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Sunday, 28 October 2007

The Ashby Canal, Coventry and then back to home

The Ashby Canal runs approximately North from its junction with the Coventry Canal and passes through lovely countryside and has no locks along its length.

On Thursday 4th October our friends arrived for a cruising/dining experience and after coffee we headed from Hinckley ( 52deg 32' 01.90 N, 01deg 24' 00.99 W) to Stoke Golding where we stopped for lunch. It was a glorious day and was made even better by David spotting a water vole whilst we were having lunch. Carol and I have not seen one of these in the wild for at least 10 years as mink have overtaken their nests and waters. This sighting could indicate that the mink are disappearing, possibly as a result of the re-population of more areas by otters now the water quality has improved.

After lunch we cruised to Sutton Wharf and then slowly back to Hinckley for our friends to go home after a day they said they greatly enjoyed.

Friday morning, early, we moved our mooring slightly and then left Lily for the weekend to go and see our youngest grandchildren for the weekend. Tuesday 9th was wet so we stayed put and I attended to a leaking fuel filter. This filter had been leak free for over 18 months when suddenly it started leaking about a baked bean tin full a day, with all the horrible smell it gives. The refitting, that had been tedious previously in trying to keep the gaskets in place, was not so this time, aided by a good smear of Vaseline.

Wed 10th we set off along the Ashby, overcast but warm, and serviced Lily at Sutton Wharf, Carol enjoying a good coffee. After noon the sun came out pretty well but without any great conviction, and after a short cruise we stopped at Shenton. This is an estate village, only the main house not being owned by the family that has owned the estate for centuries. It seems the hall was going to cost too much to repair shortly after the war, so they sold it, and it is now owned by an American authoress who visits occasionally, but who is lavishing money on its preservation.

The village is very simple and lovely, the landlords being very well spoken of by the tenants we spoke to, and because of this management, a great amount of the old charm still exists, with not a satellite dish to be seen and hardly a TV aerial in sight. Two of the farms offered home grown meat and eggs, and at one end of the village is a lovely cafe. It doesn't really do it justice to call it a cafe, but it is not quite a restaurant, and they really cook some lovely cakes and I'd guess their meals are equally good. The chocolaty biscuity cake I had was superb, and Carol commented very favouraly on the scone she had............but why didn't she eat any of the scones she made for our guests the other day?? I'm positive they were far better. Associated with this cafe is an antiques shop with an interesting variation as they also had several shipping containers that people lease by the shelf or the container for their goods to be sold. Shenton is well worth a visit.

So back to the boat and we cruised on to Shackerstone. The canal is twisty but has lovely scenery and is understandably popular. We had visitors in the evening in the form of Joe, who was my first boss (other than Carol of course) after the better part of 20 years running my own show. He is a most inspiring character with a prodigious brain and great knowedge of many things from the nuclear power stations, through old Rolls Royce cars, and on to things that local authorities want doing, with the odd lecture on Law at Loughborough University thrown in plus being a church warden. I view it as a great bit of good fortune that I got to know Joe. We promised Joe & Migsy a cruise later.

Now, we'd been dilly dallying around since August 13th, but we needed to be back at our base on October 19th. We wanted to spend time in Coventry, so we decided we did not have time to cruise right to the terminus of the canal this trip, so on Thursday 11th in an early moring fog, we turned and returned down the canal. We filled with diesel at Stoke Golding and during this we talked with the proprietor of Ashby Boat Co, who told us he had been surprised in having about his best year ever with his hire boats, especially given the terrible weather dring much of the Summer. We stopped at Hinckley again that night as we had to get to our car to let Carol chair an Inland Waterways Association meeting in Oadby that night.

Friday 20th, David and Lesley helped us double shuffle our car back to Debdale, bribed by the promise of Carol's very scrummy Lemon Drizzle Cake. We then did a short cruise to a very pretty spot for the night. Saturday was a pleasant day and we turned into the Coventry, used the facilities as we reached Hawksbury, before cruising into the canal basin at Coventry ( 52deg 24' 48.11 N, 01deg 32' 01.94 W). The cruise included the collection of rubbish on both the main propeller and on the bow thruster. Sadness for Carol, v poor TV reception. These lovely plants adorn the bridge over the entrance to the basin.

Sunday 22nd we went to the morning service at Coventry Cathedral. This was most moving, with a very good sermon and some lovely A capella singing by a visiting Dutch choir. After this, a coffee and a snack lunch, we then spent much of the afternoon in the Coventry Motor Museum. All I can say about this is that if you are only a bit interested in cars, go there, it as been much improved of late and virtually every car, motorbike and bicycle on display was built in Coventry. It was a lovely clear afternoon so when we returned to the boat we poddled along a couple of miles and moored near to the new Ricoh Stadium where Coventry City play.

I need to get a prescription dispensed but the last 3 chemists I have tried do not stock the statin I am prescribed, the same applied at the large Tesco near our mooring. It was a damp morning as we set off but improved as we cruised the six hours it took us to get to Rugby, where we moored in this pretty spot near the golf course. I was fascinated by the equipment two farmers were using in fields nearby but unfortunately I was not able to ask for more details as they were in sound proofed and air conditioned cabs.

It rained overnight but was bright during the day till we arrived at Braunstone where we had planned to moor as we needed to see a man about getting some new fenders. Braunstone is a bit like the M25 of the canals with five canals coming together within a very short space. We wandered up into the village for provisions, and as we ambled back it started to rain, and this rain got heavier as it went on, and carried on all night, we were very fortunate stopping when we did!

BUT Wednesday 17th dawned lovely and bright. I walked from our mooring to the start of the Braunstone Locks, but was very excited to notice Lily Pad moored up on the towpath. It was our first boat, we hadn't seen her for 6 years and were very pleased to see she looked well cared for. We shared the locks with a couple who were off to change their boat, sharing locks makes life much simpler. After the locks it was a few minutes cruising before we entered the tunnel, which is a very twisty affair. We crossed two boats going through it, and emerged into the sunlight to slowly cruise to somewhere to stop for lunch. Whilst cruising we had a very unusual occurrence as we passed close by a kingfisher that stayed put on its perch, usually they fly off just before the boat reaches them. Sadly the camera was below decks!

After lunch I made a bit of a horlicks turning towards Leicester at Norton Junction. The canal then rises up the 7 Watford locks to the Leicester Summit level. These are very picturesque locks, but they are only yards from the M1 Motorway Watford Gap service area, so it is very noisy. We found a delightul mooring that night and enjoyed the bright evening sun, though it became cold overnight. The next morning it was wonderfully misty giving an almost eery feeling to the canal. This day was a lovely day and as we had little cruising to do over the next two days, we cruised at tickover. Shortly after we cast off we entered Crick Tunnel, and crossed with just one boat. The day carried on as a lazy cruise and we were excited by the number of kingfishers that fled as we approached. I had the camera ready this time, but they never alighted anywhere near us! The scenery was lovely too and then to our great excitement we looked up to a roar in the sky to see the restored Vulcan Bomber fly over on its installation flight. An historic moment. We found another pretty spot to moor that night.
So Friday 19th October dawned beautiful and bright, no breeze, and warm sun. Wonderful colours on the trees and hedgerows. More kingfishers and buzzards too. Tickover cruising again saw us enter Foxton Top Lock at around mid day. We both had a large Bennetts ice cream from the top lock cafe, this is neary as good as the stuff Carol makes. We had a near upset coming down the locks as the "experienced" boater following us started to put water into the lock as Lily was half way through the opened lock gates.
I have yet to tot up the miles cruised or hours taken and locks passed, suffice to say it will not be great, but as far as we are concerned it has been wonderful. The amazing thing is that effectively from August 13th to October 19th we were in each others company almost 100% of the time. Now we are home, Carol is out to Bridge Drives & I have been out to other things, so the confined space is not so intense. I have got on her nerves a bit, especially with a cough I collected. We rounded it off by aving our youngest daughter, plus husband & children aged 2 & 5 staying with us on Tuesday and Wednesday night. It was cozy, but we all enjoyed it so I expect it will be repeated.
So, now we stay put, probably until the beginning of March, but we are off for short cruises with my cousin from Australia one day and another cousin from Canada on another.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Fradley to Hinckley

Our cruise from Fradley on Friday afternoon was in improving weather and we stopped short of the pub where we were to meet our friends at Huddlesford ( 52deg 41'05.21N, 1deg 46' 36.93W ), there was a large railway line there! But there were not many trains running and there was a great deal of construction activity. Delight of delights, the line was closed over the weekend, they are upgrading it, the West Coast Mainline, to 4 tracks at this point and obviously this weekend was one when major work was to be done. So a quiet night and then boat cleaning followed by watching qualifying for the Japanese GP. We didn't set our alarm to watch this live at 4 am, so it was on at 10.30, and curses, I just caught a brief word about Hamilton being on pole on a radio news summary. There will be no radio or TV on tomorrow before we watch the race, our friends are also GP watchers.

Stan & Libby arrived after a very simple journey from their home, taking around 30 minutes, and we had another superb soup for lunch, with fresh baked bread, thanks to the bread maker. We then cruised to Fazely junction and back in reasonable weather, but it was chilly. We had booked in to The Plough for dinner and had a very good meal. It was not normal "pub grub" but an interesting menu we all enjoyed. It was not cheap but was worth it and the Timothy Taylor bitter was very enjoyable. I gather from Libby that Stan joined me in snoring well that night!
The morning, Sunday 30th dawned brighter and with less wind. Carol & I wandered round the hamlet that is Huddlesford whilst our guests dressed etc and had an interesting chat with a lady who had been given a week's canal holiday by her brother for a birthday present. She was loving it, and in fact almost everyone on the hire boats and timeshare boats equally have said they were doing so too.

Back to breakfast, a little slopping around then the GP, with just the right result, and the we cruised to Fradley. I tried to find a copy of the Sunday Times but without success, and we just had to grab a couple of pints whilst Carol finished off preparing a very wholesome Shepherds pie and Apple Crumble lunch. It was a pleasant cruise back to Huddlesford and fond farewell to our friends.

Monday morning, we had rain overnight, it was overcast but milder and we cruised to Tamworth and moored at the point that Google Earth showed was likely to be nearest to the town. We were not greatly impressed by the place. I was wandering along a fairly busy road when my phone rang and it was my cousin from Australia calling about her forthcoming visit. Back at the boat we slowly cruised to near Alvecote Marina where we stopped overnight. This day brought an unwelcome incident in that we picked up an old jumper and wrapped it around the propeller. This involved stopping the engine and me clambering under the rear deck to open the "weed hatch" which gives access directly above the propeller and I was able to unwind this unwelcome addition. It didn't take too long and the water, whilst cool, was not cold unlike some years ago at Easter when on time had part of an interior sprung mattress around the prop.

I enclose a couple of pictures showing how the camera can lie. In one the setting looks lovely. The next shows why it is not as the busy A38 is right alongside. A distance before this I was walking along and had a glimpse of something near my foot out the corner of my eye. A rat, only inches away, and then a yard or so further on another sitting bold as brass outside its burrow. When we returned with our friends we saw these rats both ways, clearly a rodent problem!
Not so with the lovely clump of cyclamen not far away, nor where I snapped Carol cruising gently along in the countryside.
Tuesday we set off towards Hinckley and spent a fair bit of the day climbing the 11 locks that form the Atherstone flight. We came upon an unmarked Canaltime boat at the bottom of the first lock, fortunately, as they had no idea what to do. About 3 locks further on they were puzzled as to why the lock would not fill. I pointed out that they had not completely closed the paddles at the other end of the lock and water was flowing out as fast as it flowed in. They nearly drained the pound of water up to the next lock.
They decided half way up they would turn back, which allowed us to complete the climb, passing many boats descending the flight, they were not enjoying their holiday unlike every other set of crews on all the other hire and timeshare boats we have met. The boat leaving the first lock was crewed by two New Zealanders, couple of Australians were on a boat part way up, and just past the top lock two Americans were heading the other way. All relish our canal network.
At the top lock we stopped for water and services and we bought some fresh eggs from the lock keeper before heading on. The railway is a near companion along much of this next stretch and I had planned a stopping point that was further from the railway than much of the canal, however about a mile before this the propeller became fouled again so we stopped for the night. This time it was a large heavy duty polythene bag that had wrapped itself around the blades, reducing propulsion and giving a terrible shudder to the rudder. It had been a day of improving weather and was getting warmer, the mooring was lovely and quiet too.
We have arranged for two friends from Chesterfield to join us on Thursday and are off to see our daughter and grandchildren over the weekend, her husband is off to Chile for next week as a prize for his efforts promoting sales of their wine. So Wednesday morning we cruised to the bridge nearest to the Asda in Nuneaton to get food for their visit. I have found Google Earth most useful finding such places, I just punch in the search details and am able to see where they are in relation to the canal otherwise our cruising maps only show a narrow width either side of the canal, and do not give details of where to find things.
Not the greatest store but job done we set off on a very gloomy, if mild, day It rained for a short while after we had turned off the Coventry canal onto the Ashby canal, but once it stopped, out came the sun and it was a lovely late afternoon. We moored at Trinity Marina overnight, but they are not able to offer moorings over the weekend so we shall move off to the towpath side after our friends leave tomorrow. Nothing round the prop today, instead a diesel leak! It is coming from a filter near the diesel tank and I haven't touched it for over 18 months so why should it leak now? I can't stop it by tightening so have placed a tin under it to catch the drips and hopefully I will be able to get new gaskets over the weekend, but I hate working with diesel.
So now it is Thursday morning, David & Sandra are due at around 11.30 and the sun is out and the forecast is for a lovely day, and for the weekend too with luck.

Burton to Fradley

Thursday 27th September:- Cool this morning, I put the heating on for a short while, but eventually we were ready to depart...........just as it started to rain so we decided to wait and I walked up to what used to be Jannel Cruisers. I needed an extra door handle, I had bought several in August 2004 when we were here for the IWA National Festival, but was one short. Jannel is no more, it is now Shobnal Boat Services, and fortunately they had just the sort I needed. They were also able to make a couple of spot welds for us to re-attach the top of our front fender. It was not easy turning into their basin, especially in the strong wind, but for a grand total of £6 all was right again.

As we approached the next lock, Branston, we met Maurice & Jo in Helaire, who have been to the forefront in the organisation of the Loughborough Boat Festival each year. If you haven't been, it is held over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend and upward of 100 boats gather along the towpath for this event which s free to boaters and to visitors and these number, it s estimated, up to 40,000 over the Saturday and Sunday. The other amazing thing is that for the past few years the weather has been mostly bright and dry. Boaters, there is no booking, but the organisers reserve certain moorings for trading boats.

Maurice & Jo were heading back to Loughborough Wharf for the grand Re-opening following redevelopment. Carol was invited but had to decline as we are determined to complete this ring, but the IWA Leicestershire Branch was represented by our Secretary, David Hastie, and two other members of the committee attended too, though they were also wearing the hats of other boating organisations. We have had many misgivings over this development, though have had to reluctantly accept that given the somewhat parlous state of British Waterways finances they needed to take a commercial decision that will aid their future income. The wharf has now been reopened, but there is still one building to be completed, and this could plunge the waterspace in gloom as it is to rise to 8 storeys, though the development alongside the river in Leicester is planned to rise to 38!!!! Caroline Killeavy, the area manager for BW did very well in getting the new Waterways Minister to come along and do the business.

Anyway, our cruise on Thursday was from Burton to Alrewas, and it was very dull, cool and with a cold wind. There was quite a number of boats moving, surprisingly so given the time of year, many being Canaltime (time share) others being Shakespear Cruisers, based at Barton Turn Marina. Upset to find the Sanitary Station at Barton Turn was no more, next one is at Fradley. We arrived at Alrewas at just before 4pm having exerted ourselves working 5 locks and cruising 6 miles, and moored just above Alrewas lock.

Alrewas is a lovely village, and has useful stores, though the delicatessen has now closed due to the owners retiring, I believe. There is still a wonderful butchers shop where they offer all sort of home made sausages, plus a good if small Coop pubs, Fish & Chips plus other takeaways. I spoke to a charming elderly lady who saw me wandering with my camera and asked if I liked her village. She bemoaned the prices of houses there, pointing out a couple of examples, and they certainly reflect the picturesque nature of the place and its good communications with the A38 dashing past to the East. I enclose pictures of a couple of thatched houses and was very pleased to see the quality of the repair that had been made to one of them. I also spoke to a chap who was carefully painting the black woodwork of his old half timbered home. He was well wrapped up against the cold and agreed with me that he wished he had painted it earlier in the year.

Friday 28th, and after shopping in Alrewas, we set off to Fradley. We have two friends coming for the weekend and it requires careful working out as to where we could meet and cruise to and from, as well as having the necessary provisions. Another cool day, but brighter and around mid day we set off to Fradley where the Trent & Mersey Canal meets the Coventry Canal. The locks on the T&M around here are narrow and easy to work, but when ascending the top paddles generate a strong undertow pulling the boat hard onto the top gate/cill if they are raised too quickly. Just before the top lock there is a BW maintenance yard & facilities unit, and this has been improved recently to include a canal shop/information centre plus a cafe, so of course cappuchino was needed again! I avoided the Swan this day. It is a great canal pub and well worth a visit. It is about 3 miles rom Lichfield and 1 mile from the A38. Worry not, I got here on Sunday!
It started to rain and as we have an aversion to this, we turned into the Coventry Canal & stopped for a lovely bowl of hot soup as made by Carol. The other day we were in a Tesco store and talked to the checkout girl who said she never ate vegetables & didn't know what to do with them, whilst saying she liked soup. Whilst she was scanning in the groceries Carol told her how to make wonderful soup very simply. Carol and I like spicy food so our soup had a fair amount chillis in it, we needed it this day. By 3pm it had stopped raining and we set off for our planned meeting point at Huddlesford.
Fradley is at 52deg 43'25.32 N 1 deg 47' 36.27W

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Nottingham to Burton on Trent

Thursday 20th September:- We moved on from Nottingham on a lovely warm afternoon, being very careful of the far from hardened paint on the port side. We only operated two locks this day, Beeston at the junction from the Beeston & Nottingham canal and the river Trent, and then Cranfleet lock as we approached the junction between the rivers Soar and Trent.

The stretch of river above Beeston lock is a lovely wide stretch with lovely views. Some years ago we had somehow managed to move the setting of our rudder so that the tiller direction was out of kilter. We used this Beeston stretch to re-set it by running forward at reasonable speed and easing the rudder into the correct position. The retaining bolt was then fixed very firmly!

We spent the night at the end of the Cranfeet cut, close to where we stayed on our cruise to Nottingham. The weather is getting cooler now and Friday morning was overcast, but we only cruised the short distance along the Trent from Cranfleet and through the (manned) Sawley lock and arrived at Sawley Marina around 11.30, tieing up and plugging into mains power. Our daughter, Sally, arrived a while later to collect us ready to help work getting our granddaughter Hannah's disco party set up the following night. We must confess we were rather dreading it, discos can be rather noisy and a party for 10 year olds has limited appeal to ageing wrinkleys. Wrong! It was a great night and tremendous to be part of all the happiness and squeals of delight.

As usual greatly over catered on food, so following day we joined Sally's family for a lunch of left-overs before being taken back to Lily.

In the early hours of Monday morning wild weather assailed us, roofs in nearby Nottingham were blown off and the rain poured horizontally. The morning was very blustery so we sauntered around, chatted to other boaters, did other bits that were necessary, and then decided we really didn't fancy cruising in that weather, so stayed put! Tuesday morning was a bit better, but the wind is now from the north and a lot colder, so it was fleeces on for the cruise through Derwent lock and into Shardlow, leaving the river for almost the last time. The sun came out and as we left the river the wind cut through less and we slowly made our way through Shardlow, Aston (much improved surrounds), Weston and Swarkestone locks. Carol gave her sister, Annette, a call to see if she & husband Mike wanted to join us for supper. They said they would like to and we decided to tie up at the end of the garden of the Radley Arms (01332 703919), we had been cruising for around 5 hours.(52deg 51'38.85 N 1deg 29'16.99 W)

Much to our surprise we had a meal that we all enjoyed thoroughly. I refused the opportunity of a 48oz steak!! I had a lovely mixed grill, of which they offered two sizes. I had the smaller size but struggled to eat it all, but we all made space for a desert. Carol does not eat them normally but treacle sponge or tart are sure to get her interested. We then retired to Lily for coffee and chat and all had a really enjoyable evening, so much so that after they had left, giving me a large bag of delicious eating apples off their tree, we slept soundy through till gone 9am.

Wednesday 26th we cruised very slowly again through Stenson lock. This is a wide and very deep lock, and we shared it with a boat that had not behaved in the best of manners at a lock the day before.................boaters you should always look behind to see if another boat is approaching as you start to work a lock and share it if possible. Stenson is the last wide lock we shall use for many days, from now on they are small and Lily will fill them. We are on the Trent and Mersey canal for now, built by Brindley in the 1770/80s for this stretch. The weather was cool but bright, if you got out of the wind it was pleasant in the sun but a party of boaters from South Africa who were returning their boat after a thoroughly enjoyable 2 weeks holiday were complaing it was colder than their winter! Not cold enough to stop them planning another visit.

We ended the day moored in Burton on Trent (52deg 48'46.49 N 1deg 38'58.32 W) and wandered into the town and did a bit of shopping. It is a fair walk and not terribly inspiring. I resisted the temptation of a vist to the Bass ( sorry Coors ) brewery, but in 2004 when the IWA National festival was here I really enjoyed the visit to the Marston brewery. Nice quiet mooring overnight, Carol cooked a lovely new Nigella Lawson curry recipe. Red prawn & Mango from the October 2007 Good Housekeeping magazine.

We are off from here today to Alrewas which is a lovely village. It used to have a great deli and a superb butcher, we'll see if they still do. I had thought about going to the National Memorial Arboretum which is there, but it looks as if it is too far for Carol to walk to it. We are planning where we can arrange for a couple of friends to come to join us on Saturday, and all this cruising comes to an end for this year on October 19th!

Much to our surprise there are many boats cruising, we thought most would have gone to roost by this time of year. Many of the boats are Canaltime boats where people use them as their timeshare. They have several bases around the canals, but obviously the base at Sawley is very busy, there are boats everywhere. In the past Canaltime have been critcised for not giving their hirers sufficient training but we have found them all correctly handled and I think it is wonderful that people are being given the opportunity to exerience the waterways.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Lincoln, Newark, home visit and on

Weather whilst in Lincoln was lovely. We ambled around the lower levels together, but Carol's back left much to be desired. The mooring was far from quiet, and one evening some lads played football across the canal, until a car came along and the ball went "Bang" as it hit it. We had no trouble at our mooring and stayed there from Sunday evening until Wednesday morning. I wandered up to the Cathedral on Tuesday afternoon as I wanted some digital pictures, I only used film last time. It is a fair old slog up there and I hope some of these images will give some impression of the steepness. I wandered along to a refurbished windmill that is near the castle, but it is only open at weekends, but as we cruised into the city the sails were turning beautifully.

At the top there are some lovely houses adjacent to the Cathedral. As I arrived up here I noticed boys in a bold school uniform scurrying into the Cathedral and the bells started ringing. At the front I saw people in gowns and glad rags, yes it was a degree ceremony. What a lovely setting.

I wandered on and snapped this learned ice cream eater and carried on to the castle from the entrance to which I took this view of the wonderful building that featured in the film of the Da Vinci code. ( I've not seen the film but enjoyed the book )

I was parched by this time and took myself to one of the local hostelries up there and had a very pleasant pint. Charming barmaid, place full of families eating before the ceremony. I asked her about the goings on, she reported she was getting her degree the next day & would have an hour off work to get ready.

Steep walk down the hill, but lovely old buildings. It really is a must to visit, the Cathedral occupied us for many hours on our visit in 2005.

At the bottom, Lily was moored alongside the remains of the old Clayton & Shuttleworth factory. This business was vast in the 1800's and employed many thousands of people, with a canal wharf within the works. They built steam engines and ploughing machines that were sent worldwide, but effectively the company died in 1929. The entry gates are alongside Stamp End Lock which has a powered guillotine top gate, but my is it slow!!! You do get quite a good view of the Cathedral whilst waiting!

We had to pass through the lock to turn round, which we call "winding" as in gales. We had thought we would carry on to Boston but the clock was defeating us & we were to be back at Newark on the Thursdy night to catch our train. We set off on Wednesday around 11 on a lovely sunny, warm day and got to the lock onto the Trent at Torksey by mid afternoon, attended to our facilities and then locked down and moored for the night. We saw a most rare sight as we approached Torksey, namely a British Waterways dredger at work! Boaters perpetually beoan the fact that the botom of the canal is too close to the top because of lack of dredging, I show you here work under way. I had a wander round Torksey, and folks, there's not a lot to see.

9.15 am we set off upstream with the spring tide helping us on our way. It was not so warm this day, Carol wore a fleece though I stayed in shorts and tee shirt. Excitement on the trip as this very large gravel boat rushed past us & tied up to receive its load. We tend not to look behind too often on the canals, we must remember to do so on rivers!

It took us 3 1/2 hours to get to Cromwell lock and we carried on into Newark Marina where we moored up & hooked up to mains power.

Curry. We love curries and both enjoyed them long before we met in 1964, I reckon I was about 12 when I first enjoyed one. I'll revert to this in another page, but suffice to say that on Thursday night we had a very enjoyable curry in Newark at Asha Tandoori on Stodman St.

The Marina was only about 200 yards from Newark Town station, we caught the 9.58 train ( bit late, engineering works at Lincoln) and it took us direct to Loughbrough, though it stopped almost as frequently as a local bus on the run to Nottingham. We picked up a local bus at the station, changed bus in the town centre and arrived in Mountsorrel by 11.30. Total cost £8 each return!!

Busy weekend in Leicestershire. 70th birthday party, 60th birthday party, supper with friends, seeing kids & grandchildren, changing Carol's phone as it kept droppings its charge. We were glad to countenance our return trip on the Monday where we got back to Newark around mid-day.

We moved out of the marina and onto the town moorings where I tidied up the black paint on the starboard gunwales. The weather was good as we started our cruise through to Gunthorpe where we stopped, but by the time we arrived the cold wind had forced us both into several layers of clothing. I got the gloss paint on the one side that evening, and after we had cruised through to Nottingham for Wednesday night, I got red oxide pain onto the rusty bits on the port side. We had our first rain during cruising since Sam and Hannah were with us in mid August during this cruise. We also said goodbye to the large locks on the river and the friendly and helpful lock keepers who work them.

We are on to Sawley Marina for next weekend as we have Hannah's 10th birthday party to help out at, a disco!! Assuming it does not rain too much I should get all the touching up done in time for the ravages of winter. May get some more photos sorted and also learn how to better format this blog!

Sunday, 9 September 2007

On to Newark & Lincoln

Our trip to Newark was lovely on a very warm day, so warm I had to cover my shoulders to stop them burning. Going down the river Trent from Nottingham the river is very windy and twists and turns through lovely countryside. The locks are all very large and are operated by lock-keepers, making for lazy cruising because the river has been used for commercial carrying until recently, and even today large boats carrying fairly large cargoes occasionally use the river. We saw none on our trip which was uneventful and we saw very few other boats moving, though I suppose Thursday afternoons in September are likely to be quiet.

We got good moorings on a floating pontoon outside the British Waterways offices in Newark, though Carol had a big problem turning into the river flow, our bow thruster was struggling to make progress. Carol's back was giving her a lot of trouble after the walking around Nottingham yesterday but she loves this mooring in Newark (53deg 04'47.25N 0deg 48'39.03W) as it is very close to a large branch of Waitrose! She suffered this time though as I bought some special Spanish style pitted (ie no stone in them ) olives which we nibbled before our meal and on the first olive she bit into a stone and chipped a tooth. I returned the stone and the chipping and await their response, the acting manager was suitably upset.

We decided that as we have to be around home next weekend we have decided to leave Lily in Newark as this mooring is right by the train station and there is a marina nearby. Better still the train from Newark at around 10am runs through to Loughborough. I booked a slot at £8 per night at the marina from Thursday night on.

So at around 11 on Saturday we moved off, through Newark Nether lock and on to North Muskham where we moored outside the Muskham Ferry pub whilst we watched qualifying for the Italian GP, and I enjoyed a very pleasant pint of Pedigree. This over we set off downstream to Cromwell lock which is a very large structure and is at the limit of the tidal river Trent where we moored up alongside a concrete wall around 12 feet high. Carol asked around the other boaters and found none was going downstream that tide so she spoke to the lock-keeper who said he would let us through shortly as soon as he had completed locking 'up' a narrowboat. We duly entered this cavernous structure and left around 15.45 on the tidal stretch with 17 miles to Torksey where we were to turn off the river. We set our engine revs to around 1800 and at just about 18.15 we turned into Torksey and moored up at a floating pontoon mooring. We could have ' locked up' off the river that night but the mooring was good and quiet and mooring space at the top of the lock was crowded. During the next 90 minutes or so many other boats turned in to moor to the pontoons as the tide was by then getting very low. Torksey is at 53deg 17'35.67 N 0deg 44'46.20 W.

The weather had been not as good as forecast as the clouds hardly broke at all. I stayed in tee shirt and shorts but Carol needed a sweater & jeans. At least the wind was mild and the trip was twisty. We bought a navigation guide to help us avoid the gravel shoals, very important on a falling tide. Other boaters, don't be put off going along this tidal stretch, just take sensible precautions and be guided by the lock keepers.

Sunday dawned bright and at around 9.30 we locked up and attended to domestic tasks before cruising to Stalham. This is along the Fossedyke which was originally dug by the Romans and is pretty straight, wide and deep with no locks from Torksey to Lincoln. We reached Stalham just before 12 in time to set up the TV and watch the GP which was interesting, but unfortunately there are political/spying turmoils that have got in the way of the racing somewhat. Whilst at Stalham I managed to buy my weekly fix of Sunday Times which I have read nearly every week since around 1960!

Anyhow, GP over we set off at a steady pace to Lincoln and it warmed up no end. There were not many boats moving and we entered the wide basin at Lincoln at around 16.30 and had expected to moor in this area, as we did in 2005 but the mooring arms have been removed. We didn't fancy mooring alongside the all with several bars and restaurants alongside, so we carried on through The Glory Hole and moored just above the lock. Good mooring but right along a road and opposite the City Council works depot. Dustcarts start early in the morning! The road alongside started to get busy before dawn, so we both had a somewhat disturbed night. Our location is 53 deg 13'41.59 N 0deg 31'51.87 W.

I'll report on Lincoln later, but as it is a big hike up to the Cathedral and as we spent much of a day there 2005, with Carol's back iffy we will avoid this.

This is our mooring

Thursday, 6 September 2007


We stayed at Loughborough all day Saturday and Sunday, taking in a walk around Victoria Park with the Carillon set in it. Sadly we just missed the recital that Sunday as we had been to the cinema again, this time to see the Bourne Ultimatum, which we thoroughly enjoyed, the more so because the two preceeding films in the series had been shown on TV a week or so earlier. Carol can't believe that I go to the cinema now, I always usually retort that the film will be on TV soon! Tight (well diluted) Scottish blood must be the reason, though I understand that as we now have an Orange phone we can go to the cinema for free on Wednesdays! The cinema in Loughborough has been pleasantly modernised and the staff were very helpful.

So it was on Monday morning that we set off northwards again, stopping at Bishops Meadow facilities, which I have to say are far from the best on the system, a fact I passed on the the area BW manager. We shared the lock with a trip boat from Barrow Boating and gave instructions as to how to work a lock, though how they got that far without working a lock beats me as they had passed through 2 already. What we did discover is that Bishops Meadow lock is short. Lily is only 70 feet long, or at least we only paid for 70 feet, but when I tried to open the gate I was not able to do so and Carol had to use the bow thruster to go out the other gate.

The river downstream of Loughborough is about the most beautiful cruising we have ever enjoyed, everyone should try it. We stopped at the Rose & Crown in Zouch for a beer & cappuchino before going on to the river Trent junction and got a lovely mooring at the end of the cut to Cranfleet lock. We travelled for just over 5 hours this day, very slow cruising is our norm.

Our mooring that night was at 52deg 52'30.68N 1deg 16'13.27W.

Despite the power station and the Sheffield - London mainline crossing about 1/4 mile away it was a lovely quiet spot overnight, and the weather was good on Monday, and Tuesday dawned bright too and continued on through Cranfleet lock and on to Beeston lock where we entered the Nottingham and Beeston canal. We stopped at the services block there to fill and empty, and I took photos of two boats that were moored on the lock mooring points, which I sent on to BW.

Having recharged we poddled along in the sunshine to moor outside Castle Marina in Nottingham. We only cruised for 3 hours and we stopped here until Thursday. Simon, our son-in-law rang to see if he could cadge a bed. He lives near Chichester but had a meeting in Bishops Stortford on Tuesday and another in Crewe the following day. By stopping with us it saved him 5 or more hours of driving. It was a bit of a celebration too as he had just been advised of the size of his annual bonus, which rather made me wilt!

We stopped through Wednesday too and wandered around Nottingham a bit though Carol's back gave her severe problems and she retired hurt. Friends joined us for a meal at the Baltimore Diner and, rather to our surprise, we all enjoyed the food. They also brought our post, having collected it from Sally's. This is a bit of a problem as we still seem to be getting an awful lot of mail despite my best efforts to stop it.

Now after another quiet night we are going to head off to Newark, though whether we will get there today I doubt very much. Weather still good as is the forecast for the next five days. Our location here is 52 deg 56'47.35 N 1deg 10'02.02W. Google Earth was wonderful at plotting Simon's route to find us too.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Back to boating

Saturday 1st September.

I have been remonstrated with by my brother about failure to blog, but frankly, we have been doing family things, not boating. Our Loughborough mooring was as below.

On Monday we explored the delights of free bus passes as we travelled from Loughborough to Leicester on a 127, then changed to an ?X5? and went to Market Harborough. The journey took us about one and a half hours, by car it would have been about 3/4 hour. We then had to get from Harborough to Debdale to collect the car. The hour and a half trip was free, the taxi ride took under 10 minutes and cost £9. Even so the journey by car at around 40p per mile would have cost well over £12. We went to collect our new tyre and then spent a while in Harborough sorting out a new phone for Carol and having lunch.

New phone on Orange. For £35 per month 700 min to any mobile, 100 texts and 100 min to land lines. This should improve on last month's costs!

Great discovery. Weatherspoons. Carol often coughs up over £2 for a cappuccino, Weatherspoons was under £1 & passed the test. But better still, on Mondays certain bitters are only £1.45 per pint, including Pedigree!! I nearly thought I had died and gone to heaven. I can't remember when I last paid so little for this great beer. We also had our main meal there and it cost around £6 for the two of us. The only worrying thing was seeing people in there at around 10.30 drinking pints in rounds, and even with quite elderly ladies doing so at that time. I never realised this went on.

On Tuesday we eventually left Loughborough and went to Zouch, a small hamlet right by the cut, where we stopped the night, it took us barely 2 hours cruising from Loughborough and just 2 locks. Tried out the Rose & Crown for Cappuccino coffee & beer. The meals here used to be really good value, they don't seem that way now, and anyway our tastes have changed. Beer was OK & Carol said so was the coffee, and they were friendly people in there.

The next morning we went through Zouch lock, cruised for about 2 miles towards Kegworth then turned and passed through Loughborough to a lovely secluded mooring. Not much cruising, but an enjoyable day. I enclose a photo.

Thursday morning we headed off towards Mountsorrel, emptying the loo and filling with water. We were to entertain friends to lunch and a cruise. The weather for the previous few days was pretty cold, so Carol cooked her lovely Moussaka, lovely food on a cool day but of course it was lovely and warm. Never mind, we all enjoyed it and then set off to Loughborough and back. Most enjoyable.

Friday 24th we left Lily at about 10. We had another flat tyre the evening before and we used our very inexpensive breakdown service (£34 for the 2 of us, 2 cars per year!!) to help. I tried all my sockets but couldn't shift the wheel nuts, the breakdown chap used a bar at least a metre long and had to give it some real stick to free the nuts. Eventually we were off to see our daughter & family for Emily's 5th birthday party over the weekend, and we brought her back with us on Monday. She stayed with us until Thursday evening when Clare took her home.

Great things during her visit. We visited Leicester Museum to see what we know as "Dippy" the dinosaur, which she loved. We also looked at the new Attenborough collection of Picasso pottery. Very interesting, we are lucky Sir Richard has given this to the Museum. We also pulled in the Newark Houses Museum to let Emily see the Daniel Lambert exhibits. On Thursday we all went to Stonehurst Farm Park in Mountsorrel. This is about 1/2 a mile from Mountsorrel Lock and the kids aged 2, 5 and 13 all had a great time. We were there playing on things and cuddling small animals for over 4 hours and had to drag the kids away!

Greg Duffin who created this has also been an old car nut for around 45 years, he actually helped me out when I needed track rod ends for my Austin Seven when it failed its MOT. He now has a wonderful eclectic collection of all sorts of motoring bits, I guess around 25 cars from the early 20s onwards and a great array of old motorbikes. All the exhibits are different, some wonderfully restored, others totally unrestored, along with everything else I used to see when I visited small garages around the area in the 1960's. There are many Austins including a rather nice Ulster, a large Rolls Royce, an aged Crossley bus, and a lovely sports Vauxhall, I guess a 30/98, but I'm very rusty on my old cars. Give the place a visit, it has a lovely cafe/restaurant and a very good farm shop.

So Friday 31st, we are on our own again, but are going out with friends that evening so Carol wants a hair do. We were going to cruise to Loughborough, but decided to use the car instead and we had a thrilling time doing the launderette too! Also we found a very large "Outdors" shop which we shall delve into more in the future. The meal out at an Italian restaurant (Bobolis) in Kibworth was expensive and was not very good. All four of us looked at the menu and were not sure what we would chose to eat, not spoilt for choice, but struggling to find something that tickled our fancy. We will not go again, but rest assured, it is a fairly long walk from the canal so boaters are not likely to find it.

Saturday, September 1st, we set off again from friend Beryl's moorings and did the usual at the Barrow services stop. We ran out of one of the gas bottles on Thursday so need to replace it. We have never before had the cooker go out on us, having sensed it beforehand, not so then! I also dipped the fuel tank and we seem to have used 100 litres since 13th August running the engine for 62 hours. We moored up near to the Chainbridge in Loughborough and wandered off to shop. I walked to see the Old Rectory Museum near the Parish Church. It is only open on Saturdays from 10 to 4, not big, but I found it interesting. If you are visiting Loughborough, try to fit in a visit to Taylor's Bell Foundry, very interesting, and try to hear the Carillon play. The Great Central Railway is a lovely way to spend a day. When we did it with our eldest 2 grandchildren, who were I guess about 10 and 7, we were going to and fro for most of a day, and thoroughly enjoyed our all day breakfast on the train.

Current mooring location, courtesy of Google Earth is:-

52 degrees 46' 37.82N 1 degree 12' 40.51 W

Carol cooked a lovely new recipe from Friday's Times newspaper, a sort of Spanish omelette with choritso sausage and coriander. Well worth a try if you like the ingredients. Since then I've been bashing away at this.

I took these photos of our Mountsorrel moorings this morning.

The stone building is the old butter market.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

How do we get electricity?

Boaty info:- Earlier inland boats just took a lead from the engine battery to run a light bulb, then people wanted more, so extra batteries were fitted. The trouble was sometimes people ran the batteries so low that they wouldn't start the engine. The solution was to split the batteries, one battery solely started the engine, the others did the domestics and a simple relay switch split the charging process.

Things moved on, boats got longer and more complex. The longer the boat, the longer the cables, the greater the voltage drop, so thicker cables were needed. But equally, more and more sophistication meant more and more power was wanted, and also people wanted more domestic appliances. Voltage drop is reduced if you double the voltage, so many boats now use a 24 volt system, Lily being one. Most lorries use this voltage so there are many parts that can be used from their parts bins, and the amount of current needed for a given wattage required by a lamp or motor is halved, greatly reducing the cable size required. But we still want home comforts, so we need 240 volts, and the alternating current needed to drive them, so the modern inverter was designed.

The inverter multiplies up the voltage to 240 volts and then magically makes it alternate from positive into negative. Unfortunately more modern equipment needs more than just an alternating current to make it work, it also needs it to be very close to the sine wave profile of the standard mains voltage. Clever engineers have mimicked this almost exactly and now electronic equipment works happily on the current modern inverters generate. Lily Pad has what is known as a combined inverter/charger and this wonderful device generates 3.5 kW of AC power, but also, when we get back to base and plug into the mains, also charges up the battery bank and keeps them in perfect condition.

Ah, batteries! There are all sorts of batteries available. Normal car batteries are fine for starting engines, but they do not like being heavily discharged. Domestic use in boats will tend to do this, so slightly different types are made to be leisure batteries. These come in all sorts of sizes, and at the Loughborough Boat Festival this year I saw a boat take delivery of some enormous batteries, heaven knows what they weighed but I know I was very glad I didn't need to move them into position. On Lily Pad we have a battery bank built up of 12 individual 2 volt cells, supplied by Harborough Batteries. These are similar to those used on electric milk floats and they are set in a metal locker on the starboard side of the rear deck and I think they weigh about 1/4 ton.

First Week of boating life

Monday 13th August We left Debdale after a fraught morning with both our cars playing up. We ended up leaving Carol's wheel at a garage to have a new tyre fitted, whilst my thing refused point blank to start even with jump leads or a tow. It could be an interlock that operates on the clutch pedal, whatever it was I ended up pushing it to a remote spot until we return.

As a result it was around 13.10 when we set off, pleasant weather but not hot. We meandered northwards along the long pound to Kibworth top lock. As we were about to leave this a boat arrived, crewed by a couple who used to on a knitwear company on the floor below ours! We also had an interesting chat with a British Waterways man at the next lock. He was painting non slip paint on the balance beams so that people walking across to work the lock did not lose their footing.

The Kibworth Flight is four locks arranged over a length of about 1/4 mile and which lower the canal by some 32 feet, and form the first of a total of 21 locks that lower the canal from Debdale Wharf to that of the river Soar. All these locks are double width, being some 14 feet wide and about 80 feet long.

One more lock saw us down to the level of our first night's stop overlooking Wistow Church, just before Newton Top Lock. This is a lovely spot, much loved by boaters and dog walkers with open fields and a quaint little church set amongst trees. I include a picture with Lily at her mooring, Wistow Church is set off to the left of this view. The only slight drawback here, as is the case with many canals, is that the Midland Mainline railway running from London to Sheffield runs fairly close to the canal. In fact a few hundred yards further on the railway embankment is right alongside the canal towpath with trains hammering past perhaps 15 feet from the cruising boats.

Interesting fact, as we cruise later into London along the Regent's Canal we shall pass just below these same trains as they complete their journey.

Our cruise this day took us only 3 1/4 hours and we cruised a magnificent 5 miles and worked 5 locks!

Tuesday 14th was wet at the start and we only planned to cruise 3 miles and 7 locks to a meeting point with the grandchildren that evening. We shared the journey with a charming lady on Grace, a boat about 57 feet long. Elsewhere in the country the night of 17/18th August was wild and Clare, our youngest daughter, rang to say their first ever camping holiday had ended just after 3 nights when the gales and torrential rain had smashed their tent at around 9 am this morning. Fortunately no-one was hurt, but it had been a brand new tent 3 days earlier!

During our short cruise of just under 4 hours we passed about 7 or 8 boats going the other way, and we were following closely another two boats. At Kilby Bridge there is a popular pub, the Navigation, and also a set of services for boats. These include water points, toilets and shower and an elsan disposal point. Lily Pad has her own very good shower, just the same as we have at home except it is better as both hot and cold water is pumped, almost like a power shower.

As to the toilet, on boats there is the choice of either elsan type " bucket & chuck it" type as used in caravans, or else what is known as a "pump out" system. With these the waste is collected in a large holding tank and when this is full the boat goes to a boatyard with a "pump out" facility where the waste is sucked out into the sewer system. On Lily we use the elsan type and despite having a spare toilet cassette we need to empty these about every 4 days, or more often if there are more than the two of us aboard. I might revert to the reason for our choice later.

Sam and Hannah joined us at 7pm and we went to the pub for a meal. Carol had a very acceptable Chicken Madras, though it was not as spicy as some, I had the excellent Steak & Kidney pie whilst the kids had Beef Stroganof, which they enjoyed. The Pedigree bitter was well kept.

Wednesday morning it was late when we rose, we woke the kids after 8.30, and it was a fine morning. We set off at 9.45, but unfortunately we were not able to team up with another boat, Grace's owner had said she would wait for us at the first lock, but paired up with another boat that had reached there already. Two other boats followed us, but they had made a previous agreement to continue the arrangement to work together that they had made the day before. So we worked our way through, picking blackberries as we went. The day clouded over and around mid day the heavens opened and we had a torrential downpour, we were glad to stop for lunch! The soup Carol had made was much appreciated.

We restarted around 14.00 and had some more heavy rain. At least it was mild so we all wore shorts and proved our skin was waterproof and dried easily! Sam is a very competent lock operator now and fully able to work them, though he might have a problem with heavy gates and paddle gear, especially in the new year wen they have not been used for a while. Hannah pushes the gates open and shut well, and I'm sure that she will be able to handle the paddle gear on narrow locks. Sam is also a wonderful helmsman. We cruised onto the river Soar and through 3 more locks, stopping for supplies at a Sainsbury's on "The Mile Straight" in Leicester, before moving on to the secure moorings at Castle Gardens in the city. These moorings are within 200 yards of the clock tower in the city centre.

During this day we did 12 locks and 6 miles.

Thursday 16th dawned bright but cool, it was 9am when the kids woke. We went into Leicester to see things I hadn't seen for many years, visiting the Jewry Wall museum of Roman remains, going on to the Cathedral ( too new to tickle my spot ) and then tried the ancient Guildhall. It was unfortunately closed but is well worth a visit. We used to hold many meetings of the Leicester Textile Society there, in fact I was made President there. We then went to St Mary de Castro church, which we had never visited before....................why ever not? It is a wonderful church, started in 1107 and still showing lovely Norman features. We had a very interesting talk with the vicar, David Cawley, who explained certain features and made us very welcome, and invited himself to see Lily at a later date! We were fortunate to find it open, we had tried to look into St Nicholas Church, the oldest in Leicester and built with many Roman bits and pieces, but it was closed. If you are visiting Leicester, do try to see them.

St Mary de Castro is by the Leicester Castle. This is not a castellated building, but a large Medieval hall that has been changed and adapted over the years. Sadly it was not open to view, so we went to the Newark Houses museum nearby and all of us thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits and activities there.

After lunch we set off at 14.20 and cruised to Mountsorrel, seeing several herons and kingfishers. We had several short showers on the way, but arrived alongside Wasp in Mountsorrel at 18.20. 9 miles and 7 locks.

The river is getting badly affected by an invasive weed from the USA , Floating Pennywort, and in several places it stretched almost wholly across the river. It was introduced into the river accidentally by people emptying pond plants into the river, and with British winters being nothing like as severe as those on the Great Lakes, the weed grows almost non stop. It has very major implications for all waterways users, it kills fish and aquatic plants by preventing light from reaching them. It clogs waterway structures and could easily cause flooding by blocking weirs and culverts. The apparently solid mat it forms looks like any other area of green countryside, but it gives way when an animal tries to walk on it. All of us need to help prevent its spread, especially as only a very short piece of stem can propagate into another raft of weed in only a few weeks.

The kids ate with us that night before being collected by our daughter Sally and son-in-law John.

On Friday, we stayed put. I walked up from the river to visit my mother in the care home nearby, and then tackled a nasty smell of diesel from the engine. Sally dropped by with a bit of post, including a terrible phone bill, I set to sorting out a better tarif. I have been able to get a fast internet connection through my Vodafone USB modem ( 3.6 Mbs ) in Leicester and Mountsorrel which is very satisfying.

Saturday morning we set off into Loughborough. We passed through Mountsorrel Lock and onto the Services at Barrow upon Soar where we filled up with water and emptied the loos. We shared Barrow Deep lock with a family just setting out on a 2 week holiday. The next lock is a flood lock and these are normally left open during the summer, but the weather this year has been so bad that the gates were shut, but only held back about 2" of water. We stopped in Loughborough having covered 5 1/2 miles and just 2 and a bit locks.

We then did something I have not done for over 40 years, went to Loughborough Market. This is a full street market and is bigger than I recall from the days when I was at school here, though I was
at school on Saturday mornings. The rain started as we bought fruit and veg, so we went to the cinema to watch the latest Harry Potter film. The last time I went to this cinema it was called the Essoldo and only had one screen, now it had at least 5. We enjoyed the film, Sam said we would, he is a great fan and has already read the last book in the series.

We have also had a floppy Sunday, not moving again. We went to a laundrette to wash the bedding. We have slept on water bed for many years as these give Carol's back great relief, she has had 2 spinal operations and needs all the help available. With a water bed there is a quilted cover to the mattress and this rather overfills a domestic washing machine, so when available we use these commercial sized machines rather than the machine we have on the boat. It threw it down with rain again as I walked to get some bits from B&Q so I got wet again. We have needed to run the engine to recharge the batteries as we use quite a lot of electricity.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Monday approaches and we will leave Debdale Wharf Marina to start our cruise. Canals and rivers interconnect to cover much of the country in navigable waterways and our first post retirement cruise is to be what is known as "The Leicester Ring". Some people cruise it in 7 days, our previous navigations of this linked set of canals and rivers has taken around 9 days. This Lily Pad has never cruised it, and we intend to go very gently around it, stopping on the way wherever we wish and going up the length of both the Coventry Arm and the Ashby Canal. We could even pull in the Shackerstone Canal Festival in September. Everything is planned so that we go as the mood takes us.

On Tuesday evening our two oldest grandchildren will join us for two days, they are very useful at working the locks, as well as being great fun to have along. I'll scan in simple plan of the network and find how to give you a link to the Inland Waterways Association site as both of us have been heavily involved with this association for many years.

It is approaching a year since we were at the Association's National Festival which was held at Beale Park near Pangbourne on the river Thames. On the Saturday, just after lunch, Carol had gone to see a cookery demonstration and left me finishing eating an orange. About 20 minutes later she was hauled out of the demonstration to be told I had suffered a serious accident. The poor love waited petrified for about an hour before I was brought into the First Aid centre by the paramedics. She knew nothing of what had gone on and was wondering if I was dead, instead I walked in wet and holding my right arm. I had fallen from the roof of the boat and crashed into the top edge of the roof of the neighbouring boat, hitting it just below my shoulder. I then fell down between the two boats and into the river. I think I must have shouted as others came around to my aid, I was a bit worried about what I had said as they were members of the Boaters Christian Fellowship!

Suffice to say I had shattered the ball at the top of my arm. Reading Hospital was fantastic, but it was not an emergency, they strapped me up & told me to come back in 5 days. They kept waving needles at me and I kept fainting ( I hate needles ) and my blood pressure fell through the floor, so they kept me in coronary care overnight, but went back to the boat the next afternoon. It was a long saga and our waterways friends were fantastic in how they helped us out getting us home at first so I could get treatment in Leicester, in sorting out somewhere to moor the boat until we were able to sort out a crew to get Lily home and then in the actual help on that return trip. Everyone was fantastic and it just went to show the tremendous comradeship that exists in this boating community.

This accident brought to the fore our thoughts about going cruising and, along with actually finding a buyer for our home of 30 years after over 2 years on the market, brought this great day forward. We have now lived on the boat for over 4 weeks and are loving it. I mentioned yesterday that the boat had a bit of a list, well 120kgs of lead have sorted that out, along with a bit of readjustment on loading. I'll describe more about Lily shortly, here is a picture of her decorated up for our Leicester Boat Festival this June.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Getting Started

In the Beginning

In 1989 we bought our first narrowboat. Carol told me to come home from work early as we were going to look at this boat. She said I was spending so much time at work it was either get a boat or else she would install a bed down at the factory. A brief test run & we made an offer & just over a week later, having cruised about 100 yards of canal beforehand, we set off to get this first boat back to Debdale Wharf Marina where we had booked a mooring. More of this later, perhaps.

The boat's name.......................Lily Pad

4 years later we had our second boat built to our design, we were hooked. The first boat was 30 feet long and we had greatly improved her over the time we had her. The second boat was 45 feet long and was built at Nimbus Narrowboats at Thurmaston Marina, to where we had moved. In 1993 we took the new boat to the National IWA Festival at Peterborough where she was entered in the best boat competition. She didn't quite win, but it was close.

The boat's name......................Lily Pad

In 2001 the factory died, making knitwear in the UK was almost impossible. We went off on Lily Pad to lick our wounds and spent nearly 6 weeks cruising down the Thames and other waters. By this time we had decided we loved boating so much that we wanted to try living aboard our boat, but this 6 week cruise showed she was not quite right for us for

We sold her in late Summer 2002 and commissioned our next boat.

We had moved back to Debdale Wharf Marina again and started discussions and drawing up designs for the next boat. We wanted her to be 58 feet long so we could cruise anwhere, in the UK all the locks are at least 58 feet long, but we couldn't fit what we wanted in this length. We fiddled around with bits, as most people reckon you can get a 62 foot boat through nearly all locks, but still we could get in what we wanted. Lots of head scratching, and then we said "What the Hell" and went for a full length 70 foot boat, knowing that to cruise some canals we will have to hire or beg/borrow a boat.

The die was cast, the final layout agreed, the finer parts were argued, the order placed, and the people at Debdale started work. It took a long time.................but in the end in September 2003 she had er Boat Safety Certificate test and she was handed over to us for the final soft furnishing fittings. A later sub article will give details of her design and features.

The boat's name.........................................Lily Pad

We believe there are three boats called Lily Pad on the inland waterways network, two of them built for us. We loved our first boat so much and loved her name too and thus there are now three.

Now Ian has retired and we are just about to cast off. We have downsized our home, and have actually let our new home. Everythng is in store. The boat is well loaded, slightly to one side so we have a bit of a list!! On Monday we set off for a gentle three month cruise, the first part of what we hope to be a 5 year sojourn around the waterways of Great Britain. We haven't burnt our boats, we have the option of moving back onto land, but if we don't have a go at this we will always regret it.

Come on the cruise with us, We'll learn how to add photos, give you our thoughs on designs and options and bring you news of things afloat. Things seen will be brought to your attention, ell, you might want to try the life yourselves.