Thursday, 27 October 2011
Fortunately there seemed to be no problems with the engine as we left Atherstone behind, Jacquie turning the engine off as soon as she heard it starting to beep obviously prevented any damage. We took our time travelling back to Napton and as we have been this way so many times I didn’t bother with the camera. We stopped in Rugby for two nights, taking advantage of the proximity of the several retail parks for a bit of therapy, but the lovely thing about the final part of the journey was seeing so many chums.
Carol & George from N.B. Rock’n’Roll saw us first and we both slowed down enough to exchange pleasantries as we passed, then it was Jane and Michael from N.B. Mood Blues moored up near bridge 101, who we roused with a blast or two from our tooters and a bit further on Sheridan was walking his ferrets and we stopped alongside their boat to chat to Tia. As we were blown into the marina various hands waved us a welcome, but fortunately we got SKYY safely alongside for the usual facilities and got onto our pontoon without any embarrassment. Finally to our surprise a knock on the roof in the evening and there was Nicky from N.B. Wayward Spinner, who we last saw as we set sail from Selby in April.
Well that’s it for our cruising in 2011, but the good news is that we are looking forward to new adventures in 2012. Our intention is to ‘do’ The Fens, but to add an extra frisson of excitement we are considering getting onto The Fens via the Wash from Boston. Good chums on another boat are also up for it and as yet we need to do a proper feasibility study, but if anybody has some advice other than ‘Don’t do it’ I would like to hear it.
In the meantime we hope that the winter weather is relatively warm i.e. above freezing with rainy nights, making life easier for you brave continuous cruisers and topping the canals and reservoirs up, for all of us in the Spring.
Tuesday, 18 October 2011
We pushed on and by Thursday evening we moored between the locks at Fradley Junction, right opposite the lovely old British Waterways yard and just in time to buy an ice cream from the cafeteria. The next morning I manoeuvred SKYY to the other side of the canal and took advantage of the facilities before leaving the Trent and Mersey Canal and turning onto the Coventry Canal.
A couple of miles before Fazeley Junction I spied a narrow boat whose owner makes and fits stainless steel chimneys, friends of ours had one fitted earlier this year and I had seen several more on this stretch of canal. The internal liner of our chimney is gradually rotting away and on spotting Kym I made an instant decision to buy new chimney. Kym had a twelve inch one in stock and immediately adjusted it to fit our collar, so now we sport a smart ‘Little Chimney Company’ very heavy duty, will last a lifetime, shiny chimney.
We carried on through Fazeley Junction and up the two Glascote Locks leaving Tamworth behind us, before finding a tranquil mooring for the night opposite a golf course.
It took up nearly two nearly two hours on Saturday morning to reach the first of the eleven Atherstone Locks. Fortunately there was nearly always a boat coming out of the lock as we approached and these single locks are easy and with two and a half hours we were at the top and moored in the sunshine, where we intend to stay for a couple of days.
Monday, 17 October 2011
We were prepared for an early start on Tuesday but the wind didn’t die down at all over night, but fortunately by the time we had breakfasted it had moderated and we ventured out onto the Trent, but it still took almost the whole width of the river before SKYY answered the helm and turned upstream. The girls decided to walk Duggie along the towpath and they arrived at Sawley lock, with the BW key and after a minimum of delay they emptied and opened the lock for us.
Before we left the river for the security of the Trent and Mersey Canal, just for the hell of it we passed under the new footbridge and continued until the entrance to Shardlow Marina, before swinging SKYY around and heading back. Unfortunately we misjudged the turn and run the bow aground on the gravel, the current pushed the stern back round, but John saved the day by poling the bow back into the current which pulled us around in the right direction and then the stern came free.
Back onto the canal we pushed on bypassing ‘The Home of Marstons Pedigree Ales’, until late in the day, in the gathering gloom, we got the last mooring outside the Dragon at Willington, as soon as we were secure I popped into this smartly refurbed pub and booked a table. It was Kim and John’s wedding anniversary and we wanted a meal to remember to celebrate this day and it did, for all the right reasons. It was just as well that I had booked a table as it was buzzing by the time we walked in, it was an imaginative menu, the food was artistically presented and extremely tasty, a great end to an exciting day.
Kim and John were leaving us on Wednesday afternoon and the Bridge Inn at Branston was to be their departure point. We thought sandwiches and a bowl of chips would be a good idea whilst we waited for the taxi to arrive, but at the Bridge that wasn’t an option, the Sicilian born proprietor was only serving pasta or pizza and our various selections were all delicious, what a good surprise.
The taxi took Kim and John away leaving us for the rest of the day, in what was the home of the famous Branston pickle, of which there is now no sight or smell. Lack of smell, however, was probably no bad thing.
The nights are noticeable drawing in now and although it was still daylight when Kim & John arrived, we stayed put in The Great Northern Basin for Saturday night. We had every intention to get away promptly on Sunday and get back to the junction with the River Trent. Well guess what, it wasn’t as prompt as intended, we got just south of Gallows Inn to a pleasantly rural area when Jacquie announced that lunch was ready. By the time lunch was consumed the trees were being blown all over the place, so we stayed snugly tied up where we were, particularly as we had a good satellite connexion so we could watch the first expulsion from Strictly Come Dancing.
We had only just got going on Monday morning when a couple of walkers told us that a tree was down totally blocking the canal. As we approached the blockage, just south of Pasture Lock, a canal boat appeared to be right in the thick of it, but before we had a chance to tie up and assist N.B. Best of Mates came towards us saying that with caution we should be able to squeeze through. As we came up to it we could see that it was a substantial part of a willow tree that had come down and our new ‘Best of Mates’ had sawn through some pretty thick branches to clear the way. I snapped off several more branches to prevent my recently polished hull from getting scratched, couldn’t possible allow that to happen and with a lot of pulling and pushing SKYY came through the over side unscathed. It’s a pity that we don’t burn logs as there were plenty of wood for the taking left on the tow path, but hopefully some other boater will take advantage.
As we passed through Sandiacre Lock I took a photo of the attractive old buildings alongside, which are now the headquarters of the ECP&DA. There did seem to be more water in the canal on our return and the duckweed was no where near as thick, making the journey easier, but the wind was getting up again. We moored just before Trent Lock and after lunch we observed the breaking waves on the River Trent and revised our earlier decision, rather than head out onto the river for Sawley, we decided that one of our famous early starts, before the wind got up tomorrow would be the best option.
Friday, 7 October 2011
We stayed put on Tuesday, but on Wednesday we sallied forth to explore the Erewash Canal. Initially the surroundings were very attractive with small boatyards and interesting craft of every description, but the duckweed got gradually thicker substantially slowing our progress and in one lock I really wondered if we would be able to get into it.
At one lock an Anglo Welsh hire boat was coming the other way and thankfully they told us that the water was quite clear further on, although in some of the pounds it was very shallow. Near Sandiacre there is the very fine Springfield mill which has four turrets; apparently each one houses a spiral staircase, which gave access to the four separate lace companies which occupied the mill.
The Thursday forecast was for rain by lunch time, it didn’t arrive but the wind did, and with the gates and paddles of the nine locks being very heavy, it made the journey to Langley Mill hard work. Immediately after Langley Lock there are visitor moorings in The Great Northern Basin, with water and a sanitation station alongside, all provided by ECP&DA or to give its full title ‘Erewash Canal Preservation & Development Association. It was this Association that ensured the Erewash Canal and the basin survived.
The basin was the junction for three canals; the start of the Nottingham Canal can be seem leaving beyond a swing bridge on its way to, well, Nottingham of course. The Cromford Canal carries on to the north of Langley Mill, this canal is still partly in water and is currently a restoration project. It was Arkwright who built the worlds first water powered spinning mill for cotton at Cromford who was a major instigator for the canal.
The rain arrived after dark on Thursday, but Friday was dry and we decided this was a good place to wait for Kim and John to join us for a few days. I had a lovely chat with Harold, Chairman of the ECP&DA who showed me around the little pumping station that was restored by the association, although it has a period pump in place it is a modern electric powered one that back pumps from below the lock into the basin when required and I able to buy a smart plaque for SKYY’s rear door. There is also a totally original toll house at the entrance to the Nottingham Canal and I took a photo of the work that the Association has done in readiness for the Cromford Canal to rejoin the Great Northern Basin.
Thursday, 6 October 2011
The weather was still amazing, clear skies and no wind enabled me to neatly reverse onto the fuel pontoon and with a full tank we said goodbye to Kings Marina and turned up stream and retraced our steps back to Gunthorpe. I deployed my VHF radio when I realised that the lock keepers are in radio contact on channel 74. When the Gunthorpe keeper enquired where I was headed, I responded by saying “the pontoon”, I then heard him radio down to a boat already on the pontoon, enquiring if there was a suitable space left, on receiving a positive response he asked that a look out for SKYY be kept and sure enough, as we approached the pontoon somebody waved and indicated that there was room on the inside and then helped up tie up, That’s what I call service.
That evening Brian and Ann collected us and we drove into Nottingham to watch Tinker Tailor Solder Spy, film at the Broadway cinema, we enjoyed it, but I did overhear one young lady comment on the way out “Could have done with a good car chase” I think not.
Another lovely morning on Saturday prompted me to take a photo of the elegant Gunthorpe Bridge and a shot of the smart cruisers that we shared the pontoon with, after which I also got the starboard side of the boat washed and polished. Later that morning Jacquie’s goddaughter Stephanie and her husband John visited us, they live nearby, but most importantly we had for the first time a baby on board, their daughter, Florence, a five month old cutie and she took to Duggie and life on board very calmly.
Later that day Steve and Caroline arrived from Essex and as the air was still warm late into the evening we had drinks on the rear deck. On Sunday we left Gunthorpe and stopped for the day just after Holme Lock. This is right beside the National Water Sports Centre and we enjoyed watching the canoeist navigate the slalom course and rafts of eight to ten people negotiate the white water rapids, judging by the amount of noise that they were making they were clearly enjoying themselves. Steve and I sat on the deck with our beers, barbequing a lamb joint and making the most of these last days of Indian summer.
The sun still shone on Monday, but the wind was now very strong, indicating that a change was about to take place. We travelled right through Nottingham only pausing for Castle Lock and back on the river I needed more throttle to stem the current and the wind making our final turn into the entrance of the Erewash Canal slightly challenging. Once through Trent Lock all was peace and tranquillity as we moored up. We were concerned that Duggie might think that the thick green carpet of duckweed that covered the water was grass, but he must have more sense than we credit him for, he made no attempt to walk on water.
We were just in time for the very good value, day time menu, at the newly opened Trent Lock pub; this was formerly the Navigation Inn, but now a smart and friendly gastro pub. A cab was booked and in the gathering gloom we said our farewells to Steve and Caroline as they began their homeward journey.
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Our plan had been to return to Selby Boat Centre for our winter mooring, but gradually more and more reasons for being further south presented themselves so we have decided to winter at Wigrams Turn Marina in the Midlands. We had made many friends whilst being in Selby, especially Sylvia and Pete and Doreen and we would miss them, so Jacquie caught the train from Newark on Monday morning to Selby to stay a couple of days with Sylvia and to catch up with Pete and Doreen and to say Hi to Simon and co. at the Boat Centre.
I was left to look after Duggie and ensure that he presented himself to the dog groomers on time, at the ungodly hour of 8.30 on Wednesday morning. I also had to work my way through a list of boat jobs, but I did have enough time left over to continue exploring Newark.
There is supposed to be a visible hole in the church steeple left behind by a Roundhead cannonball, but despite my efforts I couldn’t see it, maybe the bright sunshine masked it from me. I also visited the Queens Sconce, to the south of the town, a remarkably preserved defensive earthworks built to protect the town from the Parliamentarians. The defences worked well, the town resisting two sieges, only surrendering during the third siege after Charles 1st surrendered and ordered the Governor of Newark to do likewise. The Roundhead army moved on quickly after blowing up the castle from fear of the plague that had beset the town, they left orders that the Sconce be destroyed, but it is thought that the population was too weakened to carry out the orders and hence the earth works are so intact.
Jacquie returned to me late Wednesday afternoon laden with goodies, naughty Sylvia and naughty Ann-Marie for the lovely Danish cheeses, thank you so much, they are delicious.
On Thursday on our way out to stock up at the nearby supermarket Jacquie admired the polished and very shiny port side of the boat and asked when I intended to do the other side, typical, never satisfied!! A last whizz around the town included a visit to the Town Hall, there is a small museum on the second floor, accessed by a lift just inside the entrance to The Butter Market and a steward was more than happy to show us around the Mayoral chambers, his robing room and parlour and the exquisite ball room decorated in a Wedgewood/Adams style, well worth a visit, and then we were ready to leave Kings Marina first thing next morning.
Two lovely, luxurious days, sleeping in a proper bed and baths whenever Jacquie felt like it and Duggie made the most of Ann and Brian’s garden, rearranging flower pots, both empty and full, plus sticks, numerous balls and anything else he could find to his own peculiar idea as to the ideal doggie garden.
Jacquie joined Ann at an art class and returned with a masterpiece (I think it’s a yacht on fire in the fog, very Turnersque) now framed and hung in the loo, the only place Jacquie would agree to, how modest! I used the time to catch up with blogging, but how quickly I fall behind, but here we go again.
Friday dawned bright and beautiful as Brian and Ann delivered us back to SKYY, the pontoon can only be accessed via a gate secured with a BW lock so all was as we had left her, but I did notice that she had been moved a bit, obviously to make room for a another boat. After loading everything on board the girls returned the car to its garage and walked Duggie back to the boat.
Almost immediately after leaving the pontoon the green light of Gunthorpe lock beckoned us in. The lock keeper enquired how far we were going, which was Newark and he said he would radio ahead and advise the keeper at Hazelford Lock that we were on our way. This five mile stretch is quite straight with high red cliffs and wooded escarpment to our right and flat, cow strewn fields on our left, all very beautiful with sun sparkling on the slightly ruffled water.
The river takes a much windier course below Hazelford lock and after seven miles Newark Marina with its very smart, shiny white river cruisers heralded the outskirts of Newark. The remaining old warehouses, now converted to homes, pubs and restaurants soon give way to the Town Lock with the wonderful back drop of Newark’s old castle. We had to wait whilst a boat came up through the lock and as we prepared to enter as the other boat came passed us, to our surprise the lock gates started to close, however a couple of blasts of my twin tooters soon reversed the situation with an apology from the lock keeper that he hadn’t seen us. After passing under a splendid footbridge we turned into Kings Marina and found our reserved berth and here SKYY would stay for a week at £8 per night including electric.
On Saturday we explored the town and castle that had played such an important role during the Civil War. Entrance to the castle is free, but for a small fee of £2.50 per person we had a conducted tour up the tower, down the undercroft and various other secured areas by our very informative guide, excellent value.
In the evening we walked back into town, pausing to take a photo of the illuminated bridge and castle before dining at an Indian restaurant. On Sunday morning a taxi arrived to take Ann and Brian back to their home and we had another mooch around the town, which we decided really is The Jewel in the Crown of The River Trent.