Monday, 17 September 2018

No fixed abode

Above Foxton Locks

As of today we are official of NO FIXED ABODE. Obviously we have an abode but it is defiantly not fixed. We will be using different ‘care of’ (c/o) addresses of friends and family as we travel around the canal net work. So the best way to keep in touch is by e-mail or phone.

We had our house in Luton for 35 years and loved living on the edge of town near the country side compared to Burnt Oak in north west London. It was a short drive to M1 junction 10 and about a mile to walk into town. We enjoyed bring our children up there and they had some good experiences doing stilt walking and swimming, to just name a couple of things. I loved our steep quirky garden and never did actually get it the way I wanted. Over the last three years since we’ve lived on the boat we’ve been back to Luton to see Ada just a handful of times and each time we’ve noticed lots of changes, most of the pubs have closed down, which is very sad and there are new homes springing up. Luton has always been a lovely multicultural town and there are many new cultures that are making their presence known. I just loved shopping in the Asian shops in Bury Park. 

Decending Foxton
Bottom of Foxton

We are on our way to the north west to be near Heather and Ada for winter. Luckily we’d not planned to head to Ada’s as the Wigan flight of locks is closed due to lack of water, but we should be able to get to Tarleton where Heather is. It is very exciting cruising on new stretches of water.

Tea and cakes

Edmund Mark & James

Yesterday we had a full crew for our trip down Foxton Locks. Edmund got a lift up with his friend whose parents live in Market Harborough. Ada & Dale came too as they were travelling back to the north west after visiting in the south. 9 of us had Sunday lunch at The Foxton Locks Inn, where we moored directly outside.

Huge bumble bee having a lift today

Friday, 14 September 2018

Foxton Locks

View from the top

Morning view of Bunkers Hill bridge

Evening view from the bottom

We are moored about a mile from the top of Foxton Locks on a beautifully quiet & peaceful stretch of the Leicester Section, Grand Union Canal. We have strolled to the locks a couple of times to see how they work as they are made up of two staircases of five locks each with a passing place in the middle. The locks have side pounds that carry the excess water to the next chamber, most other lock flights have side pounds but they aren’t in use any more. While we were there we also visited the museum and tried the pubs out. 

Boatman's cabin, Foxglove

Side pound filling

Traditional boatwomans hat

Butty Foxglove

Foxton Lock Inn, with mooring

Foxton had an incline plane which took boats up and down and saved lots of water in the process. The boats went into the trough full of water which was pulled up or down the incline, therefore no or very little water was used compared to the 10 locks. Sadly the incline plane was only in use for 10 years as the railways took over and canal use dropped it wasn’t cost effective to keep the engine in steam.

Incline plane diagram
Incline summit

Bottom of incline plane

This weekend we’ll have Edmund, Josh and a few other people to help/watch us go down the flight along with the usual Sunday gongoozlers that visit Foxton. It wasn't until this week I realised we'll actually be going down the flight, I thought we were going up it.

nb Perch leaving Market Harborough Arm

Sunday, 9 September 2018

North of Watford

At very long last we are on the move and exploring new territories, which means I get to knit while we cruise. But sadly, we are still the official owners of a three bedroomed house, but not for very much longer. We signed the contract weeks ago but didn’t want to venture out of Bedfordshire, just in case the buyer pulled out. However, contracts were exchanged last week and our solicitor knows we’ve scarpered. We took a few pics of our journey through Milton Keynes and of the alpacas that live by Cosgrove lock, as we’ll probably not venture that far south for a good few years.

Cosgrove Iron Trunk aquaduct

Railway bridge near Watford Gap

So it’s fantastic being north of Watford Gap, the true north in our southern eyes!!! We had cruised to the bottom of Watford Locks many years ago when on holiday. We were 4th in the queue for the 3 locks and staircase of 4 locks at Watford. There was an army of VLK’s that coordinate & help the boats through this narrow flight and also boaters that were 9th & 10th in the queue were up at the lock helping so the proceedings went smoothly and they didn’t have to wait too long. This was a practice run, as we’ll be going down Foxton Locks, next weekend which is a flight of two staircase locks, a 5 chamber drop on each. John learnt how to use these staircase locks (along with a rhyme) during his VLK training, the paddle gear are colour coded and so there’s enough water for the flight the side pounds are in use. The rhyme goes, ‘Red before white and you’re doing alright……..White before red and you’re better off dead’, although the lockies omit the last part so they don't make people too nervous. Needless to say I was so scared of getting the poem wrong I took the boat up & left the locks to John. We had thought about going to Watford Gap M1 services for a coffee as you can access it from the towpath, but we were only there a couple of weeks ago when we helped Ada & Dale move.

Queue for Watford Locks
Lock 1

Waiting for lock 2
1st staircase chamber
side pound filling, white paddle up

View from the staircase

Crab apples


Huge elderberries
We are currently moored in Crick a lovely little Northamptonshire village with absolutely no internet or phone signal, so this will be uploaded another day once we move. It appears Crick went all out with their Millennium celebrations by obtaining a wood and a field, which includes a footbridge over the canal to Cracks’s Hill where their Millennium beacon is. They planted lots of trees most of which have commemorative plaques celebrating births, birthdays, marriages, anniversaries and individuals, this was a pleasant change as usually trees are planted in memory of those passed. The young apple & pear trees were laden with fruit as were the established ones around the edges of the field. We took a few fruits from the young trees and lots from the damson, sloe and elderberry ones. John made a second batch of elderberry cordial and I made 6lb of blackberry and 3 types of apple (2 crab and a cooker) jam. We walked up Crack’s Hill which had a lovely view, but nothing quite like the height of The White Nancy, that we climbed when we were on the Macclesfield Canal.

Crack's Hill view, with boat going by

Cracks Hill beacon

preparing to dye

Before we left Leighton Buzzard I had a dyeing day. I had borrowed the Bedfordshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers steamer which had to go back. When I was at Fibre-East a few weeks ago I brought some new acid dyes and I dyed the fibre I’d been given to use in the BritSpin, spinning marathon in October. In addition I made some iron transfers and put them on a bag for each of the team members. I’m spinning for the ‘Spinning in Beds’ team, may be not necessarily in Bedfordshire though. Also, we visited the Bedfordshire in Bloom exhibition at Leighton Buzzard library, all knitted.

All ready for Spinning in Beds

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Magnus came to stay

No more elderflower wine left now!

It’s been lovely to see Heather, Jason and the children this week as they’ve been camping in Louise’s back garden in Abbots Langley. They were lucky with the weather as in true bank holiday style it’s damp and dismal now. 

 It was Magnus’ turn to come to stay, but for just two nights. We had a great time but once again we didn’t capture everything on the camera. John and Magnus went fruit picking behind the three locks and came back with cooking apples, damsons and blackberries, which were converted into 13lbs of jam. He help make blackberry muffins for our tow path picnic when the rest of the family came to pick him up.

We travelled a short distance from Linslade down the Soulbury three lock and Magnus’ life jacket fits him perfectly now as it was a bit big for him before. He steered the boat out of the second lock and then got off to help grandad with a serious bit of lock keeping. 


Filling up with water

Magnus the muscles

 I just loved watching John’s face when Magnus hammered the mooring pins in. It could have been a trip to hospital if he’d have missed the pin and got John’s hand.

He had a go a using my spinning wheel and produced a lovely bit of handspun wool.

Washing his handspun wool

It’s a shame all the events have been washed out this weekend. We attended the first evening of music at ‘Lockstock’, the beer & music festival at The Three Locks pub. There was a very good band playing and we stayed until the end but it was SO cold and wet with a temperature of just 9c.

Today John’s made 2 gallons of mead and it’s now in the fermenting bucket in front of the fire to keep it warm. We’ve collected lots of local honey over the last few months which was taking up valuable cupboard space and I got some more from Stoke Hammond lock yesterday and it just so happens we went back up Soulbury three locks with a chap that’s just started keeping bees so I brought 3 jars of his honey from him. Once the kitchen was free I’ve done lots of baking and preparing as Edmund’s coming for a few days tomorrow.