Sunday, 16 July 2017

Jottings from a Small Island

Turning at Sawley Services

 Morning All

I'm happy to report that the dubious spam I was battling with on my last Jotting has been erased. It's been battered, fried and served up as spam fritters by my new virus protection and I'm squeaky clean again. No-one complained about the porn-spam so I'm hoping I still have some readers left.

Did you wonder where I'd got to last week? I was luxuriating in the home comforts of Mum's B & B and tootling around the local garden centres in search of Penstemons. I'm happy to say that the search also included lots of tea stops and even the odd cream cake. The heatwave prevented us from venturing out far as my little puddle jumper gets steaming hot when it's sunny - I foolishly thought that air conditioning was a luxury when we bought the car 10 years ago. Every summer I threaten to trade her in for a newer model but every year she goes through the MOT with flying colours so I decide to keep her a bit longer. I need something that can cope with being left in a hedge for weeks on end and can be relied upon to keep me cool in summer and toasty warm in winter - all suggestions for a suitable replacement gratefully received.

So, back to boating. Since I last wrote we have travelled from our home mooring in Egginton on the Trent and Mersey in Derbyshire to this rather lovely spot, Farndon, on the River Trent. The first part of the week was hectic with lots of boats using this really popular canal. The hire boat season is in full swing and the familiar blue boats, from the hire base in Sawley, keep us entertained with their exploits. A 'NewbIe' at Weston was trying to empty the lock without closing the top paddles when we came along - this meant the water was rushing into the lock at one end and pouring out of the other - 'Mr Newbie' was wondering why the gates wouldn't open. Once we'd sorted that out, then he went off to tell his wife to bring the boat in. After a long interval the little boat came in, ramming the gates hard and leaving a fender behind. Oh dear! She slammed the engine into hard reverse, zoomed backwards and left the tiller swinging wildly while she located the boat hook. After 3 attempts, the fender was collected and the boat re-entered the lock and I closed the gate on my side and then helped 'Mr Newbie' with his side. The lock gates at Weston are extremely heavy and closing them requires a lot of huffing and puffing so I wasn't best pleased to find that while the Newbies were trying to pass a rope from the boat up to the bollard (not easy because 1- the wife couldn't throw and 2 - the husband couldn't catch) my gate had swung open again. I plodded back and huffed and puffed again and closed it, the rope was finally secured to the bollard and just as we were about to let the water in - a horn sounded. Another boat wanted to come in and share the lock. I plodded back to the other end, opened the gate and in came a hire boat with two large men aboard. hey made no effort to leave the comfort of their boat and watched as 2 old ladies (me being one of them) and 'Mr Newbie' did all the hard work. As the boat rose up the lock, I asked them if they had a windlass with an arm on it and after a while, they got the joke and went below to find one. I left them to it and went to talk to Mrs Anonymous - she was the other elderly lady and had come from the cruiser behind us which was waiting patiently to go through the lock. The couple were both wearing very heavy-duty life jackets which is unusual on the canals. The husband had his name "Dave" written in large letters across the front of his jacket but his wife said she wished to remain anonymous - she told me later she has Parkinson's and wore the life jacket in case she fell in the lock. You have to admire her determination to keep on boating as long as she possibly could. We shared a couple of locks down to Shardlow with them and I never did find out her name so Mrs Anonymous she'll remain.

The River Trent has been kind to us this trip - we've had lovely sunshine most afternoons to speed us on our journey down to Torksey. Rain was forecast for Tuesday and we got a good soaking before we reached a mooring at Stenson and the sewage works at Shardlow could hardly be called a des res and we were over whelmed with tiny white flies which I rather think might have come from that direction. We were up early next morning and danced across the deep water to Sawley, only stopping to visit the services behind the lock and then chugging along with a good current to speed us to Nottingham and the delights of an overnight mooring right by Sainsburys and a good old natter with our boating friends Terry and Liz – see you on the way back I hope.

We left the city behind and didn't even think of mooring at Holme Pierrepoint, it's looking very desolate these days. Instead we overnighted at Stoke Bardolph, squeezing onto the floating pontoon between a narrow-boat and a couple of sailing yachts. A very courteous gentleman came out and assisted me with my ropes, we discussed the weather like proper English people before he retired to his yacht and left us to enjoy the peace of this delightful mooring.

Hazelford Lock Moorings
We reached Hazelford Lock under dark stormy skies and moored on a stepped pier for our usual cheese sandwich. Tricky soon got the hang of scampering up the large concrete steps and I managed to plod up to the top too so we left Carl to arrange his fenders and went exploring. We turned away from the noisy weir by the lock and followed a path through the bushes until we came to...another weir. The river passed on both sides of the lock creating a wild island, large enough to give Tricky a bit of a walk and teaming with wild life. What an unexpected delight, and we're not the only ones who think so. By teatime, a whole flotilla of cruisers had arrived and the island was busy with people barbecuing and enjoying the lovely sunny afternoon. Definitely one of the loveliest moorings on the Trent and unlike the Thames, all free
A Flotilla arrived at Hazelford

Our mooring today is a floating pontoon in Farndon - Tricky likes this much better than the stepped wall and rasps her beard joyfully on the rough pontoon matting while I unlock the security gate leading to the nearby grassy meadow - doggy heaven. It's not quite so peaceful here, music from the nearby 'Bistro' floats over the meadow and the river is busy with boats coming and going from Farndon Marina. Tomorrow, we'll be tying up in Newark and contacting the Lock-Keeper at Cromwell to book our passage down the tidal Trent to Torksey. I hope to meet up with my Boston family and friends along the way - please do come and find us, it's been too long since I saw you all.

Lots of Love from
The Floating Chandlers

PS A big dragonfly came in through the hatch and landed on my knickers - luckily, I wasn't wearing them at the time

PPS Me to Carl as we chug up the Trent towards Gunthorpe
“We're a bit close to the bank” Carl replied - “Don't worry, this is deep water”

Two minutes later we're aground and Carl is stranded on 'I Told You So' Island !!!

Dragonfly inspecting my knickers

Captain Carl keeping us afloat

Tricky is underwhelmed by the view

I'm often on a train looking down at the river - not today!

a Clapping Gate - a very noisy design

Gunthorpe Bridge

We can't get in that gap - oh well, onward

Gunthorpe Lock
Hazelford Island
Hazelford Lock House

Hazelford Back Weir

Sunday, 2 July 2017

The Last Post

Dear Reader - apologies if you have received spam from this site.  I've been unable to solve the problem so it is with regret that my blog has now closed.

I have opened a Facebook page called 'Hedgerow Jottings' for anyone who may want to follow our adventures - please come and join me there

A Hot Day In Cropredy

It was a very hot and sticky day on the South Oxford Canal in Cropredy. The sun was high in the sky and my patch of shade was rapidly shrinking. It was far too hot for boating so I thought I'd make a start on the Jottings and tell you about the Thames, while it was still fresh in my mind. The tow-path was so busy that I did a lot more chatting than tapping to begin with as everyone who walked by wanted to stand in my patch of shade for a rest and a chat. I hardly got anything written until late evening, when it was just me and the mozzies out there. It was still 31 degrees in the boat until the sun went down, and not even a whisper of a breeze to ripple the water.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather on our trip from Reading to Oxford, our week went too quickly and I'd be hard pressed to chose my favourite overnight mooring. We were blown into our first mooring in Pangbourne almost by accident. We had intended to call in at Maple Durham but we couldn't get to within 6 feet of the bank and they wanted £5 a night for the privilege of mooring amongst the thick layer of goose droppings! The Captain had to pole us out of the shallows into a fierce cross wind while I did my best to steer us out of trouble. That went OK - hardly any cross words!

It was late on Sunday afternoon before we left the boat and went off to explore Pangbourne. I was looking for the River Pang, famous for its connection with 'Wind in the Willows' and I can see that it would have been a very charming spot in Kenneth Graham's time but it is now blighted by the roar of passing traffic. We had a look in the church and I took some photos of the Elephant Hotel but it was far too posh for two sartorially challenged boaters and their scruffy dog. The Cross Keys looked inviting but only opened from 12 till 4 on a Sunday so we ended up at The George, a 17th century coaching inn, which now overlooks a very busy crossroads in the centre of Pangbourne. We played spot the Ferrari as we sipped our cider outside this very picturesque pub but we were soon choking on the exhaust fumes. We walked home across the lovely riverside meadow and waded through the long grass to get back to the boat- it was a free mooring, so I guess the owner thought he wouldn't bother cutting the grass. We couldn't leave without exploring Whitchurch-on-Thames, just across the river from Pangbourne. We'd read that the pretty bridge across the river was privately owned and was one of the few remaining toll bridges left in England. The toll booth was doing a roaring trade and I wondered if the locals resented paying 60p just to nip to the Co-op.

We were lucky to get another free mooring in Goring. (Look out Pam Ayres - I've started rhyming) It's notoriously difficult to find a space in this popular spot but we arrived early and were lucky to squeeze in behind a yoghurt pot (fibre glass cruiser) We walked into the village and my eye was caught by a display of 'things' hanging on the wall outside a pretty cottage. We turned into the alley and found it was a shrine to George Michael. Hundreds of messages and candles from his adoring fans almost covered the walls and the floor and there were lots of photos of George in his heyday. I still play his 'Songs from the Last Century' album and love his version of Roxanne - RIP George. We walked on past the church, turned left at the little pub and found "Betty's Curio Shop" tucked away in an alley. We spent a very happy time browsing amongst the old books, glassware and china ornaments. I spotted a tiny silver boat and we bought it for my 'shelf of tiny treasures' - each little thing reminds me of a place we have visited on our slow boat to anywhere and we have made lots of very happy memories over the years.

Next morning we made an early start and I went ahead to 'Self Operate' the lock. The Lock-keepers don't start until 9am on the Thames but they very kindly leave the power on so you can work the lock by pressing a few buttons. It makes a very welcome change after the ardours of the Kennet and Avon! A hire boat was moored by the lock and the first mate came over to ask for help to turn their boat - we did our good deed for the day and waved them off towards Reading and we set off through the lock towards Wallingford. It wasn't far and we arrived just in time to slip into a space left by a large wide beam. It wasn't until I tried to get off the boat that I realized we had moored on a high wall and the only way I could get ashore was to step up on the gunwale and sit on the bank then roll onto my knees and stagger at last into an upright position. It's at times like this that I know I need to eat less cake! (Although the Captain eats loads of cake and he springs up and down with hardly any effort at all.) He also refrains from reminding me that I was the one who insisted on mooring on the wall when we could have had a nice spot on the low wall on the other side of the river by the swimming pool. Wallingford must have one of the few remaining outdoor pools left in this country and I wonder how long the local children have left to enjoy it, so many have closed due to the council cut-backs. Oh dear - I nearly drifted into politics there, I don't want to lose any readers who might be offended by the views of this ancient mariner (I'm getting seriously weather beaten in this hot sun!) It was too hot for sightseeing in Wallingford so we found a little pub on the edge of a green park and sat in the shade sipping our cider again. We did linger in the town square on the way back and listened to a couple of buskers on guitar and banjo and I popped into Waitrose for free coffee and some fishy things to go with our evening salad. I wondered if we would have to pay Wallingford council the £5 fee for our overnight mooring. I didn't begrudge it, after all it might help to keep that pool open a little longer!

Our last mooring on the Thames was by the Iffley Lock in Oxford where we were constantly buffeted by the trip boats and entertained by the rowing boats. It was too hot to leave the boat and go into Oxford sight-seeing so Carl did some painting in the bows and I lazed with my book till it cooled off a bit. I've loved our week on the Thames but I'm ready for the narrow locks of the South Oxford and a bit of lock wheeling to work off all the cider I've been drinking.

Have a very lovely week everyone

Love from
The Floating Chandlers

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Meadowsweet and Butterburr

Pru enjoying the Braunston Vintage Boat Parade
How lucky were we to get a mooring in Braunston for the Vintage Rally. We weren't intending to stay so long but it's a handy spot for Carl to visit his Dad so we lingered to watch the Opening Parade on Saturday morning. Timothy West and Prunella Scales were the celebrities leading the parade although I was pleased to see that Tim wasn't left to negotiate the sharp turn into the Marina by himself. There was a huge crowd on the bridge and with boating, the more people that are watching, the more likely you are to do something spectacularly entertaining, like falling in or ramming into a wall. Prue was on the butty behind and was positively beaming at everyone, I'm glad she is still able to enjoy boating and anyone who saw her could be in no doubt that she was loving every minute.
Tim on the Tiller

So, what have we been up to this week? After a last blast of heat on Wednesday, when we cowered under a tree all day, the days have been deliciously cool and there has been no need to get up at silly o'clock to get through the locks. I have enjoyed our 5am starts but I'm happy to resume our normal cruising routine which means I can stay in bed till the swans come tapping then wander around in my dressing gown, until the Captain starts to drop hints about missing the tide.
A shady spot in Cropredy

We had a bit of drama in the early hours of Friday morning when a boat caught fire just up the towpath from us. Apparently, it started at 2am and was well ablaze by the time the fire brigade got to it. No-one was on board, which was a blessing but the boat is wrecked. It will be a terrible shock for the owners when they return and it was a reminder to everyone passing that we all need to have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Carl and I missed all the excitement and slept through the whole thing, I'm amazed as I normally can hear a swan breaking wind at a hundred paces!

As well as making an early start when it's hot, we often have a late evening cruise to catch the breeze and watch the setting sun painting the clouds unlikely shades of turquoise, pink and lilac. A Barn Owl flits across the meadow looking for supper and the ducks drift around aimlessly in the undergrowth looking for a quiet spot to roost. The moorhen chicks are all tucked up for the night and only the swallows are still on the wing looking for a late night snack to tide them over till morning. The longest day is followed by the shortest night and Carl will remind me that it's only 6 months till Christmas. Oh no! I mentioned the unmentionable, my loyal band of readers will desert me if I start the Christmas countdown so soon.
The Garden Boat

This week we have travelled from Somerton Deep Lock on the South Oxford, through Banbury and Napton, pausing for a few days In Braunston and then scooting up the North Oxford past Rugby, we moored today a couple of miles short of Hawkesbury Junction. This week, we landed at our very favourite spot by bridge 125 - it's still the loveliest place and it brings back some very happy memories of our first narrow boat holiday in 2006. We crept through Banbury very early and passed a boat with a whole garden on his roof and we've seen him several times since - the feverfew is so tall he can hardly see to steer (have a look in the blog for photos). We came down the Napton flight before the hire boaters had left the lock landings and slid into the best bit of shade we could find to sit out another very hot day. We were so shady that I had my cardigan on till about dinner time, then I made the mistake of walking to the Folly for a tub of buffalo ice-cream and couldn't cool off again. How have you lovely people managed to keep cool? I saw an article about making a cooling system from a cake rack, a flower pot and a saucer of water - I was so desperate that I would have tried it if I had a flower pot. It couldn't possibly work, could it? Anyway, Carl found the little fan he made me last year and I shared the breeze with Tricky. I kept her cool by squirting her with water every now and then - she didn't like it much but tolerated it better than being dunked in a bowl of water. If she see me coming with a bowl she runs away!
Sunset at Bridge 125

We have made very good progress since the hot weather passed, there are lots of boats along this popular route but everything seem to be going the other way. The towpath is so poor along here that there are few hikers and even less bikers passing by. The M6 is a very faint drone in the distance and, for once, we're not listening to music as I tap away, so there's nothing to spoil the peace of this summer evening. There's a fresh breeze ruffling the water and the sun is dazzling as it slips down towards the horizon - this is the very best time of the day and June is the loveliest of the summer months. The towpaths are crowded with Meadowsweet and Honeysuckle; spikes of Purple Loosestrife mingle with Water Dock and fight for space with clumps of something that looks like wild rhubarb but is actually called Butterburr (thank heavens for Google). It throws up giant leaves that are drowning other native species in their shade and taking over large stretches of the canal bank. The Brambles are flowering and I'm already looking forward to their fruit – how quickly this year is flying by.

And I must fly too, the Captain is putting the boat to bed, shutting the hatches, closing the curtains and making notes about battery usage in the diary. Have a lovely week everyone.

Lots of Love
The Floating Chandlers

PS A robin hopped into the cratch one evening, we sat there with bated breath as he hopped around but as soon as I stretched out my hand for the camera, of course, he flew away. 
Braunston church

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Getting Locked In

River Cherwell at Aynho
This is Captain Carl at your service once again. Due to popular demand, I find that I am compelled to "do the jottings" again. Actually, this is only half true, it's got nothing to do with popular demand. In a moment of madness I said to the wife (Linda) that I'd do the jottings this week hoping she'd decline my offer. She didn't, so here I am slaving over a hot keyboard on the towpath in Banbury.

Last Sunday we were back on the Thames. We'd had a long day so decided to moor at Pangbourne. Our old friend the wind disapproved of our decision to call it a day and did battle with us for a while, ceaselessly blowing at gale force and keeping us from the riverbank. We pretended that we had given up the mooring idea for a few minutes. As I expected, this had the desired effect of fooling the wind, and before it realised what was going on we had turned hard to port and tied up in the shelter of a big bush type thing.
Whitchurch-upon-Thames from the toll bridge

On the whole, the weather this week has been very good. The great wind of Pangbourne has been left behind to sulk, and the days have been calm, dry and increasingly sunny. As the weather has been so hot, we have been getting up at around 5 am and making an early start. I tell you, it's a different world at this time of the morning. Cool, still, mist rising off the water, birds singing. I imagine the Garden of Eden would have been something like this.

Changing the subject, let me tell you something about locks. On our travels we have seen many different types of locks on the rivers and canals. Deep, shallow, rickety, stubborn, heavy, creaky, poorly maintained, the list goes on. The design of some locks seems very odd, they push your boat towards the overgrown, shallow, weedy offside of the canal. On the South Oxford canal there are two "diamond" locks. These are nothing to do with jewellery or great wealth, but are named after their curious shape, which, if you almost close your eyes and look the other way when it's dark, do appear to have a diamond shape. I don't know why this should be. I have heard that the shape allows the lock chamber to hold two or three narrowboats at a time, but I don't know.

Shipton Weir Lock - diamond shaped

The reason I am going on and on about locks in this tedious fashion is because of an incident that happened to us today. We arrived at Grant's Lock, the last lock before Banbury, and were thinking longingly of a shady mooring to escape the blazing sunshine. Linda emptied the chamber, opened the gate and I cast off and approached the lock. I could see that the gate wasn't fully open, but a lot of the locks on this particular waterway have gates that don't open all the way. Now, I know what you are thinking. You're thinking "the silly sod tried to force his way in and got jammed between the gate and wall. Serves him right. Idiot". Well you are wrong. I didn't get jammed between the gate and wall, the boat gently slid a third of the way into the lock chamber with inches to spare and promptly got jammed on something lying at the bottom of the lock. Bugger. Going hard astern made no difference, the boat was going nowhere. We tried opening the paddles on the top gate, hoping to flush the boat back. No good.

After half an hour of trying everything we could think of we were joined by other boaters waiting to use the lock. A sea of perturbed faces looked down at me as I gunned the engine without moving an inch. Two boats were now behind me, waiting to come up. We persuaded the owner of the first of these to try to pull me out of the lock. He duly passed me a line, which I secured to the stern, then we both hit 'hard astern'. Linda tried the "flush him out" trick by raising the paddles at the other end but it was no use. Our boat didn't move an inch. Then, a lady called down to me in my new place of abode. "Can you move forward?" she helpfully enquired. I looked up and dolefully shook my head.(note from wife - if I'd have asked such a damn fool question there would have been Words!)
Grant's Lock - jammed tight

Amongst the increasing crowd of waiting boat owners was a man with a long pole with a hook on the end of it, or boat hook, as we call it. He had decided that enough was enough, and clambered down to join me in the dark, dank, shadowy confines of Hades. After fishing around with his pole he asked permission to go forward through the boat. As all this was going on, I decided to take my own advice from last week and lighten the water tank. Running a tap for around half an hour didn't help, if I'm honest. Meanwhile, at the bows he was still fishing around, then suddenly shouted up to the seething mass of humanity that now thronged the lock "get me that long rusty metal angle iron thing will ya?" Within seconds the said item was lowered to him. He used it as a lever and moved the bows across the lock a few inches. Suddenly I thought "try reverse", so I did, and the boat drifted back out as sweet as anything.

The man with the pole then filled the lock, brought his boat in, emptied the lock and drove forward to the gate. After a short struggle he removed the offending object (a branch), cleared the silt around the gate which allowed the gate to open fully, and left. I'm overjoyed to say that we were then able to negotiate the lock and come out the other end. Thank so much to all the other boaters that helped us and showed remarkable patience, as we were stuck there for 2 1/2 hours.

That's about it from me, I'm still on the towpath as the temperature inside the boat was 31 degrees last time I looked, time for a cool beer. Cheers!

Love from
The Floating Chandlers

PS As we approached Oxford from the Thames on Friday we saw a group of young 'uns larking about by the water's edge. There was a sudden shout, and one of them fell in, making quite a big splash. We looked in horror as the girl came to the surface. Then she started laughing and swimming about having the time of her life. No harm done then, except maybe for some astonished fish.
The Thames at Port Meadow, Oxford

PPS. Linda here - I shall be back next week to tell you a bit more about our trip down the Thames - the historic towns of Abingdon and Wallingford, a shrine to George Michael that we stumbled upon in Goring, the toll bridge in Whitchurch, a shady mooring by Somerton Deep Lock and much more. Have a lovely week everyone. 

Abingdon Monastery Garden

Signpost at Abingdon Lock

Sunset at Wallingford

a strange craft on the Thames

Canalside Cafe

Lift bridge at sunrise

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Large Marge and Black Bart

Swan Jam in Reading
What a flipping week it's been! Gale force winds, heavy rain, warm and sunny one minute, dark and damp the next - don't you just love flaming June! I'll skate over the bad bits and share the rainbows with you.

We've met some really lovely folk on the Kennet and Avon, although some of them have been going the other way and we hope to meet up with them again. Like the two ladies and a parrot we met at Thatcham on a boat called Large Marge – what great name. We met Colin, Jude and their lovely Staffie, Roxie on 'Black Bart' and shared locks for a whole day. Colin writes a pirate blog, which is very funny, if you can understand the old sea dog. We also shared locks with the bell ringers boat 'Intrepid' and were entertained by their crew ringing hand bells as we ascended the Caen flight. I fell in love with a couple of Border Terriers who were being towed along behind the bicycle of owner in a kind of covered trailer. Those dogs loved it, they had the front rolled up and their ears were flapping in the breeze and their tongues hanging out and where was the camera? Not where I could reach it in time! Not everyone is so nice, in fact we were so fed up with one lot that we moored up and left them to it. We had a cup of coffee and set off again and shared Garston lock with 3 twenty somethings and there cute little schnauzer, Maddy. We chugged out of the lock first and went off to set the next lock - we'd been there waiting for about twenty minutes but there was no sign of them. We were reluctant to just go on, the young man on the tiller was very experienced but we didn't like to leave them without knowing they were OK. I'd been chatting to a lady cyclist as we waited at the lock (a very interesting person, she'd had a quad heart bypass at thirty, a large scar on her arm where she drilled into it while refitting a boat and cycled from Reading to Newbury most weekends to keep fit) - she offered to cycle back and see where they'd got to. It was bad news - they'd run aground on a large piece of concrete and couldn't get off. We couldn't turn, we couldn't reverse back and so we had to carry on and moor as soon as we could by the Cunning Man pub. Carl being Carl, didn't want to leave them in the lurch so he jogged all the way back to see if he could help - he had the bright idea of emptying the water tank which might raise the bows enough for them to get free. It was several hours later before they finally caught up with us - the water trick combined with some rocking and heaving on a rope had finally shifted them.
A froglet

We went for our usual stroll yesterday evening, it was cool enough for Tricky to enjoy a sniff along the towpath and from there, we found a footpath leading away from the river around a large lake. A movement caught my eye and I stopped to investigate, it was so small I couldn't at first make it out. It was a teeny, tiny froglet, and as I looked closer, I spotted more and more of them in fact the whole path was alive with little hoppers and we had to tiptoe along to avoid squishing them. I tried to get a close up photo but I'm not sure you'll be able to make it out – I'll post it on the blog. As we arrived back at the boat, a fully clothed man, complete with baseball cap on his head, came by. Nothing unusual there except he was in the water, kicking his legs and hanging onto a floating bag - he didn't stop for a chat so I'll never know where he was going or why!
A shady mooring in Theale

We've been very lucky with our moorings this week - on Monday, we left Hungerford in a fine drizzle which wasn't due to turn to rain until late afternoon. Well, that forecast was completely wrong! The drizzle turned to persistent rain and we slid the hatch closed to stop water dripping on the engine deck - this reduces standing room at the stern to an area the size of a postage stamp and there's not much room on the step for two pairs of booted feet and a dog. The wind is getting up too and after a few hours, I begin to think longingly of mooring up with a hot cuppa and maybe even a fire. As the rain begins to lash down heavily, we see a stretch of mown grass with 2 posts - can it be a free mooring? It really was our lucky day, a proper mooring where we could safely ride out the storm. We didn't move the boat in the howling wind on Tuesday, we walked to Newbury and back and twiddled our thumbs because the perfect mooring spot had no wifi signal and a very intermittent tv signal. I cleaned out a few cupboards and moved the furniture around - it's pretty difficult to do that on a boat. All I actually did was move my chair to Carl's place and his to mine - just for a change of scenery. I really missed my wifi, I rely on it for so many things these days - the weather forecast, the news, chatting to my friends and family, looking up information, paying bills and keeping track of birthdays - we live a simple life but without wifi I think I'd be very lonely.
Our mooring luck held all week and we bagged a field mooring just through Ufton swing bridge where the water was deep enough for the whole boat to get right up to the bank and Tricky could jump ashore without the dreaded plank. There was a herd of young heifers in the field but not close enough to bother us until I stopped to chat to the young woman on the boat next door - she'd been chased by them more than once. Needless to say, I didn't walk Tricky far that night and I was watching for stampeding cattle the whole time!

We did the last four locks this morning and left the Kennet and Avon in glorious sunshine. Every lock was set for us and we sped along the sparkling river, rushing towards Reading and the Thames. It's been a memorable trip and I hope you've enjoyed it too.

That's all from me for now – I'll be back next week with more about the River Thames and the journey to Oxford

Lots of love and hugs
The Floating Chandlers

ps Today we saw a Kingfisher, an Egret, a whole hillside of Alpacas and a very cute Grebe chick hitching a ride on Mum's back.

pps Anyone know how the election went?
The beautiful Thames

Another Thatch - can you see the nest?

Nesting Duck

I wonder who lives here



Thames Mooring
Little Egret

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Mooring Woes

Bath - a view of the Pultney Weir
Hello dear readers. Linda has asked me to carry out the task of "doing the jottings" this week, at very short notice. I've got nothing prepared, so will just ramble on, and hope that something worth reading is the result. Maybe it will be a slight diversion from today's news.
Fabulous views of Bath Catherdral

Now, if any of you were paying attention last week, you will recall that we had finally arrived at Bath. You may pronounce this city as "Barth", as I do, being a southerner, or Bath, as in wrath. Isn't the English language simply the best in the world? Anyway, on with the jottings. There's loads of history here, great architecture, Roman baths, Roman pavements; in short a wonderful place to visit. As previously noted, we arrived last Sunday and found good moorings just a short 3/4 mile walk from the City centre. The weather was warm and sunny so we wandered off with Tricky for an afternoon of sight seeing. Very pleasant it was too. We strolled along by the river Avon, saw the Cathedral and also the row of shops built on a bridge over the river by the famous Pultney Weir

Lamb 'Thingy'
What should have been a good walk around the district soon became a bit of a trudge, or plod. Tricky, inexplicably, had decided that great architecture, Roman baths and Roman pavements weren't really on her "to do" list. She started to drag her feet a bit. Then she decided that her function in life was to trip up Japanese tourists and elderly ladies on steps. In order to avoid the possible repercussions from entanglements with said tourists/elderly ladies, we eventually stopped at a beer garden and had a couple of glasses of cider. I was feeling peckish by this time so I ordered a lamb thing. I'm blowed if I can remember what it was called. It wasn't a kebab I know that. It came with flat bread and salad. Very tasty it was too. While I was happily munching my food we spotted a barrel with "dog beer" written on it. It turned out to be a container of fresh water for thirsty dogs. As Tricky was obviously thirsty, not to mention hot and bothered (probably because we wouldn't let her run amok amongst the Japanese tourists and elderly ladies) Linda poured some water into a bowl for her. Perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised when Tricky glanced at the water as if it was a collection of old number eight batteries, gazed dolefully at Linda for a second or two, and promptly sat with her back to the said bowl of water.

The next morning we went back to Bath, leaving Tricky behind to mind the boat, and had several hours of sight-seeing. It started raining around mid-morning, so we were back aboard by lunch-time. The rain stopped during the afternoon, so we had a late cruise to Dundas wharf, near Monkton Combe, where we spent a quiet night.

A beautiful morning for a cruise

By Wednesday morning we had reached the bottom of the Caen Hill flight of locks. We set off before 8.00 am and were lucky enough to catch up with another boat to share the 29 locks with, which made the task much easier than it otherwise might have been. As the gates opened at our 27th lock I put the control into forward. Instantly, the engine screeched and stopped. I re-started the engine and tried again, with the same result. As the boat drifted out of the lock and started floating aimlessly away from the bank, one of the crew from the other boat managed to grab my centre line and haul me to the side, where I was able to tie up. Lifting the weed hatch revealed a block of wood jammed across the prop. The blade had become embedded in the offending wood and wouldn't budge. By using a mooring pin as a lever, strategic blows of a hammer and various pitiful wrenches with my bare hands, I achieved absolutely nothing. I tried a bit of random muttered swearing. Even after uttering unprintable expletives, the damn thing wouldn't budge. What was I to do? I'd already tried panicking but I'd only ended up grazing my wrist. Finally, after about five minutes, I tried splitting the wood with a hammer and chisel. The third split was successful and the wood finally came free, to be burnt with relish next time we light the stove. Phew! Close call, folks. After checking the prop for any damage (there didn't seem to be any) I started the engine and we carried on.

On the whole, we've been lucky on the Kennet & Avon with regard to mooring up each day. We've heard many horror stories about having to moor six feet or more from the bank, getting stuck on rocks, having to travel on and on for hour after hour because there's no place to tie up. Well, our luck ran out on Friday. We'd had a long day and were both ready to pull in to the side. We wanted to moor at Great Bedwyn, but as we approached the final bridge we saw boat after boat along the bank. All the spaces were taken. We slowly drifted passed a never ending line of vessels, leaving the designated moorings behind. On we went, passing moored boats that were well away from the bank, moored boats that looked like they'd been there, stuck on rocks, since the early 19th century and moored boats whose owners must have given up all hope of seeing a view that didn't contain green rushes, drippy ducks and smarmy swans ever again. Each vessel had rigged up some sort of link between it and the bank. Some were proper gangplanks, while others were lengths of rickety board, tied up with string and held valiantly at ground level by a steel mooring pin. A variant of the rickety board type was a combined concoction of ex-tree, extreme optimism and/or ignorance and foolhardiness. All of these were orientated at such a steep angle that Edmund Hilary himself would have balked at the thought of climbing them. I don't mind admitting to you that we were a little bit worried at this point.
Quackers - nuff said

Finally, there was a gap. We were following a boat. Like us they were trying to tie up for the night. We hung back, watching to see what they would do, and how they would get on. They pulled in. Their bows touched the bank. They were in. There was a long enough gap behind them for us so we also pulled in. Our bows didn't touch the bank. We ended up mooring six feet from the side. The gangplank was only just long enough to reach from the boat to the bank, but eventually, on a wing and a prayer, we were tied up. Tricky was perplexed by the gangplank, however, but thanks to a quick induction course, a brief lecture on health and safety, and pointing her the right way I'm happy to report that I could carry her on and off the boat as required.

Today we are moored at our favourite spot in Hungerford. We arrived yesterday afternoon and will stay until tomorrow. And that's about the size of it for another week. After reading this Linda will no doubt vow to keep me well away from the jottings. We will have to see. Right then, bye for now, etc.

PS there's always a PS with these jottings, isn't there?

Carl on lock duty

A very leaky lock

Locking down with Black Bart

Unusual crenellations -  Great Bedwyn
Ornate bridges in Bath

Pultney Weir

Great paint job