Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Sunny Sunday

A good early start leaving Wightwick, on Sunday and we were out into open farmland very quickly, in and out of trees with views across, all lovely.

The first one of these misty dawns so far this year. 

A lost opportunity, we used to have zillions of these churns now going for £50....

A place of interest was Bratch Locks, a series of three staircase locks.  We are pretty used to these as we regularly go up and down Watford and Foxton Locks.  I knew there was going to be a lock Keeper but I was surprised to find a "Proper" one, a seasonal but employed one.
There were instructions written up on a board which I read, walked away from and then went back and read them again....
The Lockie had seen us coming, set the critical bits and welcomed us in and then explained it.  Its the same but different to Foxton and Watford.  you fill the top one to go into, then go down to the middle one of the three, open those paddles so that the water from the top lock goes into the middle lock, got that.  Then you have to go ahead to empty the third one, so that when you open the paddles of the middle one you don't swamp the pavements, the bridge and the towpath below.

All nicely kept as is usually the case when there is a lock keeper.

Toll Booth

Middle of three then there was a big panic as this was the only rubbish point around.

I am really liking the names in these parts

How great to have this on your address.

I was so pleased to say hello the crew of NB Etoile du Nord, who are the first people that have said to me "I read your blog!", I am just so sorry that I forgot to ask your names, but I do hope to meet up again maybe nearer to your home!

NB Etoile du Nord

Pretty lovely pinks developing for autumn

See how lovely South Staffordshire is?

On round this hill then down into Swindon. 

Lunch was a roast that we had at Swindon, in The Green Man.  Home cooked food, very cheap nice beer and sunshine, what could be better?  We spent the rest of this sunny Sunday reading on chairs and dare I confess to nodding off!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A Grand Day Out

I was thrilled and excited today as David had said that they was somewhere here I might like to visit.  He had seen in the Nicholson that not only had Wightwick Manor got a good collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, drawings and sketches.  Ceramics and original rugs but it was open today! Hurrah.  The Pre-Raphaelites are my fav.
It's a NT property (You will remember that we have let our membership lapse two months ago) but its only open two  days a week.  How lucky is that?
Not open until 12pm, so we went off together on bikes to look at the countryside hereabouts.  
Back at the Manor and up the sweeping path to suddenly view the property

Not nearly as old as it might appear.

Well a fabulous place and I would urge all Staffs to Worcester Canal boaters to time their stop here to be on either a Saturday or a Thursday.  Gardens were lovely too if you hate arty farty stuff.

Someone in charge of the gardens had been very clever producing these


Not an easy feat in September to look as good as they did. (Although one Christmas Day Nanny brought me in a rose from our garden).

This is the front door

It was such a warm day that we found a sunny spot and just sat awhile.

The house and NT are very behind the times of course and don't allow photography so I only got this shot before being told off.

It is painted glass in the drawing room one of many.

Sign that autumn is racing around the corner.

This was a whopper although David is small.
We were amongst the last to leave, and as we walked out of the grounds, we had to vault the gates as they had been closed much earlier.  Viking Princesses have no problem with gate vaulting.

Supper was a shared baked camembert with roasted beetroots, crisps, salad and chutney.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Unexpected beauty

I had one of those nice mornings today.  The type when David gets up early and then disappears for a good stretch, leaving me to read snug as a bug in my big warm bed.  He had gone off to do his fav chores newspaper and grocery buying, moving the car onwards and then returning, he had hoped that I would be up and dressed and I almost was too. 
No locks to do for a long stretch as we had reached the top pound yesterday afternoon at Gailey.  

I made tonights dinner, to let it sit and infuse all day.  Then I treated David to a batch of his fav flapjack, this is with apricots, walnuts, raisins cherries, citrus peel and a handful of broken up digestives.  This is another non Weight Watchers recipe Tim.

On a fair bit and I returned to the Bridge with Captain, (He gets lonely if left too long), David had been to three shops in Penkridge to get croissants but only one was available so we shared it with coffee and the last of the hand made Raspberry jam brought from the church in Stoke Golding and it was Fab. 

Soon we reached here.  Half way through a boat appeared but the Hirers skilfully nipped into a wee passing place and I am glad they did as we would not have fitted.  While they were there a crew member was picking Blackberries!

Some of it here cut into the rock.

Looks wide, but it wasn't.

This pretty thing landed and was polite enough to keep still while I took a photo of it.  Anyone know what it is?

This little bit reminded me of photos of The Canal du Midi, not that I have been there but our Friendly Boat Sharers have, not in WaL but on bikes. 

So keeping going and there was our junction to The Shropshire Union, but we had changed our minds carried on going.  This canal is just so very pretty. 

We have a family member who is an ex-pat from this part of the world, I text him (JOKINGLY) to say we were approaching the outskirts of Wolverhampton and should we be concerned...
He replied thus, that we should make ourselves as large as possible, make no sudden movements and distract any attack by launching pies at them.  
But Reader I have to say, in The Black Country the fishermen are from some sort of Happy Planet.  They smile, send friendly greetings and answer when asked if they have caught anything. Remarkable! 
The walkers are so friendly too, far more so than in other places.  The accent takes some listening too but what a great place. A Kingfisher flew past and buzzards calling above, hard to believe we are so near to a city.
Family member will get a thump.

Grade 2 Listed I think it said

Pretty sure not Listed 

Lookey lookey this remind me of the K&A for clear water

We did three locks, nice big deep ones with cute little bridges 

We moored up at Wightwick (This clearly should be pronounced White Wick but no its called Weetook).  David had spotted a place to visit for me tomorrow.
Supper was Lamb Goan Xacuti with coconut.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Late start for once.

Now this was a first was us, moored up south of Penkridge on armco, but what we really noticed was how much the pound went down with the lock being operated, we were on a tiny ledge too and although we knew this when we moored up, we figured that as the evening wore on and the locks went to to bed for the night all would be well.  Luckily, the blood was running to our feet not heads, however the boat remained going up and down like, as my mother always says 
"A whore's drawers".
Oddly in the very early morning (David had gone to fetch the paper) as some early bird came down the lock towards the boat, it righted itself and I felt as if we were falling off a cliff the other way.  So much so I kept out of bed, that tells you how it 
un-nervered me. 
So later after breakfast, then coffee and finally paper reading we departed.

Penkridge Lock with the tunnel for the horses.
Reader picture this, sun shining, shorts on him, skirt on me,  I had started out with a thin fleece on but that was quickly whipped off and the canal although we met boats coming towards us at most locks, seemed very quiet.  Fab or what?
 We met a lady at one of the eight locks who said something like they are widening the motorway almost into the cut, I didn't really believe her.  Then I took this;

That is motorway traffic too.

It was a lovely run all the way to the middle of nowhere, the sort of place we like.

Someone must have got the maths wrong here as the bridge would take yer head off if you don't come up the steps on all fours.

Gailey Lock with its round tower like building.

Just think all all the boaters who put their foot here to do this short beamed lock at Gailey to heave

Now then sooooo much has been written in the boating press and sworn at in the boating pubs about passing boats racing past moored boats creating wash but Hells Bells and Buckets of Blood, we had four go past us in quick succession this evening at supper time, the wash was so great, greater than I have experienced before including on the Thames last year at Windsor when it felt like we were on the ocean,  I nearly lost my plate too!!!  
I grabbed my camera and took this photo of the offenders to name and shame them, and they were laughing....

There were for of them and one was called Hugo, if you see them drop your anchor!
Now on a separate matter, a request has flooded in for the recipe for White Chocolate and Ginger Crunch.  Now I first had this at Annie's Tearooms in Thrupp and I have to say her version was better than mine so go eat hers if you are there. 
1 pack of Tesco Oatie Crunch biscuits CRUSHED. Or digestives or whatever you have in the cupboard.
Half a pack of butter melted
Half a tin of condensed milk (Diet is available to save the day)
1 packet of Whitworth Crystallised Ginger pieces.
High quality pack of white cooking chocolate

Into melted butter stir in the condensed milk.
Into a bowl put the  crushed biscuits.
Into the bowl add the ginger pieces. Stir.
Add melted butter & condensed milk mix.
Whack into either a flat oven dish or as I used a 2lb loaf tin and pat it down as neatly and as flatly as you can. Bung in the fridge.
The next day melt the chocolate in a basin in a saucepan over a LOW HEAT.
Cover the turned out Crunch Cake and keep in the fridge.
Lastly take strenuous exercise for an extended period before and after a small slice.

Picture here I hope at the foot of the page

John Lewis and Vikings

So here we are again, packed ready to return to WaL.  I had very much enjoyed the long weekend at home, when David had mentioned to a chap at a lock that we were going home for a long weekend the man laughed and said most people have a long weekend on their boats.
David got up early to empty the fridges and wash out the fridges (Reader there are two people living at our house and we have three fridges) he made divine egg sandwiches, loaded the car and brought me tea in bed.  I followed the rules that all guests have to adhere to that is to shower and wash their hair prior to arriving on to the boat.
In the car and driving off only 25 mins after David had said was the very latest time permissible.....
A pretty good journey really, I always drive Reader, I scream a fair bit when David drives so it was felt better to preserve life if I drive.  Not only preventing my own murder but avoiding motorway pile ups too.  
As it was driving it seemed a great idea to pop into here as we passed by....

Always a pleasure in here.

We found the boat without too much trouble which is always a bonus.  David departed almost at once to remove the car to a more safer location, I had unloaded just over the brow of a humped back bridge, nicely where the road narrows.
So I made tea and picked blackberries till he arrived back.  Then at just after 1pm we moved off.  We did three locks and took a couple of hours to do so.  At Park Gate Bridge where there is a branch of 'Midland Swindlers' there were two elderly gentlemen sat on a bench watching as I jumped off WaL, as I passed them and greeted them, one said  "You looked like a Viking princess leaping off then"  David has been calling me that ever since but I like the Viking bit best, it does have a ring to it don't you think?

  It was lovely cruising  the sun was mostly shining, the birds were singing and I had been promised supper in the town I love Penkridge.  
Now unbelievably I have read on blogs that there are people in this world who do not see Penkridge's qualities.  Last autumn we spent a couple of days here and I loved it.  I adore the fact that at the bakers in the village centre on a Saturday morning there was a queue of people out of the door and down the street.  I love the fact that in my efforts to have my boat hair dealt with three out of the four hairdressers on the High St were fully booked.  These are reasons alone to retire to here.
But tonight David had offered me supper at The Littleton Arms, a coaching in built in 1793 on the main artery route between London and the north.  When we were here last year we ate at The Star pub, which was rammed full with drinkers, but I was looking forward to tonight.
A good menu but we decided to have Steaks as it was two and a bottle of wine on the offer on a Wednesday eve. David asked the waitress if there was a choice of wine and she said "Yes, red or white!" 
The meal was Fab, not cheap but Fab.
Unusually for me I couldn't tackle a dessert and  we brought the remainder of the wine home too.  A lovely Australian Merlot.
Two hours cruising and not making supper was exhausting and we had an early night.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Bank Holiday Blues

The bank holiday dawned wet, widely predicted and this time accurately.  

Tea wallah appeared as did Kirsty into my bed.  There we remained for the next three hours, reading great books.  Me on book three of the Poldarks by Winston Graham.  Lady Readers did you know that the series starring the LOVELY Robin Ellis of the 1970's in being remade?  So I am reading the books in advance.  (Our youngest daughter was named after one of the characters). 

Us, snuggling.

So in bed we stayed till about 11:30am, then we both did get up, dressed and relocated to the cratch to carry on reading.  
Lunch was served, eventually, and then the saddest thing, taking beloved back to the train station.  After the debacle of my sister's journey home 
(6.5 hours instead of 2.5 hours by train) as the engineering works are still ongoing we drove her to the east line instead of the west line, the west line here is about 7 mins away and she could have run it!!  We drove her to Loughborough 90 mins away.  It always seems so mad to get into a car and do 70mph after wafting down canals.  
Big hugs and she was gone. 
Home again but via Lidl to get this

Best chocolate I have found outside Belgium.

The next day we set off, and went about half a mile.  David fetched the car, quick lunch, throw the dirty washing into bags, load up ourselves like donkeys to get to the car and away home.  Time to check up on house, garden and the other children. 
It was my mothers birthday too, this is the cake I made her.

David walked in at that moment, walked over as I scooped it all up with a fish slice and said "Tastes delicious".

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Hide & seek plus waffle dust.

Well I was right about breakfast.  Only tea was drunk this morning. 
Over supper last night that nice John offered to come around to ours and check just how much antifreeze is in our radiators.  Answer; None.
John has this wee fancy machine that tells you antifreeze levels plus the time in Japan and if its raining in Denmark at any given time.  
"I can do it for you in two minutes", such a kind offer.  Now Reader as you know we are Dumb and Dumber so any offer is treated with thanks and we "Look and Learn" (Reader if you remember that publication then you are older than you think!!!!).
Here he was bright and early as they wanted to make a prompt getaway to go way way norff.  Well the engine was thoroughly examined and the bit that was needed (A header tank) was not found,  we looked everywhere, I joined in this good game, I wasn't much good, well its hard searching for something when you don't know what it looks like, how big it is, what colour it is or if you've found it or not...
We called NB Riverside Escapes, another Fernwood boat built alongside ours, the answer is, wait for it, we haven't got one.  John was in a state of disbelief as evidently every boat has one except us.  So after the game had lasted well over an hour NB Bluemoon departed.  Thank you for your efforts and sorry we made you so late.

Louise with cute Jasper

John moving finally off on their new boat.
Well as they moved off suddenly other boats did too, so we joined them, well when I had found my shoes.  The lock here was a small bottleneck, it was one boat up and one down moving pretty steadily.  Here is David holding the middle rope 

See the coffee?

Not sure about ropes actually, looks like waffle dust is holding it
David finally doing something

He wants me to learn this, can you imagine the tongue pie?

Now it was fun and games at the water point, two taps here.  Two smaller boats moored on them, marvellous, with two more either side filling up, we hovered mid stream out of the way, well as much as a full sized boat can be out of the way.  Some folk were using the boat yard hose (and boat yard water) and offered to to us as they were moving off.  I jumped off when I could and went to ask in the yard for a pump out and may we please use their water too.  Charming people here, yes they said, park anywhere you want. So we did just that, rubbish out water up and then a sprint to the Fantastic Farm Shop too, (I asked if we could) before we abandoned WaL on their jetty, Yes he said, don't you just love it when men say yes? I do.
Now while all this fannying around was going on daughter ran off.  She wanted to do another eight miles, so I said I would text her in 30 minutes to tell her how far we had gone.
Then as we were preparing to move away there was this whooshing noise loud enough for us both to turn around and stare as a boat was going 'Hell for leather' towards the bridge and the junction.  Reader perhaps you haven't been here but like others its a blind junction that usually when you are approaching one you do so at a snails pace or even like us send a runner up ahead onto the bridge to check boats on the canal you are entering, bit like the Highway Code but oh no this one was charging through, at the last minute they beeped the horn and guess who it was.....? Yes well done, it was indeed Twitty Woman Lock Supremo from yesterday, if I hadn't seen it I would have not believed it..

So here are two boat crossing each other and twitty woman at the helm had shot out between them without slowing down at all.  Brave daft or a menace...?
Well here is David's efforts, we were just relieved that that boat had gone he other way.

So he has already turned 90 degrees

So me on the bridge was sprinting to catch up with him now.

By now it was 30 minutes on for the running daughter so I text her to say we were now in the exact same place, she seemed alright with this and we caught up with her on a bit and she was pleased with her run.  Actually she had run to where we were planning to moor tonight and back again.
I am loving this as long as I don't have to revarnish it.

This Gatehouse is rented out to holidaymakers.
Tixall Wide was pretty empty today, early folk polishing and one repainting their boats here already.
Ah there she is consulting her trainer.

This is not a boat parked in front of a hedge.  On the roof is the hedge.  The driver seemed affronted when D enquired if he could see.

So we found a nice country mooring, David went off to fetch as we would be needing it tomorrow already.