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.
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.
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.