The past 10 days have been a series of firsts for us. But that is what adventure is all about isn’t it???
Most important first – our first grandchild born since we left Australia to Bob’s daughter Claire and her partner Russell. Fergus is a gorgeous little boy and we are very proud of them all. This is one huge drawback of being so far away – missing out on all the excitement and cuddles. But we know there are many family and friends making up for our absence and we have sent a request to them all to give him cuddles on our behalf!!! I’m guessing by now he just wants to be left alone. He was born just one hour before Christmas Day so was the absolute best present we got!!!!
We were also able to catch up with all (except one) of our family via social media at some stage of the holidays. This is so important for us given that our Christmases by the River Murray were always very busy family affairs. Our first Christmas (another first!) on Celtic Maid was by comparison a very relaxed affair with our friends, Chris and Jim from NB Sylph, joining us for fizz and brunch involving lots of laughs, a reasonable amount of Prosecco and the need for an afternoon nap!!!!!
We had stocked up (again) for Christmas at Tescos in Rugby, staying there on the Sunday before Christmas to share a pre-Christmas turkey schnitzel lunch with our friends Chris and Sue who had driven up from Edgware. It was lovely to welcome them aboard again and they were very impressed with the covers and solar panels fitted since their last visit. We are hoping they will join us cruising when we get to the Llangollen Canal in April.
Leaving Rugby on Monday we headed into new territory following the Oxford Canal to its junction with the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury. As we were mooring up, in the wind, trying to secure the boat with pins in very damp ground, a lovely gentleman came up and offered us some valuable advice – continue on about 30 meters to the front of his boat and moor with chains to the secure railing!!!! Another example of the friendliness of the majority of the narrowboat dwellers. We took his advice and once secure, Bob and Jim were given leave passes to enjoy the hospitality of The Greyhound pub which overlooks Hawkesbury Junction. Apparently this is a favourite spot in summer for gongoozlers seeking amusement at the expense of narrowboaters trying to navigate the junction!! When we tackled it the next morning Bob managed it in a single turn – we were both impressed (he must have planned the manouver the previous evening with the help of a real ale or two!!!). This had us now navigating the Coventry Canal although we chose to turn right and head towards Nuneaton rather than go into the Coventry Basin. Both of us prefer the countryside to cities.
One of our plans was to spend some of winter along the Ashby Canal which meets the Coventry Canal at Marston Junction. This has now been deferred as we have chosen to spend some time travelling with Jim and Chris on NB Sylph. We took a couple of photos as we cruised past on our way through Nuneaton to moor near Hartshill. We will get there one day!!
On Christmas Eve we tackled the first nine of the Atherstone Lock flight and got the call about the arrival of our grandson between locks 6 and 7. You couldn’t wipe the smile from our faces as we got through the next three and finally moored. Chris and Jim joined us for a Mexican inspired dinner – and a bottle of fizz to wet the baby’s head!!!!! We stayed at this mooring for Christmas Day and Boxing Day as all the celebrating wore us out. Our Boxing Day lunch on Sylph was lovely and when we staggered home completely happy at about 7pm we realised it had been snowing (another first whilst we have been in England) – just the perfect ending to a few very wonderful days!!!!!
We have had beautiful sunny weather over the last couple of days but of course this means it has been very cold. In fact as we were cruising through Tamworth toward Hopwas we noticed all the ice in the canal. This was another first and this morning it was completely iced over!! Very beautiful but kind of scary as boats go past you breaking the ice and sending it smashing against your hull!!!! But we are still floating so…….
We moored in Hopwas just outside The Tame Otter pub and enjoyed a refreshing ale/cider with our companions whilst planning the next few days. For a Saturday night there was no disturbance as we spent a rare night amongst civilisation – and alongside a pub at that!!!!
The further north we traveled on Sunday, the more snow lay on the towpath, roofs of houses and in gardens. It seems we got off lightly where we were!! But it all looked so beautiful. And the many Christmas themed displays we saw along the way were enhanced by the backdrop of snow. Alien for Aussies but beautiful nonetheless. This part of the canal is particularly picturesque as you follow the Fazeley and Birmingham Canal from Fazeley Junction to Whittington through a valley of arable land, railways, rivers and forests. The bridges on this section are named rather than numbered and the canal returns to being the Coventry midway between the Fazeley and Fradley Junctions. The history of the canals reveals that differing section completion dates, conflicts between development companies and subsequent changes of ownership are responsible for this anomaly of naming discontinuity.
Just before Fradley Junction we found the last available moorings and chose to stay for a couple of days so that Bob and Jim could retrieve Jim’s car from Braunston and we could accomplish a few other menial household tasks. Who knows what is next – I believe we will hold discussions over dinner tonight that may reveal our future plans.
So there have been a few firsts recently for us – we cannot ever get bored!!!!!