A Stormy Weekend

The ladies of the boat

We rushed up from Luton back to Hannah the Narrowboat at Gayton Marina in Northamptonshire so that I could watch the Aston Villa game via SkyGo on my iPad but wished I had not bothered – watching the football I mean, not rushing back to the boat. For the first time ever I stopped watching the game half way through the second half as I deemed it a total waste of my data allowance. As you have probably guessed Villa lost and deservedly so. Of course I could take solace in the fact that I had a lovely bottle of real ale in my hand and I knew it was Chinese night aboard Hannah the Narrowboat.

Saturday evenings promise dire television offerings of Strictly, which I deem as ‘pensioners tv’ and that absolute crock of sh*t X-Factor where plastic people with no more talent than singing other peoples songs aka karaoke tell us all a sob story in the hope that somebody votes for them. TV like this is why we have alcohol – to numb the pain. Anyway enough of moaning about the TV let’s talk about something more interesting instead.

As always the Chinese from Yin Lung on St. Leonards Road in Northampton was very tasty and after washing it down with a glass of wine and watching more rubbish football on Match of the Day it was time for bed as I had a plan for Sunday and that plan was to take a trip to Summer Leys Nature Reserve which is not far from Wellingborough. This was another new discovery from subscribing to OS Maps (see last post).

Summer Leys Nature Reserve

The drive only took around 20 minutes from the boat and when we arrived the car park was pretty full so it was obviously a rather popular place. The walking route I had panned was a clockwise one around the lakes which were old gravel pits. We arrived at the first gate which I attempted to open but it seemed locked. I fired up the iPhone to look for an alternative route and as I did so another couple walked up to the gate and opened it straight away – Lee and I just looked at each other and laughed – I had missed the latch on top of the gate!

To be honest the first part of the walk was a bit boring as it was just a long gravel avenue where you could not see much of the lakes and the wildlife as it was obscured by the trees. About three quarters of the way along the path there was a spot where we could climb up a little hillock and get a good view of the land. As we walked on around the top of the lakes the views became much better and there were hides that we could enter to watch the plethora of birds on the water.

The walk was only about 2 miles long as I had opted out of the longer 5 mile walk that would take us into Doddington as my foot was still sore from dislocating it a coupe of days ago when I kicked the dog in the mouth. Wow, that makes me sound awful but it was a total accident while we were playing with a balloon – the dog did not even flinch so she must have a jaw of steel, me on the other hand certainly felt it. When I had a shower the following day I could see the top of my toe pointing the wrong way so I gritted my teeth and snapped it back in myself – now that really hurt but there was no way I was going to A&E for 5 hours!

The Sun Goes Down

After our little walk we headed back to Northampton to get a few provisions as we had very little food aboard Hannah. Once back to the boat we sat out in the sunshine for a while before having a lovely steak, cracked pepper and claret pie with new potatoes carrots and mushrooms for dinner. A nice glass of Banrock red wine was in order before settling down for an early night.

It was pretty windy overnight and the boat was getting banged around a bit and it was only going to get worse as Storm Ophilia approached. As I sat in the cratch I looked up to see a bright orange sun which seemed a little odd but I learned later that it was due to the storm whipping up sand from the Sahara and the ash from the wild fires in Portugal. We decided we needed bigger fenders for our mooring as the little narrow ones really did not do a lot to cushion the boat against the side so a trip to Midland Chandlers in Braunston was in order. As I was looking on their website Lee mentioned to me that there was another chandlery in Braunston so we thought we would give that a look too.

Grey Skies over Braunston

When we arrived the atmosphere was really quite eerie, in one direction we had really dark stormy skies and in the opposite one we had an orange glow which is something I don’t ever recall seeing. The wind was really quite strong now too but it seemed to come in waves.

Orange Skies over Braunston

We could not find what we wanted at Braunston Chandlers so ended up at Midland Chandlers where we picked up two flat fenders that look a bit like small tyres, some rope and two new LED lights for the bedroom. As we headed back I asked Lee if she fancied a little look at the boats in Braunston Marina – you may wonder why she wanted to look at boats so perhaps a little explanation is in order. Lee has become a boat spotter, she’s even got a couple of books with the boat registration numbers listed where she underlines them when she sees them. Stop laughing. So, if you see Lee with a little pad and a pencil looking suspicious by your narrowboat don’t panic, she’s just getting your number so she can underline it!

Braunston Marina

Once we were back at Gayton I sorted out the new fenders and fitted on of the LED lights as Lee cooked us some steak medallions – what a treat! I must admit I am glad we got the fenders sorted as it was now really quite windy outside and we were not getting bashed about nearly much as usual.

That’s about it for this post but there is a video below if you would like to watch it showing some of what we got up to this weekend.

Right On Our Doorstep

Above Gayton Marina

I don’t often take much notice of adverts on Facebook as many of the products advertised are either tat or overly expensive products that can be bought cheaper on Amazon or EBay. However, there was one advert that kept on popping up and that was Online Ordinance Survey Maps which had a 7 day free trial for premium membership that gives you access to OS maps covering the whole of the UK. After my 7 days were up I decided to take up the offer which was £19.99 for the year and although I don’t really like the subscription based model for software I think it has paid for itself already.

Once I had the app on my iPhone, iPad Pro and MacBook Pro I started to have a look around our home mooring in Gayton and discovered a circular walk from the marina, up towards Rothersthorpe and then back towards the Grand Union Canal and then along the towpath back to Hannah the Narrowboat. You can see the route below.

Gayton to Rothersthorpe walk

I have two incentives for walking, the first being an opportunity to take photographs/video and the other to kid myself that I can earn beer tokens by burning a few calories! Of course now that I have a drone (and an app that shows where you can fly it along with liability insurance – just putting that our there for the drone haters) I see our little walks as a chance to get some aerial footage too. You can watch a short video of our little walking adventure below.

The starting point of our route was a nice big open field close to Gayton Marina which gave me the opportunity to get the drone up into the sky and get some shots of the marina and our friends boat The Pride of ‘Nuffield’ who were moored up on the stretch close to Gayton Junction.

Above Gayton Marina

Once I had got my fill of flying we headed off north and our first stile had a notice on it warning us to beware of the bull. Luckily enough we could see all the cows and perhaps a bull or two way off in the distance so we carried on across the field to the next stile which was very rickety! This led us into a very overgrown little stretch to the next stile which was also looking very sorry for itself. From here on it looked pretty easy going, that is until we got lost! We ended up by a cow shed where beady eyes were peeping out at us and more glaringly at Buddie our Jack Russell. After a bit of head scratching we sorted ourselves out and got back on the public right of way which then took us through a small horse field where we met an old gentleman and had a bit of a chat.

It turns out that this fella did 8 years continuos cruising on the canal system with his wife on a 30ft Narrowboat, and we worry about 45! By this time we had gained the horses attention and they were soon standing with us giving us a little push with their heads so we would stroke them.

Lee at the Stile

We were now approaching Rothersthorpe where we had to walk a 200 or so yards to the church where we would rejoin the public footpath for the route back south.

Church in Rothersthorpe

We followed the path along the edge of a couple of fields until we entered some woodland before crossing a small brook and back out into an open field which took us to what we refer to as ‘Gnomes Bridge’ – we used to compete with each other on FourSquare and this was a waypoint we put in which is why it has an odd name!

There is another wide open field here where I took to the air again to get some footage of passing boats and generally have a little play as I don’t get to fly the drone very often and a still had a spare full battery to use up – that’s my excuse anyway and yes, I’m like an overly excited kid with a new toy.

Time to head back along the towpath towards Gayton Marina as we were both pretty thirsty as stupidly we forgot to bring a drink with us – and of course there was a cold ale in the fridge with my name on it!

Hannah the Narrowboat

We had worn ourselves out so we decided cooking would be far too much of an effort so we jumped in the car to The Navigation Inn at Stoke Bruerne for dinner. Whilst at the bar I turned around to the grinning face of Ray, another of out boating friends so we sat down with his better half Tray and all ate dinner and sank a couple of tasty ales, a nice surprise and a great end to the day.

The Rickmansworth Canal Festival

Bunting on Narrowboats

As our narrowboat is in the yard having major engine work carried out on her 1956 Lister SR3 we were at a bit of a loose weekend so we decided to jump in the car and head off to the Canal Festival at Rickmansworth. I did not really know what to expect from this one as a few we have been to have been little more than car boot sales with a few boats moored up for good measure. This one was different, very different.

When we arrived in Rickmansworth it absolutely poured down with rain – not a great start but as we were directed into a field to park the car the sun broke through. After a little bit of puddle dodging along the walk to the festival we were pleasantly surprised as this one looked epic. The deal was that you paid £3 for car parking and then a ‘voluntary’ £2 donation so it cost us as a couple £8 (we gave a fiver) which was well worth it as this festival really was quite a big one.

Music Tent

There was the odd bric-a-brac (car boot) stall but there was also a plethora of arts and crafts stalls, canal related stalls and lots of weird and wonderful food on offer. Of course there was also the obligatory beer tent offering a wide variety of ales and a main stage if live music is you thing.  We love food and beer (what boater doesn’t?) so we indulged in some Thai food and washed down with some Timothy Taylors.

Beer Tent

The one slight criticism, and it is only slight was that we had no idea where the actual canal was as from the direction we came in there was nothing telling us where to go after we had visited all the stalls which were situated away from the canal. Google maps to the rescue. Of course the main attraction for us was the boats and once we had found our way onto the tow path we were in our element. It was a great turnout of working and private boats and we were kept entertained by the working boat ‘tug-of-war’ competition although I am not sure I would like to put my engine through that!

Narrowboats

Apart from the odd heavy downpour we really enjoyed this Canal Festival and it’s definitely one we will be watching out for next year, perhaps we will even potter down the Grand Union Canal aboard Hannah the Narrowboat!

 

 

A walk along the towpath around Gayton

Sunset at Gayton

We are so lucky to have such an amazing back garden, yes that is how we see this beautiful part of the Grand Union Canal around Gayton in Northamptonshire.

Although the day started off quite misty we watched it lift from the warmth of Hannah the Narrowboat before deciding to get out there and enjoy the countryside on our doorstep. This video gives a good idea of what life is like when you abandon the confines of a brick box and get out there and enjoy life. The music in the background is by yours truly, a bit of a rest bite from the usual pop rock I write with Sanity Bypass!! Hope you feel completely relaxed after watching.

A Winters Walk around Stoke Bruerne

Stoke Bruene in Northamptonshire

We awoke up to a lovely warm and cosy boat this morning whilst outside the marina and canal was frozen over. We decided there would be no going out ice breaking on the canal so instead took the short drive down to Stoke Bruerne to blow off the cobwebs from our chinese and pink wine night the evening before!

Stoke Bruerne is a lovely place whatever time of the year it is and there is always a bit of a buzz about the place with people meandering around out for a walk or just to take in the idyllic sight of working boats and private narrowboats alike. We decided we would take a walk up the ‘Woodland Walk’ which takes you up and over the Blisworth Tunnel.

Above Blisworth Tunnel

Once we decided that we had burnt off enough calories it was time to go and put them back on again at Tea Junction, a narrowboat run by Tracy and Ray. If you get the chance then pay them a visit, they often post up on Facebook where they are going to be and they make a great selection of really naughty but nice cakes! After a bit of a chat we said our goodbyes and headed off up the towpath to the car and then back to Hannah the Narrowboat at Gayton Marina. Going to be freezing again overnight but we will be warm as toast again! We may have to pop to the Royal Oak in Blisworth for a pint of Timothy Taylors first though!

Tea Junction

Rewind – Back to Base

Heading back to base

Unfortunately we decided that we should head back to our home mooring as the temperatures were forecast to plummet for the next few days meaning a high probability of the canal freezing over again and the good lady of the boat has to go and cut some hair on Friday! We have had a lovely time with Martin and Sarah from Narrowboat Pride of Nuffield who are heading off to to the Llangollen Canal but on the bright side we had a lovely little cruise back to the marina at Gayton.

Once back in our berth we did not want to just sit on the boat so decided to drive to Sixfields in Northampton to have a walk along the upper Northampton Arm of the GU and River Nene at Upton Park, walking off tonights rum!

Rewind – New Years Eve

Cosy Boat New Years Eve

Well here we are, the very last day of 2016 looking forward to another wonderful year in 2017 messing around on our narrowboat! As the ice had finally melted we thought it a good idea to have a little potter along the Grand Union Canal up to Heyford Fields to turn around, a round trip of about 2hrs. We wanted to end up back with our friends on narrowboat ‘Pride of Nuffield’ moored stern to stern to make the food and drink transfers easier for tonights festivities. Although it was a bit chilly it was a nice little cruise and no matter how many times we chug along this stretch there is always something new to see on the cut.

After our turn at Heyford Fields I needed to pop inside for a wee and to stoke the fire so the good lady took over the controls. When I returned around five minutes later I was greeted by excess exhaust smoke and a lack of power! I was in a quandary here as I did not really want to pull over just in case we could not get her started again so elected to plod along at tick-over all the way back. In fairness the smoke did subside but the power was lacking, I feared the worst and that our slightly sticky valve had stuck once and for all, or on the brighter side it did pass through my mind that it could be the exhaust manifold. We managed to get back to our mooring spot easily enough and Martin from Pride of Nuffield shouted over to us that we should check the weed hatch. Once we were tied up I put her into neutral and gave her some revs and she seemed absolutely fine with no load on so Martin could well be right. He is such a nice chap he was down our weed hatch like a Jack Russell down a rabbit hole and we did indeed have rags around the prop although it would seem not enough to have had the effect it had. Perhaps when we stopped some fell of naturally as when I put her back in gear under load she seemed fine! Let’s hope that is the end of that little drama!

After a little siesta in preparation for this evenings shenanigans the good lady started cooking the food and by 7.30pm we were aboard Pride of Nuffield enjoying a few drinks, laughs and too much food! As the clock struck midnight we toasted the new year in with some Babycham (a bizarre tradition now between us and Pride of Nuffield!) and were treated to some fireworks coming from Gayton Village.

Have a happy, peaceful and enjoyable 2017 everyone!

Rewind – Misty Waters

Mist on the Canal

After a rather enjoyable evening aboard our friends boat ‘Pride of Nuffield’ last night we awoke this morning to a frozen canal and an eerie mist. After a bit of breakfast and a cup of tea we headed out for a walk to blow the cobwebs away after perhaps one or two too many rums last night! I love days like this on the cut, misty outside but warm and snug aboard Hannah the Narrowboat. People think we are all mad spending winter aboard our boat but just look at what we get to see, better than siting in front of the telly watching yet another festive repeat or some reality TV nonsense! The brick box dwellers are the mad ones!

Rewind – Ice Breakers in The Grand Union Canal

Ice in the marina

We were pretty determined to spend New Years Eve out on the canal rather than in our marina berth as our friends aboard narrowboat ‘Pride of Nuffield’ had come down this way for the Christmas period. Temperatures overnight had plummeted and the canal was frozen and worse still was that the marina itself had also frozen too and it seemed a lot thicker than the canal was. By lunchtime it was not looking any better so we made the call to give it a go and tentatively nudge forward out of our berth to see just how bad it was. Once I had started going forward I thought ‘I’m not stopping now, lets just go for it!’. Turning was the hardest part but with a bit of forward and backing we broke enough ice to get out and onto the mainline canal.
We only traveled around 30 or so minutes north from Gayton towards Bugbrooke but we had already talked about a spot that would be good which gives plenty of sunshine for our solar panels (if it’s actually sunny), a TV signal and internet – what more do we need apart from beer and wine, and yes we have plenty of that on-board too!

Rewind – The Grand Adventure 2016

Sunny Evening on the Canal

An entertaining and often funny look at our journey chugging along the Grand Union Canal aboard Hannah the Narrowboat with our friends Martin and Sarah aboard their own boat Pride of Nuffield. We travelled from Gayton Marina in Northamptonshire through the Blisworth Tunnel, which is one of the longest in the UK and through Stock Bruerne, Cosgrove, Milton Keynes and on to Leighton Buzzard before turning around and heading back to Gayton Marina. We really do take life slowly on our canal journeys preferring to stop at any spot we feel like rather than pile in the miles! You could probably do this journey in under a week if you wanted but that’s not the way we do things. This light hearted film takes a look at where we went and what we got up to, including a spot of Pokémon hunting!

Apologies for ‘Lee, what ya doing’ – holiday joke!