Sunday, 30 November 2008

Weekend visitors

Our friends Alan and Val came visiting on Saturday. The afternoon saw us wandering the streets of Rugby and venturing into Summersaults the veggie restaurant yet again for coffees and cakes - lovely place, lovely food.
Our evening was spent at The Raven in Brinklow where four meals and two rounds of drinks cost less that £40! We also enjoyed live entertainment in the form of DIVA, a talented singer in the Alison Moyet mould. The volume was a bit too much for Joe but the rest of us got quite raucaus joining in the sing-a-long.
The dinette/bed got its second outing and was again proclaimed to be very comfortable even if the early start the next morning, as engineered by Fletcher and Floyd, was not so popular..
Just after Val and Alan left late morning we were again opening the marina gate for Abby and Dan, Joe's daughter and her partner. They had been staying at Charing Manor and realised that they were only a short distance away so took the opportunity see us.
So all visited out, she reaches for a stiff G& T...

Gunwale ballet

Friday morning saw me precariously balanced on the gunwale one hand grasping the handrail whilst I swished a soap laden sponge along Caxton's non-pontoon side. Himself was buried in the bowels of the engine compartment changing engine and gearbox oil. We were blessed with a windless day, an unusual occurrence here at Brinklow, so we backed out of our mooring for a leisurely pirouette in the marinas' open water before taking Caxton back in bow first this time. It was a quick application of canuba wax to the port flank - well as quick as you can cover sixty foot of steel - while being followed along the pontoon by Joe wielding an electric buffer. So that is Caxton all shiny again but more importantly the paintwork is protected a bit.
I then escaped with the dogs for a walk leaving Joe to black the scratches on the hull.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Out and About

I walked into Brinklow village with the two dogs early one morning. The village is a couple of miles from the new marina where we have our mooring and lies on the Roman road the Fosse Way. The Norman church is to one side of the Fosse way and just behind the church is a tumulus, a Norman motte an bailey castle. I climbed the motte ( the central mound) and took the photo above. The view from the motte must have extended almost 20 miles for the full 360 degrees, a stunning panorama.
Above is the bridge that crosses the entrance into Brinklow marina. A typical Oxford Canal bridge and just so beautiful, so ornate. The soft iron of the balustrade has deep cuts in the top rail made by the ropes of the horse drawn boats of the early canal days.


Wednesday, 26 November 2008


Joe and I went to visit Stuart at Barn Owl Narrowboats to see his new project and pick up a couple of oil filters in readiness for Caxton's impending oil change. THE NEW PROJECT is a bit special because this latest boat is for Stuart himself! Here we have Achilles, a 65' Norton Canes hull, the Rolls-Royce of hulls no less. Stuart has opted for a tug deck and has fitted a Gardner engine (say this quietly, very very quietly - eleven thousand pounds worth of Gardner engine!) all for a tonk, tonk with lots of grunt... The propeller is enormous, a 22inch, and the rudders looks as it it has come off of a channel ferry it is so big.

This is going to be one beautiful boat when completed and it could be yours for a mere £140k. I look forward to seeing how Achilles progresses and will post photo's from time to time.

Monday, 24 November 2008

To the woods, the woods..

These are the kind of deciduous woods that provide a thick carpet of crisp leaves that children and child like adults can run through kicking showers of rustling leaves as they go... Is that an admission she says, you bet! The woods are part of the Coombe Abbey estate which is only a five minute drive from Brinklow. The estate is now owned by Coventry City and opened as a country park, some 160 acres. Originally two villages that were cleared when the Cistercian monks established their Abbey in the 12th Century. The Abbey went the way of them all at the Reformation in the 16th century an became part of and some landed gentry's estate. In 1923 the estate was sold off, over 6000 acres of it! Even by the standards of today's large commercial farming that is a great deal of land to hold especially as it was prime agricultural land for the most part. The main house is now an hotel and conference centre but the ornamental lakes and parkland are there for us plebs to roam and very nice it is too..

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Boot load of trouble

Fletcher, Baxter, Muttley and Floyd loaded and ready to rumble! These four dogs are getting on famously and are a joy to watch playing together. They have been out again together today for a couple of hours in the Warwickshire countryside and although bitterly cold it was bright and dry.
Whilst we have been here at Brinklow Marina Joe has been repairing the contact damage to the hull with all scratches and scuffs now repainted, mainly for our own satisfaction but also in readiness for a review that is to be done by one of the Canal magazines.

Tying loose ends; well maybe.

We were called a couple of days ago by the estate agents that had been marketing our property, someone has contacted them and is interested in a possible part exchange. As a consequence Joe has gone off this morning back to Lincolnshire to open up our cottage for a viewing tomorrow morning leaving me and dogs here at Brinklow. So tonight it is kippers for tea and Strictly Come Dancing and nobody to moan about either!

Thursday, 20 November 2008


Last night the crew of Caxton and the crew of Matilda Rose went to the talkies to see the latest Bond film, and Oh how cinemas have changed! You can now buy buckets of popcorn - raw ingredients tuppence three farthings - for a whacking £4 accompanied by paper cup of coloured chemical water - coke - for £2.50. Needless to say the tightfisted ditch warriors skipped that enticement. Jill had her fingers jammed in her ears (strange gel) throughout the film to reduce the damage being done by the volume of the sound system. We did enjoy the film though, Daniel Craig was easy on the eye of course and Judi Dench as M was excellent.
Given that we were 'out on the town' we finished off the night with a Big Mac and a drink at the last watering hole before Brinklow. Today I think someone is going Geocaching again...

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Now where was I?

A quick update on recent activities:
Saturday - Fletcher and Floyd were invited by their new best mates, Baxter and Muttley, to dinner aboard Nb. Matilda Rose. With a bit of careful subterfuge, Joe and I managed to lock F&F aboard Caxton and substitute ourselves as dinner guests. Baxter and Muttley's company was superb (Graham and Jill weren't bad either).

Sunday - I remained in bed into the afternoon - something to do with an encounter with a brandy bottle the previous evening and a fear that someone might steal the bed if I wasn't diligent about guarding it. I was woken by the telephone; "Graham and I have been Geocaching and we need a lift from the Pub" - I didn't realise that geocaches were to be found in pubs?

So off I goes, picking up Jill who was ambling along the lane to Brinklow. Refreshed, we loaded four damp dogs and four slightly damp owners into the car and headed back to our respective boats.

Monday - awoke to awful weather and set off to Combe Abbey Country Park to walk the dogs - more of which later.

Which brings me to Tuesday and the photo below. This stunning Victorian edifice houses Summersault, a vegetarian restaurant and coffee house in Rugby town centre. I vaguely remember eating lunch in a vegetarian restaurant many years ago, (15 - 20) when I was working in Rugby. Jill and I set off to have a wander around Rugby for a lookie see and came across this..

We had to try their fare and we were not disappointed with either the food or the wonderful surroundings - definitely worth a visit when you are passing through Rugby!

Friday, 14 November 2008

The longer the better!

The longer the better was the answer to my question re chimney's for the boat. I have been out today to buy tins of paint to enable us to repair cruise damage over the next few years and a new LARGE chimney for when we are moored up. Taking advantage of the fact that we have access to our car whilst we are moored at Brinklow I went to Rose Narrowboats at Stretton for the paint used in Caxton, Rapidpaints, and then on to Braunston and Midland Chandlers for a longer chimney - a 28" one no less.

The longer chimney definitely seems to be beneficial as far as the fire is concerned.
We will spend the next week or so tidying up the few scrapes and making a couple of tweaks to Caxton before we head off on cruise two...

I missed a call from Adam and Adrian on Debdale today - silly me I had left the phone on charge and went out all day without it - note to self, DON'T DO THAT AGAIN! Apologies lads, sorry to have missed you both.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Out to play

Knock, knock.....'Can the boys come out to play?'
Opening Caxton's rear doors revealed the dogs, Muttley and Baxter, (voice-over provided by Graham, their owner, of Nb Matilda Rose) eagerly awaiting the company of their new playmates.
So off they went, hammering around the open spaces here at Brinklow, four dogs having the time of their lives doing what dogs do best, running, chasing, leaping, feinting and dodging each other. They were soon joined by Bessie a rescue Greyhound and a wee black mongrel belonging to Keith one of the caretaking team here. There is s refreshing attitude to dogs here at Brinklow; no notices to keep dogs on leads, or under close control. Provided you are responsible and assiduous about cleaning up after you canine companions you can enjoy these park like surroundings, including the dogs swimming in the two large ponds here.
Well to be fair that is what attracted us to mooring here; DOGS WELCOME, and they are!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Canine social - bloggers soiree

Tonight Fletcher and Floyd met Muttley and Baxter of Nb Matilda Rose. Fletcher & Floyd went mad running about the open spaces at Brinklow with Muttley while Baxter looked on.
Drinkies with Graham their owner tomorrow night...
Don't you jus' love this blogging?
Here is Caxton nestled at her mooring in Brinklow Marina. We arrived yesterday lunchtime having travelled from Hawkesbury junction in lashing wind and rain. I started out walking with the two dogs but the tow path was in appalling condition and I was struggling to wade through glutinous mud and deep puddles; walk abandoned, we boarded Caxton at a convenient bridgehole and I disappeared inside attend to household tasks leaving Joe a solitary windswept figure on the back of the boat. Emerging from my warm sanctum about thirty minutes before we arrived a Brinklow, I joined Joe to help bring the boat into the marina where we were warmly greeted by Steve of Nb K2 as we ushered Caxton onto our allotted berth.
Later that afternoon we had just arrived back at the boat with bags of provisions when Jill of Matilda Rose called in to say hello. This morning, Joe has taken the car and returned to Lincolnshire to collect mail, check the house and pick up one or two items that were forgotten. I walked into the village of Brinklow to have a look around and get a paper. This is the parish church of St. John the Baptist which sits in the heart of the village and just in front of a Motte and Bailey castle; the two dogs and I will be off again in the morning to have a better look at what Brinklow has to offer.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

On the Oxford

Now moored just up from the stop-lock that you can see below the towing bridge on the Oxford Canal. We travelled done the Coventry canal through Nuneaton this morning himself on the tiller and me walking to two dogs. I can't say that I was very impressed with the canal side of Nuneaton, the tow path was in good condition and used extensively by local dog walkers and cyclists. Not a single 'dog poo' bin in sight, and therefore an abundance of dog droppings, every bridge adorned with graffiti and beer cans cast about everywhere; Nuneaton needs to have a wee review of its civic pride quotient me thinks..
We turned off the Coventry canal on to the start of the Oxford at Hawkesbury Junction arriving at just after noon. Noon, midday, lunchtime, Sunday lunchtime, Sunday lunch, and lookey here a Public House selling Sunday lunches, well just how fortunate is that?

The Greyhound (please note Greygal and Sue) did us proud with two roast beef lunches and a couple of pints of real ale. Here I am a little later updating the blog and himself has gone to bed for a siesta. How civilised is that?

The cast iron bridge that adorns the entrance to the Oxford Canal and below a detail of the bridge.Here is the old pumping station that sits on the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury Junction.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Eleven UP

A bit of a false start this morning; we were preparing to leave our overnight mooring at eight am to start the onslaught on the eleven locks through Atherstone when a passing boat mentioned that the locks were closed this weekend. Ah, bugger..
We decided to walk up to the locks , buy a paper and check that the work would be complete after the weekend. At the second lock there was a BW notice stating that work commenced on the 10th, MONDAY, not Saturday, and would last for five weeks! We walked back to Caxton and set off two hours after we should have done.
Note to self: check the stoppages programme idiot!

We got ourselves into a rhythm and worked smoothly through the eleven locks in blessed bright autumn sunshine instead of the forecast showers. We are now moored up in the countryside at bridge 24 just short of Nuneaton and about fifteen miles from our initial destination of Brinklow.
Fletcher decided to exit the boat as Joe passed through a bridge hole in the last part of our journey today - a shout of LESLEY!!! summoned me from the tidying of the boat to an emergency exit and a search and recover mission for one stupid dog. Floyd and I recovered the miscreant from a farmers field opposite the tow path and all was well in the end.
2nd note to self: do not leave tillerman in charge of dopey dog!

Friday, 7 November 2008

How many locks?

Above, Caxton just leaving Alvecote where we had filled up with diesel, 60/40 split, £1.20/80p. We are moored tonight just short of Atherstone and the flight of 120 locks - well alright, eleven locks but as I will be up to my elbows in them tomorrow it feels like 120.. Last night we were moored near Tamhorn Park so today we have covered 11.5 miles - and I have walked 11.5 miles! When next seen I expect to be about five and a half stone with muscles like Garth.. Loving it though!

Soaking up the autumn

What a pleasure it is to be walking the tow paths with the dogs whilst Joe is being chief boatman. We have covered miles and 99% of it is absolutely beautiful. Russet, gold, amber and yellow foliage against crisp blue skies and then you come across a cluster of red toadstools nestling in the drying leaves.

The two dogs are adjusting well to their new life. They are enjoying a surfeit of exercise given that they walk with me all day. They are both beginning to realise what is expected of them at locks, sitting quietly and watching 'mum' do all the work then move off when she does. Meeting lots of other dogs has been taken in their stride and the decision to castrate them has played a part with Fletcher not reacting to aggressive behaviour from other dogs; we are both very proud of them. All in all I would say that we are loving this new lifestyle!

Big Cheese

I came across The Cheese Boat and had to try the wares. Michael and Geraldine Prescott sell Welsh cheese from their boat. The have been doing this for over two years and things are apparently going well. The maximum load is 660 cheeses all refrigerated. I tried the Green Thunder (garlic and herbs) the Bouncing Berry (cranberry) and the Amber something - eaten already (whiskey) and all are superb!
All the cheeses are hygienically and attractively wrapped in coloured wax. Definitely having more when we next meet The Cheese Boat - lovely product.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Come in number seven!

Sapphire, the boat pictured above was reviewed by Graham Booth in the Waterways World mag some time ago and I spotted it at Great Hayward on Tuesday. This is a boat built by the owner from scratch and not in anyway orthodox in design. We were about to leave Great Hayward on and I went to check the availability of the lock. Sapphire was in the lock going down ( the same way we wanted to go) so I lent a hand and was soon joined by a lady whose boat was coming up. It wasn't until this second boat was leaving the lock that I happened to glance at its name and low and behold it was Morpheus, Barn Owl Narrowboat number 7!
So here is Sean, Jane and Neil, fellow Barn Owl owners, posing by their boat! We are going to have to start a club.


Thursday morning and we are at Fradley Junction. We arrived here yesterday lunchtime and rapidly moored, did the services stuff, filling one tank and emptied the other before heading for the welcoming doors of the Swan Inn. The notice on door said Dogs on leads welcome; the four of us were through that door and ensconced aside a raging fire before you could say Jack Robinson! A giant steak and kidney pudding was ordered by himself, a packet of pork scratchings for the dogs and a ham roll for herself.
Stuart Harper, Caxton's builder, turned up moments later to deal with a couple of minor snags aboard Caxton - well that is what a snagging cruise is all about.
We will head off later today along the Coventry canal towards our destination of Brinklow some 38 miles away.
I cannot upload any photo's at present, the system is far too slow so they will follow as an when folks.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

A sad loss

The folks on NB Daniel Oakley have posted that they have had to have their elderly dog Pip, destroyed and particularly sad is that their other dog, Jet, is terminally ill with cancer.
So sorry to read this folks my thoughts are with you.

Off line

Moored at Penkridge about twenty feet further north than last night after being enlisted in a bow hauling exercise this morning - the critical signal was needed for us to be able to watch the Grand Prix. The programme has just started as I do this update.
This morning, after walking the dogs, I went walkabout off-line, that is off the line of the canal and into Penkridge Village. Below is a photo of the Penkridge gaol, formerly the village lock-up, built in the 1800's and restored by the local civic society.

Here is a typical cottage.

And here is the village church of St. Michael's. A substantial church constructed of penkridge stone in 1180 on a site that has boasted a church since 850. I must admit that I was bit puzzled by the size of some of the buildings, including a very large hotel adjacent to the Church yard. This village had obviously been very prosperous in the past but the these signs of wealth were not close to the canal. So, turning to googleworld when back on the boat I find that Penkridge thrived in the great coaching days, hence the hotel.

And now, with a roast in the oven, the GP just about to start and a glass of wine winking at me, I leave you until tomorrow...


Moored in Penkridge near the Cross Keys Inn after trawling up from our overnight stop at Gailey. We waited here yesterday for a knock on the door that turned out to be more like a boot in the side carefully applied by Greygal and husband A from Dogs on Tour. They wouldn't go away so after a tour of the boat, a try of the cross bed for size - nothing funny going on promise - we headed for the Cross Keys and what turned out to be a liquid lunch liberally garnished with crisps and peanuts as the pub had stopped serving food minutes before we stumbled across its threshold - sods law!
It was great to see both and thank you for celebratory bottle of champers! We look forward to meeting you again before very long.