Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Moving south

We got up and out from Foxton a few days after Balmaha left. Got through Bosworth tunnel with our Bimini folded down and continued on to Welford junction. Here the visitor moorings have a concrete edge, rings and dry grass. Lovely to also find shelter from the wind. Next day we moved on and passed this seriously broken bridge.

Why are we seeing more of this damage? Is it due to lack of maintenance or increased boat traffic? A testament to the strength of these old brick built bridges is that they are still standing after suffering such damage.

This mooring by Barn Bridge 27

Stopped by Skew bridge to get water and met Peter n Pat from Molly May II. They have been travelling the waterways longer than we have. First met at Braunston and happen to meet at least once a year somewhere on the system. We moved on to near Yelverton and stayed a few days waiting for post. A few birds have found our feeders hung in the bushes.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Stuck in ice

Five days in one place and unable to move because the hire boats from Market Harborough are not going past us to break up the ice. The fog and frost making a blanket of white among the trees and grass. Just hoping the forecast of rising temperatures will arrive soon to remove the ice.

Diesel and water are becoming low. After 2 weeks we usually start looking to fill them up. Checked the tanks to find the water half full and the diesel half empty. “Or was that the other way round”? When the ice became soft after 2 days of above freezing temperatures we were able to move on to the facilities. Then on through the swing bridge to get diesel at Foxton Boat Services for 65p/litre. Then on to the visitor moorings where Les popped in for a cuppa and chat. The day before we had helped Mo n Vanessa up through the locks. They had broken ice to get out of Market Harborough.
Sheep in a cold and frosty field.

The last time we were at Foxton the site was under development. Now it has become a wonderful place full of interest and public amenities and is clearly popular.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Warm friends and cold ice

Mo n Vanessa suggested going off on a bus to town next morning at 10. A good day out in warm sunshine with our friends showing us around and enjoying a snack at ‘Joules’, a little cafe found down a narrow side street. After a fruitless search for printer ink we returned to the boats.

After a Tesco delivery both boats moved half way to Market Harborough stopping at a quiet place with a hard edge, dry tow path, a few trees and a hedge to hang the bird feeders on. Those last few days started cold with some ice on the cut which did not stop us moving. So took our boat down to Market Harborough to use the facilities. A few low bridges were squeezed under without having to lower the ‘bimini’. Looked for one of those caches, got bread n milk from a local shop and returned later to enjoy an evening on ‘Balmaha’.
Next day we left Mo n Vanessa to meet Terry n Myra at Foxton who arrived by car to stay on board for a few days. We got away from the still very public lock area to turn before the tunnel and stopped near Smeeton Westerby. Myra has kindly provided our first meal together which we enjoyed with a drop of wine. It became cold and frosty outside and the ice returned. After a breakfast of warm porridge we all went for a morning stroll returning to find the ice nearly gone. A few boats had passed by so we moved back to Foxton after lunch. The forecast was suggesting even colder evenings and we did not wish to be trapped away from the facilities. Just as well as the temperature dropped rapidly to – 7 over night.
We did not move at all next day and enjoyed a game of Mah-Jongg together. We joined the public to explore the recently cleared Inclined Plane and got refreshments at the cafe. The ice stayed all day and became cluttered with debris as the public kept throwing stones on to the ice. Even removing them from the very path they were walking on! “Must have been amused by the strange sound the ice makes when hit by large stones”. Just hope that British Waterways are taking their money at the ‘Foxton Locks’ pub and museum here to help maintain the attractions.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Foxton facilities

We both walked 6 miles there and back to Foxton. It was a sunny Saturday and when we got there were surprised to find it so busy. “Well it is half term and all the hire boats are coming out of Market Harborough”. Most of them joining the queue to go up the locks. Two lock keepers were on hand to offer advice and assist. One dressed with a bowler hat. We got there at midday and enjoyed a snack from the cafe by the top lock. Boaters tended to stop at the top for a rest by occupying both water points! There is also a pub and a boater’s cafe at the bottom. There is a car park at the top and bottom as well. That Saturday was a wonderful start for their holiday but what did they think when waking up to frost n ice in the morning?

The site of the Inclined Plane has been cleared of trees and undergrowth so can be seen for what it is, a derelict area. Much of the equipment has been lost or destroyed many years ago. It was operating in 1900 to bypass the locks. Powered by steam proved very uneconomical so was soon closed. The planned widening of the Watford locks never took place so the link between the wide north and south Grand Union canals remained narrow to this day.

We took our boat down a few days later. Ice had formed over night but was nearly gone when we moved. Got water at the top lock and waited a while for one boat to come up. Then it was our turn to go down the ‘stair case’ locks. By now it was a sunny warm day and many ‘gongoozlers’ were watching and helping as we went down. Each lock has a foot bridge across it and our biminy only just went under most of them but had to lower it a few inches for one bridge. At the bottom we turned right and opened that new swing bridge to head towards Market Harborough. But then stopped before a bridge where ‘Balmaha’ was waiting with Mo n Vanessa.

Friday, February 08, 2008

More wind, sunshine and walks

While it was windy we stayed put tied securely to rings ashore. Some weekenders ventured out but struggled to navigate along the canal with the wind pushing the boat off course. The water was whipped up into breaking waves. The sun came out next day and we moved on to Mill Bridge 40. A complete contrast to the previous days weather.

We walked up to North Kilworth, down past a farm following a very muddy bridle way. In places seeing signs of an early spring. The Katkins are out. The village was only a mile away but was mainly uphill and when we got there discovered no shop so walked round the church and returned to the boat. The wind and rain returned during the night and our fire was blown out! That anti down draft chimney was simply ineffective so it got removed.
We have been hanging up containers of nuts, seeds and a fat ball on the hedge. So we can watch the birds as they gather round sometimes being possessive about their discovery. An interesting assortment of types appeared and we looked them up in our book of birds. A robin, blue tits, coal tits, blue finch, hedge sparrow......Have all been identified. When we leave, a fat ball is left behind.
‘The old gent has been following the Jurassic Way and getting his leg over those styles again’

Down at Welford there are many walks to do. Like ‘round the reservoir’ or go on the ‘Jurassic Way’. “Why not look for the source of the Avon”. The locals provided confusion. Some said it was several miles away, while others said it starts at the reservoir. So we really do not know. The reservoir was created to supply water for the canal and in turn gets water from the surrounding hills which are dripping wet with several springs. So the Avon does start somewhere round here.
We did see some Grebe, Greylag & Canada geese and Coot. A fisherman pulled out a huge pike.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Walk about and storms

Back up the Watford flight of locks we decided to explore as it was a sunny day. Ann got the electronic map out and created a ‘route march’ of 3 1/2 miles to Watford and back. Down to the locks on the tow path then across a muddy field, under the motorway, up round the church and back to the boat. Proved difficult to get ones ‘leg over’ some of those stiles!

Next day we moved on to Crick through that wet tunnel. “It is always raining in there”. Then we discovered that the marina was closed on Mondays. “Needed diesel you see”. Will just have to stay overnight on those empty reserved winter moorings. They are apparently controlled by Crick Marina and not British Waterways. By the way we now have our new Gold Licence having collected our post. Having got the tank filled for 56p a litre we moved on to be near Yelvertoft, passing another broken bridge. It seems that some marinas are just profiteering.

A walk to Yelvertoft found a small Post Office / Shop with plenty of local fruit n veg and just up the road an excellent butcher. The walk was along a well kept bridle way which connects Yelvertoft and Crick in a straight line crossing the canal twice and passing Crack Hill. That hill looks a bit unnatural and it turns out that it was created when the tunnel was dug out!

Then the storm came through. We had to go out in the morning to tie down our back cover which was flapping about in the high winds. Thankfully no damage was done. Back inside the boat we felt secure as the storm continued to rage outside. Had breakfast and by noon the storm had passed.

We had done a local search for Geocaches and found one near the tunnel. We cut across on that bridle way and actually located the box using our GPS map. The trip took a full hour and 20 minutes there and back. It was sunny but with a cold wind and we got back to the boat just before a snow storm. Next day we woke to find ice had formed on the canal.