Autumn has definitely arrived; we’ve got a fire in most days, Dave’s been out wombling for wood, and Ann-Marie has pulled all the summer veg plants out and replaced them with spring bulbs.
After a day of rain, a wet grass and muddy walk over to Temple Balsal left us both with wet feet. We live in our walking boots - Dave especially - even really good ones rarely last more than 3 years and at the end of last winter we knew we’d both be needing new ones before long.
A couple of days later, with some help from the CRT volunteer lock keepers, we climbed up the beautiful Knowle locks and moored up just before Kixley Lane bridge.
Another lovely mooring and the best place for access to the town. We really like Knowle, the people
are friendly and the town is the perfect size to be big enough to be useful without being soul-less.
The idea of getting wet feet again finally over came our trepidation about shoe shopping in a time of Covid, so we gritted our loins and girded our teeth and drove into Solihull to buy new walking boots. Despite the stress of trying boots on while wearing a face mask and trying to maintain social distance, it wasn't quite as horrific as we’d expected, and we both managed to find a pair we were happy with in Millets, which was the first shop we went in.
The following morning Martin and Yvonne were coming to see us on their way to Hawne Basin. When they’re not on Evolution over winter, they take their gas bottles home to use at the cottage, so between us we’d hatched a cunning plan. They could bring their spare full gas bottle with them and sell it to us, then they could take our empty one to Hawne for exchange and take it home. We’d also arranged to give them our remaining wooden garden chair. After the other one got stolen at Stourport there didn’t seem much point only having one. So when they drove down Kixley lane to the little parking spot, they found Dave waiting for them, sat on a chair next to a gas bottle on a sack truck. Oh how we laughed.
Ann-Marie had made a delicious orange and almond cake and, because we were in tier 2 and our guests weren’t allowed inside, we made take-away coffee and took a picnic down to the top of the locks where we sat on the gates and admired the view.
In the morning Dave did a quick early morning run into Knowle for some bread rolls, then we set off with a big day’s boating ahead. First the ten mile summit from Knowle to Camp Hill with the water about eight inches below where it should have been. We’d phoned CRT about the low water when we first got to the top, and we’d asked a couple of the maintenance team guys what was going on, and the consensus seemed to be that there was a leak somewhere but until it gets bigger they won’t be able to find it. It didn’t cause us any major problems though. It was slow going sometimes - to avoid making a wash - and we cloncked over the bottom more than once going through bridge holes, but there was very little traffic, we only passed two boats going the other way, so keeping to the middle was easy.
The next morning we had a lovely walk back to Chelmsley Wood through Water Orton...
...and some very pleasant urban parks and were back at the boat just in time for lunch. In the afternoon, because the pub’s all night flood lights were a bit bright, we moved up through the next bridge.
We stayed at Curdworth for the full fortnight, there were some lovely autumnal days when we got out for walks, and we had a drive over to Wenlock to spend a day with Alison and pick up the new engine bits that had arrived. It began to look likely that there was going to be another lockdown, so while we could still travel, we went down to Mum and Dad’s to fit the carpet tiles in the hallway...
The carpet fitting went quite well. Dave started on Friday while Ann-Marie helped Mum with her new raised bed in the garden, then we all had fish and chips at Karen’s in the evening.
On Saturday Dave finished the carpet tiles and started on the six threshold strips. They were a bit of a pain because the screws were too short, but once Dad came up with some longer ones it was all fine.
After lunch on the Sunday we set off home via Aldermaston where Ken and Annie were moored on Ceilidh. It was really good to catch up with them as we hadn’t seen them for ages.
The next day we turned the boat round. This killed two birds with one stone; first it meant we could go the the nearest tap and fill up, and second it put the chimney on the towpath side so Dave could fit the new stainless steel chimney liner and clean up the side of the boat where the old galvanised liner had leaked sooty tar all down it.
Always nice to do something exciting!
On Friday afternoon, after a rather wet week, Dave took the old rusty flue pipe out ready to go over to Ernie the Welder in the morning.
Of course it also meant that we only used about a foot of the new pipe and we’ve now got to find somewhere to keep what’s left. Dad’s garage perhaps?
As soon as he got back , Dave got on with putting the pipe back in so that we could have a fire again. He used mineral fibre insulation to make up the gap between the pipe and the collar and sealed up the joints with high temperature mastic.
Unfortunately we had to then leave it for 24 hours for the mastic to cure, so that meant another evening under the duvet, this time with the electric blanket, pizza and wine. It’s a a hard life.
Dave was up early to paint the flue and the stove top with stove paint, then we went off for a day with Laura and Alison on Wenlock Edge. Anne joined us there for Laura’s lovely Lamb curry and left with some cushions. (It’s a long story. Short version: L&A are swapping the cushions on their new corner unit. Anne is building a new sofa and needs cushions.)
When we got back home we lit a couple of small fires to cure the paint properly, followed by a proper fire to finally get the boat warm again.
To be fair we were really lucky with the weather, we had no heating for three days around Halloween and only got slightly chilly. Halloween is our First Kiss anniversary, and although we didn’t have our usual warm hats and coats towpath barbecue surrounded by candles, we’ll still remember this one.