Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Hawkesbury - a Sutton stop

Right! Well here we are on our way to Sutton stop as
promised. . . . . . But I can't finish this bit tonight 'cause that bells are calling again and I'll see; I might do it later. There are some super photos to look forward to.

So here we were: Cracking day, and you wouldn't believe it - another spur of the moment start after a pump-out. Well, I suppose you need to wash your hands after a week or two of being moored up doing spring boating touch-ups and the like.

So on an impulse, off we we went for another trip to the junction, only the bicycle was removed - we weren't going to need it on a short trip. Anyway, here are some pictures of a perfect English spring day (well two actually). It is amazing how much gardening and spring cleaning can be done while under way!!

With high spirits and lots of Spring optimism we thumped our way past the M6 and then Ansty - thought of mooring but decided that a drink in the Greyhound was in order.

Has anyone noticed that there is a 'Super car' graveyard just outside of Sutton Stop? Well, in this weather you could hardly miss it. I have in the past with hat pulled low over 'wind swept brows', however on this day, the owneror gardener was busily pushing a mower between the dead cars and vans. Very noble, I'm sure, but judging from the length of the grass growing under wings, fenders and rusting bodywork, none of them were going very far. I did though catch a glimpses of Jeremy Clarkson and his team looking over the hedge and wondering whether their prides and joy were going to be lurking in a canal side meadow. letting the grass grow under their wheels.

So Here we are minutes later (got her on the plane with the twin diesels for last bit) at Hawkesbury junction!!
Waiting for the stop lock while a boat was coming through, I heard a voice in my ear telling me 'you're going over that bridge boy, whether you like it or not!'

Turning around, I asked 'what??' Only to find that the gentleman giving the order was talking to his large shag-pile Labrador. We got chatting and he was most interested in Gleemaiden (quite a bit of technical stuff). And best of all with cigar in mouth, helped Audrone push the lock gate open. When the gate was again closed, bot dog and gentlemen crossed via the gate - no need for the bridge, I think the dog decided.

Now, there are disasters and disasters, but Sutton Stop is not the place to have a whole branch suddenly caught up in the blades and rudder. Well, if it can, it will and did.
Nothing was obvious as I made an exit from the stop lock and I certainly didn't expect anything. Gleemaiden passed the boat waiting to enter to lock and had to take a somewhat shallow turn, putting the bows through the Horsley Ironworks bridge and nosing slowly into the Coventry canal beyond.

All seemed to go well, but steering a little sluggish, until I put her astern!! All manner of horrid noises erupted from underneath the counter. The worst was a thrashing sound like somebody had lashed a cat-of-nine-tails to the prop shaft using steel wire. It was awful.
Worse was that there were gongoozelers hanging over the towpath bridge at the junction (only about a dozen), but there must have been about fifty hanging around the Greyhound beer garden. I didn't look. pictures show them watching the show.

In the end, with quite a bit of coaxing from the engine, a little help from the wind and the fact that I still had a good bit of forward thrust, Gleemaiden came into perfect line for the re-entry of the lock. I did think of mooring up on the starboard approach bollards, but we both decided that the water point above the lock was a more appropriate place to carry out the weed hatch business.
It was half a willow branch tangled with hawthorn, but with a bit of knife and pliers it was dragged free from behind the counter by Audrone. Maybe we should also keep some secateurs on board. Why is it that you always manage to cut one of your fingers when clearing rubbish from around the blades? Never mind, we found a good mooring about 200 yards further down where we decided that dinner on board was now a good option. And guess what?? No BBQ and no lamb!
It was therefore to the greyhound that we repaired - only to find that we had a good two hour wait before dinner was available, so two two ciders later we were back on the boat cobbling together a makeshift meal, followed by an early night. Putting up the television aerial for one night seemed a bit of a time wasting exercise and besides neither of us could remember whether there was anything worthwhile watching.
An early start the next morning saw us heading back down the canal toward Brinklow. Another cracking day and the wollens were soon off and jackets discarded as the sun rose higher in the blue sky.
Audrone got out the blackbird, goldfinch and Robin again and fooled the birdlife in the hedgrows that we passed into talking to a narrowboat. These fluffy toys have realistic bird calls for educating people to recognise British birdsong. They were purchased from Wyvale Garden Centre at Church Lawford, after much testing and laughter - especially when two shop assistance came out of the office and stalked up arms akimbo to find three senior members of the public trying amidst some hilarity, all the birds on display. The second childhood has arrived already, can't wait for the third!!
WE stopped to fuel up at Rose Narrowboats and caused quite a bottle-neck when we had to moor breasted up as the third boat accross the cut to reach the diesel point. They allow you to self declare at Rose, but I'll only say that I din't claim 100% domestic use or 100% cruising. Chap at the counter told me that the officials had gone through his declaration forms last week.
Whilst we were fuelling up a Rose, a boat came by with a couple of well known characters on board. They were Ron and Beryl Wilson. Ron used to be a working boatman and his boat is a cut down and converted 'Josher', according to the chap at Rose Narrowboats. Interestingly, his son is also in the boat business and ownd Les Wilson Boats, but is too young to have been on the working boats. As a matter of fact Ron himself must have been fairly young when the majority of them ceased trading after the 1963 big freeze which was when BW pulled the plug and only a handful of small operaters like Willow Wren kept going for about another five years.
After which we were shortly back at the marina - with bell-ringing to look forward to in the evenin.

Daffodill Sunday

A lot of people around the Revel group of village parishes had been looking forward to 19 April this year when Daffodil Sunday was to be held at Newnham Paddox once again on the property of the Earl and Duchess of Denbigh. So were we, especially with weather forecast looking so good for days in advance.

So the day was! It started off cool but sunny and continued that way and just getting warmer and warmer. But anyway, we English talk too much about the weather, so more about the event.

Got to the grounds at 10:30 and found Emily on the gate doing a Stirling job of directing early visitors and late stall holders to where they could park etc. Emily pointed us in the right direction to the St John's Bell ringers stall where we found Jenny and a stall which was just about ready for business - a good thing too, as there were quite a few visitors already milling around looking at arts crafts, produce and other exhibitions.

Our job for the day was to look after this stall and raise as much as we could by selling merchandise and 'triangles' in the treasure hunt to raise money for the new bells that we are hoping to have installed in St John's tower at Brinklow. It was however the 'treasure hunt' that drew the most interest and many 'triangles' were sold. Of course a lot of punters thought we knew where it was - but didn't, only Bernard who designed the wonderful map of the Revel district knew the answer to that (we hope).

During breaks from stall minding, Audrone and I took turns to walk around the park and lake, to visit some of the other stalls, look at the exhibitions of farm machinery, classic cars and a couple of really vintage petrol and diesel engines demonstrated by Tim Wykes.

The walk around the lake is super, and there were lots of families and people out to enjoy it. The natural beauty of the lake and its surrounding trees, shrubs and (of course) bulbs, is further enhanced by sculptures set along the path at irregular intervals. They are reflective but allusive and the themes vary from classic images to some modern earth-mother iconism. I am sure that anyone walking around the two lakes set in these rural and mainly agricultural grounds would find peace and solace reclining in the many and well placed parkland seats there.
There are of course lots of other things to talk about this day but it is probably best to tell it in pictures instead . . . . . . Oh and this is only the first part of three short catch-up-postings for this week!

So that is about it for Daffodillia, next stop is er. . . . . well yes, SUTTON STOP!!