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.

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.

Gallery – Out and about around Stoke Bruerne

Stoke Bruerne

Most people who frequent the canals or indeed own or live aboard their own boat have undoubtedly heard of the quaint little village of Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire. Our home berth is just a few miles north along the Grand Union Canal at Gayton Marina so we often have a wander around this lovely village and can often be seen having a sneeky pint of ale in The Navigation Inn! We had an ulterior motive yesterday as Tracy and Ray, who own Tea Junction were moored up for winter and were open for tea and cake – would be rude not to participate!

Here are a few pictures from our jaunt around the village and the Woodland Walk which takes you over Blisworth Tunnel.

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 – 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!