Wednesday, June 19, 2013
I got chatting to the lady behind the bar about Tamworth, which she remembers from the 1950s onwards. She was lamenting the decisions of the planners in the 1960s knocking down many wonderful old buildings to put in 'modern' replacements. She showed me a book of old photos, and I have to say I fully agree with her. Most notable was the beautiful old Victorian railway station, now replaced by an anonymous brick lump. How sad. Gone is the large outdoor swimming pool, gone are the half timbered buildings. Such a shame. Tamworth it must be said is not a specially attractive place today, but it obviously was.
An old feller came into the bar and joined in the conversation. What a character. Now 75 years old and still training apprentice bricklayers AND still doing the odd bit of stand up comedy! He had been a soldier in the days of strife in Cyprus, and a fairly senior football referee. All in all a very entertaining hour and a nice pint of Bass.
I have not rested on my laurels today and now the front deck cants and gas locker have a fresh coat of paint, and I have started to put together a design for the bow flashes, too long plain white.
You can see phase one in the photo below. Panels of light and drag grey will eventually find their way fore and aft of the red diamond. Tomorrow we expect the rain to set in, so I don't expect to make any further progress.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
I've got a nice mooring with a low bank edge and a clean paved surface to get the gunnels painted, and in just over twenty four hours I've done it. Hooray, they'll look good until they get scratched in the next lock.
Right now I'm praying that it won't rain as the paint is still wet, but it's getting gloomier by the minute. I also repainted the cants on the back deck and the white flash on the starboard bow. What a good boy am I. However I fear that might be my lot as the forecast doesn't look too good for the next couple of days.
On Sunday night we found a beautiful spot in the sticks just a few minutes from Alvecote. The birds were singing and banks were bursting with new growth. Actually the amount of bird song as been notable on this trip, especially blackbirds and thrushes. Thrushes are getting a bit rare these days but on this we've seen quite a few. I wonder if they are making a come back.
As we were about to set off on Monday morning we heard the Pop Pop of a Russell Newbery coming down the canal, and who should it be but our old friend Leon on the Old Bovine. Leon has transformed his good but nothing outstanding boat into a work of wonder. He has had it stretched twice, so now it it 70ft long, totally repainted it inside and out in traditional fashion, replace the engine etc. it's a modernist boat but every time we see it it looks more like an old working boat. His latest trick has been to cut a groove along the hull just a couple of inches below the gunnel top , so the gunnels look like they have wooden planks on top. It works!
Now just to show I haven't been fibbing, some photos of lush countryside and gleaming paintwork.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
We spent a couple of hours browsing Long Street yesterday and came away with a new carpet runner for the galley, a real chamois leather for washing the boat, a new cabin hook for the back door and numerous other things we had been looking for. Sure, there are the usual glut of charity shops, but we like browsing in them. For £2 we bought a dvd of Apollo13 which we enjoyed watching last night. Perhaps the best shop, for me at any rate, was the rather wonderful Atherstone Toolbox, one of a number of hardware stores in the street. This one was the biz. Packed to the gunnels with all manner of tools, brassware, nuts and bolts and the like.
A big Co-op supermarket handy for the canal too. What's not to like?
Normally we pass down the locks at the pleasant little town, but this time we stayed the whole day as we are ahead of schedule and the forecast was for heavy showers. There's a good stretch of mooring below the fifth lock down if you don't mind the noise of the frequent trains nearby.
This morning the sun is shining and we're off again down the rest of the locks and then on towards Fazeley where Kath will abandon me for five days to go home on baby sitting duties.
Friday, June 14, 2013
Today we passed charity dock near Nuneaton. Always a pleasure. Never in a million years would I have my boat worked on there, but you have to admire the inventiveness and sense of humour of who ever owns it. See pics 3 and 4
I like the Coventry canal above Nuneaton. The countryside views to the north are lovely. The only lock flight in this part is the one at Atherstone and is very pretty. We got lucky and had all of the first five in our favour. Now we're moored for the night just below the fifth and in the morning we'll explore on foot.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
We had a quiet night in Coventry basin, not a chav in sight, and the run back up to here was very pleasant. I'm still surprised that some boaters avoid this stretch. I do have to admit though that just by the footbridge about a quarter of a mile from the junction, Herbie was nearly lifted out of the water by a large submerged metallic sounding object. Is suspect it is a nuclear sub on terrorist patrol. They never tell you where they are do they? Kath thinks it's a supermarket trolley. She has no imagination.
While we were taking on water this morning a man on the towpath asked if narrowboats ever had water makers like they do on sea going boats, presumably to convert salt water into fresh. I pointed at the canal water and observed that I would take some convincing before I would drink anything made from that. I think he took the point.
Continuing our run of good luck, the weather stayed fine until we got here when the heavens opened, giving Herbie a good wash to get off the dust. We bought new wide brimmed rain hats at the Crick show recently. Maybe that's why it hasn't rained on us while we're steering.
Tonight we dined at the fab Greyhound. Very good indeed as usual, and I had my first ever taste of samphire along with monkfish tail thermidor and saffron spuds. Ooh that sounds posh doesn't it. I suppose it is, but it cost £11.95. Not too bad for posh nosh and it was delish. For those like me who have never tried samphire I can report that it is nicely crisp and crunchy and tastes much like broccoli stalks, although I might have tasted other elements had it not been in a fairly rich sauce. The beer was good too. We had a nice pint called Liberation Ale from the Channel Islands.
Now you know why the Greyhound keeps winning prizes and why we couldn't just cruise past.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
The North Oxford Canal is quite unlike the South Oxford, but still rural and bucolic for the most part. Not without excitement though as there are a fair share of inexperienced hire boaters who don't know what to do when they meet you in tight spaces. I don't mind as long as they don't clout us at speed. We all have to start somewhere. I think the hire companies should give them a tiny bit of steering advice. One of the best phrases I heard years ago is "point the tiller at the thing you don't want to hit and put a bit of power on". It works!
Actually I'm a fine one to talk. I very nearly hit a bridge today. It's all the fault of a sculptor. We were coming into Coventry and passed a sculpture of a rope wrapped round a bollard, many times life size. So intent were we at lamenting the graffiti thereupon, that I failed to notice that we were heading for the bridge arch at some speed. I'm sure that had I not had a few years experience at the tiller, I would have slammed the boat into reverse. This of course would have failed to stop the boat and we would have hit the bridge. What actually happened was that Kath and Rainman covered their eyes I pushed the tiller over and piled on a few revs. I don't know what all the fuss was about. We missed the bridge with millimetres to spare. Two or three at least.
So here we are in Coventry basin for the night. Strange to say, Rainman departed to find his way home and it immediately started raining quite hard. I suppose he felt he could go home now that he had fulfilled his purpose in life.
Actually, at this precise moment, we are not in the basin, but in the Gatehouse pub. This rather fine establishment is not one you would find unless someone told you where it was but it does have a good choice of ales and good cheap food. Look it up. It has a web site.
Tomorrow we plan a very short cruise, well you can't pass the Greyhound twice without stopping can you?
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Yesterday, our first day of the cruise, was uneventful unless you call having to wait at the top of Watford locks for over an hour an event. We just arrived as the last boat was going down before seven others came up. Bad timing.
Today, the North Oxford which we still haven't done often enough to be over familiar with. I particularly like the stretch between Braunston and Hillmorton. Perfect pastoral scenery. I could show you some lovely photos if I hadn't been too lazy to get the camera out.
Now we're moored up just before All Oaks wood. A popular spot. And quite pretty. Just as we were tying up, who should come past but fellow bloggers Paul and Elaine on NB Caxton. We hadn't met before but they obligingly stopped for a chat and now we know them. Good innit?
Having eventually bothered to get the camera out I walked through a gap in the hedge to find a lovely scattering of moon daisies. When we tell non boaty people we are travelling between Rugby and Coventry they can have no idea of how pretty the countryside is round here.
Braunston butcher's pies for dinner tonight. Yumm.
Sunday, June 09, 2013
In order to stow all our worldly goods, well half of them anyway, we have had a good clear out of the boat and bunged all the surplus clobber in the car. Everything looks amazingly tidy on board. It'll never last.
The countryside is looking lush. Even the grassy patch at the foot of the marina is bursting with life. It should be good up the Canal. Can't wait.
Saturday, June 08, 2013
Coo look at that. Kath in 1991 with our sheltie Jaz. Those Teddesley hire boats were our favourites. Come to think of it they were quite like Herbie. Anyone who has been to that spot will easily remember which canal we were on. Yes, the Staffs and Worcester. We haven’t been back there in all that time, but we are about to.
Yes, it’s time for our summer cruise (at last! You wouldn’t believe how many times we have had to put it off). Here’s the route, starting from Crick.
What a cracker. The Severn and Avon bits are the only possible problem, because if it rains too much they are not safe places to be, so please keep your fingers crossed for decent weather. Should we have a wet month we may have to change course and find our way back via Wolverhampton and Brum. I see we are due some light rain later next week. Typical.
I wouldn’t try to overlay my sketch on a proper map if were you, its not to scale and not to shape either. 245 miles, 195 locks, 8 tunnels according to CanalPlan. 123 hrs they say. We won’t be rushing. What might take a keen crew in a hurry not much more than a fortnight, will take us five or six weeks, especially as we are having to pause for 5 days at Fazeley for family commitments. As usual our organisation has been uncertain and chaotic. Our poor friends hoping to join us for a ride are going to have to play it by ear as we don’t really have a clue which bit we will get to when.
I’m really looking forward to it because there will be some new bits for us. Fradley to Gt Heywood, and the rivers Severn and Avon. Rivers I know quite well but have never boated on. I spent most of my teenage years fishing in the Avon near Evesham.
I’m a bit worried about space on board. As we are going to be away from home for quite a while, Herbie will be bursting at the seams with half our worldly goods. Not just clothes and food but musical instruments, and hobby stuff. If you see a boat with a bed on the roof, that might be us!
Oh I forgot to say, we’re off tomorrow. Yippee.
Friday, June 07, 2013
Oh dear I’m not having a good year with friends. I learned yesterday that our good friend Terry Conway had passed away. I simply can’t let this great man go without a few words, so . .
I don’t suppose any of my regular readers knew of Terry, but that is their loss. In his native Northumberland Terry is widely known for his dialect songs. If ever Northumberland had a poet laureate, he would I’m sure be first choice. A retired council worker Terry could often be seen busking in Hexham, but we met him through his partner, now wife, Liz who is a very fine player of the mountain dulcimer. With typical self deprecation, Terry sometimes referred to himself as a dulcimer players labourer. Over the years we have spent many weekends together at dulcimer gatherings and I have never ceased to be amazed at his erudition especially on historical matters. But the main reason everyone loved Terry is that as well as being a kind unassuming person, he was a brilliant and often very funny writer and performer of songs about Northumberland. The much more famous Kathryn Tickell invited Terry to perform his songs on one of her albums and I think played on Liz and Terry’s second album.
I would be very surprised indeed if you didn’t enjoy this Youtube video of Terry’s song Winter’s Weary Snaa. Go on, click it. you won’t regret it.
And if you liked that you can see him in action in this link. Skip forward to 4min 15 seconds for his great song The Bus to Morpeth. You probably won’t understand a word but it’s a good’un.
Dear old Terry, he will be sadly missed. I found myself singing his songs all day yesterday and it put a smile back on my face.
Monday, June 03, 2013
Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Richard and Sue on Indigo Dream, we have now been out on the tidal Thames below Greenwich on a number of occasions and lived to tell the tale. Sometimes it has been calm, sometimes it has been lumpy, sometimes the Clippers and other boats are less careful than they ought to be and send over huge bow waves to make us rock ‘n roll. But the narrowboats seem to take it in their stride. However there is one feature that has nearly caught out at least one of the flotilla on every occasion.
See that yellow cylindrical thing with the black bars on in? Lets look closer at one.
Yes, its what our friends from our transatlantic colonies call a booey, and we call a buoy.
Nothing dangerous about that, you might say. Just don’t hit it. And there dear friends lies the rub. For some strange reason, narrowboats seem magnetically drawn to them. You come bowling down with the tide and you spot one of these things, so you aim away from it. The boat turns and faces the other way, but keeps sliding inexorably sideways towards the buoy. I suppose it’s all to do with the strength of the tide, which on the big river you don’t really notice until you turn against it. Then just like a strong side wind it keeps pushing you sideways in its path whatever you do. The only solution is to pile on the revs and hope your stern moves forward enough to miss the buoy.
Kath did a classic one on Saturday and missed the buoy by millimetres. I think Richard had his hand over his eyes because he couldn't bear to look. The rest of did though, and poor Kath was the butt of merriment for the rest of the day, not least from Doug (Nb Chance). Still she took it in good part and was somewhat relieved when someone else at the tiller came uncomfortably close to some big barges.
We weren’t the only ones to have our moments. Look at these two pictures of Nb Cherie. First they just manage to get away from the buoy, (look how he has had to turn sideways on from the other boats)
and then before he can recover his position, the big boat you can see in the distance is bearing down on him
and he’s looking the other way!!
As I recall, the big boat altered course and no harm was done.
Yep that big old river has loads of space, but you can still hit things.
Sunday, June 02, 2013
I’m sorry dear readers. I know, I know. You’ve been pacing up and down all night, half mad with worry. Did we perish in Dartford Creek? I promised I would make a second post to describe the expedition and I let you down.
The truth is, we didn’t do it. Nobody did. What happened was, the wind got up and it was deemed unsafe by the commodore of the fleet. On the way down river to Gravesend we passed the creek entrance, which seen on a falling tide didn’t exactly look navigable.
That’s it there. That slight dip in the mud. Even when the tide is in, you’d have to be pretty careful not to go aground. So that’s where we didn’t go.
So what did we do? Well, it was all great fun. We were moored up off Gravesend, tied to the somewhat battered old tug Major who had been booked for the trip as a safety boat to pick up the bodies of anyone who drowned I suppose. On Indigo Dream (I suppose I should remind you we were on that and not on Herbie) were five, yes five, very large greyhounds who needed a pee. The only way ashore was to move alongside the ferry pier in the brief intervals the ferry had gone over to the other side of the river. So when the ferry departed for Tilbury we untied from Major, shot over to the pier and one by one the huge greyhounds, about the size of small racehorses, emerged from below decks and were lifted shoulder high up to where someone on the pier could grab them and lift them to safety. The face of the lady on the pier was a picture. She was interested by the first couple of greyhounds and then her jaw dropped further and further as more of these huge beasts emerged from the cabin.
Actually they disappointingly small in this picture, but they believe you me they seem big when you are lifting one up to head height! Anyway, once they were ashore we had to zoom back to major before the ferry man got back and shouted at us. A simple enough procedure you might think, especially with Richard at the tiller and Indigo Dream’s powerful engine to manoeuvre us into position. Well, anyone on the shore would have been highly entertained. You might think that the falling tide had a steady linear pull in one direction, but it would appear that the tide hasn’t read up on laminar flow. I lost count of how many times we circled major and made failed attempts to come alongside. All the conventional wisdom about getting the bow rope across and tied down and then swinging the back end in just didn’t work. of course we did eventually manage it, and then we got a phone call from the shore saying the dogs had finished their pee and were on there way back to be picked up again.
Luckily the ferry was over at the Tilbury side so we cast off from major and returned to the pier. Then when we got there the dogs still hadn’t arrived and the ferry was starting back over. The dogs arrived just too late, so of we went to do another n laps of Major (where n is a large positive integer) to attempt to tie up.
Then we noticed that the b----y ferry hadn’t return to the pier after all but had stopped further up stream for lunch. And so the whole process started all over again.
The rest of the afternoon was spend eating and drinking and hanging on to the boat when the washes from the ships slammed into us. One or two were on the large side!
Lots more to write about and lots more pictures, but I’ll save them for next time and leave you with this image us approaching the QEII bridge
PS many thanks to Greygal who saved the day by lending me a compact flash card for my camera when I noticed I had forgotten mine. Doh.
PPS I just noticed that Doug and James, who were part of the crew with us have done a write up and pictures of the day on their blog. Go see it.