Sunday, 23 January 2011

More mad runners

Sunday 23rd January 2011

Alan woke up early, and got up to check the fire, then took Charlie for his first walk of the day. I have to admit that I snoozed on in our warm bed for a while.

Once fortified with coffee I got up to make porridge, which we ate outside, as we headed on north to the first winding hole.

The weather forecast threatened rain from midday, so we wanted to get on fairly quickly.

Brand new top gates at Leighton Lock - Good to see it now has gate paddles.

We turned, and headed south again, only to see the runners from yesterday heading back in the other direction again. Once again they had set off at 8 am, and by 10:00 the faster ones were heading back through Leighton Buzzard on the way back to Northampton.

One of the charac- teristic double bridges from this stretch - for a brief time in history, a narrow lock was added alongside the original broad one, as a water saving measure.

It remained a cool, and damp day, but we never saw the promised rain. Charlie spent a lot of his time - when not walking between locks - standing on the front of the boat like some figurehead and watching the world go by.

It was an uneventful trip, but it was so good to be out on the boat again.

Boater and dog.

I've been reading Richard Mabey's book 'Weeds', about our relationship with "plants which are growing where we don't want them". Alan and I were talking about the season and agreed that we are probably in the middle of winter now. Even though we are a month after the solstice it is probably the coldest and greyest that it will be, with few signs of the spring to come. I did see bunches of hanging hazel catkins, but they never seemed to be where I could take a photo. However, by Seabrook middle lock there was still a bit of colour around when I looked for it.

Mosses on the coping stones.

Lichen on a blackthorn tree.

We arrived back at the mooring around 3:00 pm. Our weekend trip was less than 18 miles, and only 20 locks.

Footnote by Alan (who hopes he didn't muck up Cath's post too much by inserting a couple of extra photos!)

We have always tended to think of "Chalice" as a bit of a fair weather boat. It's only form of heating is a small solid fuel stove, located at the very front end of the cabin - there is no form of radiators or other "central heating". However experience is showing that despite the boat's length that stove can heat the whole living space in really quite cold conditions. We get maybe a 5 degree temperature gradient between the toasty warm sitting area at the front, and the cooler bedroom at the back. So we are increasingly happy to venture out now in mid-winter.

Not much heat gets to the steerer though - not like a traditional boat that would have a stove in the back cabin right alongside. I'm tempted to see if a normal style heater from a car or van could be added to the engine cooling circuit - I rather fancy having hot air blasted up when steering on a cold January day!

Trip to get some fuel

Saturday 22nd January 2011
We've had a nearly empty tank for a while, and we didn't know of any fuel boats due past, so we decided to go to get some diesel at Grove Marina, just south of Leighton Buzzard.

As always, we had some things to sort out before setting off, so actually left our moorings shortly before 11am. It was drizzly, cold and grey, but we were happy, and so was Charlie the dog, although he got very wet on the walks between locks. Walking along the towpath there seemed to be a strong smell of fermenting apples at times, and there were heaps of rotten crab apples underneath some of the trees, but I couldn't always see where it was coming from.

It has rained a lot recently, and many of the fields were so flooded that it was hard working out if they were fields, or lakes ..."Well, it LOOKS like a lake, but I've never noticed one there before."

We started to notice small groups of runners passing us, thin wiry runners with very developed leg muscles - mostly men, but there were a handful of women among them. All of them decked out in bright shades of yellow, orange and pink lycra. They all bore numbers declaring that they were in an 'Ultra' race. Enquiring at a checkpoint by Church lock I discovered that they were running from Northampton to Tring, and had set off at 8 am. The nearer we got to Leighton the more women there were among them, and the older and less wiry the runners were.

We got to Grove and got our diesel, and a new cylinder of gas, then headed on northwards to pick up some food in Tesco.

As we were leaving the mooring outside the supermarket a couple of people were watching us leave - I pushed the front of the boat away from the edge, and jumped on. Mr Bystander called out, "why are you doing all the work, why doesn't he do it?" I never fail to be surprised by passers by, who no matter what I am doing are convinced that I am working hard, and Alan is being lazy. I can be working locks, or steering, just about everything except lying on the roof, and they will ask why I'm doing all the work. I turned back, "because he's recovering from a broken pelvis". "Ha," says Mrs Bystander, "that's a good enough excuse!"

We carried on as far as The Globe Inn, and moored in the gathering gloom. Another runner passed, a much larger woman. All credit to her, but I was worried about her carrying on along the towpath in the dark, given the state of it these days. She must have had another 12 miles to run.

We walked Charlie. Getting a dog has been really good for us, in the past we would have collapsed at the end of a day's boating - on the computer, reading a book - now Charlie gets another walk, we get to talk things over. I dropped into the Globe to check the menu, and discovered that we would be able to take Charlie in as long as he remained in the paved area and off the carpets - but that the last table in the restaurant had just gone. No matter, said the landlord, you can sit in the pub area and eat - just come back in a while when it has got quieter, when there would be tables free.

Back on the boat we changed out of our muddy clothes and went back to the pub for a drink before our meal - and found the previously busy bar much quieter. We ordered drinks, and decided on our meals, which were excellent. My peppered mushroom suet pudding with chive mash and seasonal vegetables cost £10, and Alan's Red Pepper and Onion Tart was £7 - both really delicious, with attentive service from the bar.

Somehow we found ourselves in conversation with another couple in the bar - the talk became more and more animated, and they moved over to sit with us. Eventually they had to go, as they had another place to go to that evening, but we left with their phone number, and the plan to meet up again at some time.

Back to our nice warm welcoming boat, and a good night's sleep.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Getting some charge in the batteries

Sunday 16th January
We decided that our poor boat needed some charge in the batteries - so set off up through 2 locks to Marsworth, where we had a quiet pub lunch in the Red Lion.

Afterwards, we found this bike and a brace of pheasants outside!

It was wonderful to be out on the boat for the first time since the summer.
Even if it was cold and grey.

Some sad news.

Posted by Alan.

This may seem a strange thing to post here, but I have been receiving several inbound messages from people who I have no obvious other way to respond to, but I know look here from time to time.

Many have noticed that our regular cruising pattern ended after August, and indeed the boat has not moved since, and has sat through the recent severe weather, unloved, and with a flat battery.

Some will know the reason is that my mum, Adelaide, fell ill in early October, and we have been on a fairly roller coaster ride since then.

Sadly Mum passed away on the 27th December, and was laid to rest this last week.

Mum had lived independently at home, without assistance beyond friends or family ,up until over 92 years old, and was not a fan of hospitals and care homes. So, while it has been a shock to lose her so quickly, we are comforted by the fact that she spent most of a very long life as she wanted it, and that the unavoidable period of being cared for by others at the end was not too drawn out.

So, on a brighter note, if I can manage to not damage myself again, as I did early last year, (more boating time lost!), and if Cath's parents can manage to stay hale and hearty for a while, then there is a much greater chance that we may make it around a wide range of canals and rivers this year.

Mind you, I now have a cataract operation to get out of the way before serious boating begins.....

Thanks to all those who have expressed concern, or given support, through the recent months.