Thursday, December 12, 2013

Turning Tides and Fast Lanes

Thu 12th Dec

I can finally report that Andrew is now gainfully employed and started his job yesterday. Somewhat of a change in routines now, with Andrew up before the sparrows and back long after they have all gone to bed. As for me after months of applications, the occasional phone interview and a couple of second interviews, I now also have a job offer. Initially it was a bit awkward as the job was in Bristol (and interview in Andover) and Andrew had accepted his job in Winchester the day before. So with a very costly and time consuming commute for Bristol I had decided to decline the offer. The company however was keen and has instead reverted back to the initial job position in Andover but on a 1 year fixed term contract. I am happy with that as Andover is only about 20 minutes from Winchester and we will see what the year brings. So life back in the fast lanes.

We are still in Theale, having purchased a general towpath mooring licence for 3 months. We have a lovely little spot here by the lake. Once a week we tootle up to Tyle Mill to refill the water tank and occasionally to empty the other. Diesel was a bit difficult until we bought a little car on the weekend. Now we can go and fetch it in the car rather than taking the boat, which was a bit of a problem with the diesel being the other side of the closed locks at Tyle Mill. Now other issues come to mind with working and being away all day. We will have to make a decision on staying aboard or moving to land during the week. As most know, live aboard marinas on the Kennet and Avon are few and far between, never mind finding a free spot !! As such the decision might be made for us. I would much rather be in a marina while working, although Andrew does not mind one way or other. Starting to have to think about a commute and early mornings and late nights is making me shiver (and no it is not because it is cold inside Laughing) but needs must. 

Only having had the car for a few days before Andrew started work, it was quite different choosing where to go shopping rather than having to settle to where we could go either on foot or by public transport. Life is certainly shifting once more as we start out on yet another path. We are both looking forward to retirement now though, having experienced a magnificent year of fun and adventure. We have not got the boating bit out of our blood and will look forward to spending many more years out on the cut.

With our continuous cruising over for now, the blogs will be fewer and farther apart but I will continue the blog to keep family and friends up with the news and what we are up to.
Our plan is to spend time exploring some parts which were not able to get to by boat, but naturally this will be limited to weekend excursions Sigh. Nevertheless we will do what we can.

Thanks to all who have helped us along our way this past year and to great new friends we have found on our travels. We will meet again sometime, we just hope it will not be too long Winking

So I will leave you now with some pictures of our current mooring spot which has been very pleasant over the past month.

Southern Crested Grebe - in winter dressing

Little Grebe - we have only seen him/her a few times

Sunset :)



Sunday, November 17, 2013

Froud's Bridge Marina...and Back Again !!

On thursday we made our way west.  Fuel was needed for the tank and the fire, gas for the cooking and a pump out was required.  So we started off at 10am on a fairly sunny but windy day. Only 5 miles to travel but as many locks and swing bridges to get through.

Going up these locks is time consuming. They are wide locks and the paddle wash is fierce. So it was slow and steady but I still managed to throw the boat from one side to the other on occasions. Poor Paddington Bear took a swan dive to the floor a few times. Eventually I left him sitting comfortably on the chair instead Big Grin

The wind was picking up and turning decidedly chilly but we eventually made it to Aldermaston Wharf.  Only it was 4 boats deep along the whole section between the locks, with no space for pulling in for a pump out and diesel.  Although there were some folk around sorting out the hire boats they did not seem particularly interested in our money. So we pootled on to Froud's Bridge Marina. By this time Andrew was really feeling the cold, I was the one doing all the strenuous exercise and keeping moderately warm in the process. Froud's Marina relieved us of quite a few leaves from the money tree, which is looking well on it's way into winter but we are now stocked up with coal for another month or two (depending on the weather)  Sigh. Andrew decided that a night hooked up in the marina was called for, as he was not keen on travelling any distance back again.  From my point of view this was great. I got 4 loads of washing done, leaving the boat looking like the inside of a chinese laundry Laughing. In the morning we refilled the water before leaving, without even having to move, bliss.

We had hoped that on the route up to Aldermaston, we could find more spots to moor over winter. We were amazed at how shallow the edges were, leaving very few decent spots for mooring. Not only was it shallow but also very shaded.  All along the towpath were tall trees shading the boat from the sun. We need as much sun as we can get to keep down the running hours on the engine to charge the batteries. Not only that, access to groceries would require a trip by bus or train to get to a supermarket. So decision made, we would return to Theale and should the rain persist and the river rise we will take the boat up to Tyle Mill or just above Sulhamstead Lock. Both seem to be reasonably ok. Two of the other boats moored near us were in this same area last winter and said that they were fine. The water level rose and the flow increased but other than that no real issues. Well we shall see but I am hoping for a nice dry winter this year Praying.

So sorry Allan, for now we are staying east and with the sun. I rather like our little spot here by the lake. I will take a picture on the next misty, sunny morning and you can see why.

Until then folk, take care and keep warm Wave

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It Must Be Time Again...For An Update

Once more I have been very lax in keeping family and friends up to date with what we are up to. (Hand smack taken)

We made it safely through the great storm that never was for some.  We on the other hand were battered around a bit but only for a few hours. We had selected our spot well and were protected from the worst of the winds. Leaving our spot a couple of days later we saw just how bad it had been in some spots with trees down all over.

We have made our way on to the Kennet and Avon and have basically ground to a halt not far out of Reading. Theale has both a bus and train service into Reading and a co-op for food supplies, convenient for us. Water and pump out is just a lock and swing bridge away. A bloody tough swing bridge though, Andrew had to tie the boat up and help me with both opening and closing the bridge. That one lock and bridge are not on this years maintenance stoppages so we are happy about that. We have a couple of spots in which to moor and only a few other boats sharing those spots, so plenty for all.  No problems with continuous moorers around this end of the canal it would seem.

Tomorrow we shall venture a little bit further as we have need of more bags of coal. So to Aldermaston Wharf it is.

Our other news is that the job offers are just not flowing in, actually considering the number of jobs I have been applying for they have been dramatically non-existent. It really is quiet depressing. This is one of the reasons for remaining as close to Reading as possible without being smack bang in the middle of town. Mid town was not so great for the sun, when it shines. So being a bit further out we get the batteries well charged when the sun is out, which I must admit has only been for a few days here and there but at least it helps keep down the diesel consumption.

In hind-sight we wished that we had stayed further up north where we have more boating friends, as it is getting quiet lonely here. We are running out of conversation between us, especially as we are not on the move every other day.

So looking forward to tomorrow and some new views for a day before we move back down to Theale. Andrew has struck up a bit of a morning friendship with the lady from the house by the Theale swing bridge, but this all takes place before I even get up as she is an early morning walker and I would rather be tucked up in bed.

Andrew has been 'forcing' me to go out for a daily walk, just to stretch out the muscles and stop the onset of cabin fever :D 

Other than that i am keeping myself busy, reading, playing games on my tablet, knitting, watching tv, applying for jobs every morning (except saturday and sunday) and enlarging the number of people on my family tree. The tree is coming along nicely with the discovery of the marriage certificate of my dutch great grandfather. It has only taken me 10 odd years to get there, but that is what happens when you only rely on internet sites for information. Next on the list is the Swiss / Italian side, which is even more difficult to come by. 

So that is enough of the boring stuff, Andrew is fine and most of the time so am I. one day the phone will ring and that dreaded job will be offered.  I have to say I am not looking forward to being back in an office, but it is too late to teach and old 'dog' new tricks, so there will be no re-training for me.  One day someone will see that I am the person that they really need and want to work for them. Then life will take a different turn again.

Well I have been advised that dinner is ready, so I am off to partake of some sustenance.

Cheerio everyone, until next time :D

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Anticipation and it's downfall

So it has been a while since I last let you all in on what we are doing, actually it has been close on 2 weeks. So yet another catch up is on the cards.

I last left you at the top off the Oxford Canal viewing all from the summit pound.

We have naturally moved on as winter maintenance of a number of locks between us and our possible destination starts on the 4th November. We need to be on the right side of a lock or two to ensure that we can be in the 'desired' place when this occurs. For some of these locks, the stoppage is for a full 5 months, for others 2 months to just 2 weeks. Anyway, suffice it to say, if we are on the wrong side on the 4th November we will not be able to get to possible interviews and the like without some serious travelling issues.

So as you might have gathered, the greatly anticipated job offer was not to be. A real bugger really, as it had us on tenterhooks for 4 weeks! I was disappointed and annoyed, after multiple phone calls, some late at night, tests and a final interview in Reading last week, involving more travel costs. It also means that I have to start this process all over again and that we are still not able to make any definite plans for winter. Trying to sort out stoppages and how we are going to manage, makes for more worry on my part. I think that maybe Andrew hides it better than I do. But not to worry to much family, we still have a number of weeks to go before we start going hungry :D

So while all this job finding stuff has been going on behind the scenes, we have still been making our way south. The weather has been on and off, with some lovely autumn days of sun and colour and other days of cold and wet winds. We have tackled long days and lots of locks. Suffered some selfish boaters along the way and some very pleasant. I guess it is a lot like driving, you get some real buggers on the roads too. :D

I have taken some photo's but spent most of my time either locking or just enjoying the fresh air. As Andrew commented one day, 'we have had a fair share of fresh air over this past year'.

A Bright Spot



Kite, but not the paper kind :)

and another

Clifton Hampden Bridge

and another Kite

Ooohh, a Heron

Shillingford Court

More winter colour

We are now holed up just below Goring Lock. A severe weather warning has been issued for tonight and tomorrow morning, with wind gusts up to 80 mph for the south and south west coasts and here inland the weather man says about 40 to 60 mph. We are reasonably protected here surrounded by hills and high trees, but trees far enough away that if they do break, they won't reach us. There is also the rain to contend with but Andrew assures me that we will be fine and that even if the river should rise we will be fine, the ropes will be secure enough but not to tight :)
Once the weather settles we will move on to Reading and the Kennet and Avon Canal, where we will join the hundreds of other Continuous Moorers, or so the stories say. We will see and report :)

In the meantime, wish us luck on finding jobs so that we may continue to support ourselves :D

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Pushing on South

We touched down at Braunston for a couple of days as there was a Skype interview to attend :) We had a reasonable internet connection just by bridge 89. nb Islonian was also in the immediate vicinity of Braunston, so we made a plan to meet up later in the evening on Wednesday. But the weather turned on us and from a stunning early morning it turned into a very chilly and damp night. Andrew and I weren't quite sure where the pub was, the interior of the boat was lovely and warm and the outside very cold. Laziness had set in so we postponed the visit to the next day.  

Early morning on the North Oxford - heading into Braunston

More around Braunston

A touch of sun

Early morning on the farm

and more

On Thursday morning we walked around the towpath to visit with Jim and Sheila on Islonian. After another long catchup we made our farewells. In the morning we were heading in the opposite directions. I am sure though that we will meet up again :)
The interview in the evening went well, from my perspective but as yet, still no end in sight. Another interview to be arranged, this one to be a face to face! We are getting to the point of first offer is going to be the one.

Friday morning saw us turning in to Braunston Marina to get a pump out, only to see that Islonian had the same idea and had beaten us to the spot. We moored alongside while they completed their tasks, having yet another chat. So goodbyes once again and Islonian left to continue their journey to their winter moorings.
Islonian on their way down the Grand union from Braunston Marina

Once we had done with the services, Andrew made a wonderful reverse out of the marina, executed a marvelous reverse turn and then we were on our way to Oxford.
We made our way as far as Napton-on-the-Hill and moored up in the visitor moorings there. The weather had been very iffy and I was not to keen on tackling the 9 locks in the rain.  The only issue was that the visitor moorings at the bottom of the Napton flight have no internet signal and NO phone either. So a quiet afternoon was had :D

Today we have put the locks behind us and stopped on the summit pound of the South Oxford canal. There is a lovely view across the farms, but no pictures, as each time the sun came out it vanished again before I could get outside with my camera. We did however watch a 'hunt' in progress. I wish it had been closer so that I could get some photos, it was quite a sight. By the time I had watched them with the binoculars, I had given myself seasickness !!! Sick How the hell I managed that I do not know.

Anyway, the evening has given over to the rain and we are sitting here watching tv listening to the rain on the roof. We on the other hand are cosy and warm with the fire going softly in the corner.
And just to finish off, some pictures that I took last week and did not add into the blogs !!
Mandarin - male  Seen outside Tamworth

and the female
Getting ready for winter

Bridge in the Atherstone Flight

Andrew's attempt at a Monet

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Quiet Week, Sort Of ?

Since last week we have moved closer to London, by 38.71 miles :)  I have taken virtually no photo's due to spending most of my time either locking or computing inside!

I have managed 3 days of study to get the brain back into 'work' mode and be able to complete a second 'test' as part of a job interview.  In all the test took me 2hrs 25mins to complete and the company was expecting 2 1/2 hrs, so not too bad.  Now I am waiting to here whether I actually managed to complete it to the expected standard !

The weather for this past week has actually been very pleasant, considering it is supposed to be autumn. We wonder if the long 2012-13 winter and late spring is possibly also resulting in a later autumn/winter. I for one will not be complaining, yet! Today we cruised further than we originally intended as the outdoor temp on our weather station was showing 21.5deg and the sun was shining.

So a quick recoup.
Since leaving Fazeley Junction we have journeyed to the bottom of the Atherstone Lock flight. The following morning I was a bit late getting out of bed (some mornings the bed is just too comfortable :) ) and while I was having my first cup of tea for the day in preparation for the 11 locks, at least 4 boats passed us by going towards the lock flight. So we thought we would just give them a while to get going through but of course 2 more then passed us. To hell with that we thought, when we got to the top we still needed to restock the cupboard! We did not intend to get to the top too late.  So we gave the last boat past at least 10 minutes to get through the bottom lock around the corner, before we set off ourselves.  Blow me down, we get around the corner and there is a bloody queue!!  The previous boat had broken down again! We passed him the day before and he was having throttle issues, supposedly fixed at great cost but seemingly not very well. He had called the engineer back but needed to get up the bottom 2 locks to be near a road that the engineer could get too!  So he was pulling the boat along by the center rope.  Lucky for him it was just a tiddly little boat :)  Unfortunately for us we were behind him, but I guess we were not really in too great of a hurry. As it was, once we were passed the broken down boat, we caught up the boat ahead in just the next few locks. So slowing down again to the speed of the boat ahead. I do try to remember sometimes that locking is not a race but Andrew and I have, over the past year, got flights down to a quick routine, especially when going up. It is hard when that rhythm is broken by catching up to a boat ahead.  Anyway, without boring everyone with the details, we made it to the top of the flight, found a mooring (whew, was worried they might be full) and had just completed the mooring up jobs, when the rain came down. Rather a lot of rain too. That made the decision for us and we stayed put for the night. The shopping was done first thing the next morning before setting off on the next leg, which ended up being just a very short 1hr cruise to catch up again with Allan. There Andrew spent the afternoon chatting and trying to sort out dud batteries again, while I started on the re-engage brain stuff. On the battery side, we have started having problems again with batteries completely discharging overnight. Having been through this before,Andrew knew what the problem would be, it just needed time to figure out the naughty ones and banish them. Now we need to replace the buggers and the price of them would equate to 2 weeks of food! 
Saturday saw us all off again, heading to Hawkesbury Junction, the spot where the North Oxford Canal joins the Coventry Canal. We were hoping to find some space to moor up here but no luck. The only available space had a very dodgy looking boat moored just ahead of the space, ghastly music blaring out of a radio and 2 obviously well oiled gents sitting on the towpath. They did question the origin of our flag, Aussie / Kiwi and we set them straight with a bit of a laugh and a quiet behind the hand, not stopping there for the night no matter what you might think :)  Up until this point I had been studying for quite a few hours. At the junction we turned the 180deg into the start of the North Oxford Canal. I had hopped off the boat to set the stop lock (a very shallow lock, usually only a foot or less, used originally to stop the flow of water from one canal company to the other!). Andrew turned gracefully under the bridge and into the lock. From here we continued...Andrew looking for a stopping point and me to carry on studying :(  We eventually stopped for the night at All Oaks Wood, a lovely little spot and the all too important GOOD internet connection which I would need to be able to get the test and return it. Sunday was another study day and Monday was test morning, so very little to report there :)  other than Allan caught us up again as he had stopped for groceries the day before and had to stop due to failing light before he could reach us on the Saturday. Allan left again on Monday and I also recall 'hearing' nb Islonian passing us by but my head was down and bottom up getting through my test. Once my test was done and emailed back, we decided not to move on, my brain needed some cool down time :D

So we arrive at today.   We left All Oaks Wood fairly early due to me rising before 8:15am ! and this was due to the very noisy tractor in the field just a few meters from the boat which started work at 7:30am!  We made our way toward Rugby, for yet another stop-n-shop! As we came around the corner after exiting Newbold Tunnel, who should we spy, side by side (or more literally tail to tail) was nb Waiouru, last spotted heading out of Chester at least 4 weeks ago and nb Lucy Lowther (aka The Lovely Lisa), Allan who had left us All Oaks Wood the day before!  We called out a 'Hello' to Tom and Jan and Allan. After a lengthy pit stop with Tom and Jan to catch up on all the news and discussion on batteries, we bid farewell to them as they are staying in Rugby for the winter. We will keep up with their news via their blog as I am sure they will keep up with ours in the same way. Thanks Tom and Jan, it was great having a chance to chat again :)

We continued on to Rugby, just a short hop down the canal, intending to catchup with Allan again, mooring up somewhere after Rugby.  At least the intention was for us to stop at the bottom of the 3 Hillmorton Locks but there was no sign of Allan. So we continued up the locks, the weather was lovely and warm and brain was back in cruise mode :) We eventually found Allan who had continued on to Barby Moorings where he was going to leave his boat for winter. There were not any decent moorings by the marina, so we made our goodbyes and carried on for another 10 or 15 minutes and have moored up here, just before bridge 79. Tomorrow we shall make our way to Braunston. It is here that we will have to make a definite and final decision as to which way we will go, left to London via the Grand Union Canal or right to Oxford and on to the Thames. Our current thoughts are Oxford and the Thames as the current job interview process is for a position based in Reading. If this does not come about, then we can continue on to London.

So there you have it, our news for the week and once again, up to date :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Twitcher Sidetrack

Monday 30th September

Today we took a side trip a mile or so up the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal to the RSPB nature reserve which is still being established around some old gravel pits by the River Tame.

Gothic style footbridge over the canal by Drayton Manor PArk
Unfortunately the light has not been the best today.  The sun did peek out in the very late afternoon but by the time I had finished my cup of tea and got my shoes on the clouds were already making tracks over the sky.  I will go back again in the morning to see if I can do any better.
But here are some of the better ones from today.

Common Darter

Female Ruddy Darter?


Duck in flight

Great Crested Grebe with lunch
I think that this Grebe caught more than he could almost cope with. It took him at least 10 minutes to get it down, even andrew would have been pleased if he caught a fish this size :)

Little Egret

Shoveler Duck - Female

Maybe a Stonechat?

Common Toadflax


Evening Sky

Wild Sweetpea

Great Crested Grebe and young

Tuesday 1st October

I went on another nature walk this morning after sorting out another interview, this one though is via skype, so no travel costs involved just yet. So fingers crossed for this one and hope it goes better than the last one Smile
So todays' pictures …


Evening Primrose





Grass seed head - those spiders get everywhere!



House window

Caterpillar of the Grey Dagger Moth

Burst of colour