Saturday, 31 December 2011

On the move again - to Sutton Stop

Christmas done, so time to move on, we wanted to get past the Brinklow and Ansty before the stoppages kick in on the 4th, so this should be the last time we pass the huge orange buffers where the bank has slipped.

Past some lovely pygmy goats, billies with magnificent horns, playing I'm king of the castle.

Past the volkswagen graveyard

and on to Hawksbury Junction aka Sutton Stop**

This is what the BW rubbish & recycling point looks like

wheelie bins full to bursting, with some idle trouts dumping bags on top of the full skips, instead of walking another 3 paces to find the empty skips.  Duh!!!

This is supposed to be the glass recycling bin, (theres another two for mixed recycling), which was stuffed full of mixed "household" waste.  Now we go to alot of trouble to ensure we recycle as much as we can, the storage of which, isn't easy on a boat.  Then we finally reach a recycling point on the canal, only to find that others have stuffed it full or miscellaneous rubbish.  The recycling in these skips is now useless - the rubbish/recycling collectors do not have the time to sift out the detritus from the genuine recyclables, so the whole lot will be dumped into landfill.  Thanks. 
NB:  Yes Hazel, that is one of our Ogio bottles on the top.

The locals should be ashamed of the state of the elsan point - especially the (older) lady who walked with her loo on a trolly from the moorings above the lock, and used it just before Dave.  She got there before him, so Dave backed off to give her some space.  Unfortunately, she left raw sewage all around the "sink" and on the floor, without a whiff of blue to be smelt.  When Dave entered the elsan point, he jumped back out and shouted "oi you dirty cow" to the woman walking away, but she chose not to hear him and quickened her pace.  Dave of course cleaned it out with a brush and loo roll, as he has done to numerous elsan points along the way. If these elsan points are treated so badly, it won't be long before BW just say "no more" and close them. 

** and out the other side - onto the Coventry canal.  Dave did however walk back to the Greyhound (above), for a pint.  He had to see if the accolade of "CAMRA Coventry pub of the year 2011" was merited - purely for research purposes of course.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Well that's Christmas done then!

I know I was tempting fate when I wrote in my last blog "what could possibly go wrong..." well, nothing did, go wrong I mean.  We had a lovely mooring in Brinklow Marina, even though we were'nt expected (our booking hadn't been passed on) no matter.  We didn't want to risk leaving Beefur unattended over the xmas period.  I was expected at Enterprise rent a car, which was nice, although the petrol guage was on reserve before I started and unfortunately I overdid the petrol & filled it up, so we ended up driving round a bit more that was necessary, just to use some up!  Nemo cat didn't know what to make of the cattery never having been in one before.  I was extremely impressed at the plush two tier cat accommodation, with climbing ramps, vantage points looking out of the glass fronted building, scratching posts, toys and comfy bedding areas - then they showed me to Nemo's cage for the week, round the side in the dingy lean-to.  Hang on sais I, what do you have to do to get the posh hotel suites then?  Dunno, said the girl, just first come first served I guess.  Ah well.  He did have a radio to listen to.

Christmas at mums was lovely, and she'd done a great job with the decorations and tree (thanks Mum).  Christmas day can be a difficult time, and even more poignant when there's someone significant missing at the dinner table - my lovely Dad.  We all miss him so much.

We took a trip to our moorings to say Merry Christmas to Rick, Hazel & Dai, and to take advantage of the hire car which we loaded up with wood which had been drying out nicely in one of the old limekilns.  Not much point in having a load of wood sitting there where we spend the summer months - when we don't have fire number 2 lit.

Our empty mooring.

The Llangollen wharf horse drawn trip boats are out of the water on the Limekilns yard and awaiting blacking - or something

Dave had time to meet his pal Mike the train in the Corn Mill for a pint on boxing day.  The Dee was running rather high!

On the way back from Chirk to Brinklow, we passed over 8 different canals (in one shape or other);-
1.  Llangollen (Chirk)
2.  Montgomery (Queens Head)
3.  Shropshire Union (M54 The Hawthorns)
4.  Staffs & Worcester (Coven Heath)
5.  Disused Hatherton branch (M6 Calf Heath)
6.  Wyrely & Essington (Anglesey Branch, Chasewater M6)
7.  Birmingham & Fazeley (M6 toll Curdworth)
8.  Coventry (Hawksbury Junct)
9.  Oxford (twice at Ansty)

We also went under the M6 (toll) bridge which will eventually carry the Lichfield & Hatherton canal - well hopefully it will in years to come! The bridge structure is there, it just needs a canal.

Friday, 23 December 2011

What is a Blog?

Well I thought it was a collection of thoughts, opinions, ramblings of someone.  An on line diary if you like.  This blog was started to keep family and friends informed of our whereabouts, a brief comment on what we've seen and what (if anything) has happened to us, yes the occasional (ha!) rant, and to let my Mum know we are still floating, and are not iced in, or cold, or broken down.  It was intented to be read by those who are genuinely interested in what we're doing. 

The definition of blog as per Maffi's blogspot states:  "This blog has no more importance than the writing on a toilet wall, it is merely an opinion.  If you don't like what I say, I am sorry, but I will keep saying it.  Opinions don't have to be right, just heartfelt".  Spot on. 

The reason I feel compelled to say something about my blogspot, is the vicious comments received by Matilda Rose's blospot.  From "Anonymous", and "Chris (on a boat near you)", which is rather ominous.  There is a site dedicated to this kind of vitriol its called "Canal World Forum".  Indeed, I thought I'd pressed the wrong button on the computer and landed on said site with the ongoing rantings about "my boat is deeper than your boat", and that old chestnut "tie your boat up properly".  Well, for the record, we have a permanent mooring, which we use 5 or 6 months of the year.  It's a linear mooring on the Llangollen canal.  (Ooo, I hear you say).  We tie our boat up very well thank you.  However tightly you moor up, we are still rocked and buffetted by speeding boats.  Indeed, the 70ft ex FMC boat Fern on our moorings has resorted to using tensioning straps (usually found on wagons).  Yes, I do understand the Archimedes Principle.  Dress it up how you like, 18" or 3ft - the fact remains, that some boats go too fast past moored boats.  End of.  I just feel so sorry for Jill, she just said it how she saw it, and there was no need for such harsh comments, mind you, the blog spot didn't half shoot up the rankings!

By the way, the "Comments" button on this blogspot doesn't work, unless your name is Graham, Gill, or Jill (with a "J"), so I'm in the clear and can rant away!  Neither can I leave comments on anyone else's blog. I've tried fiddling with settings but nothing changed.    

As for us, we're just fine, this mild weather is just the ticket.  I was starting to get a bit twitchy with the first bit of ice, but it cleared within a day so we've carried on cruising.  This christmas malarkey is a doddle.  Cards made and posted.  Christmas presents bought (and sent) on line.  Going to someone else's house for christmas dinner.  Cat booked into cattery, hire car sorted, marina berth sorted, what could possibly go wrong......

Monday, 19 December 2011


Ha! Managed to get my own photo of Gosty Hill today as Iain passed in the pouring rain, loaded up - well - literally to the gunnels! 

We took a walk up to Flecknoe village on Sunday to the pub for lunch.  Dave had already done a couple of rekkies (surprise, surprise).  We had a fantastic beef dinner with all the trimmings for £8.95 each, washed down with very with well kept real ale.  A very nice mellow Sunday.  You can see where Beefur boat is  moored for quite a distance when walking up the hill, then with views accross to Rugby and Braunston.

Dave outside the Old Olive Bush pub.

We took a jaunt into Braunston on Thursday to get some water, and say farewell to
Jill and Graham [click]  (who judging by thier blog, havent had a good day today (Mon).  We also called in at the butchers there.  Although we do get Tesco deliveries here and there, we do try and shop locally, however the prices at the butchers in Braunston do seem to be a tad high:  1lb stewing steak, 6 sausages & few rashers of bacon = £10.40.

Braunston church - who's spire can be seen for miles around. 
The Old Mill, now a holiday let.
When are they ever going to remove this old sunken boat?  It's been here for years causing a hazzard!

We watered, found Matilda Rose, managed to spend another £10.40 on a door catch at Midland Swindlers Chandlers, turned round and came back to Flecknoe for a couple of days, passing a bloggers gathering (Oakfield, Tranquility and Piston Broke) at Fox's Gate, so would that be a babble of bloggers?  Oh, and the famous Maffi came past us (a friend of "Bones" and referred to in her Canal Boat articles), who seemed to recognise Beefur from our blogs.  Again, I was excited at someone famous going past us, I just waved maniacally and forgot to speak!  He's been doing a fantasic job cleaning up bags of litter as he cruises around  [click].  Something we should all be doing.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Like Buses: No blogs for a week - then two come along at the same time

We've had a few days at Napton and The Folly pub, which is fantastic.  The locals, landlord and staff are very friendly, which makes the atmosphere very welcoming.  The shop is open till all hours, and although he doesn't sell papers, he was happy to get Dave a paper if requested the previous day. 

We're not far out of Braunston, (with an internet signal, which is a bit rare round these parts) but decided to stop short and wait for Gosty Hill to arrive with much needed diesel (the fact that it was bitterly cold had nothing to do with it).  This is an old pic of Gosty Hill, I had my phone/camera ready to take a pic as they arrived, but I got excited at the sight of them, I forgot to take a photo. (We were about to run out of heating oil!), anyway, don't know where this pic came from as it was in my archive, so very sorry if I've "stolen" someone's pic.  Very impressive though!  We do like to give Iain & Alison our business when ever we can, as Iain got us out of a very tricky situation when we were iced in up the Ashby back in Jan 2010 and were about to run out of fuel.  Gosty Hill was iced in at Sutton Stop (I think) but despite this, he arrived with a mate, in his mate's van (Ralph off NB Annabelle) and delivered loads of diesel by containers in wheelbarrows in the snow.  Over and above the call of duty.  He wouldn't take any 'delivery' or petrol money.  If he hadn't arrived when he did, I think we'd have had to abandon the boat.  Sorry to hear that they're selling up, but hope they get to do some cruising when they do & come & see us up the Llangollen.

On our way to Napton we stopped short of the Folly, above lock 12, and awoke to find the canal frozen, so we decided to do a runner and get nearer civilisation at the bottom of the locks.  We need'nt have been so twitchy, as there was no ice at the bottom of the locks.  Still, better to be safe than sorry, after the last two winters of being iced in.

Photo of me in silly winter hat - one of many which will no doubt have an airing soon ...
The pound above lock 13 at Napton was incredibly shallow, the boats in the moorings were sitting on the bottom.  Apparently, someone had left the paddles open on the lock overnight and drained the pound.  Not nice.  Matilda Rose had gone down in front of us and had warned us of the low water levels, so we let a couple of lock fulls of water down, but it wouldn't have made any difference as the pound was so low.  Water was now coming down, but it would take a while for the level to get back to normal.  We've seen alot of boaters leaving paddles up, and not closing gates whilst on the South Oxford.  Mostly single handed boaters, who put their hands up & say "oooh sorry, I'm single handed" as if that's some kind of excuse.  Look Matey - If I can do it single handed - anyone can - and if you can't do it properly and shut gates behind you "because you're single handed" - then don't do it at all - get off the canal!

Before Napton, we took refuge in Fenny Compton when the weather men forecast doom and gloom and violent storms.  We picked this spot, which luckily was in a bit of a dip, so missed the winds.  Felt a bit sea sick in the evening, but by morning all was fine and sunny again.
Whilst we were in Fenny Compton getting water, a 70ft Alvechurch hire boat was turning in the winding hole in a howling gale - which he did very successfully.  Dave went over for a chat and discovered that the couple on the boat had hired it for 3 weeks, as they were having a boat built to live aboard, and wanted to experience boating in the winter, to make doubly sure that it was the life for them.  They had hired a maximum length boat, far bigger than the one they were having built,  and in December.  Well done them.  I'm always banging on about people not doing their reseach before buying a boat, but this couple had done it in spades.  We wished them well in their venture.

Wedding Bridge

We noticed that The Old Wedding Bridge (Br133) between Fenny Compton and Napton had been replaced since the last time we were here, by a sort of similar footbridge...

 This is the old footbridge - one huge beam held up by a couple of stilts, with not much headroom.  This pic was taken back in January 2008, I'm on Beefur, with Dave on Sans Souci following behind, trying to avoid the lowest point in the middle.

Me and my big mouth (about carting wood around the country on the roof of the boat), we've already used one load of our blue tarpaulin mass now that the weather had turned cold, leaving space on the roof for foraging some more.  Will have to get Dave a wet suit for this task, as he seemed to take a dive into the cut whenever this task presented itself.  We've got Shifali back on the weather forecast now, who warns us of overnight snow and decreasing temperatures - so it must be true.
Beefur, at Banbury.  Dave waiting patiently whilst I just popped into town for a couple of minutes, hmmmm.....

Monday, 5 December 2011

Banbury - back in the land of the phone signal

We haven't been able to blog for a week or so due to lack of phone signal, hence the bundle of blogs.  We're moored outside Banbury, between the lift bridges for a couple of days, still with Matilda Rose  Far enough to be away from the town, but still close enough for Dave to walk back and visit The Olde Raindeer.  This sign is one of the reasons (apart from the beer) Dave loves this pub.... 
Horay for common sense!

We had a lovely couple of days cruising, and the weather was again fantastic.  These two pics are of a red kite at Somerton Deep Lock.  Oh yes they are.  You can just make out the speck.  Christmas is coming, and we will get a camera rather than relying on mobile phone pics.

We got under Nell bridge without any problems as the water level is so low.  There was rain forecast, but I doubt it would make much difference, but we weren't taking any chances.

Nemo has been to the vets for his annual vaccinations, which involved a short taxi ride.  He did not make one sound during the whole time, and has slept ever since.  That's him sorted for 12 months (fingers crossed).

We have ditched the flowers as the frost saw off the last of the geraniums.  The roof is looking rather bare now, apart from the stack of wood which we have been carting round the country.  We have finally lit the back (2nd) stove - we did hold out till December - so no doubt the stack of logs will now decrease rapidly. 

Trouble is - it's now too hot!!  We're just not acclimatised yet, but we'll persevere!

We'll be going through Cropredy in a couple of days, and hoping that The Red Lion has solved any problems and has now re-opened for business - but I doubt it.  We've also heard that another of our favourite pubs has closed - the Two Boats at Long Itchington, which is a great shame after the efforts the landlord Chris has put in over the last two years, but like he says, £1200 per week rent is just not possible during the winter months, so he's closed the doors.  Another greedy brewery to blame.

Mooring - How close do you go?

Whilst we were in Lower Heyford, we moored out in the countryside, between "The Heyfords" you might say.  Now, here's the thing - how close do you moor next to someone, whilst out in the sticks, and not on designated 24hr, 48hr, or 14 day moorings?  This close?
Button to Button !
I expect to be nose-to-tail whilst moored on designated moorings, or near a pub or a shop, but come on!  There was loads of room behind us on the piling -  two boat lengths worth infact.  Mooring button-to-button with us made no difference to "Misty Blue" as his ex Canal Time boat doesn't have any outlook from the front, but it does make a great deal of difference to us.  Whilst out cruising in winter, we go out of our way to moor in a rural spot, mainly due to the fact that for 6 months of the year we are nose-to-tail with other boats on our moorings - our choice - but through the winter, we want to have a little space when we chose to moor in the middle of nowhere.  Thank you.  Rant over.

Great signs.  Hades is the God or Lord of death and the dead (or underworld), so nice to see that this road caters for this world - and the next !

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Oxford by Train

We abided by the (mooring) rules whilst visiting Oxford, and only stayed 48 hours (unlike everyone else it seemed).  But we felt that we hadn't seen enough of the place and decided to revisit the by train once we got to Lower Heyford, as it's got a handy station alongside the canal, and go to the Ashmolean Museum.  We didn't fancy going in to the city on a Saturday, no trains ran from Lower Heyford on a Sunday (it was raining anyway), so we opted for Monday, and duly went to the station to catch the 0953.  Information display said that the train was on time and there were 5 other people waiting at the station (always a good sign I find, when travelling somewhere different).  Unfortunately, the train didnt turn up.  We phoned the information line, and were told that the train was on its way.  Then two taxi drivers turned up and informed us that the train had been cancelled in Banbury, and they were to take us by taxi into Oxford. Ah well, so much for Mrs. Information.  The taxi dropped us off right outside the Ashmolean.  Great.  Unfortunately, the Ashmolean is closed on Mondays! B****r!  A change of plan was in order, so we went for a look around the Bodleian Library  instead, and to the exhibition "Treasures of the Bodleian" which was wonderful.

The Bodleian Library

We climbed the very narrow spiral staircase up the tower of St Mary's church, (great fun going up the steps - not so funny trying to come down them)

and got these stunning views of Oxford ........