Monday, 22 January 2018

Lapworth Link (Buddy not impressed with rain, sleet or snow for once)

Contrary to the forecast, Sunday dawned to snow falling.  It had only just started when we got up and wasn’t settling well as it was falling on very wet and slushy ground.

Our Sunday morning view

It was two weeks since we arrived at the marquee field in Lapworth so, under our licence conditions, we had to move on.  The plan was to go up the lock into the basin and then head down the Lapworth Link to join the Grand Union and carry on and moor at Rowington.  As there is a water point there I could get loads of washing done on the Monday, then fill up and move another four miles to Hatton station.  Karen went to set the lock whilst I cast off and headed towards it.

Karen coming back from closing up the lock

Once up the lock and into the basin, I pulled in at the services to fill up with water whilst Karen disposed of all the rubbish and recycling.  As it takes over an hour to take on water here, she then took Buddy for a walk round to where we wanted to moor at Rowington.  When they came back she told me that it was still iced up on the Grand Union so we decided to delay the move until another day.

Miserable weather at Lapworth basin (Buddy is hiding under the hedge 😉)

We turned right at the basin into Lapworth Link and I set about mooring up in the pouring rain.  Whilst getting the back secure I hadn’t noticed the wind had swung the front out across the cut.  Now, normally we leave the centre line on the towpath so that if the boat does start drifting it is easy to pull it back in.  As the towpath was so muddy I decided not to do that (stupid I know) and just left it coiled up on the roof.  That’s the second mistake; centre lines should always be run back along the roof to the rear, so they are easy to get hold of in an emergency.  

So, I had to walk along the gunwale to rescue the soaking wet rope and then walk back, leap onto the towpath and pull the boat in. Seems I’m never to old to stop making mistakes

It really didn’t stop raining all day, so we spent the rest of it indoors.  Even Buddy was happy to be out of the rain. 

Our new mooring for a day or two in the Lapworth Link- no rain here on Monday morning

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Lapworth (What a windy night that was)

Looking up part of the Lapworth flight – all calm after the night’s storm

We knew it was going to get really windy in the early hours of Thursday, but we hadn’t realised just how windy.  It was one of the windiest times we have had on the boat – it’s amazing how it can make a heavy steel hulk move so much.  Unlike other strong storms it didn’t last long, and no damage was done; in fact, there were very few trees down in this area according to Tim, a local CRT chap, who I talked to in the morning .  The cover over our bikes had half blown off but everything else was intact.

It was still cold during the day and I went litter picking up the Lapworth flight.  As I said the other day, this is one of the most litter-free areas we know, but I still managed to get a black bin bag full.

There wasn’t much ice on the flight because the recent rainfall has meant there is quite a flow of water which keeps the pounds from freezing.  

I spent a lot of the afternoon gathering more information regarding getting ready to take the boat over to France in a year’s time.  For a place that we tend to consider lax regarding regulations it’s surprising how more stringent they are about having the necessary qualifications to use their waterways.  I suppose more of them are still commercial waterways so it does make sense.

After work, Karen picked up Polly (my youngest) from Leamington station.  Polly had come up for a sleep over and join us on our weekly trip up to Yorkshire.

Polly taking advantage of the following day off work – prosecco in a large white wine glass

We set off early on Friday and had a really good run up the M6.  First we went to the nursing home to show Polly the room that is being prepared for Dad and found out that it will be ready for him next Friday.  After doing a few jobs for my mum we all went to see Dad, who was a lot more lucid and was now moving an arm, so it was good to see him improving.

Dad and Polly having a joke

It was another hassle-free journey back home and we dropped Polly back off at Leam station for her train back to Reading.  

We had a quiet Saturday on the boat as it was sleeting all day and didn’t fancy going for any long walks.  I spent a bit of time working out where we will be cruising over the next few months and realised that we wouldn’t get to Liverpool for the dates we had booked in the basin.  Well, we could make it, but it would mean we would be on a mission and wouldn’t be able to stop off anywhere for too long.

I have now booked to go into Liverpool docks for a week in June thus giving us plenty of time for a leisurely cruise up to Chester first before heading onto pastures new.

Our cruising route over The Pennines to Leeds over the next few months

The next thing is to work out where we will have the modifications done to the boat before we can go to France.  Whilst we are having those done we may as well get it blacked too.  As we are spending September and October holidaying in France and Italy this year that would be an ideal time to get the boat sorted out.  I need to get it booked in soon as boatyards get booked up months and even years in advance.

We’ve woken up to heavy snow this morning, but the forecast is for it to turn milder over the next few days, so the ice will start melting and I’ll probably move on down to Hatton station during the week ready to go down the Hatton flight in a couple of weeks.  We need to get down the Hatton flight by the first weekend in February as the locks are being closed for six weeks for maintenance.  We will then be in Warwick so that Karen can spend her last few weeks of work closer to the office.

Snow just starting to settle this morning - hopefully won't last too long - the water is frozen over but covered in rainwater so it's deceptive

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Lapworth (Planning ahead and beyond)

Monday was a day of showers with the promise of getting colder in the afternoon with frost overnight.  On our morning walk, Buddy and I met Noel out on his daily bike ride around the perimeter of his farm.  Noel and his brother Martin are the surviving members of the Smith family that farmed Turners End Farm at Rowington for over two hundred years.  They are in their late 70s and still live in the farmhouse but let all the land to a local farmer.  I have talked about them before and picked up lots of interesting local history from them.

Every day Martin cycles down Dicks Lane to the canal, up the towpath to Lapworth to buy a paper and then cycles back again.  Noel cycles down Dicks Lane too but at the canal turns left to Lowsonford and then back along a lane to their farmhouse.  I bumped into Noel at Dicks Lane lock so he dismounted and we walked along the towpath to Lowsonford together.  I remarked on his bike and how it reminded me of my first ‘adult’ bike; he told me that their father had bought them one each (us oldies remember Sturmey-Archer gears and dynamos 😉) and they are both still in daily use.

When we walked past the lock cottage that is for sale I mentioned about the drinking water coming from a well and he told me that they too didn’t have running water at their farm until the late 50s and that the well water in the area is very sweet.

Picture taken when they were both working farmers (Martin on the left; Noel on the right) – they wear the same outfits to this day 😊

Tuesday was one of the two days a week that the shop at Finwood Hill Farm at Lowsonford is open, so I took a good circular walk to pick up some eggs on the way.  This was my first visit to this shop and the lady farmer was a good chatterer and when we got onto canals she explained that their farm completely surrounds the lock cottage that is for sale.  She and her husband (and previous owners) have refused to negotiate about granting access to the cottage across their land.  An access drive of over ¾ mile would present all sorts of problems such as maintenance; fencing for livestock; potential for gates to be left open etc. 

I had the car for the day as we were off to play bridge in Stratford for the evening and, as Karen’s office is on the way, it makes sense for me to drop her at work in the morning and pick her up in the evening. This meant I could drive to the coal merchants at Hockley Heath to stock up on coal.  Buddy and I spent some of the afternoon trolleying coal from the car to the boat ¼ mile away down the towpath.

We woke to a light dusting of snow on Wednesday and I decided to go litter picking during the morning.  Even though this is one of the most litter-free stretches of canal we have been on, it’s amazing how much litter lurks at the water’s edge or under the hedges. 

After one hour the bag was getting on the heavy side for me and my back

We are now just over a year away from moving the boat over to France to start cruising the waterways over there.  We’ve done a lot of chatting about it but not really made any plans etc.  So, in the afternoon I started getting some information together such as how to get there, modifications needed to the boat, boat documentation required, exams we need to take such as the French equivalent of helmsman courses and VHF radio operation.  Of course, our friends Mike and Aileen are two years ahead of us so are full of information and experiences and are more than willing to help us on our way.  It has started to feel more real now that we are putting pen to paper and planning things out.

We’re going to have a busy 2018 before we go though.  When Karen got her contract, nearly two years ago, we were just about to get to Chester.  Unfortunately, we had to turn round and head back down to the Midlands so that Karen could start her job.  As soon as we set off again, in a couple of months or so, we will head straight for Chester and then to Liverpool where we have booked into the docks for a week in May.  We will then set off on the length of the Leeds & Liverpool canal.  Our previous boat was too long for the locks on that canal, so it’ll be good to finally cruise through my parent’s village, Gargrave, which is at the northern most point of the canal.  We plan to spend a couple of months in the Yorkshire Dales as we go through.

After the summer we will find a mooring for the boat as we are going to Italy for a month (with Buddy of course) taking a further two weeks to get down and another two weeks to get back.  Where we go after that depends on where we decide to have the boat craned out onto the lorry to take us to France.

Exciting times ahead 😊

Monday, 15 January 2018

Lapworth (cruising in reverse all day)

As I said in yesterday’s blog, we wanted a relaxing and quiet Sunday, and so we did.  We spent most of the morning on the boat and then went to get water before lunch.  The water point is only a couple of hundred yards away from where we are moored so you would think it would be a simple operation to cruise up there, take on water and come back again.

There is a lock between us and the water point and we had to negotiate that first.  Not normally an issue but, as we were facing the wrong way we had to reverse into the lock.  Again, this would not normally be an issue, other than narrowboats are not built for reversing.  Unless you have a bow thruster (or lady button as they are often called), it is very difficult to keep the boat in a straight line.  Bow thrusters are little motors at the front of the boat that enable the driver to move the bows left or right as required - useful when reversing but you do see people using them when they are casting off which can cause bank erosion where banks aren't protected by steel piling, concrete or other similar material. 

Even having done the operation many times here, I still don’t like doing it as the lock has a strong overspill weir which creates a strong cross current which sends the boat all over the place.  When going forwards you can adjust for the cross current by steering into it and turning away from it at the last moment but obviously not so easy in reverse when you have no control.  There was no one around which meant I got into the lock without any problems – I didn’t even hit the sides.  Of course, if there had been gongoozlers or other boats around I would have completely cocked it up 😊

Having gone through the lock I carried on reversing across the basin, span the boat round and moored up at the water point.  I turned the boat round as I had decided to go back to the same mooring after taking on water but wanted to be facing the other way.  We will be setting of for the Grand Union next weekend so it’ll be easier to set off facing the right way!  This did mean I would have to reverse back down the lock again etc.

I have only seen one boat come past us in the whole week we have been here, but, like buses, as soon as I moored up, two more appeared and then a fourth – all wanting the service point.

Moored at the water point – one boat in front of us – one waiting in the lock (having lunch!) and another to the right, out of sight of the camera

The other three boats were all people who have permanent moorings in the area and had all decided to get water or have a pump out on the same day.  Unfortunately, as they are all moored in different locations they didn’t coordinate their trips!  With the notoriously low pressure at the water point it took well over an hour to fill the boat and it was practically dark by the time the other boats had finished.  It seemed like it had taken all day to get water by the time we had moored back up again.

Even though we are having a lot of grey weather, Karen and I have both thought spring has come early on some mornings.  Laying in bed we have heard birds calling as if it’s March already – I’m not very good on birdsong but it sounds like the robins and great tits are at it already.

We have also enjoyed just sitting looking out of the window at the mallards playing outside the boat.  We know it’s the courtship ritual but some of the displays are just like they’re playing, especially when several of the males are performing the same dance simultaneously.  Our resident waterfowl pick their mates in the winter months so it’s not really a sign of spring but a sign of spring to come 😉

The other sign of spring is that a lot of our spring flower bulbs in the pots on the roof are shooting – crocuses, daffodils, tulips etc.

Before it got dark we went for a walk down to Lowsonford to have a nose around the lock cottage that’s for sale.  It really is a shame about the M40 – it really is rather noisy in the garden, so not the tranquil and remote spot it would be if the motorway wasn’t there.  As I said yesterday, it’s a mile from the nearest road – such an ideal location

Moored at the same spot but now facing the other way