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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Milton Keynes

Chain Reaction
Head, Campbell Park

Onwards and Upwards
This is our second day moored in Milton Keynes. It’s amazingly lovely cruising through Milton Keynes with all it’s parks, in the past we’ve just got frustrated with all the roundabouts. The canal skirts around the north and east of the city and the leafy corridors separate the houses from the canal. Yesterday’s Hurricane Ophelia didn’t effect us really and actually blew all the leaves off of the boat. However, all the dust accumulated in the sky from the Sahara Desert appears to have been deposited on the boat. Yesterday I made my first batch of mincemeat. We strolled though the lovely Campbell Park to the shops, but we didn’t have the camera with us to snap the strange orange sun and sky, at one point it was SO dark. This morning John nipped back through Campbell Park to take some photos and he decided the view was nice but not as beautiful as from the White Nancy in Bollington. 

Light Pyramid. Not quite the White Nancy.

Ada & Dale popped over for a few hours Saturday, such a change from a VERY long drive to get to us.

There are an acute shortage of shops in what seems to be very remote Northamptonshire, I think we were spoilt last year on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, all the villages had nice shops. So, we decided to do a Tesco home delivery, as it would cost us both return to MK on the bus over £15!!!! Ada gave me the code on a voucher delivered to the house so the delivery was free. We know other boaters do it, just put in a post code near by. But I was rather worried the driver wouldn’t follow my delivery instructions which stated “we don’t live at The Manor House, meet us at the bridge past the church”, so John want to loiter outside The Manor and I waited by the bridge. It was all fine and the driver gave John a lift from The Manor & we managed to lug it all back to the boat in one trip.

Spot the bullock

We spent the last week at Grafton Regis very close to our friends Pauline & Martin of P&M Woolcraft. We’d arranged to meet them last year at Yarndale in Skipton. Before we posted our last blog, I e-mailed them to let them know we were near by, as soon as I clicked ‘send’ the e-mail I heard John shouting at a cyclist, just as he was stopping anyway when he saw the boat, it was Martin. We had lunch at their house and did some shopping in their Aladdin's cave. Their cooking apples have gone into the mince meat. The Great & Blue Tits have eaten us out of nuts, they ate 2/3 of the basket in a day!!!


We’re looking forward to catching up with everyone in the south and we’re amazed we’ve been away for nearly 2 years.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

On familiar waters

Edmund met us at Braunston with his friend from work to stay for a few days. His friend was recruited from Australia by London Ambulance, she was very excited about staying as they don’t have canals there. Plus, she wanted some help finishing her four year long knitting project. Edmund took the opportunity to brush up on his knitting skills and they both went home with some of my handspun yarn that I’ve recently plied and washed, which Edmund wound into balls using my swift and ball winder, when he was a child he’d always volunteer to do the ball winding for me.

A felt bag as a hat!!

Braunston Turn

Over the 5-6 years before deciding to have a boat built we’ve spent many Sundays at Braunston viewing the second hand boats for sale, however, we’ve never cruised that far north when we hired. It was at Norton Junction we entered familiar waters. 

Museum 2017
Museum 2011

As usual Blisworth Tunnel was VERY leaky. We took the first mooring at Stoke Bruerne we came across so we could take our visitor to the museum, where Edmund always has great fun with the children's dressing up clothes and look at the blacksmith and stained glass studio. We needed to get our crew back to Milton Keynes for the 19.00 train to London and planned to moor at Grafton Regis where they could get a bus to MK. There were lots of gongoozlers at the locks at Stoke Bruerne and our two crew chatted and had the kids help open the gates. We used to always hire from Wyvern and we saw first Wyvern boat moored just before Blisworth Tunnel.

Our first Wyvern boat seen

We also went past our friends Cath & Alan’s historic ice breaker tug ‘Sickle’ moored at High House Wharf. We went on Sickle a few years back at the Rickmansworth Canal Festival. In addition we saw two other boats with names from the Northern Line, Balham and Edgeware (which appears to be spelt incorrectly) both looking rather sorry for themselves.

Ice breaker Sickle at it's mooring

Aboard Sickle, Rickmansworth 2015

Balham and Edgeware

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve covered lots of miles and had long cruising days to make sure we were below the planned stoppages by the end of the month, so now we plan to very slowly meander further southwards over the next few weeks. We’ll be staying at Grafton Regis for a while now, as the Northamptonshire country side is beautiful.

Last Sunday Heather had a stall with her origami flowers at a wedding fayre at Hunton Park, Kings Langley where our niece Alice works. It was a long drive for Heather from the north west and she asked if she could stop off at us for a break. So I hopped in the car with her and spent the weekend at my sister Louise’s house and helped at the wedding fayre too. So John wasn’t lonely my brother-in-law Paul went up to spend the evening with him at Long Itchington.

Heather's origami bouquets
Wedding fayre table

Oh my gosh, autumn has really kicked in with millions of leaves on the boat. So where possible we’ll try to moor in exposed spots so we don’t get covered again.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Ahead of schedule

We are well and truly ahead of our ‘rough’ schedule for our journey south. We usually choose not to travel at the weekends as it’s too busy. Last Saturday was an exception as we just couldn’t miss help from Jack and we didn’t see another boat in Birmingham until we were our the other side!!! 

Yesterday we were just about to moor north of Hatton flight of 21 locks, with the plan of getting up bright and early today to head down, when nb Briar Rose, Braidbar 76 went by at 3pm. We waved and said we’ll do the locks in the morning. However, they said why not go with them now as they have friends at the locks to help them down, it’d be daft not to accept such help. We still thought 3pm was a bit late to do such a large flight. Adrian and Adam on Briar Rose had their friends June and Bob who were boaters up until lately setting the lock ahead so no time was waisted. Bob wanted to beat his personal best time down the flight which was just over 2 hours, well, he was really chuffed, we did it within the two hours AND Adrian had jump ship as he had a conference call to take. 


We now know we can stand up if we fall in


Mooring at Tesco

Today we travelled just a couple of miles and paired up with a hire boat to go down the 2 locks into Warwick. There was a CRT chap on the bank asking us to go very slowly & carefully past the workmen building a dam for some future work required. It’s been like ‘old mother Hubbard's cupboard’ here for a few day. So we stocked up at Tesco, just one of the 2 super markets in Warwick that have shoppers mooring. This evening we’re moored near the village of Radford Semele, we’re not too sure how to pronounce the second part of the village’s name though!

Going over the River Avon

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Birmingham students

Today the boat needs a good spruce up, as yesterday we were up earlier than usual & cruised all day, so as we could get through Birmingham. We were moored Friday night in a very pretty cutting just after Curdworth Tunnel. However, we have the fall out effects of all the sycamore trees to deal with. The route up through Birmingham we had planned didn’t incorporate anywhere to moor as we wanted to get onto the Grand Union Canal at it’s very beginning. 


Generally we’d only go through big towns mid week, but we really wanted to utilise the assistance of our nephew Jack who’s studying at Brum and he’s tied up with lectures. Bless him, he got his flat mate Archie to get up early and meet us on the northern outskirts of the city at Minworth.


We made excellent time as the canal route planner said our journey would take 7 hours and 51 minutes we did it in 8, as we were able to prepare the lock ahead as we had a good lock crew and just about all of the locks were set against us and the paddles hadn’t been closed on most of the top gates too.

Salford Junction where we turned from the Birmingham & Fazely Canal onto the Grand Union Canal is quite a tight one, which we knew as we’d walked that stretch a few years ago when Edmund was at uni in Birmingham. It’s quite a pretty junction with the River Tame running under the canal in the immediate shadow of the M6.

Friday we strolled to Asda at Minworth to stock up mainly with treats for our unknown number of lock crew. Jack said he wasn’t sure if any of his friends would come to help, but there could be 8!!!!!! Such a culture shock at Asda, with the West Midlands accent and the most multicultural place we've been to probably since we moved aboard.

It feels a bit like being back in our ‘old’ life at Catherine-de-Barnes where we’re moored for a couple of days, with the sound of the planes taking off and the hum of the motorway in the distance.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Harecastle Tunnel

A misty mystical morning today at Barlaston on the Trent & Mersey Canal, we’re well and truly on our southward journey. Once the mist lifted it was one of best days we can remember in a long time. This evening we’re moored in the middle of nowhere, just north of Weston with the west coast main line train way over the field.

There were 4 boats travelling through the Harecastle Tunnel yesterday, we were second in the line. The fourth boat was Freespirit, we met Ian and Irene last year and travelled a bit with them.  The tunnel is about 1.5 miles long and nowhere as leaky as I thought it’d be. For a change it was a lovely sunny day. We had to queue to get down the 5 Stoke locks, however, the hire boat behind us full of Aussies were very keen to assist us. In the interest of water conservation we ended up waiting at most locks for boats going up the locks. With all the amount of water that’s fallen out of the skies I’m not sure we need to be fussed about the water levels, but it’s polite and considerate on the ascending boat.

Harecastle Tunnel heading south

Leaving the tunnel


Yarn bombing in Barlaston

We had a lovely circular walk up through the Wedgwood estate. It was quite sad to see Wedgwood & Barlaston stations are both closed. We use trains fairly frequently since moving aboard and some of the small towns and villages we've been to actually have TWO stations eg New Mills, Derbyshire and Burscough, Lancashire. In addition the huge Wedgwood College, a complex of buildings and large amount of land are for sale, I guess they aren’t training up the specialist potters. We had been back a few minutes from our walk and the heavens opened again.