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Sunday, 18 October 2015

The end is nigh

So after two and a half years we are nearly at the end of our travels. After lots of debate we have decided to head for home territory and try to sell the boat ourselves. We figured that there's nothing to lose so we've bought a winter mooring in Cassiobury park in Watford and will advertise it so that we can do our own viewings. Fingers crossed ! 
Time to reflect now on our experiences. In the last month we have really enjoyed the Thames. We joined it at Oxford, then went west to Lechlade. Some very peaceful and beautiful stretches of river and some very naughty cows! After retracing our steps back to Oxford and beyond, we passed through some lovely villages. Mum and dad joined us for a few days from Abingdon to Goring but sadly they didn't bring their customary good weather with them. Only one sunny day but lots of great pub meals, drinks and laughs. 
Then it got very upmarket. But I have to say that I really enjoyed the stretch from Reading through to Windsor. Lots of places to stop for a mooch round the shops and a catch up with friends. Lovely to see Sue in Marlow and the Rackhams in Windsor. Also celebrated Mollie's birthday at Cote in Windsor with Sarah and Charlie. We managed to bag the only free mooring in Windsor just down from Cote twice! 
From Windsor it was an easy cruise down to Brentford with a quick visit from Natasha at Teddington  then back on familiar (but not very pretty) waters on the Grand Union Canal. Now our main topic of conversation is when to come off the boat. We have already moved loads of stuff and off the boat and really we should be getting on with future plans but something is keeping us from making the final departure. Maybe because the weather has been so good for October. 
Happy days:)

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Time flies...

They say time flies when you're having fun and never a truer word spoken. Time for a catch up. When I last wrote we had just finished Stalybridge and the Huddersfield narrow canal. In Stalybridge we met Peter Rawson who was instrumental on the committee to get the Huddersfield canal re-opened. A really interesting and committed guy who works so hard for the good of Stalybridge for no reward other than the satisfaction of knowing that he helps to make it a better place. He's a real canal enthusiast who has never even owned a boat. Heartwarming to know that people like Peter exist. 
Next was the unbelievably beautiful Peak Forest canal. Probably the prettiest but also one of the trickiest canals as it is very shallow and we kept grounding. But it was worth it to visit the beautifully restored Bugsworth Basin and Whaley Bridge. On a day trip by train from Marple to Buxton we decided to get married!  The event was made all the more memorable by a "special" girl on the train who chose that moment to show us all her new underwear from Primark! 

The Peak forest canal is a bit of a detour so after another slog back to Marple we hit the Macclesfield canal; another very pretty waterway but also quite shallow in places. At the Marple locks festival we met up with Peter Rawson again for a pint or two ! 

Something I was really looking forward to was the journey through Stoke on Trent and visiting some of the potteries. Although there is not much left of the original factories we did find a working 
pottery to visit and several visits to the big names like Royal Doulton and 
Standedge tunnel
Can't remember where but very pretty light!

Marple Aquaduct

Ancient monument Shugborough
Whaley Bridge

Still not quite up to date and in our last two months of travels but that's all for now. Must do better! 

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Huddersfield narrow

After lots of debate as to whether or not we should tackle to numerous locks on the Huddersfield narrow we eventually decided on a compromise. We went halfway along as far as Diggle. This route took us through Stalybridge ( which we later discovered is nicknamed Staly Vegas). The town was due to have a carnival and boat gathering a couple of weeks after we passed through so, as we have not really done a boat gathering, we decided to return. John has been itching to get some painting done on the boat so after a cruise up through Mossley and Uppermill, we moored up in a convenient spot where the was a water point and a winding hole ( and a pub) and we got to work. 
Here we met a lovely lady called Freda who was very taken with our boat and the flower tubs on the roof. She lives in converted weaving sheds of an old mill ( this area is littered with old cotton mills) and she insisted on showing us round and plied us with wine! She was so interesting. Used to be an artist and an author who wrote short local history books about life in Olham at the height of cotton production in the area. Really sobering stories. 
After a quick trip to London to celebrate Mike Benwell's 70th birthday and further polishing and cleaning of the boat we headed back Stalybridge in anticipation . Our good friends Helen and Les joined us on the Saturday for the weekend and we were looking forward to a lively weekend with lots of boats, a 1940s theme at the Railway station buffet bar, carnival etc. we even thought we might have a chance of winning the "best presented boat" prize. There were 4 boats in total. 2 trip boats and a old wooden boat. We did win but it was a close run thing!! At the station buffet bar we arrived in full 1940s fancy dress; only one other group dressed up. However, we really had a laugh and a thoroughly good weekend. 
Kind of Blue looking very blue
In our 40s get up
Les the spiv
John looking cool!
Helen and Les

Nearly up to date now. More soon. 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Reflections on Liverpool

Can't believe it's been a month since I wrote but have to admit I lost the will to live with it after I dropped my brand new iPhone 6 into the canal and lost all my recent photos except those that I had put on the blog or facebook. That should really have spurred me on to keep up to date but somehow didn't. Anyway, here we are a month after leaving Liverpool. I did start to write about our initiation into Liverpool .....

 It didn't start too well. You have to book an assisted passage into Liverpool. This is mainly because there are a few swing bridges on busy roads, so you travel in a convoy of boats to minimise the number of times the bridges are opened and hence the disruption to traffic. We also worried whether  it was anything to do with safety, given Liverpool's reputation. This fear was realised at the second of the four locks as you enter the city. There were police frogmen in the lock and we had to wait while they hauled what looked suspiciously like a body bag out of the canal! The "package" was bundled into a police ambulance parked nearby. I did ask our CRT escort if it was a body but this was strenuously denied. I didn't believe him. We nervously 

The rest of our stay was really good fun. It is quite hard to get away from the Beatles and we did visit john Lennon and Paul McCartney 's houses which have been restored to the period when they were living there. And done very well by the National Trust. Yoko Ono bought the Lennon house and bequeathed it to the NT knowing the it would be properly preserved and visited respectfully. 

Where John Lennon grew up with his aunt
Room with a view at Tate Liverpool. 

On the way out we passed through Parbold and caught up with my old friend Jane and her (fairly new) husband Ian. Lots of laughs and reminiscing over lunch and a few glasses of wine which went on into the evening. Hic. Jane's children were quite young when she left Harrow and look at them now!
Toothy grins!!

Manchester was next on the itinerary and we had a visit from our friend David from Wales. Another wild night followed. Hic. This is beginning to be a habit😊

Not quite up to date yet but will publish this now and write more tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Radio Stars

We have been moored up in Salthouse Dock in the centre of Liverpool for almost a week. In our travels, everyone we have spoken to has told us what a great place Liverpool is, so we have been really looking forward to this visit. There is certainly plenty to do even if you don't like The Beatles! Museums and art galleries, historic buildings galore and, of course, there are the pubs. All within walking distance. 
We have done some of the touristy things. The Cavern Club was great. Not the original but has been rebuilt in the same road and feels quite atmospheric. Hoping to see a good Beatles tribute band there before we leave. 
We have also been up St. John's beacon which houses Radio City. It was a good clear day so got some good shots. 

The weather has been pretty bad all week but today the sun is shining and it looks so different. We made the most of the good weather by.....
rubbing down and painting the scratches! 
While we were working we were approached by two guys from a radio station who interviewed us about our life 
on the boat. They were looking for  stories about Liverpool. We chatted to them for ages and they recorded everything, including some sound effects like the engine running, the horn sounding and chains rattling. They even recorded John playing guitar and   singing. Thank heavens it was for radio and not a TV crew, as we were in our scruffs and must have looked a         sight!  Sadly they were from a Swiss radio station so we will probably never hear the broadcast although they did promise to send us links to the programme. Not sure I want to hear it actually. They asked John to read something in French. I'm sure it was so they could have a good laugh at the accent!! 
One more day here then back to London for a wedding. It's all go! 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Hats off!

A little late this week with the blog but we have been off the boat tending to family matters. Dad is recovering well and Mum's eye operation went well too. John went visiting Canterbury university with Mollie so we got back to the boat last Thursday. 

Our progress towards Liverpool continues with a complete mixed bag of weather. Lots of sunshine but, oh my goodness, the wind!! We both lost a hat today on the same gust of wind. John's sank but mine floated. There was a bit of a price differential though - John got his in Vietnam for about a quid. Mine is a Tilley hat with a guarantee to float, a lifetime guarantee against wear and you can replace it for half price if you lose it. Cost a bomb but I really like it. 

We are covering some of the same  ground heading north and revisiting some of the places we went to last year, so whizzing through a bit. But sometimes you just have to give in to the elements and that's just what we had to do today. It was a pretty miserable day from the start in Wigan, got a bit brighter midday but then the wind and rain set in and we finally threw in the towel when we pulled over to go through a swing bridge and couldn't get off the bank. Happily there was a great pub on the other side of the bridge so after a lovely meal and a few drinks we are warm and glowing back on the boat. 
Not often you see a lighthouse this far inland!
Hitch hikers in Parbold. 
AMAZING chips at The Farmers Inn. 
Burscough. Does anyone know how you pronounce Burscough?? 

It's been a week of firsts. First cygnets. First goslings. Lovely😊 First RATS!😝 We were walking back from Wigan town centre and got to the bridge by our boat and it was teeming with rats. No exaggeration. Got into the boat quickly and locked the doors! 
Weather forecast for tomorrow is absolutely dire. We are within 6 hours of Aintree so can afford a day off tomorrow. Hobbies day!!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Stratford to Shroppy

Stratford was wonderful. The weekend straddled our birthdays and we squeezed in two theatre trips. One to a fringe theatre to see at the Importance of Being Earnest" which was great fun if a little hammed up! The RSC production of "Death of a Salesman" was in a different class altogether. I think I studied this play for O level or maybe A level. Can't remember but perhaps Frankie will have a better memory? 

When we left Stratford it was decided that I  should be doing more of the driving, particularly manoeuvring in and out of locks. So as we left the basin in Stratford the first challenge was a 90 degree turn into a very narrow bridge. That went well and I waited under the bridge while John emptied the lock. Unfortunately the clearance was so tight that the water emptying from the lock made the boat rise enough to knock out the solar lights in the flower boxes. I am firmly of the opinion that every time I take the tiller there is a catastrophe! Even John had to agree that I am jinxed.
Shakespeare's birthplace. 
Kind of Blue in Stratford. 

I would like to pass on a housekeeping tip. Those of you that know me well would agree that I am not a domestic goddess but this discovery was a revelation. You know those milky white marks that you get on some wood surfaces caused by damp heat. We inherited several on the table on the boat (and yes they have been added to) and no amount of polishing has any affect. But one day I was doing my nails and spilled a tiny drop of acetone on said white mark and it seemed to revert to its original colour. So with nothing to lose I poured acetone over all the marks and miraculously the table look like new. Obviously I wouldn't recommend trying this on granny's antiques but it worked for me. A happy accident. 

This weekend we welcomed our first visitors this season so I am passing over to Gill for a few comment:-
"Well second trip to Market Drayton in a week but very different weather and a very different experience.  I love mucking around on boats even when it rains and the b&b is excellent. Good exercise too 
although our locking techniques were a 
bit rusty to start with we made it to the pub in time for tea!"

Quite a few new ducklings this week and some great kingfisher photo opportunities if only the camera was ready !! One day. However here is a photo I have entered into a canal magazine competition. 
Couldn't decide between this one and ...
Hope I chose the right one😊

Well on our way to Liverpool now but taking a few days off for a visit to see my daddy who has been a bit poorly. 

Just a reminder to anyone who follows our travels.  This is our last season in the canals so last chance for anyone to come for a visit. You will be most welcome. Bookings now being taken ! 
That's all for now. 

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Gloucester to Stratford on Avon

The week started with just about the worst problem you can get on a boat. A blocked toilet. It has happened before and and it's usually something stuck in the macerator. It's not a pleasant job to take it all apart but relatively easy ( or so I'm told job - I don't get involved!) This time, however, the blockage was somewhere along the pipe from the toilet to the poo tank. After lots of poking with a length of garden hose, we finally shifted whatever it was ( I dread to think) and nervously flushed water through which we could hear going through to the tank. We are still too scared to put anything down which hasn't gone through us first! 
This all happened on the day we were planning to leave Gloucester docks and head up the Severn. As it happened we were delayed anyway by 40mph winds and the white horses re-appeared on the canal. 

One of the great things about this journey is chatting to people along the way and hearing their stories. My favourite one this week came from the lock keeper near Bidford. There is a caravan park opposite the lock which is very prone to flooding. To get insurance the caravans have to be fitted with flotation tanks so the when the river rises, they rise with them. The lock keeper joked that he gets his licence book out and goes round the floating caravans collecting fees. 
This is the lock keepers house. Very unusual and much photographed. In 2006 it flooded up to the top of the sign on the balcony. 

The River Avon is really beautiful. We stopped overnight in some lovely villages and passed some very picturesque spots..
400 year old bridge near Pershore
And another one at Bidford. 
Pretty spot
Spectacular weir
First t shirt day of the year
Off to Liverpool. Got to be there by 6th May. God help us!!

Saturday, 11 April 2015

On the (watery) road again

Actually we have been out of the marina for about a month but still in the Gloucester area. The winter was fine. No really bad weather but at times we were glad of the shelter from the wind and rain. Other than that I would say that marina life did not really suit us. We were lucky with our neighbours on one side ( Dave and Maggie ) who have become great friends but John on the other side was an arse! It took less a day for him to bang on our door to complain about the noise of the central heating and less than a week to register an official complaint about noise. We felt like naughty teenagers. Apparently there is an unwritten rule that heating systems should not be run after 9pm. If we ever forgot to turn it off he would be banging on the door at 3minutes past 9. So not a great start to our stay at Saul and things didn't get much better with no phone signal, intermittent Internet (at extra cost) and feeling very cooped up. 
On a more positive note we had a very different Christmas on the boats with Jamie and Dominique. We bought nearly all the ingredients for Christmas dinner from a farm in Frampton and it was delicious. Hannah came after Boxing Day and learnt to knit!

In January we were dry!! Joined the gym, lost weight, felt fitter. In February we went to Cornwall and Hayling Island, ate and drank loads, put on weight and had a great time!!! Dad turned 80 and we celebrated with the whole family at Warners. Lots of fun. 
This is the whole gang including Laura who made a surprise appearance from America. Lovely to see her:)
In March we explored the Gloucester area and some of the Cotswold towns. John has started training for Ride London in August. His road bike was in Solva in a West Wales (having been lent to his friend Dave) so John hatched a plan to get a lift down there and cycle back. Only 120 miles! I joined him on the second day as back up crew. 
That's all for now but here's a few more photos and a promise to write every week from now on. 
View from bow of boat in the marina. 
Near Slimbridge. 

River Severn at Sharpness
Dave and John jammin
Laura in St. Ives