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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.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

BYE BYE SUNNY GUNNY


FRIDAY 25TH TO SUNDAY 27TH MAY 2012             

As we passed the moored boats, a stranded tree trunk and entered Gunthorpe lock we waved goodbye to sunny Gunny, on this beautiful morning. The water was foaming over the weir as we headed out into the stream and Jacquie took up her favourite position, just inside the rear hatch and out of the wind, sadly she missed the comical vision of a long horn cow, thoughtfully scratching its nose on a conveniently abandoned ‘Man at Work’ sign.






We made, good time down to Newark, it is a busy scene, just before Town Lock, warehouses and big BW workboats crowd the river and the mellow stone walls of the castle rise up in the background. The wind was blowing in totally the wrong direction as we entered Kings Marina, but with some considerable help from our soon to be neighbours, we tied up at our allotted pontoon, but not without inflicting some minor damage to the paint of my once pristine gunnels. 


Jacquie started to pack, as she was going to catch a train to Selby on Saturday morning, to spend a long weekend with Sylvia, one of the good friends we made during our enforced nine months stay there, back in 2010/2011, following my bypass op.

As soon as I waved Jacquie off I was back on SKYY and started to fit my new gadget, a fresh water tank level indicator. I can dip the diesel tank and know how much fuel I’ve used,  a gauge tells me when the loo needs to be pumped out, but the only way I have of checking how long we can go before filling up with water, is by tapping on the side of the stainless steel tank and listening for the change in tone, not very accurate. The kit from MCS Electronics comprises a pressure sensor that is fitted into the pipe between the water tank and the water pump and a graphic gauge, which is mounted in a convenient spot.



I finished connecting up the wiring today, Sunday, the whole job didn’t actually take that long; I took time out for a bit of sunbathing. I filled the water tank and calibrated the full mark and it appears to be working well and hopefully will ensure that we never run out of water again. A bit of shopping, keeping up with the blog and now I can sit back and relax whilst waiting for Jacquie to return on Monday evening.

We will probably stay here for a week, whilst waiting for our travelling companions to catch up with us and then this year’s adventure will begin in earnest, down the tidal Trent and on our way to crossing the Wash in the middle of June, to spend the summer on the Fens.

Friday, 25 May 2012

ONE GOOD TERN


FRIDAY 18TH TO THURSDAY 24TH MAY 2012

The weather forecasters are promising warmer temperatures but when we set off on Friday morning several layers of clothing were still needed. We pushed on straight through interesting Shardlow, reassuringly the floodgate was open as we continued once more on to the wide River Trent. The last time we cruised down the Sawley Cut the sun sparkled off the shiny hulls of the moored river cruisers, today it was uniformly grey as we dropped down, the keeper operated, Sawley lock and traversed the mile of windy river to the junction of the River Soar and the Erewash Canal. Here we fought the wind and current to enter the safe haven of the canal via the towpath bridge and lock and moored on the visitor moorings just beyond the BW facilities.


We enjoyed an excellent lunch at the Trent Lock pub on Saturday, before Jacquie’s goddaughter, husband and baby Florence arrived for after noon tea. Little Florence was just a tiny babe in arms when they visited us last autumn at Gunthorpe, but now she was confidently exploring the boat, but it took her time to accept that Duggie’s interest in her was only as a potential playmate.

Rather than reversing back to the turning point, just above the lock, on Sunday, we motored on for about a mile to turn at the winding hole, this was made a little more difficult by a moorhen who had made it’s next and laid her clutch of eggs right beside the V where my bow was heading for. SKYY turned and the nest and eggs fortunately survived and we were shortly back onto the still grey waters of the Trent and immediately onto the Cranfleet cut. BW staff were on duty at the other end ensuring our safe return to the River. After four miles of generously bendy river, Beeston Lock heralded our approach to Nottingham. An overhead screech made me look upwards to spy a tern hovering over our stern, it followed us for quite a while, maybe hoping we would throw some bread to it, but that thought didn’t occur to me until it bade us farewell, we also passed a Robinson Crusoe like character and his boat and dogs on the cut.


                                                                                                                 
We moored just before the thoughtfully situated Sainsbury’s store. There are plentiful moorings further on that are closer to the town centre, but this suited us fine and we spent an undisturbed night here.  The seventeen century building that stands upon the rock upon which the infamous castle of Robin Hood fame is still imposing, as much for the huge rock that rises straight up from the flat ground that surrounds it. 


On Monday we left behind the urban of the Nottingham cut and moved to the tranquillity of the river. It was beginning to warm up after a cold start as we passed through Holme and Stoke Locks. I polished up my VHF protocol to call the lock keepers to ensure that they knew we were on our way. As the sun eventually burst through we passed under Gunthorpe road-bridge, in fact the only bridge in the 24 miles between Nottingham and Newark and tied up at the visitor pontoon.


 Our good friends Ann and Brian live at nearby East Bridgeford, so we will spend a few days visiting them. This spot known as the Nottingham Rivera is very attractive and full of sun worshipping visitors, arriving by car, motor bike as well as boat, a pub and three restaurants cater for every taste. Last night, Wednesday, we dined, extremely well, at Tom Brown’s which not too surprisingly is set in the old school house and today we are just taking it easy before joining our chums who I expect will cater for our need.

Friday, 18 May 2012

ONE COOT CHICK


TUESDAY 15TH TO THURSDAY 17TH MAY 2012               

Just before we left our berth at Barton Marina, after lunch time on Tuesday, we spotted this baby coot waiting for his mum to feed him and it begs the question, when is a coot chick no longer cute?


Our first stop would be on the eastern edge of Burton upon Trent, at Horninglow Basin. We had found, courtesy of Yell.com., that there was a vets nearby and it was within a five minute walk, fortunately Duggie’s little lump was diagnosed as a dried scab stuck in his bushy eyebrow, probably left over from when a tiny puppy was climbing all over his head a few days previous. This area is signposted as the mooring place to visit the Bass Brewing Museum, the first time we had tried to visit this place, nearly four years ago, to our disgust Coors had closed it, but it does now look open. I would have like to have stopped and visited, but it was too late today and I didn’t fancy an overnight, there were pubs in every direction a and several characters sitting about with cans in hands.

We moved on another four miles, to Willingdon, with me standing bravely at the helm enduring for the second time today, all that nature could throw at me including hail stones that hurt my head even through my hat. We moored a little way beyond the village and warmed ourselves around the stove.

The lovely thing about being in no hurry is having the time to explore a little further afield. On a bright Wednesday morning we walked back to Willingdon, turned left under the railway bridge, continued over the old toll bridge across the Trent and a mile further on we came to one of the oldest towns in Britain, Repton. Once the Capitol of Mercia, now better known for being home to a five hundred year old public school,  scenes for both version of the film ‘Goodbye Mr Chips’ were filmed here. We enjoyed several hours wandering around, with our understanding of the history of the buildings much helped with the excellent guide, available from the imposing church.



We stayed another night at our mooring and in the morning received a text to say that our chums had been released from their watery prison on the Thames, the locks were now operational and they were making full steam ahead and hoped to catch us up in just over a week. We walked Duggie along the towpath to the new and extensive Mercia Marina, fortunately accessible from the towpath side via an old footbridge, Midland Chandlers have a store here and I bought a replacement bilge pump. I broke the outlet spigot on the old when I tried unsuccessfully to remove the hose which I had found chaffed right through. I discovered this when testing the pump well prior to our Wash crossing and realised that the pump was just recycling the water back to bilge from a split about eight inches above the pump, not an ideal situation. I will fit the pump when there is no chance of rain the sun is warm upon my back.



We moved on encountering our first double lock at Stenson and carried on through Swarkestone, stopping for the night near Sarson’s Bridge. This once carried a railway line and is now a major walk and cycleway connecting Derby and Leicester. The old track went on to cross the Trent on a splendid iron viaduct which is still in excellent shape, below which  and right beside the swiftly flowing river, are the remains of an old vertical steam boiler, I can only think that it powered a steam pump for the extraction of water. Should this track way ever be resurrected by volunteer steam enthusiasts maybe that would call it ‘The Vinegar Line’.

Monday, 14 May 2012

JAZZ AT LAST


THURSDAY 10TH TO MONDAY 14TH MAY 2012

We both boarded the bus to Lichfield on Thursday to attend to some financial matters before a big shop at Aldi and a bus back. We had decided that on Friday we would move on, but as the weather was mixed we walked up to the isolated old Church at Wychnor and on the way back to SKYY we indulged ourselves in ice-creams from the Rainbow gift shop. Best ice-cream since our last visit to Alrewas in the autumn. To be highly recommended.


Saturday morning: and we eventually moved, on leaving Alrewas via a lock and one of the tiny brick bridges that are the norm on this part of the Trent and Mersey Canal. We weren’t going far, but had booked into Barton Marina for a few nights, which was only an hour or so away, we needed water and other services and Janet and Peter from Parsons Passage had suggested this was a good place to stay.


The marina has existed for some years, but The attractive Waterfront development was only completed in 2007. We tied up alongside the promenade that fronted the restaurants and shops, before visiting the marina office and being assigned our visitor pontoon. In front of a substantial number of spectators I turned SKYY around and backed onto our pontoon fortunately without making a hash of it.


The village of Barton under Needwood is a short walk away and has more than its fair share of very grand old houses, originally built, we were advised, for the owners of the many Burton breweries, and a battlemented church sits neatly in the centre of the village. Despite our guide listing only one pub, it in fact boasts four. There was a blackboard outside the Three Horseshoes, stating that there was going to be live jazz on Sunday night, this would be a first for us, we are always too early or too late for any musical performance, but this time we were determined that we would be there and we weren’t disappointed. 




The five lads, comprising ‘Funktional’, were to our surprise, all in their early twenties, they met at Lichfield but are now studying at various universities. Nick Dewhurst - Trumpet / Guitar, Tom Miner – Saxophone, Sam Craig – Keys, Chris Langford – Bass, Matt Sellar – Drums. They were all very accomplished musicians, playing their versions of some old classics and their own compositions; they and the pub crowd thoroughly enjoyed the gig, a great evening!

Monday was another lazy day taking full advantage of the shops and facilities at the marina, but we discovered a small lump above Duggie’s left eye, so we shall be moving on the Burton upon Trent tomorrow to visit a vet.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

NATIONAL MEMORIAL ARBORETUM


MONDAY 7TH TO WEDNESDAY 9TH MAY 2012    
                                                                
The weather on Monday was not as bad as we had feared, the rain not arriving until late afternoon, allowing us to rediscover this charming village, which is full of black and white, thatched cottages. We also discovered that by crossing the extremely busy A38 we could easily walk to the National Memorial Arboretum, it is not shown on our 2006 Nicholson’s guide, as it was, I think, only opened in 2007. We didn’t go in as dogs are only allowed in a small area, but decided to go back on
Wednesday, sans Duggie.

Jacquie’s visit to Lichfield on Tuesday was a success, returning with her locks trimmed in a very satisfactory manner; that is until next week when she will for certain complain that she ‘can’t do a thing with it’.

N.B. Parsons Passage passed me on her way back to Barton Turn, making the most of the warm sunshine, after her extended weekend outing, Janet was at the helm whilst Peter did the locking, and I took the opportunity to take photos of the excellent sign writing on the boat, one side promotes Janet’s childrenswear shop, Ginger & Pickles and the other, the family butchers, both in Sherborne, Dorset, before bidding them a safe journey back to the West Country

I took advantage of the warmth to wash one side of SKYY and touch in the paint and blacking. I decided that what I needed was a small container to hold enough paint for touching up, rather than keep opening the big tin, an empty Marmite jar seemed ideal, so if anybody should see me dipping a small paint brush into said jar, do not be too concerned, it does contain paint.

In the evening Duggie and I walked along the towpath and over the raised sections under which the River Trent joins the canal for a short section before it leaves and tumbles over a weir. Sadly my photo doesn’t begin to convey what a beautiful spot this is.

The next morning, Wednesday, Duggie was left on board, but I promise he had a good walk first, when Jacquie and I set off again to the National Memorial Arboretum, It covers a very  substantial acreage, with section for every branch of the armed forces. The centre point is dedicated to all those who have died in service since the end of World War 2. Every name is carved into the white stone and the bronzes depict the full horror and suffering of armed conflict, sadly they are still carving the names of the 2011 casualties and there are plenty of un-inscribed panels for the casualties of future conflicts.

We found the area dedicated to The Royal Corps of Signals, featuring their symbol, the winged Mercury. Jacquie’s dad was in the Signals and was badly injured in the retreat from Dunkirk; fortunately he survived and enjoyed a full life, spending his last years as a Chelsea Pensioner. Whilst we were wandering around a powered hang glider circled overhead, its canopy splattered with poppies and promoting The Royal British Legion. Coffee, cake and back to the boat, just before the promised rain arrived, good timing.

Monday, 7 May 2012

STEAK OUT


THURSDAY 3RD TO SUNDAY 6TH MAY 2012                                  

Rain again, but we had made the decision to move on. The ten day forecast suggested that buying a couple more bags of coal would be prudent and we picked these up at Alvecote on the way to the Glascote lock, at the locks we met up again with Peter and Barbara of N.B. Barbara Jane, they were only out for a few weeks, disappointed and fed up with the cold and had decided to turn round and return to their marina and who can blame them.

We kept going through the Fazeley Junction and stopped at the pretty village of Hopwas. Determined to have a drink in the pub we wandered into the smart and very busy Tame Otter, but Duggie wasn’t welcome, the other side of the road bridge was the Red Lion, were Duggie was most welcome, this pub didn’t have the style of the Otter but was relaxing.

On Friday morning I walked the pooch which was made all the more enjoyable by a chat with a bird watcher, who turned out to be very normal and John and Margaret of N.B. Sammy Jo, who stopped their boat to talk and remind me that we had met at Tattenhall Marina in June in 2010. When I arrived back at SKYY there was an Email from Janet of N.B. Parsons Passage asking if we could meet up whilst they were out cruising over the bank holiday weekend. Having arranged a meet up at Huddlesford on Saturday evening, we caught the bus from Hopwas to Lichfield and enjoyed a few hours wandering the attractive streets and visiting the cathedral of this diminutive city.


One hour of pleasantly dry, but cold cruising on Saturday morning brought us to The Plough at Huddlesford. Fortunately the latest copy of Towpath Talk informed me that this pub has only just reopened, good timing, not that we were planning to eat there, just a drink together before Janet cooked dinner on their boat. Peter, a butcher brought with him four lovely steaks, provided by their local doctor, a little worrying, invoking thoughts of Sweeney Todd, but I knew better than to ask awkward questions however Peter assured me that this was a doctor turned farmer, specialising in Short Horn cattle; the steak and the company made for a very enjoyable evening.



We said farewell on Sunday morning and pushed on through the pretty, but busy Fradley Junction onto the Trent and Mersey Canal, making the most of this relatively warm and sunny Bank Holiday Sunday. Jacquie took the helm for a while and just before our fifth lock we moored at Alrewas, saying Hi to Steve of Wayward Spinner who was also moored nearby. We shall stay here for a few days, enjoying the walks around this pretty village and taking the opportunity of returning by bus to Lichfield.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

SOGGY DOGGY


 THURSDAY 26TH APRIL TO WEDNESDAY 2ND MAY 2012            

Jacquie was whizzed smoothly to London by one of Richard’s Virgins to spend a few days with her son and his girlfriend, whilst any plans I had, regarding varnishing the taffrail and touching up paint and blacking were washed away by the torrential rain.

I did manage to walk Duggie between the rain storms, along the increasingly water logged paths, enjoying the canal-side chats with fellow boaters and the Kindle and IPod helped pass the time. A couple of trips to the large Aldi store stocked up SKYY with the heavy and bulky items and the local chippie and the Kings Head pub also helped keep body and soul together until Jacquie returned to SKYY on a very wet Sunday afternoon.

The chums that are joining us in their boat for the Wash crossing had planned to start their journey North from the Thames on the last day of April, but texted to say that the ‘Red Boards’ were up and they couldn’t move and it would take at least a week for the levels to subside. We also planned to move on the same day and it was bright and dry. First thing in the morning we walked Duggie down the lock flight and were, but we couldn’t get beyond lock 9 as the towpath was under water. When we arrived back at the top lock a BW chap was stopping all boat movement whilst his colleagues down at lock 10 were flushing through the excess caused by a blocked by-wash which they were doing their best to clear. We decided not to join the queue and hoped that our water tank would last another day; in the meantime we let the local laundry take care of our washing.

Moored a few boats back from the top lock was an old Springer boat called, I think, Innisfree. There was a slightly sodden laminated notice on the side, which said that the author of “With a Flower upon the Ocean” lived aboard. We had the good fortune to meet up with the author. Edward T. Wilkins, s diminutive, but bright as a button 88 years old. His book, about his war time experiences aboard Flower Class Corvettes, looks as if it will be a rewarding read and I suggest that if you meet  him you stop him for a chat and buy a copy.


By Tuesday morning the queue of boats had cleared, but the rain had returned, it was nearly a week since I had filled with water, so felt that we should tackle the 11 locks, stopping to fill the water tank half way down. Duggie was in his element, running up and down whilst Jacquie worked the locks, but by lock 10 he was soaked through and starting to shiver, BW guys were still at the lock rodding through the by-wash, but they didn’t hold us up for long and as soon as we exited the last lock we tied up and Duggie was taken below for a lovely hot shower.

It wasn’t until this morning that we realised, we had again chosen a particularly attractive place to moor, the River Anker flowed rapidly to our right and the bright cheery field of rape was to our left. This would also be a good spot for somebody who burns wood and has a substantial chain saw. We decided to for stop the day and late in the afternoon we walked Duggie, with the intention of visiting the Black Swan in Grendon village for a sundowner. There are in fact two pubs, both on the very busy A5 Watling Street and sadly neither the Boot Inn or the Black Swan looked in any way inviting, so we returned to SKYY for refreshment.