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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE

To our Family, Friends, Customers and fellow bloggers.

Keith and I hope that 2009 will be a safe and prosperous year for you all.

For those of you cruising the Waterways of the UK, we look forward to seeing you at some time during the year.

Happy Cruising.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Braunston to near Wormleighton.

Monday 29th December.

Braunston to Napton Bridge 7.3 miles.

We enjoyed a lovely quiet Christmas in Braunston, friends passing from time to time, on their boats, these included Brian and Diana on N.B Harnser and Mike on the Working Boat Jubilee. Over Christmas we took a scenic walk into Braunston passing Braunston’s beautiful church.We also paid a visit to the Boat Shop above the bottom lock, where we enjoyed an interesting conversation with the shop owner about Braunston and its history. The Boat Shop not only has lots of boat paintings, painted canal ware, books and gifts, it also has a few groceries for anyone in desperate need of provisions.As we left the Boat Shop, the tunnel tug Sharpness was exiting the lock with another Narrowboat. The last time we saw Sharpness was at the Black Country Museum back in August.Having spent a nice few days in Braunston, it was decided that we would make a move today towards Napton, but first we needed to reverse Hadar to the sanitary station by Midland Chandlers to get rid of rubbish and empty the toilet cassette. 9.40am we set off from the sanitary station and turned onto the Grand Union Canal making our way into the open countryside, with a backdrop of hills. As we approached bridge 98 on the Braunston Puddlebanks, we saw the pair of old boats one of which is burnt out, they have been there for a long time now. But this time one of them had a notice on it.One of the pair of boats is N.B Lucy an historic working boat built in Braunston in 1951. She is due to be taken out of the water in March 2009 to undergo restoration. All this came about after BW put them under a section 8 order.With so few historic boats still around and in use, it will be wonderful to see Lucy restored, so we wish their new owner all the very best with his plans to restore N.B Lucy. You can follow her restoration on her website http://www.phobox.com/lucy/
We carried on through land which is very agricultural, but at this time of the year really pretty. We could see for miles due to no foliage and the fact that many of the hedges had been trimmed. We saw quite a few boats coming towards us during our short jaunt, this included N.B Shadow as it passed the gentleman steering, said “You must be Jo and Keith good morning”. To which I replied “yes we are”. He then informed us that his name was Alfie, my reply was “Good Morning Alfie, nice to meet you”. He did go on to say something else but due to Hadar’s engine noise I could not catch what it was. So Alfie if you are reading this, it was lovely to meet you and hopefully we will meet again someday. We found ourselves behind N.B Rune from Braunston for a short time as we both past by Napton Junction. Our cruising ended at Napton Bridge 111, where we found a mooring. Unfortunately the pub is closed on Monday’s, so we will not be having a meal there this evening, which we had thought would have been nice, never mind we will eat there one day, it will be mince beef curry for us again this evening.

Tuesday 30th December.

Napton Bridge to Bridge 129 near Wormleighton on the Oxford Canal, 7.4 miles and 9 locks.


We awoke to a very cold and bright morning. Our indoor/outdoor thermometer read -2C when I took Paddy for his walk all wrapped up in my winter bag trousers and four top layers which included a base layer, shirt, fleece and donkey jacket.
With the fires stoked, breakfast done and dusted, we slipped our mooring at 9.20am and set off for the Napton Flight of locks, the air was so still that the smoke from the back stove just went straight up into the beautiful blue sky. After a very cold night there was some ice on the waters surface. We got our first glimpse of the Napton Windmill, standing proudly on top of Napton Hill.As we arrived at the first lock, there was a Kate Boats hire boat entering the lock to go up the flight ahead of us. As we climbed the flight, we had fantastic panoramic views across the valley. We did meet other boats coming down the flight, which made for an easy morning’s lock cruising, not only that I got to pass the time of day with others working the locks. Having left the top lock we passed by the old engine house arm before making our way to the Marston Doles pair of locks. We did notice that the pound was down between lock 1 and 2, and the pound above the pair was also down by 3 inches, which made for heavy going. Keith had to work hard around some of the tight corners with Hadar, because it was very shallow which meant Hadar had a mind of her own, thankfully there were no boats coming in the opposite direction, so we were able to keep to the central channel as must as possible. We were waved down by a boater moored up, he asked for two bags of Excel, which we dropped off for him, before heading off once more. It had been a pleasurable days cruising which ended near Wormleighton at 1.30pm. We were surprised to find no boats moored up on our favourite mooring place, which has excellent views across the valley. It would not have surprised us to find it full with boats, but there was not one to be seen. So we have decided that we will spend the New Year here, making the most of the lovely weather and the breath taking view. So we shall see you in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Have A Wonderful Christmas.

To all our family, friends and diary readers.

We wish you a safe and peaceful festive holiday, and all the very best for 2009.


Monday 22nd December.

Hillmorton Top Lock to Rugby and back again, 6.3 miles and 3 locks.


Having had a really lovely weekend, the only downside was Keith’s teeth. Yes his teeth are playing up again. He has a couple of fillings which are crumbling, just in time for Christmas, so we will need to find him a dentist. We left our weekend mooring above the Hillmorton Locks and headed to Rugby for a festive food shop. On reaching the last lock, we emptied the toilet cassette and got rid of a bag of rubbish, before descending the lock, where we saw a familiar boat and its owners standing on the stern looking as if they knew us. The boat in question was N.B Gypsy Rover with Dot and Derek onboard. We past the time of day and found that we were both heading for Rugby, but for different reasons, as I have said we were going for a food shop, Dot and Derek were going to collect their daughter. I was hoping we would get a chance to chat to them both when we were at the Rugby moorings.N.B Gypsy Rover followed us all the way into Rugby. When we arrived at the moorings in Rugby by 58 Master bridge it was already busy with boats, so no room for a 70ft boat arghhhh, maybe if everyone squished up we could have got in LOL. So we carried on and winded Hadar opposite the Willow Wren Hire Cruisers up the Rugby Arm. On the way back we found a mooring before 58 Masters Bridge just above the water point. We could not get Hadar into the bank, so I made a jump for it from the gunwale and pulled Hadar in as close as I could get her. Keith then secured the stern on the rings available and I did the bow. We then donned our rucksacks and headed off to Tesco for what would be a food shop to last us over Christmas and the New Year. As we entered into the jaws of Tesco, it was as if we had entered a different world. The place was heaving with people bustling all over the place. It reminded me of a charity trolley fill, because people were grabbing things and throwing them in their trolleys, before rushing onto the next isle. It was not something I was looking forward to, ploughing through this mad crowd, but we just put our heads down and got on with it. It seems the credit crunch has not hit the food for Christmas shop, if this was anything to go by. We finished shopping for food and took that back to the boat, before heading off to Pets at Home to buy Marmite and Paddy’s food; thankfully it was somewhat quieter, with people just browsing without any panic buying. Having done all of that, we then had some much needed lunch before setting off back towards Hillmorton. The time had certainly moved on and it was now 2.20pm, so we would not bother with the locks.
As we left Rugby we once again saw N.B Gypsy Rover and wished them a happy festive time. We hope that we will see them again, so we can stop and have a proper chat.
We also saw a boat name we recognised as fellow loggers. It was N.B Debdale, but Adam and Adrian were nowhere to be seen, so we headed onwards. We ended our busy day by mooring up below Hillmorton Lock for the night. Keith got online to see if there was a dentist in Hillmorton, which their was, but they would not see him as he was not their patient and they said they had no room. He did however find a few in Daventry so we may have to go there.

Tuesday 23rd December.

Hillmorton to Braunston, 6.9 miles and 3 locks.

Whilst all the country around us is going shopping crazy, we set off from the bottom of Hillmorton Locks, to head for Braunston. But first we needed to take on some water from the water point below the locks. What we did not realise however was how slow the water flowed from one of two taps. We waited and waited and waited some more, and while we waited N.B Debdale cruised past to the first lock, as they came past we passed the time of day and said we would see them along the way. It turned out that five minutes later our water tank was finally full; it only took three quarters of an hour grrrrr. Finally we were on our way, we entered the second of the pair of locks, after Adam had very kindly helped me to set the lock for Hadar. We got chatting about where he and Adrian were going, which was Braunston to collect their turkey. Adam set lock two for us which was so nice of him. It gave us the chance to have another natter about all things boating.
Having left the locks, we were now following N.B Debdale both of us on our way to Braunston, Adam and Adrian waved us past as they reckoned we were going to be going faster than they were.We wished them a Merry Christmas and hoped that we would see them again very soon, as they would not be staying long in Braunston. We arrived in Braunston and found a space on the 14 day moorings. Whilst I made some lunch, Keith rang one of the dentists in Daventry and low and behold they said they would see him at 4.30pm, which was fantastic, as we had visions of him getting tooth ache on Christmas Eve evening, therefore he would have suffered all over the festive period. Having had lunch we caught the bus GA01 into Daventry from below Braunston church, it took us to the Daventry bus station, which is very close to Tesco. Before we walked around the shops, we went and found the dentists and let them know that we had arrived. Daventry has a number of Charity Shops, so we were in 7th heaven. It had a small street market going on, which was busy, as were the shops.
The dentists visit went well, Keith had three fillings repaired, so fingers crossed he should be pain free for Christmas. The last bus to Braunston goes at 5.20pm and we were fortunate enough to get to the bus station in time to catch that last bus. We were joined onboard by a young couple who sat opposite us, which was not a problem. What followed part way through the trip back to Hadar however was not so pleasant. The young woman began to throw up all over the seat in front of her. Just as well no one was sitting there. Her partner immediately gave her a plastic bag to carry on being sick into, but she had already covered her coat and the seat. At first I did feel a little sorry for her, as I thought she was just feeling unwell. But it turned out she had been drinking and that was why she was sick. As you can imagine the bus driver was none to pleased, but he did give the young man something to spray over the affected area and a yellow plastic bio hazard bag to cover the vomit up, as he did not want anyone sitting on the seat. I thought he was really quite calm about the situation. I think if it had been anyone else, they may have asked the couple to get off of the bus. The young man did ask if there was anything he could do. The bus drivers reply was “Cough up £500 to have the area cleaned” and then laughed. Thankfully her sickness did not continue and we were soon at our stop.
After another busy day, back onboard Hadar I lit the saloon stove, cooked some dinner while Keith took Paddy for his evening walk. We then settled in for the evening in front of the TV.

Wednesday 24th December.

Today was a quieter day than the past couple of days. We spent the day cleaning the boats brass. I put some gammon in a pan, on the back stove to boil, the smell was mouth watering. Maybe that was what drew a little visitor to our boat during the morning. A small tabby and white cat came to say hello, I think she belongs to the gentleman who owns Working Boat Aldgate. She clearly felt at home on the boat, investigating it from bow to stern, she even wanted to introduce herself to Marmite.
Marmite was more than happy to let her stay, but the little tabby was not so sure and seemed to be getting a little stressed, so I picked her up and put her out on the towpath. She then had other ideas, as she turned around and sat on the gunwale of the engine room for a while, before toddling off back down the towpath to her own boat. Not even Paddy was bothered by her presences.
Christmas Eve is drawing to a close, and we will not be wandering far this evening. Another evening spent in front of the TV watching the festive films.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Wednesday 17th December.

A cold and frosty morning. I think our indoor, outdoor thermometer over exaggerated just a tad on how cold it was over night (laughs out loud).It was a beautiful morning for a walk; both Paddy and I had a spring in our steps as we strolled along the towpath. Like on other frosty mornings, everything seemed so fresh and clean.
After breakfast we had shopping we wanted to do at Midland Chandlers and Tradline. Then after lunch we did a food shop at Londis, and the Braunston Butcher, we also checked to see if our post had arrived, which it hadn’t. Both Londis and the butchers are little gems with everything we needed for a few days. The butchers is really well stocked, not only with meat, they also have fruit, veg, jams, chutneys and pickles. We came away with some meat and a large jar of pickled onions.
Back onboard the boat the generator needed running, so I did a wash at the same time, which is now hanging in the back cabin, it looks a little like a Chinese laundry at the moment, but will dry really quickly. Keith fitted a new brass stern navigation light on the back cabin, as our other one which was plastic broke when Paddy jumped onboard one day and caught it with his leg. The time seems to have flown by today, maybe that had something to do with the fabulous weather we have had. It has been a wonderfully sunny day for a change.

Thursday 18th December.

Christmas came to Hadar a few days early, with the arrival of our post, which came in a box, lovingly taped up by Tina. The parcel contained our Christmas post, DVD’s from friend Chris, our membership to the HNBOC and all the usual mail. We always love receiving our post as it connects us with family, friends and the outside world. The box our post came in, found another use, when Marmite decided it would make an ideal hiding place. Whilst I had walked up to the Post Office to collect our post, Keith had gone to the Chandlery to buy some oil for Hadar’s engine, as she will be due for an oil change come the New Year, he also came back with an extension pole for the TV Aerial. The evening was spent in The Old Plough Inn, where we enjoyed an excellent three course evening meal, with a pint. Their ham, egg and chips is absolutely lovely. I think every time we have eaten at The Old Plough we have had ham, egg and chips. Neither of us can usually fit in a three course meal, but it was topped off with Keith having bread and butter pudding with custard and I had a piece of very scrummy lemon and ginger cheesecake with ice cream, we finished off the evening with walking back to the boat for cup of Jasmine Tea before bed.

Friday 19th December.

Braunston to the top of Hillmorton Locks, 7 miles.

We left Braunston and the Grand Union Canal and headed to the top of Hillmorton Locks on the Oxford Canal for the weekend, on a lovely sunny morning. The is some lovely scenery with wide open countryside all around us. The one thing we really noticed was the ridge and furrow patterns on the fields along the canal, which is part of this ancient landscape. As we skirted around Barby Hill, we headed under the M45, with its screaming traffic and onward to the top of Hillmorton Locks, where we moored up.
After lunch we walked into Hillmorton where there is a newsagent and a couple of other shops. You get the feeling that Hillmorton has been swallowed up by Rugby and is now a suburb of Rugby. On walking back to the boat we stopped and had a coffee in the café near the bottom of the flight, where working boat Badsey is moored at her home. Inside the café there are some fascinating pictures and history about Jack James the original owner of Badsey and Badsey’s life. Whilst we were drinking our coffee, we got chatting to a lovely gentleman, who told us he is a vicar, who loves walking and boats, so combines both passions with walking the towpaths. We got chatting about boats and what its like to live and work onboard a boat. It was a real pleasure chatting to him. Having said our farewells we made our way back to our boat where we are settled in for the evening.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bottom of Buckby Locks to Braunston.

Monday 15th December.

Bottom of Buckby Locks to the Top of the Buckby Locks, 1.4 miles and 7 locks.


A calm, almost warm morning, compared to what we have had lately. It was very damp under foot when I took Paddy for his morning walk, but was pleasant weatherwise. We had not hurried to get up as we were only doing a shirt stint, so did not leave our mooring until 10.20am. It is so wonderful not to be in a hurry to get anywhere. As we approached the first of the locks next to Whilton Marina, it was clear to see there was plenty of water coming down, as the water was pouring over the top of the bottom gates. I took a centre line from Hadar, wound it around one of the lock bollards and secured it, before walking up to empty the lock. Having got through the first couple of locks, I noticed a boat in front of us; it was N.B Shirley Ann who had passed us earlier on whilst we were having our breakfast. Graham very kindly waited for us at lock 3 and we proceeded to do the rest of the flight together, which helped Graham no end, because he was single handing. Once we reached the top of the flight, there was just enough room for us both to moor up and it was only 12.25pm, just in time for lunch.
With lunch over, we then chopped up the sticks we had collected along the way, which were lying on the roof. These sticks were then piled up underneath the back cabin stove to dry out. They make excellent kindling first thing in the morning. With Graham moored up behind us we got chatting about the usual boating topics and how wonderful this time of the year is for cruising. The next two things to get done were emptying the rubbish and a toilet cassette at the sanitary station by the top lock. British Waterways guys were busy preparing their work boats for the winter stoppage at Braunston locks, the boats were laden down with metal safety fencing, a pair of lock gates, and lots of other necessary items to carry out work after Christmas. By the end of the afternoon they were underway heading for the tunnel. Paddy and Marmite took advantage of the dry afternoon, by sitting out on the back counter. Keith took Marmite off on her lead for a walk, at times it looked like she was taking him, as she kept changing direction, meowing continually so that everyone knew she was about. Our day ended with us closing the boat up against the cold evening, before we settled down to watch ‘Love Actually’ on DVD, I really love that movie.

Tuesday 16th December.

Top of Buckby Locks to Braunston, 4.1 miles, 1 tunnel and 6 locks.

Brrrr a cold morning greeted Paddy and I as we stepped off of the boat. We walked up the Leicester Arm, where we saw the two Narrowboat Trust Working Boats Nuneaton and Brighton moored up, but there was no one was onboard, so we kept walking until Paddy had done what he needed to do. Back on Hadar we had breakfast, before I made up the fires, fed Mog and Dog and then we prepared Hadar for leaving at 9.50am. We left our overnight mooring and the BW guys hard at work, Keith took Hadar through Braunston Tunnel, there was a boat ahead of us, which turned out to be the ex-challenger boat ‘Victorious’ with Mary and Jim onboard. We arrived at lock 6 with them and down at lock5, we saw Graham on N.B Shirley Ann, we had caught him up as well. Whilst Mary operated the first lock, I walked down and helped Graham by doing the gates for him so he could get back onto his boat to leave the lock. Keith and Jim had plenty to chat about with them both liking engines and railways. Jim helps out on a Steam Railway down in Kent, which must be great fun. Mary and I discuss Christmas and what are plans are, her plans are much more tiring as she is cooking for 17 on Boxing Day arghhhhhh. Thankfully those days are no more for us, we tend to take things a lot quieter these days, not only that we would never get that many onboard, what a great excuse we have. We worked the locks down to Lock 3 and the Admiral Nelson Pub, where we called it a day and moored up, leaving N.B’s ‘Victorious’ and Shirley Ann to travel down the remaining locks together. On the way down we had been shrouded in low cloud and drizzle, during lunch the sun came out for all of five minutes, but it did not stop us taking a walk up into Braunston to find the Londis store and Post Office, as we are waiting for our post to arrive from the boatyard. We walked up the hill into the village which is a really pretty village, with old and new houses, some built of honey coloured stone. The walk is definitely a workout, but you do have the downhill walk back to look forward to (load of laughs). We walked back through the village and down the path opposite Braunston Marina to see if there were any towpath moorings still available, which there were. So once back at the boat we spurred Hadar into life and left the mooring, descended the two remaining locks and moored up at Bridge 1, Butchers Bridge. We will stay for a few days whilst we wait for our post to arrive from Tina at the boat yard; she very kindly collects our mail and posts it on to us, where ever we may be. During the afternoon we put the TV on to see what sort of reception we were going to get, which was not that brilliant, but on Channel 4 we began to watch ‘A Place In The Sun’ because it was all about a lady from Yorkshire, with £150,000 budget, who wanted a Narrowboat that she could cruise the waterways of the UK. During the program she was shown 5 boats from different brokerages, the program also visited Braunston Marina, where she met a boat builder, who told her all about having her own boat built for around £88,000, a boat that she could move on to and cruise into the sunset on. What he did not tell her was she would need to find a mooring to put that boat on. The other boats she looked at all had moorings with them. In the end having considered everything, she decided that she would go to a boat builder and have a boat built. I wondered if she went with the builder from Braunston?
Yet another program that told of the glamorous side of boating and did not explain the pitfalls, but what can we expect from the media?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Saturday 13th December.

Buckby Locks Mooring.

A heck of a stormy night outside, which had been forecast and the whole day was not that much better. It rained heavily for most of the daylight hours, making it for a very grey day. Just the sort of day you want to curl up and hibernate. But there could be none of that as there were jobs that needed doing. During the afternoon I was online checking mail and the blog, and we had a message from John and Fiona on N.B Epiphany, saying they would probably see us at the bottom of Buckby Locks if we were still there during Saturday Afternoon. So during the late afternoon when we received a knock on the boat, we knew exactly who it was, it was John. He and Fiona were moored up behind us. John asked if we would deliver some Taybrite to their boat and in return I invited them onboard for a cup of tea. Paddy made them both feel welcome as he always does when visitors call; even Marmite greeted our visitors before settling down for an afternoon nap. The time always flies when you get chatting to people you feel you have known for years because of their blog, but in point of fact this was our first meeting and I certainly hope not our last. We chatted about everything to do with the canal, I guess it is the usual chit chat when meeting up with other boaters. We do hope to see them again on the Oxford Canal after Christmas.
The evening saw us glued to our TV to watch the X-Factor Final, which did not disappoint as Alexandra Burke became the latest winner of the X-Factor. She has the most phenomenal voice, which should make her a household name in the years to come. Good luck to Alexandra and the other finalists with their careers. I have no doubt that JLS will become big news over the coming years as in the end I felt it was going to be tight between them. It turned out that Alexandra won by over 1 million votes. Now we wait to see if she will be number One for Christmas. We also enjoyed the Girls Aloud Christmas Party which was the filling in between and the X-Factor sandwich, so good TV for a Saturday evening.

Sunday 14th December.

Whilst taking Paddy for his early morning walk, I met up with John off of N.B Adrastea, he and Margaret would be moving off soon after, as did Fiona and John who I met at the first of the Buckby Locks, we said our good mornings and goodbyes before they were heading for lock two and a mooring at the top of the flight. I love meeting up with people we have got to know whilst cruising, it is what boating is all about. Sunday was a quite day for us, I finished shawl number two and Keith got on with cutting up more blue t-shirts for the Rag Rug. It is incredible how many pieces it takes to make a back cabin rug, but it will look fabulous when it is done. Marmite and Paddy occupied themselves with chasing each other up and down the boat, until Keith collared Paddy for his paw trimming.Every now and again Paddy gets to sit on Keith's lap to have his paws and claws trimmed. Keith trims the paw hair and I cut the claws. It is not something that Paddy really enjoys, but nevertheless he is pretty good and does sit still through most of it. Meanwhile Marmite tends to look on in amusement. Later on Paddy had the last laugh, because whilst sat out on the back counter Marmite tried to get from the boat to the bank, missed and her back end fell into the canal. Luckily she was on her harness so only half of her got wet. Paddy stood on the counter looking over her, and I could just see him thinking “Serves her right” If only dogs could talk?
It made me think of the ‘Cats and Dogs’ movie. They do love each other really and are wonderful company for each other. Once I had pulled her back onto the boat, Paddy wanted to lick her dry (aww bless), but she was having none of it. She went off and sulked for the rest of the day. So we are another week closer to Christmas and the New Year. See you next week, stay safe.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Love Food, Hate Waste????

If you love your food, but cannot abide waste, then this website maybe just what you need.
Love Food, Hate Waste. With Christmas just around the corner, we all know about the food that is left over after the Christmas Day Feast. What to do with it is more of a problem, well why not check out the site and see if it can give you a few ideas. I hate to waste anything and will most certainly be using some of the recipes on the site.
Happy cooking.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bugbrooke to Buckby Locks.

Thursday 11th December.

Bugbrooke to the bottom of Buckby Locks, 6.7 miles.

The overnight temperature did not get below zero, so we woke up to a frost free, overcast morning. The back stove was not looking too promising when we got up, but I soon had it up and running once more, with a some twig kindling, a firelighter and some house coal. Paddy as always eagerly waiting by the door for his early morning walk, which began as always with him cocking his leg no sooner had he jumped off of the boat. We walked up the towpath past moored boats so he was kept on his lead. Once he had done what he needed to do, he did an about turn to make his way back to the boat. In front of us was another boater with his dog off the lead. Paddy was still on his lead as we approached this dog, which for whatever reason took a dislike to Paddy as he walked alongside me. The dogs owner was someway along the towpath when his animal attacked Paddy, growling and then lurching for Paddy’s neck, my first reaction was to shout at the dog, hoping his owner would come and control his dog. The owner made no effort to collect his dog, and the dog wanted another go at Paddy, so I kicked it and shoved it off. Finally the owner turned around to look at his dog. But by this time Paddy and I were briskly walking towards Hadar. As I passed the dog owner I advised him that if his dog was going to attack other people’s dogs it should be kept on a lead. His reply was “He does not normally go for other boaters dogs”. I instinctively replied “That’s not the point is it”. With that we were back on the boat and thankfully Paddy was none the worst for his ordeal, neither was I. I come back again and again to the subject that dog owners should be more responsible, and I know that many dog owners are, but it only takes a small minority to make it bad for the rest. We left Bugbrooke at 9.35am to firstly head to High-house Wharf to drop off a Christmas card.There was still some ice on the surface of the canal in places where it was open to the elements. We passed Fred Tarry’s coal yard, but we could not see anyone around to say good morning to, so we shall see Richard again when we need to refill Hadar’s hold. We arrived at High-house Wharf at 10.30am and were moving alongside Elaine and David’s boat Patience when David came out and asked if we would like a coffee. We could not refuse an offer like that on a cold and overcast morning, so we moored alongside them and went in for a coffee and a chat. It was 11.45am before we left them, wishing them a wonderful Christmas and 2009. We passed by Weedon, on a stretch of water which is open and quiet, with landscaped woods of Brockhall Park to our left, but the quietude is short lived when the railway and the M1 join the canal, merging 3 different types of transport. We were just about to stop at bridge 18 Muscott Mill Bridge to walk up to the Heart of the Shires Shopping Village, when we spotted a Muntjac deer browsing in the wood, not bothered by us, the railway or the motorway noise. Having moored up we strolled up to the Heart of the Shires Shopping Village, which is a courtyard of shops, set in an old farm. We enjoyed wandering around the units which house a florists, furniture, food, pet foods, and Christmas goodies and much more before heading back to Hadar. We then moved her along the canal to below Buckby Locks, where we will stay now till Monday.

Friday 12th December.

The TV weather forecaster last night was predicting a temperature over night of -4 C, and looking at the canal this morning as I opened the back cabin doors, it looked like it had been pretty darn cold as the canal was frozen over, and sleet had settled on its surface, giving us a wintry setting.Despite the fact that we had the M1 on one side of us and the railway on the other, Keith and I both slept really well and woke up refreshed. I got up and made us a cup of tea, which we had in bed before getting up properly.
This was the view from our galley door as I prepared warming porridge for breakfast.As good a reason as any not to bother moving I reckon. But that did not mean that I did not have to brave the weather, because Paddy needed his usual walk. The difference this morning was he could run riot out in the field by the boat. The draw back to this was the noise of the motorway, which drowned out any command I gave Paddy, so he thought he had the run of the whole field. I think he thought all his Christmas’s had come at once. After some 15 minutes he finally ran out of steam and was ready to go back to the boat for his breakfast biscuits. On walking along the towpath a Black Labrador came charging along the towpath, and my thought was “Oh no not again”. So I gathered Paddy up on his lead, whilst he hid behind me, clearly expecting trouble. Thankfully the Black Lab was a friendly boy and only wanted to play with Paddy. There was no sign of his owner to begin with, and then a gentleman climbed out of his boat and stood on the towpath just watching. Paddy made a hasty retreat to the boat, as he was not too impressed with the labs persistent attention. I do not think there was any harm in the Black Lab, he just wanted to play, but once again it comes down to the owner having control over his dog. Paddy will play like any other dog, but there is a time and a place. So with us both back inside the boat, it was time to get boat jobs done. Both the stoves had to be tended to; the floors needed sweeping and washing. I made us a sausage casserole for dinner tonight, which is cooking in the back cabin stove and smells mmmmm. Keith settled down to cutting up more blue t-shirts for the Rag Rug he is making for our back cabin, it is really coming a long now that he has done the red and white. Lunch time was soon upon us so I did us cheese and onion on toast with a coffee to wash it down. Outside it is very grey and overcast and nothing is moving, not even the wildfowl it seems. The same cannot be said for the traffic on the M1, it roars on with vehicles traveling at break neck speeds. It is really incredible at the noise coming from the motorway. So on that note I will say cheerio for this week, see you next week as we draw ever closer to Christmas. Take care whatever you are doing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday 8th December.

Stoke Bruerne to Blisworth. 2.3 miles.

I woke up early with the sound of owls hooting close to our boat. This time there seemed to be only two of them. One with a very loud perfect Hoot, the other was clearly struggling with the complexities of getting the technique of hooting correct, it sounded like it was being strangled, but it made me smile to myself as I lay there listening to its poor attempts. I dozed off back to sleep only to be woken by Keith climbing over me to get to the toilet. Marmite let out a meowing yawn, announcing the fact that she was also now awake. Yesterday Keith and I had covered the inside of the pigeon box with plastic to keep out the cold and cut down the condensation, it had worked on both counts, so climbing out of a nice warm bed did not seem so bad this morning. We had been hit by another hard frost. Before we got up though we heard Mike go past on Working Boat Jubilee, he was off to deliver to his customers. Having got dressed and fed, Paddy got his walk up through the wood. I took a carrier bag with me, as I wanted to collect twigs for the back stove. Although they would be wet due to the frost, it did not matter as they would dry out under the back cabin stove and then make fantastic kindling for the fire in the mornings. I am always a little aware of the fact that some dog may have cocked its leg over the wood though so tend to be selective on the ones I pick up LOL. Back onboard Keith was preparing Hadar for the jaunt through Blisworth Tunnel; we would be mooring at Blisworth. As I donned my donkey jacket and hat Keith asked “Do you want to take Hadar through the tunnel”. After a second of thought my reply was an excited “Yes”. I had only done one other tunnel and with Blisworth Tunnel being the third longest tunnel open to navigation at 3057 yds long, this would be quite a test of my concentration and handling of the boat. So Keith fired Hadar up, she stuttered into life and we slipped our mooring. I took over the steering, hoping beyond all hope that I did not cock this up. We entered into the darkness of Blisworth Tunnel having forgotten to put in my earplugs, but it did not seem to matter. I kept to the centre of the tunnel, watching the headlamps glow on the arch of the tunnels ceiling, I knew that if I kept in the centre of the arch I could not go wrong. It was pretty wet in the tunnel with water pouring down from the ventilation shafts. I made sure that the collar of my donkey jacket was pulled up tight to stop any water going down my neck brrrrr. Keith stood on the gunwale, just in case I should need any assistance. We came out of the other end of the tunnel completely in tact; I had not touched the sides once and felt really proud of myself. I felt as if I had just done a tunnel cruising test and passed with flying colours.
I know there are many women out there who hate going though tunnels and would never think of steering through one. I say to them go for it ladies, it is fantastic and nothing to be scared of whatsoever. I am now looking forward to do the other tunnels on the navigation. My philosophy is if you do not try, you will never know whether you can do something. I am lucky however because Keith is an excellent teacher and very patient. He said nothing throughout the tunnel trip; he just let me get on with the job in hand. I know that some husbands would probably have been a total nightmare throughout the whole thing, what with shouting instructions etc, which would make some a nervous wreck. So having done the tunnel we needed to find some where to moor up just past Blisworth Mill. We passed N.B Inchy who is clearly in the festive spirit, with a beautifully decorated boat. We reckon they are heading for the Stoke Bruerne Illuminated Boat Parade and Carols on the 13th December. It’s a shame we could not be there for that; it would be a fantastic event.
Once we had tied up and had lunch we walked up into Blisworth, which is a picturesque village made up of a variety of houses dating back to the 17th and 18th Century, the majority of them built out of ironstone and freestone stone with thatched or slated roofs, like something off of a chocolate box or jigsaw puzzle.
Blisworth Mill dominates the side of the canal. It was originally built as a Corn Mill in 1879 by Joseph Westley (Jnr). The mill was bought by the Grand Union Canal Company around 1930 it wanted to use it as a warehouse, to generate more jobs for the villagers. In the years of WWII the warehouse was put into good use storing many tons of tinned food rations. It was later used as a bonded store, where dry foods were processed by a company known as The Pepper & Spice Company, and then in 2000 it was converted to residential accommodation as 21 flats. But they kept its traditional look.The village has a real homely feel about it, even on an overcast, cold day. There is a small post office and store, which was closed today. It is a very pretty place and well worth stopping. If your in need of a drink of an evening there is the Royal Oak pub, which was once used as a jail and dates back some 400 years. I bet if that place could talk it would be able to tell some tales. Apparently there is still one of the original jail doors still used in the pub.
Our day finished off with a quiet dinner, shower and a DVD in front of a nice cozy fire. Paddy hogged the whole of the saloon floor as he crashed out in front of the fire for the evening, whilst Marmite was undecided where she was going to curl up for the evening, so she kept walking to and fro from the back cabin. Every evening around 9.30pm Marmite thinks it is playtime and will always bring me a feather to throw for her, which of course I do for a short time. She then gets fed up and goes to bed, which by this time is our bedtime as well.

Tuesday 9th December.

We were awake with the Sparrows this morning, so I got out of bed and stoked the stove and made us a cup of tea in bed. There was no rush to be up and yet our body clocks seem to assume we should be awake every morning. Come 8.45am we did crawl out from under the duvet and that was only because Paddy needed his morning constitutional. We are not like some boaters who open the cabin door and chuck the dog out on to the towpath to do its own thing. We like to make sure we know where he is going and we also like to make sure we pick up after him. So it means we have to get out of bed and get on the move with him. I always walk Paddy in the morning and Keith walks him at night, mainly because I don’t like walking in a strange place in the dark. So with Paddy walked, breakfast done, it was 9.50am before we slipped our overnight mooring and cruised 20 minutes to our next mooring at Station Road Bridge Blisworth. The reason for this mooring was because we were meeting friends in The Walnut Tree. But before reaching the overnight mooring, we spotted The Maisibert moored up at the same place. Hilary was waving out of the window, so we signaled to her that we were pulling in. Having moored up, Andy walked down and invited us onboard The Maisibert for a coffee and there we sat drinking coffee and chatting for almost 1½ hours. Oh how the time flies when you are having fun. We met their beautiful little dog Cassie and Andy’s son Craig, who would be steerer for the cruise back to their base.
Andy and Hilary if you are reading this, thank you for such a warm welcome on your lovely boat, we really enjoyed our time with you all and look forward to seeing you again, when you are Continuous Cruisers like ourselves. We will keep in touch via Boats and Canals Forum.
Back onboard Hadar I made us Bacon sandwiches for lunch, I then needed to shift coal in the hold and fill up our log box, whilst Keith did his boating log on the computer. With lunch and jobs done we took a stroll across the canal to find The Walnut Inn, so we would know where to go for the evening’s entertainment with our friends Elaine and David off of N.B Patience. It was not difficult to find around 150 metres up the hill. Our only worry was going to be the walk up in the dark, as there was no pavement and if it was a frosty evening the road would be slippery, which proved to be so when after having had dinner and walked Paddy, we set off to The Walnut Tree for a quiz night, held by the Northampton branch of the IWA. No sooner had we left the safety of the towpath, we realized that the road was very slippery under foot. It was a beautifully clear, frosty evening, with the stars shining bright. As I looked up into the nights sky, a shooting star flashed across the horizon in front of us. I haven’t seen one of those for many years. We arrived at The Walnut Inn, not long afterwards Elaine and David joined us, we would be part of a team of 5 member team, a friend of Elaine and David’s joined us. After four rounds of questions, movie pictures to identify and more, we were amazed when we went on to win the overall quiz. The prize for winning was one bottle of wine, which was supposed to be shared between the five of us, but Elaine suggested that we should take the bottle as we were there as guests, which was so sweet of her. We were happy to accept the prize and will think of them on Christmas day when we have it with our duck. We had a fantastic evening, whilst stretching the brain cells. Having said goodnight to everyone, we had to take the slippery walk back to the boat, before enjoying a nice hot mug of Jasmin Tea and then bed.

Wednesday 10th December.

Blisworth to Bugbrooke, 4 miles.


We were in no hurry to get up as it was another bitterly cold morning. Once more there was ice on the surface of the canal. We left our mooring and headed for Gayton Junction, where we emptied the toilet cassettes, took on water and put rubbish in the skip. Whilst the water tank was filling, we both changed out of our corduroy trousers and into our winter bags (quilted trousers, duvets for legs). The wind was bitter, chilling anyone out in it to the bone, if they did not wear the appropriate clothing. With the tank filled we set off for Bugbrooke with me at the tiller, the canal is dominated by agricultural land on both sides, with the railway keeping it for company. We were able to moor on the south side of Bugbrooke Wharf Bridge. After a soup for lunch, we walked into Bugbrooke to the Londis store for potatoes and bread. Bugbrooke is named in the Domesday Book (1086) as Buchebroch, it’s a pretty village with houses built of honey coloured stone and a beautiful church which dates back to 1220. On the way back to Hadar, I did some twig collecting for the back stove. I think I am becoming obsessed with sticks for the fire. We will stay here overnight and see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Cosgrove to Stoke Bruerne.

Thursday 4th December.

Cosgrove to below the Stoke Bruerne Flight of Locks, 5.2 miles.

We had a howler of a night as far as the weather was concerned, which continued into the morning, we were woken firstly by the chimney chain rattling on the chimney, so Keith got up and removed the chain, before climbing back into bed. The rain was then lashing down on the roof of the boat, and the wind was blowing strongly causing waves to lap up against the stern of the boat. What we did not get however was any of the forecast snow, not as much as a flake. Because the weather sounded a bit rough, we sat in bed drinking a cup of tea and decided that we would not bother moving today. After all there was no point in moving if we did not have to. We were on a 14 day mooring so there was no panic. Having got up and dressed in my waterproof clothing, Paddy was soon sat at the back doors waiting for his walk, so we climbed out of the back cabin and stepped onto a rain sodden towpath. Whilst I was out walking, Keith prepared breakfast for our return. Over the past couple of days Paddy has had a weepy eye, probably through playing with Marmite. She more than likely scratched his eye whilst they were playing rough and tumble, so I have been putting in eye drops to calm the eye down and this morning it looks to have worked, as it was not weeping half as much as it had been. Paddy had his eye drops put in and was then given his breakfast biscuits for being a good lad; Marmite got her breakfast as well, otherwise we would never have heard the end of it. With our breakfast done, it was time to rake out both fires and make them up to stay in for the day. I put the remainder of our two day stew into the back stove oven, so that we could have it for lunch as a soup. By 10.15am the weather was showing signs of improvement, the wind had dropped to a more acceptable level and the sun was trying to pop its head out between the grey clouds, so we reversed our decision to not move. By 10.45am we were on the move from Cosgrove and into the open countryside. With the spectacular views across the valley, came the smells of the countryside, as we approached the Navigation Inn at Thrupp Wharf, we were hit with the scent of silage from the farm near the Inn. It brought back memories of my childhood, as I was brought up on a farm, where the silage store backed onto our house. So it is an unforgettable smell and most definitely clears the nostrils.

I took over the tiller for a while, as you can see all wrapped up against the cold wind, whilst Keith went to the loo. N.B Padic passed us going the other way; we had met them a few weeks ago. After a while at the tiller, I let Keith take over once more whilst I did the loo run. This cold wind certainly does not help when it comes to the waterworks. We made our way to Yardley Gobian, where I caught sight of a boat in the dry dock at Baxter’s Boat fitting services; it was N.B The Maisibert owned by Andy Lawrence. Keith e-mailed Andy and was told she was in having some work carried out. We will hopefully meet up with them again. After Grafton Regis we caught sight of a Buzzard, which was being given a bit of grief by a Crow, so it decided to perch in a tree close enough for me to get a photograph of it. More often than not they either fly off before I can get a photograph or they are too far away.We arrived at the bottom of the Stoke Bruerne Flight of 7 locks at 12.35 and were able to find a mooring on 48 hour moorings, which would be ideal for the night. The plan is to do the Stoke Bruerne flight tomorrow. The rest of our day was spent doing chores on the boat. Because we have two coal stoves, the dust from them tends to mount, so it needs keeping on top of. I also had the bed to remake having stripped it before we set off. With the day drawing to a close Keith took Paddy for his evening stroll and I dished up dinner. Our evening was spent watching TV. We were so pleased to see sense prevail on ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ with the exit of David Van Day (enough said about him). With Martina, George and Joe being the final three, we reckon anyone one of them could win, as they have all proved popular. Although I would love to see George win, we both feel that it may be Joe who is the favourite. He is so sweet and a breath of fresh air. He has most certainly made us laugh. The bush tucker trial was excellent, George Takai at 71 is such an inspiration to anyone in their mature years; he is such a fit gentleman and shows you’re never too old to try something new. After that we watched Lead Balloon with Jack Dee, I then made the fires up for the night, putting the ash bucket out on the back deck, whilst doing so I could not help but stand there and watch the stars in what was a very clear sky. The crescent moon looked so bright; it was almost as if someone had given it a wipe over with a cloth like a head lamp of a car. From the cabin door I could see Orion’s Belt in all its glory. The night was still, there was not even a ripple on the water, after that I closed the doors and we headed off to bed.

Friday 5th December.

Bottom of Stoke Bruerne Flight to the Top of Stoke Bruerne Flight, 1.1 miles and 7 locks.
Jack Frost had come calling again over night, he had left a blanket of frost on every surface open to the elements, which made things under foot a little slippery when I took Paddy for his morning walk. With the sun coming up and heating the surface of the canal, it was covered in a light mist lifting into the air, so very magical.
Having done the stoves, breakfast and preparations for the off, I went ahead and set the first of the 7 locks we would do today. As I emptied the lock which was almost empty anyway, I could see a boat coming down in the lock above, so was aware that we would leave the lock for them. They on the other hand despite seeing us, were going to shut the gate behind them, so I had to shout up to the gentleman closing the gate to “Please don’t shut the gate”. I wasn’t actually sure if he heard me, what with engine noise and the sound of the water gushing into the lock, but the steerer of the boat turned around and shouted the message on to him, and he did leave the gate open for us. We passed each other in the pound exchanging pleasantries, before going on our way. The pound above Lock 19 was very low and that was before I had even opened the paddles, so with Keith securely in the lock, I opened the paddles and then walked to locks 18 to 16 to let some water down. Keith managed to wriggle Hadar out of Lock 19 and into Lock 18. The pound above lock 16 is a long pound so it could handle being drained a little, in order for us to proceed up through the flight. We were going to moor above lock 16 but it was then a little shallow, and if other boats were going to come up having the same problems as us, they would drain the pound further, meaning we would then be on the bottom, so we proceeded up through locks 15 and 14. As I was working the paddles to the top lock, I noticed N.B Adrastea moored up alongside Working Boat Jubilee. John shouted across a good morning. Whilst I closed the lock gates behind Hadar, Keith moved her on to find a mooring above Stoke Bruerne Museum.
Having moored up, Keith delved into the weed hatch as he suspected that there was something around the propeller, because Hadar had been struggling to respond when coming up through the last couple of locks. This time of the year is not the best time to have you arms in the water, as it is very cold, but needs must. It turned out that we had a piece of a boat canopy tangled around the propeller blades. I decided to sweep out the engine room and brush the mats before making us some toasted muffins for lunch. The rest of the day was spent doing very little, until the evening when Keith once again took Paddy for his walk. We could hear a tawny owl hooting close by during the evening as we sat and watch the final of ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’. Congratulations to Joe Swash who won this years event.

Saturday 6th December.

At 3.15am a blood curdling screech woke me from my slumber. At first I was not aware of the perpetrator, but as I lay awake it became clear that it was a group of tawny owls close to the boat. From the sounds coming from the wood, I reckoned on at least four different owls from the difference in their calls. Two of the owls were shrieking rather than hooting and the other two sounded as if they were giving lessons on how to hoot properly, it rather tickled me as I lay there listening to this haunting sound in the darkness. Some 15 minutes later the hooting and shrieking stopped and all was silent, and I then drifted off back to sleep. When we both woke up at a more reasonable time, the sun was shining, although it was a little chilly.
Even though it was a Saturday we did not bother with a lay-in and got up at 8.30am, as Paddy needed walking. Once back onboard I did us smoked Mackerel for breakfast with toast, which made a nice change from cereal and also tops up the Omega 3 oils, we are told we should have in our diet. Over the past few weeks we have not bothered with the cleaning of the outside brass, because there seemed no point with all the bad weather we have had, but I could not look at it any longer, so got out the cloths and Brasso and set about cleaning the portholes, mushroom vents, chimney chains and trivet on the outside and the brass bed knobs, stove rails and door handles in the back cabin. It is always so satisfying when the brass is all shiny and clean, not that it will last for long. Whilst cleaning the outside brass, lots of people were walking past the boat, some spoke and others just walked past in their own little world. A group of guys stopped to ask me when the next trip was taking place. One of the men assumed that we were a trip boat, which made me giggle. I had to put the man right, explaining to him that Hadar was our home and not a trip boat, we do not carry passengers, but we do carry coal. He did apologise for his assumption before taking another photograph and then moving off along the towpath. Keith was now in the engine room cleaning the copper piping, brass bits and aluminium rocker cover on the engine, which looks fantastic when done. Our National DA2 is a rare beast and worth taking good care of. As far as we know there is only one other DA2 around, but of course if you know different, I am sure you will tell us. We do know of a DA3 in a boat called Lynda. One other job I wanted to do was to make a new sale board for the coal. I had found a piece of board at Fenny Stratford, but it had to be dried out before painting it in Blackboard paint. Today was the ideal day to do the painting as it would dry on the roof of the boat. With the boat jobs taken care of, we put on our jackets and took a stroll over Blisworth Tunnel. It was really quite pleasant in the late afternoon sunshine.A cheeky Robin was sat on a branch near the boat, they always evoke thoughts of Christmas. We got as far as the road where we saw one of the ventilation shaft outlets in a farmer’s field before walking back towards the museum, where we got chatting to Mike on working boat Jubilee, we discussed the idea that we may meet up in The Boat Inn later in the evening, which we did.But before Mike arrived Sixty Young Farmers from Towcester crowded into the two small bars at the front of The Boat Inn. The Young Farmers were holding their Christmas party in a function room at the Inn, so before moving into the function room they all wanted drinks at the bar. If you have ever been in The Boat Inn, you will know how small the two front bars are, it was a little like sardines in a tin. Keith and I had no option but to stay sitting at the table we had chosen, we could not hold a conversation because of the noise of people voices, which got louder and louder as everyone shouted to be heard, it was all a little crazy and we were both delighted when they disappeared into the function room for their party. Peace had been restored when Mile arrived, so we spent a pleasant evening chatting about coal sales, deliveries and the canals in general. After a splendid evening in the Inn we made our way back to Hadar under the starlit sky, which look so pretty along with all the Christmas lights lit up, in and around Stoke Bruerne Museum, it was all looking very festive.

Sunday 7th December.

The day began with another heavy frost on the boat and surrounding ground. It did not stop Paddy enjoying a run up through the woods. Today was the day that we would tackle the task of cleaning the saloon. I wanted to take up the mat for washing, I also wanted to sweep and wash the floor, but that meant Keith and I had to move furniture. Paddy was banished to the back cabin, whilst Marmite thought she could be the foreman, standing over us meowing instructions. She really only wanted to get in the way. With the saloon done and dusted, lunch time was upon us and the afternoon seemed to fly past. We were passed by the Indian Chief, the trip boat from The Boat Inn; they were doing two Santa trips during the day, with children onboard to meet Santa. Mike was also doing a trip on one of the Museum trip boats with his Santa. The worry in the pub last night was that they would meet along the canal and the children would see two Santa’s, which would completely confuse them. But it seemed that all went well and there some very happy kids. What was left of the day was spent watching the Sunday films, whilst Keith cut up more material for our rag rug, I sat writing Christmas cards. We are another week closer to Christmas, are you ready yet?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Fenny Stratford to Cosgrove.

Monday 1st December.

The countdown to Christmas begins today and so does the made panic to buy presents, even though we are in a credit crunch.
We opened the back cabin door to a very chilly morning, we had a hard frost last night and so the puddles had a layer of ice on them. Thankfully the boat was lovely and warm, with both our coal stoves going. On the back cabin stove we burn house coal, this particular coal has come from a private mine in Sheffield and burns really well, it is great for cooking and heating and the ash is very little and stays in all night. On the saloon stove we are burning Cosycoke, which is a new solid fuel and is made up of Newflame and Maxibrite, we have found it stays in really well and has less ash than some solid fuels. We have also found it is very easily regulated from hot to a gentle heat during the evening.
Having to get out of bed to visit the loo meant I could make us a cup of tea, which we enjoyed, tucked up in bed. I knew it was a chilly morning, because my feet were cold, as I could feel the chill permeating up through the bottom of the bed. Our back cabin bed lies across the cabin like any tradition cabin bed, so our feet are up against the cabin wall, and even though the walls are very well insulated, the cold can still creep into the bedding. So having got up, we rolled our bed up and put it in the cupboard, later it would be unrolled to air as it can get quite damp otherwise. Having dressed and eaten breakfast I ventured out with Paddy to take him for his walk. The ground was a little dodgy in places due to the heavy frost, so I made sure where I put my feet. On climbing back on the boat and opening the cabin doors, Marmite was sitting on the side bed waiting for us, she was in fact waiting to make a run for it out of the doors, but realised as she stood on the step that it was freezing outside and not the place for a cat, who likes the warmth of the fire, so she did an about turn and ran into the galley for her breakfast. After our morning coffee Keith and I walked into Bletchley to do some general shopping. Bletchley is only a small town and there are a number of stores which have closed their doors, this may be due to the down turn in sales at the moment, but they may have been closed before this situation took hold, so it makes the town look a little desolate. But don’t let it put you off visiting the town as it does have everything one needs. As we walked back to the boat, the grass was being cut and the hedgerow trimmed by three chaps, they could be of use on the Trent and Mersey as they never seem to do any grass cutting etc after October. During the afternoon we went food shopping at Tesco on Watling Road. We found a short cut through Fenny Stratford railway station, which cut out some of the busy road. Close by Tesco is an MFI store with a Store Closing sign in bold black letters hanging on the wall. No one there will be having a Happy Christmas and that goes for anyone losing their jobs at the moment. I know MFI has had a bad name over the years for their rocky furniture, but it is a shame for those who have to look for new jobs so close to Christmas. With it being the 1st of December it is now time to get a few bits stored for Christmas, so we bought a gammon joint and some Pringles all of which were on special offer. We do not intend to eat them both at the same time ha ha ha. As I tried to put the food shopping way Marmite thought it would be great fun to play with the rucksack, so I helped her climb into my rucksack where she stayed whilst I put our goodies away, she clearly felt at home hiding away. When it came to putting the rucksacks away, she was not for giving up her cosy new home, and hung on for dear life with her claws. Eventually she had to admit defeat, climbing onto my chair and curling into a ball.
We treated ourselves to a Chinese meal for dinner, before putting up our small Christmas tree and decorations, which of course Marmite thought was going to be a great game, especially when the bells for the tree came out. We shall see how long it takes her to demolish the tree. Last year she only managed to take one tree bauble off. It has become a tradition for us to put the decorations up on the first. I guess now we are in the festive mood, although I have to say I do not really feel it yet. Next on my Christmas to do list will be to buy stamps for the cards and then to write all the cards. With living on a boat and not really knowing where you are going to be, you have to plan ahead.
We have had a great day in Bletchley, but we will be moving tomorrow all being well.
My day ended with checking my e-mail and to my surprise I received and e-mail from TPT (Towpath Talk) to say that I had won a year’s subscription to TPT (Towpath Talk). I recently filled in a survey on their website and from that won a subscription to TPT for a year. Wooooo hooooo I never win anything, so I am quite excited.

Tuesday 2nd December.

Fenny Stratford to Milton Keynes, 3.6 miles.

Another heavy frost over night meant that the temperature was -0.3 C when we got up. Marmite made sure we were ready to get out of bed, by continually walking over us both in bed. She certainly knows how to get our attention, even if it is only so she can have her breakfast. With breakfast eaten and Paddy walked, Keith walked down to the sanitary station to empty the toilet cassette, whilst I stoked the fires and prepared Hadar for the off. Keith and I donned our donkey jackets, gloves and hats to keep out the bitterly cold wind; we were going to head for Milton Keynes, which was only 4 miles up the canal. Having untied the fenders and the ropes we were off, leaving Fenny Stratford behind. What lay ahead was a little alarming as the sky was a dark grey, it was heavy with something wet that was clear.It was not long before rain, sleet and snow were falling and with the bitter wind it was rather miserable. We were also aware that because of the temperature being below zero over night, ice had formed on the surface of the canal in places.One thing was certain, no one would want to fall into the cut today and that included me; especially as I was wearing all my winter clothing, so would probably sink LOL.
Keith tends to do most of the steering on Hadar, but every now and again when he needs a comfort break, I can get my hands on the tiller for a while. I have become more confident with manoeuvring Hadar on the canal, but there is always something new to learn and I never take my eye off the ball as one never knows what may happen. With the rain, sleet and snow still doing its best to dampen our spirits we arrived in Milton Keynes and moored up below bridge 81B at Newlands Park, near Gulliver’s Land a children's theme park. After coffee we walked over bridge 81B, which is a footbridge, and through Campbell Park into Milton Keynes, which is about a mile walk, either a long the main road or through the park itself. The last time Keith came through Milton Keynes none of the new shopping development was even thought of, so he was interested to see how it had all turned out. The new development covers around 22,000 acres and was begun in the early 1970’s. We were very impressed with the whole layout of the shopping centre and park area; it is really easy on the eye and also easy to get around. What is fabulous is that all the shops are under cover, and with the weather the way it is, this is an advantage. Christmas has most certainly arrived in Milton Keynes; they have really done the town proud with the Christmas decorations. They have a fantastic Christmas display with a fairy winter wonderland, Santa’s grotto and fairground rides, it is stunning and the best Christmas display we have ever seen.It most certainly helped to put us in the Christmas spirit. Children were lining up to see Santa in his grotto, whilst their parents looked as if they were enjoying themselves in the queue. I personally think it is way too early to take kids to see Santa. It should be left until a week before the big day, but that’s just my opinion.The photographs were taken on our mobile phones, so sorry if they are not very good quality.
Before lunch we walked around the outside market, which is quite extensive. We found a material stall where I bought some curtain material for the back cabin, we then enjoyed lunch in Pizza Hut, near the Milton Keynes Theatre, which has ‘Hook’ as its pantomime this year starring Henry Winkler (The Fonz). I can imagine he is a great Hook. He was recently on the Paul O’Grady Show talking about the Pantomime. He was saying that he loves coming over to the UK at this time of the year to do Panto, because the USA has nothing like it over there; he loves the interaction with the audience. I always loved him when he was in ‘Happy Days’. After a further walk around the shops we made our way back to the boat, by walking through the park. Back onboard whilst typing this entry there was a knock on the boat, so I had to put the computer down to answer the engine room door, where there was a gentleman standing there. He wanted 6 bags of Taybrite delivered to his boat up the canal. We had met at Stoke Bruerne previously so got chatting about where we had been so far. I unloaded the 6 bags of coal from the hold, then we put some of it on the trolley and Keith carried a bag on his shoulder. Whilst chatting to the gentleman at his boat, we discovered that we were chatting to Santa Claus. He was going to be Santa at the Milton Keynes grotto. I did not have the nerve to ask if I could sit on his knee. Apparently though these days you are not allowed to sit on Santa’s knee, you have to sit on a chair beside him, it is all about being politically correct. Bah Humbug that is what I say. This country has gone way over the top what with Health and Safety and the Political Correctness. We need to get back to some good old fashioned values especially at Christmas. So anyway, we had a lovely chat and put the world to right before we made our way back to Hadar in the dusk of the evening. The evening was spent in front of the TV before going off to bed in a very warm back cabin as we knew it was going to be a very chilly night.

Wednesday 3rd December.

Milton Keynes to Cosgrove, 7.3 miles and 1 lock.

We knew before we even opened the back cabin doors that last night had been very cold, so it was no surprise to see frost on the ground and ice on the surface of the canal. Keith had gotten up to go to the loo, and whilst he was gone, Marmite thought it would be fun to bring me Keith’s socks. She has a thing about socks. Most cats bring you dead mice or birds, Marmite brings us socks. Having got up and dressed, I took Paddy for a run across the park; he had a great time charging like a loony through the trees, before making his way back to the boat. These days we do not have to bother telling him to get on the boat, he just does it anyway. With both Marmite and Paddy fed, it was then our turn to enjoy some nice hot porridge. Just what was needed on a bitterly cold morning. The temperature over night had gone down to -3.5 C, so no wonder the canal had ice on it.
At 9.45am wrapped up against the cold we slipped our mooring, but had not gone more than 15 yards when we were hailed down for coal by Sheila and Pat on N.B Fair Fa, so we pulled back in a couple of boats away from them and took of four bags of coal. Having delivered the coal we got chatting to Pat, both he and his wife are Continuous Cruisers like us, so there was plenty to chat about. We look forward to see them again next year.
We were on our way once again ploughing through the ice. This is just the sort of weather we love.The sound of breaking ice being shattered by Hadar’s bow was really impressive. Although it has to be said that it does not do the hull blacking much good, but we needed to move on so it is something we have to put up with.We stopped at Giffard Park as we needed to take on water. Whilst we waited for the tank to fill, I went off to the Post Office to get some stamps, ready to post our Christmas cards. I had tried to get stamps in Bletchley and Milton Keynes, but the queues in both the post offices were so long, we did not bother to stop. With the water tank filled and the rubbish disposed of, we were off yet again.We were just leaving Great Linford when we saw the stern of the Butty Beverley, with Gary ahead on Ascot the motor. He waved us on, so that we could pass him. It was really heart warming and nostalgic to see a pair of boats working, although Ascot did look high out of the water, so we did not think she had much coal onboard.As we passed by, we said our good mornings before we left the pair behind us.In places the ice on the canal was quite thick upto 10mm in places; the sound of the ice breaking on Hadar’s bow was like glass being broken.Hadar left a trail through the ice for Ascot to follow when she made progress our way. We ploughed on towards Cosgrove where we went up through Cosgrove Lock before mooring up just past the sanitary station. Even though it was a cold day, with the sun out and no wind it made for a pleasurable days cruising.