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Life on a narrowboat can be as peaceful as it is idyllic BUT you need to understand the pros, cons, highs, lows, and day to day logistics in living on England's inland waterways. Let me help you find out all you need to know before you commit to what could be a very expensive mistake.


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Braunston to Brinklow marina

We had another slow start to the day. Sally and I left the dogs on the boat and walked back to Braunston Junction just after Midland Chandlers opened at 9am. We didn’t really need to go but we’re both addicted to making improvements to James. Sally wanted to get a couple of adhesive pads for the back deck. For some strange reason she objected to nearly falling in the canal when she slipped on water covered paintwork last week. She didn’t actually fall in, so I don’t know what all the fuss was about. Anyway, we bought  couple of pads and stuck them on when we got back to the boat.

Our plan for today was to get through Rugby and back to the peace and quiet of the open countryside once more. Our journey was delayed for a while because of a hire boat. I’m afraid to say, it came from Calcutt.

We look after four narrowboats for the Royal Navy; Emma, Lafter, The Andrew and, launched this year, Trafalgar. These boats are available to hire at a discounted rate to any Royal Navy staff. The boat we followed for half an hour at just over tickover was Emma.

There were at least half a dozen crew on board. None of them appeared to have mastered the knack of steering. The boat bounced erratically from bank to bank as it cruised at a snail’s pace past the entrance to Barby Moorings.

The crew, as is usual for Royal Navy narrowboat hirers, were considerate and well mannered. They just couldn’t steer the boat. After half an hour and several near misses with oncoming boats they pulled over to allow us to pass.

Hillmorton was Sally’s first opportunity to work a lock other than those at Calcutt. I had been told that the paddles at Hillmorton were a little stiff. I offered to wind the paddles for Sally.

“I need the exercise. I’ll do it.”
“Do you want me to start them off for you?”
“Don’t you think I’m capable? I’ll do it.”
“I’m only trying to help”
“You’re always trying to help. I need to do this myself.”
A brief silence, punctuated by grunts, groans and curses as Sally applied what little weight she has to the paddle.
“This one’s broken. It won’t go round.”
“It’s not broken. It’s just stiff. Let me do it.”
“I can’t turn it at all. It must be broken!”

Sally eventually reluctantly allowed me to help. I have to admit, the paddle was quite difficult to raise.

Sally at Hillmorton Top Lock

At the bottom lock I left James in the capable hands of the volunteer lock keeper and Sally and raced back to the cafe for ice creams. Five ice creams; one for Sally and I, one for the lock keeper, and one each for the children, Daisy and Charlie.

In Rugby we stopped just after bridge 58 and popped into the the big Tesco store a stone’s throw away from the canal. Sally needed to buy a hat to keep the sun out of her eyes and I needed to stock on on Theakston’s Old Peculiar.

By late afternoon Rugby was behind us. On the map I had identified a likely looking mooring near to Brinklow marina. We stopped just after bridge 38. The location was perfect. We set up our posh folding table and chairs on the sun kissed towpath without another boat or person in sight. It was wonderful.

Even more wonderful was Sally not allowing me to move a muscle after driving all day. She brought me a beer and a plateful of spicy corned beef hash. In the two hours we sat and relaxed on the canal bank just one boat and one cylcist past us. The only distraction was the frequent clatter of trains on the West Coast Main Line about half a mile away.

We took the dogs for a walk before we retired to the boat for the evening. We strolled back up the canal to where Brinklow marina have used the old Fennis Field Arm of the Oxford canal as an entrance to their business. As we passed the marina entrance in the boat I had noticed a sign offering free overnight moorings for none residents so we walked around the marina to see what they had to offer.

Relaxing with a beer near Brinklow marina entrance

The marina is a single basin offering finger pontoons for multiple boats. I don’t know how long the marina has been open, but it looks very new. At the far end from the entrance there’s a huge mound of aggregate which has been used for topping the marina road plus half a dozen countainers and spare pontoons. They don’t have any permanent buildings from which to service moorers. There appear to be no facilities other than a cage containing gas and coal.

There’s an attractive far reaching view over the fields surrounding the basin and a small lake set in a large area of cut grass studded with picnic benches. The mooring rates are not much cheaper than they are at Calcutt. Given that Calcutt has ten full time staff on site at all times, offers everything from engine repairs to complete boat painting and a landscape which has been maturing for the last twenty years, I know where I would rather moor. Even though Brinklow offer free overnight moorings, I don’t think I would be tempted to stay there. The canal offers places to stay which are far more scenic.

The walk was the perfect end to the perfect day.

If you’re reading this post in the blog section of the forum, you may not be able to see some of the pictures or may only see them as thumbnails. Click on the link below to see the photo’s on the original blog post.

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Paul Smith
 

After six and a half years living on a narrowboat on England's inland waterways, Paul and his wife Cynthia now wander Europe by motorhome during the winter, and on the Dutch and French waterways in the warmer months on their 32' Dutch motor cruiser.

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