Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter Scrapbook – Gayton, Glasgow, Shrewsbury and Devon!

It may seem obvious, but life on board 'Zindagi' changes dramatically when we are moored up for the winter. We still live in the same (fairly small) space and, because we are not constantly travelling, you might think that we have nothing much to do. Experience shows otherwise, and the fact that the blog has not been updated very much says as much about full days as it does about lack of travel. Let's give you a little idea . . .

First of all, when we are moored up we have our car and so become paradoxically MORE mobile. Our first trip was up to Glasgow for Thor's third birthday, going via Shrewsbury as Adam travelled up with us, sharing the driving in our little old Peugeot 205. Here's Thor getting a swing from Adam and Shireen as we go for a walk in the park.

Back in Gayton Marina, late November presented Val with the subtle shades of fallen leaves floating next to the boat. We also enjoy being able to spend time with a few friends we have made in Blisworth village, as well as going to some of the meetings at the Baptist Chapel.

Dave's morning walks often take him along the Northampton Arm and sometimes he can help work the locks for boats coming up or down the locks – like this working boat breaking through the thin ice.

And then the first real snow came at the end of November. Here we are in the Marina with Zindagi's wind turbine clearly visible. Unlike in Blisworth Marina, where we have been for the previous 2 years, there seem to be very few people who visit their boats here, so we see more boatyard staff than boaters.  As the weather gets better and spring seems to get closer, gradually more boaters turn up (especially at weekends) to check up on their boats and tackle the odd maintenance jobs.

A week after the snow, the frosts! The frozen canal and locks, looking down towards Northampton. That isn't snow on the trees, it's hoar frost, right to the tip of ever twig. It was COLD! (We keep warm on board, though, with central heating and our woodburning stove – cosy!)

Just look at the length of the ice crystals on these leaves, catching the morning sunlight . . .

 . . . rabbits playing on the frozen canal . . .

 . . . and snow stacked on the twigs and berries.

Here's an unusual sight – an island of ice, gently spinning in the canal as the lock overflow 'bywash' feeds in (top left).

This handsome male Goosander came nice and close on the Severn at Shrewsbury. There were two pairs on the river there and another two pairs have visited the locks near Gayton Marina. They are fish-eaters, so must have found some food there.

So what were we doing in Shrewsbury? Having a family gathering! Adam and Rachel kindly invited us, along with Jeremy & Laura, Shireen & Thor, so we were quite a houseful! Here's Adam remembering his boyhood skills with Thor's new marble game!

Shrewsbury's deserted riverside on a misty December morning.

We were glad that the ice and snow held off for our trip there and back, but it reappeared a few days later when we were back on board. Teasels in the canalside woods.

Hope you can see these two Long-Tailed Tits all right. They are lovely little birds, but move through the hedgerow so fast that getting a picture is not very easy.

We made our regular January visit to Devon to catch up with doctors, surgeons and dentists, and took the opportunity to meet up with quite a lot of friends. Our diary filled up fast while we were there, staying the first week with Colin & Janet in Lapford and the second with David & Mary in Okehampton. Only a very little dental work to be done, medical checks OK and the surgeon was very happy with Val's replacement knees, so all very positive there. The picture? Looking down towards Lapford village, our bungalow hidden to the left, Dartmoor in the distance and a 'sea' of mist filling in the low-lying land between.

We took a fairly leisurely walk on Buckland Beacon with Peter and Rachel and enjoyed some lovely Dartmoor views, and also visited Peter and Joy (Taylor) who are obviously delighted with their house in South Brent – well worth all the waiting and planning!

And so back to the boat at the end of January, starting to think a bit more about where we might travel in 2011 . . .

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Birmingham to Blisworth – for the Winter!

Leaving Birmingham's Gas Street Basin by the same route as a few weeks earlier, and having done battle with crosswinds just round the corner as we pulled in for water, we soon found ourselves looking at the new aqueduct at Selly Oak, which had progressed greatly since we were here just a few weeks before.

You might like to look at the website that describes the project – the aqueduct is 'Project 3B' at .  You will need to scroll down a long way to find the pictures of the aqueduct, as the rest of the project seems to have also rolled ahead well.  Try comparing this photo with the picture gallery of progress – looks like the new aqueduct has been in use for some time now!

From the new to the old . . . We turned off the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at King's Norton Junction, joining the northern section of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal, and passed through the (now disused) stop lock with its characteristic guillotine gates.

We last came this way in 2007, on our first southward journey with Zindagi and had forgotten how attractive it is, despite being right on the edge of Birmingham.

Two days after leaving Birmingham, we reached Kingswood Junction, where the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal continues (right) down to Stratford itself but we branched off left to join the Grand Union. Our last narrow lock for a while! We aim to be back here later this year, to go down to Stratford again and (this time) onto the River Avon, one of the last remaining sections of the connected waterways that we haven't visited.

The rest of our journey to Blisworth would be on the Grand Union Canal, with 59 broad locks on our way – 21 of them concentrated into 2 miles at the Hatton flight near Warwick. Last time we came down, we shared locks with another boat, which shared the work and made for speedy progress down the flight – 2½ hours. This time, on our own, we still didn't do badly, getting down the 21 in just over 3 hours. This picture shows you only 6 of the locks, and they are a little further apart than it seems – telephoto lens effect!

Having come DOWN the 21 Hatton locks (plus 2 more soon after), predictably the next task was to go UP some more! 12 of them scattered along the canal from Leamington Spa onwards, then 8 all together at Stockton.

Another couple of days, and we arrived back near Blisworth as planned. When we enquired about a winter mooring at Blisworth Marina back in October, we had been surprised to learn that it was fully booked up, but we tried the nearby Gayton Marina and were able to get a good space when we arrived.

That was back in November, and we are still here!  We should have a little more of an update for you soon . . .