Happy reunions

I was startled to hear a big “hello there” through our side hatch a few days ago, Chris, Les and Reuben the puppy on Eleventh Heaven sidling up beside us. They were able to moor right next to us and as drinks were shared, the next 24 hours has faded into a bit of a merry blur.

Eleventh Heaven was the Braidbar showboat in 2012 and the boat that confirmed we wanted Braidbar as our own builder. It is always reassuring to see an ‘older’ boat still looking so good although Chris has done a lot to sort out a few of the problems.

In the morning I walked with Les and Reuben while Chris gave Eric a lesson in splicing rope. A very useful skill as all our frayed fender ropes are neat and tidy again. Although Eric’s going to have to buy himself a set of tools cause he ain’t using my sharp kitchen knives…

More happy reunions happened over the weekend. Our good friend Richard was being baptised at the church we had worshiped at in Suffolk. We decided to  hire a car and make it a surprise visit back home. The look on their faces as we walked into the church was priceless. And it was good to catch up with our land based friends.

We’ve seen a few more Braidbar boats to tick off the list, 2- naid and 117-rocquette, (again apologies for mis spelling names)



Wild Willoughby

It was time to leave Braunston but we wanted a few low key days in the countryside before we got to Rugby. The weather was ‘British’ eg unpredictable so we only cruised a short way out of Braunston up the North Oxford.

Past the poor boat that burnt out. I don’t know any details but hope there weren’t any people hurt. And I hope that whoever is responsible can remove the debris before too long.

A lot of the canal is overgrown making mooring tricky but we found ourselves some piling and settled down to explore.

I found the essential hedgerows delicatessen to provide me with Hedgerow Jam, crab apples, plums (or damsons) rose hips, haws, sloes and blackberries.

I’m still not 100% sure if the sloes are ready, I was advised that if you can bite into one without the taste making your lips curl they were OK. Although every bit of previous knowledge says the sloes shouldn’t be ready yet. However I managed to make a few pots of jam that have gone down very well with scones and clotted cream.

Mashing and straining the pulp etc is a bit of a palava on a boat so I think I will be sticking to straight blackberry jam in future.

On my wandering walks through Willoughby I came across a herd of alpacas. They are the cute and curious. And if I could have one on the boat this is the one I’d choose

Although when I looked down at my feet and saw that my toes had turned orange, I got a bit worried, I’m still not sure what caused my new pigmentation but ignorance is bliss. If my toes fall off or I turn into an alpaca I’ll let you know.

Boaters cathedral

We first arrived in Braunston at the beginning of August, and it became a useful meeting point for our friends and family. We’ve been careful not to flout the 48 hour mooring rules always moving on to explore the surrounding areas. This weekend we wanted to visit the church, All Saints, also known as the Boaters Cathedral. And indeed we did meet several other boaters at the service.

We recieved a very warm welcome and it was a good service, followed by an invitation to stay for lunch at the summer garden party. Sadly the weather wasn’t as warm as the fellowship and we wished we’d put on a few more layers. But the rain held off and we did have a good time. It’s a church I’d like to return to.

But now we’re going to wave goodbye to Braunston for the time being and head back into Warwickshire on the North Oxford Canal.


Getting our fixes

Both of us happy this week. I got to go shopping by catching the bus into Daventry and found fresh vegetables. Local convenience stores are great and I wouldn’t be without them but unless you arrive on the right day the veg is invariably past its best. I’ve found a good website to help me find bus times bustimes.org.uk so I really must get more familiar and confident going beyond walking distance from the boat. Daventry is a quirky little place, one or two interesting buildings that hint towards a past, but it’s mainly a dormitory town. It does however have a waitrose tesco and aldi all within spitting distance of the bus stop so I came home well stocked

Braunston’s shops are rather more ‘independant’ The Boat Shop at top lock is a gem and a pleasure to pop into, especially for icecream.

But I didn’t think I needed a new pair of boots

And while I was out getting my shopping ‘fix’ Eric stayed in Braunston whilst Wharf House’s plumber fixed Firecrest’s leaky radiator valves. The problem was easily sorted out, they didn’t appear to have had any jointing compound used when they were originally fitted. That was £85 well spent. Hopefully we can get the ugly stains in the woodwork sorted out when we return to Braidbar.

And we’ve ticked off another Braidbar boat from our list, 98- dreams fulfilled.

Back to Braunston

Goodbye summer, hello Jumpers and Raincoats. Actually it wasn’t as bad as the forecast predicted but on Tuesday we decided that we’d put the hours in to avoid the expected rain.

We had a good day sharing the Buckby flight with an Australian couple, Sandy and Steve who had only picked up their hire boat the day before and had not experienced a lock before. Having benefited from the helpful advice given so freely to us over the past 3 months it didn’t half feel strange to realise we were now the ‘experienced’ ones. I hope the advice we gave them was helpful, they didn’t disagree when we said it was crucial to include stopping to refuel at the pub at the top.

After fish chips and a pint, we waved them off in the direction of Foxton and we continued towards the Braunston tunnel.

We don’t particularly enjoy doing tunnels, especially the two way ones. It’s hard to judge the distances of  boats coming towards you and the longer you spend creeping close to the edge the more bumps and scrapes the boat suffers. This time we were lucky and didn’t meet a single oncoming boat.

There’s minimal mooring after the tunnel so it’s straight on down the Braunston flight. This time we hooked up with a guy on his own which kept me running back and forth dutifully opening both gates the whole way. Thankfully all the locks were set in our favour for a change.

The rain arrived on Wednesday as expected but not before I managed to see the sun rise through the bridge.

We’ve been able to say hello and tick off a few more Braidbar Boats from the list.

145 -Simply Messing, 19- Mnoysen (apologies if I’ve got this spelt wrong) 90 -Mary A

Making the most of the sunshine

Having found some trees to keep us cool as the temperatures reached the high 20’s, it was time to fill the water bottles and walk.

I felt very smug as we sauntered across the M1

I hope they had air con and were returning home after a grand day out, but thank goodness there isn’t that much traffic on the canal. I wondered if they were able to appreciate the beautiful countryside around them as they whizzed along.

I’m glad the weather had been so good for the farmers were busy making hay and cutting crops. But these chickens had the right idea. They were all sitting underneath the car.

But they came out to say hello,

This old geezer also new what was good for him. Down tools and open a bottle or two. He was sitting at the entrance to a super little canal side art studio, by bridge 21, Brockhall Rd Bridge, Landing Spinney Farm.


Boy what a scorcher

What was the weather playing at? Usually Bank holidays are wet and miserable. Not this one.

This is our first bank holiday weekend as full time boaters, and funnily enough it didn’t t seem all that different to most of our days, dreamy and self indulgent.

We knew we had to be back in Braunston later in the week so we set off on our journey back up the Grand Union knowing there were some shady places just beyond Weedon Bec. Er sorry rephrase that, there were some mature trees providing shelter that we’d take advantage of.


Riotous friends and glorious tranquility

You can’t have too much of a good thing and this week has been the best of both. Claire and Matthew visiting on Thursday

and Heather for part of the weekend.

Enough food to make us pop and sunshine all day to bake us to a crisp.

We found bushes laden with blackberries and plums that were crying out for us to climb onto the roof to collect the juiciest.

And I’ve made more jam for the store cupboard.

The sunsets have been mesmerising all week, this is bridge 45 on the GU.

This weeks cruising has been mainly back and forth just enjoying our environment. What could be better. Another week the same, with more friends and a few miles further on.

A few days of just doing nothing

We’re moored at Nether Heyford waiting for friends to visit. For me an ideal opportunity just to chill out and do very little.

I’ve been on duck watch as we saw a brood of 7 brand new fluffy duckies being paraded across the meadow by mum. As they were so tiny and they grass was taller than they were it did resemble that scene in Jurassic park where the dinosaurs were running through the grass and all you could see were their heads.

The following day the ducklings were allowed in the water, sadly I could only spot 6 and after 2 days there were only 2 left. I don’t know what happens to them overnight but during one day we could see two were struggling to keep up and I can only assume they got lost and left to fend for themselves.

We’ve seen some beautiful sunsets

and sunrises.

And it seems this stretch of the canal is home to several Braidbar Boats.

66 Loie Fuller,- Destiny, -155 Albert, -164 Mei Long and I saw porthole Lace on a boat made by Sheila on Sanity Again, does that make it an honorary Braidbar?

Nether Heyford is about 10 minutes walk from the canal depending upon which footpath you choose. It’s got a convenience store a bitcher and a hairdresser. The pub looks OK as well. We’re wondering if it will be as attractive in the winter as it is in the summer.

Weedon Bec

Through the Buckby locks and a few miles down the canal is Weedon Bec. A quirky little place that seems to specialise in antique shops, I lost count as they merged into one another but more useful for boaters is the tesco express that is 5 minutes walk from the canal.

But I couldn’t resist exploring the place having seen a curious structure on the map. A very formal 100m of canal on the map, although not connected now, presumably it was a branch off the main line at some stage in its past.

The Depot turned out to be a Napoleonic Ordnance depot built in the early 1800’s. I was intregued and pleased that I could wander around this piece of history. Not that I am overly familiar with what a gunpowder storage facility looks like but there were 8 magnificent brick warehouses either side of the canal and more buildings beyond. The sort of place I wished I would take atmospheric black and white photos. Nowadays there is a variety of commercial outlets, more antiques and brickabrack, classic cars and artist studios. I spent an hour wandering around. 

And right at the end was a bramley apple tree. Well it would have been rude not to tidy up the windfalls a bit don’t you think?