Winter blues

I’m feeling very British, needing to talk about the weather. It’s dire, bleak and wintery, with sleet and biting winds. The temptation is to snuggle down under the duvet and go into hibernation. I’m certainly not cruising anywhere whilst it’s like this.

Thankgoodness I had the foresight to fill the larder with enough food to see us through at least a week without any repetition or two or three weeks of pasta and tomato sauce.

We don’t even get any TV reception here so I’m making the most of this enforced idleness by catching up on some knitting projects.

A scarf that has been on the needles for too long and needs to get finished. And to add a splash of colour, last week I finished a cardigan for my new nephew, Solomon

 

Keeping warm.

January is one of those months that doesn’t inspire much cruising for pleasure. It’s either damp grey and miserable, and it’s nicer to be tucked up inside, or its crisp clear and frosty, which is beautiful and calls for us the make the most of our surroundings. However cruising on those days is still the domain of the hardy cause it doesn’t take long for the chill to reach our bones. Sadly we haven’t had too many perfect crispy days this year, but we’ve realised that going for walks is warmer than standing at the tiller. So as we’ve found ourselves a nice mooring just above the three locks at Soulbury we’ll make the most of it and stay our full 14 days.

We do have the pleasure of a kingfisher catching his breakfast opposite the boat, however my photography skills aren’t up to capturing the moment. You’ll have to make do with Eric and his boaters breakfast.

Looking back over 2017 part 3

We continued to enjoy our friends company as we got to know the area around the south Midlands. Spending longer at each mooring so we could explore more leisurely. Claire and Matthew joined us at Nether Heyford
We took Jo cruising past Dunchurch pools, a huge new marina being built on the north Oxford especially for her boat the Blue Pearl when it’s complete.

We continued picking blackberries in the most hair raising manner

As the leaves began to turn golden. We cruised up the north Oxford spending a few nights at Barby marina with the Alpacas

A fortnight in Rugby, and onto to the Ashby canal. Where we experimented with some alternative transport. I rather liked this model T Ford

But Eric preferrd the train.

Though having spent nearly a year on Firecrest we are both in agreement that narrowboating wins everytime. 

Having looked at the CRT  planned winter maintenance program we decided to head back into the GU for the winter months. We were very impressed with how accessble Milton Keynes was for pedestrians providing us with a rural parkland and tarmac paths.

Before we settled in Leighton Buzzard as winter arrived with a vengeance 

As I hope you can see from my looking back over 2017 reminiscence , it’s the friendships that have dominated our year. We’ve been touched and honoured that friends and family have travelled to see us. Not everyone has been mentioned by name or photo but that doesn’t mean any less significance to us.  We’ve been welcomed by boaters and locals alike, we’ve made both short term and long lasting friends amongst the people we have met along the way in various churches pubs and yarn gatherings. It’s funny how we’ve leant out of the side hatch to see where we are, and before we realised it half an hour later we’d swapped life stories and boating advice with the passers by. Boaters must have an inherent nosy gene.

It’s not all been a bed of roses, there have been quite a few frustrations, mainly with the way the builder chose to do things the way he’d always done it, instead of incorporating 21century knowledge. But we’ll learn to live with it. And I shall resign myself to Firecrest being tweeked to make things run more smoothly. I’m hoping there’ll be a page of statistics for the year. But that’s Eric’s domain, I don’t do spreadsheets.

Looking back over 2017 part 2

Sharing June with friends was wonderful, John and Tina, Ruby and Bryony also came to see us as we relished being able to moor under the shade of trees whilst the rest of England basked in a heatwave.

We have decided that June 1st will be the date we celebrate Firecrest’s birthday.

Having said goodbye to our friends, our cruising plans would take us on a voyage of discovery down the River Severn to Worcester and the mighty Catherdral.

This is where we realised that churches were a good starting place to find out about the history of the area, and even the country as a whole. We were almost embarrassed by how ignorant we are about our heritage but now we’ve got the time and energy to do something able it.

From Worcester down the river to Tewksbury, another fascinating town where battles were fort and friendships formed. 

We were now on the River Avon heading towards Stratford, which of course meant a visit to the national theatre.

And a return to the canals, through some of the prettiest Warwickshire countryside and the long flight of locks at Hatton. 

Here we’d meet up with more friends and family

And as most of the boaters we were chatting to seemed to be planning summer with grandchildren, not having any of our own, we sort to borrow a galley slave. Amy joined us for a week. We put her to work harvesting the bountiful blackberries, elderberries, plums and apples that were now dripping from the hedgerows.

We did have a lot of laughs as Eric skilfully manoeuvred Firecrest into position so we could harvest the best and most juicy to be made into puddings and jam.

Braunston has long since been a meeting place for boaters and here we had the very great pleasure of seeing Ian and Joy take ownership of their boat Tenacity

And enjoying a mini convention of 3 electric boats all moored together. Despite what boat builders might think we are just like all other boaters, any excuse to get together with a glass in hand.

The summer had been nothing like what we had anticipated. We had cruised about 250 miles and done about 200 locks. We’d made a lot of boating friends and had been honoured by many visitors from back home. This was a life we were going to enjoy.

Looking back over 2017 part 1

I like to think of what’s to come rather than what’s been and gone, but we can’t help but look back at an amazing year. This time last year we celebrated New Year full of anticipation that Firecrest was ready for us to begin our new adventure. Leaving Suffolk on 13th January 2017 in the snow was hard, but after several years of planning, nothing was going to stop us now.

Frustratingly we were thrown a last minute curved ball, being told we needed electrical certification before Peter from Braidbar would sign off the boat ready for licensing.   Eric had planned to complete the work leisurely whilst we were cruising, but instead we spent the next few months moored on the Macclesfield canal, working in inaccessible places, tweeking wires and ticking boxes.

But it wasn’t a wasted time. Despite all the difficulties of working in such cramped conditions, we made the most of our ‘confinement’ by getting to know an extremely beautiful part of the country. 

And making some amazing friends, I became one of the family at Wiseheart studios in Whaley Bridge.

Infact those frustrating few months actually helped us really grasp how special our new life was going to be. There’d be many inconvenient annoying problems to face whist living on a narrowboat but despite all the anxieties ahead of us, we would be surrounded by people who took us into their hearts, made us friends, nurtured and supported us. And as experiences overtook our naivety, we hoped we would start being able to give back to the community we were now calling home.

Eventually on 1st June we waved farewell to Braidbar, to James and Donna who had worked so hard to help Eric fulfil his vision for an electric boat, and Jo and Lawrence who’s boats were in build alongside Firecrest,

We were now well behind schedule to meet up with our friends from Suffolk who had planned to holiday in Wolverley, near Kiddiminster.  This meant instead of taking a leisurely meander along the Macclesfield canal, Trent and Mersy, and onto the Staffs and Worc, about 90 miles, 70 locks and several tunnels we hurried down without stopping to smell the roses. Not something we’ll choose to do again although being able to see Anne and Richard to drink pink prosecco did make up for it, and we were finally able to relax.

 

 

 

 

Whatever happened to December

We did survive the coldest of days, it only reached minus 8.  But we were surrounded by a warm glow especially at Hockliffe Baptist church where we joined in with the nativity service.  Instead of the children acting out the Christmas story, they had spent the previous weeks in Sunday school thinking about what it meant to them. They had been asked to come dressed appropriately so they could come to the front and form a montage. The narrator called for the first characters “will all the Mary’s and Joseph’s please come to the stable” there were half a dozen, traditionally dressed in tea towels and dressing gowns each with a baby Jesus, Next came the request for the the Angels, ….joined by several fairies and ballerinas. Followed by the shepherds and sheep and lions, tigers, monkeys and teddy bears, as children, and adults dressed more fashionably in onsies joined the scene, and finally the call for all the kings and wise men of the church including, Superman, Spider-Man and Wonderwoman. The whole service was an absolute joy to be part of and for all the alternative costumes the Christmas story of love and hope, was brought alive. I wished I’d been able to take photographs. We returned to the church a few days later for their weekly coffee morning to see the welcome to all extended to several homeless people who were given food and warmth. (Apparently all the churches in the area offer  similar hospitality)

Once the canal ice had been broken by a brave boat. 

We cruised to where we were going to leave the boat while we returned to Suffolk, and we said goodbye to our friends. Yes that’s snow on their backs. 

I was invited to join my Marie Curie nursing colleagues for their Christmas meal, I took the opportunity to tick another goal off my bucket list and dyed my hair pink.

Back in Suffolk we were joined by Heather, Tim and Veve. Great fun and frivolity was had by all, and we ate so much I worried we’d sink the boat when we returned.

Of course my New Years resolution tonight will be to write my posts more frequently.

 

Moving down to Leighton Buzzard

Looking at the forecast last week we settled on the sunniest of days to make our move south to Leighton Buzzard. And it was a wise move. Our cruise took us back out into the countryside with gorgeous scenery in near perfect conditions. Bright sunshine lighting up the trees and fields vividly.

And highlighting the beautiful bridges

We got to cruise through locks again, though we made the mistake of not leaving enough time to enjoy the Three Locks Inn before working the Soulbury flight of 3. (Where were you John when we needed a lockie. Oh yes enjoying living on your own boat now. )

And then we got to Leighton Buzzard and it got cold, very cold. The canal froze and it snowed and snowed and snowed.

I’m so glad we insisted on extra insulation under the floor when we had Firecrest built. Tonight the forecast says it will reach -12 – if I don’t blog again you’ll know we didn’t survive…..

 

The fuel boat

Now that we’re getting frosty mornings there’s always the risk that we’ll wake up to a frozen canal, so we’re being prudent and keeping our diesel tank topped up.  I asked a fellow boater where the best place to buy fuel was and they recommend Jules Fuels, one of  the fuel boats that works the grand union . It’ the first time we’e used a fuel boat but it gave us a great sense of satisfaction to be supporting true working boats. But nothing antiquated, text message two days before giving their schedule, and payment online. And at 75p/l a reasonable price as well. We’ll see you again in 10 days Jules. Thanks.

 

The Tree Catherdral

I don’t think I’ve ever visited a town with so many trees as MK. Admittedly now we’re into December, they aren’t all looking their best. But as we’ve come to expect MK has embraced this natural wonder by creating a tree cathedral.  It’s an awesome sight, and I’m sure it inspires moments of spiritual contemplation in most of its visitors. I’d love to see it in spring when the crocus bulbs flower and give an impression of stained glass reflecting on the ground. 

If we walked away from the centre of MK we came to Willen Park, the home of the Peace pagoda, Buddhist temple and prayer tree.

It stands proud overlooking the north lake and just beyond that is the M1 motorway.

And inbetween north and south lakes, is the Medicine circle.

The north lake is really a wildlife haven, but the South lake is a recreational area with sailing and skiing and surfing. At this time of year I prefer waterproof to wet suit so you’ll have to wait until the summer before I consider  posing in a bikini.

or just sitting in the boat watching the sunset