Perfect Harmony

Perfect Harmony
Moored at Huntingdon

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

30th July '13

It was the best of days, it was the worst of days... to paraphrase Dickens.

We came down the Atherstone Flight in 1hour 40minutes, which was amazing, all the locks bar one had boats coming out of them and so they were in our favour and almost all had people waiting to come in so there was someone to help John with paddles etc. The problem was that after a lovely hot day, the heavens opened as we got there and we were absolutely drenched! Neither of us had time to get coats on and so we just got wet. There comes a point when you can't actually get any wetter and we both reached that pretty quickly. I have to say that when it comes to looking sad, nobody does it better than Paddy. He COULD go inside but he refuses to, and so he sat there looking more and more glum gazing accusingly at me from time to time, then shivering pathetically. Silly dog!

We moored up as soon as we got to the bottom of the flight on some excellent moorings and had showers and hot chocolates, then the sun came out and I was able to get my washing (plus all the clothes we'd been wearing) dry. British weather!

This was yesterday morning, leaving Braunston. We'd turned right on our way south and returned from the left on our way back, now on the homeward stretch on the North Oxford.

Hawkesbury Junction ahead! About to leave the Oxford and get onto the Coventry.

As we came around Hawkesbury I took a photo of the bush that I'd nearly come to grief in the last time we'd turned this way! The wind had been against us and we lost the top of our chimney here and I nearly went in the water, trying to push the boat out of the bush! Today it was calm and sunny and there was no problem whatsoever getting around, why weren't there crowds there watching I ask>

This is Charity Wharf and it always makes us laugh! They have a variety of mannequins dressed up differently each time. These were a couple of cowboys, one on a horse! There was also a police officer and a soldier. They have masses of boats in conditions ranging from dire to about to sink and all sorts of stuff piled up, but it provides an opportunity for a giggle.

I probably put this on before but I love these old waterway buildings.

John reckons we can get home in a couple of days if everything goes well so fingers crossed that all is OK and that we don't have too many more downpours.

Monday, 29 July 2013

29th July '13

Just a quick update on the iPad today.

We got off to an early start today and got as far as we could before the thunder and rain got us, managing to lose our umbrella in the canal! After an hour or so it seemed as if the storm had passed over so we took the pram cover down, upend stakes and did a further hour and a half. Luckily John spotted a likely mooring just as the next belt of rain hit. We moored in record time and got back in the boat soaked to the skin.

We're now about a mile south west of Ansty, right next to the railway, hoping they reduce service overnight as it's pretty noisy. The M6 is within sight on the other side, but the towpath is very quiet, mercifully.

Hawkesbury Junction is only a few miles away, so the Coventry Canal is within our grasp! It was wonderful to get to the narrow locks today, the Hilmorton 3 were a dream.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

29th July '13

Moored safely at Braunston and John has just done an oil change. unfortunately Robert and family haven't been able to make it today so we went into the Boathouse (named the Mill House in our old Pearsons) and have had a very nice Sunday roast and pudding. Feeling very replete.

We had an enormous thunder storm yesterday evening, but I gather from Facebook friends that most of the country had it a lot earlier than we did. The rain was torrential and was bouncing in the windows and finding it's way through the mushrooms to the extent that I had to put towels down on the floor to catch the drops!

We had followed a boat coming out of the Northampton Arm right the way through to the Buckby Locks and we were pulling our hair out as they were going SO slowly past moored boats (and there were a lot of them) that we were having to go into reverse and out of gear to avoid catching them up. Our tickover isn't particularly fast but there's was snail pace. I was wishing all kinds of plagues to descend on them and their children unto the 7th generation but when we got to the locks and chatted they were lovely and said we should have overtaken them. They even bought me an ice cream as it was incredibly hot (this was before the rain).

I am now the proud owner of a Buckby Water Can which I intend to paint for the boat. Watch this space!

At Leighton Buzzard there were the remains of several old wharves and this one still had some of the rails in place. Funnily enough we'd been plotting to put rails in to make the cyclists swerve into the canals - they have been a real nuisance at times on this canal and these fitted the purpose admirably!

We have been very impressed by the lack of graffiti along this canal and this wonderful mural at Wolverton, celebrating it's railway history hadn't got a single scribble on it that we could see. It really makes a difference to ones perception of a place. We pulled in here for a quick visit to Tesco - couldn't believe the number of steps I had to take the trolley up and down to get over the bridge and down to the shop.

We thought this was a rather pretty little bridge - it's made of sandstone though so a lot of the detail has been eroded over the years, but still very attractive.

some of the pictures just won't upload today - they are coming up with a cross on them, which is a shame as there is a lovely shot of a sign that says "Caution, Elderly Ducks Crossing" we have no idea why it's there but it made us laugh. Mind you lots of things seem to make us laugh, not at all sure I ought to admit to that, but they have to catch us first!

Other ones that won't come through are an aqueduct - not quite Pontcylsyllte but over the Ouse this time. Quite modest but still a very narrow edge to the side of the canal. Another one I rather liked is a shot of all the gongoozlers at the top lock at Stoke Bruerne. Turning the tables somewhat, they weren't at all sure about me taking a photo of them. I rather enjoyed the reaction! Rebel that I am.

This is the lock later in the day when everyone had gone home and there were no boats coming through. There's an odd little narrow lock there that has no apparently access to water and we weren't sure what it had ever been for - if anyone knows can they leave a comment for me please (thinking of Sue here).

The entrance to Blisworth tunnel didn't come out but this is specially for Darren as this is the entrance to the Northampton Arm and the last time we were there we said goodbye to him and Nuggy B, not realising that although we'd see him again, poor old Nuggy would be set ablaze and lost forever.

As I said we are now at Braunston and here we rejoin the Oxford Canal and come full circle on this trip. It's been a great summer and a wonderful experience. Now we're planning next year once we get through all the stuff left to do in 2013.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

27th July '13

Most unusually I'm writing this while we are on the move. There is a 9 mile stretch with no locks and I'm taking advantage of the fact that I have power and signal - some things that have been lacking over the last couple of evenings. Roll on 1st October when we have the solar panels fitted, miond you once we're back at Mercia we'll be on mains anyway so all will be well.

We have been steaming on, enjoying the sun and even laughing through the rain at one point. We bought a new umbrella holder at the show (one of the very few things we could find) and put it up during a shower, with both of us huddling under it - every so often the wind would blow a gust of rain onto us and we were both laughing fit to burst! If anyone had been watching us they would have doubted our sanity.

I seem to be having problems uploading pictures, so I'll try to add them later. At Leighton Buzzard I spotted a couple of ducklings trapped in a run-off and so John took his trusty net with him and managed to capture them and return them to mum - none of them showed the least bit of gratitude but impressed some ladies walking a dog!

We have come through the Blisworth Tunnel today after a night at Stoke Bruerne, where we visited the Canal Museum after enjoying the company of Jo and Martin through the 7 locks - Jo and I were very much in tune and executed some nifty manoeuvres getting into the locks together!

We are heading towards Braunston, where we hope to meet Rob, Michelle and not so little Halden tomorrow, we shall probably stop near Norton Junction tonight depending on how things go.

As I said I'll add pictures when I can.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

24th July '13

No signal last night so unable to post anything. So I'll start with yesterday.

It was hot. Then it rained and we got soaked through. Then the sun came out and we baked again.

While all that was happening we went into a lock with a lovely couple called Bob and Dot on nb Bimble and enjoyed several locks in their company until we got to Berkamstead, where we needed to get some supplies in.

I have to say that the town, or what we saw of it, impressed us. There were flowers everywhere and endless pubs alongside the canal with...wait for it... moorings that were accessible! We moored up against a park and rather than go to the Tesco Express (I needed quite a bit) I threw caution to the wind and went to Waitrose (it was on John's card so why worry I thought). With cupboards and fridge somewhat re-stocked we set off again and met June and Keith on nb Chasewater.

We continued cruising and locking with them until we moored at Cowroast - what a wonderful name! I was glad I'd bought beef-burgers (posh ones) so that we could have them for tea!

I found this amusing, especially since the one before was Sewer Lock and there was a sewage plant in between them. Childish humour I know, sorry.

At Cowroast we were on the Tring Summit and had found several of the pounds very low, almost scraping along the bottom on one of them and this was the state of affairs actually on the summit, which you would expect to be pretty well stocked.

Further along the summit we had to go through an embankment and were plagued by horseflies, even worse than last year on the Macclesfield. John almost ran us aground on several occasions but he did manage to kill a good number of the beasts. Luckily neither of us got bitten, mind you, I took the opportunity to go down and make us a coffee, entirely coincidental I can assure you!

June and Keith left while we were still in bed this morning and so we were very surprised to find them just going into a lock at Bulbourne Junction, only a couple of miles from where we'd moored. Apparently someone had left paddles open and the pounds were very low so CRT had come along and let some water through, which delayed them long enough to have a cuppa and take the dog out for a walk. People may try to get away from us but we catch them again, there's no hiding place from us!

They stopped at lunchtime for the day a few hours before us, so unless they get off very early and we are very late, we are unlikely to meet them again this trip.

The rather attractive former BW building at Bulbourne Junction.

Yesterday we'd passed the place where the old Ovaltine factory had been and had read that the boats used to have their advertising on them, so we were delighted to spot this today.

John spotted this goat peering over the fence at us! Somewhat superscillious we felt.

This is the chalk lion of Whipsnade! We saw it for miles - quite impressive. I've no idea how old it is, but guess it can't be that ancient.

At about this point we were quite close to where the Great Train Robbery occurred. That was in 1963! I can't believe it was 50 years ago, that's really scary.

We decided to moor shortly after seeing the lion and after the canal being full of pilings and places to moor, it suddenly became a jungle, with the tow-path well hidden behind banks of nettles and other growth. Finally we have come to a halt at Grove Lock, which is a mile south of Leighton Buzzard. It's been hot again today with occasional breezes that have made it bearable. I've started soaking a towel in cold water and putting it over Paddy, but he doesn't seem to appreciate it.

We've covered quite a distance and feel that home is, not quite in sight, but certainly getting closer quite rapidly.

Monday, 22 July 2013

22nd July '13

A week since my last blog, sorry, but we've had very little power, precious little reception and no time, but now we're getting back to normal one of my first tasks is to get something on the blog.

David and Angela on nb Norfolk Belle, following us as we travelled from Rickmansworth to Cassiobury park last week.

In my never ending quest to amuse you - here is an unusual sight! A car stuck into the rear of a narrow boat. We know no more than you so no questions please!

It has been VERY hot this week and Paddy discovered a nice cool pool and he insisted on laying down in it every time we went past (daily).

When we arrived, we were much earlier than most other visitors and here we are basking in the sunshine and the relative solitude.

These were the two boats who came to moor ahead of us - the one on the outside won both the decorated boat and the best flower show on a boat, the one on the inside had EVERYTHING on it apart from their Christmas tree - every time we went past something else had sprung up, including lights and a bubble machine!

This is how we were moored by Friday - the middle of two other boats. We were slightly miffed as the one on the inside didn't have access for us across the front which is what we'd asked for and so poor Paddy was stuck with having to be carried down the back for the whole festival.

Three of the beautiful old working boats on show. They were cleaning the brass fittings right up to the last minute, but they do look stunning.

I finally spotted a Rhoda while I had my camera, to add to the family names.

Here's Roger from Rickmansworth. They decided that rather than go up to turn him (it was a few locks before anywhere was wide enough for him) they'd attach him to another boat and reverse him. Judging by how long it took them to get past us, they probably aren't there yet! They got stuck in the bank and then lurched over very close to the boats moored for the festival and continued to make their slow and unsteady progress down the canal. The locks must have been fun!

Anyway the show itself was a real let-down. Believe it or not there was no chandlers there, so most of the stuff we'd planned to buy was just simply unavailable. We did manage to arrange to have solar panels fitted so future journeys should be less traumatic as far as power goes, and we've also investigated having different batteries fitted to help as well. We've looked at double glazing for the boat but need to wait for a lottery win for that I think!

What we DID get though was.....

The A.P. Herbert Challenge Trophy for travelling the longest distance to the show and having a good log book to support it. We were delighted. It's one of the original trophies from the 1950 show which was the start of the whole Waterways Movement and is engraved with several names that are well known in boating circles. A proud moment for us both, and walking back to the boat was wonderful with people asking us what we'd done to win it and congratulating us. We loved every minute.

We also enjoyed our time volunteering. We spent a couple of hours on Saturday in the Information Tent and then another couple on Sunday clearing tables in the eating area. It's nice to get to talk to people and everyone was very complementary.

Today we got away at 8.20am as we were both awake and it was very quiet then. We are on the outskirts of Hemel Hempstead after 7 hours cruising. Nice to feel the water moving again.


A rather attractive bridge we passed this morning.

The M25 from the best place - a distance! This is a bit north of Watford, I'm not sure which junction but we were glad not to be on it, especially in the heat we've had today.

Now I must read some of the other blogs I follow before walking Paddy.

Monday, 15 July 2013

15th July '13

We've had a wonderful weekend with the crowd from RBOA. The AGM was packed and as well as the usual business, we had a presentation from one of the founder members, of whom 5 were present. Considering it's the 50th Anniversary this year that's saying something. The presentation was brilliant, full of pictures of their boats and tales of mooring on the Thames in the 60's and 70's. It was fascinating. I wished we'd seen it before we'd travelled on the Thames as we'd have been looking at some of the boats with a different viewpoint.

Yesterday, in blistering heat, we had a 'Chill at the Lock' Day, with music of varying types performed all day and some displays by local groups. I got chatting to a lady who was not only a Morris dancer, but also sang in a choir and volunteered on the Canal boats in the past. I was well impressed. They are going to be dancing at the National next weekend so I'll be looking out for her.

We are moored next to Norfolk Belle, which I failed to mention in the last blog. Dave and Angela are on the jetty abutting ours at Mercia. We have spent a fair bit of time with them and are planning to go on up through the locks with them to Watford. We've all decided to stay over until tomorrow as apparently there's nothing at Cassiobury Park where the show is being held and we are close to shops and nice walks here.

This is a working model of a canal, complete with locks, we can't remember if it's called the Little Union or the Small Union but it's something like that and I'm sure I'll get a comment telling me what it is! Great fun for the children though. You get a feel for how hot it was as this was 11am when it opened!

Here's a shot that isn't likely to be repeated often - I'm terrified of horses, but this one is a very gentle canal horse and I was persuaded that he was very friendly, so here I am - close to a horse!!!!!

That evening we had a lovely BBQ alongside the boats. About a dozen residential boaters sat along the tow-path having a great time. A perfect end to a lovely weekend. Thanks RBOA and look forward to seeing you all at the National! Now to get the washing out and go to Tesco to stock up for the coming week.

Friday, 12 July 2013

12th July '13

Now moored at Rickmansworth - funny little town, but nice enough. Moorings are doubled for the RBOA and there's a line of us, all ready for the weekend!

Yesterday we walked into Uxbridge and this is just about the only old building we saw - it's St. Margaret's Church and said on the notice that it's the oldest building in the town - by several hundred years as far as we could see!

Here's one for daughter-in-law #1 and several friends! Seen in Uxbridge just moored along from us. There was also a Titanic, but at about 20' long it wasn't quite as big as one of the lifeboats. I love someone with a sense of humour!

Yesterday we travelled a mile with one lock, today we've done about 6.5 miles and 6 locks, then we're not moving until Monday when we go on a few more miles to get to Watford, where we'll be for the best part of a week. We're still having electric problems after thinking we'd sorted them on the marina. When we get to the show we're going to find the Victron man and quiz him until we know what's happening with the inverter and then see the solar panel man and get some installed so that we're not in this position again.

We had a barbie the other night (slightly out of sequence here) and here's John (sorry about the nakedness - not necessarily what you need when you want to eat) busy cooking the meat. For those who can't work it out - we have a Cobb which is an Australian BBQ that is insulated so you can pick it up or indeed cook on a plastic table as pictured here. They're very good, but thanks to the last 2 summers it's been woefully underused.

We went through Denham Deep Lock - DEEP??? it's 11'1" for goodness sake! now 19'5" THAT'S deep. My photo of it doesn't want to upload but it's not that impressive. Go and find the one at Bath and imagine something slightly less than 2/3 as deep and there you have it!

We were at one lock and a boat arrived to come down just as we'd gone in to go up. Before the second bottom gate was shut and before I'd got a rope attached,some prat opened the top paddle, not even the ground paddle which would have been bad enough but the gate paddle. John yelled at him to shut it and after getting my rope sorted went over and had a quiet word about which paddle to do when. Apparently they were Dutch and had NO idea what to do, heaven knows how they got on. I was saying some very unladylike things about him while in the lock and still wish I could have got my hands on him - lock rage in action I think!

Most of my pictures won't upload for some reason, but this is the pub where the AGM is being held tomorrow afternoon. It looks nice, shame I've got food enough to feed the 40,000 and all needs to be used in the next few days - please let the weather last as we need BBQ's!

It's a bit dark but here's the line of RBOA boats - apart from the front one which has a permanent mooring there - Roger, an old working boat. There's also one you can't really distinguish just in front of us that is ignoring the signs saying RBOA only as well as calls from CRT and the appeals of the people here and is moored right in the middle of us all. Hopefully they will go soon as there are more boats due.

I have no idea when I'll next get on to update this, but will try to do something over the weekend or early next week.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

10th July '13

We left Willow Tree today and have travelled about 5 miles and are moored at Cowley Lock next to the Malt Shovel. It was so nice on Saturday that we are meeting Darren and Michelle here again tonight, just for a drink this time as Michelle has to work late.

Moored at Willow Tree, because of the short jetty's, we had to come in and out of the stern and even after a week, Paddy still found it confusing - he's much happier now that we're using the front again. He had a trim yesterday as he'd been suffering with the heat, he's getting used to it now and I was able to use the trimmer over almost all of him rather than just his back, so much easier.

One of the bits I didn't like - the very heavy gates that were padlocked from 5pm through to the morning and the padlock took some opening!

Malcolm is never camera shy - here he's practising for a new role as the Tin Man I think!

A more usual Malcolm mode, and Susan who is my oldest friend (in that we've known each other for 50 years, not that she's ancient). We met them in Greenford last night and ate at the Bombay Chinese restaurant. They hadn't eaten there and we had no idea what to expect, but I have to say it served the largest portion of crispy duck and pancakes we'd ever seen in all of our lives! Otherwise it was sort of Chinese with Indian overtones. Apart from us, everyone eating there was of Indian extraction, so it was obviously filling a need. We'd certainly go there again.

This was the Nestle factory and I was expecting wonderful wafts of chocolate scents as we went past, but there was nothing - it could have been a car factory for all the excitement I got from it. What a let-down.

This is for John's sister - still lots to look for but we're getting there.

Just to show that canals still have a place in our industry - this is a wharf where aggregate is unloaded. It is carried along the canal from the other side of Uxbridge in 90 tonne barges, saving road miles. I love to see the canals being used for what they were intended. I noticed in Tesco yesterday a sign saying that they were using canals where possible to reduce their carbon footprint - good for them I say.

Now I need to go and prepare everything for a BBQ so that John can wield his spatula and announce that he cooked tea tonight!