Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Stratford Upon Avon

Today we decided to go and visit the local tourist spot and walked into Wilmcote to visit Mary Arden's House and Farm.

This is where William Shakespeare grew up and was well worth the visit. The buildings date from the 1500’s and there are plenty of ‘working’ exhibits. There was a cookery demonstration in the kitchens, joinery demo’s, candle making and much more.

candle making

A school party was having a day out and all the children were dressed in clothing from the period.  The best part for me were the kitchen and herb gardens and I could just picture myself living there and being self sufficient, although I didn’t fancy the outside toilet!

the outside loo

The outdoor bread oven brought back memories of the indoor pizza oven at The Baths Hotel in Macclesfield where we spent many a happy Thursday evening over the winter.

The locks down to Stratford Upon Avon were quite difficult as the paddle gear is very jerky to wind and the gates swing an awful lot. The worst one of all is just before you reach Bancroft Basin in the town centre. The lock beam is L-shaped and not substantial enough to open or close the gates easily. It took both of us to do it which is not good.

We’re now moored on the river near to Keith and Bronwyn who have the 21st boat we built, called ‘Kotuku’ (after a native New Zealand bird, not the computer game) . It was too late to take my usual photo of the moorings as we were too busy catching up and supping bubbly! Oh it’s a hard life but someone has to do it.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


The Mallard’s breeding season must be just about over as the males are starting to look decidedly scruffy as they go into their eclipse phase, when they look almost identical to the females.

At least one male has still been active however as we saw a female brooding her newly hatched ducklings on the towpath.

We walked back to Yew Tree Farm this morning. It’s more of a craft centre than a farm shop with small designer shops selling everything from garden furniture & flowers to lingerie and second hand books.

The log store is huge but I don't think they'll be selling many at this time of year.

The food shop had a few fresh veg & home baked loaves but mainly sold expensive jars of preserves, local cheeses & bacon. We bought a very nice pork pie for lunch and then reversed back onto the aqueduct to change one of the gas bottles which ran out last night. We seem to be averaging around 8 weeks per gas bottle which seems very reasonable to me seeing that I cook most days and make all our bread and cakes too.

This was a perfect photo opportunity and I was despatched down onto the road to take a few snaps.

After changing the gas we carried on slowly down Bearley Lock and then over Edstone Aqueduct which is 200 yards long and takes you across the valley, with the railway and road below.

We’re now moored at Wilmcote and as usual we were lucky to get possibly the last spot. We're just beside an overgrown footpath with a sign I have never come across before.

It’s very busy here with lots of boats queuing ready to go down the next 11 locks. We keep hearing from boats going the other way that Stratford Basin and river moorings are full, but hopefully as we've pre-booked for the festival we should be OK. I want to have a look round Wilmcote tomorrow and then we’ll probably move on later in the afternoon after the morning rush for the locks.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Henley-in-Arden & Wootton Wawen

Last night while we were watching TV we kept hearing an owl hooting. Just as dusk started falling we saw it flying low over the field opposite our mooring. I’ve never seen a barn owl flying in the wild before and wish I could have photographed it as it was magnificent.

here's one I took earlier, (at Leicester festival)
This morning we took the shopping trolley and walked the 1 ½ miles to Henley-in-Arden. It took 35 minutes being mostly uphill and the path isn’t really suitable for the trolley but it was definitively worth the effort. The High Street is almost a mile long and has over 150 listed buildings some of which are so old you wonder how they manage to stay standing.

The Guild Hall & St. John’s Church

We had lunch in the White Swan pub which is very swish inside with timber beams and plenty of reinforcing steelwork holding the brickwork together. The Cornish Doom Bar beer was excellent, as were the salads.

After lunch we did a bit of grocery shopping at the Co-op and got a taxi (only £4) back to the boat before setting off again towards Wootton Wawen.

Some days I wonder what on earth I can write about as surely nothing new can happen. Well that wasn’t the case today as we've had a pump-out in the most unusual place you could think of. The pump-out station and water point at the Anglo Welsh hire boat centre at Wootton Wawen are right on the aqueduct that crosses the main road and to use either you have to block the canal.

Luckily there weren’t any boats wanting to cross while we had the tank emptied, which was done by a very friendly young man who also lives on a boat and therefore knows how a pump-out and efficient rinse out should be done. £16 well spent.

We’re now moored up for the night just past the aqueduct and have been for a walk round the village. There’s a large farm shop which we’ll visit tomorrow as it was too late this evening.

click on the photo to enlarge & see what's here

We paid a quick visit to the Navigation pub which is canal-side by Anglo Welsh and Chico hid under the garden bench waiting for a passing dog to ambush, he was fastened up of course but that didn't stop him hoping.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Preston Bagot

Wow what a day! It must have been the hottest day of the year so far, the thermometer on the roof box got up to 48’C and it’s still showing 39’C at 7.15pm.  We stayed at Lowsonford while Roger watched the Spanish Grand Prix. TV and internet are OK there but we didn’t have a strong enough Orange signal to use the phone for a couple of days, although texts did work. Charlie wouldn’t stay in the shade of the parasol and was very restless again today so we walked very slowly to the lock and back a few times to try and keep him calm. He met a spaniel bitch in season and got a bit excited. There’s life in the old dog yet!

As it was such a hot breezy day I did a couple of loads of washing which had dried by the time the GP had finished so we set off again for a nice leisurely afternoon cruise down to Preston Bagot where we are now moored for the night.

Just before Lock 34, Bucket Lock, we had to cross Yarningale Aqueduct. This is a short iron aqueduct which was built to replace a wooden one which was washed away by floods in 1834.

Before we could come out of Lock 35 we had to rescue an old working butty (cargo boat without an engine, pulled by a boat with an engine, like a trailer) that was floating free across the canal. Luckily the bye-wash helped push it back over to the towpath so we could grab a rope and haul it in to tie it up to the mooring bollards.

This section of the canal is particularly beautiful, more so today with the sun streaming through the trees.

You definitely have to be minted to live around here. Some of the lock cottages and canal side houses are fantastic. My favourite has to be Preston Bagot Lock Cottage, although to call it a cottage is a bit fanciful. It even has a fully glazed observatory in the roof!

This car was hanging in the trees 20ft off the ground just a bit further up the canal from Preston Bagot Lock.

We intended having a cool pint in the local pub, The Crabmill, before dinner tonight but it was closed. A passing local told us it doesn’t open on Sunday evenings and no longer serves any food. It was a popular destination as 2 hire boats also moored up intending to go for dinner but instead had to turn round and go back to Wooten Wawen. Amended Monday - another example of not trusting locals, the pub was open when we passed on the way to Henley-in-Arden today and IS still serving food. The pub looks very nice inside and the menu looked good, if a bit pricey.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Another rant!

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not against old working boats. After all if it weren’t for them there wouldn’t be any canals and no wonderful way of life for us. What I do have a problem with, as I’ve said before, is the idiots who think they are proper working boatmen but can’t control these giants unless they are going in a straight line at a steady pace.

I was sitting on the back deck this evening brushing Chico when I heard this thump-thump engine coming up the lock and then accelerating at a fair old wack coming towards us. It was a “camping boat”, an old working boat with what looks like nissen huts for a cabin and now takes paying 'guests'. There were 2 young men and 2 young women sitting on the roof sipping their drinks and the steerer shouted to me “I say, would you mind awfully fendering us off while I try to moor up”. I kid you not, this was a posh bloke!  This is while his wopping great un-fendered bow was coming closer and closer to our cabin sides and the 4 ‘crew’ stayed sitting on the roof oblivious to what was going on.

The steerer then shouted to people sitting in the pub garden asking if they would pull him over and threw his rope without giving them chance to reply. He had no control of his boat in reverse and without the people yanking on his mooring rope he couldn’t have stopped in time to not ram us.  I stood on the gunwales and pushed him off but I can guarantee that had we not been onboard he would have rammed us and done a considerable amount of damage as no-one on board his boat had any consideration for us or had any intention of doing anything to avoid a collision.  After a couple of drinks in the beer garden they cast off and carried on up to the next lock and beyond, almost colliding with another moored boat on their way.

Perfect Pies

Today’s blog is specially for my favourite “pie-monster” Martin.

Purely in the name of research on Martin’s behalf, we had lunch in the Fleur de Lys. You can view the menu HERE

They claim to be the home of pies and with a choice of 8 (including 2 vegetarian) plus a special ‘pie of the day’ that is certainly the case.  We couldn’t decide which ones to have, so after a starter of really well kept Abbot and Otter ales we ordered one Chicken of Aragon and one Matador to have half each of both.

At first sight the meals seemed a bit expensive at £10.45 for pie & chips but what a pie! The portion size was just right, the chips were really nice and the mixed veg (carrots, leeks and cabbage) were perfectly cooked too, not hard and undercooked as is so often the case in pubs. This all came with a couple of jugs of very tasty gravy which really made the meal.  The chicken pie was succulent and packed with large plump chunks of chicken, smoky bacon & tarragon. The Matador pie was full of  tender beef, chorizo, green olives and butter beans. It was hard to decide which was best and sharing half and half was definitely a good idea.

2 empty plates says it all!

For desert I had Summer Pudding with ice cream, purely in the name of research you understand, and again it was really good.

This is a pub restaurant I can heartily recommend and we will definitely be stopping here again, after all there are still many more pies to sample.

The live staff were a bit younger,
very friendly and efficient too

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Stratford Canal

It rained last night, so heavy that the canal looked like it was boiling. Just as suddenly as it had started it stopped and we were left with a fantastic double rainbow that started on the pub opposite and went right over the canal. As usual the photos don’t do it justice.

We had a very peaceful night with Charlie and all slept in till late so we didn’t start moving again until 1.00.  We turned into Kingswood Junction, through the well bashed bridge and through a very narrow link onto the Stratford Canal.

After the wide Grand Union Canal and the very wide locks it all seemed just a bit too narrow. Would we fit?

We soon got used to it again and carried on down past beautiful barrel-roof lock cottages 

and under the M40 which was very noisy and the traffic was almost at a stand still.

bottom gates are almost impossible to close - needs a man's touch
We finally moored for the night opposite the Fleur de Lys pub. They’re famous for their pies and we intend having lunch there tomorrow, just to check out the place for a very good 'pie-loving' friend of ours.

One of the lock cottages had bird boxes dotted about, both on the side of the cottage and in the trees beside the lock. They were all made from recycled footwear, old work boots and wellies.