Tuesday 26 August 2014

Wot! No cruising?

Today was one of the types of days we have that our Boat Sharers understandth not.  We didn’t move.
Instead we all hopped in the car and drove to Mercia Marina to visit friends Steve and Denise from NB Riverside Escapes for coffee.  
We were lucky enough to be shown over their new Lodge in the marina and I have to tell you Reader they are Fab-u-lous and I now want one too.

Steve and Denise are a naturally hilarious couple and after coffee we all relocated to The Dragon at Willington for lunch which was very busy for a common Thursday.  The food was delicious and the company very entertaining and we didn’t leave for hours. Quite a lot of hours. Shame but in the end we had to go and very much look forward to meeting up with them again later in the autumn either by boat or car, wether they like it or not.

Steve & Denise form NB Riverside Escapes.

We had kinda planned to take the boat through Fradley this afternoon but the lateness of the hour and the chilliness of the air prevented this.  
On reflection Amanda who had to be home mid morning tomorrow for more unshirkable jobs decided to leave this evening instead of in the morning with all the Friday traffic.  Sad to see her go as usual but at least the boat is spotless, she is always welcome.

Much much later when I was writing this blog in the cratch, I heard a chung chung of another approaching vintage boat,  it was ages and ages till it came into view, on reflection I reckon it may have been at Wood End Lock when I first heard it which as the crow flies is only one field away. Too dark for my camera but it was NB Ling with a very smiley captain.

Monday 25 August 2014

Car key and vintage roulette

In the morning at Hopwas there was a fair amount of disorganisation going on.  Reader I should tell you David really hates this game that we tend to play.  He refers to it as “A load of headless chickens running around getting nothing done”  whilst I like to consider myself as a more chilled, relaxed and spontaneously individual without bothersome  deadlines…. 

So Amanda had brought with her to the boat her new acquisition, a Brompton folding bike!!  
Not that earth shattering you may think but in the past our self styled “Boat Sharers” have rained down on our Bromptons all kinds of sniffy remarks and derogatory comments, mostly pertaining to the size of wheels and them not being mountain bikes.   But what did we find in our absence that they had entered into a Brompton Race Challenge with NB Yarwood last year, I only found out when reading about it on Yarwoods blog. 
 The nerve of those Sharers.  
Anyway back to this morning, there is a Sainsburys nearish to get  bramleys and we all wanted to have a bike ride after last nights blow out meal, then David wanted a paper and more new maps of course.  As we approached Sainsburys after a circular ride, there was a Toyota Dealership. HURRAH!!!  Reader we have a wonderful Toyota that is so reliable and never has all the problems that those ghastly BMW’s have (See previous posts on Boat Sharers wheels) but on the last drive a message appeared on screen saying the ignition key battery was low.  Now Reader in all boating trips previously I have brought away with me both sets of car keys but this trip David only brought the one.  So I have been somewhat tortured by this enforced game of car key roulette, just waiting for it to be flat.  David is the type of menace that when you are driving home late and the car is almost out of petrol he says  “Oh there’s plenty to get us home” 
(I hate the drip drip anxiety)  but the next morning nothing in the tank to get me to the garage, a side issue, but that’s him, in fact one time I made him go to the garage the next morning to fill up and he ran out.  Reader I didn’t laugh at all…
 Lets do the keys I yell as I whizz across the forecourt.  Charming staff as always in a Toyota garage, yes they can do it, can I have the keys please sir?  Err nope they are on the boat.  Ok decision time, Sains, boat to collect keys, WH Smiths to get maps and Oh there’s a next too, urgent I go there too…. 

Aren't they FAB?

Well after spending most of the morning up and down to boat and Tamworth it was decided that we would stick together and do all.  As we left the Retail Park at what did I see but the wondrous sight to fill every woman’s heart with joy…. A John Lewis Home Store but I was refused permission to enter. sob sob, something about having to go boating huh.

Later, oh so much later we pulled the pins and had a leisurely run up towards Fradley.  There were lots of splendid vintage boats coming towards us, later the penny dropped and we realised that there is a gathering at Alvecote this weekend.  

They all looked WONDERFUL and sounded even better.  However as you meet them coming towards you it is slightly discombobulating as they just come straight at you, they take no prisoners and simply barge through.  No puns intended.

Athletic captain of this Beauty.

These moored at Alvecote

A peep into a back cabin.

These two at Streethay Wharf

A few at Alvecote

 Now it has been explained to me that they need the deeper water of the centre of the canal however, they often have no front buttons and some are high in the water, somewhat off putting…. a less charitable person than I said “They think they own the bloody canal”  it was also suggested that many vintage owners hate loathe and detest The Shiny Boat Brigade, can’t be true surely?

We moored up at Fradley actually south of the village and as David had his daily nap Amanda and I played the car swapping game and managed to secrete both cars close by and out of everyones way.  

Oh yes she had one too.
On the car journey over two counties we came across an out of town sale outlet too and promised ourselves a visit the following day.  David won’t mind a jot, as I will simply tell him its a garden centre and take his kindle in my bag.

Supper was a good ‘un.  That puff pastry tart with red onion chutney, goats cheese, fresh figs and capers serves with salad and a New Zealand sauvignon blanc.  Food of the gods (and drink too).

The Nanny State

Yes here we are shortly after dawn,  tea was served by Nanny by way of a hurry up and get up device. It sort of worked....
David pulled the pins and off we went towards Atherstone which we estimated was 90 mins away.  
On arrival bikes out, rubbish out, I had grabbed all the weekends newspapers that had been spilling all over the lounge but got shouts from David “I haven’t read that yet…”  
So I took him bits back then us girlies started off the first lock which was in our favour.  
All good.  
Off to the next one.  This lock too in our favour, David was calling that one of us should go ahead and prep the following lock, I politely called back that we hadn’t seen each other for ages and ages and had a lot to talk about.  
Third lock was against us, bah.  
Then a chap walked past with a Co-op bag, so I asked him where it was and it was close by.  We wanted his Nibbs’s newspaper and lots of Bramleys.  Leaving David in Amanda’s capable hands, I whizzed off to make those purchases.  
No Bramleys can you believe it Reader….?

One of the eleven locks at Atherstone, no idea which though.

Locking Nut in action.

Back onside again and the next few locks needed filling too.  Then as we came to the penultimate lock, three boats pulled out in front of us.  Luckily we were on the bikes and didn’t hear the swearing.

Three had pulled out in front of us but here only two of them in view.

I stayed at the locks helping, as they seemed to be a bit of a slow bunch, well they would be wouldn’t they, they had only just got out of bed.  Amanda went back to WaL to hold the ropes and David went to cook breakfast, so it worked out well really .

She actually rode the bike holding the tea mug.

Nanny presenting porridge with peaches and blueberries.

Last locks done and off we went again.  A bottleneck at Tamworth, but Amanda stood gazing at Mr Hudsons Boats at Glascote Basin from the bridge overlooking his yard. 

Hudsons boatyard at Glascote Basin Tamworth.

Now here is a question, how do you keep a garden in the Midlands in bloom all summer?

Nice huh?

Me doing the Gate Trick, learnt form Vic on NB No Problem.

On we went again.  Heading for Hopwas.  A nice pub there, and we all had a date tonight, I had never been through Hopwas and there been spaces to moor up but today we were lucky, a few boats in front of us but we moored up easily with space behind us (Rest assured we didn’t leave any annoying gaps).  

Its a tad on the narrow side and as we tied the ropes, some Idiot comes past us too fast and disregarding the oncoming boat when the Idiot had plenty of room to wait behind us till he had past.  But no he keeps coming and ends up almost cleaving the boat in front of us missing by inches, now I know its a contact sport however why go so very fast past moored boats on a narrow section instead of waiting 45 seconds  for a gap? 
Incidentally yet again the Idiot was a private boat owner and not an inexperienced Hirer.
Supper at the Tame Otter, a great place to meet friends John and Louise the former owners of NB Blue Moon, and now proud owners of 
NB Fiona A.  HERE 

From L to R Author, John,  Locking Nut Amanda, Nanny (Aka David) and Louise

Totally delish meal here, yes all desserts were polished off too.
Oh answer to the gardening question... They were all plastic, trees, window boxes, shrubs and grass.  Each to his own in a free country I say.

Locking nut.

So up early today as The Fine Company was expected.  We pulled the pins at about 8am and set off through the last of the pretty Ashby Canals bends and meadows.  We knew from when we had arrived well over a week ago that CART were dredging in the narrow wooded section, there had been a sort of traffic light system in operation there, as we approached there was a sign saying sorry about the delays, please wait till you are signalled through and allow for I think up to an hour delay.  So we were not that worried as its a case of “What will be will be”.  It turned out not to be too bad a wait at all, with only the fact that with nowhere to go when a fully laden work barge is coming at you forcing you onto the yet to be dredged bank getting stuck good and proper the only problem.  Easy, hardly any bad language at all.

This load is actually being unloaded

Unloaded up to here then into unseen dumpers

This was coming towards us then here he started to fasten it more tightly to his "Pusher-along" tuggy thing

We are on the bank but not wanting to get close to him.

 We could measure somewhat that in the 8/9 days since we had passed such a small area had been completed, with the hire of such a lot of expensive machinery and men you can see why dredging is not widespread with CART so strapped for cash.  
Pity really.

After the bang crash wallop bang entry onto the Ashby, David did a faultless turn northwards onto the Coventry Canal today. 
Unusual placing of this conservatory I wondered.

Its a bit deadly dull here through the dreaded Nuneaton but incident free today with no floating sofas to be seen.  I was trying to clean and tidy before “My Cleaner” arrived later on.  

We had thought that with the Atherstone Locks to do later today it would be a good time to invite The Boat Sharers to visit.  Well on this occasion only one, Amanda.
We knew she had a bunch of unshirkable jobs to do first, so time was on our side.  So with a nice run up towards Atherstone, sometimes in the sun too.  The Coventry Canal is like a major trunk road after the quietness of the Ashby but even this seemed quiet with only a few boats passing, Where is everyone?
Amanda was going to be delayed so we filled up with water at Hartshill the beautiful old wharf there and then moored up the other side of the bridge, in full sunshine overlooking hills and woods.  Lovely.
Hartshill Wharf

I wish there were some information boards here maybe with old photos of its working days.

 She was going to still be a while so we cleared off to have a snoop all around here but particularly to a view point above Hartshill.  When we got there the info board says that no less than 40 church spires can be seen from here, well I didn’t have my binocs but we counted 3.  I think a bit of tree felling would be a good plan.

How many spires can you see Reader?
The good thing about viewpoints is that although a slog up they are up but going back to the boat was almost freewheeling the entire way.  When Hartshill wee pretty bridge came into sight there was Amanda stood on it, she had spotted the boat and now was looking for a parking space.
Locking nut Amanda has come to visit.
Tea was served, luggage was stowed (Masses of it), much yack-king  and while I cooked a skinny supper of Thai green chicken curry (Davids new favourite),  the two of them went out blackberrying, came back with masses. 
Just need some bramleys now.

Early night was had by all to get to Atherstone slightly after dawn tomorrow to beat the crowds, the crowds that is that don’t seem to be anywhere.

Friday 22 August 2014

A day of rest....?

So then high winds were forecast today, that was the main reason we moored down here below this nice hedge.   This morning a fair few boats went past.  I gave them pitying glances as they were were going to be swept about.  Most of the boater had smiley faces and waved cheerily.  Then the sun came out.  Still no high winds. Ummm
We both read a bit then David got twitchy and suggested a bike ride, I thought I could have stayed home and written blog posts but like a good wife I said “What could be nicer” and off we went.  

Our mooring today, nice and sheltered.

The village of Burton Hastings was close by and we headed that way.  Lovely old cottages that I love not to smart and chocolate box looking but as if they are lived in by real people.  Then right opposite was a truly ghastly monster.  A great big brick angular house with security gate and a Range Rover parked outside.  Statues in the garden worthy of a Man U player I would have thought but very out of place here.  But I suppose if you are inside it then you don’t have to look at it.  

We carried on heading well frankly anywhere that might sell the required newspaper.  Out into open countryside and over some motorway or another.  By now we were in the general direction of Nuneaton also unmissable were cans of Red Bull and MacDonald wrappers at regular intervals.  I wondered if the same person has the same each day and slings it out of the car along the same stretch of the road or just lots of people doing the same.  

By now the expected wind had arrived and didn’t we know it.  If you don’t know Reader cycling into a breeze makes it much much harder.  Cycling into a small gale is almost misery.  So feeling like I have cycled 40 miles, cars whizzing by you into a gale and I was beginning to regret being that nice kind wife.

Well he got the very last copy of his paper and we headed back through Nuneaton proper.  There was a farm almost in the centre of this suburb that has had houses creep closer and closer till they now surround the farm buildings.  

Well I was glad to be back home I can tell you.  Then it poured and poured so it was good timing.  As we sat drinking, his hippy green tea and my lemon water (What a pair?) with a fat slice of naughty fruity flapjack the local campanologists started their practice, they were not very good but how lovely to have the chance to listen.

Supper was Salmon, new potatoes and french beans.

Thursday 21 August 2014

Saturday chores

Critical situation had arisen.  My nails were in a shocking state and needed doing.  Hinckley was decided upon as I had had them done before there at Eden Nails.  It was a few miles away but only that.  As we left I was surprised to see the Muscovy duck still alive on the grass here.  It does not fly as its body is too heavy in this breed, and was just sat here on the grass last evening.  I felt totally sure that the local fox would have it by morning.  
I kept ducks myself years ago when my children were small and the last lot were taken by our fox at 3pm one Saturday afternoon as we watched TV foxes are that bold.  
The duck kinda quacked at David,  (Muscovy ducks do not actually quack) he told it to be quiet and it did!!

We cycled off to town through the lovely village of Stoke Golding.  A lovely ride in the sunny weather, beautiful country views then when the quiet lane opened out onto a busy trunk road a dear little cycle lane was provided.

Straight to Eden nails where they could offer me an appointment but not for 2.5 hours.  I took it and we went off to Tesco’s.  A quick game of Supermarket Sweep was played and then David fully loaded then wobbled off back to the boat.  He was going carry on bringing  the boat down the Ashby towards the southern side of Hinckley to pick me up as I was going to be delayed.
I instead stood outside Tesco’s on their public Wifi downloading about 37 podcasts.  I only stopped when the phone had 10% charge left.  
Every Little Helps eh?

Nails done by the delightful Tasha.  Bike loaded again with my third of the shopping, off I went to the rendezvous where upon Darling arrived shortly afterwards.
This is the sight that met him on his return to the boat.

Left a couple of calling cards too.

We carried on southwards to look for a nice mooring, in the countryside, protected from the high winds that are forecast for the next day.  David was content to stay put in a pretty situation because as you now know Reader Boaters hate high winds.

This was the closest I think I have been to one of these, we moored just past it and looked the other way over meadows towards a church.

Supper was the steak from last night with sweet potato wedges and salad. 

Wednesday 20 August 2014

When the going gets tough, the Tough get sandwiches.

It was a day of moving on, however if we hadn’t of had an appointment to keep we would have stayed another day at Shackerstone where the moorings south of the village are nice and straight, long and towards the end in full sunshine, then enjoyed a bit more exploring but…

As we jollied along who did we meet at a bend and a bridge but NB Oakapple, a simply beautiful boat just a few years old now but you may remember was voted ‘Best in Show’ by the general public at Crick a few years ago, (I too voted for it actually), and it was looking lovely today. 
We did know that Oakapple was on the Ashby and had hoped  to meet up but the timing was all wrong and today it had to be a quick chat and catchup mid canal as we were slightly pressed for time.  We’ll have a longer chat next time both.

Richard and Sharon on NB Oakapple

But today I had plans to meet an old work chum of mine Laura, who has just this week relocated from home to Ashby de la Zouch.  She was bringing her two little divine children so I had had the idea of a quick boat viewing at Market Bosworth and then a stroll to the Water Park cum campsite cum playground that is just outside the village to the west.  It proved a big hit as the children ran and ran in total freedom.

So lovely to see old friends again and although the time flew past, I love the Ashby canal and will return somewhat like General Douglas MacArthur “We will return” to play with divine children again.
When they had to leave us, I was sad of course as its such fun pretending to be a Grandma, but David said he fancied a pint.  Easy you would think, but he fancied it at the pub in Stoke Golding where we had been before so with TMS (Test Match Special) coming on I relocated to the pointy end, rolled up the cratch sides, fetched the paper and a cup of tea and far too big a slice of flapjack that I had knocked up quick and settled down in the warm sun.  Nice.

After mooring up, amazingly even though it was later on in the afternoon, the moorings were all empty.  We chose the sunniest spot, and off we went to , I guess it was maybe 6pm.  The pub was rammed with locals, a couple of families, workmen on their home, couples old and young, dog walkers on their way home and I have to say I LOVE THAT.  The village felt like it was a real community, friendly smiley staff, guest beers, tasters offered and I grabbed the last table while David chose his pint from a choice of about eight beers.  He really loved the “Standard” one from this local brewery in Nuneaton, Church End I think it was called.  So if you are near…… go sample.

Sunset at Stoke Golding, nice huh?

A lovely end to a lovely day.  Supper was to have been steak however after way too much flapjack earlier we had egg tomato and mayo sandwiches on fresh fresh granary bread instead.

Monday 18 August 2014

Questions and teapots,

These two photos were overlooked from yesterday but I thought worth including.

This is the list of all workers from Ashby alone who served in the First World War. Very touching, it lists what was their fate.

No words necessary!

So after a couple of days at Congerstone we left this morning and toddled off to the top of the Ashby.  A pretty run all the way except for the longish section through  woodland near the end which I find deadly dull but I accept that plenty of folk like trees.
The tunnel was empty, its one boat though at a time, no traffic lights or anything but as you can easily see right though it there’s no need.  Not busy at all this canal, its been lovely all the way along.

Entrance to the southern portal of the Shakerstone Tunnel.

We watered up at the end but neither the water point or the rubbish point were marked on our guide book.  The Ashby Canal Society have a wee booth here and a representative selling souvenirs and there is information on the canal, maybe you might call it a garden shed, the chappie there today was less than jolly, I called across nicely to ask him if there was a rubbish point, (I could see the red skip 50 yards away but I thought it may be for the moored boats here) he raised his head and pointed his finger in the shape of a gun “There” was his reply.  Maybe he is still on the list for his Customer Service Training Day.

Still I did the bins and in walking back past him I enquired if we could walk up and see the work in progress for the canal restoration “No its all blocked off” says he.  Reader he was so grumpy I simply had to keep asking questions…..too irresistible.  
Could he tell me the progress then?  Could we please use that gate there to exit onto the lane (There is no road access here at all) and so it went on.  I have to report that all ended happily as when David appeared and then asked pretty much the same questions…. Then David made a generous donation and it was if the sun came out all over his face.  We are now best friends.

The top of the Ashby Canal currently.

We did however decide not to moor here for the night as the road access was tricky, but to retrace our steps to the far end of the tunnel (Which goes under the entire length of the village) and moored on a nice straight section of armco, we were in full sun.
  We got the bikes out and cycled off to Measham.  Sadly the museum closed ten minutes before we arrived.  
TEAPOTS  click on Teapots to read about them.

This town is or rather was famous for the Measham Pottery.  We searched for any evidence of the canals former route… We couldn’t spot it.  We left.  
Hand on heart, I couldn’t really recommend you go visit Measham.

Skinny supper tonight were Beef burgers and salad, yes really some of them are low calorie!!

Sunday 17 August 2014

Trains & World Leading Women

Today was such a fun day.  So here we are at Congerstone just north of Stoke Golding.  Its a sweet little village with many beautiful period cottages and modern homes all together in a healthy mix.
Today was a bike riding day.  Off we went taking the most lovely scenic route through several villages going northwards.  Past a field making hay or silage, irresistible to retired farmers…. 

David checking out these two machines and their progress. Reader you will be pleased to hear he approved of what he saw.

No traffic on any of the roads and we ended up at Shakerstone.  This is a sweet place, many of the old farm buildings have been converted into homes and done rather nicely too, although far too small for me, I get twitchy if I am in a village, unusual for a farmers wife I know, but true.
Eighteen months ago when we were last here we went on the Battlefield Railway, they have steam engines here but on the day we visited they only had a diesel engine running, but I enjoyed it all the same.
Today when we cycled in the long driveway for cars it became apparent that they were not busy.  We had already agreed that we would only go on the train again if indeed it was the Steam engine running.  The five aged volunteer gentlemen all gleeful to see us approaching was heart warming.  I just couldn’t say no, so “Darling lets go on”  
“But….” says David who is not quite such a big fan as me.  But off he goes to get the tickets, I pop to the wonderfully restored Ladies dating from Victorian times and when we return the lovely group of elderly volunteer gentlemen had loaded our bikes into the Guards Van, Reader do you Guards Vans???
I was sat smiling, David returned coughing and spluttering at the price of the tickets, especially as we had agreed not to go on!  
But oh what joy, oh what heaven, Reader let me tell you, THE DRIVER WAS A WOMAN.  Marvellously wonderful I say.   There are not many of them about I can tell you.  The ride was bouncy and faltering, I am so glad that even though I love these engines I did not have to travel long distances on them!

As we went along some other volunteer gentlemen struck up conversation with us, we were the only ones on the train.  One of these gentlemen was a real live working boatman, HURRAH.  
Now its such a pity that the trip only lasted 15 minutes, and we only got talking to him after about 8mins.  But, he had two boats in 1967 a motor boat and a butty, he took 50 tonnes of coal to London, 20 tonnes on the motor and 30 on the butty.  He was paid 14/- (Shillings) a ton, which David worked out as £35 a load.  That took him him five days down and four days to return empty.  He did this for three years with another “Lad”.  It was brilliant to meet and chat to him I only wish it could have been for longer, but we arrived at the terminus and the whole group alighted to do maintenance work.  
Now the lady driver came and chatted to us at half time, she said she was only permitted to train as a driver at the age of 42, this was because the Unions had blocked the training of women up till then…. She said that the old British Rail didn’t have any steam drivers, and that when she had trained she had indeed been the only woman.  A world leader maybe? She is still working herself although she declined to give her age, and today she had taken a day off to come and drive our train.  She said that she drives for the Battlefield Railway a couple of times a month and  that she was driving a Steam engine for another railway the following week.  She has a website too HERE  

Guards van with rather fetching bicycles therein.

Driver cab

Very bouncy seats

All in all a fantastic trip on the Railway meeting fantastic people and so easily the opportunity could have been lost by not buying a ticket….

Beautiful beautiful Victorian station building

Lovely chap selling tickets.

Victorain cafĂ© on the platform, 

Served really the most delicious cake.

We took the scenic route back, got caught in a short sharp shower and sheltered in a bus shelter like a pair of OAP’s.  At a village called Barton-in-the-Beans a rat ran out into the road in front of me, stuck its tongue out and ran back into someones garden! Marvellous.
I ended the ride at Market Bosworth where the car was, folded the bike bush bash bosh and I drove the car back to Congerstone while Darling rode. I would have beaten him to the boat too however there was a gripping play on the radio, so I and to sit and listen to the end.

Home for tea, shower and putting on best boating clothes available to go and meet new friends George and Sue from NB Caxton.  We were meeting them at the great pub at Dadlington called The Dog and Hedgehog.  We were lucky to get there as when we got in the car neither the village where we were nor our destination were on the car road map.  I really don’t think there are villages in the south east that are not on the map anymore.

Winner of the prettiest cottage today.

Splendid supper and splendid company thank you both.  Enjoy your holiday next week and if you see them out Reader call out a cheery Hello!