Wednesday 30 April 2014

Hurrah for Specials

Cloudy and showery today but there was a Farmers Market here today, so we went.  Very nice what was there but there were only five stalls.  We brought from three of them as we support our industry where we can.  Bread, cheese and veg all good stuff.  We walked on towards the Tesco, where currently there are good savings to be had on wine…. err we made two trips to fill the cellar.
Hungerford has some pretty impressive period houses all along the High St.  But sad to say I think it has had a slightly more prosperous past than present.  It was on two important routes, London to Bath and Oxford to Salisbury, the resulting in trade and wealth for some folk and some great buildings.

A Hungerford road

Medieval timber framed house on the canal side

I think this house is older than it might appear form the front, as I came past on the canal it was wooden framed but the facade could be Georgian.  It has two doors, I reckon the original is at ground level where the road once was prior to the canal being built, then with the canal and subsequent bridge over the canal the other was installed later.  Interestingly it has two large bays added onto each side. 

David looking at the upper front door.
Added Regency bow on the side of the house.
Full frontal.
Narrow approach to Hungerford
Largest turning place so far just before Hungerford
David returned to the pub again in the afternoon after a nice lunch of asparagus with fresh bread,  but this time to see a ghastly football match, Overpaid Obnoxious versus Overacting Chavs. I stayed at home alone, enjoying my choice of music, my choice of film “Genevieve” and drank champagne,  handily on special at Tesco!!  Hurrah again. 
Supper was Italian eggs and sausages with leeks.  

PS Reader you won’t believe this but I am convinced Lord Grantham (aka actor Hugh Bonneville) walked past in the early evening. He and his wife were wearing those really expensive boots which caught my eye first.  They had a whole bunch of little yappy dogs with them, I am so sure it was him, as the lady with him looked just like his wife in photos, but if it wasn’t them it must have been his twin brother.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Earwigging and the dropping of pennies.

The day dawned bright and we set off at the crack of 9:30, David reversed to the water point and we started to top up. 
I noticed that the wee Day Boat was on the towpath side today, whereas it had been moored for the two days on the other side, so I was pleased that had been booked for the day.  A man came through the gate talking to a large group and carrying one of their heavy bags for them, yes he was heading for the day boat.  Then to my amazement, (now I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was),  it was a group of Nuns in their Habits taking the boat.  I heard the man say I will take you down through the lock and then we’ll come back up… So off they set, me looking on, earwigging, they paid close attention to the instructions and worked in pairs.  I guess nuns do this obeying thing well whereas I really struggle with it.

Two nuns receiving instruction
Working well in pairs.
Our mooring, overflow car park for train station.
Cheery chappie
Water done, off we set, leaving Kintbury behind.  Some imposing houses as we left, nice open countryside with only three locks to do today, I was really looking forward to only having three locks to do.  

Nice big properties outside Kintbury.
It was showery, I had the waterproof hat on, but it too does give Horrid Hat Hair, but a stylish photo taken by deputy photographer. His skills are coming along nicely.

Me in his hat.

I was aggravated by the owners of Dun Mill, they have acres and acres of land but have decided not to give boaters access to their side of the bridge here at the lock, about 10ft is all that is needed right down by their gate, not much to ask.  As it is they are  forcing old women (ME) to walk the gangplank on the lock crossings.  I hate these huge locks and dream most nights of falling in.  
But from here to Hungerford it was most attractive, one of the biggest turning places I have ever seen, quickly followed by a really narrow small section of canal.  Under the nice bridge and what did we find but the perfect sized mooring spot for WaL. Result. 

Lovely mooring in Hungerford.
Later the Nuns arrived, smiling faces, penny dropped.  A Hen Do!  

Nuns arriving all smiling.
David and I found a pub with SKY and managed to persuade the landlord that as the Man U match was starting later it might be an idea to have the rugby on Heineken Cup semi final and what a match it was. Hurrah.
It was sunny and warm and I like it here. 

Lamb Goan Xacuti curry with coconut and coconut yoghurt with Galaxy crunch for dessert.  I wonder where those nun are now.....?

Sunday 27 April 2014

Hares and Tortoises

David wanted to make a bolt today for Hungerford.  The forecast had said rain by 11am and set in for the day.  He scooted off to buy his newspaper whilst I dozed and thought about moving off.  It was only a two hour trip today, so he wanted to be gone by 9am, quite reasonably.

David arrived back with the paper, cursing under his breath about the earliness of the rain and the inaccurate weather forecast.  It was bucketing down at 8am, it threw all his plans out of the window.   I relaxed back in bed, retrieved my reading glasses and rejoiced in the advantages of 3G in the bedroom.  (Non boaty friends this is very unusual) and read on my kindle. David called out from the kitchen he would make breakfast and reassess the situation then.  Marvellous, breakfast in bed, there is not nearly enough of that when one is married to an insomniac. 

Later I was debating on what to wear that day, comfy cords or plastic trousers.  “We are not going anywhere for a couple of hours at least” says Captain, so comfy cords it was.  Looking out of the window it was raining so hard the like of which we hardly ever see on the south coast, it continued for 11 hours, I kid ye not. Domestic chores soon loose their thrill when enforced but I did the floor and the bathroom…. To make it slightly worse it was a skinny day or I would have just got totally pissed. 

David made broccoli soup for lunch and in the afternoon we watched a Christmas present from our youngest daughter Verity, it was Smiley’s People, the 1982 version with Alec Guinness, I have to say it hadn’t lost any of its appeal, the acting was superb.

David has worked out some mileage figures. The Lewis’s had done in their four full days, 63 miles and 33 locks and we have done 9 miles and 13 locks in exactly the same, four days.  The hare and the tortoise comes to mind… Needless to say we didn’t go anywhere, it stopped raining finally at 7pm, we had overstayed by a few hours here (sorry) but not nearly as much as the boat behind said to have been there 2 1/2 weeks, its a 48 hour mooring here.Clearly no one checks around here. 

Well supper was good, Salmon curry with pak choi and green beans.

Didn't see any boats let alone horse boats.
Handy trains 20ft from the mooring.
Constant Chinooks going over adds to the peace.

Saw this and thought of you both Mike and Gerry!!

Saturday 26 April 2014

Two Earls for tea.

I fancied a day off after the previous one, and I hardly had to threaten much at all too.  Bikes out, helmets on, picnic packed, extra clothing packed (Daft move that was) and away we went southwards with a large map of course.  

Now the route was tricky,  even for owners of Sat Nav’s as the website had particularly said to switch them off as you approach the place.

David says he is only semi retired.  This is him on a business call
The route was flexible as from here to there, there is a spaghetti of country lanes to cycle through.  Constant stops to check the map, David is very good at navigation by the sun and that may have proved crucial as they haven’t modernised the road signs since the threat of Nazi invasion, coupled with modern village life i.e. no people to be found anywhere at all.
Now I have to say, I had been ever so slightly put off by the general tone of the website, the place has restricted visiting days a month, tickets are sold over the website, non refundable and non changeable full stop, but it was open today so we went for it.  

Each day at 10:30am and 2:30pm there are a limited number of tickets available on the main gate on a first come first served basis.  I had called the office to see if they might just hold two tickets back for us. (I am fairly good at grovelling generally), the day was sold out already indeed the whole week was sold out, it was a “No way José”,  so our aim was to arrive at the main ticket office at 2:00pm, so with time against us we peddled off.  

Kintbury is on the side of a hill, and David showed off straight away getting up with stopping.  I think I got one up on him as I got smiley cheery Hello’s from some builders, no woof whistles though, hats and dark glasses do hide a lot, hahaha.

We cycled down lanes that had grass growing in the middle at one point, one of those mini deer the size of a labrador crossed in front of us and I heard the first Cuckoo of the year.  I must inform The Times.

This was by far the loveliest cottage of the day and there were many to been seen;

This was the most ghastly, I so pity the owners of an imposing Victorian house on the other side of the hill as this monster is their only view,  it was empty, I would be tempted to demolish in their absence.

A house only Kevin McCloud could love.
I saw a postman in a van delivering parcels so I asked him the way (Usually an excellent source of directions) he confessed that if it wasn’t on his round he didn’t know it. The next chap in a van, took the map from David, turned it almost upside down, scratched his head and said down there… I wasn’t convinced.  
We made a second call to the office, I suddenly had this dreadful thought that the main gate ticket office might be on the east side of the estate and not on the westerly side of the estate, where we were…  The nice lady seemed totally askance that we were on bikes, but she directed us into the back entrance, when we got there, one large sign saying NO CYCLING ON ANY ESTATE ROADS, how unwelcoming is that? A tiny bit more off put was I.  Hmmmmmm now what? Obey the rules and do another three miles around the estate to the main gate or say bugger this and go in….? In we went.  Eventually arriving at the main gate, the steward strode to meet us at the car park saying “You do know there’s no cycling on any part of the estate?” I doubled my out of breath puffing, David told him how exhausted his wife was… when he heard how far we’d come he was most sympathetic.  

We brought our tickets and went onto the lawns to admire the view and have our picnic.

Downton Abbey 
I love Selfies.
Or Highclere Castle.
It was a lovely sight.  When we went into the house there were lots more signs up saying 

No photos, switch off your mobile phones, no wheelchairs, no buggy’s, don’t do this, don’t do that…. very narrow walkways inside roped areas, don’t sit here, don’t touch that.  I am afraid to say that this sort of thing only brings out the worst in me and I generally do the opposite.
NO PHOTOS so I took this one of the view from Lady Cora's bedroom.
Part of the White Garden
Lovely tulips

I snuck up on this.

View from the gardens.

But the scones were good and we sat in the sunshine to enjoy them.  The in-depth discussion of the day was whether we would take a taxi back, but I agreed to cycle and only 3 cars passed us the whole way.  A grand day and sunshine all the way.
Supper was divine, in The Dundas Arms, trade off for cycling back. 

Honey glazed mustard sausages
Sea bass on crushed new potatoes with tomato relish

This is one portion of Raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake.  

Friday 25 April 2014

Foot down going nowhere

We left Newbury fairly early (for me) to get to Kintbury the next water point.  David refused to pop into the boat wharf right opposite us who was charging £2 for water. (We later heard from another boater that this wharf had been charging £4 the previous week). Maybe that's true. 

Last nights mooring, a widebeam did get through with ease.

A vehicle going over the very noisy road.

So on and around the bend through the town to where the canal really narrows and nice period buildings are on both sides.  The towpath disappears (I was on foot here for a very good reason) into a passage between some very old buildings and crosses over a road, then you rejoin the towpath over a footbridge.  The town lock is on an island, the instructions are to get the lock ready in advance of your vessel’s arrival.  This is because of the speed of the water flowing between the narrowed canal plus a river section joining the canal immediately before the lock, marvellous fun for those of us of a nervous disposition.  As there was no one about to ask if the water races through this section as it was today everyday or was it due to the heavy rainfall still only 24 hours ago.  David is thinking about the return journey, it will be white water rafting me thinks.  Totally fine as I will be on foot. 

Victoria Park.
Cargo lifty thin
Warehouse conversion.

         Well I easily got the gate opened on my side but the gate had only the thinnest of planks to walk over to the other side should he have wished it opened.  I took an executive decision that he wouldn’t as frankly there wasn’t the slightest chance of me crossing that gate.  My mother would have gone mad.

Captain beginning to raise the revs.
Attractive old buildings in the centre.
Nice old bridge
Through the twitten to the canal.
The other twitten.
        So for the blokey types among you, David later reported to me that he had to whack up the Revs to 2500 to get through the narrows and even then he felt he was hardly moving, I understand that is high.   
Tiny boat in the distance is him...
Footbridge over the river entering.
Almost there, arm flapping started about here.
Hardy boaters will be pleased to know there was no gate bumping.

What a man eh?

When he did come into view and see only the one gate open there was a moment of arm flapping, I responded in some hand signals of my own and he seemed to accept that.

Next was the swing bridge, a lady was already there from a boat coming down so we called to one another and opened it for Wal who was the nearest, actually her boat wasn’t really even in sight….  But I always enjoy making posh ladies in Range Rovers wait as was the case today.
Unusual roof to this boat, Turf!!
Masterful extension to a tiny Victorian cottage.
Hard to photo, they just disappear all the time.
There are a whole series of Pill Boxes all along this way, a line in the sand so to speak from the 2nd WW had the enemy invaded, this would have slowed down their progress.  I believe they are protected or listed now.  Pity one isn’t put back to its original state for children to see, or me.

Whole series of these

Bit of a long haul to Kintbury, 8 locks none of them friendly. One gate I simply couldn’t budge to close after D had exited when an elderly man with a little old dog on a lead popped up from somewhere and said he would close it!!!  I said to him that its really heavy and we do it together, he maybe was a touch affronted and urged me to go around to the other gate and close that one, he insisted he would do this one,  so I did as I was bid, Bish Bash Bosh he had it shut in the blink of an eye. Viva the old folks I say.  Turns out he was a Fisherman's Bailiff (whatever that is) and closes it each day for ladies.  He cast a disparaging eye at David sat on the boat doing nothing too.

Superman in the disguise as a Fisherman's Bailiff. 
Finally into Kintbury, I was pretty tired and almost kissed the passing man who requested I left the last gate open as he was coming through.  Hurrah. 
Watered up, rubbish out, David cooked me a bacon, avocado and tomato sandwich he gave me the remainder of the champagne which was nice as there usually isn’t any remainder. 

Nap followed, a long one.