Sunday, 28 June 2009

Retail therapy

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Been back in the real world for nearly a week now - still feeling a lovely sense of relaxation from the break on the canals, though. Ventured into Canterbury for some essential supplies yesterday. Seriously considered buying a shopping basket on wheels for our next trip out on the canal in August - I am getting a bit too middle-aged.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Nearly home

We're back in familiar waters now, on our way to Braunston to turn back off the Oxford Canal and on to the Grand Union and home moorings. I've been quietly impressed by how the blogosphere has made it so easy to load snippets from the trip: the next one will be two weeks in August on the Stourport Ring (floods and canal breaches permitting - we tried this one last year and had to re-organise) and I look forward to better snapshots and better blogging!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Coventry Canal to North Oxford Canal

Two (virtually) lock free days yesterday and today; only the single stoplock at Hawkesbury Junction where the Coventry Canal joins the northernmost tip of the North Oxford Canal. We're well on our way back to base now, so today has been a leisurely day with a chance to stop and walk into Brinklow (very pretty) but it's mighty odd, after two weeks travelling at walking pace, to walk along roads used by ordinary traffic. Stopped up early for the evening and had a potter on foot around Newbold-on-Avon. This is the view back through the tunnel from our mooring this evening - it's a very compelling view through a long straight stretch.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Atherstone locks

Climbing the Atherstone flight of eleven locks on Wednesday - these are the first two. I've never met the lock keeper here but I'm sure I'd like him if I did. Yesterday I copied the poem he's posted at the top lock, which has always made me laugh: I think he deserves his MBE.

What the Lock Keeper sees everyday

These locks are slow filling, I hear them shout
But hang on I thought, a slow pace on the canals is what it's all about?
Well 20 years ago it probably was.
But that's not the case today as it has become more like Blackpool and even the M6 Motorway
You see boat folks retire today at 55, buy a boat and move onto the cut,
It's all down to watching 3 episodes of Water World and then reading about canal life from a book.

But it's the poor women that I feel sorry for, who work the locks, while their husband stands at the tiller steering the boat, dressed in baggy shorts and little white socks.
The women arrive at the lock all sweaty and shattered.
As they have just done 11 locks so they can justify feeling shattered.
But it doesn't end there for the poor boat loving lady, because when they tie up for the night her husband will want 2 meat and 3 veg and piping hot gravy.
But never mind as it will soon be time for bed.
Then you can fall asleep and dream of doing it all again tomorrow.

Better still let him do the locks instead.

Lock Keeper
Tony Wright (MBE)

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Coventry Canal

Fourteen lock-free miles on Tuesday, apart from these two at Glascote. Caracol, BTW, is Spanish for 'snail' - hence the tiller pin, visible here. I like the analogy - we move very slowly and carry our home wherever we go on the canals. Many people assume we must be called Caroline and Colin: we aren't. We met someone last week who told us Caracol is also Arabic for prison: haven't been able to find that one in Google yet.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Clear water

Continuing along the Trent & Mersey canal to Fradley and the junction with the Coventry Canal. Lovely stretch of canal/river at Alrewas, with clear limpid water. Fradley Junction is the home of The Swan Pub, the most photographed (it says in the Nicholson's guide to the Canals) spot on the whole network of canals. So here instead of the pub is a picture of my pint of Swan beer, the first one in two-and-a-half years of low-carb diet, here at Fradley.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Moving on

Glorious weekend, with really nice weather. Met S&R for a long lunch at Shardlow on Saturday, then on through gorgeous scenery in the Trent valley. Took a while getting through the lock at Stenson - bottom gates wouldn't open fully, and the boat that followed us in wedged everything tight. Soon resolved, though, and much entertainment for the Sunday morning gongoozlers. Stopped for lunch at Willington then on through Burton-upon-Trent and moorings at Branston.

Friday, 12 June 2009


...on Friday at a gorgeous riverside pub in Barrow-upon-Soar. Very nice spot. I accidentally ordered mine with chips - but help was at hand.

Builders' tea

Water in the canals, as it should be, is opaque and sort of orangey and looks like you could stand a teaspoon up in it. Here on the River Soar it is clear and dark and lets light through so that all sorts of greenery flourishes beneath the surface. It's rather inviting, in a chilly kind of way.

Walking with Annie the Narrow Dog early this morning, there was a wonderful sight; the sun burning through the gaps in the willow tree on the bank was warm enough to raise wisps of mist from the bright spots on the river surface. I will freely admit that as pictures go, this one is pants, but it looked lovely in real life.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Lovely Leicester

So much to blog, so little time! A nice rural mooch up towards Leicester, onto the River Soar bit of the GU Canal and then terrific moorings at Castle Park - all that's left of Leicester Castle. Did a little exploration of the city centre (very close) on Wednesday evening. Early Thursday morning we had the park to ourselves before the park keeper opened it up (access for boaters to and through the park is via the magical British Waterways universal key) so Annie got in a good session of mad running on her morning walk. Really gorgeous scenery along the river valley north of Leicester but I've been busy playing with my camera settings instead of photographing the surroundings...

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

And on up the Grand Union Canal

Overnight on Monday at the far end of the Market Harborough arm (great moorings, by the way) then back up to Foxton for another potter around the Inclined Plane. It will be spectacular when the restoration is finished. Then onwards north and west towards Leicester. It's a beautiful stretch of canal but the towpaths are a bit inaccessible...

Monday, 8 June 2009

Market Harborough

It's lovely here. There's a really nice little town centre with all sorts of boutique-y shops. I think perhaps that when I've finished wanting to live in Braunston I will start to want to live here.

Foxton Locks

Arrived at the locks just before noon to join the queue so, fortunately, had plenty of time to look around and have lunch before working through the locks.

The whole queuing thing on the canals is a world apart from real life. If you're faced with a two-hour queue on the motorway in hot weather, you'll be raging at the whole world pretty soon. Faced with a queue at some locks, though, you can tie up, chat to the people in the boats in front and behind, potter around and sightsee (especially somewhere as picturesque as Foxton) and then you can open a bottle of wine over a lazy lunch. What's not to like?

Passage through the locks all went swimmingly! I finally understand how the side pounds work: you start filling the chamber below with water from the side pound, then empty the chamber above into the side pound, and then do it all again until you're through. We swooped down the flight and then set off up the side arm to Market Harborough for the night.

Back where it all started

We moored here for lunch yesterday. It's a familiar spot because this is the excellent ABNB boat brokers, from whom we bought nb Caracol two and a half years ago. Because of maintenance work at Braunston Locks we couldn't move the boat to our permanent mooring so we spent a month or two travelling up every weekend to this spot, having a bit of a tricky time if truth be told, (freezing weather, having to drain down the water supply every time, no electric hookup), but still loving every minute of it. Happy days!

Watford in the wet

Watford locks are always spectacular, even if the rain is coming down in lumps. They are also remote (although handy for Watford Gap motorway services, if you can get through the fence) so, especially in the rain, they don't have many gongoozlers*. And they are one of the few locks on the system that retain the use of the side pounds which help save water in ways I'm not entirely sure I understand: but this means that they are good practice for Foxton Locks (two adjacent flights of 5 staircase locks, always crowded with sightseers, all with the complicated system of red and white paddles and side pounds, that require you to behave with a confidence and a calm sense of authority if you aren't going to get it completely and publicly wrong and end up looking like a complete pillock and have to wait for the lock keeper to sort it all out for you). We should be at Foxton by lunchtime today. Pillock, moi?

*People who watch the passage of narrowboats through complicated and interesting bits of the cut and pass loud comments. It's a bit like being in a zoo, sometimes. Now that video cameras are so popular it's also sometimes a bit like being in a documentary.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

And we're off...

We're used to racing off north to the boat after work on Friday evening: we have a well-honed routine that sees us on the road before 6:30pm and, with luck and a tail wind, on to the boat with the stove lit by 9:30. We nearly decided to put off our journey up for this longer trip until Saturday morning, but I'm glad we didn't because it meant we got a good head start on Saturday morning through Calcutt locks, on to Braunston and through the tunnel. Moored for the night a couple of miles after the Leicester arm junction. Off through Watford locks and Crick today, where we can wave to the brokers who sold us Caracol. Be nice if it stopped raining though.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Holiday time!

Originally uploaded by nbCaracol
We're heading out on our first trip of the year, other than weekends of course, and were talking about the last one in September. It's funny how coming down the North Oxford in autumn sunshine sticks more in the memory than going into Birmingham in torrential rain earlier in the trip.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

How the other half lives

With Mrs. Blackbird sitting on a clutch of eggs Mr. Blackbird has been frequenting the garden. It looks as though he has seen some hard times given all those feathers missing from his head. Still and all, parental stress will do that.
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