On the Ashby Canal

As a special treat for my parents, my sister and I organised a trip on a barge for the day on the Ashby Canal. My Mum had always fancied a canal boat holiday and was therefore keen to try it out. We hired the boat from Stoke Golding, which is only a 13 mile run from our house (although we did have to get up quite early to get there on time). None of us had been on a barge before, so were grateful for the hints and tips from the hire company. We were less grateful to know that the boat had just come out of the paint-shop and was very sparkly.

Our first observation was that although the canal was calm, it was quite windy and this did impact the ease with which one could steer the boat. You couldn’t just steer in a straight line, there were always corrections to be made. And the steering was very delayed, so if you continued steering in a direction until you were going in the direction you wanted to be and then turned the rudder back again, you found yourself going in the wrong direction the other way! We had fun, as I’m sure you can imagine. We could generally cope with the straight sections fairly well… but some of the early narrow bridges were challenging… I think we were trying too hard and going too slowly, which made the boat respond to a change in direction even more slowly. Anyway, after ending up diagonally across the canal a few times, we soon mastered the art and most of the remaining bridges were expertly navigated.

Mum steering the barge
Dad peering from around the front of the boat
Richard and I

After a couple of hours we moored up and had a delicious lunch courtesy of my sister and then returned to canal navigation. Everyone enjoyed the day and learnt how not to steer a barge. Mum is glad she had a go because now she knows that she probably doesn’t want to spend a week on a barge!

One day in Bangkok

I’d never visited anywhere in Asia before, so we took advantage of the journey from NZ back to the UK and stayed in Bangkok for a day.

We arrived late at night. It was very dark, very humid, very hot and lightning filled the air.

The next day was our full day in Bangkok; we wanted to see a bit of the city and take full advantage of the authentic thai food!

Our first rather exciting adventure was the Lumphini Park; an inner city park with lakes and grassy areas. Even though this park is surrounded by the city, it holds an extraordinary range of ‘wild’life….

First we saw lizards that were the size of alligators, called monitors:

A monitor at Lumphini Park

then turtles…

Turtles at Lumphini Park

Some very pretty white herons ….

A white heron at Lumphini Park

and some rather scary centipedes that were 1 cm in diameter!

Following our park adventure, we joined a ‘Bangkok Food Tours’ walking tour to get the opportunity to sample the best local food. We visited 5 restaurants in total and enjoyed a wide range of Thai food:

First, delicious roast duck

Lunch number 1; Roast duck on rice at Chareon Wieng Pochana

then egg curry (one of my favourites)

Lunch number 2; Curry lava on egg at Muslim Restaurant

then Tom yum noodle soup (Richard’s favourite)

Lunch number 3; Tom yum noodle soup

then pork buns and custard buns (delicious), with thai iced milk tea (which is delicious; it’s thai tea, with condensed milk + ice)

Lunch number 4; thai bbq pork buns and thai style green custard buns, plus thai iced tea, at PanLee Bakery

then finally, we finished with thai chicken curry, which was very tasty. This was followed by coconut sorbet (yum).

Lunch number 5; Thai curry served on roti at Kallaprapruek

We were quite full and needed a sit down after all the food, so we hired a man and his long-tailed boat to take us on a tour of the Bangkok canals. It was quite amazing seeing where many of Bangkok’s poorer residents live. Houses were built on stilts on the edges of the canals and many were at bizarre angles, having sank into the mud beneath.

Long-tailed boat on a Bangkok canal

The long-tailed boats are so-named because the propellers are mounted on the end of a long pole at the back of the boat. It seems that the size of the engine is of key importance!

The size of your engine appeared to be important!

After the tour, we spent time walking around the streets and visiting some amazing temples. This was fun and interesting. The journey back to the centre of town in a tuk tuk was far too adventurous for my liking and I don’t think I’ll be repeating that form of transport – the roads are absolutely manic here! The driver was on the wrong side of the road a number of times, eeeek.

Later we came across a shopping area and spent a while walking around the huge and varied foodcourts. We found this array of wonderful cakes 🙂

Amazing cakes in the Siam Paragon Food Court

I think we made the most of our day in Bangkok. It is an amazing city and is certainly worth a stopover if you’re passing through.

Visit to the US

I’m working with the United States Geological Survey at the moment and am therefore in the US for the weekend. I’m staying in New Hope, which is located on the Delaware River on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The town is a haven for New Yorkers who want a weekend away, so has lots of little boutique-like shops. Obviously, these only appeal to me for about 30 minutes as I’m not really a great shopper, so I have been exploring the area on foot.

The US don’t really do footpaths…. but luckily there are two canals here, one running along each side of the river. Yesterday I ran north along the tow path on one side of the river and then crossed at Lumberville and ran back down the other side; a total distance of 15+ miles. Today I ran south along the tow path on the New Jersey Side until I reached the Washington Crossing Historical Park. Here there is Bowman’s Tower which provides a $5 view over the surrounding area.

View from the lookout over to Lambertville and New Hope
Looking out over the Delaware River

I haven’t found any cookery courses to attend as yet, but I have been gathering ideas for breakfasts from the B+B I’m staying in. This morning we had bread and butter pudding, topped with peaches and filled with cream cheese, served with syrup and bacon! They offered dessert as well, but I declined.

Getting back to normal :-)

After a winter of virus’, fatigue and more recently, (re-)torn muscles, finally we had a weekend of decent exercise. I wasn’t entirely sure whether my body would cope with re-running the route of the Three Trigs race around Cannock Chase, but there’s only one way to find out. It’s only 15 miles and we have been keeping fit recently… but just not by running. In fact I have become quite partial to cycling up our local slag heap and swimming miles in the pool!

The weather on Saturday was fabulous and, for Cannock Chase, the scenery was pretty nice.

Cannock Chase

I was slightly apprehensive about the distance; I wasn’t sure if I would get absolutely knackered or whether my calf would start to complain, but thankfully, neither of these things happened. On the other hand we were pretty knackered on our return, but that’s to be expected!

On Sunday I was keen to get some more training in, but given that my legs were aching from Cannock, I decided that a bike ride was a better option. Richard perceives bike riding as a means to get somewhere and not a way to enjoy a Sunday, so I had to bribe him with a pub stop halfway for lunch. In the end we chose a route that took us into Tamworth on the canal and then down to Kingsbury (to the pub), through the water park and then back across the undulating villages of Hurley and Baxterly. We cycled about 21 miles in total and even Richard enjoyed it in the end!

The Dog and Doublet on the Coventry and Fazeley Canal

We take it easy on the Llangollen Canal

Kath & Dave took a well earned break and took it easy, travelling at 3 mph along the Llangollen Canal.
Taking in the famous Pontycyllte Aqueduct and some beautiful scenery, Kath operated all the locks while Dave just pointed the boat in the right direction.

Pippa and Milly loved it too, sporting the latest in designer dog buoyancy aids.

Pete, if you decide to swap skydiving for a reduced adrenaline rush try a trip on a narrow-boat.