Thursday, 25 August 2016

On the way to Oxford

We have finally slowed down and put in a nice short day! We have been moving 'at speed' over the last few days, not something I like doing. The cruising also included doing something I thought I  would never have to do and that is arriving on to a mooring in the dark.

We left Market Harborough early 'ish' on Monday arriving at the bottom of Foxton Locks well before lunch. I made the trek up the hill to check in with the lock keeper while Rachael stayed with the boat, for some reason they were all up the top with no boats. The word from the lock keeper was to go straight in to the bottom lock. It's the first time we've had a cheer squad to get us into a lock!

No boats coming down and one other boat followed us up the two five-lock staircases. There was plenty of help for Rachael with the gates along the way and plenty of CRT guidance as well.

Foxton nearly done
 Bronze statue of Dolly the canal horse at the top lock
We ended the day on a nice rural mooring just before Husbands Bosworth Tunnel (1170yds).

On Tuesday the cruising was going along nicely, the views of the surrounding countryside were picturesque England, right up until we met the boater moving at 'tick-over' that was oblivious to all that surrounds him. I had plenty of time to take this shot to remind me that autumn was coming, the tow path is covered with leaves, not long before we head home.

We cruised past Crick Marina, no one we knew was home.

And then we got to Watford Locks where we took our place at number six in the queue. Once again we found the lock keeper, this time at the bottom of the locks and put our boat name down and waited, and waited...four hours before we moved into the top lock. Rachael and I locked up Serafina and took our windlasses to help speed up the process a little.

Queuing around the bend as some boaters take in the sunshine.
Watford Locks from the top
With four hours out of our day we decided to keep on going heading into Braunston Tunnel (2042 yds), our third tunnel for the day. We passed one boat just after the half way point and met a second head-on, on my right hand side, his left. Fortunately we had both slowed to a snail pace. It was a hire boat and the faces on the people on the bow deck was priceless.

We hit Braunston Locks rather late and we were tempted to moor in the pound with two locks to go but I was certain at this time of year we would easily get a mooring at Braunston, even if it was 8:45pm. I was wrong, we continued through Braunston and turned at the junction towards Napton.

We grabbed a spot 200m after the junction, we knew the moorings were shallow, but any port in a storm (or the dark). We managed to moor almost behind the boat we moored behind last year at the Braunston show. Only difference here is Serafina has done around 1000mls since, this boat hasn't moved.

We  slipped off the mud of our shallow Braunston mooring to start our Wednesday ready to take on Napton Locks, we are starting to get used to narrow locks again after being up north where the locks are mostly short and wide. We were heading back to Oxford, we were only there on the boat a year ago. We passed the windmill at Napton on the Hill, this is the closest picture you will get from me. I think I'll leave it to Tom from NB Waiouru to go up there and get a closer shot!

The Water Buffalo herd were still there, I think the herd has grown since last year.

When I get a chance I'm tempted to try a selection of the farms' produce, steaks, cheese and ice cream, the locals tell us it's a dairy herd! May call in to the farm on the way back.

We had a close call on the second last lock of the day when the bottom gate paddle wouldn't rise further than 100mm, the other gate paddle was taped up as inoperable. It took around thirty minutes for the lock to empty and we could get a boat out so we could go in, we called CRT to report it while we waited! Our lock fill took around five minutes, the top gate paddles were working nicely thank-you. We finished the day at Fenny Compton on the first visitor mooring near The Wharf Pub. Not a problem on a Wednesday night but I would think twice if it was a Friday night! We also remember there was a lot of entertainment here last time as lots of hire boats try to wind (turn) with another two boats on the water point in the turning hole. We took our seats and drinks at the pub and waited but no boats turned up...damn!

Today, I hauled Serafina back a boat length on to the water point and filled with water. I had started the engine fifteen minutes earlier and Rachael had started a wash so we could the most benefit out of the water fill. It was a nice fast fill and the wash was on the spin cycle when we left to ten minutes around the corner to fill with diesel at Fenny Compton Marina. We had done most of the hard yards earlier in the week so after we ploughed through the undergrowth just after Fenny Compton without scratching the boat we knocked over the next nine locks rather quickly. There were very few boats heading towards Oxford and lots going the opposite direction. They were queued at Napton yesterday and they were queuing at Claydon Locks today.

We arrived in Cropedy just in time to tie up and wait out a heavy rain shower. Hoping to get a mooring at Banbury for the long weekend we completed one more lock and took up a rural mooring just above Lock 27. It's only a short run from here into Banbury tomorrow.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Market Harborough

Yesterday we knocked over all the locks between Leicester and Foxton, we were on a roll and the weather was improving as the day wore on. Saturday's forecast was for more rain and we wanted to keep moving to position the boat for a meeting with friends from Australia. Today's cruising was going to be much shorter than first anticipated and with the meeting now cancelled we headed through Foxton and turned left on to Market Harborough Arm.

On our way to Foxton we passed through Seddington Tunnel (881 yds) only 15 minutes from our mooring and an hour later we stopped at Debdale Wharf to relieve us of the contents of the holding tank. The rain wasn't threatening but it was very gusty, Serafina was getting pushed about where there was no protection from the wind. Heading into Market Harborough we passed the Visitor Moorings, which were full, and ended up in the basin at Union Wharf. The wind was sweeping across the basin and it was a challenge to get Serafina around and safely to the side.

With no moorings available in the CRT Visitor Moorings, there looked to be space for around ten boats, we decided to spoil ourselves and pay for a mooring in the basin (Union Wharf) with electric hook up at £10 per night.The cruise from Foxton to Market Harborough took us two hours. The canal is a reasonable depth apart from a couple of spots and it is very pleasant countryside to be cruising in.

Serafina moored up at Union Wharf
We spent quite a few hours over the two days looking around Market Harborough. Market Harborough is a nice town, plenty of shops and lots of parks. A market town wouldn't be without its markets, there was a small market under the old grammar school, a 17th Century Grade 1 listed building. We found another market, much larger, on our walk around town.

The church, St Dionysius, dates back as far as 13th Century. Apparently most of the building dates to 14th and 15th Century.

The grammar school with St Dionysius Church in the background

Sunday afternoon we managed to wash down most of Serafina and clean all the windows. By the end of the afternoon all the temporary moorings at the Wharf were full.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Cruising to Leicester and Beyond

We had allocated a two night stay in Nottingham, it's been over thirty years since we were here last. Thirty years ago Rachael left in a huff after our tour of Nottingham Castle grounds, the tour guide had basically told her Robin Hood had never existed. We ventured back to Nottingham Castle, not to take a tour but to just take a look around the area and it seems now they have grasped the legend of Robin Hood whole-heartedly...much better for tourism! Still nothing that says he existed or who he was but no more 'ifs', 'buts' or 'maybes' on the signage I read either. There was a nice big bronze statue across the road from The Castle Pub where had lunch and a drink or two.

The front gate of Nottingham Castle is very impressive but not too much left inside the castle walls, this was another demolished after the English Civil War.

After the castle Rachael was keen to walk around the city centre which had an extensive pedestrian zone. Almost reminded me of home with the "ding, ding" of trams through the streets.

Before we took off the next morning Rachael and I checked out the retail park only 200 metres from the moorings. We didn't need anything in particular, just popped in to see what shops were there. While Rachael spent most of her time in Mothercare looking for bargains for the grandchildren I was next door in a very large outdoor store.

Leaving Nottingham, we cruised out on the last leg of our trip on the River Trent, reaching the junction with the River Soar (GU Leicester Section) and Erewash Canal in a few hours. Straight ahead is the Trent and Mersey Canal, it's only a few days to Stoke-on-Trent from here but we still have over a month before we head home to Australia so it was left on to the Grand Union as planned.

I must admit that our cruise on the River Soar was closer to cruising on a canal than a river after being on the Trent. The Soar's current was much gentler and there were no high sides either. We filled with diesel at Kegworth Marine at the right price of 57p/lt (cash only) and a nice easy jetty to moor at too. We finished the day at the moorings in Zooch. It had been a rather warm day so a trip to The Rose and Crown followed although Rachael wasn't keen trekking along a public path, through a field with a herd of cows. When she saw the moorings outside the pub there was discussion about me going and getting the boat, we put that argument to rest quickly.

We had planned to moor in Loughborough rather than Zooch but we had just kept going, it was such a nice day. A late start and Loughborough was a short cruise on so on arriving we tied up the boat, walk into town and found The Three Nuns Pub had a nice lunch menu. We finished the day at a lovely little town called Barrow-Upon-Soar.

Three lovely days in a row as we headed for Leicester, once again cruising longer than we had planned. However, the cruising from Thurmaston Lock was just plain annoying. I was doing the lock work an I was lucky enough to get to shut every top gate and lower every top gate paddle to Leicester. Only four locks I know, but still!! We did see the culprit leave Thurmaston too, about a 30' narrowboat with at least eight kids on the roof and another half dozen down below, we were expecting a rescue mission!

The cruise coming into Leicester was disappointing, the amount of rubbish in the river/canal was quite bad. We passed many mills on the way in, many abandoned and in disrepair.

We had been told by other boaters back in Lincoln that there were some new CRT floating pontoon moorings coming into Leicester from our direction so we kept an eye out near Friar's Mill marked in our Pearsons. Three boats already moored there and plenty of room for us and maybe an additional thirty footer too. Water on the jetty and I assume from the posts on the jetty there will eventually be power.

There was plenty to see and do in Leicester, I've posted just a few photos from the castle, the guild hall and museum and of course Leicester Cathedral where Richard III now lies.

One of the gates up to Leicester Castle

Gate into the Castle Forecourt

The Guild Hall and museum
Leicester Cathedral
Tomb of Richard III
Heading out of Leicester it was rather damp, mainly light rain. Parking was at a premium in Leicester but I don't think this city parking space will be terribly cheap gauging by the amount of equipment that was up on the high bank preparing to lift the car out.

Expecting more heavy lock arms and tight mechanisms I was back on the locks. The locks heading out of Leicester are not in terribly good condition with paddles that don't work and so are difficult to fill. Several locks have mechanisms taped up and are waiting for the winter stoppages I guess.

There was nothing wrong with this lock below except the cow wanted to have a drink near where I was standing, she eyed me off and decided to try further along the river.

Showers persisted most of the day but we were on a roll and finished the day on a rural mooring just after Lock 18 in bright sun, a 24 lock day!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Leaving the Tidal Trent Behind

It's taken a while to get this down on paper, so to speak, with internet connections not exactly the best. Worst of all it has been very quiet as we cruised along, particularly on the rivers where it is difficult to see anything, just as mentioned last post.

We managed our short cruise from Lincoln to Torksey Lock after our battery overhaul the day before. Plenty of time to fill the water tank and chat to the other boaters before our midday launch on to the Trent. The weather was a little overcast so I put on my wet weather gear to try and keep the rain at bay,  it never seems to rain much when you're prepared!

It wasn't long before Rachael had lunch ready, quiche and homemade ginger cake.

Not much to view along the way, this old mill did pop up. It looks like its working days are well behind it and its all accommodation these days.

There was no looking for a sign or a gap in the side of the river to turn into Cromwell Lock, this time you couldn't but run into it. The lock to the right of the photo and the huge weir to the left.

Once in the lock I told the lock keeper that we would avail ourselves of the lock moorings once through the lock. I was a little tired after cruising from Lincoln to Cromwell and you need to be extra vigilant on the river part of the cruise. We took a mooring on the wall just outside the lock along with all but one boat that continued on. Great view back from the mooring to the top of the weir.

We set off early the next morning, in fact second boat off the moorings, and headed for Newark. We cruised into Newark two hours later just as another boat set off from the jetty moorings, we promptly dropped into the spot otherwise it was going to be on the wall, meaning a small climb up to the path. There are plenty of moorings in Newark, all close to the centre of town. The jetty is very popular because water and electricity (if you are lucky) is available to all the boats.

Newark is a market town of around 25 thousand with a rich history in the English Civil War. There was enough shops and sights to see to keep us busy for a few days. The view from the mooring was very good, this was taken just up from the mooring.

The centre of town is mainly pedestrian mall, beautiful old buildings and all situated around the market square. This building, currently a credit union, with a normal shop front until you stand back and look up.

Market square
The Church of St Mary Magdalene was prominent from most points around Newark, having one of the tallest spires in the UK.

The church is a Grade 1 listed building and parts of the it date back to the 11th or 12th Century. It was difficult to get a good picture with buildings and a heavily treed park surrounding it.

A second day in Newark started with a bit of excitement. For some reason a boater in a 70ft narrow boat who had cruised well past the jetty moorings decided he wanted to back track and fill the 35' of jetty that was left behind us. He under-estimated the wind and the current, this was the result.

I saw him hit the plastic boat, pushed the side in around 20cm and it sprung straight back out again. We spent the next hour trying to remove it, we were against the fast running Trent, the wind, the stern was grounded and it was against the far bank. Hauling the bow around eventually freed it and he arrived in the mooring behind us with half his boat moored, the other half hanging off the jetty, two ropes securing it.

I took a few more pics of the remains of Newark Castle, not too much left after three long sieges. Newark was a Royalist stronghold so the Parliamentarians, the winners, made sure there wasn't much left.

Newark Castle from the park
Newark Castle from the river
Our mooring was across the river from a metal recycling centre, they were happy to take my five old boat batteries off my hand. They were very helpful too, providing a wheel barrow for me to haul them across the footbridge. Money in my pocket!

We spent three days in Newark and headed off up the Trent towards Nottingham with an overnight stop at Gunthorpe along the way. There were a few interesting obstacles along the way.

The Trent break out over a natural weir for around 500 metres.

Plenty of ponies, ducks and geese
Coming into Nottingham it got a little crowded, there were probably around thirty sailing boats going all over the place!

We cruised into Nottingham along the Nottingham and Beeston Canal where there were no shortage of moorings although, the mooring rings were spaced at very awkward spacing; for a 57' boat anyway. The closer to Castle Marina we got the ring spacing changed and we were able to tie up right near Sainsbury's and a retail park, very handy!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Fossdyke Navigation and Lincoln

It was a nice sleep-in on the Torksey Lock Visitor Moorings, breakfast and then the two and half hours cruise along the Fossdyke Navigation to Lincoln. My information is that this navigation, built by the Romans in AD120, is the oldest navigation still navigable in the UK.

This navigation was much like a river, because of the high sides it was difficult to see much until we cruised through a town or village. You can see from the photo, always looking up to see out.

We cruised through Saxilby and noticed very few moorings available, only one space for a 57' narrowboat, all full other than that. We arrived in Lincoln around 11:30am after the usual tick-over cruise for over a kilometre of boats in private moorings. The Fossdyke Navigation opened out into the Brayford Pool.

We continued on through the pool, plenty of people out enjoying the bright sunshine and plenty of entertainment along the dockside. The other side of the pool was predominantly taken up by the university. Cruising on under the bridge we passed through 'The Glory Hole' and moved into the heart of the city. High Bridge, 'The Glory Hole' is supposedly the oldest bridge in the UK still standing with buildings atop. Having cruised under High Bridge it was only proper to check out what was on top! Turns out it was a lovely little cafe...yum!

High Bridge, sailors call this bridge 'The Glory Hole'

The view atop of High Bridge
The moorings began virtually straight after we passed through The Glory Hole and continued on right through the city. We didn't strike any boats moored at the time and after a short discussion winded in the pound just before Stamp End Lock on the edge of the city.

The Brayford Pool looked like a nice place to spend a few days so we made a call to the marina which only had the one spot available, breasted up to another boat overnight. Rachael and I locked up after tying up and having a bit of a chat with the other boat owners, Keith and Linda on NB Midsummer.
The first thing you notice about the Lincoln skyline, even from several miles out, is the dominance of the cathedral on the skyline.

The centre of town is dominated by large pedestrian shopping malls. The main mall heads up the steep hill to the castle and has the first of the castle gates traversing it.

Rachael and I took a tour on the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus to take in the sights. After a full circuit of the city it was an easy decision to start at the top of the hill, visiting the Castle and Cathedral first. The castle was built around the time of William the Conquer on an existing Roman fortress.

Poppy display inside the castle

Going down the hill from the castle
Inside the cathedral is quite spectacular

On Monday, our touring over, the Boat Electrician arrived to install new batteries and rewire the battery set-up. This something that has been needed since we purchased Serafina, it seemed a good time to do it when new batteries were needed as well. The spaghetti has finally been sorted out!

We had intended to cruise to Torksey Lock to overnight with the original estimate for the battery work being four hours. We didn't quite make it having finished around 8pm, fortunately we had a midday launch booked for our cruise down to Cromwell Lock and off the tidal part of the River Trent.