Saturday 10 January 2015

Grand Union Canal. Cape of Good Hope to Welsh Road

We’ve always found the time between Christmas and New Year to be a bit limbo-ish, and this one was no different. With nothing to do and no visitors we embarked on a de-cluttering program, starting with the diamond cupboards in the dining room. Amongst other stuff these hold all our hobbies; beads, string, models, paint, jigsaw puzzles etc. which, when we’d finished being ruthless, took up less than half the space they did before. A couple of bags got skipped and although the cupboards still looked full, there was much more order to it.
During the next few weeks we're hoping to continue with all the other storage spaces aboard the boat. It's very therapeutic.

We moved Legend through Cape bottom lock, filled up with water and then moored up again.
It wasn’t what you’d call an epic cruise, in fact we’d only moved about 200 yards, but it took us out from the shadow of the flats and let the sunshine get to the side of the boat and the solar panels. It’s little things like that that make all the difference to our simple world.
The clear sunny days brought clear frosty nights and on more than one morning we woke to find the canal frozen around us.
As long as we’re prepared for it, being iced in doesn’t cause us any problems, in fact it was nice to be able to walk along the towpath without getting muddy.
We’d just filled the water tank, the car was nearby, so we just enjoyed being in our lovely cosy boat surrounded by a sparkly white world.

Martin and Yvonne came to stay on New Year’s Eve. Their boat, Nb Evolution, is moored for the winter on the Middle Level near Ramsey. They do very extensive summer cruises and we met them at Castleford on the Aire & Calder a couple of years ago. That meeting resulted in us joining them on the Ripon Canal and in York on the River Ouse. They are wonderfully happy people and it was a joy to have them with us to celebrate the start of 2015. On New Year’s Day, after one of Dave’s full English breakfasts, we cast off and headed for Leamington Spa. Occasionally we came across bits of ice floating in the more shady bits of the cut, but nothing that was going to do our lovely new blacking any harm. Martin and Yvonne don’t often get to go boating in the winter, so it was a bit of a treat for them. It was a treat for us as well especially as we found some decent firewood as we were going along.

The next day we sadly had to say goodbye to them but we’re definitely going to see them again soon; they know the Nene extremely well and have promised to pass on all their hints, tips and mooring spots to us before we venture forth from Northampton. We just need to go and visit them for a weekend. Oh the hardships we suffer for our way of life!

On night in Leamington was enough, the canal runs through it on the south side of the railway line and is not particularly inspiring, which is a shame; on the other side of the tracks the town is beautiful and well worth visiting for all sorts of reasons. There’s the Pump Room, with its amazing internal architecture, which used to be the main spa, then swimming baths and hydro pools and is now a museum and library, and the lovely Jephson Gardens.

We moored up in an open bit of countryside between Leamington and Radford lock, which is where we still were when some of our other best boating buddies came to see us.
Lindsay and Paul became firm friends as soon as we met them near Chester last year. They live on Nb Happy Daze, which at the moment is moored on a Towpath Permit at the top of Foxton locks. We hadn’t seen them for ages, so when they said they were coming for a visit we were very excited. We’d told them we’d found a local water-side hostelry that was dog friendly, had a small selection of bottled beers, did excellent home cooked food and had free tea and coffee all day long. They were expecting a little back-water pub, what they got was this.
We’d transformed Legend into the Navigation Inn, and Ann-Marie had made the most delicious steak and ale pie. After lunch we all went for a walk with the lovely Jack before coming back for treacle sponge and custard. We don’t think there’s a pub in the world we would rather have been in.

Dave turned the wood we’d collected from this.
Into this.
Then this.
Then they got stashed on the roof.

There was some maintenance due to start on Radford Lock, so we picked the best day weather-wise and made our way up to Welsh Road. We’d stopped there the last time we came this way, so we knew it was a good spot with lots of footpaths and decent parking. The day we moved started off cold but not too windy, however it wasn’t all plain sailing; we both got a bit shaken up when at wood lock Ann-Marie lost her footing on some slippery tread-plate and her feet went under the balance beam. She was left bruised but thankfully still on the bank. A reminder that although this life is relaxed and idyllic most of the time it can, and does, occasionally bite back.   

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