Friday 22 December 2017

Grand Union Canal. Kingswood Junction to Stockton

The first time we moored at Kingswood Junction we made use of the nice tarmac car park to change the front brakes on the Punto. This time we topped up all the fluids in the Rio, pumped up all the tyres, made some new stings for the parcel-shelf and put a new bulb in the high level brake light.
Along with Jaqui and Alls driveway it’s becoming our regular car mending place.

A short walk from Legend took us to Baddersly Clinton (National Trust).
When we got there we managed to get lost in the grounds and ended up in the kid’s play area, but a very nice, if slightly bemused ranger helpfully pointed us in the right direction.
We were very impressed with the house and the guided tour of the gardens, especially the bit where our volunteer guide pointed out a hollow log that, for a couple of hundred years, had been part of a water pipe between the moat and a fish pond before being accidentally dug up during renovation work. We were less impressed with the cafeteria style tea room which, while giving itself the grand title of ‘Restaurant’ failed miserably in making us feel welcome, and once our cash had been handed over made sure that as soon as our overpriced tea had been drunk, we immediately vacated the wonky table and uncomfortable chairs by the draughty fire escape that we’d managed to find and squeeze ourselves into, in order to make room for more affluent clientèle. Back at the boat twenty minutes later, Ann-Marie made us both feel immeasurably better by conjuring up some apple, date and walnut scones which we had with much nicer tea in our own mugs.

We had a lovely day boating along the GU to Hatton.

We’ve moored near the cottages at Hatton Station once before, but either Legend had less stuff on board, or the canal was deeper then, (we suspect a little of both) because this time we couldn’t get into the bank and ended up a couple of hundred yards further on. It was further to walk to the station  car park, but the view was nicer and there was more solar. (crucial at this time of year!)
After a car move and shopping trip we came home in the dark, which was when we found that the saloon and bathroom lights weren’t working. With very little effort, Dave decided that fault-finding could safely be postponed for a bit, so we had dinner by candle light.

In the end, the lights didn’t get sorted out till after the weekend because we went to Guildford to see The Sound of The Sirens at the Boileroom.
They we brilliant as usual and, as an added bonus, both John and Linda were there so it was lovely to catch up with them too. Karen came with us and we stayed over on her bed settee.

As we were down that way we took Dad out for a Birthday Brunch at the airport café at Blackbush. Dad’s been wanting to try their Polish Breakfast ever since he found out that such a thing exists so, while he waited expectantly for what he was sure would be a rather exotic omelet with spicy sausage, bacon and mushrooms, the rest of us played it safe with either a Full English or, in Ann-Mries case, Eggs Benedict. What turned up in front of Dad was scrambled egg. He put on a brave face, but we could all tell he was disappointed. On the way home we promised ourselves that next time we go down there, we’ll re-address the situation by taking all the ingredients for what we think a Full Polish ought to include. By the way, the Full English was spot on, and Ann-Marie's eggs benedict was to die for.

The light problem, after Dave had poked his multimeter into various fittings and cables, turned out to be a dry solder joint on one of the switches on the distribution panel resulting in the wire vibrating off the switch. Our distribution panel was original equipment on the ark. It has chrome toggle switches and fuse holders made out of Bakelite which hold glass fuses and have screw tops with “Fuse” written on them.
Any competent electrician would no doubt implore us to exchange it for a modern unit with LEDs and circuit breakers but we love it. And unless a Boat Safety Examiner condemns it, it’s staying in the engine room. That decision puts Dave between a rock and a hard place. Access to the back of the panel is awkward without turfing everything out of the engine room, and anyway if pictures of anything he’s previously tried soldering were to be made public, the word “viral” would need to be redefined. So, we need to replace the switch with one that looks the same but has spade terminals and can be integrated into the circuitry with relative ease and the simple use of a crimping tool.
God bless the internet #1
We ordered 4 so that when it happens again we’ll be prepared. While we’re waiting for them to turn up at Karen’s, Dave has by-passed the original switch so we have lights. It still goes through the fuse so it’s perfectly safe, it just means that unless we take the fuse out, we can’t isolate the saloon and bathroom lights. Like we ever want to do that.

Bob and Mandy had promised to come over and give us hand down the 21 Hatton Locks, so we were up bright and early and had the boat on the water point at the top lock by half past ten. There was a boat already a couple of locks down, so when Bob & Mandy walked up, they told them we were coming behind and asked if they’d mind waiting. They said they’d be happy to wait, so Legend had three extra crew which made a really easy time of it.

The elderly couple on Nb Maybe said that they’d normally have had to stop half way for a rest, but with our 3 sterling lock wheelers pushing gates and winding paddle gear, there was no need for them to exert themselves and we had both boats at the bottom in less than 3 hours. Not a record, obviously, but a nice steady descent with lots of chatting and the odd cup of coffee to help us along.

It had become apparent that the Rio had an intermittent starting problem and it was getting annoying. Sometimes it was taking up to six goes before it would fire up and we were rapidly loosing faith in our new car. Dave discovered that there was a Kia owners forum, and through some very helpful people on there also discovered that the immobiliser antenna, which is secreted in the ring that goes round the ignition key slot, is prone to failure and was almost certainly the cause of our problem. Dave walked round to the Kia dealership in Warwick and ordered the part for £20. Two days later it arrived and with help and encouragement from Mr “Gumpyrio” he had it fitted that afternoon.
Faith is now restored and we look forward to many miles of happy motoring.
God bless the internet#2

Unbelievably, Caleb’s first birthday arrived. It seemed completely impossible that the wee man had been around for a year already. We had a chat with him on facetime - well, we had a chat with Chloe while Caleb stuffed half a banana in his mouth then sneezed all over Chloe’s phone.
It was wonderful to see him and it looked like he was having a ball with all his Irish family.
God bless the internet#3

One of our favourite moorings on this bit of the GU is at Welsh Road, so we were looking forward to going back there for a few days. We had a lovely time boating up from Cape; though Warwick and Leamington Spa, and round the big sweeping bend to Radford locks where there was a picture postcard Autumn scene with a tractor ploughing its way across the field.
We stopped just before Fosse Locks for a spot of firewood gathering...
then moored up above Welsh Road lock just in time for the sunset.

There was some severe winds forecast on our third night at Welsh Road, so Dave put a spring line on the stern and we prepared for a rocky night. The following day promised to be calm and sunny so we planned to carry on up the locks to Bascote bridge. That night it was windy, but we didn’t rock about very much. In the morning it became clear why we didn’t. Ann-Marie woke up with her nose on the wall and when Dave got out of bed he nearly fell over. Legend had become far from Listless.

A bit of detective work revealed that the Welsh Road back-pump - installed to counter leakage by constantly sucking water from below the lock and returning it to the pound above - had stopped overnight, resulting in the water level of our pound dropping by about 18 inches. That had left us and Nb Moor and Peace who were in front of us, sitting at a jaunty angle on the bottom of the canal with our sterns out of the water. Clearly we were not going anywhere anytime soon. A few phone calls resulted in CRT’s maintenance crew firstly clearing dead leaves out of the pump and re-starting it...

...and secondly letting a flood of water out of Napton Reservoir and down Bascote locks. The pump stopped again as soon as they left, but when all the fresh water turned up we suddenly found ourselves floating. With the pump out of action we knew we only had a short window of opportunity before all the new water went the same way as the old water, so we did the quickest of quick cast offs and followed Moor and Peace up to Bascote locks.
With Legend tucked up safely at Bascote Bridge...
...we wizzed off to Devon to see Jacqi and Al. Driving away from Warwickshire it was lovely and sunny, but as we got closer to the West Country it got greyer, wetter and colder. By the time we arrived at Holdsworthy we’d been rained on for half the journey and been through a hailstorm on Exmoor. There’s a reason it’s all green in Devon.
Despite the next day being wet and windy again, we wrapped ourselves up and went to Boscastle.

Understandably, sight seeing didn’t take long and we were warming ourselves up in the NT café in no time. “National Trust?” I hear you ask. “Haven’t you fallen out with them?” Well, Dear Reader, we thought we ought to give them another chance. And it was the only place open, and it was warm. The information centre itself was very interesting. Lots of local history and archive material along with a whole roomfull of stuff about the flood in 2004 (Yes, 2004!) including videos and interviews with members of the emergency services as well as local residents. Very well presented and very well worth the visit. The tea room however, wasn’t. £3 for a small cheese scone welded to a paper plate is not going to have us rushing back.

We took the coast road back to J&A’s, stopping off for a windswept - and rather abrupt - stroll along the beach.

The next afternoon saw us back up the M5 and back on board with the fire lit by tea time.
The following morning dawned crisp and clear. Bob and Mandy once more came to our aid as we made our way up the Stockton flight.

At the top Ann-Marie provided scones for the crew, who came on board for the short trip round the corner to our mooring at Birdingbury. As soon as we’d tied up Bob drove us all up to the nearby Draycote Reservoir where we walked round the perimeter (lots of binocular action from Bob and Ann-Marie)

and then had lunch in the very good café.

We’d picked Birdingbury as a mooring spot because there was very easy car access and it ticked all our security boxes. This was important because we were going off away for Dave’s 60th birthday celebrations and we were going to be leaving Legend (again) for 10 days. With the water pipes drained and the batteries isolated, we set off in the car to Karen’s where Dave was introduced to his birthday cards and presents. In the evening we all went out for a very nice family meal, followed by a swift swerve into a tiny Tesco on the way home for a Vianetta and some cheese and biscuits. Well, it saves the restaurant having to do all that extra washing up doesn’t it?
We'll tell you all about the rest of his very exciting birthday next time.

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