Always something to do on a boat and if you’re out there doing it, every single person passing by says so. Stop reading, look away now Sue and Kev. It was washed, dried and waxed. The water hole got an inspection. Unwound the hospital silencer to find out exactly what its supposed to be silencing. Investigated some rattling copper pipes that were driving us low- level crazy each morning. Whipped out a tin of paint to cover the stubborn chimney tar that doesn’t happen since we stuck the chimney on with mastic. Removed some apple gear from around the prop…a modern day boaters’ problem and did some DIY hair dressing.
Talking to our neighbours, it wasn’t long before we were doing the guided boat swap tour. Always love getting to nose inside other boats and this one was reverse layout which messes with your mind.
Quick on-line check that the stoppage, which just yesterday Canal and River Trust along with the men working on it reassured us would be finished on time, only to find it’s now delayed by three days. Joy. Our weekend entertainment will be speeding their way up the M40 yay! x
Straight into the locks this morning and on until we got to the waterpoint. All very sociable out on canal, Nick was having the time of his life. A few degrees warmer, today was definitely spring and not winter, had lunch with the hatch open rather than huddled up to the stove. The last of the double locks this afternoon, we moored about a mile from Calcutt top lock, then walked on to see if the works were finished…that would be a no then. Talked to the guys there who seemed confident the lock will be set to go on Saturday (which we figured is technically Friday evening) – perhaps it just looks like more work than it is. Walked back to the boat, having been told to ‘get polishing the brass’ and that I’d make a ‘useless boatman’s wife’, whilst Nick was advised to ‘untie the ropes and leave er on the side’, I decided to try the charming man’s cleaning tip on a mushroom. Mixing it in the kitchen I hadn’t quite bargained on the smell created by combining vinegar and fire ash but leave it on brass for 20 minutes, rub it around a bit before washing it off and you can almost see your face. Open countryside with fields of sheep, there are about ten boats scattered along the towpath. Narrowboat world is springing into life, everyone was out doing boaty stuff until the light faded tonight and without tempting fate it’s all getting a bit easy…eeeek.
Being frozen in at Great Haywood and searching about for any sort of activity, I entered the IWA calendar competition by sending four photos into cyber-space. An e-mail popped up today starting with what sounded like the usual rejection spiel but ended up with ‘you have one or more photos short listed’. Woweeeee how exciting, two have been shortlisted…now all I need is lots and lots of votes…so if you’re reading and feel you’d like the glow from doing a good deed that costs nothing but a couple of minutes then please click the link and vote. https://www.waterways.org.uk/support_us/2014_calendar/vote_now/iwa_calendar_2014___vote_now
Winners get THREE FREE CALENDARS so if the pictures go to print there’ll be plenty of love to share. Rock and roll. Vote for the ones you like in spring and summer but please vote for me in autumn and winter. Numpty notes: the default photo selection is the first in each category, fine for winter but you’ll need to scroll down for autumn.
Stayed put today, mainly because of the stoppage we’re waiting for at Napton. Walked into Long Itchington, passed a Tudor house where Elizabeth I stayed in 1572. A pretty village with a Co-op that we visited a shocking three times as we hadn’t quite figured how long it would be before we’ll see another shop. Deliveries are arriving thick and fast in readiness for Mummy and Sar on Saturday – forgot the carpet had to fit in the car when we ordered it:)
‘No heating, no water…welcome to February 25th’. A long blast with the microwave last night left the batteries too low to kick start the central heating and somehow five days had managed to slip by since we last filled the water tank. The pump sounded deep, the tap was spurting rust so water usage was banned until the next waterpoint. Murk chose this morning to drink for England. We moved a couple of miles and up three locks, until we saw our oasis…washing machine, brita filter, shower all fired into action as soon as the hose was in. Contemplated a waterpoint ‘sit in’ until the stoppages finish but with no 3G that wouldn’t work. Moved on and into more locks, surrounded by rolling fields and sky reaching bull rushes; nine double locks seemed easy life after the Hatton flight a few days ago.
Arrived at Long Itchington to the sound of a shoot in the nearby woods, birds tweeting in the trees and ducks quacking. A mass of boats stretched over three locks with several pubs dotted along the tow path. We tied up and walked on to see if there was a mooring we preferred for the night. Just passing a boat when the hatch flew open and a glass eyed, thumbless, wire bearded man appeared wielding a saucepan, no boating niceties this time. ‘Who’s f*****g shooting, if I get my hands on them I’ll ram that gun up their f*****g arse’. And good day to you. An hour later we were still stood talking (although Nick had been giving it the sideways shuffle for 30 minutes), born on a boat and lived on one all his life he explained how your family determines the colour of your boat, the safest way to moor in a dodgy area is to drop weights and stay away from the sides, we even got to see inside his boat where a full sized range was kicking out an enormous amount of heat. He was amazed how we made it out of Leamington Spa with all our possessions.
Waiting on the last of the winter stoppages to clear before we can move on down to the Oxford canal, so travel has to slow a bit, just until March 1st. A day of bobbing about was all it took for a thorough boat dissection. Started with our favourite, the ceiling, pulling down a couple of lights it was easy to see the foam insulation was scant in places…that’s on the to do list. Into the bedroom, dismantled wardrobe just to check the home-made inspection hole, expecting
a dry hull, we mopped out a bucket of water….on the to solve list. Into the engine, it’s been 150 hrs since the last fuel filter change and given the diesel bug incident we figured we had a spare so we may aswell use it; that was full of brown gunk, not sure which list that goes on given we already treated the diesel with additive. Back into the bedroom, very excited to see how the anti-condensation membrane was performing under the mattress…damp.
Pretty much sure you could spend all your time maintaining a narrowboat and not go anywhere, ever. Rounded the day off with battery top up, kitchen cupboard clean out and some nut tightening. In the greater scheme of things, we’re lucky, none of this matters but we’ll move tomorrow… A to B works better in a black and white brain.
4am wake up call, a motorbike racing past the port hole. Morning trip into Leamington Spa for some more magic water, also checked out The Jephson Gardens, they were stunning. Took Nick on a surprise walk up to Lansdowne Crescent, as a picture online had looked pretty impressive, hmmmm – he just stood looking completely underwhelmed…the buildings did look more curvy in the photo.
Wound our way through the shops and back down to the boat where we retrieved yet another burnt out fender (keep forgetting the Eberspacher exhaust) and pushed off. The Murkster loves a bit of urban as there are plenty of fried chicken containers along the towpath; today’s travelling was mostly about positioning in preparation for the rugby. Amazing how quickly towns give way to countryside, you can be right in the thick of things one side of a bridge yet pop through the other side and there’s nothing but fields and tractors. That was what happened today. Came across a big lump of oak while we were mooring so the wood-cutter whipped out the axe – still loving free logs.
Half a mile from last nights mooring we pulled up at Tescos, it was unbelievably close – we were checked out, across the car park and in the boat by the time oldie ditherers had put their clubcards away. So ridiculously close we made two trips and even stocked up on things that we’d already stocked up on. Now have enough Persil for 140 washes…
On through lots of housing estates and a little open countryside before we reached Royal Leamington Spa. Moored with a couple of other boats, we walked through an alley, five minutes later were in the centre of town. All the shops you could possibly imagine. Stopped by the Royal Pump Rooms where there was a water fountain, the opportunity to sample magical water Victorians came for in their droves … and curiously everyone seemed to be passing straight on by. We ducked under the tap and gulped, yikes, it was REVOLTING, warm, salty and sulphury. Opened in July 1814 having cost £30,000 to build ‘The Royal Pump Room and Baths’ offered waters claiming to cure: stiffness of tendons, rigidity of the joints, the effects of gout and rheumatism and a variety of paralytic conditions, so we should be ok with all of that for a while. Walked back to the boat through a never ending maze of tall cream buildings fringed with black iron railings. Downtown in canal world things are not quite so regal, glad about the freezing conditions and light snow as it might deter alley way gatherers who’d be staring right at the ‘first class’ sticker in the pullmans cabin – almost begging for a ‘Marpissa’ re-spray.
Decided The Murkster should have a purpose today, so left him to guard the boat while we walked over bridge 49 and down into Warwick. Figured both he and the boat could do with a well-earned break, coming out of the bottom lock yesterday we noticed the boat has done almost double the hours it had when we bought it…that’s the same work in five months as it’d had been put through in a whole six years.
Headed into the lower streets of Warwick and up to Lord Leycester Hospital. A group of late fourteenth century timber-framed buildings which despite the name isn’t and never has been any sort of medical establishment. The name is used in its ancient sense meaning ‘a charitable institution for the housing and maintenance of the needy, infirm or aged’, providing home for old warriors and their wives, it still does, to ex-service men. A banquet once held for James I at the Great Hall put Warwick into debt for ten years.
Amazing architecture – Disney couldn’t have done it any better. Walked up into the Guild Hall just in time to join the tour, and we do love a tour. Found out loads of factoids; the saying ‘flash in the pan’ originates from a flint hitting the gunpowder to fire a gun but failing to push the cartridge through the barrel – therefore the powder just flashed in the pan. Even saw the bugle that sounded the charge at the Battle of Waterloo.
Out into the Siberian wind, freezing faces, we headed down to Warwick Castle – no no no way were we going in there – you can buy a National Trust membership for an entire year for the price of two adult tickets. Got my arm stuck taking pictures through the railings.
Back along the streets, lots of beautiful shops, the kind where when you buy a loaf of bread, a side drawer full of unbleached tissue paper is pulled out of a pine dresser topped with mountains of spring flowers…the loaf is then lovingly placed and wrapped in about twenty sheets. An experience in itself.
Took a leaf from the lazy narrowboater’s guide this morning and tried a bit of top lock hanging, no boat appeared from the top of the flight, so having failed miserably we set the first lock. Decided on no short cuts, a sensible technique the whole way down – roping from the centre line and operating one side of the locks. This involves a lot of standing on the roof, from where you could see the steeples of Warwick Cathedral, that didn’t appear to be getting any closer.
Stopped for lunch after ten of the torturous monsters and emerged for an afternoon of eleven more. Traditionally known as the ‘stairway to heaven’ due to the difficulty of the flight and the fact that workmen received their wages when they got through the top and out to Camp Hill; sadly we were going down, heaven wasn’t at the bottom. With our arms hanging from our shoulders by threads we moved down the Saltisford arm – a promised land of water and electric hook up. Just thinking about where the half used electric card might be when a guy poked his head from a little brick hut ‘Full of winter moorers, carry onto the winding hole, stick your nose in, turn, come back on up and out.’ Brilliant. So five minutes later we were spewed back out onto the Grand Union, Nick gave the Saltisford arm a two-fingered farewell. Round the corner and we were even less in heaven, kids pretending to pee over bridges and the smell of joints wafting through the air, we decided to travel on, a plan that involved two more locks.
Moored towpath side of a deserted boatyard, no particular view from the windows other than metal pole fencing cut to very sharp points at the top.
Whooping with delight Nick sounded full of madness, I lay in bed listening to him scrambling on the roof for the hooking pole first thing this morning. A few minutes later he appeared in the bedroom holding a sopping wet Nicholson guide, fished from the frozen water. Shame it doubled up with one we already had…or did it? Suddenly we had visions of Faith and Daisy plopping red maps over the side of the boat when Doodle Bugs had fizzled out, dashed out to the bookshelf and sorted through the stack of Nicholsons, all there… of course – perhaps the soggy book sent a boater in search of one closed down grocery store too many.
Under the bridge to turn and back past our mooring, then a right turn onto the Grand Union. A couple of boats had already smashed through the ice, with the emergency stoppage due to fallen trees just re-opened some boats had been waiting to get through. Very excited about the prospect of more free logs, the axe lay ready on the roof. Chugged on and on until we saw crime scene style hazard tape and quite a bit of a landslide, huge trees had come down with the mud, sadly they’d been left as huge logs – more of a chain saw job really.
Stopped for lunch and then travelled on through Shrewley tunnel. Opened in 1799, 433yrds long with enough width for two-way traffic. As the water poured down the chimney, in the cratch, over the logs and on us we realised it was an unusually wet tunnel, even Murk retreated under the hatch. The constant flow of water has led to the formation of flowstones that curl from the brickwork in places.
Back into daylight we didn’t have far until stopping at the top of Hatton locks. Walked down to check out what tomorrow has in store, 21 enormous double locks banging in one after another; ‘a daunting sight for even the most resiliant boatman’ according to the Nicholson. Lovely.