Category Archives: The Grand Tour

Day 12 – Early Birds

An early start for us today, with an alarm call at 7am and cast off at 7.20, with only the sunshine and birdsong for company. We were keen to get through Stoke before the troublemakers were up and about. Toby wanted to replace the side fender ropes and was practicing his crown knots for the end (what did we do before google!)

Not long before the first lock, I got quite a shock pushing the metal lock gate, it was somewhat chilly on my bum! My muppetness continues, and I fell over at the next lock closing the gate, luckily I landed on my bum, Toby just shakes his head in despair. The locks show off an interesting side of Stoke.

We made light work of the flight, and Toby did a grand job making the almost 180 degree turn on to The Caldon Canal.

We stopped to top up for water and empty the poo tank, such a glamorous task!

The Caldon was quite a change to the Trent and Mersey, it’s quite narrow, with tight bends and low bridges. We were advised not to stop for the first two hours which is a real shame as the towpath side has plenty of mooring rings.

We passed a number of old Potteries, it’s great to see that the old bottle kilns have been retained as they make quite a dramatic sight.

It’s quite tricky to find moorings, we ended up mooring in sight of Engine Lock, when we arrived there were two boats, now there are five. We had a great view out to the countryside out of the hatch.

As the towpath had changed, Toby decided (felt obliged?!) to wash down the other side of the boat. I made mark 2 of the mango and passionfruit ice creams after finding mark 1 as somewhat tart.

Day 11 – In The Wars….Again!

I manged to cut my thumb on a kitchen knife, and I’ve no idea how I cut my finger, drastic action was required by nurse Toby, although he very nearly stopped the blood flow to my thumb, the tape was that tight. I’ll save you from the bruised leg following a painful crushing between a lock gate and bridge today, I lost that battle.

A real treat first thing with Toby up first and teas in bed. We only had a short cruising day planned as we wanted to avoid Stoke, and pass straight through tomorrow early doors. The weather forecast had 50% of rain, with the bends of the canal, sometimes we were heading towards the menacing clouds, luckily we escaped.

A flight of 8 locks today at Stone. We had quite a lengthy conversation on the pros and cons of stopping for water before the flight, we turned around and saw a boat behind us, decision made in an instant! Somebody had left their windlass behind, I was quite tempted by it until I picked it up, wow was it heavy.

No Herons all trip and then one yesterday and three today. The signets were with mum and dad and pecking at the weed on the side of the boat.

We moored up just before 1pm in Barlaston and enjoyed bacon butties for lunch. Toby worked on repairing the dodgy drawer and I made flapjacks, although not so sure at adding dried apples, I didn’t imagine they’d burn!

Day 10 – Wash Day

We start the blog with another sunset photo with reflections in the water and on the side of the boat, Toby took this one.

A chilly wind this morning, I had a t-shirt, jumper, body warmer, coat and woolly hat on. I felt quite the softy southerner with other helms just in t-shirts and shorts. As it was lock free to begin with, Toby stayed below dong his techy stuff with the website. I saw this narrowboat in the field, I wonder if anyone lives in it?

Five locks today, and all spaced out, I do like the single locks. We’re travelling up the locks now, it’s always a surprise as to what we’ll find on the other side. I like the photo of the worn steps, I wonder how many pairs of boots have been up and down them over the years.

We moored up at 2.30, which is very early for us, we would have moored up earlier, but there was definitely a whiff in the air from the farm. I made friends with Wanda the twin tub, and caught up on the washing while Toby washed the roof and one side of the boat. He was quite pleased to learn that the towpath doesn’t change any time soon, so the other side won’t get washed for a while.

Oliver looking like a shiny new penny.

Day 9 – Not so Hunky Dory

Did you think Toby would get up in time to watch the Game of Thrones final on catch up?? It took some effort for Toby to get up, but we did cast off as agreed at 8am, and reached Fradley Junction by 9am. Toby watched the final episode in cinema mode (curtains and doors shut, making the space as dark as possible) while I swept the roof and pottered.

Our mooring at Fradley junction

We met up with our friend Ted who lives on nb Summer Breeze at Bartun Turns Marina. We went for lunch and both the lads had a pint and a whopper of a calzone for lunch.

We cast off after lunch moving on to the Trent and Mersey canal, and made swift progress through the next two locks with volunteer lock keepers. Toby made good use of the lock free time prepping his next loaf of bread while I practiced my one arm steering and selfies

We met up with the boat in front called Hunky Dory , they were in the lock and saw water filling the cabin, in a panic they refilled the lock and exited. Their full water tank had a leak and had emptied in to the cabin, they were all safe and no long term damage done, fingers crossed for a speedy repair. We passed through the town of Armitage, famous for toilet plumbing, the factory along the canal dates back to 1817 , it’s quite clever as it follows the curve of the canal.

We had one narrow stretch, luckily no one was coming the other way.

We moored up in Rugely to a dinner of Mexican Bean Salad for tea. I ventured to the local Tesco and topped up supplies, I was like charlie and the chocolate factory as we only do online shopping at home. £50 later, and I realised I may have purchased one too many 2 pints of milk and bananas for our breakfast smoothie!

We also had some great news today when Waitrose in Thame phoned up to say that Oxford Paddlers for Life have been selected for their next Community Matters scheme – we’ll be one of three charities, and get a share of £1000 based on how many of their green tokens people put in our box vs the other charities’ boxes. Start hoarding now and send any you get to our home address please!

Day 8 – Nosey Parkers

We start off with a photo I took last night, we’d already published the blog and thought we’d save it for today – not bad hey!

Only two locks today, and there was a queue in the other direction with the chaps doing the locking, so we had an almost free passage. They say women can talk, just put a windlass in a man’s hand and they’ll talk for hours about bolinder engines and stuff that passes me by. One of the guys was from Huddersfield and called me duck – link to next photo!

It felt like we spent most of the day looking in to people’s back gardens as the non-towpath side was garden after garden. We saw quite a few gnomes, and the odd beer shed. The red flower bush really stood out, the colours so vibrant.

We were making such good progress, we decided to moor up for lunch and enjoy our ploughmans platter from the stern. I’m not sure if I’d fancy being on the back of this boat, or the two lads sat on top of the bridge.

As usual, we went further than planned mooring up at 4.35. Toby did some paddling stuff on the laptop while I cooked creamy garlic chicken from scratch – and very nice it was too. It’s Game of Thrones final tonight, and I’ve dangled Toby a carrot and said if we have an early start (8am…early by Toby’s standards!), we can more up at Fradley junction and he can watch it on catch up before all the spoilers are released.

Day 7 – Ashby La Vista, Baby

Bear with us on the blog post titles, we’ve got 120 to find!

Another chilly morning, we were prepared with our thermals and snoods. Today we left the rural Ashby Canal and joined the Coventry canal, which felt like the M6 of canals with quite a number of boats on the move including Darth Wader and Watt Now, an electric boat.

After motoring for an hour of so, we moored at Nuneaton to replenish supplies at the local Sainsburys. We saw a shopping centre and I asked a passer by if there was an M&S food hall inside, I said we were on holiday and didn’t know the area. She looked shocked and asked if we were on holiday in Nuneaton! I explained we were passing through on the canals. Back on our way, and we soon passed the infamous water point where Peter left his camera, luckily for him it was off side and still there when he returned (once bitten, sadly not twice shy when he did it again last year on The River Avon!)

!)

We reached Atherstone and the flight of 11 locks, happy days with plenty of v’lockys to lend a hand, we made swift progress. Sadly a boat pulled out in front of us so we had to fill and empty each one.

There is still plenty of greenery to be seen, some more pleasant than others.

We moored up and Toby watched the FA cup final while I prepared dinner (sausage casserole) and prepped food for tomorrow. Evening routine seems to be eat, blog, logbook, showers and bed, I’m usually fast asleep by 9pm, all this fresh air and locks is tiring me out.

Day 6 – Woolly Hat Day

We had planned to start a bit later today, but were both awake anyway so ended up setting off about 8am as normal. The sunshine had abandoned us so it was thermals and woolly hats, in stark contrast to the previous days!

The cloudy skies soon turned to rain, so we thought bumbles to that and moored up to wait out the rain for an hour or so. Sarah made good use of the time to do some washing using the new twin tub (Wanda the washing machine) – whilst I got geeky and did some work on some android programming for Canal Buddy.

Once the skies cleared we set off again – the sky was still a little moody, but it gave a nice contrast to the scenery compared to before.

We stopped again briefly to fill up with water and get rid of our rubbish at Sutton Cheyney Wharf, and then stopped again at Ashby Boats by Stoke Golding to top up the fuel and empty the poo tank. Their pump out was quite unique, whilst James who helped us turned out to be a fellow techy, starting a course in Computer Science at Liverpool later this year so we had a good chat about programming and the raspberry pi.

We’ve moored for the night just over a mile from Marston Junction, so all setup to be back on the Coventry Canal tomorrow and get through Bedworth and Nuneaton. Once we get to Atherstone we’ll even have some locks to do, which might come as a bit of a shock after all these lock-free days!

Final job for the day – sorting out the beer/supplies cupboard 🙂

Day 5 – The Breadcrumb Trail

We cast off at the agreed time of 8am (it’s debated the night before, and my start time usually agreed upon!). As we had another lock free day, Toby was below baking the two rolls ahead of our BBQ supper and a sourdough loaf. The results were tasty as always.

We stopped at Market Bosworth to replenish food supplies, it was a good mile uphill (thankfully downhill on the way back). We wandered past some interesting houses and front gardens.

We were soon back on Oliver and enjoying the last of the sunshine. We had a scotch egg of sorts for lunch, made with mackerel and mash rather than sausage meat and Toby’s sourdough breadcrumbs

We reached the end of the navigable section and Toby asked me to helm the turn in the winding hole (I’m told I may not be able to open locks….over my dead body!!). First attempt was an epic failure as we were too close to the bank, second attempt was successful. Our first holiday argument, and no doubt not the last.

We were soon retracing our steps counting down from bridge 61 all the way down to 1. The sun soon disappeared and and it was time for warm jumpers and coats.

We moored up a little later than planned, and had a tasty dinner of lamb and mint burgers on a sourdough roll smothered in onions, with a side of sweet potato wedges and chargrilled asparagus…just awesome

Day 4 – Living in a Box

Sarah managed to drag me out of bed a bit earlier this morning – we were on our way by 8am and it was another beautiful sunny morning travelling through the Leicestershire countryside.

We stopped off in Stoke Golding to visit a farm shop that was just off the canal. They were out of milk, but we bought some tasty looking sausages and lamb burgers ready for a barbecue tomorrow, and walked up into the village to get the milk.

After that brief excursion we were back on the move to get to Sutton Cheyney, which is near the site of the Battle of Bosworth where King Richard III was defeated by Henry VI. We walked up to the Bosworth Battlefield Centre and found out much more of the history , and had some lunch at the cafe. Somehow we both resisted the delicious looking cakes!

On our walk back there were some wonderful views…

We also went past Shenton station, where there’s a steam locomotive but sadly only on weekends at this time of year.

Sarah found an old steel box (for donations?) and had a look inside….

We think they were blue tits, but if you know otherwise do let us know! We then slowly meandered our way back down the canal to Oliver, ready for another day tomorrow.

Day 3 – Driven Round The Bend

It was with some effort that Toby finally made it out of bed after 10.5hrs of sleep, it was his own snoring that woke him up in the end. We cast off at 8.45 and another day of warm sunshine and blue skies. The photo below is the view from the side hatch this morning – glorious

Only 1 lock today, and that was a stop lock between two canals, there must only be a couple of inches difference in height. I had a small run in with a grumpy old git who said I should be more over to my side as we passed, I would have been in the bushes. I smiled and wished him a happy holiday, I really wanted to tell him to buzz off. Toby made the most of me steering, his morning smoko break was a scone with strawberry jam and clotted cream.

We saw some horses cooling down in the canal, by the time we had passed, they had seen their owner and were galloping across the field

We had a 180 degree turn today at Hawksbury junction (see video below). There is a pub full of gongoozlers, waiting for you to fail. Toby made it in one, we have video evidence but Toby’s video editing skills need a bit more practice to make it small enough to upload to the blog!

We stopped for lunch, and the inevitable setting the smoke alarm off cooking some toast, we we’re on our way to yet more lock free cruising. We then had a 90 degree turn on to The Ashby Canal which is new territory for us. It’s wonderfully rural although quite narrow and bendy (not that you’d think it from the picture below!)

Thanks to mum and dad for checking on the house – you were spotted!!