Monday, 23 May 2016

Onto The Leicester Arm.

Monday 23rd May, 2016 at Watford.
Awoke to a pretty morning, cool but clear.  We had caught a glimpse of a very pink sunrise at 4am - but went back to sleep!
We set off early to Norton Junction to fill up with water. The Junction is a beautiful spot, overlooked by the old Toll House with its magnificent Weeping Willow. That would be a lovely place to live!

Only 41 miles to Leicester (and coincidentally - 41 locks). M set off on foot as the first locks are only two miles away.
Along here the canal runs very close to the main north west railway line and the M1 motorway. It passes right by the Watford Gap Services. In fact, M discovered that squeezing through this hole in the hedge takes you straight into the Services. Unfortunately, we also know from past experience that there is no good food shop in the Services. M, however, went through anyway in search of Eddie Stobart trucks. Success! She found two!
This is a lovely stretch of rural waterway; you would never guess from this pastoral scene that the M1 is right behind those trees - but the noise does give it away!
The flight of seven locks at Watford is bordered by huge mature horse chestnut trees, which were in full bloom.
The middle four locks of the flight are a "staircase", where the top gate of one lock is the bottom gate of the next - so boats cannot pass in the middle. Luckily, the locks are manned by C&RT volunteers so there was little for us to do other than to enjoy having help up the locks.
Just above the locks, the canal passes under the horrid M1 thing. At least the guy on the side of the coach seemed cheerful!
We moored up two miles south of Crick in a lovely rural spot. We shall stay here for a couple of nights as our reserved mooring at Crick will not be ready before at least Wednesday. Tomorrow we plan to walk into Crick village to get the usual "few bits" and do some reconnaisance.
As with every evening, R sat down to write up the log for the day - after having coffee and cake, of course!
Heavy rain came from nowhere at about 5:00pm; these twin lambs took shelter under the tree opposite.
Today: 3 miles, 7 locks and 5.9 hours (including power).
Trip: 88 miles, 49 locks and 77.2 hours.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Cheese, Aground and a Change of Plan.

Sunday 22nd May, 2016 at Norton Junction.
By chance, we had moored last night in front of the "Cheese Boat", skippered by Mike. We've bought cheese from him before and luckily he had a stock of R's favourite - the ginger spice cheese from the Snowdonia Cheese Co.
R set off east through Braunston tunnel while M walked over the top, always looking wistfully backwards, sad to be leaving lovely Braunston.
Along the way, she found the first wild rose of the summer. So lovely.
Due to M's customary dawdling, R was already through the tunnel and waiting patiently for M to arrive!
Halfway to Norton Junction, MM ran well and truly aground. No amount of rocking and heaving on the long pole had any effect. The bow was free but the stern seemed to be sitting on a rock.
Even recruiting the help of a passing walker, MM would not budge an inch.
R tried to pull her off with a block and tackle but without success. Eventually a passing hire boat, nb "Eloise", gave us a tow and managed to pull MM off the obstacle and free her at last. The whole process took us at least thirty minutes.
The canal is lined by natural wild flowers of all descriptions - this, however, is a garden escapee.
We found a mooring just before Norton Junction, with lovely far-reaching views over the fields.
Blue tits were nesting in a tiny hole in the tree next to us and flying in and out to feed their young.
Our plan had been to go down the Grand Union Canal to Stoke Bruerne (down 7 locks and about 15 miles) and back, before going up to Crick for the IWA show next weekend; however, we heard that the flight of 7 Buckby Locks was closed due to a broken gate on the second lock down.
We walked along to investigate and found that the top gate on Lock 8 was lying on its side.
It appears that the owner of the narrowboat on that side, while in the lock, had gone below to make a cup of tea. The boat had drifted forwards and as the lock filled and the boat rose, the bow got caught under the gate and lifted it off its hinges. This has not gone down well with the Canal & River Trust chaps, who now have to work against the clock to repair the gate so that all those boats stuck south of the flight can make it to their reserved moorings at the Crick Boat Show next weekend.
It is expected to take three of four days to fix, so we have had to change our plans and just take it easy for a few days before going up to the show.
On the way back to MM, we admired this house with an old railway signal set to "Go" in its back garden. M says she wants one like it! We also admired the old-fashioned street lamp.  And, believe it or not, the garden also had a red letter box!  Marvellous!
So, we had a quiet afternoon and were rewarded with a beautiful sunset with the silhouette of a cow reflected in the water.

Just when we thought that it couldn't get any better, the sunset set the horizon on fire. This has to be one of the most spectacular sunsets that we have seen.
Today: 3 miles, 0 locks and 2.9 hours.
Trip: 85 miles, 42 locks and 71.3 hours.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Scott and Family Visit.

Saturday 21st May, 2016 east of Braunston
Father swan came knocking impatiently at the window for his breakfast!
So, after feeding him and his family the last of our duck food, we set off to the Gongoozler's Rest for our own breakfast. The last Gongoozler's superb breakfasts this trip!
This afternoon, we are expecting M's "second son", Scott, and his family, to come for a visit and a short cruise. This will be the third time that they have come to find us when we've been in Braunston. M spotted them from the bridge as they walked from the car park.
We welcomed them with tea and cake!
Young Lachlan took the tiller as we set off up the flight of six locks above Braunston. He really needs a box to stand on to see where he is going - but he still did admirably!
We shared the six wide locks with nb "Bear Necessities" - very topical at the moment, with the recent remake of the film.
As we had a pair of narrowboats in front of us and another pair behind us in the locks, we were not short of hands to help with the locks; however, Amelia and Lachlan were keen to help with the bottom gate on the first lock while Scott looked on.
One jolly gentleman from one of the boats behind us was sporting a very nautical Admiral's hat (with parrot). He's from Australia and he comes here every year to holiday on the canals - complete with appropriate headgear!
Meanwhile Amelia and Lachlan finished opening the top gate of the first lock.
Then they turned their attention to winding the paddles on the third lock by the Admiral Nelson pub.
Time for a chat while the lock fills. We were all in waterproofs, as it was cool and showery.
Lachlan decided to ride on MM between the locks.
But then got off and was determined to open the lock gate unaided. A Herculean effort - well done! Especially since these gates are particularly heavy...
When we reached the top of the locks, we moored up MM and walked back to Braunston marina with them.
On the way, R explained to them the way that the grooves in the iron strips, protecting the corners of the bridge, had been cut by the horses' tow ropes over hundreds of years in the days before narrow boats had motors.
Finally, we said farewell in the car park at Braunston marina. It's always lovely to see them and sad when they go.
Guy was particularly downcast to see them leave!
Today: 1 mile, 6 locks and 2.5 hours.
Trip: 82 miles, 42 locks and 68.4 hours.

Friday, 20 May 2016

An Angry Duck and a Happy Reunion.

Wednesday 18th to Friday 20th May, 2016 at Braunston.
We stayed around Braunston for three days without going too far; we are in no hurry and we do love this little village.
The days passed quietly and happily, visits to the Gongoozler's Rest and the village community tea room being mandatory.
Friday had a rather dramatic start. M, while sitting quietly with her early morning tea, noticed movement in the long grass under the hedge beside the towpath and resolved to investigate when she was dressed. However, she was too late; a dog passing with its owner made a dive for the spot and emerged wth a female duck in its mouth. The owner shouted at the dog, the duck managed to get free and flew off, squawking loudly. Later, M went to investigate and saw the poor creature had made a nest and had been sitting on an egg.
Not surprisingly, the duck did not return.
It appears that another calamity had befallen the local feathered population - our local family of swans had six cygnets yesterday - today, they only had five.
However, Mr and Mrs Duck were waiting beside MM hoping to be fed some corn. He was quite shy, but she fixed us with a steely stare as if to say, "Get on with it!"
As these are 48 hour limited moorings and we had already stayed two nights, being responsible boaters (!), we decided to move down the canal. However, M had just pegged out the washing and there was a bridge to go through. It looked as if it should make it ... but it was a very tight fit!
Friday was our last chance to stock up in the big Waitrose in Daventry, so in the afternoon, we took the bus into town for a "Few Bits".
When M lived in Daventry, she had a good friend called Pat Manchester, whom she had not seen since she left 28 years ago (although they have always kept in touch). On an impulse, M knocked on Pat's door as we were passing - and she was in!
They were thrilled to see each other again after so long and the three of us spent a very happy hour having a catch up.
Three Days: 9.6 hours power only.
Trip: 81 miles, 36 locks and 65.9 hours.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Farewell to Jon and Panutcha

Tuesday 17th May, 2016 in Braunston.
We have been so lucky with the weather for Jon and Panutcha's anniversary visit. Yet another pretty morning.
Daddy Swan decided that we should provide some breakfast for his young family, so he knocked firmly at the window to get our attention.
So, we obliged and fed them the last of our special wildfowl food.
Jon and Panutcha arrived about 9:30 and we set off for the Gongoozler's Rest, where Jon treated us to breakfast - what a treat!
This is definitely our favourite place for breakfast (and, when possible, second breakfast!).
After breakfast, we walked up to the village with them to pick up their car. On the way, as we walked over the canal, we ended up playing "pooh sticks" with the little ducklings that were chasing after their mother. Unfortunately, as they all looked the same, we don't know who won!
The walk from the canal to the village crosses a beautiful meadow full of buttercups.
In the High Street, they stopped off in the family butcher to buy some bacon and other bits. The butcher's shop is well known to the boating community and has an excellent and well deserved reputation.
Finally we said farewell to them outside their lovely B&B cottage.
We walked back to the canal once more through the field of buttercups. To follow this path is almost irresistible!
We had a quiet afternoon, which included a short walk across the fields and a visit to the marina office to try (unsuccessfully) to replenish our stock of wildfowl food.
The sunset behind the spire of St. Peter's Church rounded off the day beautifully.
We enjoyed the last few days with Jon and Panutcha so very much. For us, the greatest pleasure was seeing the joy on their faces and the delight which so many aspects of our boating life afforded them.  It truly has been a very special time.
Today: 4.4 hours for power.
Trip: 81 miles, 36 locks and 56.3 hours.