Thursday, 23 June 2016

Referendum Day.

Thursday 23rd June, 2016 near Newton Harcourt.
A momentous day for this country and for Europe. We spent it cruising gently through beautifully quiet countryside (having voted in the referendum by post).
We left Market Harborough Wharf after breakfast and retraced our steps back to the bottom of Foxton Locks. On the way, we passed Bridge House Barn, a rural, tented, wedding venue, with a rather unusual signpost. We looked up their website and it looks really lovely as a venue with a difference.
Andy was back on duty at the locks and grinned when he saw us. "What, you again?" he said as we moored up at the bottom of the locks. Today the museum was open, so we spent an hour or so there; they've made a lovely job of what was once the boiler house for the 25hp steam engine to drive the inclined plane. However, the finest use of the site would be to reconstruct the inclined plane, a masterpiece of Victorian engineering. What a tourist attraction that would be!
We both admired these two classic motorbikes as we walked back from the Museum. Their owners, two old boys, were very proud of them - and rightly so.
M was also very pleased with the two colourful windmills that she had acquired in the shop and placed amongst the geraniums. R is not so sure....!
By mid afternoon, we set off again and turned west under Rainbow Bridge towards Leicester. Everything north of Foxton Locks is new territory for us to explore. Exciting!
M watched as R and MM disappeared into Saddington Tunnel, while she walked the half mile over the top.
The former horse path was narrow and very overgrown but fairly straight and easy to follow.
That is, until M got to the other end of the tunnel and found that the path was diverted away from the canal and didn't rejoin the canal until the next bridge about half a mile further on.
Thank heavens for mobile phones - so M phoned R, who was waiting patiently at the end of the tunnel. Eventually MM hove into view through the trees; M was mightily relieved!
This is a very rural waterway, with an almost lonely feel; the towpath and even the locks are very overgrown and it feels like you are in the middle of nowhere.
It is also a wide canal, so we shared locks with nb "Norwood" and, when we moored up together in the countryside just outside Newton Harcourt, we shared a bottle of wine with Paul and Tracey on the towpath.
Today: 11 miles, 5 locks and 6.0 hours.
Trip: 121 miles, 64 locks and 94.8 hours.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Foxton Locks and Market Harborough.

Wednesday 22nd June, 2016 in Market Harborough.
It was a dry day and, seizing the chance to be first down the Foxton flight of locks, we decided to forego breakfast and set off. We were the first boat down and we were lucky enough to have the help of Andy, a friendly C&RT chap, down the first flight of five locks. It's a daunting prospect at the top lock because it appears that you are approaching the edge of a cliff, as you can see nothing but the horizon in front of you!
After the first set of five staircase locks, there is a passing place before the second set of five staircase locks. At this half-way point, we passed a boat coming up.
Then another C&RT chap called Dave helped us down the second set of five locks. So, we were down in record time and coming out of the bottom lock in less than forty-five minutes. Good thing that we had gone early, as boats behind us were told that they would have to wait at least an hour to start.
Our reward was breakfast at the café by the top lock; so, after mooring MM up, we walked all the way back up the slope to the top again.
At Foxton, there was once a famous "inclined plane" with two massive counterbalanced 230 ton caissons that ran up and down a 30deg slope on rail tracks. It was opened in 1900 but closed in 1911 due to lack of trade (the railways were cornering the market by this time) and because the rails kept breaking under the weight. It must have been a spectacular sight.
There is now a museum in what used to be the boiler house, but unfortunately today it was closed due to "staff illness". Anyway, we walked down the inclined plane, which is all that is left of the original lift, which was sold for scrap for a paltry £250 in the 1920s. Unbelievable.
They have a very clever "app" that lets you watch the caissons work as you point the screen at the slope. Having looked at it once, we had to show all the other people there!
We paid a brief visit to the shop by the bottom lock (to buy duck food), where our canine friends are well catered for.
Around mid-day, we set off down the short arm to Market Harborough. The waterway was very quiet and overgrown with tall reeds on either side for much of the way.
The wharf basin at the end of the arm is a perfect place to moor for the night. There is a small charge, but it does include the "electric".
The town centre is a mile away but we were glad that we had taken the trouble to walk in. It proved to be a delightful market town with a lovely atmosphere and some fine old buildings including this wonderful old grammar school.
It also had a Waitrose and a Clarks shop having a sale (only two pairs acquired!) so R needed his Costa to build up his strength to carry the "few bits" back to MM!
After dinner, we watched a tern performing remarkable aerobatics before diving vertically down into the water. On about his fifth attempt, he came up triumphantly with a silver fish in his bill.
Today: 10 locks, 5 miles and 3.8 hours.
Trip: 110 miles, 59 locks and 88.8 hours.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Off on our travels once again.

Tuesday 21st June, 2016 at Foxton Locks.
We both slept well and awoke to a peerless morning still moored up in the Yelvertoft Marina. A four footed friend considered joining us for breakfast but then thought better of it.
We had a walk around the marina; it truly is blissfully peaceful here; the nearest road being half a mile away. Very pleasant moorings; we were almost reluctant to leave.
We set off after lunch to the sound of yellowhammers calling. It is three weeks to the day since we moored up here. Our objective for today was to reach the top of Foxton Locks. The cruising was lovely; this is a very quiet and gentle waterway with no locks. Two kingfishers played "tag" with us for over a mile,and we saw the first dragonflies of the season, most of whom seemed to be in mating mode!
On one of the bridges, we were watched closely by a herd of cows heading for the milking parlour.
M walked across the top of Husbands Bosworth tunnel, 1,166 yards long, while R took MM through.The towpath was very overgrown so M was only just able to jump off on a narrow step right by the entrance to the tunnel as MM disappeared.
The old horse path was isolated and narrow, but the countryside all about was lovely.
The path crossed the trackbed of the former London & North Western Railway's Rugby to Peterborough line; what a delightful journey that must once have been.
We moored close to the top of the Foxton flight of locks, two pairs of five "staircase" locks with a passing place in between. A marvellous view from the top but the flight appears dauntingly vertiginous!
Today: 15 miles, 0 locks and 5.7 hours.
Trip: 105 miles, 49 locks and 85.0 hours.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Midsummer's Day and a Strawberry Moon.

Monday 20th June, 2016 in Yelvertoft Marina.
Today, we returned to MM. We left Reigate in the pouring rain - and arrived at Yelvertoft in lovely sunshine. The journey took some time - one bus, three trains and a taxi - but eventually we arrived at about 3.30pm. Across the marina is the blue narrowboat "La Tortuga", owned by our friends Sua and Andrew.
M, who had been fretting that the geraniums in the bow would have dried out in our absence, declared that the weather gods had obviously been kind and rained on them. When we left, they were without any blooms at all but now they have burst into bloom and look lovely. Thank goodness, said M.
It was wonderful to be back on board. We had a lovely time in the Lakes looking after Christine but we did miss MM.
Yelvertoft Marina's publicity "blurb" proclaims it to be a "Rural Idyll". It certainly is blissfully quiet, peaceful and remote. M admired the poppies and the yellow flag iris in bloom.
We enjoyed a gentle afternoon catching up with little domestic chores. R fitted a new lockable fuel cap to deter diesel thieves (twice in the past we have had quantities of diesel syphoned off from MM over the winter).
It was a beautiful evening, beginning with a lovely sunset.
As we were about to go to bed, we saw the moon peeking over the hill behind MM's mooring. We rushed to photograph it but, perversely, just as we walked up the hill, it disapeared behind cloud, never to re-appear. A shame, because this was no ordinary full moon but a so called "Strawberry Moon" - a Full Moon on Mid-Summer's Day - that only occurs every 70 years or so, the last occasion being 1967. It is apparently named "Strawberry" because it marked the beginning of the strawberry season!
We both slept well, occasionally peeping through the bedroom curtains hoping for a glimpse of the moon - but in vain.

Monday, 30 May 2016

The Crick Waterways Show 2016.

Saturday 28 to Monday 30th May, 2016 at the Crick Waterways Show.
We've been at the Crick show a number of times before, both with MM and without, so we did wonder if perhaps three whole days at the show might start to become a bit "samey". Not so; we had three super days enjoying the stalls and exhibits and were delighted to meet and spend time with so many of our friends.
On Saturday, when the show opened at 10:00am, we were first through the gate. Only exhibitors were there before us.
Two hours later, the scene was a bit different!
Saturday, is what the exhibitors call "clip-board day" - serious purchasers who arrive with a list and move from stand to stand making the purchases and enquiries that they need. Sunday is normally families on a day out and is often the busiest day of the show. Monday tends to be the quietest with most people just browsing.
We had a lovely time on Day One. This year is the three hundreth anniversary of the birth of the canal engineering pioneer James Brindley. As is appropriate on such a special occasion, he was kind enough to make a personal appearance and regale us with tales of his exploits and achievements.
Afterwards we attended a fascinating seminar by his biographer Christine Richardson.
We chatted to Barry and Monica Tuckey (whose crane launched MM), Terry Robertson (with whom we did our "Helmsman's Course" in 2009), "Cookie" (who used to work for Kingsground but now works for Barrus) and Glenn of Elite Furnishing (who made the curtains and soft furnishings for MM). Glenn had purchased too many flowers for his stand and very kindly gave the excess to M so she walked around all morning proudly carrying a large bouquet!
In the evening, the headline entertainment was a Blondie tribute band. They were brilliant and having gone over to listen to a "couple of songs", we ended up staying right to the end.
A spectacular sunset rounded off the first day.
On Sunday, we had a series of friends arrive! Mick and Jackie from Dorking, who have nb "Zodiak", Jonathan from Reigate, who has nb "Achilles", Bob and Jan from Long Buckby, who own the Kingsground nb "Barocha" and our lovely friends Richard and Simon who used to work for Kingsground. We seemed to spend a lot of time in the Vintage Tea Room entertaining them.
One of the most successful stands on the show must have been this gentleman, who was a great showman and was selling a very innovative and effective mop.
We must have seen hundreds of people carrying them over the three days - including us, as we bought one too for just a fiver!
Richie and Simon joined us on MM for tea and later Mick and Jackie came on board for supper.
Monday was cool and breezy, but thankfully the rain held off. Mid morning, we were joined by Charles, Penny and Minnie, who had all driven up from London for the day. It was so nice to see them. We started off in the Vintage Tea Room, being entertained by a talented (and gorgeous) 1940's girl duo called "My Favourite Things".
Penny tried her hand at painting roses and did an excellent job.
After a few rides on the fun-fair, both girls enjoyed huge ice-creams.
Minnie did end up wearing quite a lot of hers but was determined to finish every last mouthful, despite losing much of it down her sleeve!
Charles thought that a beautiful hexagonal log cabin, complete with a central fireplace and reindeer skin covers on the seats, would make a brilliant games room.
He said that it would be big enough to hold ALL his board games - he thought that getting all his games out of the house might persuade Emma that the £8,800 price tag was worth it - but R wasn't so sure!
So, Crick 2016 has been absolutely wonderful and huge fun.
Tomorrow, we have to moor up MM in a local marina to go away for three weeks - but we plan to be back cruising by 21st June, so please watch this space...
Tuesday (to Yelvertoft Marina): 2 miles, 0 locks and 2.1 hours.
Trip: 90 miles, 49 locks and 79.3 hours.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Three Relaxing Days before the Show

Wednesday 25th to Friday 27th May, 2016 at Crick.
The three pre-show days were great fun. A general carnival atmosphere prevailed among the boats moored on the towpath two abreast. Better still, the weather was good and forecast to stay that way through the weekend.
On Wednesday, we went for a walk to discover where the old horse path over Crick tunnel used to go. On Tuesday, we had been thwarted by an electric fence just after we passed the old road name.
We tried to access it from the other end and found that the original path was clearly blocked (probably illegally) by the electric fence but there was a rather enjoyable alternative that took us back into the village through tall grass, mud and a series of stiles.
M went for a walk in the afternoon and came across this very silly cow, who was doggedly chewing someone's camera strap inch by inch until it managed to swallow it all! Bet it had tummy ache next day...
On Thursday, we decided to take the bus into Long Buckby and waited for the bus outside the show entrance.
The canal that runs by the Crick marina and show ground is called the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal.
It is a narrow canal, so all the wide-beam boats that are displayed at the show have to be brought in by truck.  As we waited, one the trucks belonging to our friend Barry Tuckey (whose crane launched MM) drove past into the show ground.
Long Buckby was disappointing, so we took a second bus on to historic Buckby Wharf. That was not only disappointing, but almost non-existent; the only remnant being a small bit of brick wall. Everything else has been demolished and replaced by housing. So sad, as it used to be one of the main centres for the boaters and their families. We did pass by the broken lock that we photographed earlier; it had been partially repaired but the gate was fixed shut, so only one gate could be opened to let narrowboats through.
Next to the locks is a canal-side shop in a cottage that was one of the five pubs which used to be on Buckby Wharf - only one of which remains. This Aladdin's Cave of a craft shop is full of painted canal ware and immediately attracted M's attention. Despite our resolve not to acquire any more canal ware, we couldn't resist a beautiful egg safe, hand painted with red roses by the owner, Tricia!
Rather than catch the buses back to Crick, we decided to walk the six miles back on the towpath. As we passed Watford Gap M1 Services, which is next to the canal, M spotted another four "Eddies"!
This year, the buttercups have been truly glorious with field after field a sea of gold.
At Watrord locks, we met up with Peter and Melanie on their narrowboat "Inkling" although when we first saw their boat, their reserve crew was on board patiently waiting for the lock.
Later that day, we joined all four of them for a lovely evening of Pimms, lively conversation and good company.
The historic narrowboat "Nutfield" with its butty "Raymond" were going through the locks and we kept pace with them as they made their way towards Crick when they had reached the summit. A splendid sight indeed.
On Friday morning, we were joined at breakfast by a very persistent duck who seemed to be telling R that she needed feeding too.
We did give her some and she was so tame that she almost took food from R's hand.
In the afternoon, we walked up nearby Crack's Hill, a tree-topped mound with a rather magical feel to it and panoramic views from the top.
For these three days we stayed moored up and didn't move. Three lovely days...