Wednesday, 27 July 2011

A new fly screen

A couple of weeks ago we had problems with flies coming in through the fly screen on the side hatch which I'd bought from Aldi a couple of years ago. It was originally meant to be a door screen but I'd cut it down to fit the hatch. It was in 4 sections and the flies were crawling in between these sections.

each section is weighted to stop it flapping in the breeze
When we were in Evesham recently I bought some net curtain fabric to make a new bug-proof screen as a replacement.  The screen is clamped into a flat plastic track which then fits inside the reveal of the side hatch and is held in place by velcro. Simple, but it works well.

I took the weights out of the old screen and sewed them into the bottom of the new one and these hold it in place so it's not blowing in the wind.  The flies haven't managed to get round it so far, so for the £2 it cost me for the new net fabric it's my bargain of the week.

the weights go on the outside of the hatch

the finished fly screen

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Rainy Day Creation

Every so often I get the urge to be creative. I love knitting but don’t have the patience to make anything that takes more than a couple of days so jumpers etc. are out of the question. The forecast for Friday was a bit damp so it was time to get the needles out. A girl can NEVER have too many hats so on Thursday evening I started searching the internet for a suitable pattern. I found THIS but it’s an American pattern so I needed to convert it before I could begin and it took me about an hour to sort out a suitable pattern I could work to. I had some double knitting wool in my stash that I wanted to use up but the pattern was for ‘heavy weight worsted yarn’ which is the US equivalent to our Aran. By knitting up a tension square I worked out how many stitches I’d need and then started on straight needles rather than the American circular needles. I’ve tried a few times using circular needles but just can’t get the hang of them. It doesn’t seem right to me to just keep knitting round and round, rather than knitting one row then purling the next, to get stocking stitch.  The body of the hat was fairly easy to reproduce, although I changed the fairisle pattern to make it stand out a bit more against the background.  The main problem I had was knitting the crown as the instructions for circular needles and then going onto double points didn’t translate easily onto straight needles.  I tried 3 times, pulling it back again each time, until I got it right but I’m rather proud of the result.

I’ve written my version of the pattern down, so if anyone would like a copy please let me know and I’ll email it to you. I think it really needs a fleece lining but the weather's improved a lot today and it's too hot to be inside sewing, that can wait until the next bad spell.

The heavy rain on Friday caused the river to rise and this morning we were 4 inches higher up the pontoon than last night. The influx of fresh water has flushed out the marina a bit which can only be a good thing. This is a basin with only one narrow entrance/exit and the water gets a bit stagnant and being a dead end it also get full of floating weeds.

The weather has been fantastic today. Roger watched the German Grand Prix  (well done Lewis!! ) and then this afternoon we went to Luddington Village Fete.  We parked on the village green in front of amazing thatched houses and then it was like going back in time. It was a proper old fashioned fete, with tombola, skittles, fairground organ, display of vintage cars, penny slot machines, splat the rat, wellie throwing and the biggest raffle you have ever seen. Throughout the afternoon there were children's races, a football tournament and a tug of war between the local young farmers and the Polish farm workers. It was very busy and they raised a lot of money for the local Cancer Charity.

Fairground Organ

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The cost of life afloat

Doreen left a comment on the blog yesterday asking me how much it costs to live on a boat.  Well it’s certainly not the cheap living option it was a few years ago by any means. I keep a record of everything we spend but have never actually sat down and worked it out per week so thanks for the push Doreen, it’s made interesting reading.

These figures are the average per week and are taken over the first 6 months of this year so include winter marina moorings and electricity hook up which we don’t pay for during the summer when we’re out cruising.

Diesel £20
Gas £4
Solid fuel £10
Pump out £4
Mains electric £5
Winter mooring fees £55
BW Licence £15
Insurance £11
TV licence £3

Total £128 per week

That’s before the normal living expenses of food, entertainment, birthdays etc. and you also need to take into account servicing the engine and heating system and having the hull blacked every 2 or 3 years. We’re lucky that Roger is capable of doing all our servicing and we do our own blacking so the only extra costs are for the parts and renting a dry-dock for a week.

But compared to living in a house it’s the most wonderful place to be and I have NEVER for one moment regretted our decision.  In winter the boat is warm and cosy and, providing we don’t get frozen in again this coming winter, we’ll carry on cruising around the stoppages and won’t go into a marina.  

We’ve met some lovely people (some miserable ones too but they are in the minority) and there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything we need and want to do. It’s certainly never boring living on the boat.

My only fear for the future is that BW will bugger it up for all boaters by letting the system fall into disrepair.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Lazy Day

I don’t have much to tell you about today.  We had heavy rain this morning so I spent the time baking bread and flapjacks and doing the laundry.  The sun came out this afternoon and so did the whirly-gig dryer . The washing dried in no time so we went for a walk down by the river where we came across this beautiful heron fishing.

It didn’t seem at all bothered by us but didn’t catch any fish while we were watching.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Swan Rescue

An RSPCA van turned up at the marina this morning. There’s a family of swans living in and around the marina and one of the four cygnets had got a fishing hook stuck in it’s beak with the line wrapped round it’s neck.  The RSPCA man had a special ‘swan hook’ which was a bit like a shepherd’s crook but 10ft long and while I helped distract the parents with food he tried to hook the cygnet. No such luck. The parents were too clever and kept the injured cygnet well back behind them and the other three youngsters.  As the heavens opened the RSPCA man decided to give up and said that as the cygnet was eating with no difficulty it wasn’t in any immediate danger, so he’d either come back later in the week with a colleague and a boat, or he’d send for someone from the local swan rescue centre.

fishing hook stuck in its beak and line wrapped round its neck

This afternoon we walked the mile and a bit each way into Bidford to the Post Office and then collected Chico and headed off along the River Avon footpath with the intention of walking to Welford on Avon about 3 miles away. After about 2 ½ miles the path became too overgrown to continue. It obviously doesn’t get used very much so we gave up battling with nettles and came back. 7 miles was enough for one day. We haven’t done much walking since before Stratford Festival and boy do I know about it now. My feet are killing me!

The road outside the marina is about 10 feet above the current river level but obviously floods quite regularly, judging by the road signs.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Sunday lunch

We set off early this morning and were in Evesham Lock by 9.30. We'd just got roped up when a short narrowboat and a plastic cruiser turned up wanting to share the lock. We were quite happy to share but found that the reason they wanted to come in with us was that they wanted me to do all the work for them! It's Sunday and I was in a good mood so I just got on with it, after all they were quite a bit older than me and the guy on the narrowboat claimed he was single handing. They followed us into the next lock and low and behold a woman appeared on the narrowboat, looked like she'd just got out of bed but at least this time she steered the boat while husband got off and helped with the lock. The guy on the cruiser still did nothing except flap about ordering his poor wife who was in the boat holding onto the rope.  You certainly meet all sorts on the rivers and canals.

The reason we'd set off early was that we wanted to go to The Bridge at Bidford for lunch. We hadn't booked and when we went in at 2.00 it was very busy. We got a good table and I have to say it was probably the best Sunday lunch we've had for a long time.  I had salt cod fritters with aoili for starters. They were very light, extremely tasty and just melted in the mouth. Main course was roast beef with all the trimmings. The beef was so rare it almost had a pulse, just how we like it.  I'd noticed that the veg on the adjacent table looked a bit crunchy so asked for ours to be cooked a bit longer as we don't like it like that. We got a large bowl of assorted greens, cabbage, broccoli, peas and broad beans, all cooked perfectly to our taste. For desert we shared a raspberry and rum trifle, well Roger had a couple of small spoonfuls and I had the rest. This was all washed down with a very good bottle of Aussie Shiraz. I'd certainly recommend this place and hope we can make a return visit before we leave the area.

The Bridge at Bidford
We're now back in the marina at Barton, luckily the boat next door has gone so we've got a much better view and it doesn't feel quite as claustrophobic.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Roast Belly Pork and a numpty!

Many thanks to Keith on n.b. Kotuku who told us about the butchers in Pershore Market.  We paid a quick visit this morning and took his advice and bought hot roast belly pork for lunch. It was delish! We also bought some lamb sausages (never seen them before) which I’ve frozen for later and some hake steaks from the fishmonger. Hake always reminds me of holidays in France, poached and served with beurre blanc (butter) sauce. I’ll make it next week and share the recipe with you.

Morris dancers on Pershore High Street
It rained quite heavily overnight and until about 11.00 this morning but by the time we set off it was nice and sunny again, if a bit windy.  We saw the black swan again just past Osier Island and he followed us for a couple of hundred yards posing for the camera. What a beautiful bird.

Yesterday when we were at Fladbury Lock I noticed lots of signs all over the place.  “No swimming in the lock or in the lock entrance”  “Keep back from top gates as there is a risk of swamping your boat” (or similar wording) “All boats must be tied to bollards front and stern when emptying or filling the lock”.  When the empty lock was filling so we could go in, the rush of water through the top gates was ferocious so we were prepared to be very careful when going back up today. The lock approach coming upstream is very narrow and on a bend and just as we got there we saw someone in a wetsuit swimming by the lock landing. He saw us and got out of the water and walked up to the lock. He helped us empty the lock so that we could go in but then rushed to the top gate and started winding the paddle before Roger had even got against the lock side, never mind tied our ropes round the bollards. I had to scream at him TWICE to get him to stop. He said he was only going to open the paddle half way!!  If he’d done that he would have swamped our boat without a doubt. He got the message and disappeared, turning up again later in a coracle messing about near the weir. The man’s a numpty!

We’re moored back in Evesham in the same spot as Thursday night but we have a slight problem. Our River Avon licence, which was glued in the cratch window, has disappeared. It was there when we set off from Pershore and the cratch sides have been down all the time we were travelling but when I went to close up for the evening it had gone. Just the glue marks remain so we don’t know if it’s blown away, unlikely, or been nicked, again unlikely.  We’ll have to try and get a replacement as we’ve still got 10 days or so left.

Friday, 15 July 2011


This morning we did a bit of shopping in Evesham. I needed replacement cartridges for the printer and luckily there’s a branch of Cartridge World so we just got the empty ones refilled. I also needed some net curtain material to make a fly screen for the side hatch. We bought one from Aldi last year but it’s in 4 strips and the little blighters crawl in between the overlap. Hopefully I’ll be able to make something better.  The fabric I originally chose wasn’t available in the shortest drop so I had to buy longer fabric. I only needed 1 metre but when the man came to measure it for cutting he found there were only 3 meters left on the roll so gave me the extra for free. I love a bargain and I’ll post a photo of the finished blind sometime next week.

After lunch we carried on downstream towards Pershore.
At Osier’s Isle we rounded the bend and were stunned to see a black swan sitting on the bank. We’ve never seen one before and it was quite spectacular. According to Google they’re native to Australia and are the state bird of Western Australia. They were brought to the UK as ornamental birds like peacocks and golden pheasants. Like many other captive birds, they occasionally find their way out into the wild. Apparently this particular swan has been in the area for a while. You can read more about it HERE

A bit further along we came to the village of Wyre Piddle and passed a large house with a new thatched roof, complete with the thatcher’s trademark fox running along the ridge.

this was only a quarter of the roof!

Opposite Wyre Piddle is Tiddle Widdle Island, home to the micro-brewery which makes “Piddle in the Hole” ale.

Wyre Piddle on left, Tiddle Widdle Island on right bank

The last lock of the day was Wyre Lock which is the strangest shaped lock we’ve come across so far.

We’re now moored beside Pershore Recreation Ground with Asda and the market within sight.  It’s just started raining but it’s football practise night and there are lots of mad men in shorts either strutting and stretching or running around chasing a ball!

Thursday, 14 July 2011


Today we set off down river again towards Evesham.  I know I keep raving about it, but the River Avon is just SO beautiful.

We cruised through Bidford, through the narrow navigation arch of the single file road bridge and saw trout swimming around the bridge stanchions.  The water is just amazingly clear and in most places you can see the bottom and all the plants and fish. Unlike the canals we haven’t seen any rubbish either.

Every lock is dedicated to it’s benefactor and there are information boards telling you all sorts of things about the people who paid for the locks and the people who actually built them. Most of the time they seem to have been built by prisoners from the local jails or borstal. That’s what I call real community pay-back!

We’re now moored in Evesham and had a quick walk round the town this evening. Abbey Gardens are really pretty and were full of well behaved people having fun. The rowing club is opposite us and tonight must have been beginners night as the rowers didn’t have the same skill or speed as those we’d watched at Stratford.

The Natwest Bank - beautiful

Tree sculpture in Abbey Gardens - The Penny Whistle

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Barton Moorings

There’s a major draw-back to this marina. Limited internet reception and a phone signal that depends on which way the wind is blowing.

We’ve not done much today, just laundry, housework and a bit of gardening.  The roof garden is coming on a treat. The tomatoes are starting to ripen, we have one baby courgette and the herbs are growing like mad. The sun and warm temperatures are working their miracles but it’s St. Swithin’s Day on Friday so keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain.

tomatoes, basil & chives

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Into a marina

We’ve decided that we like the River Avon so much we’re going to stay a bit longer and explore the surrounding countryside. Free public moorings around here are usually only available for one night so we’ve booked into a small marina for a few days. I’m not too fond of marinas as I find it a bit claustrophobic being in between 2 other boats, but it’ll do for a short while.  As marinas go it’s actually quite nice. It’s recently been developed, is only small, has good facilities and so far everyone I‘ve met has been extremely friendly.

The only kitchen gadget I have on the boat is my Magi-mix ‘Le Micro’ mini food processor. I use it frequently for everything from making breadcrumbs to chopping onions.  I find it particularly good for using up leftovers and yesterday made these lamb rissoles from what was left after Sunday’s roast lamb dinner.

This is based on one of Delia Smith's recipes which I've been making for years. It actually came from Book One of her Cookery Course, which my mother-in-law gave me when we got married 32 years ago.  I've made it so often now that I don't weigh anything so I apologise if the quantities of ingredients is a bit vague.

Chop a small slice of bread into breadcrumbs and put in a mixing bowl.

Chop the leftover meat (lamb or beef) from the Sunday joint (in this case shoulder of lamb) and add to the mixing bowl.

Chop a sprig of rosemary, a clove of garlic and a handful of parsley and add to the bowl along with a beaten egg and salt and pepper.

Mix everything together, divide into 4 and squeeze into burgers.
Beat another egg in a bowl and put some flour into a separate bowl.
Dip each rissole first into the egg then into the flour to coat all over.

Fry gently for about 5 minutes on each side till golden and crispy and serve with leftover gravy and fresh veg. or as a burger in a bun.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Cruising again

It’s been wonderful to be moving again today. After a quick trip to Sainsbury’s to replenish the wine rack we set off downstream, passing Mr & Mrs AUK and cygnets on the way to the lock.

The first lock after Stratford is Colin P. Witter Lock, named after the man who helped pay for the restoration of the lock.  It’s heavily reinforced by a cage of steel girders and must surely be unique.

We moored for lunch at Stan Glover Lock at Luddington.  Just before we were ready to carry on three old steam boats came up out of the lock. They were a wonderful site, and smell, and moored up behind us to go for drinks in a friend’s garden.

The old chap with the whiskers was ever so posh. He said he liked our boat’s name and then said to Roger “so you’re the bounder then” can’t imagine why?  We met them again later as they were following us back downstream. They were a very “merry” bunch and helped with all the locks.

The weather has been warm and sunny, just perfect for a slow cruise down past some fantastic houses.

My favourite has to be this huge place, complete with it’s peacock sitting on the patio railings.

We’re now on the overnight moorings above Pilgrim Lock.  This was built by hand in 1970, by prisoners from Gloucester Jail and is built from reinforced concrete blocks.

Stratford was wonderful but this is where I prefer to moor, out in the countryside, all alone, with just the birdsong and rush of the weir to break to silence.

I've got it sussed!

I don’t normally post in the morning but I’ve got it sussed!  AUK, the cob swan, wasn’t chaperoning the flock of juvenile swans as I thought. He was keeping them away from his family.  He’d come up to the boat last evening when he heard me rattle the food box but I thought it was a bit strange as we were now moored about 200 yards down stream of the chain ferry and previously we’d been opposite the RSC Theatre. We’d not seen him go beyond the ferry before, in fact that was as far as he ever allowed the juveniles to go before chasing them back upstream.  As I was feeding him, out of the bushes opposite us came a pen (female swan) and 3 very young cygnets.

They also came over to be fed although the cygnets are still too young to eat the swan food and I had to give them bread. AUK heard a noise and set off back upstream at a fast pace and in full display mode just as a couple of the juveniles came into sight by the ferry. I’m so glad we stayed an extra night to see this. What a wonderful parent, poor thing must be shattered keep chasing 60 juveniles away from his family.  I hope they manage to keep the little ones safe until they too are almost fully grown juveniles and can join next years flock.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Messing about on the river - and a rant!

First of all I’d like to thank everyone who either left a comment, emailed privately or phoned us after we lost Charlie. We appreciated your messages very much.

I’d like to introduce you to ‘AUK’. This is the cob swan who supervises the jouvenile flock here in Stratford. AUK is the code on his leg ring. It seems he likes the floating duck and swan food that I’ve been giving him and came over every time I rattled the box.

Today we decided to go cruising for the first time since losing Charlie. The roof hatch was very empty but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Time heals.  We went upstream, through the two old bridges with their narrow arches and then to the limit of the navigation. There were lots of rowing boats and small motor boats filled with happy people having fun messing about on the river and we managed to steer our way through without any collisions.

Tramway Bridge with Clopton Bridge beyond

Once we got out of Stratford town, up towards Tiddington, the houses became more and more spectacular. We also passed a couple of caravan parks and a ‘Glamping’ park. It's the latest craze and you can find out more details HERE.


beautiful house built on stilts
Towards the limit of the navigation there were a couple of huge mansions with manicured gardens. I’d love to know who lives there, maybe someone famous?

When we got back into Stratford we moored on the water point to fill up before leaving tomorrow. The boat on the other side of the water point is just the type of boater who brings narrow boaters into disrepute and I would willingly have reported him if I knew who to report to.  We watched in disbelief as he dipped his diesel tank with a stick and then rinsed it off in the river. Then he topped up the tank from a can and spilt a load of diesel into the river. He knew what he’d done and started his engine, running it in gear and wafting the rudder about trying to disperse the diesel slick and send it downstream so someone else would get the blame. He didn’t even have the decency to get the washing up liquid out to help disperse the slick which drifted right across the river.  It was only the other day that I’d commented to someone just how amazingly clean the river is here. Despite the number of hire boats and trip boats we hadn’t seen any sign of floating rubbish or diesel in the water, until he came that is! It wasn’t a tatty old boat either, just someone with total disregard for the environment.