- Mac & Jacquie Court
- 70 now and our five wonderful years aboard our narrowboat Skyy seem along time ago. Jacquie, allowed me to build my replica three wheeler kit car, which was a great success. Now it's time to start on a bigger project and that is to make a good Triumph Stag even better, here goes.
Saturday, 27 September 2008
I went to discover the delights of the old pumping house that pumped Leicester’s sewage sludge way out of the city. Four huge and ornate beam engines occupy what looks like an Elizabethan stately house. Redundant now, as the sewage is sent on a different way and gravity does all the work, but they are still able to be steamed up on special occasions and the whole exhibition is fascinating. The Space museum has been built in the huge sludge holding tank, but I passed on that as I prefer old stuff to new.
Jacquie went on an exploration of the shopping centre and in the evening we joined up with Anne and Tony and headed off to The Black Horse pub, for real ale, and a quiz night. The ale was good, but we didn’t win the quiz, we thought they both looked and sounded quite bright and they were, but that didn’t compensate for our uselessness.
Back to SKYY for coffee and wine and probably our latest night or earliest morning. Thanks Guys. Most enjoyable.
We set of for Leicester City, with a formidable number of wide locks to negotiate, but by the time we arrived at the first lock, Anne & Tony on NB Englands Dreaming had joined us and although the weather was wet and windy the journey was very enjoyable with their company. Industry did not intrude very much as this area is mainly residential and many home owners had made the most of their canal-side gardens, There was only one lock from which Anne and Jacquie had to recover a load of plastic barriers that some little twit had thought fun to lob into the cut.
As we joined the River Soar, passing Leicester City football ground, the final approach to the city centre, was rather elegant, with several attractive ornamental bridges to pass under. We both found space on the pontoons at Castle Gardens. There is only room for four boats, two already being tied up, but with a little adjusting of their mooring ropes we fitted in. It is obviously OK to moor, up to three abreast in busy times, as the river is still wide enough for other traffic to pass.
There are plenty of moorings on the tow path side of the river, but any old Tom, Dick or Harry can access your boat there. The pontoons are only accessible through locked gates from Castle Gardens and the garden is locked at night, but can be unlocked with a BW key. The city centre is very close, but we had an undisturbed night, which was very necessary as the whole journey had taken over six hours, which was the longest time we had been on the go for a long while and we were knackered.
The BW yard at Kilby Canal Bridge boasted an immaculately kept sanitation block, which we put to good use as we decided to spend the day here before venturing into the bandit land of Leicester, and the uncertainties of the River Soar. The wonderful weather of the weekend had disappeared, but how pleasant for those Monday to Friday workers, like M & B to have had a descent weekend.
Another perfect day and we retraced our footsteps passed the not so lonely church. Brian said he saw lights shining through the windows very late last night; I immediately start remembering the Denis Wheatley books with wicked doings in deserted churches!! But no signs of any dead chickens and Pentecostal rings as we passed by. There is farm craft centre just up the road at Wistow with some interesting shops and a dinky little model village, complete with canals and locks, castles and a railway, charming but sadly looking a bit derelict. There is also a hugely amazing, Maize maze, but we resisted the opportunity to get lost in there, instead heading back to SKYY and moving on to Kilby Canal Bridge, this is just on the outskirts of the suburbs of Leicester and was a good place to say goodbye to Marilyn and Brian, but not before a final meal and a drink in the Navigator pub whilst waiting for a taxi to return M & B their car at Foxton.
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Indeed the weather was perfect. We spent most of the morning showing of to Marilyn and Brian the wonders of the staircase locks and the Inclined Plane. This was their first sight of a lock of any description, as the last time they visited us, it was on the lock free Ashby Canal. After ice creams all round we visited the museum, well worth the £2 Old Codgers Special price. Lets hope that the ambitious plans to reopen the Inclined Plane come to fruition.
We pulled pins after lunch and very soon we passed through Saddington Tunnel, Supposedly there are bats in this tunnel, but we couldn’t see any. Five locks follow in quick succession, a quick learning curve for M & B, they acquitted themselves well, and diplomas will be sent on in due course.
We moored for the evening in a lovely spot, just north of bridge 78 and after wandering across the field to visit the lonely little church, we were entertained by a wonderful sunset.
We cruised back up to Foxton and moored up very close to the Black Horse pub, which was a good spot for our chums Marilyn and Brian to leave their car when they joined us latter that day. M & B arrived at 8.30pm which wasn’t too bad considering the slowness of the M25. How soon we forget the horrors of the motorways!!
A good meal on board and an early night with the promise of good weather for the weekend.
Jacquie took the opportunity of the excellent, half hourly train service to London, to visit her Dad and meet up with Ashely; I took the opportunity to be very lazy.
I had every intention not to be lazy; in fact I intended to change the engine oil and oil filter. I already had the oil, but needed the filter, after I left Jacquie at the station I walked on to the local branch of Halfords which fortunately was just behind the railway station. I strolled in with the part no from the carton of the last oil filter used, but of course Halfords have there own range with completely different numbers and silly me I thought I would be able to identify the correct on by eye, but there were dozens of different sizes I cursed and bought a newspaper instead.
I met Jacquie at the station in the evening and we enjoyed an Indian meal on the way back to the boat. I suppose I walked about six miles all together that day, so not so lazy after all.
Jacquie felt that a swim would be beneficial, so we stepped out the mile and a half to the leisure centre and by the time we arrived I felt that a muffin and coffee would be much more beneficial, but Jacquie went straight off for a half an hours swim, saving her coffee and muffin for after her swim.
Wandering back through the town, imagine our surprise!! Outside a bar was a poster saying “SKYY Vodka served here” this is the first time we have ever seen anything regarding the American brand of vodka. I naturally had to go in and see if I could blag one of the posters. Unfortunately not, but even the better, the owner gave us a SKYY ice bucket and an empty blue SKYY bottle, I would have bought a bottle but as they only sell it in shots, a full bottle would have cost over £40, this confirms what had always been considered, Mac is a cheapskate. Now all that remains is to decide how best to display our trophy.
Market Harborough is indeed a delightful town, with plenty of independent shops. The museum in the Council Offices is certainly worth a visit. These offices now occupy part of the massive factory that produced the famous liberty bodice, along with the majority of all corsets worn by fashionable ladies in the eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds. Examples of the corsets are displayed and a very accurate rebuild of the old cobblers workshop are all to be seen in the museum.
The Old Grammar School, right in the town centre, set up on its timber posts, ‘to protect the market folk in times of wet weather’. It is amazing that it has survived from the sixteen hundreds.
Enough lazing about, we are now heading towards Market Harborough, a delightful couple of hours cruise, passed some magnificent bank gardens of equally magnificent houses. A good thing that I washed the boat first, as we understood Market Harborough is rather posh.
We decided we would like to stay here for four nights, so we went right to the end of the Canal Time who operate this basin. A strange arrangement, a BW owned basin operated by a commercial boat hire company, but the staff were very helpful. Nearly all the moorings were occupied by CT boats awaiting their new hirers and we waited about two hours for a berth to become available having agreed on the £5 per night fee plus, and extra 50p per night for electrical hookup, now that is a bargain, batteries charged, hot water via the immersion heater and both electric heater running early morning and evenings!!
The basin has been well restored, but all the old and new buildings are now private apartments or offices, but it looks good, particularly at night with the lights glowing on the still waters of the basin.
We checked out where the supermarkets are and decided that Sainsburys was about a mile away, just the other side of the town. Jacquie’s was delighted to find that there was not only Sainsburys. But Lidls and an Aldi, spoilt for choice. We opted on Lidl and filled our two wheelie M&S shopping thingies to overflowing, but a taxi soon had as back at the boat, the thought of dragging that lot back by foot was too much.
Sunday, 14 September 2008
Another lazy day, the sun shone brightly after a murky start and we only started the engine to charge the batteries and heat the water for the weekly shower, joking, but I have at last managed to get the blog right up to date.
After a post pm nap, a stimulating walk balanced another couple of those delicious ice creams, and Jacquie took some interesting pictures.
Wow!! The sun is still shining, We cast off quite early for us and got to the Foxton Flight about midday. The same procedure as the Watford Flight, you sign in with he lock keeper, a very friendly guy, the big difference is that you can buy, really lovely, Italian style ice creams at the top lock.
These stair case locks are really easy, you just move from one lock straight into the next, provided you open the paddles in the correct order, all is easy peasy. One of the two paddles are painted red and the other one is white and this is where the lock keepers rhythm come in handy. “Red before white is all right. White before red gets you a knock on the head”.
When we got to the bottom we had a sharp right turn to get into the Market Harborough arm, via a brand new swing bridge. Unfortunately in my haste I gave Jacquie the wrong key to unlock and then open the bridge. In the meantime the turning area was very congested with boats waiting to come up the flight and I just managed to get the boat pointing in he right direction without looking to much like a rookie hirer to the many assembled gongoozlers.
I had to pull over so that I could get off and use the correct key to open the swing bridge, which left Jacquie to bring the boat through and then pick me up after I had closed the bridge. The girl did well and we quickly found a good mooring with for once, god TV reception.
We had a two hour walk around the village of Foxton and the site of famous inclined plane, which worked for just 11 years from 1900 to 1911, fascinating. We decided to save a visit to the Foxton Museum until Marilyn and Brian join us next weekend. We obviously didn’t put them off, last May when they previously visited.
The sun shone, so I decided to give the boat a bit of a clean, as tomorrow we would be tackling the Foxton Flight and we wouldn’t want all those gongoozlers to think what a mucky boat Skyy was. I didn’t get much done, as I soon got chatting to Alan, from NB Jeeves, Alan’s wife Viv came to find out why their boat hadn’t been cleaned either, Jacquie then returned from the post office and the tales of boating disasters really flowed.
Boat finally spruced, we shoved off just as the un-forecasted rain started, we ambled along until just before bridge 52 a nice straight stretch of Armco seduced me to stop there. Armco is so much easier to moor to, you just hook your special Armco thingies into the barrier and tie up nice and tight, no sore thumbs from banging in the pins.
It was still very windy, even in our snug mooring the boat was being gently banged against the side, so we decided to stay put for the day and go for a ‘Welford Walk’, one of many walks that were so well illustrated by a substantial, covered set of information boards at the end of the basin. The history of Welford, particularly relating to the canals was also very clearly shown, good effort Welford.
The occasional, grand houses looked out of place in this farming village until we realized that Welford was midway between Leicester and Northampton and was a wealthy and totally self sufficient, staging post, long before the canals arrived.
Thursday, 11 September 2008
Bright & Breezy was the weather forecast and that is what we got. We did walk into Yelvertoft for milk and bread enjoying, the warmth of the sunshine and then we cast off, determined to get to the end of the Welford Arm.
The Grand Union was in many places, anything but grand, reeds sprouted out from both sides of the canal making it one way working. For over 20 miles this part of the canal is totally lock free, with no exciting features, until you realize that for much of this section the canal runs high above the surrounding countryside on massive embankments and it is this major engineering achievement of that time that speeds you along at an un-interrupted full 3 miles per hour.
The entertainment, as we progressed was provided by a single engine aircraft towing gliders up into the blue, before whizzing back, to Husbands Bosworth Airfield, the tow line visible snaking about and then reappearing almost immediately with a another glider in tow. These pilots were obviously making the most of some descent flying weather.
The turn onto the Welford Arm was achieved smoothly despite the wind doing it’s best to disrupt the proceedings and we continued to the end , passing through an intimate wooded area and then the Ferry Inn greets you. We turned in the small basin and moored up, walked up into the little farming village and visited the Church and admired the beautifully painted pipes of it’s magnificent organ, before returning to the Ferry Inn. Well, what did you expect?
Tuesday, 9 September 2008
The rain poured through the night and was still raining hard when it was time to get up. Simple really, you stay in bed!! Toast, tea/coffee a good book each and you wait until the rain stops.
When it did stop we wandered around Crick village, delightful, a little like Cropedy, both having to cope with their annual do’s, the big boat show for Crick and the folk festival for Cropedy.
We headed off after lunch but the rain came back so we stopped at bridge 19 a short walk from Yelvertoft village, should the need arise for a walk!
Thank you, Lesley from NB Caxton for your good wishes re. my operation, as you will see from a previous posting, all is well.
I realize that the dates of the recent posting do not match up with my dates, but the good thing about the heavy rain we are having, is that it gives me time to get the blog properly up to date, but thanks to everyone who has been concerned and I am happy to confirm that all is well and truly ‘sorted’.
The first and last time we had encountered the Watford flight of six locks, which includes 4 of the staircase type, was the day we took delivery of SKYY. That date was the 23rd of December 2006and the adventure was just beginning. We only just managed to enter the locks before 3p.m. which is when they would have been locked for the night, It was nearly dark and very cold, the heating wasn’t working and I was wondering if Jacquie would ever forgive me.
This time, the day was bright and dry, I introduced myself to the lock keeper, which is the correct thing to do, if you want to get on her queuing list and we slowly moved forward until it was our turn to ascend, no problems. Shortly afterwards we pootled through Crick tunnel, this time in lonely solitude and stopped at Crick Wharf for water and to say Hi and thanks to Paul of ABNB Sales, from whom we bought SKYY. We found ABNB to be the most honest and helpful of all the brokers we had contact with, in leading us to the right boat.
This is a fascinating area, as within an eight of a mile of each other, you have, Watling Street, the ancient, straight as an arrow, Roman Road; The Grand Union Canal: The main railway line and finally the MI, all proceeding in exactly the same direction. Whatever did the Romans do for us? Pity they all trundled back to Rome really, no staying power obviously.
In the morning we completed the remaining four locks of the Braunston flight and entered Braunston tunnel just as the sky was beginning to brighten, when we emerged the other side, the weather was amazingly quite sunny. The tunnel was full of boats coming the other way, one of which sounded as if it was full Maori warriors, that in fact turned out to be Pirates, of the Stag Night variety,with the biggest Jolly Roger flag I’ve ever seen flying from the stern.
The New Inn at Norton Junction beckoned, we moored a little further up the canal, so that the exercise needed to walk to and from the pub would balance the guilt of my Baptist upbringing brought on by being in a pub two nights running.
Operation a success and given the all clear to start cruising again, we’re off, heading towards Robin Hood Land, depending upon the state of the River Soar after all this rain.
We hadn’t wasted time whilst I was convalescing; I painted our newish long pole with smart cream sections separated from the blue lengths by red stripes, the same tape that I had put around the large cream panel that carries the boats name, that made such a difference and now the pole looks equally smart.
Jacquie, under my instruction painted the right side of Skyy from below the gunnel down to and including the rubbing strake. The conditions were perfect for hand painting, little wind, warm and dry with no direct sunlight to overheat the metal work. Masons paint is a delight to use, it flows beautifully, leaving no brush marks, it has great covering qualities, so, only one coat is needed to cover the red oxide splodges, that had really accentuated the battle scars before they were painted out. Jacquie did a first rate job, making sure there were no runs or drips, it really looks like a sprayed finish and within moments of getting on the cut we were asked who had done our paint job as it looked so smart and new, well the right side anyway.
We have plenty of time for the Leicester Ring, five week, so the first night out was spent, just below the Admiral Nelson pub. No rush, particularly with it raining so hard, but we have taken the decision to have a solid fuel stove fitted and we had previously stopped of to see if Jacquie could twist the arm of the really nice man who we want to make the plinth and surround for the stove, to get it done before this winter. I hope Jacquie’s charm did the trick and if so we look forward to a very warm winter.
I had an early start to the day with a drive to Leamington Spa for a pre. operation assessment, before my little op. on Wednesday. It seems that all the vital signs are vital enough, so under the knife I will be going, but as my surgeon is 'going in' via keyholes, chopsticks are more likely to be the instrument of choice.
I got back to Skyy just as Jacky had reluctantly packed her bag and then it was back to Royal Leamington Spa for a bit of shopping for the girls, before Jacky caught a late afternoon train back to Surrey. We had a call later that evening, to say, that she was safely back home and missing us already.
Monday, 8 September 2008
Happily Jacky had settled down to her first night afloat and slept very well. We had a leisurely start to the day, wandering around Braunston Marina and Boatyard, always a fascinating experience, before reversing Skyy back to the entrance to the marina entrance and doing a U turn and stopping off at Midland Chandlers to collect a replacement twin hooter, one of the trumpets failed very shortly after fitting it, good result!
We headed towards Rugby, but as I had had a phone call yesterday to confirm a pre. operation appointment for Monday morning, we didn’t quite get to Hilmorton Locks, so Jacky missed that experience, but we found a quite mooring space to spend the evening, but not before Jacky had a go at steering the boat, we then cruised the usual zig zag beginners course, before Jacky began to get the hang of steering to the left when you want to right and vice-s-versa.
Sunday, 7 September 2008
We’re back!! Having spent all of July and most of August driving around Mainland Europe, visiting friends and relatives.
Our first stop was Bavaria, with long time friends of Jacquie and now mine, Agnes and Johann. Next stop was, one time diving and still motor biking chums, Phil and Lynne and there lovely new border terrier, Stanley, in their mountain retreat, in the South of France, got the suntan to last us for the rest of the year there. Onwards to stop with Jacquie’s brother and sister in law, Paul & Penny, who were managing a camp site, also in the South of France. From there to Switzerland, to the shore of Lake Geneva to stay with Tor, a very special relationship, and her husband of nearly a year, Nick. The last few days were spent with Jacquie’s three cousins, from the Belgium side of her family. First was Veerla and her Husband Chris, at the building site of their new home on the French side of the border with Belgium, we were joined there by Hedwig and finally we visited Wilma in Antwerp, before heading back to Calais and the ferry to Dover.
OK!! so now you know why the blog has not been kept up to date and I take this opportunity to thank everyone above for the great time and hospitality you gave us. We had a fabulous time and every day has been logged to remind us of where we were and what we did, but not for the blog.
No rest for the retired, no sooner unpacked and laundry done, than Ashley, Jacquie’s son and his girlfriend Justine arrived having also brought Jacquie’s friend Jacky, with them. We set of almost immediately from Wigrams Turn to Braunston. We lunched in the sunshine on the stern of Skyy near bridge 103. lovely views from there and then dropped Ashley and Justine of by the bridge that leads up to Braunston Manor as Ashley had booked accommodation there as a surprise for Justine, She was beginning to wonder where we were all going to sleep. We moored up just beyond the entrance to the Marina and met them later in the evening at the Plough in Braunston Village.
A & J returned to Braunston Manor for a romantic night and the two Jacs and myself settled down for a cosy night on SKYY.