Thursday, 30 June 2016

Bascote (wasp nests and orchids)



Pyramidal orchid at Stockton Cuttings on Thursday



We have to be a bit careful when letting Buddy out at the moment as we never know when our neighbours', Blair and Liz, chickens are on the towpath.  He is very good and comes when called but I wouldn’t trust him on his own with them (Buddy that is, not our current neighbour).

The cock with one of the hens on Tuesday morning outside our boat


We are having our house in Kent re-tiled over the next few weeks; perfect timing for our tenants so it’s done before the school holidays and definitely before winter.  Mind you, the rain we’ve had over the last few days has made it feel like it is winter.

Just started removing the old Kent peg tiles from one roof


We get at least one wasp nest a year in the roof so knew the roofers would find the evidence.  At least the wasps have all been exterminated and hopefully having a new roof including felting etc. will mean fewer chances of wasps in the future.  It should definitely mean no more damp patches inside 

One of the wasp nests John’s team has found so far


Tuesday and Wednesday were so wet that I had to wear wet weather gear when Buddy and I went for our morning bike ride and our afternoon walk.  It did mean that very few boats were on the move but that also meant that it was extremely busy on Thursday.

We cycled up to Stockton Cuttings on Thursday morning and on the way bumped into Rob Pearson, a boater friend on his boat Hekla.  His wife, Lesley, is an artist and they live on their boat visiting festivals around the country as they operate it as a pop-up art gallery. They were moored just round the corner but were heading off during the day.

When we got to the cuttings the summer orchids were in full bloom – a Pyramidal orchid is at the top of the page.

A forest of Common Spotted orchids


Close up of a Common Spotted orchid

There were plenty of butterflies around too and I saw my first Marbled Whites of the year.  Not easy to get a picture of them and the photographs never do their dark cream colours any justice as they always look dull white.  Despite their name they are actually members of the Brown family of which there are ten other species in the UK.  Three of them, the Scotch Argus, the Large Heath and the Small Mountain Ringlet, can only be found in the Lake District and Scotland and I have yet to see any of them (the Large Heath can also be found in Wales). The other eight species are relatively common and I tend to see all of them every year.

Marbled White


Ringlet – another member of the Brown family and very common and widespread at this time of year



I also saw some Common Blues – some were freshly emerged and a couple were really tatty that had obviously been around a few weeks now.

Male Common Blue


Tatty female Common Blue


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Bascote (shell arrives in Northwich)



We spent the weekend in North Wales with most of our children at Dominic and Becky’s wedding.  We all drove up from different parts of the country on Friday night – poor Sophie, Polly and Isaac didn’t arrive until gone four in the morning as Sophie had been in Italy for the week and didn’t get back to London until late evening on Friday.  It was a beautiful wedding and it was great to catch up with friends we hadn’t seen for ages.

When we got home on Sunday evening it was pleasing to see that the Sweet Peas had starting flowering.

Must remember to keep picking the flowers as Karen says it encourages them to grow more
On Monday our two weeks were up at Welsh Road lock so Buddy and I had to move on.  It was a pleasant change to get back on the water.

Our first cruise for two weeks


Another single-hander came up the four Bascote locks with us but I forgot that two of the locks on the (short) flight have ladders rather than steps on the right hand side.  Yes, I was on the right hand side and had to leave Buddy on the boat as I couldn’t risk him climbing a steep iron ladder.

The only way up for me and Buddy is up the ladder so I left him on the boat at the first lock


He was quite unperturbed about being on his own.  Here he is leaving the lock once it was open.


The original single lock at the second lock was still in good repair.   Stanking planks are in place near the bottom end so that the lock can be used as an overspill weir,

The recesses either side were where the bottom gates used to rest when they were opened


A bird nest can be seen where one of the bottom gates used to turn

The final two locks were a staircase and there were a couple of boats waiting to come down so we could just leave without having to bother closing the gates.

Lady getting ready to close the gates once the two waiting boats had got into the lock


The guy we locked up with spends a lot of his time delivering and moving boats around the system and was near the end of his current journey moving a boat from Droitwich to Buckby.  He was also a boat engineer so used the boat delivery function as a way of supplementing his income.

When we arrived at Bascote we topped up with water.

Buddy adopting his usual water point guard. Our friend, Ness, lives on one of the boats in the background which are on permanent moorings


We moored up next to Blair and Lizzie.  We have seen them around over the years around here but have never met.  They have converted their narrowboat by widening it so are limited to staying in the southern half of the country.  Only 7’ wide boats can get onto the northern part of the system.

Our new neighbours complete with chicken coop



They let their chickens roam the towpath when they are moored in country spots but fortunately Buddy was very good and left them alone.  I have trained him to leave wildfowl alone when they refuse to get off the towpath so that has paid dividends as far as the chickens were concerned.

Buddy seems quite happy with his new mooring


We had had some good news on Thursday – the shell of our new boat has finally been delivered to the boat fitters at Northwich so hopefully we only have three months to wait until we can move into our new home.  

This is part of our family at the wedding.

From left: Joanna, Karen, Steven, Catherine, Isaac (Polly's boyfriend), Sophie, Laure, Polly, me - I had changed into my dancing shoes



Thursday, 23 June 2016

Welsh Road (will have to move on in a few days)



Monday was so wet that I stayed in most of the day and cooked a couple of curries for the evening.  I always find that making curry pastes from first principles takes forever and that the amount of paste created seems out of proportion to the time it takes to make it.  Anyway it’s always worth it as we invariably have a couple of portions of curry left for the freezer and that’s after making biryani with the leftovers  which we had for dinner on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tuesday was a little brighter so Buddy and I walked to Long Itchington to get some supplies.  Just outside the village, preparations were underway for what I assume is a local show. 

There were three tractors at work whilst the marquee was going up


It seemed odd that the marquee was up but there were still tractors in the field baling up the cut grass for haylage.  It wasn’t for hay as the cut grass needs to be tedded up and allowed to dry out in the sun for a few days before baling.  When I used to work on farms (40+ years ago!) the cut grass was collected into high trailers which were taken back to the farm yard when full.  The grass was then tipped out into a huge pile and formed into a clamp (like a wedge of Wensleydale cheese).  The clamp of grass then decomposed into lovely sweet smelling brown silage to feed the cattle in the winter.  I think that when it is baled (as seems to be the case nowadays), before the grass dries out to become hay, it is called haylage which I know is often fed to horses.

Looking around the village I came across a ghost sign that I hadn’t seen before.  In a way I regret not having taken pictures of the ghost signs and adverts we have come across on our travels around the country as they can only decline in numbers as development continues apace.

I wonder if plumbing and glazing stayed in the family


On our way back from our walk I was pleased to find my first Ringlet butterfly of the year.  During July there are usually many Ringlets around but there is always the excitement of seeing the first ones as they indicate, to me, that summer is with us.

Today is polling day in the EU referendum and my sister Judith has voted for us by proxy.  I’ll be glad to see the back of the debates which appear on all forms of media including social media.  Talking of social media I have mentioned before that there are many FaceBook groups for narrowboaters and I have probably mentioned that nearly all of them have their fair share of moaners.  What I find sad is that it’s always the same old gripes:

  • ·         People going too fast
  • ·         Shiny boaters constantly polishing their brassware
  • ·         Hire boaters not being trained properly
  • ·         Boaters overstaying on moorings
  • ·         People mooring up at lock landings and water points
  • ·         Etc. etc.

I don’t mean to put a down on the boating community because boaters tend to be a really friendly and helpful bunch.  It’s just like any community there’s always someone who wants to have a moan.

The point of this verbiage about FaceBook  is that I have recently joined a new group that is aimed at cooking on narrowboats.  It is a really friendly group and I have yet to see anyone putting anyone else down or moaning about non cooking issues.  It really is amazing what some boaters manage to prepare and cook on their boats.

On Thursday our walk took us along yet another unclassified/unmade road to Snowford (one of my favourite pastimes).

Buddy in front as is his wont when going somewhere new

After Snowford we joined a normal country road that led to Long Itchington.  Again, I was reminded of how quiet Warwickshire is and why we like it so much. 

We walked two miles along this road and only one car passed us and that was a farm vehicle


The nearest field is wheat and is still very green.  The next field up is barley and is beginning to turn yellow.  The farmhouse at the top of the hill is massive for a modern house – amazing how people get to build these places nowadays.


All our daughters and one son are staying with us in a cottage on a farm in Anglesey this weekend.  My best friend's son is getting married to a lovely Welsh girl and we have all been invited.  Even Buddy is coming as the farmers will look after him whilst we are at the wedding.  

When we get back on Sunday it'll be time to move the boat as we will have been here for two weeks - how time flies!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Welsh Road (weekend away from the boat)



There was a brief respite from the rain on Friday so Buddy and I went for a bike ride.  There were very few butterflies around but I did manage to find a male Large Skipper that had freshly emerged.
 
Face on, the Large Skipper doesn’t look too much like a butterfly

Large Skippers are only  just over an inch across and can easily be mistaken for moths when in flight


I mentioned before about the lack of kingfisher sightings in this area recently.  Our birder friend, John on his boat Nuthatch, reminded me that the females will be sitting on nests at the moment so won’t be flying.  Obvious if I had thought about it.  Talking about birds, a pair of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers  keep landing on a fence opposite us but I’ve yet to get a decent picture.

Catherine came to stay over on Friday evening and on Saturday morning we set off to Steve and Amanda’s house in West Sussex for what is called the annual FAM-Fest.  We get as many of the children together as possible for the weekend and Steve and Amanda play perfect hosts.
On the way down we stopped off to see Karen’s mum, Ann.  We use Ann’s address as our residential address so had lots of mail to pick up.  

We had hoped that the internal fit out would have started on our new boat last week but the shell is still stuck at Aintree Boats in Liverpool.  The hydraulic stacker that lifts boats onto transporter lorries is still out of action so more delay is occurring before the shell will arrive at the boat yard where it will be fitted out.  We are now looking towards the end of September for final delivery assuming things get moving this week.

Four boats had moored behind us when we got home on Sunday evening.  Normally any boats who moor here overnight are on their way again early in the morning.  But sitting here at the laptop this morning all I can here is constant heavy rain so I’ll  be surprised if any of our new neighbours will be in a hurry to move on any time soon.