments and do not seem to get the sun at all.


After lunch I walked Tiana down to the local Convenience Store just across the main road to get a paper and some basic provisions. However, the Asian shopkeeper refused to let me take our Trainee Guide Dog into the shop saying that I was not blind and ignoring my pleas that we could only train them by taking them into shops. So I gave him his paper back and said that in that case I would take my business elsewhere. I just hope that he never goes blind and has need of a Guide Dog.

So we walked down into the town and bought our purchases in the shops there, who all welcomed us with our Trainee Guide Dog. We also called at the Sainsburys supermarket and as we were loaded up caught the bus back.

As we had dinner aboard the boat the sky became streaked with red which was reflected in the basin water.


Gongoozlers at Foxton–Sunday 27th September

After a misty start we had a beautiful sunny and warm day which rivalled anything during the summer. We motored on passing Welford Junction and through the 1166 yd Husbands Bosworth tunnel passing many of the boats that had passed us yesterday and moored up at the top of Foxton Locks where we were to meet friends Sue and Roger. Once again on route we spotted a Kingfisher speeding in front of the boat.

Whilst we waited for them to arrive we called into the cafe at the top lock to get two of their delicious Sausage Baps for our lunch. When Sue and Roger arrived we loaded Rogers mobility scooter onto the boat and headed for the lock. June went off to see the volunteer lockie to book us in and he told us that we had an hour wait. So we sat on the bench outside the boat and people watched as on a weekend the tow path is a mecca for visitors to this delightful spot.


The locks are on a steep hillside which drops the canal some 75 feet and provides some magic views across the Leicestershire countryside, a view I never tire of.


Three boats came up and we then started down the first set of 5 staircase locks. The cafe was doing a roaring trade with drinks and ice creams and there were so many people around the lock that I was a little concerned that somebody may get knocked into the lock.


June and Sue soon got us moving down the locks taking it in turn to wind the paddles or open the gates.


At the  last lock of the first staircase we had to wait for another boat to come up the second staircase and moor in the pound which separates the two sets.IMG_6717

Once down the flight we moored on the lock landing for a few minutes to get Roger’s scooter off the boat, so that he could get back to the car park easily, said our goodbyes  and continued on our way down the Main canal to find somewhere to moor for the night. The canal seemed very shallow along this stretch but we manage to get into the bank ok, although I noticed several other moored boats had their sterns sticking out from the bank.