Sunday, October 26, 2014

Grand Union to Grand Western - in a day!

As we have become more and more involved with life back in Devon, having Zindagi moored at Blisworth has become more and more difficult to justify.  4 hours driving - exactly 200 miles - before we could start to do anything with the boat at all, whether that was maintenance (increasingly needed, 18 months after we stopped cruising) or even getting out for even a few days' cruising.  Since moving back to Devon in January 2013, we had been out for precisely one week!

Time for decisions!  We drove up to Bradford-on-Avon on the Kennet and Avon Canal and looked at possible moorings there.  OK, but that would still make a 2-hour trip to get to the boat.  Would we get to it any more often?

How about having it transported down to Devon on a lorry and placed on a hardstanding in a friend's farmyard?  Expensive for transport, but hopefully fairly cheap for hardstanding rental, and we would be able to get the maintenance done!  We enquired, but unfortunately the friends we had in mind did not have enough spare space and other possibilities came to nothing, except for one very expensive option.

Then Val thought of the Grand Western Canal at Tiverton.  Only 20 miles from home, just 11 landlocked miles of navigable canal.  We enquired and, yes, we could have a mooring.  The mooring and the licence were quite a bit cheaper than leaving Zindagi at Blisworth, but of course we still had to pay for the craning out onto a lorry, transport down to Devon and then craning in - definitely NOT cheap!  


Moving day was set for 17th October, but Shireen and Thor had a half-term break before that, so they joined us for just 2 days the weekend before, and we went for a sort 'there and back' trip.





Then a few days to pack up the 'breakables' ready for the trip by road, and also to spend a little time with some of our Blisworth friends.  Here we are in the 'Queen Eleanor', Val with Alan & Jan, Mary, Sally and Dianne.  Thank you, Sally for arranging the get-together!  A little sadness at the breaking of our obvious link with Blisworth by moving Zindagi, but we feel sure that this will be 'Auf Wiedersehen' and not 'Farewell' and that we will get back for the occasional visit - and maybe get some return visits in Lapford!




Friday 17th came, and we chugged the half mile round to Gayton marina to be craned out, as we have done twice before to get the bottom of the boat blacked, but this time it was onto a lorry!









All ready to go - once the lorry driver had got a buckled wheel replaced!



The driver told us he was taking a different route, so we had a surprise when we overtook the boat on the M4!  Quite a bizarre experience . . .











Shortly after 3 in the afternoon, and Zindagi was being craned into the Grand Western Canal near Halberton.  All had gone remarkably smoothly.












Just a short chug to our new moorings at Orchard Farm . . .











. . . and Zindagi was in her new home!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Early Autumn on the South Oxford Canal

More than 10 months since we returned to Blisworth from our 2012 canal travels, we actually managed to get out on the boat for more than just a short chug to get the bottom blacked!




We drove up to the marina on 21st September and, after Adam had joined us the next day, we had just enough time to get to Weedon and moor up before darkness closed in.  Red sky at night - perhaps we would have fine weather?




Climbing Napton locks - can you see the windmill on the hill?




Of course Lottie came with Adam and was soon very much at home on the boat.  Lots of long towpath walks!



We only went as far as Cropredy, moored there for the night, ate at the Red Lion again, then turned around and started back up the locks.  Here at Claydon Lock No 20, Dave on the paddle, Adam on the gate and Lottie supervising!


Back down Napton locks again the next day. This looks like the same lock, and the sun was still shining!

A lovely week, great weather, a good time was had by all.

Hard to believe that we have only cruised for one week this year!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Spring and Summer Visits

Since we last 'blogged' in January, visits to Blisworth and Zindagi have been few and well-spaced!

 In the colder weather, we tried to visit roughly once a month, so that we could make sure that the heating (on a low thermostat setting) was keeping Zindagi frost-free.  The Northampton Arm near Gayton Marina looked tranquil in its February ice-bound stillness.

 Five weeks later, and the long cold spring continued.  Snow on the Rothersthorpe flight as Dave took his morning walks.  The only 'cruising' on these two visits was to the marina's diesel pump to fill up the tank for the heating system!

 Late April, and Zindagi was booked in to Gayton Marina to be craned out for bottom blacking.  On our way up from Devon, we had a phone call from the marina to say that their crane was out of action, but that they hoped to have it working in a day or two.  As you can see, it was not just out of action, but still in pieces.

Fortunately, we had already planned to be on the boat for a week, but any hopes of getting out for a few days' cruising already looked doomed!

 Three days later, and the crane was repaired and working.  First they had to lift out a boat that had been craned out weeks ago, before the repairs, and had been waiting to be returned to the water.  You may remember that we had exactly the same experience, two years earlier!

 Then it was our turn to be lifted in.  The green algae would be pressure-washed off, and the 2-year-old bitumen coating was not too bad underneath.

 Three days later, and Zindagi looked a lot better with two more coats of bitumen blacking and the blue paint along the gunwales tidied up a bit.

Although Gayton Marina is very close to Blisworth Marina, we needed to do a short (half-mile) chug to the top of Rothersthorpe locks in order to turn around - the nearest we got to doing any actual cruising!  Our week was gone and we needed to drive back to Devon.

FIFTEEN WEEKS LATER (!), we returned to Blisworth on 9th August and found Zindagi was fine.  Batteries nicely charged from a short charge every day, diesel tank still quite full as Steve and John had kindly turned off our heating system in response to a phone call once Spring finally took hold - and still some electricity credit left in the meter!

 Our visit was planned (at short notice) to coincide with Blisworth's Canal Festival, so we have had a good wander round and seen almost all the attractions, as well as meeting up with friends.

Maybe we shall manage a week's cruise in September?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Turning the Page . . .

Many of you know that we have now returned to rural mid-Devon.

After nearly six years living on board 'Zindagi', it is proving a real wrench to have moved most of our belongings out of the boat and return to Lapford.  To be honest, it is worse when we think about it!

At the moment, we don't have much time to think about anything else apart from sorting out our bungalow, with the prospect of lots of work ahead, both indoors and out!  Six years of occupation by tenants leave their mark!

Zindagi is still there, though, waiting for us to return for visits – of various sorts!  Like all boats, ongoing maintenance will be needed.  It would be nice to be able to make a proper job of repainting the roof!  Though we started in 2012, it was not a good year for boat painting!!

If the bungalow cleaning, maintenance, repairs and improvements continue as anticipated, we shall NEED to return to Zindagi for our own sakes, and to sample again the unique waterways lifestyle which has become our own since 2007.

We know that the last 6 years have made us different people.  We have met so many wonderful people, seen so many strange, beautiful and unusual sights – and enjoyed that glorious freedom of just moving on wherever and whenever we have wanted to.  Thank you for your company as you have shared our travels.

When we get back on board for short or long cruises, we hope to update this blog with news of our travels again.  So please continue to watch this space!

Meanwhile, we have started a new blog: 'Wilanson – back to the Land in Rural Mid-Devon', in which we expect to tell you some of our experiences as we try to pick up the strands of what feels like a former life.  We hope that you will join us on a new sort of adventure . . .

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Through Leicester, up Foxton and down to Blisworth



Having slipped unobtrusively through Leicester's northern suburbs, we came along the 'Mile Straight', as the canal and River Soar make their joint presence felt.  Soon we would leave the river behind, but they are combined along this section, with the river seeming to join and leave as we travelled south through the rest of the city.


Some windows of these old warehouses had lights burning – good to see that they were still being used!


Leaving the city behind, we enjoyed a steady climb up about a dozen locks through the countryside near Newton Harcourt.




It was mid-October – autumn colours were everywhere!



After more dawdling, through Saddington Tunnel.  You can just see the other end – it's just half a mile long.



Then, when we had moored below Foxton locks, another boater said we had tied up in his favourite spot – and we soon saw why!




A misty morning on the Market Harborough arm,





 and Foxton Locks with the lock cottage looming on the skyline.




David and Mary (on a short visit with Whisk and Jester) working up the locks –




 though we had to wait halfway for an unscheduled stoppage as the lockgates were being pressure-washed.  We were told there was an open day approaching!



Leaving Husbands Bosworth tunnel on the return to Foxton, taking David & Mary back to their car.






Colourful spindle tree fruits in the Crick Millennium Wood.


An old friend spotted at Crick!  'Charlton' was the narrowboat in which we had a share from 2004 to 2006.  It was our holidays in Charlton which re-started our love of the waterways.  Still in shared ownership, but now with a gleaming new paint job.  Hardly believable that she was built about 20 years ago!



Looking back up Watford Locks – our last narrow locks of the year!



A bright November morning as we pass near Bugbrooke on our way to our winter mooring in Blisworth Marina.



Ice on the water, frost in the trees – the view from Zindagi on a crisp December day . . . but, with both central heating and our woodburner, we're nice and cosy inside!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Down to the Trent – and up the Soar


Back in late April, we had come through Great Haywood on our way northwards to Stoke-on-Trent, the Caldon Canal and points north.  Now, at the end of September (yes, the blog is still out of date!), we were rejoining the T&M to head back south – but by a slightly different route! 

Signs of Autumn!  Well, it was very nearly October!

Having travelled generally south-east from Stoke, the Trent & Mersey takes a right angle bend near Fradley and starts heading north-east.  So, although we were travelling southwards, our route would take us northwards for quite a few miles!

Fradley Junction and 'The Swan'.  We had arrived here from the Coventry Canal in April, joining the 'T' junction from the left of the picture.  Now we were following the T&M to where it joins the River Trent, so we passed straight on and down the locks.

It was actually only about 2 miles before we had a brief 'brush' with the Trent.  Near Alrewas, the canal is joined by the river (under the bridge to the left of the picture) for just a few hundred yards.  Sometimes high river levels close this section, but we were OK.

After a two-mile noisy straight section of the canal, where it runs next to the old Roman Road known as Ryknild Street (now the A38), we enjoyed the pretty surroundings of Tatenhill Lock.

Through Burton-on-Trent and on to Shardlow.  This is the old (18th century) Trent Mill, where boats used to enter to unload.  Nicely restored more than 30 years ago, but not for commercial boat traffic, it is now a pub!

Just a mile and one lock further on, the River Trent joined us from the south under this new bridge, built to replace the original 'Longhorse Bridge', which actually crossed the river from the point where the photo was taken!  This is a real '4-way' junction, as the canal comes from the west, the (un-navigable) River Derwent joins it from the north (directly opposite the Trent) and then the waterway continues eastwards under the M1 towards . . .

 . . . Sawley Marina, with the cooling towers of Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station beyond.  This busy marina is on a 'cut' separated by flood locks from the main flow of the river.

About a mile further on, we passed an even more complex junction – the 5-way junction at Trent Lock, where the Erewash Canal branches north, the River Soar joins from the south, and both the Cranfleet Cut to Nottingham and the River Trent head off eastwards.  Again, this can be hazardous in high water conditions, especially as the flow of the two rivers tends to push boats towards the Trent, which immediately plunges over the large Thrumpton Weir!  Water flow was OK as we went through, so no problems – apart from one crazy boat skipper who came down the Soar MUCH too fast, creating a potentially unsettling wash!

Entering the Soar Navigation, we were reminded again of its endearingly quirky character, almost as if we had stepped back in time, with simple rural boatyards and boats of all shapes and sizes.

A misty morning near Zouch (apparently pronounced 'Zoch'), with seagulls on the emergency moorings and the spire of Normanton-on-Soar on the skyline.

We were definitely in 'dawdling mode' now!  We were due back in Blisworth in early November, and it was now early October – lots of time!  We had allowed for possible delays caused by high river levels but so far had faced no problems.  But we were still on a river and were reminded by the level indicators that the Soar WAS a little high – in the amber, not the green, and sometimes very close to being in the red!

Loughborough, though, sits on a 'canal' section.  We needed to do some shopping, and so chugged into the Wharf (with the brightly painted Travelodge!), then turned around and moored up slightly further out of town.

Virginia Creeper climbing up a house with two ground floors – one at towpath level, the other level with the road as it crosses Nottingham Road Bridge.

Back on the river 'proper', and the Soar looking its tranquil self – but the weirs were still running well!

Looking back to Barrow Deep Lock.  The green light confirms that the river section below is safe to navigate.  Just as well – we had just come off it!

On to Mountsorrel and under its impressive brick 'conveyor' bridge (1860).

Junction Lock, near the junction of the Melton Mowbray Canal and Oakham Canal, closed in 1877 but with some recent talk of restoration.

We planned to travel through Leicester in one day, and so stopped north of the city, near Syston, at the Hope and Anchor pub.  We enjoyed Sunday lunch after a walk in the nearby Watermead Country Park – with some very photogenic teasels!