Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Blackburn Canal Festival

We booked last minute to go to the Blackburn Canal Festival and what an excellent weekend it was too. We offered to help before and after the festival, which pleased the organisers.
We arrived Wednesday and had to pull the boat into the bank as the prop was clogged with weed, John got a black sack full off. The water is beautifully clear with huge fish and tons and tons of weed.
Eanam Wharf has been regenerated over the last few years and is a vibrant area including a Caribbean restaurant with a pub, dance school and offices. As it's the 200th anniversary of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal the dance school did a show of 200 years of dance and performance. The performances were along the tow path, on the foot bridge and on the other side of the canal. There was a music stage which had a very varied programme culminating in an excellent Ska band on Sunday afternoon. In addition the wide beam boat in front of us had impromptu performers on, our boat hook was used to run the electricity wire from the wharf cottage's tree to the amplifier.
Heather, Jason and the children joined us on Saturday afternoon.
We treated ourselves to a little traditionally painted water-can for the roof.
The arts initiative 'Super Slow Way' that is organising a varied programme of events along the canal for the bicentenary had made huge origami swans that were tethered just behind our boat. Plus the kids could make small swans and launch them down a mini waterfall.
I thought it was about time I dusted off my new Ashford Joy spinning wheel as I've not used it since we've been aboard. As Eanam Wharf was used to load & unload cotton I thought I'd better
spin some, so I did a wool/cotton blend on my hand carders. As Saturday was warm we got some solar dying started too, one with the onion skins we've saved since we moved aboard the other weld that Yvonne had given me. Sadly the sun wasn't out for long but the yarn's looking pretty good in the jars. The jars on the roof and me spinning were quite a talking point.

Blackburn is a mini Luton, in a valley with hills on a couple of sides, shopping centre called 'The Mall' and is the most multi-cultural place we've visited so far on our travels. However, Luton's grade one listed St. Mary's church knocks spots off the rather plain Blackburn Cathedral.

Since our last blog we stayed at Chorley for three nights and Riley Green for five nights before heading to Blackburn. On our way to Blackburn we were a bit delayed at the Blackburn locks as there was a dry pound near the top. We were at the water point for a couple of hours while the CRT chap ran more water through.

We'll be heading eastwards now to get to Skipton for Yarndale in September.


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Walking in the rain

It was SO good to have Ada & Dale to stay last week. We stayed at Adlington for six nights. It was the Adlington Carnival weekend and the field where all the activities were going on was on the other side of the canal from us.

The rain luckily stopped for an hour or two while the carnival parade took place. It was a large parade for the size of the village, with more than 50 entrants. However, it was SO not like the Luton Carnival that we took part in for so many years with Madhatters Stilt Walking Troupe when the kids were members there. We were looking forward to having a look around all the stalls on the sports field, attend the music in the evening and visit the beer tent, but, it cost £4 each to get in (so we spent our £8 at the pub). From chatting to people on the tow path, they were able to purchase the programme in advance for £3.50 that would cover both of the days activities. We heard the evening 1970/80's tribute band very well from the comfort and dryness of our boat and on Sunday we could see the llama racing over the hedge!!! We stood and watched the fair and marquees being driven away and the field was like a quagmire.

Monday we decided to go for a 'summer stroll' up to the water fall, reservoirs and moor we could see on the map. It was a good job we had a map and a good sense of imagination as our whole walk was in the very thick wet clouds and we could hardly see our hand in front of our face. At one point, I thought there was something wrong with my eyes as everything looked blurred – it was the thick misty clouds blowing by!!! There are 4 reservoirs which appeared to all link to each other. They were all very full and Yarrow Reservoir had a very impressive waterfall down into the Anglezarke Reservoir, several cars stopped to take a look while the dripping wet mad walkers were gazing over the bridge. Before we got totally soaked on the moor we had stumbled across the Rivington Bowls Club tea room/bar = beer and a cake for lunch then. The actual waterfall we'd gone to see was down from a disused lead mine at a place called 'The Meeting of the Waters'. I think a similar 9.5 mile walk in the winter would have left us with hypothermia.

Yesterday we moored on the outskirts of Chorley and walked up into the town, well low and behold the moor (where we walked the day before) looked beautiful and the view over to Chorley must be impressive. So we may need to retrace our steps on a clear day. 
 The tow path here's very wide and grassy so I actually managed to use my rotary washing line for the first time yesterday as it was warm and sunny.

Last evening we had our own personal show from the bats display team. They were swooping almost into our faces, amazing.

We've booked to attend and help at Blackburn Canal Festival the weekend after next. So we hope the weather perks up a bit.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Two birthdays.

Happy 21st birthday to Ada who came to crew (with Dale) for us as a special treat to do the Wigan 21 locks. We ascended the flight (yesterday) breasted to nb Emma Maye -'The Wool Boat', which meant we had an amazing lock crew of 5, which meant we made really good time of about 4 hours. We were slightly held up by a novice crew who had got their rope caught around their prop and their rather large rottie fell in too. It was warm and cloudy, we didn't notice how sun burnt Ada was getting, until the evening. We're now moored in Adlington where we'll stay for a few days.
AND happy 1st birthday to nb Burnt Oak. Someone compared having a new boat built being similar to having a baby (how true).
Pre conceptual care – we had loads!!!! We spoke to several specialist before we chose one to help us.
Conception – occurred with the expert help of Gary at Colecraft Boats in Long Itchington. With a planned gestation period of 3 months.

Pregnancy – progressed well and we had lots of 'scan' photos as the boat developed in it's great big womb like warehouse.

Naming – this was a tricky one, we knew the boat was going to be born prematurely so needed to get a name sorted out. We chose a name that was special to us both. Burnt Oak where we met and lived when we got married and where my dad was born. Once she was all fitted out, we had to register her with the Canal and River Trust. We have to show a copy of her birth certificate in our window at all times.
Premature labour – occurred on 7th July 2015 in the early hours of the morning. The labour was 4-5 hours long and was thankfully uneventful with a smooth journey on a juggernaut up the M6. 

Delivery – It required the boat having an assisted delivery by a huge crane. Cradled in massive straps Burnt Oak was lowered very gently into the canal basin at High Lane on the Macclesfield Canal. This beautiful water birth was so worth all the anxiety of awaiting. Although we didn't get to cut the cord I did get to hold it during the delivery. We were joined on our special day and Ada's 20th birthday by Dale, Lyn, Kevin and Emma, who were there at the quay side and watched the whole event. This under developed boat was a healthy 60 feet long and 5,026kg (she put on weight fast once Peter's team got their hands on her, infact, she needed some of her ballast removed because she was too heavy once we moved aboard).

Prematurity – the neonatal intensive care team, Peter from Braidbar Boats in Higher Poynton and his assistant Andy were on-site when the second stage of labour commenced, which was when the boat was visible down the A6 on it's lorry. Peter made sure the stern gland was securely packed to ensure none of the canal water was ingested by the boat at it's delivery in the water. Peter had arranged special transport (another narrow boat to tow) for Burnt Oak to be taken to his boat yard where all the tricky neonatal work would take place. We knew this was going to be a long slow process of about 5 months. Peter assured us Burnt Oak would get the best care him and his team could offer to ensure we could take possession ASAP. We were able to visit as often as we could, but as it was over a 100 miles and with working we weren't able to go very often and when we couldn't visit he'd sent us photos.
Leaving work – was wonderful as we knew we'd need to dedicate the rest of our lives to Burnt Oak. Our work mates and friends were so kind and gave us gifts for Burnt Oak. The girls at L&D got us bolt cutters, an airer, secateurs, camping kettle at lots of other bits too. The B&T boys gave us some lovely booze (to wet the boat's head) and a voucher, that we got a rotary drier with. All youngsters need snugly things and the Bedfordshire Guild of Weavers Spinners & Dyers made a blanket for us.
Taking possession of Burnt Oak – there was a lot to learn about having our first boat, Peter had prepared a big workshop manual type health record for us to keep. We had fostered boats many times when we were on holiday in the past, but this was very different.
Teething problems – Peter knew there'd be teething problems and warned us of them. He was there like a flash when the serious ones occurred. He assured us she'd get over her teething issues pretty quickly.
So we've lived on Burnt Oak for 7 months now and feel we've got to know her pretty well and can't imagine what life was like before she entered ours. We have introduced her to lots of other boats at two festivals and is integrating well in the boating world. Even though narrow boats go back some 200-250 years we are educating Burnt Oak in modern technology, having her own blog, e-mail address and GPS.

As all new babies need loving and nurturing so does our beautiful 60 footer. We've made some hand spun rugs for the floors and John's needle felted some fluorescent green covers for her mooring pegs (so walkers don't trip on them). Naughty dogs have stolen her green tennis balls we'd got for the pegs. In addition, I've crochet some antimacassars for the arm chairs. We need to keep an eye on her blemishes and attend to them quickly so they don't rust, which is easy with regular washing. Unlike a real child Burnt Oak has gauges so we know how full her tanks are and keep her tummy full of diesel and the other water. To make sure her engine stays healthy we give her a fuel supplement.
John has twice painstakingly changed the oil to make sure she can run as well as her friends. Her potty only needs emptying about every 3-4 weeks, however, she does seem to need her wee pot emptying daily!!!! We need to make sure her ropes are tied properly as good restraints are essential when we're moored so she doesn't float off and get lost.
And then there's the check ups she needs to have for her whole life, to make sure she's in tip top condition and we are indeed safe in her too. She has super duper blacking on her bottom and this along with her stern gland shouldn't need any attention for about 4 years. When she's 4 we'll take her to a specialist unit to be gently lifted out of the water so she can have a full health check which includes a thorough examination of her bottom and we'll get certificates to prove this.
I now realise the beginning of this blog is too much like an obstetric report I had to do daily at work. So as I'm never going back to work lets call it a day now.