Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Job Done!!!

"Who is this motley crew waving paint brushes?" you enquire. "Is that the Old Boater in the middle?" You are not wrong. There he is with Herself (on the left) and Vicki; the stalwarts of the BW Bath Monthly (4th Thursday) Working Party. Our BW Leader, Rob Labus, being behind the camera (his phone actually). In the winter, when the weather is bad, what better place to work than inside a tunnel. So here we are at Sidney Tunnel on the K&A in Bath having just completed the repainting of the handrails, and lovely they look.

BW (British Waterways) becomes the "Canal and Rivers Trust" in April and, with this change to a charitable trust, it is looking to recruit more volunteers to help with maintaining and running the waterways, modelling itself on the National Trust. Himself will be out on the Bath locks at the beginning of April, when the cruising season starts in earnest, performing his duties as a Volunteer Lock Keeper. In the meantime it's been a couple of trips to BW's Devizes office to complete the mandatory health and safety courses. But before then we have our week's cruise on the Lancaster Canal to look forward to.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year, New ?????

"What you doing now?" You guessed it. Herself is getting ratty because his head is bowed over the keyboard again instead of doing something "useful". What something useful is, he has not yet determined. "So what has the old boater been doing in the last six months" you enquire. Enjoying the delights of the beautiful city of Bath is the truth of it. Previously we have always been here in the winter months, so it has been a delight to enjoy the summer and all that goes on in the height of the tourist season. Also time and energy has been spent on making a new printed edition of "The Meanderings of Avon Rose" based on these blogs but with footnotes and appendices explaining the technicalites of boating and bell ringing for the general reader. It's a great read they tell me. See a preview here and, go on, spoil yourself and buy one.
Waterway life has not been neglected either. Theirselves continue as volunteers with British Waterways in Bath. On the monthly working party we have cleared vegetation, painted and even learnt the skills of repointing stonework with lime mortar. During the autumnal showers, painting the railings inside Sidney Tunnel has kept us occupied.
Himself has been sharing duties with two others as volunteer lock keepers on the Bath flight; working alongside Nigel, the full-time lock keeper, by providing assisting boaters in working the locks and providing local information.

"So; what plans for a new boat?" you enquire. "Well," Himself replies, "as our noble Towermaster at the Abbey is fond of saying,'Any Plan is a Basis for Change'." Herself has pointed out that the canals we have yet to explore lie on the fringes of the network. If we buy into a new shared boat, we are going to be moored at one of the more popular cruising centers. Solution, let's hire on the waterways we want to explore and put the new boat plan on hold. Enter stage left friends Steve and Lesley (our biker boating buddies) with the expected question, "When are we going boating then?"
"We haven't done the Lancaster," Herself pipes up and .....

Himself has been in contact with the lovely Karen from Canal Boat Escapes and we have secured the use of trad narrowboat Green Man for the last week of March from its base at Pendle Marine. Keep a lookout. We'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


A dull damp day and the suggestion of a tear in the corner of the eye. We have come to Stowe Hill Wharf to remove the last odds and ends of our belongings from Avon Rose. An offer has been made. The out of water survey has been completed. The bill of sale has been signed. When the money appears in our account she will no longer be ours. We understand she is off to a new home at Heyford Fields Marina,just a few miles down the cut. Shake hands with Dominic and Steve and we wave a last fond farewell as we head off for a lunch by the cut at "The Wharf" at Bugbrooke. There are many fond memories and.......... no regrets.

We have settled into life ashore in Bath. We enjoy our monthly BW volunteers' working party on the Widcombe flight, clearing vegetation, painting lock gates and canal gear. Himself on track to start as a voluntary lock-keeper in July. The canal life has not been totally left behind. And yesterday a phone call from Chris of Carefree Cruising in Cheshire. "You spoke to us in April about shared ownership in a narrowboat. Are you still interested?" Silly question...........

............to be continued - next year - keep a lookout.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The end or a new beginning????

When you see himself, iron in hand, you know our pair have fully adopted this new lifestyle. He may still have that long haired hippy boater air but we now have a pair of city slickers. Well, perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration. No one would ever regard himself as slick (although for special occasions he does brush up quite nicely). It’s more of your “genteel shabby”. Rather like a favourite old cardigan; well worn, comfortable and baggy! Herself despairs.

A bit shabby is how they regard Avon Rose around the waterline on a weekend visit to do some maintenance. A hard winter killing off the the vegetation fringe and six months in a marina going nowhere and we have some spots of rust near the waterline, although elsewhere she looks good. She needs to come out and be blacked - now. Still, a productive weekend doing routine maintenance. Some repainting in the front cockpit and clearing out the rest of our “stuff” ready for a final cruise, leaving this delightful winter mooring to deliver her to Dominic Miles at Rugby Boats at Stowe Hill Wharf on the Grand Union at Weedon. Dominic, through whom we bought her nearly three years ago is going to provide the same service for us. A conversation with Dominic’s man Steve at Stowe Hill and we have a blacking arranged for a couple of weeks’ time. She needs to look her best.

Load up the Enterprise car and off he sets for home. Yes, that is what Bath has become. What was home when we started this adventure now computes as “the house”, as Avon Rose is “the boat”. And what about herself? She stays another night on board at Brinklow as she is going to accompany our daughter when she goes for her heart and CT scans before her cancer treatment starts. Hence why himself is wielding the iron. At the end of the week he returns by train for our last leisurely cruise to move Avon Rose from Brinklow to Stowe Hill Wharf. A strong breeze makes reversing out of our berth and exiting the marina interesting as we make our way the few short miles to Rugby and the usual mooring near Tescos (a boatman needs to be fed!) Next day is still breezy and somewhat dull for the run through Hilmorton locks and on down to Braunston where, horror of horrors, our favourite mooring spot below the church is full so we have to move on to moor before the turn by bridge 90. The sun broke through as the day progressed to remind us how lovely this stretch is as we catch the first sight of Baunston church as we pass through the bridge by Willoughby Wharf on our meander southwards. A delightful evening dining at the Boathouse with friends Mike and Marion rounds off the day.

And so our last day of cruising on Avon Rose starts with a light shower, the heavens weeping as we tackle first the six broad Braunston locks, the two thousand yard tunnel on the summit pound before we descend the seven Buckby locks, and pause for lunch by Whilton Marina before making our way to Stowe Hill. In almost three years there are few photos of the old boatman doing his stuff, so herself remedies this a little and himself takes some video clips for the records. And that duck (tiller pin) saw them set off and is once again doing his job as they finish. Himself found another duck memento too which he couldn't resist. A duck in boots as a reminder that sometimes on the towpath even ducks need wellies. A casual text on the topic leads to another surprise. A brief meeting with our biking friends at Weedon Bec. Then it's pack up and leave Avon Rose in the tender care of Steve and Dominic of Rugby Boats at Stowe Hill Wharf as a friend fetches us and takes us to dine with her before we take train to Bath which thanks to an advance ticket deal is a journey in First Class.

As you would expect, himself has all the numbers from our first cruise from Blue Haven Marine where we boaught her to our last stop at Stowe Hill. They are:

70 tunnel passages
176 movable bridges negotiated
948 broad locks plus 702 narrow giving a total of 1,650 lock passages
2,337 miles of canal and river cruised.

Now some time has passed since the above took place. Easter has come and gone; there has been a trip back to Brampton for a house and dog sit, catch up with old friends and do some maintenance at the house.

Himself has been for a job interview - Volunteer Lock Keeper ! As part of the transition to a charitable trust, British Waterways is expanding its use of volunteers still further and the old boater couldn’t resist putting his hand up to have a go. So Avon Rose may be up for sale but canals will still be part of life and enquiries and plans are already being made to go back into shared ownership next year.

So this really is the final post to “The Meanderings of Avon Rose”, but the spirit and aims of AvonRose.org.uk continue on. Remember...” Twenty Years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover!”.................... Anybody want to buy a boat??????

£48,500. 57ft G&J Reeves/owner trad (but with an extra wide hatch that creates a semi trad stern). 1998. G&J Reeves have long been established as builders of good quality narrowboat shells. Although ostensibly a trad, the rear hatch is extra wide giving the feel of a semi trad. A smaller hatch is incorporated in the large hatch in case of bad weather cruising. Clever! The original owner - there have only been two - of this boat fitted this out to a high standard of craftsmanship - with attention to detail and design based on years of narrowboat experience. There is an excellent amount of storage, a 4' 6" wide cross bed, a separate utility room with washing machine, a well equipped galley with a cabinet fridge freezer unit, roomy saloon and a large forward cockpit protected by a cratch that is easy to remove. A new Isuzu 42 engine was installed in 2009. Avon Rose is perfect for long term "go anywhere" cruising.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Big Society????

The snowdrops and crocuses are out, we've had some sunshine at last; it must be the start of the cruising season. And where are they? Sitting on a peaceful hillside with no sound but the birds, looking out across the Avon Valley and down onto the golden glint of avenues of Bath stone that is the city of Bath illuminated by bright sunshine from a brilliant blue and cloudless sky. Paradise; and only a fifteen minute walk from home!

Now herself, who is known for her declaration "I don't do hills, bus up, walk down", has had a change of heart. "I need to try and get fitter. I'm going to start to walk up." And here she is, gasping for breath (himself not breathless at her side) having made it from the 50 to the 150 metre contour, triumphant and crying, "This is beautiful!" And so it is. A delightful walk part way up Bathwick Hill then across the Tyning to Widcombe, up Church Lane past the fishponds of Prior Park and the scramble up the footpath to this idyllic spot with Claverton Down rising gently to the East and the panorama of the historic city spread out before us as we gaze northward towards the tower of Saint Stephen’s Church on the other side of the valley.

And what of Avon Rose? She has come through a freezing winter, quietly in the marina at Brinklow. Two weekends ago we paid a second visit to her; freezing of water in the carbon filter to her drinking water tap had ruptured the fitting so himself needed to fit a replacement unit. Otherwise she appears to have come through the winter in fine fettle. It was nice to get the fire blazing away and sit in the warm and cogitate, remembering times past. The old boaters are revelling in their new life ashore, the convenience, the culture, friends, the squeals of delight when “my Granny” appears on the doorstep. Another season of cruising would be travelling roads we have travelled several times before and is less appealing.

This probably says a lot about us. It was the “Explore and Discover” of our motto that drove us. It was the travelling and finding new waterways and structures that excited us. In general we never stayed more than a few days in most places. The only long pauses were due to illness or herself going off somewhere. If we were to live on the boat in a locality we would need the convenience of the facilities provided by a residential mooring in a marina. We want to be in Bath and that does not exist here. So we have decided to sell. Not that this is the end of boating. There are some far flung places we would like to go; the Lancaster canal and the Flakirk Wheel which we would do by hire boat. Himself thinks a return to shared ownership is also on the cards. It would be good to buy into a brand new boat which we can invite friends to come and cruise with us. One of the disappointments of Avon Rose was that we did not really have the facilities to comfortably accommodate friends. When a boat is your home you need much more space than if it is just for holidays.

When a chap puts his name down for an allotment, you know he has no intention of moving soon. With the Amphletts of Ombersley having been yeoman farmers for centuries and the Lees’s on the maternal side the same, it is hardly surprising he feels the need to get his hands in the soil and grow stuff. On the second floor, Granny’s garden (see pic) is a bit limiting. You can tell a woman is revelling in the shorelife as well. Forget showers, we now have a bath and herself wallows in it at the slightest provocation. "Thank goodness she doesn't sing in it," himself was heard to mutter. Not only that, she has taken up ironing! Now that is dedication to the land-based life.

We are putting down roots. As always for us, the serendipity of life works in our favour. With our lovely daughter's recent diagnosis of breast cancer Granny is now well placed to dash off at a moment’s notice to give help and support, if and when required, during the long months of chemotherapy ahead. All things work for good – himself ever the optimist (mostly).

What’s all this “Big Society” about then? “We are the Big Society,” she said as she wielded her litter picker and plastic sack. With the boys in blue becoming an endangered species because of cuts in government grant and the move towards the transformation into charitable status and possibly becoming “The National Trust for Waterways” or suchlike, volunteering is the order of the day, and please note, Mr Cameron, our intrepid boaters are doing their bit! BW, as it still is, are organising monthly working parties along the canal and theirselves have joined up with the Bath team (fourth Thursday of the month) on the good old K&A. Himself was there, wielding his loppers and secateurs to remove ivy and brambles on Baptist Chapel Bridge 194 where the canal emerges into the river. Then they labour at Bath Bottom Lock (7) trimming edges, removing weeds and clearing rubbish and so on up towards Bath Deep lock (8-9). Four hours hard graft, but good to give something back to a facility that has given us so much pleasure. It looks great. Herself is hoping next month to be wielding a paintbrush (less strenuous she thinks).

Himself has finally removed his model boat from the box and started the plank and frame construction of HMS Sherbourne , a 1:64 scale model of a 1763 cutter which was a revenue vessel for the customs service. She’s not perfect but the lessons learnt are destined to be used in the construction of another. Not only that but the astronomical telescope has been taken out of its case and now waits by the window ready for lunar observations - cloud permitting! Our valiant pair are also delighting in regular ringing again; himself pleased at having rung in six quarter peals since his arrival in October 2010. Good as well to be a regular part of a church community and to start to get involved in it’s corporate life.

So what next? Well our intrepid pair have discovered that their favourite and oft referred to canal guide author, Mr Pearson, does the same for railways. Inspired by Michael Portillo’s “Great Railway Journeys” series on the television plans are afoot to explore Scotland by rail (8 in 15 day rover cards look like the way to go). So with Mr Pearson’s “Iron Road to the Isles” in hand, possibilities are being explored. Himself feels the muse upon him; perhaps a blog of another feather could emerge. So is this the end of the Avon Rose blog? Nothing’s over till it’s finished. There may be tales yet to tell.......

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Weather............. good move!!!!!

"Oh I'm glad I'm here," herself declared as we gazed out of the flat window at the ice and snow. The third hard winter in a row confirms that the decision to move ashore was a good one. Ice on the cut several inches thick and we would have been iced in for a fortnight again, unable to move to services, although we haven't had the snow that some parts of the UK have . As it is we are luxuriating in acres of space, thankful that water and fuel arrives in pipes, enjoying the convenience of being within a ten minute walk of the centre of town with all it's facilities, and happily renewing friendships forged over the past two winters.

And Avon Rose....? She is fine tucked up in the marina. We paid her a weekend visit to check she was OK and pick up a few things we had left on board and found we needed. Solar panels had kept the batteries fully charged. Ran the engine for a couple of hours to warm the hot water system up and got a good fire going to warm her all though.

So in the meantime what has the old boatman been doing with himself. Well apart from all the ringing, visiting and playing with granddaughters he decided to collect the blogs of the last two years into hardcopy so it was not lost. The result is that he has self published it a book. Below is a preview and link to it for those interested. Click on the link if you want a copy. In the meantime have a great Christmas, we certainly shall.

Friday, October 29, 2010

More wire?????.................

Well, the old boater has had to fire up his PDA after two years. He has to be places and do stuff. No more we’ll be there about a quarter past October. These land based folk count time to the minute! It’s been quite a culture shock for the old boy. As for herself, she is just so chuffed to be near her girls, and their excitement at having Granny back could be gauged by the squeaks of delight as they came down the road. She’s also glad to be back close to facilities as we have to report another disaster on the glasses front. Vigorous cleaning and the wire nose bridge broke and she is left standing with half a pair in each hand.
Himself to the rescue with his trusty coil of garden wire and he rigs up a jig to hold the two halves together so at least she can see. He thought it was quite elegant; looked great at a glance. As her eldest said, “Are those chic Italian designer frames..... or is that garden wire?” A phone call to Specsavers to ensure we have an appointment as soon s we arrive is the order of the day.

After two years of declaring, “I wouldn’t want to live in a big marina,” herself has decided that it has certain attractions; unlimited electricity, all essential services close at hand, she can hoover as much as she likes, run the hair dryer without having to fire up the engine, use the washing machine in land mode (ie using its heating element) instead of cruising mode, and not getting banged about when early risers go past the boat too fast.

Toby dog has decided he likes the marina as well. There’s a huge great area of grass field for him to tear around. The grass is quite long, so with his little legs he tends to leap rather like a gambling spring lamb rather than run. Favourite game is chasing a ball on the rope, a toy which he is reluctant to be parted from.

The end of season Bar-B-Q was a great success. It was good to get to meet the neighbours, and who should be moored on the pontoon next to us? The couple we had met on the Llangollen in the summer and from whom we had heard about Brinklow Marina, encouraging us to investigate. The decision to come in a couple of weeks earlier than originally planned was a good one. Two weeks of activity and Avon Rose is looking very lovely. Paintwork and hull blacking touched up, cabin sided polished, marvellous. A weekend car hire and a visit to to take Toby dog to live with herself's sister. The disadvantage of renting, pets not allowed. But he’s happy and our nephew won’t have cold feet in bed this winter for sure!

Then it's house-clearing again. It may only be 57ft by 6ft 10 but we still seem to have accumulated “stuff”. A one-way trip in a Mr Enterprise van with our chairs, small table, household goods and clothes and we arrive in Bath to sign up and move into our flat, with grateful thanks to our big boy who carted all our stuff up to the second floor while the old man was returning the van. Then a weekend “camping out” on the blow-up bed until our furniture and boxes of stuff arrives from storage, and yes it does all fit in. Then the anticipation of opening boxes and remembering what we had. “You've got too many books!” she declares, while he mutters, “It's not too many books, it's not enough book shelves........”. But nobly he culls some with a great feeling of self righteousness.

And so here we are. Getting into the swing of life ashore. It's been so easy, picking up where we left off and oh so much more convenient. The view from our lounge is wonderful, It's only a ten minute amble into the centre of town, everything is to hand, the space is great, no worries about water, power and all that kind of stuff. Himself has a theory that there is something deep in the female psyche that has a primeval hunger for nesting. Herself hasn't stopped hoovering and washing since she arrived, “She's got two years of deprivation to make up for!” he mutters to himself as he lifts his feet to allow passage of the carpet sweeper yet again. As for himself, He's bought himself a huge flat screen tv and recorder so he can record the American football again, “It's too big, I can see them sweating!” she wails as the “Strictly Come Dancing” season opens again. He's also seen the inside of a barber's shop for the first time in a couple of years. Now we wouldn't want you to think that he has succumbed to a slick city short hair look, after all, as he frequently declares, “It's a great responsibility having naturally curly hair!” The hairy prophet remains; just a little more stylish.

Well this is the last entry to the Avon Rose blog for a while. We will have to wait and see if it resumes or if...................................the possibilities are endless. Isn't life wonderful!