Sunday, 27 December 2009

Slightly Sheepish

The snow and frost seem to have disappeared for the moment, but whatever the weather is like it doesn't stop the sheep from doing what sheep do. They are very hardy creatures and always carry on reward-less.
There are quite a few fields of sheep along the banks of the canal. As we were cruising along towards Braunston the Medieval ridge and furrow mounds were nicely highlighted in the low winter sun.
I think sheep are my favourite animal and are at their best roasted with a little mint sauce!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas Day

We got up as per any normal day, checked the weather forecast on and it said that there would not be any frost for the next five days.
As we had planned to meet family in Banbury, just before new year, we decided to leave, at about 11:30 we were on our way. it was slow going although the ice had been broken up it still slowed us and with moored boats slowing us even more it took a long time to get to Braunston.

On the approaches we noticed Piston Broke so a quick sound of the horn and two heads popped out, of different places and invited us to stop for a drink. Well never one to refuse a hot drink, especialy after three hours in the cold at the tiller, we moored up.

After tea and coffee we invited them to call in later that evening, we then returned to our boat and had dinner.

A very enjoyable evening was had and it was surprising to find that our life experiences were very similar, so we put the world to rights, like you do.

Just checked the weather again, as the canal is freezing over, now they are talking of rain, sleet, and snow and freezing temperatures, we maybe staying put.
Wish they would make their minds up.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


It's good that we like it here at Hillmorten as we are into out fourth day of the canal being covered with a layer of ice over an inch thick in places. Just one boat has scrunched past us today with most of the paint scraped from it's sides as a consequence. We walked up to the local shops this morning and after a warming lunch settled down by the fire for the rest of the day, reading books and blogs!
This is  Boatswain supervising the coal delivery from his snug little bed on the roof of "Gosty Hill" yesterday, what a sensible little dog.

A nice pair of ducks reflecting on warmer times.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Up early this morning before the sun had risen, no particular reason just the way it is, I wake up and have to get up.
Wozie slumbered on and eventually rose, breakfast was taken and just afterwards a gentle knock was heard, Gosty had arrived during the night, 'coal' was delivered to us and a couple of other boats, time for breakfast and then he delivered diesel, by this time it was late morning and they were behind schedule so we helped them down the locks and saw them safely on their way.
The morning was bright and sunny and no need to rush back to the boat, just enjoy the wild life and the sunshine.

 Well laden

Doesn't he look splendid

One of our neighbours and his bully mate.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Winter Solstice

We were rather desperate for water, as we had overlooked it in making sure we were in the right place last week for Fernwood to visit and then Foxton Boat Services the next day.

Having looked at the weather forecast for the week we decided, last night, that we would get up early and do a quick raid on Tesco and be away to Hillmorten.

Also getting low on diesel so called Gosty Hill, he was waiting for diesel but hoping to be at Hillmorten tonight.
So setting off, with difficulty, we made our way through the ice, it does make a terrible noise and scrapes the paint off, we travelled through the ice but it seemed to be getting worse, we made the decision to stop.

Just as we tied up another boat went through and it seemed to making better headway than us, so change of mind, we decided to follow, it was during this manoeuvre that Wozie slipped on the ice and fell in, after the initial shock she remembered that she can swim and 'doggie paddled' to the side, where I helped her out.

We eventually got to Hillmorten, filled with water and went up the locks, Gosty Hill has not made it yet, will just hope he arrives tomorrow or the next day.

What a way to celebrate the solstice, ah well spring must be on its way and the days will now start to get longer.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Swans on ice

This morning when we woke up and looked out of the porthole to see what the weather situation was we were still held firmly in an  icy grip. Then we saw a pair of swans right outside the boat who were partially stuck in the ice. So Bottle bravely walked along the gunwale with the pole to break the ice up a bit for them. They spent about half an hour preening themselves and warming up, then they looked all sad and hungry.
So we opened a tin of sweetcorn for them. They must have enjoyed it as they ate up every little bit. The chap who is moored behind us on "Twinkle" also came out with bread and dried dog food and they ate that as well.
I wonder why people always seem to come to feed the ducks and swans in the summer but not so much in the wintertime when they need it most.
Yesterday we had a long walk into Rugby as the short cut footpath across the the railway remains closed.
The traffic was horrendous so we were glad to get into the arcade to warm up a bit. After a good wander about and buying a few necessities we had a snack and a coffee before heading back the the cosy warm confines of the boat, luvly jubbly!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Exeedingly good cakes

We are moored quite near to this lovely roundabout featuring  cup cakes which are made mainly of sedums and evergreens. Mr Kipling has been serving Rugby since 1987 and this floral tribute was created in 2008 celebratiing 21 years. Quite an attractive and unusual landmark, I wonder if any of the motorists notice it as they whiz past?
Sam from Foxton Boat Services managed to negotiate the snowy conditions to carry out our oil and filter changes this morning. Well done Sam!
We are stoking up the Sqirrel and managing to keep it going day and night as it's a bit nippy now.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Our "My Newt" deed for the day.

We went down to Tesco (Rugby) to stock up with festive food and drink. Just along the path from the canal we saw two of their trolleys tipped over and discarded in the bushes. Remembering that Maffi  said that we should all do our bit we took them back to the store with us. They would probably have ended up in the canal otherwise.

Other things that we are doing are, putting our ashes in the holes on the canal-banks, trimming some of the overhanging hedges back, freeing the lock ground-paddle water intakes of debris, and tidying up all dry deadwood and moving it onto our boat.
If we all do a good deed every day, however "My Newt" it will make a Big difference!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

It Seemed a Good Idea

Monday we decided to move to Rugby, as we have Fernwood and Foxton Boat Services visiting this week and access from the 'park' is ideal.

We set off at a leisurely pace and went through the three locks, all against us, on leaving the last one, a voice was heard, 'we are coming up' but no boat, in sight, on the move.
It was Lynne from Piston Broke, they were just leaving the water point and that was where we were going, could not have been planned better, quick chat and hopefully we will meet them at Braunston for a seasonal drink.

After filling with water, it took 45 minutes, we moved on at a leisurely pace, stopped at Clifton Cruisers (Bridge 66) for a pump out, excellent service and the best pump out we have had so far.

Arrived at Rugby and squeezed the boat into a sixty two feet gap, our boat is sixty feet.

The rest of the day was spent at leisure, after a trip to Tesco.

Today, Tuesday

We needed to turn as the problem that Fernwood are dealing with will be accessed easier.
Set off for the turning point, not far and with ease turned and returned to the same spot.

It seemed a good idea at the time to take a dip in the canal, the water was wet but not that cold.
Lovely as it was I decided to get out.
A quick shower, fresh clothes, the ones I had on washed and now drying.

This is only the second time, in all the years of boating, I have had a dip, I never plan it, It just seems a good idea at the time.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Cosgrove walkabout

Here are some more photos from our previous travels.
While we were moored at Cosgrove we walked back to the aqueduct and, down the steps and through the horse tunnel underneath. From here we could see a church peeping over the hill in the distance and decided to walk towards it. The church had this very unusual pink clock with two carved stone faces either side.
Then nearby we found this information board describing the Medieval Settlement of Old Wolverton. There had been a Castle, Manor House and peasant houses and crofts. The site was very well maintained and we could see all the ridges and mounds where the streets and enclosures had been. This is designated as an Ancient Monument and protected by law.
We are also fascinated by the many fields around Braunston that were used for ridge and furrow agriculture, but they do not show up very well on our photos.

Today, as Badsey's Sunday lunches are so good, we thought we would just pay them another visit, just to remind ourselves how delicious their roast dinners are! Absolutely brilliant, we supped our beer and browsed through their latest Canal and Waterworld magazines while we waited for lunch to arrive.

Saturday, 12 December 2009


As we have only been doing boaty chores today I thought I would post a couple of images from our previous cruise. This very long mural brightens up a wall which was restored by the IWA in 2005. What a good idea, it is near Wolvercote and the painting was done with the help of Jewsons.
Many bridges have murals painted inside them, the ones near Rugby, of the game that was first played there, are very well done. I remember seeing some lovely mosaics somewhere on the GU, but where?

Friday, 11 December 2009

A Cold and Frosty Morning

The weekend began yesterday evening for us, as we could get a good signal for the TV.
So we stoked the squirrel up and settled down with a glass of Old Specked Hen to watch QI.
Tonight it is the Victorian Farm with the handsome Peter, clever Alex and incredibly talented Ruth.
Tomorrow it is HIGNFY. We haven't watched much TV for months as there isn't really much worthy of watching, or we couldn't get a signal.

This morning we woke up to a beautiful misty frosty morning. Even the sheep had steam coming from their noses as they chomped on the frozen grass. The fire stays warm overnight and just needs jollying up a bit to bring it back to life again. Thank goodness we built up that store of dry wood back in the dry weather!
On Wednesday we went down to Badseys Bistro for celebratory 'Birthday' lunch, mmm lovely. The syrup sponge with custard was delicious, but it was such an enormous helping that we could hardly stagger back up the locks to the boat. We like the friendly atmosphere in there and everyone joins in the conversation. It is a bit reminiscent of Bridge 61 at the bottom of Foxton Locks.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Thursday 3rd.
We moored up at Whilton near the marina, with the railway on one side and the M1 on the other this was quite a noisy place to spend the night really.

Friday 4th.
It was cold but sunny again when we set off for for Braunston. We managed 11 locks and the tunnel before mooring up at 5pm at Braunston. We managed this by  travelling non stop all the way and having snacks and 'drinks on the hoof' ! As it was getting dark Bottle attached his magnetic light to the side of the boat so that we could see to moor up. We walked down the tow-path to the newly refurbished Mill House, now called the Boat House, for an evening meal. Although the interior was warm and welcoming and they do two meals for the price of one, the food was average. They do however provide high-chairs, and toys and games to occupy children.

Saturday 5th.
Our daughter and grandson came to visit so we went for lunch up at The Old Plough in the village. The staff are friendly, they serve good food and real ales too, so we can recommend this one.

Monday 7th.
Bottle walked along to Midland Chandlers for two bulbs for our navigation lights which had both blown, but they didn't have any in stock. I washed the boat and sorted the laundry to put away. I walked up to Londis for some supplies and into the butchers opposite for eggs and some tasty cheddar cheese.

Tuesday 8th.
While going through one of the locks we had caught the cratch cover and torn a small hole in it. As the makers A J Canopies are now based in Braunston Marina we took it along to their workshop. It was mended within the hour, for a very reasonable cost.
As it was such a beautiful day we cruised along as far as Hillmorten.

Wednesday 9th.
Today is Bottles 60th Birthday, so after breakfast he unwrapped all his presents, two single malts, canal DVD,  book on Gloucester Docks and quite a lot of Toblerone! A new peaked cap as his beloved old Guinness one blew off in the wind and sank in the canal.
Whilst having coffee and thinking of contacting Gosty Hill (Coal boat) an engine was heard looked out the porthole and lo and behold it was them, a quick scamper to the  back of the boat we managed to stop them.
Four bags of Taybrite now safely on-board.

Has anybody an idea as to what this flower trough at Buckby, originally was.

The best photo of a Kingfisher, so far, on the lock gate number nine, also at Buckby

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Non Stop Boating.

We travelled for eight hours, non stop, as we did yesterday. We do need to adjust our estimations of the amount of distance we can travel, do not know where we are going wrong as when we hired, for all those years we were always ahead of our selves.
We did come across a boat (Meet On The Ledge) across the cut, a first for us, so we had some 'fun' getting it to the side and re-fixing its pins.
Now moored at Whilton and will meet with our engineer here and then hopefully move on to Braunston, we shall see.

Anyone would of thought it was cold and wet, Wozie doing some steering.

This was taken within Stoke Bruerne/Blisworth tunnel, can you see anything.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A later start than would have been ideal  but hey ho, that's boating.
It was bright with blue sky with sunshine, the day went fairly well except for the fishing matches, that slowed us but they were a cheerful lot. Complemented on the quietness of the boat and at one point they asked me to put some power on to stir the bottom, apparently the fish were not biting.
We made it to two locks below Stoke Bruerne, had to stop because it was to dark to do the last two.
Another early start again tomorrow, need to be in Braunston for Friday morning, our printed circuit board, if you remember it is required for our Victron combi, has arrived and the engineer will be able to fit it then.
The next update may be not until we have left Braunston as the phone signal is atrocious.

The windmill at Milton Keynes

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Parking space was limited at Tesco's                  

Ducks at breakfast

We set off from Leighton Buzzard on a cold and frosty morning, but at least it was dry and calm. I noticed several ducks speeding by us while we were filling up with water. Just up the canal we found that they were going to Tesco for breakfast. This is a favourite duck feeding place for anyone who has small children.
It has been a beautiful days cruising  today, we only met four other boats on the move, I hope that this is not the only lull between the storms!

Monday, 30 November 2009

Today we were pleased to welcome Dave on board for coffee, a chat and a look around Oakfield. He is planning on buying his own boat when he can and was picking up a few tips and ideas on what he would like. It was lovely to meet him and he came bearing gifts too, thank you Dave. Unlike us he has already chosen a name for his boat which is Brassiclint (skint), which should be unique!
Well winter seems to be  here as we noticed this horse sporting a very classy designer jacket. It must have been quite cosy and warm as he appeared to be fast asleep.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

It'll Soon Be Over

Christmas that is, we had a stroll round Leighton Buzzard last night as it was the start of their Christmas.
The lights were switched on and there was a fair.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Landlubbers or cruisers?

We returned to moor here opposite the latest canalside development by Redrow Homes.
The sign informs that,
"Enjoying the view? This could be home. Two bedroom apartments from £155.995 !"
This is a bit of a joke as apart from the canal they look out onto metal warehouses, very nice.
The feature garden is nicely laid out with imitation lockbeams. The place is brightly floodlit every night, which makes it easy to find our way back to the boat.
We had a wander around the town and visited their conveniences which were awarded five star status this year, quite rightly so. The town noticeboard displays photos and DOB of seven ASBO characters who are banned from entering the town centre, I thought this was a good idea.
Overall it is a great, well kept place which we like very much.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Ebley Wharf

Ebley Wharf and Mill

During our travels on NB Oakfield many people have asked us where Ebley Wharf is, as it's painted underneath our boat-name, so I thought I would explain and post a picture of it.
It is on the Stroudwater Canal that runs from Saul Junction on the Gloucester Sharpness Canal to Stroud where it continues as the Thames and Severn via Sapperton Tunnel to Lechlade where it connects with the River Thames. The two canals are now together, known as The Cotswold Canals. If you are interested to find out more about the Cotswold Canals Trust and restoration progress, the website is . Four times a year they publish a small magazine called "The Trow". The magazine takes it's name from the Severn sailing vessels which could navigate up as far as Brimscombe Port where transhipment took place.
It is our dream that one day we will cruise there!
As I found another image I had taken along the canal I thought, 'thistle' do for a fill in, to brighten things up a bit.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Marsworth walkabout

This is the BW building which stands on the junction of the Grand Union and Aylesbury Canals.
The first image shows the boaters facilities in the foreground, water and elsan, with bins nearby.
There is a ramshackle disused cement works on the site which can be seen in the background.
The second image shows the rear view of BW's offices etc. which all look very well maintained.
The third image shows the main building which is a nice substantial stone building with the preserved crane to the right.
There is a planning application for this site for 14 new dwellings and the repositioning of the crane.
Sadly the proposed groundplan does NOT include any of the existing buildings, or the facilities for boaters.
Can we allow this to happen?

Sunday, 22 November 2009


If you remember I said yesterday that Wozie announced Sunday lunch was to be at the local hostelry.
A short walk was taken to the Red Lion in the village by bridge 130 on entering it did not look good, not the décor the amount of people in the bar (1) and the lounge (0).
Ordered the beers and asked whether food was available , yes, retired to the lounge to peruse the menu, well basic is the word and no roast.
Decision made we drank our beers and departed for the longer walk to the White Lion at bridge 132, altogether different, two families already dining together, some tables reserved, we found a table for two and I checked at the bar whilst ordering drinks as to availbility of food, no problem, drinks served and informed that they would come to us to take our order.
Two 'roasts' ordered, one beef, one lamb and the only way to describe them was, excellent, five different vegetables and all the trimmings.
After a suitable respite, deserts were ordered, one cheesecake and one sticky toffee pudding.
A walk to the reservoir afterwards soon got rid of any cobwebs and then a slow walk back to Oakfield and an afternoon siesta.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Cowroast Return

We set off for Cowroast, lucky for us a boat went past just as we were about to release the mooring ropes.
That was a good start, as the locks could be shared, the morning weather was pleasant enough  and the sun did shine, although briefly.
Cannot remember the boats name, it had just had a repaint but the sign writing was yet to be done, they were taking it as far south as possible before a lift out and transportation to the Medway.
With two boats and a good chat the locks seemed to take no time, all seven of them.
The summit water level was down about 9 to 10 inches (about 21 cms for our younger readers) we managed to maintain 'full' speed by staying in the middle.
We entered Cowroast marina, that is very tight and there is an old railway line just waiting to gouge the side of the boat, it was close but we missed it.
Refuelled the generator tank at 0% propulsion, minimum sale 35 Litres and at £0.79 a litre and to think about ten days ago we filled at £0.60 0% propulsion at another marina.
We left the marina to go back the way we had come and thought to moor just a little way a long but it proved impossible, with our draft, tried another couple of times but still the same, Wozie said lets go back to the mooring we left this morning but that was 5 miles and 7 locks.
When we had gone down two locks there was an excess of water, in fact it was going over the lock gates, now how can the summit be so low and there is an excess two locks down. I wonder, should BW set up a 'back pump'.
The journey back was uneventful except it started to rain quite heavily, we made it back by 16:45 in total darkness, a first for us.
We now safely moored and the wind is picking up, so if the weather forecast is correct, it will only get worse, so may be here for a few days.
Well tomorrow is Sunday and Wozie has announced she wants Sunday lunch at the pub (Red Lion, bridge 130). Do not know if they do it or there is a need to book, we shall see.
So if you happen to be in the area and pop in, we will be the two reprobates in the corner, I suppose the pub does have corners.

A good chat but still concentrating on potential

Two views of Bulbourne, BWs yard where lock gates are made or used to be???

This building appears to be being used by a private company, building ironworks for gardens etc.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Leighton Buzzard to "Maffers"

We lurked around in Leighton Buzzard with breaking waves on the canal waiting for a lull in the high winds. What a lovely place to lurk around too! Not only do they have an abundance of individual little shops and a Tesco, but also a Morrisons at the other end of the town.
Anyway we set off early this morning as the wind speed had dropped significantly.
We didn't encounter many moving boats along the route and it was good having the waterway all to ourselves.
We did share many locks with another boat though which made the journey more interesting.
The only gongoozelers we saw was this long row of seagulls. Are they able to catch fish in the canal as they swoop across the water btw?
We moored up at Marsworth for a very late lunch on the boat under the crescent moon with a beautiful sunset.
Marsworth was a key location on the Grand Union between Braunston and London for the old working boatmen which they affectionately referred to as "Maffers".

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Just a Meandering Day

Cookies Café

The House of Coffee
(All freshly roasted and ground, they also supply Cookies Café just round the corner.)

A good hardware store
(Note the delivery van)

Wozie visited every charity shop and selected some reading matter, visited Wilkinsons as I knew I needed something but could not remember what it was, it came to me whilst we picked up a few necessities at a good price.
Returned to the boat and unloaded the rucksacks, then off again this time to Tesco's, now just settling down to relaxing evening.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Planning Was Excellent


 The carrying out of the plan not so.

We planned to move the short distance, about one mile and one lock, to visit Fenny Stratford for Tesco and Screwfix.
It was all going so well despite the crosswind but it all went wrong at the lock, as I left the lock the wind got up and I was blown into the side, towpath side so that was a bit of luck.
Well it would have been if the piling had been in good condition but bits were hanging off and bolts sticking out, more scratches.
It took all our strength to push her off and move her along the canal to a sheltered place so that we could continue the journey.
In the heaving and shoving I missed the bridge number and continued on, it was not until the next bridge that we realised my mistake, we had missed Fenny Stratford.
Nothing urgent so decided to carry on to Stoke Hammond, it had a pub, next problem towpath had changed sides and so the wind was blowing us away.
Have you ever tried to moor with the wind in the wrong direction, oh it is fun (not) and of course whilst we are mooring a boat comes the other way.
Eventually moored, not a bad spot and walked to the village, pub closed no signs indicating opening times, the village shop was open so picked up a few items there.

This may be the best bit of the village

Leighton Buzzard was the destination, it is market day.
Not so windy today but still not getting the wide locks right with only me in it, practice will make perfect no doubt.
Beautiful sunny weather and the wind dropped even further just as well, we had to pass Wyvern hire base and their boats were three abreast, could only just get our narrow boat through, wished for once that I had had a wide beam they would have of had to moved at least five boats for one to get through and they were also blocking the winding point. (rant over).

Approaching Leighton Buzzard the towpath is for 'long term permit holders only' then a water point then a two boat length with  two hour limit, it was full. So through the bridge, a space, with a ledge under the water, we did move further along and found a bit without a ledge.

The walk into town is worth the effort especially if you find the little side alleys, found a great café up one.

The old fire station

Waitrose and other 'big names' in the town but we will be going to Tesco's tomorrow, it is right near the canal and we know our place.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Great Linford to Simpson

As we have had gales for the last few days we stayed put swaying about on our mooring at Gt Linford. We enjoyed a walk across the well manicured park up to The Nags Head for lunch on Saturday. Although it was very blustery it wasn't bad enough to keep the fishermen at home. A chap in front of our boat pulled out a very large Perch using a fairly small rod. We bunged the windows up, lit the fire and sat sewing and reading for the rest of the day.
Today we set off in warm sunshine and blue sky through the various green park-lands of Milton Keynes and moored up at Simpson. After a late lunch we went for a walk and gathered some firewood.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Tuesday saw us moving on to Stoke Bruerne via the Gayton Junction for fuel, an uneventful journey except for the coming together of us and another boat in the tunnel, it was only a gentle nudge as we had both slowed to 'tickover'.
We managed to squeeze in the last place possible, it was on a bend, luckily there was not any boat movements.

Wednesday was an early start as we wanted to get to Cosgrove, at the lock, at Cosgrove, there was someone on the bank with their arm up in the stop salute, we were already at tickover because of all the moored boats.
Eventually we realised why a very large broadbeam barge had come up the lock and was about to wind (turn round), to give credit where due the steerage of this barge was by tiller and the forward and reverse control was not nearby when the tiller was at full turn, so to watch the athletic steerer run between tiller and speed control was an enlightenment in agility.
We did moor and help him down the lock, which his barge filled.

Thursday we had a walk about near the aqueduct, there were information boards depicting how some temporary locks were built whilst the aqueduct was built, the line of the locks and canal are still visible.
We moved off as shopping was required, a Tesco near bridge 71 was the destination.
Shopping complete we progressed towards 'The Black Horse' (bridge 76) lunch was taken and very good it was too.
The mooring outside had a very large ledge that stopped us getting in close, otherwise we may have stayed the night.
Moved just around the corner but again no possibility of mooring, more ledge, eventually moored just past bridge 77, nice quiet spot, no ledge and to cap it off we had just finished mooring when the rain came down.

A bright start to the day

The aqueduct

This tunnel runs under the aqueduct and is very low.