Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Astwood (I didn’t realise I could be so lazy)

Monday and Tuesday have been based around the weather.  It has been far too hot to take Buddy out between about 10 and 4.  By the same token I cannot leave him inside a boat during that time and go off and do my own thing.

It’s surprising how easy it is to only do the basics and for the last two days the only must dos were: get to boatyard at Droitwich to pick up some stuff I’d ordered; fill up with water; do the washing and go to Stratford for bridge.

On Monday morning, we walked down the Astwood flight of locks before it got too hot but by the time we were nearly home again, Buddy just laid under the bridge.  As we were moored less than 100 yards away I left him there to make his own way back when he had cooled down.

I’ve had enough of the heat he said

I’m convinced he looks at me sometimes in a way that says he blames me for the hot weather!

When we were walking down the flight I stopped at one of the locks where there was a boat going down and the lady greeted me with, ‘Aaah – we meet at last’.  It transpired she reads this blog so it was really nice of her to own up to it 😊
My memory is not so good these days so I cannot remember where they were going or where they had been but her name was Philippa and her husband’s was Steve.

Philippa taking Pippa B down the top lock at Astwood

As we were playing bridge in Stratford in the evening I had taken Karen into work just before six in the morning and then picked her up at six in the evening – at least it makes her have a short day 😉

Although we are nearly 30 miles from her office it doesn’t take long (providing it’s before and after the rush hour) but it is a boring journey.  We are near an M5 junction so it’s up to the M42 and then across to the M40 to Warwick.  We had to cancel the last couple of bridge evenings as Karen was picking me up and then we were going to Stratford; unfortunately, as it meant she left the office about 5 the traffic was crawling the whole way on the motorways.

We had had two neighbours on Monday night but they both set off on Tuesday morning.  Buddy and I helped the first couple down the flight of locks.  Maggie was driving and her husband was going ahead to set the locks whilst I closed up behind her.  They had their fenders down and I asked if she wanted me to lift them before going in the first lock but she said it was OK as they hadn’t had problems before.  Embarrassingly for Maggie the boat stuck fast exiting the top lock and it took some time to extricate her.  Anyway, her husband came back and cut the fenders off so it wouldn’t happen again.

When we got back I checked to see if Gary was in.  He lives in the house just down from where we are moored and had said we could fill up with water there.  The house is the old wharf and workshops but has been changed out of recognition.

The old wharf and workshops

I was glad Karen wasn’t there as Elaine has a new Discovery and since Karen has seen Mike and Lesley’s she is determined it’s the car she wants when the time comes to get a new one.

Gary and Elaine used to have a boat but gave it up a few years ago but he clearly regrets it which is partly why he offered me to pull up with water I suspect.  I reversed back and pulled up and he was happy for Buddy to join his dog in his garden. After tying up I went to find Buddy and he was happily eating the cat food – how embarrassing!  To make things worse he had scoffed so much he brought it all up again.  Anyway, as he is a dog he soon made it disappear and I could get on with taking on water.

Taking on water at the old wharf

Buddy finding more shade whilst we take on water

In the afternoon I cycled down to Hanbury Junction to pick up a fuel filter and spare fan belt that I had ordered.  I left Buddy on the boat but he had all the hatches and windows wide open on the waterside.
In the evening I got the barbecue going ready for when Karen got home and we ended up sitting outside until it was time for bed - it was such a light night again.  Friends of ours were down at the Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge and they have some wonderful pictures this morning - it must have been really magical to have been there.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Astwood (fancy going to London in that heat!)

Friday was the first day of the current hot spell and poor old Buddy is still not coping with the heat.  We try and take him out in the morning or evening to avoid the hottest part of the day but he would still rather laze around outside the boat.

Later on, on Friday, Karen and I took him for a little walk as we wanted some eggs and new potatoes that a local farmer sells from his house.   He laid down in each bridge we went through to have a rest and at one point stood in the water for about five minutes to cool his feet down – he even ended up just lying in the water.

Cooling down

Welcome sign

Fan keeping the eggs cool and a note to leave notes through the letterbox (I assume it's refering to monetary notes rather than their handwritten ones)

Buddy’s favourite position seems to be in the middle of the towpath so we are constantly moving him from speeding cyclists.

Favourite position

In the evening we drove to Birmingham International airport to pick up Matt and Marie who were staying with us overnight.  I know it sounds mad in this heat but we had a lovely curry in the evening that had been in the slow cooker all day.

Matt and Marie’s first visit to the new boat

We couldn’t believe that within six weeks, us and some of the family, will have been to Matt’s graduation in Prague followed by their wedding in Norway that the whole family are going to.

After a full English breakfast on Saturday morning, we dropped Matt & Marie back at the station and spent the rest of the day lazing around as it was a bit warm, like a lot of people I expect.  Even though it was hot we got the barbecue going and cooked some salmon and vegetables.

Sitting and barbecuing in the shade

The Sonic Rock Solstice had been going on since Thursday just down from our mooring but as the bands were playing indoors we decided to give it a miss because of the heat.  We had a good wander around the site which was quite respectable considering the music that was being played.  I can’t remember the name of the band but we listened to them for a while as they had a couple of old Pink Fairies members playing including Russ Hunter on drums – sounded just like we were back in the mid-70s.  Apparently past members of Hawkwind appeared over the weekend too.

Probably only 2-300 people staying in the festival campsite

Sunday was our friend Peter’s 80th birthday celebration in London. We drove down to Reading so Buddy could stay at my daughter, Lauren’s, for the day and Karen and I caught a train into town.  We hadn’t realised until we got to Paddington that most of the tube lines were out so we had a tortuous route to travel what should have been five easy stops – we even ended up getting a cab for the last bit.

Peter cutting the cake whilst showing off his talents as a public speaker after blowing out his candles

It was a brilliant afternoon and so good to catch up with so many friends, young and old.  Sadly, some of them we hadn’t seen since Peter’s 70th birthday celebration.

As the tubes were out we Uber’d back to Paddington.  Our first experience, so London friends had to set us up and show us what to do - quite a slick operation.  Our journey back to the Midlands was trouble free considering how many people must have been travelling back from day and weekend trips to the coast.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Astwood (heading the wrong way)

Thursday was moving day.  First, I had to get up to Stoke Wharf where there is a boat yard where I could get a pump out.  We set off early as the wind was forecast to get up in the afternoon.  There are a few boats on permanent moorings just up from where we have been moored and the way this one is moored reminds me of the Swallows and Amazons series of books.

Moored out of sight

The other day I mentioned about the large salt works that used to be by the canal and that the only building left standing is the old pump house.  Well, the old entrance to the works from the canal is still there as it carries the towpath.  It is blocked off at the other end but looks like it’s about 60’ long – fun place to moor if you don’t want to be disturbed by passing walkers and cyclists etc. providing you don’t mind the darkness.

Entrance to the old salt factory at Stoke Works
Ideal hideaway

We soon reached Stoke Wharf but had one lock to go up first.  Stoke Wharf is home to one of the bases of the Black Prince hire boat company.  When we used to hire boats we often went with Black Prince as the boats were always fairly new, well equipped and in good condition.

The lock leading up to Stoke Wharf

The guys at this yard were all really friendly and, as at most boat yards, made a great fuss of Buddy.  The chap who did our pump out explained that at the yard they build a new boat a month for the fleet and they currently have just over 90 boats across the different bases.  As they tend to sell them after five years I suppose it’s not surprising they have to build a new one every month.

It reminded me of our first boat, Chalkhill Blue, as we bought her from a hire boat company but she was getting on for 20 years old so was very tired.

After the pump out and getting rid of our rubbish and recycling I spun the boat round at a winding hole and headed back down south again.

Buddy waiting patiently as I bring the boat back into the loc

I was going to go back to our spot at Stoke Prior but the front of the boat had been just under an ash tree.  Wood pigeons roosted in the tree so the front of the boat was quite a mess and had taken me a while to clean before setting off in the morning.  Because of this I carried on past our spot at Stoke Prior and moored near the top of the Astwood flight.

Our new mooring at Astwood

Having turned around we are now facing the wrong way but there is a good reason for that.  Mike and Lesley are coming up for a cruise in a couple of weeks to do the locks at Tardebigge with us.  Tardebigge isn’t far from the boat yard and there aren’t really any decent places for Karen to park so I had to come back.  We’re only five locks from the next winding hole so on a nice day I’ll pop down them, turn and come back up again.

I serviced the engine in the afternoon; a job I love and hate.  There’s a good feeling when the job is done and I know I don’t have to worry about it for another few hundred engine hours but something always goes wrong.  Yesterday I manged to spill some oil when pumping out the gearbox.  Fortunately, not much, and I do keep a pack of disposable nappies handy in the engine bay for such eventualities.

The wind really did get quite strong in the afternoon so the tomato and chilli plants were soon off the roof and back in the cratch.