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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Last few days on the Rufford Branch.

Fearn's swing bridge
Over this winter we’ve continuously cruised a very short stretch, along a 4 mile section of the Rufford Branch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, it adds up to 44 miles and the same three swing bridges 33 times. During a shorter period last year, from when we moved aboard until mid March we had travelled 151 miles and through 62 locks and 26 swing bridges.

The winter stoppages were lifted 2 days ago, but the wind obviously wants us to stay in Tarleton. The wind has been incredible, huge 30-48 mile/hour gusts, it seems worse then a few weeks ago when storm Doris hit. On a fairly still day the breeze over the moss really catches the boat as we stop to open Fearn’s Swing Bridge, so we’d be pinned to either bank in these winds. Fingers crossed we can make a dash for it this week as I REALLY WANT to be moored outside The Farmers Arms for knitting on Thursday.



We spent a few days visiting my sister in Dundee and the weather was fairly kind to us. It was a much shorter train journey from Preston than we’ve been used to from Luton. I’ve always wanted to walk over the Tay Bridge, which we did and I got a sun burnt face!!! The foreshore of the River Tay is rocky and craggy on the Fife side compared to the embankment of Dundee. 


She works at an agricultural university trust and invited us to attend some presentations by the post grad students. They were doing a ‘Dragon’s Den’ type event where they were putting forward their research proposal bids. We heard six of them speak and only two were about potato roots and aphids. The others were very interesting:- a tool for detecting clostridum strains in soil, making paper from fungus, a Scottish rural study and increasing barley crop yealds. The farm manager from the trust has recently retired and we visited him at his own small holding. It was like being in heaven as the rams are very friendly and wanted to be cuddled. They have 3 pregnant mares, one was 3 weeks over due and delivered a couple of days after we were there. I came away with a carrier bag full of black fleece from their Zwarbles ram and white from the cross bred white ewes. Our last day we spent strolling in the mist and then warm sunshine at Lunan Bay, one of my favourite beaches ever.



I’ve done a fair bit of knitting over the last few weeks, spun up some of the fleece I got in Scotland and had a ball winding frenzy, winding 24 balls!!!!

John’s second batch of mead was lovely and we actually still have a bottle. We have a kit of elderflower wine fermenting on the side now. I can’t wait to start gathering things for wine making and plan to pick dandelions and nettles as soon as I see some shooting.

The kids got us both Ancestry DNA testing kits for Christmas and after weeks of waiting our results are back, it looks a your ethnic make up. John was contacted by one of his 4th cousins in California and it turns out her great grand father Clide and John were brought up in the same house in Archway, with a good few years in between them. 

Lance had what Heather & I thought at first glance was chicken pox, so we looked after him while she was at work. However, it turns out the strange chicken pox spots were actually the hand, foot and mouth virus. Luckily it didn’t make him unwell like chicken pox does.

Heather and I went to a gin tasting evening at a new bar at Burscough Wharf, ‘Jack & Gin’. It was an outside event in the court yard under gazebos, luckily the earlier rain had stopped. We got to taste gins from 10 different distilleries. We moored at Rufford so we were able to get the train and Heather had her first sleep over without the rest of the family. She is now getting the bar to save her their empty gin bottles to put her origami flowers in.

We’ve made the most of the 2-3 nice spring days we’ve had. John swept the chimney and touched up the black paint work and I had to put a good bit of elbow grease into polishing the roof vents as they were very tarnished.
Welcoming committee on our return from Scotland



Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Nikita came to stay

As it’s half term holidays from school, Nikita came to stay for a few days while we are at Rufford. Tuesday was bright with a brisk wind, which wasn’t quite as strong as over the weekend, so we went for a cruise up to Tarleton, where Nikita met one of her friends while we were pushing the swing bridge. We nipped up to the village while we were there to get some treats. We topped up the water tank at Sparks Bridge where all the CRT work boats were obviously having a day off, in fact, it’s easier mooring against them to get water than the bank, as it’s got huge bolts sticking out.

Monday this week was quite busy, we caught the bus and train to Wigan so John could have his back manipulated by the chiropractor. He put his back out picking up his t-shirt last week!!!! Then back to Burscough on the train to give blood at the mobile centre set up at the Royal British Legion hall. This was a new experience for us as we’ve only ever donated blood at Edgware and Luton which are main centres where John used to give platelets. John now has to donate whole blood, as to be a platelet donor you need to be able to commit to a couple of hours each week at the same main centre. Last September we donated at Leeds which was also regional centre. Then we got the bus back to Rufford for Heather to drop off Nikita.

Last week we went to Liverpool on the train. Mark, the chap that fell in the canal at Wigan, is spending winter in Salthouse Dock. We gave him a knock and went aboard for a cuppa. He invited us to join him at The White Star pub for his weekly sea shanty session. We had ‘scouse’ (we’d call it stew though!!!!!) for lunch and couple of pints at The Baltic Fleet pub. Mark had another surprise visitor that day, Peter one of the Wigan lock keepers that had helped us down the flight had dropped in too. We chatted to a chap that played the uilleann pipes, which is a 7 reeded instrument that’s powered by an elbow bellow. It was an excellent afternoon and evening.

Heather dropped the boys off at the boat mid afternoon while she took Nikita to the dentist last week. I asked Magnus to pick up some toys and he said “I’m too tired”. I suggested he lie on the bed and to our shock he fell asleep and then Lance did too. Heather was amazed when she got back. 

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Sunny Saturday in Tarleton

Yesterday was amazingly sunny, warm and still, (storm Doris had hit us a couple of days ago) so we took advantage to spruce up the outside of the boat. We wiped it down, cleaned the windows, polished all the brass inside and out. John rubbed down and touched up some of the blemishes in the dark grey paint work. Plus, I sat on the bow and did some knitting until the sun went behind the new houses. 

Edmund was up for the weekend and Heather, Jason and the kids went to Rydal Water in the Lake District for the day. If we had gone too, they would have had to take both cars.

Today we got up nice and early to stroll up to Heather’s to prepare breakfast. It’s pretty cosy and mad with the 3 kids and 5 adults on the boat. After breakfast we all went to Southport to do 10 pin bowling, before all saying our good-byes to Edmund as he had to catch the 14.30 train.

 We had a small fishing competition by us today and they were just packing up when Heather dropped us back to the boat. We were fascinated to watch the weigh in and the wriggling roaches put back into the canal. The chap behind our boat won with 11lb 10oz total weight of his catch.


Heather’s birthday seems a long while ago. Ada & Dale were up for the weekend. As a birthday treat from us Heather & Jason stayed in a hotel on Albert Dock in Liverpool. Ada & Dale joined them but returned to baby sit the children and take them to their child care on Monday.


Last week we caught the bus to Preston to do some shopping. We also strolled along the Lancaster Canal from where it starts in Preston to the new Ribble link that was constructed on Savick Brook. The link was opened in 2002 to connect the Lancaster Canal with the main canal network via Tarleton (where we are now), along the River Douglas and River Ribble. Some of the newly constructed locks are on some tight bends which means narrow boats need to enter them backwards. 

Photo by Colin of the Wool Boat

 I enjoyed a lunch last Thursday at The Farmers Arms in Burscough to celebrate the 6th birthday of the knit and natter there.

We have had two brief encounter with lovely birds. One evening we were walking up the lane to the village and a Tawny owl was flying really low and had to swoop up to miss our heads. This evening a kingfisher was on our bow rope, but of course neither were caught on the camera.

Tomorrow we are heading to Rufford for a couple of weeks. On the way we’ll be stopping at the water point as our water tank’s pretty low after more than 2 weeks.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Two birthdays

We had a lovely time a couple of weeks ago at Nikita’s super villain 7th birthday party which fell at the weekend. Heather & Jason had decorated the house amazingly, bars on the windows, 7’s all over the walls and a bat cave under the stairs. Plus, the food was themed too, cryptonite jelly, asteroid nuggets & pizza the hut.

And Heather’s 30th birthday is next Monday. It was snowing this time 30 years ago, our car had been stolen and we travelled to hospital in the brewery’s old van which had a broken passenger seat!! Plus, there was a telephone strike on, (no mobile phones back then), which meant we couldn’t let anyone know she’d been born. John had to drive to Edgware to let everyone know.

This morning we moved from Sollom to Tarleton ready for a weekend of birthday celebrations as Ada & Dale are coming up for a long weekend. It’s so nice to be on proper moorings with bollards to tie to and hard standing. The tow path at Sollom was very muddy, but amazingly quite with hardly anyone walking by.

Yesterday we walked to Mere Bow, a gentle 6 mile stroll there and back as it’s flatter than the Fens here and the soil is just as black. We had lunch at Legh Arms, it was lovely, especially the most AMAZING crème brulee I’ve ever had . We’ve been to the sister pub the Hop Vine in Burscough.

I’ve been to the knit and natter at The Farmers Arms in Burscough quite a few times now. I just ran up to the village to go today and missed the bus by the skin of my teeth, not to worry. When John came a few weeks back he impressed everyone by making a set of woven coaster on his little loom. So, if you’d like some coasters, even if you’ve got some already just let us know. I need to get down to grafting the toes on 3 pairs of socks I’ve knitted. I’ve spun up the purple/pinkish wool/silk blend fibre I was given by P&M Woolcraft when I left the Bedfordshire Guild of Weavers Spinners & Dyers. I’ve plyed it with similar colours to make a yarn that gets gradually darker purple from pale pink. And I’ve started knitting a scarf with it, quite a few of the girls at The Farmers Arms are making the same scarf. 


At last I've made a long skinny triangular rag rug for beside the fire to put the fire tools and coal bucket on.  The majority of the material is what I dyed in the autumn with acorns.  Plus some old sweat shirt of John's and a jumper of my dad's that had
been put through the wash & shrunk.


John has his second dose of mead fermenting away by the fire. I think our last bottles of blackberry wine and mead will be consumed this weekend.

We had hoped to head south in March when the locks on the Rufford Branch reopen after their repairs. However, there are works on the Bridgewater Canal that are going to over run until mid June. So our plan to go to Crick Boat Show at the end of May is totally out. So we’ve booked to go into Salthouse Dock, Liverpool instead. It’s something we’d planned to do at some point in the future. You can stay free for 7 days and the pontoons have free electric hook up and water supplied. If you stay longer than 7 days it cost £20/day. We have been told if you go out of the dock and return a few days later it’s free again, so that’s what we’ve booked to do. We’ll probably catch the sea cat to the Isle of Man for a few days.