Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Battered Whale and Fat Chips anyone?

Four days of brilliant sunshine and very hot this week (Fri to Mon).    Dai burnt his feet and ankles cos he gave in and put on his sandals and shorts, so believe me, it was hot !    In fact last Monday we had to moor early under a tree to give some shade - especially for Foxxie Dog who really did need some respite !   Glorious weather ….. but its now cloudy days and cooling off - ready for the Bank Holiday weekend coming up I’m sure.

Today we are moored just before the Top Lock at Buckby Flight on GU about 4 miles from Braunston having gone thru miles of open countryside in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire passing thru Leighton Buzzard, Milton Keynes, Stoke Bruerne, Blisworth Tunnel, Gayton Junction and Bugbrooke.

I have to tell you about The Grove Lock pub.    Miles from anywhere right by the canal at Grove Lock 28.  The food there is fantastic and the real ale pretty good too!    Fullers ESB, London Pride and 2 Fullers blonde beers plus Seafarer by George Gale.    Extensive menu - we both went for cod & chips.    Biggest portion I have ever seen - talk about battered whale!   Two fish each and a mountain of hugely fat chips served on newspaper on a wooden tray!     And we even managed a pudding each - Dai had profiteroles and I had Berry Cheesecake.  Excellent service even though they were mega busy (loads of tables outside and more inside) and really good value for money.     Well recommended.

This week I have seen 2 events never witnessed by me before!
1.   A grass snake swimming in the canal (well, even snakes must need cooling off sometimes)
2.   A mummy swan carrying her 5 cygnets on her back (although one was scrabbling to stay on!)

Today is Day 60 since we Set Off  ----- we still lovin it !    Dai is so much more relaxed than I have ever seen him and he’s just about doubled the amount of sleep he does every night …. and Dai tells me that I am such  a beaming, chilled out creature these days.    Something’s doing us both the world of good !

The thing I am missing most is my big hugs with Amy, closely followed by the power shower (yes, we do have a full sized shower on Jandai with good enough water pressure but its just not a power shower like we had in the house!!)      Dai’s biggest miss is the craic he had with his work mates.    Not the actual work you understand - just the laughs with his old male mates.  

Well, we off to the pub tonight - one we called in on our way south on the GU.      The Desperate Dan Pie they do is calling Dai !     I had it too last time but won’t tonight - when they say  “Desperate Dan” they aren’t joking ….. it reminded me of the DD Pies that Mandie (my wonderful sister-in-law) makes.    You don’t need anything else to eat for a week!

Since last blog we have done  47 miles and 35 locks. This makes total since Setting Off ….. 384 miles and  316 locks.

                                         Golden fields of yellow rape

                                          So that's how they fill the canal

                                          Traffic jam on the Grand Union

I just never appreciated how beautiful hawthorn blossom is before but now I have time to actually look at it

                                           Go on - jump - now - now - jump

Thursday, May 20, 2010

more photos for yesterday's blog

..... as internet connection stronger here!   We are moored just through Slapton Lock 30 on GU about 4 miles south of Leighton Buzzard
                                       Aylesbury Arm of GU - a lovely peaceful, quiet, rural canal

                                                         first cygnets of 2010 photographed

                                                  Janice concentrating hard doing the blog !

                                          waterfall at one of the locks at start of Aylesbury Arm

                                  you never know what's round the next bend on these English canals!

                                                                       love yer babe

                                      end of current restoration on Wendover Arm of Grand Union

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ditchcrawling !!

…. on the Wendover Arm of GU !   Last Saturday we went down the Wendover Arm to the end of current restoration and back again (approx 1.5 miles and no locks).   Very shallow in parts and the water was so clear you could see to the bottom with all the gi-normous carp living down there!  

Then, on Monday we went down the Aylesbury Arm and stopped in the Basin at the end for 2 nights.    Very peaceful, rural canal and narrow so locks a bit easier even though the Arm is only 6 miles long, in that length there are 16 locks.   Got supplies as Morrisons only about 5 min walk away from the Basin and lots of shops in the town including Wilkos where we needed to buy boring things like firelighters, paintbrushes, new outdoor brush-head, etc.   Also picked up a heap of  books from various charity shops.

Good to be back in the countryside after last week’s travels to London - birdsong and wildlife; trees, grass and wildflowers.     And it seems to be warming up - several nights this week we haven’t had to have a fire in the evenings.    I could have spit today though - 12 locks in total sunshine and then it clouded over when we moored - I was looking forward to an afternoon of sitting in the sun with a bottle of wine.    Instead had to put my cardy on (but still had a glass of the old vino tinto!!) while Dai did some fishing.    Still only tiddlers but it keeps him entertained for hours!

Since last blog we have done 30 miles and  67 locks. This makes total since Setting Off ….. 337 miles and  281 locks.

                                                              Welcome to Berkhamsted

..... and then my internet connection just wasn't strong enough to upload any more today !

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Grrrrrrr ..... no grass

So, this week from Uxbridge we continued south on the GU and then took the Paddington Arm at Bulls Bridge Junction; through Southall, Northolt, Perivale, Alperton, North Acton, Kensal Town to Little Venice and then into |Paddington Basin.      We then turned around and have made our way back and tonight are moored about 3 miles north of Ricksmanworth  in Cassiobury Country Park.

As expected, no moorings at Little Venice but plenty in Paddington Basin.    We were here about 5 yrs ago on a hire boat when a lot of redevelopment was happening and - guess what - it still is !    We moored across the canal from M & S Headquarters, right by St.Mary’s Hospital.    We stayed there 2 nights but Foxxie didn’t like it much - no grass !     On the Sunday we walked up the Regents Canal to Camden Market which is a most fascinating place - hundreds of stalls selling mostly retro clothing which was so bright and colourful.   There are also loads of stalls selling food from all around the world.  

On Monday, Dai, Foxxie and I had a conflab and voted overwhelmingly to leave Paddington - no greenery (except for a handful of young trees) and no birdsong in the Basin, too many tall buildings and too much glass (although we did spend a happy hour having breakfast watching people in the M & S office scurrying about like mad things and so thankful we don't get the Monday morning blues anymore!)

We had our first visitor to the boat since we Set Off which was great - our friend Lyn Jack came to see us while we were in Paddington and we celebrated with champers and an Italian meal out.    It was lovely to see her.

Weather still quite cold and this morning we woke up to a covering of frost on the roof and then during the day a couple of hail showers!    Where’s all that hot sun we had in April ???

Today we filled up with diesel from a working boat whilst in a lock -  and then was delayed a time as we met her again at another lock whilst the man was delivering coal to a lock cottage !

I read somewhere this week that a study has shown that exercise in green places is good for you.    Oh yes, I can definitely vouch for that !   I have never felt fitter since living on the boat.

Since last blog we have done 48 miles and  13 locks. This makes total since Setting Off ….. 307 miles and  214 locks. with an average of 2.6 lock miles an hour (includes charging and days when we haven’t moved).

At least sharing a lock with a diesel boat meant we could take advantage and get the tank to full

The most famous and photographed bear on the Grand Union !

Lyn - our first visitor on Jandai since the Setting Off

Jandai in night lights in Paddington Basin

Paddington Basin by night

water ballast being "craned" into a gravel barge ready for return journey to pick up more gravel

A canal lover's view of Wembly Stadium !

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cootie? Moorchick? Nestlings ?

Only baby we have not yet seen is a cygnet - we spotted ducklings and goslings; also baby coots and moorhens. What is a baby coot and moorhen called? I’ve googled it but without any success other than cootie or nestling (which both sound nice but I’m not altogether sure is right !) or plain old “chick”. Anyone know? Oh, and Dai caught 6 baby perch yesterday (perchlings???) which all went back into the canal as not big enough for the pot.

Been a week of locks ! Done more locks and fewer miles this week than any other - going down. What will it be like going up? Well, darn hard work !! One thing we have noticed since being on the Grand Union since about Leighton Buzzard is that more times than not, lock gates are left open which is fine when its right for you but even more work if it’s not. However, its difficult to get out of the habit of closing all lock gates when we leave and I shall continue to do so !

Today we are moored just through Uxbridge. We have slowed down as we want to moor in Paddington Basin for a few days but the IWA have had reserved moorings there for 2 weeks because of a Boat Festival at Camden Lock - the reservations finish on Friday so we are hoping to get a spot on Saturday.

Where’s the sun gone? Been pretty cold this week (I know that cos fleece, long jeans, socks and boots back on and even hat and gloves in the morning) with drizzle and wind and rain and even hail last Monday - but then I realised it was a Bank Holiday so no big surprise there then!

Since last blog we have done 29 miles and 52 locks. This makes total since Setting Off ….. 259 miles and 201 locks.

how many points?
is it full yet?   Is it ?

end of current restoration on Wendover Arm

Glad we didn't meet this one round a bend !

are we in China?   Otherwise known as Uxbridge

so what else could we do but try a pint (or two) at The Horse & Barge, South Harefield

Fenny Stratford Lock 85 - first time I've come across a swingbridge right in middle of the lock !