Gelid Stumpy. 14th December

Claydon Top Lock to Fenny Compton


No-one mentioned rain! Where did that come from? We didn’t rush to get out of bed, unlike the chap on the boat in front of us who pulled out bang on 8am heading for the locks. At 8 it was dry, but by 8:15 it was wet. He is a single hander and had waited until to go down the locks today when he hoped the wind would have died down, it had a touch but made up for it later in the day.

Overnight I’d had an Etsy order come through for a pair of very miss-matched socks. The request had already been paid for. I checked what yarn I had in stock, one colour out of three would need ordering and it was discontinued! I realistically worked out when I’d be able to have them knitted by, no chance before Christmas, in fact it wouldn’t be until after the New Year as we have visitors. I got in touch with the lady explaining. Her cut off date was the 30th December, no chance, so a full refund was sent back to her. I made sure I added a note onto my shop saying I’d be taking no more orders before Christmas now. A shame really as the shop has been so quiet this year.

The weather seemed to dry up and we started to make ready. Then it rained. Then sun. Then rain! We were dressed suitably so decided to carry on. The aim today was to reach Fenny Compton, not far, so that a newspaper could be bought and gloves and cards put in the post.

Extra weight to help lower the bridge

We pootled along in the now sunshine, but boy it was cold! Under the last of the Oxford Canal lift bridges. A large container of water hung from it presumably to help equalise the weight to make easier to close.

Muddy banks

Signs of dredging, mud along the off side all smoothed out.

This years wreath ivy

At the disused railway bridge we paused for me to hop off with the sheers. Here ivy cascades from the hedgerow and brickwork, ideal for wreath making. I snipped away at long strands, and returned with a bundle.

Fenny Compton Tunnel

Next the roofless tunnel, trains whizzing by just out of view, water running into the canal from every direction. This morning I’d checked the Thames levels, yellow boards had recently started to fill the page (the last reach to the canal from Osney Lock still stubbornly red) but today it was a blanket red again! The tunnel crosses the watershed for the Thames and Avon. Now when we empty a lock it won’t be contributing to the flooding on the Thames.

We pulled in along the main stretch of moorings between the marina and The Wharf Inn. This was troublesome as the wind really wanted to help us to moor on the off side, just as a shareboat was approaching. The cold exacerbated by the wind froze my fingers, my right hand and stumpy squealing with pain, but I clung on and eventually we beat the wind and tied up, ready to defrost in front of the stove.

Too close to the road, they said. Too blowy for my bottom, they said. Your not allowed in the engine, they said. You can’t come shopping, they said. You can’t help post things, they said. None of which I truly understood. All I understood was that they were being the biggest spoil sports ever, so I complained for much of the rest of the day by the back doors!

Wellie fence

Gloves all packaged up I walked into Fenny Compton village to find a post box. The first one a diddy size but with collections early in the morning. The second much bigger, here I fed our Christmas cards and knitted goods through it’s mouth before returning to the Co-op to stock up on bread and milk.

A church sandwich

The High Street is quite pretty. Wellington Boots hung on a fence possibly holding strawberry plants. The Methodist Church sandwiched between two cottages.

The Merrie Lion hiding behind Christmas

The Merrie Lion pub hid behind a huge Christmas tree still looking inviting. A shame their menu isn’t more gluten free friendly, I’d have been tempted to go there for our Christmas work do.

The road to the village under the railway

The road to the village passes under the railway line. Depth gauges show how deep flood water can get here, quite scary. Today the road was just a running stream and most, not all, cars slowed as they passed me.

I decided to walk up to The Wharf to see what I thought. Quite a few cars in the car park and there were certainly people eating and drinking inside. The menu seemed similar to last year, but rumours are that new owners are not so keen on boaters, the laundry here now closed. There were only the usual things I could eat on the menu, which is getting boring now.

Oil, oil and more oil

Back at Oleanna Mick was in the engine bay giving Oleanna some fresh oil and checking everything over. She has now reached 2840 engine hours, the service was 22 hours late!

Time to feed my sour dough starter. Hmm! Why after it looked so good yesterday does it seem to have faltered again? I just repeated what I’d done yesterday! I fed it and popped it back on the shelf an elastic band marking it’s height so I can see if it rises from here. By the end of six to eight days it should be doubling itself between feeds. Here’s hoping.

Before feeding, bubbly on the top but not much more
After feeding, elastic band visible

0 locks, 3.02 miles, 1 lidless tunnel, 1 last lift bridge, 1 watershed, 1 stumpy about to fall off, 1 p’d off cat, 25 cards, 1 pair gloves, £26.50 refunded, 1 bucket of ivy, 2 pints milk, 1 loaf bread, 9 litres oil, 2840 hours, 1 oil filter, 3rd sour dough day.

3 thoughts on “Gelid Stumpy. 14th December

  1. Paul (from Waterway Routes)

    Does temperature matter for your sour dough starter? There can be quite a vertical temperature gradient on narrowboats so the height of where you store it can have a large effect on the average temperature – and on how low it drops overnight.


    1. pipandmick Post author

      Hi Paul. I put it on a shelf that is high up opposite the stove, possibly the warmest spot on the boat. The stove is kept ticking over all night so it shouldn’t get too cold in there.
      Once it gets going you are meant to be able to store it in the fridge where it will still double in size, it just takes longer to do so.
      Its just strange that on the two times I’ve started this version it shows great potential on day two then not much. I’ll keep on with it and see what happens.


  2. Anonymous

    Pip I remember walking under that bridge to the road junction and then right towards the small village which had a Spar shop. It would have been when we hired a boat for two weeks in 2007
    nb waiouru



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