Friday 24 October 2014

Ashby Canal, Coventry Canal. Stoke Golding to Hartshill.

As this is supposed to be a boating blog, rather than a catalogue of our social gatherings, here’s a few of the things we’ve done to improve Legend just recently.
There are some very nice Turk’s Head knots on the Swan-neck along with a new tiller tassel.
The tiller tassel attaches to the tiller-pin that goes through the hole in the tiller arm when it is on the tiller, keeping it in place. We don’t have a hole, therefore we can’t have a pin, but Dave made a tassel anyway. If we ever find something that we think would make a pretty tiller-pin, then no doubt a hole will be drilled. That will be an interesting exercise; a perfectly vertical hole through 1½” mild steel bar. Don’t hold your breath.
There’s a new tray that fits on top of the rear slide while we’re cruising along for holding phones, maps, cups of tea etc. and has posts for the centre ropes. Very usefull.

Inside, we’ve swapped the lights in the bedroom for those in the dining room. One of the first things we did when we bought the boat, and something we’d encourage anyone else to do too, was to change all the halogen bulbs for “warm white” LEDs. However, as is the way with all things marine, you can’t just go on line and order the cheapest ones. Unlike a house, where 12volt power comes from a transformer and is constant, the voltage on a boat can vary between 11.7v and 14.6v depending on what else is happening, so our bulbs have a built-in voltage regulator and can cope with anything from 10v to 30v. (That means they would even be suitable for a 24volt system, should we ever feel the need to change.) Which of course meant they weren’t cheap, and there were 20 of them, so we got the smallest ones that each of the fittings would accept. This meant that the bulbs in the main cabin only had 6 little cubes each, while the 3 bigger fittings in the bedroom had 12. Most of the fiddly, intricate stuff that goes on in the boat, be it needlework, model-making, painting little things, knotting, beading or what-have-you, always goes on at the dining room table so that’s where the brightest lights ought to be. We’ve known this fact for 3½ years and finally got round to doing something about it.

Of course it wasn’t just a straight swap – the holes were completely different sizes - which meant making a) some conversion plates for the bigger holes and b) an inordinate amount of sawdust with a hole-saw all over the bedroom for the smaller ones. It has been worth it though and another step closer to getting Legend just perfect.

Kim and Luke live near Nuneaton so have been regular visitors since we came onto the Coventry, and will remain so right into next year when we head out to Northampton and the River Nene. They’ve agreed to store our planters and flower tubs over winter after Legend has been out of the water to give the roof paint a chance to harden off properly. That is, of course, if it’s not too cold to actually paint it. It’s only three weeks away so we’ve got our fingers crossed. We come out on Halloween, we’ve booked a survey for Saturday morning after which we’ve got until the following Friday to black the bottom, paint the roof and do anything else we have time for. Our insurance company want a survey doing every 6 years as the boat will be over 25 years old at the next renewal date, Coombswood hire out the slipway by the week, so it makes senses to do as much as we can while we’re out of the water in a shed. Being in a shed means we can’t light the fire, but this time we’ll be prepared, Norm and Jude have offered to lend us a couple of oil filled radiators and we’ll borrow a fan heater as well. Toasty!

Kim and Luke are in the process of buying their house, so there’s plenty of DIY to do. Dave gave Luke a hand to dry-line the small bedroom to make a nursery for George and he’ll help with the coving at some point as well. Luke wouldn’t usually need any help, but he’s just had surgery, so he’s not fully up to speed at the moment. All this visiting meant that Ann-Marie got lots of baby cuddles with George, and it meant we got to watch the final of Bake-Off at the same time as everyone else.

Anne’s daughter Jen was at home when we went to pick up our post and we realised that she’d never been to see the boat, so the next morning they both followed us back to Stoke Golding for a day on board. We went on a 6 hour cruise all the way to the end of the Ashby, turned right onto the Coventry, through Nuneaton and pulled up at Hartshill, just by the maintenance yard and its beautiful clock tower. Yes, right where we’d visited Happy Daze the week before. Jen was very impressed with it all.

Hartshill was a very useful mooring; there was a little car park right by the bridge and a water point, both of which we made full use of before we left. 
Karen, Andrew and Ben came up one evening and we all went out for a meal. It would be nice to say that it was our scintillating company that persuaded them to sit in a car for six hours, or perhaps the attraction of the menu at the Stag & Pheasant (Lasagne, Spag bol or pizza.) but no. Ben was sussing out universities and Derby was on his list, so after looking around the halls and campus we were deemed to be worth a half hour diversion at least.  Don’t think for a moment that we were at all disappointed in the pub, we’re great fans of a limited menu; we’d much rather peruse three choices written in chalk on a blackboard in words we understand, knowing that everything has been cooked today no more than 20 feet from our table, than flick through endless leather-bound pages of meaningless adjectives describing a freezer full of boil-in-the-bag, overpriced scrag-end. We can happily report that Italian Night (every Saturday) at the Stag & Pheasant is worth a visit, as is Curry Night (every Monday) when we went with Chloe.  Just don’t expect soup.

Kim, Luke and George joined us when we boated from Hartshill down the beautifully kept Atherstone flight to Polesworth. It was George’s first proper boating day and he thoroughly enjoyed all the wavy water and the ducks, although what he seemed to enjoy most was our mattress and a throbbing Lister; this he made abundantly clear by sleeping for two hours on the former while less than three feet from the latter.
We reckon he’s got diesel in his veins.

Polesworth is a lovely spot;
it’s got shops a short walk away, there’s good parking and it’s very sheltered (a fact we were thankful of when the tail-end of Hurricane Gonzalo came along). It used to be surrounded by coal mines, the remains of which, and their associated spoil heaps, are now nature reserves with some lovely walks through them.

At the top of one of the old slag heaps is this.
It is made to look like thousands of gold leaves on top of each other, we think it might represent the wealth made by the ancient forest that metamorphosed into coal under the ground here, but it could just as easily be a massive tooth-pick. This is what it looks like from the bottom.
And this is what Ann-Marie looked like taking that photo. 

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Coventry canal. Snarestone to Stoke Golding

September 2014 will be remembered for the seemingly endless succession of parties, all of which were tremendous fun, full of our most favourite people and made us feel all loved up and special. They were also all miles away, but no matter, we would have gone wherever they were.
First there was the Bourne Borderers reunion. Everyone who had been involved with the best Border Morris side in the country since it started 22 years ago, including us, had been invited for a day of meeting old friends, chatting and dancing. After a practice session at Edenham village hall in the morning where we ate copious amounts of cake and learnt four dances in quick succession,

we upped sticks (quite literally!) to the Wishing Well Inn in Dyke to perform them.
The afternoon was spent back in the hall with more cake, more dancing and more chatting with new and old friends. Later on, just when we thought we couldn’t eat another thing, dinner was dished up, and we found that - if we tried really hard - we could.

Our very good friends Andrew and Karen generously provided accommodation for us so we spent a brilliant evening in their company, along with several other side members, most of who turned up with various musical instruments. Tiddly Pom, here we go, there we go.

In the morning we went to Bateman’s brewery where Frankie and Harry got married. This was because Dawn was celebrating her birthday in the camping field and a bunch of our old 2cv mates were there to help her along. As we were passing… We stopped to give Dawn her prezzie, had a carvery with Wiltz and Annie, had a chat, sat round a brazier in the sunshine; all the usual stuff.

On the way home, just before we got back to Legend, we stopped on the road to pick up a sizable piece of Ash that we’d noticed a couple of days previously while out walking. We’re not lighting the fire yet, but we weren’t leaving that behind.

During the week we were in the car almost as much as the boat. As well as a run up to Anne’s for post, we went down to Mum and Dad’s in Fleet. We picked Lauren up and we all went out for lunch, and then dropped Lauren off at Wendy’s before coming home again. It’s good to be far enough south so that we can get down to Hampshire and back in a day. 

The next weekend we were back in the east for Tony and Jan’s anniversary horkey. A horkey is a party where the guests provide the entertainment and as Tony and Jan are the backbone of Pig Dike Molly, who Ann-Marie used to dance with, the guests were more than happy to oblige. There were songs, poems, musical recitals, ceilidh dances and more. Dave performed his self-penned spoonerised version of Cinderella – Rindercella and her su tuggly isters –  always popular, always a hit. He keeps saying he’s not doing it anymore, but as soon as he stands up and the audience hushes his alter-ego “The Tory Seller” takes over and it’s show time.
“Thank you, you’ve been great, I’m here till Thursday. There’s still tickets left for the meat raffle from Maureen behind the bar, Goodnight, enjoy the scampi.”

It goes without saying that there was enough food to supply a troop ship. Even after multiple return trips to the buffet we still came home with more than we took and found ourselves eating hastily assembled broccoli and tofu sandwiches on a nocturnal blast along the A47. At some ungodly hour we finally got back to Snarestone and our little boat, tired - as Enid Blyton would say - but happy.

Our activities during that week included picking a bucket full of rose hips, hawthorn berries, elderberries, blackberries and sloes and then turning them all into hedgerow jelly while moving the boat to Market Bosworth,
where Kim came for the afternoon with Baby George.
We also went for a lovely walk following the Leicestershire Round and the Ivanhoe Way and boated to a terrific mooring on the off-side just after the Shenton aqueduct, right next to a row of sloe bushes and a wild apple tree.
Another week and another trip eastward for another reunion. This one was for the SpaLding APpellation DAnce SHow, aka Slapdash; Ann-Marie’s Tuesday night dancing club.
There were more ceilidh dances, more friends, more food, as well as some performances of appellation dance, two of which featured a rather surprised Ann-Marie in borrowed shoes.
Despite several invitations to stop over we elected, one again, to attack the A47 armed only with quiche, sausage rolls and a box of assorted buns.

After a short but sound night’s sleep we were off again; this time to Bob and Mandy’s boat launch.
Bob and Mandy belong to Bourne Borderers, they’ve had many, many hire-boat holidays and always wanted to get a boat of their own to live on. They came to see us on Legend a couple of years ago to pick our brains, we had a lovely day boating on the GU although we don’t think we had much to teach them; they’d already done far more boating than we had and had a pretty good idea of what they wanted.
Their boat is called Matilda Blue, it’s 6 years old, 70’ long, gas-free, and very smart. They had a launch party at the Narrowboat Inn at Weedon where they bought it, and in their first afternoon of ownership had more people on board than we’ve ever had. They treated everyone to lunch in the pub, then in two shifts we all had a cruise to the next windy hole and back. Dave had a go on the tiller; it’s been a long time since he’s had 70’ of boat in front of him, but he managed to not disgrace himself, and is unrepentantly adamant that stuffing the bow into the bushes whilst winding full length is unavoidable and perfectly acceptable.  Of course that depends on where you’re sitting at the time.
Ann-Marie made them a card, and Dave made a Tiller Pin Tassel.
So we’ve now got more boating friends. Whoo-hoo! They’re heading in our direction; they’ll be going through Hawksbury, Marston and  Fazely on their way to the BCN and ultimately Tewksbury so they should come past us when we’re on the Coventry in a few weeks.

Richard, Katherine, Kieran and Leila came for the day while we boated from Shenton to Stoke Golding.
They’d not been before and the kids were fascinated by the whole affair. They wanted to know how everything worked, what everything did and how we did everything in such a little house.  Kieran even had a go at steering, despite not really grasping the principal and not being able to see over the roof. There was no-one coming the other way. Well, no-one in a bigger boat.
While we were still within striking distance we went to have a look at the Bosworth Battlefield site, a beautifully landscaped hilltop where, up until the 1960s, it was thought that the most important battle in the War of the Roses took place, where the last of the Plantagenet Kings was overthrown and where the Reign of Tudor began. It has recently been proven that if you’d stood on this hilltop when the battle was taking place, you’d have had a panoramic view of the three armies beating the heck out of each other on the marshy plains below. Still, it’s a very evocative place to be, and all rather sobering when you consider that the industrial revolution that caused the canal to be dug started in earnest about 250 years ago, and the battle between armour-clad, mace-wielding nutters took place a mere 250 years before that.

In the afternoon we drove down to Hartshill on the Coventry canal, a short hop down the road, where the lovely Happy Daze was moored with Lindsay, Paul and happy Jack on board.
Jack had been to the vets recently, so it was good to see him almost back to his old self. We had tea and cake, followed by a walk up the hill where we were treated to a wonderful view over Leicestershire with the Derbyshire hills in the distance. In the evening we all went to the Anchor for dinner. It was a lovely day and we really didn’t want to leave. Legend will be at Hartshill in a couple of weeks, by which time Happy Daze will be the other side of Braunston and heading down the GU. Such is boating; you make the most of fleeting visits.

Cassiobury Park to Copper Mill Lock. Grand Union Canal.

Leaving our mooring at Cassiobury Park turned into a bit of a pa-lava. First we had to wait for a pair of community boats full of very enthu...