Wednesday, December 12, 2012

An Update

We have been a bit quiet over the past week while we made our way back to Loughborough for Christmas, New Year and to wait out the worst of winter. Our intention was to get to Loughborough via the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union Canal, part of which also includes the River Soar. The day before we were due to turn onto the Leicester Arm we were reminded to check the winter stoppages, when Canal and River Trust close locks and sections of the canals for maintenance. Naturally we then proceeded to do so and discovered that we would be unable to get through the Foxton Locks until after the 21st December.  Plan B meant taking the longer route around, about 2 1/2 times further. So now instead of moving 4 hours a day, we needed to do more to try and beat the winter freeze. 
Beautiful sunrise on the Coventry Canal

Lucky for us the following days were clear but very cold. Andrew was up before sunrise and we were off by 8 - 8:30 in the morning. We rushed through the rather beautiful Northern Oxford Canal and on to the Coventry Canal over the next few days. Frosty clear mornings and iced canals, Andrew was having a ball. Me I was keeping warm inside and only popping out to manoeuvre into and out of the locks. 

Waiting for Andrew to open the lock gates 

An unusual 'haystack' near the canal 

We planned to only stop for water and groceries at the end of each day, mooring up at 3 - 3:30pm allowing time to go and get groceries after this.It is an odd feeling going grocery shopping in the dark but still only 4pm in the afternoon.
We were making good time and the weather was being reasonably kind and we were on track to arrive in Loughborough on Wednesday evening or Thursday, UNTIL we arrived at the Barton Turns Lock on Tuesday morning, just an hour and a half after starting out. 
In our haste to change route we missed another stoppage on the longer Plan B route, Barton Turns Lock was closed until the 14th December, but only the day before we arrived, the stoppage was extended to the 19th and we are now having to wait !  Luckily for us there is a very large marina right here, the Barton Turns Marina. For now we are marina based, not very pleasant I must admit. On the plus side I have managed to get the laundry done and there is a very nice butcher and grocer in a waterside development. Along with a cafe and a bar, so we will not be short of the essentials. For a place to be stuck not to bad from that angle but bloody boring in every other way. It has not helped that the fog rolled in early Tuesday afternoon and has not moved since. Crappy photography weather !

We also had to change plans to see some friends we have not seen for a very long time. Another stroke of luck there is a small Travellodge across the canal, our friends have changed their night stop from Loughborough to Barton under Needwood, so we still get to see them on Friday after all.

Other than that we wait to complete the last 2 days of travel to Loughborough. We are hoping the locks might open before the 19th and we will be the first boat through I would suspect. We can only hope that the weather holds out and we do not find ourselves frozen in here for the rest of winter.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Extra as promised

It is a few days back now but due to my insistence on getting my cast replaced and a necessary stop for laundry, we were running a day behind schedule to be in Leighton Buzzard on the Sunday for an engine service. With Andrew going solo we needed to travel as much as possible each day. Late Friday afternoon, coming out of the Dudswell Lock, Andrew was delighted to inform me that we had just broken some ice, not a huge amount but enough to make him happy. :)  Luckily that was where we were stopping for the night.

Saturday was the day we had to go back down the Marsworth Flight, 6 locks, plus a further 2 a bit further on. Andrew stopped for a quick loo break once we were in the top lock.  Luckily in this short wait another boat arrived at the lock going in the same direction making life a bit easier for Andrew but possibly not as much of a delight for our fellow travellers. We carried on for a few locks after the other boat, nb 4 Fun, moored up. It turned out to be a very pleasant day both for weather and travel.

A Kestrel

Sunday morning arrived and we still had 6 locks and about 5 miles to go. As we also needed to allow the engine time to cool down, Andrew set the alarm for an early start at 8:30am.  Low and behold we woke to a very frosty morning, the coldest we had felt. The canal was iced over but we needed to move !  So icebreaking it was. The ice was about 5mm thick although in the more exposed areas it looked like more 1cm. Andrew was loving it but I was just a little apprehensive, especially as the locks would also be icy.

Our Ice Trail

Ice Edge

In comparison today's trail in the much softer ice

Moorhen trails today

The sound of the boat breaking the ice though was quite enthralling and watching the broken sheets of ice slide over each other was mesmerising. After exiting the first lock the ice was much thicker and Andrew decided to have a cuppa before continuing. With the engine still running the ice was shifting and vibrating and it almost sounded like a chorus of small frogs. Not long after making the coffee, the ice started shifting announcing the arrival of another boat, so once again Andrew was lucky to have some extra help through the locks.  I was surprised at the number of boats out that day as the canal was iced over for most of the trip into Leighton Buzzard.  We made it with plenty of time to spare and the engine has had its service and Andrew has picked up a bit more knowledge on engines.


A Goldfinch feeding while we were waiting at the lock.

Baby it's cold out there.....

We moored up yesterday on the outskirts of Milton Keynes to a beautiful sunny, but cool, afternoon near the  remains of a Norman church. So naturally I grabbed my camera and trotted over to take some photos -

I did a bit of further research on the net after speaking to a man out walking his dogs and discovered that this church was still in use in the late 1920's. Once it was no longer used it seems that the church deteriorated rapidly and this is all that remains today, just 70 years later after it has been standing since about 1175.
( http://www.savestpeterschurch.com/index.php/history/ )

 So from a gorgeous sunset to waking to this, snow and slushy ice on the canal !!

We need to get moving as the food needs restocking. The sun is out again and the snow and slushy ice is already melting, so off to Tescos and then on to Cosgrove for the night.

I will put up a new post tonight with some photo's from Saturday and Sunday, cold and very cold !!!