Wednesday, 31 December 2008

On the move

I took this from Caxton's porthole in Market Harborough. This Kingfisher had spent best part of ten minutes trying to swallow a fish it had caught!
Yesterday we travelled back to Foxton after our night in Market Harborough (Sunday) and our second night (Monday) just on the outskirts at Bridge 14. Joe and Graham had a wood cutting session on Monday afternoon, reducing the logs we had scavanged to stove sized consumables. I took four dogs for a walk across the fields (on footpaths) and Jill took herself off to Leicester on the train for an emergency visit to a dentist.

We will water here at Foxton first thing this morning before heading towards Leicester, on the next leg of the journey.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

And they came a Visiting

Yesterday morning Adam and Adrian (Nb Debdale) paid us a visit on their way back home from their Christmas Cruise. We spent a pleasant hour chatting about boats, pensions, early retirement, kettles, LOOS and how many meals can be produced from their now famous Christmas turkey joint! Lovely to see both.

An hour later we were inviting four little people aboard, Maisie, Jacob, Shyrel and Ellie accompanied by their Nan, Val and their Dad, Matthew. Matthew had brought the children up to stay with our friends Val and Alan (Nan and Grandad) for Christmas.
Above, Val, little Maisie and Jacob. Below, Shyrel, Ellie and Maisie.
After cups of tea, glasses of coke and a tour of Caxton, we headed to Bridge 61 for lunch - no room at the Inn, it was heaving so we had to go to the The Locks Inn instead. Not my kind of pub I'm afraid though the service was pleasant, it was a bit like eating in a works canteen or school dinner hall, noisy and bustling. Still it did the job.
Jacob and his Nan, Val.

Friday, 26 December 2008

My First Little Kingfisher

As soon as you point a camera they are gone - this one hung around long enough for this rather naff shot, but hey, at least I got one!

Boxing Day

I have just returned from walking the dogs to find Himself is rootling about in the bilges and Foxton Locks looking a lot like Piccadilly Circus or perhaps Oxford Street on sale days; people everywhere, dogs everywhere, new bicycles being tried out, the 'boxing day jumpers' being given their first airing, dutiful offspring walking their elderly parents - you get the picture?
The towpath sidehatch is firmly closed and I am now hiding from the multitude, comfortably seated, cup of tea to hand and my blog fix about to begin.
Winter reflections on the canal.

Typical bridge hereabouts, mellow red brick, all with names AND numbers.
Undulating Leicestershire farmland.
We have walked about seven miles today and the going underfoot was pretty good.
One more day here at Foxton and visitors tomorrow. We will have been here ten days and it is starting to feel a bit claustrophobic - Sunday we move on again.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

First Christmas

The Christmas dinner is in the oven, I am imbibing a little dry sherry (medicinal obviously..) after visiting the pub at lunchtime to check that people are behaving correctly after also walking the dogs, watering the boat, stripping the bed, washing the bedding and remaking the bed with clean laundered sheets, running the dishwasher (What an Saint and, thank God for the WHITE goods) it seems only right that I check in on blogger land with just a wee drop of alcohol to hand. Our first Christmas aboard - hopefully the first of many! Is this boating stuff all it is cracked up to be? Well yes I believe it is - Seriously though, only two months in and the decision to do this is definitely the right one!!!

Joe and I would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas!!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008


That is how many miles I walked today, twelve. I set off this morning with Fletcher and Floyd and thought I might walk along the Market Harborough Arm from here at Foxton locks; I just kept going and going, arrived at the basin and turned back to meet Joe who had decided to fore go the bus into MH and had also walked in. We walked right into the town, had a half and then the dogs and I walked back leaving Joe to shop. It has been a lovely mild day with bright sunshine and the undulating Leicestershire countryside is stunning; I really think I am becoming quite enamoured with this part of the world. Below are a selection of scenes from the Market Harborough Arm.

Nb Balmaha moored in the MH basin.

The attractive Market Harborough basin/wharf.

Who's them?

I was walking along the towpath with Jill of Nb Matilda Rose, me disguised as a giant duvet (well I was carrying a giant duvet) and Jill laden with Christmas presents when we passed two people walking the other way - "I wonder if that's them?" says I. "Who's them?" says Jill. "Windsong!" says I. Returning to the boats there's the two people talking to Joe - "It's them" And sure enough it was, Pip and Roger from NB. Windsong. They had come to see Caxton and meet us fellow bloggers. Needless to say Caxton was in a chaotic condition; sods law.
We managed to cram three large dogs and four people into the saloon with the requisite cups of tea and had good ole chin-wag. Their new boat is due to be launched in April and they are eagerly looking forward to their new life aboard - they won't be disappointed!

Note to self: make sure camera is fully charged when taking photo's of visitors - sorry guys, no pics.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

He comes bearing gifts...

We returned to Caxton yesterday morning having had a productive and sociable weekend in Lincolnshire. Graham brought NB. Matilda Rose across the canal to the car park side so we could unload the car directly onto the boat instead of impersonating beasts of burden for half an hour. After a wee while Joe and Graham went off to Rugby to swap cars, ours being parked back at Brinklow Marina and Graham's being liberated for their planned journey to Gt Yarmouth for the Christmas period. On their return they were carrying a large heavy box between them; how sweet, I really didn't expect any gifts.....
Does your husband buy you a Honda EU 20i generator for Christmas? No, I thought not, perfume, lingerie - just no imagination you see.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Off went the van with...

My brother arrived at 10.30 this morning and carted off my home in his big red van. Spare bed and side tables and lamps carted down the stairs, doors taken off of hinges and chairs and couches threaded through and out. We also took advantage of the commodious transport by relocating a number of mature potted plants to a new abode where they will be looked after while I swan around the canals.
We realise that our cottage no longer feels like home, it doesn't engage us at all, in fact it is merely an encumbrance that we are eager to shed.
We are quite enamoured by life aboard Caxton, even in the depths of winter it is simply wonderful living what seems to be a parallel life; there is the 'real world' over there and here are we in our watery ditch chugging through the land in a completely different world. I am begining to appreciate why and how the working community of boat people in years gone by were so close knit and isolated from those 'on land'.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Another chance meeting..

Here is Fletcher posing alongside Caxton this morning. After being captive whilst running the engine to charge the batteries the dogs and I were just about ready to go off and stretch our legs.

When who should we see working their way down the locks but Del and Al of Derwent 6 and naturally the boys and I offered to lend a hand. Here Al is chatting to a gongoozler while waiting for the lock to empty.

And here Fletcher is supervising Del's handling of the boat..

And there goes Derwent 6 off towards Debdale Wharf..

The two dogs and I then continued on our way towards the top of the flight and some open ground for a little serious rabbiting - they dogs pastime, not mine silly!

Taking leave of absence

We are returning to Lincolnshire later today, leaving Caxton in the tender care of Graham and Jill of Nb Matilda Rose for a couple of days. We are on a mission to free-cycle some more furnishings and my brother David is now ready to take some more furniture off of our hands. So we have a weekend of furniture moving to look forward to.... Oh well.. The visit does give us a chance to meet up with friends and one brother so that's rather a big bonus.
On another positive note it looks as if we now have a buyer for the cottage which is quite an achievement in the present conditions, fingers crossed.

Bespoke Christmas Card!

I just had to post this Christmas card that has been sent to by my Cousin Daphne. Pictures of Fletcher and Floyd have been included and that IS me walking down the tow path. Clever woman is Daphne, well done girl!!!!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Is it a plane?

Here is a photo of Caxton and Matilda Rose nestled on the Market Harborough Arm at Foxton and taken from the top of the derelict inclined plane.

Above is an old ice breaker exhited at Foxton. This could be manned by up to fifteen men and pulled by 8-12 horses! The men would rock the boat from side to side in order to break the ice, keeping the commercial traffic moving in all weathers.

Here is second iceboat.

Looking down the inclined plane to the lower basin which is now used for moorings.

Looking across the remains of the top of the inclined plane. There are three supporting/guiding rails per plane and two planes allowing one boat to be lowered and one to be raised at the same time. The narrowboats would enter a caisson, (super sized elongated bucket of water) and be lowered to the bottom of the plane by the miracle of steam power. This must have been a vast improvement over queuing and then working your way through ten locks! The restoration trust is now trying to raise the funds to restore the Foxton inclined plane.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Get strapped

Here is a typical cast iron strapping post. The iron posts were fitted to protect the brick work of the bridges from the tow ropes of the horse drawn narrowboats. This one caught my eye as the sunlight clearly shows the effect of years of rope wear.

Foxton fliers

Here the much photographed statue of the boy and barge horse at Foxton top lock.
Here we are moored on the Market Harborough arm of the GU. We have spotted Nb.Balmaha just five minutes further along the cut and out on the GU Leicester section we stopped to speak to Keith on Nb. Pickles2 both fellow bloggers - a bit of a blogger sandwich!

Coming down the Foxton flight this morning was simply glorious - bright sunshine, blue sky and the whole flight to ourselves. We came down the flight with quiet efficiency, moving from the red ground paddles to the white as if we have been doing it for years. We moved off towards Leicester and a visit to Debdale Wharf to fill up the diesel tanks on both Caxton and Matilda Rose plus gas bottles for us - we ran out last night... Fuel at Debdale was 56p per litre and they allowed self declaration. We have been using a GPS to determine exactly how many hours we are actually travelling against hours charging batteries etc. and with this in mind we declared 20:80. We turned back towards Foxton to moor and to lunch in Bridge 61. We will now stay in this location through the Christmas period with plenty of walking in the area, services to hand and a few Public Houses to frequent..... only if necessary of course!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Three little bloggers

On returning, mud splattered and grubby from a six mile trek around the village of Welford we spied an addition to our line of boats, fellow blogger Derwent 6 no less! I quick thump on the side of the boat produced a Al at the side hatch with meat cleaver in hand - no, I lie - she was only armed with a smile. We chatted for half an hour or so, promising to catch up with each other in the Summer, before heading off to our boats moored just behind.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Bridge Hopping!

Midday we moved up from Br 14 to Br 19 to use the services before pushing on thru wind and rain to Br 21, a journey of less than two miles. Here we are moored for the night with Matilda Rose just in front.

Wet and windy waterworld

Woke to beep from my mobile phone this morning alerting me to a text message - 'Are we staying put?' this from fellow travellers Graham and Jill on Matilda Rose. Now this needed careful consideration....lashing rain and high winds all night and continuing as I lay in bed, do we move in this? After much thought a reply of not bloody likely started to form!
The weather forecast indicates that things may have improved by midday so we are likely to head off then for a couple of hours cruising towards the Welford Arm of the GU.

Non cruise day

We stayed here just outside Crick again Friday and took the opportunity to walk into Yelvertoft village in the morning. The footpaths are very well maintained and are a pleasure to walk , no gloopy mud up around your ankles. After Thursday's episode with Floyd and sheep I erred on the side of caution whenever there was even a chance that Lambchop might be about. I don't want farm stock distressed or injured and I certainly don't want my dog shot because I failed to keep him safe from the consequences of his natural instincts!

In the afternoon Joe and I joined Graham and Jill on Nb. Matilda Rose for a bridge lesson; not the over a canal sort but the card game variety... We have never played but always wanted to so these wet winter evenings will be an opportunity to let our competitive natures rip with a few games of cards - we won't be betting the boat though!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Watford Locks

A couple of pics of the Staircase locks at Watford on the Grand Union Leicester Arm.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Apples and Pears

We left our mooring at Norton Junction yesterday mid morning and headed up towards the Watford locks, seven locks four of which are staircase locks, that is there is no gap (pound) between the locks, as you leave one lock you enter directly into the next. These were good practice for the epic Foxton locks which will will be tackling next week sometime.

Caxton and Matilda Rose were the only boats on the move yesterday much of our 6 mile journey through ice. Jill and I walked with the dogs until reaching the Crick tunnel where we both boarded and disappeared into the bowels of our respective boats to tackle belated luncheons. We moored up adjacent to Crick village just below Crack Hill.

Today is a 'stay put day' so we slept late, had a leisurely breakfast and then walked across the fields into Crick for provisions. A bit of tidying and cleaning and wood cutting is about all that has been achieved today.

There has been one wee hiccup however, Greygal take note. Having clambered to the top of Crack Hill, a large pudding shaped hill left by a glacier, we were enjoying the view over miles and miles of Northants countryside when a movement caught my eye - moving sheep! Fast moving sheep! A quick headcount of dogs saw my heart sink - one missing! Sure enough Floyd was to be found behind this impromptu stampede. With visions of injured sheep and irate armed farmers I headed off at a hundred miles an hour down hill to stop the mayhem and capture the little git. Manic middle aged woman eventually seperated dog from his new companions and gasped her way back to the top of the hill to beat one happy hearing impaired lab to death!

Postnote: No animals were hurt, sheep or dogs... but my heart rate took a while to go down.

Historic Narrowboat

We moored just along from Brighton, a Town Class working narrowboat. The Narrowboat Trust now has ownership and is in the process of restoring this working girl. Built by Harland and Wolfe in 1936 and known as a 'large Woolwich' Brighton was a class of boat designed to load directing to or from larger ships and cope with the Thames tidal river conditions. Brighton has a 5' deep hold, blimey that's as tall as me...

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Boss Cat

Daisy the cat (Boss Cat) of Nb Matilda Rose has been let out when we moored up and here she is checking out this new travelling companion, Caxton. Fletcher and Floyd are learning to keep respectful distance!

Bridge over the canal grande!

Bridge two on the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union - late afternoon.
Caxton's current mooring at Norton Junction.

Here is bridge 1 on the Leicester arm of the Grand Union at Norton Junction.

Seven week itch

We have now been living on Caxton all of seven weeks! We have settled into life aboard quite easily, arguements are no more frequent than when we lived in our cottage and having not reached the point where we have threatened to bludgeon each other this life in a steel tube can't be all bad..
Having learnt a little on our inaugural cruise from the launch site in Stourport we have found that four hours cruising a day is about right in this weather. We have also agreed that one day's cruising followed by one day's exploration off the line of the canal is the regime for this latest cruise and that seems to be working rather well.
All the systems on board Caxton are working fine with the LED lighting being a boon a this time of year as it doesn't drain the battery bank. We are burning 1.5 to 2 bags of coal per week but that keeps the Ecoburn fire running 24/7 - we rarely use the central heating, perhaps a quick blast in the morning if the fire is struggling. A routine has developed where we switch the dishwasher on as we set off, followed by the washing machine and then tumble dryer and finally a whizz through with the vacuum cleaner so that by the time we are mooring up all is done and dusted so to speak.
Is life on a narrowboat what we expected?
Much better I think - even after only seven weeks but then what do I know....

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Norton Junction

Here Caxton shares one of the Braunston double locks with Nb. Matilda Rose. We had moored between lock two and three overnight so this morning saw us working our way through the remaining four locks before entering the Braunston tunnel. There is no towpath through the tunnel, which is over a mile long so Jill and I, together with the four dogs, followed the horse trail over the top of the hill and rejoined Joe and Graham on the other side. The condition of the towpath along this stretch of the Grand Union (GU)is pretty poor as you move away from the vicinity of the tunnel entrance so we pressed on Norton Junction which is the start of the Leicester arm of the GU.

Here are Caxton and Matilda Rose heading away from Braunston Tunnel.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Room with a view

This is the view from the side hatch this morning; a frozen landscape, and an iced in boat GLOROUS!
We have agreed with fellow travellers, Graham and Jill of Matilda Rose,that the cruising programme will be one day moving, one day staying put. Today we will stay here and explore the local countryside by going off Geocaching (treasure hunt using handheld GPS), a quick investigation of the local alehouse, for research purposes of course, and then more walking. We have been passed by three hire boats this morning, the breaking ice makes an interesting noise along Caxton's sides - gnash, gnash...

Saturday, 6 December 2008


We have escaped Brinklow marina and headed out in the company of the Matilda Rose crew towards Market Haborough, our Christmas destination. We set off at 10.00am sharp and moored at 14.10. It has been a glorious day for our venture with clear blue skies and lots of sunshine. The temperature is barely above freezing but the intrepid walkers, Jill and me, were cozy as can be marching along the towpath in company with four dogs.

We had just got through Rugby when we spotted a boat we knew, Ten Bob Note, a fellow blogger. No one home so we left a note and continued along the towpath when we spied a chap with a Jack Russell terrier - the man himself, Ernie! We introduced ourselves as fellow bloggers, shook hands and continued on - nice to meet you Ernie!

We are now moored between bridge 80 and 81, a journey of 9.5 miles, in the middle of the countryside.

Daisy the cat, Matilda Rose crew member, fell into the canal within 20 mins of mooring but apart her pride, all is well. Fletcher and Floyd have never met a cat so this voyage is going to prove an interesting part of their education - NO don't chase the no ...too late.


Here is a shot I took of Adam of NB Debdale (2nd from left or even 2nd from right or, in the MIDDLE) aboard Caxton as he set out to put Caxton through her paces ahead of doing the article for Canal Boat magazine. It was a bitterly cold crisp morning with bright blue skies, perfect for photo's - for the professional photographer that is..

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Frozen Essex Girl

Monday we had Adam and David from Canal Boat Magazine visiting to complete a boat review on Caxton! I think the article is to be published early next year.
I travelled down to Essex yesterday as a surprise visit to my see Mother. Arrived at 2pm, Mother arrived back home at 4.30pm! - still, I finished reading my book as I froze to death on her drive - note to self, no more surprise visits!