Wednesday 29 September 2021


Mancetter Marina doesn't have a diesel pump, but they will sell it to you by the 20 litre can. I envisaged an army-style jerry can with a spout and decided it was worth it, so I got from Amazon a large rectangular funnel designed to help put diesel into tractors, etc. Today Kathryn came across with the cans, and they turned out to be plastic containers without a spout. Tricky!

But all the activity attracted a crowd of neighbours. Anthony (NB William Gladstone next door) got an absorbent mat from the stock they have for their puppy, and then kindly volunteered to do the pouring.

Others stood around offering advice to do with avoiding spillage, cleaning up any that did occur, and alternative methods of transferring the fuel that they knew about. It certainly was harder to do it cleanly than I'd thought it would be.

Getting a fresh container halfway through, Anthony caught with his foot the windlass I'd put down to stop the kneeling mat from blowing away. It dropped straight into the water. Anthony was embarrassed. But since he'd already earned Honourable Mention Of The Day, he was immediately forgiven and, anyway, I recovered it later with my magnet. That was why I'd used a steel windlass, not an aluminium one.

Why fill up with diesel when we're just about to go home for the winter? One good reason is that a full tank acquires less condensation, offering a bit more protection from the dreaded "diesel bug". The other, of course: who knows what the price of diesel is going to be when we are next needing to use some?

If I'd realised the complications, I might just have taken Erin Mae down to Springwood Haven Marina, 40 minutes away, and filled up there.

But then we'd never have had our neighbourhood get-together around Erin Mae's filler cap!

Tuesday 28 September 2021


We'd known our neighbours on the other side were returning to base at some point, and today they arrived. They slid into their berth with nary a tickle on Erin Mae.

Looking pretty traditional, and even more so at the other end.

So I did some internet searching – but this boat didn't look like anything in the historic boats register that answers to the name of Venus. A chat with our new neighbour David cleared it all up. The boat is a replica, built about 13 years ago. And built, intriguingly, by whoever used to own the basin which now hosts this marina.

We chatted about Hartshill Hayes (yesterday's post), which David thought sounded promising for dog exercise, and about the panic-buying threat to either of us getting down the A34 this week without having to call out the emergency services.

And then we both got on with our jobs, because it's raining again!

Monday 27 September 2021

Hartshill Hayes

Wondering about a possible day out from the marina in the car, I went to the National Trust website. Nothing within the sort of distance I wanted to travel, given the need to conserve fuel in the car. So I resorted to Google Maps, and found Hartshill Hayes Country Park, a local authority area of mostly woodland about 3 miles down country roads from where we are. No-brainer!

Car park is fee is £2.50 for the day (very reasonable), card only for payment (very sensible). Three attempts and two cards later, the machine still wouldn't connect to an authorising bank. Thought I'd write a note for the windscreen, should we go for a walk. Then the rain started. Stopped. Started. We ate our sandwiches in the car instead of at the picnic table.

An employee appeared, so I went to discuss the payment issue. He thought I wasn't doing it right (I was) and suggested putting the card into the reader instead of doing the contactless thing. The machine still wouldn't authorise payment, so he said I could have a freebie! Went back to the car for coffee. I'd brought a thermos, and a cafetière with the coffee in it. Shame I'd forgotten to pack the mugs.

Hartshill Hayes is a very nice country park, and no doubt the views you get if you walk around the paths are absolutely stunning. There's a children's play area, and a tea-room open on Saturdays and Sundays. But as the rain started again, we went off to Dobbies for a coffee.

I expect we'll be back.

Sunday 26 September 2021


It's a year since Mancetter Marina opened, so they decided to have a celebration. There was cake.

There was a BBQ, salads and puddings,

all organised by Kathryn, the excellent marina manager.

There were (in the end) lots of marina users, enjoying the food and the Pimms.

There were gate-crashers,

though, to be fair, they passed with a cheery wave and didn't stop.

And there was music.

Jim (guitar and lead vocals), Ben (fiddle, bodhran, vocals) and Lloyd (banjo, vocals) form Finnegan's Revival. From which you might think they were brought over from Kerry, but they're actually from Polesworth. And very good they were, playing and singing a selection of mostly Irish tunes, including "King of the Fairies" and "Rattling bog" which I hadn't heard or sung in decades. 

 It was a good opportunity to chat with some of the other marina clients, including Kate, who lives on NB Sunflower. We had a very enjoyable time. 

Saturday 25 September 2021

William Gladstone

Our new neighbours (that is, we're new; they were here first!) are the proud possessors of NB William Gladstone. It's a 1970s boat, rescued, extended from 60' to 70' and fitted out by Richard Poole, from whom Anthony and Emma bought it when they decided to become liveaboards. Today they had visitors, and went out for a cruise.

Only trouble is – they're going to miss the marina BBQ, held to celebrate a year since it was opened. Good food (we hope) and an Irish band. Mancetter is reputedly the site of Boudicea's last stand – perhaps there's a Celtic connection there.

William Gladstone was apparently very disposed to help Ireland, and in favour of home rule, etc. So it's a bit odd that he should take off as soon as the Irish appear. More on this tomorrow, I think.

Friday 24 September 2021

Ground control

A call today from Jon, who's doing bits and bobs in the bathroom of our bricks and mortar in the New Forest. Like, replacing everything and fitting a shower enclosure instead of a bath! An update and progress report, and to check agreed procedures for problem-solving. Great to have a friend who you trust in the trade – we've known him for 35 years since 'e were a lad, and were happy simply to give him the house-key when we came up to Erin Mae and let him get on with it.

At the time of the call, we were in Dobbies (Atherstone) Garden Centre, which appeared to have become about 50% Sainsbury's. Very confusing, but also very convenient as we needed to buy a pudding to take to the marina's celebratory BBQ tomorrow evening.

This spaceship is now going nowhere, of course, but is doing so fairly successfully. It's almost time to pull the plug on this blog for the winter, but there should be just one or two more entries to make before I do so.

Thursday 23 September 2021

Song books

We had planned to be at the Autumn get-together of the Boaters Christian Fellowship at Fazeley this coming weekend. In fact Jan, the chair, had asked me to lead some singing of worship songs on Saturday morning, with my guitar. And mentioned that James and Hazel Bell, BCF members who also work with Canal Ministries, had compiled a book of worship songs specially for boaters. It wasn't certain at that point whether they'd also be at Fazeley, but then it transpired that they were on the South Oxford, and they passed us at Fenny Compton. The box of books was duly transferred.

In the meantime, however, various things were going on which resulted in (a) us transferring our home base to Mancetter Marina, and (b) it becoming likely that we wouldn't ourselves make it to Fazeley after all. Our plans had back-fired and the books were in the wrong place!

But then it also transpired that Andy and Sue Smith, also of both BCF and Canal Ministries, would be coming to Fazeley from the Ashby Canal. A phone call, a few arrangements, and at 5 p.m. yesterday I was sitting on the service wharf at Mancetter, with a box of books, as NB Spring Water came round the corner from Bridge 34.

It was nice to see Andy and Sue again – not that we know them well, but we've spent time with them at other BCF events.

We're still not certain whether we ourselves will be at Fazeley at the weekend. But at least the song-books will be. Wonder if anyone will use them!

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Atherstone (1)

Today I went into Atherstone. By car, from our marina, rather than on foot, from the visitor moorings. I needed to pick up a prescription from the excellent Lloyds Pharmacy, and do some supermarket shopping. I'd thought I'd take my camera, in case something of interest caught my attention – but then left the camera in the car (stupid!). So I found a picture of the church and neighbouring building on the web, and would credit the photographer, if I knew who it was.

The tower looks unusual, and worth investigating, on another occasion. Today my best beloved was not feeling her best, so I was in the town on my own. But I took the opportunity anyway to wander up the main street a bit, get a feel for it, and have a (guilty pleasure) flat white in the only coffee shop I could see (a Costa).

Atherstone looks an interesting small town – more to it than you might think. I'm reminded of the time we discovered and were amazed by Nantwich. Which is the reason for the "(1)" in the title of this post – I think another Atherstone post might appear at some point.

Tuesday 21 September 2021


It's perhaps a little grandiose to call it a nature trail.

It's a path leading away for a couple of hundred yards at the entrance to Mancetter marina, overlooking the canal and the neighbouring countryside.

At a picnic table about half-way along we met Sue plus puppy. She told us of the requests made by dog-walkers and others that the path should be continued from its current terminus at Bridge 34, to circle round and come back to the marina at a different point. So far, nothing doing!

Sue lives on her boat in the marina.

We'd spotted it at its pontoon on our saunter round to the trail, because of the name on a small wooden plaque in the cratch, and on a piece of roof furniture, though not, as it happens, on the side of the boat itself.

Yup! It's yet another for the Tolkien-themed collection. Bilbo Baggins is already there. Bilbo is now happily added, not actually being a duplicate. Here's the list.

Monday 20 September 2021


It had become clear that I ought to get to Great Haywood marina ASAP, to settle accounts with them and pick up the car. The trip looks easy on paper – train from Atherstone to Stafford, bus from Stafford to Great Haywood. Two main potential problems: (1) getting from Mancetter to Atherstone station – our new marina is out in the wilds; (2) what if the car wouldn't start after over 2 months of inactivity!

Kathryn, the Mancetter Marina manager, had mentioned on Saturday, amazingly, that she was not averse to giving people a lift to Atherstone when necessary. I rang her at 9 this morning, and although it was her day for working in the main Rothen Group site up the road rather than at the marina, she was very happy to pick me up at our mooring and take me into Atherstone – free of charge. That's service!

You'd think it would be a no-brainer for Stafford's buses to call at the train station, but they don't. It's actually quite difficult to work out where to pick up service 828 for Great Haywood. Google maps were the most helpful resource, and a 5-minute walk from the station got me to the stop. Disconcertingly, the main sign didn't list the service I wanted, but it turned up on time, and dropped me off outside the Canalside shop, with another 5-minute walk down to the marina. Our car didn't respond to the radio button on the key, but woke up when I opened the door manually. Everything was fine – just a bit of air needed in the tyres. Both problems resolved!

And so it was farewell to the mooring that has been Erin Mae's base for nearly 11 years.

I sorted out paperwork and other stuff with Steve in the office, and said good-bye to the people who've been part of this aspect of our lives for so long. It will be strange not to be going back there.

Sunday 19 September 2021


Today I reversed out from our temporary mooring, turned around and reversed back in. Partly to experiment with how it feels to have Erin Mae the other round. And partly so that I could complete the task begun some weeks ago, in Coventry, of polishing Erin Mae's red sections.

For some reason, red paint is especially susceptible to weathering. I'd also made the mistake of washing the paintwork with a Turtlewax shampoo (or something similar), and it had left dull smears that looked appalling. So I've been pretty pleased with the results of using a proper polish. However, as far as I can see, the paintwork will continue to be marked "in progress" until I'm in my dotage.

Having used the pontoon to accomplish this task, I pulled Erin Mae across to what will be her long-term mooring.

It was worth another snap, partly to show what I mean about the need for ongoing progress, and partly because you can see the reflection of the next boat in the newly polished section!

Saturday 18 September 2021


It had been a good mooring at Spring Wood, but we needed to be on our way by 8.30, while the mist still clung.

We were en route to Mancetter Marina, to talk with Kathryn the manager about a berth. After 11 years, it's time to move our base from Great Haywood.

Mancetter is just south of Atherstone, on the Coventry Canal. The marina was built and is operated by the Rothen Group, who do a lot of contractual work for CRT, and decided to create a marina to their own specification. It opened just last year.

We were very happy with how things had been set up. It's smaller and quieter than Great Haywood, and we'll need to get used to how some things work, but it's got all the essentials and is a delightful spot. So we signed on the dotted line. We'll stay over the weekend, and then see how our plans for next week pan out. Somehow I've got to get across to Great Haywood to pick up the car (and hope it still works!).

Erin Mae seems happy on her mooring, though tomorrow she'll be pulled across to the berth on the right when NB Shadow moves out and on. She's currently enjoying giving the batteries a good dose of electrons from the land-line!

Friday 17 September 2021


We wanted to call in at Springwood Haven Marina on our way north, so I checked the map and found it was located just after Bridge 27. Then I realised that the previous bridge on the map was Nº24 – whatever had happened to the numbering system? I resolved to resolve this conundrum.

Bridge 24 wasn't far from our overnight mooring.

On we went, eyes alert. And there it was, all that was left of Bridge 25.

Presumably someone had once needed to cross the canal at this point, but it was hard to see evidence of why. And then, a bit further on, all that remains of Bridge 26.

Again, no signs of the whence or whither of this dilapidated piece. At least you could still see something of the arched brickwork, and we've seen ruins on our travels that are far worse eye-sores than these. Maybe a future industrial archaeologist will discover something really fascinating about their past use.

 Meanwhile, Bridge 27 was where and as the map suggested it should be.

Springwood Haven Marina couldn't help us with what we wanted, so we pushed on a little before tying up for the night.

The previous residents of this spot didn't think much of our arrival, and left us to it.

Thursday 16 September 2021


Today we were on a mission to get some stuff we needed from Aldi. I'd identified two such emporia in Nuneaton, so it was a question of working out whether we could catch a bus. The Stagecoach website turned out to be really frustrating! It told me something about the wrong buses, but nothing useful about the bus I thought was the right one. I was engaged in this research about 11 p.m. last night, and all it would tell me was that the Nº10 wasn't coming any time soon! It was as well the local authority website furnished me with a PDF of local routes, and some other helpful site indicated that the Nº10 ran every 10 minutes or so.

I don't know if there's a graveyard for dead stagecoaches, but coming north from Hawkesbury Junction you pass a boating equivalent.

It felt like the local depot for Or perhaps someone had an idea for a profitable scrap business, and got overwhelmed. We didn't see any sign of activity. Nor did we, when coming again to the Nuneaton allotments. Nobody ever seems to be actually tilling the soil. However, we did spot a brave bunch of (slightly windblown) sunflowers crying out to be seen.

We stopped at Bridge 21, and duly caught the bus to Aldi and back – round the houses and squeezing through impossible spaces between parked vehicles. Then we decided to moor up just a couple of hundred yards further on. opposite a recreation ground, on what had become a fine, sunny afternoon.

Wednesday 15 September 2021


The main line north from Rugby accompanies the canal for annoyingly lengthy sections, but after the canal passes under the M6 it begins to sweep away to the west in a long curve towards Ansty.

No more trains are heard, and the sound of the traffic fades away.

There's a golf course on the left-hand side, though we saw no golfers.

All-in-all, it's a pleasant stretch. Coming to Ansty, we looked for the water-point, but couldn't see it. So we drifted on and eventually tied up at a place where the canal sweeps round to the right – not quite as bad as some of those locations I wrote about on Saturday, but it does encourage passing boats to slow down!

This part of the canal forms a triangle with the M6 and the M69 – we can't hear either.

What I can hear, however, is the voice of my best beloved. Erin Mae hasn't been getting quite all the TLC she deserves, and she wants me to sweep the floor!

Tuesday 14 September 2021


Finally, we were able to get our engine service. We had booked it in at Rose Narrowboats, on the basis of our overall experience when they changed our shower drain pump a few weeks ago.

It wasn't cheap, but Jamie was extremely thorough, and I am very content with the result. Erin Mae's engine appears to be in very good nick.

It was a horrible day, and we were pleased not to be travelling!

Monday 13 September 2021


We'd seen this boat on our way south, but had been too slow to take a photo.

The interest, for us, was in the name, because of our Norwegian family connection.

It seems an odd name for a boat, unless it was someone's pun on "Oh – Slow!" But it seemed the wrong style of boat to boast that vaguely humorous attempt. I suppose it would be called a tug, even with the box-like superstructure at the front. I've not yet understood why a boat with a long, flat bit at the front is called a tug unless, traditionally, boats that pulled other boats needed a platform for gear that might be needed to help them in that task. Perhaps someone can enlighten me.

Today we also crossed with a pair – one 70 foot diesel powered FMC boat towing an equally long butty. Fortunately this was not on a bend with someone parked on the outside! And, finally, we spotted Nº 30 in the list of Tolkien-themed names.

I exclude duplicates – only listing one Rivendell, for example. The list already contains Hobbit and An Unexpected Journey, but this boat combines them, so I think merits an entry of its own. I've taken the liberty of inserted a colon, for clarity. If you want to see the updated list, it's here.

Sunday 12 September 2021


This may be an adventure, but all the excitement has been happening elsewhere. Last night we watched Emma Raducanu winning, and coping with winning, the US Open. Today we listened as both Hamilton and Verstappen, once again, refused to give way, and Emma Raducanu's favourite driver won the race.

I walked down to the Next store in a nearby shopping precinct to pick up an Amazon package. What a thrill! Almost the most exciting thing to happen all day was losing the plastic container in which we keep rolls of plastic bags of various sizes (apologies to Helen Tidy, who probably abhors plastic bags of any sort). I mean, how can you lose something like that in a narrowboat kitchen? Ah, it had fallen down the back of the trolley on which it normally sits.

Also fallen down was a young man on the path on the opposite side of the canal. We noticed him when two police officers appeared, to check on things. All three have now gone – trust the evening passes off for him with no further excitement. As for us… well, there's always tomorrow.

Saturday 11 September 2021


When we first began boating, I could never understand why some boaters would moor up in, what seemed to me, the most inconvenient places – right next to a bridge hole, opposite some huge stand of foliage sticking out into the cut or, most commonly, right on a tight bend. Later I drew the conclusion that, at least in part, it's a way of ensuring that passing traffic slows right down to a crawl, which it is supposed to do, for the sake of the moored boat. It's a trade-off, of course, between that and the increased danger of actually being hit by something coming by.

That a hire-boat following us from Hillmorton today had caught us up suggested to me that they were going a tad faster that they oughta! Then we came to a bend with a moored boat and, after the bend, a day-boat with a merry party out from Rose Narrowboats. I said to my best beloved, I said: "There's going to be trouble!" And there was. I told the skipper of the day-boat there was another boat behind, and he attempted to take appropriate action. However:

I think they avoided a major collision, but the boats were at all the wrong angle and it took some serious disentangling before they could all get on with their day!

As for ourselves, we had some good help at Hillmorton locks today, from Kev,

and Chris.

So they get today's honourable mention. Thank you, guys!

Friday 10 September 2021

Facing home

It's odd to be re-tracing the route we took south a couple of weeks ago. You see the same sights, albeit from a different perspective, and take the obligatory picture of Braunston church spire above the trees.

You pass the places you stopped for the night, and decide on alternatives. You calculate whether the pump-out regime requires you to pop in for one where you did before. Underneath it all is the vague feeling – we've been over this already. Four years ago we would probably have gone north through Warwick, and braved the flights of locks in the Birmingham conurbation, but our lock-handling abilities are not what they were.

There are still some surprises along the way. Yesterday, coming through Napton Junction, we saw this at the entrance to the Wigrams Turn Marina.

Great Haywood, near Stafford, is our base. We bought Erin Mae through Great Haywood Boat Sales nearly eleven years ago. We'd heard that the company had shifted its centre of operations, but hadn't expected to find it, name unchanged, in Napton. We thought it was all a bit unfeeling to remind us, in no uncertain terms, that we are now facing home.

Thursday 9 September 2021

Angle grinder

The next few days will be a balance between getting slowly to the Rose Narrowboats base for an engine service next Tuesday, and doing enough engine hours to keep the batteries happy, now we're in that time of year when the solar contribution is diminished. So we stopped about a mile and a half before Braunston. Everything seemed pretty good. We'd run the washing machine, the sun was shining, and I began to peg the washing onto our Vango dryer on the towpath. 

Then the crew behind started up their generator. I'd seen it as we were pulling in, and had left a little space so we wouldn't be too close, should they run it. 

Well, not only did they run it, they used it to power up an angle grinder, with which they proceeded to power their way steadily and noisily along the surface of the gunwale. Decibels and dust! I certainly had not left enough space to reduce the decibels by much, and the wind was blowing the dust straight towards us and our clean washing! Perhaps they felt it was all a suitable trade-off for an unwanted sight of our unmentionables.

However, the promised rain arrived earlier than expected. Not very helpful for our washing, which was brought hurriedly under the stern cover. But sonic peace has descended once more.

Wednesday 8 September 2021


We caught the bus from Napton to Southam today. When I told the driver where we were going, he looked at me blankly for a bit. I'd pronounced the "South" bit like Southwark, whereas he pronounced it like Southend. Once that was cleared up, we were allowed on board.

Southam has a Grade 1 listed church building, which was quite attractive from the outside but, to our disappointment, all locked up. Perhaps people in Southam don't worship on Wednesdays. There was also a fine old Manor house on the main street.

My camera has lost all the markings from the knob on top which selects the mode, and which can easily turn when I put the device into its case. I think these last two pictures were accidentally taken with a "Creative Content" setting, which accounts for the somewhat dramatic tones. Our purposes in this visit weren't at all dramatic. The first was to pick up a package fromAmazon at the Post Office, and the second to pick up a medication top-up for my best beloved, from the Pharmacy.

Electronic prescription is an excellent NHS service, and really useful for the boater. This Pharmacy looks like an old-fashioned sweet shop from the outside, but inside is vast and airy, with lots of helpful assistants. The internet doesn't seem to know whether their address is Nº1 or Nº4. It turns out they used to live in the above-pictured Manor House building, but moved a couple of doors down.

We also wanted to do some food shopping, but a visit to the Co-op doesn't really merit a picture. What does was a off-chance visit to the barber's.

They currently only do appointments by appointment, but thought they could just fit me in there and then. Lisa and Debbie are the stars of today's honourable mention.

I learned from Lisa a few intriguing things about the difference between the approaches of a barber and a hair stylist. And I benefited from an amazing £9.50 weekday rate for people of a certain seniority.

Southam isn't exactly the centre of the universe, and its excellent-looking library was also closed (this being Wednesday), but we had a successful visit, including a nice coffee in the very busy and happy Community Church café.