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.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Bell Ringing

We planned to see the church and the village today and whilst on our travels met up with an ex churchwarden who gave us a potted history of the castle, church and the village. He is now in his eighties and once had an engineering business in St George, Bristol! Small world. We discovered that he is also a bellringer and that the band would be practicing at 3pm in the afternoon so a change of plan was drawn up and we joined them. There is an unusual entrance into the ringing chamber. After climbing one spiral staircase you have to traverse part of the roof on the outside past some flying buttresses and then up another narrower staircase.

Our mooring from the roof

They are a 7cwt six positioned centrally in a wide tower. You can walk around all sides of the frame. They went very smoothly if a little slow. They are a scratch band so we only rang rounds and plain hunt to begin with finishing off with a bit of Grandsire and Bob Doubles.

We were then invited up into the bell chamber by the steeple keeper Mike Leigh. They were rehung in 1990 by Whitechapel onto a new steel frame the old wooden one rendering them unringable.

Being the hottest day of the year it was a good idea to stay within the confines of a cool ringing chamber until we set off at 4:30 to moor up in the same spot as we did on Monday.

Give me lift mum!