Thursday, 19 April 2018

Calcutt Reservoir (drying out at last)

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were grey but dry, and finally the sun started shining on Wednesday morning.  Karen has been working from the boat this week (her last) but has joined me and Buddy for an hour or so’s walk each day to get out of the ‘office’.  I know the weather must have been dull as when I downloaded my pictures today I realised I had taken none since Saturday. 

On Wednesday morning, I was just bemoaning the fact that 15 different species of butterflies have been seen around the UK already this year compared to my paltry four (!), when a male orange tip flew by the boat.  Now, when we see orange tips we know spring really is here.  During Wednesday I saw three more orange tips, countless male brimstones, a couple of female brimstones (again the first this year), a pair of peacocks and a small tortoiseshell.  To round it off in the afternoon I saw two more new species for the year – a small white and a speckled wood.

All the butterflies were skittish and none would rest long enough for me to take a picture but here’s an orange tip that we saw exactly two years ago here at Napton/Calcutt reservoir :

The female doesn't have the distinctive orange tips to its forewings
As it looked like being a gorgeous day on Wednesday, I set off for the water point at 8 in the morning.  Going early meant we could moor up there, have our showers and do loads of non-clothes washing like bedclothes and Buddy’s travel bed.  Of course, if anyone else turned up for water I would let them in but as it happened only one boat turned up and it only took them 10 minutes to fill up as the water pressure is high at Calcutt and they had filled up two days previously.

Reversing back to the water point – we had set off from around the corner in the far distance and I managed not to hit any of the moored boats 😉

It already felt like a summer morning at that time of day and Buddy soon crashed out on the towpath:

When we moored by the reservoir last Friday we had to squeeze in behind Chris on his boat and Paul with his two boats.  When we were taking on water Chris came by on his boat; he was on his way to Stockton to catch a bus into Leamington for the day.  As I was just waiting for the water and washing I saw him through a couple of the locks at Calcutt.  He told me that when he comes back he would carry on and moor at Napton so it meant I could take his spot without feeling guilty.

The spot he was in is the prime position for a 50-60’ boat as there are two stout trees that you can tie to rather than using mooring pins.

For some reason Buddy spent a lot of the afternoon sleeping alongside where we had been moored

After lunch I took the car to Braunston to buy some longer centre lines.  Our current ones are 10m long, but we really need about 12m to feel safe when in locks.  When we got to France we are going to have to buy even longer ropes for the front and back – around 20-25m because of the extra deep locks on the continent,  We need to find out a few things necessary for moving to France, like rope lengths, from Mike and Aileen as their boat is the same length as ours and they already have two year’s worth of experience over there.

This is a speckled wood from last year – the one I saw today wouldn’t land

On the way to Braunston I drove through Flecknoe, one of the villages we would both love to retire to when the time comes to move back to bricks and mortar (I would say ‘if’ rather than ‘when’ but Karen reads the blog 😉).  The reason for driving through the village was to check on the moorings available on the canal near there.  I plan on moving down there on Thursday and Mike & Lesley and Chris & Sue should be making their way there too on their boats - we are all meeting up on Saturday.

We have spent a few weeks moored around Flecknoe over the last couple of winters and it was always packed with fellow ccers.  I was expecting it to be busy now but only saw one boat moored up there – I suspect it’ll get packed by the weekend as people are beginning to set out on their summer travels and it’s a nice rural spot to moor.

The chap in front of me at the rope shop was asking for 4m ropes for his centre lines.  The lady ropemaker, quite rightly, was asking if that was really the length he wanted.  I suggested that maybe he had a very small boat to which he replied that it was 57’ (the same as ours).  The lady told him that he should have much longer, at least 10m, centre lines for that length of boat and I explained that I was just changing ours from 10m to 12m so he decided to go back to his marina and measure up again.

As I was driving back to the boat it seemed that there were male brimstones everywhere, I must have seen three dozen during the day.  The male is the distinctive bright yellow whereas the female is a pale lemon colour.

Male brimstone taken at Stockton two years ago

Female brimstone taken near Stratford three years ago

After I got back I took Buddy out for a walk and to find some willow.  It’s that time of year when Karen makes her willow frame for when she pots up her sweet peas which are currently doing very nicely in the cratch/greenhouse:

Dwarf sunflowers
Dwarf sunflowers on the left, sweet peas to the right, chillies at the back but they haven't started showing yet

In the evening we met up with Gill and her new man, Martin, to say goodbye.  We first met Gill on the River Avon last year and have kept in touch and had the odd drink or two since then.  As she is a local girl she has been very helpful in recommending things like dog sitters, opticians etc.  We were sensible and only had had a few drinks, but it was sad to be saying goodbye

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Calcutt Reservoir (Moved from one quagmire to another but first ice cream of the year)

Karen and Jo glammed up for a silver wedding anniversary complete with wellies and walking boots 😉

On Thursday evening Karen and I drove to Rugby to pick Jo up from the station; she was down from Edinburgh for a long weekend starting with staying with us for a couple of nights.  The towpath had become so muddy by the boat that we decided to move up to Calcutt resy on the Friday.

First, we moved the car to the reservoir car park used by fishermen and walkers and then walked back to Tomlow to fetch the boat.  We just had the three locks at Calcutt to go up and Jo was happy to set them as she hadn’t had a cruise since last autumn.

Not sure why I’m looking so happy at Calcutt bottom lock, but Buddy has obviously decided to stay put and not waste his energy walking to the back of the boat when I’m about to set off 😊

Coming up the middle lock

The Calcutt boatyard is in the pound below the top lock and I was surprised to see so many hire boats moored up and not out on holiday.  We found out why a little later.

Once through the top lock we reversed into the old single lock where there’s a water point and filled up with water – I didn’t fall in this time 😉

It was such a lovely day that Jo and I walked to the boatyard to buy ice creams whilst waiting for the tank to fill.  It was my first of the year so a sort of landmark really.  We met Chris when we were in the shop and got chatting.  He has just started working back at the yard having had a few years off and we got around to talking about the rain and the muddy towpaths.  He told us that the boats are currently being returned in the worst state they have ever seen with regards to being muddy.

He also explained that although most of the boats are booked out, four had already come back early because of the weather and the mud; thus, explaining why so many hire boats were moored in their pound.  He said that two couples reckoned it was their worst holiday ever and they wouldn’t dream of doing it again – such a shame as I suspect very few people would think like that if the conditions were better.

We moored at the one free spot left on the offside with Chris’s boat in front of us and Paul with his two boats in front of him.

It was good to have a catch up with Paul; we hadn’t seen him since we were here last September.  Poor Paul has to lug two boats around with him – the second boat was his girlfriend’s and it seems she has become an ex as she hasn’t come back for many months now.

We woke to a glorious morning on Saturday and got ready to travel down to Oxford for the day. 

Looking back to Calcutt top lock on Saturday morning…

…and in the other direction towards Napton junction

The reason we were off to Oxford was to celebrate Karen’s sister’s silver wedding anniversary.  Heather and Keith had hired a hall at University college for the evening.  It was an excuse for the girls to dress up, hence the picture at the top of the blog.  The path to the car from the boat, across the reservoir, was really muddy so the girls had to put their boots on.  We dropped Buddy off at his ‘hotel’ in Leamington.  He stays with a really nice couple who dote on dogs and Julie sends pictures or videos every hour or so!

Before the party, we were meeting up with Karen’s other two children, Matthew and Catherine but first we split up as Karen and I had some shopping to do.  I needed a suit for Sophie’s wedding in June and we also wanted to replace some of our saucepans and frying pans.  We were successful, which was really good as we both hate shopping 😉  

Later in the afternoon we met up with the children and they treated us to a delicious afternoon tea which Matt and I enjoyed with a beer rather than tea:

Then it was off to the college:

Proud mum 😊

Me and Karen dressed up for the party 😉

We didn’t get home until gone one on Sunday morning, but we had had a great time and are now looking forward to Karen’s last four days working from the boat.