Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Summer 2015 Part Two - The Avon Ring

20th JUNE 2015

Following our trip home after Mum's Stroke, Tony enlisted the help of a friend, Dave, to help him move 'Aylmer' from it's temporary mooring at the Peterborough Yacht Club to her new permanent mooring at Crick in Northamptonshire.

Dave at the helm on the River Nene
Their journey took them up the River Nene, stopping overnight at Woodford and Coggenhoe then through Northampton, joining the Grand Union Canal at Gayton Junction.  They stayed overnight at Bugbrooke and arrived in Crick after 83 miles & 68 locks in 40.5 hours over 4 days. Some going ! Thanks to Dave & to Grace for loaning her husband. Great job guys.

Dave at a Guillotine Lock
25th July 2015

After 5 weeks at home Tony & I set off for Crick to arrive for the annual BBQ.  Sunday was wet, so we stayed put and as Monday's forecast was for more of the same, we took the opportunity to visit old friends Lynne & Parker in Alrewas, only 45 mins away by car.  They have a lovely little cottage right by the canal and took us to the local pub for lunch.

We eventually set off on Tuesday 28th July having decided to change our route and do the Avon Ring.  Turning left  out of Crick Marina, onto the Grand Union Canal Leicester Section, we almost immediately had Crick Tunnel (1,528 yards) to negotiate.  I have to admit to not liking the tunnels, although I do stay aboard now, all be it down below, with the curtains closed and the lights on.  At one time I used to get off the boat and walk over the top of the tunnel!  But I did brave it for this photo.

Leaving Crick Tunnel
The weather remained mixed for the next couple of days but brightened up by Thursday when we buddied up with Pete & Anne on nb. Molly Coddle. Pete was very patient with me as I stayed aboard doing most of the driving following a lock handle accident the previous day which thwacked me and my arm remained painful.  We stopped at the Cape of Good Hope where I had the best Pimms & Pork Ribs ever. Worthy of a Tripadvisor revue.  The following day we did the Hatton flight in 3 hours knocking an hour off last years time.

The Hatton flight. 21 locks, 3.2 km, with a 45 metre rise
On Saturday 1st August it was warm and sunny as we turned onto the Stratford-upon-Avon canal to start the Avon Ringl.  A funny thing happened to me on the cut!  We stopped at the Kingswood services and as I was topping up the water a young man appeared, with a towel wrapped around his middle, dripping wet & covered in soap bubbles. Apparently the tap I was usingto fill our tank was reducing the pressure of the water in the shower block and he was unable to rinse off.  I wish I'd had a camera to hand.

Kingswood Junction
  We stopped at the Fluer de Lys at Lowsonford, for lunch. They were holding the annual fete in the grounds and as we left the pub the heavens opened, I did feel sorry for them all. Nearby on the lockside was an Antony Gormley sculpture, one of five placed in beauty spots chosen by the artist to mark  50 years of UK building conservation charity Landmark Trust.  see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-32702277 .

Antony Gormley sculpture at Lowsonford, Warwickshire
The lock cottages on the Stratford-upon-Avon canal are unusual & rather sweet. The construction of the Stratford-upon-Avon canal began in 1793, during the heady days after the French Revolution. Its projecteers did not foresee the credit squeeze that followed the opening of hostilities against Napoleon, but fortunately, an astute local land agent called William James stepped into the breach to complete the southern stretch of the canal, which includes Lowsonford. Working with engineer William Whitmore, James cut costs dramatically. His engineers, more accustomed to building bridges than houses, simply adapted the techniques they knew best to house the men who worked on the canal, building them snug, barrel-roofed cottages next to the locks they supervised.  The cottage at Lowsenford can be rented as a holiday let.  see http://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/search-and-book/properties/lengthsmans-cottage-8857

Lock Cottage with barrel roof
The bridges are rather small and quite cute too.
Bridge on the Stratford-on Avon canal
We moored at Wooten Warwen for the night and woke to a beautiful warm & sunny morning. After a short walk to the local farmshop for supplies and refueling  at the nearby Anglo Welsh base we set off for the Wilmcote locks.  This flight of 11 locks are situated a short distance from the village of Wilmcote which is where Mary Arden's house and farm is located - Mary Arden was William Shakespeare's mother.  
Top of the Wilmcote flight
From the top of the Wilmcote locks we could see Stratford-Upon-Avon laid out below, but it was a long tough journey to get there. However there was a nice mooring at the bottom of the locks and the sun was shining so out went the washing..............

and on went the BBQ.  The first one on this trip, partly because of the weather & partly because when the weather was good enough, the towpath was too narrow!  

This time there was a convenient gate to a pathway leading down to a little stream.  Perfect !  Tomorrow Stratford-upon-Avon.

Sunday 2nd August 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

An eventful few days!

Having rejoined Tony at Ely, we eagerly awaited the arrival of the Dolan's to celebrate Stan's 3rd birthday on Aylmer.

Tony, Stan, Jasmine & Lily
Birthday spread
Stan's new bike
The Band played Happy Birthday to Stan

Stan has fun in the park
Jasmine learns to ride a two wheeler
Leaving Ely the next day we had a rather splendid view of the Cathedral from the river,  but not much else except a wide expanse of river, high banks and lots of reeds.

Ely Cathedral from the river
We took a short detour up the Little Ouse to a small marina for some fuel, at a bargain price of 75p a litre. This was a much prettier stretch of river with lots of small craft and crystal clear water

Crystal clear water of the Little Ouse

Little Ouse Moorings
 Whilst Tony was refuelling, I wandered around with my camera and managed to get this lovely photo of a blue damselfly.

Blue Damselfly
The end of the journey (for now)

The rest of our journey along the Great Ouse, through the Middle Levels and onto the river Nene was fairly non eventful, until we reached Peterborough on the 17th June.  We were just rafting up against Aria when I received a telephone call to tell me Mum had had a stroke & was in Southend Hospital.  Yes, the very same place I had made a dash back to only one week before to see my brother, who was in a coma following a medical procedure. I needed to return. Quick!  We couldn't leave the boat on Peterborough Riverside as they were having their Riverside Festival that weekend.  Martin, friend on nb. Aria, quickly contacted a local boat club and secured us a temporary mooring, while Tony sorted a hire car to meet us there.  The boat club was a bit up river and we had to go through a lock, which we had negotiated on our outward journey.  

Martin & Karen, once again, came to the rescue and kindly offered to accompany us to the lock to help speed us on our way.  That would have worked had disaster not struck.  On the approach to the lock was a shoal (poorly marked it has to be said)  right in the middle of the river.  Instead of taking the logical route to the lock Tony decided to follow his previous route to the left of the shoal.  Only he miscalculated.  As he was in a hurry he hit the shoal hard and wedged the boat on top of it.  No amount of revving or reversing was going to move it and even the barge pole was having no effect.  We were well & truly stuck!  To make matters worse a large audience was beginning to collect, to watch while we were marooned in the middle of the widest section of the river. As I looked up at the crowd on the bridge I saw someone walking across it with a very long pole held aloft.  It was Martin . Bless him, he waded out to us, water up to his chest, to board Aylmer, and between them, after 45 minutes of being stuck, they managed to free us. So so grateful to Martin who waded through stinging nettles mud & dirty water to help us. Unfortunately I was too much in shock to take any photos, but I think you can imagine my despair.

We eventually made it to the boat club and moored up. They even provided us with electricity and offered we could stay there as long as we needed.  The hire car took such a long time to get to us.  Unbeknown to us the boat club was down a long, private, gated drive with a self operated railway crossing.  The poor driver had had to wait for someone to come along who could unlock the gate and let him through.  Then Tony had to return to the hire office in Peterborough to complete the paperwork before he could return to collect me.  Unfortunately Mum passed away before we had even left Peterborough.

17th June 2015