Welford Church, May 2008

Sunday, 11th May 2008: At Welford again for dry-dock and blacking.

As planned, we brought 'Alnwick' to Welford for dry-docking and 'blacking' on Wednesday, 23rd April 2008. The picture above shows the Parish Church of St. Mary at Welford where Graham attended Sunday School lessons in the 1950s. On Monday, 28th April, Graham joined the local bell ringers for a practice session. The journey from Cropredy was completed at a leisurely pace, taking four days and we were most grateful to our friend, Helen Wilde from Cropredy who assisted with the all-important 'car shuffle' before joining us aboard for lunch on the Sunday. The following day (Monday, 21st April) we travelled between Napton and Braunston in convoy with John Gascoigne on NB 'Sabrina' which looked resplendent in its new livery. 'Sabrina' is a seventy foot 'Northwich Trader', with a Kelvin K3 engine, so in many ways, it is very similar to our boat - albeit, a few years younger! The K3 in 'Sabrina' certainly sounds a lot younger than our's - it is much quieter and doesn't have the familiar knocks and rattles that we have to put up with! One of these days we shall need to plan a thorough overhaul and replace our pistons and liners but, hopefully, this need not be done for several years! The paint job and sign-writing on 'Sabrina' were carried out by Phil Speight and we were particularly impressed with the fine 'Roses and Castles' work on the back cabin doors. A reminder that we really need to get on with our paint jobs! We left John and 'Sabrina' at Braunston but, because, at the time, Graham was still suffering with pain from the back injury he sustained in March, John gallantly helped Jane with the 'lock-wheeling' through Braunston's wide and heavy locks.

While at Welford we were visited by family and friends from Leicestershire, including Nigel and Sue from Eaton with their friend Brenda who joined us for a canal excursion to Foxton and back! We also enjoyed several good meals and drinks at The Wharf Inn with Graham's brother Martyn and his partner Karen as well as Bill, Debbie and Kristina Ford. We can certainly recommend the The Wharf Inn as a traditional boater-friendly pub with excellent home cooked food and all very good value for money. The picture on the left shows one of the old cast iron boundary posts used by the original Grand Junction Canal Company. Graham discovered several of these on his walks around the area and they provide a link with the rich transport history of the village, especially around the old wharf and basin. Two reservoirs were built nearby (a short walk from the canal basin and well worth the effort) to feed the canal and a third at Naseby - the supply from the latter syphons under the River Avon near the junction of the Naseby Road and the old main road - Welford was once the major staging post on the direct coach route between Leicester and Northampton, in more recent times this road became part of the A50 trunk route but since the opening of motorways and the new A14, it has been downgraded. Apparently, before the canal was built, there was a ford (which probably gave the village its name) across the River Avon near the present junction with the Naseby Road. During the 1950s, the river here was generally known by Welford residents as 'The Greeny Brook' and there was an old wrought iron seat where older children often met after school. There is no seat there now and in any event, the volume and speed of modern road traffic would make the area far too hazardous to sit and pass the time of day!

A minor engine fault forced us to stay at Welford longer than planned: we discovered a coolant leek from a flange connecting one of the feed pipes to the centre cylinder jacket. Closer examination revealed that the culprit was a damaged ¼ BSF thread on one of the studs. A new stud was made with the inner end slightly oversize and this repair appears to be working. Meanwhile, one of the regulars from the on-line Canal World Discussion Forums kindly offered to make some special stepped studs so that we can effect a more permanent repair by tapping out the thread in the cylinder jacket to the next size up. The photograph below shows the offending flange held in place by two ¼ BSF stainless steel studs and brass nuts.

Coolant flange to centre cylinder jacket.

Our 'new' seat cushions are back from the Caravan & Boat Seat Cover Centre in Bristol and we are extremely pleased with the quality of the workmanship. We still have a long list of jobs to do on the boat including completing the paintwork (to the front cabin and front deck) and replacing the life expired 'dog box' - so, as always, work goes on.

We are now at Crick for the annual Boat Show which takes place, this year, between the 24th and 26th May. We are moored near Bridge 13 - the same spot that we have occupied in previous years. As usual the water lacks sufficient depth for us to get right alongside the towpath (we draw about three feet of water) but, as in previous years, we expect the boat to work its way gradually closer to the edge as mud and silt gets displaced with the movement caused when other boats pass! As before, we look forward to meeting old and new friends at the boat show - it really is a great social event. The photograph below [added on Tuesday, 13th May 2008] shows our boat moored at Crick with its newly blacked hull and neatly painted 'tunnel bands'.

Moored at Crick, 13th May 2008 

We have finalised our cruising plans for attending this year's Saul Canal Festival in early July - Graham will take the boat single-handed along the narrow canals between Cropredy and Dudley Port Junction via the northern section of the Oxford Canal, the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal and Central Birmingham between the 23rd and 27th June. Then we shall go through Netherton Tunnel and via the Stourbridge Canal and Staffordshire & Worcester Canal to reach the River Severn at Stourport. We plan to return after the festival by leaving the River Severn at Tewkesbury and coming up the River Avon to Stratford, thence via the lower Stratford-on-Avon Canal, Grand Union Canal and southern Oxford Canal back to Cropredy.

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© Graham & Jane Oliver 2008