Sunday, 14 September 2014

Left speechless

Monday 1st September

Berkhamsted was a pleasant surprise. We managed to moor up opposite a park and only a couple of minutes walk from the High St.  A high street full of independent shops, including a very good old fashioned hadware shop stocked from floor to ceiling (literally) with all sorts of nuts & bolts, hooks & handles, washers and widgets & tools, infact everything a DIY'er could possibly need.  Tony was fascinated. In the evening we had a very nice meal in The Thai Cottage.

You do see some strange sights on the canals.  This one has left me speechless!

Approaching Watford, just below Lady Capel's Lock is this cute little whitewashed turnover bridge where the towpath changes from one side of the canal to the other. Leading us to......

one of Tony's favourite spots, opposite the par3 at the Grove.  He sat here for a whole day with a glass of wine (or two) and his fishing rod, watching the golfers. Bliss!

And he did actually catch a fish.

Having negotiated Iron Bridge Lock  we moored up & had a walk through Cassiobury Park, collecting conkers to ward off the spiders.

Between Cassiobury Park and Croxley Green CRT are carrying out towpath improvements and at Common Moor Lock the numptys have used the lock mooring for their work boats, making it very difficult for boaters to access the locks!  Speechless again!

They say the waterways are like a linear village, you meet the same boats but in different places.  We met up with Rambling Rose at Rickmansworth, who also moor at Hallingbury Mill,  also on their way home.

An odd but ingenious floating dry dock near Uxbridge. The barge is sunk & the back dropped down so the boat can float in, then the water is drained out so the whole thing floats & hey presto - a DRY DOCK!

Jan, Tony, Paul & Denise
On Sunday 7th September Denise & Paul, friends from the Thatchers, met us for a  day out on the boat.

Paul turned out to be a great Helmsman and did the whole of the return journey bringing us safely back to our mooring in Uxbridge where we all retired to the Swan & Bottle for a late lunch.  A great day guys, thank you. x

Sunday 7th September

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Northants, Beds & Bucks

We returned to the boat on Sunday 24th August after I had spent a week with Mum whilst she was recuperating from her hip op.  Although it was a serious business helping her to manage with reduced mobility and sorting out the endless appointments & medication she needed, I have to say there were a few funny moments,  Like when I attended Mum's lunch club & got told off for helping to clear away the plates as I might bump into somebody & cause an accident.  I was the youngest by at least 20 years and am steady on my feet (well at least before I've had a tot).  Also when Mum telephoned me when I'd gone to the local shop because she'd remembered what else she'd needed.    " What's that Mum, I'm still in the shop" I said.  "I've forgotten" said Mum.  I laughed out loud, startling the poor lady in the shop.  Luckily Mum saw the funny side too.  Anyway I'm pleased to report that she is doing great and has progressed to a walking stick and is managing on her own with occasional visits from the family.

Sunday we reloaded the boat, filled her with water & fuel and generally sorted ourselves out.  Monday it poured with rain so we stayed put at Crick & set off Tuesday morning along the Grand Union Leicester section.

Waiting under the M1
As we arrived at the Watford locks it appeared everybody had done the same and we joined a queue of 10 other boats! 

Watford Flight (Northamptonshire)
 Luckily there were some very helpful volunteers to speed up the process.

Soon after turning off onto The Grand Union proper at Norton Junction, Blissworth Tunnel came into view.  The third longest navigable tunnel in Britain, 3076 yards long and it takes 30 - 40 minutes to pass through.  

Inside Blissworth Tunnel (the plants in the foreground are on the front of our boat)
Very eerie, especially when you pass another boat.

Leaving the tunnel. It took 12 years to build, being opened in March 1805.  No machinery to do the job in those days.  Once opened the boats had to be 'legged' through and as there was no towpath through the tunnel for the horses, they had to be walked over the top.

Next stop Stoke Bruerne where we met up with Dave & Grace who had driven over from Ely to spend the day with us. 

 After a satisfying lunch in The Boat we retired to Aylmer for drinks in the sunshine.

Another interesting tunnel is to be found at Cosgrove, although this one runs under the canal.  It was built 250 years ago to get the horses, which towed the boats, from the towpath side to the stables at the Barley Mow pub on the opposite bank. It's hard to believe horses managed to get through such a small space!

The Iron Trunk Aqueduct, built in 1811 as the fourth attempt to carry the Grand Union Canal 35 feet above the river Ouse. .

Thought I'd seen it all.  Complete with rabbit hutches!

At Soulby Locks we met up with Mick, Val & Marley on nb Gorse and travelled together for a couple of days.

Val, my locking partner, made it so much more fun.

Marley pays a visit
We stopped overnight at Slapton Locks, near to Cheddington where in 1963 the Great Train Robbery was carried out. 

We passed through some beautiful Buckingham countryside.

And saw a rainbow over Bedfordshire.

We said goodbye to Mick & Val at Cooks Wharf and continued on to Marsworth where we moored for the night and looked out at this glorious view from the rear deck.  A beautiful end to another week in paradise :)

Sunday 31st August 2014
679 miles - 441 locks

Friday, 15 August 2014

A staircase, a living milestone & a moraine!

Monday 11th August

On our way back down the Harborough Arm we approached the Road Swing Bridge with trepidation after the traffic jam we caused on the way up.  Luckily the Gods were with us & we managed it without a hitch.

The Foxton Flight
 Foxton Locks is the largest flight of staircase locks on the English canal system with two 'staircases' of five locks.  As you can imagine it is quite a tourist attraction and there is no lack of Gongoozlers. We had thought that by avoiding the weekend we would also avoid the queuing.  No such luck.  Each lock will only take one boat at a time & there is only one passing place in the middle pound.  We had to wait 1.5 hours before we could start the ascent.

There was however plenty to look at while waiting, like this ambitious Roof Garden.......

...and this rather colourful boat adorned with traditional canalware.

Taking a moment to admire the fantastic views at the half way mark, on a bench dedicated to our friend Marion's parents who loved to visit Foxton Locks.

And what an amazing view over the Leicestershire countryside. Unfortunately the photo doesn't really do it justice.

From Foxton the canal follows the contours of the hills, so that you find yourself looking up hill to the right....

...and downhill to the left. Both views are quite picturesque. 

Soon we were in Northamptonshire and a little further along we turned off onto the Welford arm, only 1.6 miles long, and moored in the basin. A pub & the pretty village of Welford are nearby, from where there are several interesting walks. This very short arm was built to supply the main canal & Foxton locks with water from the nearby reservoirs.

Rejoining the main canal again it became very narrow in places as the vegetation spread out from the banks.

It made passing another boat very interesting!

These metal signs denote the site of a living milestone.  Most canals have milestone markers, usually wood, stone or metal but this stretch of canal has trees planted as mile markers, hence the 'living milestone'.  I guess when first planted the trees stood out, but as the hedgerows grew more dense another form of marker was needed.

You come across some odd sights on the canals.  This one left me wondering how on earth it got there!  The very rounded hill in the background also seemed an oddity.  It is called Cracks Hill and is a moraine. No I didn't know what that was either. see

We shortly arrived at Crick Marina where we were made to feel very welcome by the staff.  Having filled up with fuel and availed ourselves of the services, we spent our last night aboard for a week or so.  This morning, in torrential rain, we picked up our hire car from the nearby village & set off for home.

14th August 2014  -  618 miles & 388 locks!

Monday, 11 August 2014

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Monday 4th August

On the way back to Nottingham we stopped for water at Holme lock.  On the way down we knew we were in the vicinity  of Holme Pierrepoint, the National Watersports Centre, but as we didn't get off the boat, had no idea that the White Water Slalom ran right next to the lock.

On the other side of the lock landing was this dream boat for sale.  If only!

Once back in Nottingham we moored up outside the Magistrates Court, right in the middle of town for lunch, and then moved a mile or so for supplies at Sainsburys where we were able to wheel the trolley right back to the boat.  What a convenient city Nottingham is for boaters.
River Soar
About 8 miles outside Nottingham we joined the Grand Union Canal Leicester section which is made up of part River Soar, part canal & below Leicester, the river Sence. The River Soar sections are very tranquil and very pretty. In parts it is so clear you can see the bottom.

At Mountsorrel there is this attractive housing development which on approach looked like renovated old buildings on a wharf, but on closer inspection proved to be a new housing development with moorings.  Neat eh!

This grand bridge at Mountsorrel carries the railway which has recently been renovated by a group of local volunteers. As early as 1860 there were eight and a half miles of track serving the local quarries of the Mountsorrel Granite Company, now owned by Lafarge Aggregates. The line ran from the Great Central Railway at Swithland Sidings, around the quarries, over the Grand Union Canal at Mountsorrel, to the Midland Main Line at Barrow-upon-Soar. The line fell out of use in the 1950s, the track was taken up in the 1960s, and most of the route was abandoned.
As we approached Leicester the National Space Centre dominated the skyline.  Unfortunately there was nowhere to moor in order to visit it! 

As we entered Leicester City, all changed. The canal-side became very industrial, mostly dilapidated, the towpath was littered with rubbish, graffiti adorned the walls and where there were no buildings the tall hedgerows & trees shut out all the light giving a claustrophobic feel. The locks leaked and were in very bad repair and hard work. Pretty Ugly really.

All that is left of the old Wolsey Textile factory established 1744.  The rest was demolished in 2009 to make way for a housing development.  At one time Leicester was the centre of the hosiery trade. see

We had been warned that  Leicester had only one safe mooring pontoon and it was definitely not advisable to moor anywhere else.  It certainly wasn't worth writing home about so we continued on our way. 
 Leicester has a lot to offer the visitor and should be ashamed of it's canal-side. It could certainly take a leaf out of Nottingham or Newark's books.

After the depressing journey through Leicester and it's outskirts it was a real pleasure to reach the countryside again.  We were now in famiiar teritory as some 15 or so years ago we lived in nearby Market Harborough.

We moored up near Wistow and took a walk to the Wistow Rural Centre accross the fields.

A glimpse of the beautiful Leicestershire countryside through the hedgerow.

Aylmer emerging from the Saddington Tunnel.  The guide book said there were bats in the tunnel so I opted to walk the half a mile over the top while Tony drove through the tunnel.

Arriving at Foxton we opted to turn left towards Market Harborough & leave the famous Foxton Locks for another day.

After a small incident with a road swing bridge,( where we somehow locked the whole system up & held the traffic up for bout 10 minutes until some helpful boater came to our rescue)  we approached the Union Wharf at Market Harborough.

Marion, a very good friend drove over from Corby to visit us. The expected rain held off, the sun came out & we sat on the back deck having a good ole chin wag!

We holed up in Market Harborough during the promised storms with a quick foray into the town between showers.  On Monday morning, after stocking up with supplies, we set off to tackle Foxton Locks.

Mum, by the way, had a successful double hip operation and is now recuperating at home. We are making our way to Crick where we will leave the boat and hire a car so that I can get home & care for Mum while the rest of the family are away on holiday.

Monday 11th August