Train strain.

The return to Somerset was pretty uncomfortable on an overcrowded train (is there any other kind in the UK these days?). No space for luggage, no space for passengers (or their long suffering dogs), and no buffet (unless you were prepared to trample over the people forced to sit on the floor); the heating however, was working. “Aha,” I hear my regular reader exclaim “result, given the current plunging temperatures outside”. “Not so,” say I “when the heating continues to blast out despite optimum temperature having been reached about ten degrees ago”. I texted an SOS to K to bring large amounts of water with her to the station for my arrival, severe dehydration was kicking in after three and a half hours in cattle class.

At some point in the journey several of us debated why, given the constant overcrowding of trains, extra coaches are not added to services and came to the conclusion that it is because the cost of additional rolling stock might adversely affect the annual profits and bonuses the train moguls’ so desperately need. Magnanimous plebeians that we are, we accept their need for additional millions each year (those tropical hideaways, nuclear/biological bunkers and global warming stockpiles don’t come cheap, you know) … and we sent our sincere thanks to the aforementioned moguls for a journey unusually delayed by mere minutes not hours.

 

The journey did sort of dull the shine from what otherwise had been an extremely pleasant few days with BB aboard the Blue Buzzard. We visited the Denby factory near Derby, shopped in Sutton Coldfield and tasted a few wines and gin at a local (to Fazely) vineyard/distillery. Unfortunately we visited the Denby factory the day after I’d bought a couple of bottles of the rather lovely vineyard product, and there I bought some of Denby’s rather lovely dinnerware products for R0X1 (well I have to make it up to her that I considered selling her). So I was unable to fit everything in my suitcase and be able to lift it.

I’m sure, dear regular reader, that you will be shocked to find out that it was the vineyard product that was left behind … not sure what came over me, I might have to find a vineyard round here …

🙂 🙂 🙂

 

A little bit of the Oxford.

It was a much shorter cruise on the cut than originally planned because of the imminent house move, but a lovely five days nonetheless. I joined BB at Heyford and we meandered up to Banbury. With only 4 locks per day and making early starts, we managed to avoid over-exerting ourselves during the hottest parts of the day.

 

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It was too early for this farm shop and café to be open when we sailed past; shame as those sofas look quite comfy.

The Oxford canal, along with the rest of the system, is not being looked after very well with CART having put profit well before the horse, badly neglecting the towpath which alternates being downright dangerous and on the point of collapse and almost completely overgrown. In other places the banks are so far encroaching into the canal that navigation is down to single file. CART are busy spending money;  just not on maintenance to banks, falling apart lock gates or jammed paddles. The only work we saw being done was licence checking, equipment painting and the application of their brand new logo to anything canal-side that didn’t move. Never thought I’d say this but bring back British Waterways, the Canals and Rivers Trust is even worse.

 

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Linseed crop

It really is a Great British summer this year. The super weather showing the countryside off to it’s best. It’s a bumper year for insects with plentiful butterflies, large numbers of fat damsel and dragon flies and most of the ducks, moorhens and coots on their second broods. The quiet of the cut disturbed only by birdsong and buzzing, with he odd libation of wine or gin to the weather gods, made a great breather before I start the packing …

 

Views from the Cut

Thanks BB.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Another Midlands Meander

Just had a great long weekend at Kings Bromley Wharf where BB is in fine fettle.

We took a car trip up to Bakewell, prettyish but very touristy. The drive up was much more enjoyable through some very beautiful hills and dales. We bought some traditional Bakewell tarts and were rather disappointed – they had been glazed with honey which totally overpowered the almond and raspberry flavours. However there is still hope and another chance to restore our faith in local bakeries; after we’d bought these defective Bakewells we noticed the original Bakewell Pudding Factory. We’ll have to go back and check out their contribution to culinary excellence. We drove back via Matlock Bath but couldn’t find a car parking space so that’s on the revisit list too – it looks far more interesting than Bakewell!

The Peak District

The next day we took a boat trip to Rugely – now unless you’re BB and want a long trip to the supermarket, Rugely should never feature on your revisit list. But then the trip wasn’t about Rugely, it was about having a trip out on the cut in fine spring weather. It was the LWD’s first time on the boat when Blue Buzzard’s underway and she was a very nervous pup, shaking like crazy – or as she was sitting on the roof with my arms around her, it could’ve been just a ruse for extra cuddles!

Spring as viewed from the cut

We bade BB bye-bye for three months this morning, as the Mended One is now able to drive and I’m allowed out to play a month early … Dover-Calais ferry is booked for May 1st!

🙂 🙂 🙂

Bull in a china factory

Last week Daize, R0X1 and I spent a few days in Penkridge. We met up with BB and the springers who were moored up in the Blue Buzzard near the Cross Keys where aeons ago I barmaided for a time. I walked down more than a few memory lanes and tow paths, bittersweet but warm. Also managed to spend a lovely lunch catching up with an old girlfriend; I’ll have to go back, there’s more catching up to be done.

September morn

BB wanted to chase down a bun tray. He’s into his cooking, especially cakes, I have to starve myself when I come away. Anyway we had to go into Wolverhampton for his bun tray and I was amazed at how beautiful many of the buildings in the town centre are, I’d never really looked at them before. All my travelling has made me look closer at whatever environment I’m in and I was in for a treat with all those Victorian excesses built by the nouveau riche industrialists. Who’da thought it – Wulver’amptun?  And me minus me camera …

We also went to Barlaston and the Josiah Wedgwood factory and museum. Although I lived near there for 10 years I’d not been before. The museum, restaurant and gift shops are new, part of a huge revamp and capital investment when Wedgwood was bought by a Finnish company a couple of years ago. The tour around the factory was fascinating with much of the work being done in a similar manner to when Josiah first started, although the kilns are a lot hotter and quicker these days.

A dinner set going through its final inspection before being shipped out to a middle eastern Sheik was especially mind blowing. Apparently he’s taken delivery of the first half but the remainder of the 19,000 piece set will be with him in a couple of months! I thought idly that BBs delicious tartlets couldn’t have tasted any better for being served on one of the Sheik’s plates, the smallest of which has cost him a mere thousand pounds.

Wedgwood visitor centre

🙂 🙂 🙂

Stopping (or not)

Leaving Swanage I took the rural roads north. I didn’t stop in Blandford, never have before and didn’t find sufficient reason to change that habit. I didn’t stop in Shaftesbury either, but then I’ve been there many times before; at school! I paused in a lay-by on the A303 (the one non-rural road I drove a few miles along) and took a couple of landscapes.

The view from the layby – A303

I stopped at Stonehenge thinking a wander round would be nice, stretch the LWD’s legs and have a bit of lunch. Well I had lunch in the car park and that was it … It would appear that English Heritage do not appreciate canines and they are not allowed anywhere near the monument. That put me off; then I discovered the charge of £18 to walk for half a mile to get to the monument and observe it at a distance, well I can do that from the road; decision made and the money stayed in my possession! Last stop before the campsite at Seend was in Melksham for a food shop.

Literally as I parked up and plugged in on site the rain started. It only lasted a few hours and today we’re back to the yellow blob in the sky that has become, unusually, a familiar sight of late. One of the things that drew me to this campsite is its proximity to the Kennet and Avon canal (about 100 yards). As a teenager I spent a weekend with my youth club friends helping clear part of the canal before it was reopened, don’t remember much about the clearing but we drank a fair bit of cider! Imagine my delight when walking with the LWD along the towpath at Caen Hill I found a lock dedicated to those who helped renovate the canal. I take my bow  – with or without cider!

Caen Hill Flight is a series of 29 locks, a rise of 237 feet in 2 miles taking around 5-6 hours to complete.

🙂 🙂 🙂

On the move …

I’m hoping that the awful weather for the start of of the 2015/16 European tour is in no way indicative of weather for the whole Eurotour …

Week one has been spent doing some visiting. D&N in Glastonbury, P&S in Taunton, coming across some yarn bombing in a park, then up towards the Midlands. Having paid the entrance fee to get over the border into Wales, the overnight campsite provided superb views of the R Usk at Caerleon. For 200 years Isca (Caerleon) was the home of the 2nd Augustan Legion in one of only 3 permanently manned Roman fortresses in Britain. So what did the Romans do for Britain? Well, built the first leisure centres – hot, warm and cold baths, a gym and open air swimming pool – it only took us nearly 2 millennia to reinvent them!!

Ever onward, and an overnight stop at a Hideaway site in an orchard, off the grid, just north of Worcester arriving at Norbury Junction on the Shroppie (Shropshire Union Canal) to spend a couple of days with Big Bruv, Blue Buzzard moored on the cut and R0X1 parked in the pub car park.

Day 2 by the cut and I decided to ask in the chandlery the price of Calor gas as my emergency cylinder was empty – when it came to it I couldn’t tell by looking which size cylinder I have, so with much ribbing from the older brother we went back to the van to find out. After friend S fitted the gauge to the tank (Croeso y Cymru) we did’t actually switch it on and so when Geoff switched on we discovered it was still a third full. I was well pleased as it meant I didn’t have to get my purse out … Back to the boat we went and later that evening Geoff started cooking chilli con carne, he’d just put the rice on the hob when his gas cylinder ran out. “Ah” he says “I’ll show you how to change a cylinder” Eager for my lesson (I haven’t had to change the emergency cylinder yet) I followed him to the cratch and he proceeded to demonstrate and I now know what to do when my emergency cylinder is empty. There was however a slight problem – both his cylinders were empty and the chandlery had shut for the night!

We trudged over to R0X1, him carrying the pans with the half cooked meal, and finished off cooking it on my gas! I wouldn’t ever mention it again … but I’m just not that nice a sister …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Scenes from the cut

Now in Manchester I was going to write some scathing remarks about the industrial scenes we travelled through but on reviewing the photos I find a strange kind of beauty in them.

All contained

 

 

FYM

 

 

Four bridges

 

My travels are nearly over for now and it’s back home tomorrow to await the arrival of ROX1  – due in about 10 days.

Thanks to BB and the dogs for putting up with me – you can all have your beds back now 😀