Monday, 31 March 2008


Today I've been for lunch in Newbury. The reasons are quite complicated: my parents have been to Bath for the weekend, to celebrate their ruby wedding anniversary, and as today is my birthday they suggested we meet somewhere not far from their route back home. Newbury is about an hour's drive from my home, so that seemed like a reasonable spot.

I parked by the wharf, right in front of the crane, and phoned to tell my parents where I was. They were also in Newbury, but weren't sure where. When they finally arrived, they had a man in the back set. They'd stopped to ask him where the wharf was, and as he not only knew but also wanted to go there, he asked for a lift!

We walked over the bridge and along the towpath to Town Bridge, where a party of school children were looking through all the gaps.

At the lock, a BW dredger was coming through. They used the bucket to hold the boat in place while they went back to shut the gates. The river coming in from the side proved very strong once they were on the move again, and the protection round the base of the bridge proved to be well placed.

After lunch, we went for a cup of tea in the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust shop, right on the wharf. It's a funny little place, staffed by volunteers.

It was only once I was in Newbury that I realised I'd been there on my birthday weekend last year too. We'd had a free night in a hotel just to the south, and while we were there decided to have a look at the canal at Newbury, Kintbury, and Hungerford.
I'll try to go somewhere different next year.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Ten Bob Note's feed

When I met Ernie from nb Ten Bob Note in Banbury back in September, I told him how much I enjoyed his website but said it needed an RSS feed, to alert us to updates. Well now he's added one. He kindly says it's just for me, but of course anyone can subscribe. Ernie not only publishes an account of where he and Rhonda have been, but also adds plenty of photos, including ones of the towns and villages near the waterways. It's a site well worth taking a look at.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Spring Cruise - Part Four

Day 6 - Wednesday 19 March

We woke to blue skies, bright sunshine, and birdsong, although it proved to be still cold. After breakfast, which included the fantastic bacon from Welford, we left our moorings just before 9am.
First stop was Yelvertoft, where we made use of the water point just before Skew Bridge. While Adrian grappled with the hosepipe, I walked into the village to continue our policy of using local shops. The little Post Office and Store had all the veg we needed, while the butcher further along the main street provided the meat.

Back on the move again, I got off the boat at Bridge 17 to walk up Crack's Hill. At the top is a beacon and a plinth with a brass plaque on top showing the direction and distance of nearby places. It turns out that Rugby is much much closer than I'd realised -- from the top you can see a big Royal Mail depot, and the masts at Hillmorton. The canal looks tiny, and it took Debdale ages to come back into view. I got back on board at Bridge 13.

We stopped for lunch at Crick Wharf, then went through the tunnel and on to Watford Locks. A boat was just coming in the top lock as we arrived, so we went straight down followed by Mad As A Hatter.

As we got to the bottom a construction boat was wanting to come up, but they were too late. Well, it was actually 2.40 and the last entry into the locks is supposed to be 2.45, but the lock keeper had already started padlocking the locks at the top of the flight. The crew didn't look too disappointed at knocking off early.

We turned right at Norton Junction onto the GU Main Line. Before Braunston Tunnel, several working boats were moored. I suspect they were on their way to the Easter Boat Gathering at Stoke Bruerne. At the Braunston end of the tunnel, the land slip which happened last summer has been cleared of vegetation, but still looks very unstable and is still blocking half the channel.

We moored at the top of the locks. Mad As A Hatter went past us, and continued down the locks, and were surprised by the width of them.

15 miles, 7 locks. (71, 45)

Day 7 - Thursday 20 March

Rain had been forecast to arrive overnight, so we were pleasantly surprised to wake up in dry bright conditions. We set off down the locks at 8.30. The first three were against us but then we started meeting boats coming up, so we completed all six in little over an hour.

We moored up and went for a look at the boats for sale in the marina. However, we can't afford one, and even if we could none of the ones there at the moment appealed. By now the wind had got up, and it was bitterly cold. The next part of the journey was hard work. Sometimes we seemed to be making very little progress thanks to the head wind, while turning a corner meant we were being battered from the side. There were waves on the canal. We stopped for lunch in a sheltered spot just before Napton Junction.

After lunch, we turned right at Napton Junction and battled the wind to get onto the waterpoint at the top of the Calcutt Locks. Another OwnerShips boat, Goosemoor, arrived and asked if we'd like to go down together. So we packed up the hosepipe and joined them in the lock. The wind made the exit from the bottom lock rather difficult, and a boat waiting to come up was pinned to the side by the wind.

Back at Stockton Top, we moored on the front of the marina at the foot of the steps to The Boat Inn's car park. Later in the evening, we made the most of the proximity of the pub for our dinner.

9 miles, 9 locks. (80, 54)

Day 8 - Friday 21 March

It was just a matter of packing, cleaning, and leaving. Unfortunately it'll be a while before we're back on board Debdale. we have a fortnight booked for September, when we hope to do the Avon Ring.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Spring Cruise - Part Three

Day 5 - Tuesday 18 March

Another cold, bright day. We left our moorings at 8.45, and made our way through the two swing bridges and the moored boats, to the bottom of the Foxton Locks. Fortunately, there's a post box by the Foxton Locks Inn, complete with a big enough slot for our two remaining cards. We found ourselves in the middle of several inexperienced Canaltime crews -- two in front of us and another behind. We could tell it was going to take longer than 45 minutes to get up the flight, and the lock keeper was rushing up and down trying to keep an eye on everyone. He apologised for not giving us any attention! The boat immediately in front of us gave a classic demonstration of how not to cross the middle pound. Quite how they managed to get crosswise in such a short distance is still a mystery.

We needed to top up the water tank, but as the boat in front had stopped for breakfast, and there was another Canaltime behind, we decided to keep going. It was also some of the calmest weather we'd had, so it made sense to make the most of it. We caught up with the first boat up the flight (named Emerson's Speedway, but who seemed to be stuck on tickover) and eventually got past them. The it was on through the Husbands Bosworth Tunnel.

At Welford Junction, we turned left onto the arm, went up the lock, and right to the end where we tied up on the water point. We had lunch while the tank filled, then I walked into the village to go to the little shop. While we were moored, a team of BW guys loaded about five sandbags and a shovel onto a boat, and then had to phone someone to tell them how to start the engine. Once they'd set off, and I'd returned with the shopping (principally a carrot cake, and some Leicestershire bacon), we winded in the basin and set off back down the arm. In the next mile and three quarters we passed more moving boats than we'd seen in any stretch since we set off. They included the Canaltime which had been behind us, Mad As A Hatter, the BW boat returned minus sandbags, and Emerson's Speedway, now with the son at the tiller and moving at a rather faster rate.

Turning left onto the main line, we carried on until about 4pm, and tied up in a lovely spot just before Bridge 36.

13 miles, 12 locks. (56, 38)

Monday, 24 March 2008

Spring Cruise - Part Two

Day 3 - Sunday 16 March

Heavy rain overnight, which was still falling when we got up, so we had a lazy start to the day. After breakfast, with the rain easing somewhat, we walked back to the village shop for some essential supplies, and finally set off in drizzle and a gusty wind at about 10.15. Immediately, we found at least thirty anglers spread along the next mile or so of canal. They all looked cold, wet, and miserable, and many of them were battling with their umbrellas more than their rods.

Bridge 32 is still in a sorry state, as it was when we passed this way in October. There was a stoppage in this area during the winter, and I'd expected this bridge to be part of the reason. Obviously not.

We stopped for lunch after a couple of hours, after which the rain began to clear away. We continued northwards through the Husbands Bosworth Tunnel, and by the time we reached the top of the Foxton Locks at about 16.45, the sun was out. Our arrival was also greeted by the ringing of church bells. Having tied up, we went for a quick look at the locks, but the wind was still bitterly cold so we were soon back on board, cooking a roast dinner.

17 miles, 0 locks. (34, 16)

Day 4 - Monday 17 March

A text at 6.30am told us that Adrian's cousin had finally given birth during the night. She's started contractions on Friday night, so the baby had been a long time coming. Consequently, we were up and about early and went for a look at the work on the inclined plane. A lot of work has been done since we were last here almost two years ago, by BW and the Foxton Inclined Plane Trust. There are new footpaths, car park, and observation point. The arm leading to the top of the lift was been dug out and rewatered, while the arm at the bottom has been made into moorings. At the foot of the lift, there's a new swing bridge across the Market Harborough Arm, improving access to the site. The Google Maps image was taken before the work, so you can seen how much had to be done. The whole area is clearly well used, as even quite early in the morning there were runners and dog walkers, and there seem to be gongoozlers present at all times of day.

Having spent a while exploring, I went to find the lock keeper while Adrian got the boat going. Unsurprisingly, we were allowed to go straight down, entering the top lop at 8.50, and leaving the bottom one 45 minutes later. We were the only boat anywhere on the flight.

Having closed the gates of the bottom lock, I walked round by the pub to open the swing bridge. It needs a BW key to release the bridge, and the mechanism retains your key to ensure you close the bridge after you. Once it's moving, the bridge moves effortlessly. The next swing bridge on the Market Harborough Arm, Bridge 4, is on Swingbridge Street and requires barriers to by swung over the road. We held up just the one car.

The Arm is pretty rural, so it was something of a surprise that the place we saw a kingfisher was on the stretch by what Pearson's describes as a bone works. It certainly smells rather unpleasant. By 11.30, we'd arrived at the basin, spun the boat around, and tied up on the visitor moorings just outside. The basin was full of Canaltime boats, but several were being cleaned and prepared so it was obvious that a few would soon be going out.

We knew it was quite a walk into town, so we got the number of a taxi firm from the BW/Canaltime office at the basin, and got a ride into Market Harborough. Among other things, we needed New Baby (and New Grandmother!) cards, and we had a good lunch at a cafe bar called Square 53. Back at the boat, we took the rubbish to the service point round the basin, and topped up the water. As it was still quite early, and as the sun was out, we decided to head back down the arm. We moored just before Bridge 5, and Adrian and I went for a walk round Foxton village. It's quite pretty, with lots of very expensive looking houses. Our main quest was for a post box for the baby cards, and we eventually found one outside the church which is up on the hill on the southern side of the canal. However, it was so small that only one of the three cards would fit through the slot!

9 miles, 10 locks. (43, 26)

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Spring Cruise - Part One

Day 1 - Friday March 14

We arrived at Stockton Top in early afternoon, in unexpected warm spring sunshine. Debdale was on the front of the marina (with two boats outside her), making loading very easy. She was also, unusually, pointing in the right direction. When we were ready to leave, we asked a couple of the OwnerShips helpers to hold the centre line of the boat outside us, while we reversed out into the middle of the canal and set off.

We hadn't been going long when we spotted the Norwegians, Bente and Pal, on their Black Prince boat. The Calcutt Locks were shared with a Kate Boat out for the weekend, and heading for the South Oxford. At this point, we discovered there was no coal on board, so we made a quick diversion into Wigram's Turn Marina to buy a bag. Then it was a right turn onto the shared Oxford/Grand Union section. The sun had gone in and drizzle had started by the time we moored for the night in a now customary spot, just before Bridge 101.

6 miles, 3 locks.

Day 2 - Saturday 15 March

There was rain overnight, but it was dry if murky by the time we set off at about 8.45. After the Braunston Turn, at lot of work has been done on the hedges on the towpath side. They've been skillfully and beautifully laid. They're also about a third of their old height, which means that by the long term moorers, the road is far more visible and intrusive than it use to be.

We stopped at the water point by the Stop House, and while Adrian filled the tank I walked up to the village to buy meat for the next few days from the butcher. Then it was up the six locks in the company of another Kate Boat, who were planning to go only as far as Norton Junction before turning.
At the top of the locks, I spotted the bloggers One Way of Life. When we came back later in the week, the boat was moored down in Braunston.

We turned left at Norton Junction onto the Leicester Line, stopping just past Bridge 2 for lunch. Then it was on to Watford Locks. A couple of boats had just come down, so we were allowed straight up with everything set in our favour.

Halfway up the staircase, the rain started. We continued getting wet through Crick Tunnel.

We moored for the night opposite Crick Marina, on what are technically winter moorings (although there's a sign saying they don't mind people staying overnight if there's room. And there was plenty of room). Adrian and I walked up to the village shop before settling down for the evening as the rain came down hard.

11 miles, 13 locks. (17, 16).

Friday, 21 March 2008

Vikings sighted

We'd barely left Stockton Top Marina last Friday, keeping a look out for a Black Prince boat with Norwegians on board, when just such a boat came into view. There was only time for a brief hello to Bente and Pal as we passed. Not sure where they were off to (although I hear they had help up the Hatton Flight a couple of days later!) but I'm sure they'll update the blog with a full account when they get home.

Details of our trip to Market Harborough are coming once I've got a day of work out the way tomorrow.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Vikings afloat

We'll be keeping our eyes peeled on Friday for the Black Prince boat Bianca. On board will be the Norwegians, Bente and her husband, who'll be setting out from Wigram's Turn that afternoon. They're already blogging about their upcoming holiday (including how to get a good deal on a hire boat). Bente has been asking lots of questions on the Canal World Forum, including route suggestions for their two week trip. If you see them, give them a wave.

Friday, 7 March 2008

One week to go

This time next week, we'll be back on board Debdale.

We had been planning a rather ambitious trip into Birmingham and back, but as the days are still relatively short, and we'll have Mother-in-law with us, we've decided on a trip with a bit less work: Market Harborough and back. We always enjoy going up through Braunston, and it'll be good to do the Foxton Locks again. We were last there nearly two years ago, when we did the Leicester Circuit. That time, of course, we only came down the locks; this time, we'll do them in both directions.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Red Hill on Soar

The IWA has announced that the National Festival in 2009 will be held at Red Hill on the River Soar. The area is in the shadow of the Ratcliffe power station. We passed this way on a hire boat in 2006, and the cooling towers really do dominate the landscape. I somehow doubt that nb Theraputic's name was inspired by the scene!