Sunday, 26 March 2017

Now That's Magic

Hello again from the cosy cabin of the Lady Aberlour moored in Weedon

Drying out
The pub across the way is full of Happy Mothers celebrating their Day in style and the tow-path by the boat is busy with families walking off their Sunday lunch. I'm so glad the sun is shining again, I've had enough of the rain this week. I'm sitting in my usual spot in the cabin with a happy Tricky dog by my side – she's happy because there was sausage for breakfast. I'm happy because we've had lots of visitors this week and that's taken my mind of Wet Wednesday when we came down Buckby flight in the pouring rain and we all got soaked. I must have looked a sorry sight when I popped into the Whilton chandlery for milk. I dripped over to the counter to pay and I could see that the lady was horrified by my wetness and for once, I was too soggy to be cheerful. We moored in the first available spot,once the canal veered away from the M1, and Carl stoked up the fire so Tricky and I could enjoy our afternoon nap. I was too tired to care about the state of the tow-path when we moored but when Tricky went out the next morning, she paddled through the mire before jumping back aboard with four black feet. Have you seen the Flash advert where the white dog comes in and shakes mud everywhere and the lady of the house waves her magic Flash and makes it vanish? Well, it's a big fat lie! There was mud everywhere - on the radiator, on the just washed dog blanket, on Carl's grumpy chair and doggy footprints all the way through the boat. Nothing in a bottle will ever sort that out!

Flore Church
We've been in this spot for a few days now, there's a proper footpath and a lovely walk through the fields and across the river Nene to the crumbling Flore Church. It looks very pretty when viewed from across the valley but when you get closer, the beautiful sandstone is very worn and a notice on the doors warns of falling plaster from the ceiling inside. We have so many beautiful churches in England and they're our landmarks as we travel along the canals, part and parcel of our boating life. There is another beautiful church at Braunston - on Monday, after a showery, blustery day we walked Tricky from our mooring at bridge 90, through the sheep field, up to the village. The wind had dropped and the late evening sun came out and lit up the church and made a wonderful reflection in the stained glass window. I whipped out my phone and took some photos, not really expecting that I would be able to capture the moment but somehow I did.

The best part of being afloat is waking up in the morning and knowing that the whole day will be spent doing the thing you love most - boating. If it's raining, we're disappointed that we might not be able to spend as long as we would like to on the tiller. If it's blowing a gale then we know we're in for a battle to keep the boat straight and for Captain Carl to not to shake his fist at the ******* wind. On sunny days, I hang out of the hatch while I wait for the kettle to boil, hoping to spot a water vole or a heron while I'm down at water level. We chug along drinking our morning coffee and listen to the birdsong, hoping for a Kingfisher but happy with the moorhens and coots. The fields are a never ending kaleidoscope of greens, everything from a lush emerald to a citric lime and any day now the rape will burst into its spring dressing of brightest yellow.

River Nene
You may wonder why we've been moored in Weedon for so long when I've just been ranting on about how much we love to chug. It's because from time to time, we need to leave the enchanted world of boating and rejoin the real world for musical entertainment and hugs with friends and family. We've had a lovely time this week, rocking along to K3 (thanks Richard, Mel and Kev) on Thursday, browsing the antique shops in Weedon on Friday and meeting up with Tommy the Toyota on Saturday. Tommy is my granddaughter's first car and we went off to celebrate nothing in particular with a meal at the Crossroads Hotel - this generated much mirth about Miss Diane and Benny and I looked in vain for Amy Turtle(I'm sure my older readers will smile at those memories but the young folk won't know what on earth we're wittering on about). As we waved them (Lauren and Sam) off after breakfast on Sunday, I wondered if they might have been bored. I also wonder what they really think about us living like hippies on a boat with a chemical toilet.

This week we'll be meandering down to Stoke Bruerne which isn't very far but we can't get on until I've picked up my my new specs from Rugby. By that time I'm hoping that my back will have recovered from heaving on a very stubborn gate on the Buckby flight – I knew I'd need the Ibuprofen Gel this week!

That's all from me for now. I hope all's well with you and that you're enjoying this wonderful spring weather.

Love from
The Floating Chandlers

PS I forgot the PS last week but it's OK, no-one noticed.

PPS We're moored opposite Sally Slapcabbage and I've taken her photo so you know I'm not making it up
I bet the new owners change her name

Spring Lambs

A Bit of Mutton

Braunston Daffodils

Wheres the pub?

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Gas and Air

Morning All

It's a chilly, windy, March day here in Braunston. It's the kind of weather you'd expect for March but a little disappointing after the warm sun and gentle breezes that have wafted us along from Alrewas. The wind is blowing really hard here, turning the placid canal into frothing, rippling rapids that rock the boat and make Tricky so nervous that she wants to sit outside on the towpath in case we sink.

I didn't need any persuading to stay put today, we're only a couple of miles outside of Braunston village and I'm in no hurry to get there. The locks change from narrow to broad in Braunston and that's where the hard work really starts. I'm fairly sure that the rest of our journey to Bath consists of broad locks, river locks and lift bridges – some of which are notoriously difficult. I've got the Ibruprofen gel on standby! This week has been a lockwheelers delight – miles and miles of canal without a lock in sight. Captain Carl has been well supplied with hot drinks and Tunnock bars and I've had time to make scones and bubble up a casserole on the stove – proper boating fare. I've also had time to get to grips with Carl's camera and I've taken some photos that you might be interested in including a long distance shot of a spectacular white heron in flight. Has anyone else seen a white heron? Are they rare?

White Heron - Hawkesbury Junction

As it's still so early in the season, I've not quite reached my physical peak (no smirking please!) and I was sure I'd need gas and air to tackle the Atherstone flight (only eleven narrow locks). Carl promised me a trip to 'The Larder'(forties themed cafe) when we reached the top, which spurred me on and I skipped up the first two pairs. When we reached the flight of five, they were all empty, just waiting for us to open the gates and glide in. My luck held until we reached the last two and saw all the volunteers in a huddle at the top, guarding a lock full of water – I still don't know why. I expected they would see us coming and open the paddles but nothing happened. The Canals and Rivers Trust (what on earth was wrong with their old name, British Waterways!) are strapped for cash so the full-time Lock-keepers, that knew what they were doing, have mostly been made redundant and their cottages sold off. Volunteers are being recruited in some places, to fill the gap but they have a hard task to live up to the knowledge and wit of the old Lock-keepers. I'm always grateful for any help however and these guys couldn't have been nicer once they realised we were there – they opened and closed the paddles and gates for me and I skipped off into town for my much anticipated milky coffee and spammy eggs.
Nice clock Carl

The weather remained balmy for the run up through Nuneaton and it was so warm on Wednesday afternoon that I was able to walk Tricky without a coat (me not her). The tables outside The Greyhound pub were crowded with people enjoying the warmth and the Cheese Boat and the Wine Boat were both open for business from their prime moorings on the Hawksbury Junction. Of curse it was too good to last and it was back to gloves and hats when we set off the next morning. It was so chilly that Tricky kept running down to the stove for a warm – well, that might be because she was following me!

After a short chug on Friday morning, we squeezed into the last space at the top of the Hillmorton Locks so I could catch the bus into Rugby town. It's always an adventure trying to catch a bus from a place you're not familiar with – I can usually get into town alright, its finding the right stop on the way back that's often the problem. I thought I'd been really clever by taking a photo of the road name on the way in but when I showed it to the bus driver, he shrugged and said he'd no idea where it was. Luckily, I'd made friends with a nice lady sitting in the seat in front and she put me off at the right stop. The reason for my urgent trip into town was to find a Specsavers to see if they could prevent me from going completely cross eyed trying to break in my new specs. I've persevered for two weeks and it wasn't getting any better. Finally, after much discussion, they agreed to re-test my eyes and found that the right lens was too strong – its no wonder I couldn't see straight! This will be the third pair they've made for me – I hope it's third time lucky.

My sleep was rudely interrupted last night by the glass rattling in the bathroom porthole. I fixed that by bunging a wad of toilet paper in the gap then I couldn't get back to sleep because the wind was causing waves to slap against the stern and the barge pole was tap dancing on the roof. Carl slept peacefully on while I'm wide awake, conjuring up all sorts of ruffians and pirates who I'm convinced are about to break in through the hatch. I normally sleep well so I can only think it must be the book I'm reading about a detective who can see dead people – its a handy way of solving crimes apparently but it's probably not the best bed-time reading available. Has anyone got any recommendations? I've just finished reading 'A Cake Shop In The Garden' ( thanks Debz) It had everything I like – boats, cakes and a love story, much more my scene.

In spite of the wind today, spring has definitely arrived on the canals. On our walk this morning, the grassy banks were fairly sprinkled with purple violets and the hedges are coming alive with their spring greenness just as the blackthorns are coming to the end of their beautiful blossom. I've only seen a few lambs this year, but they didn't let me down when at last I spied some gambolling and skipping along the banks by the canal. The ducks are out patrolling the water and performing their yearly mating ritual. It's not a pretty sight - the drake pecks the hell out of the poor little duckette, stands on her back and tries to drown her – the poor thing seems to be under water for most of the performance, only popping up occasionally to quack pathetically. If you ever get tired of watching the telly, come out on the canals and watch ducks – I promise, you won't be bored!

That's all from me for this week – it's nice to be back.

Love and Hugs as always

The Floating Chandlers  

PS Here's a picture of a nice slice of cake especially for my sister Jenny - it was Courgette and Avocado with Pistachio and Primrose decoration supplied by the Papillon Cafe in Rugby - scrumptious.

Courgette and Avocado Cake from The Papillon Cafe in Rugby

Unusual window boxes on a cottage called Brighter Morn

Evening stroll

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Bath or Barth

Our favourite mooring in Alrewas
A very Good Morning my lovely friends and readers of the Hedgerow Jottings.

Here we are, back on the waterways for another year of boating and I'm so excited to report that the destination for our spring cruise is Bath (or Barth if you're posh!) According to Canal Planner we are looking at a journey of 296miles and 250 locks which will probably take us about 3 months. I'll definitely be in need of a spa break when we get there!

Every year when we load up our little blue car for the journey to the moorings, I wonder how we will fit it all in. This time I really couldn't squeeze everything in and after a bit of head scratching, we decided to leave the enormous bag of wool behind. Three days later, chugging along in the sunshine, I thought I'd take a photo so I could share the delightful spring scenery with you. That's when I realised that I had packed the camera ever-so carefully in amongst the balls of wool. This is my brand new camera, the one that I spent weeks researching to get just the right one in order to make a pictorial record of our boating life. It's very annoying but luckily, Carl had packed his, so I can take photos but as yet, I can't upload them.

We always manage to leave something behind and if you're a regular reader you may remember that last year we went off without the tiller arm. I'm happy to report that the tiller was repaired and is back where it belongs. It's on the list of things requiring the application of Brasso and elbow grease as do the vents and mushrooms* (see below) which have all acquired a dull coating of winter grime. Each spring when we return to the boat there is a flurry of scrubbing and polishing to get our lovely boat looking shipshape - polishing the brass is one of the better jobs when you compare it with clearing the weed-hatch or emptying the Elson, thanks goodness for a handy husband.

We started off the week with lots of lovely sunshine and a warm, gentle breeze to waft us up the canal through Burton and Branston, to an overnight mooring in our favourite spot overlooking the tile factory. I know it doesn't sound romantic but the tow-path is good here which is a nice change for me and Tricky. When Carl cast off the next morning, Tricky and I set off to walk to the next bridge and were able to stride out properly instead of tiptoeing through boggy puddles. I reached the bridge (it's number 36 for you boaters who know this stretch of the Trent and Mersey – the impossibly narrow one) I hung over the parapet to watch as Carl swept through without touching the sides – I'm very pleased to say he hasn't lost his touch on the tiller.

We reached BartonTurns and stopped for water – mainly because I've been washing everything in sight since Tuesday.  It takes a little while to fill the tank, so I wandered up to the lock and opened the paddles to let the water out ready for Carl to bring the boat in. While I waited, I started chatting to two ladies on the bridge above the lock and I climbed over the lock arm so I could hear what they were saying. We were rudely interrupted by the clanging of a boat hitting the bridge 'ole and ricocheting along before hitting the lock gates at ramming speed. Unluckily for me, the lock had just emptied so the lock gates flew open with me on the wrong side (ie on the watery side) causing me to vault over the lock arm like a champion hurdler. I don't think of myself as much of an athlete but I surprised myself, and my colourful language surprised the two nice ladies who wondered what was happening. The man on the tiller carried on into the lock apparently oblivious of the near miss I had just had and I stalked off back down the tow-path to find out what had happened to Carl. It seems Mr Lock-stealer just ignored the two boats moored on the lock landings and made a beeline for the lock, without checking to see if anyone was waiting. Its not a great way to make friends on the canal; we're generally a nice bunch and help each other out but I'm afraid I was a little upset at so nearly being thrust into the canal. I left him to do his own lock and I think he might have noticed that I was a bit miffed because he moored up and walked back to the lock and went over to Carl to apologise for jumping the queue – I'd have been more impressed if he'd apologised to me but I suppose I had my scary face on. Note to self – try not to wear your scary face so often!

I'm breaking in a new pair of glasses as well as a new laptop and that's not a great way to start the jottings season. I've had this pair remade once but they're still making me squint and I'm tempted to slip back into my old ones and give up on them. Is it just me? Does anyone else have this much trouble getting used to new specs? As for this laptop – its supposed to be faster than lightening and with a whole Pterodactyl of memory (mind you, it has a great spell check – who knew that was how you spell Pterodactyl?) I won't be beaten by Windows 10 although I would welcome any suggestions from anyone who has tamed the beast.

Tonight, we're moored in Whittington with only 22 miles and 11 locks completed so far. Carl is being very gentle with me, I started with just 1 lock and gradually increased every day – I'm up to 4 locks and a swing bridge today which is hardly anything really when I think of the the 239 locks still to do to get to our destination.

That's enough of my witterings for one day – I'll be back next week with more tales from the tow-path. Have a lovely week everyone

Lots of Love
The Floating Chandlers

PS Tricky has been wagging her tail this week – I think she's happy to be back in her usual place on the hatch but its hard to tell!

PPS * Mushrooms are bits of brass, shaped like a mushroom, attached to the roof to allow air to circulate. They need polishing much to often for my liking

Captain Carl in the weed hatch

Mushrooms or Toadstools?


Alrewas Churchyard