Braunstone

Braunstone here we come. We had arranged to have our two granddaughters onboard so we set of towards Braunstone, to pick them up some where on the route.

Having left Stratford upon Avon via the Stratford canal we headed north. The southern part of this canal passes into beautiful country side, first through the suburbs of Stratford and then out into the country side. All day we headed north towards Kingswood junction where we turned right onto the Grand Union Canal, and headed south towards Warwick. We stopped just after the Shrewley Tunnel for a quite overnight stop. Yes we got here in one day.

Next day we set off towards Warwick and the Hatton flight.Working the Hatton flight doubled up The weather was nice and warm, so cruising was lovely. Arriving at the top of the flight we met up with two chaps with a 1940’s 72ft narrowboat. (See pictures). One of them had an injured arm as was not happy with steering. The other the normal helmsman suggested doubling the two craft together and going down with one helmsman, me..

I have done this before, so rigged the larger boat as pull and push lines so our shorter 60ft would be in the three quarter forward position, with our bow level with the other boat. This enabled me to pull from my boats the rear lines control the drift apart, and also pull from the front too. In addition the two boats had centre fenders, but no outside fenders.

The other boat was not going to supply any power so the engine was turned off. Good thing too as it was a bit smoky. We set off and descended the Working the Hatton flight doubled up  with A Evans Brentfordflight without hitch in two and a quarter hours. Not a record but made us up time to get to Warwick for a visit to the first of two locks into Leamington Spa. The top lock has a small pub called the Cape of Good Hope, so we went for dinner there.

We contacted our Daughter and arranged for the pickup of our two grandchildren on the outskirts of Leamington Spa. They all arrived with enough clothing to last a fortnight. They were only staying a week. After a family meal and chat and having a large pile of toys added to the clothes we said our goodbyes.

Both the girls Lily and Poppy, were very excited as we told them we were going to Billing Aquadrome in Northampton.  We left Leamington Spa and onward up the Stockton Flight of locks.

We stayed over at the top of the Stockton flight ready for the locks at Bascote and then onto the Calcutt locks.

Both girls were having a great time helping Nanna with pushing and winding lock sluices. We made sure that they both had life vests on at all times and went through numerous safety instructions as we went along.

We arrived in Braunstone a little tired and moored near the village pub. We ate on the boat a real hearty meal which Sue (nanna) produced from nowhere.

It was now onward to Northampton and Billing Aquadrome…

 

The River Avon

Having entered Tewkesbury we headed up the river Avon towards Stratford. 

The river is a beautiful river with wonderful scenery all around you. We first stopped at Pershore, a little town with quite a few shops then after heading north again, stopped at Evesham and joined up with my son who was on the way back from the Glastonbury music festival. We had a lovely time in this lovely town where the river moorings were good near to the waterside park. This allowed us great access to the town. There were rising moorings lower down but these were a bit poor for access, but a real must for when the river was in flood.

Heading upstream we passed many beautiful places, and saw all sorts of wild life including four – yes,  four kingfishers all working the river bank. This was a real sight for sore eyes. Our next night was at Bidford on Avon. We wanted to see where in the early eighties we hired our first narrow boat froRiver Avon in Valiant No7m. We had hired a 70 ft boat called Teal, which was from Bidford Boat Hire, this was the boat that gave us the bug for narrow boats. 

While nearly at Bidford at the lock prior to it called Marlcliff, we came across another narrowboat which was from Bidford Boats. The poor chap was out for the day and was in a bit of pickle. Who should turn up was the son of the then owner, now deceased called Mrs Bidwell. We had a real chat and agreed to escort the struggling narrow boat to Bidford on Avon. He arrived safe and sound. 

Sadly the boat company only now does day hire, but it is still trading. Bidford on Avon had really grown up. Trees now were full height from the small saplings we saw all those years ago. How time flies..

Onward to Stratford on Avon, where we arrived to an IWA greeting of ANT (Avon Navigational Trust) saying would we like to join the water festival that was about to happen that weekend. This was the first weekend in July. We agreed straight swat and got a lovely mooring right across from the town church.Stratford River Festival

The river festival is not to be missed as this is most likely one of the best outside events that Stratford has. There must have been at least 10,000 visitors to the festival over the weekend period. If you are interested in going, here is the link for the festival. It normally is held the first weekend in July every year, but check the web link for full details. We also with our mooring got prime slot to view the brilliant firework display on the Saturday night. We sat on our boat drinking as we watched.  

After going round all the stalls and seeing all the displays etc. we wandered into Stratford to see the sights. Unfortunately we were on a schedule to go and pick up our grand children for a long trip to Billing Aquadrome, so our time in Stratford was short. However we will certainly be back for a much longer look.

So now it was off up the Stratford canal and onto Braunston to meet our two girls.

 

The Summer Trip

We have been cruising all summer, so our summer trip has been a long enjoyable adventure. I am sorry i have not added my intended diary entries, but things were so good that i seemed not to have enough time. However here is the catch up story.

After going to Crick Boat show, we set off to go to Birmingham. We went via the Grand Union canal into the centre of Birmingham and were really surprised as to how the center has been turned round and now is a real pleasure for visitors by boat, car, bike or walking. Well done Birmingham City Council. However the out skirts of Birmingham still have a lot of rubbish in and nearby. However this is also on the streets too. However do not be put off as we had a lovely time. After seeming the City center we headed off to Dudley via the James Brindley OLD LINE. 

What an adventure the OLD LINE is. I goes under motorways over Thomas Telford NEW LINE and wanders off to Dudley where we were turn back in time at the Dudley Black Country Living Museum. Black Country Living Museum This a real living experience which has been created from buildings that have been moved from parts of the black country, to preserve them. There is also working shops like the cake shop and a big favorite the fish and chip shop. Yes you can moor at the museum or very nearby. The site is very large and still growing, so ensure you have a least a day at the museum to take everything in. It will not be boriung for kids either, there are street games workshops, fun fares and tram rides to see. For the adults there is a fully working Pub which is not to be missed, with real Ale being served. The bar room has a saw dust floor. Dudley Tunnel

Also here is the Dudley tunnel where we went for a trip into the old Lime Stone quarry canals. This is an excellent experience which should not be missed. I will not go on about this as you can see the website for more information.

We then set off again and went back to Birmingham via the NEW LINE. After staying a couple more nights we set off down the Birmingham and Worcester canal. This was a lovely trip, taking you out of Birmingham via leafy Edgebaston. However this canal takes you down the Tardybrigg flight of locks, this is the longest set of locks in the UK. After a day of locking it was a trip to the Queens head Pub for some much needed food.

After the Tardybrigg we decided to head towards the Droitwich canal. This is a recovered canal which goes right through the center of Droitwich. This is a lovey old town which is well worth a visit. The town grown up on producing salt, now finished, has many beautiful buildings and other features. There are also public moorings too. The Droitwich then continues onto the river Severn. 

We traveled down the River Seven to Worcester and moored on the river. When we arrived there was Dragon Boat racing which was really great to watch. 
We of course visited Worcester and its beautiful cathedral. This really was a beautiful City.

The weather now was absolutely fantastic and a real pleasure to cruise, however we did get a couple of days when it rained. We then set off to go to Tewkesbury and onto the river Avon.

Tewkesbury is a lovely place. Full of history and still has a lot of wood framed houses and shops. We spent some time here finding out about the local history. If you are near here i do suggest a visit.

Setting off up the Avon after paying our £50 license dues at the entrance lock we headed for Stratford on Avon. 

The river Avon which is run by the Avon Navigation Trust from Tewkesbury is independent to the Canal and River Trust so ypu have to pay to enter the waters. However it is really worth it. The £50 is for seven days and is ample to navigate up the river to Stratford, where the CRT canal joins. The story continues..with my post on these waters.

 

 

  

Off to Crick

We are now traveling to the Crick Boat Show for the weekend of 27th, 28th and 29th of May. We have been to Coventry basin where we have visited the city Centre and the cathedral. We love this city even though it is now very modern. However the Coventry basin is like stepping back in time. There is also a wonderful statue of Mr James Brindley the architect to todays canals.

I have taken some pictures of this which will be on this page in a couple of days.

After this we have traveled to Braunston then on to Norton Junction in Northamptonshire.

We are at this time feeling sorry for folk held up by a stupid disaster that happened at Buckley Locks just below Norton Junction.

A boat with a long bow was in the lock and was going up in it, when it caught it's nose in the gate void. The owner of the boat was allegedly down in the boat making a cup of tea while the boat was going up, and no one at the tiller. The nose then lifted the left lock gate from the pivot and also broke the top band causing the lock gate to fall. This has caused a stoppage at the lock. 

Under normal circumstances this would not have been so bad but for the fact there was a lot of traffic heading to the Crick boat show from below this lock.
There are some very angry people  who are held up due to this incident. I went down today to see the problem. CRT  site trying to fix the gate for the end of  Wednesday, to allow Crick craft through.

We were lucky as we came from the other way and were not effected by this. However to all those who are, my greatest sympathy. 


All this for a cup of tea…… I hope he is insured as it is going to cost a lot of money.

We hope you all make Crick

We are away

We are away, finally.. We set of on Wednesday 9th May 2016 from Pillings Lock with really fine weather. We are heading up to Trent Lock, onto the Trent and Mersey canal. We have gone through to Shardow and heading towards Burton on Trent.

All systems are working perfectly, as expected, with a small problem with fenders catching and pulling at locks. We have even lost two, which have been replaced, by the rope being cut as they were too long. The moral of this story is keep your fender above the metal fend off strip, as any concrete will just slice any rope one this strip like a knife. 

Weather has been brilliant until today Tuesday where the heavens have opened. We managed to start early so we have made good progress to Burton on Trent. 

Will keep you up to date with the next section, to where we are heading for Fazley on the Coventry Canal, to see a floating Market. 

Living Aboard

Living aboard our narrowboat has always been our plan. However we needed to compress our belongings. This involved being really ruthless as to what we wanted to keep. So we set too in a car boot and on line selling spree. Our caravan and large car was sold, plus many other things like white goods.

We have now managed to sort out only those items that we needed. We moved onto the boat on the 27th November 2015, and have now got all our chattels in the correct place, and within easy reach for regularly used items. 

Getting thing ship shape is like a game of Tetris, getting things to fit together. We did not want a cluttered boat, and wanted to keep the feeling of being spacious. With our newly designed and fitted boat furniture we have been able to fit things on like a wireless printer, together with cutlery, and office items. 

We moved from Nottingham and we are now at Pillings Lock in Liecestershire. We needed to be near to our families for the winter period, together with really good facilities. This new marina fitted our temporary requirements, which was also cheaper than the previous one. Ok it's not dirt cheap but reasonably priced at £260 per month.

We have to stay here until the 11th March 2016 as CRT (Canal River Trust), are replacing lock gates either side of us at Mountsorrel and Loughborough the other side. When this work is done we will be setting off on our travels.

We estimate March 27th, weather permitting, for our first trip which we think will be down to Newark on Trent to visit friend, who lives in the town. It will then be onto Manchester for a slow trip to the big city which has been revamped for boaters. We will be posting our trip updates as we go.

We are going to join the River Canal Rescue Scheme prior to setting off, which will give us some insurance against mechanical break downs. It's a bit like the AA or RAC of the rivers, and has an excellent reputation. We hope we will not need them but one never knows what lies ahead. The website for them is here

Narrowboat Washing Machine fitted

The narrowboat washing machine has now been bought and fitted. Due to space restrictions, which is normal for a narrowboat, we elected for a Zanussi ZWC 1301. Zanussi ZWC 1301 Washing machine  an ideal narrowboat washing machineThis is a studio washing machine lent its self nicely as narrowboat washing machine, with all the features of a larger washing machine. It also has an energy efficiency of A and has a 1300 spin speed. The size of 515 mm deep 670 mm High and 495 mm wide was ideal. This was mainly due to the width. 

We researched all the prices for a narrowboat washing machine and found that the most reasonable price was from the Cooperative Electrical Shop. At the moment they are providing FREE delivery so the price you pay is what you see. We paid £398.00 plus of course points on my Cooperative card. If you look at the reviews, it come highly recommended on most websites, with a lot of comments like ideal for a narrow boat.

I had a bit of a problem as I wanted to route the waste pipe via a cupboard under the sink to a dedicated skin fitting (boat side outlet), to drain the water out. The original skin fitting had a ribbed hose pipe moldings on it. There was plenty of thread showing when in position. So i removed the fitting and cut off the hose pipe molding, filed it smooth to ensure a good face fit and connected an adapter to 22 mm plastic pipe. I then also fitted an inline 22 mm sea cock (just a tap) should we go on waters like the Thames.  I was able to route the pipe work out of site so not cause problems with any items that would be stored in the cupboard.

The on board water pump was providing more than enough pressure so did not have to be updated. The boat had been plumbed in with a fresh water washing machine outlet so connection was easy. However, strangely no hole to route the waste hose. This was done with a hole cutter attached to an electric drill. 

The machine arrived and with help from my son in law took the machine on board and fitted it. After a test wash was completed with total success. 

The machine now lives hidden away in its own cupboard just below the gas hob, this keeps things really tidy and does not show the appliance. In addition the door folds right back and does not get in the way of the front loading door.

Narrowboat extras

Well as last.. we now have the new furniture installed in the same design as the original, so everything now is looking great.
here are some pictures of the finished projects.


    
Drinks Cabinet | TV Cabinet Book/CD Shelves | Print Cabinet & Drawers

 

This upgrade has given us such a load more space that will allow us to put a few awkward thing away and also make the ship remain open and tidy.
We are not falling into the trap of taking loads stuff, we are in the process as i write this of getting rid of everything we do not use by selling stuff off at car boot sales and auctions.

The rear cover is now in place. It has really added more useable inside space for when are moored. It is not really useable on canals when cruising, how many are… due to the low bridges and structures in the waterways, however we have had it designed a bit like a tent, the poles all break down so we can store the whole thing in a special storage area in the engine bay. We got the cover from Marine Industrial Covers, see link in post below. They have done a brilliant job as our cruiser stern is not like other narrowboats.

The place where you normally get on is near the bulkhead that allows access to the boat, however we have two large seats with soft white covers and storage bins under. So the place you get on is after these seats and near the back near to the tiller. It is a really good layout as it give you the features of a semi trad but with more space to move.  Moving to the seats. There was a bit of an orginal design fault because when you sat on the side seats they rolled over the edge of the store lockers, making uncomfortable to sit properly. So we have had some special rollover bars made which allow a 3 inch extension outwards on both sides to cure this problem. They roll back so that the deck boards can be accessed easily.

If you look at the pictures to the left, you will the mode prior to being painted. Carlos from at CMW engineering.  This man really knows what he is doing. He also cut holes in our bowthruster tube and fitted a Craftsman electric bow thruster. He also fabricated a large battery frame and an isolator bracket. Carlos is very reasonable in his pricing for the quality that you get.

Our next door neighbors when we were at Castle Marina Nottingham has a prop shaft boss completely removed and a new one machine fabricated and installed by Carlos. You can see the boss on his website.

Now that these items are complete we can now clean up and start to load things on board ready for our adventure on the waterways of Great Britain.  

This will include a new studio washing machine, which i will be fitting and plumbing into the galley area, as this is where the original cupboard has been located and serviced ready with water electricity and waste.

I hope to give you an update on this in short while.

  

Getting Ready to Go

Though Valiant No7 is a beautiful boat, she did need some extras adding to her. The fit out is very modern with a really large cruiser stern so we decided that that was not quite enough.

The boat had a bow truster tube, so we had a lovely Craftsman Bow Thruster added and the electrics added. We had two great chaps who dealt with the project,
Carlos Wilkinson (the welder and fitter) and Russle Hodginson the electrician. We now have a brilliant system that with a Victron combiner allows us to have an emergency 30 sec start from the bow thruster battery if we need it.
The combiner also allows the priority charge to the starter battery, when it is full the bow thruster battery to then be charged. If you want to see more about this then go here. I will be doing a full article on the fitting of our bow thruster later.

 

My wife needed extra storage space so we have employed a real crafts man who specialises in boat furniture manufacture and alterations.
He has added some drawers in the kitchen area, and is extending our entertainment and book storage area. He is also adding shelving, a floor cabinet and a drinks cabinet (most important!!).

 

We intend to live on the boat so we have also had a rear cover made. It has made a real difference. 
I looked around and found an excellent company called marineandindustrialcovers based near Lincoln. I saw and example of one of the companies covers in Castle Marina where we were docked for fitting out. 
Graham the fitter (see photo) is a real cool character. He really knows his stuff, and has produced a really top quality design. His boss Chris Potts runs a cover fabrication team which produce a high quality product. They will also add special features like collapsible frames and pin fittings, and special frames that we need to fit our very unusual, and long cruiser stern.  
So in my opinion well worth a quote.

On another note, when the canopy was fitted we noticed that the boat inside was a lot warmer. The canopy acts like a greenhouse, (no i will not be growing tomatoes); this is a great benifit as it also stop drafts, and keeps the cruiser stern nice and dry. With things stored out there in lockers it is nice to know your wood and coal are dry. It also offers a bit of psychological security too. The on board cat also likes to sit out there as it is warm. 

Getting Ready to go

We have bought our narrowboat called Valiant No7. Do not ask where the name comes from but, despite all the old wives tales of that is unlucky to rename a boat,Valiant No7 I think we will.. more later.

My wife and I decided not to sell up but rent out or house, thus providing an income and ensuring we were still keeping pace with the rising housing market should we need to sell in the future.
We will rent the house fully furnished so storage is no problem.  By taking this action we have not burnt our bridges in case we need to stop living on the water.

Yes we will be continuous cruisers, traveling the vast canal system in the UK. We need the boat to be tip top so much work has been done to ensure a easy and relaxed long journey.

More to come ..