Sunday, 19 June 2016

Leaving Liverpool (Sunday 19 June)

Alas our allotted time in Liverpool has come to an end so it was tea at 6am after being woken up by Saturday night revelers at 5:15!
Our instructions were to be ready to lock up at 8am so we cast off at 7:20 in order not to be last in the que; we were second up. The wrench of leaving was made that much easier by enjoying the early morning sunshine.
As we left Albert Dock we passed a super yacht that came in overnight.

After a couple of hours we arrived at Litherland where there is full C&RT facilities and a Tesco alongside that enabled us to restock before taking the bus into Crosby. There are spectacular sculptures by Antony Gormley that stretch along Crosby beach. "Another Place" consists of 100 cast-iron, life-size figures spread out along three kilometres of the foreshore, standing almost one kilometre out to sea.
The "Another Place" figures - each one weighing 650 kilos - are made from casts of the artist's own body standing on the beach, all of them looking out to sea, staring at the horizon.

And Dianne found one to cuddle!

Inevitably it started to rain so it was back onto the bus to cool up an evening meal aboard.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Liverpool Here We Come

Apologies to all our followers as we have been out on the cut for 4 weeks and have not updated our blog yet!
We will attempt to give you a precis of our trip thus far.
We left Stourport on 20th May headed for Liverpool. We chose Liverpool this year as a result of talking to fellow Beacon Boat owners at the Beacon Fest earlier this year especially John and Ali aboard Triskaideka.

We made our way up the Staffs & Worcs and onto the Shroppie past one of our favourite pubs The Anchor.
We had arranged to meet Mark and Verity and granddaughters Elsie and Eira in Ellesmere on the Llangollen canal. They moved from Bristol late last year and are putting down new roots there. We treated them all to a trip up the canal and then sat down for dinner aboard and then we all went hunting for "Mini Beasts" in the hedgerows.
Our next port of call was Chester where we spent a very noisy night moored above the staircase where there was a pop festival in full flow. We spotted Beacon's No8 Boat Merryweather moored in the basin but no sign of her new owners.
We then retraced our steps and Keith changed the oil and fuel filters at BeestonStone lock and then turned into the Middlewich branch of the Shropshire Union canal up to Kings Lock to visit the chandlery there as there was a slight leak on the fuel filter drain. All that was needed was a bit of heat to soften the copper washer to make it more compliant and we were on our way again.
At Preston Brook we were onto the Bridgewater canal where there has been an agreement that Canal and River Trust licence holders can travel on it for up to 7 days. We learnt on the Narrowboat World web site that this arrangement has been rescinded and if a boat is on the canal for more than 7 days, return is not permitted within 28 days or a £40 fee is required! As you can imagine this has called a whole load of unrest amongst boaters.
We stopped at the Swan with Two Nicks in order to meet Sarah and James and the other two grandchildren Joe and Martha. A customary visit to the boat was made before we all tucked into the Swan for a meal.
At Leigh Bridge 66 we were onto the Leeds and Liverpool canal.

We passed Wigan Pier but this is all that is left of it....

We overnighted at Litherland where there are full facilities and a 24 hour Tesco alongside, before assembling at Eldonian Village in order to drop down the Stanley locks and make passage into Liverpool.

Here is the largest brick built building in Europe. It was a tobacco warehouse that is about to be turned into flats. 

We passed through Sid's Ditch to emerge wonderfully into Liverpool's matrix of restored docks.

We then passed through a tunnel that runs underneath the Museum of Liverpool.

And so into Albert Dock

Our mooring in Salthouse Dock taken from the top of....

The Big Wheel

Next day we did the "Ferry Crossed The Mersey" bit and then Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral.

The Bells

Inside the Museum of Liverpool

Being National Trust members we were able to visit the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, a truly fascinating experience told by two excellent guides.


The house next door is up for £375,000!

Paul's house.......or is it mine???

We visited Speke Hall on the bus with a 15 minute walk from the bus stop. Great when going to the house but we got thoroughly soaked coming back when the heavens opened.

Thanks to our friend William, we visited St George's Hall that is multi faceted. It has a dance hall with a huge Willis organ, a venue for civil weddings and was originally the assize court room. Below are the cells used for prisoners while they waited for for their trial/verdict (transportation, execution or goal). It was mentioned that the brides that get married there "come in for sentencing"

Keith the JUDGE

Dianne the PRISONER

That evening we ate in the famous Philharmonic Dining Room pub with wonderful Edwardian paneling, fittings and furniture. As it was quiet the barmaid showed Dianne the Gents toilet that has been unaltered for over 100 years!

A visit would not be complete without seeing the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral.

As we were in that area we ventured down into the famous Cavern in Mathew Street.

We originally came for 3 nights but this period could in no way do Liverpool justice so we managed to wangle an extension to our stay to one week. The mooring facilities are brilliant with water and free electricity laid on.
We are now on our last night here and prepare to enjoy the last delights of this wonderful city!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Catch Up Time

Sorry that we have not been blogging recently! No excuse really.
After leaving Stoke Bruerne on Thursday we made our back along the Grand Union canal towards Braunston. It was whilst we were travelling that we heard the sad news of the death of Doreen Kemp after a long illness. Doreen and John were the reason why we took up boating in the first place spending time learning the ropes aboard their Springer Finham III that was based at Streethay.
We got to the Buckby flight of locks and teamed up with the crew of four feisty women aboard "Grumbleweed". All was going well in the heat of the day until we reached the 3rd lock from the top when our engine cut out. No obvious reason so they towed us out of the lock so that we could moor up in the pound. Fortunately our insurance gave us cover with River & Canal rescue so on the phone we got. Yes they would send an engineer out and would we like them to inform anyone of our plight and would we like any provisions brought to us! We were dumbfounded by their considerate offer. After a couple of hours an engineer duly turned up and diagnosed that a 40amp fuse had blown. He fitted a new one and gave us a spare and all seemed well to we tootled off to the Lock pub for a meal to celebrate.
Next morning Keith carried on with touching up some rust that had formed on the roof handrail with a final coat. Well, the whole canal must have heard his shriek when he accidentally knocked over a one litre can of red paint all over the cream roof! It took most of a kitchen roll, many rags and oodles of white spirit to get most of it off leaving just the faintest bloom of pink behind.
So it was onward towards the long Brauston tunnel praying that the engine woul not cut out again. Imagine being powerless inside an 830 yard long tunnel!
Just two locks to go before Braunston and the engine cut out again. It just so happened that Grumbleweed were approaching us astern and helped us bowhaul the boat through the lock and into the next pound. Although Keith was able to fit the spare fuse there must be an underlying reason for it to blow again. Another phone call to RCR with the same consideration given to us again, saw a different engineer attend. After a brief period he diagnosed the problem. The throttle/gear cable on the rear of the lever was extremely close to the thin electrical wires that feed the oil pressure gauge on the panel. The action of the lever over 5 years had caused the edge of the throttle/gear cable ferrel to wear away the insulation on one of the wires and cause a short. The engineer wound some insulating tape around the wires and when the engineer had gone Keith took some more preventive measures to stop it happening again. Meanwhile Dianne visited the local chandlery and bought a supply of 40 amp fuses; just in case. So yet another celebratory meal up at the Old Plough Inn.
Sunday saw us dine aboard, at last, right out in the sticks. It was whilst we were enjoying strawberries and ice cream that we observed what looked to be an 18" long snake swim head up towards us and disappeared into the bank. Anybody got any ideas what it was??
Monday we arrived at Hawkesbury Junction, or Sutton Stop, where the North Oxford meets the Coventry canal. We moored in the same spot as last year where a tethered pony took a fancy to the paintwork on the roof handrail and bit it back to the metal. No animals this year so we were safe.
The alternative name, Sutton Stop, arises from the name of a family which provided several lock keepers there in the nineteenth century. The junction between the canals was the source of great controversy. The Oxford Canal's Act of Parliament contained clauses which stipulated that both companies had the right to the tolls on the other's canal for certain traffic which passed between them. Thus the tolls for all coal traffic on the first 2 miles (3.2 km) of the Oxford Canal were to go to the Coventry company, while tolls which the Coventry Canal collected for the first 3.5 miles (5.6 km) of travel by all goods except coal which had passed through the junction were to be given to the Oxford company. The junction was originally to be located at Gosford Green, but Brindley changed his mind while the bill was in Parliament, and tried to get the junction moved to Bedworth. This would have deprived the Coventry Canal of tolls on all coal traffic using the Oxford Canal, and so a compromise was reached. Longford was chosen as the site for the junction, and the compensation clauses were added to ensure that the Coventry Canal received much the same revenue as it would have done, had the junction been at Gosford. It was a complicated solution, and required both canals to run parallel to one another for some distance.

The iconic cast iron bridge

The famous Greyhound pub

The two together

We decided that we both would like to attend Doreen's funeral next Monday and so we have arranged for our boat to be left securely for a few days in a marina at Great Haywood and we will pick up a hire care in Stafford on Saturday in order to drive back to Bristol. This will now mean longer days in order to achieve this.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Weed, Weed and more Weed

It was time to settle up with the marina manager and leave this delightful location and head up the 17 locks that we descended more than a week ago.

A sign of things to come

This stretch of canal is weedy at the best of times and the Environment Agency were out in force this morning dredging in preparation for an influx of boats during the Northampton Festival in August. There were three locations on our travels today where this was taking place but the trouble is that it floats to the surface and acts as prop fodder, It took us two hours to negotiate four locks due to the weed build up.

4 ft high weed mound at one of the top gates

An EA employee was of great assistance

Whilst others were asleep on the job!

As we had time on our hands we decided to turn South when completing the Northampton branch of the Grand Union canal and visit Stoke Bruerne at the end of the 3057 yard (1.74 miles) long Blisworth tunnel that took us 41 minutes to travel through. This tunnel collapsed in the 70's. There was some major rebuilding of the tunnel in the 1980s, with sections lined with pre-cast concrete rings. It was also used to test out the materials that were later used on the Channel Tunnel.

Stoke Bruerne was an important location in the war effort transporting coal from the midlands down to London. It is purported that gold bullion was sent up to Liverpool for safe keeping during the same period.
Tomorrow we shall visit the fanous Canal museum here. 

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Back in Northampton

Only 8 locks to go now before we get back to Northampton, the head of the River Nene. This was the most weedy section as parts of the river are very wide, windy and shallow allowing the weed to flourish in the summer heat. Battling against the wind and the flow the efficiency of the prop was compromised  with Keith having to descend down into the weed hatch on numerous occasions.
Dianne didn't escape scot free either. At one lock she encountered a pony who insisted on following her as she operated the lock and at one stage took a nip at her leg!

The last river lock

There is a new marina just beyond the last lock that offers visitor moorings so off Keith went on his bike to investigate. We were in luck as the resident manager was off on his boat for a fortnight holiday and so we took his pontoon right next to the superb service block. £10 a night with free mains electric and water on tap. We decided to stay for two days. The fist night we went off in search of a Wetherspoon pub and found The Cordwainer. A Cordwainer as a shoemaker who makes soft leather shoes and other luxury footware articles. Northampton was a hub in the Middle Ages  for shoe making. In the museum there is evidence that King John - of Robin Hood fame - ordered a pair of boots  here in 1213. Northampton has a fine selection of architecture in the centre none more so than the Guild Hall.

Dianne visited the museum on Tuesday along with 78 Derngate that is a 19th Century town house remodelled by artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1917.  Keith stayed on the boat and changed the engine and gearbox oil.
We are off agin this evening to seek out the other two Wetherspoon pubs!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Chill Out Days

Not blogged the last few days as we have just been chugging back up the Neen just enjoying the scenery and not doing too much. Just how holidays should be! We did stop off again on Saturday at the site of the Rushton and Diamonds football stadium that have excellent moorings. Keith was craving for a curry that has been denied him for the last 3 weeks so we visited the Eastern Spice up in the town. Have to say that the menu was nothing like what you get back in good old Bristow. To be recommended.
At 5am on Sunday we were awakened by the sound of a generator in the car park. When we moored here last Saturday there was a car boot sale taking place but as it was raining it became a non event. This is a weekly event and at 7am the place was alive with stalls and goods galore, dozens and dozens of cars each selling their own wares and hundreds of punters. Quite amazing.
During our progress today we met our friends Simon and Pat aboard Daedalus who we went down the Bristol Channel with in 2013. We breasted up to them and jumped aboard for a cuppa and gave them some mooring tips for their ongoing trip downstream. Great to see you again guys.
We had the same problem of weed as we had when we were travelling downstream stopping at every alternate lock to clear the wretched stuff from the prop.
Our planned stop for Sunday night was adjacent to a field next to Cogenhoe lock. When we got there we realised that it was polite to inform the owner that we intended to moor there. This we duly did and bumped into Carol and Steve who me met for a session earlier in the week; they moor there.  They invited us to moor in a vacant spot on their moorings and we joined them in the Crows Nest for a few bevys before we retired to the boat to devour a delightful steak that was purchased in Tescos a few days earlier. There are full facilities here including a washing machine so we will be taking full advantage of this in the morning.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Needing Services

With the water tank getting low and the Elsan getting full we needed to find some services so pulled into Oundle marina. Free water and Elsan disposal, can't be bad!
On the way we passed Oundle mill that had be turned into a top class restaurant but sadly is now closed after being made the best restaurant in Northamptonshire in 2013/2014.

A short day was planned today as we had turned a couple of days early and now had time on our hands. On the way downstream we spotted some delightful mooring alongside the garden of the King's Head at Wadenhoe and so we pulled in to sample some lunchtime beer and book ourselves in for an evening meal. They charge £10 a night if you don't frequent the pub as they have had boaters in the past that moor up for days and drink their own beer!

A walk around the village beckoned and what a delight it was too. Picture postcard thatched cottages everywhere and a dovecote still with its 650 nesting boxes inside.