Phew summer has tried to arrive and we realised that the heavy rain, while we moored at Kilby Bridge, had put the River Soar into flood and stoppages were happening on waters we had cruised! We had luck to get through the Soar in good weather.
I had to ‘work’ 7 locks to get to Newton Harcourt where a scenic mooring spot, near Ivy Bridge, was recommended to us. (The best way to find out the good, the bad and the ugly places is to talk to fellow boaters.) 6 out of the 7 locks were not set in our favour. The top gates were open, due to the high water level in the canal. This meant double the physical effort to shut the gates but I knew by winding up a paddle to open a sluice on the near gate will assist by drawing the water to pull the far gates shut as I begin to close them. No shortage of water! Big BANG as the gates slammed under pressure. The one lock that was in our favour was deceptive. The gate was open and DB crawled in. I put 115% physical effort in to close one of the gates behind DB and it would not budge. Chris tried to lever it using the boat pole on DB but it would barely budge. The solution was Chris climbing the lock ladder and our combined power made it easy. Then he closed the other gate and I got the ground paddle in motion to start filling the lock. Della stayed on DB as we haven’t taught her to climb ladders yet. Chris, on the ground held the middle rope to keep DB secure as the lock filled and raised DB. Once the water is over the ‘cill’ then the gate paddles can be open. Chris got back on DB before I attended to those paddles. Being Lady Lock’n’Lol is a responsibility!
We chose the recommended spot near Newton Harcourt with the free million pound view. We did our best to moor DB snugly on the bend leaving room for another boat should one come along. As long as DB’s stern is close to the bank then it reduces Della’s risk of falling in. She doesn’t find walking the plank to her liking. Well who does?? . Barbie & Mike came and moored in front of us, lovely people and with a recommendation for the Butcher Squ!sito in Yelvertoft, when we get closer to Crick.
Our view looked over the canal to fields with sheep grazing and people walking. The joy of the Public Footpath, in England, is the ability to walk ‘off road’ and enjoy communing with nature. Della loves the rural walks, and is taking too much interest in the taste of fresh sheep pooh. She has started eating the fresh grass and lying on the ground. Baaah!
We explore the countryside, wherever we moor. I had to bin my favourite shoes after they had got through their first and only recycle fix, at the end of Winter 2013. The re-heeled boots and mastic filled cracked soles were well past their second sell-by date and they went in the big rubbish bin on land. My pair of Gumboots/ Wellingtons/ Muck Boots, whatever their name is, have been put back to use and my dry feet are happy. Della has a useful ‘Happy Pet’ paw rinser when there is no way for her to avoid the mud on the towpath. Sensibly, DB’s floor is a product called ‘Antica’ i.e. non slip vinyl strips that have the appearance of wood, easy to mop and quick to dry. We were close to ordering engineered oak, which would have added more weight to DB and reduced the floor to ceiling height. Comments from taller people are favourable as they notice there is ‘air’ space above their head. Not like in a house but more than a Narrowboat.
The gravitational pull of liquid out of the sky ceased and we left our beautiful mooring on a cool but clear day with the hope of settled weather. I’m continuing to question the creative weather forecasting in this country. “A fine day with a couple of showers possible”.
A series of 5 locks, yes still the problem of open gates, a crooked Tunnel (Saddington) and 2 swing bridges brought us to the Market Harborough Arm of the Grand Union Canal. We ticked along to the end of the Branch at Harborough hoping there would be a mooring for us, as it was now late afternoon. We had to ‘wind’ in the Basin and there were a few gongoozlers watching DB go through her manouevers. The wind was blowing and blew DB in the direction of boats moored in the Basin. Chris did a brilliant job of using the wind favourably and although we got up close to the noses of some boats DB made no contact!! There was applause from the watchful audience.
As luck had it we got the last mooring at the entrance to the Basin. A little ‘Tupperware’ boat had to move up one bollard so DB’s stern wasn’t kissing it.
Our mate Phil came up to see us for a couple of days and is our first guest to stay aboard DB. We have been told the Daybed is very comfortable!
‘Arborough is a beautiful town full of happy chatty people, a lovely park and handy supermarkets. DolcieBlue certainly attracted positive attention with comments galore “Fabulous”, “Very very nice”, “Astounding”, “Love your boat”, “When did she go in the water?”, “Don’t see boats this big around here”, “She’s lovely”, “Do you live on her?”.
We returned to Foxton on DB and spent a couple of days checking out the popular Staircase Locks, the Public Footpaths and enjoying the sunshine. We met Devereau and Patsy who were enjoying cruising on a Narrowboat rented from Union Wharf in ‘Arborough and were heading back to base. We had them round for dinner on DB after we cruised back to ‘Arborough. It was a lovely evening and we hope that our boats pass again somewhere in the world.
2 days later we were back in Foxton to go up the locks in the late afternoon. They are the easiest paddles I have ever wound and the easiest gates to open. A one armed bandit job! There is one C&RT volunteer in charge and usually 2-3 volunteers there to assist. On the day we went up, there was only one volunteer so I was able to work the locks under his instruction. There were a couple of gongoozlers taking an interest in us going up and I started to talk with them. Charlotte was from Auckland and Chris was from Newcastle, they had not been on a Narrowboat so I encouraged them to jump aboard and go up the remaining locks on DB with Chris and Della. Nice to be able to share the experience of a Narrowboat on the move.
Another tunnel loomed and quite a long one to pass through, after a night at the top of the staircase locks. The tunnel is 2 way and takes about 15 minutes to get through. Some plonker couldn’t wait a few minutes to let us get all the way through. He didn’t even give himself enough time to turn his head light on. Of course we saw him but it looked like we were following him as an oncoming light would indicate direction. We ended up rubbing alongside his boat and scraping along the tunnel wall. Oh well, no big problem. A few metres out of the tunnel we came across another boat heading to the black hole and he had no sign of a headlight. He shrugged his shoulders when I asked him where his headlight was!
We turned into the Welford Arm of the Grand Union, enjoyed another simple to work Lock and moored overnight at the blunt end of the Arm. A tricky 'wind' to get back in the right direction but made simpler with spinning using the Bow rope. Now we are back on the Grand Union and officially in the County of Northamptonshire enjoying a rural mooring for a few nights. We did a circular walk to Yelvertoft and found the recommended Butcher / Deli. We’ll moor here, a few days, and enjoy the view of the field of happy sheep before heading to Crick and an even longer tunnel.
There is more traffic on this part of the Canal but it is still not busy. I managed to call out to the ‘working’ barge that was going past this morning and we filled up with sensibly priced red diesel.