Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Photo post #2

We arrived in Gloucester late yesterday arvo and managed to score good moorings on the full length jetty, as opposed to the short ones that suit the yoghurt pots but are not to easy for the long narrowboats ...

The leaflet said it was 1.5 hours from Tewkesbury (Lower Lode Lock) to Glastonbury. Not so for narrowboats - David and I realised last night that by far the majority of boats on the river are GRPs or yoghurt pots, so the timings apply to them, not to us. It took us over 3 hours, because we were following 2 very slow narrowboats. Even so I am sure we couldn't have done it in 1.5 hours.

Today we have Keith and Ann who used to live on nb Oakfield coming to us for lunch! Yippee! It will be lovely to see them. So I had better get this photo post done so I can start cooking! (Change of plan - cooking is done, so I can relax: ciabatta is in the grill area over the oven doubling in size, the pork stroganoff is almost done, ready for finishing off. I haven't yet made salad, but that is the work of just a few moments, given my rooftop allotment ...)

OK, so photos: Most of these were taken some days ago (over a week, to my shame and tardiness) when were moored at George Billington Lock before we got to Evesham, for heaven's sake! Lots has happened since then, so there will be more photo news later!

The lovely Dana bought me a pair of Skechers in Stratford upon Avon. I offered the box to Mick, but David declared he had a use for it. Keep looking for a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a weasel!

A charging box - still lots of snakes in there and I am sure they will reproduce, as they do and have in his office at home ...

But look at that - no mess, no snakes, just a few tails ready to be plugged in! He is clever - such a boffin!

BBQ evening. Where is the third witch?

Oh, there she is!

Washing line up, clothes drying at George Billington Lock moorings

At George Billington Lock - a lovely peaceful mooring apart from our noise! John angle-grinding, me following up wiping away the dust, paint and metal then coating with rust preventer/remover. Amazing how much rust John uncovered and removed from what looked like happy, smiling, impenetrable paint! Dean, please note all the safety gear: goggles (no) ear muffs (no) face mask (no) protective gloves (no). Wrist brace (me - yes).

Sanding the grey undercoat which was over the rust preventer, ready for a coat of black gloss - early in the morning before it got too hot.

Candle Cottage in Harvington

with this freestanding old wall behind it
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John and I are being stalked by the paparazzi - he has been strangely absent this trip but appeared again that evening, on our way back from a well deserved dinner in Harvington after the day spent angle-grinding and rust preventing.
Those steps are all that remain of the 'ferry terminal' that was used to get people from the road at Offenham across the river to the George Billington lock and beyond to Harvington. It seems strange but there are no road bridges between the outskirts of Evesham and Stratford upon Avon!

Friday, 23 June 2017

Photo post #1

The chronology of these photos is fairly wonky, I am afraid and I apologise.

The starters were in Bidford on Avon in the first photo and the misleading chicken and asparagus risotto in the last one was in Stratford. See, this is what happens when I don't keep up with the blogging! Be warned and advised, procrastination is never a good idea!

These were the starters we had at the Bridge restaurant in Bidford on Avon. David's was essentially range egg - a pan of salsa, chorizo and tomato with an egg cooked in it. Mine was beetroot, roasted peach and feta. Yummy! That was the first of the three meals we had there ...

Having a rest in the cemetery at Bidford - not the final resting place though.

This one is for Wayne, in case it's a familial connection.

The seedlings have germinated and are peeking through - they are now much bigger! And more have been planted.
I haven't got the hang of selfies yet, but I think that is John following us. See the new Goose tiller pin? He is very efficient at holding the rope on the tiller.

Too much rough water that way

But much calmer view this way.
Lovely house and garden

I'll have this one, plus cleaning staff...
Or this one, complete with gardener - Rob, are you coming too?
Lovely moorings just out of Stratford, at Stan Clover Lock, I think.
I think this is grossly misleading advertising/depiction of the product! If the picture looked like the actual product I wouldn't have bought it. It has put me off readi-meals! Let's face it, its purchase was a momentary aberration anyway.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Evesham - too warm to move, mate!

As I start to type this it is 5.37am and I am looking out over the weir at Evesham, and listening to the canada geese getting ready for their day of swimming, duckdiving for weed, preening and generally looking pretty cool in the heat.

We've had two nights here near the lock (above) and while the moorings are not attractive, they have had the bonus of a wall and trees to create shade we have sat in for most of the last two afternoons.

Evesham is a very lovely town where we have done a small amount of exploring. If it had been slightly cooler we would have done more, but there is always next time!

The weather over the last few days has been stunning - if anyone tells me again that England doesn't do summers, I will have to remind them about this - Lisa on WAL, your David is right: summer starts late in June!

On Thursday and Friday nights we were moored across the river from Offenham at a lovely spot with heaps of mooring and ideal for a barbecue. So of course we obliged, being careful not to make a mess and cleaning up after ourselves. The area we designated for the BBQ was on private land and the elderly lady who owns it turned up on her petrol-powered mobility golfcart (bigger than a mobility scooter) to let us know the fishermen would be arriving from midnight as the season opened. Didn't hear any of them at all overnight though.

Mick and Julia had to head away early on Friday to get to Evesham, to get to Stratford to hire a car to drive home to Desborough to pick up the waterpump that had been delivered and was all of a sudden required due to total pump failure on board Unkown No 3. The rest of us blobbed that day...

It felt very strange not being able to get across to Offenham but there is no bridge across the river between Bidford and Evesham. Well, we could have forded it up to my neck, I suppose (John's knees probably) but it was easier to walk 1.25 miles (they are still working in imperial measurements here in the UK ...) on Friday to Haverton for a yummy dinner at the Coach and Horses - good pub food at a good pub which has won several awards for its beer and its atmosphere.

Dinner out was a well-deserved treat this time, instead of an indulgence, as John and I had worked hard most of the day. John had offered to lend us his angle grinder but when he heard it was to be me wielding it he offered to show me how and then decided he would do the angle grinding, and I was to follow along brushing and wiping and daubing the exposed metal with rust preventer. Back in October 2015 Barry and I had scraped and sanded the runnels, but without the benefit of an angle grinder there were some bits we hadn't seen the extent of. Thursday was an eye opener about how easily rust can take hold and how well it grows below the paint - bastard rust! It clearly never sleeps.

It was a pretty warm day when were doing this work so my shower was delightfully cool - we hadn't run the engine at all as the sun was filling the batteries through the solars. And actually, once the metal sides and roof warm up on the boat, proximity to it seems to double the heat output! I have to wear jeans or I burn my legs on the dark blue sides.

On Saturday I got up early to wash down the roof to get paint and metal dust off it, so I could prime/undercoat it. In the time it took me to make and eat brekkie, the roof had dried out so I could get a coat of paint on. That drying speed indicated it was going to be a scorcher! As it happened, I had just enough time before 8.30am to get the paint on before the roof was too hot for painting.

A cold shower this time, and gosh, it was lovely!

Then away we went heading for Evesham. Both David and John wanted to go to the marina shop in Evesham, so David travelled with John. They went on ahead and John travelled at such a SLOW pace I could have swum faster, I am sure! However I am sure the multitude of fishermen sitting on the whitebaiting stands appreciated that the water wasn't churned up. I did have to ask those already scantily clad if they had their sunscreen on ...

On arrival in Evesham, before John turned into the marina entrance, I phoned Mick and Julia to see if they were back and where to moor - instructions were that I was to hoot the mack truck horn to alert them I was close so they would come and get my ropes. Successful hooting and mooring alongside accomplished and then along came John and David - they had wended their careful way into the marina, all the way along between boats to the shop, only to find it was closed - on a Saturday!!!

Ah well, that is their loss as John was on for buying a life jacket and a couple of deck chairs. And it's our gain as we swapped a life jacket (brand new, worn for 5 minutes by me and discarded as I kept getting the straps caught on the tiller handle - not such a safety device ...) for a brand new cassette toilet. We have abandoned bucket and chuck it for the pee, as we cannot find a bucket that doesn't absorb urine and either end up smelling or rusting. There, that's a thing you know now, as Jaq's daughter Shiery says ...

We are about to join the Lautrec range of boats - you know the kind: they have two loos ... (thanks to Black Prince for that one, by the way)

OK, it is nearing time for the off - we are heading to Pershore and want to be there before it gets too warm. Trust me, I am NOT moaning about this weather - it is glorious. And it is best used in a relaxed/prone/seated in shade fashion!

Pictures will be posted in Pershore!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

On the river

It's beautiful down here on the Avon - we have now reached George Billington Lock and have had a very successful barbecue for a late lunch/early dinner. The 'island' we are on is private land and the lady who owns it is happy for boaters to use it as long as it is treated with respect - she came down on her mobility/golf cart to chat and tell us so.

The trip down from Stratford has been great apart from exiting the basin where David had great difficulty keeping the bottom gates closed to start filling the lock. Fortunately Julia arrived to give a hand. My part in the drama was to have got close to the lock gates to give David a hand and then being unable to get into position to enter the lock - I had to go back a fairly long way and get John to pull me around so I wouldn't damage any other boats. I called out to Mick that I thought I'd reverse to Wilmcote instead of going down the river ...

Fortunately, he started to strip off his top - I asked him to do a full Monty to take the early tourists' attention away from my shenanigans.

I just want you all to know that I am tired of being a novice again and I want to regain my competence; so there!

Not sure where this is but I thought it was lovely - there's that word again ...

Some great houses and gardens on the way down the river - a fair bit of money around here

See what I mean?

Glad I don't have to mow those lawns!

Or those ...
I am delighted to see whitebaiting stands on the river! Well, that's what they look like, but I understand they are for fishermen, and the season starts at midnight tonight.
See the whitebait stand? Looks just like in Taranaki and on the West Coast.
We had two nights at Bidford-on-Avon where David and I managed to go to the same restaurant 3 times; yes, you read that correctly: three (3) times. The first evening we went to The Bridge for starters and mains (fabulous), and decided we need to come back the next lunchtime for dessert. That was fully our intention, but the tomato, pesto and mozerella panini sounded lovely, so we had that. Then of course we were too full for dessert. So back we came in the evening, for cheese cake and chocolate fudge cake. Shared both and they were both delicious.

The village is very attractive with lovely houses and has the archetypal style of English villages in that some shops are slotted in between houses. And the Budgens supermarket at the end of the village is superb!

Wootton Wawen to Wilmcote to Stratford

I am clearly losing my memory - we haven't moved far over the last week or so, but as I didn't make any notes, I have lost details of our stop at Wootton Wawen - I do remember it is a very beautiful village with a great shop and a church of some historic significance.
A lovely waterfall/weir on the walk into Wootton Wawen

Now commercial premises, I think, still beautiful.

The historically significant church with several different ages in the building
The shop makes best use of space and has a great range of products - excellent pesto and wine...

John waiting for us and reading his paper

Julia has just reminded me that we were in Wootton Wawen (said whoa-wen) on election night and we had a dinner party: lasagne, salad from the boat roof allotment and garlic bread made with part of my second loaf of ciabatta. All very yummy.

Wilmcote was lovely - lovely village shop, really pretty houses and friendly people.

We really liked these roses as a 'fence' - Rob, I'd even sacrifice the agapanthas to have these outside the front fence ...

These roses were in white, mid pink, and
deep pink - beautiful!

And the station is an archetypal English country station. We know what the station looks like as we went up to meet Dana off her train - she was an hour and a quarter later arriving than planned due to a couple of incidents:
  • the uber driver she had booked to get her to the station in Manchester with plenty of time to spare could not find her place and so abandoned the job, and in spite of his best efforts, the next driver could not get her there on time
  • when she was about to board the train from Birmingham to Wilmcote, a man got down on to the tracks and stood there waiting for a train to come and run him down. People called to him to get off the tracks, others apparently signalled and shouted to the approaching train driver to stop, and a couple of people manhandled him off the tracks on to the platform. 
However, all was not lost - when she finally arrived on the boat it was decently wine o'clock and I poured her an NZ pinot noir to make up for all the hassles. And there was home made ciabatta bread, olive oil and balsamic (the latter purchased from the Wilmcote shop)...

We had an early night and were all in bed when we heard someone clomping on the counter at the back, David thought it was Dana gone up for a ciggie (bad girl), but no, it was son Tim on his way back from an agricultural show in Cornwall. Aha!! Another body to be put to work in the morning - excellent.

We were up early and on our way by 7.30am - not bad for a Sunday. I had a welcome break from steering and did locks with David and Dana. Some of them were pretty heavy - Julia described them as 'bastard'. At one point, when Dana had got back on the boat, Tim had to drop her off to help me close the bottom gate ... And a few of them had been left with bottom gates open and paddles up which was a bug*er for David who was working ahead.

It was lovely** to be doing locks and getting the walking in. However my big toe joint on my right foot was playing up and was very sore. I did think back to how my mum had SLE (lupus) and suffered with extreme arthritic pain in all her joints. I was feeling sorry for myself with one sore toe and decided to pull myself together ...

Not sure if Tim is grimacing because of sun in his eyes - however I know he was very happy to be on the boat.

Passing by a newly re-done towpath

Seven to go, Tim

I'm back on the boat, and Dana is working. Tim is not ...

Father son bonding - neat to see...

** I am overusing that word! OK, no more loveliness in this post, promise.

The countryside was very pretty and green with some beautiful gardens and homes along the way and the approach to Stratford was rather pleasant.

David phoned ahead to talk with Mick in Stratford to check out the mooring situation, and I was given my instructions - on the finger moorings next to Mick and Julia or next to John.

Under the very low bridge and into the basin we went - there were pedestrians walking through with us and David decided to sound the horn in case any boat was on a collision course with us - our horn sounds like a Mack truck airhorn. I think a few people wet themselves with the sound in such a confined space ...

We moored next to Mick and Julia - easy choice as Mick was there to take our front rope and John wasn't.
The convoy together in Stratford's Bancroft Basin - great moorings!

Dana demonstrating her jacket - scary hood
First job was to make brekkie - I'd made a bit of fruit salad, yoghurt and cereal before we left Wilmcote, but we were all HUNGRY! So a full English, minus sausages and black pudding, but plus breakfast potatoes (tiny roasties with garlic) was produced.

Then just as it was about to be plated up, back came Tim and Dana with a pair of Skechers she had bought for me - such a kind young woman! And the Skechers are great: soft, comfortable and supportive. I am going to have to buy more, I can tell!

Stratford is a beautiful town, very attractive to tourists and boaters alike. I would have liked to have gone to a play, but not to be. Clearly, we will have to come back - and by boat of course, as it is such a lovely trip, bast*rd locks included!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Feeling like a novice even after 27 years of boating!

On Wednesday it was a much drier day and we set off towards the Hatton Flight. Mick/Julia and John were going up the locks breasted up, and David and I were solo. 

Well, it is a very long time since I felt so incompetent in charge of the boat. I could not get the hang of the method John was teaching us for making sure Waka Huia stayed on the side of the lock I was entering and exiting from. It took several locks to get it right, and then we got to the lock where the volunteer lock keepers were and the wind came up and it all turned to custard and the method changed - AAARRRGGGHHH!!! It is ages since I have consistently banged into lock gates, but the wind, my stress levels and the gates all conspired and for at least 3 of the locks I hit the offside gate going in. That really p*sses me off as I hate the damage that gets done to rammed gates. And I hate it when I'm the one possibly inflicting it!

About 5 or 6 locks done and we meet the volockies before the main flight starts. I am still, at this point, using the rope around bollard trick to keep close to the side. That changed after this lock - in the main because I couldn't get close enough (ie hit the other gate) for David to take the rope off the roof below the lock. The method the volockies told David does work on the Hatton Flight - I wonder if it does so in other locks ... We shall see!

By the time we got to the top, things had settled down (ie my stress levels had reduced, I had started feeling competent again, and David stopped looking like a husband in hiding ...)
Looking back to Shrewley Tunnel - after the winding hole above the Hatton Flight is all new territory for us (D&M). This tunnel was the wettest I've been through in ages and most unusual in that it had limestone/calcium growths - like Waitomo Caves must have been centuries ago! If we come back in 10 years, I wouldn't be surprised to see stalactites hanging from the roof!

The wildflowers are lovely, and the irises on the side of the cut are beautiful.

For Rob - this is the hawthorn now the blossom has dropped.

The moorings at the top of the flight are dark and dismal and under trees, so we had decided to keep going to Rowington. Lovely sunny moorings and a trip to the Tom o' Woods pub. The consensus of the Poms present was that the drinks were too expensive, but it was my round, and I didn't mind. The chardonnay was pretty good and they had a zinfandel for David, so the NZ contingent was happy.
The drinks may have been expensive, but the insect life was free - Irene, what is it please? It looked to me like it was a Hurricanes supporter getting in early for the game against the Lions...

John is bleeding profusely from a self inflicted wound when he pulled off a quick, David is doing his Admiral Nelson impersonation with his new monocular.
Rowington is a lovely place but the motorway (M40) and the rail are too close - it was noisy all night - well, I assume all night, as I slept through most of it but whenever I woke the noise was ever present.

We left yesterday at sparrow’s f*rt to beat the rain which was scheduled to arrive at about 10am according to 2 weather apps – what did we ever do without apps on phones? I know, we listened to the forecast on the radio and we looked at the sky!

We are on the Stratford Canal now – if you were deaf or wearing noise cancelling headphones, it would be a totally lovely rural experience. However the first few miles and locks are marred by the rail and the M40 whining and/or roaring close by. 

However when I started typing this we were at Lock 29 and the noise had receded. We were approaching Lowsonford and the naval strategy meeting in one lock’s time to discuss the next steps.

David wanted to watch James Comey’s testimony yesterday arvo, so the most important aspects of the mooring spot were internet access and TV signal.

The rain arrived on schedule after we had decided we would carry on regardless. As David was the main one who had said that, I was merciless and would not pull over to wait it out until it stopped. After all, David was busy and active and stayed quite warm, I was the one standing still on the counter getting wetter and colder by the minute - and I had my Kathmandhu merino top on, plus a T-shirt, a camisole, and a fleecy, under my Kathmandhu rain jacket. But did I complain? Did I heck - every chance I got ... 

Nah, if I had done that, David would have insisted we stop, and I didn't want to warm up just to get cold again.

The rain cleared and, just in time, we moored up at Wootton Waven. I cooked for our election night party (see previous post), David watched James Comey's testimony - how come that idiot Trump now tweets he is totally vindicated? Where is his brain/sensibility/conscience/morality/intelligence/head? Oh, I forgot, I know the answer to all of those questions - they are all up his a*se ...

Anyway, forget him. Dinner (see previous post) was yummy. Mick, Julia and John were going to go to the Navigation Inn across the cut before dinner, but it was closed until 6pm, so our dinette became the bar. And it was BYO too - much cheaper!

Today we have made our way to Wilmcote - lovely sunny moorings, convenient for the village, a couple of pubs and the station.
  • Mick and Julia are leaving here earlier than sparrow's f*rt tomorrow (Big Neil would say it'll be the middle of the night) to get down to Stratford (17 locks away) and do laundry and check out the moorings, 
  • John's girlfriend is arriving tonight and they are going to Stratford tomorrow, 
  • our friend Dana arrives tomorrow by train and we will stay overnight and go to Stratford on Sunday - same 17 locks just a day later. Dana is young, so we need to put her to work, eh?

It's a fasting day for David and me today; 
  • it is now 6.10pm, 
  • dinner is ready and 
  • David is off chatting to Julia working out how calorific my muesli is - 
    • he has taken a helping of the muesli, the scales and his sense of self righteousness. 
I do wish he'd come back so we can eat the salad (all off the rooftop allotment) the crudites (cucumber, capsicum, carrot) and hummus. I am HUNGRY!!!