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Wednesday December 19th 2012 - Debdale Wharf Marina

Apologies for the tardiness of this blog but we have had internet issues which precluded blogging - more of that later.  This is also the second attempt at the blog, I spent two hours typing and downloading photographs the other day and just as I had almost got to the end I must have hit a magic key combination because it reloaded the page and wiped the lot!  No way to retrieve it, I was gutted!  So, here we go again - the last blog of 2012!


Monday Novemer 5th 2012 - after a lovely, restful weekend we set off on our travels once more.  We had a lovely cruise and finally moored up on the outskirts of Polesworth adjacent to an oak wood.  As soon as we had moored up we went into the wood to do a bit of chumping and got quite a decent haul to saw up into logs for the stove.  Every little helps, especially when Taybrite and other smokeless fuels are £11 a bag and we use on average about one and a half bags a week!  We had a very peaceful night interspersed with a few rockets whizzing up into the night sky and bursting into multicoloured stars with loud bangs!  I love fireworks!  The following morning we set off again and soon arrived at the Atherstone lock flight.  We had a rendezvous planned!  Some months ago one of the studs attaching the pram hood canopy to the side of the boat broke and left the canopy rather lose and unfortunately one day the door hatch caught on it as it was being opened and it ripped a six inch rent in the cloth!  The gentleman who made our pram hood for us is Terry Ryan and he lives very close to the Atherstone Locks so we had given him a call a few days ago to let him know that we were heading his way and he suggested he meet us at lock 8 and pick up the canopy.  We gave him a ring when we got to Lock 7 and soon after we came through lock 8 he arrived to pick it up.  He told us to carry on up the flight and give him a ring when we got to the top, which should take us about an hour and a half, and he would return the repaired canopy to us.  All went according to plan except that it was pouring with rain so we were very glad to reach the top.  Terry duly arrived a little while later and stayed and had a cup of tea with us, it was good to see him again.  We were very pleased indeed with the repair he had done, he has made a great job of it and not only repaired it but reinforced it as well, it should never rip again!


                                  Beautiful repair job

Not only repaired but reinforced too                          

The following day we headed off again and  arrived in Rugby around lunchtime.  We moored up adjacent to a large Tesco store and a retail park.  As soon as we had moored up we grabbed the shopping bags and headed off to Tescos to stock up the cupboards, fridge and freezer.  We were also delighted to discover that there was a cinema on the retail park only a few minutes walk from the boat and decided to go there later on, however before that we were having visitors!  Back in 1985 Clive and I and the kids upped sticks from Huddersfield and moved to an idyllic village in Argyll, Scotland called Tighnabruaich.  We lived there for 5 wonderful years and made many friends during that time.  One family whom we got to know very well were the McCraes and their youngest son, George, who was at school with Vicki, now lives in Rugby with his wife and children.  I had let George know a few days ago that we were going to be in his neck of the woods so he said he would pop round to see us after work.  He arrived with his two children Cory and Evie and it was really lovely to see him again and to meet his children.


Evie, Cory & George McCrae


When our visitors had left we had a quick tea and then walked down to the cinema to see the new James Bond movie, Skyfall.  We really enjoyed the film, it was great but I have to say I was far more excited about the trailer for The Hobbit, which will be in cinemas in mid December - we can't wait to see that!


We left Rugby the next morning but didn't really go very far, we moored up out in the sticks once more amongst the famous Rugby radio masts where the first transatlantic radio link between London and New York was operated in 1926. Nowadays it broadcasts time signals on behalf of the Royal Observatory with an acuracy of one second in 3000 years!  We stayed put over the weekend as we had a pretty good TV signal and there was rugby on the TV as well as Strictly of course!  We set off again on Monday morning and it didn't take us long to reach Braunston.  We had a quick stop at the Midland Chandlery first to pick up a few bits and pieces that Clive needed to do an engine service and then another stop to fill up with water.  Whilst Clive was doing that I headed up to Braunston village to get a few bits and pieces from the shops, post all my foreign Christmas cards at the Post Office and I spent enough money to buy a small country on 2nd class stamps for all the rest of the Christmas cards!  I walked back down to the boat, by which time Clive had finished filling the tank so we set off again and hit the locks!  It didn't take us too long to get up the locks because we were locking with another boat therefore the work was halved.   When we reached the top it is only a short distance to the tunnel and as we were crusing along we spotted a Kingfisher and I managed to get a few shots of him as he flew ahead of us and then he landed on the bank right at the entrance to the tunnel and posed for a photo!


Braunston Kingfisher


We got a lot further than expected during the afternoon but it was almost dark by the time we finally moored up at the bottom of the Watford lock flight.  So first thing in the morning we were up and at 'em.  I had to walk up to the top of the flight first to ensure that there was nobody coming down - there were, two boats!  So we had to wait for about 45 minutes until they arrived at the bottom before we could start going up.  On the way up the flight we spotted two Great Green Woodpeckers and another Kingfisher and also a couple of Jays and a couple of squirrels, not a bad haul for one day!  Unfortunately we were too busy locking to get any photos!  We cruised along for a while and finally moored up in a lovely spot amongst the Hemplow Hills, a very peaceful, rural spot where we have moored on several occasions.


The next morning we awoke to thick fog!  It was rather surreal crusing along in the fog passing ghostly trees and bridges which would suddenly loom up out of the gloom, it was also rather beautiful.


Ghostly tree!


It wasn't long before we reached the Welford Junction.  In order to reach Foxton we needed to turn left here but we decided to have a bit of a detour and turned right up the Welford Arm as we had never been up here before.  There is only one lock up this stretch and after that we reached the end of the arm, turned round and moored up then went for a walk up into the village of Welford.  We called in at the village shop for a loaf of bread and had a look around the churchyard at some of the ancient graves before returning to the boat via the local pub!  We set off again the next morning and retraced our steps to the junction and this time we headed down the main leg to the Foxton Staircase locks.  We were very glad to have arrived here in good time as we knew the lock flight was closing for three weeks on 3rd December for essential maintenance!  


On the way down the flight there were the usual Gongoozlers (people who participate in watching canal boats going up and down in locks!) but one couple in particular stopped to chat with Clive on the way down, they were very interested in everything narrowboat!  When we reached the bottom we moored up in the basin and went to the pub - as you do!  We got our drinks and as we went to sit down we spotted the same couple who had been chatting to Clive on the way down the flight so we went and sat with them.  They introduced themselves as John and April Leggate from Saxilby in Lincolnshire.  We had a lovely chat with them, it turns out that they are in the process of selling their house in order to buy a narrowboat and do exactly what we are doing!  Needless to say we are both very enthusiastic and passionate about our life aboard Lady Arwen and are always happy to share our experiences with others who are considering taking the plunge, so to speak.  We gave them lots of hints and tips and then asked if they would like to come and have the guided tour of Lady Arwen - they were delighted!  We finally said goodbye, gave them the details of our website and said that we would be delighted to keep in touch with them.  I think they were quite reluctant to drag themselves away for the long drive back to Lincolnshire!  Since that time they have been reading our blog and looking at all the photographs in the gallery and we have had several emails from them already - we are absolutely delighted to have helped to inspire them and wish them all the very best in the realisation of their dream.


Since arriving in Foxton we have spent our time pootling backwards and forwards between Foxton Basin and Market Harborough.  We have moored up in Market Harborough several times and did our Christmas shopping there too.  We have also been up the Leicester arm a couple of times to visit Debdale Marina where Lady Arwen is going to spend Christmas and New Year.  We have also found a lovely rural spot between Foxton and Market Harborough where we get great TV reception and a good dongle signal.  The first time we moored there was on our way back from Market Harborough on 17th December and the sun was setting as we moored up.  The colours were fantastic so I just had to take a photograph!


Glorious sunset through the trees


It is not often that we can moor right next to a supermarket and we often have quite a walk back to the boat with heavy shopping bags when we need to stock up.  When we were in Market Drayton back in September we met another couple who live on their boat Maid of the Mist, Jean and Graham Bevan.  They told us that they get their groceries delivered by Tescos.  We were quite surprised as we didn't know you could get deliveries to a non-permanent address.  They told us that as long as you have a postcode to get them as near to the boat as possible you can then give specific directions to bring them close to the boat.  So we decided to give it a go!  There is a junction next to a bridge over the canal on the main street in Foxton village and one of the lanes runs parallel with the canal, so I got the postcode of a house which is nearby and gave instructions to deliver to 'dark blue narrowboat Lady Arwen adjacent to the bridge' and submitted our order and lo and behold it worked!  We were absolutely delighted, so much easier than lugging heavy shopping bags.  It was so successful we have since done it again!  We will continue to make use of this great service and it is going to make our lives so much easier.  Well done Tesco - they are the only supermarket who offers this service to narrowboats, none of the other supermarkets will deliver to a non-permanent address!


We have had a bit of a hiccough in the internet department this month!  There have been a few occasions over the last couple of weeks when we either didn't have a TV signal or the Formula One wasn't being televised on BBC 1 so Clive watched it on the laptop, live streaming.  He also watched a couple of rugby matches, watch the BBC news coverage of the Levinson Report etc, two episodes of Strictly and two episodes of David Attenborough's latest series.  All this without even thinking about how much download we were using nor did we check to see how much we had left!  To cut a long story short, we used up the whole of our monthly 15GB allowance in two weeks!!  Disaster!  There was no way for us to top it up as it is a monthly tarriff so we just had to bite the bullet and manage without!  I can use my smartphone as a WiFi hotspot but the Vodafone signal in this area is just not strong enough to do that so I just used the internet daily to check the emails basically but when you go over your allowance it is sooooooooooo expensive!  This is why I was unable to do a blog earlier.  We finally go our new monthly 15GB allowance on 13th December after running up an extra bill of about £16 for only a few hundred megabytes on top of the usual £16!  Well we wont do that again will we!!


We had a great night out this month!  One of my Burwell friends, Jayne Stanton (she plays the fiddle), lives in a village not far from Foxton.  I let Jayne know we were in her neck of the woods as soon as we got down the locks and she and her husband Dave had a walk along the towpath with their lovely grandchildren and paid us a visit one Sunday morning.  Jayne told us that they would be going to a folk club on Tuesday 11th December and would we like to go with them?  Absolutely!  So, keeping a very close eye on the weather forecast we cruised up the Leicester arm on the Sunday and found a spot to moor up just before the Saddington Tunnel near a road bridge, an ideal place for Jayne and David to pick us up and only five minutes drive from their house.  We knew that the weather was going to take a dive and go below freezing and that we were going to be frozen in, however the forecasters also said that it was going to start warming up again by Friday so we knew we would be OK.  Jayne and David arrived to pick us up that Tuesday evening and drove us to the Red Lion in Sapcote.  We had a wonderful evening, lovely people, lovely atmosphere, great music and the landlord even provided sandwiches!  


Sure enough it rained all day on the Friday and the ice gradually melted and by Saturday we were free to move.  We set off once more and headed back to our favourite spot between Foxton and Market Harborough for one night to ensure we had a good TV signal for Strictly, then on Sunday morning we cruised into Market Harborough as our daughter Vicki was driving over to spend the day with us.  We arrived about ten minutes before Vicki did - great timing!  We had a lovely day with her, it was so good to see her again and we were sorry to see her leave as we won't see her again this year!  The following day, Monday December 17th, we had a very exciting day!  We got up early, had a quick breakfast then called a taxi to take us to Market Harborough railway station.  I have downloaded an app for my phone which enables me to search for trains, book tickets and check train times etc and using this I had booked train tickets to Leicester - why were we going to Leicester?  To see THE HOBBIT!!!  It was absolutely awesome needless to say, we really, really enjoyed it and it was fantastic to see all the footage of Hobbiton because of course we visited the film set in New Zealand when we were there in February 2011, just before they started filming The Hobbit.  It is quite an amazing feeling to see it on the big screen knowing we have been there and walked amongst the hobbit holes and had our photos taken in front of Bag End!  We had to sign a non-disclosure promising that we would not publish any of our photographs of the set until after the film was released.  We can now, here are just a couple.


                               Dad Baggins!  Clive with Bag End in the background


Mum Gamgee!  Me standing outside Sam Gamgee's hobbit hole                   

We cruised back to Foxton yesterday so that I could use the launderette again then this morning we cruised up to Debdale Wharf Marina and Lady Arwen is now tucked up in her berth, safe and sound and plugged into the mains electricity supply.  We are leaving her on her own whilst we go away for Christmas with the family.  We will be getting a taxi to Market Harborough station on Saturday morning to catch a train up to Huddersfield, then on Sunday we are driving to Centreparks up in Whinfell Forest, Penrith for the festive period.  We will return to Huddersfield on 28th December and stay until the 2nd or 3rd January before getting the train back to Market Harborough and thence to the boat.


So I will end by wishing you, our avid blogees, a very merry Christmas and happy, healthy and prosperous 2013.  That is assuming the world doesn't end on 21st December as predicted!




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