Crick Boat Show

Visited Crick Boat Show yesterday (by car) under threatening skies but the weather managed to stay dry.

There were the usual trade stands but each year there is always something new to see. This year's upcoming accessories trend appears to be LED lighting. Most of the chandlers, and many of the smaller accessories companies, were offering them. Last year I replaced a number of incandescent lamps on Albert with LEDs but I am waiting for the day when a replacement for the 2D fluorescent tubes in Albert's main lights is offered; that will significantly reduce our energy use. I notice that one company is already offering LED replacements for straight tubes. I hope it won't be long before the range is extended.

Dark clouds over Crick Show

We also visited some of the antique dealers and craft stalls at the show. It was good to see that Lockside Antiques were back at the show. Maggie just had to purchase a brass scoop. I gather it will be used for flowers. I resisted buying yet another brass knob.

On another antique stand (Phil Dovetil) I found a magnificent Polesworth (Lees & Atkins) back cabin door panel. It had been sold for £350 so it was going back home to Polesworth. I gather the new owner appeared to know how important the panel is - that's why he paid the price. It appears that the panel was discovered at Charity Dock. Good to see it's going to a good home.

Back cabin door panels from Lees & Atkins, Polesworth

On the boat front, this year's offerings appeared to be more up market than of recent and also there were a number of traditionally inspired boats. Steve Hudson even had a seventy-footer with accommodation under cloths. One boat builder had decided that false rivets were important and had them "in spades" all along the cabin sides but with none on the hull - the usual location.

False rivets along a cabin side

Although there were big queues for most of the new boats, with appointments required, the small number of historic boats were quiet.

Queuing for the Barnowl Narrowboats exhibit

We briefly looked over President & Kildare but had a long chat to Sean on Laplander - the 1830s Birmingham Canal icebreaker now converted to steam. Evidently the sockets for the mast, which is where the crew held on to provide the rocking motion to break ice, are still to be seen below the floorboards. We first saw Laplander in the mid 1990s when we were on our way up the Hatton flight. As we entered a lock she was leaving and gave us a friendly toot on the steam whistle.

Ice Breaker Laplander

The steam engine on Laplander

Laplander has a riveted iron hull that is not symmetrical and is powered by a Clarkson boiler and Bailey single-cylinder engine with slip-eccentric reverse direct-driving a 24” x 48” propeller. Cruising speed is only 200 rpm. She burns oil and has a small pre-heater/boiler in the back cabin for starting. Water is fed from the canal. Sean recalled that in the late 1990s the heavy duckweed infestation on the North Oxford caused him great difficulties. We remember how bad it was around Ansty and Newbold and how for weeks afterwards we found remnants on the weed in our front gas locker. Our discussions concerned how Laplander was converted to steam and how she is not symmetrical. Because she has a pointed counter she needs a series of anti-cavitation plates below the water.

This was my first post with photos from my new Nokia N8 phone which replaces my trusty, but now slightly battered, Nokia N95. With an impressive 12 mega pixel camera, that also has HD video, my first impressions are positive. I resisted the temptation to go towards iPhone on the basis that, above all, I love having a good camera always in my pocket.

To Yardley Gobion

Over Thursday & Friday we moved Albert from Braunston back to Yardley Gobion. When I say "we" this time instead of the usual crew it was Andrew Foster (our son-in-law), his dad Ray and me. It was the Fosters first time as crew so the first lock in the Braunston flight was a learning experience. The photos in this post are all from Andrew.

The weather was kind to us. Once again we met Bob Doyle - this time he was power washing the hull of NB Moriarty at the dry dock alongside the Bottom Lock.


Steve with Ray Foster

At the Bottom Lock we were joined by NB Calypso. They had an experienced crew which helped us go up the flight efficiently, setting the locks ahead. It turned out that the owner of Calypso was putting her up for sale at Whilton Marina after boat owning for some 25 years. It was therefore no problem entering locks as a pair.

With NB Calypso Braunston Flight

Passing NB Rowan in Braunston Tunnel

The Eastern Portal of Braunston Tunnel

Having gone up the Braunston flight with Calypso we decided to stay with them down the Buckby flight. All went smoothly and we moored up for lunch at Whilton. As we had lunch we witnessed Richard Saillet getting into the canal to help fix the rudder of his boat. It appears a hirer had knocked the rudder stock out of the skeg and not let on when returning it. Richard noticed the problem when he saw that they had wrapped rope tightly around bottom of the tiller - presumably in an effort to keep the rudder under control. I gather it was quite cold in the water!

Mending a rudder by getting in the water!

Getting dark near Gayton

We moored up for the night at Stoke Bruerne at 8:30 and just managed to get into The Boat for last food orders.

Departing Stoke Bruerne

On Friday we went down the Stoke Flight with NB Glis Glis. They were very experienced having boated for around 35 years, picking up IWA Silver Shields as hirers along the way. They were on their way to The Tideway. However, the trip down the flight was slow because in front of us was a fibreglass broad beam boat with a novice crew who didn't set the locks ahead.

Ray Foster filling Stoke Bruerne Top Lock

With NB Glis Glis at Stoke Bruerne

We arrived "home" at Yardley Gobion and met Brian & Irene our neighbours on NB Rangitoto who had just arrived from Wellington, New Zealand. Good to see them and enjoy a chat.

In praise of short boats

I've been photographing quite a few short narrowboats recently. They appear fun. After we moored up in Braunston recently the first Sea Ottter, NB Marionette, went by. I just couldn't resist snapping this delightful boat on my old Nokia N95.

Chatting to the owners and designers, Marion & Mike Kelly, they filled me on the detail of how they were involved with the boat's construction 15 years ago. The Sea Otter story was recorded by Graham Booth for Waterways World a few years ago.

I must admit I can see the rationale for the trailable short boats. The larger Sea Otters unfortunately leave me cold.

Marionette looked immaculate and is a credit to her owners. As the first of a now extensive range of water-ballasted alluminium boats she will no doubt be a classic boat of the future.

Lazy Cow, Warwick

Whilst moored up in Warwick we spent two Friday nights at the Lazy Cow in Theatre Steet. We can throughly recommend this interesting modern take on the steakhouse concept. As the strapline on their flyer says "Town house meets steak house meets cocktail club - Grace Kelly meets Lady Gaga"!

It is quite original. The food is excellent, their ales are good, they have an extensive wine list and it is very popular. For lively dining you can't go wrong but don't go there for a quiet intimate meal. It's not cheap but then quality of the food makes it good value for money. They do have a set two course meal for £10.50 (early evening Monday - Friday) but then you will probably be attracted to the steaks!

Last Friday's Blackboard Invitation - Maggie unfortunately didn't take up their offer!


Over the weekend we moved Albert from our temporary base in Saltisford towards our home base at Yardley Gobion. This first step was a trip to Braunston.

Our mooring at Saltisford

We left bright and early, stopping for a pump-out at Saltisford and fuel at Kate Narrowboats. At Cape Locks we passed another Albert moored up by the pub. In contrast with recent weather it was dull for most of the day.

Another Albert

The section from Leamington, from the Fusilier pub to Radford Bottom Lock, was very sluggish again. Just before Radford we were caught up by a following boat who accused us of going too slowly! I did point out that I thought it was the lack of dredging and that we had the same problem going in the other direction. Certainly another deep-draughted boat passing us in the other direction had similar problems.

Bascote Locks with threatening dark clouds

Great little boat

We moored overnight at the Blue Lias. This time because of the weather it was relatively quiet and all diners were inside. There was a wedding party in the events area which appeared to slow down the food service in the bar.

Warwickshire Fly Boat Company

The next morning we joined up with NB Kate Elizabeth (from Kate Boats at Warwick) and went up the Stockton flight very efficiently. It was their crews first experience of entering locks side-by-side. The weather improved as we got to Calcutt where were had complicated locking. The back-pumping system was playing up (the electric motors were drawing too much current and were in danger of overheating) so the lock keeper was ensuring that all boats shared locks. In our case we met a boat at the first lock who stopped for diesel at the first pound but then joined another boat who just left their mooring in the first pound.

Stockton Flight

Steam Tug Adamant

Tug Ruislip

Calcutt Locks

We managed a stop at Flecknoe for lunch and made Braunston by late afternoon in somewhat brighter weather. We also managed to moor up close to the pub - The Boathouse formerly the Millhouse formerly the .... etc. As usual we enjoyed a 2 for 1 meal.

The mobile reception (from 02) was even worse than normal. We must get a SIM from another provider just for Braunston!

Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton

Last weekend, from our base on Albert at Saltisford in Warwick, we visited Wightwick Manor a National Trust Property near Wolverhampton. As enthusiasts for Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite Art we had wanted to visit this property for some time. Also, some boating friends, who live in Wolverhampton, had recommended it to us for some years - they moor their boat close to the manor and visit it regularly.

The house, with its William Morris interiors, is a late Victorian treasure. Built in the ‘Old English’ style for local industrialist Theodore Mander, Wightwick Manor is considered one the best surviving examples of a home furnished under the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement. There is currently a special exhibition celebrating 150 years of Morris and Co. and the rich interiors feature artwork by Rossetti and Burne-Jones, glass by Charles Kempe and ceramics by William de Morgan.

During our tour of the house the excellent guide told us about the ITV programme (broadcast last weekend) where Andrew Lloyd Webber describes his passion for Pre-Raphaelite Art and visits the house.

Wightwick Manor featured heavily in the programme and Lloyd Webber describes how is "blown away" by the house which he visited for first time for the programme. He describes the house as being "extraordinary" and "about a family's passion for Victorian Art". We can concur - it is fabulous.

Photography is not allowed in the property so I haven't any images from inside the house. However, the gardens are also very fine with lots of yew hedges and secluded areas. It looked glorious in the sun.

Wightwick Manor

Bug "Home"

Well-Clipped Hedges

Wonderful Wisteria

Bluebell Glade in the late afternoon sun

The Lake

Wightwick lies just above the Staffs & Worcester Canal at Bridge 56. It is close to the Mermaid Tavern. You shouldn't miss it.

NB Harnser

Whilst Albert was moored up at Saltisford last week a boat called Harnser was moored up alongside us for over a week (that is breasted-up). I recognised the name Harnser as being that of a fellow blogger who we met on the Oxford Canal near Wormleighton in 2007. However, this was definitely not that boat but a boat based on a Steve Hudson hull. When we met the owners it was obvious there are two NB Harnsers

I see from NB Harnser (that's the blogger) that both boats met yesterday travelling up the Watford Flight towards Crick. It's not a common name so that must have been a bit strange.

Saltisford Geese

We have Albert moored in Saltisford Arm, Warwick, whilst we support Maggie's mother after her hospital stay. The arm boasts two very noisy geese. They do appear to be inseparable and even honk together making a great din. It appears they replaced two earlier geese who lived well into their forties.

Geese visting Albert

About sixteen years old, the current geese have not been named. The former geese were called Sid and Nancy (that's Vicious) because of their aggressive nature.

The Mill Garden Warwick

Whilst moored up in Warwick we have visted various local attractions. One we noticed recently was The Mill Garden which nestles under the walls of Warwick Castle. It is an absolute treasure! This wonderful cottage garden opens as part of the National Gardens Scheme (yellow book). At £1.50 entrance, for garden lovers it represents great value. Proceeds go to charity and last year they raised around £9,000 for local and national charities. It opens every day from April to October and on other occasions out of season.

Garden Entrance - below the castle walls

The gardens are at the end of Mill Street. At one time this street led to the main bridge crossing the Avon and the cottage was occupied by the bridgekeeper. In the 18th century the bridge became congested and Earl George Greville built a new bridge up stream (the site of the current bridge)and knocked down the old bridge to make a "romantic ruin".

The cottage on the site dates from the 15th century but was re-faced in red brick in the 18th century. A cottage has been on the site since 1398.

The garden was the work of Arthur Measures, the father-in-law of the present gardener. It has the most wonderful vistas along the Avon, looking over a weir, and it makes the most of the ruined bridge. It is a cottage garden par-excellance and in the warm Spring it looked at its very best.

View of the weir, River Avon

Old Bridge, Warwick

Lilies under the Bridge Arch

Canary Bird Rose

18th Century Stocks which have preservation order



If you moor up in Warwick take a walk down to the river and visit this little gem. We can thoroughly recommend it.