About Me

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The name describes my demeanour and voice! I love narrowboating and that is why this blog is mainly about the boat and our interaction with it. I have been keeping a log for Sonflower ever since we bought her and moved onto her as our main residence. Some incidents in our boating life have been hilarious, some scary and some down right dangerous. I cannot tell what will come in the future but you can now share them! The crew are an 'ordinary' couple. The Best Mate and I.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Fazeley to Erdington

We have to admit it. 21 minus 4 equals 17 so we have been, prima facie, overstaying!  My sister did not arrive until Saturday and with other commitments, including a son's birthday and another's time to return to uni, we had no earlier window to make this move. I consider this reasonable under the terms of  SXVII 3 c (iii) of British Waterways Act 1995.

We said fare well to our friends' garden mooring early this morning (Sorry to disturb you!) and plied our way past the maturing Kingsbury Water Park with their varied habitats for various species of bird and mammal. We could see goose pond and swan lake. We heard the raucous alarm calling of coots on their preferred patch of water and saw the little isles that terns colonize in the spring and early summer. The Summer visitors that probably inhabited the reed and brush have gone now, leaving the willow and hawthorn to perhaps a wintering shrike or hawfinches. The sand has been taken and one conveyor bridge has gone too. I could not see any remaining sand cliff to attract sand martins but who knows what is out there. Most pits are water filled now.

After the sands of the Thame valley we come to the rise out of it up Curdworth Locks, 11 in all. We didn't have to empty any of them! The first boat to meet us was nb Mad Hatter, who are members of our fellowship. They are doing the Warwick ring to finish off their summer cruising, as you do.

We have been this way before: in the opposite direction on our very first waterways holiday in 1999 and several other times too. I love the peace on the water and in the fields when only a couple of hundred yards from the morning madness of the M42.
Peace and calm, Curdworth Locks

There will be more noisy interruptions to the peace of the waterway when HS2 roars over lock 8!
zoom in to see the sign "HS2 bridge starts here"
We had a slight delay at one lock where CRT had a work team sprucing it up a bit.

They soon gave way to us and moved on to the next lock. Waiting for them to clear the way gave an ideal time for a bacon roll and a cup of coffee. We followed the work boat through Curdworth Tunnel and they pulled over to let us pass.

Minworth locks are protected by antivandal devices which sent us scurrying into the boat for a "handcuff key". I am not sure that these are effective but certainly inconvenienced us! The top lock at Minworth also had workmen in attendance. This time a contractor sealing behind the brickwork to stop sidewall leakage. After the bottom lock we looked for a mooring. The towpath refurb has provided lovely concrete coping stones and all weather surface but it is not suitable for driving a mooring pin into . Not boat friendly as they say! So we had to continue to the black and white bollards just south of Butler's Bridge (A38 Kingsbury Road).

From there a long walk to the 110 bus for the ride back to Fazeley and the car! Home to a take away tandoori!

                                                               9 miles, 14 locks, 6 hours

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Short Moves

If you have been checking up on the location of SONFOWER on Water Explorer you will have noticed that on Friday afternoon she moved from the 7-day Fazeley Visitor Moorings on the Coventry Canal to the 7-day Fazeley Visitor Moorings on the BCN Birmingham to Fazeley Canal. A distance of about 1/4 mile.

This was to be closer to Tolson's Footbridge which gives access to St Paul's Church, Fazeley where the Boaters Christian Fellowship were holding a short weekend gathering. It included a session to examine one of the Fellowship's main aims: fellowship!  One would have thought we would have had that one sorted out but we gained a lot of insight into what different members might want in the way of meeting together and enjoying all that we have in common. Our weekend included sharing food together in various ways: a great way to experience fellowship. We had a picnic lunch, a barbeque supper, a communion service and Sunday Roast lunch in the Three Tuns. With a do-it-yourself entertainment in the evening when The Best Mate sang to my guitar accompaniment, it was a good weekend.

And this afternoon we crossed to the canal to moor on a garden mooring. Approximately 50 yards!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Polesworth to Fazeley

We bused into Polesworth from Fazeley. It is a bank holiday so I thought it would be difficult. In fact it was a breeze: 110 from Fazeley to Tamworth and then 48 from Tamworth to Polesworth, stopping right outside The Bull Inn. And the timetable was such as to leave a nice space between buses for a loo stop except that Tamworth have closed their Public Conveniences. We noticed that the Stagecoach bus driver (Bus 48) had taken a break and he told us that he had used the conveniences in the Arriva garage. He was sure they would let us use them too. So we asked at the garage and a lovely young man, who was brought up on a boat, allowed us to use their facilities. The 48 bus is certainly one to remember as it goes from Coventry to Leicester via Hinkley, Atherstone, Tamworth, Nuneaton and Bedworth: a sort of Coventry Canal Special.

So we departed Polesworth at 11.00. Cruising was easy to Alvecote Basin where a gathering of historic boats was being held.

Approaching the Boat Gathering at Alvecote
There were loads of them.
Backing out of Alvecote Marina: nowhere to go

One tried backing out of the marina as I approached the entrance but then went back in to let me by.

 Here we saw BCF member nb Persephone with no-one aboard.

We continued to cruise and saw nb Ichthus going the other way. At Glascote locks we joined a queue. The second boat out of top lock going past us was nb Charis another BCF boat. Moored just above the locks is a boat with quotations from Ecclesiates inscribed on the side. "It's better to have one handful of tranquility than to have two handfuls of trouble and to chase after the wind." There was another one too but I can't remember it.   Good stuff to think on while one waits. We were seventh in line! 90 minutes later we were through and cruising to Fazeley. They are probably the slowest locks in the country. We were glad that we had eaten as we cruised today.

We moored just before 2.30pm: wine o'clock


               5.1/4 miles, 2 locks  3.1/2 hours

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Hillmorton to Polesworth

Skeleton crew leaving me!
A lovely couple of days boating. We arrived at Hillmorton at about 8.30 on Friday morning. We found the fridge off as the gas had run out. I changed the bottle but the second one had the plastic stopper already removed and did not go hiss when the valve was opened. Not a good sign. Gas was needed soon. 

The skeleton crew of Alex and the Best Mate made good progress north to Stretton Stop and I took the car to Atherstone returning to the boat by public transport. Getting to Rose Narrowboats first I inquired about gas. They had two bottles in stock. I ten walked down the towpath, the peaceful silence only punctuated by the contact calls of a family of buzzards. Sonflower came along when I got to the disused Brinklow arm junction.

So on to Stretton Stop where we moored on the water point (with all the Rose narrowboats around there really was nowhere else), took on water and gas.

Thence northward, watching the wheeling buzzards for quite a few minutes, toward Sutton Stop. About two miles short of this we were caught up by MV Nuneaton towing her butty nb Brighton which were on their way to a boat gathering at Alvecote. One of their crew hailed us to tell us that their crew at Sutton Stop had set the lock. We worked down and Alex made the run on good style: his first time on the tiller for this U-turn under the junction bridge and onto the Coventry Canal.

All was fine until we got to Marston Junction where nb Annie, a Black Prince Hire boat, came at us from the off side as we went under the bridge before the junction. Prompt avoiding action by both craft averted a collision but scared the wits out if the crew of Annie who were sitting in the bow well deck.

The motty boat and butty caught us up again at Springwell Haven and we pulled to the side to let them pass.

Nuneaton and Brighton
From then we stayed at cruising speed until we reached an overnight mooring just before Anchor Bridge: the Anchor Inn beckoned. We were moored behind a veteran fibre glass canal cruiser with cabins fore and aft and a central wheel house. They had two grandchildren aboard and a large dog and kindly gave us a poo bag to clean up the mess that was just where we needed to tie! We sat at the table next to them in the restaurant at the Inn as well and learned how they had often helped friends move the boat, fell in love with it and bought it as soon as the opportunity came when their friends bought a steel narrowboat.

This morning they were well ahead of us when we set off at 7.30am. We stopped for breakfast before the Atherstone flight. We worked down the first three locks with the "assistance" of the three volunteers who were on duty today. Although nice to see them they are not really much help to us for only three locks out of eleven! I wondered whether they were always at the first three locks. If so, single-handers who really do need help who are coming up would have no help through eight locks before seeing them! It was quite busy today and we only had to fill one lock all the way.
descending Atherstone lock 6

I left the boat at lock 9 to return to the car to get it to Polesworth. I parked next to the Bull Inn. Unfortunately this hostelry does not do lunches on Saturday, the restaurant (Indian cuisine) opens at 5.30pm. I met the boat at Bridge 51
Sonflower approaches Bridge 51
 We moored on the rings just through bridge 54. Lunch was now a necessity.

While we were eating our lunch, al fresco at The Anchor Inn under their fabulous gazebo, the heavens opened and a thunderstorm of great proportion started. We were glad that we were not boating this afternoon and felt sympathy for any holidaying hirers who "had to" carry on anyway! We remember those times.

Hillmorton to Polesworth 31.1/2 miles, and 12 locks,             15 hours

Editor's Note:  On 28th July 2008 we were here before: that time the blog says "a thundery shower stopped the expetition to the pub". Today we were already there!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Navigation Bridge No 85 to Hillmorton Bottom Lock 14 day mooring

A lovely drive in the sunshine started today's boat move. Driving, top down, is a pleasure in a BMW Z3 at any time and on the warmest day of the year it was beautiful.

At the boat, I left Alex in command and he set off northward with a litre of orange juice, a packet of tortilla chips and a doughnut. What more is needed? Oh, yes, a bottle of sunscreen and a bottle of aftersun lotion as well!

I got back in the Z3 and drove north too. I stopped at Bridge 72 (Moors Lane) and chatted to a lovely retired GPO engineer who was heading south. As SONFLOWER was not in sight I phined Alex and found he was still about an hour away. I went to park in St John the Baptist Church car park. This is a favourite parking spot for dog walkers and walkers. There is an overnight parking prohibition which is unfortunate. I looked round the lovely church before  I headed off along the towpath, up the locks, assisting boaters as I went. At the middle locks I stopped to sketch the top locks.

 I haven't sketched for a while so it was a little daunting but did not turn out too bad. Unfortunately I had to go straight in with ink as I could not find my pencil box. (Addition of a little coloured pencil 'in the studio')

As I arrived at the top lock so did SONFLOWER. So one out and one in and it was the same all the way down. A good road as they say.

 We moored on the 14 day mooring. Not quite hard to the bank because the sides are shallow and, of course, the rings do not suit our length so we have one mooring pin.

There are a lot of boats on the move at the moment. Some moving faster than others. Alex, was intimidated by a bat right on his tail on the Barby Straight when he was travalling at 1800rpm, equivalent to about 3mph. He pulled over and let him past. But why do we have to do this? Ten years ago 3mph was considered a reasonable cruising speed. On the Oxford we make wash at anything faster! As did this boat as it sped away into the distance!

Navigation Bridge No 85 to Hillmorton Bottom Lock 14 day moorings: 5.1/2 miles, 3 locks  3hours

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Blisworth Tunnel to North Oxford Bridge 85

Sonflower heads away from the mooring at Blisworth Tunnel North Portal later than we had wanted and I headed back to the car to move it to the BW car park at Gayton. Here the car park was nearly full and I was glad to have a tree saw in the back of the car. Well you do don't you? After pruning a low hanging oak branch I had a space. I went down to the canal and boarded the boat as she passed.

We boated well into dusk after a beautiful sunset.

The next morning we discovered that we were short of some medication that The Best Mate needed. There was a reserve in the car.  I cycled back to the car park, finished pruning the tree and then rendezvoused with Sonflower at Skew Bridge. I arrived at the tow path just as the bow entered the bridge hole: perfect timing.

Sonflower turns away form Skew Bridge
Alex and The Best Mate continued while I moved the car to a layby on the A5 just near the New Inn at Buckby.  Cars are considerably faster than narrowboats so I filled in the time to lunch time with a bit if Waterways Chaplaincy. My colleagues who usually walk the Buckby Flight are on the South Oxford Canal so here was an opportunity for them to cover our patch while I covered theirs!

After lunch at the bottom we ascended the Buckby Flight without company. At the top we looked for a mooring and found none. There were none at the start of the Leicester Arm so another decision was needed. We decided to progress toward the Braunston tunnel but here the tow path was cordoned off with red plastic fencing or we could not get near  to the bank because of shallows. I disembarked just before the tunnel and cycled back to the car leaving Alex to steer the boat through the tunnel. I agreed to meet the boat again at the Top lock.

In fact they were at the second lock when I caught up with them. I had looked at the moorings in Braunston and found that the only way to moor before the jucnction would be by asking a boat to move. nb Dreamcatcher were amenable. I then cycled to meet Sonflower and we worked down the locks and moved past the marina, Gongoozlers Cafe, Stop House and under Bridge 91 to where nb Dreamcatcher moved along and we moored fo the night.

Quite tired we went to The Admiral Nelson for a well earned meal. AS we left wenoticed the mooring is only 48hrs April to September. Blah humbug!

Today I moved Sonflower onto the North Section of the Oxford Canal and, because all 14 day moorings in Braunston were full moored up at Navigation Bridge 85, the first bridge with road access after the A45. After fixing the swan hatch lining with "no more nails" (remember ti falling off a few weeks ago) the boat was secure to leave again and I cycled back to Braunston to return to Banbury.

My mother needs my attention tomorrow.
                                                                   20.1/2 miles, 1 tunnel and 13 locks:   12hours

Monday, 1 August 2016

Car Park to Car park: Galleon Bridge to Blisworth Tunnel North Portal

Having returned to Banbury for our WWC Commissioning at Cropredy yesterday we returned to the boat on the quasi 48hr mooring at Galleon Bridge in case it was not a 14 day one!

First a conversation with Tom, a angler who would have liked to be boating to Birmingham to get near a sister who he was in contact with after 40 years but his gearbox had broken down. He just needed to tell his story!

Then we joined nb Dire Straits in Cosgrove lock. In their honour Alex played "Money for Nothing!" and other tracks from Brothers in Arms while in the lock. Here we unloaded the folding bike and I peddled back the way we had come to get the car from the Ouse Valley Country Park car park and drive to Blisworth. The Best Mate and Alex cruised the lock free pound while I drove, aided by the satnav "Sheila", toward the Tunnel Hill Riding Stables. Just past here I found a small but neatly hidden car park and a path down to the North Portal of the Blisworth tunnel. I walked down and checked out the spot and was pleased to find rings and a piled landing stage with no signed mooring restriction. An orange ball bounced past me into the canal and a lady with a beagle followed close behind. As she fished for the ball she dropped her extending dog lead in the canal. "No problem" I said and returned to the car for a magnet to fish for the lead and a pole to help retrieve the ball. Unfortunately no amount of magnetic fishing could latch onto the steel clip which was the only bit of steel on the lead and reel. I returned up to the car to give her a piece of rope that I keep in the car for coralling loose horses and she used that as a lead to get her beagle and ball back to the car. I felt such a failure!

I then rode over the Tunnel Hill and down into Stoke Bruerne to meet SONFLOWER and crew at the services below the locks. We worked up the locks just ahead of FMC Motty Boat "Owl" (1928), with a 1951 Kelvin Engine, and her Butty boat "Hampton"(1912). Their advance party of a female crew member with two life jacketed dogs helped us through and reset the lock in their favour. We stopped for lunch in the long pound between Locks 15 and 14 and they passed, chugfully.

After the last two locks the flight we continued to enter the wet and dark  Blisworth Tunnel and came out to our mooring. I tried to find the lead with the sea searcher: no luck again. Here Alex celebrates as the Best Mate sizes up the climb to the car park. As we left, it started to rain.

Galleon Bridge No 68 to North Portal Blisworth tunnel:
9 miles, 5 furlongs and 8 locks, 1 tunnel              7 hours