Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Well that was a quick start to 2018

And where the hell did the end of 2017 go?

Well we're not still on the Thames as per the last blog but Deb will do a 6 month catch up blog, just so we know where we've been.

A lot of blog writers know what a balls ache it can be to keep writing regularly and as Deb is now writing the 300 odd entries on The Pen Maker's Boat Blog I guess it's only fair that I retake the seat at the keyboard on this one.

We had a great Christmas with Jess and Lee and quiet new year (as always) and survived the winds of Dylan and his friend hot on his heels, Eleanor for the first few days of January.

Saturday Trading mid December

Sunday Snowballs

Deep and crisp and even

Berko highstreet

Castle Grounds in Berko

Jess's house for Crimbo

Arne - just about my favourite part of Poole Harbour - North East 

... to South

Stags the size of ponies, 25m from the beech

Our last cruise of 2017 was from Berko to Boxmoor above Fisheries Lock, according to canal plan a journey of

Total distance is 3 miles, 6 furlongs and 10 locks (not counting Fishery Lock No 63) Today's travel includes at least 1 moveable bridge.
This is made up of 3 miles, 6 furlongs of broad canals; 10 broad locks.
This will take 3 hours and 49 minutes.

It was pretty accurate too! On the 1st day of the year with heads fairly clear (we seem to be drinking less and less these days) we walked the 4.2 miles back past Berko to find our trusty (and increasingly useful) Hyundai Getz. Sadly no nice clear crisp morning, the tail end of the storm, a face full of drizzle and a few blown down trees to report to CRT via twitter as soon as the bank holiday was over. We'd intended to stop at the Riser for a quick drink bt it was mid afternoon and they were all enjoying a rest.

Reported to CRT and removed within a couple of a days, we had to climb half way up to the railway tracks to continue - slowed the cyclists down though

New years days Wolf moon shone spectacularly through the Houdini hatch as we finished off new years eve's picky bits for dinner and the skies were still clear (briefly) when I got up to stoke the fire the next day.

Sunrise over Boxmoor

We drove into Hemel on the 3rd for a brief shopping trip for Deb and to pick up our 3 HomeFi router with it's unlimited Netflix and Deezer and also 100gb for other things - more on that next blog as it didn't all turn out quite as well as I hoped.

One of the many things I'd had delivered to Jess's house before Crimbo was some cheap Buck Boost converters from China (£2.39 incl P&P). These little gizmos will let me build some adjustable voltage regulators for some of my low voltage bits on the boat. The aforementioned HomeFi unit runs from expensive 240v but only needs about 8ish volts so the plan is to save lots of wasted energy. In fact, measured on my new clamp meter it only draws 0.6 amps now at 12v.

Just need to house it now

There are loads routes right by the boat to take Dudley for a quick ball chase but we ventured a bit further away at the end of the week, up above the hills of Hemel, which made a nice change from towpaths and parks.

Above HH

We briefly tested out a new piece of workshop kit that we plan on making regular appearances and expanding our sales lines towards the end of the year but much more on that and exciting new developments for The Pen Maker's Boat as they happen.

Dudley says we're gonna need a bigger workshop!

Oh and happy new year etc etc

3.75 miles 10 locks 1 swingbridge

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

The remainder of 2017

Wow where does the time go - this is a much needed post to get the blog up to date!!

I left off back in June last year when we had reached the Kennet and Avon Canal from the River Thames, so a quick reminder of our travels over the last eleven months, this post is 2017 - I'll be doing another one for 2018!

June 2017 we turned onto the Kennet and Avon and travelled through Reading and stopped at Burghfield by The Cunning Man pub. Onwards through many swing bridges, mostly electric so lots of button pushing, and locks before stopping at Woolhampton. We continued our journey through a couple of turf sided locks and a few more swing bridges and a stop again in Newbury. Our next stop was Kintbury where we stayed for a couple of days doing absolutely nothing - we were there when the temperatures soared and broke the hottest day record!! On again to Hungerford where we had hoped to stop on the visitor moorings but it was not to be as there were a couple of work boats there, so we continued on and moored up just past the church and used our trusty plank. Next stop was Great Bedwyn where we decided to turn round and head back.
Turning onto the K&A from the Thames

Past the Oracle in Reading

James and LJ waiting for Fobney Lock to empty

In Fobney Lock, no worries about length here

Sharing one of the turf sided locks

Again another huge lock

And the other turf sided lock

Through Newbury town centre

Bug hotel in Kintbury

Kintbury on one of the hottest days


So back in Hungerford the workboats still hogging the 48 hour moorings after a week, but we did manage to moor opposite on the 24 hour moorings. We stopped again at Kintbury and then again at Newbury, managing to get a space just about the town lock, we were stuck there for a couple of days due to a problem with Greenham Common lock. Now into July our last moorings on the K&A were at Woolhampton, just before Theale swing bridge and Fobney Lock. We had some fantastic weather but struggled with moorings - there are very few visitor moorings and stopping anywhere isn’t really an option unless you want to use the plank and scrape the bottom.

Kintbury on the way back


Just above Fobney Lock by the nature reserve

And back through Reading
Total miles on K&A - 66 miles and 84 locks

Back on the Thames - leaving the Kennet and Avon we turned left heading upstream again. The first couple of locks we came to were unmanned so we were unable to buy a temporary licence, we stopped for a few days at Beale Park in Pangbourne where Jess came to visit us for her birthday, again we were having some fantastic weather. I was concerned we didn’t have a licence so called EA to explain and asked if I could purchase one over the phone - I could but only if I had a printer to print the licence, we I haven’t so wasn’t able to, I was told I should have been more organised and purchased one before I left home and it would have been sent to me by post - I really don’t think the guy I spoke to understood the fact that I lived on my boat permanently and it is my home! We managed to buy one from the lovely lock keeper at Benson Lock and she also let us stay on the moorings at the top free of charge as is was getting late in the day. Our next stop was Abingdon where there were a few vacate moorings when we arrived but the following day it was really busy, one of the rare towns on the Thames where visitor moorings are free for five days. Next stop was above Sandford Lock and then onto Oxford where we had a view of the boat houses. Then Osney Lock, where it’s a short stroll into the Oxford centre and before we know it we were turning right onto the Sheepwash Channel and onto the Oxford Canal. Our river adventure was over for this year.

Outside Beale Park near Pangbourne


One of the lovely lock cottages

Oxford Boat Houses

Above Osney Lock
Total miles for Thames - 39 miles and 13 locks

After the Thames the Oxford Canal is really narrow and shallow, there are quite a few lift bridges, mostly manual. We stopped at Kidlington and Thrupp, then through the River Cherwell section stopping just above lock 37 near Lower Heyford. August came and saw us going through Banbury, where we managed to get moored up opposite the shopping centre, then onto Fenny Compton, the visitor moorings were full so we stopped just after. Next stop was the top of the Napton Lock flight, the down we went and on for a mile or so stopping at the moorings of The Bridge at Napton, which was closed down again. Onwards through Braunston and onto the Grand Union Canal.

Very overgrown, glad there was nothing coming


Total for Oxford Canal 54 miles and 39 locks

On the Grand Union again and double locks now - up the Braunston flight of 6 through the long Braunston Tunnel then down the Buckby flight of 7 stopping on the stretch opposite Whilton Marina. We continued onwards to Blisworth ready to set up the Pen Maker’s Boat for their annual festival. It was a little disappointing this year, having attending the last two years, this one just didn’t have the same atmosphere as previous ones - we were having second thoughts on booking for the 2018 one but then we heard the price they are charging the trade boats to attend and it was a definite no from us!  After the festival we turned and headed back the way we came, off to our next venue which was the Alvecote ‘Big Weekend’. So back up the Buckby Locks through the tunnel and down Brauston locks where we slotted into a perfect sized space outside The Boathouse.

This is where the new road will cross the canal just outside Weedon

Getting ready for Blisworth Festival, we're the fourth boat up on the right

Blisworth Festival Field setting up

Buckby Top Lock

The Boathouse at Braunston
Grand Union totals 36 miles and 26 locks

At Braunston Turn we went left onto the North Oxford Canal, down Hillmorten Locks through Clifton Upon Dunsmore, Rugby, through the short Newbold Tunnel, Brinklow, Ansty and up to Hawkesbury Junction.

The Greyhound at Hawkesbury Junction

Oxford Canal total 22 miles and 4 locks

At Hawkesbury Junction we turned right onto the Coventry Canal, through Bedworth, past Marston Junction with the Ashby Canal going off, Nuneaton and Hartshill. Down the Atherstone lock flight, through Polesworth and then Alvecote. We had a fab mooring spot outside the Samual Barlow pub and enjoyed a great August Bank Holiday weekend selling our pens and watching all the historical boats in the winding competition and parade.  

Our next event was the Huddlesford Gathering which is a bi-annual one towards the end of September. We had a few weeks between so it was a leisurely journey and it also gave us the opportunity to catch up with a bit of pen making along the way as well. When we arrived at our allocate mooring it was far from ideal, there were a couple of huge holes in the towpath, right where we step off the boat and also near to where we have our displays, the path was also incredibly muddy as we’d had a bit of rain. We tried to sort it as best we could as we were told there were some wood chippings near the clubhouse we could have - we needed to barrow it over ourselves, which we did - several journeys later and it was apparent it wasn’t going to help much as the chippings had already been there a while and were composting. So a quick change to our Public Liability Insurance and we set up our stand at the edge of the footbridge, it just meant taking everything down the towpath before and after.

At Hopwas

Lots of apple and pear yummies

A quick visit to Wales
After the gathering we were heading down south to the Christmas Market at Berkhamstead, so again we turned round and went back the way we came. Back along the Coventry Canal to Hawkesbury Junction.

Total for Coventry Canal 56 miles and 26 locks

At Hawkesbury we turned left onto the Oxford Canal and back to Braunston.

Total for Oxford Canal 22 miles and 4 locks

It was then back up Braunston Locks, through Braunston Tunnel and down Buckby Locks, we were now into October, we stopped at Weedon, Bugbrooke (where we sat out Storm Brian), Blisworth and through Blisworth Tunnel. It was November when we went though Milton Keynes and the winter moorers were already in their spaces on the Campbell Park moorings. We stopped in Fenny Stratford and had a trip to Ikea. We continued down the Grand Union stopping at Great Seabrook for a week or so to catch up with pen making, getting a good stock for the Christmas Market. We made it up the Marsworth lock flight and scraped our way across the low Tring Summit - there were time restrictions on the lock flight to try and preserve water and CRT were asking people to only cross the summit if they really needed to. We arrived on the outskirts of Berkhamstead at the end of November and moved into our allocated market mooring in early December. The market was just for two days over the weekend, we had an extremely busy Saturday, then during the night it snowed and snowed and we woke on Sunday morning to a white winter wonderland, and of course no one could set up in the snow, so we had a fab day enjoying the snow instead.

Our plans were to spend winter this year around the Milton Keynes area, but with reports of the Tring summit having a severe lack of water and only essential traffic crossing it we decided to stay this side instead.  After another fantastic Christmas at Jess’ we headed down to see New Year in at Boxmoor, near Hemel Hempstead.

Dudley helping me at Bugbrooke

new houses at Fenny Stratford

Marsworth flight - drained for maintenance work

Delivery from Jules Fuels

Marsworth back open

Burr it got a bit chilly

Snow at Berkhamstead Castle

Nightmare Christmas traffic to Poole

Dudley trying to get in the sun

Seeing in 2018

Total on Grand Union 65 miles and 63 locks

So our grand total for 2017 - 584 miles and 448 locks