contentedsouls

Join us on our travels around Europe aboard our Dutch Tjalk Francoise

  • Jill Budd

    After 6 years aboard our Narrowboat Matilda Rose in the UK, we took the plunge and shipped her across to Europe. After 2 years in Europe we knew we didn't want to return to the UK so took the plunge and purchased a 1902 20 mtr Dutch Tjalk called Francoise and are now continuing our travels of the waterways of Europe in a buxom wench

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Archive for February, 2016

Week 2 in Port

Posted by contentedsouls on 25/02/2016

0 locks, 70kms by car

I can’t believe another week has passed. I have been such a scrubber – I have housemaid’s knee and tennis elbow. The salon and galley are scrubbed, varnished, cupboards cleaned and relined with fresh washable vinyl and decisions have been made about what is staying and what is going. I curse the people who installed MR with the attractive finially bits on all the cupboard doors – I am on my second pack of toothbrushes to liberate the coal dust that settled within! The computer mouse which vanished during transfer between boats turned up in a box of cat food on Francois this morning when I fed Daisy. It’s just a matter of working our way through the job list that we never finished when we lived on board … sigh.

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Sunday was declared scrubber/varnisher relief day and we were surprised by weather in the 18/19 degree range. I walked the Mutt down the left bank of the Loire whilst G prepped roast lamb as we had invited guests for dinner.

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Such was the weather that there was a hasty scrabble to find cushions, tables and chairs to try out Francoise’s rear end for the first time!

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Dinner turned out to be a bit frantic, rather than restful, as the glorious weather encouraged a number of promenaders to gongoozle – some of which had to be invited to join us; Barbara and Steve on the right and the owner of l’Authentique  (our Thursday ‘happy hour’ hosts), Katia and her mother and daughter.

Today we drove up into the hills (where it was snowing) to l’precontent at Arfeuilles for lunch – around 22 of us. The scenery would have been stunning if you could have seen through the clouds – yep! Another day off.

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Matilda Rose is now for sale see http://www.apolloduck.fr/feature.phtml?id=460724 or take a look at our for sale page above.

 

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A week in Roanne

Posted by contentedsouls on 18/02/2016

0 locks, 0 kms, 0 hours.

It’s been a very busy week starting to get MR ready for sale. I thought we’d need a fair bit of time to tidy her up but, so far, the time has been consumed by Francoise – trying to find new homes on Francoise for all the stuff we’d left on MR; art stuff, fishing tackle, kayak (and kayak stuff). We’ve sorted out beds and bedding, saucepans, china and cutlery; both boats had top quality stuff on board and it has been surprisingly difficult making decisions as to ‘which’ to keep – no, I’m not complaining; just saying that I have had some fun decisions to make. G has been having a go at ‘de-fogging’ Francoise’ double glazing window units; one or two have blown.

Spring is definitely in the air; new flags around the port, gardeners landscaping and planting up the grounds and boaters returning to their boats after winter sojourns, so new people to meet at boaters’ happy hour tonight and a dog walk planned for tomorrow. Also an expedition into the hills planned for lunch next week; about 20 of us I think. We had a lovely meal and evening with Andy and Sally on board NB Puzzler last night too.

Both boats are now in chaos with stuff being shunted back and forth but the sooner MR is emptied and cleaned up, the sooner we can be off on our travels again. With thanks to Mick for his help with some heavy lifting.

Unless anything in particular happens or takes my fancy, it is likely to be a little while before you hear from me again – we just need to get everything sorted and MR up for sale so that we can get going again.

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Chaos reigns

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We couldn’t understand why Muttley was whingeing and told him to, ‘be quiet’. 15 minutes later we realised that he was caught up by his coat on the bike in the wheel house – bless him! Poor, long suffering dog.

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Pont le Beaune to Melay. Melay to Roanne Port

Posted by contentedsouls on 15/02/2016

4 locks, 22 kms, 5 hours

3 locks, 26 kms 4 1/2 hours

Due to stopping early the previous day, we had a lot of ground water to make up in the morning to make our first lock appointment at 10.45. There was a time when we could only book locks for on the hour; then we added half past the hour  to our vocabulary – now we can book anytime we like! Their time is as crazy as their numbers; 11 – 15, 4 x 20 + 10, etc. G said I should be ready to leave at 9 am so, needless to say, we left at 8.45 in another howling gale. We arrived early at the lock and thought the lockie said he’d see us through the next 3 locks before stopping for his lunch at 1.30 – we really should know better by now and ended up moored below Chambilly lock for an hour waiting for him to return from lunch at 1.30.

We wanted to catch up with Nicolas at Melay, so had scheduled in a stopover for Wednesday. On arrival, a sudden and timely lull in the off shore wind gave us a moment to get to the bank and tie off. I knew the village shop would be closed in the morning so I set off with Muttley to get provisions which would allow us to invite Nico for supper the next day. Fortunately I was still wearing full wet weather gear as 5 minutes after we left the most almighty squall came through – Muttley and I arrived at the village shop in a sodden heap much to the amusement of the shop owner and his son; thank goodness we moored up when we did and not 5 minutes later. Travelling in strong wind is stressful and having been thoroughly washed and blow dried by the elements and then made dinner I’d had enough for one day.

The next morning, having made sure supper was all prepped and ready to go for the evening, Muttley and I set off on one of our favourite walks that we discovered when we stayed here on Francoise a few weeks ago; only getting slightly wet.

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Nicolas arrived for supper having not only supplied us with some logs – we’d run out and were relying on the central heating – but also bringing a huge apple pie with homemade pastry and a bottle of excellent wine. Muttley was delighted to see him too. It turned into a lovely evening all round.

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We left early again in the morning and thankfully the wind had dropped right off – it was bitterly cold though. You know it’s cold when, the normally hardy, Graham asked to be spelled after only 40 minutes. I was well wrapped up and thoroughly enjoyed what was likely to be my last day at the helm of MR.

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The temperature gradually climbed and Muttley and I walked for an hour or so before the last stretch up into the port where we had to wait for the lock until after lunch again. When I looked back MR seemed to be cruising by remote control (man overboard?) and I was surprised to see snow on the hills on either side of the valley. Mick, at Roanne, had advised us that a tree had come down and blocked the Canal along this stretch, but then updated us that VNF had cleared it.

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We arrived noisily, tooting our horn to make sure everyone knew we were back – well we had to give everyone a fair warning to hide behind their sofas and pretend that they were out. The Port was looking very smart with all new flags ready for the 2016 season and our mates on NB Puzzler were on hand (not surprised with all the racket we were making) to help us moor nose to tail against Francoise. Paul, Brian and Mary were also waving like mad from their respective boats (all our other friends were up the other end so were able to ignore us). A very strange feeling; as if we were coming ‘home’ – it won’t last; I’ll be whingeing to move again in a fortnight – but great to catch up with everyone at boaters’ happy hour in the evening. Brilliant.

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The last photo was taken by Sally from NB Puzzler.

Although you can’t see MR’s presence alongside in the dark, it was really funny when I called Daisy in to bed, “so which bed would that be Mum – where are we sleeping tonight?” The boys seemed happy to stretch out again too.

 

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So here we are, ‘his ‘n’ hers’ – oh, and the kayak on top of course!!

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Paray-le-Monial to Digoin and Pont le Beaune

Posted by contentedsouls on 14/02/2016

3 locks, 13 kms, 3 1/2 hours

4 locks, 9 kms, 2 1/2 hours

Leaving the lovely Paray on Sunday morning my crewing services were not required, so I assumed the position of galley slave; prepping the veg for Sunday ‘lunch’ which G would cook later and rustling up a big pot of turkey tagine for dinners later in the week. After himself had pulled into the first lock of the day I eventually realised that we had only gone down two foot and then stopped – all I could see out of the galley window was leaves, funny time of year for this problem.

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When we realised that it wasn’t leaves stopping the lock emptying, G called VNF (who were booked for 10 am and should have been in attendance). No answer from the VNF; fairly predictable for a Sunday. He tried the intercom on the lock hut wall – no answer. So that was us stuffed and stuck, a bit like the Grand Old Duke of York, neither up nor down.

As we were discussing our impending night in the lock, the inhabitant of the old lock cottage arrived in his car and nodded to me. I, “bonjour” ed him and said that the lock was broken and he disappeared indoors with his bread. After about 5 minutes he came back out again and spoke to G and then started re-filling the lock, then he cleared a micro-switch on the top gate and down we went; it is obviously a common occurrence as he knew exactly what the problem was. We caught up with ‘our’ VNF man at our 3rd, and last, lock of the day – he was drinking coffee round his friend’s house. I would like to think that, eventually, he might have come looking for us to see if there was a problem but I’m not sure he would. When G told him that we’d been stuck in the first lock for over 40 minutes and that we’d been rescued by the lock cottage resident, he just shrugged in a ‘you are here now’ way.

I imagined Digoin to be a big town (given that it’s the Roanne Digoin canal), but it’s a funny little place – not exactly heaving with life.

After mooring up we set off with the dogs for a pint but, as it was 2pm, we didn’t hold out much hope. We actually found a bar cum bookies open for the afternoon – most of the betting was on the trotting races which I rather like; can you imagine being allowed to sit drinking and gambling a Sunday afternoon away in the UK.

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Five minutes before we were due to leave for Pont le Beaune on Monday morning the weather, very suddenly, turned vicious on us with strong, gusting wind. As we immediately needed to cross over the exposed aqueduct over the River Loire, I wasn’t very impressed and thought we should stay put – G decided to set off and see how bad it was; pulling over after the aqueduct and first lock if necessary. We turned off of the Canal du Centre and onto the L’ateral a la Loire and then, the final leg, onto the Roanne Digoin. Once we turned onto the Roanne Digoin Canal our lockie was the happiest and most helpful chappie you could wish for, despite the foul weather. We shared the lock with a coypu who swam passed me and then climbed up into the lock gate. The French eat them and they taste like rabbit apparently (unless I was having my leg pulled). Once at the top, our lockie was quite happy to wait whilst we filled with water and we discussed the problem of the strong wind with him – he then made sure the rest of the locks were ready and waiting with a gate open (only needing one gate again of course) so that we could power straight in.

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You can see how strong the wind was – this is the activator cord which has to be caught and pulled; fortunately, after the first lock, the lockie over-rode the system and set the locks. Some of these locks were quite deep and all were manually activated – he sorted our ropes and made sure our ride was gentle although, for some reason, always opened the top gate for us to leave on the opposite side from where the boat was!

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We were both very relieved to moor up for the night – we had intended to travel on a bit further after the last lock so that we could have a later start in the morning, but we’d had enough. A perfectly adequate mooring, but Daisy had to stay in and there was absolutely nowhere within Baxter’s limited walking range that I could let him off the lead.

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Genelard to Paray-le-Monial

Posted by contentedsouls on 09/02/2016

8 locks, 20 kms, 4 hours

A really lovely cruise with no problems at any of the locks – a shame that all the original lock cottages were derelict though. We moored next to a great big park, on the other side of which is the beautiful little town, in light rain. After a late lunch on board, I couldn’t resist venturing out with Muttley to explore even though it was raining and getting dark. The internet informed us that it would be market day in the morning, so we needed to be up early to get everything done before 12 o’clock closing.

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Our first port of call in the morning was the local kitchen shop where Madame was clearly bored and settled down for a good natter with G whilst I had a look round. She filled him in with all the essential info regarding the best butcher on the market and which speciality sausages to buy – bourdin noir evidently (only tried the bourdin blanc so far – but I’m not a sausage fan). I ended up having to rescue G from the conversation or the market would have been closed; but not before he bought an essential piece of kit for his new hobby – next stop snorkel shop.

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Our first stop at the market was the stall selling Italian produce and I wanted a few sun dried tomatoes – I always struggle with the weight of stuff (I had just the same problem in the UK) and don’t know how much what I want weighs; G asked him for 4 – all I wanted – which sent him into paroxysms of laughter. He supplied the 4 and wouldn’t charge me – once I’d tried them I wished I’d bought half a kilo!

Next we hit the fruit and veg where the stall holder rejoiced in shouting out the names of my purchases in English as he weighed them, whilst we shouted them out in French. By the time he announced that our bill came to, “4 shillings and 3 pence” we had a well entertained audience gathered round. By the time we reached the butcher our reputation had arrived before us so we were in for a bit more stick …….. and no, I didn’t try the black bourdin for fear it might be like black pudding.

After all this merriment G decided it was time for a beer, but I wanted to go to the little supermarket first in case it closed for lunch – G thought this also was hilarious as the store was one of the, ‘8 a Huit’ chain. We had a beer and then discovered that the 8’til late was, in fact, closed from 12 until 2.30!!!! So we returned home for lunch and I walked Muttley again before traipsing back into town to fetch the shopping – it’s not fair (she whined); I should only weigh about 7 stone with all this walking and humping shopping about!

This occupants of this town would appear to be supplied with regular prescriptions of happy pills; when I asked for bouillon in the store, she looked at me blankly. I repeated, ‘bouillon’. A sudden look of understanding ‘ah…bouillon’, she said. I replied in my best (and well rehearsed) French, ‘isn’t that what I just said?’. She looked at me with a big smile and said, ‘non’.

Sadly, the man in the Desigual shop hadn’t been taking his prescription – I spied a rather nice jacket/cardigan type top which was half price at 87.50 euros but he wouldn’t take a card – only cash or cheque. Cheques are, probably, the most common means of payment here still, but we don’t have a cheque book with our French bank account so I dug out what was in my purse, plus my emergency beer money from the bottom of my spec case, plus the crisis money tucked into my secret (don’t tell G) pocket and finally mustered 85 euros. He still wasn’t letting go of ‘my’ jacket and I had to sift through my last 2 and 1 centime coins to raise the last 2.50 before he would relinquish it – there was a point when I thought he might hold me upside down by my ankles and shake me. I could, of course, have exacted my revenge by not producing the last 50 centimes and walking away but I needed that jacket. We had two days of sunshine here – what a delightful place and perfect for the rest of the crew too – even Baxter enjoyed a roll in the sun and was seen to break into a canter.

That goose wasn’t very impressed with G’s presence though!

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Probably too many photos again – loved this place

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Montachanin to Blanzy. Blanzy to Genelard

Posted by contentedsouls on 07/02/2016

7 locks, 9 kms, 2 1/2 hours

8 locks, 20 kms, 3 lift bridges, 5 hours

We stayed put the next day and it peed with rain which I was quite pleased about; it meant I wasn’t under pressure to do very much – a shame in a way though as there was a lovely lake to walk round. Neither I nor the dogs are very keen on walking in the rain but I did get a short walk there before we left in the morning.

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Heading off downhill was going to be a doddle as the ‘start posts’ would be to the hand of the helm (at the rear of the lock) and would be nice dry (not manky) cords above ground. They would also be quick if they emptied at the same speed as they filled. Yeah, yeah! Here’s a picture of the manky cords that you have to yank on the way up – hard to tell blue cord from red.

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1st lock the start post was right up the front, at the 2nd lock the start post was in the right place but the lock was on double red lights so we were joined by a lockie, at the 3rd lock we were joined by a second lockie. All the locks emptied at a snail’s pace but were perfectly manageable single handed – leaving one of us free to do something useful – although we had a double lockie escort all the way down. Crazy. Lock 6 had broken down so they did provide a purpose in the end. Moored at Blanzy we had to keep Daisy in overnight and it was a long walk to find somewhere to let Muttley off lead – the towpath all the way along this stretch has been replaced by a busy little road. G heroically went off on the electric bike and fetched coal blocks from the Brico at Monceau-les-Mines; how he lifted his rucksack, let alone cycled with it on his back, I’ll never know.

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On leaving Blanzy we picked up a surfeit of VNF guys for the 2 locks down into Monceau where we encountered the first of three lift bridges with a pull cord lurking above the water – pulling it did us no good as the lights on the bridge were out. We lurked mid stream waiting for our VNF escort to turn up. They didn’t turn up. We ‘phoned all the numbers but, usual story, no-one answered (it wasn’t lunchtime). After nearly an hour, someone answered the phone and gabbled at us incomprehensively. Around 10 minutes after that a green light went on (no-one around) and up went the bridge, followed by the other two bridges at 10 minute intervals – it would seem that God is not the only one who moves in mysterious ways!

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After that wasted hour we made good time and I was surprised how twisty the canal became along this stretch although the road barrier running all the way alongside made a good sat nav with chevron signs marking the really tight bends – stops you nodding off though; especially when it got a bit blustery too. The run in to Genelard goes through a deep cut which saves you a lock or 3 and provides good dog walking, a nice spot with a big history and we decided to take a day off there.

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We awoke in the morning to heavy rain, but decided to go into town in search of lunch and some bits and bobs from the epicerie. We had a choice of 2 establishments – one of which was a non-starter as it’s offering of the day was andouillettes (can’t spell it} and frites. For those of you who have not yet experienced the horrors of these little monsters they are tripe sausages  ….. yuk, yuk and thrice yuk!

The other option was busy, always a good sign, and we opted for the three course 13 euro menu with coffee and very good it was too. I rather like not having to choose my food (as long as it’s not tripe sausages) and, let’s face it, you don’t get a choice when you go to a friend’s house for dinner – you know it’s going to be fresh and the price is amazing. At the end of our meal we started chatting to a very elegant family; Joanne, Pierre and their son William, they run a local Estate Agency business and, on the spur of the moment, I invited William to come and see what a (filthy and untidy) narrowboat looked like – I’d have killed G if he had suggested it! Joanne then picked us up in the evening and drove us back to her lovely home which, originally, was a tannery on the upper floor and had been converted to a beautiful light and airy home situated between the River Bourbance (bottom of garden) and the Canal (front of the house). All of the previous French houses we’ve visited have consisted of small, dark rooms. I was fascinated to learn about house buying in France and that during the period of sale between (their equivalent of) exchange and completion, the Marie has a right to purchase the property over and above the potential purchaser – can you imagine agreeing to the purchase of a house and then your MP saying, “no you can’t buy it, I want it”. In fairness, Joanne says it’s only happened to a client of hers once in 15 years. We drank Champagne and Joanne sent us home with the rest of the bottle as she was going out to dinner later. Another lovely day.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

Morey to Montchanin

Posted by contentedsouls on 05/02/2016

14 locks, 13 kms, 3 1/2 hours

This trip took us up to the summit pound and we anticipated, from previous experience, that we were going to be in for a pretty rough ride as 10 of these 14 locks were the >5 metre type with the twin rising bollards. We weren’t wrong and, despite slotting into a routine with good teamwork, had a pretty rough ride of it. Needless to say I could not take pictures but I did in the 3 metre type where we couldn’t get a rope on and just rode it out – these next photos show the lock fill from one with gate paddles and looks a bit fierce but are, actually fine

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The next photo is a 3 metre lock filling via ground paddles and looks fairly innocuous. It’s deceptive and these are surprisingly fierce as they surge at various points along the chamber. In the >5 metre ones they blast up between you and the wall.

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With only 2 more biggies to go and enough adrenalin flowing through our systems to run a marathon, they decided to throw another trick at us – the rising bollard at the front didn’t rise, leaving our rope attached to the bollard below water – I could neither remove it nor slacken it as it was pinned tightly between the lock chamber wall and the boat – as I reached for the knife to cut the rope, the water pressure suddenly eased and G released the rear rope and throttle and I was able to pull it clear. With nothing more that I could do about anything, I took a photo – it stayed down there as the water rose.

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As we entered the last one, I pulled my big girl pants up very tight – so tight in fact that when I saw this bollard positioned mid-wall, where neither I nor the lockie could reach it with anything, the elastic snapped. You can, incidentally, see how far forward that ‘start cord’ is from the bollard in this photograph. I told the lockie that there was no bloody way we were going through that lock unless we could get a rope on it. He told me he would fill the lock very gently – he had, previously, repeatedly told me that he couldn’t stop the fast fill and that he had no control over it! We went; he filled it very, very gently. So why couldn’t he have slowed down the others?????????

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We moored on the summit pound in increasing winds and heavy rain outside Montchanin and my adrenalin filled body super-charged me into town to buy much needed provisions and wine; a lot of wine.

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Chagny to Morey

Posted by contentedsouls on 03/02/2016

9 locks, 20 kms, 5 1/2 hours

You leave Chagny over a pretty impressive railway junction and, for the first time here, had to chug along at tick over passed moored boats – Shroppy Union it aint tho! Across the valley we could see the smoke rising from the fires where they were burning off the cuttings after pruning the vines; the smoke was mixing with the low clouds and it was hard to visually separate the two.

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We pulled into the first lock and headed toward the ladder/manky rope combination at the front by the cill to activate the lock before scuttling into reverse and cowering at the back. A VNF van turned up with a face like a wet Monday, took my rope and threw it over the nearest bollard before pulling the starter cord. Unfortunately ‘the nearest bollard’ left us still right up under the cill which, with the speed these locks fill, is not a happy place to be! Then he buggered off. Between this lock and the second, my little (now very alert) brain rehearsed an entire French conversation about how we would not be putting ropes on in the locks! By the time we reached the 2nd lock I was full of assertiveness and bad grammar and ….. he wasn’t there – he’d been replaced by Mr Happy who didn’t care what we did nor how we did it as long as we were happy too and we had a lovely cruise, continuing on with the locks in sequence when Mr Happy went off for lunch. We passed the LocoBoat hire yard and I,briefly, wondered how they coped with all the manoeuvring required in the locks if they were new to boating – and that was before I new what the remains of our trip to the summit had in store for us!!!

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Eventually we ran out of that lock sequence, so moored up and gave the dogs a quick run whilst we waited for Mr Happy to finish his lunch and start the next section. We were able to wild moor on the bank on the opposite side from the road which provided a lovely hunting ground for Daisy and some good walking up into the hills for Muttley and I.

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Up in the middle of nowhere I found this rudimentary drinking fountain but decided not to test the waters

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I slept surprisingly well, despite the knowledge that 10 of the 14 locks the following day were going to be of the vicious 5+ metre variety to the summit.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

 
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