Tuesday, 30 October 2012

God Bless America.

Just been watching the news on the telly. It seems that the east coast of the USA has copped it big time from Hurricane Sandy. Earlier this year we met some visitors from New Jersey who were on a hire boat on the Stratford Canal and watching the havoc in that state brought them to mind, as with virtually all Americans I have met they were the most charming people you can think of and my heart goes out to them at this time.
During my time in the Royal Navy I visited the USA on several occasions and was always made to feel more than welcome so, to all Americans who read this blog, our thoughts are with you.

Watch this space...........

Monday, 29 October 2012

A new coal boat and C.&R.T. cutbacks.

Having a few days to while away before the arrival of daughter and offspring we wandered of up the Ashby looking for a quiet spot, typically it was all quiet spots, few boats moving and hardly any moored.

An over abundance of ducks at Hinckley, they took it in shifts to scour the side of the boat of weed, rattling up and down all night and then looking hopeful that bread would be forthcoming in the morning, they were out of luck, disturbing my sleep is not going to gain my affection or generosity.

Just past Stoke Golding we found one of our favourite spots unoccupied and went in to moor, in the two years since we were last here it had shallowed up, we eventually had to use our wheel-barrow wheels as floating fenders to hold us out.
We made a cup of tea and were just getting ready to go for a walk when we heard a working boat approaching,

by the time I'd got my head out the side hatch and given him a hail he was past but  very kindly

he backed up, not a boat we were familiar with but he topped us up with diesel and we took another couple bags of coal and a sack of peat.

Chris, for such is the chaps name, told us it was his first trip out and he was trying to set up a regular round in the area. He was struggling a bit, a fully loaded boat up the Ashby? He couldn't get within a foot of us without grounding. We wish him luck with his endeavours.
We did eventually get off for our walk, across the fields, down the lane and we found ourselves at Sutton Cheney Wharf with its excellent cafe.

Normally a scene of water borne activity there was just one boat on the visitors moorings. The cafe was busy with those who had arrived by car, but of boaters? Not a sign.

Surprised to see this chap out and about at this time of year, especially on a day as cold as Saturday.
Sunday we just watched the drizzle.
Today, as we needed to turn, we went up to the winding hole by the old battlefield moorings, near the battlefield where the Battle of Bosworth didn't happen. Presumably Richard III put the wrong post code into his sat. nav. and ended up a mile or so down the road.
It seems they have found poor old Richard's skeleton under a car park in Leicester, he has an arrow in his back and a dint in his skull, that would do it. The skeleton shows evidence of scoliosis so perhaps he was a hunchback. Amazing what turns up when you dig a hole.

Near Dadlington we spotted an old friend, the punk duck, it's been around here for at least five years with its Mohican head dress and one single long feather sticking out from the left side of its head.
Now these are the sort of cut backs we can use on the waterways,

if they do a bit of dredging as well..............

Watch this space..............

Friday, 26 October 2012

Carry on up the Ashby.

We did a short transit today, it had become obvious that the wind was not going to drop and we were running short of milk, so Hinckley it was.

We've never made it up to Burton Hastings church, there are no convenient moorings nearby although a walk up from Hospital Bend would not be over far, perhaps on our way back? This is an agricultural area but the fields here are criss crossed

by the national grid.

I am given to understand that there are different types of pylon that the afficianados collect, a bit like train spotters, I think the excitement would be too much for me.

Autumn is definitely exploring its palette of colours this year although the usual wash of red haws on the hawthorn is much muted so what the redwings and fieldfares are going to subsist on is open to question, looks like they'll be on short commons this winter.
We're booked into the marina for a week from next Wednesday, family visit so brace yourself for more slushy photo's of grandsprogs.
Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post, bucked us up no end.

Watch this space............

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Who's out there?

In 2009, while moored at the Black Country Museum in Dudley, we met Sue and Vic off narrowboat No Problem and that dear lady suggested that we should start a blog. It seemed a sensible idea, the family would obviously love the idea of knowing what the olds were up to so, with Sue's help, I set this up. Within a couple of months the family had inevitably lost interest but to my amazement we seemed to have gained viewers from across the globe and the blog had taken on a life of its own.
Since then I have slavishly related the happenings of our life on the canals of England and am now amazed to find that, according to Neocounter, we have had visitors from one hundred and seven countries. I appreciate that a large proportion of these will have have tripped over the site whilst innocently seeking knowledge of dasypodidae but we also seem to have regular visitors from many places across the globe, what intrigues me is who and why?
I know there has been some discussion of late about the popularity of various blogs as measured by the differering systems available and the apparent unfairness of some of these. This blog languishes, generally, in the middle ranks which is fine by us as we do not regard blogging as a competition but as a pastime that we enjoy and hopefully brings pleasure to others. Neoworks and the UK Waterways Sites were added to liven up the appearance and never agree on the number of visitors and neither of them agree with Google's counting, something that never ceases to amuse.
But to get to the nub, the point, of this post, apart from some fellow bloggers, there are rarely any comments left by visitors, regular or casual, and we are left with no idea as to their opinions of our meanderings. Please do feel free to comment, let us know your opinions, however derogatory, and a clue as to your location would add a frisson of excitement to our blogging.
Thank you.

Watch this space............

Monday, 22 October 2012

A tale of three junctions.

From bucolic mooring to bucolic mooring, via three junctions, and it only took three hours. The first junction was that epitome of canal junctions, Hawkesbury, also well known as Sutton's Stop. Where the Oxford joins the Coventry, because of an accidental discrepancy in the levels of the two canals as built, it was necessary to install a stop lock,

every time a boat passes the Coventry gets seven inches of water from the Oxford. If, like us you are heading for the Ashby then you need to perform a one hundred and eighty degree turn under the 1837 cast iron bridge, made at the Brittannia Foundry in Derby which, if you time it right, makes a superb frame

for The Greyhound, the boaters pub that has a history as old as the cut.

You are then facing in the right direction, passing the pump house that once contained a steam engine that raised water from one hundred and fourteen feet below to supply the canal.
Originally the two canals ran parallel for nearly a mile towards Coventry before joining, this was due to some complicated legal arguments about tolls. I tried to work it all out but was left completely baffled, in the end though they moved the junction to it's present position.

This is the second junction, where the Newdigate Colliery Arm joined the Coventry, this area was once a major coal field with a complex of canals and railways and this junction would have been busy with boats taking coal as far afield as London and Oxford.

At Charity Dock the mannikins are obviously preparing for Halloween and we spotted this reminder of happier days,

red diesel at £1.60 a gallon. If only.

At the third junction, Marston Junction, this chap zoomed in as we prepared to make the sharp turn

under the bridge and through

the long disused stop lock that once separated the precious waters of the Ashby from the Coventry.
We've stopped between bridges 2 and 3, opposite the farm.

Watch this space.............

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Meandering on, except the meanders have gone.

Strange really, weekends no longer have any relevance to us yet Sunday breakfast is still sacrosanct, it has to be a fry up, and Sunday dinner is nearly always a roast, this week it is topside of beef, old habits die hard.
We left Rugby after breakfast and at the site of the Brownsover Arm, lost during the 1820's when the old line from Hawkesbury Junction to Braunston was straightened,

there are the biggest reedmace ever.
As we journeyed northwards the journey was punctuated by further reminders of the dramatic event that shortened the North Oxford by about fourteen miles. Every so often we passed one of the elegant bridges inscribed "Horseley Iron Works".

These carry the towpath over the old loops that were removed from the main line in the shortening, many of them remained in use as local wharves but most now are mere stubs.

Can't resist Newbold tunnel with its coloured lights, although the majority of them seem to no longer shine, just duff bulbs or a money saving effort?

I'm afraid these don't show up too well but it is a group of shaggy ink caps on the towpath just south of Stretton Stop.
As we approached the swing bridge at Rose Boats there was a panic on a boat on the waterpoint just beyond the bridge, hose was disconnected and thrown onto the boat, much rushing to untie and eventually they got moving just ahead of us, obviously they felt the need to be ahead of us, except that they then proceeded at little more than tick over all the way to Ansty where they pulled over and waved us past! I cannot abide speeders on the cut but these had me banging my head, the trip took nearly half an hour longer than normal.
Not to worry, just north of bridge 11 we found a short length of armco just opposite a field that was in the process of being ploughed and sown so here we sit

with the smell of raw earth fighting with the aroma of roasting beef, the Yorkshire puddings have just gone in the oven, the malt whisky is poured, all is well with our world.

Watch this space..............

Saturday, 20 October 2012

As far as Rugby.

On Thursday the wind dropped to a manageable level so we slipped our moorings and headed for Braunston. I presume that this

is the old motor that sank at the end of November 2009 and spent a couple of years half blocking the canal. Looking at her I don't think it will be too long before she's sitting on the bottom again.
Opposite her there was proof that the age of psychedelia is not over,

fair knocks your eye out.

It wasn't long before Braunston's church came in sight with the old windmill next to it. We went up to the marina for a pump out and water and then came back down and moored by The Bridge House,

Jill had informed me we were eating out so it seemed the logical place to stop. Jill wanted to visit the Braunston Butcher so we set off up the hill to the main street,

a symphony in mellow stone and red brick.

This brick house is a particular favourite of mine,

it takes a top class brickie to have the confidence to set out a pattern of headers and stretchers like that. It's called Flemish Bond when the bricks are laid in that pattern.

Last time we were here this was semi derelict with the woodwork in a poor state but now it has been tarted up and is the village hairdressing salon. Jill has made a note of that.
We stocked up on meat at the butchers, enough to last a few days anyway and that evening we dined out at the aforementioned establishment and excellent it was. I had belly pork braised in maple syrup, couldn't fault it. Next morning it was my treat, breakfast on The Gongoozlers Rest, the floating cafe run by our friend Avril,   I will not need to eat for a week, her Gongoozler's Breakfast would challenge Desperate Dan.
Last night was spent out in the country near Bridge 80. The bridge has been in a terrible state for several years but now C.&R.T. and W.R.G. have got together and put repairs in hand.

It is still a work in progress but at least you can now go through without the fear of it collapsing onto the boat, hopefully this is a sign of things to come with volunteers working hand in hand with C.&R.T.
We continued on our way and at Hillmorton we were fortunate enough to meet n.b. Hadar coming up the locks and we managed to procure five bags of coal, well smokeless fuel, so the coal box is well topped up. Shame I had put all clean kit on this morning, lifting coal bags onto the roof is not the cleanest of occupations, looks like the washing machine will be called into play tomorrow.
We have stopped by Tescos at Rugby, wine rack full, smoked fish for breakfast and all other necessities purchased. The towpath is a mud bath but it usually is here. Tomorrow we head north towards Sutton's Stop.

Watch this space...........

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Excuses, demons, the Naval Patrol and a touch of cross-stitch.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions left unfulfilled", someone once said. I must be well on the way, I had intended that once we got back to Armadillo we would be off on our travels and the blog would burgeon with posts of amazing interest but.......
To be honest there was hardly any signal at Wigrams Turn and, having moved a couple of miles to Flecknoe I've been unable, or unwilling, to clamber on the roof to erect my patent dongle support, actually a yard of dowelling with the dongle covered by an old pill bottle, so have had no signal at all. Today it is not raining (Hooray), merely blowing a hoolie so our onward move to Braunston is on hold, but the roof is dry so up I went.

We left the marina on a misty autumn morning and were soon passing Lower Shuckburgh, the name Shuckburgh means a burial mound haunted by demons, or so I was once told. There are numerous legends of supernatural black dogs around Britain and Black Shuck is a common name for many of them, especially in East Anglia, they are generally a bad omen. There again  "Scucca" is an Old English term meaning demon, so you pays yer money and makes yer choice. Could the demon be a shaggy black dog the size of a calf with blazing red, or green, eyes? Burgh may be a corruption of "bury" or "barrow", another term for a tumulus or burial mound.
Perhaps its neat little Victorian Gothic church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, keeps the demons at bay.

The trees are turning into their autumn colours along the cut. It didn't take long before we were in the shadow of  Bush Hill,

which hides the village of Flecknoe from the canal. By the time we had moored next to the green barn at Flecknoe Fields Farm the clouds were starting to build.

We only intended to stay here for a day but rain and wind are not good travelling companions on the back of a narrowboat so we are still enjoying the quiet of the countryside.

Jill is heavily involved with her latest cross-stitch, a fantasy of a narrowboat and I am in trouble for publishing a photo' before it's finished.
We've finally had to give in and light the fire full time so we need to find a coal boat, missing Gosty Hill this year.
A thought has just crossed what passes for my mind: when I was part of the naval patrol in Plymouth in the 1970's we called an accident with the patrol wagon "Black dogging", from the normal excuse offered, "I swerved to avoid a black dog and collided with ............."  Could it be that we were haunted by Black Shuck or one of Dartmoor's Wisht Hounds? Such black dogs invariably ended with someone in front of the Commander charged with negligent performance of duty so perhaps their reputation for bringing bad luck is merited.

Watch this space............

Monday, 8 October 2012

Nostalgia ain't what it was.

After having to pack it in early the other night I can now finish my piece about the Barbican. This is the original port of Plymouth, overlooked by Plymouth Castle. When the castle was built at the end of the 14thC. the town was called Sutton, the main port still being Plympton but the silting up of the River Plym led to the port moving downsteam. Only a tiny part of the castle remains, just a bit of wall near the Admiral McBride. It was replaced after the Civil War by the Citadel and fell into ruin.
Sutton Harbour still has an active fishing fleet and a new fish market.

The old fish market is now an Edinburgh Woollen Mill outlet, a far cry from when we would go down there in the early morning and buy fish fresh off the boats.

The new market is the two story building right centre, it stands next to the new National Aquarium.

Well worth a visit, but not during the school holidays.

I know that the occasional visitor from the antipodes turns up gazing at this blog so, just for them, here is a plaque commemorating the early export of convicts to Australia

and one to the people of Plymouth from 10 Sqdn. R.A.A.F. who operated Sunderland flying boats from R.A.F. Mounbatten throughout W.W.2.

I have put this picture in as a personal memory, for three years I drove a private hire car for Express Taxis whose office was on the ground floor, just one of numerous careers that I followed after leaving the navy.

This is New Street, oddly enough it's the oldest street in Plymouth.

the Old Customs House and the Three Crowns, starting point of many a run ashore and

The Commercial which used to have the deadliest darts team in town.
Please forgive my self indulgence, just a bit of nostalgia.
Back on the boat tomorrow.

Watch this space.............