Thursday, 27 August 2015

Birstall and beyond

We stayed two nights at Birstall, intending to spend some time in Leicester, exploring the town and visiting the Richard III exhibition near the Cathedral. We also wanted to have a good Indian meal out. But only the last of the three was achieved.

I went into Leicester yesterday and was disappointed that the road works, building works and crush of people was such that I felt quite overwhelmed by the noise and bustle. So exploring the city centre wasn’t proving to be a pleasure and there just seemed to be shops, shops and more shops. I was impressed tho with the clock tower in the centre.

I made my way, eventually, to the cathedral and found the building where the Richard III exhibition was on show. To me the best bit was the sand sculpture being built outside the foyer. But I am getting ahead of myself. 
This sculpture was being constructed out of damp sand. The young woman doing it was amazingly talented.

I was really looking forward to the exhibition as I was sure that the view of him would have been amended - the Shakespeare play that is how many of us were introduced to him, while an excellent drama, suffers a severe deficit of truth from being based on the fictitious account of Richard’s perfidy put about by Henry VII who wrested the throne from Richard’s rightful heir.

But on entry, after paying £7, one of the first things I saw, stated as fact, was that the princes went missing during Richard’s reign. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

So I left, feeling very disappointed. The young woman at the desk told me, when I grumped a bit, that they had presented both sides of the story and were leaving people to make up their own minds. That would be fine, if one view wasn’t already proven to be untrue.

I freely admit that I didn’t give it a fair suck of the saveloy, as the gross saying goes in NZ. So if any reader has viewed it all and came away with the impression that Richard was wrongly accused and poorly treated by Henry VII and the history as promulgated from that point, I would be interested to hear from you. Honest, I would!

I think my sensitivity about Richard isn’t about him so much, but about how history is always written by the victor, and is in many cases recorded to justify inhumanity, dishonesty, oppression, rape and pillage – find a word to describe poor behaviour and add it.


So there was only one of the three wishes remaining. And last night we went to a wonderful Indian restaurant in Birstall. It’s called The Dining Room and the food was wonderful – and beautifully presented. They are a BYO restaurant, so you can take your own alcohol, as they don’t sell any. That is a good saving, given the mark up on it in restaurants. It’s a very popular concept in NZ, but we don’t see it much over here.
David's samosas - don't they look delish? The third one is atop the other two and is supporting the salad. I have never seen such lovely presentation in an Indian restaurant.

My onion bhajis - also delicious. They are sitting on some yoghurt and the brown heart-shaped garnish was a mix of something with wasabi, I think. Just yummy! I don't usually want to eat the salad garnish but that was begging to be eaten, so I obliged.
This morning we decided to move on from Birstall. Our original intention had been to stay there over the Bank Holiday. But yesterday John and Vanessa told us that they had been informed by a CRT guy that the mooring is only 48 hours. There is no signage stating any time limit so we had assumed 14 days. However we weren’t surprised at the 48 hour limit, as it is a lovely place and would be very popular with boaters wanting to avoid mooring in Leicester.

So I went off to the Coop while David tidied inside and readied the boat (aerial down, pram cover down, fenders up, third rope untied). A full granny trolley and 40 minutes later I returned, and did the engine checks – I am in charge of keeping the solenoid screw thingie tightened so while I am down there I might as well check the oil, the gearbox, the stern-gland greaser. One thing I cannot reach to do without severe contortions is empty the container David has under the stern-gland, and I am excused weed hatch duty as well, in the main. If the water is really cold then I am the weed hatch queen, as David seems to suffer more than I do from its painful effects. He’s obviously a more sensitive soul than I am.

Our plan was to get water and moor up just after the Thurmaston lock but while filling with water (a palaver in itself as the water point was invisible – turned out to be behind a boat moored and taking on water) the woman told us that the guy moored on the visitor moorings had two large, unrestrained dogs that poop all along the mooring. Ah, no thanks. So on we came to alongside the Watermead Park. We have armco, man-made lakes (former gravel pits) over the hedge, walkers and their nice dogs coming past, a wide open mooring that allows the batteries to be topped up for free by the sun. And to make it even better there are blackberries also available for free!
Our mooring. David is relaxing while I am on photo duty. Shortly after this photo was taken a woman came along with her lovely red setter called Kia. Although not spelled the same, they named her after the kea in NZ - they got her after a trip there and decided she was just as cheeky as the NZ kea. She seemed very demure to us as she sat and waited patiently for her owner while we all chatted.

We went for a walk around one of the lakes and the park is beautiful. There are a few representations of dinosaurs at various points which I've just discovered on Wikipedia is because an ice age mammoth was discovered there when the site was a quarry!

I reckon there's a lots more walks to be explored as long as the weather holds over the weekend.
One of the little 'beaches' - lots of goose poo so I wouldn't be letting kids swim in it, but maybe I am just too careful. At each wee beach and in between, there are seats for people to sit and enjoy the views. It is called King Lear Lake as it is believed that Lear was buried under the River Soar which is very close by.

This bridge goes over the river and links a couple of the lakes. We met a couple, the woman of whom has the same bike as David. He got some info from her husband, and we have decided to buy a basket for the bike too - he'll be able to carry the windlass, the cord and anything else required. Her front mudguard is held on with the brackets being positioned close to the bottom of the mudguard. That is going to be actioned on board Waka Huia tomorrow, I think.
This statue is of King Lear kneeling over the body of his murdered youngest daughter Cordelia. I cannot remember who the two men are. Will update this when I go there again tomorrow.

So all going well, we are here for a few days. The towpath is wide enough for the table and chairs, and the canal/river is wide enough for boats to by pass us easily. We seem to have got the only decently deep part, as another boat tried to moor up as we were returning from a walk, and they kept getting grounded.

David has been busy this afternoon – it is amazing what fasting will do to a man anxious to keep his mind active and engaged and not thinking about food … It was a bit disconcerting for me tho, as he has been using the tools - including my battery drill!
The tools are out. Take no notice of the bike being upside down - it's easier to store inside that way ...

The result is that he has fitted the second telescopic aerial pole to the front of the cratch, removed the clumsy looking block of wood that was keeping the original pole off the foredeck, and we now have a pole for the TV aerial and a pole for the internet booster thingie. 
He is rather pleased with himself, and justifiably so! (Those of you who know him will see that his belly has reduced significantly.)

Who is that man? Maybe he's channelling my dad, as that is my dad's shirt he's wearing!
David behind bars ...

Next thing is to get him on to participating on sanding and painting the rust spots … He has said we should start at separate ends of the boat for that task and meet in the middle, but I reckon with the weather situation, we are better to have one of us sanding and the other getting the bare metal covered immediately.

We do need to get on to it, as there’s not much time left.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

A tiring day

We are now moored up in Birstall. We have decided that 7 hour days do not suit us, at all. I get tired by about 5 hours and the last couple of hours are stressful, such that anything that can go wrong, does, and my steering skills degenerate markedly. And my patience - well, enough said, cos it has gone down the toilet.

Yesterday was a blobby day though because it rained and rained and rained. We moved over to get water at about 8.30am and were back on the mooring about 40 minutes later, in time for the precipitation to begin. We did lots of laundry - sheets and towels from the weekend mainly - and the boat was draped as tho it was a fancy house shut up with holland covers over everything!

This morning we were up early to re-fill with water and then move on. I think we'd gone over for water at about 7.30 and were approaching the locks about 8. The first test (failed) of my patience was as David put the bike back together. I am not sure why he had removed the front mudguard, but getting it back on was proving time consuming. It is not a quick task if I can mix and cook an omelette, make tea, slice tomatoes and run water for dishes in the same time span, now is it?

We were joined at the locks by John and Vanessa on nb Swift and Low. We were all quite efficient, esp when David was biking between locks and starting or getting them set for us. The time saved is in the dropping him off and picking him up at lock landings, and in his being there before we arrive. Even if it's only 5 minutes saved at each lock, it soon adds up.
This tree looked sort of spooky with its dead branches mixed with living ones - would have looked even spookier on a grey day ...

There were loads and loads of these flowers growing along the canal/river. I don't know what they are but they look very pretty. The flowers look like legume flowers.

David and I were going to moor for a couple of nights in Leicester at Castle Gardens but there were already 5 or 6 boats there and it didn't look very welcoming. So on we came. That was probably our mistake, as the following two hours to Birstall seemed very long and I started being clumsy, losing concentration, being unable to moor up effectively - part of that was because I tried a technique I read about on the Canalworld forum yesterday. The technique which I clearly cannot do was to bring the stern of the boat in to the side, tie it loosely and then rev the engine in forward gear a bit and the bow is meant to come around. Ah, no. So I am missing something, methinks. And one thing I didn't take into account is that trying new things when I am tiring is not wise. But that's another feature of my tiring - silly decisions as well, dammit!!

This is a weir - one of two the same on the way through Leicester. Certainly a trap for the unwary or tired. As I was approaching the first one I thought it was a bridge and I was trying to work out which span I should go under. Doh!  Both of the weirs are on corners, and their lower levels aren't far below so it's visually confusing, but it's far enough to be a real problem. There is NO signage and no barriers to prevent boats cannoning off the top level. A narrowboat wouldn't fit under the span, as can be seen when you get closer, but until then it's deceptive.

So now we are moored up, it has rained, stopped raining and we have both had a nana nap. We were going to go out for dinner, but have decided to postpone that until tomorrow night. Instead we have had a Gu pudding each - no main course, just dessert. Sounds like my best decision today!

Monday, 24 August 2015

The kindness of family, friends and strangers

I have always thought that people want to be helpful whenever they can or are given the opportunity. Our experiences both here on the boat and at home are testament to that, we think.

In the recent months/weeks/days, on the boat we have had some lovely experiences with people's kindness.

Starting first with a couple of strangers:

On the day Emma and the children were to meet up with us, she and they walked from Crick over the top of the tunnel aiming to meet us just before the entrance. The path is not distinct, I gather, or at least not well signposted. Emma had to consult me (no local knowledge but I had the relevant Nicholson's book, and MemoryMap app on the phone) and Richard who has both local knowledge and access to good maps while sitting at home (in spite of being poorly, he still was very helpful). The saving instructions though came from a man walking his dog along the towpath. As he had passed us half an hour before going the opposite way, I was fairly sure he was a local. So, with Emma on the phone to me, I asked him how a walker would get from the road over the top of the tunnel down to the towpath. He gave me instructions and I relayed them to Emma. He stayed with me while she found his white van, the gate and the path, then he waited for her at the bridge on the towpath to make sure she arrived. Such a lovely kind person he was.

On Saturday this week, we called in at Debdale Marina to buy a new gas bottle, and while there asked some advice of the man serving us. Our questions related to changing over to the orange gas bottles and the possible effect on our gas cooker and hobs, dealing with the bolt that secures the stop/start mechanism (see, I don't even know what it's called) the thread of which has been stripped so it keeps loosening, air filters, oil filters, gear box oil, oil changing equipment (I gather I can buy a pump that fits down the dipstick hole and saves me leaning over a hot engine ...) winter mooring, ... He was so helpful that we are seriously considering putting Waka Huia there for the winter. The threads I have read on Canalworld Forum about Debdale increase our sense of it being a good place to be. But it was that man's kindness and patience that generated that thought.

David and I have some lovely friends over here, and two couples stand out for us in the boating world. Barry and Pauline have stayed with us on board several times and they are always very helpful. David and I are not the world's most able DIYers, as you will have guessed. And over the times they have come to stay, Pauline seems to do all the dishes, assists with any food prep, and sweeps up; and Barry always sorts out little jobs for us - jobs we look at and think 'too hard' or 'not now' or 'how on earth ...?' Among many other things, he's fitted hooks to latch shut our pigeon box, re-fitted the bolt holding one window of the cratch so it actually shuts, weatherproofed the duck hatch - these are all things that David and I could do with application of thinking and effort, but they do seem to stump us.

At the end of our last season's boating, Barry spent a few days with us as we prepared the boat for its winter sojourn. He cleaned, he scrubbed, he polished, he touched up paint, he sanded and polyurethaned doors. He and David problem-solved the issue of the non-functioning support pole for the tonneau cover. Barry is methodical and competent - a good combination. David and I have the methodical bit, but the competency evades us at times ...

Mick and Julia are friends from a way back (first met in 1994 at Norton Junction where we were recorded in Julia's log as Australians - bless her, she knows better now ...) We lost touch with them for a number of years and saw them passing us last year on our last day of boating. David ran for about a kilometre to catch them up and we are now friends reunited. We spent a number of days boating together recently, and one day while Julia and I went walking, Mick did some DIY jobs on our boat. He sorted out the dining table so G-clamps are no longer required to hold it up, he hung the multibox properly so it doesn't just dangle untidily from a random screw in the bulkhead, he put in the hooks to hold up the cable for the internet/mobile phone booster, so they don't languish over the heaters which were the only things holding them off the floor (a bit like when I wear eye makeup and it's only my eyelashes that stop my swollen eyelids drooping down over my eyes ...), he fitted two bigger hooks to hold the box that makes the thing work, and he drilled three 30mm holes in the bulkhead behind the fridge to allow it to cool more effectively. They assisted us down the Hatton Flight recently - taught us lots of about efficient locking, as well as making sure David's poorly foot wasn't stressed.

They came to visit the other day and Mick sorted out a cord for holding the lock gate shut - he took us to the shop, found the right cord, found the hook, and asked Sam from Foxton trip boat to splice it for us - a stranger's helpfulness again. Mick also tightened the tap fittings under the bathroom sink - the taps were floating freely and starting to leak below. As they were leaving, he handed me the tool and said 'you have this. All our taps are tight and I can get a new one if I need it' - and wouldn't take no for an answer. How kind is that?

Our son Tim sorted out our new hose for us - the lovely crinkly ones we brought over from NZ do not cope with being trodden on or cycled over, so a new 50 metre good quality hose had been purchased before we returned the rental car at Daventry and then it sat waiting ... So as we cruised from Kilworth to Foxton, David and Tim sat in the cratch and Tim did the magic. The reel has been totally modified to minimise crimping and crushing, the fittings have been adapted and attached to assist with filling and storage.

Tim is a whizz with anything mechanical - it's a gene that skipped a generation from my dad to him, and certainly, as David's dad said to me once, Tim didn't get it from his side of the family! He gave us some sage advice re the engine, the gear box and the propshaft, and explained the electrics in a way we both understood (he is a sparky by trade).

Then he put David's new bike together, took him to the bike shop in Market Harborough, bought a fitting so the front wheel can be clipped on and off, adjusted all the bits and pieces, tested it.

Over the last few days both Mick and Barry have helped David with the bike - all things David could have worked out but the time taken would have been frustrating and not enjoyable.

It is wonderful how kind and helpful these people have been and continue to be to us. We are lucky.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Late in blogging - family and friends are lovely distractions

I am way overdue with blogging as it has been a very busy time recently.

We’ve had family and friends to stay and it has been lovely.

After Ginny and Graham left, we had a couple of days on our own as we made our way from Wigram’s Turn (just outside the marina were Jaq and Les who had to be roused out of their nightwear to come onboard Waka Huia for their early morning [9.30am] lemon and hot water).
A summer's morning at Wigrams Turn ...

and on the way to Braunston the same morning.

We went on to Braunston that morning and stopped early as it was raining steadily; then we went on through the tunnel the next morning and up the Leicester Arm through Watford Locks (slow) and on to Crick. 
Once we got into the staircase it was quick, but we waited for well over an hour in the bottom pound for the backlog of boats coming down.

The view from deep in the lock - I was about to hoik out the reeds that were floating in each lock of the staircase.
Watering up at the top of Watford

Just before Crick Emma and her three children came on board for the journey through the tunnel and a couple of hundred yards on to where we moored.

We waited there for Tim and Olek to arrive in the middle of Saturday night and in the morning moved on to between the Kilworth bridges where we moored up for Mick and Julia to join us for nibbles and a few bevvies.
Three generations - Tim, Olek and David

Poppies in the field - Tim and I went for a walk before brekkie
Flowers growing on the bank

The next day it was on to and down the Foxton Locks, where Olek did all the paddles bar one with David keeping a close eye on him given the distraction of heaps of gongoozlers. We spent the downwards trip (Tim steering, me on the gate opening and closing) with Ann and Keith (nb Oakfield) who were moored up at the bottom. 
The best lock wheeler in our world

And he hasn't lost the knack learned back in 1990 when he was nearly 15 either ...
A panoramic shot of the field next to where we moored below Foxton Locks

We didn't drink in this pub, but I did like their signage ...

Who's stuffing this chicken? It's David, of course! Cream cheese, coriander, red pepper. Should also have had garlic, but he missed out on reading that ingredient ... Still yummy though.

Once we were moored it was off to Bridge 61 for a drink together before coming back to the boat to assist two separate hire crews who were steaming (at tickover) past us hoping there would be moorings closer to the locks – ahh no! So back we bowhauled one boatload of two lovely women from Dubai and their extremely rude (to them) sons; we helped them moor up while the sons were extremely critical of their mothers and did bugger all to help.  The second family had 3 kids – a baby screaming in the front cabin, a 4 year old who was clamouring to walk along the gunwale (Mum, can I yet? Dad said I could when the boat stopped, can I now, Mum? X 10), and a very helpful and polite teenager. So getting them moored up safely and peacefully was important.

In the morning we moved on to Market Harborough but Tim biked back to Crick on Olek’s BMX to collect the car. Later that day, after a lovely lunch at the Wharf Café Tim and Olek headed back to Scotland. It was sad saying goodbye to them, even though we will see them again in less than 6 weeks.

The following evening we had Richard and Emma to dinner on board – Richard and I worked together in the Home Office, with the lovely ODS (aka Lesley, if you have forgotten).   
Richard and David

As we were heading out to shop for some of the dinner ingredients earlier in the day, we met another David and Marilyn – an English couple who are back on holiday from NZ where they live in the Coromandel – a beautiful part of the country.

Back we came towards Foxton on the Thursday, and we moored out of the village and had a lovely walk around it. It is a very pretty village with, as Mick told us, no streetlights. On Friday arvo Mick and Julia came to visit, and while Julia read the 5:2 diet book on my kindle, the rest of us went down to the shop/pub and got the cord and hook for using to hold the lock gate closed when there’s only one boat (us) in the lock and we only open one gate. Sam who drives the trip boat was co-opted to splice the hook on for us – very professional job done extremely quickly.

Later that evening Barry and Pauline arrived, and we have had a great weekend. A short day’s boating yesterday, but a lovely afternoon. We moored by Bridge 70 in lovely sunshine to have lunch and decided to stay; David and Barry faffed with David’s new bike, and Pauline and I went for a walk to Smeeton Westerby. 
Smeeton Westerby has some lovely gardens

This was replicated on the other side of the path. The lady told us she did it because it was easier than taking care of an ordinary garden - she trims it once each year, in June.
There were allotments too, and this one was full of dahlias.

Dinner had been prepared beforehand (Jamie Oliver’s beef Kofta curry with veges added, plus a mistaken tsp of cumin seeds …) A few wines on the towpath which is rather wide at that point and ideal for table and chairs, and we were all very nicely thank you. Dinner on the towpath too as it was so warm and balmy. I had bought a Tesco’s gluten free chocolate cake and we had half of it for dessert – very yummy! (The other half was consumed the following day, so £3 for two days' desserts for 4 - a bargain!)

The bike had its first airing yesterday at Bridge 70

He cycled successfully past our chairs and table on the towpath and didn't hit the boat either

Today we have done 12 locks and navigated through very shallow pounds. David biked between them.
And off he goes. If you look carefully you may be able to see the windlass sticking down behind him under his shirt.
Barry and Pauline at one of the locks - David has gone off on the bike

The farmer was cutting and baling beside one of the locks so David went for an up close look - those bales are rather tall!

Barry biked back to Foxton to collect the rental car and got thoroughly soaked (so had a hot shower on return). We are moored up opposite the Navigation Inn at Kilby; it started to precipitate heavily as we arrived and moored up – perfect timing! Now it has stopped raining and is very calm. I sense we are going to have a quiet night – well, I am hopeful!

It has been a wonderful couple of weeks – exactly what we dreamed of when we decided to buy the boat – a lovely mix of family, friends and being on our own.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Boating and touristing

In the morning, Tony and Helen left before us and continued on their way to Birmingham. We moved off much later and headed up towards the Napton flight. We hadn’t realised that the Cropredy music festival thingie was on that weekend and that a large number of boats would be making their way there early in the week. There was a queue at every lock and it truly wasn’t much fun on a breezy and quite chill day – esp if you have lived in Brisbane for the last 35 years! Graham was fine, but Ginny got quite cold - the addition of a Wellingtonian's hoodie and merino scarf did assist in remedying that.

So up the locks, turning and halfway back down before mooring up. 
That's Waka Huia winding in the distance while David holds the lock open. No one was coming up or down so we could use the same water to head down again.

We moored in almost the same position that David, Olek, Lesley and I moored a few weeks ago. Dinner and the sunset were lovely.

Then the following morning (Tuesday) we came back to Wigrams (Graham steered all the way and was great - he's an absolute natural) and moored up so we could use the boat as a B&B while we did sightseeing stuff around the Cotswolds.

I packed a picnic and we headed up the Napton Hill (by car) and walked to find a place to sit with the fabulous views across the plains to Rugby spread out before us. Then off we went to Hook Norton Beer Museum having had a quick look at the site of the former (medieval) village at Wormleighton. The beer museum was a big hit strangely enough ... We visited the Rollright Stones near Chipping Norton - they are amazing and awe inspiring. To think they were moved into place by people without any technology or heavy lifting equipment blows the mind! 

Then it was back to the boat for dinner and an early bed.

More of the Cotswolds was on the menu for Wednesday so a slightly earlier start and off to the remains of the Roman villa at Chedworth we went. Another  case of worrying unnecessarily about G&G’s response. I cannot repeat Graham’s words to describe his reaction, but needless to say, he was impressed.
I am unsure if he is being knighted or beknighted ...

The conceptual view of what the Chedworth Roman villa would have looked like

Then a drive through the longest village in the world to get to the Seven Tuns pub for lunch – nice BLTs – and away. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! We made the mistake of going to Bourton on the Water – it is a tourist shopping destination now although actually a beautiful village. There were about 15 buses in the carpark (if I’d seen them we would have driven on) and the place was heaving – almost as full as Oxford Street!

After that Lower Slaughter was a peaceful haven to walk through and admire. It is such a lovely place.

The drive back to the boat was about an hour, so I was a bit tired. But dinner was prepared, ably assisted by David – chicken breasts filled with a mix of cream cheese, chilli flakes, garlic and fresh coriander, baked with a Jamie Oliver smidge of olive oil,  mushrooms and chopped onion on top. Salad, mashed potatoes. Yummy!

Sunset in Wigrams Turn Marina - beautiful
Ginny and Graham leave us at Leamington Spa Station

In the morning, we took G&G to Leamington Spa station for their train back to London, we did another grocery shop and also bought a bike; dropped all things back to the boat and then I took the car back to Enterprise. Their service is great and I can see why a lot of boaters use them. They delivered me back to Wigrams and given we were having the gas locker hinges replaced (broken pin), we decided to stay put.

This morning, it was misty, misty, misty, and mizzling, mizzling, mizzling. So off we set in fleecies and coats, got out the marina entrance, turned towards Braunston and there was nb Valerie. What a lucky escape they had – if we’d known they were there yesterday, they would have had no peace!

As it was we eventually moored up behind them, they both had to get dressed (I sense a pattern here, Tom from nb Waiouru …), and they came on board our boat for their first drink of the day – lemon juice in hot water. After an hour or so of catching up, we tossed them overboard, I did my best to knock off their stern button and away we went.

We are now moored up in Braunston, the rain hs finally stopped, I have blogged for Africa, and it’s only in wanting to send to Gordon and Sharon the previous blog about their new home that I discovered I couldn’t find my sunglasses. Strange, you may think, but I had carefully placed Gordon’s business card in the case last Saturday. So a search of the boat, a phone call to Enterprise, and phone call to a taxi firm (Danetre) in Daventry and my sunglasses have been returned to me for the cheap price of £10 – taxi drivers make very good personal couriers!

Ginny and Graham

From Sunday till Thursday we had Ginny and Graham with us on the boat. Having collected them from Sarah and Alex’s place in Surbiton on Sunday morning, we drove to Waitrose in Witney for a giant grocery shopping expedition. How we slotted things into the car around four people’s luggage I am unsure, but clearly my spatial awareness is still functioning – shame I am no good at all at Rubik’s cube though! Not too many things had to be placed around anyone’s feet except David’s.

From Waitrose and a drive through the town (we were on a tight schedule to make sure we weren’t late for lunch), we drove to Minster Lovell. David and I have both done OS walks here a number of times with friends who came to stay with us when we were living in Church Enstone – the introduction to it was via Lynne Hayes whose walking group David gatecrashed when we were in residence next door to her.

The walk is extremely interesting and very picturesque, but on Sunday we couldn’t be late for lunch! So a walk through the churchyard and an examination of the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall were our limits. There is always a slight anxiety when showing someone something that impresses us when we’re not sure if the new person will have a similarly awed reaction. However Ginny and Graham were suitably impressed – as NZers we share the awe at the extent and age of the history that is so visibly on display here. We have a long (non-European) history in NZ, but given the building materials available in NZ (wood, flax, mud), not many places have survived – at home, redoubts, forts and hangi (cooking) pits are viewable, but as many are on private land without the wonderful system of public footpaths and access that operates here in the UK, we often cannot easily see them.

The Minster Lovell Hall ( was owned by a supporter of Richard III, and he was dispossessed by Henry VII when Richard was killed. (Please get Josephine Tey’s book Daughter of Time [available on Kindle] and read a researched account of Richard III – it will disabuse you of the untruths in Shakespeare’s play, which is what most of us take our view of that period from – not that I blame Shakespeare, mind you: he was fed the same lies as everyone else.) 
The entranceway with cobbles dating back over 500 years

Inside the Great Hall
The kitchens were directly in front of where we are standing

The tower which still has the remnants of a staircase
From down by the River Windrush
From the website:
There has been a manor house at Minster Lovell since at least the 12th century, but the major part of the ruins seen today are those of a large new house built by William, Baron of Lovell and Holand, in the 1430s after his return from the French wars. Through marriage and good fortune William was one of the richest men in England, and he built his house as a demonstration of his wealth.  
William’s son John, a prominent Lancastrian and servant of Henry VI, was rewarded with the position of master forester of the neighbouring royal forest, Wychwood. By contrast, John’s son Francis, the ninth baron, served the Yorkist cause, and was created Viscount Lovell by Richard III.  
Following the defeat of the House of York in the battle of Bosworth in 1485 the hall passed into the hands of the Crown (ie confiscated – McD note) and eventually, in 1602, into the possession of the successful lawyer Sir Edward Coke. His descendant Thomas Coke, later Earl of Leicester, was in residence in 1721 and in 1728 he assumed the title Lord Lovell of Minster Lovell.   The hall was, however, abandoned in favour of the Cokes’ seat at Holkham, Norfolk, begun in the 1730s, and in about 1747 most of the buildings were dismantled, the east and west ranges and the kitchens being demolished for building stone.
One of the amazing things about this place is the ease of access and lack of guardrails, fencing and restraints in place. The walls are clearly strong and stable, and no one needs their access limited. But honestly, it is being able to envisage the everyday life of people living here, because of the extent of the remains and the explanatory signage that makes it so special.

Then on we went – mustn’t be late for lunch. We had booked at the Crown Inn, two doors up from where we used to live in Church Enstone. Tony and Caroline are still the proprietors, Tony is the chef and Caroline front of house. The food is still great and the service is friendly and warm. Ginny and Graham were both very impressed. And the menu still includes the salmon fishcakes in a thai chilli mayo – absolutely yummy! Roast pork for mains and no desserts required – that was sad as there were some lovely choices available. But it was a good thing, as how would I choose among the crème brulee, the chocolate mousse and the panacotta? Unkind!!

A walk around the village after lunch – it was nostalgic for David and me and we once again thought how lucky we had been to have had the opportunity to live there.

Then into the car and back to the boat – we weren’t on a deadline, but we had Tony and Helen from nb Holderness joining us for dinner so we had to look sharpish. Given the overindulgence at lunch which I had somehow foretold, I had planned pumpkin and sweet potato soup, extensive nibbles and a Helen-provided dessert. Still too much!!!

Tony was in fine form, performing for the antipodeans, and it was a late night! Helen, as always, was lovely …

Friday, 14 August 2015

A wonderful new home

After a nana nap at lunchtime last Saturday on our return to Molly’s from the wedding festivities and after match function, the three of us went to visit two of Molly’s sons, Vince and Gordon, Gordon’s wife Sharon and one of their sons, David. Plus the lovely dogs who would make ideal boating dogs, we decided …

Gordon and Sharon’s property outside of Abinger Hammer was probably once a farm, but is now a business park with lots of large barns that people rent from G&S for various purposes. Some years ago Gordon and Sharon had their old wooden house torn down and commenced building a new home. For a variety of reasons, the construction has taken longer than they expected, so due to recalcitrant behaviour at the planning department in the local council and partly due to pressure of other work. But they are now within a couple of months of moving in. So for the last 7 or so years, they have lived in a 3 bedroomed chalet-type place which is very lovely, but nowhere near big enough for them.

The new house is stunning and is beautifully crafted. At one point when we visited a few years ago, Vince, who lives in one of their barns along with his motorbikes, was spending his days whittling oak ‘nails’ (about 8 – 10 inches long to go through the solid oak beams) to be used instead of the metal variety. Then Gordon discovered that he could buy them for a quid each so Vince moved on to other more cost effective work on the house.

The finishing touches are being done and Sharon’s kitchen is beautiful – I say Sharon’s kitchen because there is a clear demarcation not only of duties, but spaces. Gordon has a section of the room that the kitchen occupies, for the wine – bench, wine coolers, glasses racks, wine racks … He has even claimed (but not with much success, I bet) the use of the large fridge that sits within ‘his’ area. While the kitchen is Sharon’s, he was very happy to show us the gadgetry and I was most impressed with the extractor – it rises up at the touch of a button from within the bench behind the hob. If I had seen that in NZ when we were doing the Café Rata kitchen, I may well have been tempted! And Sharon has not one but two cooking towers in her kitchen – a double oven, plus a tower containing a microwave and a steam oven. I do hope she is going to make use of them or I will have to relocate them to Café Rata …

The twin towers and behind the hob is the extractor. There is an under-bench fridge, the cupboard in the far corner is one of those nifty designs that, when the door is opened, pulls out two racks, one directly behind the door and one from back in the corner. I am not sure if the piece of timber under the bench is a design feature or a piece of timber waiting to move to its proper home ... I love the T&G surrounds. Gordon's wine kitchen is off to the right of the photo.

I was most impressed with the bathrooms as well – in particular the ensuite for G&S’s room. It is as big as our bedroom and I think the whole inside square footage of the boat would fit within it!  
Sharon's bath with the waterfall tap - all taps in their bathroom are of this style

Mmm, two shower heads in Gordon's shower - maybe he is quite grubby ...

And the shower drain that I really like - similar to Bruce's, and I am keen to have that in Cafe Rata
A basin each as well as a towel rail each! Yay!!

The landscaping is taking shape and the brick and stone work is beautifully designed and constructed. G&S’s son Nick works with Gordon and Vince and another couple of chaps.

There are a number of terraces (decks we would call them), and each one has something special about it – positioned for the sunset, positioned for the view down the hill, positioned to make the best use of the conservatory and the lounge.
The dining room opens on to this terrace that leads down to the pond and part of the garden.
Sharon and Gordon standing on the deck outside their bedroom - a lovely place to sit in the evening.
Outside the front door. There is a large atrium with a curved staircase against the internal wall. The large windows above the front door allow a view from the large landing where a couple of armchairs will be positioned.

This room is Gordon's office - he says a desk, a TV and his motorbike will live in there ... But so he can keep an eye on what is happening in the lounge (in case he is missing out on any fun) he has a full length, soft close, glass sliding door. Lovely.

The end room is the conservatory with the hot tub ready to be installed outside. It is obvious that the grandchildren come to visit - the trike with wheelbarrow-type trailer is a give-away.

In the main, the design of the whole place – house and grounds – is Gordon’s. He has an excellent eye for the end game as well as keeping a close eye on the detail as he progresses. It has the feel of a labour of love, not that he would do anything but scoff at that girlie notion, I am sure!

We are really pleased that it is coming together – it’ll be lovely to stay with them when we are over next year. The guest room is pretty special …

We have asked them to come and spend some time on the boat with us next year and they have been requested to bring the dogs. It won’t be quite so luxurious, but the food will be good and I’ll make sure there is plenty of NZ wine to give them a special treat!