Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Gardening leave

Having arrived back at Brinklow and seen off our friends, we were settling into a life of lakeside drinks and relaxation, when I got a phone call from Michael, a friend who lives in Arundel. He wondered if he would be able to visit the following day.

Initially we thought no, too short notice after our Ashby trip, but on second thoughts why not? So the following day Michael met us at the house and we trundled off to the boat for dinner. An opportunity that we are glad that we didn't miss, the weather was glorious, and so we took her out to moor on the Oxford next to All Oak woods for the night, winding at the Brinklow arm and returning the following day, as Michael had to be in Torquay the following day for an appointment. A short visit but a good one.

The following picture is a sight that you won't see very often. I have been sent ashore on gardening leave!

Well actually we are both rather busy about the house lately painting and generally doing face lift renovations for when our furniture arrives from storage. Jeeves has become a master painter, and Wooster the master gardener.

The garden might be rather narrow, but it is very long - a little bit like an allotment strip from the shed to the back wall. So I am landscaping it as such (borrowed a book on the subject from the library). Although it is a little late in the year for growing much now, but I can put in all the paths and create the raised beds for the next growing season.

It is jolly hard work though forking over all that soil and pulling out a couple of years worth of weeds - dug up a lot of potatoes though.

Some people might have heard or heard about a monologue that I rather unthinkingly treated those at our table and those around us on the subject of cats when we were dining at the Narrowboat Inn on the Grand Union not far from Stoke Bruene!! I will say no more about that tirade. (shurely had too much wine - ed).

Anyway when we got the house here in Rugby, I found to my horror that the garden was completely overrun with verminous cats. Worse than the cats themselves, was that smelly cat poo was being deposited everywhere; on the lawn and in the garden beds - what a smell!

Jeeves however has saved the day. She was leafing though a gardening magazine when she saw advertised a gadget called 'Catwatch', which had recommendations from the RSPB. So we got onto their website and after reading all the blurb about how these things work, we ordered one.

The thing is absolute magic, as it senses a cat walking in front of its eye, Zap!! We watched enthralled as several of the neighbour's cats sauntered around the corner and disappeared with a bang and a puff of blue smoke. . . . . Not really, it does work on an infrared sensor, but lets off an ultrasonic squawk that only cats don't like. We haven't seen a moggy or smelt their poo since.

Now the vexing thing is, what will the dog have to chase when we get one??

Monday, 17 August 2009

Carry on up the Ashby

Steve from K2 told me that the Ashby canal is rather shallow - he is right, it is and also very narrow in many places. The excuse for not posting an article about this cruise is lamentable though. We lost the connection for downloading pictures from the camera - Jeeves found it today (though I dare say that I didn't know where to look for it as I didn't put it there. . that is enough blaming others, ed).

Now, moving on, we had friends from Brenchley in Kent coming up to visit and wanted them to see some of the lovely Warwickshire countryside from the perspective of canal boating. I thought that Foxton might be fun, but sensible Jeeves said 'no' people don't want to do locks tunnels and staircase flights on their first and second day out, so the Ashby it was.

What smashing weather again! Clive and Delia arrived on the Friday evening after a nightmare of motorway tailbacks that had them taking nearly eight hours to do a three hour trip!

Anyway, we set off the next morning in the (correctly forecasted) lovely late summer sunshine, taking on diesel at Rose boats. Chap filling it said there must be only vapour left, but given that we took on 120 litres and hold 250, the fact that I could still see a reflection of my eye in the fuel hole would suggest that she was still slightly over half full.

Got to Sutton Stop early afternoon and went up to the greyhound for a couple of pints before making the right turn into the Coventry canal. The odd thing here was that there was a decrepit looking boat moored up at the locking bollards adjacent to the Greyhound. The p***es or 'pond life' as Andy E. would call them were having an on board and towpath get together which included full use of the BW facilities, a lot of beer and even a fire burning away on board.

The oddest thing was that the BW staff just sat on folding chairs outside the hut on the other side of the lock pound watching - you try mooring up there for a couple of nights and having a party. . . . .I don't think so somehow, probably something to do with having a licence, insurance, BSC, residential and mooring address and being easy to contact by e-mail.

Anyway, enough of that, Clive and Delia brought their delightful dog, Misty with them for the trip. She is one of the best behaved dogs we have ever had on board, took to boating like a duck to water.

The junction where the Ashby leaves the Coventry canal, is set at a very acute angle when turning right when travelling north and after passing under the bridge, you have to negotiate what was once a stop lock, but now a very narrow entry to the canal.

It is from here on that you realise what a rural countryside this canal traverses (well, winds through mostly), as I mentioned before, the canal is not only shallow, but very narrow, with overgrown towpath side and reeds and bulrushes muddying any definition of a bank or indication of where water becomes dry land.

We decided that our overnight stop would be at Hinkley, where there are pubs, shops and Trinity Marina on the canal - really the only town as such that actually borders the Ashby canal.

We didn't have much joy at all in obtaining a mooring in fact until we got to the large complex adjacent to the Trinity marina. Also encountered very rude and pushy boater when trying to moor up before this point. There was one spot left for a sixty footer just adjacent to bridge 17, and the chap moored in front of us was most informative, telling us that neither he nor anyone else bothered paying the £5 visitor mooring fee, so neither did we.

I wonder if that would work on at Llangollen?

The next day, Clive and Delia did a recce on the Trinity Marina - we were told by our helpful neighbour the night before that it was alright to wind there (as marina residents they should know). Clive said there was heaps of room, so off we went on the return bit.

With no wind and millpond conditions the Ashby really did live up to it's reputation as an idyllic and rural canal.

Passing other boats at bridge holes and when the canal was narrow enough without having permanently moored boat on the canal side were the only problems faced.

The idea was to go back through Sutton stop and moor up at Ansty for the night having a barbecue. Then returning down the Oxford and maybe going past Brinklow to Newbold or Hillmorton, before returning.

As we approached Sutton Stop and the chimney of the old engine house hove into view, we saw an excellent mooring spot (Just as I had nearly passed it, of course). So, full astern and helm over, stopping broadside to the boat in from of the space. As we slowly came astern, and edged in closer, Jeeves accosted some young men walking their dog. They were delighted to catch the centre rope and pulled heartilly until Gleemaiden came alongside with the minimum of fuss. If you ever read this guys, thank you very much!

Yes we did have a barbecue on board that night - and I don't think the smoke and cooking smells impressed the wife of the boat owner behind us, but he was friendly enough. A good night was had by all of us really.

Weather the following day, nasty low cloud and ensuing rain. Have to move on though, so on go the water proof jackets and Breton cap. A pretty uneventfull and rather misty trip back to Brinklow, although the Oford was crowded with traffic coming toward us - nearly hit one twerp, but missed by inches!

It was during this part of the voyage that Clive got the hang of being steerer, in fact so much so that he kept insisting that I needed a break quite frequently! I did and enjoyed the breaks, though would have done so more so if I could have lounged around on the forrard deck drinking coffee!

Shortly before the long straight which ends at Rose Narrowboats, Jeeves said:

'That looks like 'Nerus' coming toward us'

'Rubbish!' I replied, straining my eyes through the misty drizzle.

'It is,' She cried as we drew closer, going at tick over past all the moored boats on this section.

Sure enough, it was! As we passed, we made lots of hellos to Ruth and Neil, tried for conversation, but couldn't stop because Nerus was being followed by another boat on this busy Monday canal.

Got back to the Marina in plenty of time to fill up with water sort all post cruising issues and enjoy a lovely meal at the White Lion in Pailton, before Clive and Delia decided that an evening start for home might obviate any morning traffic hassles - hope they will come for another cruise. Next time it will be locks and tunnels!