Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lift Off at Last !

Back in Blisworth at the beginning of November, our 'second home' as it has become, it was good to be able to meet up with friends in the village again and settle in to our 'winter routine'. Our little old Peugeot 205 had been sitting safely on our friends' driveway through the summer, so we parked it at the marina again and were more mobile in spite of being moored up – strange paradox!

Before we completely stopped, though, we had a short trip planned. David and Mary had hoped to come with us in September but had been prevented by illness, so we re-scheduled a short excursion for 3½ days, over to Braunston and back. Here's David at the helm with Mary and Whisk. A very pleasant few days with quite reasonable weather!

A very mild November gave us a wide variety of fungi along hedgerows and towpaths.

Then, on 30th November we received another text message from Wickers World, the ballooning company, telling us that there were some last-minute vacancies for a flight the next day. You may remember that we have been trying to book our flight since August 2010!! We booked, and drove up to Adam's the next day before he came with us to see us off. Here's the balloon being filled up with hot air.

Filled up and ready for us to get on, but then a big surprise . . .

 . . . especially for Adam! Not all the vacancies had been filled, so he was able to come with us, and away we went, with Val on her video camera.

High above Whitchurch (Shropshire) but amazingly with absolutely NO sense of vertigo. Apparently that's normal!

Firing up for a bit more lift. In between these occasional bursts, the flight was quiet and apparently windless, as we travelled with the breeze.

The Shropshire Union Canal at Audlem, as we have never seen it before. A fairly familiar length of canal from a very unfamiliar viewpoint!

Jon, our pilot, made the whole trip most enjoyable. Confident, friendly and informative, he made us all feel very much at ease. There were 15 passengers altogether . . .

 . . . and here we all are! An ingenious arrangement with a remote controlled camera meant that Jon could take a few snaps of us all, and this is the one that was finally selected.

Looking for a landing spot brought us down a bit lower over the trees and then, after one aborted landing,

 we touched down! Well, bumped down, really! A couple of sliding bumps before it stopped, then the basket teetered a little before finally flopping gently over – and we crawled rather than climbed out. A very good end to a great flight!

But we weren't finished yet! Jon got us all helping to squeeze the air out of the balloon before folding it up and packing it onto the trailer.

Back in the land crew's Land Rovers to the place we had started from, to retrieve the car – but not before a mug of hot chocolate in the nearby cafĂ©!

 – and we had the certificates to prove we had finally done it!

Thanks to Adam, Jeremy and Shireen for our lovely joint birthday presents for 2010 – sorry it took so long to actually DO it !

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Special Journey to London!

Having arrived back in Blisworth at the end of August, we moored up on the towpath between Candle Bridge and Station Road. It's a little nearer to the village than the marina is, and we would soon be on our way back down the Grand Union – to London again!

You 'travelled' down with us earlier in the year, so we will just pick out a few highlights of this journey for you . . .

On our way up the first two locks at Marsworth, we teamed up with Anne and Keith on 'Tournesol' (French for 'Sunflower'). We often share locks with other boats, but this time found that we seemed to get on particularly well, so we decided to travel together for a while. It certainly helps having two people to operate wide locks and the company was most enjoyable!

The next day, we went up the main Marsworth flight, stopped for lunch near Cowroast and then down a couple of locks to Dudswell, where we stopped for the night. We took a walk round the little park near the canal and found this interestingly-carved log. Click on the picture to zoom in and see what the fox is chasing up the tree!

'Tournesol' and 'Zindagi' sharing a lock at Berkhamsted . . .

 . . . and a Red Admiral getting a good feed on ivy blossom.

We were already running well ahead of schedule, so we stopped at Cowley while Keith and Anne went on – "See you in Paddington!" Here's a heron on a good fishing perch in the morning sunlight.

Five days (and a lot of dawdling) later, we DID meet up in Paddington Basin. On the following Friday, on the dot of 12 noon, we saw the 'Heatherwick Rolling Bridge' in action. We had walked over it several times when in Paddington before, but evidently we hadn't been there at 12 noon on a Friday! It is hydraulically operated with 7 rams on each side pushing up the handrails.

Shireen and Thor joined us for a walk along the towpath, because they were in London for the same reason as we were . . .

 . . . Jeremy and Laura's wedding! (October 8th) Val only took a few photos, leaving the official photographer to take his – all 509 of them!

And you may as well see this one, too – you have never seen us dressed up like this before!

Thor on the boat near Islington as we headed on eastwards through London – not four yet and growing fast!

Mid-October as we went up the River Lee:  Spindle berries and Michaelmas daisies reminding us that autumn was just around the corner.
"Season of mists . . . " morning on the river near Broxbourne.

Michael and Christine came and stayed with us again – with Faith this time, who had just moved near to the river at Cheshunt. They certainly enjoyed themselves, so we look forward to seeing them on board again before too long..

Back through London in glorious late October sunshine. This is the Hertford Union Canal, just over a mile long, with 3 locks, running beside Victoria Park and linking the Regent's Canal with the River Lee.

After another couple of nights in Paddington Basin, we set off back north. Dan joined us at Croxley (near Rickmansworth) and came as far as Berkhamsted. Great having him (and Raffa!) on board again, if only for a couple of days.

It was late October now but the autumn colours were only just starting to show.

Here's that same cottage at Marsworth again - Virginia Creeper at its best!

Misty morning sunshine near Old Linslade.

So, back to Blisworth, mooring by the towpath for a couple of nights before checking back into Blisworth marina for the winter! If you look carefully, you can see Zindagi's wind turbine!