Thursday, 17 September 2015

Sickle Takes Up a New Mooring

(Boat Sickle - posted  by Alan)

As explained in the last posting, only a few days ago our assumption would have been that after the Stoke Bruerne Village at War that "Flamingo" would return to it's mooring near Weedon to the North, (already done on the Monday), but that "Sickle" would return later in the week to its then base at Fenny Stratford.

However, despite us literally having just paid for a year's moorings at Fenny, we unexpectedly learned that a mooring at High House Wharf, where we moor "Flamingo" was a possibility for "Sickle".

It would cost a little more, but unlike at "Fenny" which BW have let fall apart, and which CRT have consistently failed to repair, it is a proper mooring with a proper edge - there is even 230 volt power!.The advantages of having "Sickle" based within maybe 100 yards of "Flamingo" are enormous, even though it then means both boats are approaching 50 miles away from our home.

After a bit of heart searching we have decided to go for it, including taking the hit of continue to pay for an empty mooring at Fenny until our notice period is up.  I will not miss having to attempt to self dredge every time we returned there, and having to move the neighbouring boat, which always seens to have been moved about 5 feet into our space, leaving insufficient room, though I shall miss the company of Alan, who was the mooring warden in that area until BW decided to scrap them.  Alan has been a top bloke, always willing to give us a call if he thinks the boat needed some attention.

So today we delived "Sickle" to her new home.

No pictures but I'll post some soon, I hope.

Stoke Bruerne to High House Wharf Weedon

Miles: 10.0, Locks: 0

Monday, 14 September 2015

First of the boats back to base - and an unexpected choice to make

Very retrospective post for Monday 14th September
(Boat Flamingo - posted  by Alan)

After "Village at War" Cath and I stayed on on "Flamingo" overnight before the relatively short lock-free run back to her home mooring.

At the stage we did this our obvious assumption was that later in the week  "Sickle" would be moving in the opposite direction to return to her then base at Fenny Strattford.

However a casual enquiry to the moorings owner where we keep "Flamingo" prompted the unexpected reply that he could offer us a mooring for "Sickle" at the same place.

We have been dissatisfied with "Sickle's" mooring at Fenny Stratford for some time.  Shortly after we took it up a large section of bank fell in a couple of boats along, resulting in the boats that were on the site getting moved about so they could still moor, leaving the collapsed bank as it was.  There was never quite enough space for "Sickle", which actually had to be tied at one end to the entrance gate post. Subsequently parts of the bank alongside "Sickle" have fallen away, making it quite dangerous.  This was further exacerbated by the fact the mooring is nothing like the advertised 1 metre depth, and it is always a nightmare on returning to the mooring to get anywhere near the bank because of the accumulated silt.

BW and the CRT have alternated between saying the mooring is due for repair, or might in fact get closed due to lack of funding, and although it is a good location, and unusually secure for a CRT online mooring, it has become more and more problematic.

We had only just renewed our annual contract there, and any swap of mooring usually involves costs of a period of paying for two moorings, so is not to be taken too lightly.  There were advantages, and disadvantages to making the move, and we went home t contemplate them.

Stoke Bruerne to High House Wharf Weedon

Miles: 10.0, Locks: 0

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Stoke Bruerne Village At War

Very retrospective post for Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th September

(Boats Sickle & Flamingo - posted  by Alan)

This is always a favourite event for us, and the first Village at War where both "Sickle" and "Flamingo" would attend.  We have done other events this year with both boats, including the Family Festival also at Stoke Bruerne, but this time harbourmaster Kathryn had done us proud by putting both boats together.

The level of interest both boths generated surprised us greatly, and we spent inordinate amounts of time talking to people about them.  For once we did not have to leave one boat abandoned whilst we were spending time with the other.

As a result of how busy it got we took few photos of our own, but did get to take each boat for a trip down some of the lock flight to help add to the spectacle for the public.

The cans add a touch of extra colour to "Flamingo's" currently tired paintwork.

One of the rare moments Odin was not having attention lavished on him.

There was not a jot of spare space where we were moored.

Photo included only to give an idea how busy the tow path can get.

"Flamingo" waits to use the lock just vacated by "Perch"

"Flamingo" working its way back up the lock flight.

I am supplementing our few pictures with photos taken by two locals involved in the running of this excellent event.  Our thanks to them for publishing them on Flickr.

(Photo: Kathryn Dodington)

(Photo: Kathryn Dodington)
(Photo: Kathryn Dodington)


(Photo: Kathryn Dodington)

(Photo: Lynda Payton)

(Photo: Lynda Payton)

(Photo: Lynda Payton)

(Photo: Lynda Payton)

Miles: 2.9, Locks: 12
(over 2 days)

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Sickle finally on the move again.

Very retrospective post for Sunday 6th September

(Boat Sickle - posted  by Alan)

Passing the fuel boat "Ascot" - Cath on the melodeon at this point.
We had only yesterday finally got "Flamingo" back to her home mooring after her last event at Alvecote, but as we wanted to have both boats at Stoke Bruerne Village at War the next weekend, one of them would need moving there today.  This is because such moves usually involve two cars, but our son uses one of our cars during the week, so despite us both being retired, such moves generally have to be made at weekends.

Cosgrove and the long staight south towards Wolverton aqueduct.
In practice we could hardly have picked a more gorgeous autumn day, and we had a very relaxed boating day, with the only slightly serious effort required being to ascend the 7 lock flight up to Stoke Bruerne.

For a while such trips have regularly featured me largely at the tiller whilst Cath sits and practices melodeon on the front deck.  However as I have recently been persuaded to take it up, (sorry people!), now we alternate who is stering and who is practicing!

If the former teacher is steering there is often a lesson in progress!
We had no dog with us today, as our younger son Michael has complained he never gets to see Odin, so we left him with the sons and he had the benefit of a good walk.

Fenny Stratford to Stoke Bruerne

Miles: 17.6, Locks:8

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Returning Flamingo From Alvecote - Day 5

Very retrospective post for Saturday 5th September

(Boat Flamingo - posted  by Alan)

Just a straightforward 5 mile run back to our home mooring.  Nothing else to report, and no pictures.

Bottom of Buckby Locks to High House Wharf Weedon

Miles: 4.9, Locks: 0
Total Miles: 104.5, Locks: 56

Friday, 4 September 2015

Returning Flamingo from Alvecote - Day 4

Very retrospective post for Friday 4th September - A fair bit of delay.

(Boat Flamingo - posted  by Alan)

Buckby Top Lock, which was not padlocked.
Since we went North not that long ago there had been another lock gate failure in the Buckby flight.  Somewhat bizarrely it was at the opposite end of the same lock that had already had a failure only a few months previously.  Last time a balance beam had literally snapped off at the offside bottom gate, but this time the failure was in the offside top gate.  The heel post, (broadly the bit on which the collar pivots, and on which the balance beam sits), had broken away.
Balance beam being reinstated
CRT had been maintaining traffic for narrow beam craft, by shoring up the gate in a fixed position, and then offering only assisted passage through the lock.  Considerable queues had been reported, made worse than they might otherwise have been because the IWA festival was being held in Northampton, with quite a few bats coming from the North to attend it.

Jumping up and down on it seems to help!
We had monitored the situation almost daily, knowing we needed to come back through these locks.  It just so happened that CRT picked the very day we needed to pass through to do a temporary stoppage to put a better work around in place.  Not the final fix, but something that would allow the lock to be used normally without constant CRT supervision.

When we arrived at the top of the Buckby flight it wasn't closed at the top lock, and no information was forthcoming.  It seemed people were going down as far as they could, and forming a queue, so we decided to join them, and went down two locks before encountering a longish queue,  The next lock down was padlocked, but still nobody to supply information.  The initial stoppage notice had hoped the locks would be reopened again by now, but clearly not.

Part of the failed post - should be one solid piece.
I decided to walk down, and work was still very much in progress.  However a conversation with a supervisor indicated they still hoped to get boats flowing again that evening.  They had made a large temporary part to replace the wooden parts that had failed, and were now relocating the balance beam back on to it.  It did not look that close to being ready to my eyes, and I returned to "Flamingo".

This is serious rot.
However by about, I guess 5:00pm, boats finally started to move, although it took some time before we went through our next lock, due to those queued ahead.  When we finally worked the affected lock the fix was working, although leakage around the edges far greater than previously.

This should be the samepiece of wood as all the other bits
By the bottom of the flight we were not that far from darkness, and we reasoned if we went ahead for the available time we would not find any mooring any better than where we already were.  So we decided to moor up below the locks, despite being sandwiched between the M1 motorway and the West Coast mainline railway - a location we generally avoid.  In practice it wasn't as noisy as we feared, (or we were more tired than we thought we were!).

Getting going again once the locks are off.
Thank goodness with all the staff losses there have been in CRT amongst those that actually "do", that they still retain enough capacity and skills to make an ingenious temporary repair as they have done here.  The repairis a "good 'un", and despite taking a bit longer to install than they first hoped, it is to the credit of those involved that we got through this day.

And on our way again.

Braunston to Bottom of Buckby Locks at Whilton

Miles: 6.2, Locks:13
Total Miles: 99.6, Locks: 56

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Returning Flamingo from Alvecote - Day 3

Very retrospective post for Thursday 3rd September

(Boat Flamingo - posted  by Alan)

 Even though the name Willow Wren ceased to relate to a carrying company, when Willow Wren Canal Transport Services was wound up in 1970, the name, and a variant of the livery remains in use on a still active hire fleet based at Rugby.

The boat waiting for the locks to the left of Flamingo is one such hire boat.

I hope it is turned out with its roof in better condition than "Flamingo's" currently is.  cath made a start on it some months back, but "rain stopped play".

Ascending Hillmorton Locks
All Oaks Corner to Braunston

Miles: 14.5, Locks: 3
Total Miles: 93.4, Locks: 42

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Returning Flamingo from Alvecote - Day 2

Very retrospective post for Wednesday 2nd September

(Boat Flamingo - posted  by Alan)

Well on the return trip I had my second ever attempt at trying to get a full length boat around the 180 degree turn under the bridge at Hawkesbury Junction, (and consequently my first when travelling South).  Somewhat to my surprise I made it around in one, other than having to stop the turn short because a boat in front had yet to move forward into the lock, so were occupying water I needed to go into.  I suppose it was inevitable that whilst people had taken photos to record my failure on the way up, that nobody got a camera out for my more successful attempt on the return journey.

We did however take the chance to photograph "Flamingo" outside the Greyhound pub - one of the best well known on the canal system, I would say.  Even after taking "Flamingo" around the turm, and knowing she is a nominal 71 feet 6 inches in length, I'm still amazed sometimes just how long she looks!

In fact Hawkesbury Juncion (or Sutton Stop) is somewhere she would regularly have tied up, either awaiting orders to load, or simply as an overnight stop, and several pictures exist of her here in Willow Wren days - one by Dusty Miller even formed the basis of one of his paintings - a print of which now hangs inside "Flamingo's" cabin.  Modern day photos of "Flamingo" taken at Hawkesbury seem particularly appropriate!

Springwood Haven to All Oaks Corner

Miles: 15.5, Locks: 1
Total Miles: 78.9, Locks:39

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Returning Flamingo from Alvecote - Day 1

Very retrospective post for Tuesday 1st September

(Boat Flamingo - posted  by Alan)

As in the other direction, the most notable part of this day are the 11 locks at Atherstone.
This is always a pleasant flight to tackle if things are not to busy with other boats, and on this day it was very quiet.

Alvecote to Springwood Haven

Miles: 10.1, Locks: 11
Total Miles: 63.4, Locks:39