Happy Stitches

Keep your stitches smiling!

Narrowboat Adventures 2018: Along the Shropshire Union Canal July 16, 2018

 

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Our last week has been just about ‘perfic’- warm but shady, a breeze, a view, cows in the distance, knitting, feet up, dinner cooking!

We took a little side trip along the Middlewich Branch the other day. This east-west canal usually connects two major north south canals, the Shropshire Union and the Trent and Mersey. Months ago, there was a major breach near Middlewich, draining the canal.  It’s going to take a lot of time and funds to fix it and is causing a lot of problems to boaters,  the businesses situated on the canal, and hire boat companies who promote the Four Counties and Cheshire cruising rings.

 

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along the Shropshire Union Canal

 

You can go along the canal as far as the temporary dams.  You can only get to the the last winding hole before the problem, unless you like going in reverse.  So that is what we did! We met up with some friends at an excellent pub walking distance from the canal. The canal was noticeably lifeless.  Apart from regularly moored boats, there were just a couple of visiting boats in the whole length that we traveled. The water, not moving much now, had become distinctly scummy and the two marinas, normally bustling,  were ominously quiet.

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Back in Chester after a day on the locks!

We then returned back to the mainline Shropshire Union and continued on up towards Chester. Here we devised a plan to get John’s mum to the boat so she could spend a day with us. Deciding that a tour of all the locks in Chester would be ideal, we cruised through the 8 locks. These are big and heavy and it was hot work. After going down the 3 step staircase lock, we turned around and went up again, returning back to where the hire car had been left.  We had time for a drink at the pub,  dinner on the boat, and then John took his mum back home!

 

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oncoming traffic

Yesterday marked Day 70 on Ali’s Dream.  We had an early start, completing 25 locks before lunch. The flight was fairly busy and we had a good number of locks.  This was very easy, as an uphill boat would exit the lock as we left each downhill one. Going downhill in narrow locks, after entering and stopping the boat, the helm can close the back gate and wind up one of the two paddles, and then hop back on the boat before it gets too low. The half-width gates can be opened, first the towpath side, then hop across the lock and open the far side, boat exits, whilst the far side paddle is lowered, far side gate closed, hop back and repeat and on to the next one. It appears that some 700 locks have honed us into a slick team!

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No need to warm up with soup during this hot summer1

Things are starting to wind down.  We are beginning to whittle down our supplies. However, the cans of soup purchased for a quick warm lunch on a cold day, will remain in the cupboards for Ali’s next journey.

 

This week’s half-price pattern:

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Socks are a fun, portable project!
Lucy’s charming bead-topped Double Diamond Socks feature a choice of two different diamond patterns. The Diamond Lace gives a traditional lacy effect, while the Waffle pattern gives a denser, more textured look.  A lovely treat for your feet!
The Double Diamond Socks pattern is half-price ($4.50CAD) until July 19,
Happy Stitches!

 

 

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Narrowboat Adventures 2018: Along the Grand Union Canal July 1, 2018

After having spent some time on the Grand Union Canal, John, Ali’s Dream and I are back on the top half of our canal map!

When we reached Norton Junction, we might have turned left and gone to Braunston, Napton and the Hatton locks on the Grand Union, where we were a month or so ago.  Instead, we turned onto the  Leicester length of the Grand Union. There it magically turned back into a narrow  canal until we reached Foxton Locks.

 

 

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Flowers and cattle! A cloudy but warm morning on the Grand Union

 

Almost immediately, we were out into beautiful unspoiled Leicestershire countryside, with often not a building in sight. Huge fields of very dry arable land. We noticed cracks in the soil in the fields, and maize crops that didn’t seem to be getting much taller. That particular  section was closed last autumn due to lack of water, although we were assured that the near continuous rains of February to April had refilled the reservoirs. Despite that, every time we dropped a double wide lock 70 x 14 x8’, in volume, it felt like a lot of water going downhill. We met up with other boats occasionally and shared a few locks, but were alone for the most part.

Along our way, we took every canal side spur that presented itself. We took the Wendover arm: 6 miles up to a dead end, a windy narrow little channel that suddenly took you past a modern working flour mill, and later petered out in a small turning basin in a field.

The next one was the Aylesbury arm: after many narrow locks we reached a turning basin in the middle of the town that appeared to have been bulldozed and rebuilt without any soul. There were visitor moorings and services there, but we felt no inclination to stay.  After a quick raid on Waitrose, we were on our way.

 

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the irresistible Hambleton Bakery

 

Our next detour was to Market Harborough, which was quite a surprise: a lovely basin at the end, beautifully redeveloped but in keeping with the former port and wharves. We found excellent moorings and services, too. John and I took a short walk through town to the wonderful Hambleton bakery, a butcher, fishmonger, hardware and all sorts of excellent small shops.

 

 

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Halfway down the famous Foxton Locks

Foxton Locks are famous, with two 5-step staircase locks with a small pound between them. There were many gongoozlers milling about.   The locks are interesting in that they let any excess water out into a series of side pounds as you go down. This saves water but makes for a more complex operation. Fortunately there are volunteer lock keepers to keep track of both boats and people!

 

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Beautiful sunset on the Grand Union Canal

The weather continues to be extraordinarily dry and hot.  I have discovered the delights of dipping my feet,  socks and all, into a bucket of canal water.  What a relief, especially when they feel that they might catch fire! In the evenings, we endeavour to moor in the shade.

We are headed towards Nottingham now, then the Erewash canal before heading east towards Shardlow.

 

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Happy Canada Day from Ali’s Dream, John and me!

Hoping that summer has found you wherever you are, Happy Canada Day!

 

 

This week’s sale pattern:

 

 

Happy Canada Day to our Canadian friends and Happy Fourth of July to our American ones!
To celebrate, my  Zinnia DK Blanket and its accompanying Tutorial are our very special downloads of the week.

The Zinnia is a spectacularly beautiful double-layer blanket; something lovely to knit on, whenever you need it. Knit a smaller Zinnia and create a lovely chair pad or coaster!
The Zinnia DK Blanket and its accompanying Tutorial are both half-price until July 5,
Happy July Stitches!

 

Narrowboat Adventures 2018: Our Last Days on the River Thames June 23, 2018

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We enjoyed our last few days on the River Thames, which was busier and busier the further down it we went. We enjoyed viewing all the crazy houses, castles, follies, and wide varieties of boats while also looking forward to more mundane, workaday peace of the canals to come.

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One magical day stood out! We leisurely cast off from our bank in Windsor in the morning (aka, not quite at the crack of dawn), watching  the castle looming larger and larger, then disappearing behind the trees. The canal then looped around behind the Home Park (or castle grounds), giving us a lovely view from the opposite side. The bank was clearly marked: no mooring– trespass being a criminal offence.

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We chugged on as the skies slowly cleared and tied up at Staines-Upon-Thames, where I had a quick meet up with a knitter who lives near the canal!

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We headed on out, past many houseboats of all shapes and types of grandeur, cottages on the little Thames islands, loads of folks out enjoying a beautiful Sunday.

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In one lock which, on that day often had 7 or 8 boats in at a time, we were the largest by miles, with a wooden speedboat, an inflatable canoe, a lovely launch, and a be-fendered plastic boat. We have grown accustomed to those crafts all giving us a wide berth, as we are 20 tons and steel with no brakes. We nearly collided with a thoroughbred  rowing scull awaiting their race at a regatta! There was nothing more I could do than stay in the Channel. Fortunately, they finally noticed our hoot and  looming bulk and realized there was no contest.

 

Shortly after that, we came around a bend to see a very odd craft. Upon closer inspection, we realized she was the Royal Barge Gloriana!  Decided not to take her on (even though she was on the wrong side of the river. You’ll have to take my word for it, she really is spectacular.

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We’d been looking for somewhere to tie up for the day and had been failing for the last couple of hours. I had hoped to moor near Hampton Court but had doubted this would be possible. Then we found one spot that might just be long enough. The boat is 57’. We squeezed in, the gap was 56’ 9”. With a slight overlap of rudders we managed it. Imagine my delight when I looked across the footpath to find that we were right by the golden railings of the back garden of Hampton Court Palace! We went for a little stroll and were surprised to find we could freely stroll around the grounds, rose and kitchen garden. We even saw a flock of green parrots in one of the trees.

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As we were returning to to boat we found we had been locked in at the side gate. Luckily we could see the main entrance and headed that way and were politely let out by a uniformed gent!

Only wish we could have stayed another day to check out the Royal School of Needlework.  I guess it’ll just have to wait until next time.

 

This week’s sale pattern:

#443 Faroese Flower Shawl

The graceful, shoulder-hugging Faroese Flower Shawl is knit in one piece from the neck down. This gorgeous, airy piece features floral lace stitches and an unusual petal trim at the bottom.
A beautiful summer project!
The Faroese Flower Shawl is half-price ($6.00CAD) until June 28,
Happy Stitches!

 

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