Tuesday, 31 July 2012


Whenever I bring out the Flapjacks at boat gatherings I'm always asked for the recipe. It seems male boaters particularly like them and I've even had a couple of orders for "take-away" recently.

Here's the recipe.  It's a bit lower on sugar than I used to make and is full of fruit, nuts and seeds so is high in fibre too.

5 oz. (150g) butter or margerine
3oz (85g) sugar (I used soft brown this time but dark brown gives a nice fudgey flavour)
4 tablespoons golden syrup
10oz (275g) porridge oats
4 oz (115g) raisins or sultanas
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 oz (25g) flaked almonds
1 oz (25g) sunflower seeds

Preheat the oven to 180'C / 350'F / Gas 4 (I use Gas 5 in my boat oven)

Weigh the butter, sugar and syrup straight into a large pan and bring to the boil over a low heat, stirring well until the butter and sugar have melted.

Take off the heat and cool for a bit while you line a small roasting tin with non-stick baking paper.

Weigh the porridge oats, nuts, seeds and raising into a jug and then add to the mixture in the pan. There's no need to use a separate mixing bowl and it saves on washing up.

Tip the mixture into the lined tin and press down, making sure you pack it well into the corners.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes till golden brown.  This gives a moist squidgy flapjack but if you prefer them firmer just cook for another 10 minutes.

When they're cooked leave them to cool in the tin.  Using the baking paper, lift the slab of flapjack out of the tin onto a chopping board and using a sharp knife cut into 12 pieces.

If you have to store them in 2 layers in the tin I suggest you put a sheet of non-stick paper between the layers to stop them sticking together although if you're anything like us, they won't last long enough to stick together.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

Edstone Aqueduct

Well we're back here again, at Edstone Aqueduct.  We moored here about a month ago, on the way down to Stratford and liked it so much we've stopped here again.

There aren't many walkers, which means there aren't many dogs, which means we can safely let Chico out of the boat off the lead. With all the tourists and dogs in Stratford he was getting a bit stressed out, but it's peaceful here and he's chilled out nicely. We've been for a few long walks and have been able to let him off the lead to have a good mooch and sniff about.  The training sessions we had at Chirk in the spring are really working and it's now actually a pleasure to take him for a walk. As soon as we spot another dog he goes back on the lead. As soon as he spots the other dog he signals to us that he's scared and we pick him up and walk past the dog. As soon as we're past the dog we put him back down and he runs away from the dog.  He doesn't even bark at them any more let alone try and fight, so I'd say that's a huge improvement, wouldn't you?

The canal's been quite busy today with plenty of hire boats and day boats, all packed to capacity.

Along with 22 million other viewers, we watched the Olympics opening ceremony on TV last night.  I was ready to sit there and criticise it, but was pleasantly surprised at just how good it was. The sheer scale of the organisation and logistics were phenomenal.  I really enjoyed Mr Bean's orchestral performance and whoever came up with the idea of the James Bond and the Queen jumping out of the helicopter was just a genius! I hope she was amused by it too.

Friday, 27 July 2012

The sun has got his hat on.......and it's HOT!!!

Our next door neighbour in Bancroft Basin was a 26 year old boat called Black Adder. It's owner was a nice guy who told me it was his third boat and that he was very proud of having fitted it out himself, from new, but also didn't mind admitting that it still wasn't finished.  Although it was a fairly short boat at 45ft it had a boatman't back cabin with a beautiful boatman's stove.  He told me it isn't a traditional boatman's stove, is called a Queen Ann stove and has a triangular shaped back to it. It was originally designed to be fitted into a covered wagon used by American settlers heading East along the wagon trail. I wouldn't like to use it as it has an open grate and I'm not really into the old traditional style narrowboats, but this stove was truly beautiful to look at.

One of the nice things about living on the boat is that wherever we go we have our own "private" garden, with someone else to do all the maintenance, lawn mowing etc. Sometimes that garden is just a bit of grass and wild flowers, other times it's somewhere as beautiful as Bancroft Basin .

not sure what these are called but they were pretty spectacular

Clematis "Jacmanii"  we had this all over the
fence at our house

just one of the many Lavender bushes

giant Thistles

a Thistle flower

There were also many, many Lilies dotted about. Thankfully they weren't very scented as the smell gives me instant migraine. It also reminds me of funerals, so while they are beautiful they're not my favourite flower.

There's a separate formal herb garden containing fennel, thymes, feverfew etc. etc. and every section of the garden has Rosemary bushes.

We left the basin about 10.00 and had a slow trip up the 16 locks to moor at Wilmcote.  It was an eventful trip as the pounds between locks were very low due to the amount of boat traffic and with most of the boats being hirers they din't have a clue about managing the water levels.  The BW (sorry CaRT) man came out at the 4th lock to let water down the flight before we could continue.  It hadn't been helped by one of the hire boats in front of us refusing point blank to lower paddles or shut gates.  The skipper actually got quite "arsey" when asked to do it and we thought a fight was going to break out.  He must have been late returning the boat as he overtook an elderly couple in a brand new boat in one of the shallow pounds, grounding them on the mud. We had to let a couple of lock-fulls of water down and tow them off.  Once they were floating again they followed us up the locks but were dreadfully slow. They had absolutely no idea how to work locks and neither of them was physically fit enough to open the gates so the boat following them had to do all the work for them, just to keep the queue moving.

The sun beat down all day and it was a bit hot to be working 16 locks in 3 miles, but there was a nice breeze blowing and we swapped over every couple of locks. All in all we really enjoyed our day and moored at Wilmcote for the night.  Late in the evening we took Chico out for a nice cool walk and went up to Mary Arden's Farm.  We visited it last year and you can see the photos HERE. I was quite disappointed at the state of the cottage garden in front of the house. It was full of weeds and looked rather neglected. It had been my favourite part of the farm last year.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

It's a bit hot!

I keep upsetting my mother and my daughter. They live up North and every time I've spoken to them recently it's been raining, whereas here in Stratford it's been gorgeous weather. I'm not complaining, but I'd like it just a little cooler tomorrow please as we're heading back up the Stratford Canal and those locks will be hard work if it's still as hot.

Our neighbours have been a lovely German family on an old hire boat. They've been making the most of the sunshine by eating all their meals picnic style on the roof.

Earlier in the afternoon another hire boat tried to turn round in the basin and ended up ramming them so hard the cabin side was dented.  The 2 boats swapped details and Stefan asked us to be a witness, just in case the hire firm tried to with-hold his deposit.

It's been interesting watching the antics of some boaters round here.  One guy came up out of the lock at full throttle, heading for the low bridge out of the basin and rocking all the moored boats as he passed.  He was still going quite fast as he ripped his chimney off.  That took the smug look off his face pretty quickly, I can tell you.  Another boat arrived through the bridge with a child lying on the roof. There was only a couple of inches clearance but they didn't seem to think it a problem.

You can see that the recession is taking it's toll on businesses here in Stratford as there are lots of empty shops and the ones that remain open are all having sales.  Neither of us are particularly fond of clothes shopping but we found the perfect T-shirt for Roger today in the "Old Guys Rule" shop.

That's him down to a tee, but he keeps insisting he's too young to wear it.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Stratford upon Avon

We're having a great time here in Stratford. It has to be one of my favourite places to stay, there's so much going on and most of it's free.

Because it's a major tourist destination it's very busy during the day and there are buskers and street entertainers everywhere.  There's everything you could wish to see and hear, including a classical cello duo, classical electric guitarist, violinist, saxophonist, steel drums, children's balloonist and a sword swallowing juggler on a unicycle. They're all very talented too.

Yesterday was extremely hot and once we'd had a trip to Morrisons to stock up we spent most of the day sat on the back deck soaking up the sun and watching the world go by.  It was so hot and sunny and with the mix of foreign languages of the tourists, we could have been in the south of France rather than central England.

We were enjoying an after-dinner drink on the back deck last evening when we heard a girl singing down by the lock.  She sounded very good so we walked over to watch. She had a beautiful voice and was accompanied by an extremely tattooed guy on the bongo drums.

When we arrived, there were about 30 people sat around listening to her but no-one showed any appreciation.  We soon changed that though and started clapping when she finished her song. The guy was shocked and thanked us, saying that it was the first time they'd had any applause. Once the audience got the message, they started clapping too and as the duo warmed to the encouragement they just got better and better.........and the tips they were getting as people left were getting better too. We stayed for half an hour, dropped a few pound coins in the hat and went back to sit and listen on the boat. It'll be interesting to see what mix of entertainment we have around the Basin today, I'll try and remember the camera today and show you later.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

It's Green for GO!

Do you remember me telling you our level marker was the tyre hanging across the river?  Well when we opened the blinds at 7.00 this morning it was finally out of the water which meant that the level was low enough for us to safely move.

Sure enough, the river level had dropped about a foot overnight and was back in the green.

Yesterday a couple arrived from Evesham on a brand new boat and we decided to travel back to Stratford together setting off around 9.00.

The current was still quite strong and in a few places it slowed us right down, but we hadn't realised just how strong it was until we got to Welford Lock.  We had to moor on the lock landing while 3 plastic cruisers came down the lock and our new friends breasted up against us to wait.

You can see the lock on the left and the weir on the right. These two photos show the force of the current, can you see the waves?

There were people from the Avon Trust at the lock and they told me we had to be careful untying our ropes, to make sure we cast off the stern rope before the centre rope.  They were advising us to do this as a few years ago a guy had cast off his bow rope leaving the stern attached and the current had grabbed him, spinning his boat around.  He'd tried to hold the stern rope but the current was too strong and he ended up having 3 fingers severed and his boat sunk!  Needless to say we were all very careful.

Just as we were about to go into the lock another narrowboat arrived.  He was singlehanding and instead of coming over to the lock landing he kept over the other side of the river.  The current caught his bow and spun him around in a matter of seconds!  There was no possibility of him turning round again so the guys at the lock had to grap his ropes, help him over to the lock landing and then they were going to help him reverse into the lock, go up backwards and turn above the weir.  It just goes to show that even though the river level is in the green, you have to be very careful near weirs!

Further up-stream we came across this fallen tree which wasn't there 3 weeks ago before the floods and would have made a real mess of the paintwork if we'd got too close.

There are some fantastic houses beside the river.  This is just one of them.

When we finally got to Stratford upon Avon the river was chaotic with loads of canoes, rowing boats and punts.  It took us ages to get up to Bancroft Lock, dodging holiday makers as we went.

Since we left at the beginning of July, the local Council have brought in mooring charges on the Recreation Field moorings. It's now £5 a night.  As we passed one boat, he shouted to us that Bancroft Basin was full but when we got in there were actually 6 spaces so that's were we're stopping for a couple of days.

Since we moored up we've talked to several boaters who we'd seen down at Bidford and who hadn't waited for green but who had gone while the level was still in the red.  Without exception they all had horror stories to tell and everyone said they wished they'd waited. I'm SO glad we waited the extra day.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Floods Day 14

Well we're still here!  We had two really heavy thunder storms on Wednesday evening and overnight the level rose back up another 15 ins.

Four more boats arrived late afternoon so all the moorings are now full. One boat had a really hard time mooring up as the current was so strong.  We spoke to him later and he told us he'd had a "tricky time" at one of the locks. He'd come out of the shelter of the lock cut into the main stream and the current was so strong he'd started going backwards towards the weir. He also admitted he was having problems with his engine.  Why on earth would anyone attempt a river in flood with a dodgy engine?

This afternoon I talked to one of the men working for the Avon Navigation Trust and he told me about the antics of one boat that had passed us going down-stream about half an hour previously.  He'd watched this boat trying to get out of the current into the lock cut at Barton Lock. They ended up going sideways.  He said he couldn't believe anyone would travel in these conditions but was powerless to stop them.

Shortly after that, a boat came up-stream and pulled up alongside us so that the crew could nip into the village for a paper.  Talking to the skipper it became obvious that he was fairly inexperienced and he told us about a few "hairy moments" he'd had since leaving Evesham. I told him I thought he was mad and he asked why?  When I mentioned the fact that you're not supposed to travel when the markers are on red (and at that point they were 2ft 6in in the red) he looked totally bemused, looked up towards the bridge and asked if I thought he'd get through it.  I asked him if he realised his insurance was invalid if he had an accident and he had no idea!

This morning (Friday) the river's dropped a bit again. Our current level guide is this tyre on the wall opposite us.  When it's just clear of the water the level will be back in the orange and we can go, so it'll be a while yet.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Floods Day 13

Just a quickie to say that we're still stuck here in Bidford on Avon. The river level's started going down and we now have dry(ish) land at the side of the boat.  The marker's still about a foot in the red but boats have begun coming past, even though they're uninsured and really struggling against the current.
We're hoping the level will continue to drop and that by tomorrow morning it'll be back in the amber and we can set off towards Stratford upon Avon.  We need to get back to Manchester ASAP but even putting in 7 hour cruising days it'll take us 11 days so the sooner we can go the better.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Floods Day 10

The heavy rain that had been forecast for the Midlands certainly affected the river level during Saturday night as when we got up on Sunday morning the base plank was under water. That's the 3rd step which was also covered about an hour later.

This level was about the peak. Compare it with the mooring photo above and it may give you some idea of the scale of the flooding here.

These 3 guys turned up late morning looking like they were going to do some serious canoeing.

It was quite entertaining watching them trying to get down the bank into the water, although we soon realised they didn't have a clue what they were doing. Only one of them had been canoeing before and they had no comprehension of how strong the current would be.

The one clinging onto the mooring pole was petrified.  He'd never been in a canoe before, let alone on a river......and he couldn't swim either!  At least he was wearing a life jacket.  Once he managed to pluck up the courage to let go of the pole the current took him racing down river past our boat, while his mates tried to teach him how to use his paddle.  He got about 100 yards and bottled out, managed to get the canoe into the bushes and get out.  His mates paddled about for a bit but decided the current was too much for them and left about half an hour later.

This steam engine went past later in the afternoon.

This is the bridge-hole you use to go through Bidford bridge. The level's so high a narrowboat wouldn't be able to get through at the moment, even if they could fight the torrential current that's raging through it.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Necessity is the mother of invention - Floods Day 9

The river level continues to rise, will it never end?  It's risen 2ft today and is now up above the second step.

Our neighbours have had enough and have booked into a local B&B, lending us their plank whilst they're away which makes it a bit easier getting off. It's fastened to the old mooring sign in case the level rises further and tries to wash it away. Chico's struggling a bit as he can't walk down the gunwale to the plank and it's too far for him to jump to the bank.  We're having to put him on the roof so he can walk to a point where we can lift him down onto the plank and then off.  He's not a happy bunny I can tell you!

This is the water tap beside the boat. We made sure to fill up before it totally disappears. (in the time it's taken to down-load the photos and write this blog, the tap's been totally covered. That's how fast it's rising!! )

The house opposite must have a flooded cellar as bottom of this door is now 6ins below the surface.

The current is running much faster and there's plenty of flotsam coming down the river.  Large rafts of reeds

and even a tree.  It looks smaller in the photo than real life and would give you a nasty bang if it hit you at this speed.

I'm still making baby shoes but I think she's now got enough so I'll have to find another project to keep me occupied until we can set off on our travels again.  The good thing with these little baby things is that they're using up all my odds and ends of wool.

ladybird shoes

baby 'UGGS'

Friday, 13 July 2012

The water's rising again!

The water level's up and down like a bride's nightie!  When we went to bed last night this tyre was only just touching the water. By the time we got up this morning it was half submerged

and 2 hours later it was almost totally under.

Two of the other boats left this morning, despite the marker being back well into the red.  One boat had gone by the time I got up and the other left as soon as the rain stopped. I'm sure people are getting complacent about the state of the river and after lunch we decided to walk down to Marcliff Lock which is the next one down river, about a mile from here, to see just what the conditions were like and see if we were being overly cautious.

 This is the safety boom across the weir.

The marker board is 2ft in the red.

The lock landing bollards are completely submerged

I reckon it would be a bit tight getting through the lock bridge with the level being up so much.

When we got back from our walk the level had risen another 4 ins and had started coming over the bank.

Half an hour later, when I got back from the supermarket, I had to paddle to get back onboard.

We're now back to walking the plank

At least we could get off to go and sit in the sunshine at one of the many picnic tables in the park beside the mooring.

Currently the level is rising at about 2ins an hour and Radio 2 have just forecast severe thunderstorms in the midlands tonight. As this is where the source of the River Avon is that'll mean more flooding down here tomorrow, no doubt.  It's a good job Bidford on Avon is such a nice village, we may be here for a while yet.