Sunday, 27 July 2014

A Wedding, a rescue and beach

We had a lovely few days at home and managed to catch up with family & fiends as well as attending Jodie & Antonia's wedding. It was such a beautiful day in every sense.

We rejoined the boat at Barton Turns before saying goodbye for now to Parker & Lynne who had very kindly looked after the boat whilst we went home and then accompanied us to the first lock. 

As we approached Burton-on-Trent  we could smell the hops even before the Marstons bridge came into view.  Unfortunately the Marstons Brewery is no longer open to the general public except on pre arranged tours.  However the National Brewery Centre is nearby.

We managed to spot a few of Tony's favourite brews at the NBC and even sampled some after a very interesting guided tour.  Well recommended.

It was only a short trip to Willington, which turned out to be a popular stop.  Even the pub was fully booked on a Tuesday evening!

We decided to walk the 1.5 miles into Repton, famous for it's Public School, and crossed the River Trent which we would be joining later.  The church, St Wystan's, which you can see in the photo, is built over a crypt constructed in the 8th century which is said to be one of the oldest and most important examples of Anglo-Saxon architecture to survive intact. .  And Tony just happens to be reading a series of books by Bernard Cornwell in which the crypt is mentioned as the final resting place of Mercian Kings.

Back on board Tony caught his first fish in 6 weeks!  He blames the fact that I won't let him have maggots on board.  Well would you??

Onto the River Trent and under the M!.Here the journey to Nottingham alternates between canal & river.

Approaching Sawley Flood Lock we were flagged down by a couple walking along the tow path who drew our attention to something in the water on the opposite bank. An elderly man had fallen into the canal & was literally up to his neck in the canal. We hastily moored the boat and Tony grabbed a rope.  By the time we got back to the scene the other couple had hold of John (as we later learnt was his name) but were unable to pull him out because of the steep concrete bank.  With the rope around his chest and the effort of the four of us we eventually got him out, cold; wet; shaken and semi conscious.  Andrew rang the emergency services whilst we made him as comfortable as possible and wrapped him in a blanket. Poor John was very disoriented, confused, cold and had a nasty gash under his eye. It took the emergency service  45 minutes to send anybody to the scene, first a policeman, then a paramedic and finally the ambulance we requested and John was finally taken off to Derby hospital. Just another casualty of the NHS cuts?

The week ended on a much happier note when we moored in the Castle Marina, Nottingham and met up with daughter Kerry & granddaughter Lily.  The ever enterprising Nottingham City Council have turned the old Market Square into a beach with sand, deckchairs, merry-go-rounds, pools, fountains & candyfloss. Brilliant!

Kerry & Lily

Lily had a wonderful time while Nana & Pops sat in their deckchairs like a couple of old pensioners.

Lily takes to the helm.

Kerry & Lily

A cuddle for Nana & Pops

We rounded off the weekend with a visit from friends, Stella & Alex.  Drinks and nibbles on board, putting the world to rights and having a laugh.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

444 miles 300 locks!

Setting off on 3rd July we were once again in open countryside, although accompanied by the constant drone of the M6 Toll road which runs adjacent to the canal as we negotiated the Curdworth Locks.  Now on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal.

Curdworth Locks
Near to the entrance of Drayton Manor Park is the whimsical Drayton Footbridge, a gothic folly. A photo opportunity not to be missed.

Drayton Footbridge
Stairs wind up the tower to the bridge across the canal.

Soon after we joined the Trent & Mersey Canal at Fradeley Junction where they have these really cute little lock bridges.

 We were joined by friend Parker to help us to Barton Turns marina where he keeps his boat Alfran, sister boat to Aylmer out of the same boatyard in Liverpool.

Parker & Tony

Barton Turns Marina
All moored up.  Decided to spend the weekend here exploring the marina - pub, shops, restaurants and cinema, what luxury!

The red line on the map shows where we have been so far
After 444 miles, 10 different waterways and 300 locks we have left Aylmer in Parker's good hands while we catch the train home for my nieces wedding.

Up to 7th July 

The Grand Union

 Soon after joining the Grand Union we came to the Stockton flight of locks.  These are wide locks taking two boats side by side, unfortunately there were no other boats around to share with so we did the whole flight (13 locks) alone but as we were in no hurry we managed to get by just using one paddle & opening one gate.

Looking down the Stockton flight
Our next stop was Leamington Spa where we had a pleasant stroll through the town where the planners have managed to update the shopping area whilst still keeping the towns Regency Heritage in all it's splendor. 

The Pump Room, Leamington Spa

Our next challenge was the Hatton Flight (21 Locks).

Hard work but we managed to share the load by alternating driving & manning the locks.

We also had a little help from the Rogers family who were just out for some 'Gongoozling', but the boys were willing to help with a lock.

Shrewley Tunnel, built in 1799 is built below the village and has a separate tunnel for the towpath.  See

link to Stratford canal

Just after the bridge to the Link to the Stratford Canal  we picked up a couple of Hitchhikers who we rescued from a couple of angry swans who were nursing their cygnets on the towpath and wouldn't let anyone pass.
Sue & David from Birmingham
We ran aground trying to pick them up & had to pole off the bottom, before giving Sue & David a ride to the next bridge hole.  Good deed for the day :)

We met up with friends Richard & Yo at Knowle, who's garden backs onto the canal.  We had a lovely evening with them, then Richard joined us in the morning for bacon sarnies 

before helping us up the Knowle flight.  We then had a short journey to Catherine de Barnes, which we were recommended was the last safe mooring place before setting off around Birmingham.

Early next morning, 7am! we set off through a deep cutting, lined with trees and surrounded by all sorts of rubbish.  GRIM! There was even a sunken boat no one had bothered to remove or even mark as a hazard.  It was very shallow & we scraped the bottom a few times.  Other parts were very industrial,

we even went under Spaghetti Junction.  The only bright spot all day was that Tony saw a couple of Kingfishers.  To quick for photos unfortunately.

Spaghetti Junction
At Minworth Top Lock we encountered our first boat in 7 hours and the vista opened up to corn fields.  A welcome sight after all the grime of the day.

Takes us up to 2nd July.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Up the Oxford

As we turned off the Thames onto Dukes Cut, to join the Oxford Canal, we entered a different world. The canal is very narrow and bordered by trees & bushes giving a very closed in feeling. The locks are so narrow there are only a couple of inches to spare when taking the boat in.

We stopped at Enslow Wharf for fuel and were enticed to moor for the night by the promise of internet connection. We duly paid our £10 mooring fee only to discover the connection was so slow it took 10 minutes to upload one photo!

After the lack of boats on the Thames we were surprised to arrive at Pigeon's Lock the following morning to find 5 boats queueing in front of us to pass through the locks.  As these locks take only one boat at a time it tooks over an hour to get through! Obviously a slow day in the sunshine ahead, plenty of time to admire the scenery, which improved as we moved up the canal.

Bridge at Northbrook

Swing Bridge, of which there are many on this narrow canal, mostly for use by the farmers so they were thankfully left open for us.

Sommerton Deep Lock

After Sommerton Lock (12ft deep) the vista opens up and becomes quite pretty.

We found a lovely mooring at Aynho Wharf, and had lunch in the deceptively named Great Western Railway pub which had a wonderful courtyard garden.

By Sunday 22nd June we were in Banbury where we were able to go shopping and top up the supplies. I also found not one but two fabric shops so was in my element!  We stayed two days & met up with some old friends, Unni & Peter.  Unfortunately, for some unknown reason I didn't take any photos.

The next day was overcast & a bit chilly as we set of for Fenny Compton. However the sun came out later & we met up with my dear friend Lee who lives in Warwick and although we will be going to Warwick later, Lee is off on a cruise before we get there.  We moored at the Wharf, a great pub which has not only a shop with general provisions attached but a Spice Bar with an amazing array of herbs & spices.

Lee & Jan at the Wharf, Fenny Compton.

The last section of the Oxford canal before we turned off onto the Grand Union, took us around Napton with it's windmill sitting above us, following us as we circumnavigated the hill.  

One of the locks on the Napton flight was in bad disrepair.  Apparently the lock will need to be closed for some time for repair so they have propped it up & arranged a rota of volunteers to help the boats through until they can close it after the season in October.

We stopped just after the damaged lock, for the night, right by the Folly pub. Another with a shop attached.  Earlier in the day we had passed a field of Water Buffalo and in the shop they had Buffalo steaks & Buffalo milk ice cream for sale.  We bought some of both & they were delicious.

Next day we continued skirting the Windmill on Napton Hill on our way to Napton Junction

Napton Junction

where we turned off for the Grand Union.

Grand Union entrance from the Oxford.