Tuesday 28 February 2017

Ashby Canal. Basin Bridge to Stoke Golding (Via Sutton Cheney)

Our flight from Gatwick for Caleb’s christening was interesting. First, upon boarding the plane, Ann-Marie couldn’t find her passport or phone. We thought she’d left them at the departure gate so she was escorted off the plane to try and find them. While she was gone Dave rang her phone and discovered it was in a pocket in her handbag that she never uses! Once she’d suffered the walk of shame down the aisle back to her seat we took off for a very fast and lumpy flight over the Irish sea and landed in Belfast half an hour early.
Chloe and Shandy only live about ten minutes from Belfast International so as soon as we landed we gave them a call. Twenty minutes later Chloe rang us back to say that as there was no-one waiting at Belfast City, she was now on her way to the right airport. We went back into arrivals for a coffee.

The christening and the days around it were fabulous. Every day more relatives arrived and by the weekend Chloe had a house full with the overspill in a rented cottage. On Saturday evening we had a big chilli dinner with 14 happy people round the table, then on the Sunday morning Chloe and Shandy did a scrummy Ulster Fry for a similar number. After that we all got into our Sunday best and convoyed off to the chapel where Caleb got put into a dress and had about a million photos taken.

The afternoon celebration was at the golf club and carried on well into the evening with a further extension back at Chloe’s.
It was brilliant to see all Shandy’s family again and it was sad to have to leave the next day. By co-incidence Jan, Paul, Sue and Brenda were all on our flight back so we had a nice bit of time with them before we took off and said goodbye in baggage reclaim at Gatwick.

Before returning to Legend we drove down to Portsmouth for a night with Fran & Sean. Elaine and Steve came over and joined us for dinner and we spent a lovely evening eating and chatting. In the morning we said goodbye and returned to Gatwick. Frankie and Harry had five hours between landing from Belfast and taking off again for Bordeaux, so we whisked them out of the airport and took them for a pub lunch. Frankie said she felt like a naughty school girl playing truant.

Back at the boat it was the all too familiar routine of fire lighting, generator running, shopping putting-away and an early night with hot water bottles.
Next morning we were back in boat mode; wood wombling, a short move up the cut to Stoke Golding and a squelchy walk back down the towpath to retrieve the car. No matter how exciting and adventurous our trips away are, it’s always nice to be home.

We had a last trip out to Great Haywood for an afternoon of ginger nuts and coffee with the Margees before they leave their mooring. Mick & Pip from Nb Lillyanne came over and joined us. (Pip's blog is well worth a read; her output is far more prolific than ours, and she's far more eloquent too.) The idea of leaving the snuggly cabin of Large Marge and going out for a walk was discussed more then once but each time, upon looking out of the window at the grey and blustery weather, the idea of more coffee and ginger nuts seemed a lot more desirable.

We also had a last trip to see Bob and Mandy at Debdale before they tucked their boat up for six weeks and headed off to New Zealand.
We are terribly jealous; NZ is the one place we’ve been that we’d rather go back to than going somewhere new. We had a lovely walk down the Leicester Arm to Foxton locks and back and probably babbled on about NZ far more than necessary.

Continuing our life of owning a narrowboat, but not spending very much time on it, we had a weekend in Essex with Martin and Yvonne. In the morning before we left, Dave put the gennie on for a bit which upset the fridge, causing it to detect a voltage surge (which there wasn’t, the fridge is just too sensitive sometimes). Anyway, we turned the fridge off, intending to switch it back on again just before we departed, and it was only when we were half an hour down the A5 that we remembered. We could have turned round but as the ambient temperature was due to hover around 3˚C all weekend we chose the crossed fingers option. As soon as we arrived at Marin and Yvonne’s they sat us down for lunch, then we were out for a  lovely walk in their local woods and fields. We got back just in time to watch the rugby, while those non-rugby watching types disappeared into the kitchen to make cheese.
Something got lost in translation between recipe and mixing bowl so it didn’t quite curd properly and ended up as a slightly coarse cream cheese which, with the addition of garlic and herbs, was decidedly nicer than the mozzarella that it was supposed to have been.
It was delicious anyway, especially with Yvonne’s home-made rosemary crackers.  We like to think we’re quite active, but these two put us to shame. Before we got up the next morning Yvonne had already been out on her bike and Martin was busy designing the new house that they are planning to build in their garden. Next day was a lovely long eleven mile round walk from Honey Tye through the Suffolk countryside.

 We stopped for a picnic in the vestry of St Stephen’s chapel, then went out to have a look at Bures dragon on the other side of the valley.

In the afternoon we came across this, which has Lister written on the side of it, Dave thought it might be part of some sort of water pump, but we really have no idea of what it is.

We drove back to Legend with our fingers still crossed, but we needn't have worried, the frozen stuff was still frozen, and nothing in the fridge looked any worse than it had when we left. So, we now know that as long as it’s not going to be too warm, we can switch the fridge off for a day or two with no ill effects. Handy.

We noticed a while ago that the driver’s seat in the car was leaning to one side so, as we had a nice car park close to the boat at Stoke Golding, Dave decided the time had come to find out what had happened. What should have been a simple job requiring the removal of two bolts and lifting the seat out took all morning and involved carefully drilling the bolts out and recovering the threads, but fortunately he discovered that with the judicial use of a welder it could be fixed. 
That afternoon we walked round the southern half of the Ambion Way.
A couple of days later we tackled the northern half, which included Shenton Station and Bosworth Battlefield.

That afternoon we went over to Kim and Luke’s to say hello and to attack the car seat with Luke’s welder. The drive back to the boat was a lot smoother!

We've worked out a timetable for the boat moves we need to do to get us into Hawne Basin for our bottom blacking week at Easter and realised we don’t need to kill any more time by going further up the Ashby. It is a lovely canal and we do like spending time on it, but there seemed little point in rushing up to the end and back, so we went as far as Sutton Cheney and turned round. The turn was text-book perfect, however reversing back to the water point had its moments! After we’d filled up and emptied out we tied up on the 1 hour moorings outside the cafĂ© and went for a shower in the amenities block, hoping that they’d be nice and hot and powerful. They were none of those, but we saved a bit of gas by using them. We had lovely sunny afternoon with  hardly any wind, and as we boated back to Stoke Golding spring was definitely in the air.

Friday 10 February 2017

Coventry Canal. Ashby Canal. Hawkesbury Junction to Basin Bridge.

By no means could our time at Hawkesbury Junction be described as wasted. First there was a day spent making marmalade...
...whilst at the same time cutting and splitting all the remaining ash that we had on the roof. The next day Diane came to visit, which of course involved cake, scones and craftiness. That evening we went over to Lindsay and Paul’s boat and had a takeaway. We were going to go out for a meal to celebrate Lindsay’s birthday, but they’d had to take poor little Jack to the vet’s and were waiting for a phone call to say they could go and get him. It wasn’t quite the celebration it should have been, but it was good that we were able to be there and be a bit of support for them. (Good news - a week later Jack is almost back to his old self.) Lindsay had once again very kindly put our licence discs through her photo editor and we were very impressed with the results.

In the morning we were up early for another of our road trips. Going away from the boat in the winter requires planning. All the pipes from the water tank to the taps have to be drained to prevent them from freezing. Because we have a gas water heater this involves one of us opening the drain valve while the other one blows into the hot tap in the kitchen. Ideally we’d have emptied the freezer so we could turn the power off but there was still stuff in it. Plan b was to run the gennie for a couple of hours with the fridge on its coldest setting and the battery charger on, then turn the fridge to its least cold setting just before we left. The forecast was for temperatures between -2˚C and +4˚C, so hopefully, even with only a small amount of sunshine, the solar panels would be able to keep up with the power  drain.  As we knew we’d be coming back at dusk to a cold boat, we let the fire go out then set it again so we’d be warm as quickly as possible.

Our first port of call was Bristol to see Dave’s sister Anne. In the afternoon we had a walk through the city and round the floating harbour.

That evening there just happened to be a lantern parade in the city; local junior schools, playgroups and nurseries had all come together to form a brightly lit musical carnival that snaked through the streets just as dusk was falling. We had a quick half in the Spotted Cow while we waited for it to start, then followed the parade through the streets to the finish.

The amount of effort that had gone into constructing all the various illuminations was quite moving.
On the way back to Anne's bedsit, we came across this...
"Help Yourself Fresh Bayleaves"

...which was very serendipudosious as we'd run out about a week before.

Leaving Bristol the following morning we carried on into the West Country to a little village near Bude, where our old friends Jacqui and Al have bought a beautiful cottage.

We had an evening of catching up and they taught us how to play 5 Crowns. Great game!

Another morning and another sunny drive westward, this time to Sancreed, near Land’s End to see Kate, another of Dave’s sisters. We had posh fish finger sandwiches at Sennen Cove with Kate and Rod, followed by a stroll along the beach...

...then we all went over to Land’s End to watch the sunset.

After dinner back at Kate’s flat we sat down and played Cluedo which, despite Dave’s best attempts at cheating, Ann-Marie won, with Kate hot on her heels.

In the morning we filled up the screenwash bottle for the third time in as many days and set off up the A30 back towards the metropolis. We popped in for a cuppa with John on our way, then left sunny Cornwall behind. By the time we got to Karen’s it was foggy and cold again.
We’d gone to Karen’s because the following morning at 6am we were working at Heathrow. Not quite as glamorous as you might imagine, we were counting passengers boarding and alighting the Heathrow Express deep in the bowels of the airport.
We finished at 2pm and drove back to the boat via the chippy at Brinklow (excellent cod & chips). Within an hour of getting back we’d got the fire lit, refilled the water pipes, had dinner and were in bed with hot water bottles watching catch-up. The plan for the batteries had worked and they were at 12.9 volts. Very impressive.

On a cold and sunny morning we left Hawkesbury and headed north up the Coventry canal to Marsworth Junction where we turned right onto the Ashby.
 On the way we came across a boat that had come loose and was half way across the cut.
On inspection, after we’d pulled over and hauled it back in, we found that it still had a piling hook (sometimes called a nappy pin) attached to the back rope; either it hadn’t been hooked onto the Armco properly or, more likely as we were on the outskirts of Nuneaton, some jovial young prankster had unhooked it.
As we came past Burton Hastings the clouds gathered and the sun started to disappear. We pulled up at the next likely looking spot at Goodacres Bridge and had lunch while we decided what we were going to do in the afternoon.
Our view at Goodacres Bridge

As the weather was still OK we plumped for moving the car forward to Basin Bridge where there was a very handy car park.

When sold our house, we gave Digs and Bailey, our two cats, to Mum & Dad. Digs died about four years ago and on the walk back for the car, we got the very sad news that Bailey, after using up far more than nine lives, had gone to join her. He’d lived with Mum & Dad almost as long as he’d lived with us and they were really upset, but we all agreed that at seventeen he’d had a good innings and he’d been on borrowed time for six months or so. He was a fabulous cat, everyone’s best mate and the world is a sadder place without him.

After one night at Goodacres Bridge we moved up to Basin Bridge where the car was parked. 
Dave had a clear-out in the engine room then went wombling for firewood while Ann-Marie started sewing up the jumper that she’d knitted for Caleb. About six weeks previously Ann-Marie had injured her wrist by a combination of twisting it while pulling a lock gate followed by some feverish cross-stitching, all of which had resulted in a Repetitive Strain Injury and a period of wearing a splint. That afternoon she tried knitting again and happily reported it to be pain free in short bursts.

We’d only been back at the boat for a week and we were off again. Unlike the spur of the moment Cornwall trip, this time we’d had a fair amount of time to organise ourselves. That meant we’d eaten all the food in the freezer (the final few meals had been interesting to say the least) so just before we left we could isolate the domestic batteries and leave them connected to the solar panels. Once again we set the fire, but as the forecast didn’t have any sub-zero numbers on it we didn’t have to drain the water pipes.

Our off-boat travels this time were to Antrim to celebrate Caleb’s Christening. We’ll tell you all about it next time and try not to bombard you with hundreds of pictures of the most gorgeous baby in the world. 

Well, Dear Reader, here we are in 2024. A very happy new year to you, may all your hopes and wishes be granted. Christmas was a very merry a...