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Archive for July, 2011

The Odyssey 2011: Day 25

Posted by indigodream on 27 July, 2011

Muskham to Torksey Wednesday 6th July

On the Trent tideway...

It was no effort to get up early – the creaking from our centre ropes had kept us half-awake and we were pleased to leave the moorings!

We got to Cromwell lock just before 8.45am and joined four other narrowboats making the transit. It didn’t take very long and we were second out of the lock behind nb Persistence.

As I’ve mentioned before, Indigo Dream’s prop/engine combination make her a handy mover on big rivers so we were soon reining her in behind nb Persistence with the other boats trailing behind us. Cromwell gave us a buzz on the VHF to tell us that there was a gravel barge on the river somewhere in front of us (the inflection suggested it was going downriver). We weren’t sure whether nb Persistence had a radio so we pulled level with her to warn her that she might catch up with a barge. Unfortunately the helmsman didn’t seem to hear us and just waved us past rather irritably; we tried to shout the message across again but he just waved, again, so on we went.

We never did catch up with the gravel barge – shame – I would have liked to see one, but not coming in the opposite direction! We soon left the convoy behind but on this trip we were free agents without shepherding responsibilities that we had on the Thames last year – game on!

Friends have told us that the tidal Trent is boring, but we rather enjoyed it and there’s plenty to see if you like birds and botany – there were whole flocks of a different wading bird which I must identify and the banks were lush with plant-life. Of course, we also needed to concentrate on our course – it is possible to run aground on the Trent – apparently one of the boat in the ‘convoy’ behind us did and was fortunate to be snatched off by one of the other narrowboats. But we reckon that if you read the charts with a large dose of common sense and follow the lockie’s advice then you’ll be ok.

Our mooring on the outskirts of Torksey...

The lockies will point out that gravel barges with a 6′ draft will cruise the tideway at all states of the tide so a shallow-drafted narrowboat should have no problem. I was doubly sad that we hadn’t caught up with the gravel barge – we could just have followed their course along the deep channels! We didn’t have any hassle, despite being very cold in the wind and needed to add emergency layers – so much for Summer.

The turn into Torksey lock is simple as the channel is wide and there is a generous lock cut. It was still early in the day when we arrived so we decided to pass through the lock and explore the Fossdyke navigation beyond. We’d been recommended a trip to Saxilby, an apparently pleasant village with fine moorings and a good train service into Lincoln (it’s a week later and we’re there now – it hasn’t quite matched our expectations but more on that in about 10 posts’ time!). In the end we didn’t make it as far as Saxilby and we decided to moor overnight in Torksey. We filled with fuel at the retirement home in Torksey – £1.15 on a 60/40 split, though you can have any of the more common splits but not something with lots of decimal points. We then cruised up to the mooring bollards just round the bend from the mooring pontoon (obvious when you’re there). There was enough room for us to wind at the bend so we were pointing in the right direction for the morning.

Torksey is an unusual sort of place – there are a lot of permanent moorings here with good services and the waterway is surrounded by retirement chalet parks. The Fossdyke navigation stretches straight across the flat landscape – betraying its Roman origins. The high bank alongside the moorings offered a sheltered nook for Ty and the broad path at the top offered good rummaging. Ty was happier here than anywhere else on our holiday – we could finally let him have a little off-lead rummage and practice his recall, which is excellent when he’s not panicking. Ty and Lou had a little bobble then were happy to go back to their beds. Lynx came with us to explore a car boot sale that Richard had seen in the distance – and it was a distance – the only route was past the moored boats and onto the road (which did have a generous grass verge) – when we got there we found that dogs were not allowed! Lynx and I walked back to Torksey Lock while Richard had a look at the boot sale. This gave me time to I enjoy a superior pot of tea and a slice of peach and almond cake at the tea house. We read the information boards and had a mooch around, but by now Lynx was complaining that he’d had to walk while the other two were allowed to sleep, so we went back to the boat for a siesta. Later on we ate on board and mooched back down to the lock (minus hounds this time) to talk to the lockies and check our schedule for the morning.

Almost infinite dog-walking....

We needed to be at the lock at 8.45am again and we got some instructions for how to approach West Stockwith Lock (see below and the next post). We also discussed our return journey in a fortnight’s time and discussed the tide times and conditions – we’ll be coming back on the lowest tide of the month so we’ll need our engine power to get back to Cromwell. I liked Torksey – the mooring was peaceful and silent – perfect for the hounds, especially Ty. We had a good night’s sleep and I hope that we stop over here on the way back – tide and time permitting…..

Approaching West Stockwith Lock (going downstream)

  • If you are going downstream with the tide when you need to turn the boat right around so that you’re facing into the tide to give more control on the helm during the manoeuvre into the lock.
  • Start to turn your boat round a short distance before the lock as the tide is likely to sweep you downstream of the lock entry as you complete the turn. Don’t turn too early.
  • When you turn around, point your bow to the bank opposite the lock i.e. swing your stern into the faster flow on the outside of the bend – this means that the flow is helping rather than hindering, your turn
  • When approaching the lock aim for the lock-keeper, who will be standing on the far edge of the lock entrance directing you in – follow his/her directions and you’ll be fine! We started a little too far off in mid channel so corrected that first then did a ferry glide towards the lock.
  • Don’t turn into the lock too soon – keep aiming for the lock-keeper and turn into the lock when he tells you to – remember to keep your revs up (even up them a bit for the turn) until you’re right inside the lock and out of the influence of the tidal flow

This will all make sense when you see it! It is not a difficult lock entry, do not be put off.

Photoblog:

These kilometre posts are essential for keeping track of where you are on the corresponding charts...

See the white dome in the distance - that's a useful landmark for lining up your boat to the proper channel...

Black-headed gull - see the pylons in the distance - harbringers of the many power stations along the banks of the Trent....

I think these are plovers but I'm not sure which variety - I've never seen them before either...

Sunken barge - another useful 'land'mark...

There are some acute bends in the river - you have to be quick to move from one side to the other to keep to the deep end of double bends!

Boats of all shapes and sizes manage the tideway - this little boat is punching the tide quite happily!

Hazards are clearly marked...

The first of several power stations - it's easy to lose count though - they can be seen for miles and the river winds round so sometimes you see the same power station several times from different angles!

Engineer Richard didn't like the look of the cracks in these chimneys, though these have been infilled....

The channel does get quite narrow in places....

This graffiti is such an established feature that the charts use it to identify the navigable span (under WAB going downstreatm)...

The bridges at Dunham add a bit of variety to the waterscape....

The mooring pontoon at Dunham - I believe it's a 48 hour mooring and apparently there's great dog-walking and a little village nearby. That ramp does get a lot steeper at low tide though...

A glimpse of the tower of Laneham Church - this would be a walk of around 2 miles from the Dunham moorings - parts of the church date back to the 11th century..

A different power station? Ah yes, this one has 8 cooling towers! Another one to add that to the I-spy book of power stations

Entering Torksey Lock...

The top gates at Torksey....

Torksey Lock bottom gates...

Torksey lock is surprisingly narrow compared to Cromwell Lock but the chamber is very long...

Another shot of our mooring at Torksey - just look at that shiny blacking! (pre-Stret Lock)

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The Odyssey 2011: Day 24

Posted by indigodream on 25 July, 2011

Fiskerton to Muskham (via Cromwell Lock!)

Tuesday 12th July

It was a lovely morning and Fiskerton is a very picturesque mooring so we took our time – I took the dogs for a long walk and Richard got chatting to the locals.

Barge Joni - Nice! That's the pub mooring pontoon just behind her - there is room for a 60 footer....

Ty liked it here – once we’d walked out of sight of the houses and he was surrounded by fields he relaxed enough to wee and everything else. Now, we have become experts on poo, having picked up so much of the stuff in 20-years of dog ownership. In all those years I’ve never found anything horrible, so I was revolted to find many segments of tapeworm in Ty’s morning deposit. Oh no, none of our dogs has ever had worms of any sort. Now this is the next stage of the flea saga – dogs can only get tapeworm from eating fleas or mice/rats – I was sure that Ty hadn’t eaten a rodent but I knew from Lou’s inspection yesterday that we’d had fleas around. Poor Ty – the chances of them catching anything nasty when I’d only been a couple of weeks late with their regular treatment were miniscule but that’s so typical – aaaarghhhh!!!!!

This meant that some of the morning was spent trying to find details of local vets or pet shops that would be able to sell us the appropriate treatment. We identified several in the nearby town of Newark, right on the river, so that became our priority.

However we still had time to have a nose around barge Joni, moored on the pontoon in front of us. She’s a truly magnificent vessel – somewhere between a dutch barge and a luxury cruiser. She’s brand new and the owner is just finishing the internal fit-out, having apparently bought the part-finished boat for a bargain price. The builder kindly showed us around and we tried not to drool on the fittings – she was tremendous. Richard likes to admire new boats, but he was quizzing the builder quite seriously. I think he saw Joni as the perfect craft for our post-retirement exploration of the European waterways – I keep saying that Indigo Dream is too small (or rather too low). Hmmm – I like the way he’s thinking – especially when the owner unwrapped a plasma TV screen roughly the length of Indigo Dream!!! There’s a story behind Joni’s build – she is a Pinder Hull, originally built by Baker Street Marine, which I think is no more. We took the builder’s name – David Brettle – just in case – if he doesn’t retire before us then we might ask him to build our next dream boat (and before you ask, we didn’t win the euromillions jackpot, well not yet, give us time!).

Staythorpe power station - the first of many on the lower reaches of the Trent....

With this cheering vision in our imaginations, we set off downriver in good spirits. The river is wide and impressive here as it meanders round the monumental Staythorpe power station and the lengthy catch of the Averham Weir. Past the weir, the river narrows as it wends its way between Newark’s historic waterfront buildings. We liked the look of Newark – it’s so obviously an old boating town which has retained many of its original structures such as the “Trent egg packers” warehouse and, of course, the ruined castle. The town looked well worth a visit and there were plenty of wall moorings in town (too high for the hounds) but the castle pontoons were full. However we needed access to some shops so we went on to Kings Marina on the outskirts of town.

We knew that there was a retail park with a Pets at Home and a vet opposite the marina and got some directions from the friendly lockie at Newark Town Lock. Kings Marina is another BWML site so it was easy for us to arrange a berth (free of charge) for a few hours while Richard cycled off to get flea and worm treatments and I walked the hounds. There was a brisk wind which made manoeuvering difficult, but luckily there’s a generous amount of turning space between the pontoons. The staff in the marina were exceptionally friendly and helpful – I really appreciated their obliging attitude as I was feeling anxious and guilty at the parlous state of our hounds’ health. Richard got the requisite medicines from the vet surgery opposite Pets at Home – he reckons that the retail park is around 5 minutes walk from the marina entrance (over the river footbridge). He also bought the hounds a hot chicken from Waitrose – they needed it – they’ve been quite gloomy company on our holiday so far.

We had lunch at the marina and finally set off – it was difficult to move on from a place where we’d been made so welcome, but we had to get to the vicinity of Cromwell Lock ready for our transit of the tideway on the following morning.

Averham weir is so long - a small section at the top has a protective boom and there wasn't a significant pull today but it muse be fearsome when the river's up....

Once again we stayed in communication with the lockies via the VHF and enjoyed a very efficient passage downriver. The lockie at Newark Nether Lock was very taken with our artwork – we’ve had an unusual number of compliments for it – they obviously appreciate a touch of the gothic up here!

Below Nether Lock the river feels more estuarial – it’s no wider than before but the banks suddenly become lower and the floodplains more evident as the trees are replaced by sandy beaches and open fields. We spotted a large river junction on the left – we thought it was a tributary but it was just a branch of the Trent rejoining the main navigation – it certainly added to the gravitas of this lower section.

We’d really enjoyed the unexpected beauty of the Trent, but it was late afternoon by the time we reached Cromwell Lock and the weather had become gloomy, cold and very windy. In these conditions, Cromwell Lock and its environs looked very uninviting – the mooring pontoon was full, as was the low wall – there was plenty of mooring room on the high wall but that would be totally impractical for the hounds. We’d been advised to pop in and talk to the lockie about arrangements for joining the tideway the following morning so we climbed up the ladder (leaving dogs on board) and went off to talk to Les, the duty lockie. Whereas we’d been prepared for warnings and tales of peril, Les was supremely unconcerned and gave the blithe impression that the tideway was a piece of cake – even for narrowboats! We chatted for a while and I took his details – he’s a narrowboater and is interested in being part of a convoy across the Wash – we have contact details for an organiser somewhere but since we left Nottingham we’ve been in an internet black hole so that’s a job for later.

With the Cromwell pontoon full, Les gave us some useful advice about where we could moor upstream so we headed back towards the village of Muskham and the off-puttingly rickety mooring pontoons outside the Muskham Ferry pub – despite appearances to the contrary, they are BW moorings rather than the pub’s.

Les had advised us to go for the last upstream pontoon, turn front into it and ground the bow in the silt – this would keep the boat steady while the flow pushed the back into the pontoon. This plan worked up to a point, but the subsequent relationship between front deck and pontoon would have made offloading the dogs very difficult. Cue an interesting 10 minutes while I turned the boat into the flow and found that the wind blowing upstream was stronger than the flow of the water downstream. It took a few revs to get her near to the pontoons and get the stern into a position where I could throw a rope to Richard to guide her in. In the end, two local men, who were launching a small boat from a trailer, helped Richard to pull her in – the wind was a right nuisance. The pontoons are short so we could only tie back and centre ropes – on another day, the flow from the river would have kept her in place; however under the circumstances, the brisk wind kept trying to push the front off the pontoon, making the centre rope groan and grind all night long – bah!

Having said that, because the bow was somewhat out in the river (we put a light on the bow overnight) we had the most stunning view upriver from the galley window – always a silver lining 🙂

But we were in a secure mooring within 15 minutes of Cromwell Lock – we needed to get there for 8.45am. The Muskham Ferry also looked like a decent pub. We settled in and took the hounds for a walk – Ty quite liked it here too and was relatively relaxed, though it was pitiful to see him looking longingly at the local houses – he feels so much more secure in a house! Lou perked up here as a local savage, a dog who viciously defended her garden gate, had a go at her through the bars. Lou got stuck in and a ferocious barking/snarling match ensued – both alpha females seemed to enjoy it immensely but it would have been a different story if that gate hadn’t been in place. I hoped that we wouldn’t meet them out and and about.

It was still early so Richard decided to do his pre-tideway engine checks before dinner – oops! As he was checking the filters a crucial bolt sheared off, incapacitating the engine. It was such a tiny part but there was no going anywhere without it. We rang RCR and none of their local engineers or contractors had the relevant part; we could have taken a bolt off the Webasto filters but that would have meant draining down the central heating, which is a pain and would have left us without hot water in the morning.

At this point the kindness of strangers came to the fore – the fellow that had helped us pull the boat in has a garage/workshop – he made a huge effort to search for the relevant bolt and, by the following morning had found the part – hurrah! We were able to buy him a drink at the pub as a “thank you” and may see if we can offer him a cruise on the way home – by chance his mother-in-law owns a rescue greyhound! We ate in the pub – they do very good pub grub with huge portions – just what we needed after a rather fraught evening.

We went to bed relieved, but had a bad night’s sleep with the constant creaking of our centre rope – nonetheless we can recommend this mooring spot (there’s enough room for around six narrowboats here) provided there no wind to bother your ropes!

Photoblog:

Fisherman being mugged by a swan!

Part of Newark's historic waterfront....

Newark Castle...

There are some fine old warehouses in Newark...

The wall moorings in Newark....

This is Trent Brodge in Newark - Nicholson's says the arches can't be widened because it's classed an ancient monument - it looks as though the headroom might cause a bit of consternation too (not for a lowly narrowboat of course)....

Facade....

Old faces and new bodies - those facades must be listed - at least the new buildings behind have been built of a sympathetic brick...

nb Engineer at Kings Marina - a proper boating pin-up - josher, tug deck, rivets - phwoar!

Waiting for Newark Nether Lock - under the A46....

This is an oystercatcher - there are many of these birds along the river but I had to look up what they were - I've never seen them before....

I wonder what this is - the cable crosses the river to a similar structure on the far bank - it looks like a ferry of some sort but I can't find any references to it...

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The Odyssey 2011: Day 23

Posted by indigodream on 22 July, 2011

Nottingham (County Hall) to Fiskerton

Monday 11th July

Indigo Dream on Nottingham's County Hall moorings...

We were on our own today so we had a relaxed start, enjoying the bustle of a city going about it’s work while we loafed around on board – isn’t that what holidays are all about?

Richard went out for a cycle ride while I had a little lie-in. He really enjoyed the exercise and took many photos of the impressive parklands that surround the river – many were developed by the Victorians and provide a wonderfully green space in what seems to be an awkwardly evolving city in places. There were a few boats on the move – from a tiny bathtub with an outboard motor to the large trip boats. I was surprised to see a large trip boat sporting St John’s Ambulance livery – I mused that we’d be a lot keener to renew our first aid training if it was being done on a boat – however it is one of the charity’s community projects.

The hounds were a bit miserable yesterday and they weren’t much better this morning – Lou seemed a bit stiff and Lynx was very quiet – maybe it was the heat. Ty relaxed a bit once we turned the boat’s engine off last night, but our customary 2am walk was interrupted by a joyriding motorbike racing along the towpath with its light off – I saw it from a distance and was desperate to bundle the dogs back on board before it got to us. I took them for a long walk in the morning, hoping it would cheer them up, but they just plodded along and seemed pleased to get back to the boat and their respective beds.

I was very interested by the waterfront – past the concrete ugliness of County Hall there are fine waterfront houses – ornate Victorian redbrick contructions. There were side streets leading off the waterfront – each with a set of metal floodgates – I wonder how often they’re used? It’s hard to imagine that the river would ever come up that far as the towpath must be at least 10 feet above the current water level and the river is wide here.

Rare photo of all three hounds having a bobble - Ty isn't sure abut the photographer - looks dodgy to him!

We set off in glorious sunshine, following a large trip boat down past the footbridge. Nicholson’s shows the limit of navigation at the footbridge but the trip boat seemed to be going a lot further so we followed it for a while but bottled out just as we got to the first bend! We turned and set off downriver.We’d got the excellent Boating Association’s charts for the non-tidal and tidal Trent so we knew that the lock-keepers kept in touch on Channel 74 on the VHF. We listened in and found it very useful to be aware of the traffic on the river – though it was very quiet below Nottingham compared to the upper reaches. The lock-keepers keep in constant communication, so we felt confident to keep in touch with them. As we approached Holme Lock we knew that a trip boat had gone in before us – we radioed ahead and found out that the lock was big enough for us as well. We slid in beside the trip boat, a 2-storey riverboat which towered above us. We learnt a useful lesson here – check the fall of the lock before you set your ropes! We roped up to the lockside bollards but as we descended I suddenly realised that our ropes weren’t long enough – I hastily tied on the nearest bit of rope, which happened to be attached to one of our fat fenders. All to the good, though I still ended up holding on to the fender above my head! Of course, when it came to casting off, the lockie sent us out first and I suddenly realised that the fender would probably get caught on the bollard if I tried to pull the rope past the bollard now 10 feet or more above my head so I had to get Richard forward to untie the supplementary rope (even the knot was out of my reach – d’oh!).

Lesson learnt – we had supplies of extra rope ready before the next lock but, typically, the remaining locks weren’t so deep or had guide wires down the side which made it much easier. In all fairness, Holme Lock has some guide wires too – I just didn’t spot them until it was too late as the ones near us were broken. The locks along this stretch are substantial, but all manned during the day at this time of year – by radioing ahead most were set for us by the time we got there. The deep locks have an impressive echo – I was very tempted to sing in them but I didn’t want to frighten the lockies!

The photos don't do justice to the beautiful surroundings - you'll just have to come and see it for yourself...

We were utterly entranced by the Trent – it is a large river and must be fearsome in flood. But today it was benign – much quieter than the Thames and more interesting than the Severn. We loved it here – there was abundant wildlife, including the blue flash of kingfishers, the graceful wheeling of black-headed gulls and common terns and some wading birds that I didn’t recognise. Settlements were few and far between, though there were cheerful fishermen and the occasional herd of cows to remind us that the river was within reach of civilisation. For once I was sorry to be in a powered boat – we once had a canoeing holiday down the Dordogne – I swore “never again” because of our apparent talent for capsizing, but I would love to go down the Trent in a rowing boat and observe the wildlife along the banks – we might even catch a glimpse of the Trent’s otters from a non-powered boat……

The fierce morning sunshine was replaced by cloud as the day wore on – better for us and the hounds, who benefitted from a river breeze (and the fan indoors). The landscape was bathed in a diffuse white light and the water took on an unctuous quality – you could believe you were in a different country or maybe even a different world…

Greygal had texted earlier to ask how we’d found the river – she’d observed (from the road) that it seemed a bit “samey” – and so it is, but it is the sameness of bank and river flowing together from beauty to beauty…..

We didn’t have any firm plans for mooring but had read about a likely spot in Fiskerton. At first sight it seemed impossible – a high piled wall with private mooring pontoons and steep ramps to the top. However just as we were passing, we spotted the pub’s mooring pontoon – linked to the shore by a sturdy concrete landing platform and steps – perfect. We moored up early in order to take advantage of the excellent dog-walking upstream – we knew it was there because we’d commented on it as we cruised past – miles of towpath surrounded by acres of golden fields. Unfortunately there were horned cattle with their calves in the second field along, but the first field provided more than enough entertainment for our hounds. There are signs asking that hounds be kept on lead for the first part of the path – mainly because it’s private land, but it’s very practical advice anyway as there’s a sheer drop of around 20′ into the river flanking the path. However, once we were past the gates into the fields Lou and Lynx could go off for a rummage. It’s a long

Approaching the moorings at Firskerton - there is space behind the 'dutch' barge - you can't see it until you're on top of it...

story but we lost the path at one point and ended up wending our way through a wheat field, trying to follow the tractor tyre tracks so as not to damage the crop. Lou went wild here and bounded through the wheat as if her legs were springs; Lynx soon joined her. Unfortunately Ty had to be on lead – there was an open gate in the distance and he’d cover that in no time if he panicked. Although the banks were steep, there were places where Lou could go down and have a joyful paddle in the river; surprisingly Ty joined her but Lynx doesn’t do paddling – he’ll tell you why in his diary!

We got back to the boat eventually, having chatted to various people in the pub garden who seemed equally fascinated by the boat and the hounds. We relaxed for a while and it was here I found a very unwelcome guest – Lou had a flea – and there’s never just one flea! Aargh – I’d forgotten to do their flea/worm spot-on treatment before leaving home – I wasn’t too concerned, thinking that we could buy a flea treatment on our way somewhere – this is the start of a saga which I’ll finish tomorrow…..

We found that dogs were not allowed inside the Bromley Arms, but it was fine enough to sit outside. We got chatting to a lady called Judy who has a lurcher and a whippet (I think) and, judging by her recent comment on his blog, has become one of Lynx’s many fans! We had some good pub grub here and went back to the boat well contented. Ty was more settled here – we couldn’t have wished for a quieter spot and he’s a hound who appreciates a bit of peace ‘n quiet…..

Photoblog:

Sorry, we’ve still got dark photos – it’s such a shame as they don’t do justice to the scenery – maybe we’ll get some more shots on the way back or Richard will get Adam’s suggested software up and running….

Nottingham's Parkland.....

View along part of the Queen's Walk and Victoria Embankment - just upriver from County Hall...

Imposing portal to Nottingham's memorial gardens...

St John's Ambulance community boat...... Now that would be a great venue for a first aid refresher!

Looking back towards Meadow Lane Lock - thats a 48-hour mooring pontoon adjacent to the lock on the left (as you look at the photo)...

I wonder what industry was housed here?

Whatever the industry it must have needed big ships - that basin is substantial, as are the mooring bollards on the top of the wall....

Elegant riverside villa on the outskirts of Nottingham...

The waterway structures tend to become more massive as we cruised downstream...

Weir on one side, white water course on the other - I guess we'd better use the lock....

We thought the river charts were very useful - even on the non-tidal stretch...

Sharing Holme Lock - the trip boat stayed in gear but there wasn't much turbulence - this lock is 12' deep - use long ropes or use the guide wires which are not so obvious when the lock is full....

We think this is the old ammunition wharf - presumably the bund behind is to protect the river from the explosives and vice versa!

The navigable arch of Radcliffe Viaduct Railway Bridge...

And the rest of the Radcliffe viaduct - three very different styles of construction (if you include the navigable arch)..

The charts are easy to follow because of these kilometre markers planted along the bank - they continue right down the tidal section - you'll see later how many kilometres we travelled...

These holes are homes to Sand Martins - there were flocks flitting around after insects in the afternoon air - we weren't quick enough to photograph them on the wing...

Inside Stoke Lock - the lock-keeper's huts are often elevated - a sign of where the river's been in the past maybe?

Some local residents...

Sweeping views...

Unctuous waters....

A local resident of the feathered kind...

Some more local residents.....

Oooooo, another human - and a whopping local resident in his net!

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The Odyssey 2011: Day 22

Posted by indigodream on 21 July, 2011

Sawley Marina to Nottingham (County Hall)

Saturday 8th July

Sundown at Sawley....

We had a droll phonecall from Graham of nb Matilda Rose on Friday night asking which bit of the M25 we were parked on – hah! We decided to give the car park a miss this week and instead had a relaxed start to our holiday. We took our time to get ready and finished the crucial bits of the home to-do list before setting off. We had a good journey to the boat and were excited to see Indigo Dream’s newly blacked bottom – WOW – she looked great! Our somewhat irritating marina neighbours, who generally punctuated every sentence with “F*** ’em”, actually gave us a glowing account of the work done by Colorado so we were satisfied that it was a job well done.

We loaded the dogs on board without incident – amazing considering that a cat shot across the pontoon in front of us and was later sunning itself rather arrogantly on the boat roof opposite! We left the dogs on board – we were still brested up on a high pontoon so we were only going to give them one chance to fall in! We then headed off for Tesco in Long Eaton (NG10 1HG) – only a few miles away. There’s a huge retail park there with an Asda as well so there’s plenty of choice. We did a big shop, with Richard doing the vital calculation of how many Jumbones we’d need to satisfy three greyhounds and their friends for a week. On the way we spotted the Erewash Canal, which looked interesting enough for a visit – alas that’ll have to be another year. We also noted the position of Long Eaton station, a mile from Sawley Marina – this was to be important for the end-of-week car shuffle.

Access to our mooring was a bit awkward so we moved to the service pontoon to onload the shopping direct from the car before moving to moor on the towpath opposite. It’s a popular spot, but even at 6pm there were several spaces available. Ty, predictably, wasn’t happy – there were too many people around and there were the distant bangs from a clay pigeon shooting event. It had been a toss-up as to whether to bring Ty, but we wanted to see whether he’d settle to boating if we gave him a longer period to get used to it. I’ll give an update on that later. In the meantime, the towpath was quiet enough for the hounds to have a bobble, Ty panicked and decided to join another boat (fortunately unoccupied); we got him back quickly enough but it made us doubt our decision to bring him – ah well, early days….

Sunday 10th July

We had guests joining us today – Richard’s sister’s old university friend Kym and other half Nick – they live locally and we couldn’t resist the opportunity to offer them a cruise. Kym’s not been well and we needed to bring the boat a bit closer for her. Luckily there was plenty of room on the visitor mooring and as BWML moorers we have reciprocal mooring  rights at all BWML marinas – handy. We filled with water whilst the men did a car shuffle and Kym and I got better acquainted – you just can’t beat sitting on the back deck, soaking up the summer sun and watching the world go by. There was plenty to see – a whole flotilla of little wooden steam launches went past with a mellow tooting of their whistles. We waved enthusiastically but few waved back – understandable when you’ve got a large fire in the middle of a small wooden boat 🙂

Steam 'launch' - part of flotilla of 10 or more - charming....

By mid-morning we were off, enjoying a fine trip downriver – up here the river is vibrant with boating life – including a raft (literally) of kayaks and canoes full of children horsing around under the enthusiastic instruction of their coaches. We were agog at the junction with the Soar and the Erewash – it’s enormous, and though there’s a signpost upriver showing the junction the turn to the Trent doesn’t become apparent until you’re on top of it. However the weir is apparent from every angle so that’s easy to miss at least. Cranfleet Cut is not so interesting but the river beyond is lovely, flanked by the Attenborough Nature Reserve. Past Beeston lock the river is canalised once again – the moorings marked on the Nicholsons were on a high-ish wall and shallow in places – we were dismayed as the hounds needed a pit stop by now. However the towpath beyond Turnover Bridge is at a handy height and deep enough for us to moor up and let the hounds off. We moored opposite a uniquely bearded individual who owns a shack and a small boat offside – he had  several dogs who set off a vigorous cross-canal conversation with Lou. He also had a goose who was not at all bothered by his dogs – he told us that the goose terrorises the hounds if they try it on!

Unfortunately I was too busy chatting to take detailed notes but I did take note of the contrasts in scenery as we approached Nottingham – there are wild river banks, open countryside, isolated villages (usually around locks) then there is the city. Nottingham itself seemed to be full of contradictions – a mix of old mill and warehouse buildings interspersed with modern glass and concrete designs – I confess that I prefer the old buildings to the glass constructions, which seem so cold and soul-less by comparison. I only have vague impressions of this stretch, however I vividly remember Meadow Lane Lock and the acute turn towards the County Hall moorings! The river had seemed narrow and enclosed coming through town, but it widens impressively here and the County Hall moorings are very grand. There are ample mooring spaces here with handy mooring rings set at different levels along the stepped bank. Unfortunately the moorings are on the left hand side (looking upstream) – sadly the steps adjacent to the park opposite are marked “no mooring”.

We’d had particularly fine weather today but it clouded over as the afternoon wore on and we fortunately moored up two minutes before a huge cloudburst soaked the boat. The County Hall moorings are within sight of the iconic Trent Bridge and its associated football and cricket grounds; however it is not particularly close to the town centre. We hopped into Nick’s car and went off to “Red Hot Buffet” – a world buffet restaurant. I think it’s fair to say that it focussed on quantity rather than quality but it was a fun dining experience and we had a very convivial evening……

Photoblog:

Apologies to photographer readers – our photos are rather dark – we’ve found that it’s easy to accidentally change the settings via a little wheel at the back of the camera and we unwittingly took lots of photos before we realised…. Worse to save time when on holiday we had not used the raw format setting which is a real shame as it is would have been so much easier to lighten the photographs. The software we use for image editing (Canon’s DPP and Photoelf) is pretty simple and getting jpg images lighter seems to be a bit of a fiddle and too time consuming on a busy week. On top of that we have this strange effect of photos getting half a stop or so darker when we compress them for the blog.

Steamer Chantilly...

Steamer Senta...

Signpost!

View onto the vast junction of the Rivers Trent and Soar and the Erewash Canal...

The turn onto the Erewash Canal...

That's the Trent straight ahead...

That's the turn onto the Soar - the weir is well-marked...

River life at Cranfleet Lock....

River view....

Unusual chalet...

The imposing power station at Ratcliffe on Soar - you can see it for miles around...

There are all sorts of fisher'men' along the river!

There are lots of interesting riverside dwellings between Sawley and Nottingham..

There are some big boats on the big river....

Waiting above Beeston Lock....

View along the first part of Beeston Cut....

Goose guarding this unique canalside camp....

Nottingham's waterfront (1)

Nottingham waterfront (2)

Nottingham Waterfront (3)

A famous name on that warehouse....

Nottingham waterfront (4)...

Nottingham waterfront (5).....

Nottingham waterfront (6)....

Nottingham waterfront (7).....

Nottingham waterfront (8)...

An acute turn across the river to get from Meadow Lane Lock to the County Hall moorings....

View across to the County Hall moorings (taken the following morning)...

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Boat Blog: A look at Indigo Dream’s Bottom

Posted by indigodream on 10 July, 2011

Monday 5th July

We had Indigo Dream taken out of the water for the first time since her launch in May 2006 – always an anxious time as who knows “what lies beneath”! We have not counted up what she has done in that time but as our summer cruises are often 500 locks and 800 miles plus some cruising in the winter it is fair estimate that our blacking has been through 2500 locks and 4000 miles plus several stints on tidal i.e. salt water and even some ice breaking.

We were delighted that the long-life 2-pack blacking and Zinga combination had done its job – she was in excellent condition, though the local boat surveyor (who did a quick eyeball survey) gave us a bollocking for not changing the anodes every 2 years. That is tricky – we’ve replaced the anodes now – it cost £150 – it actually cost more to take her out of the water (£235 including cost of scraping and washing); the blacking would probably have lasted another a few years so we’ll need to get the balance right in the future as it’s costly to take her out of the water just to have the anodes replaced. The surveyor, boatyard workers and our ‘painter’ (corrosion specialist!) agreed that she was in excellent condition – the lady who organises the boatyard said that when some boats came out of the water they were “as porous as a teabag” – a worryingly graphic description!

Wayne, our ‘painter” says that any rust we can see on the photos is superficial. Wayne’s Company – Colorado Corrosion Control originally shot blasted the hull, painted it with Zinga and then airless sprayed the two part blacking. The system has lasted well so we wanted him to come back and re-do the painting. The very nice people at JBJ Engineering agreed to lift the boat out of the water and allow Wayne to work in their yard so this was what we organised, more detail in another post.

We love our prop/engine/gearbox combination so it was nice that when the prop came out of the water all the men from the boatyard said “phwoar look at that prop” – I doubt whether a topless lady on deck would have got them more excited!

There was a patch of rust under the waterline which Richard suspects was caused by residual  electrical currents whizzing round the marina – I’ll let him explain this and the potential remedies – maybe in a separate post as it’s quite technical. Basically before we get back to a shore power connection he needs to make up his mind whether he buys a galvanic isolator (under £100), an airlink isolating transformer (£235) or a Victron isolating transformer (£600).

Here’s our photographic record of Indigo Dream’s bottom – of intense interest to us and a useful record for comparison when we take her out next – on her 10th birthday maybe!

Here we go....

We spent the morning clearing away all the stuff that could go flying as the boat was pulled out - she came up at quiet an angle....

We were a bit worried that the breather holes would be under water - we may need to check the bilges later....

Ah that's better....

Indigo Dream exposed - she's in excellent condition...

Our prop ID numbers (Vetus 18x12RH) - we'd want another one just like this if we needed a replacement...

The bottom (1)

The bottom (2)

The bottom (3)

The bottom (4)

The bottom (5)

The bottom (6)

The bottom (7)

The bottom (8)

The bottom (9)

The bottom (10)

The bottom (11)

The bottom (12)

The bottom (13)

The bottom (14)

The prop - see the weed hatch above....

Can't resist another one of the prop....

The base plate (1)

The base plate (2)

The base plate (3)

The base plate (4)

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The Odyssey 2011: Day 21

Posted by indigodream on 9 July, 2011

Branston to Sawley Marina

Sunday 4th July

View from the side hatch in Branston..

We were up early for the day’s cruising – but not as early as Catherine and greyhound Beren who had to leave Banbury at an unearthly hour to get to the boat in time! Luckily Beren is a sensible old boy so we weren’t worried about him leaping off the front of the boat (though we did keep a close eye on him)!

The canal was stunning at 8am – the perfect reflections, the stillness and the silence – fantastic. We had time to make coffees beforethe car shuffle today – we rather cruelly deprived Sarah of coffee yesterday until after she’d done her duty! With mugs in hand, Catherine and I set off down the towpath, leaving Beren comfortably ensconced on the sofa – he’s a very relaxed hound and settled onto the boat as if he’d been born there.

Our destination for the day was Sawley Marina – we were gobsmacked by the size of the place – it’s enormous, with moorings stretching as far as the eye can see – we were told that it was the biggest inland marina in England – it used to be the biggest in Europe but they weren’t sure who had overtaken them. I was tempted to leave Catherine there – there’s a large brokerage with lots of enticing boats for her to peruse, but she was on a mission to renew her locking skills and maybe have a go at the tiller. The folk at the marina office were particularly helpful and I sorted out a gate key and found out where we needed to moor overnight to access the slipway the next day. The gate key deposit was £20 (unlike the £5 at Fazeley Mill) – better take good care of that then!

With all the arrangements made, we headed back to meet Richard and the boat at the Mill House pub in Stretton – we just had time to collect a welcome iced drink from the bar when Indigo Dream appeared. We quickly decanted our drinks into the boat’s glasses and got on with the day’s cruise. I was a bit preoccupied for the first part of the cruise, having noticed that our taps were stuttering a bit – a quick inventory suggested that we might be short of water – oops! The hunt was on for a water point…..

There are some fine views over the river valley...

The first that we came to was offside by Bridge 24 but that seemed to be solely for the use of the moorers there. Just as well we were going very slowly at this point – there was a small narrowboat adrift across the canal – their stern mooring pin had come loose. We passed gently then pulled in so that Richard could pull the boat in and hammer the pin back into the ground – fortunately it was still well-attached to the stern ropes. With our good deed done, we moved onto the Willington service point – on the offside after Bridge 23. There’s a very tidy wharf here with a useful rubbish point and excellent water pressure. Encouraged by this I decided to try the conveniences – oh dear, they are quite horrible – smelly, grubby and with a broken tap which made hand-washing impossible. In its favour though was the supply of loo roll and abundant reading material in the form of the complete works (abridged) of Henry James and John Steinbeck – excellent! What a shame they didn’t provide a loo seat so that one could read in comfort…… 🙂

The water tank filled in no time and we set off again – I always feel a bit guilty about doing such mundane tasks when we have guests on board, but Catherine is keen to learn about every aspect of life on the water so it was ok. It also gave Beren an opportunity for a little bobble, but the unfenced road is very close so it  wouldn’t be suitable for most of our hounds.

We approached the massive Stenson Lock with interest – we’re no strangers to big locks so we were surprised at how many people warned us about Stenson lock – opinions varied from “tricky to “downright dangerous”. We were locking down so we weren’t so concerned about turbulence but Richard helped a few boats up the broad locks (including Stenson) and was interested to find that our usual locking procedure of opening the ground paddle on the same side as the boat needed to be reversed here. Apparently the ground paddles come out through the cill and push the boat to the other side.  That’s worth remembering for when we come back, though we’ll have turned off onto the Soar before this point. We locked down without any drama and though we descended Stenson lock by ourselves, we had locking partners at the next few locks, which made it a bit easier.

Beren taking to boating life....

The canal past Stenson Lock just gets better and better – the canal is, at one and the same time, in a cutting and on an embankment! To the left the bank rose steeply and below the ground dropped away to reveal a tremendous view across the valley. This area is a typical canal enigma – this waterway was hugely industrial and, at one time, this area was famed for its coal industry. It’s impossible to envision it now, with the canal surrounded by vast rolling acres of farmland, fecund with the year’s food crop. The only industrial remnant is the railway, largely disused and converted to foot and cycle paths – once again the graceful railway bridges belie their once serious purpose. This end of the Trent and Mersey is quite amazing – I kept thinking that “it’s like the K & A no, more like the Shroppie” – I couldn’t put my finger on which the canal it resembles, then I realised that the Trent and Mersey is entirely itself with uniquely interesting and beautiful scenery.

We were amazed by Shardlow – one set of owners had taken our share boat there many years ago and said that ‘there’s nothing there, there’s nothing to see apart from a milepost” – but there’s plenty to see! Far from being a featureless canal terminus it’s a lively junction with the river Trent full of interesting old buildings, pubs and moored boats. We were passing one boat, nb North Star when I suddenly recognised our friend Steve sitting on the back deck – we’d no idea that he and his wife Margaret were up this way (their home mooring is on the Oxford Canal) so it was a joyful meeting. We had a quick chat, admired nb North Star’s smart new paintwork and made arrangements to meet up in the pub later.

Past Shardlow we had our first encounter with the River Trent – it was literally a breath of fresh air as the waterway widened impressively at Derwent Mouth. Watch out for traffic here as many of the oncoming boats were turning into the southbound ‘tributary’ leading to Cavendish Bridge. I really enjoyed the river section – today it was nicely balanced between the unfettered freedom of the wild banks and the gentle flow of a river at rest – like most rivers I’m sure the Trent is mercurially moody. We didn’t enjoy the river for long though – in no time at all we were through the open flood gates and there was the entrance to Sawley Marina, almost buried amongst the mooring pontoons, slipways and service points.

There at last - we've now cruised the Trent and Mersey from end to end....

We had a good map though and were soon approaching the mooring pontoon leading to the boatyard slipway. The resident welcoming committee greeted us with a “can I help you” laden with doubt and mistrust. We explained that we’d been told to moor there and that the boat was being lifted out in the morning. The locals recommended that we brested up to another boat rather than going too far forward on the pontoon – we were reluctant as it would be an awkward offload for Beren, but as we were being glared at so suspiciously we didn’t make an issue of it. In the end we had to lift Beren up to the pontoon but at least we only had to do it once!

With boat in place, Catherine generously agreed to drive us both back to my car in Stretton so that Richard and I could just drive straight back to Shardlow to meet Steve and Margaret. What a sight – three plump humans and a greyhound stuffed into Catherine’s mini convertible! Actually, with the top down it was very refreshing! We eventually got back to the car (via some misdirection from Richard!) and bid Catherine and Beren a fond farewell – Catherine’s plans for life aboard are gathering pace and we’re almost as excited about it as she is! She now knows that Beren is a boating hound and that she herself can manage the tiller – she did well on the helm today.

We wended our way back to Shardlow where some research revealed that none of the canalside pubs did food on a Sunday evening – no problem, we piled int0 the car and went to the Clock Warehouse where we had a merry evening of food and chatter. How incongruous it was – Steve and Margaret live five minutes away from us in Surrey – and here we were having a gathering 150 miles away. Funnily enough they’d bumped in to another village neighbour on the water the day before! I can’t tell you what a great pleasure it was to see them – Margaret has been very unwell and they had to give the 2010 boating season a complete miss – they looked ecstatic to be back on the water – it’s obviously a real tonic. When we got back to the boat we ignored our list of chores and just went to bed – we were so glad we hadn’t brought the hounds – offloading three of them across a moored boat and up to a high pontoon and back again would have been a nightmare. There was a surprising amount of traffic noise from the nearby M1 but we soon tuned it out and had a quiet night’s sleep.

Photoblog:

Another view from the side hatch at the Branston mooring...

Burton on Trent - known for its brewing - shame we had to pass through without exploring the brewery!

Canalside features like this are very welcoming - it shows that the town cares about its canal..

The canal is still quite high here, offering great views of the river valley below....

This made me laugh...

Evocative scene....

Hunting....

Why you should never open the gate paddles until the boat is well up in the lock (we're just filling this lock - we haven't sunk anyone - honest!)

Reflections....

Almost there - we've followed these mileposts along the Trent and Mersey many times but we've never been to Shardlow...

Deep locks are quite imposing - and this one's not empty yet!

This canalside pub had superb moorings - with shore power!

The road is very close to the canal in places....

The bridge has seen better days too - I guess the damage was done by a passing car - glad I wasn't at the wheel!

What a rich landscape....

The top gates look strangely truncated against the depth of the cill - worth a bit of concentration - cilling your boat has a whole new meaning in these deep locks....

Graceful railway bridge - can you imagine this landscape in the time of steam?

Ah, the photo can't do justice to the magic valley vista which flashes tantalisingly through the towpath trees..

And there's the view - there was a boat moored on the towpath here - what a spot....

Imposing building - it looked institution, like an old workhouse, but the map suggests it's a farmhouse..

It's such a wonderful thing to be cruising through such a productive landscape - whatever you think of farming methods, it's great to see food being grown...

An optical illusion? We though this blue boat was sinking but I think it's fine - it's just the way the eye follows the line of the rubbing strake....

Views of Shardlow (1)

Views of Shardlow (2)

Steve and Margaret - happy to be on the water.....

Views of Shardlow (3)

A working railway....

A reminder that crusiing rivers is a serious business....

A change of scenery - Derwent Mouth...

This huge structure is a pipe bridge....

The M1 - we can put that off until tomorrow though....

Sawley Marina is enormous - the photo doesn't show the half of it!

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Dog Blog: Lynx’s Diary

Posted by indigodream on 8 July, 2011

Friday 8th July

We’s been doin’ sum serious restin’ since me last post coz mummy Sue sez we’s all going on a proper boatin’ holeeday next week an’ ev’ryone knows you need a holeeday to get ready for a holeeday and you needs anuuver one to recover afterwards!

Ty luves nanny Renia's house....

We’s had BIG funder an’ lightnin’ this week – Lou is not bovvered but I woz a bit curious – after all, it woz so loud it woz like the end of the world, which I ‘spect would be qwite hinterestin’, so I’s asked mummy Sue if I could go out to the garden to watch. Can you believes it, she sed “NO” – but I’s could be missin’ the biggest show on earf – she sed I’d just get soakin’ wet and there was nuffink to see – huh! Ty woz qwite brave – he wozn’t a jelly boy at all tho’ he didn’t fink that the end of the world woz worth watchin’ so he just hid in his den upstairs.

I’s got BIG news, but first you’s got to learn me new song – mummy Sue taught me the tune – is “bread of heaven” wot she sings at the rugby ‘cept I’s got better words – are you ready, hwun, too, free……

“I’s a gen-i-us, I’s a gen-i-us, I’s a genius, yes I am, I’s a gee-nius, yes I am”

I’s a genius becoz I’s finally got mummy Sue to say “Ok Lynx you win, you don’t have to go to dog trainin’ any more” – wheeee!!!!! I hates dog trainin’ – is tot’ly borin’ ‘cept for when mummy Sue is gettin’ yelled at and wen the boss lady tells her to put more garlic in her liver cake – is a waste of me precious henergy. You know my mummy tho’ – she sez I’s havin’ a break until the Autumn, an’ o’ course, she’s got her eye on Ty now – I woods say ‘poor Ty’ but’s all fair in love an’ dog trainin’……

Last weekend we’s had a holeeday at nanny Renia’s – well, I say holeeday – I woz qwite bizzy on patrol for foxes. I duzn’t fink that nanny Renia luves me qwite as much as Lou an’ Ty coz they’s just duz a bit of runnin’ then they lies down. Nanny Renia duzn’t unnerstand wot an himportan job I duz protectin’ her from foxes – ‘specially wen I stays out in the garden ’til 11.30pm. Never mind, mummy Sue is still putty in me paws so is ok.I woz a bit wurried on account of mummy Sue and daddy Richard bein’ on the boat unsoopervised so I’s called in me pals Ranger, Archie, Henry an’ Beren to look after them for me – wot a relief – you can’t let you hu-mums out unsoopervised. Me locum hounds dun a brilliant job but I woz jellus coz they gots ice-cream an’ I didn’t – maybe I’ll gets ice-cream when we’s on holeeday.

I got me detectorin' ears up - where's that critter?

But I had to do a shockin’ hinvestigation this week – me pal Archie felled into the canal – but did he fall, did he jump or was he pushed – I’s dun me best hypno stare and sed “mummy Sue, did you push Archie into the canal wif the barge pole” – “no no” she sez “I’m sure I didn’t, but maybe I can convince you better if I make you some fresh liver cake with extra garlic” – well, that proved she woz innocent – people wot make liver cake for hounds don’t go round pushin’ them into the canal!

I woz qwuite pleezed coz now we can add greyhound divin’ to the olympic events – maybe wen we’re wearin’ our natty life-jackets tho – is divin’ not swimmin’ after all! I’s also seen the telly advert for jumbone wot sez it’s a long-lasting chew – hur hur hur – not in our house. So we’s got to have a houndie ‘lympic sport of speed-eating a jumbone – you’s gonna have to eat quick to beat Henry an’ Ty – Mummy Sue it’s a himpossible event coz they don’t make stopwatches wot measure nano-seconds!

Lou duzn’t like the vets much so why did she go free times this week – she had her blood sucked out, then she had staples, like she woz a piece of paper – mummy Sue sez our skin IS like paper – then Lou’s foot swelled up like a balloon – I woz watchin’, coz havin’ yer foot swell up is a qwik way to get mummy Sue to take the bandij off – I’s will remember that – I duzn’t like bandijes. We’s all had bin to the vampire vet this week – we’s all had our blood sucked out to see if we’s can get passports – if we gets passports then we haz to get bizzy learnin’ langwidges again – I’s like that – I duzn’t know half enuff words for “sosidge” yet!

I only needs one word for “Tripe” tho – is simply the bestest, most lushus stuff ever. So I duzn’t unnerstand why mummy Sue went “EEEEEK” wen she woz defrostin’ the freezer the uvver day – she sed there woz a hunhexploded bomb in the freezer – a whole packet of raw tripe wot she had forgotten. FORGOTTEN – mummy Sue, how coulds you? She’s a bit hysterical wen it comes to tripe so she launched “operation tripe” an’ got daddy Richard onto the case – he had to light the barbecue and she made him cook the tripe in a big frying pan outside while she closed all the doors an’ windows an’ put a peg on her nose. It woz torture – daddy Richard puts the barbecue on one side of the fence and we had to sits and look at it from the uvver side. I sed “it’s bubblin’ – it’s reddy – FEED ME” but mummy Sue sed “20 minutes at the rolling boil to kill all the bugs”. S’not fair – 20 minutes is like, years, we’s whined an’ we wriggled an’ we begged but it woz no good – we’s had to wait for it to cook, then we had to wait for it to cool down. Honestly mummy Sue, a dog’s life isn’t long enuff for tripe, but then we gots fed – 0oooh it woz so good – it is the bestest fing ever. But now I is wurried – mummy Sue sez she’s never ever ever going to cook tripe again – we’s got to make do wif hot chikkin and’ liver cake and haggis’ and leftovers. I needs to work on her – I finks I’ll start me own “operation tripe”….

Henry an' Archie doin' soopervisin' while I's on holeeday wif nanny Renia...

Ranger an' Archie keepin' me sheepies aired while I's on holeeday...

Oi, where MY ice-cream?

We's bizzy....

We's onta sumfink....

Yep - the critter's definit'ly up there somewhere....

Here comes the girl!

Ooh nooo - she's after me tail....

Beren doin' soopervisin' - is very handy to have so many locum hounds to do me hessential duties while I has a rest - maybe we should sets up an agency....

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The Odyssey 2011: Day 20

Posted by indigodream on 8 July, 2011

Hopwas to Branston

Sorry – I’m a week behind – again!

Waving farewell to the Herbie's - doesn't her paintwork look good....

Friday 1st July

We dropped the hounds off with Richard’s mum this afternoon – they’re having a weekend of frolicking in her garden for a change. It felt very odd not to have them with us but we were glad we’d left them behind – we had the most tedious trip to the boat. We’re becoming connoisseurs of the M25 – to think that it was such a promising vintage when it was first built but today it was totally unpalatable – it took two and a half hours to travel roughly 30 miles. Thank heavens for the M40 – at least that was working! We had good reason for wanting to get to the boat in good time – we were liaising with the crew of nb Herbie who’d slowed their trip down so that we could meet up in Hopwas.

We got to the boat around 8.30pm and found something of a gathering of bloggers – nb Bendigedig, nb Gypsy Rover (Australia) and, of course, nb Herbie moored up directly in front of us. We quickly loaded our bags onto the boat and went down to the Tame Otter with the Herbies. We had the best evening – their good company, interesting chatter and easy banter lifted our spirits enormously. Neil solved the mystery of which chain owns the Tame Otter – it’s a Vintage Inn, the same as the Coy Carp back on the Grand Union. By the time we got back to the boat we were feeling much better, though I paid for my overindulgence later on in the night – note for the future: ice cold swedish cider and an enormous eton mess don’t mix!!!

Saturday 2nd July

We had a reasonable start to Saturday though it was so strange not to have to walk and feed the hounds – our usual morning ritual. Our dog-free status wasn’t to last though – at 10am we were joined by Sarah and hounds Ranger, Henry and Archie – see, we simply can’t cruise without hounds!

Isn't that beautiful?

We bid the Herbies a fond farewell and got ourselves organised. Sarah and I left the hounds with Richard and set off for Branston – our target destination. The A38 runs very close to the canal around here – it’s incessant buzz impinges somewhat on the quiet water, but it’s damned useful when doing the car shuffle! We left Sarah’s car near the Bridge Inn in Branston – there’s parking in the adjacent street but also on the roadside just over the canal bridge. Richard had set off from Hopwas along the lock-free pound on the way to Fradley Junction. Along the way he met nb Fair Fa’ – a veteran of the Royal Docks convoy a couple of years ago –  he had a nice chat and caught up with their dog news – they sadly lost their two old dogs but now have a puppy!

With Richard on the move we had to meet him along the way – a bit of co-ordination led us to Whittington Bridge – again, there’s useful roadside parking by the bridge.

We had a serene cruise along the canal – it’s shallow so we had no choice but to take it easy and enjoy the abundant scenery. The canalside was a riot of vegetation – the recent rain and summer warmth has led to a frenzy of growth. It was all very beautiful but you’d be hard-pressed to moor alongside the overgrown banks.

We noted in passing the stub of the Wyrley and Essington Canal – sadly not attached to the rest of this fascinating waterway – I know that there’s some restoration happening – I wonder if the two ends of the canal will be rejoined during out cruising lifetime?

Sarah knows this area very well, having once moored her ‘northern’ narrowboat Greyhound at Streethay Wharf before moving her ‘oop north’. She still feels it’s her spiritual home and recognised many of the boats moored there.

We stopped off at the water point just before Fradley Junction to fill our drinking water bottles – we had fond memories of meeting nb Treacle Dolly and their three greyhounds here a few years ago. Then we had another historic moment in our cruising life – we turned right at Fradley junction – new territory for us.

Busy scenes at Fradley Junction...

Fradley was predictably busy – there was one boat waiting to go down – we tucked in behind him and another boat soon tucked in behind us. Indigo Dream’s crew went to investigate the lock and I popped into the very good canalside shop for some ice-lollies – we had a hot afternoon of locking in front of us so it was a good chance to get the appropriate refreshments! As I came back from the shop, I heard a piercing voice from the hire boat behind us saying “are we sure that Indigo Dream is going down the locks?” – “yes” I replied loudly while standing right behind the lady asking the question!

Nb Ellie Rose made stately progress down the locks in front of us – their progress was slowed later when the lady of the boat apparently fell into the canal – she was unhurt and quite cheerful about it according to the boat coming up after them! The slow pace gave us plenty of time to enjoy this busy junction with it’s lively population of boaters, walkers and general gongoozlers; there were also pedal bikes, cars and motorbikes – the ‘towpath’ is the road up to the famous Swan pub. We were particularly impressed with nb Tsar who came up through top lock while we were waiting to go down – she’s a Mel Davis shell and very smart.

It wasn’t just us who benefitted from Sarah’s knowledge of this stretch – the hounds had a joyful off-lead rummage at Common Lock – a site that Sarah recalled was relatively enclosed for the hounds. The young boys Henry and Archie raced along while Ranger gamely bobbled after them.

We cruised on through the stunning countryside, enjoying the fine weather and marvelling at the traffic, which wasn’t excessive, but certainly more boats on the move than we’ve seen all year.

What do you think, boys, has she got the boat properly lined up for the lock??

We arrived in Branston in good time, and, following Sarah’s local knowledge again, we cruised on past the pub and the bridge to the stretch beyond which she assured us would be less crowded. But it’s a popular spot and we were aghast to see that the mown moorings were full.

“Reverse” yelled Richard from the bow!

Sarah sensibly declined and handed the helm to Richard for the long reverse back through the bridge to the few spaces we’d passed earlier – the moral of the tale – “a mooring in hand is worth two in the bushes”!  I took on the role of bow thruster with the pole. We merrily zig-zagged back past the moored boats to the amusement of all concerned.

But then we had the massive drama of the day – I was pushing the bow out of the bank when a movement caught my eye, there was a splosh and the horrifying sight of ripples radiating from the point where one of the greyhounds had gone overboard. To my immense relief, a little black head popped up in the centre of the ripples and I yelled at Richard to stop reversing; Sarah rushed out and we called out to Archie, who proved to be a competent swimmer! We leant over the bow and managed to catch hold of him but I couldn’t get enough of a grip to lift him back on board. We yelled at Richard some more and he ran through the boat to heroically hoick Archie out of the water. Thank heavens – with the immediate danger over we had time to notice that Sarah had started to disrobe in readiness to go in after Archie – well, she’d taken her trainers off! Obviously she’d left her top on as you can’t underestimate the merits of a wet T-shirt as a tool for attracting help from passersby!

Archie was alarmingly quiet after being rescued – he lay on his back where Richard had deposited him and didn’t move at all, though he was obviously conscious. We gently turned him over, wrapped him in a thick, fluffy towel and rubbed him vigorously – he lay there pathetically while the moorers who’d witnessed the whole drama asked after his health. We were seriously concerned – had he banged into the boat on the way down, was it head injuries, internal injuries, had he gone into shock? No, he was suffering from a near-terminal case of the ‘drama queens’ – a syndrome known to greyhound owners everywhere; as soon as we’d passed his audience of sympathisers, Archie sprang to his feet, shook himself off and appeared to have no ill effects from his dunking.

With all this going on, and the fact that we were now being approached by two boats – one from either direction, we decided to abandon the reversing and headed back towards the end of the moorings where a fisherman had miraculously moved, making room for us to get our stern onto the mown part of the bank – phew.

With our nerves ever so slightly in shreds, Sarah and I headed back to Whittington Bridge for the car and left Richard to walk the hounds. The car shuffle didn’t take very long and there followed the debate about where to eat – home-made on the towpath or a visit to the nearby Bridge Inn. We’d been told that the pub served Italian food but that the service was a bit slow. We went there anyway and found a simple but tasty pasta/pizza menu – the service was efficient enough and we had a nice time.

We all walked back to the boat,  but as we got close I heard a high pitch whistle reminiscent of the gas alarm accompanied by some deep throated barking. Fearing another drama I wobbled and wheezed down the towpath, in a rush to open the boat and rescue the hounds from some uncertain doom.  I needn’t have worried – the whistling wasn’t our gas alarm and the hounds weren’t in distress (other than Archie missing his hu-mum).

We bid a fond farewell to Sarah and the pack – it had been another priceless day’s cruising – what a store of memories we’re gathering to keep us entertained in the short days of winter. As Sarah left, we got chatting to the crews of nb Albert, nb Devon Maid and an un-named boat who makes and sells very fine rope fenders. The light had faded to a vague glow on the horizon when we suddenly realised that it was getting chilly and that the local insects had made a meal of us while we were talking – time for bed!

We had a quiet night on the mooring – and slept uninterrupted – just as well, we had a big day’s cruising ahead of us on Sunday…

Photoblog:

Click on this link to see a great action sequence of Richard trying to outpace Archie the greyhound – you need to click really quickly from photo to photo to get the effect – http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2231262908005.2133970.1440854080&l=5ca46f30f2

nb Fair Fa' looking mighty fine in her new colours .....

These carved wooden 'mushrooms' are very popular on boat roofs hereabouts....

Crop pickers hard at work - hard to see what they were picking but there was a lorry advertising parsnips nearby....

Streethay wharf - Sarah and nb Greyhound's spiritual home...

I like this garden water feature - shame it's not still joined to the canal - that would make a very tidy mooring....

Now that's a useful service - you'd need a few cans to fill our tank though 🙂

The canal in summer (1)

The canal in Summer (2)

Indigo Dream against a much photographed backdrop....

Locking is a sociable event at Fradley....

Extraordinary artwork....

Now what does that motto mean?

Henry and Archie having a race at Common lock...

A good time had by all......

Another useful canalside industry....

The canal in summer (3)

Have you got enough sheepskins there Ranger....

The canal in Summer (4)

Looking back to Alrewas Lock - a gentle introduction to the river....

The weir below Alrewas Lock....

I guess you would get a headache if you went under the wrong side....

The canal in Summer (5)

The canal in Summer (6)

Henry and Archie cooling down with an ice-lolly...

Bridge 36 - Sarah called it the 'mousehole' - how apt!

This bench is so welcoming...

The canal in Summer (7)

The olympic looking team in action - I believe there was a cat in the adjacent garden....

They're very talented - they can do indoor looking too....

Three hounds enjoying the back deck....

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