Saturday 23 October 2010

Saturday 23 Oct 2010 Napton Engine Arm

Last night just as we went to bed it started to rain, this carried on most of the night giving us about a quarter of an inch in total. The good news was that it had stopped before we were about this morning, the bad news was that the front slide got left open all night so we have wet carpet tiles and a wet chair.
We set of at 10 am.  several boat had already been by the time we set off and when we arrived at the Napton locks there were three boats ahead of us. There were several boats coming down the flight and it wasn't long before it was one for one and we made steady progress to the top. The rain held off although it looked threatening at times, but we made it in the dry. We moored just above the top lock and had lunch before unloading the boat to the car,including the poor old dog who would have problems crossing the lock gates. Once that was all done we winded in the Engine Arm and slid into our moorings and after picking a couple of bowls of sloes headed off home. By the time we had driven to the road it started to rain and this continued all the way home.

Friday 22 October 2010

Friday 22 October 2010 Napton Brickworks

As planed,last night we ate in The New Inn at Buckby Top Lock http://www.gillies-inns.com/ and we weren't disappointed, they had a good range of beers on and we were offered a taste of one we had not tried before without asking, there were several specials on the board including chili beef with chocolate. The pub also offers free WiFi  which I didn't know about before we went so didn't take the laptop. To top it all they had a raging fire going that opens into two rooms. We will visit again sometime.
This morning we woke to the sound of next doors diesel heater doing an impression of Heathrow at about half seven, we were moored stern to stern and we sleep in the Boatman's Cabin. We took the dog for a walk in the very warn sunshine, probably the warmest day this month. 
We wandered down to Norton Junction and over DSCF5016the food bridge, on the off side you can still see the iron work in the ground from when this use to be a swing bridge. The small cottage on the corner at one time was connected with the Salvation Army. They now have a very nice living wagon in their garden.
Once back on the boat it was a case of reversing back to the junction and then heading off down towards Braunston. We met one boat in the tunnel called Pin Mill which is a place in Suffolk, needles to say the steerer came from Suffolk as did the original owner. As we approached the top lock a boat was just leaving which was handy,also I knew a boat was following us through the tunnel so I tucked into the lock and waited for "nb.Tranquility" to join us. We had to turn all the locks except one as there was a boat running down ahead of us, the water levels in the lock pounds were the best I have seen them for some time with them all on weir.
We stopped for a bite of lunch in Braunston and also to visit both Bottom Lock and Midland Chandlers, I still didn't get what I wanted.
We set our goal for this evening as The Bridge Inn at Napton, but as we approached it we could see the moorings were somewhat busy with 13 Narrowboats moored before the bridge and one after with a second arriving as we passed. The sight of this lead to a change of plans and to eat onboard, the next decent piece of mooring is just passed the old brick yard where we finally moored for the night at 5-30 pm overlooked by the windmill.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Thursday 21 October 2010 Buckby top lock

We woke to another bright sunny morning and by 10 am were on our way. We met several boats today, mostly in more convenient spots.  DSCF4990 Coming through Yelvertoft just Crick side of the road bridge on the bend I have often noticed some old brick ruins on the off side and wondered what they are. Today I managed to get a photo of them as we passed, could they be old lime kilns by any chance?

DSCF4994 Approaching Crick the  towing path visitor moorings opposite the marina are now all turned over winter mooringsDSCF4995 and are for use by permit holders only. I wouldn't mind so much if they were all in use but there are very few boats there at the moment and the sign forbids you to moor there as a visitor.  It would appear that these moorings are administered by Crick Marina as there is also another BW notice telling you to contact the marina for a mooring.
We had a lonely run through Crick tunnel not seeing another bout until the bottom of the Watford Flight. As we arrived at the Watford flight I pulled over to the lock keepers hut and Diana went ashore to book out passage, but as usual if you go to the top the lock keeper is at the bottom so Diana walked all the way down and back again to say we could carry on down. We finally met a boat in the bottom pound which saved as both a bit of work.
Once clear of the locks we stopped to fill with water, this is a very good tap with good water pressure and we were soon full. DSCF5005 BW are repairing the drainage sluice between the bottom of the locks and the road bridge by the Thai restaurant, they were installing a temporary around the outlet when we passed last week, this is now all in place and work was being carried out on the sluice even through the water has not been drained behind the dam.DSCF5007 
On the off side opposite Watford Gap Motorway Services one of the householders is selling homemade products at the bottom of their garden and we pulled over to buy some more rhubarb and ginger jam, we bought a jar on the way up and it lovely. We were soon at Norton Junction and instead of turning right towards Braunston and home, we carried on a couple of hundred yards to moor for the night so that we can visit The New Inn to eat tonight.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Wednesday 20 October 2010

The dog decided that he would like to go out at 6 am this morning in the cold and dark. As I opened the front door I was aware of a keen frost with ice on the outside of the boat. When I returned to the boat I was unable to open the slide at it was frozen solid and Diana had to come and let me in.
When we got up it was bright sunshine but still decidedly chilly when we set off at 10 am. We made our way down to Debdale Wharf to fill up with diesel at 68 p/lt and to have a chat with John the boat painter about redoing our roof for us early next year. While we were there we also had a coffee with friends on their boat in the marina and introduce ourselves to the owner of nb.Lilly Pad.  Once this was all done we were on our way again and heading for Foxton Locks. Diana went up the flight to find the lock keeper to book our place in the queue,there were no other boats waiting at the bottom and one had just gone up the first lock.
There is a new sign post at DSCF4908the junction, the strange thing is that it says its 15 miles to Leicester. There was a GU mile post right beside where we moored last night at Smeeton Aqueduct saying that it was 15 miles to Leicester from there as well, but the 2 signs are about an hours cruise apart. I think there is a cast iron mile post adjacent to the new wooden one that says its 18 1/2 miles to Leicester, so which one is right.
Diana returned and we were clear to follow up the flight,after about 3 locks a family with 2 small girls came along and opened and closed all the offside gates for us, which saved me walking up to open it and Diana crossing the bridge to close it. When we reached the top there were 3 boats waiting to come down so our timing was spot on. 
We carried on it the bright sunshine which at times made it almost impossible to see if anything was coming towards us as it got lower in the sky and shining straight  along the cut into our eyes. Passing through Husbands Bosworth tunnel Diana was steering and I was standing on the front deck examining the inside of the tunnel, although this tunnel has no ventilation shafts there are several borings in the roof of about 2" diameter, some of which had water running from them. As it was such a pleasant afternoon we carried on until a few minuets to six when we moored for the night just before bridge 27 by Yelvertoft Fieldside Covert.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Tuesday 19 October 2010 Smeeton Aqueduct again

Last night just as we got back to the boat from taking the dog out it started to rain, this gradually got heavier and we went to bed listening to it drumming on the roof. I got up during the night and the rain had stopped the sky was clear and the stars were out, this morning it was sunshine. We were right about it being quieter below Double Rail lock and we never heard the train once all the time we were there. Our walk with the dog took us up passed Double Rail lock where the top was open and the pound above down by the best part of a foot. I closed the gate and overnight the level recovered. The gate on this section of the GU tend to swing open after you leave the lock, in some cases they do that after you enter the lock as well, you just get to the top and look back to see the bottom wide open.
This morning we were away at 0945 hrs and met boats at both the first two locks, we pulled over at the services at Kilby Bridge to top up with water, we haven't spotted a water point since we passed here on Saturday afternoon. Just as we were leaving another boat came down and took our place so the omens are good for some locks being with us. In the end we met 9 boats coming down and apart for some locks that had partly filled they were all with us except the last one.DSCF4956
Around lunch time it started to rain and this continued for the rest of our journey so I was quite pleased to enter Saddington Tunnel. As we passed through I noticed some structures attached  to the roof and wondered if they are bat boxes, they seem to be situated about 300 yards DSCF4964in from both ends of the tunnel.
We only had one area of concern as we made our way up the locks today and that was above Taylor's Turnover Lock where the pound was so low that the mud was exposed at the sides, maybe half a meter or so, but I kept to the middle and chugged slowly up to the next lock, Diana walked as its only a short pound so if I had of got stuck she could have let some water down. We moored for the night on the straight stretch of concrete  just to the south of Smeeton Aqueduct at 3 pm.

Monday 18 October 2010

Monday 18 October 2010 Kilby Bridge

While I took the dog out this morning Diana visited the Co-op to do a bit of shopping and we set off at ten past ten to the first lock which was full, we noted that the top paddle was 2 notches up, it was also like this last night when we went down, This is a very popular dog walking area and I am guessing that the lock is left like this to ensure its always full to make it easier to rescue anything that fell in.
Today was quite overcast andDSCF4947 nowhere near as warm as yesterday but at least we didn't get any rain. I have seen more Little Grebes in this area than I have ever seen anywhere else. We also saw several small patches of Floating Penny Wort but nowhere as much as in previous years.

DSCF4953The river carries much more rubbish  to the north of the town than it does in the higher reaches through the town centre, Things brightened up for a short time as we passed the Space Centre which gave some nice reflection on very smooth water. 
We saw a few more boats about today, 2 moored on the BW moorings in the centre of Leicester and then we met 2 coming out of Freeman's Lock, just after we had locked up we met a third coming towards us. The first assured us we were the only boat they had seen all day but within about 3 locks they were all against us, so someone must have been going up ahead of us.
We moored for the night about 300 Mts. from where we moored 2 nights ago, this time we are below Double Rail Lock, on Saturday we were above the lock.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Sunday 17 October 2010 Birstall


Last nights moorings were very quiet, the railway line was just a little bit further away than in Kilby Bridge itself. When we took the dog out the sky was clear and half a moon was well up. This morning or early morning alarm,about 8 am reminded us we were not that far from the real world as a two tone siren was hurrying along somewhere the other side of the railway. When we got up it felt decidedly chilly with a temperature of -1 outside and white stuff on the cut grass, yes it was our first frost of the season. The morning was very bright and sunny causing the temperature to rise quite fast.DSCF4937
We set off at 10 am to the first lock of the day,  Double Rail lock, as we passed through the lock it became obvious why its called that, the bottom gate has a double hand rail as opposed to the normal single rail making it much safe for pedestrians to cross, this is quite important because two footpaths seem to cross the canal at this point. There were very good moorings below the lock and I think I would moor there another time as its even further from the railway.
From here several of the locks were full thanks them overflowing the top gates, There had been a boat going down yesterday evening and on one had come up. Kings Lock saw us lock down onto the river section which was barely into the green from the bottom of the scale, at the next bridge I managed to pick up a plastic refuse sack round the prop, the water was so clear that I could easily see what I was doing and had it off in minutes.DSCF4944 At Freeman's Meadow lock by the football stadium, when Diana drew all four paddles on the lock the weir stopped flowing completely , there was so little flow on the river. Here we saw our first moving boat of the day, a rowing boat with 8 first timers on board, A chap ran forward and asked to please pass them slowly with care as they had never been in a boat before. As we passed the cox called to say that there was a road barrier in mid channel under the next bridge, right where I would have been travelling. We met the first Narrowboat of the day at North Lock, they were about to leave just as we arrived.
North Lock is right beside Frog Island, is this where the beer comes from by any chance? 
We carried on, the river now had much more rubbish floating about than earlier in the town. The town always looks very inviting but I have never seen anyone mooring there, no CC's, no bridge hoppers, not a boat to be seen, even the BW floating moorings were empty, we did consider stopping but it was still quite early in a very sunny day. We arrived at Birstall Lock just as a boat that we had been following was leaving, we caught sight of them at the last lock so I have no idea how long they have just been ahead of us. Just below the lock I winded in the stream that feeds the lakes and moored on the Birstall visitor moorings facing back upstream ready to retrace our steps tomorrow.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Saturday 16 Oct 2010 Kilby Bridge

We woke to a lovely sunny morning after yesterday evenings rain, unfortunately it didn't last and we even had a few showers.
We set off at 10 am and met a boat just before Saddington Tunnel which ensured all the locks as far as Newtown Top lock where we started to encounter bottom gate open, but a couple of locks later saw us meet two more boats that put us right as far as Kilby Bridge, here we took on water and moored for a short time while a rain shower passed through, we then continued on through one more lock to moor for the night just below bridge 89.
As we approached Kilby Bridge I noticed the BW notice telling boaters travelling east that they were entering an SSSI and reading it a little more closely I see you are only supposed to moor at designated moorings. I don't recall seeing any notices indicating designated moorings and there definitely are not any where we moored last night at Smeeton Aqueduct or anywhere else we saw boats moored. What we did see was yet another Buzzard getting a very hard time from a couple of Crows, for some time it was just a single one before his mate gave him a hand, I often wonder why such big birds put up with this treatment and don't just turn on their attackers.
I have just visited Natural England's web site and found the SSSI information for the canal,

Friday 15 October 2010

Friday 15 October 2010 Smeeton Aqueduct

DSCF4887a Last night as planned we ate at The Water Front in Union Wharf and it was as good as we had expected it to be. We last visited here in March this year, just after they opened. There were quite a few people in there, several of them from Canal Boatclub boats who were turning round first thing today. The food in there is not cheap, it cost us £50 for the two of us having 3 courses and a bottle of red wine.  A nice touch is that they bring a carafe of chilled water to your table when they bring the wine without being asked, the also brought us each a small orange liqueur with the bill. Would we go there again,to true we will. 

This morning we were in no great hurry to move as the stoppage just beyond the junction at Foxton was not due to be lifted until 5 pm.so after taking the dog for a walk and then having a wander around the basin we set off at about a quarter to eleven andDSCF4901a chugged very slowly the five and a half miles to Foxton arriving about 1-30 pm. On the way we spotted a couple of Kingfishers, one sitting quietly in the hedge before darting off down the cut, the other like most of them just shot off as we passed. We moored up just before the swing bridge and had lunch.
After lunch we decided to walk down and see how work was progressing on the stoppage, lo and behold it was all complete, the contractors had cleared up and most of their plant was already gone, I wonder when BW will remove the "Canal Closed" notices? Seeing this we returned to Harnser and set off. Just as we were leaving I could see the first of this weeks Canal Boatclub approaching and Diana held the swing bridge open for them. As they passed through the bridge they got their centre rope ready to stop and I expected them to swing left towards the locks, wrong, they turned right and stopped right where you would expect a boat to stop if going up the locks.DSCF4911 We carried on past the site of the stoppage which was just beside the foot bridge. They had to lay several hundred feet of temporary roadway to cross the field with their plant to reach the work site and in a couple of weeks there will probably nothing to show that they were ever here.
Just beyond Debdale Wharf BW have erected a large noticeDSCF4915 informing us that we are now entering a SSSI and to take care that we don't damage the plants with our propellers. Does anyone know why this is an SSSI and what magic plants exist here that we must take so much great care not to damage, or is it just the case that the area is a SSSI for some other reason and the canal just happens to pass through it just like the lanes do?
We pushed on to Smeeton Aqueduct  where we hoped to moor for the night but another boat had just beaten us to it and not wishing to moor fender to fender in this lovely open countryside we continued just round the bend to moor at about 4 pm.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Thursday 14 Oct 2010 Market Harborough

I had a chat with a couple of chaps in the Incline Plain museumDSCF4877 about the cast iron 1/4 1/2 3/4 posts and they assured me they were originally placed every quarter of a mile along the canal with a mile post every mile. These replaced the trees that were originally planted every half mile, alternating between Elm and Willow. In those days unlike today, there were no other trees along the line of the cut. This morning I received a very interesting comment that these markers were also used on the Stratford canal (Added to the bottom of this posting)

Last night while walking the dog at 1030 the Canal Boatclub boat moored a few boats down finally shut their engine down.
This morning we set off at 10 am. reversing along to the lift junction and winding to head down the Foxton flight. The lock keeper was in the old lock cottage and said we could carry on, there was no one using the flight. At the bottom of the flight we turned right, Diana had walked behind the pub to open the swing bridge, it was just as well she did, because moored on the moorings reserved for bridge operation was yet another Canal Boatclub boat. The next swing bridge which has been a pain to operate for some time is undergoing repair by May Gurney and they have lifted off the bridge and were chopping away at the foundations on the off side, lets hope the repairs take some time and when complete are very successful.
Just beyond the bridge I was passing the long term moorings at tickover when a fish, somewhere between 6 and 8 inches long torpedoed out from the off side bank, breaking the surface several times and swam straight into the side of the boat with a very audible thump, it obviously didn't stun its self as it didn't float to the surface. I have never experienced a fish strike before.
We continued on to the end of the arm and winded in the basin before mooring on the visitor moorings just outside the basin entrance. These visitor moorings are quite unusual as there is a water point every 150 feet so it is easy to water up while moored for the night. Again quite a short day as we were tied up and finished by about 1-30 pm. I am not sure what we will do tomorrow as the stoppage is not due to be lifted until 5 pm. so the best we can hope for is to get to the bottom of the Foxton flight and maybe eat in The Locks pub.

Mile posts on the Stratford
The Stratford canal has ¼ and ¾ posts along its route. I have never checked that they are all still there but the majority seems to be. They are very easily missed as they are just rusting upright pieces of rail in the hedge – perhaps put in during Great Western Railway ownership days. When SONCS installed mileposts as a millennium project the location markers were there but BW still used a wheeled ground measure to confirm the distance from
Kings Norton junction to get them checked. Unfortunately the man doing it must have nipped off to the pub one lunchtime en route so he ‘resumed’ one ¼ mile out of synch. SONACS then installed to his plan. Then a SONACS member spotted the error so BW came along and had to relocate 10 11 and 12 as I recall a further ¼ towards Stratford. [the midpoint 12.5 mile was known] BW did this by wrapping chain around them and simply lifting out of the ground by crane with concrete surround attached. Hence the fact the beautiful paint was scratched and they now need a major repaint exercise.  There should be 26 mileposts in total over the 25 mile length to Stratford as there is an additional 12 ½ mile marker at the midpoint by Kingswood junction beside lock 21 outside the old BW offices (former Stratford Canal Company carpenter’s shop and as used by David Hutchings during the
restoration). However, the 2 mile marker would be in the tunnel so it was never installed and before you ask the wheel measure was not taken through the tunnel along its wall to measure it so far as I am aware.
Clive H

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Wednesday 13 Oct 2010 Foxton

Yesterday after touching up a few more rust spots on the roof  and a scratch on the cabin DSCF4877side with white primer/undercoat I spent a couple of minutes and a brush full of paint on the 3/4 notice next to where we were moored. I have also seen 1/4 and 1/2 signs on this canal but cant remember seeing them anywhere else, anyone know what they were for?

This morning I started off at 1030 hrs while Diana was walking the dog.The first job was to reverse to the junction and wind. There was no one watching so it went like clockwork. Then on towards Foxton, I picked Diana and Magic up just past the first bridge as they had decided to walk back to meet me.
Husbands Bosworth tunnel was quite dry but I didn't see any bats which I understand live in there. Not long after that we caught up with a boat that we had followed for a couple of hours yesterday, Teasel flying a New Zealand  flag from the tiller. They arrived above Foxton locks a few minutes before us as we had to wait for a boat to come through the last bridge and moored in the only gap available. We winded in the entrance to the inclined plain and then moored in behind them taking up the last spot. The reason for winding was the same as last night an I was able to get a bit of blue gloss over the white under coat so the scratch is a lot less noticeable and hopefully wont rust. An early finish for us at 1330 hrs and the batteries not fully charged.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Tuesday 12 10 2010 Welford Junction

We made a late start this morning not getting away until 11 am. The first bit of interest was meeting a boat just before Crick Tunnel who hailed me for assistance. He had only bought the boat 15 minutes earlier at Crick and now it wouldn't go, could I help. The reason it wouldn't go was because it was hard aground about 3 foot from the off side. I went aboard and tried to pole the front out but it was solid, so I snatched him off backwards into deeper water but it was only second before he was back where in the mud, so I snatched him back a second time, this time pulling him well to the middle. He said the boat yard had not told him he might run aground, when I left him he was on the end of the pole yet again.
Diana steered through the tunnel which started very dry andDSCF4873 ended wet at the Crick end, we didn't meet any boats but as we emerged from the tunnel a boat was holding back waiting for us before going in.
The moorings by the tunnel were packed solid as the moorings opposite Crick Marina are now winter permits only and had 3 boats moored on them. They seam to be administered by Crick Marina so I don't know if they hire them from BW of letting them on BW's behalf. I do know that the best moorings in Crick are closed to visitors from 1 Oct onwards.
The new marina at Yelvertoft looks quite full, they have big signs advertising diesel with a large price display, unfortunately they have forgotten to write on them so I don't know the cost of their diesel and I wont sail in to find out. We stopped to fill with water by the bridge in Yelvertoft, its the first time I have stopped here and its quite a fast tap.
We continued on our way seeing a couple of Kingfishers, these were the first we have seen this trip and I would have expected to see a few more on this route, we normally see 2 or 3 before Watford locks and more on to days section, I expect the hard winter must have given them quite a hammering, maybe things will pick up next summer.
When we arrived at the Junction there were several boats moored to the rings but they all had one or two unused rings between them so we have ended mooring with our stakes. Prior to mooring I winded in the Welford arm, not because we are heading back but because I wanted to touch in a couple of scratches on the right hand side. We will wind again in the morning before continuing to Foxton.

Monday 11 October 2010

Monday 11 October 2010 Watford

Last night Guy and Connie picked us up at Bottom Lock and took us to The Boathouse to eat. The food was fine and after a main and sweet we were all topped up. We followed this by coffee back on Harnser.
This morning we were awake a bit earlier than planned, the boat behind left at about 7-30 but only after sitting with his engine running for about half an hour.
Once about Diana walked Magic while I visited the Chandlery to buy some 5 mm brass screws. On the way back I came upon Dragon Lady with Terry and Sally on board waiting for the locks so we pushed off and joined them for a slowish run up the flight at 10-30. While waiting for the second lock we had the pleasure of watching some aerial acrobatics as a couple of crows gave a buzzard a hard time. We met a few boats in the flight but turned most of the locks.
We met one boat in the tunnel which was very dry, I only noticed one patch of roof rain in the S bends. Just by the first bridge out of the tunnel there is a boat moored about half a boats length from the bridge hole, there must be three quarters of a mile of moorings here and they chose the bridge hole as a mooring.
At Norton Junction we turned left up the Leicester arm and stopped just before Welton Station Bridge and bought some home made jam from a stand on the offside. Not long after this we caught up with another boat and followed them to Watford Locks.
After checking with the locky we followed the boat ahead through the first lock. They were supposed to go up the second and the boat ahead up the staircase, unfortunately the Canal Time boat coming down failed to stop at the top of the staircase, as they didn't see anyone coming up, so the front boat had to back out of the staircase and we had two boats in the short pound waiting to go up. At this point the lady locky asked me if I would take a plank of wood up the flight for her,I think it was probably and old bottom board from an old working boat discovered in the side pond when they dredged them last year.
Once clear of the the flight we deposited the board at the lock keepers office and then continued to moor for the night between bridges 7 and 8 at 3-30 pm.

Sunday 10 October 2010

Sunday 10 October 2010 Braunston

We had a good drive to the boat taking just over 3 hours with very little traffic. Once at the moorings we pushed just on 2 pm. and moved down to the lock to load up as the lock filled. Just as the lock filled another boat came down the cut and as we had not completed loading I gave them the lock, mistake, we met about 5 boats in the flight and were still waiting for them to exit the bottom lock.
The weather was wonderful with warm sunshine right through until sunset. Or plan was to moor in Braunston and go to The Boathouse to eat as we thought that would be the only place doing food on a Sunday evening, we even considered mooring to their moorings right outside the pub, however Braunston was packed solid and the first and only mooring we found was almost at the bottom lock by the second marina entrance. The Elsan tip and the water point in the centre of Braunston is out of order and I tried to moor there but there was insufficient length as another boat was already right by the taps.
There are one or two ex working boats moored in the village ready for the Jam Hole run.
We finally moored at 6-30 pm. and I have just heard that Guy and Connie will be picking us up at the bottom lock when the Archers finish.