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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Then rain stopped play...

So here we are in Stourport on Severn and have been for the past 4 days. The problem is the river Severn which is in spate and the advice is not to proceed. Actually it's a lovely place to get stuck! We are cheekily moored in one of the four basins and no-one has bothered us yet. We even have an electric hook up! The basins have all been developed with a mixture of new builds and renovated old buildings and its been done really well. 
The town is geared up for tourists; almost like a seaside town with a permanent funfair, fish and chip shops and amusement arcades. Oh and an awful lot of pubs!! All a bit dead this time of year but we are doing our best to keep them going:)
While we have nothing better to do, John decided to have a good look at the washing machine and thinks he has found the fault. ( we didn't get round to ordering a new machine!) New part has been ordered and with any luck he can fix it. 400 quid saved if he can! 
The weather forecast is a bit better for next week so hope to be on our way again shortly. Meanwhile a few hobbies days!

Friday, 7 November 2014

This is the way to do it

After our mad dash towards Dimmingsdale lock on the Staffordshire and Worcester canal we are taking it easy and exploring this lovely waterway and its villages. The first surprise was Kinver. Just a few miles from Wolverhampton but a million miles apart. We walked to the top of Kinver edge and were rewarded with the most amazing 360 degree views. No photo would do it justice so didn't try. Just stayed well back from the edge and enjoyed! Hannah was with us and it would be safe to say she faced her fear of heights!
Another intriguing feature is the series of rock houses cut into the sandstone cliff face. Easy to extend when you need more space. Just cut another room out of the rock
Sadly the houses were not open and neither was the pub owned by Dick Whittington's father!
We are now in Kidderminster and moored outside a retail park. Hoping to be able to order a new washing machine as ours has packed up. It is a very small machine and not widely available so has to be delivered. It's one if those logistical problems of living on a boat! 
We went out at 10pm last night for a quick drink and found ourselves in the only pub still open - The Boars Head. What can I say? Lets just say that they didn't have to add anything to the decor for Halloween! Very much a punk and ska venue. But we have found that if you stay to closing time you get chatting with the locals and they weren't as scary as they first seemed! 
Some lovely atmospheric mornings this week:)

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Race against time

Having decided to take a detour along the Llangollen canal before heading to our winter mooring near Gloucester we eventually checked the stoppages list and realised that there was a lock closure en route which would entail a detour which would add 50+ locks to our journey. The alternative was to go hell for leather towards said lock and get through it before it closes for 6 weeks. Very happy to say that we went through said lock today and can breathe again. 
The Llangollen canal was very beautiful. We thought so and so did the million hire boats on it!! Unfortunately we timed it all wrong. Completely forgot that it was half term ( don't have to think about term times any more -praise be!). Would definitely recommend avoiding school holidays. After weeks of hardly any boats it was strange to be fighting for space. On the other hand it was quite nice to see kids enjoying the waterways. We did see one sulky teenager on a boat desperately trying to get a signal on her phone but after a week of virtually no phone calls or 3G I can sympathise! Can't believe how frustrated I got and how totally we rely on our phones now. 

The highlight of the Llangollen is undoubtedly the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct which carries the canal 150 feet above ground level across a valley and the River Dee. Utterly terrifying but a fantastic photo opportunity if you have the nerve. 

It was great to catch up with Marg and Richard who took us to for a drive over the horseshoe pass to Betws - y -Coed where we watched salmon jumping upstream! A lovely day rounded off with a meal at the Chainbridge Hotel back in Llangollen. 

Some beautiful autumn vistas along the way! 

Monday, 20 October 2014

So weak

Middlewich. Trying to be good and not spend too long in the pub so we went along at 10pm and left at 1am. Not doing too well !
However  we were educated in the art of dominoes but probably won't remember tomorrow. It's a good life:)

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Here we go again

Back on the boat after a long break while John recovered from his shoulder surgery. It all went quite well despite massive damage to his rotator cuff but on the mend now and doing lots of physio. 
Apart from a couple of days on the boat with Laura and Cory it has been almost two months since we travelled anywhere.  The boat had to be abandoned in Skipton  (with permission from the CRT of course). All was fine when we got back and after clearing out the spiders, stocking up the fridge and enlisting crew in the form of my parents,  we headed west along the Leeds/Liverpool. We were very grateful of the help especially at the Wigan locks. 23  big, heavy, and in some cases stubborn locks, in one day, left us all with aching arms and shoulders. 
Mum and dad left us at Anderton and we decided to go down the lift and spend a couple of days on the river Weaver. Well worth the detour if only for the experience of going down the boat lift. Northwich is a nice town which is heavily investing in its waterfront with a new Waitrose and retirement apartments overlooking the river. 
We travelled all the way to the end of the river where it joins the Manchester ship canal but it gets more and more industrialised as you go along. Not at all pretty! Much of it is derelict factories and abandoned wharves. 
We got the story of the wreck from the friendly lock keeper. Apparently it was a hotel boat in its later life and moored by the lock for winter. It had a wind mill to keep the batteries ticking over to operate the bilges. One year there was a spell with fog and no wind so the batteries died and the boat just keeled over. Within a month it had been stripped of all its valuables. Because it had debts attached to it and because these debts would become the responsibility of the waterways if they got involved with trying to remove it, the wreck has laid there for 21 years! Quite spooky when you walk past it at night. 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Keep meaning to write....

Really I do but never seem to get round to it. As I write this I am awaiting a text from my ex teaching partner and good friend Paula who move up north near Leeds quite a long time ago. We have already had a quick catch up but now she is coming aboard for a couple of nights with her husband Ismail and son Cem. 
Since the last blog we haven't travelled that much. York was great and was beginning to feel like home after ten days. Next we went to Ripon which us is far north as you can get on the main canal network. We had a few days off the boat; train trip to Whitby for the day then a surprise visit to the North Yorkshire moors for an overnight stay in a lovely cottage courtesy of Robert and Stefan (some more friends made in Vietnam ). Another day was spent on the north  York moors railway. Lovely!

We have just got back from France and the most beautiful wedding I think I have ever been to. Massive congratulations to Sophie and David. A great time was had by all!!! 

This weekend we are looking forward to visitors from Wales. Dave and Anna will be joining us for a week for the apparently spectacular stretch of canal from Leeds to skipton. Can't wait guys!!

The next big event will be johns operation scheduled for 18th August. It can't come quick enough for him. He's still in a lot of pain and getting worse day by day. No boating for us for at least 2 weeks after the op. Planning to be in Bushey for a week then maybe Nice? 

Never a dull moment! 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

You learn something new ...

After a pretty non eventful trip up the Trent and the canals and rivers heading north we have arrived in York. We have both been here before but have decided to stay for a while as there is so much to see and do. Plus the Tour de France starts from here next weekend and we are in a prime position on the river to see it! So a week or more in York. 
The tidal rivers are not that interesting as the banks are built up for flood protection  so you don't see much of the surrounding countryside. We passed the time by looking out for the elusive kingfisher. I thought I saw one or two around Harefield last year but couldn't be sure. This time, on the River Ouse, we had four definite sightings. We even saw a nest on an branch overhanging the river. Never thought I would get excited about seeing birds! 
An interesting fact for the day came from a CRT man who works on the dredging boats. He was talking about finding dead bodies in the river. Apparently men float face down with the upper back out of the water. Women also float face down bit with their backside out of the water. Any ideas why??

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Back on the water

After almost a month we are back on the waterways. As well as the cutlass bearing and shaft we also needed a new engine mount and a new propeller. So all done now together with some extra sign writing and  a freshly blacked bottom she looks like new and sounds so much quieter. 
Since leaving Nottingham we have made lot of progress. We were on the river Trent for a few days and the current and wind pushed us along nicely. Now we know how fast she can go! We took a short detour down part of the Chesterfield canal then back on the Trent to the Keadby/ Stainforth canal and now on the New Junction Canal heading for York. 
It was great to welcome our first on board visitor of the season, Mike Sugden, who we met on our trip to Vietnam and who now feels like a lifelong friend! Hope you had fun Mike. 
So that's the good news. 
The bad news is that John almost certainly needs a operation on his shoulder. During the weeks of painting in Oldham and working on the boat his shoulder has become increasingly painful. He is due to see a specialist and have an MRI scan next Monday. So this is the thing. If he has the operation his arm will be held out at 45 degrees in a sling which is going to make boating a bit of a challenge. This means we will have to stay put unless we can recruit some competent crew! Any friends/relatives reading this who would like a free boating holiday in return for some help with locks etc please get on touch. We don't really want to stop for too long and miss the summer. 
Here's a few photos to wet your appetite!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Boat trouble

Well, not exactly trouble but a certain delay. The boat is out of the water having a repair. A new cutlass bearing was needed but it also transpired that the shaft was worn out! Just our luck that there is only one company supplying the size we need so we are waiting.... Meanwhile we will miss the next time the crane is available so won't be back in the water until the first week of June. Getting a bit frustrated now .. want to get going. 

On the plus side we have had a lovely week or so in the south west. First a few days in Cornwall with some wild and windy weather. But bright and sunny with it. Next on to Solva in South Wales to see John's running friend Dave Swan.  Really loved Solva. Such spectacular scenery and we were made to feel very welcome by Dave and the locals. 

Then back to London for a gig at the 100 club, Ricky canal festival and Tom's 18th birthday party with all the family. Oh and a short but sweet visit to see Helen of Pelham:)  en route to Stansted to collect Hannah. 1000 miles in 10 days. Phew!!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Pretty villages

Twelve days after leaving Apsley we have arrived in Nottingham after passing through some lovely canal side villages. Alrewas was beautiful and this picture of the lock at Shardlow doesn't really do it justice. At Burton on Trent we had a surprise meeting with Roger and Pat Filler on "The Cats Whiskers" who we met last year in Hertford and again in Rickmansworth. Great to catch up with their winter adventures and compare notes. 
After the boat has had a few jobs done we will be heading north and are determined to slow the pace down. We always seem to be under time pressure and that was not the plan. So from now on, more time to take the bikes, explore, learn and discover. That's after a quick trip to Cornwall for a party and while we're down there a slight detour to South Wales. Did I say we are slowing down??

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Back in the swing

Just over a week now back on the cut and all is well apart from a minor incident involving a hire boat which managed to turn completely the wrong way and straight into our bow. Sadly I was at the tiller at the time and couldn't avoid the collision. It didn't sound or feel too bad at the time but it did leave a dent which John is working on. 
We are at Fazeley junction having come up the Grand Union to Norton Junction with the Oxford Canal then on to the Coventry Canal. There are 3 pubs in Fazeley and each one has a handful of men standing quietly at the bar except the one we are in which has two very drunk women dancing and singing to old seventies music;  Quite entertaining really. 
As we came through Rugby I managed to catch up with my cousin Valerie who I haven't seen for many years so lots to talk about. 

Some lovely scenery along the way. It's a shame the camera doesn't always capture what the eye can see but here's a few. 

Monday, 21 April 2014

Here we go again

Time to resurrect the blog as we leave tomorrow to explore uncharted waters - well the Grand Union Canal again! 
We have spent the winter in safety and security in Apsley marina near Hemel Hempstead and have to say that there were times this winter when we were very glad that we were not out on the cut. No floods reached anywhere near us and we even escaped the mud and mire of the towpaths. Apart from the incessant rain it's been fine in the boat. Really warm and cozy with the stove alight most days and hardly any sub zero temperatures. 
We managed to sneak in a week in the sun in Egypt before Christmas. Then a surprise trip to Vietnam ( a very long story, too long for this blog but have a look at )
After that a quick trip to Ohio for me to see Laura and John went skiing in France. 
We had every intention of leaving at the beginning of April but, as ever, events transpired to prevent that. ( maintenance issues at John's house in Oldham ) so three weeks and a complete house redecoration later we are making final preparations to leave. A good spring clean inside and outside, stocking up the larder, filling up with the last of the cheap diesel and we are ready to rock and roll. It's going to be a tough few days to start as we head towards Tring. Lots of big heavy locks so if anyone is at a loose end and wants a free boat trip in the next few days we would welcome you with open arms!!!