Last Weekend Daan Saarf

  • Trips through the Blisworth Tunnel – 4
  • New music systems installed on the boat – 1
  • Miserable blacksmiths met – 1
  • Continuous Cruisers with engine trouble – 1

Since our epic trip to Crick at the end of May, Blue Rover has been based at Gayton, allowing us a few trips to do a bit of southern boating, before the boat heads back Oop Naarth next weekend.

imageDuring our time down here it has been great to meet up with old friends and make a new one – the Blisworth Tunnel – 3rd longest on the network ( beaten by Stanage and Dudley) and in my opinion – the most boring- it’s wide, and straight, and for the most part concrete! At least the Harecastle has the jeopardy of hitting your head on the roof in the middle!

It seems to be the case that wherever you go from Gayton (South at least) you go through the Blisworth Tunnel – my record so far is 31 mins – I plan to beat that tomorrow on my 4th trip this month! I’m sure I will miss it when we head home.

Friday was an epic evening as we met up with Alpha – a boat belonging to a friend on which we had our first experience of non hireboat boating – it was the first time Blue Rover had met Alpha, but they spent a wonderful evening breasted up in Blisworth &  I am sure they will be the best of buddies. We were planning a cruise together but when we arrived I was shown Alpha’s engine, and could see the pistons – I’m not that mechanical, but I’m pretty sure that is not good – so we had to cruise alone. it made me think that continuous cruising must be bad for engines, as it is amazing how many CCers have “engine trouble”. Alpha having been as reliable as clockwork for 20 years, has major engine trouble within 12 months of being a CC.  Though the lack of a cylinder head definitely removes the “” in this case! – If you want my full opinion on the CC debate, you will find it on the letters page of the latest issue of Waterways world!

3 things I will not miss whe we head home are:

  • Floating caravans – Sorry wide beam boats – we did see one moving though, so the rumours that they don’t have engines are not true!
  • Wide locks – narrow locks always have a queue of boats waiting, so why, when you go through wide locks, where company makes life so much easier, is there never another boat in sight!
  • The lack of village shops – S of the Blisworth Tunnel, non of the villages seem to have shops! – makes catering V difficult. You have to plan, and I hate planning.

Which brings me on to the music system – nothing to do with planning, just seemed a good time to bring it up:

Ever since owning a boat, we have been looking for the perfect sound system – the norm being a very unsatisfactory car stereo with Bluetooth phone connection. I now think I have come up with the ultimate solution. In addition to an inverter (my solution requires 240v) To implement this you will need:

  • 2 – Sonos Play 1s – though on a budget, 1 will do.
  • 1 Raspberry pi
  • USB hard disc

Together this gives a fantastic solution allowing you to play music from a library stored on the USB disc as mp3s, all controllable from your phone or tablet and removing the streaming issues we had previously. – If you are interested in the details leave a comment to the effect, and if there is enough interest I will post more details – I will probably do it anyway at some point, cos I think it is a brilliant solution.

Which only leaves the miserable Blacksmith – the fact is he was so miserable I don’t want to drag you down with the details – so I won’t. But rest assured it was a sorry story.

I can’t finish a blog written during these interesting times when we have decided as a nation to leave the EU without mentioning it. So I thought I would leave you with the up and down sides of the decision as far as I see it:

Downside – It’s  crazy decision made by people who have been conned by the politicians into thinking the grass is greener – A decision that I am sure we will live to regret

Upside – Us boaters  should get cheaper fuel as the tax on propulsion diesel imposed by the EU will be removed – number 1 priority in the discussions from here, I am absolutely sure!

All in all its the reason why referenda are a bad Idea, as they reduce complex issues that few people understand to a simple yes no decisions. In reality, life is never that black & white. That’s why we elect a parliament.

Let’s face it, asking the nation for an opinion never ends well – Did they learn nothing from Boaty McBoatface!

Crick to Norton Junction

Hours cruised – 4

Sofa beds delivered – 1

Sofa beds disposed of -1

Reverse only boats – 1

Crick show is over for another year and the weather-gods continued to smile. Not a drop of rain over all 3 days. Statistically this can’t bode well for next year.

This morning saw delivery of our new sofa bed – a definite improvement. Also very convenient as we stopped for water at Crick Wharf and the bed delivery van pulled up right next to the boat – unfortunately the van door opened onto a large patch of mud. Needless to say quantities were delivered in to the boat along with the sofa. Handy they could take away the old one at the same time though.

Crick Wharf also saw the departure of 50% of the crew (60% if you count the dog) leaving 2 of us to head off to Gayton Marina.

The trip to Norton Junction was uneventful except for a couple of things either end of Watford Locks.

First, at the top, the CRT toilets, while clean and functional,  did remind me of a typical US jail cell. All stainless steel, no seat and everything bolted down. Imagine my surprise to discover an electrically operated no-touch foamy handwash dispenser next to the sink (cold tap only). Do check it out if you are in the area. Second, at the bottom of the locks was the reverse-only boat. Called Hullabaloo, it had decided that forwards was reverse and reverse was non-existant. I hope the engineer turned up to rescue the family on board.

We decided to stick with the Leicester line for one more night and moored just before Norton Junction. I’m glad we did because the moorings on the main line round the corner are somewhat utilitarian.

Next stop Gayton.

Crick 2016 Day 2

Hours cruised 0

IDIOTS 0 but depends, could be 2 (probably is)

Classic album Power in the Darkness  TRB (Much of it live from the man himself this evening)

A great day and Crick starting the day late with a visit to the Danish  van and the toilet!

We now own a new sofa bed, hopefully more comfortable than the old one   Afternoon  tea in the VIP lounge (despite no WW goody bag) and a small afternoon snooze  for those left behind,  Boo can snore when she chooses.

An evening in the beer tent watching the brilliant  Tom Robinson who at 66 is fabulous.  Idiot of the day was asking us to sit down! When told it was a gig got a bit sniffy so we moved to the mosh Pit!  For those over 50!

A fantastic concert helped on by the great beer tent.

New bed delivered tomorrow. Can’t wait. Full report to come

Crick Boatshow day 1

Boat shows visited – 1

Hours cruised – 0

Classic album REM Automatic for the people  should have been Parallel lines by Blondie but dodgy internet stopped this (more of this later)

Before I start, a couple of points about our hosts Crick Marina. Obviously, when the gift of hospitality was given out, they were out . Considering that the show is all about the waterways, they don’t make visiting  boaters very welcome.

  • Can we have access to facilities to empty toilets etc  – No
  • Can we have access to wifi as 3G is naff here (happy to pay for it) – No

Very welcoming! Makes me wonder why they have the show here!

There may be very good reasons for this approach, but if there are, it would be nice to know them. I can feel a letter to Waterways World (or maybe this is one for Canal Boat Mag, as I now have a subscription to hat too – Looking forward to the wine!)

Anyway, rant over so on with the post.

Boat show opened at 10 with regular countdown which interrupted the bacon and egg sandwich production momentarily whilst we listened to the countdown with bated breath.

Visited loads of useful stalls, exhaust chap, new propeller chap and passed the composting toilet throne chap complete with step to allow you to wee in total comfort and also bought some very nice gin and had a pause to have test lie on a potential new sofa bed, we did ask if we could take a sleeping bag and have a sleepover.

Ended the day with a g ‘n t with newly purchased rhubarb gin a satisfactory meal in the  Moorings restaurant and a quick pint in the beer tent listening to a Blondied tribute band (I said there would be more later. )

Loads of interesting places to visit

Roll on Crick day 2

Day 15 Yelvertoft – Crick

Hours cruised – 1

Debit cards lost – 1

Briar Roses passed – 1

Marinas visited for non CRT facility toilet emptying – a first  – 1

Classic album – The Clash – London Calling

Final leg of the trip was going to be short. Couple of miles from our mooring at bridge 19 in Yelvertoft to Crick Marina and the mooring that was waiting for us at the show.

Should be plain, stress free sailing until …. disaster struck. The number one priority was to arrive at the show with water tank full and toilet empty. We had filled the water tank the afternoon befor and so it was just going to be a case of carrying the quarter full toilet tank the couple of hundred yards to the disposal point at the show.

However this plan had not taken into account the presence of 2 small children on the boat the day before (the ones who stressed the dog yesterday) who, being excited about their first visit to a narrowboat (quite understandably) were making sure to use all the available facilities to the full and in the process transferred a significant quantity of water from the water tank into the toilet. Refilling the water tank was not too much of an issue but the quarter full (5kg) toilet tank had just become a full (20kg) toilet tank. Carrying this 200 yards to empty was no longer such a relishable (heard today that Shakespeare just made words up if he couldn’t find one to suit, so thought I would do the same!) prospect.

The solution was a trip to Yelvertoft Marina and the payment of £2.50 to use their facilities. Definitely money well spent!

Water tank full and toilet empty, we were ready for arrival at the show. So arrive we did.

Next couple of hours were spent cleaning the dog hair from the interior of the boat and being passed, for the final time, by one of the Briar Roses not sure which, they have blurred into one by now!

We now had a shiny (well half the boat anyway, as we never got round to polishing the second side, but no matter, as no one will see it) dog hair free (relatively) boat ready for the show.

The other half of the crew arrived later in the afternoon and decided to risk the wrath of the show organiser by getting the drone out. The result is a great aerial video of the crick show ground (being careful not to overfly the showground – Heath & Safety & all that).

Evening finished with a very enjoyable meal at the Wheatsheaf in Crick, and realisation that I had lost my bank card – now cancelled.

Back to the fairylight adorned boat for Classic Album, chocolate and an early bed, ready to hit the show tomorrow.
A fun 2 week trip to get here, that will be followed by a 2 hour trip home on Monday.

I guess that’s progress! Not sure I approve.

Day 14 – Yelvertoft (ish) to Yelvertoft

Hours cruised – 2

Boat sides polished – 1

Times passed Briar Rose – it’s complicated

Kingfishers – 1 – Finally a Kingfisher sighting

Other interesting birds – 1

Classic Album – Beatles – Rubber Soul

Today was another of those classic boating days, where basically after 2 hours cruising, you pretty much end up where you started from! In this case Yelvertoft. The trip was, however, critical to the plan. And the plan started by polishing and generally sprucing up the bank side of the boat. We obviously filled the day with something as I didn’t have time to take any photos! I have, therefore, found a picture of a Questing Vole to fill the gap – why will become clear.

It’s usually half way through the process of polishing, that a 30ft boat suddenly doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. 62ft is a lot of polishing! That said, once finished it did look very shiny!

It was during this polishing that we had our first passing by Briar Rose. This time not the one we had been playing leapfrog with all week, but a new Briar Rose – the one that had been stuck at the bottom of Buckby locks – I did say it was getting complicated!

Side polished and key areas painted, we set off the 2 miles to where we could turn round. Turning round was another crucial part of the plan because:

  1. It meant we were now pointing in the right direction to get to Crick
  2. The other, non polished side of the boat was now bankside, and accessible for polishing

We were now heading back towards Yelvertoft where we had agreed to meet some friends for the evening (at bridge 19). Given the total lack of visitor mornings at Yelvertoft, it was a bit of a gamble but as it turned out, one that paid off – more later.

Heading back to Yelvertoft, we passed 2 boats of note. Briar Rose – the original one this time, not the new one that had passed us earlier. I was now totally convinced that these people were following us, what other explanation could there be for so many chance encounters! Turns out ( sorry couldn’t resist it any longer), however that there was another explanation – they too are heading for Crick! What are the chances!

The other was Sleeping Otter. We have seen a number of water mammal themed boat names on this trip including pretty much every variation of Otter (Wild, Tame, Sleeping, and just plane unadorned Otter). Only one, however, was Vole themed,  and this was the Questing Vole – definitely the best boat name we have seen, with the exception of maybe “Aunt Mable” but I suspect the owners of this may have had an ulterior motive “We are just going to visit Aunt Mable,” would be their cry, as they escape to the boat, leaving people with that warm glow of what wonderful people they were spending so much time with their elderly relative ( for some reason Aunt Mables are always old!)

It was on this part of the trip that the kingfisher made an appearance – 2 weeks on a boat and this is the first kingfisher we have seen. Never mind water voles, I think Kingfishers need to be put on the endangered list!

Once at Yelvertoft, lack of mooring meant we would fill up with water, park precariously on a bend next to bridge 19 to go into the village to do some shopping, then try to find somewhere to stop not too far up the canal, close enough to bridge 19 to meet our friends.

However a lady across the canal, obviously overhearing our conversation as we were mooring said, “you are fine mooring there as long as you want”, and “you had better hurry if you want the shop, the miserable guy who runs it has a habit of shutting early”. When asked about the fantastic butcher/deli mentioned in Parsons, we were told, “Yes there is a good butcher but he is probably closed, as he only opens when he fancies it.” I am assuming that she is not a spokesperson for the Yelvertoft Tourist board!

Undeterred, we decided to walk into the village anyway. The village shop was open and was, indeed staffed by someone who would not win “Britain’s Cheeriest Shopkeeper” competition. He did however supply, bread, cake and fruit at a resonable price.

We then moved on to the Butchers/Deli. This too was open, and again surrounded by the price reality suspension field beloved of farm shops and artisan delis. So yes you guessed it – more £6 biscuits! The last ones were very nice though!

Back to the boat just in time for our friends to arrive.  By now the sun was out, and it was turning into the nicest evening of the cruise, time for the first BBQ of the trip and the appearance of interesting bird number 2 – a spotted woodpecker (not sure if it was lesser or greater spotted, so let’s assume it’s the common one – I will leave you to research that one).

I am obviously out of practice on the BBQ front though as I managed to burn pretty much everything! Most of the burned offerings were eaten though, so they can’t have been that bad and hopefully no one will die! We will know for sure tomorrow!

2 smallish children (7 & 9) meant the dog was a little stressed, but she is now asleep and snoring, so has obviously got over it!

Tomorrow – Crick!!

Day 13 – Braunston to Yelvertoft (ish)

Hours cruised –  7 – plus a 2 hour wait at Watford

Intertesting people met – a number

Domestics narrowly avoided – 1 – not ours I might add

Classic Album – Pink Floyd – Dark side of the Moon

Well the plan pretty much worked! Admittedly it was 8 that I got to the butchers, and 9 when we left, but other than that, the plan came together pretty much, well… as planned! Got to the bottom of Braunston locks just as 2 boats went in in front of us, so we would be on our own. But as I guess was to be expected, by the time we were ready to go, a boat turned up. Not the over crewed Hire boat one would hope for when looking for a lock companion, but a single handed boater! Oh well, if nothing else, we would have some “Lock padding” in the wide locks to stop us bouncing around.

In fact, the guy on the boat was pretty efficient, and def made the journey up easier. Fortunately, he also had pretty much the same opinions on all that is wrong with the world, so we were able to have a mutual moan as we went up – perfect!

At the top, we said our goodbyes and set off through the tunnel, and round Norton Junction – Buckby locks still closed, so free run to Watford, where there were only 2 boats waiting. The boat in front was going to Crick as a show boat. They had bought it 2 months ago and been asked by the company they bought it off if they could show it at Crick. Luckily it had not been out much since then, so still looked pretty unscratched! Made me think that maybe we should offer to show Blue Rover to show what a real boat looks like after being lived on by 2 people and a dog for 2 weeks. #notsoshiny, #doghairincluded.

  
Suspect the above picture may be different now! 

Whilst waiting, the news came through that the locks were open (for narrowbeams at least- one of the gates still won’t open!). The tsunami of boats up Watford was soon to follow.
Talking to the lock keeper having got our name on “the list”, plan was 4 boats coming down, then -wait for it- a CRT workboat doing some scheduled maintenance – we must remember that this scheduled maintenance prevents situations like the Buckby closure! – let’s think about that:

  1. The scheduled maintenance was – repainting Cill markers
  2. Buckby locks had closed because some idiot – yes an idiot even under the new rules- had been making a cup of tea in the lock whilst his boat lifted the gate off its hinges!

Struggle to see the connection myself

  
Through skillful negotiation by the lock keeper they decided to do their scheduled maintenance by carrying the paint can through the locks (rather than bringing  it down in a boat) hence removing the need to close the locks whilst they did it. It did still take 2 of them to do the job – one to carry the can, and one to paint the word Cill – and paint a nice block border round the marker. As they say – “You can take the CRT out of British Wateways but you can’t take BW out of the CRT!”)

Anyway – 2 hours later (not a bad wait for Watford) we were on our way.

By the way, the domestic had been about whether or not to go through a lock – fact is it would have made no difference – See Middlewich idiocy day 2 – so I left them to it. They were still talking to each other when we passed them later so obviously the issue was resolved!

On the way up the locks I saw a wonderful bit of Graffiti – on one of the Cill makers someone had added RIP (Cill) a – obviously a very big fan!

  
Past Watford, we cruised on past Crick – Enjoying the cruise so much, we didn’t want it to end – and on to Yelvertoft, though finding a pace to moor was a little tricky as every piece of Armco had a boat on it, many of which looked like they hadn’t moved in a while! The joys of southern boating – makes me hanker for those empty Northern canals!

Another post without using the phase “It turns out” – whilst still managing to get it in under the wire – Genius!

 

Day 12 – Ansty – Braunston

Hours Cruised – 7

Peregrin Falcons spotted – 1 (plus chicks)

Idiots met – under the new rules – 0

Classic Album – Marvin Gaye – What’s going on

It was going to be a long day today if we are going to make it to Braunston, so we needed to set off early. 10am again! That seems to be our default starting time. Only 3 locks today at the end of the day at Hillmorton (picture of Blue Rover at the top of the first of them below!), so basically about 6 hrs of cruising!

If Brindley (born 300 years ago in 1716 apparently!) had had his way, it would probably have been double that, but later engineers reworked the North Oxford cutting out many of the loops, and significantly shortening the route. The down side is that the new route is VERY straight, and thus the driving becomes a little boring!

  
Only real interest came at Newbold (following the Volefest on the Ashby, even spotting a water vole shortly after setting off was a bit run of the mill), where there was some precise driving required to navigate a very narrow section with 2 boats queuing in a water point on one side, a bridge, and 2 boats coming in the other. Added some spice to the trip though!

Arriving at Braunston at about 5:30,  and thinking moorings would be at a premium, we were delighted  to spot one just coming up to the marina. However, on mooring up and walking into the village, we discovered that it was actually really quiet, and there was loads of space right through.

Tomorrow is going to be the interesting day as we have to pass through the bottleneck that is Watford staircase. Normally, 2 canals converge just below Watford. From Braunston (us) in one direction, and from the Buckby flight in the other. However, we heard yesterday that the locks at Buckby were closed as someone had managed to trash one of the gates on Lock 8, meaning that currently no boats were coming up, potentially reducing the congestion! Good news for us ( not so much for those coming up the Grand Union). Apparently (according to NB Briar Rose’s blog – different Briar Rose to the one we have been playing leapfrog with all week, though we did pass them again today too!) there is a growing queue of boats at the bottom of the locks, so when they fix it, there will be a steady stream up the locks. Many heading for Watford. Ideally, we want to get there before this. 

Smart money (according to the brilliantly named Lee King of the CRT – Thanks for that one Briar Rose) is that they will have them fixed tomorrow afternoon, so our aim is to get off early (it will probably be 10am!) to be at Watford by lunchtime, avoiding the rush!

 Well That’s the plan!

In all the excitement, I have forgotten to mention the Peregrins! Coming back from the pub having eaten, walking past the Church, we heard what sounded like a hawk of some kind. Knowing that some churches use recordings of birds of prey to scare off pigeons, that was the assumption. But on looking up, we saw a hawk landing on one of the trefoils adorning the spire, followed by the squawking  of chicks. Looks like they have gone one better and got a real hawk to scare off the pigeons. A fact that was confirmed by 2 locals passing by who told us that this was the 3rd year they had nested. 

Couldn’t get a pic of the falcon, so here is a photo of the church ( the falcon is in there somewhere, honest!)

  
To bed now as I need to be up at 7 to be at the butchers when it opens at 7:30, in order for us to be off by 8 – like that’s going to happen!

Day 11 Sutton Cheyney to Ansty

Hours cruised –  6

Interesting people/idiots met – 1

Average depth of the water – not enough

Perfectly negotiated junctions – 2

Classic Album – Beach Boys – Pet sounds

It turns out that I use the phrase “It turns out” a lot in my writing so my aim today is not to say “It turns out” in today’s post. 

Did you notice, I have cunningly snuck it in 3 times already, so I can keep my averages up!

Late start today, as we decided to visit the Bosworth Field Battle site. Apparently, it’s where some king got beaten by some wannabe King, and turned the tide of British history. Fascinating! Also transpires (see what I did there – google synonym dictionary is your friend) that the battle was not where they thought it was but 100 yards away in a different field, but they have sorted that glaring inaccuracy in British history, so all is good! It was a good walk though.

  
Set off about 11:30, and the first 3 miles felt like we were going uphill – I really hate shallow canals! It was also at this point that today’s idiot showed up ( yes it was an idiot rather than an interesting person) and I have some thoughts on canal idiocy, but you will have to wait for that.

Today’s idiot was of the pulls out hurriedly when they see you coming variety. Sadly though, for them, within 200 yds of pulling out, they met someone at a bridge and ran aground! They subsequently did this again about 1/2 mile further on.

Fortunately, they used the excuse of stopping to ask directions as a good reason to pull over and let us past. Suspect they may have regretted their hasty move earlier!

It was about a mile further on where the incident happened that made me think about the concept of the canal idiot. Without going into detail, a situation arose that, while our action was utterly reasonable in our eyes, resulted in us being the canal idiot. (Or at least we would be if the other person involved was writing a blog similar to this one!)

This got me thinking as to the definition of “Idiot” on the canals. And I came up with the following.

An idiot is “someone who does things differently to you, and who by doing things differently prevents you from doing things the way you would normally do them”. One of the things I love about the canals is the wide variety of people who inhabit them, and that, in general, people with very different takes on life all share space, generally, amicably! With this new knowledge, I have decided to be more tolerant of Idiots. (Apart from those that jump out in front of you – Obviously!)

Anyway, back to the plot:

We made it back to Marsden junction (No 1 of the perfectly negotiated junctions – sadly, no one to see it though!) and headed on down the Coventry, the boat whipping along with the the engine merely ticking over, thanks to the fact that the canal actually had some water in it! 

On to Hawksbury junction (the second of our perfectly negotiated junctions). A tricky, tight U turn into a lock. This time with a pub full of people watching! Frankly, I am disappointed that we didn’t get a round of applause. Obviously these people were not afficionados of the boat handling art, but hey ho!

Through the he stop lock we were onto the Oxford, and on to Ansty and dinner at the Rose and Crown, a pub obviously  owned by an OCD Heath and Safety freak; I have never seen so many altogether advice notices in a menu, and highly specific warning signs (eg low beam, if you are over 5′ 8″ 1.73m tall, duck – I am surprised they had forgotten to take shoe type into consideration).

Target for tomorrow – Braunston, but looking at the map, not sure we will make it!

Day 10 – Nuneaton (ish) – Sutton Cheyney

Hours Cruised – 7

Interesting people and idiots – 0

Water Voles spotted – lost count at 7

Water Voles photographed so you could recognize it – 1

Classic album – Bob Marley – Legend

Set off at about 10am, having been passed by at least half a dozen boats (including Briar Rose) within an hour! On saying to the last one “it’s busy this morning” his response was “Is it, I hadn’t noticed”. That’s the great thing about canals, it can be very busy and you don’t notice it except at locks. No locks today, so all is good.

First stop was Nuneaton to pick up essentials (dog food & tea bags). It was a quick pit stop, as Nuneaton did not really encourage you to stop! Restocked, we took the decision to take a detour up the Ashby Canal. We had heard good things about it, so thought it would be a good opportunity to get out of the procession of boats we were in before we hit the lock at Hawksbury Junction.

First thing you notice about the ashby is it is SHALLOW. I know I have said that the Coventry was shallow, but the Ashby is REALLY shallow, and seemed to get shallower still as we went further up.

The other thing you notice is that there are a lot of burrows in the bank. Water voles, it turns out. There have been a lot of efforts made to reverse the decline in this fabulous little mammal, and on the Ashby canal it seems to be paying dividends to the extent that I was really hopeful I might spot one.

It seems they are actually quite common on the canal. I lost count at 7, but must have seen well into double figures by the end of the day. 

Other than the plague of water voles, and a strange duck disguised as a peacock at the Lime Kilns pub, the trip up The Ashby was pretty uneventful. We arrived at Sutton Cheyney at about 5pm, having struggled up that last couple of miles past ducks standing knee deep in the canal. Turned, and as the moorings there were all full, moved about 1/2 mile back down the canal to moor. In hindsight, a much nicer mooring.

Given the infestation of water voles, I thought I would get my camera out and see if I could catch one on “film”. Turns out they are a lot more difficult to photograph than to spot. I spent a good couple of hours sat on the bank, and whilst I saw a good number of the critters, I only managed to get one shot where you can actually tell it is a water vole. 

  
Ducks on the other hand are much easier to photograph.

  
The sunset was pretty spectacular too!