Sunday, 31 October 2010

Writer's Block!

For the last 10 days or so this has comprised of:-

  1. Lack of inspiration
  2. Poor internet connections
  3. Lack of self-discipline
  4. Insufficient uninterrupted time!  Say no more!
So ................ what has been happening?  Lots of little things really.

We have been to Rugby, primarily to stock up supplies from the canal side Tesco's but, whilst there, we spent two very enjoyable evenings with Lynne and Paul from n/b "Piston Broke".  We have heard first hand about the trials and tribulations of having one's boat stretched.  MAJOR work!  MAJOR stress!  Pretty sure I couldn't handle it!  They are renting a boat in a nearby marina whilst all the work is going on.  The boat will be stunning when everything is completed - we are looking forward to seeing it.
  (I got up early but ...........interruption has just arrived - say no more!)

Back at Willoughby Wharf, Meg joined us from Saturday until Monday.  She was lucky because, for most of the time, the sun shone and the sky was blue!  

Being in Braunston during Half Term week?  It has been like the W25 - waterway equivalent to the M25!
Boats have been parading by from early morning to dusk!  John has been bobbing up and down like a cork in a bottle!  Good exercise for the knees!  Hire boat companies have done very well this week!  A mass of private boats have been out and about too -amongst them lots of very pristine, brand-new-looking boats.
  Recession?  What recession?

The weather has been very mixed - one day nice; one day not; one day nice; one day not has been the general pattern.  We have had rain, heavy frost, high winds and ..................... bright, warm sunshine.  

When we moved from the church to The Puddle Banks we were re-united with Rosie the Rotweiller and her owners Liz and Dave.  Rosie has been in trouble!  She has torn a tendon in her back leg and has had to have a major operation. ££££££££££££!!   She is still limping and has to be kept calm!  If you knew Rosie you would realise how difficult this is as she is such a friendly girl and gets so excited.  Dave and Liz also have a 14 year old poodle called Lulu and a parrot called Jasper.  Whilst we were outside on the tow path talking their phone rang ...... and rang ...........and rang.  Dave made no attempt to go in to answer it.  Seeing me looking puzzled he explained .............
"It's the parrot!  He imitates the ring tone of the phone when he thinks he's been on his own too long. The ring tone of the phone usually gets someone coming!"
Braunston Village  
The more time we spend here and get to know the village and the surrounding area, the more we like it.
There is always lots going on and it is steeped in history.  With that in mind:-
Braunston Puddle Banks:-  This is a really popular mooring amongst boaters but WHY are they called that?
There must be an historical reason?  I have discovered an excellent village web site and a helpful chap is going to try to find out for me.

Rodney stopped by to see us yesterday.  He has gone to his own boat just to check that everything is OK.
We met him in "The Old Plough".  (Really friendly pub in the High Street - dog friendly)
Whilst in there the phone rang and it was Lynn (of Mick and Lynn).
"Where are you?  We're on the M1 heading South."
Being informed we were in a pub in Braunston was far too much temptation!  They were with us within half an hour!  They came back to the boat with us for a while - it was really good to see them and catch up with news etc.
We are planning to see Rodney again at lunchtime.

Sorry - no pictures.  I hope my problem in adding some is down to the fact that the internet connection is weak but I have to confess that I have been finding it more and more difficult lately using 'Blogger.'  Have tried to configure 'Writer' which has been recommended but it won't accept this blog site address for some reason?  Any advice gratefully accepted.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


"Angela really needs to pay careful attention to detail and take into account ALL the available data!
Perhaps if she took more time ..............."

Whoops!  Some things never change!  Yes, I failed to take into account four sections of travel!
SO ................. my tentative re-calculation on reaching Braunston is .................
MILES:  947
LOCKS:  511
Over to you, Rodney!

We have moved on to Hillmorton aiming to get to Rugby tomorrow.  All because ........  we need to go to Tesco's to stock up!  The excitment is hard to contain!!

Hoping to meet up with Lynne and Paul and hear first-hand all about the stretching of n/b Piston Broke.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Boats and Pieces

Since re-joining the canal system at Gayton Junction we have been staggered at the number of boats - both hire and private - that are still out and about.  It feels that in the last two weeks we have seen more narrow boats than over the entire summer on the Nene and Great Ouse.
Talking of boats:-
The more you cruise around the system the more you get to recognise boats when you see them again.  It's strange though because, as there are so many miles of inland waterways upon which to travel, it can be years before you see a familiar boat again.  Having said that, this week we have been passed by two 'celebrity' boats!  "Nobby" owned by Ian and Alison passed us on route to Braunston.  Ian writes/wrote articles for one of the canal boat magazines - I don't know if he still does as we very rarely buy them these days.  We were really surprised to hear that they too had spent the summer on the Nene and Great Ouse but we didn't even catch a glimpse of each other!  N/b "Ski" (Spending the Kids' Inheritance) has also passed us this week.  They featured in a TV programme about how popular it has become to live on the canals.  This week too we have met our first honeymoon couple in a hire boat ............... aahh!  Wrapped up in coats, scarves and gloves:-
"Didn't want to go to Rome or anything like that," they said!!!!!

I make an effort to remember the names of boats and boaters and, yes, call me just plain nosey, but I'm interested  to know where they are, where they've been and where they're going!!  We, on the other hand, appear to be extremely unmemorable!

Yesterday we came up the Buckby Flight - thankfully with another boat as I find it to be one of the hardest flights of locks on the system.  We are now moored up at Norton Junction a mile away from Welton Hythe Marina where, for us, this all started 7 years ago - how time flies!  So now, we are on 'old stomping ground'.

Norton Junction  
In the last seven years mooring at Norton Junction hasn't been great!  (Unless of course you are like Rodney and Derek and appreciate mooring almost opposite The New Inn!!)  There are a few spaces between the water tap and the BW yard at the top of the locks and, failing that, you needed to go down the Leicester Arm where both sides of the canal are lined with trees and the tow path is poor.  Not any more!  BW have now vastly improved the tow path just the other side of the bridge going towards Braunston Tunnel.  Mooring rings are available and it's deep enough to get into the bank!  The view is across the fields towards Welton:-

Canal-side /Waterway Trade
Coming up the Buckby Flight we passed our favourite little shop on the system!
'Anchor Cottage' is full of tempting boating antiques, a huge variety of hand-painted ware and all sorts of other interesting paraphernalia!  There are very few waterside businesses remaining as competing with the 'big boys' is now so hard.  It will be a very sad day for the waterways if they cease to exist at all so we try to support them when we can.  I bought my first Christmas present in
 'Anchor Cottage' yesterday and John now has another Buckby Can to paint over the winter.  

Another really nice little shop is 'The Boat Shop' at the bottom of the Braunston Flight.  They sell a small amount of essential groceries as well as some painted ware , lace plates, cross stitch kits, boat plaques and a fantastic selection of books and maps.  We also try to buy coal and gas from the fuel boats whenever we can.

The sky is blue and we are now casting off for Braunston along with lots of others!
When we get there we will have done 751 miles and 448 locks (my calculations so might not be exactly accurate) since leaving Crick at the beginning of March.  There you are, Rodney, a challenge for you!

John is feeling rather smug as, this year, he hasn't been shouted at!  I've told him there's still time!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

A Get-Together Weekend

What a good choice of venue for our get-together Stoke Bruerne has turned out to be - well done, Rodney!  We have all had a really lovely weekend.
It comes as no surprise that the village has been bustling with boats and people all the time we have been here.  The restaurants, pubs and shops have had lots of trade and the trip boat has been constantly backwards and forwards to the tunnel entrance.  The little cottage hired by Rodney was lovely.  It has four storeys all connected by spiral staircases!  It was nicely decorated and well equipped.

We went into the museum which was interesting and we had audio handsets which not only explained about things inside the museum but also took us on a tour of the immediate surroundings outside.

Us girls also had a mooch around the shops - well, we would wouldn't we?!!

On Saturday evening we had a really nice meal in the Indian restaurant next door but one to the cottage - "The Spice of Bruerne".  We found the food to be delicious and good value, the surroundings very comfortable and the service excellent.

Food Sunday lunchtime was obtained from "The Boat Inn".  In fact, as with all good celebratory times, a lot of food and alcohol was consumed by all!!

We did have some exercise too!  On Saturday afternoon we went for a walk to the village of Blisworth along the Mid Shires Way.  It was very muddy in sections!  Rodney drove to Blisworth to pick us up and bring us back to Stoke Bruerne.  Gill and Anne have gone back to Staines with harvested sloes ready to make sloe gin - some for me at Christmas time please!

AND ........ I am no longer able to compete with Rapunzel because Gill has given me a very tidy haircut!

A really, really lovely weekend - thanks everyone.  Love you all.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Billing Marina to Gayton Junction

We left Billing at 9.30am having decided that, for safety reasons, we needed to get off the river.
I am totally smitten with the River Nene - because of it's tendency to flood,  it's no-where near as manicured as the Thames.
We BOTH thought the weather forecast said that we were in for three days of rain but ................ we did Billing to Gayton in lovely sunshine!  23 locks and 9 miles.
Did we not listen properly?  Did we misunderstand?  Are we just both going senile or .............. did the weathermen just get it wrong again?!!  Did they lie?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We were moored up at Gayton by 6pm having stopped on the quay at Northampton for about an hour and a half while I went to Morrisons and we had lunch.  All the locks on the Rothersthorpe Flight were in our favour and it made a huge difference in terms of difficulty and time.
Nobody else was going our way but 4 boats were heading to the Nene to get back to their permanent moorings.
We have stayed at Gayton today - in the sunshine(!) - the only downside being the noise from the A43!
Anyway, we are now well placed for getting to Stoke Bruerne for the weekend's celebrations with Gill, Anne and Rodney.  Bring it on!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Pushing our Luck?

Over the last few days every other boater we have met has either been intent on getting off the Nene or getting back to their mooring on the Nene.  Why?  Because of the rainy weather we have been having and the risk that the river would go into flood.
"We won't be panicked", we thought.
"Scare-mongers", we thought.
Well, last night we finally moored up, very precariously, to a bit of bank down stream of Earls Barton Lock.  The river was up by 9 inches.  The current wanted to grab "Ellen's" bow and push her out and back downstream!
It rained more over night and two more days of heavy rain are forecast.  Considering this, low bridges and high winds ................. at 8.30am the next morning we were under way!  Unheard of for us!!
Plan?  To get to the relative safety of Billing Marina.
Water rushed over the pointed gates of the locks and, when filling the locks, it even poured over the guillotine gates.  We haven't seen this before.  The force of the water made it extra hard for me to open the up-stream gates.
Water gushing over the 'pointy' end.
Locks didn't take long to fill!!
Water gushing over the guillotine gate end.
Full then?!!

Well, we are now at Billing Marina and, surprise, surprise, we saw NO other boat moving on the way.
In the marina, "Ellen" is 60 foot long and only the back 5 foot of her is tied to a pontoon but the positives are:-

  • safe from the currents of the river
  • amenities at hand!!
  • electric hook up!  ( the washing can be done, the ironing(!), TV can be watched all day if we want (watching a repeat of X-factor at the moment and not feeling guilty about it!!) and I might even get the sewing machine out!!  AND ........ I can humour my O.C.D. and HOOVER!!!!!!
  • Easy destination for Megan to come and find us to collect Maisie for her next visit to Stanwell.
Billing Marina

The weather forecast for the next few days is NOT good and we need to get back to Gayton Junction and we have to do that soon as the Rothersthorpe flight is closed for a week from the 11th October.   Whatever, we need to be at Stoke Bruerne for next weekend - an excuse for celebrating anything worthy of recent celebration!!   
"Rain, rain, go away -
Come again another day .........."!!!!!