Monthly Archives: Sep 2018

Fast Flow, Toes, Sofas And Too Much Barking. 29th September

Hayes Lift Bridge to The Pig Place
P1410649smMick got up to put the kettle on. Outside the morning looked very chilly, my phone suggested –1C. Steam rose from the canal and the greenery around us had had a visit from Jack Frost scattering his icing sugar over everything. Then Mick noticed that the canal had a flow to it. Not unusual in itself, but this was flowing faster than the Llangollen Canal. We both looked out of the window, it didn’t feel right. Yesterday when we’d pulled up I considered doing more to the gunnels as the towpath was at an okay height to reach them. But this morning they were out of view, the pound had dropped by at least 6 inches if not 8. Oleanna was on a list.
P1410645smThe gas was turned off under the kettle and we both got dressed, Oleanna pushed out and with windlass in hand we set off to walk down to the next lock. Maybe someone was coming up in the lock and hadn’t closed the bottom paddles properly so water was flowing through the lock. Maybe someone had opened the paddles at both ends of the lock (the cause of the Middlewich Branch breach in March). Maybe there was a breach and the water was disappearing into a field somewhere. As we walked towards the lock the flow of water was still fast, through bridge holes it rushed past.
P1410642smA hire boat had passed us before we set off, would they sort the problem before we got there? Were they aware that there might be a problem? We got about half way to the lock when the flow on the canal slowed, then it stopped. No point in carrying on as the plug hadn’t been pulled after all. So we turned and headed back to put the kettle on and let Tilly out for an hour or so.
P1410660smAfter breakfast Mick got a bike out and rode back towards Banbury to Morrisons, about a mile for our Saturday newspaper. Once back we wanted to make a move so I gave Tilly a half hearted call from the hatch, she appeared and jumped on board, perfect. Why doesn’t she do that every time? Because I get busy!
P1410673smP1410677smWe pushed off late morning and headed to the lock. Here at Grant’s Lock the design of the locks changes. Instead of having two bottom gates there is just one. This means that they are heavier and that the locks have to be longer, therefor more water needed to fill them. But it does mean you don’t have to hop across the gap or walk round to open and close both gates. Once down the bottom gate was a touch reluctant to open fully, but Oleanna managed to get through. From here I could see that a boat was coming towards us, but they were getting on for over half a mile away, So I closed the gate behind us.
P1410685smA mile and a half to Kings Sutton Lock, the church spire in view for much of the journey. As we approached there was a boat just leaving, perfect timing. Another chap stood waiting to help as his boat was waiting below. We chatted away for a bit and I soon came to the conclusion that I knew of this chap, we’d met once before. They moored at Cropredy, had just had a month out on the Thames and were finding it hard to adjust back to being on the canals. This just had to be Neil from NB Herbie. Neil writes their blog, an amusing read, but his wife Kath keeps up to date with other peoples blogs.
P1410689smNeil suggested that the rushing water this morning may have been C&RT letting water down into the next pound as that pound tends to get quite low. Certainly a possible explanation.
P1410696smAs we came out of the lock Kath spotted that it was us so we paused mid channel for a chat. Luckily what ever we got round the prop just as we slowed down managed to drop off by itself. We had known our paths would cross soon and it was good to say hello again. I didn’t do too well at taking Neil and Kath’s photos though!
By the time we reached the Pig Place we were peckish. The moorings here had just filled up and at the time we didn’t spot that there were rings on the towpath. Just as we passed, one of the boats pulled out. We paused to let them pass and then winded to return and take their mooring.
P1410705smThe Pig Place is a Farm Shop with fringe benefits. You can’t miss it on the bend with three piece suites laid out on the grassy hill. Each area has a fire pit and logs are for sale. There is a bar and cafe selling bacon butties amongst other things. Over the last few days we’ve been trying to work out where to spend Christmas, here they have moorings with electric hook up, so it was worth an ask. We climbed the hill and talked to the lady who weighed out sausages and bacon for us. Their winter moorings were full, taken from November to March, so no space for us for a week. The shop has lots of jars of jam and bottles of beer, then lots of pork to buy and cook. But very little in the way of fresh veg and fruit to tempt us. So we left with our small purchases and headed back to Oleanna pushing over to the towpath for lunch.
P1410665smNow we’re facing the wrong way! We decided to leave that problem for tomorrow and opened up the back doors for Tilly. She was too busy trying to convince me into letting her out for her to notice she was being given todays rules and that the back doors were already wide open. But eventually the penny dropped and off she went.
If it wasn’t for the long lean woofers across the way in this outside it would get a Mrs Tilly stamp of approval. Just how am I meant to surprise friends when they bark at me! At least they didn’t want to come and join in with my fun. Every time I came out of the friendly cover they announced my presence! Which we quite liked. It did mean that we wouldn’t have wanted to moor here anyway for the safety of Tilly.
DSCF7114sm2 locks, 4.21 miles, 9 lufted lift bridges, 2wice under the M40, 1 wind, 1 blogging boat, 2 feet, 1 paper, 8 sausages, 6 rashers, 1st autumn cooking on the stove, 1 clean boat inside, 2nd pair of socks finished.

Strange Goings On. 28th September

Castle Quays to Hayes Lift Bridge 170

Boat and ropes were where they should be this morning.

Before continuing on our way we wanted a few bits from town. Mick wanted more cable ties, we were running short and come in handy every now and again and I wanted some sheets of card to make some stencils for Panto.

P1410615smMick headed to Wilkos whilst I walked across town to find an art shop. Tucked behind The Old Town Deli Cafe is a small but well formed art supply shop. I’d rather buy from a shop like this than Hobbycraft. The lady helped me pick out some cheaper card to cut up, I just want to draw round it so I didn’t have to fork out for expensive manila card. This will save a lot of time in marking out the main portals of my set which have a repetitive pattern.

I decided to have a look in M & S as I’d spotted what looked like a tasty gluten free chicken pie the other day. Cutting out pastry from my diet has reduced the amount of sausage rolls and pies we have and I do like a good pie. They had some in the chillers and handily Mick had turned up there too, so he paid.

Back at the boat we decided to move on a bit so that Tilly could have some shore leave and we could enjoy a full nights sleep without her careering around the boat to use up her energy at 3am! The Banbury Museum can wait till next time we’re here.

P1410617smAll covers were unclipped and rolled back. Mick hunted through his tool box for some snips to cut through the cable ties he’d put round the ropes yesterday. But the strange thing was the cable ties had gone! They weren’t reusable ones, you had to cut them. No sign of the bits either, just what had happened to them? Where had they gone? Strange.

P1410622smBefore Banbury Lock there is a lift bridge which is well used by people crossing to reach Castle Quays. I waited for a lull in pedestrians and wound it up, a very easy mechanism, there’s plenty more to come that won’t be so easy. Once through the lock we stopped at the service block to fill with water, empty yellow water and dispose of rubbish. By the bins, Mick happened to pick up the latest brochure for Chipping Norton Theatre, handy to see what is on especially the two films on Sundays whilst we are in rehearsals.

P1410625smWe pulled on a short distance further on for lunch, a hire boat selfishly having plonked itself right in the middle of the first moorings! As we cruise now we are taking note of suitable moorings for ease of access to work for me, but suitable for Tilly and Mick also. The first stretch by the station are a touch noisy, but beyond near Morrisons are better. Another mile further on between two lift bridges just past a large building site, we pulled in to an Oleanna sized gap, this would do us for the day. Tilly and I had a walk up to look at the next lift bridge and Mick chopped up the big bit of wood we’ve had on the roof for a while.

P1410629smThe stove is lit and we’ll most probably try to keep it in tonight as the temperature is due to drop. A cosy evening in front of the stove knitting socks for strangers with the rumble of the M40 in the back ground, who could ask for more.

P1410633smDSCF7114sm1 lock, 1.48 miles, 3 sheets card, 1 litter picker, 1 pack cable ties, 1 very tasty gf chicken pie with jacket potatoes from the stove, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 0 rubbish left onboard, 1 tail held high cat, 1 peaceful nights sleep ahead, we hope.

Upton House. 27th September

Castle Quays, Banbury

Still tied up this morning we left Tilly to hold the fort whilst we headed off to catch a bus.

P1410431smA study of the National Trust website and transport around the area identified two close properties that we could visit. Upton House and Gardens and Farnborough Hall. Farnborough Hall would have been closer at Clattercote, just about walkable, but it’s opening days didn’t coincide with our cruising. Public transport looked into, well we didn’t want to have to stay there for a week before the next bus back to Banbury so we chose to visit Upton instead.

Buses are more frequent, but then one a week isn’t that hard to expand on! We researched websites and ended up discounting the NT website suggestions of how to get there as the times and bus numbers didn’t tally with the bus website. A short walk to the bus station, just by the lock in Banbury, for the number 6 at 10:20. This took us around villages, winding up and down quite steep hills across the Cotswolds on a bright sunny morning. The bus driver stopped for us at a cross roads. To get the bus back we’d have to stand near the house gates and flag the driver down as there is no official stop. If we missed the bus we’d have to hitch or walk back.

P1410433smWith no path to walk along to get to the entrance we waded along the grass verges. Membership cards scanned we were given a map and told to book an entry slot if we wanted to look round the house. Then a grand drive way leads you to the front of the house.

In Medieval times the land here was used by a monastery from Coventry, one of their fish ponds is still in water on the site today. In 1483 Sir Walter Danvers bought the land plus more surrounding it and built a new house, Upton was then passed down through the generations for 150 years until in 1675 John Danvers died heavily in debt and it was sold on. The house and land then passed through many hands, Andrew Motion (the grand father of the poet of the same name) selling it to Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount of Bearsted in March 1927.

P1410456smThe house was run down and in need of modernisation so Walter and his wife employed architect Percy Morley Horder to remodel the house into a country home for them. The house would also house their large art collection. Two towers that had been built by previous owners were knocked down and replaced with new rooms more in keeping with the house. Walls were removed, a squash court became an art gallery, one floor was removed to give a double height room with a balcony. All in keeping with the 20’s and 30’s style, good quality without ostentation.

P1410563smP1410566smOn Lord Bearsted’s death in 1948 he left the house, gardens and art collection to the National Trust. Most of the house has been left how it was when he died, the entrance hall being the exception. This is where you are given an introductory talk about the house and it’s history. The hall has been dressed in Victorian style with stuffed deer and nicnaks everywhere. Where one of the walls had been removed a large curtain printed with a photograph was hung, showing you what the space looked like before it’s makeover. Our guide told us that the staircase behind had been remodelled and turned to face into the hall for those moments when a grand entrance was required. What a shame we couldn’t see the hall how it had been remodelled. A bigger shame that when we got to eventually see the staircase you descended it into another photograph of the hall. We could see what they were trying to do, but not being able to see the hall in one go, a mistake.

P1410511smP1410521smOnce through into the long gallery (another room you couldn’t see from one end to the other due to a large photograph) we were left to walk around the house on our own and gleam bits of info from the guides in the rooms. Many of the walls are painted with scumble, similar to the process used to scumble back cabins on narrowboats, except the glaze is patted out with a brush, sponge or rag, so no wood graining here. The rooms now have a simpler feel to them a smaller pallet of colours in each room which helps to show off the art works.

P1410519smP1410522smThe barley twisted balcony looks down from the library into a room where huge portraits are displayed, one by Joshua Reynolds, a cosy sitting area with inglenook fireplace to one side and a billiards room to another. In the centre of the connecting room sits a large dolls house, a replica of Upton House. People have been invited to make items to be added to furnish the house to match the life size one. The scale of 1:12 is a little bit odd to me, although the pieces in the house so far are very well made I can’t help but get uptight about how some things if scaled up would be far far to big. Someone has cross stitched a wonderful rug for one of the rooms, a beautiful object, but scaled up it’s thickness would be getting on for over two inches thick, a trip hazard. But that’s the theatre designer in me.

P1410559smP1410562smBedrooms upstairs are large, many rooms have been made into exhibition areas showing life on the French Riviera. These people had a lot of money, Lord Bearsted’s father having founded The Shell Company. 1930’s advertising posters cover many of the corridor walls and ladies dresses clothe mannequins for you to marvel at their bias cut elegance.

P1410537smLady Bearsted’s bathroom is something else. Chinese lacquer red and aluminium leaf with archways. Quite something in it’s day I suspect, now a touch over the top and amateurish.

P1410538smP1410546smThe leafing of the walls and ceilings must have taken some time to do. The large bath tub with it’s temperature control, cold, tepid and hot.

P1410532smP1410541smThe mirror and a wonderful electric fire stood out as the most deco items in the house.

P1410452smP1410453smThe gardens upstage the house in our view. The south facing terrace in the sunshine made the house glow , then flower beds followed by a large lawn with swimming pool. The bees and butterflies were certainly enjoying the sunshine and the blooms. One very fat bodied butterfly/moth zoomed around from bloom to bloom, we wondered what it was.

P1410463smP1410474smBeyond the grass is the biggest Ha ha you’ve ever seen. The land drops away at an alarming rate. Terraces of shrubs, asters, the the kitchen garden lead you down the steep hill to the mirror pond below. Here dragon flies bobbed up and down, but no fish were visible, they were too busy enjoying someone’s sandwich in the stew pond half way back up the garden. There is a bog garden and cottage. A yew tree walk.

P1410487smP1410495smLarge Cedar trees that have straps to try to keep them standing rather than toppling over onto the grass. Rose garden, An orchard full of apples. A wild garden. You could spend all day here just hiking up and down the hills in the garden.

P1410579smOur walk back to find a suitable place to wait for the bus was accompanied with a tub of chilled medication, we’d worn off enough calories in the garden. We stood on the wide grass verge as cars and lorries sped past at 60 mph. We’d made sure we arrived early as there was only an approximate time for the bus and it could be early. Large conkers kept us amused for a while, but as time went on we both silently wondered if we’d got it wrong and we’d missed the last bus back. About ten minutes later than we’d expected the bus came into view, the driver smiled at us as we waved our arms in a manner that couldn’t be ignored. The bus only runs on school days and it was obvious why as it was full with kids returning to Banbury from Stratford schools.

P1410586smP1410603smBack at the boat all was well, Tilly had done a good job. We had new neighbours and before we settled down for the evening Mick added some cable ties around our ropes to make it impossible for a chancer to lift them off the bollards.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 buses, 1 big house, 1 El Greco, 3 Canaletto’s, 1 Bruegel triptych, 1 Van Gogh, 1 large dolls house, 1 high haha, 1 vast mirror pool, 1 rather rude squash, 2 colours of spinach, 2456 bees, 2 jacket potatoes, 2 teas, 2 tubs chilled medication, 2 cable ties, 1 bored cat.

Instant Karma. 26th September

Cropredy Lock to Castle Quays, Banbury

P1410377smBoats had started to come down from Claydon by the time we got moving this morning and a large gap had been created behind us, enough for three maybe four boats to moor. We paused and had egg and mushrooms on toast. A boat just appeared as we were about to push off, so we held back for them to approach the lock first, they had to wait anyway for their turn. I walked up to lend a hand with two boats going down and two Oxford Hire boats coming up. The hire company must drum into them about going slowly which is a good thing, but neither of them seemed to know about reverse! They both came very slowly into the lock, one not having enough umph to steer and both only stopped by crashing into the top gate.

By the time we were on our way down another boat was behind us, a long term hire from Stone, they had five weeks left before they had to return the boat.

P1410393smWe met boats at most locks. One left their two dogs to walk themselves along the towpath. Except one of them was adamant that I would throw a stick for her. I did my best to ignore the pleading eyes knowing full well that should I pick up a stick then I would have a dog for life, Tilly would not be happy. She tried and tried, her boat getting further and further away, she tried some more, at last bringing me a stick. Eventually the lady on the back of the boat started to shout “Daisy!” it took a little while but in the end it was decided that I was a lost cause. She turned and started to run only to return to claim her stick and charge along the towpath with it.

P1410399smWe only caught up with the boat ahead at the last lock before passing under the M40. They pulled in soon afterwards for lunch, we carried on to make use of one of the moorings shown on Waterway Routes nearer the next lock. Certainly not a place you’d want to moor overnight unless you could take your hearing aids out, but suitable enough for lunch. Down the last lock to Banbury. We pulled in by bridge 163 with the plan to top up with shopping from Tescos.

P1410400smEarlier in the day I’d noticed we were missing our boat pole. Nowhere on the roof. Where had it gone? I spent some time this evening going through photos to see if I could identify when it went missing, we’d both heard a noise yesterday evening which we hadn’t thought much of. The last photo it appeared in was on the 9th September heading down the last few locks to Radford Semele, the first it didn’t appear in was on the 17th. So someone relieved us of the weight of it either in Leamington Spa or out at Radford Semele. B**rds!

P1410414smP1410417smBy Bridge 163 there is a B&Q, Homebase, Dunelm Mill. When our boat hook broke on Lillian we replaced it with a pine pole, not perfect as it’s not a strong as Ash, but it did us and possibly still is for her new owners. So we had a look round for some banister rail or chunky dowel. 35mm diam pine 8ft long was on offer, but we decided to think about it. We were also on the hunt for some matting to go on the roof before we stock up on coal. Dunelm came the closest with rubber door mats, but there was no where for water to run out from underneath, so we’re thinking on that as well. Our distraction meant we were now right by the new Waitrose, we couldn’t be bothered to walk back to Tescos so did a top up shop and headed back to the boat.

We decided to move on up a short distance into Banbury, it was too late in the day for Tilly to go out so mooring somewhere she’d not like wouldn’t matter too much. Pulling under bridge 164 a hire boat was just about to push off, the only other spaces were under bridges. So we held back for them to vacate the space and tied up facing a Black Prince boat. Bridge 164 is quite a busy bridge and car parks border both sides of the canal attracting skate boarders until 8pm when the car parks closed, so not the quietest of moorings.

P1410429smAround 11:30pm, lying in bed reading before lights out we suddenly noticed the boat dip and rise. This was far too much to have just been an effect of someone working the lock a couple of hundred yards away. Someone was on Oleanna!

Extra lights turned on Mick popped his dressing gown on and opened up the hatch as I peered out of the bedroom window. There was a man on the towpath, Mick could see that our bow line had been untied along with that of the Black Prince boat. “What’s going on?” Mick says. “I’ve just untied your boat” says the man. “Why?” “ For a laugh!” The chap then walked up to the stern of the Oleanna. Mick closed the hatch and quickly put some more clothes on. The boat moved again, he’d untied the stern!

This was very quickly flowed by a large SPLASH! Once clothed Mick went out the back, no sign of the chap and Oleanna was right across the cut, both ropes undone. The stern had reached the far side so Mick gave us a big push to try to get us back to where we’d been moored. This got us part way back but not far enough, only one thing for it turn the engine on. Sorry neighbours, no choice, and it wasn’t as if we were moored! Once we got back to the towpath it became obvious what had happened. There was a very big puddle where our stern had been and very wet foot prints heading away under the bridge. He’d fallen in!

Our concern for Oleanna and ourselves turned into laughter. The chap had been right, it was a laugh! Instant Karma.

Mick retied us and managed to get the hire boat pulled back to the towpath. No body seemed to have stirred on board or maybe they were lying in their beds worried about what was going on outside. Our ropes got an extra turn around the bollards (we normally do this as it’s harder to pull a rope off a bollard, but I’d forgotten to) and we returned to bed. No damage done. Well unless the chap had an expensive phone in his pocket!

P1410422smDSCF7121sm4 locks, 4.43 miles, 2 gods in the post, 1 big queue, 2 slow to steer, 1 missing pole, 0 pole to buy, 0 mats, 1 chicken, 24 meatballs, 500 grams mince, 2 pizzas, 1 free newspaper, 0.5 of a sock, 1 extra person on board, 3 ropes untied, 2 boats floating about, 1 very soggy man, 2 boaters laughing, 1 John Lennon song going round in our heads.

Five Minutes Early. 25th September

Claydon Bottom Lock to Cropredy Lock

P1410316smOur aim has been to reach Oxford this week so that I can visit the set builders for Panto more easily with more direct rail routes. However shortly after breakfast this morning my phone rang and it was my Production Manager. She’s been very busy looking after Ade Edmonson and Nigel Planer last week in Guildford so hadn’t been in touch for a while. Today she rang to give me possible dates to visit the builders, not next week but a couple of weeks away. They are quite a distance, so keeping visits to a minimum is needed so we don’t spend our lives travelling, a lot of things can be done over the internet too. So after we’d chatted Mick and I decided to take our time reaching Oxford. Moorings are not in abundance so we need to time our arrival well.

P1410322smWe took our time in getting going. Boats came past heading for Claydon Locks and then boats started to come the other way. If we’d been a few minutes earlier setting off the locks may just have been in our favour, it didn’t matter as we met a boat coming up at each lock anyway. A Black Prince Hire boat was following us, a lady stepped off and headed towards the first lock that we were just exiting. I called to her that a boat was waiting to come up several times and when eventually Mick had told her the same she let go of the handle on the bottom gate that she was about to close and walked back to her boat to wait their turn. A single hander greeted us at one lock with a jolly face, not too many people offer to give him a helping hand.

P1410323smAt the third lock a lady wearing lovely white trousers helped the boat in front of us. Her clothing and too big leather gloves suggested she was on her first hire boat holiday. They had stayed in Cropredy overnight and had been for an explore this morning enjoying a scone and tea in the lovely cafe. They had found their own way of working the locks, which we all do, but she was making her life a bit hard so I suggested a couple of things that would make it easier. As their boat s l o w l e y came out from the lock her husband said how exhausted he was with all the hard work he was having to do and how many more locks were there. Passing Mick I could hear exactly the same remarks. If I was his wife I’d have pushed him in by now!

P1410328smBroadmoor Lock has a little stall by it, when we last came through we paused and bought a new centre line for Lillian. Today the same sign was up advertising fenders etc along with a box of freshly picked apples. We bought some, I think a couple of Russets and some Orange Pippins. As Oleanna lowered in the lock the Black Prince boat arrived behind us, the lady offered to wind a paddle that was all taped up, out of order. As soon as someone appeared from below with a windlass she asked them if they were coming up, yes, so she turned and walked away back to her boat. It takes all sorts.

P1410330smA pause at Cropredy Marina for a top up of diesel and a couple of bags of coal was needed, so we pulled in and got sorted. Mick made reversing out from the service mooring look like a breeze despite the one that was coming across the water at us. Oleanna arced her way out and back down the marina to then just be able to swing round to the entrance. No body but me watching as ever.

We pulled up onto the 24hr moorings and let Tilly out. This would do for today, no need to reach Banbury and beyond quite so quickly. Tilly came back in after an hour so she was left in charge whilst we went for a nosy around the village.

P1410339smThe Red Lion pub looked cosy in it’s line of thatched cottages. A sign on the door suggested that it had been closed for a while, but announced it would reopen on 29th August. This still being on the door a month later suggests otherwise. A door or two up from the pub one of the cottages is for sale, a touch bigger than expected on the inside.

P1410347smAcross the way is St Mary’s Church. The earliest parts dating back to 1050, the church has undergone many alterations through it’s history.

P1410358smP1410363smIn 1831 the present clock was installed with it’s 14ft long wooden pendulum that ticks away over head. Sadly the clock is five minutes early, maybe to help locals arrive on time. There are eight bells, six that originate from the 17th Century and the latter two Fairport and Villager were added in 2007. Last year they had a lot of work done to the roof, scarfing in new timber where joists had rotted and had beetle damage, lead from the roof was taken away, melted and then refitted. Above the chancel arch is a ‘Doom’ Painting, worse for wear after it had been white washed over, then cleaned, then given a coat of varnish in Victorian times, which did more damage sadly.

P1410370smP1410374smThe village it self is a mixture of thatched properties, some Victorian and then a mix up to the 80’s. Many of the thatched cottages have sculptures on their roofs, a fox and peacock were the ones we could recognise.

Back at the moorings a boat had pulled in behind us leaving a classic ‘git gap’. Boaters coming past made comments about the ‘boat moving up’ to us in loud voices, which sadly fell on deaf ears. Deaf due to their four stupid yappy shit-in-your-shoe woofers! They showed no respect to me and my section of towpath. They were so stupid that Tom suggested they should go home even though I was more than capable of dealing with such stupidity. My means would have been noisy for a while but then at least we wouldn’t have had to listen to them all evening!

P1410335smI made use of a low section of towpath and scraped off bubbles of rust that have had chance to take hold on the bow end of the gunnels. They were sanded back and a coat of fertan applied. Hopefully I’ll get chance in the next few days to finish prepping the port side and give it a coat or two. My intention was to do them Spring and Autumn but where we’ve ended up being moored hasn’t been suitable. I’d like to get them done before I go to Chipping Norton so that I’m not finishing them in November in the snow as I did last year.

DSCF7121sm3 locks, 1.67 miles approx, 1 trip computer not charging, 2 rights, 79.6 litres diesel, 2 bags excell, 2 weeks to get to Oxford, 4 rowdy woofers, 2 deaf owners, 1 bushy tail, 45 ft gap, 15 ft gap, 2 boats luckily going in opposite directions, 3 pairs gloves complete, 2nd pair socks started, 1 stove keeping us warm.

Locked In. 24th September

Bridge 126 to Claydon Bottom Lock

P1410216smWith the locks behind us closed overnight it meant no passing boats this morning. Most people had headed for Fenny Compton and the pub, but we’d elected to be in what felt like the middle of nowhere. No Mrs Tilly stamp of approval due to the number of sheep, but we certainly liked it here.

We pushed off at 10:30, getting off the summit pound our goal for the day, if we could fill with diesel and dispose of rubbish that would be a bonus. Over the weekend Mick had texted the local coal boat NB Dusty to see if we would be coming across them in the next few days. It took a while to get a response from them which was a touch ambiguous. They may be heading towards Oxford this week then back northwards next or it may be the following week. We decided to top up the diesel on our way south in case we don’t see them for another week.

P1410223smP1410228smThe summit pound of the Oxford weaves and winds it’s way across the top in such a laborious fashion. It’s pretty but it just takes forever at times you turn to your left and not only can you see where you had just left but also Napton where we’d come from yesterday. Then to the right you can see the way you are heading around the next loop of the canal. 11 miles that if you could travel as the crow flies would be 5. Some of the bends make it easy to see a boat coming the other way, but others make it far harder.

P1410238smYou can’t miss the signs as you approach Fenny Compton regarding the site of the bins. They have moved to the marina away from the water point so we trundled our way past moored boats having to pause a couple of times for a boat coming towards us, it’s narrow round here. The service mooring was free so we pulled up, diesel price not too bad at 82p, just a shame they were closed! Closed Sundays and Mondays and an early closing on Wednesdays. Not in dire need of a top up, we’ll most probably last another couple of weeks but it’s getting to that time of year when we’d rather have the tank full to stop condensation.

P1410243smThe bins are down a hill in a locked area with a high fence round them. We’d been looking forward to getting rid of our recycling here. The padlock on the gates not unlockable with a key of power, but two of the bins by the fence have their lids left open so that you can throw your rubbish over. One had a small sticker on it about recycling the other didn’t, so we put our plastic and cardboard in the right one, just a shame that there were what looked like black bags of normal rubbish in there too!

P1410249smFenny Compton Tunnel follows, a long straight stretch, narrow and quite overgrown. It was built in the 1770’s as a tunnel, as the name would suggest, but in 1838-40 parts of the roof were demolished, more in 1866-9. A brick works was set up alongside to make use of the clay spoil, a brick kiln being built n 1841 which continued firing bricks up to 1917. Today the sky is visible. The towpath overgrowth was being seriously cut back by three chaps with strimmers all the cuttings falling into the canal as they went.

P1410255smP1410256smAt one particularly narrow section the off side vegetation caught one of our fender hooks still hung on the side and dragged it along the grab rail. Branches from the sideways trees had been broken off but were pointy  and just at the right height to get the cabin side! Oleanna is not a shiny boat and the Ribble link left it’s mark last year, she now has one graze from the fender hook along the grabrail and one wavering scratch along the cream line on the cabin side. Grrr!

P1410265smClaydon Locks are also on restricted hours at the moment, all the signs we’d seen said last boat in at 3pm, although our friends who’d been on a hire boat two weeks back had them close behind them at 2pm. Now past lunchtime we moored just out of sight of the top lock and had lunch. If the locks were closed by the time we got there then so be it, if not we’d be on our way down. We pushed off again at 2:30 and met a boat coming up the last lock, more were following them up the flight.

P1410286smI helped with the first boat, then had on lookers waiting for their turn as we made our way down. Another boat soon followed along with another in the second lock. At the third lock of the five two C&RT chaps walked by with windlass’s saying that they’d locked the bottom lock, so we’d have to wait for them to let us out.

P1410292smP1410294smThe bottom lock certainly was locked, I couldn’t fill it. The ground paddles had a bar passing over the top of the mechanism through the back of the metal post where a padlock held it in place. A sign on the bottom gates announced Locks Closed, so we waited. One of the chaps returned chatting to a fellow with a bike. He undid the padlock and wound the paddle up all the time chatting away about local goings on. Not one word said to either Mick or myself,what they were talking about was quite interesting, just not good customer service. Once in the lock the padlock went back on the paddle and the chap carried on chatting as I emptied the lock. With the lock empty I went to push both gates open, but no matter what I couldn’t get them to shift. I tried nudging one before the other still it didn’t work!

P1410297smMick got their attention at last and asked if one of them could possibly help, which the chap with the bike did. Still not one word from the C&RT chap, not even an opportunity to say thank you!

A long stretch of armco presented itself so we decided to pull up for the day giving Tilly a few hours shore leave before her curfew. TREES!!!!!! Big ones, small ones, sideways ones, big sideways ones. The big sideways ones must have fallen oven with all the woofer wee! Too much climbing to be done to find any friends today and then when I came home the hot box in the corner was glowing. Lovely, hope we get to keep this outside for a few days.

Once moored up Mick set about replacing the soft shackle that connects our centre lines to the roof. We’d noticed that it had frayed somewhat over the last 18 months of constant use and we’d bought a spare so better to replace it now than when it goes. Followed by a new fuse for the bow thruster charging circuit. Inside I decided now was a good time to give the oak surrounds to the windows a coat of Danish Oil. In the mornings we are starting to get condensation on the frames and windows. This tends to collect and run down the wooden surrounds and has gradually eaten away the finish on the oak. Splashes around the sinks have also done this so before the oak gets affected I wanted to give it some protection. A wipe around most of the windows with the oil whilst Tilly was out, I left the ones she likes sitting in the most until she has a full days shore leave and the stove is lit. The one above the cooker can wait for a day when it won’t be used. Most came up well, one had just started to go dark with the water. Hopefully I’ll get another coat on them in the next few days for more protection.

DSCF7121sm5 locks, 8.08 miles, 1 tunneless tunnel, 1 lufted bridge, 0 diesel, 3 throws, 2 grazes, 3 strimmers, 3 scarecrows, 2 lockies, 2 padlocks, 0 words, 2.5 hours, 7 big trees, 1 warm boat, 5 windows oiled, 100 amp fuse, 1 new shackle, 1 stove lit hopefully to stay in overnight.

Reaching For The Summit 23rd September

Bridge 110 to Stoneton Bridge 126
Yesterday the forecast said it would rain today until 11am, then get sunny followed by mounting gusts of wind. This morning it had changed, raining until midday. We pottered during the morning waiting for the rain clouds to clear, which they did at 11, good job we were ready. The forecasts don’t seem to be as reliable as they used to be.
P1410087smWe’d been passed by quite a few Calcutt Hire boats this morning all heading back towards base, only one or two boats were Napton bound. As we got closer to the locks boats were pulling out, either to wind or head up the locks, everyone had been waiting for the rain to finish. Around the last bend there were two boats on the water point, but nobody at the services block, so we pulled over there as a familiar green boat headed straight for the first lock in the flight. The rubbish was disposed of quickly so we were next in line as a very eager man pulled up opposite us, I reached the lock and Lock Keeper before they did.
P1410091smThe Lockie had some handy tips on how to handle your boat in the Oxford locks as they tend to drag you forward as do the ones on the Trent and Mersey. Once up the first lock we had to wait for a boat up ahead to get into rhythm up the flight, so I got chance to chat to the chap from the green boat in front, NB Winding Down (our old shareboat). He was out for a couple of weeks, but had been let down by a crew member so his plans had changed somewhat. One friend was with him today (a lock novice) and they were planning on getting as far as they could on the Oxford before turning back to base, next week he has more crew and will venture further.
P1410096smP1410094smLock 9 is the reason we’ll be on the Oxford until Christmas, it has gone a bit wobbly around the edges. It’s banana shape means that if you are in an aging boat that has developed a touch of waistline spread then you are likely to get stuck. NB Tyseley, the Mikron boat, got stuck good and proper a month ago, she sat in the lock overnight until numerous ropes with people hauling, a boat pulling , the engine going and a tidal wave from the top paddles gave her a boost to get her out. Newer boats don’t have this problem, you just need to have your fenders up, but then they should be up anyway in a lock.
P1410084smThere were plenty of people about to help at lock 9, Winding Down up first. One lady walked up the flight a short way and signalled that there was a boat on it’s way down, so we waited for them. The impatient fellow on the boat behind us didn’t understand why we were waiting. Maybe we’d be saving some water, on this canal it’s in short supply at the moment, but mores the point the pound in between the locks would then have to cope with three boats in it juggling themselves round each other. It looked hard enough for Winding Down to get out of the way of the boat coming down! The man behind would have to wait no matter how much he ran around his boat.
P1410124smOnce through the lock ourselves we were on our own in the growing sunshine. By about the forth lock up boats were coming down the flight towards us, so we didn’t have to close many gates as we left, or open them. Hirers were starting to steam nicely in their waterproofs having battled through the rain this morning. At one lock a lady joined with her dog who sat by the top gate patiently waiting for first us and then her own boat to go through not moving an inch. We both commended the dog and her owner, ‘there’s enough to worry about at locks without a dog adding to it’ she said.
P1410117smWater Buffalo grazed in the fields alongside the canal busy making their milk which is made into chilled medication. The sun was now out and as we gained height we also gained better and better views with each lock. By the time we reached the last lock of the flight we’d run out of downward boats so the Marston Dole Locks had to be reset, we’d caught up with Winding Down, so chance for another chat at the last lock.
P1410127smThere are currently time limits on these locks with the hope of saving water and letting the summit pound recover overnight. Last entry is at 3pm and as we filled with water and had a quick lunch the last few boats of the day came up and one went down before they would be locked for the day.
P1410154smP1410164smThe vintage cars are still at the top of Marston Doles and a short distance on there is still the boat moored in the field. Obligatory photo taken, you’d have thought they’d have done their best to avoid being on a list!
P1410182smP1410183smThe sunny summit pound. We pootled along as the wind blustered around us. Hoping for a view we thought of reaching a mooring we’d stopped at two years ago, but time was drifting. A view, lack of trees but more importantly some day light hours were required by Tilly for some shore leave. As a length or Armco came  into sight by bridge 126 we decided to pull up.
P1410187smHere there is a big tree, it needed to be conquered. I set to with my first leap upwards and started to scoot round the trunk only to come face to face with a wooly mass! What!!! It barrd at me, I leapt off and ran to the cat walk and ran straight down the side of the boat as Tom and her shouted at me. I was safe on the cat walk, don’t know what all the fuss was about, I do it every day. I tried a couple more times but the wooly face was joined by another so in the end I gave up.
P1410195smA nice quiet, apart from the sheep, towpath, only a French family walked across the field towards us and then headed away. The sun setting to our starboard side and the moon rising to the port, what more could you want from a mooring as your Sunday roast cooks in the oven.

DSCF7114sm9 locks, 6.38 miles, 1 st and 3rd boats following each other, 1 very impatient man, 43 curly horned beasts, 1 full water tank, 1 pooh bucket changed, 0 recycling, 5 wooly faces, 1 cat charge along the wrong side of the boat, 1 sunset, 1 moon rise, 1 mooring going on our list to return to.