All posts by Susan Winning

Trip to Warwick

We had a couple of weeks till our planned departure for visiting friends and our land home in Cornwall, so we decided we would take  trip to Warwick as although we had passed through many times we had never visited the town. We set off early on Friday 22nd June from the marina, as the weather was still fair and getting hotter as each day progressed. We managed the 3 locks at Calcutt on the Grand Union mainline, then stopped for breakfast. Carried on to Stockton locks where we teamed up with another boat. The chap was single handing so I think was glad of the help. Through 2 locks (10 in the flight), and we encountered a problem with one of the pounds between the locks being totally empty. A nuisance but easily rectified by letting water down, but it takes time. One boat coming up the flight, but we didn’t see any other boats that morning and managed to get through the rest of the flight with no problems. We stopped at Long Itchington for elevenses, but were quite near to a busy road, so thought we would move along to somewhere we had moored in the past. Bad move as the towpath was really overgrown and we had difficulty mooring in many places due to low water levels. We ended up going through Bascote locks (includes a staircase lock of 2 and 2 other normal locks), through the following lock and we saw some mooring spots so pulled in as we now tired, hot and teasy. We needed a bottle of wine to relax (any excuse).

The weather has been exeptional, so we decided to stay put on the Saturday and chill as best we could. The water levels keep rising up and down as the locks are worked, but there really hasn’t been much boat traffic.

our up and down mooring

a few pictures of more flora along this little stretch of towpath

wild rose

clover

sleeping mallard

grasses amongst the reeds

spider webs

crab apples

Sunday 24th June and we moved on another sunny day through 5 locks to Radford Semele. The World Cup is on and England were playing in the afternoon, so we wanted to get moored to watch the game. I had already prepared dinner. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a good enough TV signal so had to tether the phone to computer to watch the game. England won against Panama restoring our faith in the team.

church tower at Radford Semele

Monday 25th and another sunny, early start to beat the heat. We were heading for Leamington Spa and Lidl as wanted to get a few of their special items (paint thinners and anti rust paint). On the way we were flagged down at a bridge by a young woman asking if we had a boat hook to fish out a bicycle from the bridge hole. We stopped after the bridge narrowly missing the bike which I may add we couldn’t see as it was submerged. The bike belonged to an elderly chap who was there dripping wet; he had ridden through the bridge hole (which they are not supposed to do), clipped the curve of the bridge and then was catapulted into the canal. This could have ended badly for him if the woman hadn’t stopped to help him, as he would have had difficulty getting out of the canal; or even been submerged if he had hit his head. Reported to CRT as a safety issue.  After our stop at Lidl we headed on, through 2 more locks at the Cape, and headed into the Saltisford arm. A private arm that has been restored over a 30 year period by a trust of volunteers. £6 a night with water and electric at an extra charge if wanted, but we didn’t need it as our solar panels have kept our energy needs going since the sun has been shining daily.

evening sunset

a very hot blackbird

The gardens in the arm at Saltisford

lock gate feature in the garden

looking up the arm

and looking down

On arrival our boaty friends Penny and Joe were already there having negotiated the 21 locks of the Hatton flight earlier in the morning. We met up with them in the evening for a chat and catchup (we saw them briefly at Norbury earlier in the year), and drank a little too much red wine!

Tuesday 26th and we were feeling a little delicate after the night before, but still we pressed on with a short trip round Warwick town centre to look round the shops. Lovely little town with mostly independent shops, and the usual charity ones. I managed to get a lonely planet book on Australia in one of them; an old version but still very informative. In the afternoon we offered a boat to breast against us as room in the arm was getting tight. After chatting it transpired his daughter-in-law, a GP, had worked in St Columb Surgery briefly around 9 years ago. I didn’t recognise her name but I think she was there when I was nursing Emily through her illness. Small world.

Wednesday 27th June and we were off again to explore the tourist side of Warwick . Another hot and sunny day after a cloudy start.

Warwick castle

We looked at the tower of the castle as now it is really a theme park. We last visited here in the 1980’s. Very expensive entry fee also. Our main aim was to visit the Lord Leycester Hospital. A place founded by Robert Dudley (Queen Elizabeth 1 favourite), for wounded ex servicemen. It has never been a hospital as we know it, but still houses 8 retired members of the armed forces. A lovely place to live as the photo’s show.

Hospital from the outside

£6.50 each entry fee

Bear and Staff the symbol of the Dudley family

Tudor buildings opposite the chapel area

buildings within the complex

stairs lead up to the Great Hall built in 1450

inside the Great Hall

coats of arms of the Dudley family

inside the smaller hall where weddings are now officiated

chair used by King James 1 when he visited the hospital

intricate woodwork on this Tudor building behind the Brethrens kitchen

part of the garden area

view from the top

After our walk round we had tea in the kitchen, then made our way to St Mary’s church to view Robert Dudley’s tomb. A lovely church with much to see.

one of the many tombs

intricate ceiling in the 14th century chapel

the chapel where Robert Dudley’s family are laid to rest

Robert Dudley’s elaborate tomb

A lovely day exploring, back to the boat then found a shady spot to sit with Izzy as very hot. Penny and Joe were leaving, so we said goodbye to them.

Thursday 28th June and I was up early. Emptying the toilet cassette, getting rid of the rubbish and paying the bill for our 3 night stay. A lovely place from which to explore the town. And safe to moor. Though with the dry weather the roof of the boat was covered in sticky tree sap.

Off after the other boat had moved from us, back through Cape locks, for another stop at Lidl for fruit and veg. On again through Leamington to Radford Semele. We stayed here till Saturday as the day was overcast and breezier though still very warm. The weekend was spent slowly cruising back through to Long Itchington.

Tuesday 3rd July and we were up really early to get through the Stockton Lock flight before the heat of the day. We were nearly through before we met boats coming down. Water levels on the canal are markedly dropping and we are scraping the bottom in many places. We made it though to the newly formed Nelsons Wharf.

widebeam boat squeezing through the overgrown vegetation

Nelsons Wharf and the new home of Willow Wren training centre

looking into the arm and moorings

Wednesday 4th July and we left at a normal time to Calcutt Locks, through 2 with a novice boat then a stop for us to fill up with diesel, so the tank is full when we leave the boat. Then through the last of the Calcutt locks with a boat we had shared Cape Locks with the week before. Turning right at Napton Junction, and past the marina , to a favourite spot by the old Bridge Inn that was. Turned the boat round and moored for a couple of days. We did have around 6 drops of rain though in the afternoon!! Thursday 5th July and Charlie did an engine service and oil and filter change. It was really hot to be doing this sort of job down the engine compartment but a ggod spot to do it as space on the towpath to put things.

Overgrown towpath at Napton

Friday 6th July and we headed back to the marina to prepare for our next adventure on land. Fridge and freezer getting low as I use up all bits and bobs. Interesting meals being prepared! Saturday 7th and washing machine going, washed the boat of the sticky sap and dust. Watched England win again against Sweden. Car booked for Monday then off to Canterbury for the first of our visits on Tuesday.

The catchup continues

Sunday 10th June and our friends arrived from Blackheath at 10.15. We had got the boat ready to move on their arrival, and as the day was warm and sunny we headed off to Braunston. Managing to get moored again roughly where we had been before, which was lucky. We set off to show Benvinda the sights of Braunston, whilst Bobby partook of a snooze! Mary and Stephen had already made it to Braunston so we said hello, and in the evening we partook of a few glasses of wine with them. It was lovely to see them. They are off on their travels to pastures new so we won’t see them for a while. On Monday 11th June we walked to the Gongoozlers narrowboat cafe for brunch. Charlie and Bobby having the full Gongoozlers, whilst Benvinda and myself being a little more sedate with the large. Once fed we set off and headed back to a more countryside mooring for the night. The weather was hot and sunny which was nice for our visitors. Tuesday 12th June and we headed back to the marina as our guests were going home. On the way we stopped and said hello to Eric and Deb (boaty friends from our BCNS tour of 2 years ago), who were heading back to their home territory for a party.

The next few days were taken up with washing and shopping delivery whilst moored in the marina.

a different type of boat in the marina

We took the boat out again on Friday 15th June to the nearest point of turning it around, as we wanted to touch up the scratches around the gunwale area. The weather was looking good again after a couple of days of being overcast with occasional rain. Near what was The Bridge Inn, and now being converted into a 1.2million pound dwelling.

me on my knees painting

We cleaned and painted one side; then couple of days later turned the boat round and did the other side. We also walked with Izzy to Napton locks. The little shop that was next to The Folly Pub has now gone, and being converted into a dwelling. It’s a shame as it was a handy shop for passing boats.

Fathers day on Sunday 17th June and it started off raining, and it was dull and cold. Later in the day we were hit by a passing boat that got too close, which we weren’t happy about as it took off our newly painted area, and also got no apology from the crew!!

Back to marina again on 19th June as we were expecting a boat artist on the Thursday to paint a small design on Breakaway. We had a Sainsbury delivery first, then Beccy arrived at 10.30. She managed to do both sides on the same day, so we had a reduction in the price. A bit of an extravagence but we are happy with the result.

Breakaway’s new logo

Any guesses it’s meaning?

As Beccy hadn’t to return on the Friday we escaped from the marina really early for a trip to Warwick. This will be my next instalment.

Time for a catchup

I have been immensely lazy with my blogging; my excuse is we haven’t many travel plans with the boat this year. Anyway I have continued to take pictures and now in the bright sunshine am starting the task of bringing it up to date!

The  last blog saw us moor up just before Braunston on our way back to the marina. We had a couple of days here, and the weather remains kind apart from a strong breeze. Whilst here I have taken pictures of a small section of towpath flowers as they looked so pretty, and all in one area. I haven’t named them this time, so anyone reading you better get out your wildflower book.

facing toward Braunston

towpath flowers

we all know this one

I even managed to picture a fly

one of the many grass species

ready to scatter their seeds

another favourite

an artistic feather

greylag geese

beautiful night sky

That’s my artistic side over with!! May 22nd and we set off in the strong breeze to Braunston and managed to get a mooring opposite the pub there. It got very busy soon afterwards. We walked along to the chandlers and bought a tin of black paint to touch up the boat where it gets scratched. The next day was dull and breezy again so we turned around and headed back to the marina, and were moored there by 10am. Washing all done and I ordered a Sainsbury shop. The next few days the weather was dull and rainy so inside jobs done. Charlie varnished the stern doors, and when it was brighter I polished the brass, and cleaned the bow and cratch cover. The sand from the blasting gets everywhere. We also relit the fire on a couple of occasions as the evenings were cold. All of these jobs are difficult to do when out on the towpath, as we stripped the roof of its contents to wash it down, and took off the stern doors for the varnishing. These jobs were all completed though by May 31st which happened to be our 43rd Wedding Anniversary. We decided not to go to the pub for a meal, so I ordered a delivery from Sainsbury with the items I needed to make our chosen meal. Worked out cheaper though it meant me cooking (which I don’t mind anyway). Our menu was Tomato and Mozzarella salad, Homemade burgers, chips and coleslaw with flatbread, Cornish ice cream and a bottle of McGuigans red wine. Was lovely even if I say so myself. Friday 1st June and we walked into Napton village to pick up a parcel of a new satellite box; thought it would be  case of attach and play, but it wasn’t the case. Charlie eventually gave up. The next day we had a message from Simon about a letter that had appeared at our house. I won’t go in to detail here, but it shook us up a bit and we made plans to return to Cornwall on June 4th for a couple of days, to make sure all was well. Thinking about it now we probably didn’t need to make the trip, but at least we know everything is still as it should be. On our return to the boat we got a message from our friends in Blackheath to say they would be visiting the coming weekend. As we still had the car we stopped at Aldi before we dropped it off and got some supplies in for their visit. We also had a message from Mary and Stephen to say they were back on Marge, so Saturday 9th June we walked to Wigrams Turn marina and had a lovely lunch and afternoon with them.

Another week gone

And it has been glorious weather. I counted today we have had 16 days of sunshine; not all have been warm, but so nice to see the sun and blue skies. On Monday 14th May we moved up 2 locks to be nearer the shops, and walked to Aldi to stock up on the Portuguese wine we had enjoyed the day before. The afternoon was sunny so I cleaned the brass again. It stays reasonably clean when it hasn’t rained.

Tuesday 15th May and we were up early and got through the rest of the flight of locks at Atherstone (5 in all), meeting a volunteer at the top lock who had arrived for his shift early. Once through we stopped for breakfast, then off again as it was a lovely day.

noticed Dr Who had landed in someones garden

We wanted to get to Hawkesbury junction. There were lots of boats on the move. Passing through Nuneaton our cruise was marred by a disgusting youth spitting at us as we went under a bridge. Shame he wasn’t in reach otherwise I may have retaliated. Anyway this is something many boaters are having to put up with of late. Going past Starline boatyard was interesting, as they have many boats double moored which has restricted the navigation. One being a wide beam boat right on a bridge.

restriction of canal passing Starline boatyard

good job nothing was coming the other way

a lovely house up for sale. I think it was once a pub

and a rather swish boat house

We passed the entrance to the Ashby canal but weren’t venturing up there this time, though we do love it as there are no locks to negotiate. Our final stop was Hawkesbury junction. On Wednesday 16th May the weather though dry and suddenly turned cloudy and breezy, and it was alot colder. We decided to stay as we were both tired. Even Izzy didn’t want to get out of bed.

just peeking out of her new sleeping bag

On walking to the junction we noticed some fire crew on excercises.

Coventry fire crew practising with their hose!

Hawkesbury engine house

We ventured round the junction onto the Oxford canal and spotted another boat from the FB group to which I belong. Had a little chat with them before going back to the boat and relighting fire to keep warm. We then had a quiet afternoon. Later in the day a brand new Aqua built narrowboat moor behind us, looking very swish and shiny. I found out later that they were heading to Crick boat show as one of the boats on display. It had multiple fenders on it, which got me wondering if they were lifted going through locks.

Izzy hibernating in her new duvet. She is somewhere in there!

Thursday 17th May and we were up early again to get through the small stop lock at Hawkesbury. We had breakfast on the move and were just remarking at the lack of boats travelling the other way.

under the M69

It all became apparent when we approached All Oaks Wood. An oak tree had fallen across the canal the day before so no one was going anywhere; nothing had been posted about it from CrT, but as we weren’t in any hurry, managed to moor up temporarily in a queue.

in the queue waiting for the tree to be cleared

Once we had the all clear to move there was a mass exodus of boats going both ways. We had decided to stay if we could as Hilmorton would be busy if the amount of boats going that way was anything to go by. I walked ahead and found a small space in which we could squeeze, which was lucky as Charlie had noticed we had stuff wrapped around the prop.

tree cleared and everyone away

Charlie extracted a bag of cloth, fishing line, rope and other goodies from the prop, and after all the excitement we settled in for the afternoon. We were surrounded by trees (obviously being a wood), so the solar panels weren’t picking up anything in the morning, so we decided to set off again for Hilmorton. A bit later than we normally do but we didn’t want to go through the locks there, so thought it would be quieter than the day before.

passing through All Oaks wood

We have seen alot of new shiny boats this trip and some of them are headed for the boat show at Crick for the B/H w/e. Never mind we love our little boat. The night time temp has dropped considerably so we have kept the fire lit. As the days are going on though it is warming up. Passing through Rugby the moorings have changed somewhat. No longer can you moor by the retail park where M&S is, but they have put in extra rings further along past Bridge 58 where the picnic spot is on the other side. It was full both sides and it was fun negotiating the canal, especially when boats coming the other way don’t slow down. Anyway I was steering and got through without any bumps.

new sign at Rugby

Passing Clifton Cruisers we noticed Petroc (belonging to Geoff and Gill from St Merryn). They haven’t made it out yet.

passing Petroc

The other big change here is the work going on developing a new housing estate which is virtually going to take up the land right up to the locks. Should be interesting to see it in a couple of years time.

looks like a bridge being built here

moving along more land cleared

and more

and more in the distance looking up the canal.

We stayed at Hilmorton on Saturday and managed to watch the Royal Wedding. We couldn’t get a TV signal so tethered up the kindle and watched it on that. It was hot and sunny all day. Charlie managed to get a shot of a bird we believe to be a Dunnock.

local wildlife

And a lovely sunset.

evening sunset

Sunday and I was up extra early, and we were away by 06.20. The locks at Hilmorton are paired, and we were lucky that one side was in our favour through the 3 locks. It was very busy on the moorings above the locks, with little space. We were through by 07.10, and had a lovely quiet cruise toward Braunston.

lovely to see the wild flower hedgerows

vibrant yellow of the rape seed field

Barby straight passing under the M45

new marina at Dunchurch just opened

We got to one of our favourite moorings after Bridge 87, and can just see Braunston church spire in the distance. We were all moored up by 09.30! Good going even by our standards. Lovely hot, sunny day. Even had some visitors in the evening.

Canada geese goslings

and one of 5 cygnets shown to us by mum and dad swan

Staying still today we will probably go to Braunston tomorrow, hopefully there should be a mooring spot we can squeeze in to; if not we only have 5 miles to get back to the marina.

Still have a phone signal

Bank holiday Monday and the hot weather continued. Nice to get shorts on at last. So I took the chance to clean the brass and wiped the boat down. We managed another evening sitting outside in the sunshine.

relaxing outside

Izzy amongst the dandelions in the sun on our towpath garden

Hawthorn starting to bloom and we have seen our first swallows

Tuesday 8th May and we set off quite early at 7am. We got to Radford Bridge and spotted a new Aldi store so we stopped for breakfast and I popped along for some fruit and salad. This is the closest I am going to get to Stafford, as once again we are bypassing it. It was a sunny start but became overcast and rained in the evening. We managed to get to Great Haywood before it rained. We were watching a farmer load his sheep and lambs into a trailer, and Charlie took some photos but somehow the camera has lost them. I also had a good early morning misty photo of Great Haywood but again it seems to be lost.

Wednesday although sunny was very cold and breezy; we had another early start and made it to Fradley junction. We were leap frogging with 2 boats who were also flying the flag for Cornwall. Thursday we moved down 2 locks and turned at the junction onto the Coventry canal and stopped for breakfast. Managed a little chat with Lorraine (The Mad Hatter) and had a look at her hats. Made from cotton and dyed and embelished all in her narrowboat workshop. She had sold alot of her hats over the Bank Holiday, but if I see her again I think I may buy one in a lighter colour. Off again and we got to Kings Orchard marina entrance to meet up with another FB friend who had made a dog sleeping bag for Izzy. We met Linda in the evening and shared a glass of red, and Izzy seems very happy with her new bag. Also filled up with diesel from Fuel boat Auriga who was returning from the Norbury festival.

Friday 11th and it was sunny but again very cold and breezy. We had a short cruise to Sutton Road bridge so I could take Izzy to the vets in Tamworth for her annual vaccination. Along the way a message had gone on FB from Tracey (The Little Chimney co) about 2 men wandering along the towpath claiming to be homeless but also looking to see what they can steal. We stopped to chat to Tracey and her hubby, found out more, then set off for our final stop of the day. I managed to get Izzy’s injection done in the afternoon., while Charlie stayed with the boat. We heard from our friends Mary and Stephen who have gone back to Corfu for a week for more sun. Maybe we will see them before they start their boating travels once we get back to Napton.

Saturday and off again early. It was sunny but not so breezy. Our final destination being Atherstone (last here on 25th March); stopping just after lock 8. I had a walk into town and took an oversized jumper to the charity shop and went to Co-op and Aldi. It rained in the evening.

Today it is lovely and sunny and very warm so we are staying still. I even managed a lie in which is unusual for me. We have a lovely spot which was quiet until this afternoon when 2 other boats joined us! I had bought a bottle of Portuguese wine from Aldi which went down very well with pot roast beef and veggies. We will shuffle up through 2 locks tomorrow nearer to the shops as we would like to buy some more wine and more fruit and salad. Just hope I don’t lose any more photos.

Alot of catching up to do

I last blogged on the 10th April, and one would think that I haven’t been bothered to update it; but we have been on the moon! Well you would think we had looking at the phone signal. The journey we are taking we have done before, so it’s difficult to know without looking at the 2015 blog, at what pictures we already have. Anyway today’s blog is all about catching up on what we have been doing.

longhorn cattle

We moved from our mooring opposite the longhorn cattle in the rain again! We wanted to get to the Shropshire Union canal so we could slow up a bit. By the time we stopped we were both freezing cold as the weather really isn’t warming up. We stayed put for a couple of days due to the weather being wet and cold; meeting up with  fellow boater’s from a Facebook group we belong to.

ornate bridge on the Staffs and Worcester canal

Saturday 14th April and the weather was better, at least it was dry with sunny intervals. We cruised to Brewood and stopped briefly so I could walk to the Co-op for bananas. The towpath here was lagged with mud and not very pleasant at all; so when I returned we moved along a bit to a quieter mooring before the Stretton aqueduct, and the sun was still shining!

a passing workboat

milepost sign on the Shropshire union canal

Stretton aqueduct taking the canal over the A5 road

date of the aqueduct

lovely bunch of wild primroses on the towpath

We stayed on this mooring until the 16th April and walked along to look at the aqueduct on foot, another marvelous feat of engineering that has lasted the test of time.

one of the many cuttings along this canal

hewn out of solid rock by navvies in the 1700’s. We wonder how many lost their lives building it.

Cowley tunnel

Off again and heading toward our final destination of Norbury. Through Wheaton Aston where we filled with water and also diesel at the cheapest place we have ever found so far on our travels. Brief stop at Gnosall for another banana stop, and finally stopped just before the Shelmore embankment at Norbury. Now the weather forecast was supposed to be getting warmer but we didn’t quite believe it; but hey presto on the 18th April it seemed that summer had arrived. It was such a lovely evening I took Izzy for a walk along the embankment in the evening. Thursday 19th April and we had the hottest April day for 70 years apparently, so we cleaned the brass and polished one side of the boat. It was lovely seeing the sun at last. We moved onto 5day moorings at Norbury ready for our slot on the 22nd. The sun was still hot, we had let the fire go out so we took the opportunity to paint it with stove blacking. We also did a deal with the boatyard to take a day boat out on Monday 23rd as we had to leave the boat whilst it was being grit blasted. On the Sunday the men from the boatyard came at 11am and took Breakaway into dry dock. I managed to make some bread in readiness for a picnic on the Monday.

out of the water

We booked Sunday Lunch at the Junction Inn which was very good value.

Monday 23rd April and the chap who does the grit blasting was ready bright and early; so as I had made our picnic we set off for our dayboat excursion.

our ride for the day

Bearing in mind that Norbury is a lovely place but there is nothing much there not even a bus service, the dayboat was our only option. The hot weather had abated by now and the colder, windier weather was back. Off we went and trundled down the canal toward Market Drayton, though we knew we wouldn’t make it that far in a dayboat. I took some pictures along the way there and back and we even managed to find a cover repairer for a little job that needed doing on our pram cover.

lots of new ducklings about

a badger sett eroding the bank

canal view through a bridge

old wharf building that used to ship milk products and chocolate crumb from Cadbury

notice on the building

nesting swan

think this narrowboat has lost it’s way!

High Bridge with the remains of a telegraph pole within its structure

We had a lovely day despite the weather turning colder. Strange to be on a hired boat though. Picnic was a success and Izzy had a lovely run along the towpath where it was quiet. We returned around 3pm and were allowed back on Breakaway.

hull after grit blasting

Charlie was well pleased with the state of the hull, and even the boatyard remarked how smooth it was with no rust or pitting. The next day we had some welding jobs done, new anodes and a new to us propeller., and one coat of two pack epoxy applied. 2nd coat applied the next day, so now we stay for it all to dry. Not very nice living in a tunnel.

new prop

new anodes

25th April and we met up with another boater from our Facebook group; managing a couple bottles of red in the evening.  Thursday 26th April and Charlie managed to wipe the boat down as best he could to get rid of some of the dust, and in the evening I went mad with the washing machine whilst we were plugged into the electric. We were being refloated on Friday 27th. Once back on the canal we stayed by the pub and managed 2 Sainsbury deliveries over 2 days. I even managed to give Izzy a shower as she came back from a walk absolutely covered in black mud! I had also contacted the cover repair man and made an appointment for Tuesday. Whilst on the mooring we were watching a hire boat trying to tie up and having great difficulty; we offered our help and once sorted it transpired they came from Melbourne and had the boat for a week as part of their UK grand tour

Tuesday 1st May and we were off to get our cover repaired. It was a small matter of the stitching coming undone which he repaired quickly for us; and he didn’t charge us anything! So a packet of dog chews for their dog was the payment. Once fixed we headed off and turned the boat round to head back to Norbury again; but we did stop overnight at the Anchor Inn pub as Charlie wanted to try it. It was quaint being a converted house, probably done when the navvies needed refreshment maybe. It was like being in someone’s living room. We both had a beer and chatted with a couple of boaters who were also frequenting the pub.

heron in flight

on the move again and stopped briefly at Norbury boatyard for a gas bottle and a couple bags of coal, as didn’t want to run out in case the weather stays cold. Along the way I got 2 washes done, and cooked dinner. The Norbury Festival was preparing for the bank holiday weekend (which I wanted to stay for, but Charlie didn’t), many of the mooring slots were being reserved for trading boats; so we carried on and stopped at Gnosall overnight. From Gnosall we cruised to Brewood as I wanted the post office; then carried on to the 3 mile straight just before Autherly junction at Wolverhampton.

lovely trees in blossom

Friday 4th May and we set off at 08.30 and had a lovely cruise to Gailey after turning left at Autherly junction, and back onto the Staffs and Worcester canal. At Autherly junction we met a boat whom we had locked down into Bristol with last year. Seeing lots of people on this trip.

Saturday 5th May and we were off even earlier at 06.45 as we knew we had 9 locks to do before the place we wanted to moor; we had one stop for breakfast at Penkridge, and a stop just after to go to Midland Chandlers for a couple of things.  Final stop just above Deptmore lock where we were back on 8th April!

cows partaking of a drink in the canal

The only difference is the weather has improved for the Bank Holiday weekend. This is a lovely spot and we are in full sun with the solar panels at 100%; so we are staying for the weekend to let the canal traffic die down. Hopefully won’t be too long before I can blog again, if the phone signal stays as it is.

dandelions in our towpath garden

Travelling has resumed

This was the snow in Cornwall before we left to go back to the boat.

The view of the clay hills from our window

Luckily we hadn’t booked a car otherwise we would have had to travel when the weather really wasn’t good. Once the weather looked like it was brightening the car was booked and we headed back on board Breakaway. We had the choice of cars and we chose a Fiat Tipo diesel, which had bags of room inside for our many items we always accumulate when back on land. One of them being a new 12v TV from Aldi. We had been concerned about how the boat would fair in the icy conditiions with no one onboard. The only problem was the shower temp guage had come disconnected; we thought we would have to buy a new one but Charlie to the rescue and it was mended. Fire and heating on at full blast to warm things up. We took the car back to Daventry and the next day had a light dusting of more snow, which got thicker as the day went on. No going anywhere for us just yet then. The wind was strong and it was still very cold. I had ordered a TV signal booster which we collected from Napton post office, hopefully this will shut out the 4G signal that keeps interfering with the TV picture. Overnight it had been cold and we awoke to the marina and canal frozen. It seems our plans to get out keep getting scuppered. Anyway it was probably a good thing as Charlie had been suspicious about our starter battery not performing well; so we ordered a new one from Multicell which they could deliver to the marina the next day. The old battery was 11 years old so had done well. We had a message from the crew of Little Marge (whom we met last year); they were going to arrive on their boat; as it turned out only one of the crew arrived while the other stayed at home in the warm!! We had our new battery delivered and after a Sainsbury delivery we were ready to move weather permitting. We were going to travel with Little Marge part of the way. We finally made it out on Friday 23rd February, and headed for Braunston. We stopped at Midland Chandlers to stock up with coal, and finally got to Hilmorton locks, where we met with Marge. Tea and cake on Marge, and beers in the eve on Breakaway. One thing we hadn’t tried was the TV on 12v. It worked on mains ok, but when we plugged the 12v in, there was nothing. Phonecall to customer services, as I had thrown the box away, but was told it was ok to return to an Aldi store, as wasn’t performing as it should; next Aldi would be at Atherstone, where we arrived after one night at Hawkesbury junction.

look who’s following us

untidy boatyard on the Coventry canal. I think I’ve got pictures of this before

Message from Marge’s other crew member that she would arrive at Atherstone station on the Monday. We arrived at Atherstone in good time on Sunday after a lovely cruise; which was then slightly marred by an elderly gentleman boater. We had pulled in behind him so I could walk forward and check the moorings further along. He asked if we were staying there, and I replied I wasn’t sure. He then pulled off and went forward. As I walked I said to him as it was often busy further down I was checking the situation. He then turned and grumped we had pinched his mooring spot!! I was a little taken aback by his remark as he had said nothing at the time; I do hate it when people moan after an event. I then retorted that we would have moved if he had said. Gggrrhh. Monday and we were up early to Aldi to return the TV. luckily for us they had another TV in the store but slightly smaller screen. So we did an exchange and this new one working perfectly on 12v. Otherwise we would have been without one, and Charlie does like his TV. We went back to the town after breakfast. Scouring the charity shops as usual, I found a wine rack for £1.95 which was just perfect for placing behind the fire to warm our red wine.

our new warming wine rack

Also bought 5 DVD’s, and a new washing up bowl in the ironmongers there. Mary arrived at 1.30, and it was lovely to see her and catch up. Tuesday 27th March and we moved down 5 locks with the help of the volunteers, in the rain. I managed some washing on the way.

Atherstone locks

Next day on to Bradley Green with Mary helping us through the locks. They stayed and came down the following day, and we helped Marge down. I made a fruit loaf for Good Friday instead of having Hot Cross buns. Rain, Rain, Rain and it really has been depressing and grey. So much rain over the winter period and many rivers have been shut to navigation. As we pulled away from Bradley Green the nearby field was a lake.

waterlogged fields

We were joined again on Easter Sunday by Mary and Stephen and had homemade scones, cream and jam courtesy of Mary. We had already shuffled along a bit more to Pooley fields nature reserve. This was an ex colliery site, and was quite a high spoil tip. Still raining but I walked with Izzy to the top. Once we returned to the boat the rain had stopped and we were on the move again as the batteries needed topping up, with the lack of sunshine the solars weren’t putting enough power in. More washing done along the journey, till we arrived at the Tame aqueduct at Fazeley junction, Tamworth.

the remains of Alvecote priory along the journey to Fazeley

not a very good picture of a nesting swan

We had a walk to Asda in Tamworth as needed to get some track suit bottoms for Charlie. Mary and Stephen weren’t sure which way they were going at this junction; but as it turned out they continued with us to Fradley junction. We stopped at Huddlesford to take on a Sainsbury delivery, as there was a pub next to the canal, and I could use their postcode. Delivery arrived on Friday 5th April and Charlie took the boat to Fradley whilst I stayed inside putting the shopping away. We met again with Mary and Stephen and managed to sit outside for eve drinks before we all felt too cold and had to retreat inside the boat for the warmth of the fire.

Friday 6th April and we were saying goodbye to Mary and Stephen. They helped us through the locks at Fradley; they were turning around and we were now on the Trent and Mersey canal, heading for Great Haywood.

over the fast flowing River Trent, with more waterlogged fields

some baa baa black sheep

view of Rugeley in the distance with more fields under water

Little Haywood church

We stopped about a mile short of Great Haywood junction. I had made dinner along the journey so everything was ready when we stopped.

Saturday 7th April and we shuffled along a bit further to have a nicer view. It was raining again, so we were happy to stay put.

Shugborough Hall

Now we were last here 3 years ago, and managed to look around the hall on our last visit. Many photos I have taken may already be on an earlier blog. Charlie spotted a woodpecker on the bank opposite

busy woodpecker

and there was an interesting fungus on a tree trunk

On Sunday we were off again through Great Haywood junction and onto the Staffs and Worcester canal. Although we have done this section before (but the other way), both of us cannot remember many of the sights.

an interesting kiddies play area

signpost near Stafford. I have promised a trip here on the way back.

approaching Deptmore lock

We stopped just after the above lock for the night. Monday 9th April and we were off again. We knew we had a few locks to do so we shared the load which made it a bit easier. Finally after 10 locks arriving at Calf Heath. Today we are not moving as heavy rain, and to be honest am fed up of getting wet. Blog all updated as fair phone signal, and we have a view of longhorn cattle in the opposite field. Tomorrow we will get to Autherley junction and turn onto the Shropshire Union canal; then we only have approx 15miles to our destination at Norbury. We are well on time for our slot on 22nd April. Just hope the weather improves.

Back home in Cornwall

Our journey back home was a long one, not helped by the fact of a slight hiccup with Flybe. A long story, but I have written to them about it. It is freezing and to top it all we have had snow, that lasted a couple of days. We are planning to go back to the boat very soon and just hope our winterisation of her has worked and we aren’t going back to find burst pipes etc. We are armed with stuff to put things right if needs be. First trip will be to get her to Norbury Wharf (on the Shropshire Union canal) for grit blasting and twin pack epoxy coating for the end of April. This will probably be the last big thing we will do on her apart from maintenance of course. Once travels start, the narrowboating adventure blog will resume.

And back to Iluka

14/02/2018. It was Valentines Day (no different to any other and never has been), and we were up early for the drive back to the family in Iluka. We took the tourist route to McLean, but made a slight mistake and ended up going over the wobbly bridge at Grafton again, then had to get the ferry back over at Ulmarra (same river but different ferry location than previously).

ferry over the Clarence river

We were the only vehicle travelling over that way at that time, very honoured. We stopped in McLean as we wanted to visit the camping shop again; also stopped in the local butchers for some meat to BBQ in the evening. We had decided for our last few nights we would use the cooking facilities in the campsite. On the way to Iluka we stopped at a view point and viewed Twelve mile beach. 4×4 vehicles can drive onto the beach at low tide, but we didn’t risk it.

Twelve mile beach

Back at Iluka campsite and whilst driving into our pitch, the van drove over a waste pipe, which we hadn’t realised was there. The owner of the van opposite came and told us never to drive over these; we duly apologised and offered to pay for any damages, but he was adamant it was ok. To be fair to us I don’t know why he positioned it so far away from his pitch as there was one nearer him on the other side. Anyway we felt quite bad about it for the rest of the day. In the afternoon the kiddies had to go to the local doctors clinic for vaccinations (they are compulsory in Australia), so I went along for moral support, and supplied the large ice creams after. We had a BBQ in the evening and sat outside till it got dark.

cooking on the camp facilities

15/02/2018. It had been a very humid and sticky night, so not much sleep was had. I went to the Butchers and Bakers in Iluka early to get more supplies for the evening BBQ, and as it was grand-daughters birthday after we leave , we decided to have early celebrations, so I ordered a birthday cake to collect on the Saturday. Very hot and humid; the children were having a day off school to spend with us, so while grandad watched films, I took them to the campsite to swim in the pool. After lunch the same then BBQ in the evening.

Iluka campsite

16/02/2018. We are now prepping for our departure on the 18th, by cleaning the van inside and out. We could have paid $150 for the privelege of the hire company to do it, but we decided to do it ourselves. Kiddies off school again so more swimming in the morning; though we did have to vacate to the small jacussi pool as aqua aerobics was happening that morning. Films in the afternoon and barbie again in the evening; then it rained!

17/02/2018. More van washing. Off into town to collect the birthday cake (quite expensive for what it was but didn’t have tin to bake our own, and after all I was on holiday). We had the early birthday with present opening and cake

even managing to eat the pie and mash I had made on arrival as the cooker had been mended. Must say though it was rather hot to eat such a dish. In the afternoon whilst grandad watched more TV, I went with the family for a walk through the rainforest to the lookout point at Iluka Bluff.

Iluka rainforest

views from the Bluff with wild waves

view the other way

evening sunset in Iluka

18/02/2018. Our holiday comes to an end, and our home journey starts. Final bit of van cleaning, and it is now cleaner than when we first had it. After a short walk we then left the family in Iuka at around 11am to get back to Brisbane and return the van before 4pm. It was approximately a 3hour journey, but all on the highway; a short delay along the way because of traffic volume, and we arrived at 2pm. Duly the van was checked in and checked over and all well. Taxi to the airport and we arrived at 14.30 for the 20.45 flight. A bit early, but we had a leisurely lunch.

our ride home.

We had a lovely time. The scenery was fantastic. We had driven 2138km (1347 miles) in the time we were there (not alot by Australian standards though). We took over 600 pictures and have many wonderful memories. Who knows we may even go back, as now the family have moved to Lismore for better jobs, and there is more exploring to do.

Dorrigo and Coffs Harbour

11/02/2018. Up early and off the Dorrigo. I had read there was another Skywalk here in a rainforest, so we were going to investigate. The road from Armidale is called The Waterfall way, and there are numerous stops to view waterfalls and scenery. We stopped at a few along the way.

granite outcrops

a gorge along the waterfall way

a Kookaburra

termite mound

We stopped at Bakers Creek falls and Wollomombi lookout, but because there had been very little rain over the winter not much water was flowing over the falls. Things were better at Ebor falls though.

Ebor falls

and again

local flora

On to Dorrigo and the rainforest centre. This was very different to the last skywalk in that it was a much smaller platform, but the nature reserve and rainforest was larger. We had lunch here, took in the lovely views and did the forest walk.

Dorrigo skywalk with view behind

Strangling fig

ferns that attach themselves to a host tree

pretty bead like fronds

lovely view

We had planned to stay the night locally, but Charlie wanted to crack on to Coffs Harbour. As it was Sunday I phoned ahead to see if they had space; luckily they did though the site was very busy due to a national sports event taking place that weekend. This was the most expensive site yet, and due to it’s business was a little untidy with rubbish lying around and toilet blocks being dishevelled. We stayed here 3 nights to recover and look round.

Aussie dove

12/02/2018. Lots of people leaving the campsite today, so much quieter. Hot and Sunny now we are back on the coast, so we went off for a walk to Coffs Harbour. We partook of a very expensive ice cream on the way back.

local beach near the campsite

more beach views

and again

boats in Coffs Harbour

We chilled out for the rest of the afternoon watching the birds and drinking wine.

colourful parrot in the tree above

this bird nearly knocked itself out by flying into the table at the back of the camper. It’s sitting on the camper door to recover

13/02/2018. We had a short drive to Coffs Harbour Plaza shopping mall. We bought a few items there. Charlie had spied someone eating KFC the day before and took a fancy to trying some; so unlike us we did and it wasn’t too bad either. Lazy afternoon as it was hot and very humid.