New Stove

We bought Albert complete with a Brunel stove which has done a good job over the last twenty years. However it has been showing its age, or perhaps more accurately its rust. I suppose it all goes down to the damp conditions it has had to endure over the winters. The door and back plate had recently started to buckle causing sealing issues. The bar holding on the blanking plate at the rear of the stove (where an alternative rear-facing flue can be fitted) broke twice once in August 2007 (yes we had the fire on in August!) and more recently in March 2013. Over the last year it was clear that the Brunel was on borrowed time so over the winter I started the process of looking for a replacement.

Old Brunel 1 stove and saloon

Brunel stoves are no longer sold by Midland Chandlers who supplied ours to the original owner, Mike Hurd, back in 1994. They appear to hold some spares but not enough for a rebuild. The Brunel is still manufactured by Stovax  so, not wanting to sort out a new flue and cause myself other difficulties, I decided to seek a like-for-like replacement and go for another Brunel. Over the years Stovax have changed the design slightly although the main features (i.e. the castings) have remained the same and crucially its size and flue connections are exactly the same. I purchased a Brunel 1A (our original was a 1) from a stove supplier in Cambridge using the internet. To save the £50 transport costs I picked up the stove direct from the dealer. I did not fancy fitting the stove just before Christmas and I hung on for warmer weather. However, with  the prospect of spring boating looming I eventually fitted the new stove last week.

New Brunel 1A stove and Ecofan

It was not a difficult job but the heavy weight of the stove does require careful handling, and a mate. The old flue was in good condition and just required some descaling and sweeping. It fitted perfectly back in its original position,

We managed to splash out on an Ecofan when we bought some new glassfibre rope for sealing the flue - Midland Chandlers had an offer. Most of our friends with multi-fuel stoves on boats appear to use Ecofans and rave about them. We shall soon see if it is a useful purchase.

Gongoozler's Rest

We often visit Braunston by boat, we occasionally visit by car, mostly to visit chandlers and fender makers, but we rarely visit Braunston with the aim of finding somewhere for lunch. This week was the first. I needed to visit a chandlers for some supplies associated with a job I was doing on Albert and Maggie and I got there just in time for a late lunch. Various possibilities came to mind but we decided to try Gongoozler's Rest, the narrowboat cafe just outside the Stop House.

Gongoozler's Rest Cafe, Braunston

When visiting Braunston with Albert we usually eat lunch on board so this was a first. With the early spring (or is it late winter?) sun shining bright the cafe was doing a roaring trade serving walkers, dog walkers and (of course) gongoozlers. With 12 seats (covers) we had to wait to be served for about 10 minutes  but watching the world go by on bench was fun. A lunch of bacon toasties with a side salad and a cafetiere of coffee was just perfect. It is a great cafe and to be recommended although don't try going there for afternoon tea, they only open 9:00 AM until 2:00 PM. However, they are open 7 days a week except over the Christmas period.

Maggie choosing a toastie

The Gongoozler's Rest boat is a Springer. When we sat down,. with such a light craft, we had expected some movement. However, with full tanks, heavy kitchen equipment and 15 on board (12 customers and three staff) she sat firmly on the bottom and didn't move. It was only when there were just four customers on board did she actually started to rock.

We must arrange more lunchtime visits to the chandlers in Braunston!

The mooring for the cafe also has a history as it was here that the Brays moored up in their retirement when carrying coal from the Midlands to the Jam Ole in Southall ceased. A plaque on the bridge gives deatails.

Lymm Again (without a boat)

Last week we spent a night in the North West attending the funeral of my dear Auntie Gladys. She lived to be 95 years old and was married to Ron for an amazing 69 1/2 years! Because we needed to be at the funeral mid-morning, we planned to stay overnight within an easy car drive of Manchester. Looking at the map Lymm in Cheshire jumped out at me. We spent two happy nights there on our Northern Cruise in April 2009 and found it to be a friendly interesting spot to moor; so why not use it to spend a night in a hotel.

Lymm Cross complete with stocks

The Lymm Hotel, not far from the M6, did us proud with a good room at a reasonable price with a great breakfast and friendly service. Couldn't ask for more on an occasion with mixed emotions. We even managed a walk around the village remembering all the spots we discovered when visiting on Albert.

Bridgewater Canal visitor moorings at Lymm where we moored twice in 2009

The next day we travelled to the funeral and met all my cousins and their families. Some sadness at a passing mixed with some joy from the many memories of a wonderful couple. We are planning to meet the cousins on a more happy occasion in the Spring.

Leamington Coincidence

I posted recently about the Britain from Above web site and selected, almost at random, a view of Leamington Spa to illustrate the sites capabilities.

As if by magic Canal and River Trust have just posted a video on You Tube about a volunteer working party refurbishing the towpath along this length of the Grand Union.  Across the canal from the working party is the AGA Rangemaster (ex-Flavel) factory I mentioned in the earlier post.

Snowy by Berlie Doherty - New Edition

A couple of years ago I posted about a book that I have a strong affection for, the children's book Snowy which has several themes close to my heart.

Snowy pulling the boat Betelgeuse

It came as a bit of a surprise to find recently that the author, Berlie Doherty, has used my review on her web site and announced that a new edition was available. I was of course delighted. Am I now a book critic? 

The author's site includes the text from my post and a box with my headline quote:

 Snowy is one of the most delightful children’s books there is.

The Other Canal in Milton Keynes

Each month, with a group of friends from Milton Keynes, we have an organised walk. The venues vary but sometimes include canal sections. We often walk in the Chilterns, Aylesbury Vale and Northamptonshire, but this month we usually went for walk through an area of Milton Keynes - Emerson Valley. This is an area a long way from the Grand Union Canal but the organiser, with tongue slightly in cheek, intriguingly promised:

"Primeval woodland, site of 12th Century moated manor, medieval church, a string of lakes, a canal boat and the spectacular Tattenhoe Valley rapids, and all within Milton Keynes." 

It was probably a good move since yesterday morning we had significant snow. The 5.7 mile circular walk was based on lunch at the new Prince George pub in Tattenhoe, but we stopped for morning coffee at Furzton Lakes pub. It was at there that discovered the canal boat in Milton Keynes other canal!

Canal boat near Furzton Lakes, Milton Keynes

The entirely modern pub, which has the external appearance of a converted warehouse, has a canal boat in a fake canal outside! The canal is a water feature that give the impression of locks and weirs leading to the main building. For safety the whole area is fenced off and boat appears to sit on concrete blocks and does not float. More evidence, I suppose, that canal side pubs are popular (or least pub chains think so).

The Furzton Canal with "locks"

The Furzton Lakes is part of the Fayre & Square chain (I can't help groaning over the name) which actually does own a pub alongside a real canal, the Trent & Mersey at Burton

Snowy scene in Tattenhoe Valley

The walk was full of woods and lakes and was much as described, but the rapids at Tattenhoe were in fact very modest despite the snow melt!