Wednesday, 30 May 2012

What a lovely week

As James has previously mentioned Jess arrived with us on Tuesday 22nd May with the plans to leave on Saturday, so a good four days aboard with us.  As soon as she arrived it was pretty much off with Mum and John also aboard for our picnic lunch.  When we got back to the marina early evening I spotted some huge fish swimming around the boat and called for Jess and James to have a look, they were apparently Carp - some of them must be a good 2ft - 2.5ft long and very wide, like barrels.

Half a huge Carp
On Wednesday Mum and John headed off for a day trip whilst we stayed at the marina - I needed to catch up on the washing!! so with the poor washing machine working overtime and the gorgeous weather it was done, dried and put back away in no time at all.  We wandered over to the pub to break the day up for our lime and soda and watch the boats going by.  Mum and John joined us shortly after, we hadn't realised they had been inside having a late lunch/early dinner.  John had kindly bought a bottle of wine for our anniversary, which went down very well.  After a few hours we headed back to LJ so I could finish the washing and get dinner sorted - Mum and John joined us later for coffee and cookies made by Jess.

On Thursday 'Solar Man' was due, so it was up fairly early and breakfast of tea and toasted muffins with jam, just as the muffins were ready James, who had been keeping a look out of the kitchen window, announced "the engineer is here", unfortunately Phil (Solar Man / Engineer) couldn't get through the security gate to us and only had James' phone number which had no signal - so was just wandering up and down hoping we would spot him and James did.  Jess and I moved off the boat onto the pontoon to eat our muffins so the boat didn't move when Phil was looking to see where the panels were going.  After that with books and papers in hand we all wandered over to the pub for coffee leaving Phil to it.  Again we met Mum and John over there and spent another few hours in the garden, with the occasional visit back to LJ to see how Phil was getting on.  As Mum and John were heading back home we had an early lunch (thanks Mum the carvery was lovely), then off they went.  We went back to LJ where Phil was about 20 minutes from being finished.  Then it was out of the marina for us and heading north on the Ashby to the end.  We stopped off at the same spot we had stopped on Tuesday for the picnic, it was a nice location and just on the edge of Hinckley and we needed to top up on food supplies before heading on into a very rural location with nothing around.  Morrisons was only about 2 miles away so it was a hike there and back with a full bag load of shopping each - a bit of a struggle in the heat but we made it!  So burgers for dinner cooked on the Cobb BBQ and then Jess' first night on LJ not on a marina.  It is very different waking up to views of fields one side and the canal the other and boats going past.

Friday was a bit of a rest day, most of it spent reading books!  Then it was a move further up the Ashby and stop over at Stoke Golding.  We walked up into Stoke Golding where the small village there has three pubs, a little convenience shop, post office and a church.  We were interested in the history of the church so went up to go inside - it was all locked up but a notice said where the key was so off we went in search of it - a bit like a treasure hunt.  Then I spotted it hung by someone's front door, probably the biggest key I've seen, you would need a big pocket to keep that in!  So back we went to the church for a look around.  Back at LJ whilst waiting for the BBQ to heat up we were watching the wild life - right opposite us was a moor hen family with tiny fluffy black babies, and we were also lucky enough to spot a water vole, the guide book had said to listen out for the 'plopping' sound as they entered the water but as they are very rare you don't usually see them.

Stoke Golding
Saturday we walked up to the next place we were planning on mooring, we wanted to check it out as it seemed like it could be a busy place, with organised boat trips.  It was a very hot day so after a stop off in the cafe for a lemonade it was a slow plod back to LJ.  After a bit of a rest we headed off to the next stop.  Sutton Cheney Wharf, where Jess fed mummy duck and her 11 ducklings.

Proud mummy duck
Jess had decided to head back home on Sunday instead, but then we realised that the buses in the little villages we were near don't run on Sundays so she wouldn't be able to get to the train station.  So after a quick check with her boss at work her holiday was extended by a day leaving on Monday instead.  She booked her train ticket and we had to get her as close to Market Bosworth as possible for the bus leaving at 12 noon.  The moorings at Market Bosworth were packed, but we managed to sneak in on the end with it all overgrown to the path.  We walked up into the centre of the village to check out where the buses stopped and to see how long it was take to get there, just over half an hour.  Also we noticed a sign on the bridge saying fish and chips on Sundays - yum.  Unfortunately the chip shop was closed so the sign on the bridge was a little out of date - so a quick check round the pubs etc for an alternative found not one of them served food on Sundays - looks like there could be a business opportunity there!! We had noticed a chinese take away so it was back there for sweet and sour chicken for three.

Monday James and I pushed our bikes up the hill to see Jess off on the bus, a quick stock up on food supplies at the co-op and a leisurely, downhill ride back to LJ where we stayed for another night.  Tuesday, after doing a 'spring clean' we headed off for the end of the canal with a stop off for lunch.  We had planned to moor at Snarestone just before the tunnel which has turned out to be a lovely spot, and the solar panels are certainly doing their job - with all this sun we shouldn't have to run the engine today - excellent.  Yesterday evening we wandering to the end of the canal to look at the restoration work that was going on.

Present terminus of the Ashby Canal
During Jess' visit we seemed to have spotted more wildlife than usual:- lots of swans with their cygnets, ducks with their ducklings, moorhens with their chicks, terrapins, water vole, huge carp and something that looked like a slow-worm but it was swimming - so if slow-worms swim it was that, if not it was something that looked like it!!  Oh and I nearly forgot we had a visit from a warble fly (according to our wildlife book - thanks Mum) - it looks like a 3cm wasp, it certainly got Jess moving she was out the door before James and I realised it was there!  Apparently their larvae feed just under the skin of cattle producing a swelling - doesn't sound too pleasant.  Unfortunately it didn't stay around long enough for a photo.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Solar Update...

Phil arrived early last Thursday to fit our new solar panels. The sun was out and warming the marina and it was looking like being another hot day. We had spoken to the marina management and they had agreed to let us stay as late in the day as was required without charging us for another night and had also agreed the use of the wet dock, none of this check out by 10.30 business!  Phil didn’t need the wet dock he was happy to balance on top of LJ and do what was required.

Martin had given Phil a copy of the sketch I had photographed and emailed to him detailing roughly what I wanted done. There was always going to be a bit of a tangle of wires from the front two panels joining up with the rear two and he did his best to keep it all as neat as possible. I expected him to be with us for an hour or so but morning coffee drifted into lunch before Pip and John had to make their way back home. By the time Phil was ready to test the system it was late afternoon and touching 28 deg C, the top of LJ being fairly dark blue was also roasting, Phil looked hot.

As we had been on electric hook up at the marina the battery bank was already at 100% so we wouldn’t start to see the kind of input that we needed until later that, or possibly the next day. What I was really after was to find that I could knock about a third off the engine charging time per day. One hour less would equate to roughly £45 per month and put the diesel spend back on track. It will of course take a while to run through different scenarios to see what savings we can make. I am pleased so far though and although it is another bright and sunny day today we have not started the engine at all. Now we haven’t used much power either as it’s not the weather for TV etc, but the fridge has been struggling to cope with the 30 deg C inside again so has been running at full pelt. It will be likely that the battery bank will be somewhere around the 85% full mark by the time we call it quits tonight. The actual usable %age is between 50 and 100%, if you regularly let the batteries drop lower than 50% nasty things happen and they start to die an early death.  So 10-15% a day could give us about 3/4 days with only a little engine running. Hopefully the lack of sun on cooler days will balance out the fridge being on less, at least until we can save up for a proper 12v fridge that combined with not having to run the inverter will also save a fair wedge of power.

Solar and a nice sunny day!

Next job is to sort out the generator. As the big royal weekend is imminent we will probably hold out another week to sort that, relying on the cob bbq and stove (with all doors and windows open) for cooking.

Friday, 25 May 2012

What’s happened to your face?...

We met up with Pip and John for a cuppa after their journey up to Hinkley. By now we had put the shopping away and had an idea of what we were planning for tomorrow’s pre-anniversary buffet cruise. It has been 20 years this year for us since we tied the knot in the quiet Berkshire village. It doesn’t seem possible that time could go by so quickly, and who would have thought that 20 years later we would be celebrating on LJ on the Ashby canal.

We agreed to meet up at the on-site pub for a bite to eat later so it was all hands to preparing and baking with a last few minutes for a quick shower. The marina, hotel and pub were all part of the same complex so very convenient to pop back to ours for coffee after dinner. As we are getting towards the end of the month, and with all required diligence, we were making everything ourselves to try and keep the budget on track, and hopefully the quiche, pate and sausage and onion plait spicy cheese fritters would be all the better for it.

The next day we would be off on our day trip as soon as Jess had arrived. She would be taking the cheapest route from Winchester to us by train. This would involve a few changes as the most direct route (to Coventry) was nearly £80. For a quarter of that price and FIVE trains in total – including a tube transfer in London Jess was able to arrive at Hinkley station (about a mile away) shortly after 12.30 to be picked up by Deb and Pip. Whilst Jess was zigzagging across the country we were all sat on the front deck having elevenses of pots of tea and freshly griddled Welsh cakes.

As soon as Jess was aboard we would be off. I went to the pontoon security gates to let the traveler in, to be greeted by Jess with the exclamation “WHAT’S HAPPENED TO YOUR FACE?” admittedly it has been a few days since I have had a shave, well two months on Friday actually, but I didn’t think it was that bad! I think I will have to change my profile photo as I haven’t visited a barber since January either.

The champagne was on ice and all food ready on the breakfast bar in LJ but with the sky now cloudless we would definitely be picnicking outside today. Luckily the wind was light as the exit from the Marina was going to be a particularly tight ‘U’ turn. I managed to wind LJ through the narrow entrance but a thoughtless angler had set up his carbon fibre poles directly opposite the entrance. The perfect line would involve wiping out his expensive set up so I nudged into the bank at the front to act as a pivot. Deb hopped to the bank to fend us off unfortunately trampling the delicate stinging nettled to oblivion in her sandaled feet, Urtica dioica is a hardy species however so I am sure it will recover .

Another partial roof shot - you'll see a few!

Open stretch to a ...

...typical Ashby bridge

A field so yellow it needed sun glasses ( not the field!)

Nosing into the wind we moored shortly before a suitable winding hole so we could turn for our return journey. From the marina the scenery had quickly reverted to open countryside and we had passed the nine cygnets that loitered between the marina and pub, passed nesting moor hens and noisy coot’s, alongside yellow fields of oil-seed rape and under boughs of blossoming hawthorn before going through an open wood cutting with a bedraggled looking duck chasing after her eleven ducklings.  We had only pottered for about an hour or so and at our usual slow pace had managed a whole 2.5 miles before stopping for a late afternoon buffet.

Chorizzo flan, sausage and onion plait, beignett au fromage, fish pate and toast, egg/cheese/pork rillette sarnies, waldorf/potato/coleslaw salads diplomat pudding for afters ..oh and champagne - yum

The sun was particularly warm now and by the time we had finished eating our digestive stroll was only a few hundred yards. The breeze was on our tail returning through the marina and in hindsight it may have been more appropriate to reverse in rather than attempt the return ‘U’ turn across the wind. With insufficient speed and a rather large turning circle needed (it must be well over 100 feet) we drifted off course.  A couple of bursts on the cheating button (bow thruster) saw us back on target for the last right-angled turn into a perfect reverse up to the stubby floating pontoon. Kettle on, we sat and chatted until the sun had set in a red haze and started losing its heat. A very pleasant way to spend our pre-anni afternoon.

A different story for our actual anniversary day though. Deb had been itching to get our mini washing machine working hard as we had both water and power on the pontoon. I managed to get her to give the poor machine a rest after the fifth load and we went over to the pub for whatever we could get for least money that was going to be refreshing. The marina’s birth offered no shade and by mid-afternoon we were at about 26 deg C outside and close to 30 inside. A round of soda and lime as suggested by Jess set us back about £1.60 and hit the spot. Pip and John had been inside the restaurant finishing an early supper out of the heat and when Pip had come out to say hi John had ordered us an even more refreshing bottle of ice cold pinot that went down a treat before we went back to LJ for washing loads six and seven (by now even the clean stuff had been washed!). Bored with the washing-athon Jess and I set about the far more interesting task of making beer.

Alchemists at work

Is it ready yet?
My brew safely stored at the right temperature in the office should be ready for bottling and secondary fermentation within the week, and testing shortly after. 

After trying to nag Deb into making some cookies Jess gave up and made them herself ready for Pip and John coming back in the evening for coffee, cookies and a couple of drinks. Luckily the temperature by sunset had returned to a more manageable 20 deg C or so. Space was a bit tight for drinkies in the bow as a lot is taken up by the wood store so after playing sardines for a while Jess resorted to sitting on the roof.

Cookies and profiteroles

A place for everything...

 Again, a warm, but very pleasant day.

Tomorrow (Thursday), Phil the solar man arrives!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

To the sanctuary of Trinity Marina...

A pleasant but fairly short journey brought us just outside of Hinkley town for Sunday night. Although the journey wasn't many miles we had come through Hawkesbury Junction on Saturday and Marsdon Junction fairly soon into our trip. We had a chilly start and didn't see more than a couple of boats (which is a strong contrast to all previous Sundays regardless of weather) until we arrived a Marsdon.

We had had a hire boat on our tail for quite a way (why are they always intent on traveling at maximum pace?) and when I approached the rather tight bridge to blind corner to junction turn the hire boat hadn't left himself much room for maneuverability. Once I was through the bridge I was bow to bow with another boat and stopped quickly with a large handful of reverse throttle. The couple in front moved to port with plenty of time for me to go through, unfortunately the hire boat behind was half way through the bridge and blocked the onward passage. I called the rapidly approaching hirer through to pass me and free the bridge exit and drifted to one side out of the way. By now the experienced boater showing his dexterity had reversed to give the hirer sufficient space however two further boats were on their way through the other canal bridge from the Ashby canal and were committed to their passage. So no boats all morning and then five of us all at odd angles trying to man handle 80 tons and 300 odd feet of steel boats under 7 foot wide bridges to continue our journeys. What an exciting trip and all in a few miles!

The Ashby is a very different canal to the Coventry we had just left, far more rural with lots of deep tree lined cuttings and towpaths that were highly over grown leaving us purpose built mooring points doted along the way. After the fairly big lunch I had made Deb neither of us fancied any dinner so we settled down to mugs of steaming coffee and cinnamon toast before turning in reasonably early. Only a mile or so the next day saw us mooring as directed just outside Trinity Marina awaiting our allocated birth. It was a woolly hats start again and I was sceptical that the weather would be likely to change from cool and dull to hot and sunny in the next 24 hours. 

With the travel generator still not working I was looking forward to plugging into the electric and seeing if I could get the power to the oven and hob working, making use of the shower block on site and not having to wait for the solid fuel stove to get hot enough to boil the kettle on. Its amazing the silly things you take for granted and miss from civilized life. If I had previously wanted a hot drink I would have put the kettle on or made my selection from an array of speciallised coffee, tea or hot chocholate from our coffee machine. Now its light the fire and pray for the whistle alerting us to sufficiently hot water to brew tea or make do with instant coffe if the kettle only managed fairly hot. Not for the next few days though as plugging the boat in to mains shore power brought all systems to life including the ceramic hob and oven (tea and toast for breaky at an instant tomorrow morning) So the problem with the generator lies within, in its control box or the wiring to the consumer unit - specialist knowledge needed. 

After briefly settling in we decided a stroll to the local co-op about a mile away was needed as we were expecting our guests for an afternoon boat trip and picnic tomorrow. On the way back the cloud started to thin and I could actually see the light at the end of the weather tunnel. Maybe we will get the warm weather as forecast.

Weird or wonderful #2

Didn't stay long in these woods!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Lots of Miles Covered

Apologies to all for the lack of blogs over the last couple of days, lots has happened so here's the update.

On Thursday James and I decided Friday would be the day to move on, but as usual having plans just means things go wrong!!  Thursday we had a trip into Rugby town, had a look around and picked up a few supplies to keep us going, we did cheat as still having the Bongo and parking so close we took advantage. We got back to LJ at about 2pm and the plan was to have a quick bite to eat then move the Bongo up to Hawkesbury Junction, ready for us to get up there on Friday, but .....  unfortunately there seemed to be a problem with Lois Janes' generator.  Now being a 'gas free' boat we need to run the generator to get the hob and oven working - with them being too high power for the battery bank, so instead of taking the Bongo upto Hawkesbury James spent the afternoon trying to sort the generator, unfortunately it's still not working and we will need to find out if it's an electrical fault or mechanical fault and I think the only way to find that out is to get onto a marina and get electric hookup. We are still able to cook and heat water on top of our wood burning stove, which also burns coal but we can't get that free!

Anyway back to the plan - with Thursday afternoon gone we decided it was up early on Friday move the Bongo, cycle back to LJ and then make our way to Hawkesbury.  This all went incredible well bearing in mind it was over a nine mile cycle back from the Bongo to the boat! (This is a lot for us). So now it was time for us and LJ to get going, we needed to stop to fill up with water as this was now getting low, so we did this at the first one we came to just outside Brinklow at Stretton Stop.  As usual it's my job to sort the hose and start the tank filling, from previous experience we know some water taps to be very slow running and so far we had been lucky and must have picked the few good high pressure ones - not this time though! I thought I would take advantage and run a quick washing load so it could be filling as I was using therefore still leaving a virtually full tank after filling.  After about 15 minutes I did a quick check to see how full it was and was surprised it was still only about a quarter full, so as it was about lunch time I made a sandwich and cup of tea and finally after about an hour we were able to continue our journey. At about 4pm we stopped as James wanted to make a phone call about the generator, as it turns out as we were in quite a nice place and Hawkesbury Junction only about a mile or so away we tied up properly and stayed the night.  

On Saturday, as we were burning a lot more wood due to lack of hob and oven and it being our only way of cooking, we put the bike trailer together and walked down the towpath as we were lucky enough to have a few trees around near where we moored. We got two trailer loads and spent the afternoon sawing, chopping and splitting the wood then storing it all neatly in the bow. Our plan was then to move LJ up closer to the junction as there is a lovely pub there which we had always said we would go back to and treat ourselves. Hawkesbury Junction holds fond memories for both James and I as when we hired Sarah-Louise we went up that way and it was the first lock I worked then straight after the lock the Oxford Canal joins the Coventry and to go the way we wanted to up the Coventry it is a U turn, as the canals run parallel for about half a mile - James did this quite well in Sarah-Louise, but I have to say it was an excellent manoeuvre in Lois Jane, he even got a round of applause from the spectators, with one shouting out that he was jealous - guess he didn't manage it as well as James! Whilst all this was going on a family of swans came by, Mum, Dad and six cygnets, they couldn't have been very old and were very cute - little grey balls of fluff.  It was very busy for moorings here as we thought it would be, it's very popular, so by the time we moored up it was off with the bikes as it was about a mile back to the pub and after such a busy day we couldn't miss out on our pint along with pie and chips.

Work in progress
So today, Sunday, it was up and out before 7am as we needed to get rid of our bags of rubbish, which had built up as there doesn't seem to be too many rubbish stops along the way and we also needed to check on the Bongo, so out with the trailer again and with the rubbish tied securely it was off for a mile or so to the rubbish point.  A quick check of the Bongo and all ok, it was back to LJ and head up to the Ashby canal to meet up with family on Tuesday, really looking forward to it Mum, John and Jess.  So here we are three miles up the Ashby which is a lovely rural canal, certainly as described in the books, and just chilling out after a lovely meal prepared in advance by James - he got the idea from a Troglodite cave restaurant we visited a few years ago in France - I'm sure you'll remember it Jess.

Yum Yum

Friday, 18 May 2012

weird or wonderful?...

A lot of sights along our journey will be, well, indifferent. I have now seen quite a lot of sheep and quite a lot of ducks so rather than aw... I first think yum... (haven't had a roast in months now)

However many other sights will fall further into the extremes of WEIRD OR WONDERFUL.


A furby of mid '90s vintage..notice the little family of flies that have crawled out of it's head - sweet dreams people!!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Continued... bag and organised what I needed. In minutes it was all over. I chose a different route leaving the woods to cover my tracks. It was no more than a mile back to LJ where crew was waiting. As I came into view crew could see that my expedition had come good and hanging from my nylon cord was a plentiful supply of seasoned wood for the cobb bbq... 

Where's me wabbit then?

Well how else was I gona cook the vegi stir fry?

Now the problem so far with our cobb bbq, which is really designed for burning charcoal, is that it needs a lot of wood burned down to embers so that it stays hot without being smokey. The last attempt gave pizza tasting like a mixture of engineers grease (I thought Deb had cleaned the new griddle and vice versa) and acrid damp wood smoke. Didn't stop us eating it as it was late and we were famished. This time the fire was good and big so there should be lots of embers. Unfortunately the required heat didn't last for long and the wok made a quick exit to the galley. Deb had made some welsh cakes that would be perfect on the griddle, and the temperature was about right. They cooked really well, nice and evenly brown on both sides and light and fluffy, unfortunately they still had the acrid smokey taste so the next batch were also cooked inside. I wont let it beat me! there must be a way of getting it right.

I had also bought a couple of small roundels of beech branch in to consider using as bases for one of my mini gem trees. The little pull saw cuts them so neatly that they don't even need sanding. Unfortunately some critters had thought that they would make good homes for themselves as well. A tell tale sign the next day of a neat round hole and gritty saw dust on the shelf sent shivers down my spine. Woodworm and a wooden fitted boat is not a great combination. We are being extra vigilant but I suspect that the age of the wood and the fact that it is oak, iroko or other hard woods will turn the worm away.  

A nice quiet day inside today, keeping clear of the hail showers, oh and fitting a new water filter below decks. 

That hail is gona be hurting someone's face.. oh yes..


Monday, 14 May 2012

The worm has turned...

Setting off, alone, I skirted the north eastern edge of the private estate known as 'all oaks wood'. I knew that this would be the most likely location that I would successfully be able to stalk my quarry. Tonight's meal was depending on it. I was travelling light, a small, lightweight day bag holding only the essential items that I would need, no more - no less.

I could hear a car approaching in the distance. By my estimation I would just have sufficient time to leave the openness of the lane and get deep enough into the woods to be able to guarantee seclusion. Although the estate had been know as 'all oaks' for a considerable time in reality there were very few oaks remaining and the beech trees that now proliferated provided little cover from their high canopies and slender trunks. 

Evidence of activity lay all around, a well trodden footpath, possibly leading to a farm or manor house; a recent tyre track from a mountain bike, its furrows growing fresh water into puddles. Shotgun cartridges. The wood was not particularly deep and I could see an opening to an arable field no further than a couple of hundred yards away. I knew my time and opportunities were running out and the crew that I had left back aboard would be getting hungry.

My opportunity presented itself. From behind the broadest of beech trees I could see what I had come here for. Not too big nor, too small and about the right age from what I could see. I quickly opened my bag....

To be continued

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Lunch on the Tump...

As today had no rain forecast and a good deal of sunshine we decided to head back into Brinklow by bike to have a better look around the village. We set of in a chilly wind at about 10.30 but as we were cycling we soon warmed up. The old legs not burning as much as before which is an encouraging sign and we were in the village within minutes. Good old invention, the bike - bought for next to nowt, virtually maintenance free and no running costs. Ok our average speed is still pitifully low but I am confident it will increase and my average tank of diesel only returned an average speed of 17 mph when I was working in Bournemouth. 

A pretty little rural village Brinklow, according to John at the Lime Farm, nothing like it used to be but sadly the same is to be seen in most small communities. It still has a bit of a highstreet with a couple of shops, takeaway, small primary school and clutch of pubs which is more than can be said for a lot of places baring in mind that its population is only just over 1000 people.

Again being close to a canal  (having formerly had its own arm) it has more than its share of history. It has a beautiful 13th century church lots of old houses including one faced in Staffordshire blue bricks. These have been used entirely for decoration and status, not their strength as they are in several railway bridges. Brinklow also boasts one of the largest  Norman motte and baileys.

Blue Brick House

On the Tump for lunch
From the local history group - Brinklow's most notable topographical feature is the imposing grassy mound behind the church, known locally as the Tump, or the Big Hill.  Built on a natural rise, and offering a striking view of the surrounding countryside, the hill and its nearby earthworks represent one of the best preserved motte-and-bailey castle sites in the country.  However, the name of Brinklow itself suggests a much older settled community, or at least a site that was important to people long before the Norman Conquest.

The name is thought to originate from two Old English elements: the personal name Brynca, and the word hlaw, meaning "hill" in the sense of tumulus or burial mound.  This ancient derivation implies that there was almost certainly a man-made "tump" here long before the Normans exploited the site to build their castle.
Brinklow Tump may well have had some significance to the ancient Coritani people, whose capital was Leicester, but who, it is thought, may well have strayed in small isolated settlements southwards.  It is one of a line of such tumuli and earthworks that run diagonally across Warwickshire from north-east to south-east, and which are roughly parallel to the Fosse Way; this last may be by accident or design, but many have suggested that such "ley lines" are either the remnants of ancient and lost trackways, or that they echo pagan belief in the harnessing of natural earth-energy forces along such man made connections. One such trackway is "Tutbury Lane", an old green path which runs from the River Avon to Brinklow Heath.

Vid from my phone so hope it works!

As the weather was still good we decided to push ourselves further out into the countryside before returning to Brinklow and back to LJ and it took a little longer cycling back from Brinklow than it had to get to it in the morning! Luckily we had saved some of the scones I had made a few days ago and it was a very 'wind in the willows' afternoon having afternoon tea on the fore deck. Time for a bit of toad from toad hall later - I've spotted another fallen tree and this time its not willow!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Bus trip back to Braunston

Today was due to be bright and breezy so we had planned to get the bus back to Braunston via Rugby to pick up the van and a few essentials on the way.

We're not too far from a fairly small back road to Brinklow village centre, about 1.5 miles' so it was up and out fairly early for the first leg of our journey. We managed good time to the village (good for us anyway) at just over 25 minutes. It has been a while since we have used local buses so were pleased it was on time but we didn't have a clue how much it would cost. Naively we got on and duly handed over our £20. Ah... all the passengers were, lets say, bus pass users and the bus driver had about £3.20 in change and doubted whether he would pick up many cash passengers. Rather than kick us off and let us get the next one in 30 mins or so, he drove round the corner and parked outside the local shop so Deb could get some change. Don't think you would find bus drivers like that very often. 

We had a bit of a closer look at Rugby town centre with its 'once you've seen one you've seen them all', shopping mall and a browse round a few charity shops looking for a book identifying tree types for the next time I got my chainsaw out again, no luck yet. A lot of Rugby's large architectural buildings are part of Rugby school and I would guess always would have been as the school has been around since the 1820's.

From Rugby to Braunston was a pretty journey and it was nice to see some of the surrounding countryside. We didn't stay long but were glad to see that the van was still where we left it and all in working order and now hidden on the end of all oaks wood just up from the canal.

All Oaks Wood (looking like all Beech to me!)
The new batteries are proving a worthwhile investment and we havent drained them yet. The new monitor shows quite easily what %age left and we have cut our diesel bill by about 25% and I am hoping to get below 50% of Aprils usage as soon as we have solar up and running.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Time for LJ to visit the Doctor...

Nothing serious only a 'check up', well in reality an engine service. 

After our very brief trip through Rugby we arrived at Newbold where we moored up for the night just before the tunnel, in a lovely spot and if we didn't have to be at Cathiron the next day we would have probably stayed a while. So Wednesday James and I were up and on the move by 9:15 as we were due at Lime Farm Marina for 10:00. Lime Farm is where we hired Sarah-Louise from last year and John and Sarah who own and run it are a down to earth couple who probably know, between them, everything you would need to know about narrowboats.

Now the entrance from the canal into Lime Farm marina is a little tight (we remember from getting back with Sarah-Louise!!) I was on the front deck ready to fend off the sides, James was doing really well and was looking like getting it through in one, then I spotted John running towards us shouting - unfortunately I couldn't hear him until he was quite close and he was saying ... "can you come in backwards"!! I wasn't sure if James had heard so out with the walkie talkie to relay the message - "he wants us to come in backwards"!! I knew James had heard my message when I saw him laughing - or was that crying!! This meant turning 60ft LJ round in a very, very tight space. But with a little help from John pulling the front round the the rope James got her in backwards.  

We had a long chat with John and Sarah, then once the engine had cooled down John could have a good look to see what filters etc he needed. We had decided to leave him to it and went off for a walk towards Brinklow. We walked down the lovely peaceful country lanes, except for the Virgin train whooshing by, and arrived in the village where we spotted a chip shop - it was lunch time so a treat was in store for us. Leaving with bags of chips in hand we went back to a bench we had past - then it began to rain, so with chips eaten in the rain, we decided not to explore the rest of the village and headed back for Lime Farm Marina, which was about two and a half miles away! (we will go back to Brinklow as it seems to have a really interesting history). It rained heavier and we got soaked, we had waterproof coats with us but not the trousers and jeans are not particularly comfortable when wet!!! 

We arrived back and John was still working on LJ with a massive umbrella over the engine bay. We went back on board and sat still, so as not to 'rock the boat' and read our books. John pumped out all the water that had been sitting in the bottom of the engine bay, which had been there since we bought her, and what a difference. When it gets warmer and drier (if ever) I will get down there and paint it. Well with the service complete, more diesel bought, pump out done and another bag of coal we were on way, that's when I realised it was 7:30pm! What service from John and Lime Farm Marina - as you can probably tell I would highly recommend them.  

Up and about this morning I was getting the fire ready to light as James was going to cook up some rhubarb to make into a crumble for pudding tonight, he was also making some scones as we had got some clotted cream in Aldi on our last visit and this needed using and scones and jam are the only way to have clotted cream. So with a little coal stored in the engine bay I lifted the top and then .... I felt like a cartoon character with my eyes popping out - I couldn't believe it a couple of inches of water again - so down I went and started bailing it out. I knew it rained last night but really - that much - I got about five buckets out and there is still more there, so a mop is on the next shopping list so I can get the rest out. Whilst I was down there I thought I may as well check the weed hatch again - all was ok with that. This probably ended up taking a couple of hours and I was rewarded with some very delicious scones with clotted cream and jam.

This afternoon has been on and off rain - so we stayed in a relaxed. With the fire lit I prepared the cottage pie for dinner which was followed by rhubarb and apple crumble - yum.

Tomorrow we are getting the bus to Rugby and then back to Braunston, where we have left the Bongo and bring it back close to us - oh yes with a stop off in Tesco at Rugby to pick up the home brew kit - so bye bye airing cupboard for a couple of weeks.

Oh and James has asked me to put this picture in - this is the family size nan bread, he has previously mentioned, from our visit to Rugby with Pam and Pete.  Must be for a huge family as the four of us couldn't manage it all!!!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


We arrived at the chandlers a bit late on Sunday but we knew what was on the dreaded lit. Batteries stored on the rear deck, loo emptied and water filled we left Braunston by 4.30 headed n the direction of lime farm marina for our long over due engine service on Wednesday. Who knows if we will meet up again with walkie man, jogging woman, stargazing man et all on our voyage.

Ducks always want in on the act

 The weather was still good although cooling down rapidly. Crew had her turn at helm, her pedestal brought few remarks from passers by.

The fields gently roll by as we get out into the countryside, no roads, no houses, no street lights and not many other boats either

After we turned a corner Deb popped her head out from the front of the boat alarmed that we were headed straight for shore. But I had spied a felled tree!

Bench set up, saw ready, logs retrieved and safety trainers on I set about increasing our log pile. Unfortunately my tree knowledge isn't up to much and we had cut, chopped and piled yet another type of willow that, according to a quick check on line provides as much heat and flame when burnt as a soggy tissue. Never mind, good practise and a nice spot to stop until tomorrow brings us another glorious sunny day.

Tomorrow (BH Monday - or now yesterday??)

Nope no sun, cloud then rain and more rain. Today's task - fit the battery monitor and new batteries. When I said that getting to the batteries was a bit tight I wasn't joking, it's like one of those kids puzzles where you have to slide one tile to get to another. It is also a bit like spaghetti junction so first ob was to label every wire so we know where it goes back. (its also messy, cold and about a foot lower that where you are kneeling!)  

Deb finished tightening the connections while I straightened my back from all the lifting and bending. The batteries weigh 25kg each! That's 125kg lifted onto the boat; lifted down below for storage; old batteries lifted out then swung across to the bank; new batteries lifted out from storage and installed; old batteries carried to the front of the boat and stored - today (Tuesday) my neck and back are really hurting (hope nothing goes pop!)


Much better weather today, actually quite warm for our onward journey. And we even managed a short bike ride to tescos to pick up a few bits and order my home brew kit (V exited)

An old ambulance in a garden

Waiting for the locks

Through the last one before Rugby

Sunday, 6 May 2012


Last week our visitors were greeted by 50mph winds and horizontal rain today the weather has been really pleasant. 

Yesterday Jess text me to let me know there was a lunar event due. The full moon was due and it was going to be at its closest to the earth until next year and appear about 14% bigger. A quick check of my app showed that the moon was actually full at about 03.50. I checked the weather and although cold it was due to clear up by 03.00. Alarm set I had a sleepless couple of hours waiting for the alarm, I didn't need it I was wide awake. Camera and binos ready I snuck out the bough doors to start my stargazing in earnest. I was met with a really eerie silence and a lot of cloud. It was still very strangely bright, enough to read the names of other boats across the canal. Not a ripple on the canal and not a breath of wind or tweet of a night bird. Worth getting up for but sadly no pictures of full moons over the canal.

Bumped in to walkie man this morning, he was walking with his dog to the bottom lock in Braunston, he has already been to the village once today (about a four mile round trip each time!) He is going to meet up with an old friend who has a working boat, walkie man will accompany his friend towards the west (he doesn't quite know where or care either). He has had an early lunch today him and the dog sharing a leg of roast lamb (lucky bug...s) and he is ready for the next part of his journey. His boat has had its thorough clean out, dogs bed aired (not a happy dog now) and three loads of washing done.

Thought I would catch him out yesterday. We were up and about early but It does take a little while to get the boat all up and running. He said he was moored a little further up (away from the village) than us so we decided as the weather was good that we would go out his direction so he could see that we are not permanently attached to LJ. As we strolled quietly past, all was quiet (got him - he is probably still in bed as it's only just gone 8)

A short while later he walked past towards us in the direction of the village. "going up for your paper?" I asked "oh no" he said got that when I went up this morning 'bout 7ish, ...hour or so after I got back from taking the dog for a walk" - Give up!

There doesn't seem to be a farewell or goodbye here just "see you next time"

We are off to the chandlers to buy some batteries now, there is no way round it they are not even lasting half a day at the moment. And then from Braunston towards Rugby. But first a cheese and pickle sarnie sat in the sun watching the gongoozalers (tourists up here - grockles where I come from)

More on the trip tomorrow if I get a mo from fitting batteries (square pegs round holes!)

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Sun at Last...

But how long for??  We woke this morning with the sun streaming through the gaps in the back hatch and that's all it took for us to jump out of bed early and enjoy a walk along the canal without getting blown away or drenched.

Yesterday afternoon we decided to move LJ further down the canal, we didn't go far only about a mile, once away I took control of the tiller - I think James was quite apprehensive, once I got a step (well it is a bit of wood waiting to be chopped up for firewood, which is now saved as it makes an ideal step for short little me) I could see easier and managed to keep in a straight line and not 'pin ball' down the canal, I even managed a bridge - although James spoilt it and said it's probably the widest one we have been through!!  Anyway we are now moored up just before a winding hole and opposite some permanent moorings with lovely gardens and veg plots.

On our walk this morning we passed walkie man, who is a little further down the canal, he is getting ready to move on probably to Warwick he said.  This section of the canal is very rural with stunning views across to Rugby in the distance and the canal meanders through the lovely yellow and green fields with hawthorn hedgerows just breaking into blossom.  All in all a really nice early morning walk.

Back to the boat and lovely eggs on toast for brekkie, with the free-range eggs that walkie man kindly gave us a couple of days ago.  Well it has now clouded over so the sun didn't last long - just glad we made the most of it when it was out.  What's in store for the rest of the day??  James wants to go back to Whilton as he has managed to source some technical gadget to keep an eye on the battery usage and charging etc..  Again far too technical for me!!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


There is a guy moored next to us (about 100m away), he is in his seventies and lives on the canals with his dog. We first met him last year at a water point further up the Oxford canal. He was very polite and chatty, but I do remember how he had said that he walks a lot. In fact he walks his dog every few hours and prefers walking to the shops than using his bus pass. Having been moored next to him for 10 days I can see how he said he walks about 10 to 15 miles a day. I haven't asked his name as characters  we meet along our journey if I only remember a name will soon get forgotten ("you know, John lived on a narrowboat, has a dog, old boy - see my point?)

We affectionately call him 'walkie man'. Walkie man was up and about early yesterday and as he had previously told me was walking further down the bank to cut some logs off a fallen tree with his little chainsaw. Now fresh unseasoned wood is about 70% water and is very heavy. A big log can easily top 20kg. Walkie man as well as being in his 70's is about 5'6" and probably no more than 9st soaking wet. It took him about 20 mins to cut the wood, carry it up the bank, split it with his maul and store it on his roof. It was probably about 1/3 the amount I did at the marina, but it took me half a day and a few blisters! I need one of those saws and a chopping maul!

Every one stops to talk to walkie man. Jogging woman even stops her jog to hop on board and say hi. Walkie man stops to chat to everyone. He was even talking to star gazing man on the opposite side of he canal in his bashed up old hippy hutch.

I had explained to Deb that we needed better wood collecting plans and this would involve a shopping trip. Armed with the boat warming money that Pip had given us we set off for town. First stop was to pick up our chosen saw and associated bits and bobs, then screwfix.

I could see Deb was looking a little bit disappointed on arriving on an 'edge of town' industrial estate.

"Well, where is it then" she said, "we're here" I replied
"well it doesn't look like much of a shopping mall" blank looks and head scratching followed before the penny dropped.

"No!" I said, "not shopping mall, Chopping Maul"

Confusion over we headed back to base with arm fulls of man toys and, unfortunately nothing from the list that Deb expected to get from  the shopping mall.

Walkie man popped over to see how my log pile was getting on and to offer Deb some boat polishing advice (yes she is at it again today). He said he has been out walking most of the day, (nearly back to the marina that we started at!) stopped off for a drink at the pub and brought us some free range eggs from the chickens that live opposite the pub on the canals edge.

As I have said, people seem to be friendly on canals.


Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Drought or Flood?...

I'm confused, watched the news last night with reports of flooding and rivers bursting their banks - yet we have lock restrictions and hose pipe bans!!  Driest winter since records began and wettest April this century.  First I thought 'Oh no, just the year we decide to take to the canal there will be no water and we're not going to be able to move anywhere' - now my concerns are 'I hope we're not going to get swept away with the floods'!!

James and I have had a bit of a lazy day - well James has, but he was up most of the night with chronic indigestion.  We woke at 7:30am this morning to hear the wind generator doing overtime and the rain beating down - so it was a case of turning over and going back to sleep, a luxury which is now becoming normal.  When we finally decided to get up we had brunch instead of breakfast but a sausage and egg sandwich was washed down with 'a nice cup of tea'.  After doing my 'housework' I then got to work staining the second roof box which James had made, it was my turn to have the lounge area of the boat as a workshop as the rain was still pouring down.  James, however, found room for the chair in front of the television to play on the Playstation, which we had managed to find room for.  I stopped for an extended tea break and a read of my book, then got back to finishing the box.  Meanwhile James lit the stove and started preparing the dinner which was beef stew and dumplings - yum, one of my favorites.  

With the boxes finished and the stew not quite ready we decided, as the rain and wind had stopped to get a bit of fresh air and get rid of the rubbish - not just an open of the front door and maybe five steps to the bin - oh no - it consists of a half mile hike along the muddy towpaths to the bins.  So that done and back into the warm it was a dive into the stew washed down with a bit of red wine and to follow (which I forgot to mention earlier) with cinnamon whirl chocolate pudding with cream.

So not much going on today - but lots of eating!!  Just looked at the forecast for tomorrow - all seems a bit better so the roof boxes should be fitted into place.