About Me

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After thirty years of hiring, I finally bought my own 50ft boat in 2005, which was built in 2001 by Andicraft at Debdale Wharf. I mostly cruise single handed and have no problem with that, although it does take a little longer than with a crew. My mooring is on the Wey Navigation, so I have a choice of routes on the Wey or the Thames.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 12


Wednesday 17th July

It was time to wind the boat at Clifton Cruisers in readiness for the slow trip to Suttons Stop (Hawkesbury Junction). I was awarded 9/10 points by two boaters out sunning themselves at the turn. The guy said I would have achieved 10, but for hitting the bank on the towpath side, which I thought was soft at the time. It was not the usual way I winded there with the bow in first, as a Noddy boat insisted on passing port to port and consequently I had to go past the arm and then reverse in. I passed Alan Fincher on nb Flamingo on the way back, who acknowledged me with a wave and comment after all these years of seeing my face at Braunston.

I was about to moor at the water point by the park in Rugby, but was beaten to it by another boat, but there was a rare mooring on the towpath side and I shot in there before anyone else grabbed it. I will water up in the morning before I let go. Mike and Jenny Morse on nb Guelrose passed by and moored up further down the line and we had a good catchup conversation later as they went off to shop.

Thursday 18th July

After the rain stopped it was time for yet another shopping expedition to get some of my favorite yoghourts, because they were sold out yesterday. When the water point became free I moved across to replenish from the tap and because the rings were too far apart, I used a new method of holding the boat in with the centre line only and in gear with the tiller strings on.

Centre line fixing.

I moved on after that to The Barley Mow at Newbold, where there were plenty of free spaces. There was no more rain, but the forecast is not good for the next few days.

Here is the serendipity part of the sub-title – I had only been moored up an hour when I heard someone shout from a boat, which drew to a halt alongside. Popping out to see what was up, I immediately saw nb Lady Baltimore – it was Mike and Leslie who I mentioned when last in The White Bear at Ricky. I had not heard from them for a while since their crossing from Bristol to Sharpness up the Severn, so had no idea where they were and now they were here. They moored up a few boats away temporarily and Mike came down for a chat about their route and so we swapped a few yarns before they had to depart to get back to Dunchurch Pools for tonight. I walked back to Lady Baltimore to greet Leslie and have a brief conversation before they let go. It was a joy to see them again and most unexpected. They intend hiring a car tomorrow and suggested that we go out for an Indian meal somewhere, which would be great – just like old times.

I went to The Barley Mow for a pint of Timothy Taylors Landlord and it came out of a new barrel and was perfect; in fact it was so good I had to have another! I took the new laptop to charge and the speed is simply amazing. It seems I don’t know what I have been missing all these years! I am still finding my way around, but I suppose I will get used to it all eventually.

When I was talking to Mick in Rugby Wharf, he told me about Brindley’s route past the front of the original two pubs here; The Barley Mow and The Boat, before it went under the churchyard. Apparently, the northern portal of the original tunnel is still visible – maybe I will have a look tomorrow.

Friday 19th July

I took a walk this afternoon during a break in the rain to the church and after walking through the graveyard, I came to a gate in the boundary wall that went down towards a ditch, Sure enough, I had got the right spot as I turned right in the ditch which was the bed of the original canal, because there in front of me was the bricked up portal of the original tunnel, which was built in 1777, but superseded when the new tunnel opened in 1834, so shortening the route by 11 miles.

Northern Portal. The holes are there for bats.

Overgrown bed of the cut.

After taking a couple of shots, I could follow the route along the edge of a field and behind a hedge to a bridge, which was now bricked up also and tarmacked over. After that the canal more or less disappeared in fields of green pasture as it made its way towards Falls Bridge to join up with the present cut.

Part of the original bridge still visible.

Possible route through the hedge 
where it dips, to Falls Bridge.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019. 11

Summer Break and New PC.

Monday 15th July

A few things have happened since I last blogged, one of which was quite expensive.

Firstly, I went home for a week to do the things one takes for granted, like opening two months of mail, most of which was trash. Settling the appropriate bills to be paid, like car tax which I missed last year and only paid it at the last minute, before the DVLC were going to take action.  Cutting the knee high grass and weeding the back garden. Catching up with friends at my local and drinking expensive beer like they have 'daan saaf'. Entertaining friends out to eat for favours done while I am away having fun

And the expensive thing? That was researching and buying a new laptop. I had been thinking of doing it for some time, but when I plugged the power lead into the old model and then fired up the inverter on board, the decision was made for me, because I reckon a voltage spike burnt out the charging circuit. Oh well, it had served me well and was 10/12yrs old, choked with stuff and flaky towards the end.
And so it was that my brother-in-law and I spent long hours searching the internet to find a suitable model to replace the old one. Finally I settled on the one that suited the bill and then had to go about finding out who could supply at fairly short notice. Eventually Argos looked like a suitable choice and they could arrange it to be picked up at the venue of my choice, which in this instance was Rugby where Stronghold was moored.

When I got to Rugby Wharf all was well and the mooring was even cheaper than last year! How about that then? In 2018 I was quoted £50 for a week and this time when I went to settle up, I was told it was £5/night, so the total being £35. I had previously asked Mick on nb Ragamuffin if he could play taxi driver to take me to Argos to collect this PC the following day, which is the other side of town, so I paid for another night.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 10

Braunston Historic Boat Rally – aka Braunston Hysterics.

Wednesday 25th June

Yet another chilly and overcast morning greeted me; I hope it cheers up by the weekend. Some sunshine is forecast for tomorrow, which will be welcomed.

The engine is still leak free and there is more water in the header tank than has been for some time, so this K-Seal is looking like a good investment.

I walked down to HQ at 10am to see what needed to be done – just the odd job here and there. Certain notices have to be placed in position at the right time, otherwise there is a chance they will be vandalised or abused, so a lot of time was spent just gassing about boating amongst the group.

When I returned in the afternoon, Jack was there on Cumberland, but had to go and see Roger Farringdon about getting his boat hauled up the slipway to remove his propeller as it had hit something in Manchester and was now bent. A hazardous place for boats is that, as I discovered a couple of years ago. Apparently it was not a good trip for him and no doubt I will hear about it later.

Thursday 26th June

Most of today was spent in mission control, mainly talking about boating and other things in general. One or two boats were repositioned as new ones arrived. The Narrow Boat Trust have not arrived yet and will need to be here by Friday, so the moorings are now getting scarce and a lot of spaces need closing up to get all the boats in.

At last I got some calves liver from the butcher. I know it is scarce, but he was treating the whole business like a secret society and knew what I wanted as soon as I entered the shop. I hope it is as good as the last time I had it. I was also known in the general store after leaving the rum behind. Soon I will be recognised as a ‘local’.

After our duties, Jack and I went for a pint in the pub and I met up again with Kevin and Ingrid, whose boat was moored almost opposite. We had a brief chat before Jack invited me to join up with Harry and Jono, who he introduced as Jonathan of course. I had know of Jono for years, as he had done restoration work and rebuilding of other boaters engines, one of which was the NBT Lister. It was an interesting conversation over a pint.

It was a quick meal before going to the beer tent for a performance by the Alarum Theatre of “Acts of Abandon” by Heather Wastie and Kate Saffin individually. I enjoyed it as one woman theatre, despite there being two of them.

Friday 27th June

I was at mission control just after 9am and mentioned to Kevin on Columbia that he could move into the marina arm from now on, only to discover later from Graham that they were not due to move FMC boats until 10.30, but they moved anyway and got their usual spot at the head of the arm. I walked down to Ladder Bridge to warn other Joshers that the time was imminent and eventually they were all in there.

Shortly after the Narrow Boat Trust pair came through the marina and I met the captain, Howard Williams at Butcher’s Bridge to explain what was going on regarding the mooring position. They were now breasted and waiting for other boats to be moved out of the way, which eventually they were and Nuneaton and Brighton were shafted next to the bank and tied up in a very tight space behind Raymond, which did not have the rudder in a very safe position, i.e. it was straight out behind the boat. I met Alister Bates for the first time, who is quite experienced and younger that most of us. I also had a chat with Paul Woloschuk, who I had met last year.

The parade team were invited to the traders tent this evening for a social get together with a meal provided by the Gongoozlers Rest catering boat, which is moored permanently outside the marina, who we congratulated later on the quality of the food. Tim and Pru were there, along with Ivor Caplin, who is due to open the show tomorrow.

Saturday 28th June

There was a briefing at 9am for the stewards on safety, use of PMR radios, and courtesy towards boaters and the public, after which we left for our respective duties. I was on The Turn along with Keith Lodge, who was a new steward this year. The parade was to open the show at 11am, but most boats had to come up to The Turn to wind first, which is no problem. But the return to the marina is fraught  with holdups as they now face oncoming traffic, so everyone has to slow down. Winding at The Turn is another bottle neck, especially with pairs of boats, i.e. motor and butty. All was going well with trying to get private boats through ASAP, without interrupting the parade flow too much, and all the private boaters were cheery and relaxed, often driving in mooring pins to sit and wait for the end of the parade. The weather was extremely hot and there was little shade to be had, so a bottle of water was necessary. We finished just after 1pm and went for a very well deserved pint in the beer tent, where Mandolin Monday was playing yet again; this being the third time I had seen them this year. They are also performing tomorrow, which I hope to go to as well.

Mandolin Mondays

Jack and Jaqui had invited me for a meal at The Admiral Nelson later and I was interested to find out how good the food was, now it was in the hands of a new landlord and brewery. Previous food there over the last three years had been very good and the restaurant was filled up most nights of the week, but things were now different, although it was full this evening. In retrospect it was just pub food, so was relatively cheaper than before, although I had prior warning about all this and the service from friends who visited some months ago.

Moored up tugs seven abreast

Only six now.

Mostly FMC boats in the arm.

Sunday 29th June

It was not so warm this morning, which was welcome after the heat yesterday. Keith and I were allocated to do Bridge 91 for a change, which can be another bottleneck despite the fact that two boats can pass beneath the bridge. The lst time I did this spot, I was on my own and it involved considerable movement on my part from one side to the other to control boats, but with two people there was far less running back and forth. The parade was much more spread out then yesterday, so far less holdups were involved. There were also fewer boats taking part, so all in all it was a far more pleasant experience. I was pleased to see John Fevyer again for a chat about NBT and other things. He was one of the founder members of NBT some many years ago. Boats paraded smoothly under the bridge until 1.15pm and that was it for this year.

Nuneaton and Brighton.

The Finchers with Cath on the melodeon.

Mike the Boiler Man on Reginald.

I strolled back to mission HQ and managed to get a bite to eat, courtesy of Graham and Linda before going back for another session by Mandolin Mondays with Jack and Jaqui – we lasted until the end before it was a walk back for a mini snooze before Pimm’s and Pasta back at HQ for the parade team to close the day. Too much beer was consumed again, but one has to rehydrate on occasions like this!

My final comment on the weekend is that it was far more enjoyable than previous years. I put this down to knowing more people on the team, familiarity with the stewarding process and being far less stressful due to there being more co-operative boaters. Added to that, I did not have the responsibility of taking Nuneaton and Brighton out on the parade as last year.

Goodbye to Jack......

.........and Jacqui.

Monday 1st July

At 9am I walked along the towpath to HQ with wire cutters ready to remove No Mooring notices, which was a pointless exercise as they had all been removed by now. We took some of them back to the marina workshop and I got some washing and drying tokens, for the simple reason that I now had nothing clean to wear and I could get it all dry in one afternoon. Dodona moved off the mooring to return home and this is probably the last time I will see Ped, who has his boat up for sale at £35.000.

What with writing up the blog, moving to another mooring and a dozen other trivial bits and pieces, I did not get the washing in until about 3pm. As it takes an hour to wash and another hour to dry plus remaking the bed, I was going to be later than I had promised to be at the pub to meet with Kevin and Ingrid. Fortunately they were still there out on the balcony and we had a good conversation about many things, including the fact that several traders and members of the public had complained about the doubling of the car parking fee, which is now £20 and the rise in traders stall fees. On both mornings I had noticed far more visitors than usual walking along the towpath, meaning that their cars were parked elsewhere in the village. I can foresee letters in the canal press about this in the weeks ahead.

I booked a train home on Trainline and phoned Rugby Boats to find out if there was an available mooring for a week; there was, so I am all set up for the next few days.

Tuesday 2nd July

A lovely sunny day dawned for a change and I think it is set fair for a few more. I let go quite late with not much to do except cruising for the next few days. Unfortunately, the sky clouded over and a chilly north wind set in a little later. I said goodbye to John and Graham and winded to head up towards Rugby, with the intention of stopping at The Old Royal Oak, now called The Waterside. It was a good run and I got there in 2 hours with no holdups and there was only one boat on the moorings outside the pub.

After a pint and some lunch, I met the other guy Phil, who was now on his 11th boat and did the run from Great Hayward on the Trent and Mersey to here in 27hrs continuous. Not only was he knackered, but his knees had swollen incredibly with all that time on his feet. His boat had an integral weed hatch which was leaking, although the boat was in no harm of sinking, but he wanted to reseal it and the only way was to lighten the stern end or lift the stern out of the water, which he could do in Willow Ridge the following day.

The afternoon was whiled away with reading as there was no TV signal here, probably because there were three bridges in the direction of Sutton Coldfield. It was Braunston Bangers again tonight after another trip to the pub and an early night.

Wednesday 3rd July

A leisurely departure this morning in what promised to be a salubrious day, with sunshine. The wild orchids are in bloom again at Hillmorton Bottom Lock after three disastrous years – two of drought and one when the mowing gang chopped through the lot, despite there being a sign up. These are the busiest locks in the country with 6,821 boats through in 2017.

Taken in the same spot in 2017.

The infrastructure development of Houlton still goes on, where they are about to build 6.200 houses, with schools, health centre, community facilities and plenty of open spaces on what appears to have been the huge radio transmission site to the east of Hillmorton. Of course all the aerials were demolished a few years ago. The Houlton Bridge, which spans the canal just south of Clifton-upon-Dunsmore is still incomplete a year after I watched some of the piles being driven.

Approaching the moorings at Rugby there were a couple well away from the park, so I continued to move on and search until I found the last one before Bridge 56 free. It was too close to the bridge for my liking and quite dark as well as noisy from the busy road. Having taken about 30mins to try and drive pins in and finally get secure, because there were no rings, a mooring became vacant two boats back in a far lighter situation. Throwing caution to the wind, I released all the lines and bundled them aboard and reversed as fast as was safe before another boat got in there. I was not even tied up when another boat passed by, I was that close to missing it. Having got a good mooring, I decided to do Tesco in the morning. The Bell and Barge Harvester house was across a very busy dual carriageway leading in and out of Rugby. As I would usually visit in rush hour, today was a time to give it a miss as it too dangerous to cross that road at that time. There would only be Doombar on tap anyway, just as there has been for the past three years at least.

After what I said about going to Tesco, I later realised that I had no vegetables to go with the last slice of calves liver, so a shopping trip was essential. It is also important to take some money to pay for it, as I realised when I got there, so there was no alternative but to retrace my steps and get some - doh! Anyway it was the only exercise I got today, which was some compensation. Once again the liver was done in the usual way with homemade raspberry vinegar and cream and although the liver was more than ½” thick, every part was edible and delicious. Sweet for a treat was the gooseberries and Hagen Das ice cream. Oh yes, I live like a king, only there is no queen to share it.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 9.

Sunday 16th June

More rain this morning! Will it ever end I wonder. Two things I wanted to do today, firstly get some or all of the water out from beneath the engine and secondly get the fire cleaned out and ready for the operation exchange tomorrow.  Removing the water was a really slow job, as I was using the Pela Pump to suck away the surplus, but as the engine had a mat soaking up the oil and water, the latter flowed very slowly and would have to be removed over a period of days. Cleaning up the fire was a much shorter operation and completed in 10 mins. Apart from that, I did very little else except reading and a visit to The Boathouse for a cheap pint, which is £2.50 from 4pm to 7pm. It seems that they no longer offer meals at two for the price of one, which was never a bargain because it is chain pub food anyway and I wouldn’t eat there by choice.

Monday 17th June

I was out of bed early to get in the marina by 8am and be first on the list for work to be done. I met Graham on the dockside and he wanted the boat on the wet dock close to where all the tools were. Dave came on board and started to tackle the stove, but after an hour the flue was still not free to move up through the cabin top as he had to dig out all the old Heatmate and fire rope at the bottom end and then remove the fire cement at the top end, which I had never replaced previously when I replaced the collar at the bottom of the flue some years ago. At that time I remember, I shifted the flue skywards by levering the whole fire up with a crowbar, after removing the fixings on the feet. I suggested this and it worked again, after which the stove was removed to the well deck and the new one replaced it and the flue resealed top and bottom – job done, or so I thought!

Stronghold on the left of this picture.

I went into the office to pay the bill for 3hrs labour and cost of the fire, which had been reduced by £100.00 recently at Midland Chandlers. Whilst there, Tim Coghlan gave me an article to read about events in the life of two veteran boaters and which he was willing to donate once more to The Steerer, the magazine of the Narrow Boat Trust, which I used to edit. He has always been a good source of historic material which he is willing to part with after it has been published in Towpath Telegraph. He was as good as his word and sent me text and photographs for two articles by e-mail that very afternoon.

Mooring up later outside, I had a chance to inspect the new fire place, but could not find an ash pan handle. Thinking that it might be an optional extra, I rung Graham who said it was usually supplied and said he would get one in the morning. I also queried the smoke hood, which fits just below the flue to maybe reduce the draw of a flue higher than 4.5 metres, which mine is not, so that could come out. This is the information read in the very detailed Morso set of instructions, which are so much more specific than those of the original fire when fitted 18yrs ago – much of it being about safety issues, but there are also contradictions in places. Also the ash pan door can no longer be opened fully if the top door is closed, which I presume is to prevent excessive draught through the grate.

Tuesday 18th June

Another early morning to get back into the marina arm, but as I entered through the bridge, I was warned that they were about to move the large steel Peter Nicholls cruiser that has been there for at least a year, so I had to reverse out, but at least could get into a part of the marina that was unoccupied.

Eventually I was able to moor up in the arm and Dave came to see about the missing handle, before driving to Midland to get a new one. He showed me how the baffle plate was removed, by taking out one of the firebricks first and then the smoke hood just lifted out. The baffle plate will have to be removed before sweeping the chimney at a later date, so I needed to know how that was done.

I cruised slowly through the marina to end up facing north when I moored up on the towpath. Some more stocking up is required in the village, so will go before it rains again. In the Braunston Butchers yet again and he remembered me asking about calves liver and said it would be in on Thursday, but I am unlikely to be here then. Maybe the week after when I will be, I can order some in advance. Having made this raspberry vinegar to go with it, there has been no chance of producing the recipe to even try so far. I have to admit to not buying sausages very often, having been disappointed so many times, but I took a chance on the chipolata sized Braunston Bangers and will certainly buy those again. Not only are they flavoursome, but very meaty as well. I bought some flavoured chicken kebabs, thinking that it was time I had a BBQ, that is if I get suitable weather.

Back on board and then the rain began again for several hours – hunker down time again!

Wednesday 19th June

Another overcast morning, but no rain so far. In fact it did not rain all day and that’s a first for quite a while.

I cast off with the intention of mooring along my favourite stretch of canal, between Braunston and Napton – out in the sticks. There are places along here where it is impossible to see a house, pylon or electricity cable and hear only the wind and birds – beautiful!

I pulled in after 3hrs behind one other boat, so that I could tie up to the short length of Armco and be close enough to this end of the village to sample the delights, or otherwise of The Kings Head, 5mins walk from Bridge 110. Although I had passed this spot countless times in the years past, I had never ventured inside. Being a Hook Norton pub, they sold only Hooky beers, but the inside of this modern road house seems more devoted to eating, with nearly every table laid for service and the interior rather devoid of interest. Not my choice of watering hole, although the menu looked interesting, but rather pricey.

As an addition to the raspberry vinegar that I made a few weeks back, I had it on some stewed apples with cream this evening and it was delicious. I had read previously that it was good with ice cream, strange as it may seem, as it is sweet and sour, but it works.

Thursday 20th June

I moved up to Napton later this morning, expecting to get a choice of moorings about 11.30am and there were three available close to the winding ‘ole, where I turned and reversed back to a gap. I do wish some of these passing boaters would slow down as I am just holding Stronghold by the centre line at the time. Their boats cause shunting back and forth which I am barely able to control, with the result that the boat is bumped into those fore and aft.

Another case of waiting around for Saturday, but I have no problem filling these idle days and I really do need to clean the outside of Stronghold, despite people admiring the boat. Tomorrow is free, so the opportunity is there. Most of the afternoon was taken up with composing a long reply to Jaqueline (Jaq) Biggs in America, who sold nb Valerie last December and returned to the US. After meeting at Weedon, we got on famously for a few days before we parted company at Braunston in 2017.

Jaq Biggs.

Another American pair of boaters I met last year at Ricky were Mike and Leslie , who I had mentioned previously when at Ricky Festival this year. They have just completed the Portishead to Sharpness Crossing with a pilot and sent me some photos, so a reply to that was also due. If we are lucky and our plans coincide, we may even meet up again this year.

Mike and I at Ricky.

Friday 21st June

The Summer Solstice  and true to form, the sun shone nearly all morning and the barometer is rising at last. I had a walk up to Napton Village Stores and noticed that Napton Cidery was open this morning, despite it being Friday, when the notice board denoted opening on Saturday 10.00 to 16.00 only, so I popped in to see if they had some Apple Cider Brandy, which they did at £45.00 for 70cl. With a strength of 43% it won’t take much to give anyone brain damage, so I bought a bottle – let’s hope the quality is as good as the price!

After a light lunch I felt like some exercise, so decided to walk up to a farm campsite that I had heard about and to see what it was like. It was easy walking along the level towpath and when I got to Adkins Lock I asked a lady who was unpacking her car to spend the weekend working on her boat – that is doing her own private business on board, not doing anything to the boat. She told me that her name is Jane and her boat is moored on the main line close to the private Engine Arm just above the lock. She also told me quite a bit about the Adkins brothers who own the farm and about the campsite, so I strolled across the field to have a look. Just a normal family holiday retreat in the middle of nowhere and basic facilities.

Walking back towards The Folly, I had a chat with most boaters coming up the locks thick and fast at this time of the day, before having a thirst quenching pint of Old Hooky and walking back to board the boat. I have not walked a total of 3 miles for a very long time and I felt good at the end with no aches or pains. I must do more of this.

Holt Farm Campsite.

Intruders Beware!

Saturday 21st June

Just had enough hot water for a shower after running the engine. So time to change clothes for a visit to the Napton Cidery when my daughter arrived. The shop was being run by the owner’s mother at the time and she was not very knowledgeable about the cider pressing equipment, so although it was an open day it was really for visitors who wanted to pay £10 each for a tour and tasting. The Apple Cider Brandy I can now say is excellent and unlike any other Cognac or Armagnac that I have ever tasted. We bought some cider and walked back to the pub to hear the music from Folk on the Water, but were disappointed because the session consisted of various groups of singers of mostly 80s and 90s pop songs like Abba and Fleetwood Mac. We stuck it out with beer and conversation before going in for a good meal at 8pm. I also had a photo taken of me outside the pub to send to my boating mate Colin entitled JTPYO . This has become a joke between us, so that every time one of us visits a popular waterway pub, we send the other one a photo. The initials stand for “Just To Piss You Off”!


Sunday 22ND June

I had overstayed the time on this Napton mooring, so it was time to make a move with the intention to moor out in the sticks, possibly close to Bridge 100 for a night, before heading back into Braunston once again and get organised for the  Historic Boat Rally. It was a very quiet place to moor and I don’t do it very often out in the sticks, but there was room for privacy away from other boats, so I ran the generator for a few hours to get some amps into the batteries. Time spent reading and watching some TV as there are surprisingly good signals for both here.

Before departing from Napton, I put some K-Seal in the engine water system to hopefully seal up the weeping core plug and the following morning it was leak free at last. The thing about this product which appears to be different is that it is permanent, whereas most of the Bars Leaks and Rad Seal type products are only temporary.

Monday 23rd June

A strange morning with light mist and very muggy with no wind - some light showers later in the day. I let go late in the morning to make the most of the opportunity to get a mooring after someone had left Braunston, which was less than a mile away. There were several historic boats moored now waiting for the show next weekend. I filled with water at the Stop House, winded and retraced my steps to a place opposite the pub, where I knew I could get a decent TV and wi-fi signal. Why is it that the mooring rings are always in the wrong place?

On walking along the towpath I met Linda and Chris, two of the stewarding team and we caught up on a years worth of gossip. Further along nb Joseph was moored with John Boswell in charge and more banter was exchanged. Eventually I got to the butchers and ordered some calves liver for Thursday and had a pint in The Olde Plough before returning to write up this blog. Quite an uneventful day really.,

Tuesday 24th June

When I was in the village stores yesterday, I bought a bottle of rum. Later in the evening I looked for it in the boat – twice! I searched again this morning, but to no avail; by this time I thought I was going crazy, but phoned the stores anyway and sure enough, I had left it in the trolley by the front door. Fortunately, the boss had discovered it before any light fingered customers.

John, Graham and Keith Lodge were now putting up No Mooring signs, so I lent a hand finishing in the rain. I  got so wet that I had to change my trousers and boots when I got back. The rain continued in the afternoon, which I spent surfing the net before going to the Marstons pub for a pint. Surprisingly, I was charged £3.60 during the happy hour and when I complained the barmaid said the till would not let her change it. I questioned it with another barman later and he said all the ales were £2.50 at that time. At that moment the barmaid came over and made some feeble excuse and said she had refunded the difference and left it on the counter. It was found below in a pint pot – honour was satisfied.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 8

Sunday 9th June

Chaos at Braunston Turn and the Monsoon.

The Turn is a very busy junction and I am surprised that about 90% of boaters go round this blind bend at speed without sounding any warning. This morning there was chaos as two Noddy boats and two private boats tried to make the turn and there were boats all over the junction, because no one knew what the other boat intended to do. The knot was untangled eventually, much to my amusement.

At last some sun shining through and considerably warmer than the previous few days, when I was on the point of lighting the fire. The blog was written up finally and published with such a good wi-fi signal at hand.

Engine checks as usual and one of the core plugs is weeping. Not sure whether to return to have it fixed or try a smear of Heatmate around the edge. I will keep a check on it and make a decision later on. It seems such a small thing to go all that way back to get fixed.
I pulled the pins about 11.30 and headed up the North Oxford towards Rugby, with the intention of stopping at The Olde Royal Oak for a pint and to check it was still the same shitty Hungry Horse establishment run by Greedy King.

I got there in two hours through glorious countryside of ridge and furrow green fields filled with sheep and cattle. There is no doubt that the pub had had a makeover since last year, being renamed The Waterside for starters and no mention of Hungry Horse anywhere. There was now a new menu, waitress service at tables and a choice of Greene King beers, although the Abbott was off with no indication on the pump, but the Speckled Hen was crystal clear at last. Being Sunday lunchtime, there were queues at both the carvery for food and at the bar when I went to return my empty glass. No excuse for the bar, it just needs more staff serving there, but the carvery is just to do with the time of day on a Sunday. A menu is also available for service from the kitchen by waitresses. Trip Advisor has mixed reviews, but many more good ones for the food than in previous times, so obviously there is some improvement and not before time, although I have never eaten there.

Monday 10th to Wednesday 12th June

These three days are combined, as there is so little going on of any interest, because not only is it raining almost constantly, but I have a week to kill before returning to Braunston to have the stove changed.It could not have come at a better time, because heavy rain was forecast for the next few days, and like most boaters, I do not like cruising in it any more, unless I have to. I have done enough of that with NBT in the past, to know how wet and cold one can get keeping to the schedule.

Through Hillmorton 3 locks to the waterpoint and was I filling the tank in the rain by now. On to Rugby in the wet, only to find no moorings close to the shopping stop, so onward through the bridge and wind in the short winding ‘ole and back to the last remaining mooring at the end of the line. Then it was a quick shopping trip to Tesco and hunker down on board with the fire lit - in June?

Late Tuesday afternoon another boat was just mooring ahead of me and the boater waved as I was returning from another shopping trip. I recognised the boat to be nb Cranley with Mick and Suzanne aboard, who are on my home mooring on the River Wey. They were travelling with nb Hazlenut owned by Rodney and Valerie, so we passed a while talking about their trip. They had come by way of The Thames and Southern Oxford. They departed late morning on Wednesday for destinations further north, during a short dry spell.

Cranley off further north.

I also cast off having to wind at Clifton and return to get to Newbold, (known by the old boaters as Noble). I passed by nb Auriga, a fuel boat travelling north and hoped he would stop in Rugby to refuel another boat, which he did, so my diesel tank was full once more. Onwards to Newbold where there were moorings galore to be had, but by 5pm they were all taken and as the Wednesday forecast was wet, they were still there all day.

was listening to some other boaters talking in The Barley Mow later and overheard some tips about the pubs at Hillmorton. I got talking to them after a bit and one of the guys knew Maffi and Bones from Oxford.

Earlier I had made a ragu Bolognese from memory, but when I Googled the recipe it seems I had missed out on the stick of celery. Despite that, it was delicious with some dried spaghetti. Normally when at home, I make my own spaghetti, which is so much better and more flavoursome.

Thursday 13th June

It had continued to rain in the night and was still chilly when I awoke, so donned my lined winter trousers once more, which I have continued to wear for the last couple of weeks. I spent some time catching up on this blog and checking e-mails. Wi-fi from BT is good here, as well as TV, so no shortage of entertainment, together with all the books that I have accumulated along the way.

Peter Oates passed by on Stanton in the pouring rain on his way to Braunston Rally. I did a little light shopping at the local Co-Op, just to get some exercise and paid a visit to The Barley Mow on return and finally fried the butterfly lamb chop that I got in Braunston a few days ago. So that was an exciting day!

Friday 14th June

Raining again this morning, but stopped about 11am. Nick Wolf and Maggie Young appeared in the distance on Aldgate. Maggie shouted my name from a distance and we exchanged a few words between us they passed by. I will see them at Braunston without a doubt.

I cast off about midday, as the weather looked promising and went through Newbold Tunnel with the object of winding in Lime Farm Marina entrance. All was going well and I returned through Newbold towards Rugby, but I was lulled into a sense of false security when the sun showed itself for a few minutes, because shortly after the heavens opened with a vengeance and I got soaked. By 3pm at Hillmorton, I had had enough of this ‘fair weather boating’ lark and pulled into the bank where there were rings; not in the right place of course, but they helped to save driving in mooring pins in the wet.

I had to change my wet things after that and open a beer to calm the savage breast, but it was too warm to light the fire to dry off. I wonder what tomorrow will be like?

After changing the sun came out and it appeared that no rain had fallen, apart from the puddles on the towpath, so I decided to venture out on a quest to The Jolly Abbot, but it showered on and off, so I abandoned my search when the pub was still out of site at the bottom of a hill. It was not worth the risk of another soaking in dry clothes.

Evening sun at Hillmorton Bottom Lock.

Saturday 15th June

The day began with brilliant sunshine at 8am, but by 9am, dark clouds filled the sky and it looked ominous, but surprisingly it stayed dry, so I set off from Hillmorton with a brisk southerly wind in my face to get to Bruanston early for a decent mooring.  Although I was there by 12.30pm, there were very few available spaces. As I approached Braunston, the bells of the church were being rung, which I thought was an appropriate welcome.

I pulled in at The Stop House to fill the drinking water container and as I did so I was observed by a few people at the Gongoozler’s Rest floating cafe. A lady with a 3 to 4 year old little girl came up for a chat about life on a narrow boat. When the little girl Violet chimed into the conversation and asked if she could come on board, I said, “Why not?” So she went to fetch her father too. We cruised through the marina and Violet was so excited to see the water moving past and all the other boats. We came out through Ladder Bridge and moored up just south of Butcher’s Bridge No.1. Photographs were taken of Violet and myself before they departed up the towpath. It is always pleasing to introduce someone else to the delights of boating and hope that it rubs off enough to spark further interest.

I had to walk up to the village for some bread and a pint in The Plough, but it rained again as I walked back down Nibbet’s Lane to the canal. Some boaters that I met this morning were walking past in the direction of the Admiral Nelson and I asked them if they were visiting the pub, but they did not even know it existed. The older man had asked me previously how I managed single handed, so I gave him another tip about mooring up using a tiller string and centre line alone to hold the boat on the bank. It appeared that he was not the only one to learn this tip, as the other two with him did not know either and they owned the boat. It was the one thing I learned when doing the helmsman’s course which has stuck in my mind and it is so useful.

The day finished in brilliant sunshine at last, although it did not last long. A sunny start and end to the day.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Freedom of the Cut.2019 - 7.

Sunday 2nd June

Wet Weather in Braunston.

It was to be another lazy day and although the sun was shining, it clouded over, rained and became quite windy in the afternoon – so quite a miserable day really.

I had been making raspberry vinegar over the last week, as it is almost impossible to buy, even in Waitrose and M&S. I used a mix of Nigel Slater’s https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/28/nigel-slater-raspberry-vinegar and an allotment garden recipe, but there are many more out there too. I had a problem straining the vinegar from the raspberries, but discovered an old electric coffee maker in a locker, which had a fine nylon filter, so that came out after several years hidden away. The vinegar was slightly cloudy, but putting it through a paper coffee filter would have taken a lot longer, so I declined. It also had to be boiled in a stainless steel pan and all mine were anodised aluminium, so some additional thought had to be given to that. Something to ponder upon overnight.

I took a walk up the locks later and found three upper lock gates left open, so one pound was about 18” lower than normal. Had these been left open all night, one or two pounds would have been dry in the morning. Needless to say, I closed them when walking back to The Folly. Lock 9 has now had the towpath wall completely rebuilt, which will please NBT when they pass through later in the year, although Nuneaton will not be on that coal run this year as she needs a new bottom plate. The coping bricks are only temporary and will be replaced at the next winter stoppage.

Monday 3rd June

Having given more thought to the problem of a stainless steel pan for boiling up the raspberry vinegar, I came up with this......

......and it worked fine, although a little on the small side for the gas ring.

I phoned Braunston Marina to see if they could accommodate Stronghold for a replacement Morso fire, as the one I have is 18 yrs old and starting to come apart at the seams. They could do it on 17th June, although there was a great deal of work in the order book. I think that being on their computer, mention of knowing Tim Coghlan, stewarding the historic boat rally and NBT may have had some sway with Graham at the time. Once again it is a case of not what you know ....... etc. I also spent considerable time writing up and publishing this blog.

Later in the afternoon I took another walk up to Lock 11, having already had a chat with the live aboards at the Bottom Lock about whether their boat would pass cleanly through the narrow locks, as they had a sliding roof to the wheelhouse on pivoted legs. Had they got damaged by the foot boards on the lock gates, then they would have been in trouble, but they went through with 4” to spare each side. On my return, a Napton Narrowboat was ascending, but I noticed they had left a top gate open and the top paddles drawn up on the lock below. I asked if they were new to boating, but no they had been previously. I reminded the ladies working the paddles that they were supposed to close all gates and paddles upon leaving a lock to save water. Their excuse was that they thought the previous boat was coming down, but one woman walked back and closed the paddles, while I shut the gate. Needless to say, I was not carrying a windlass.

Tuesday  4th June

We are in the midst of a depression, so despite the red sky last night, it was raining this morning, but not for long. I walked up to the Napton Village Stores and Post Office later in the  morning, mainly because it is a delight to browse around this Aladdin’s Cave of goodies and also it got a well deserved Herbie Award in 2017 - http://nbherbie.blogspot.com/2017/12/and-best-canal-village-shop-is.html          These awards are given not only to  boaters, but shops, best moorings, gadgets and too many to list really, by Neil and Cath on nb Herbie. We have met up several times over the past few years, sometimes by accident and other times by design, very often in or near a pub. Herbie was also built by Andicraft at Debdale Wharf in the same year as Stronghold, although the fit out is completely different. So you see that we have a lot in common, including a love of good beer of the real ale kind. If I come across Herbie moored up with no one on board, they will almost certainly be in the best pub in town!

Napton Village Stores. 

I started to rain again in the afternoon, so I finally decided to stay here for one more night before I depart tomorrow for Calcutt. Unfortunately there are no pubs near there unless I do the Stockton Flight to The Blue Lias and I have no intention of doing that. 

My last visit to The Folly for a while and there was a roaring log fire burning in the hearth, which proved that it was cold for June. Who should be sitting in the bar, but Mark the landlord. We shook hands and passed a few polite words between us before I asked if he remembered Barry, who always tries to sell him some coal when passing through, which he did and remarked that he was the guy who was blind in one eye. I then passed on Barry’s best wishes as requested.

Wednesday 5th June

It was still breezy today, but sunny spells, which was so much more pleasant than yesterday. There was a big suction tanker by the bottom lock when I went to the tip and of course I wanted to know what was going on, so asked one of several people in orange jackets. They were in the process of sucking out the sludge in the back pump wells. There are two enormous pumps in there and imagine one is on standby. The sludge was about 2’ deep after five years when it was last done.

I let go for the short trip to Calcutt with the intention of mooring above the Top Lock, which was clear so early in the day. I had a short walk down as far as Ventnor Marina, but after that it was nothing but towpath so I ventured no further. I am getting short of food now, so have to return to Braunston to shop ASAP. I also need to do a bedding wash in the Marina launderette although I had to wash tee shirts today in the twin tub as I had not brought enough with me.

Thursday 6th June

I was up early and drew one paddle on the lock first before I set off. These are the first of the candlestick paddles worked on a nut and screw mechanism, which extend to the top of Hatton 21 Locks and the actual paddles and sluices are enormous, so opening only one saves half the effort and the locks take almost the same time to fill and empty.

I had to reverse into Calcutt Boats hire jetty, although it turned out that it would have been more convenient in the workshop, which was another two locks further down. Martin, the engineer turned up at 9am and replaced four out of five core plugs without the need to remove any injector pipes, using a special tool and hammer to get them in. The ones that he removed were paper thin and had lasted 18yrs, but one appeared to be still sound after all that time. He finished the job in 45mins, which would have taken me all morning I suspect.

Back up the lock now, which was worked for me by other boaters, to head for Braunston. I passed nb Slowly on a permanent mooring close to Napton Junction, where two people were cleaning it. Taking a chance on being correct, I shouted across to them asking if they were the people I met in The Horder Centre

a couple of years ago, to which the answer was, “Yes, but you have a good memory.” I should explain that I met the man in the cafe there, when he spotted me reading a copy of Waterways World and asked if I owned a narrowboat., after which we struck up a conversation. Although I don’t remember the name of the boat, I remember where he moored it. By now the wall to wall blue sky had clouded over and a strong cross wind was blowing. How quickly the weather is to change in this country. I passed  nb Arundel between Bridges 101 and 100, which is standing in for nb Nuneaton for the coal run later in the year.

There was a surprise waiting for me in Braunston - all the moorings were occupied from the Turn to the locks, which is most unusual on a weekday. Apparently, the locks are closed for repair to leaky gates and I did not get any notification of this by e-mail, which I had been on the lookout for since I had been warned at Cannie Cavalcade more than a month ago by one of the organisers. It seems that no other boaters got notified either and neither was it on the general closure list for the GU by CRT. How my informant happened to know so early was a mystery.

We all get regular e-mails from CRT and as there was nothing listed, I assumed that it was not happening.
Winding the boat in the exit to the Marina, I cruised very slowly back towards The Turn hoping another boat had left or that I had missed a mooring, but the only one available was just before The Turn and I moored behind nb Sirius, with my bow well short of The Turn. I had an interesting chat later with the owner of Sirus, all about boating of course, but we didn’t mention boat toilets, which was unusual!

Stronghold at Braunston Turn.

The approach from Napton.

Friday 7th June

Today the rain was pouring down, so not much I could do and there were very few boats on the move, except a few hire boats. It continued until late afternoon, but despite that I had to get some shopping in the village, so off I went in the wet to the village butcher first, where I asked for some calves liver, which was difficult to get and only was available on Tuesdays and Thursday, if at all. So a change of plan for a Stilton pork pie and a butterfly pork chop. Passing the hairdressers, I requested a trim, but the diary was full for the day so I got an appointment for Saturday at midday. I called in to The Old Plough for a pint and back to the boat by way of the Marina office to get some launderette and pump out tokens for tomorrow, by which time I was soaked. The afternoon was mostly spent reading.

Saturday 8th June

It had rained all night and continued through most of the afternoon, but I had now to go for a haircut and had to get wet once again. When returning along the towpath I could see that Stronghold was now reversed on the mooring and two men were on the back with one on the stern deck, which was Rob from Sirius. It turned out that the stern mooring line had come adrift and the boat was blown across the cut, These guys had retrieved her and I was most grateful. I know I could not get the mooring pin in very deep at the time, but I also had a spring line out and luckily neither pins went overboard. Nothing had moved in two days and then this happened – they blamed a passing hire boat and some of them certainly speed into The Turn without any warning on this blind bend.

After some lunch, when the rain had stopped, I motored down to the marina to pump out and do a pile of washing. The pump out and refuelling jetty is alongside the launderette and I was hoping I could stay there while the washing was being taken care of. Fortunately all was well and no other boats wanted either diesel or a pump out, which meant I did not have to carry my load any distance. There are new machines for washing and drying now and they are more efficient than the old ones. Cost was £5 for a wash and £6 for one hour in the dryer. The pump out was still only £15, whereas most other yards charge £20.

With all that done I set off back towards The Turn, but thought I would have a change of scenery and moor up the North Oxford, but there were no suitable places and I winded in a very wide section and returned to the previous mooring, where the wi-fi and TV were guaranteed.  I am immediately above the post that states 48 hours maximum, so no restrictions here. By now the sky had cleared and the sun actually shone for a while.

Some sun at last!