Category Archives: History

Fueled by Ginger Buns. 13th September

Sir Hugh Stockwell Lock to Lower Foxhangers Lock

The secret gate

The locks were being unlocked as we had breakfast. We’d no intention of being the first down the flight, but got ourselves ready should another narrowboat arrive that we could share with. According to Frankie volunteers would be about today, so we waited for signs of them. I soon realised I’d made a mistake whilst getting dressed this morning and changed from a C&RT blue to Environment Agency Blue t shirt.

Beautiful morning for it

A chap from the cruiser walked down to set the top lock for them, they were wide so no sharing with them. Where are our friends on days like this, Bridget and Storm, Clare and Graeme, Alison and Laura, Aileen and Mike! It looked like we’d be making the big descent on our own. Oh well.

Pete lending a hand

Mick walked down as there were signs of Volunteers, three on duty this morning. There were two wide beams who’d already been offered assistance, but they’d do what they could for us too. If one of them set the lock ahead after the cruiser had gone through that would be just fine. The cruiser headed down and by the time we’d rolled back the covers they were a couple of locks ahead of us.

NB Wishbone heading upwards

Oleanna was sat in the sun, but the top few locks were very much in the shade as I filled the top chamber for us. The off side gates on the top lock are very close to the fence, the bottom one so tight I couldn’t squeeze past, so I did an undignified scramble along the floor only to be shown up by a volunteer using a secret gate in the fence!

Nearly out of the shade

The volunteers had split up, Lez went down with the cruiser. Mike/Mick went down to help with a narrowboat coming up the flight and Pete came to help us down. The lock below would fill as we entered the lock above and we made steady progress down the flight.

What a view

There are 29 locks in all at Caen Hill, yesterday we did the first 6, today we’d complete them. The next 16 locks are designated as a scheduled monument. If you’ve ever seen photos of a flight of locks it’s likely to have been Caen Hill one of the seven wonders of the waterways.

Taken from C&RT website

The pounds in between each lock aren’t very long but stretch out to the side. None of them have bywashes, so if the pound fills enough water flows over the top of the upper gates and fills the lock. Once that is full the water backs up and the top couple of pounds can flood the surrounding area, the C&RT workshop being one of them.

Out in the sun

The flight was John Rennie’s solution to climb the steep hill and it was the last section of the 87 mile canal to be opened in 1810. The last commercial cargo was transported up the flight in 1948 and the flight was the last stretch to be restored in 1990. The lock gates are all metal and the paddle gear varies from being low geared to clunking stiffness.

Tilly watching as we dropped down the flight

After three locks we waited for the narrowboat coming up so that we could swap chambers. This was NB Wishbone that we’d last seen in Abingdon a few weeks ago. There was time to chat to Alistair and his wife as their lock finished filling. Hope the rest of your cruise back up the Oxford is a good one.

Next!

Pete and I carried on downhill, a hired wide beam gradually coming uphill to meet us with plenty of crew. The pound between us was a touch low so we held back and let them ascend.

Mick with Mike/Mick

The rest of the flight was ours, straight down gradually catching up with Les and the cruiser who had inexperienced crew on board. Mick/Mike came and joined us locking down hill making a very efficient team.

Les joining the team

With a couple of locks left in the flight we offered ginger buns around but there were no takers, oh well more for us.

Here’s one with the chaps. Thank you!

The chaps suggested I walk ahead to the next lock after the flight so that I could get THE photo of Oleanna at the bottom. Apparently nobody takes the photo with the volunteers in, so I took two one with and one without. Thank you all, you made the flight easy.

THE photo

The cruiser had pulled over for a well earned break, managing to plonk themselves slap bang in the middle of the available space, they did offer to nudge up should we want to stop too!

Refueling for the next seven on our own

With encouragement from the Lockies we decided to continue on down the next 7 locks to Foxhangers. The general consensus was that the cruiser would hold us up and there was still plenty of energy left in our tanks. A ginger bun and a swig or two of water at the next lock would keep us going.

Further down the flight

The next seven locks are further apart so I resisted setting the one ahead, most were in our favour anyway, just needing a touch of topping up. We passed one widebeam coming uphill on their fortnightly move.

Yet another lock
Yet more gates to push

The 48hr mooring at the bottom of the locks had enough space for us so we pulled in opposite the Foxhangers Hire fleet, all their engines running, charging the batteries for the days hirers. Tilly was allowed out and the oven lit ready to bake well deserved sausage rolls.

A picture just for Steve

They were tasty but my pastry is far better than shop bought.

Waiting for the last lock to fill
Down the final lock

We’d entered Lock 44 at 9:39am and exited Lock 22 at 1pm.

What! The chicken and cheese treats have run out!

The afternoon was spent with the cricket on. Several boats came down the locks and a few headed up. I prepared a paint order for Puss in Boots and Tilly explored the old railway bridge just by our mooring. Just about all the hire boats headed out, one stayed put for the night and two returned back to base a night early. I think we will sleep well tonight.

Lower Foxhangers Lock 22

23 locks, 1.52 miles, 4 miles walked, 2nd down, 3 volunteers, 3 boats passed, 4 hrs 21 minutes, 188ft 10”, 2 ginger buns, 12 sausage rolls, 8 hire boats out, 1 paint order, 1 test match looking up, 1 pooped cat.

The Long Damp Pound. 11th September

Pewsey Wharf to Horton Bridge 134

We started off with just fleeces on, but progressed to waterproof jackets followed by trousers. Today was one of those damp days where if you don’t look it sneaks up on you and really soaks you. Luckily we looked.

EMPORIUM!!!!!

Mick took the rubbish for a walk down the towpath to the services in the pub car park. He omitted to inform me of a chilled medication emporium there, it did look closed as we passed.

Pickled Hill

The Long Pound clings to it’s contour through the countryside. Some of the time we had what might have been views on a sunny day. But today with low drizzly cloud the views were somewhat faded. Pickled Hill still stood out, one of the Wiltshire mounds that surrounded us, along with a glimpse of Alton Barnes White Horse on Milk Hill. This is one of eight white horses in Wiltshire and was cut in 1812. Hopefully on our way back the weather will be better.

One of eight

As we approached Wilcot Wide, Mick said that this was the K&A equivalent to Tixall Wide. But it left us wanting, no views and posts to stop you from winding. A few boats were moored here with their back ends sticking out in the search for deeper water.

Lady’s Bridge fancier than your average accomodation bridges

Then Lady’s Bridge designed by John Rennie in 1808 to placate the land owner who really didn’t want the canal passing through their land. It is very fancy with balustrading and decorated panels of swags and wiggly bits.

Honey Street then appeared out of the drizzle. We wondered where the hire company normally keep all their widebeam boats. All were out today. There was space outside The Barge Inn to moor, but it was too soon to stop for the day, our aim was to cover as much of the long pound as possible, so on we went.

Pretty terraced garden

Another couple of miles to All Cannings. The moorings had one space which looked a touch short for us, but we tried. We’d have just fitted if we’d been rude and nudged a short boat along off the last ring. But Oleanna’s bow was overlapping the boat in front who’s resident woofer acknowledged our presence with a woof, then he stuck his head out past a curtain to check on us. To him we were doing no harm, but to us the space was just that bit too short, even on a canal renowned for lack of moorings. So we pushed off again and I made us a cuppa and lunch to have on the go.

I’d just brought everything up onto deck as Mick slowed us down for a swing bridge. The bolt holding the bridge needed a windlass to loosen it, so all our lunch had to be moved to gain access to the locker beneath and a windlass.

Swing

Maybe today Mick has finally mastered Tick Over, not one complaint, just friendly waves from the dark interiors of boats as we passed. As you approach any road bridge lines of boats are tide up on long lines through the reeds to the banks. We’ve noticed a lot boats using their centre lines as well as bow and stern, this may feel like you are more secure (three ropes instead of two) but it has the effect of rocking your boat more as others pass.

Another swing bridge and we soon arrived at Horton Bridge where there is a water point and 24hr moorings below a pub. We’d had enough by now and were quite happy to leave the last few miles towards Devizes until tomorrow.

Is this a house or a giant spider waiting to pounce over the fence?

Quite a different outside they’d tied up today. A steep hill with some friendly cover then at the top of it, well… What a great place, lots to climb on, slide down, good high viewing platforms. I liked it lots. But the best bit was what Tom called a Dutch Barge all the way from Dutch outside. This boat had a very wide cat walk, I could quite happily have a relaxed snooze on one of those. Then it also had a solid pram cover. Fantastic views from the top of it and plenty of space inside to watch the outside go by. Tom wasn’t too pleased with me having a good look round, they say I’m not allowed on other peoples boats as the other people might decide to move the outside taking me with them. I’d be quite happy if that happened on one of these. Tom said if I can find the money then they would consider one, so I’m going to start hunting for money instead of friends.

0 locks, 9.55 miles, 2 swing bridges, 5 friendly waves, 3rd mooring lucky, 2 damp boaters, 1 soggy horse, 0 Tixall, 1 stove lit, 1/8.5 water torture cabinet drawn, 1 phone about to drown, 1 cat with aspirations of grandeur.

Across The Top. 10th September

Crofton Top Lock to Pewsey Wharf

The view across the top

The Lockie arrived to unlock the top lock as we were making ready to push off this morning. C&RT say that the locks will be opened by 10am, this morning the chap informed us that they were all open and it was 9am. The pumping station pound was full and he’d wondered why nobody was moored there.

Warp factor twelve, dilithium crystals working hard

We didn’t want to hang around, we were moored in a winding hole after all. The summit pound stretches about 2 miles, mostly along a cutting which dips under the surface at Bruce Tunnel, named after the land owner Thomas Brudenell-Bruce.

Burbage Wharf

He insisted on it being built, not wanting a cutting across his land. Whilst in the tunnel the railway line crosses from one side of the canal to the other and trees now separate the two, their roots almost acting as a wall.

First of many many downhill locks to come

Now we were on to down hill locks. As we finished lowering to the next level the crew from the first uphill boat arrived meaning I could leave the gates for them.

Pretty house

As the second lock emptied there was time to admire the large house next to it along with it’s wheelie bins!

Swapping locks

At Brimslade Lock another boat approached, the lady on her bike said she’d call the boats behind to let them know we were coming, so as not to drain the lock when they’d finished. The message got through and the gates were waiting wide open for us.

Walking down to Wooton Rivers Lock I passed a chap painting his cabin side, the boat had all the signs of a coal boat, but no sign writing. When I reached the lock and was about to call Mick in case we wanted anything I noticed that he was stopping anyway, pulling alongside them.

Coal boat, soon to be burgandy and blue

Karen and Ed have had the boat for a year. When they bought it it was called William, they’ve been trading under that name until recently. Bored of hearing about the previous owners they want to make the boat theirs, hence the repaint and it will soon be sign written with it’s new name Frederick, after their Pug . Ed topped our diesel tank up, cheaper than we’d paid on the Thames. They were still waiting for their coal delivery so we held off buying supplies, maybe on the way back from Bristol.

The lock had been sat waiting for us for a while and a chap on a bike suggested we should leave the bottom gates for him. I imagined he was waiting below, but no we passed him about a mile away only just getting ready to push out. A wide beam hire boat beat him to the lock anyway, so the badly leaking top gates would stop emptying the pound above.

The bow still to be painted

Soon we passed NB White Swan, the boat of an Instagram acquaintance. Frankie has recently repainted her gunnels, we were going to have a competition as to who’s were the best. So far she is winning as I’ve not started on ours, good job she was out at work. We waved anyway to Ghost and Shadow her two cats most probably having their morning snoozes.

Quite a collection to clear for low bridges

So far all had been friendly. But then the atmosphere changed. A line of moored boats ahead, Mick slowed to tick over. The first boat had a genny running inside with the back doors closed. I was a touch worried for anyone inside and was about to shout out to check they were alive and had not gassed themselves when swearing came from inside. Followed by stomping, then expletives and suggesting we should ‘F**g SLOW DOWN!’ His boat was moving due to slack ropes. Mick took umberance and suggested he should tighten his ropes. A lady had just got off her boat nearby with a face like thunder (possibly her natural demeanour). Mick asked her opinion, ‘That’s too fast for Tick Over’ was her reply. Sorry but it is our tick over.

From here on wards it felt like word had been passed along. Our smiles nods and waves either being ignored or reluctantly returned. They’re a friendly bunch along here!

This is now what is known as The Long Pound. At just over 15 miles it is quite long. We pushed on to Pewsey ahead of our schedule and slotted into the last space on the visitor moorings. Five hours for Tilly and lunch at a reasonable time for us.

Pretty

After lunch I gave the grabrail and stern deck rust patches a first coat of primer, hoping that Tilly was otherwise engaged for long enough for it to dry. Then as I was in job mode I found my linen thread. Ran a couple of lengths through a candle to give it a layer of wax and mended where some of the stitching had come loose on the cratch. Not the prettiest of stitching but it’s hard to be dainty when using pliers to pull your needle through several layers of canvas and zip. That’s one job off the to do list.

4 locks all downhill, 6.17 miles, 2 shoes still sopping wet, 501 yards of tunnel, 1 way traffic, 74 litres diesel, 1 bag kindling, 1 telling off, 1st coat primer, 2 zips mended, 1 friend rescued, 2 boaters who can’t get their heads round when and where we will be where and when!

It’s Only Taken Us Four Years. 3rd September

Beale Park to Fobney Lock, Kennet and Avon Canal

Our Thames licence ran out today so we had to take one of three options. Seriously get a move on and catch the tide at Teddington (18 hours cruising so not possible), wind and head back up stream to Oxford to hop onto the canal there (10 hours, so possible) or carry on down stream and hang a right at Reading (3 hours, the preferred option).

Blue blue blue

We pushed off at 9am the sky and river bright blue behind us.

Seven
Six

Ahead I managed to get pictures of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’.

Five
Four

Each one unique, the one currently for sale the plainest.

Three
Two

Have to say I’d quite like one with towers and balconies, but the road and railway would still put me off. The fifth one along (Three) is really quite shy, the trees in front of it giving it good solid cover from the river.

One

At Whitchurch Lock we descended on our own a narrowboat arriving just a touch too late to join us. I bobbed below to get some alterations done to my model as we cruised towards Mapledurham Lock.

Daybreak

A hotel wide beam was coming up in the lock and we joined the queue to go down, the lock being on self service meant it filled slowly. In front of us was a rather beautiful Humber Keel, Daybreak. We’d passed them at Wallingford on Sunday, moored up with their mast upright and plenty of bunting about the place. Today her mast was horizontal with a long red ribbon dangling to the water.

Pristine
Made in Thorne

Mapledurham being just over 200 ft long meant we’d fit in the lock behind them. They may be wide, 15ft 6″ but only 61ft 6″ long. So once she was in the lock we followed, being joined by the narrowboat that had been following us. There were three crew on board Daybreak so one chap operated the lock as the chap at the helm adjusted the stern rope and kicked the tiller arm and throttle.

Following slowly into Caversham

It was with relief once the lock was empty to see a boat arrive wanting to come up, nobody would have to stay behind to close up.

They have to fit

Caversham Lock is that bit shorter. Would we fit with Daybreak? The lovely lady volunteer came to ask how long we were, ‘Sorry’ the lock’s only 110ft long, ten foot too short for the both of us. There were only a couple of feet spare width wise, the crew holding very fat fenders to keep the pristine paintwork away from the lock gates.

Fenders at he ready

They gently nudged their way in, tiller a touch that way, then corrected, then the other way.

The same procedure was repeated as they exited the lock, fenders moved along to where they were needed most as they inched their way out. Once the boat was clear there were high fives from the crew, no touching up required!

Our last button operated Thames lock for a while

Some fresh supplies were needed, but the last big enough space at Tescos was just being taken by a narrowboat, they kindly offered for us to breast up to them. A quick shop and some lunch before we both wanted to be on our way. Their shop and lunch were a touch quicker than ours, but as they headed off the moorings were empty, so we just pulled along to let them out. By the time we’d finished our break the moorings were filling up again.

New waters

Not far until we turned right. New water again. Under the numerous bridges and along to Blake’s Lock, our last EA lock for a while. A match stick lock which works in the opposite direction to those I’d worked further up the Thames. It was full with the top paddles open! No poles to help open and close the other gate, so we opted to only open one, there was plenty of room.

A match stick lock

We could have pulled in on the Jail Loop but wanted to get a touch further if we could today.

Back onto C&RT water

Ahead signs welcomed us to The Kennet and Avon Canal, back on C&RT water, along with telling us of a boat traffic light ahead. We’ve seen pictures and heard of this and at last we were here.

Just like a road crossing

Mick brought us in towards the button, just like those on a pedestrian crossing. I wondered if it would light up the WAIT, but we got a green straight away. A newish shopping and restaurant complex surrounded us, one tightish bend but the rest of the controlled length of canal seemed far wider than a lot of places we’ve been. Were the lights put in when the new complex was built? Was the cut narrowed? Well it’s actually a length of river, so the levels and flow can vary, so one way traffic stops the possibility of coming across a boat that can’t stop coming down with the flow.

Very flowery

Plenty of people to say hello to, the schools in the area can’t have gone back today.

Waiting for the lock to empty
Four paddles

We soon arrived at County Lock, all of 1ft of it. All four top paddles were open, were we following a serial paddle leaver?

Narrow houses

Now we were back onto the River Kennet, heading upstream. The houses totally different to those on the Thames. Here we’d need about four back gardens to have enough length to moor Oleanna, their width about 15ft wide, the houses the same.

Silenced by a lion

One rowdy woofer came and woofed at us. Stupid thing! Maybe it thinks it’s managed to see us off, works every time, so just keeps on woofing at boats. A bit further along there was another woofer who’d been fitted with a lion silencing device. It worked very well.

One big deep lock, we’ve got deeper to come!

Fobney Lock 105, a touch different from County Lock with it’s 8ft 7″ drop and much longer. Luckily we’d just passed a couple of hire boats so the lock was more or less in our favour. We roped up using the centre line and Mick loitered towards the back of the lock. On each new canal you wonder what will be different. Here we only had gate paddles, would the water go down the side of the lock, or diagonally to hold the boat into the side. Luckily it was the latter. We rose up and then looked for a mooring.

Paddle gear, the break lifts the opposite way to other canals

Past the line of boats there was still armco, we pulled in. Now where did I put that nappy pin?

Four years ago we’d intended to come this way, not having managed it on our first year afloat. But things kept making us head northwards, new boat builders to chose, then boat builders to meet, the end of a finger to be lost, if only we’d headed south instead of up the Trent!

It’s a canal Tilly, do you remember them?

6 locks, 12.46 miles, 1 right, 1 big bummed boat, 2ft 5″ to spare, 0 wine bought, 1 licence expiring, 1 button to press, 1 lion silencer, 2 windlasses, 2 nappy pins, 0 river bank to pounce from.

There Is No Such Thing As A Free Cup Of Tea. 2nd September

Beale Park

Sausages!

The ‘Next Time’ list got a little bit shorter today. After a leisurely cuppa in bed followed by a sausage sarnie ( those sausages were nice), we walked upstream to find the nearest church, St Bartholomews.

St Bartholomews

Built in flint with stone dressing in the late 13th Century it is Grade 1 listed and owned by the Churches Conservation Trust. It is a simple building with a brick bell tower that was added later. Surrounding the alter are tiled walls. The church is open daily but the next service isn’t until mid October. We weren’t really here to see the church but to visit the resting place of Jethro Tull.

Looking up the aisle
Jethro’s headstone

Jethro Tull was born in Lower Basildon in 1674. His life work was key to major developments in the agricultural revolution which took place in the early 18th Century. He invented the first mechanised seed drill which was horse drawn. Rows of seed could now be cultivated reducing waste and enabling an amount of weed reduction. His innovations didn’t make him a wealthy man and nobody knows exactly where he is buried in the church yard. A modern stone donated in the 1960’s marks that the church yard is his resting place.

From here we walked up the hill, over the railway and along the busy road to the gate houses of Basilson Park, a National Trust property sitting high above the valley now surrounded by trees. We showed our membership cards and got a note to use in the tea rooms for a free cuppa, these are given out if you arrive by public transport, bike or on foot. The walk up to the house is through a thick yew wood which a week ago would have been a wonderful place away from the searing heat. Today kids climbed through the branches pretending they were caught in a maze of lazers.

Basildon Park

On the drive we got our first view of the house. A Palladian Mansion, possibly one of the finest in the country. You are directed up one of two curved staircases to the guests entrance. Here a guide introduced us to the house with a quick bit of history. The estate was acquired in 1771 by Francis Sykes who had made his fortune with the East India Company. He commissioned the architect John Carr of York (the founder of my Fathers architectural practice) to build him a splendid mansion with neo-classical interiors.

Two grand staircases to enter by

The Sykes owned the house until 1838 when it passed onto the Morrison family. During WW1 it was used as a convalescence home for officers and in WW2 it was requisitioned first by the Americans for D-Day training and then by the British and used as a prisoner of war camp for the Germans and Italians. The house didn’t fair well during this time. During the 1930’s it’s owner had wanted to sell the house to America, hoping to make a fortune. Doors, fireplaces, mouldings were removed and taken to the States as examples of the craftsmanship to try to entice buyers but the depression put paid to that and the house remained firmly on the hill above Lower Basildon.

The library

In 1952 Lord and Lady Iliffe bought the house and set about restoring it to its former glory. Other John Carr properties were visited at one in Lincolnshire they were able to buy doors, frames, fireplaces etc from the house as it was about to be demolished. Here the detail with which John Carr gave to his buildings meant that fireplaces just slotted in at Basildon and doors didn’t even need new screw holes drilling for the hinges as everything fitted perfectly.

Reused curtains decorate the walls

Not many of the rooms are as they would have been back in the 18th Century. In the green drawing room the original ceiling is still there, untouched other than by some water damage from a leaking washing machine above and a fire detector. The walls however have been covered with green damask curtains which were found by Lady Iliffe in a ballroom. You can make out where the fabric used to hang in pleats due to the fading of the cloth.

The dining room, the frocks upstaging the room a touch

As you enter the dining room columns of faux marble cut off the servants end of the room, large paintings and details on the ceiling look down on a very long dining room table with a fantastic broderie anglaise table cloth. The paintings from the ceiling were one of the elements that ended up in America, the ones there today were painted only a few years ago. They are good but nowhere near as good as they would have been in the original house.

The Octagonal Room with red baize walls

Around the first floor is a collection of dresses from the 1950’s. Two in the entrance hall were made and worn by Lady Iliffe, the others are on loan from the Fashion and Textile Museum. the displays are not as intrusive as we’ve come across at other NT properties, but because of the dresses the curtains in each room are closed and spot lights highlight the clothes. This does mean the lighting is very dramatic, no chance to see outside to the views from each room and details in the rooms are hidden in dim corners. Quite a shame in the Octagonal Room.

Decorative panel on the wall made from shells
My favourites, Argonaut shells

Up the stairs to first the Shell Room. Lady Charlotte collected shells, vast quantities of shells. She wasn’t interested in them for scientific reasons, she just loved their shapes. Whilst on holidays she would leave her husband to socialise so that she could be down on the beach collecting shells. Her collection not only sits in display cabinets but also adorns them too.

The panelled door has been rehinged
part way through it’s panels

The Iliffe’s added modern conveniences to the house, heating and plumbing. One bathroom has a wonderfully deep bath which necessitated the door to the room to be altered.

Quite a bed

The Crimson Bedroom has 1950’s wallpaper, but central to the room is a very ornate red Georgian bed that Lady Iliffe bought for £100. This was one of their guest bedrooms with a huge vast wardrobe which may at one time have been used by Disraeli.

Quite odd in such a house

At the top of the family staircase we could smell cooking wafting up from below, so we followed our noses. First into the houses kitchen, decked out with worn 1950’s units. A drawer full of familiar kitchen utensils sat out on the long kitchen table opposite a fake Aga. The aromas hadn’t been coming from here. Down more steps and we reached the ground floor and the tea room.

The guest staircase

Time for our free cuppas and something to eat. Mick chose a sandwich and a roast veg frittata took my fancy. We handed over our hand written chit for tea and the young lady then asked us for £12! ‘Er don’t we get free tea?’ ‘Oh Yes, £8’.

An original study for the tapestry in Coventry Cathedral

Quite a few of the tables were occupied, but we found one and put the tray on the table along with our number for food. A waitress said ‘Is that number 13?’ Yes it was. She lifted the number from the tray onto the table to one side, I thought that was a touch too helpful. She then proceeded to pick up our tray. She was clearing it all away before we’d even sat down! ‘Excuse me we’d like to drink our tea and eat our food!’ Oh, right! She did apologise briefly when she came through with my frittatta, which was very tasty.

Free tea!

A look around the gardens, plenty of fushia out and wilting roses. The front lawn looks out across the valley. We tried to work out just where Oleanna might be behind all the trees. Then we made our way back down the hill and across the railway. A permisive track took our fancy so we climbed the style and followed mowed pathways through wooded areas. We guessed we were heading in the right direction, cut across a road and then into more fields.

From the front lawn

Oleanna should be just about there, but the path took us this way then back on our selves. Eventually we popped out on the river bank a few hundred feet away from our bow.

It had been a good day and well worth stopping to look round the house, ticking off another John Carr building, but they certainly didn’t want us to have that free cuppa!

More outside time!

0 locks, 0 miles by boat, 5 miles walked, 1 gravestone, 1 Jethro, 1 Carr house, 3 staircases, 18 frocks, 26 preparatory paintings for a tapestry, 2 Japanese lamps, 1 red bed, 5m table cloth, 732579 shells, 2 cups of tea, 1 ham sandwich, 1 frittatta clung onto for dear life, 2 repeats in wallpaper, 1 crumbling balustrade, 3 hours for Tilly, 1 woofers ball.

Door To The Imagination. 24th August

Radcot Meadow to Kelmscott Manor

Webs

The spiders overnight work was being shown off by the morning dew, a very pretty sight to open the curtains to.

Radcot Bridge

Not far today, but we were still up and away early to hopefully find a mooring. Passing all the glamping teepees and tents by Radcote Bridge (the oldest on the Thames) we wondered how many slices of pig were being fried up for breakfast.

Rowing

A rowing boat was heading towards us, nothing surprising there. This turned out to be a novice team rowing from Lechlade to Teddington raising funds for the NSPCC. Their back up team running the towpath warned that they weren’t so good at steering, well they’ll have a problem when they come to the next twists and turns!

Wonderful view

After a mile and a half we reached Grafton Lock, although on self service there was a Lockie doing his checks, he opened up the bottom gates and worked us up. Another boat appeared from above which he worked down too, how long would it be before he could head off to the next lock?

The cratch will remain rolled up tonight
That rope will help us to get up the bank

Today the Twists and turns have been replaced by pill boxes, they felt as though they were every few hundred yards as we made our way to where we wanted to moor, The easy moorings were full, round the bend was full also. Signs on posts stood high above the friendly cover so it looked like there might be more places to moor round the next bend. We pulled into the cover, no chance of me getting off at the bow, but Mick managed with a scramble.

Pinned in at the front and tied round the post at the stern we had a handy rope to help clamber up the bank. Why here? Why not go on further? Well just through the trees we could see the reason Kelmscott Manor, William Morris’s holiday home.

Kelmscott Manor

In 1871 William Morris and fellow artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti took out a years lease on the house, it was to provide them with a country retreat away from London and the pressures of work. Originally built around 1570 the Elizabethan house had captured Morris’s imagination. The lease was continued, Rossetti moving out in 1874 being replaced by Frederick Startridge Ellis, Morris’s publisher.

By the Brewhouse door

The house and surrounding area gave inspiration to Morris for 25 years, influencing his poetry, textiles, wallpaper designs. The traditional architecture of the area reinforced his convictions about the integrity of craft-based work and design and the importance of conserving ancient buildings for future generations.

From the croquet lawn

Morris managed to secure a 20 year lease of the house and later after his death in 1896, Jane his wife continued to be a tenant moving from London to live in the house full time. In 1913 she managed to buy the freehold of the manor along with 9 1/2 acres of land. In 1914 May, their daughter, inherited the house and in 1938 when she died she left the house to Oxford University. By the 1960’s The Society of Antiquaries of London was looking after the house and serious works were needed to save it from major problems with the stone slating and wall masonry, damp and timber decay. Much work was carried out and by 1967 the house was ready for it’s new lease of life and to have visitors.

The Green room which currently isn’t green

Entrance to the house is by timed entry ticket, this gave us enough time to look at some of the grounds and the posh William Morris tat in the shop. A one way route round the house was in operation and volunteers guided you through the house and were on hand to answer questions.

Table and chairs

Many items have remained with the house from Morris’s time and before. These items living up to Morris’s maxim, Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. That reminds me we need to reapply this to Oleanna.

Burne-Jones zodiac drawing
Rossetti portrait of Jane

Morris fabric hangs from many walls, and wonderful embroideries by his wife and daughter accompany drawings by Burne-Jones, Rossetti, and furniture from other Arts and Crafts designers. Albercht Durer and Breughel works hang on walls all important influences on Morris.

Sussex
Chairs

Various styles of Sussex chairs with their dark wood, rattan or rush seats sit comfortably all around the house.

Light
Window latch

Tapestries. light fittings with reflectors.

Reflecting upstairs

A circular mirror hangs on the staircase wall echoing the Portrait of John Arnolfini and his Wife by Jan Van Eyck.

Windows
framing views

Windows framing views of the garden literally held in place by the window catches.

Intricate embroidery

A recent acquisition is the wonderful ‘The Homestead and the Forest’ cot quilt. A circular Thames encircles Kelmscott Manor and outside are animals from across the world.

Meow
Grrr

Lions, cats, flamingos, crocodiles.

Loft steps

A loft staircase, takes you up to the attic rooms. Here is what captured Morris’s heart and ours.

Look at those beams

The rooms below are very nice with great views, but you really can’t beat the slopping roof and exposed beams of an attic room.

You just have to mind your head

This house doesn’t just have one room up here, it has several. I’d quite happily live up on the top floor of the house. What wonderful rooms.

A door painted by the Scott-Snells

A steep spiral staircase brings you down the house, pausing at first floor level there was a display of paintings by Edward and Stephani Scott-Snell who leased the house for a few years after May died. Then back down to the ground floor.

Built to accommodate three

The gardens are worth a view too, a brewhouse, three seated privy, a mulberry tree and Medlar tree sit around the house.

The Mulberry tree

We could have headed back to the boat for lunch but decided on sampling the cafe. My usual safe jacket potato was followed by a very nice slice of gluten free carrot cake, Micks coffee and walnut cake also got the thumbs up, all at reasonable prices.

William in contemplation

A look around the village was next. More lovely houses with their tile stone roofs. Past the pub to St George’s Church. A simple small village church where William Morris, his wife and two daughters are buried. Interesting that William gets a loop on his M’s on the stone, but the others don’t.

M with a loop

Inside the church is simple, but hidden behind the small organ in the north transept are medieval wall paintings dating from before 1280 depicting Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel.

Medieval paintings

Normally when we visit churches of this size we are the only visitors, possibly for days, but today we had plenty of company. Shame we were the only ones to pop some coins through the whole in the wall to help with the upkeep.

St George’s

The manor was well worth a visit. This year it has been open from April to the end of August on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Only two more days to visit this year. Then the whole operation will close down for major works to take place enabling them to accommodate more visitors and do much needed remedial works on the house. If all is going well they will open for limited time next year, but the house will reopen to visitors in 2021 the 150th anniversary of when William Morris first moved to the house.

Which way?

After avoiding the hot outside all day, then avoiding the woofers and people, then avoiding the wobbly lads on day boats I headed out to see what I could see. I’d been warned that the friendly cover shouldn’t be pounced in as this outside might be missing some floor in places. So I headed across the field to a large wood pile. This was very interesting to climb and poke my arms in. A few friends kept me amused for a while but it was all over too quickly when She came calling for me.

Morris’s bed

1 lock, 3.04 miles, 0 bacon for us, 1 clambering mooring, 12:10 entry, 1 Elizabethan house, 3 floors, 2 peacocks, 1 wonderful attic, 2 slices cake, 2 cups of tea, 3 seated loo, 200 lbs of Mulberries, 1 little church, 4 in one, 3 hours, 1 big log pile, 1 cooling breeze, 1 cardigan back to where it should be.

Feed My Sheep And Filling The Bottom Drawer. 18th 19th August

Abingdon to Elvington to York to Thixendale to Abingdon

With a busy weekend ahead of us we were up early. The sound of Didcot Power Station demolition stopped us all in our tracks, the four explosions very audible at our mooring, like thunder almost overhead. As I finished off my breakfast I found footage of the towers collapsing on the internet. No sign of the wayward explosive case that flew into power cables causing an explosion, fire and some minor injuries.

The Norf, Drax Power Station

The magic food bowl was stocked up with two meals for Tilly and she was left in charge of Oleanna. Our hire car a Fiat 500 which did the job to get us up to Yorkshire and back, just a shame it wasn’t that bit bigger which might have enabled us to purchase a long plank.

Holy Trinity, Elvington

Travelling early on a Sunday morning meant there were few hold ups on the motorways and we made Elvington, just outside York, in good time.

On the pulpit

A little spruce up and a snack before we joined the Harford family at the church to celebrate the christening of Austin and George, two grandsons of Mick’s best friend. Polly (mum of the two boys) lived with us after her mother passed away fifteen years ago whilst she finished her A levels in Scarborough.

George, Polly, Austin and Simon

It was lovely to see the family again and meet George who has just recently started to walk. After they had their hair wetted by the vicar we all walked down the hill to the village hall for drinks sandwiches and cake.

Cake
The Village Hall

Elvington played quite a part in my youth this is where my bestestest friend Emma lived, her Mum being my God Mum. I sometimes would stay with them whilst Mum and Dad were away, going to the village school and certainly partaking in parties in the village hall. This has grown since I was a child and today there was no Jim Hammond playing his guitar and singing songs in the main room.

A Rhino!!

With all the celebrations over we walked up to the River Derwent to have a look at Sutton Lock. The back of Elvington Hall looked how I remembered it, but with a new addition in the garden.

Then we stopped and had to look up. The sound of an old plane. A Spitfire, had this been arranged for Austin and George, their Dad is a fighter pilot in the RAF! We suspect it was more likely to do with something at Elvington airfield, the pilot came round a few times before heading off into the clouds.

Guillotine at one end
Knackered wooden gates the other

Sutton Lock has been disused for many years, the last boat to go through it was actually NB Waterway Routes. The top gate is a guillotine the bottom gates conventional wood. These sit open, the top gate well and truly shut.

Sheep

On the off side the custodian of the lock came to keep an eye on us, a very vocal sheep, he was doing a good job of keeping the grass down on that side of the lock, the towpath side very over grown.

Proms on the Green, in front of Granny Snowden’s cottage

We paused on our way back to the car to listen to a brass band performing on the village green, right outside Emma’s Granny’s cottage.

St William’s College and the Minster

Staying at the Travel Lodge on Layerthorpe had been a good plan, not too far to walk into York for some food at Wagamamas and say hello to the Minster. Then we walked a similar distance back out of town to see an old York friend of mine Nick and his parents. Over the last few years Nick has spent much of his time in China, teaching at a University along with creating ceramic artworks. For about three years we’ve not managed to coincide with his visits home so it was very good to have a catch up and hear of his plans, moving back to Europe. He still rents a flat in Amsterdam where most of his work is exhibited, how Brexit will affect his plans he has no idea. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of him now.

A Minster view, just

Monday morning and the hunt for breakfast started, Travel Lodge didn’t have any toast that I could eat and a cooked breakfast simply has to have some form of bread to catch your egg yolk. So we checked out and headed to Morrisons to see if they could do any better and pay half the price.

Morrisons breakfast

‘Sorry’, no gluten free bread available in the cafe. As I’m not going to suffer if the same toaster is used to toast some bread for me we asked if we could provide our own bread for them to toast. Bring your own bread. This was fine as long as I realised that the kitchen wasn’t a GF zone. Marvellous, I swapped my sausages for extra bacon as they were guaranteed to be pink sausages.

Looking back over the Vale of York from the Wolds

After breakfast it was time to wave goodbye to York. Hopefully we’ll manage to come by boat next summer. Instead of heading southwards we headed towards the east and the Wolds, to Thixendale. Here is where Jennie and Adam live high up on the hills on their farm. I used to work with Jennie at the SJT but she left about ten years ago to work for the family business, Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil. Now there is also the Charlie and Ivys brand.

Kitchen envy

It’s been about three years since we’ve managed to get up to the farm to see them, my how things have changed up there. A wonderful new kitchen which is a barn conversion linking the oil business offices to the farm house. Outside the new windows works were on going with a toilet block and picnic area that will cater for when they do educational visits from schools to the farm, also useful when they have parties. A new patio would extend outside the kitchen windows.

Look, here comes the patio

Almost as soon as Jennie mentioned the patio Adam appeared with the chaps who work on the farm, laying sheets of wood over the grass. Next came a tractor with a big bucket on the front, they had come to lay the concrete for the patio! They might as well keep busy whilst waiting for the crops to be dry enough to harvest.

It was great to see them all and catch up on our respective news. If you should want a lovely outfit making for you Jennie is your woman, she’s starting to sew again amongst all the other things she does around the farm, oil business and holding the family together.

Fresh supplies

We topped up on oil and a few other bits, including a Raspberry and Beetroot dressing I fancied trying. Time to head south and leave Yorkshire behind. As we pulled out from the farm Gin the sheep dog rounded us up until we headed down the drive.

The trip back was far longer, several slowing to stand still moments, but we got back in the end. Much later than originally planned, Mick had a chat to the Lockie who said as it was nearly 6pm he’d let us stay for another night, £5 due on the morning.

A 5 litre bottle containing oil again, no longer just air

Tilly was happy to see us, her magic food bowl spotless. An hour of shore leave was extended by her into two. Our bottom drawer ( designed to hold 5L bottles of oil) is now restocked and tomorrow we’ll head onwards upstream.


Property Game

2 Bedroom Dutch Barge which could come with a mooring.

0 locks, 1 out of action, 0 miles, 4 explosions, 400 milesish by road, 2 boys with wet hair, 1 village, 1 spitfire, 1 sheep, 6 (?) boats stuck forever, 1 rhino, 1 giraffe, 1 manager only soy sauce bottle, 1 old friend, 1 bottle of wine, 1 Minster view, 2 BYO slices of bread to toast, 2 breakfasts, 1 farm, 2 sheep dogs, 5l oil, 1 lovely new kitchen, 1 bottle of dipper, 1 jar mayonnaise, 1 bottle dressing, 1 bottom drawer full again, 60th birthday party missed, Happy not quite yet Birthday Christine, hope you had a lovely day x

Yesterdays Answer

£1,250,000

Sorry Joa, I did say there was more to it, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 3 reception rooms in Reading

https://www.walmsley.co.uk/property-details/?id=9447