Sunday 31 May 2015

Routine stocktaking/Foxton locks.

An overcast, cold start to my 66th year, much the same as the previous few days. When will summer 2016 start? Global warming. What global warming?
We're getting food supplies for the next stage of our adventures and plan to seek the assistance of a taxi getting them from Sainsbury's to the boat.
I'm still glowing in appreciation of the Arsenal FA cup triumph, not just because of the win but the emphatic way it was achieved. Almost the perfect performance. The boat electrics fixed, Margaret and Bob popping over for my birthday, all the children (5) and grandchildren(5) face timing me, lots of heartwarming stuff, what more could I wish for?
We plan to leave Market Harborough this afternoon and moor before tackling Foxton locks (10) in the morning, weather permitting
UPDATE:     Change of plan due to gusty winds and heavy showers - a non cruising day. With the bulk shopping at Waitrose and a taxi ride back to the boat completed prior to the wind and rain we took the decision to request an extra night here, partly in the hope of better weather ahead and partly because we have been very impressed with the town and the wharf. If you are going to get held up by the weather, this is the ideal place to do it.

Route 66 non cruising

A windy, rainy night and a non cruising day for my 66th birthday. I awoke to an unexpected birthday present and a sloppy card from Lynne. We are both well on the way to recovering from our previous exhaustion and life seems worth living again. Keith and Jen said their goodbyes last night and presented me with a birthday card, which was very sweet of them. They have cruised off for the remainder of this year's travels early this morning, but on a different route from our plans. We learned a lot from them and they helped us ease through the Grand Union locks without problems, which was a big bonus. It was the long and relentless cruising days and unpredictable meal times which diminished the enjoyment overall for me, but cruise speeds always  gave ample time for sightseeing, another bonus.
The "good" Arsenal team turned up at Wembley yesterday and thrashed Aston Villa 4....0, playing excellent football, the best I have ever seen from them. An early birthday present?

Saturday 30 May 2015

M.H. 2 and cup final

A fairly bright, but cloudy start to FA cup final day, Arsenal v Aston Villa. If the  " proper " Arsenal turn up ( they don't always ) they should win, but that remains to be seen. It will be exciting anyway. My dad, bless him, was an Aston Villa fan as my mum came from Birmingham originally, but she was still a lovely person.
Last night's meal went better than expected, given the prior history, but we did get an insider view of Keith's and Jen's "go to it" attitude to boating. Dormouse is their third or fourth boat, previous ones being a sailing yacht, a French barge and another narrowboat which unfortunately went up in flames . Having travelled most of Europe in record time the last couple of weeks must have seemed very slow to them, but hey-ho, we learnt a lot.
I have yet to recover from the hectic schedule and the subsequent health issues, but the next couple of days relaxing in Market Harborough should help address both.
Our friend Sue has been admitted to a hospice near Leicester and Lynne kindly showed me a photo of her in her room there (the wonder of social media) which I can add to my brain's album of mum in an oxygen tent ( remember those?) and dad on his hospital bed connected to various machines On a brighter note my brain album also contains pictures of Chloe very, very close to death in an incubator and Joel having undergone a liver re-plumbing operation as babies, and look at them now. The art is getting the brain's gallery balanced.
We moved Tardis Two into the wharf and onto an electric point for the cup final and Sunday/Monday, ready for stocking up with foodstuff and other essentials. The batteries will be fully charged and all we will then need for the remainder of our summer ( ? ) travels will be diesel from Foxton.

Thursday 28 May 2015

Market Harborough

 A choir of pidgeon's woke us this morning, spoiling what had been a very peaceful night. The weather is overcast, as is the long-range weather forecast for the next few weeks. The summer seems to have scarpered before even arriving?
Lynne and I are both physically and mentally exhausted after several very long cruising days, each involving  up to 9 hours and 15 very heavy double locks. Enough is enough. Keith and Jen, despite extolling the virtues of "2 hour cruising stints" ,stops for lunch and mid to late afternoon overnight mooring, reality involved none of them. Lynne has addressed these issues with them almost daily, extolling the virtues of keeping to my diabetic injection and eating regime, plus the limitations my chemotherapy and radiology treatments put on my physical performance and safety, but apparently to no avail. Quite why, we have yet to work out as they are both very intelligent individuals, albeit a little eccentric. We have been an excellent partnership and our routes will differ once we leave Market Harborough so we do not need to address the issues again immediately, but it gives food for thought before embarking on any future arrangements for sharing double locks, of which the Grand Union has many.
Market Harborough suffered heavy constant rain for the morning so I took the opportunity of catching up on sleep and rest.
Inevitably sunshine and slight warmth arrived early afternoon so I took the opportunity of looking round the town, although Lynne flatly refused to join me ( we are not on speaking terms at the moment as I have requested to return home earlier than scheduled due to exhaustion and associated risks to my health and wellbeing.   
 Market Harborough is very impressive and offers lots of car parking in the town centre ( some free ) together with every large supermarket brand and impressive indoor and outdoor markets selling everything from fresh fish to clothes, all accommodated in a traditional "unspoilt" shopping town without any sign of traffic congestion. Given a choice I would have liked to spend more time here, but not in the present circumstances. With a brilliant sense of irony Keith and Jen have invited us out to eat with them at a pub somewhere in town with a provisional time of 1900 agreed. We'll see. As both our boats are already moored timing should not prove a problem this time, surely? Conversations over dinner could prove "interesting". We aim to go our separate ways tomorrow so Lynne and I may get back on an even keel, so to speak.
Despite the brilliant new canals/ rivers visited and the "fully working boat", this trip has been one from hell for me, sadly.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Grand Union Leicester section

The odd light shower overnight but a bright, sunny morning with lots of ominous cloud formations. The GUC has so far proved a revelation, very pretty and reasonably well maintained, although you'll need your breakfast Weetabix to operate the lock gates, with the exception of one that was clearly damaged.
The Canada geese families are out in force, immaculately behaved as usual. The above photo's are probably a crèche, whereby some parents give others a break for an hour or two, made easy by the chick's good training and disciplined nature.
Swans are also well trained, but sadly not ducks who's survival rates are not good.
Today we are heading for Market Harborough, another first for us, as is the 881 yard Saddington Tunnel, which was high and wide enough for passing boats. We saw nothing of the alleged resident bat colony therein,despite Lynne peering onto the "ceiling" by torchlight.
The GU stretch to Market Harborough is a hidden gem, what more can I say? It has swing bridges (2), buttercup fields (lots) and scenery to die for with ample mooring places and spaces. 
We moored just outside Union Wharf with the promise of 2 spaces inside tomorrow afternoon, with or without electric, once the hire fleet has cruised into the sunset for a week or two. The Wharf is new and much better designed than Loughborough. Sainsbury's, Waitrose and Tesco fight for your trade close by, as do several pubs.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Sunrise over Aldi

Having moored at a "middle of nowhere location" next to a stream and weir. A helpful boater later pointed out there is an Aldi next to the canal round the next corner !  This morning we have blue sky and sunrise over Aldi. We are again cruising with "Dormouse" and arranged a 0900 departure. Sadie Yoko Ono was on top form last night, waking us at midnight and 0400 for no other reason than she can. We're starting to worry about our boat electrics again ( or is it paranoia?)as it seems they are not performing to their full potential again. We're monitoring closely, or perhaps, too closely?
Our early morning foraging at Aldi awoke the dormouse and an earlier start than planned occurred at 0830. In the blink of an eye we had traversed the Fosse shopping centre and Everard's brewery (Tiger Beer),the 15th century packhorse bridge, Aylestone, South Wigston, Kilby bridge and Newton Harcourt. Having exhausted ourselves on the day's 16 locks, mostly very tough and one broken,lots with anti-vandal locks and no gate paddles, we sought mooring for further than we wished, ending up in the middle of nowhere somewhere in the vicinity of Wistow Hall and Wistow rural centre. 
The locked locks were a topic of conversation for the evening, given the affluence of their location compared with Leicester and Loughborough. Upper crust vandals perhaps?

Soar to Grand Union

A bright and sunny morning, but initially breezy. We intend heading for the Grand Union canal once the breeze drops sufficiently to allow us out of the Marina and my blood sugar rises a little, both of which occurred by 09.45.
The Soarr and the Grand Union somehow merge somewhere in Leicester. We paired up with another couple and their boat" Dormouse "for tackling the double locks, which makes progress easier and faster. Leicester presents a mixture of historic warehouses and factories,mixed with new flats and student accommodation, but overall everything from the canal appears tatty and neglected. Even the Space Centre , normally pristine, is currently covered in plastic sheeting, which kind of says it all.
Keith and Jennifer,from Dormouse, joined us for drinks this evening and a pleasant time was had by all. The weather has almost been summerish today, warm and sunny.
Derek confirmed he is in conversation with LOROS, a wonderful hospice near Leicester, for Sue to get the care and attention she needs and deserves for her last days, so our visit last weekend was well worthwhile. Bless her.        

Sunday 24 May 2015

Soar puns

Yes, you'll be pleased to hear I have run out of Soar puns although technically we are still on it, albeit in the sanctity of the Leicester Marina, of which we had never heard prior to our arrival yesterday. By Way of celebration today they hold their first Open Day, with family events, live bands and an "introduction to boating."  Whatever that means.
I remain convinced these events are not linked to our arrival in any way, but it is a good thought to carry around.
A massive hypo around midnight heralded our first night in the Marina, locked in with no gate lock code to get out or get an ambulance in. We will rectify that problem as soon as the office opens this morning. The hypo was a true "out of body experience" with what's left of my brain grappling the problem of spelling" unspellable "words such as A or O. In addition I was deathly cold, despite the coal fire chucking out heat levels reminiscent of Cuba in mid-tourist season. Lynne, realising paramedic help was off the menu due to the gate lock issue, bravely took on the essential,and often dangerous, task of injecting me with Glucagen,a high-dose glucose boost injection  administered in dire circumstances by qualified diabetic paramedics ( and Lynne). I generally resist this manoeuvre physically and it normally takes 2 paramedics to successfully  complete it, but on this occasion, luckily, I was compliant and Lynne managed it on her own, although I was still freezing cold like a block of ice, remedied by a hot water bottle, my wooly dressing gown and a prolonged cuddle. As my blood sugar levels rose things improved and I woke at 06.45 more or less back to "normal".  since my radiopherapy treatment it seems I have little or no control over my body temperature which can change at a moments notice.

The Soar and Leicester Marina

In cool, overcast conditions we have completed our journey along the River Soar, and enjoyed every minute of it. The Soar is a lovely hybrid of river and canal, with tons of scenic mooring sites. The locks are tough, with extremely fierce paddles and heavy gates, many of them CRT manned, which helps.
We ended today's trip at Leicester Marina where we intend spending two days for a visit from Chloe and a visit to our good friend Sue who is very ill at present, before exploring the Grand Union canal towards London.
We are precariously moored on the "visitor's mooring pontoon, very short and floating. A quick check round the Marina confirmed it is more "Heath Robinson" than our current one,but certainly as friendly.
Apart from being nearer home it appears to offer few advantages but we'll give it adequate consideration before coming to a decision.    
We filled with water and emptied the oblutions at Loughborough Basin before leaving for today's trip.
Apart from being new and modern the basin is too small and badly designed, sadly. The water tap is  badly placed and difficult to use. The advice of a few boaters should have been sought before designs were finalised as in it's present state it is an opportunity missed to put Loghborough on the canal map.

Soaring through Loughborough

A quiet mooring right outside the Albion pub, a throwback to the 1960's with more staff than customers and Muzak from Tamla Motown, but only quarter tracks,strangely played about 15 minutes apart. The gents loo's were also unique with the taps having no on-off mechanisms, the soap dispensers empty and the hand driers not working. However, they closed around midnight ( the pub, not the loo's ) so what more could you want? Previously we had eaten in our favourite Loughborough Lebanese restaurant with our new-found boater friends , Sue and Joe . A good time was had by all, partly due to the large amounts of alcohol consumed and the very short walk home for bed in the early hours.

Saturday 23 May 2015

Soaring onwards

A very peacefull night on the Soar until a bun fight between two moorhens at 04.30. At first it sounded like water rushing into the boat, with no other sounds. Lynne was out on the stern like a shot whilst I was trapped in bed by Sadie asleep on my legs, who quite rightly resented being awoken to allow my escape. Lynne confirmed the moorhen fight and was concerned one of the birds appeared dead, but it recovered quickly and they both sauntered off in different directions as if nothing had happened. I read that moorhens are very territorial and can fight to the death if necessary.
We moored on the Leicestershire bank of the soar which marks the county boundaries, Nottinghamshire being the other bank at that point.
No sunshine this morning but it is mild and relatively wind free.

Friday 22 May 2015

Beeston cut, River Trent,River Soar.

We began the day in warm sunshine on the Beeston cut, a canal built to by-pass the non-navigatable section of the River Trent. After the sheer scale and boredom of the Trent, Beeston cut is a true revelation and the quintessential British canal. Today we watched Mum Coot trying to teach junior Coot how to dive for food, unsuccessfully, despite the constant nagging and repeated, faultless  demonstrations. Lots of other junior waterfowl were on show in bright sunshine and interesting settings,as was a frisbee size turtle/ terrapin sunning itself on the bank. Unfortunately we rejoined the Trent very quickly,re emphasising the boring bits. 
Very quickly we joined the River Soar, a new adventure for us but very close to home.
Ratcliffe on Soar power station from the Soar.

Thursday 21 May 2015

Beeston cut mystery and sand martins

Today started almost identically to yesterday with bright sunshine and a chilly breeze. The difference today was that the sun lasted virtually all day and the breeze didn't. The Trent continued in it's boring way with the only highlights being colonies of Sand Martins at two locations between Gunthorpe lock and Stoke Bardolph lock,nesting in the riverbanks.
We almost missed our turn off onto the Beeston cut in Nottingham,but found the manual locks tough after being Molly-coddled by the excellent lock keepers on the Trent . However, one lock proved more difficult to get through as it was partially blocked by an apparently abandoned unnamed,but licensed narrowboat, guarded by an equally abandoned fox terrier. Enquiries in the adjacent pub failed to identify the owner, but the Canal and River Trust confirmed they knew his identity and would attempt to  contact him tomorrow, which was of no great help to us today. A young man passing by saw our plight and confirmed he knew the boat/dog owner, unfortunately an alcoholic. He has taken the dog home and helped us move the boat away from the lock, in addition to helping us through it. 
We eventually moored in the same spot we originally used on the way  to Lincoln, later than planned, as was dinner.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Summer arrives on Trent

No early morning Sadie alarm call, a lie in and brilliant sunshine, surely this must be a dream?
On top of which it is actually quite warm. I've pinched myself till I'm covered in bruises but it is for real .
In the event, as expected, it turned out to be a Monty Python sketch. I used to find them hilarious, but not this one. The sun quickly disappeared behind fluffy white clouds and a freezing, gale force wind developed.  Optimistically I began the day in sockless sandals, shorts and a tee shirt but ended it in trainers, woolly socks 2 sets of jogger bottoms, a sweater, wind cheater jacket, scarf, woolly hat and exhaustion.
The. Trent is a very large river requiring high levels of concentration and physical effort to avoid grounding and wind-steerage, not helped by the flat, open landscape ,equalled only by the Gobi and Namib deserts, across which high winds are positively encouraged to develop. Lynne got engrossed in attempting to book Walk off the Earth concert tickets for the family by phone which inevitably left me stranded on the stern for extremely long stretches, fighting the wind, sheer boredom and fatigue until we reached the relative safety of Hazleford lock where we managed to moor with considerable difficulty, as did a motley collection of narrowboats and tuppaware cruisers, all waiting overnight in the hope of a windless morning.
To say it was a rough and very cold night would be an understatement, but suffice to say we were making tea and coffee at 0300 hrs, with the central heating boiler working overtime.
Pollution below Hazelford lock and weir.

Monday 18 May 2015

Torksey lock and River Trent

A 0930 high tide and a hint of sunshine meant an early start to the day, although the forecast is for showers, but worth the risk given that we should have company on our Trent return trip. I anticipate a Le Mans-style start when the lock opens although narrowboats versus cruisers is a no contest. A couple passing through in a narrowboat started the queue and agreed to guide us up the Trent without disappearing into the sunset and they kept to their promise through increasingly cold and strong winds to Cromwell Lock, where it rained and hailed on us.The middle of May and we seem to be in the middle of winter. Bitter cold winds and freezing rain. 
Tardis two has been performing impeccably so far this summer, following the accidental electrical repairs and the knock-on effect has been a far more relaxing time for Lynne and I, but what compensation can you put on relaxation loss? I'll let Trading Standards and MCC decide that.
We are heading towards Nottingham and the River Soar, but safely moored on a very wide expanse of the Trent at Cromwell lock for tonight.

Continuous heavy rain, thunder and lightening

The trip to Saxilby passed without incident but slower than anticipated for no defined reason other than "our" cruising speed obviously being slower than "expert" predictions/opinions. Tardis Two has no speedometer, only an engine revs counter, so cruising speeds remain guesstimates at this stage. We cruise at a speed we are comfortable at and slow, as a matter of courtesy, past moored boats, with no complaints from other boaters. Our arrival at Saxilby coincided with the commencement of continuous heavy rain, thus Lynne opted not to continue our journey to Torksey lock and the tidal Trent until the morning,as the weather forecast was better. The revised plans were conveyed to the Torksey lock keeper and we settled for a peaceful night at Saxilby, but the forecast was wrong and it rained heavily all night with the prediction of much the same for today, but with the addition of thunder and lightening - not ideal traveling conditions for the tidal river Trent. A wet, noisy and illuminated day at Saxilby looms.
It has to be said, Fossdyke navigation is marginally  more interesting than Witham navigation, due to having banks you can actually see over, but neither can be recommended for any scenery officiado's.
Lynne got on with her knitting whilst I snoozed until approximately 1300 hrs when the precipitation suddenly stopped, prompting our escape from Saxilby to who knows where, but progress is progress I suppose. No thunder or lightning, but who am I to complain?
We had sunshine and a gentle breeze on our short trip to Torksey lock where, as ever, the lock keeper was as accommodating as ever. Nothing is too much trouble for these guys and I wil put in a commendation for them in due course. We are moored on the non-tidal side of the lock in the front of a long queue ready for the tide-beating 0930 start in the morning, when hopefully we will all avoid getting beached on scotsman's corner again. Lynne has been studying the Trent tidal maps we acquired for our return journey and is already getting unnecessarily worried about interpreting them correctly. My view is the confident boaters will zoom ahead of us when the start flag is dropped and I'll follow them, rightly or wrongly.

Saturday 16 May 2015

Woodhall Spa to Lincoln on Witham Navigation

A very,very early start due to a combination of factors. The first obvious one was extreme cold. There is an old saying, used by wizened old men in pubs and working men's clubs ( do they still exist? ) The clubs, not working men. "Never cast a clout till May is out", referring to the likelihood of morning frosts till the end of May.
The second was Sadie Yoko Ono, who's latest trick is to silently invade the bedroom very early whilst I am asleep and plonk herself on my legs to sleep, restricting any possible movement, particularly trips to the loo, which are then resisted  noisily .
The third was  a particularly noisy wood pigeon in the vicinity. He/She did not wake me up but certainly prevented any return to sleep.
The fourth, and chief culprit, was a severe return of my waste disposal problems causing extreme discomfort. 
I had been requesting doses of remedial medicines for several days, but Lynne has been busy with other matters, bless her, so this morning I was able to raid the medicine cupboard unoticed, but to no avail. I was unaware of a second, secret "stash", ironically containing just what I needed, which Lynne revealed once she was awake. Today should prove interesting, to say the least !!!!
A sunny, very calm morning, ideal for our return trip to Lincoln, where the dodgy electronic guillotine lock apparently packed up completely yesterday, trapping the poor sole in a launch currently on "our" pontoon for several hours. Hopefully it will be fixed in time for our need to use it.
It wasn't.
Making our way along the ultra boring Witham we decided to change drivers every 3 kms to keep ourselves awake, which succeeded. We arrived at Stamp End lock by midday, but got stuck in it with a medium size cruiser and two other boaters for over an hour. The electronic guillotine gate was faulty and refused to allow us to fill or empty the lock, however much we tried. An CRT engineer was phoned and promised to attend ASAP, but in the meantime we managed to escape and moored for lunch in Lincoln at our previous spot in ever-increasing winds.

 Lynne went shopping for much needed supplies before we left for moorings at Saxilby on the Fossdyke Navigation.

Friday 15 May 2015

Middle of nowhere

The middle of nowhere is the perfect description of where we are. The 25 km board being the sole clue. My idea of "taking in" rivers on this trip has proved to be one of my least inspired. Yesterday we were almost praying to encounter groups of hippo's to relieve the interminable boredom, or even an elephant or two would have sufficed.
This morning is very windy, confirming our bus ride to Boston decision as a good one. Last night I watched a TV documentary on the wartime blitz from survivors recollections and photo's. They are all now in their 90's and 100's, Spitfire pilots, Firemen, Housewives, Mothers, Great Grandmothers and the like, all dragged into a war they could not avoid, but all had tales of great courage to tell. They were not all from London, but places not immediately associated with the blitz, like Bristol, Birmingham and Cardiff. I will never moan about my "misfortunes" again and retired to bed very humbled, remembering my mum and dad were inevitably involved but kept their memories and heroics to themselves . Inevitably I awoke early having suffered nightmares and disturbed sleep.
The bus ride was fast, but the scenery was not too much of an improvement over that from the boat, but for the RAF base and an adjacent museum with a Lightening  fighter out front. Lynne "forgot" her bus pass and was charged £4.50 for her trip,whilst mine was free.
Boston is a poor mans Lincoln. History but without the class. The River Witham passes straight through the middle but today it was merely a stream due to low tide. We noted very few speak English there. The huge Botolph's church,or The Stump, as it is locally known, dominates the town.

The Pugh carvings date from the 13th century.

Boston marathon ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Many, many years ago I participated in the Boston rowing marathon, Lincoln to Boston, 32 miles, which my quad completed but failed to win. The blisters quickly healed but I still have the Tee shirt,which I intend wearing today ( it still fits ). This trip should prove less strenuous I hope. 
Our new-found narrowboat friends offered to escort us through the "glory hole" out of Lincoln, complete with an unusual guillotine lock gate,electric operated, which played up a little, and "normal" gates, which didn't.We passed the millennium sculpture and left the city via the "rough" Stamp end ,which reassured us we had moored in the right place.

The River Whitham imperseptably carries on where the Fossdyke ends and is boring beyond words.With 10 ft banks each side only the kilometere signs indicated we were making progress until we encountered Bardney lock after 13 kms,only memorable for the very, very stinking oblutions. The boredom continued until Woodhall Spa at 25 kms where we decided to moor on a bridge pontoon and get a bus to Boston in the morning, when at least we'll see some scenery on the way there and back.
Thereafter we'll turn Tardis Two round and return the way we came.

Thursday 14 May 2015

A day in Lincoln and Red Arrows

Lincoln visitors moorings appear to be in a student inhabited section which hosted a boisterous birthday party last night, but Lincoln students have little stamina and the whole shebang  fizzled out soon after midnight, thankfully. The morning is bright and sunny but I suspect it is cold. We have run out of coal so reverted to the diesel boiler central heating to maintain life. Today we plan to sight-see Lincoln on foot, chiefly the cathedral and castle.
Walking to Lincoln confirmed we are in the university and student part of the city, but only a very short distance from the High Street, the cathedral and the castle. Seeing the steep hill to them both we chose the regular mini-bus service.
Lincoln just oozes history, from the narrow cobbled streets to the dominance of the castle and the adjacent magnificent cathedral on the hill top. We paid for a guided tour of the latter but unfortunately got saddled with an old, female one with the softest voice imaginable ( or severe laryngitis ?). Several of our group attempted to swop tours but were refused as each guide was at a different stage of the tour, However, within a few minutes our guide was guiding herself as her entire group had deserted to undertake their own tours,including ourselves. No doubt the old gal had a wealth of knowledge but her commentary was sadly lost below the organist practicing and the immensity of the place, poor dear. 
Apparently the organ has 4000 individual pipes, so she stands no chance at all. Retirement and a quiet life looms, bless her.
We were left to our own devices on the castle tour thankfully, but with the subtle assistance of new technology. The castle wall walkways have been lovingly restored and offer awe-inspiring views over Lincolnshire and the city. The castle prisons have also been restored. Thoroughly recommended. 
All in all a remarkably memorable day, with the notable exception of the bloody weather which was literally freezing.
As a side-show since leaving Saxilby we have been entertained by the RAF Red Arrows display team practicing overhead every day.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Curried Bake beans 2 and Fossdyke

I contacted Heinz regarding the apparent disappearance of their famed snack-size curried baked beans and they confirm they no longer make them but will respond to customer demand. I recommend, if you loved them ( on toast ) like I did, you email Heinz via their website to let them know of your disappointment. It is very quick and easy to do as they already provide an email format for customers use and seem to respond amazingly quickly and politely. Give it a go and who knows, we may get curried beans back on our snack menu. 
We made Torksey lock in time for tea, not curried baked beans, obviously ,thanks to the extremely helpful and calm lock keeper who assisted us escape the extremely low tide at Scotmans corner, firstly by telling us to empty our water tanks ,whilst secondly  and conversely waiting for the river water levels to rise, which happened very quickly.
A selection of shots of Torksey lock and the strange mechanisms employed. The teapots on the gate were apparently given to the previous lock keeper by "customers"on his retirement and he donated them to the lock.
On arrival at the lock we were greeted by our convoy group and, having moored, we enjoyed a convivial evening with them. After the perfect nights sleep I glanced out the window onto a deep blue sky, sunshine and a yellow wagtail looking back at me from the bank, virtually eye to eye. An enchanting moment.
We are now on the non tidal Fossdyke Navigation, built by the Romans in their traditional straight lines, stretching to Lincoln and Boston 44 miles with only 2 locks.
I got volunteered to find a shop for a loaf of bread. Easier said than done. Torksey village is tiny, as is the only "shop" therein. Blink and you miss both. The grandly named Post Office and General Store is a very slightly altered bungalow, the entrance hall now fulfilling  the general store portfolio whilst the Post Office counter is still part of the living room for the dear old couple running it. Indeed, the whole establishment is the size of a postage stamp. I left with the very last half loaf of sliced bread, leaving the general store bereft of general stores, or anything else for that matter. The "village" is sliced in two by the main Lincoln road,used by heavy trucks and cars at a minimum of 50 mph, ensuring my journey back to the boat was far from relaxed, especially as today seems to be one of my unsteady ones.
The onward journey to Saxilby, a Viking town,was extremely uneventful, some might say boring, as the river banks are a constant 6 ft high. The occasional farm house offers some change.
Saxilby looked interesting, with plenty of mooring and a highly recommended fish and chip shop, both of which we used in brilliant sunshine. Onwards to Lincoln and the visitors moorings on the outskirts, ready for a full blooded assault tomorrow.

Curried bake beans

We were still on the pontoon this morning, much to our relief, although the wind continued unabated throughout the night, relenting to a strong breeze by the morning. Sadie Yoko Ono kept me awake enough to appreciate the sound of lapping waves against the hull and water gently flowing underneath.
There was another narrowboat and two cruisers on the pontoon so we agreed to go through the lock together at 0930 hrs, after which we would form a flotilla, with the intention of us following the more experienced Trent boaters as we had been warned to avoid cutting corners. Talking of which we got blown onto a sandbank at Scotsmans corner and stuck fast at 12.30. The local lock keeper seemed unconcerned  and advised us the next high tide was due at 2.30 when we would re float. The Trent is obviously not heavily used and other boats are few and far between so we were unsurprised none passed us during our grounded session,although one of our Trent guide books warned of 60 ton gravel barges still in use. How would they get through?
The wind kept going all day although the sun appeared later and warmed life up a little. The locals confirmed it is not "always" windy here, despite the vast expanse of Trent water and surrounding flat, unexciting farmland as far as the eye can see. Talking of which, does anyone know whatever happened to those handy small tins of Heinz curried baked beans?

Sunday 10 May 2015

Trent continued again

In the most bazaar setting we managed to achieve a very peaceful nights sleep.

TheTrent was one of the UK's most polluted rivers but Otters have returned recently as the river gets cleaner. The above shots below a weir shows otters must use copious amounts of bubble bath in their daily bath time routines.
The "sitting"Canada goose opposite the law courts in Nottingham.  If you look closely you will spot her"early warning system" of moorhens, with whom she shares her patch.
The sky this morning. That Otter bubble bath gets everywhere.
The locks are truly formidable.
Newark castle
Leaving Nether lock.
We grounded ourselves between Nether and Cromwell locks, freed ourselves using the barge pole and elected to moor on a floating pontoon downstream to the latter where Lynne could link up to the electrics, do our washing and refill with water. It was fiercely windy so getting Tardis Two onto the pontoon and securing her to it was a Herculean task, even with the help of other boaters. Hopefully we will still be attached in the morning? At least we should have some company in lock Cromwell lock tomorrow.

Saturday 9 May 2015

Nottingham, Goose and Fossdyke Navigation

Our mooring in Nottingham proved interesting :
A) it was ideal because it was secure, being overlooked by lots of CCT cameras on the adjacent court house.
B) the downside was the noise levels, not enhanced by a Canada goose nest on the bank below the court house, with a female goose hatching eggs. Throughout the night she had two-way communications with her mate somewhere in the distance, which did little for my sleep pattern and yet again our Yoko Ono cat contributed. Travel lodge Hotel anyone?
Today we appear to have stretches of the Nottingham canal and the Trent river to contend with before entering Lincoln on the Fossdyke Navigation. Our guide books do not cover any of the remainder of our planned journey so it could prove interesting, or even exciting?
Apart from severe sleep deprivation and associated listlessness I feel fine ( if that makes any sense?).
The weather is overcast but reasonably mild, ideal for cruising.
We have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by the canals,the surrounding architecture and the surrounding infrastructure in Nottingham. We felt safe passing through and mooring on them, unlike some other city centres we have been unfortunate enough to experience. Top marks to Nottingham.
We joined the River Trent at Trent Bridge, then through Holme lock next to the National Water Sports Centre,past Holme Pierrepont Hall, Netherfield lagoons nature reserve and Radcliffe on Trent to Stoke lock. Eventually we arrived at Hazelford Lock where a very friendly volunteer lock keeper allowed us to moor within the shelter of the lock surroundings, out of a fierce and biting wind. Whilst there he took the time to demonstrate how to operate the hydraulic lock gates, just in case.
The River Trent is awe inspiring in size, resembling a very large lake in places, on occasions we even had to endure speedboats and water skiers creating tsunami size waves. The locks are ginormous, thankfully manned by skilled, friendly canal and river trust staff.

Beeston cut and Nottingham canal

A quiet and restful night close to Beeston lock, but the morning arrived very windy. I volunteered to walk into Beeston, about a mile away,for a paper, some fruit and milk, It has to be said I was less than impressed with Beeston, particularly as the first shop encountered was a dark and dingy affair. Despite being labelled a newsagent and general store they had no papers, fruit or milk. A voice from a dark corner informed me they would have no newspapers till Tuesday ( today being Saturday ! )   so I walked a little further to find a Co-Op where I bought all I needed, having queued behind some man at the till who was using loud and colourful language to the young, femail shop assistant complaining about the general election result yesterday. Beeston is best described as a social housing town with boarded up shop windows and labour election posters in the windows. I felt a little nervous walking through it.  The wind dropped and the sun appeared by early afternoon so we headed off towards Nottingham, aiming to moor on the "safer" city outskirts whilst still on the Nottingham canal.
A friendly boater suggested mooring at Sainsbury's near Castle Marina, which, by some miracle, we achieved. So we have swopped a rural mooring next to a sports field for an urban mooring overlooking ATS Tyres, Pizza Hut and Sainsbury's, all within an afternoon.  Beeston Cut is quite pleasantly rural whilst the Nottingham Canal is industrial. Tomorrow we're back on the River Trent and Fosdyke Navigation. 

Friday 8 May 2015

The river Trent

Despite all the rain and the "they'll never let you on the Trent" doom stories we cruised past the warning lights ( none were on ) of Shardlow, an olde-Worldy type place with oodles of history and charm, but due to the lousy weather we only managed to stop briefly for water, although we would have liked to "explore".
Today the weather looks hopeful so we aim to get as close to Sawley lock as possible.
We reached Sawley Storm lock by mid morning Lynne decided to pop into the adjacent Marina for a Trent river guide, except it was shut for a "team meeting" until 11 am, thus we moored for a while and admired the "Gin Palaces" as they stuffily cruised by peering at us down upturned noses, last seen on the Thames  a couple of years back. There are two distinct classes on a river,very upper and very lower whereas the class gap narrows ( no pun intended ) and reverses on canals, where there are narrowboats and tuppaware craft, the latter being far-removed from gin palaces.

Everything on a river is a far grander scale than a canal. We went from Sawley onto the Trent then onto the Cranfleet cut, through the lock ( manned by 2 CRT volunteers) and back onto a very wide stretch of the Trent to the Nottingham Beeston canal, where Beeston lock set us a conundrum we found difficult to solve - how the hell do we get through it? Why have 2 volunteers on a "normal" lock and none on a complicated one? The "village idiot" was sent to solve the issue initially, eventually to be joined by my mentor,who was equally befuddled. Considerably later in pouring rain the puzzle was solved and we managed to get through, after which we emptied the oblutions at a CRT oblutions centre and then moved onto a nearby mooring marked "permit holders only" for the night. Being extremely wet and getting dark we guessed getting a permit would pose problems, so opted to take a risk for one night.

Thursday 7 May 2015

Broken link

Wednesday's blog became Thursday's blog due to us being in a lousy reception area ( it is Stensen, after all) so we'll wait to move and I'll attempt to multi-task. Prepare for blog overload.
Yesterday evolved into showery, windy and cold, as seems to be the norm lately, but today looks more promising with blue sky and no wind, although the white fluffy clouds very high above seem to be moving at a fair rate. Our intention is to move-on early, but from past experience nature has a way of catching up with a vengeance. My cold has not abated yet, despite the best efforts of nurse Lynne,who returned to bed after her customary early cup of tea, which may delay departure a little, but hey-ho, we're in no rush. What's the point of making plans if you can't break them?
We left Stensen in glorious sunshine and warmth heading for Swarkstone lock, another double but "only" 11 feet deep, still in warm sunshine and ever-improving countryside,a nice stretch of the canal.
Thereafter the weather deteriorated to a halestorm followed by heavy and continuous rain, then sunshine, another hailstorm, more rain etc etc. Shardlow lock, the floodgates between the Trent and Mersey canal and the river Trent were traversed without problem (apart from getting wet again). No red boards so we moored, in the dry, near Great Wilne sewage works. We have wonderful countryside views to starboard and sewer works views the other side, but no smells from either.
Saw our first cygnets today and a crow trying to snatch a young duckling, but mum and dad duck put up stubborn resistance and the family remained intact for another day.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

The very early birds

One thing we missed last night when mooring in hurricane-like winds was the (very) adjacent A38, which revealed itself when the winds dropped, hence I was woken at 0400, I repeat, 0400 hrs  by the sound of heavy lorries and a surprising number of cars. I was extremely warm and sweaty ( no change there then ) I suspect due to my man-flu symptoms, although a thermometer confirmed my body temperature was only slightly above normal. Nurse Lynne administered more anti-flu gunge and we decided to make the most of the wind lull, heading for Willington, water, milk and a newspaper, all completed by 08.30, including emptying the oblutions and dumping the rubbish.
Today is breezy rather than windy, sunny and slightly warmer than yesterday as is, I suspect, the Arctic.
We braved the ever increasing wind and the odd dose of heavy rain for our planned visit to Karen and Steve at Stensen lock where we moored, ready to go through in the morning, especially if we can pair-up with another willing crew going our way. Stensen lock holds two boats at a time. A boat on it's own tends to be tossed about a bit so it is best tackled in pairs, as are the Grand Union canal locks, so it should be good practice.
Karen had promised to supply us with a couple of bags of coal to get us through this iffy weather period so we arrived on her pontoon armed with a sack barrow and the necessary cash. ( we had intended buying it at Mercia Marina near Willington, but due to the windy conditions we were disinclined to enter with the risk of being trapped overnight and incurring mooring charges, both avoided thanks to Karen's very kind offer.

Tuesday 5 May 2015


A very rainy night which I emerged from with a streaming cold. Not a good start. We moored outside Shrobnall Marina but opposite a transport depot of some sort, discreetly hidden behind scrub and trees, which did little to muffle the sounds of large lorries entering, loading and leaving again seemingly all night, accompanied by a very amorous pair of Canada geese on "our" stretch of the canal. The goose mating season obviously kicks off late in Burton. I wonder what's for dinner?
Our meeting with Gareth proved very informative. He answered all our questions  in plain English and basically we are doing OK, so we're far more relaxed about the boat situation and life in general. 
From Shrobnall we cruised in a strong breeze with showers to within sight of the disused cooling towers at Willington  where the wind force increased so we decided to moor and wait for a lull, in line with our policy of not setting cruising targets.
Waves on the Trent and Mersey canal near Willington.

In my experience large waves on a canal are very rare, but the strong winds blowing along, rather than across, the canal were the cause. Strong winds and narrowboats are not a good mix so only hire boats tend to venture out as they obviously have to get there and back in a limited time. We have no such targets or time constraints so can afford to "lay low" when necessary. In addition my eyes and nose are running and I have occasional fits of noisy sneezing. A classic case of man-flu ?
I always feel the Trent and Mersey is an understated canal, full of history but much of it now hidden or destroyed. The old wharfs and warehouses have been demolished and replaced with modern versions of no merit or imagination. Two years ago I asked the canal and river trust to consider trimming back the rampant undergrowth reducing the canal width. They said they planned to, but our present trip has confirmed nothing yet has been done, sadly.

Sunday 3 May 2015

No sparks,fireworks or rain,but wind

TRigidly moored against the shortest pontoon on the Marina due to our valiant failed attempt at leaving yesterday we suffered an uncomfortable night creaking and groaning ( the boat, not us ) as the winds reached hurricane proportions. Mike, the resident engineer and escapologist, has offered to help us this morning after re-sealing our prop sleeve joint, so we have re-arranged our meeting with the electrician at Shobnall to later today, having full confidence in Mike and the weather, plus filling with diesel and gas.
Chelski (Chelsea) won the Premier league yesterday, leaving second place and the FA cup as Arsenal's best hopes this year.
In the event we finally arrived at Shobnall mid afternoon, but it took considerable time and effort to locate Gareth,our recommended electrical engineer. I was reminded of the Kink's song, " They seek him here, they seek him there,cos he's a dedicated follower of fashion." The Marina is really tiny but full of nooks and crannies into which Gareth continually disappeared with a varied entourage of expectant customers. I finally cornered him in the dry dock and we arranged to meet in the morning at 0900. Lynne and I settled into our mooring on the canal for the night, not the most salubrious we have encountered I have to say. The good news is our prop-shaft joint no longer leaks, excusing Lynne her daily dive into the engine bowels.
The day ended in torrential rain.

Saturday 2 May 2015

Sparks, fireworks and rain.

RA lively night in Barton Marina. Somewhere close by there was a firework party which was as spectacular as it was noisy, upsetting Sadie somewhat. On top of that there was a very noisy fight in the Marina car park between a girl and a boy, adjacent to our boat. It only broke-up when Lynne threatened to call the police from the relative safety of Tardis Two stern whilst using her "severe" voice at high decibels. Scary.
Both events are virtually unheard of in and around the Marina, normally  church-quiet 24/7. All this kerfuffle, together with our return to the boat, obviously upset Sadie who was determined we would not sleep by doing her Yoko Ono singing impressions all night, on top of which heavy ,continuous rain on the boat roof compounded the situation until both Lynne and I opted to make tea and coffee at the unearthly hour of 0600, when I discovered I had a cold, coughing and sneezing heavily. An encouraging start to our "holiday"s
The rain abated but there was a strong breeze, despite which we opted to leave the Marina for our illicit meeting with the Shobnall Marina electrician tomorrow. Big mistake. Any small breeze becomes a gale force wind on the wide expanses of Barton Marina and we suffered the ignominy of being blown into the reeds. A couple of friendly boaters helped us pull the boat against another pontoon, all of 12 feet from our original position so we have decided to stay here until the breeze drops and make a formula one start at the first opportunity 
The forecast is largely showers and overcast skies,slightly warmer but breezier, which is hardly likely to raise expectancy levels.
In the event the wind got even stronger so our wait proved in vain, as do our hopes of ever getting back onto the canals. 

Bright and dark

Our final day of preparation. A huge amount of shopping at Sainsbury's after we had "done the rounds" of our below-par friends. The one with brain cancer appeared much brighter and with-it today, which allows for at least a little more optimism. However, we learned of the early demise of a young man who used to bowl in the same league as Joel and Chloe and was around the same age. Reason unknown until the result of an autop . In addition, Orville the international ventriloquist's  green duck passed-on, again for reasons unspecified. However, the death from natural causes of Orville's "voice" contributed considerably to his demise I would guess.
Today was very cold and wet, so after an amazing Thai meal at the Nipa restaurant in the Marina we aim for an early night  ready for an early liaison with our electrician in the morning.

Friday 1 May 2015

A kick in the teeth

Nature is a strange thing. It lulls you into a false sense of security then suddenly turns and kicks you in the teeth. Luckily my molars are still all in place because I have learned to accept the rough with the smooth regarding fickle nature handouts, even the most cynical she can muster. Why is nature always "she" ?  To explain today's blog I am relating to a close friend who has been making an outstanding and courageous recovery from a variety of cancers, only to learn it has now entered the brain. Not good news. I've shed the odd tear or two in private and I'm struggling to keep it that way, but I have to admit my previous growing confidence in my own recovery has taken a knock, but the foundations remain solid and I aim to keep them that way.
On a brighter note the sun is out and it appears quite pleasant outside. I have still to complete painting our gas bottle bin extension but that will take next to no time as long as the weather holds. Lynne has another visit to the dentist for stronger anti-biotics, then we're off to London for Lynne's essential haircut prior to the start of this year's boating adventure. A ladies hair has to look just right for such a thing, whereas mine is now what you might call "low maintenance".