Hospitality and rugby

We’re at the end of another spell off the boat, and this period is best summarised as hospitality and rugby, due to the number of guests we’ve hosted and rugby excitement. We started off withthe company of Roger’s mum who had a little break with us. This was followed by our good friends Lynne and Rebekah who stayed with us whilst Nick was in Southampton general. Not the most pleasant of circumstances, but how lovely to spend some quality time with such lovely people. Fortunately, Nick is recovering well from his big op, and was released after a week, just in time to get home for his sons wedding – more of that later. 

Last Saturday, Jack, Polly and I had the great pleasure of joining the North London Brass Band, together with other members of our band, to play at Twickenham before the England France World Cup warm up match. We played on the concourse and at the edge of the pitch prior to the match as the spectators arrived. I have to admit to being a little distracted by the players warming up as we played, and the ball casually going over our heads during our playing caused a giggle. Fortunately it didn’t go down the bell of any of the Tuba’s!

We then lined up in the tunnel to go on the pitch. This was the most exciting bit, as we were counted down before being led in. We marched onto the pitch and proudly played Jerusalem as armed forces personnel brought out the flags. Such a fantastic experience to play and to hear the sound echoing through the stands. 63,000 people were there and gave us a huge cheer.   

Playing Jerusalem


this picture made it to the Guardian.


Practising & Chandlers Ford crew


Family (and Abi!)


The main attraction

The icing on the cake was seats to watch the match, which were ideally located for a fab view of the 1st half English tries. What a brilliant experience and fabulous memories. 

This last week has included 2 more guests, Ross and my mum, Polly’s birthday which necessitated another cake, and a wedding on the Isle of Wight of which I talked earlier. It was lovely to join Lynne and Nick to celebrate the marriage of their son Luke to Brie. A lovely sunny day, time with friends that I hadn’t seen for years and a lovely celebration – and so wonderful that Nick was well enough to enjoy the day with them.       
  Back to the boat tomorrow. 


CarFest North

We’d been excitedly anticipating CarFest North and it had finally arrived. We travelled on the Thursday to the Shrewsbury Arms about a mile from the site, where we camped up. This allowed us to get on site early and we were parked and pitched with the kettle on bright and early.  

 We went onto the festival site as soon as the gates opened to collect our programme and find out what was on. There were new and different things to see and do and we found lots of new places like the Vintage Village. We liked the Vintage tea room which served pots of tea and freshly baked scones, and if you were particularly lucky in your timing the staff would burst into song too.  

   Roger and I had a very competitive go at Lawn mower racing, using litter pickers to pick up plastic balls. Two goes, and one victory each, so honours were even. No photos of us, but here’s one of our friends Jane having a go. Look at the concentration.  
 The cars don’t really do much for me, but there were undoubtedly lots of really whizzy cars on show and lots of displays. We did see some fantastic stunt driving, but not clear on the practical uses of such skills!

The music was a real highlight for me and on Friday I really enjoyed Scouting for Girls. Billy Ocean was an unexpected joy and The Boomtown Rats were compulsive watching, but I do wish Bon Geldolf wasn’t so foul mouthed.  

   Saturday was a mixed weather day and we spent time hopping into tents to avoid the showers. We managed to get booked into a session in the Weber tent, making Lamb Koftas. Great fun and a good lunch. We also seemed to spend a lot of time by the Badgers Beers and Crabbies tent where free samples were copious and gladly consumed. This was also in the area of the Soreen van and the Doves cereals unit. Thanks to them for the supplies. 

Saturday was the day of the air accident that led to the untimely death of Kevin Whyman.  We had been half watching the air display and had seen the big black cloud of smoke but hadn’t realised the significance at the time. There was a motorbike stunt team who were periodically jumping through a burning arch and this created plumes of black smoke. We’d presumed this was what we’d seen and were shocked and saddened when we heard there had been a crash. 
Chris Evans came on to the main stage before the bands started and told the crowd what had happened. He also announced that in memory of, and in tribute to Kevin the show should go on. Texas came on and sensitively sang an acoustic number before moving into their set. They were followed by Ward Thomas, The Feeling, Seasick Steve (has to be googled to be believed) Sophie Ellis-Bextor (with Kevin and Karen from Strictly) and finally Paul Heaton and Jaqui Abbot. Fantastic music and the rain stayed away all the while the bands were playing.  

 Sunday dawned bright and sunny and we promised ourselves a lazier day. We visited the Britains Best tent with lots of fine British produce and stocked up on some favourites, visited the tea tent again and made for the main stage which was starting earlier. The session was appropriately started with a minutes silence for Kevin Whyman which was sensitively surrounded by music played by a military band and was wholeheartedly supported by the vast crowd. The Sunday evening music was great again with my highlights being The Shires, The Proclaimers who are a particular favourite and Will Young. This was capped off with Lord of the Dance dancers and fireworks.  

 The other fantastic thing about the weekend was sharing it with friends who were also there, and how remarkable that we found each other amongst the thousands of other people.  

   CarFest is a fantastic weekend with great music, fab food and exciting cars (if you’re in to these). It raises millions of pounds for Children in Need and is such a lovely event. Chris Evans does a brilliant job as host and it was great to see the support he had, particularly after the air crash. A lovely time, I recommend it to you all.  


Leeds and Liverpool canal

Once back on board we set off down the Rufford arm back to the main Leeds and Liverpool canal. This time we turned left heading for Wigan. Our plan was to head over the Pennines to Leeds taking in some lovely little villages as we did so. 

The trip to Wigan was relatively easy aside from the large numbers of swing bridges that pop up. We enjoyed doing locks again after our long stay on the Lancaster with no locks along the main line. 

 We were fortunate with the weather and enjoyed this journey. On entering Wigan pier another boat crew told us that the Wigan locks were closed as a boat had gone into them and buckled one of the lock gates. We carried on in hope that they’d be open when we got there.   We were very lucky, as we arrived one day and the next day they let a few boats up to test the temporary solution to the problem. Fortunately we buddied up with Jim and Sheila on NB Islonian – a trading boat, and were the first boats let up the flight of 21 locks in bright sunshine. Sheila and I soon had a system going as Jim and Rog brought the boats through. It was a bit daunting at lock 83 (the broken one) to have to turn the engines off and climb out of the boats whilst the lock filled, but we survived the flight due to hard work by us, and some very welcome help by some of the CART volunteers.  

We learnt that Jim and Sheila were heading to Blackburn canal festival where they were due to be trading, so we decided to tag along and consequently found ourselves in the hub of the festival in the centre of Blackburn. We enjoyed the stalls and music and I was even commissioned to make some bunting which I achieved. We also met up with the Wlods, having a lovely time catching up on the many years since we’d last been together.  

 It was soon time to leave so we said our goodbyes and pressed on eastwards. Our next major town was Burnley. The huge Burnley embankment carries the navigation across part of the town. Called ‘the straight mile’ it’s 3/4 of a mile long, but at 60ft high quite dramatic. It’s all very tidy around the canal, but seems quite cut off despite its proximity to the town due to a lack of access points from the canal. 

There was a consistent view in this part of the journey of Pendle Hill – of Pendle Witch fame which connected us to our time in Lancaster.  

lovely wallpapered telephone box outside a wallpaper company, Blackburn


Our next adventure was Foulridge Tunnel which is at the summit of the canal. This is managed by traffic lights which meant we had to wait to pass through. The journey through was uneventful, but we enjoyed a night with friends in the village  

As we continued we enjoyed such beautiful scenery in a very remote area. We then started to descend the locks heading down from the summit. Our next stop of note was in the Airedale valley, Skipton. A beautiful Yorkshire town, quaint and picturesque. We had a lovely explore of the town, walking to the castle and sampling some Yorkshire local fare.  


Fred Trueman statute


We left Skipton and headed to the famous (in canal circles!) Bingley Five Rise and Bingley Three Rise locks. Such impressive staircase locks then bring you steeply down nearly 90′ into Bingley.     

After a good nights rest we headed to Saltaire, an estate village that owes its existence to Sir Tirus Salt a wealthy Victorian mill owner. He created the village to cater for his mill workers providing them with housing, schooling but no pub – he was an opponent of strong drink. There’s a beautiful church and a display of David Hockney’s art in the old mill.       Altogether a lovely stop. 

We then pushed on for Leeds, passing through Apperley Bridge and many more locks. We started early in the morning for our last push to Leeds, amidst talk of some possible anti social behaviour at the locks later in the day and rain later. We made excellent progress and arrived in a very windy Granary Wharf in Leeds by early afternoon, missing the rain and any unwanted problems. Once moored we set out to explore. Leeds was lovely with beautiful buildings and a good feel. We even managed to drop in to see The Sound of Music at the theatre whilst we were there. A fantastic performance, slightly different to the film with songs that I hadn’t heard previously. The seats were a bargain and we had a fantastic view.  

 We then met up with Ann and John for a river cruise to Castleford. We passed through the bottom lock of the Leeds and Liverpool onto to the Aire and Calder Navigation. This passes through three really beautiful bridges prior to arriving at the first of a set of automated locks. As you travel along you alternate between river and navigation before we arrived at the Castleford flood lock. We arrived safely having escaped most of the rain that was forecast and said goodbye to our guests.  

 Finally we cruised a short hop to Fairies Moorings where we moored the boat whilst we have other things to do. 

The Leeds and Liverpool canal has been great, but hard work. Between Wigan and Leeds it was 92 miles, 86 locks, 42 moveable bridges and 2 tunnels. A very lovely way to cross the Pennines and we met some lovely people too.