Crick in November

I think most boaters have been to Crick at some point on their canal adventure, not always by boat, and usually over the May bank Holiday weekend when the annual Crick Boat show takes place. The Marina and surrounding fields are ideal for hosting this inland waterways festival, we spent many an hour, and a pound, meandering around show boats and accessory stalls dreaming of what life could be like afloat.However this time we emerged from the Crick tunnel and made straight for the Moorings pub for a pie and a pint. (Or in my case a rather tasty mediteranian fish stew)We had plenty of time to explore this pretty area, while we took a few days to use of the Poste Restante mail service offered by the post office. The young farmers put on their annual bonfire and fireworks display for us. I harvested some crab apples from the millennium woods and made some jelly. And we met up with our new “best friend” the fuel man Mark on Calisto. Hopefully he’ll be keeping our tanks topped up over the few months. And finally here are our neighbours for the week.




Locks Stock and Tunnel

Not quite lock, stock and barrel, but leaving Braunston meant
stockand tunnels. (This is Crick tunnel, nice and straight, if a bit drippy)

Our plan was to cruise on to the Leicester Line. A stretch of canal we haven’t done before. Usually the Braunston double locks are fairly heavy but usually busy enough to meet someone share with and to meet boaters travelling in the opposite direction so at least some of the locks as set to our favour. This time was no exception and we got through in no time. Even the Braunston tunnel didn’t cause us any problems. And we moored up in the woods on the Daventry side so I could walk down to Tescos for supplies.Back out into the open again,
under the pretty bridge by the cottage, to turn onto the Leicester Line,  enjoying the autumnal sunshine as we went. The next day we cruised at 3 miles an hour alongside the M1 going at at least 70mph, we passed the Watford Gap service station, (not worthy of a photo) a few miles before arriving at the Watford Flight. CRT is closing this flight for essential repair for 6 weeks before Christmas so we had to make our ascent before then. Unlike individual locks the Watford flight has 4 staircase locks, where each lock empties or fills from the adjacent lock, so if you dont open the paddles innthe right order you could end up flooded or stranded. Consequently there are volunteer lockies on duty to help you through. Its quite straight forward if you rememeber the rhyme

Red before white and you’ll be alright, white before red and you’ll soon be dead.
We both took our turn and enjoyed the day

A few days around Braunston

Having enjoyed Jo’s company for a few days it was time to pull the pins and continue our journey as we headed into Braunston.We don’t particually like cruising through Braunston. It’s narrow and busy with bridges and bends. But it’s a lovely active village with good reasons to stop. So this time we moored on the north side, just before the Midland Chandlers water point, still on the North Oxford canal.Last time we came this way our eyes were distracted by a burnt out shell of a boat, so we failed to appreciate what a lovely mooring spot this is. Although I think other canny boats have already marked the spot, it’s usually full up. Thankfully CRT have removed the dead boat which was a hazzard to us all.
After a few days, stocking up on Braunston Bangers at the butchers, and a few extra bits and bobs from Tradline, the rope emporium. We said our goodbyes to Braunston for this year. The sheep didn’t seem that bothered to see us go.



The Toft Alpacas

Toft is a small company on a working Alpaca farm. They rose to prominence in 2013 when Kerry Lord, their founder, started designing crocheted animals and wrote a book called Edward’s Menagerie. And if you mention the word Toft to many a yarn aficionado, they will instantly start to drool. Toft produces high end super soft wool that’s very hard to resist. It’s only a few miles from the canal, so when Jo suggested we went on a visit, I leapt at the chance. Edward’s Menagerie has grown in numbers and there are now over 200 furry friends who regularly make an appearance at yarn festivals and craft shows. I knew that I was in for treat.Toft is situated in a purpose built barn studio and welcomes visitors with a hot drink. Everything at Toft is beautifully presented, including the coffee, and we indulged in a piece of spicy pumpkin cake as well. Then we were set to shop. Deciding what we could bear to leave behind or more to the point, how much we could afford to bring home. Jo is going to crochet some presents and I bought a gift for Heather. Heather has already made several of the Menagerie so Leanne the Chameleon will be an addition to her family. There’s a walking trail around the farm where we were able to see the alpaca.Although Heather and I both think that this is a llama not an Alpaca.



Help at Hillmorton

The North Oxford Canal skirts the northern edges of Rugby, and currently it’s a very pleasant rural route. However the urban scrawl is taking over with lots of new development encroaching the open fields and hillside. There’s a big road bridge being built, linking Clifton upon Dunsmore to the main town. There are towpath closures during November while they crane in the structure but canal traffic will be “managed”. There are also several miles of earthworks running alongside the canal after this, between Clifton and Hillmorton. We assume this is preparation for more housing. It’ll be interesting to see if the developers embrace or ignore the canal as an asset to this new community.In the mean time you cant beat a little red brick bridge at this time of year. We had a lovely surprise when we got to Hillmorton locks, our good friend Jo was waiting for us to lend a hand. Locks are always more fun with company, even if it was only a little flight of three. And it gave us the chance to share a bowl of soup for lunch. Jo and I then found enough blackberries hanging on to add flavour to an apple crumble and the feasting continued all evening when Jo prepared a delicious dinner for us. Topped off by the most spectacular sunset.Jo’s boat BluePearl is a year younger than Firecrest and it’s the first time we’ve really been able to spend much time on board. Jo knows the area quite well so we moored up and she took us for a cruise into Braunston and back. A nice experience to cruise on a different boat.

A few days in Rugby

Rugby is another boaters blessing-if you want some big shops. The 14 day mooring is 5 minutes walk from a big Tesco, and a decent out of town retail park, Debenhams M&S Next Halfords, DIY, cinema and several bargain stores. Sadly that means that the centre of town has lost its big shops and its vibrancy. but this time even the fabulous old architecture and the proud engineering heritage did little to excite us, despite the brilliant blue sky it was all a bit was tired and tatty. Come on Rugby get your act together and make the most of what you’ve got.  We did find an exceptionally good artisan coffee shop, probably cashing in on being opposite the school, but even Rupert Brookes was pondering.

From Atherstone to Rugby via Suffolk

Atherstone is a very convenient place for boaters, it has everything you need within walking distance, pubs, fish and chips, a supermarket and a train station. I was able to say goodbye to Eric safe in the knowledge that he wouldn’t starve while I went off to the land of bricks and mortar and spinning wheels. I have a large circle of friends in Suffolk, and I still think it is an amazingly beautiful county so it’s never a hardship to return. It just doesn’t have a canal system.

It doesnt suffer from a lack of boats though, just not the ones I’d choose to live on.  Ipswich was built around the Orwell estuary and despite there being  limited navigation inland, it has a huge marina full of sea worthy leisure cruisers, yachts and quite a few restored old sailing barges. Along with a significant number of fancy meeting places in the old warehouses for me to catch up with old work colleagues, (that’s old work, not old colleagues)

Thorpness is a tiny fishing village on the coast but around 1910 the Olgilvies built themselves and their friends a fantasy holiday village which included a mere paying homage to one of their friends J M Barrie, so if you were to take one of these boats out be warned there are pirates and crocodiles awaiting the boys and girls who don’t want to grow up.Yes Anne, that’s a crocodile on the island.

Thanks to a thriving wool trade back in the 15th century, there’s some remarkable old mediaeval buildings still in use around Suffolk, Anne and I ventured into the heartland to a village called Peasenhall where this hall is owned by the Landmark Trust, who rent it out as holiday accommodation. Eric and I shared a holiday in it with his brother and family, over 30 years ago before we moved to Suffolk. This time Anne and I only stopped for coffee and cake.

And there’s the magnificent Framlingham with it’s  castle, deli and several nice coffee shops.

And being pumpkin season, this is what Tim and Veve brought home, No wonder Heather looked a bit concerned, But Veve knew how to put a good meal together.

While I was enjoying Suffolk, Eric was working hard on Firecrest and he’s also become quite an adept single handed boater. He cruised down from Atherstone in several stages and moored in Rugby, which also has a convenient train station for me to come home to.



From Alrewas to Atherstone

We took a few days to  cruise from Alrewas, with it’s picturesque thatched cottages and first class butchers.Passing the spot where we moored for 2 weeks back in June, up to Fradley junction, where the Coventry canal meets the Trent and Mersey. We turned left and continued travelling south. Having survived the storms and gales, we enjoyed some pleasant cruising.The Hopwas woods almost felt enchanted with their ancient oaks, hidden castle and warning signs to keep out, it is a military site so who knows what lies beneath.And our overnight mooring was equally magical with sunshine on golden trees.
The next morning was just as dramatic when we worked our way up the Atherstone flight. Thankfully those storm clouds behaved and we didn’t suffer any rain.

Loving the locks

Ah to be back in the land of single locks. Having enjoyed the manned electric river locks over the summer, we then had to struggle with the heavy, unbalanced leaky locks at the start of the T&M.  Very few locks defeat me, but Aston lock is notoriously difficult. I’ll happily accept, (and offer) help from passers by or other boaters, but don’t anyone dare tell me I can’t do it because I’m a woman, as one arrogant person did. Of course I graciously stepped back to let them show me how it should be done, and I tried not to smirk when they struggled, and I politely reminded them that I’d said it was a tough one. Eventually we both managed it, but I didn’t hang around to help them get their boat through.  It was bliss to arrive at Dallows lock in Burton and then through one of my favourites, Tattenhill, with it’s own working boat, it’s worthy of a good jigsaw puzzle. And the cottage is a bed and breakfast, if I didn’t live on a boat I’d like to stay there. Wonder if they’ve thought of having a tea room.

We carried on cruising, happily sharing lock duties with other boaters as we made the most of a lovely autumnal day. The river and canal merge for a short distance just before Alrewas. The water becomes crystal clear and you can see the fish swimming, quite a novelty on a canal. We made it to Alrewas just before the heavens opened, but we have to remind ourselves that we need the rain, without it there’s no rainbows.

Dallying around Derbyshire, (and East Staffordshire)

It’s always nice to meet up with friends on the canal and as Ian and Joy moor in this area we took the opportunity to spend some time together. Eric was offered a ride on the stern on NB Tenacity as we cruised in convoy for the day. Eric and I both commented on the water levels on the river Dove aquaduct. The top photo was taken earlier in the week and we’d laughed about having to duck to get through those arches. We’d had some heavy rain but only for a few hours so hadn’t thought it amounted to much. A week later we’d still have struggled due to lack of water. There’s no pleasing some folk. Fortunately the T&M hasn’t suffered to the same extent as the northern canals. Our bridges still remained navigable and pretty as everBack in Burton there’s some good mooring by Shobnall Park. And we took some time to stretch our legs and raise our pulse by climbing up Outwoods Hills.Burton itself was dominated by brewerys. But the view was panoramic and great reminder of the vastness of our countryside. Unseen from this angle is a vast new housing estate being built behind us.Back in Burton, Burnt Oak with John and Martina cruised by, so they moored up next to us. Martina and I had a serious discussion about our spinning exploits as we are part of a team raising money for Air Ambulance through a spinning marathon. (More about Britspin later) I’m not sure if John and Eric are having a serious discussion or not, but it was either about rope or beer.