Tuesday, 6 October 2015

That's All Folks

Sunday 26h September 2015                                    That's All Folks

Good Morning from Norbury Dry Dock

Not a lot of boating has happened this week as we've been high and dry in the boatyard, having our bottom blacked. No jokes please – I've temporarily lost my sense of humour! The lovely sunny weather has been wasted on us this week, as we languished in a shed where the skylights were so dirty that no light has penetrated through them since the last century. You may remember from our last blacking that the boat is floated into the dock and then the water is pumped out leaving the boat marooned on cradles in the middle. It's quite difficult to get on and off the boat so the boatyard provide a gangplank from the walkway, across the 10 foot drop and onto the front deck of your boat. An arrangement of scaffold pipes supports a handrail, to prevent Mr and Mrs Boat Owner from falling into the dock – it's not very pretty but it works. The thing is, it must have been designed by a relation of Jack Spratt as the width of the gap between the handrails was set at 'Skinny' and I spent four days shuffling sideways across the plank every time I needed to go ashore, dusting the handrail with my overhanging parts as I went. Even the luxury of an electric hook-up for the duration couldn't compensate for being stuck up in the air with every light on down the length of the boat to overcome the gloom. I found myself watching 'Homes under the Hammer' on Friday morning – am I the only one who thinks those smug purchasers lie like crazy about how much they spend on their renovations?

There's no public transport from Norbury, so we were very happy to have a trip into the nearest small town of Newport with our friends Richard and Melanie. I should have known there was some plotting afoot when Richard told me it was 'Buy your husband a guitar' week. Was it a coincidence that Newport has a Sue Ryder charity shop? It wasn't until we were through the door that the penny dropped, by which time it was too late. Carl and Richard headed straight for the guitars and began tuning them up and strumming away while a worried looking lady stood guard. When Richard started playing the 'intro' to Pinball Wizard, the whole shop stopped and heads swivelled to watch this unexpected entertainment. I heard one of them say to him afterwards 'Are you someone famous?' He got a round of applause from customers and staff and of course, Carl did buy another guitar for how could I object during 'Buy your husband a guitar' week?

We continued to explore the town, arriving finally at a lovely old black and white timber framed tea shop. We went in and ordered Lavender Shortbread, Flapjack and Toasted Tea Cakes from the tempting display. The tea shop was a delightful mix of Local History and Craft items. Mel and I bought some unusual buttons and found a hand knitted tea cosy shaped like a highland cow amongst the hand-made cards and local artworks. An old gentleman introduced himself to us as Maurice and asked if we watched Emmerdale. I haven't watched it for years but that didn't put him off as he whipped out an envelope of postcards and passed each one to me with a pause so that I could identify the actor. He was thrilled when I picked out Seth and Jack but I'm afraid I was a disappointment to him where the rest were concerned. It seems that he was a coach driver in his younger days and took coach parties on the Emmerdale Trail, although I don't know if he ever met them or just bought the postcards as a souvenir. He was a lovely man, and I bet his guided tours were a lot of fun.

The morning mist cleared by the time we left the boatyard this morning and we were bathed in warm sunshine which was very welcome after that gloomy shed. Tricky almost wagged her tail, she was so happy to be back on the hatch and Carl and I resumed our morning routine with a nice mug of coffee and a Penguin bar as we chugged through Gnosall towards Wheaton Aston. (I can't look at a Penguin bar now without seeing that flaming basket sinking into the canal last week!) It's so good to be back on the water. This is our last week afloat for this season and we'll be whizzing back to our winter mooring on the Trent and Mersey. The weather forecast is looking good so I'm hoping for a last glimpse of summer before Christmas comes sneaking around the corner. It's also my last Jotting of the year so I thought I'd end by saying how much I've enjoyed writing to you and getting your replies back. We do love our boating life but now it's time to moor up and check if I can still remember how to drive the car so that we can start catching up with our families and friends – I wonder if anybody missed us?

That's all folks

Love from

The Floating Chandlers

Monday, 21 September 2015

Should Dogs Eat Runner Beans?

Sunday 20th September 2015

 Should dogs eat runner beans?

Hello again. Now, I know what you're thinking “Oh, no, he's going to rant on and on about other boaters ramming him and narrow bridges on sharp bends and toilet rolls unrolling and so on”. Well, let me tell you right now that I'm not. Although the toilet roll did unroll itself again the other day, I won't rant on about it. There may be a few other incidents that will get a mention, but they'll be described in a nice, feel-good sort of way.

To begin, then. We left the Llangollen canal for the Shropshire Union canal last Monday morning, dressed in waterproofs against the drizzle and heavy showers that had been forecast. Drizzle did fall from the heavens, followed by heavy showers, so we were glad to have dressed appropriately.

Nantwich was our first port of call; we moored just beyond the aqueduct there around lunchtime, so we decided to have our usual cheese sandwich. Later, on leaving the boat, we saw a sign telling us that the towpath was closed, which left us in a bit of a quandary, as we needed to use it to get into town. Luckily, we didn't take any notice of the sign and found that the towpath was still open for business as usual. The sign was probably some form of Health and Safety exercise. Either that or the Department of Aggravation had been meddling.

There are two busy crossroads in Nantwich, both of which have a set of traffic signals and pelican crossings that synchronise in a rather unusual way. At regular intervals all the traffic signals on every junction and every approach change to red at the same time, regardless of whether or not there is any traffic around. Bizarrely, instead of changing to green, the lights for the pelican crossings also stay on red, warning pedestrians not to cross. Any traffic unfortunate enough to approach queues pointlessly at these crossroads, and crowds of unsuspecting people can find themselves aimlessly milling about waiting for a green light. The locals on foot ignore this bemusing arrangement altogether and just stroll across at will, with barely a glance at any traffic that may or may not be waiting. Maybe the Dept. of Aggravation designed the above system.

Our business in Nantwich concluded, we set off the next morning for Audlem, with it's flight of thirteen locks. The journey was pretty straight forward, except for a boater that we saw approaching in the distance. He was on the wrong side of the canal. I expected him to steer across at some point. He did seem to make an attempt, but aborted this. As he came closer he started to weave about a bit and then looked in our direction for a second or two. Against the accepted wisdom of travelling on the correct side of the canal, which seems to work pretty well most of the time, he aimed straight at us. At the point where I began to take evasive action, he suddenly veered off to his side of the canal and skimmed by us. As his stern shot by we caught a glimpse of the iPad on his hatch and the riveting film he was watching. From the little we saw it wasn't actually a film about riveting. It looked like some sort of Western, Linda said. Speaking of films, I must watch Zulu again soon. A brilliant film. I always think any film is best enjoyed sitting down, though, not when you're driving twenty tons of steel boat along a narrow waterway.

We only came up the first three locks at Audlem; there was a good mooring available outside the Shroppie Fly so we decided to call it a day.  Linda promptly disappeared into the Craft Shop and was in there for some time, she said she was only chatting but I think another bag of wool came back with her.

The next morning, after negotiating the eleven remaining Audlem locks, Linda brought my attention to a field of sheep on our right. The sheep were all lying down under a hedge in a mathematically perfect straight line. They all faced the same direction, and wore a look of “don't ask” on their faces. The mooring that night was at a quiet spot, in the middle of nowhere, just below the Adderley flight of locks - the 'shooting star mooring' for those of you who read the jottings on a regular basis.

part of the regular mooring routine is to mop the stern deck and gunwales (pronounced gunnells) with my sweeping brush.  It's ideal for the job, nice soft bristles and a long handle to dip into the water. I shook the broom over my shoulder to dry it off, and the brush flew off and into the canal, where it sank without trace. Oh, dear, I thought. Another sacrifice to the canal gods!

Market Drayton was the next stop. We were both smiling when we got there. We'd just seen two dogs enjoying the fruits of gardening. Enjoying the vegetables, actually. There was a nice crop of runner beans growing up some canes, and the dogs were standing on their hind legs, reaching up and plucking the beans with their teeth. Once they'd got one, they would then run across the garden, looking ever so pleased with themselves, and sit and eat it with great relish.

I needed a new brush, so we headed into Market Drayton. As we were hungry we stopped at a cafe for some lunch. We were the only customers there, which should have told us something. We walked through the door and a waiter nodded to us from behind his paper. We went over to a table and, sitting down, looked through the menu. I decided to have the steak and ale pie, chips and veg; Linda wanted the scampi. After a minute or so the waiter slowly ambled over, somehow making it look like we should feel honoured at this great gesture of him going the extra mile. “You ready to, like, order?” he wondered, in a not particularly interested sort of way. Then he asked us what we wanted to drink. We told him two teas. “Two teas” he repeated distastefully, as if two coffees would have been the correct answer. “Yes please, two teas” I answered, displaying my amazing gift of being polite. Off he went to the lad in the kitchen. Just as we began to over-hear some rather interesting muttering, it was drowned out by Led Zeppelin on number 11, which is obviously their music of choice when preparing food. We both like a bit of Led Zep, but I would have preferred Deep Purple or Black Sabbath. They go so much better with pie. Still, you can't have everything. When they arrived, the meals were not very rock and roll. My pie was good, but the peas were tinned. The tea was hot and the white builder's mugs seemed genuine. One particular bonus was that when I poured the tea, the teapot poured straight into the mugs, and not all over the table and into my lap, as has happened in the past. As we were leaving, a very elderly couple made their way in. “'ello John”, said the elderly man to the waiter. “Like, 'allo George and Lofty. You sitting over there or what?” said John the waiter, falling over himself with joy at the appearance of these two regulars. “We've like got some nice pies today what Tony has done”, he went on. As we passed out onto the street the last thing I heard was George saying “Not with my teeth”. We probably won't go back there again. We wandered back to the boat, forgetting all about my brush.

Linda here again - I couldn't let you go without telling you about our evening cruise on Saturday evening.  It was sunny, pleasantly warm and still as we set off and chugged under the first bridge, both of us on the stern deck with Tricky in her usual place on the hatch.  Carl said to me 'Have you got the microwave on?'  Daft question really - we never use the microwave, so how could it be on.  That's when I remembered that I HAD used it earlier that day and it was just possible I hadn't switched it off.  In order to understand the full implications of this, I should first tell you that the microwave is my secret stash for 'treats' and I had recently stocked up with peanuts, penguin bars and a large block of milk chocolate - for emergencies you understand.  Earlier that day I'd used the microwave and as soon as I'd finished, Carl switched off the power in the engine room and, without thinking, I put the plastic basket of goodies back inside and closed the door without returning the timer to zero. When we set off for our cruise, Carl switched on the power and the microwave hummed into life and started to cook the goodies - we were both happily chugging along, totally unaware of what was happening.  Thankfully, Carl noticed that something was 'ON' and using a lot of power, that's when I realised what I'd done. I ran down to the galley and I could smell burning and there were flames flickering behind the door.  Luckily, there's a large amount of water outside the boat, so I opened the hatch and pulled the turntable out of the microwave and tipped the contents into the water.  They sort of floated about for a while and then sank leaving just a sad Penguin wrapper floating, until it too gave up and disappeared.  It was a sort of viking funeral for our guilty secret.  It's hard to believe it, but there wasn't a single soul around to witness this drama and I'm sure you won't tell anyone will you?

So that's all for now, folks. We're going into Norbury for blacking this week and then we'll be on our way home.  Have a lovely week everyone

Love from

The Floating Chandlers

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Beetroot Cider

Sunday 6th September 2015 Beetroot Cider

Hello again,

This has been a perfect week for hatch-gazing. Those double doors, set into the side of the boat, are my window on the world - it's the perfect place for getting a real close up of the watery wildlife outside. Ducks, geese, swans and coots glide by and I saw a moor-hen climbing around in a bush eating blackberries – I'd never have know they did that if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. The swallows are packing their bags for sunnier climes, how often have I watched them dipping and weaving along the water as I wait for the kettle to boil. I don't always get a watery view, sometimes the hatch opens onto the tow-path and then I'm the one being inspected by every passing dog especially if it's sausages for tea.

I know it's autumn when we get the annual invasion of spiders, wasps and daddy long-legs. Carl has developed a new technique for dealing with these pesky varmints after I was terrorised by the spider that refused to leave. It should have been a straight forward evacuation of a medium-sized spider which parachuted from the ceiling and hung at eye level as I was passing. I've tried really hard to conquer my fear of spiders but I've not managed it yet. My voice goes up two octaves and I squeak out 'Carl – spider' and run away. Carl scooped up the dangling arachnid and tried to put it out of the hatch onto the grassy bank outside. The spider did not want to leave! It hung onto Carl and swung back inside and that's when I lost sight of it as I was running away to the other end of the boat. Carl told me it had gone under the fridge but I think he was fibbing because I'm sure it was that same spider that came looking for me later. It climbed onto my e-reader as I was settling down in bed to read the latest Jo Nesbo! After Carl had peeled himself off the ceiling ( yes, I did scream very loudly!) he ejected the spider and we stripped the bed in case there were any more creepy crawlies waiting to read a thriller. I'm so thankful that we don't have poisonous spiders in England. Carl catches them in a jam jar now and escorts them right out of the boat, just to be sure they've really gone.

It was a lovely sunny morning when we left Nantwich last Monday morning and we were swishing along, hoping to reach the 4 locks at Hurlestone before they got too busy. We rounded a bend to see a boat slewed sideways across the canal and a little knot of people trying to get a rope on a black and white horse that was chest-deep in the water. Canals are not very deep but the sides are steep and the horse was struggling to heave itself out of the water and onto dry land. Just when I thought the poor thing was going to give up altogether, it gave one last almighty scrabble with it's hooves and managed to get out. Phew! What a relief. It's nice to be part of the boating community, you can be sure of a helping hand if you're in trouble and that's becoming a rare thing in this modern world.

We made a return visit to Percy's when we moored overnight in Whitchurch. Some of you might remember we were here a couple of years ago and we really enjoyed the quirky atmosphere of this cross between a pub and a tea room. Carl and I sat in the theatre seats this time, opposite the giant stuffed moose head which hangs behind the bar (I told you it was quirky!) I opted for half a beetroot cider which was a lovely shade of raspberry in the glass but the flavour didn't lived up to the appearance, if I'm honest. The moose stared down at us glumly and Tricky settled under the table for a nice snooze – now what could possibly happen to spoil this pleasant interlude, I hear you ask. Have you ever been button-holed by one of those bar-room braggers who want to tell you about their life in the British Army when men were men and could run the London Marathon in 20 minutes? Well, I didn't mind that so much but when he started making insinuations about Mary, the landlady at the pub next door, my good will vanished and my cyanide lips itched to deliver a cutting remark. Carl saved him from a mauling by whisking me off to find the post office - no wonder that poor moose looked so glum!
'Shall we take this footpath back to the boat?' I said to Carl on the way home. It probably wasn't the best time to wander off – we'd been to Tescos for shopping and our rucksacks were quite heavy. The footpath took us through some houses and turned uphill across a field. In the distance, I caught a glimpse of the distinctive lift bridge which was just by our boat. It didn't look too far away but the footpath continued uphill which was slightly worrying. Tricky wasn't impressed by the 'short cut' and panted along behind us and after a while I began to think my internal compass had let me down. Through another field, still going uphill and finally, a left hand turn going downhill towards what I hoped was the field gate just by the boat – luckily for me, it was. I could tell Carl wasn't impressed and if I'm honest, it wasn't the best idea I've had. I put it down to the beetroot cider!

The Llangollen Canal is always busy at this time of year and meeting the first-time hirers along the way has been very entertaining. If you get to a lock and there are 3 people wandering about with windlasses but nothing is happening then you can be sure that they've just come out of a nearby marina for their first narrow-boat holiday. I met a lovely family from California this morning, they come over every year and hire a narrow-boat as a way of enjoying our British Weather. I thought of them as I watched Countryfile tonight – the jet stream has dipped down bringing in low pressure with as much weather as you want. Wind, rain, thunder – oh and some sunny intervals if we're lucky! I hope they have a lovely holiday whatever the weather.

That's all from me for now - have a lovely week everyone, I'll write again soon with more Hedgerow Jottings

Love from

The Floating Chandlers

Monday, 7 September 2015

Nantwich Revisited

Sunday 6th September 2015

Hello again

It's a lovely sunny day here in Nantwich and I'm tapping away on the laptop in a cabin flooded with sunshine. Tricky is snoozing away in her basket - she's had a few long walks since we moored up in Nantwich on Friday and is enjoying a little nap to recover.   Did I mention that I'd given her a trim the other week? I got a bit carried away with the clippers and decided to remove the guard to get a closer clip on her legs. I'm sure the bald spots will fur up again before the winter!

Did you get caught in the rain on Bank Holiday Monday? I think it rained off and on for most of the day as we made our way through Royal Vale Lock and Hunters Lock to get back to Northwich. We took a late passage on the Anderton Boat Lift and were soon dragging our bottom (if you'll pardon the expression) along the Trent and Mersey Canal. Is it my imagination, or didthe level drop while we were away? It was a miserable, dank evening and the weather matched our mood as we moored up under the dripping trees and Carl fiddled about with the TV aerial trying to find something to cheer us up. In the end we settled for a DVD of 'The Vicar of Dibley' and had just settled down to enjoy the episode where Geraldine jumps into a puddle, when there was a tap on the roof. An apologetic face appeared at the window and I popped down to the hatch to see what he wanted. We don't get many unexpected visitors as a rule and I wanted to check him out for 'strangeness' first. He must have had the same thought because he stood well back as I peered up at him and waited for him to explain why he was interrupting our viewing. It took me a while to get the drift of things as I didn't at first understand why he was hauling a canoe up the canal instead of paddling it. Eventually, I unpicked the full story and gathered he was doing a sponsored canoe paddle around the Cheshire Ring and after a day of paddling in the rain, him and his mate had found the Boaters Facilities at Anderton and dived in for a hot shower and some clean, dry clothes. Rather than climb back into the wet boat, they decided to walk to the next pub, pulling the canoe along after them. All he wanted was permission to pass the rope over our roof. Finally, I cottoned on - what a nice young man, such courtesy is rare these days. I watched as he and his paddling partner went off to repeat their request at the next two boats and thought it would take them a while to get to the pub if they encountered many moored boats along the way.

The weather has been kind to us this week, we've had sun most days and have been happily dawdling along without meeting a rush of boats at every bridge. The hedges are tinged with autumn berries and the fields are a patchwork of freshly furrowed earth and lush green pastures. A kingfisher escorted us along the canal, through his 'patch' – sitting on a low branch waiting for us to get tantalisingly close before streaking off to the next perch. We tiptoed down the canal trying to get close enough for a photo but he was too shy and all I captured was a blur on a grey background. That won't get me in the 'Countryfile Calendar'! I never tire of the views from this canal – in some places you can look out over the River Weaver as it meanders through the valley below – we're still under the spell of Weaver World.

As we approached the end of the Middlewich Arm, I was sent to the front to check if the way was clear to turn left towards Nantwich. The canal builders always put a bridge in the way so you can't see if there's anything coming and then, to add to the confusion, the steerer is 57feet from the bows trying to negotiate a blind 90 degree bend. By the time I can see if there's anything coming, we're already under the bridge and starting the turn.  I think Carl sends me down there to get me out of the way! I get a bird's eye view into the cabin of a boat that has carelessly moored right opposite the junction – I'm surprised that anyone would moor there as not everyone knows there are no brakes on a narrow boat until the first time they try to stop.  Luckily for him, Carl is on form today and we slide past with hardly a ripple – whatever was I worried about!

We arrived in Nantwich just in time to get the last spot on the embankment overlooking the town – it was still quite early and we were surprised to find it was so busy until we saw the signs for the annual 'Food Festival'. We set off into town, hoping to find rabbit pies on the menu (remember the 'warm bunnies' from the Gloucester Food Festival?) They are obviously more refined in this part of the world as it was all goats cheese and hummus. The marquee in the park was buzzing with people and there were stalls offering Pimms and Prosecco, Strawberries and Cream, locally brewed beers, German, English and Polish sausage, pork pies and the prettiest cup cakes you ever did see. It was very hard to resist the delicious smells floating from the grill although I don't eat burgers, the smell of fried onions always makes me wish I did.

I almost never wish I was a child again but I saw a little girl carrying a huge balloon that was shaped like a merry-go-round horse. It was a thing of beauty and just for that moment I wanted to be 5 years old again. Then I remembered that I had pigtails when I was five and thought better of it.

That's all from me for now - have a lovely week everyone, I'll write again soon with more Hedgerow Jottings

Love from

The Floating Chandlers

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Plum Done

 Plum Done

Happy Bank Holiday Monday everyone

I don't suppose there's anyone reading this today, you'll be paddling at the seaside or sitting in a traffic jam on the M6 which seems to be another popular bank holiday pastime these days. Carl and I are still under the spell of Weaver World and have been happily chugging from one remote mooring to the next. Today we're back on the Royal Vale moorings again - we hadn't planned to stay another night but this morning, the Royal Vale Lock was stubbornly refusing to open it's gates to let boats pass through.

The cheery lock-keeper swung his grappling hook through the water trawling for the blockage while we floated around outside the lock. I remember this lock-keeper from our previous visit - he's worked on these locks for many years and looks like Captain Birds Eye with his bushy grey beard and twinkling eyes. Captain Carl soon got tired of waiting and spun the boat round and left them to it – it's a beautiful morning and it matters not at all which way we go. The sun is warm as we chug past last night's mooring spot and make for the low swing bridge – as we approach it I'm thinking it's too low for us to get under, so I scoop Tricky up and step down off the deck while Carl steers us safely through – whatever was I worried about, there was loads of room, it was one of those 'optical delusions'!! We're not the only ones enjoying the day, a pair of Grebes are giving their offspring fishing lessons, a cloud of swallows streak along the water, dipping and dancing and a lone cormorant fishes from the wooden posts near the weir. The humans are fishing too – khaki tents pitched on the river bank with a line of rods dangling in the water and an unsmiling figure glaring up at us as we slip quietly by. If they're enjoying their bank holiday fishing trip then it's not apparent from their grim faces – I wave anyway in case it might cheer them up.

The industrial past of the the Weaver Navigation is almost forgotten now except for the salt workings that we pass on our way to Winsford. A JCB is working away at the top of a huge mountain of rock salt, running back and forwards along the summit, heaping up the salt and pushing it over the the steep edges – it's a giant game of sandcastles and as we watch him charging up and down, I'm holding my breath and wandering what force of nature stops the whole lot from slithering into the river. We chug along there and back, just a mini cruise today to charge the batteries and escape from the three Jack Russell terriorists owned by the people who moored by us late yesterday evening. Their dogs immediately leapt ashore and set up gang headquarters on the bank – they chased after bikes and walkers, yapping and barking at anything and everything that moved. I don't want to sound unreasonable, after all I like dogs and these little chaps were really cute but we'd been enjoying a particularly tranquil afternoon, reading and listening to the summer sounds of the riverbank, until these canine hoodlums arrived. The Royal Vale moorings are a particularly peaceful spot - there's no traffic noise, only an occasional train in the distance sometimes and the whoosh of a bike rushing by on the tow-path so I'm glad to say that the locks have re-opened and our noisy neighbours have left us to enjoy the peace and quiet one more.

The Spanish Plume has retreated leaving cooler mornings and a cooler breeze to remind us that Autumn is just around the corner. The rain storms that were forecast have mostly eluded us here in Weaver World – we've had rain showers in the evenings but the mornings have been dry with sunny intervals – perfect boating weather. If it rains after we've moored for the day then it doesn't count unless I have to put my waterproofs on to walk Tricky!

Weatherspoons - what a beautiful building
The weather forecast for Thursday was good so we left the boat moored by the picturesque Sutton Weaver swing bridge and made the long trek into Frodsham to catch the train to Llandudno. The train travels along the Dee estuary towards the resorts of Prestatyn and Colwyn Bay before reaching Llandudno Town, the last stop on the line – it's a very scenic route with the sea on one side and hidden castles in the wooded slopes on the other. You can't beat a day at the sea-side and this is a real old-fashioned resort with a promenade that stretches for miles, although I'm not so keen on the pebbly beach. I managed to dip my toes in the sea but not one person was swimming - the water was very cold and infested with jelly fish. Welcome to Wales! We shuffled along the pier with all the other old codgers and looked back at the word 'Llandudno' picked out in white on the lush green of the grass in the park. The cable car wasn't working(too windy) and there was a huge queue for the Tram which runs up the steep slope to the top of the 'Big Orme'. I stood at the bottom of the road leading up to the summit and assessed the gradient and decided that the view from the top will have to wait until either I'm fitter (who am I kidding!) or I have the time to queue for the Tram.

On our travels this week we found a plum tree laden with golden fruit, sweet and juicy and ripe – it's making my mouth water just telling you about them. Those awful, tasteless things you buy in the supermarket aren't a patch on those eaten fresh from the tree. Our fruit trees at home remain stubbornly barren – if they don't get cracking soon they're going to be kindling!

That's all from us for this week – we'll be back on the canals next week doing some proper boating instead of this aimless floating around. Have a lovely week everyone.

Love from

The Floating Chandlers

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Weaver World

Captain Carl has taken over the Jottings for this week - here is his take on our boating life

Evening sun in Middlewich

Well, why did I do it? I mentioned during the week that perhaps I'd do the jottings this time “to give Linda a rest”. Oh, well, here goes.

We left the Shropshire Union canal last Monday morning in a blaze of glory. There were crowds cheering, bands playing and countless people wishing us well. Actually, if I'm totally honest about it, there was nobody around, not even a dog walker. We chugged away from our mooring, witnessed only by a few ducks, geese and other assorted waterfowl. As I steered the boat though narrow “bridge-holes” and tight, blind bends, skilfully avoiding the other boats we met at every other bridge, Linda came up to join me on the stern-deck, eating toast. I'd had my breakfast earlier, so I wasn't envious. Tricky, who was perched like a large furry parrot on the hatch, suddenly came to life and took an intense interest in Linda's toast. She (the dog) is fussy about toast. It has to have butter on it, but nothing else. She is greatly offended if there is jam or marmalade on it, and if there is even a hint of marmite she'll sulk for minutes. Suddenly, in the middle of this pleasant routine, we spied a flash of blue ahead. A kingfisher. Linda has mentioned these numerous times, but they really are a lovely sight, and always lift our spirits.

After a while, we approached the Middlewich arm, which leads to the Trent and Mersey canal. Linda went to the front of the boat, to check if we were clear to steer through the exceedingly narrow bridge that crosses the Middlewich arm. She gave me the thumbs up, so I started to swing the bows round. But not enough, sadly. Despite panicking outwardly, and cursing inwardly in that silent way that I sometimes do, the boat glanced off the side of the bridge with a bit of a bang. It is a contact sport according to Timothy West.

The Middlewich arm (it's actually called the Wardle canal, we've just discovered) is amongst our favourites. It is very rural and quiet; shortly after slipping our lines, we came across a Heron, hunched over the water looking for breakfast. As we approached, he looked up in alarm and then flew off. He settled down 100 yards ahead of us by the water's edge again, until we came close. Off he flew, again settling down 100 yards in front of us. This scenario was repeated several times, until it occurred to him to fly behind us, which he did.

It was shortly after this that we met another boat. We were negotiating another short, narrow cutting. Narrowboats are just shy of seven feet wide. This bit of the canal had been built about seven feet and one inch wide. No-one knows why. Not only that but, joy of joys, the Canal and River Trust had mischievously let lots of vegetation grow over the off-side of the canal, cunningly hiding the jagged concrete edge from unsuspecting boaters. Having prior knowledge of this obstacle, I had lined the boat up and was passing serenely through when a large bow wave disturbed the peaceful waters at the bend ahead. This was followed by a boat, travelling at quite a speed. He saw me as I was around two thirds of the way through. He kept on coming at ramming speed, with a grim look of determination on his, by now, worried features. As I came out of the cutting I veered away as far as I could, towards the nearest tree, hit reverse and shouted to Linda below to “hang on”. Finally he realised that I was not a mirage and was really there, and threw his engine into hard reverse. Then our two boats crashed together. Luckily Linda had braced herself and was ok, and no damage had been done to the boat. The other boater apologised. It seemed that he had hired his boat and this was his first day.

We were up early the next morning, in order to pass through onto the Trent and Mersey canal. This was a bit of a long day for us; we didn't seem to be able to get on. We stopped for water and then again to drop off some rubbish. As we approached a boatyard further on we came across a boat that was grounded. He'd pulled in at the boatyard for something or other and was now stuck fast. The boat owner shouted across to ask if we'd take a line and pull him free. Linda expertly took the tiller while I attached his rope to the front cleat. Linda gently pulled our boat away. The rope pulled taut, but the other craft wouldn't budge. We loosed the line, manoeuvred our boat further down and attached his rope to the rear dolly and tried again. We gave it maximum revs but he remained stubbornly stuck on the mud. Just when we were about to give up, his boat came free – success! It's nice to lend a hand to fellow boaters, you never know when you're going to need help yourself.

A couple of hours later we were moored near to the Anderton boat lift ready for our descent onto the River Weaver. At 12.10 pm the next day we chugged into one of the caissons of the boat lift, and thirty minutes later we had been lowered onto the River Weaver. We cruised upriver to Northwich, where we moored for the day. Northwich has many fine old buildings, but is forever subsiding into old salt workings. It is normally a quiet place to moor. Unfortunately, there are major works being done there at the moment, with all the associated noise and disruption.

Do you know what one of the most irritating things is? Its when your toilet roll unrolls itself and gathers in a heap all over the floor and when you look there isn't a cute puppy playing with it. This happened to us whilst moored at Northwich. You can never roll the stuff up properly again, no matter how carefully you try.

This morning started sunny, warm and humid. After casting off we chugged through Saltersford lock without incident, and continued to Dutton lock. When the lock emptied and the massive gate opened we engaged forward and started to leave the lock. A canoeist suddenly appeared from somewhere and drifted into our path. He then “hovered” by the lock entrance looking at his oars, blissfully unaware that there was a twenty ton boat bearing down on him. We engaged reverse, and Linda picked up our little brass fog horn with the rubber bulb at one end and honked loudly (the horn honked, not Linda), with no effect. The lock keeper was watching him with disdain and muttered something which we couldn't quite catch. Eventually I sounded the boat horn, which is quite loud, and he woke up. He was last seen paddling downstream towards the Manchester Ship canal.
Tricky on guard

We are now moored on The Devil's Garden moorings and have just been visited by a herd of friendly cows.

That's about it for now.

Best Wishes

PS I hope I didn't rant too much.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Shooting Stars

 Shooting Stars

Morning All

Did you see the shooting stars last week? We were in the perfect place to see them – a rural mooring at the bottom of Adderley Locks surrounded by fields in all directions. We waited for darkness to fall and sat out on the tow-path staring up at the sky, waiting for the show to begin. Tricky sat with us, but she wasn't happy to be up so late and every so often we could hear her growling quietly at the shadows. After a while, a chill wind got up and I huddled under a blanket to keep warm. I tracked the blinking lights of jet planes high above and caught a flash of light out of the corner of my eye – 'Was that one' I asked Carl. 'I didn't see it' was the reply. After the third 'Star' we gave up and went to bed. Did anyone see a shooting star?

This week we've travelled from Norbury Junction through Market Drayton, Audlem and Nantwich to this rural mooring near bridge four on the Middlewich Arm. Each day we've had a few locks to do and, with so many boats moving, it's been a lesson in lock etiquette. On a good day, as each lock empties then another boat rises up in the next lock and the two boats cross over in the the pound and everyone's happy. The steerer lifts a hand in greeting and the boats swish by each other in a well rehearsed sidle. The locking crews lean on the gates, chatting about this and that, enjoying their holidays on a sunny summer morning – what finer way to see the English countryside than from a narrow-boat on the Shropshire Canal. It all went according to plan as we went down the Tyreley flight – we flew down without a hitch and just had room to squeeze onto the moorings in Market Drayton. We set off into town via the '40 Steps' which, as the name implies, is a steep set of stone steps leading from the aqueduct down to the lane far below. This is the back way into town and I've never attempted it before as I'm usually trundling the shopping trolley to Morrisons or Lidls. It would be alright going down but I'd need a block and tackle to get me and the trolley back up to the boat.

We set off next morning for the Adderley flight and caught a flash of brilliant turquoise which can only belong to the kingfisher and I smiled as we chugged along, thinking it was a good sign for the day ahead. There was one boat in front of us at the Top Lock and I wandered off to assist, chatting to a family with several teenage children, who all seemed to know what to do with a windlass – so far so good. The local farmer has set up a Farm Shop right by the lock, selling fresh home-made bread and pies and the crew all cleared off to check out the produce without lifting the paddles. Tricky came racing up from our boat to see what was happening and we both waited patiently for the holiday makers to do their shopping before jumping aboard and easing ever so slowly out of the lock. Am I sounding a wee bit impatient? Well, I do try not to but I was looking forward to getting down the flight and finding a nice mooring so I could get on with the blanket that I'm making – it's growing so big I could use it as a sail! Everyone we met coming up the flight was grumpy and in a tearing hurry to get through the locks. As we got further down the flight, there was a queue of boats waiting to come up and not everyone was happy to wait patiently for their turn. I gathered from one lady that 'words' had been exchanged and it had 'spoiled their day'. I tried to cheer her up with tales of the tempting fare to be had in the Farm Shop at the top but I don' think it really helped.
The Shroppie Fly
On Thursday, we hurried down the locks into Audlem, heavy rain was forecast but it didn't come to much in the end. We tied up by the Craft Mill and it wasn't long before I was wandering inside to chat to the lovely couple who run it and get a quick lesson in rag rugging. It looks pretty straight forward – you cut up your old clothes into small 'snips' of material and poke them through a piece of hessian with a prodder. Apparently, it can be very addictive and people have been known to cut up their husband's clothes without first checking that they are 'old'. I can see that would cause arguments in some households!

We did have some rain through the night on Thursday, the tow-paths had turned into a running stream by Friday morning. I de-spidered my wellies for my walk with Tricky and we splashed happily through the puddles to the Co-Op and back. My thoughts turned to autumn and the darker nights looming ahead, I do like autumn but I'm not quite ready for it yet. No need to get out your winter woollies just yet - the sun came out again and we've had the most glorious weekend here. I've chucked the wellies back in the box and I've been sitting out in my deck chair today, polishing the brass and watching the antics of the hoards of hire boats that are racing past. Everyone looks happy today and so am I. Fingers crossed that this settled weather stays for a little bit longer. We're on our way to the River Weaver again and I'm looking forward to another trip on the Anderton Boat Lift.

Have a lovely week everyone.

Love as always

The Floating Chandlers

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Hot Potatoes

Sunday 9th August 2015                                Hot Potatoes

Morning All

I'm sure you'll all remember the ditty which starts ' I know an old lady who swallowed a fly' – well, I didn't actually swallow a fly this time, although I do often seem to hoover them up as I walk along the tow-path, which isn't nice for me or the fly! This one was lurking in the bottom of a 4 pint carton of milk and splashed into my early morning cup of coffee – it's lucky I was awake enough to hear the 'plop' or I might well have swallowed it. Now, some of you hardy souls might have rescued the fly and carried on with your coffee as usual. I fished the fly out with that in mind but once I saw the poor thing floating in the teaspoon, I changed my mind and settled for an early morning glass of filtered water. This had the added benefit of preventing me from dunking my daily fix of rich tea biscuits which is the bad habit I adopted when I gave up smoking. I'm finding it harder to give up the biscuits than I did the Benson & Hedges - there are no patches or gum available for this addiction! I dropped Lidl's an e-mail to let them know they'd had a lapse in their normally high standards and I'm now involved in a game of e-mail ping pong as they try and shift the blame from their Teflon shoulders. I'm expecting an apology from Blossom the cow any day now!

When I wrote to you last week we were waiting in Kinver to get the cratch mended. We've had a very neat patch stitched into the cratch cover by the lovely ladies at Wilson's Canopies- that should keep us water-tight for another year. For those of you who were confused last week, I'll remind you that the cratch cover is a kind of tent over the front doors. It's made of black vinyl material, a bit like an old-fashioned pram hood - it makes a useful storage area for wood and coal in the winter and stops the worst of the gale force wind and rain from blowing into the cabin. I sometimes sit up front in the summer if I fancy a change of scenery - it's an ideal place to go for a sulk when I'm feeling out of sorts.

This week we left the Staffs and Worcester and turned once more onto the Shropshire Union, calling at Wheaton Aston and Brewood on the way and arriving at Norbury Junction yesterday afternoon. The canals are very busy with holiday makers and there was a queue at Wheaton Aston when we arrived. I wandered down to the lock with my windlass and chatted to the crews as we worked the boats through the locks – it's a great way to pass the time and you meet some interesting people that way.

Brewood Hardware Shop
If you're ever in Brewood I can highly recommend 'Powells' Tea-room – the entrance is through the Hardware Shop next door, which is quite unusual and I found it quite by chance. I'd been to the chemist a few doors along, and had a bit of a wait to get served. In front of me were a pair of frisky pensioners who were flirting madly over the surgical stockings. Not wanting to spoil their fun, I thought I'd leave them to it and elected to collect my prescription later and that's how we came to be wandering aimlessly about looking in shop windows. The Tea-room is an intimate little place with a kitchen area down one side and only three tables for customers. The cakes were home-made by our waitress, Karen and were displayed temptingly on a little trolley. Some lovely pieces of china were arranged on shelves trimmed with lace and our tea was presented in delicate bone china cups. I remember when we were buying Lady Aberlour, we had a test run with the owners Bill and Ruth, one lovely sunny afternoon. Carl and Bill were on the back, talking boats and engines and Ruth was entertaining Mum and I to afternoon tea in the bows. Ruth was a charming hostess and served us tea and home-made scones using a beautiful Crown Derby tea set - No tea-bag in a mug here. We chugged along like ladies taking tea at the Ritz and I fell completely in love with the boat. I try to live up to Ruth's high standards when we have guests but I don't trust myself with Crown Derby!

On the subject of eating out, Brewood was a great experience but it's not always the case when we go off exploring. We caught the bus from Swindon to Merry Hill last week - it was a gloomy day when we moored up and Carl decided he wouldn't risk doing any painting so we went off to see what was happening in the big city. Carl made a bee-line for Maplins as soon as we got there and I followed him in, trying to avoid the young men who sneak up behind you and ask in a really loud voice 'Can I help you with anything today?' I'd really like to respond by saying 'No thanks – I'm just killing time while my husband looks at all the incredibly boring stuff you sell in here' but of course, I don't – I'm far too polite! It went downhill from there really – the Food Court was like school dinners without a teacher on duty, very noisy and crowded with teenagers taking selfies of themselves pouting. I'm glad I'm too old for this selfie thing - I don't have the lips for pouting! Merry Hill has been forever rechristened Merry Hell which is a better name for it don't you think.

I'll close this week with a little gem that's made me giggle. I was talking to Mum about her shopping and asked her if she wanted any potatoes. 'Oh no, thanks - I've still got a 2 kilowatt bag left from last week'. They must have been hot potatoes! Sorry Mum, I couldn't resist sharing that one.

That's all from me for another week – have a good week everyone.

Love as always

The Floating Chandlers

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Dolittle and Dally

Sunday 2nd August 2015 

 Dolittle and Dally

Morning All

The title this week comes from a 'For Sale' board that we saw outside a house in Bridgnorth. I bet they had a few bottles of liquid sunshine before they came up with that name!

We were really hoping for a still morning when we woke last Monday morning. The previous evening, we'd looked at the map and decided that it would be quicker for us to reverse back through the bridge and turn our boat in the Diglis Basin rather than go up a few locks to the winding hole and back down again. It sounded feasible after a few glasses of cider with our cruising companions Pat and Malc. The Naga Queen is also facing the wrong way and they were planning to turn if they could or reverse back to the lock. 'We'll play it by ear ' we said as we tottered off down the tow-path after a night of red wine and very silly jokes. I offered to man the tiller if Carl would stand by on the bows. I don't mind standing on the stern trying to look like I'm actually doing something useful but the thing is, when you're going backwards on a narrow-boat, you've got absolutely no control at all. If it wanders off across the canal and the bows swing round and hit the boat you're trying to pass, then all you can do is wave apologetically to the angry face at the window. I gave it my best shot but I didn't do so well on the tiller – I tried to blame the wind (like Carl does) but he wasn't in the mood for my jokes. We made it back through the bridge and past two more moored boats and tied up alongside the Naga Queen. As soon as the rush of hire boats had gone we pulled both boats back to the corner of the basin and started to reverse our boat round the corner. That's when the 'Voice of Doom' piped up from the boat opposite us – a dour Scotsman who sounded like he was speaking in Gaelic for all the sense I could make of it. I did make out 'Crosswind' and 'sideways' and gathered eventually that he was telling us that if we weren't careful the cross wind blowing across the basin would take us back down the canal sideways. We had a couple of goes at turning, but the crosswind did indeed take our bows sideways down the canal so we gave that idea up and decided to strap both boats together and reverse to the lock. It went perfectly – in a text book turn we reversed up the canal, backed into the basin and turned together to arrive at the lock perfectly aligned to go straight in. That's when we realised that one of us should have stayed ashore and walked round to open the lock gates!

After a gloomy start, the sun came out and we chugged down the river, through the last of the manned river locks, arriving in Stourport to find there were spaces for both boats on the floating pontoons. It's a great mooring and a nice walk into town along the river, past the fun fair and into the high street. We celebrated the end of our summer cruise with Pat and Malc in our usual way with a few glasses of wine and a bit of a sing-song – we'll miss them very much but Tricky will miss them more!

Have you heard of the Severn Valley Railway? It's a steam railway that runs from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth and it's been on my bucket list for a while so we caught the bus to the station for 'A Grand Day Out'. We took Tricky because we didn't want to leave her all day by herself and we thought she'd be OK on the train - she loves going in the car so it never occurred to me that she wouldn't like the bus. Tricky absolutely hated it! She paced and panted, jumped up and tried to climb over my shoulder to get behind the seat. Carl and I were both wearing black jeans which were covered in Tricky hair by the time we arrived at the station – all three of us traumatised by the journey. Luckily, she was fine on the train and settled on the floor by my feet and hardly moved until we got to Bridgnorth. Funny dog!

The views from the steam train over the Severn Valley are just as good as I'd hoped and it was a lovely sunny day as we left Kidderminster.  As I watched the industrial units of the town passing by, waiting for the scenery to open up, I was surprised to see a group of elephants below us.  Yes - thats right, elephants. Of course, I didn't have my camera to hand to capture the scene, but I found out afterwards it's the West Midlands Safari Park.  |It was just a glimpse of the exotic before we crossed the bridge and I was immersed in the English countryside at its best - a sparkling river, lush green pastures, white-washed cottages and fluffy white sheep.

 By the time we reached our destination the rain clouds had gathered and we just missed a heavy shower as we crossed the footpath that joins the station to the Upper Town of Bridgnorth. We ate our lunch on a seat looking out over the river and the Lower Town. The little Cliff Car is a major attraction taking people up and down and I'd have liked to have a trip myself but I thought Tricky had been through enough for one day. We found the Castle ruins surrounded by a beautiful garden – have you noticed that there are hardly any municipal gardens left these days? As we waited for the train to depart, I read through the train schedule and decided that we would get off at Bewdley and catch the little hopper bus back to Stourport after a tour of the town. It didn't quite work out that way. We walked down into the town to find we'd missed the last bus and then the heavens opened and the main street became a river and as we watched, the sewers overflowed and a terrible stink rose up and drove us into the shelter of the Co-op. A lovely young man, who didn't look old enough to tie his shoelaces never mind being the manager of the Co-Op, was very helpful when I explained our predicament. He used the shop phone to call me a taxi and it arrived in five minutes as promised – nothing short of amazing on such a wet afternoon. We arrived home in style and Tricky was spared the terror of the bus from Kidderminster – tell me, do you think we spoil that dog?

That's all for this week – we're hanging around in Kinver for a couple of days waiting to get some repairs done on the cratch cover. Have a lovely week everyone

Love as always

The Floating Chandlers

Friday, 31 July 2015

Racing to Worcester

Sunday 26th July 2015                             Racing to Worcester!

Morning All

Have you had a drop of rain where you are? We've been dodging the showers all week and the boat's taken on that wet dog aroma that I remember so well from 2012.

We've left the Gloucester and Sharpness canal far behind us and we'll be back on the narrow, shallow Staffs and Worcester Canal by tomorrow evening. We've had two weeks of wide, deep water with few locks and bridges to trouble us. Its one of the few remaining places that still have lock-keepers and bridge-keepers to do all the hard work – the bridges open as you approach and when you enter the big river locks the lock-keeper peers down from on high to make sure you're tied on before they press any buttons.

Tricky looking cute
When I closed the jottings last week, I promised to let you know all about Sharpness – well, I'm afraid there's not a lot to say really. We moored on a grassy bank overlooking the estuary which delighted Tricky, as she was only a short walk away from our friends on the Naga Queen - they do spoil her with bits of steak and other luxuries and she's quickly learnt to associate Pat's voice with food.  Tricky is hard to resist when she looks so cute! But I'm wandering off the subject – I was telling you about Sharpness.  There's not much to say except they do have a terrific view of the Severn estuary. It was raining again as we set off to explore and we huddled under our hoods and brollies and watched the sea rushing in past the Coastguard Station looking very grey and forbidding. We followed the path around the marina, up the lane and past the Dock Workers Social Club (closed), found a tiny shop (open) and followed a footpath in search of the sea lock (no public access). We found an open gate and slipped through to watch a large vessel rising slowly in the lock, it was so slow that we gave up waiting and wandered off. I googled the IMO number from her stern and found out she was a general cargo vessel from Antigua - marvellous what you can find out from Google! The most interesting thing we saw was a strange building in the garden of a house by the shop. The house was called The Bee Hive and the building in progress is an enormous 2 storey shed which will look like a Beehive when it's finished. I wondered if they should just convert a VW camper van – paint it yellow and put a dome on the top – job done!

Concrete boat beached at Purton
Next day, we turned the boat around and started back towards Gloucester. We stopped off at Purton on the way, to visit 'The Final Resting Place' where the banks of the Severn have been reinforced by the hulks of old working boats. On a bright breezy morning, we walked down to the memorial and read the names of the boats marooned on the estuary and looked out at the wide, muddy Severn close by. The concrete hulls have silted up and grass paths lead almost to the waters edge – what a sad ending for those once proud boats. Malc found a few blackberries that looked the right colour for eating but were very sour – I don't want to think about Blackberry Crumble just yet, it reminds me of Autumn and I'm still wanting a bit more summer.

 The mooring fairy was with us on our return journey and we snagged the prime moorings opposite the boatyard in Saul. We were rewarded with ring-side seats for the entertainment next morning. First a man in an inflatable dingy whizzed across to a very large boat just down the tow-path from us. He flung a couple of ropes aboard, waited for them to be hooked up and then took the ends back across the canal. Several strong men appeared and started to haul on the ropes, pulling the large boat across the water towards the boatyard. There was a strong crosswind blowing and I expected to see the boat setting off on a collision course with the swing bridge, towing the husky young men along behind – but, of course, it just glided across like it was on rails and was soon tied up safe and sound ready for work to begin. I hope they change her name while she's out of the water – HMS69 isn't very dignified is it?

With one eye on the weather forecast we hurried back to Gloucester to fit in a visit to the Waterways Museum and the Folk Museum before we make the long journey back up the Severn. Heavy rain was predicted for Friday and Sunday so we thought we'd travel the 29 miles from Gloucester Lock to Diglis Basin in Worcester in one go on Saturday. It proved to a be a very long day! We set off at 8.30, stopped at Lower Lode to water up the boat and de-water the dog and arrived in Diglis Basin at almost 7pm. Phew – what a day! We saw 2 Kingfishers, several herons and some very exciting ripples that might have been made by Nessie herself (probably fish – not quite so exciting!). It's rained on and off all day here so we made the right decision to have a long cruise yesterday. We've had a couple of soggy jaunts into Worcester, it looks very interesting and on a sunny day, I'm sure we would have spent longer exploring. It was good to get in and light the stove to dry off – we were OK, it was Tricky who looked bedraggled and woe begone!

Our hidden gem this week is a little place called 'Peppers' which we stumbled upon down a little side street in Gloucester. We ordered coffee and were directed to the courtyard for it to be served. We're a bit wary of these outside spaces - courtyard can mean ant-infested concrete yard with rusty, warped tables. This was an absolute delight– painted walls with large parasols to keep the seagulls off and a colourful knitted blanket on every chair. A large psychedelic sheep stood in one corner and hand-painted wooden birds decorated the pots of lavender and hebe's.
Peppers courtyard

Psychedelic Sheep

 I tried to go on 'Trip Advisor' to review it and now my Ipad thinks I'm someone else! If you understand that last sentence then you will also understand how frustrating it is to be caught up in the mysteries of the superhighway. Thats all from me for this week - have a lovely week everyone

Love as always

The Floating Chandlers

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

No More Free Samples

Sunday 19th July 2015 

No More Free Samples!

Morning All

This week we've covered a lot of miles with very little effort. After an enforced stay of an extra day on the 'Swan's Neck' mooring, thanks to a strong wind pinning us to the bank, we set off on Tuesday early, before the wind woke up! 

Strencham Lock was set ready for us to go straight in and since then all the locks and bridges have been manned. Its been a very restful week for all of us, nothing to do but enjoy the lovely views and sunny afternoons as we chugged from Tewkesbury down the River Severn to Gloucester. (I won't mention the mornings as they were mostly grey and damp). We spent a night at the Lower Lode Inn, doubled up on their floating pontoon - it's a great mooring but the ramp up to the pub from the pontoon is extremely steep. Tricky and I hauled ourselves up and found a grassy area and some benches under a large willow tree – I got a few strange looks as I hung my wifi dongle on a handy branch and settled down to order Mum's shopping.

The approach to Gloucester Lock is serious – large boards warn boaters to 'Slow Down' 'Keep Left' 'Contact Lock-keeper' – the River Severn can be tidal through here and we've heard some horror stories about this lock. Today the river is calm and placid and the lock gates are open for us to go straight in – I'm glad to get through and moor in the large basin on the other side without any drama's. What a great place to moor – it's like being at the seaside.

The docks have been refurbished and the old working warehouses are now shops, offices and fashionable eating places. Pieces of original dock equipment decorate the old wharves and the old railway lines can still be seen in places. In one corner of the basin there is a working boatyard with a massive wooden sailing boat up on chocks in the dry dock. Tiny men, far below, are working on the massive hull and the smell of tar floats up from a big, bubbling pot of the thick, black, smelly stuff. Further along there are huge holiday boats and a towering red Lightship with a 'For Sale' board planted at the bottom of the gang plank – who will be brave enough to take on all that vast expense of red paint! This is completely different from the kind of boating we are used to – everything from dinky little cruisers and converted fishing boats to Dutch barges and wide-beam narrow boats are collected here and we're all the target of those blooming sea-gulls!!

The city shops are a short stroll away(past the prison) and the Cathedral area is full of Japanese tourists who may well be the same ones we saw in Stratford! I found the Beatrix Potter shop called 'The Tailor of Gloucester' in a little alley by the Cathedral and bought a wooden postcard to send to my Mum. Further on we found a really unusual clock over the watchmakers in Southgate. We were intrigued by the large carved figures so we hung around and waited for it to strike the hour to see what it would do. It was hardly worth the wait – it chimed and the figures moved a bit but I was expecting more - a door to open and something pop out or a drummer boy to appear. I looked it up later and the figures represented an Irish woman, and English man, Old Father Time, a Scotsman and a Welsh woman which sounds like the beginning of a not-very-funny joke – maybe it does something spectacular at midnight – I might have to go back for another try!

I was lured into the indoor market by girl giving away samples of Greek olives and they were so good I went in to buy some. I think the lady doing the selling has missed her vocation – she should have been negotiating with Angela Merkel to get the Greek debt reduced. I came away with a large portion of olives costing twice as much as the those little pots I usually buy from Sainsburys and a large spadeful of hummus to go with it. Carl and Tricky can't bear the stuff so I'll be eating dips for a month!

The Food Festival started on Friday morning – rows of stalls selling pies and pickles, cheese and chocolate as well as jewellery and rather fetching 50's style pinnies. It was a bit too early for Carl and he couldn't really get into the swing of things till we spotted a stall selling warm pies – he cheered up no end when I got him a 'warm bunny' – that's Rabbit Pie if you haven't already guessed! I passed the 'Fuffle' stall twice without being tempted (it's a cross between fudge and truffle) but was lured in by the free sample and I'm now hiding the 'Baileys Fuffle' at the back of the fridge where I can't easily get at it.

Yesterday, we reached Saul Junction and had a ramble into Frampton-Upon-Severn which is famous for having the largest village green in England. We started off at the Boat Inn end and walked along by a beautiful old fashioned cottage with roses and hollyhocks in the front and a grape vine growing in the kitchen garden at the side. We passed by the 'Three Horseshoes' at the other end of the green in favour of a bite to eat in the 'Village Bistro' – it was a 'caff ' really but I'll forgive them the pretentious name as the Pistachio Bakewell was delicious. Tricky was allowed in and lay quietly under the table waiting for a morsel of sausage or bacon to come her way and had a paddle in the village pond to cool off on the way home.

We had yet another grey start this morning and we lingered on the mooring watching a very selfish gin palace type cruiser having a wash and polish on the water point. He was there for several hours and only cleared off when the sun came out and the canal turned from a sulky grey to a lovely sparkling blue. We chugged off and made the most of it before finding this idyllic spot to tie up for the day. It's a little overgrown if I'm honest – Carl had to borrow the shears and a medieval instrument of torture called a hand scythe from our cruising companions on Naga Queen to hack away the undergrowth. We now have a spectacular view towards Wales, and tomorrow we get to Sharpness – I'll tell you all about it next week

Have a lovely week everyone

Love as always

The Floating Chandlers

Monday, 20 July 2015

Tiddle Widdle Island

Sunday 12th July 2015 Tiddle Widdle Island

Morning All

Tiddle Widdle Island is a real place just outside the village of Wyre Piddle and the people who live there must have a great sense of humour to put up with a name like that! It is named after the Piddle Brook which runs through the village, well that's what the book says!

After all the excitement of the trip down to Stratford last week, our travels along the Avon have been very tranquil. The river is quiet and serene and the scenery is quaintly English. Our old friend the Kingfisher made a welcome return but we only caught a glimpse of that scintillating blue before it vanished into the distance - it's ages since we saw the last one, so this made our day.

It was a cool drizzly morning when we left Stratford on Tuesday. We tooted the brass horn as we left the lock, waving to a party of primary school children who lined the bridge over the lock to watch the fun. I'm not sure they found me very entertaining – poor little mites, they looked far too young to be on the 'Shakespeare Trail'.

We turned right out of the lock and chugged along by the park towards Tewksbury, happy to be on the move again in spite of the showers that cross over us from time to time. We soon reached Luddington and claimed the best mooring spot – what luck. The sun came out and shone down hotly on our solar panels and the cabin was in the shade of a weeping willow so stayed nice and cool. Tricky and I set off to explore down a track that led off from the moorings, past the church, to a village of thatched black and white cottages. I walked a little way to the village green, peeping into the gardens along the way. There were luscious roses everywhere and lawns trimmed with daisies, flagged paths leading to front doors surrounded by pots of brightly coloured flowers – a very pretty village. Tricky wasn't impressed and lay down in every available patch of shade until I took pity on her and set off back down the track to the cool, greenness of the riverbank.

We reached Evesham on Thursday and moored right outside a chinese take-away - how convenient. We walked over the bridge into town and found it was full of charity shops - like so many places are these days. The beautiful buildings around the old town told the story of a glorious history and the park, which slopes down to the river, was in full bloom. I saw a naughty dog jump into the fishpond and run amok through the lilies - well, it was a hot day and I don't suppose the fish were too bothered.

One of our favourite places on the Avon is the little town of Pershore, where the visitor moorings are right by the park and Tricky can jump on and off without any help. Which is more than can be said for the silly sheep that went for a swim in the river on Sunday morning. The poor thing couldn't get up the bank and bobbed around in the rushes, bleating. For a fleeting moment I thought I would have to paddle over in the lifebuoy to save it – how ridiculous was that, as if I could just sling a fully grown sheep over my shoulder and throw it ashore! Just when I thought Carl and Malc would have to launch a rescue attempt, we heard an engine strike up and a little cruiser set off across the river. The husband held the boat steady while his wife stood on the bows and prodded the sheep with the blunt end of a boat hook to encourage it to try a bit harder to get up the bank – and we all cheered and clapped when the sheep was safely back with the flock.

Good moorings are limited on the Avon and twice this week we have cosied up next to the 'Naga Queen', fitting our two boats side by side into one space. Today we are on a lashed together on the Swan Neck mooring just below Nafford Lock – Pat and I sat out in our deck chairs on the grassy bank, enjoying the view, while Carl and Malc went through their daily ritual of tuning in the TV. Carl's Omnidirectional aerial has not been performing well of late and finding that our neighbours have 200 channels with an aerial that looks like a brick on a stick is causing a touch of aerial envy.
It's one of the downsides of boating life, you can't always find a shop selling what you want and so you have to cobble something together till you can either get it fixed properly or better still, make such a good job of bodging it that you don't need to buy a new one. Our aerial has been cobbled together so often that it's only the gaffer tape that stops it collapsing completely. We've managed to tune in to BBC once in a while but, to be honest, I think we might have done better with a coat hanger! Is there a Maplins in Tewksbury? We found one in Stratford but they'd sold out of the 'brick on a stick' TV aerial so we bought a new radio instead! We now have a neat DAB radio hooked up on the back deck – it's a fraction of the size of the old 'ghetto blaster' that took up so much room and crackled and fizzed while I was trying to play 'Popmaster' with Ken Bruce. I'm always 'One Year Out' and to be honest sometimes I'm wrong by a decade! If you don't listen to Radio 2 then you wont have a clue what the last bit was all about!

I'm listening to the rain pattering on the roof as I clatter away on the keyboard, the forecast is mixed for the week ahead and we'll be on the River Severn tomorrow, on our way to Gloucester. I'm hoping that we only get showers – we don't want to get caught up in a deluge - I've seen the 2007 flood markers and they're scary!

Have a lovely week everyone

Love as always

The Floating Chandlers