Category Archives: Nature

To Limbo, Or Not. 28th November

Somerton Lake to Kings Sutton

Wonder if it’s ever got high enough so you can’t tell where the canal is?

For the last few days we’ve been retracing our steps of last year. Oxford to Kidlington, Kidlington to Thrupp, etc. However last year strong winds were forecast so we decided to sit them out at Somerton Meadows for a couple of days. Today however we hoped to overtake ourselves from last year, or so we hoped.

Th river is where the grass is

For the whole day we have been surrounded by flood water. Huge expanses stretching away from the river and canal, this is of course what all these fields are for, to hold the excess water. Birds were enjoying their new wet land, but we suspect the sheep that have been separated from their friends would rather have more grass to graze than the narrow strips some were left on.

Somerton Deep Lock

Somerton Deep Lock was our first of the day. At 12ft 1″ deep the bottom gate is very large and heavy. I was ready for a battle, but after lifting a paddle, it moved slowly but steadily open. Waiting for Oleanna to stop completely in the lock before pulling the gate closed, only a few bumps were needed to get it moving, far easier than expected.

Level out the coal

Once we’d reached the top it was time to do some adjustments. The mountain of coal on the roof needed to be laid flat, below the height of the horns certainly if we were going to stand a chance of getting under Nells Bridge.

A different sort of view

We pootled along the next pound the various moorings with wonderful views all empty. Next time we’re this way we’ll try stopping at one of these instead of at the meadows. Below the fields were lakes, at times you could only just make out where the river was by the flow. Gradually the river gained height coming up to meet the canal level.

I love the magnetic letters on this boat

Pulling in at Aynho Wharf we topped up the water tank, this might just give us an extra inch above the cabin top when we reach Nells Bridge.

Aynho Weir through the lock

Aynho Weir Lock. I checked the level board, an inch in the red, the same as yesterday.

Hmmmm

Mick looked at the flow on the river that crosses just above the lock, not too horrendous. Some umph from the engine should keep Oleanna away from the wooden protection. We decided to go for it.

Under the bridge before the weir

Both gates on the lock leak so emptying and filling it takes some time. It also being a lozenge shape makes the levels deceptive. The lock still needs to hold a large amount of water so as to be able to keep up with the demand from Somerton Deep Lock, but the river isn’t that much higher than the canal. So the lozenge shape was built with a larger area to fill producing enough volume.

Going
Going

Oleanna easily fitted under the bridge at the top of the lock. We agreed that I’d walk from here, save trying to pick me up. Once clear of the lock gates Mick gave Oleanna’s engine a bit of wellie and off she headed across the flow of the river avoiding the wooden protection across the top of the weir, which today was level.

The low bridge ahead
A man at one with his chimney

Slipping and sliding along the muddy towpath I eventually caught up with Mick. He’d pulled in below Nells Bridge Lock. The chimney now needed removing, the last thing we could do before attempting to limbo under the bridge.

Wonder if it’s in the red or amber?

We both walked up to take a look at the level marker between the lock and bridge. What looks like a new sign above the lock explains the colours. Green normal, Yellow procced with caution, Red do not proceed (not the exact wording but the jist of it). This is all well and good, but when the coloured marker is broken, therefore missing you have no idea if it is safe or not. This however didn’t bother us, we’d made it across the river, we were just interested in the available headroom marker.

Breath in

In the summer we’d measured Oleanna’s height as best we could whilst on the River Wey, she came in at around 1.88m to the top of her horns. The bottom of the board here is at 1.4m. Then a band of white paint suggesting another foot, so 1.7m. The water level was lower than this, by about a brick and a half, possibly another 6 inches (sorry for mixing imperial with metric here). If this was the case then we had 1.85m headroom. The bridge opening is arched, our cabin sides are angled, was there enough room?

Here she comes
That looks good

Only one thing for it, gently nudge Oleanna into the opening and see what happened. Mick straightened Oleanna up and brought her slowly into the bridge hole. This was the moment where we could find ourselves stuck below the lock until the levels drop or on our way towards Christmas.

Nearly there
Mind your head Mick

Slowly she came in, the horns had missed, a good sign. Then more and more of Oleanna came through and into the lock.

Loads of room

There was loads of space! Admittedly we don’t have much on our roof so that helped.

Phew!

Up she rose the last hurdle/limbo we needed to get past. I can order our Christmas bird now.

A function room maybe

The Pig Place has changed a touch since last year. A new building made from old doors has appeared, maybe an inside bar for damp evenings. As we passed the boats on their moorings the chap from Canal World Forum came out to say hello. We thanked him for his photos and said we had loads of room, his roof box would have been a problem.

here here

Onwards, where to stop for the day? We soon made our minds up to continue up onto the next pound. The canal was being topped up, from the river.

That’s the river coming into the canal

Two weeks ago, part of Banbury had flooded and areas of the towpath had been over topped by the river. Here we could see it happening, the river level higher than that of the canal and towpath. Streams flowing from river into the canal. If the towpath got eroded sufficiently then when levels drop the canal may then flow into the river. A stretch of towpath has been reinforced with gaybions, maybe more of this is needed.

Neat garden by the lock

At Kings Sutton we rose again. Now much higher than the river, for a while anyway, we’d feel happier. Works on the Lock Cottage here now seem to have finished. A neat flower bed on one side of the bridge and a lime mortar wall running along the side of the lock. I was glad to see that the old barn hasn’t been touched, but I suspect it will get a make over at some point.

Weathered and worn

We pootled on a short distance to moor up on some armco and let Tilly out for an hour. Our mission complete. Here the aroma of Banbury fills the air, the trains sound their horns as they pass a crossing and the M40 rumbles away in the distance. Despite this, it is still quite peaceful here.

Kings Sutton Lock

4 locks, 6.18 miles, 1 layer of coal, 1 chimney removed, 1 water tank filled, 1 Black Pig, 1 boat as low as possible, 1 inch in the red, 1 zoom across, 1 limbo with ease, 0 bacon today, 1 river 1 canal almost 1, 1 finished cottage, 1 hour shore leave, 1 spag bol on the stove, 1 mission accomplished.

The Lakes. 27th November

Kirtlington Quarry to Somerton Meadows Lake

Blue sky and shadows

Daylight keeps running out on us, the end of the day is getting too dark for our second mate to have some quality shore leave once we’ve finished our days cruise. This is a shame as we know she’ll like the moorings we’re heading to. So this morning we set an alarm clock, starting earlier might just help. Not lounging in bed with a cuppa for as long, might just help.

Water fills the fields

We’ve already been following the course of the River Cherwell and today we would stay close. A couple of weeks ago I suspect the canal and river became one in places. Certainly the fields surrounding the river are more lake like at the moment.

Leaves and more leaves in the canal

The canal also changed a touch today, at Northbrook Lock the water was filled with oak porridge, just waiting to get clagged around our propeller. You can hear the leaves collecting down in the water, a quick blast of reverse to help clear them followed by a short pause before continuing tends to work well.

Looking back

As we approached Muddy Slipper mooring we could see that the hole behind the armco was still there, a slightly more robust stick marking the spot today. *Apologies for the photos not being there on the link. This was due to a problem we had with Blogger last winter which sadly meant all the photos were lost. One day I may work through the many posts and replace the photos.

Cwoor!

Every now and then we’d get treated to some fantastic colours in the trees. Then some movement on the towpath. Was it a fox? A dog? Surely it’s legs were too short for a deer.

Look at this little chap

But it was, a Muntjac, not worried about our approach until Oleanna’s bow levelled with it when it hopped over the undergrowth and vanished in amongst the trees.

Heyford Wharf Bridge and a moving boat!

Approaching Lower Heyford we got a bigger surprise, a moving boat! There was time to exchange pleasantries and inform them about the river downstream. No news from them about Aynho though. We were glad to see the rabbit is still keeping guard by the bridge.

Stick em up

This morning Mick had asked on Canal World Forum for anyone local to Nell Bridge Lock what the levels were like there. Above Aynho Lock the river crosses the canal which then heads up to Nell Bridge Lock which has a narrow low bridge before it. Between it and the lock is a levels gauge which informs you of what head height is available under the bridge. Someone offered to walk down and see what it was like, later in the day posting photos of the river being an inch in the red, the weir being level etc. We might make it through, we might not. Hi Sam!

Hire fleet at home

All the hire boats were in at Heyford and the winter moorings looked popular a short distance on. No problem with the push buttons at Mill Lift Bridge, just a case of Oleanna preferring the off side bank after picking me back up, this took a little bit of sorting.

Water from the river not just puddles
Perfectly tucked in a lock beam

Two boats were moored below Allen’s Lock, here there is a low raised bit between the river and canal, it looked like the river had almost certainly overflowed onto the towpath here as the path was still dripping into the canal.

Tilly enjoying our own private lake

Two more locks heading up towards blue skies, leaving darker clouds behind us until we arrived at our destination for the day, Somerton Meadows. More like Somerton Lake today. On a bend of the river we could see water flowing into the meadows topping up the lake, all quite pretty, just very wet.

Canal and lake, oh and Tilly

We’d succeeded in arriving with a couple of hours of day light left in the day, so as soon as possible the back doors were opened for our four legged one to explore.

Sun catching the trees with moody skies

A few sideways trees, some big trees, but they were on the other side of the lake and that was out of bounds! But I found enough friendly cover to have a pounce or two in, but nobody was home. Although later on this evening I think one of them has been trying to attract my attention by knocking on the side of us. Tom went out to see what it was. A Sea Dragon, blowing underwater fire everywhere! Despite this he couldn’t tell us what colour it was, I think he was lying!

Tilly looking for friends

4 locks, 6.59 miles, 1 lift bridge, 0 held up, 1 muntjac, 1 long lake, 2 boats moving, 6 gulls with cold feet, or do they not notice the cold, 1 inch in the red, 2nd left over beef meal, teriyaki, third heel turned, 4 damp muddy happy paws, 1 sea dragon!

3.99 Miles And 2 Locks! 24th November

Jericho to Kidlington Green Lock 43

We’ve moved!!!!!!

Leaving College Cruisers behind

It’s all very well being excited, but my day didn’t start well. I was a bit peckish in the middle of the night, so went to my bowls. Three weeks ago Tom had forgotten to give me my morning ding ding and I had two very empty bowls when She came home. Last night he’d even stolen my bowls, there was nothing what-so-ever to even lick!

So I had to be creative. I found a couple of things that smelt nice so gave them a lick, but they fell on the floor making a clanking noise waking them up! Tom stole these as well, saying it was for my own good as I must have caught what She had had. I hadn’t caught anything, well not that I’d noticed! If I had it certainly wasn’t tasty with a tail, because I’d have remembered.

I do not waste my time. They do!!

This morning I waited eagerly, my tummy rumbling, for the ding ding. But Tom forgot and he wasn’t even going to Liverpool! She didn’t do anything about it either!! So I had to spend much of the remainder of the day trying to sleep with the growling monster in my tummy making increasingly louder noises. When I couldn’t sleep I did get to watch the outside moving from inside. They had a few attempts at tying it up, but rejected these after a while. I thought the trees looked good, but no, who am I!

After breakfast I dug out my walking boots, the towpaths up ahead would be muddy so I traded trainers for boots for the first time in ages. We pushed off just after 11am our aim to reach a suitable mooring for Tilly to explore for the remainder of the day, see we’re not as horrid as she makes out.

Fishing at Aristotle bridge

We waved goodbye to Oxford. We won’t miss the trains through the night, although we’ll still have the railway for a while. We won’t miss the boat behind us running his generator till midnight! We won’t miss all the wheelie suitcases rumbling past. I won’t miss the narrow outside and lack of friends.

One for Bridget

At Aristotle Bridge one boat sat on the moorings where it’s been for ages, surrounded by fishermen. If we’d wanted to pull in we’d have caused quite a stir, but we’d only just pulled away so slowed to pass them all and say hello. From here on the towpath is closed as it is being improved.

Topping up whilst the washing machine works hard on my painty clothes

A gap in the works gave us the opportunity to pull in at the services just after Elizabeth Jennings Way. Another boat was filling so whilst waiting to use the tap, our washing machine already going, we disposed of the packing from the printer, ash, general waste and emptied the yellow water.

Our first lift bridge, usually left open

Once the fresh water tank was full we pulled away and were soon under our first Oxford Canal lift bridge, Bridge 238 which is left open.

Approaching Wolvercote Lock

Wolvercote Lock was easier to access than normal. The last boat on the moorings here must be off on a jolly at the moment. I wound the paddle and emptied the lock a touch for the levels to equalise then pushed open the bottom gate. This end of the Oxford Canal the locks only have single bottom gates. On deeper locks this can make for hard work, but at only 4ft 3″ the gate moved easily.

C&RT work boats tied to rotting felled trees!

Less can be said about the lift bridges! The bridges out from Oxford have a reputation. Last year I got their measure, but a year is a long time and things have been tinkered with and worn since.

Perry’s Lift Bridge 234 would not unlock. Was this the one that you needed to put your weight on and give your key a quarter turn to the exact spot? No, nothing seemed to work for me. I called Mick to have a go. A cyclist came by and was asked if this bridge had a knack. Everything was tried by all three of us, still locked. The cyclist headed off to find his mate. If you’ve ever been this way you will more than likely have met the chap who appeared, he’s often around helping or making comments about how shallow the canal is along the Agenda 21 moorings.

It just wouldn’t unlock

With the expert local knowledge he lifted and jiggled the lock. Apparently the post that the lock locks into can move, so some sideways lifting and jiggling got it aligned again at which point it unlocked. Hooray! Everyone was thanked as I sat on the beam to hold it open and Mick brought Oleanna through.

I should have had more pie to lift this bridge

The next bridge, Wolvercote Lift Bridge, I knew would be problematical, it nearly always is. No lock on this one just a lot of hoiking to do. I crossed over and grabbed one of the beams above my head and tried with all my weight to get it to move, nothing. I tried the other beam and got it to acknowledge that I was doing something. After being ill the other day I didn’t feel like being a monkey and working my way along the beam to the end and with no handy passersby I had to call for assistance from Mick.

Open and sat on as Oleanna passes underneath

Here the bridge landing is high and overhanging so it’s not as simple as just pulling up with a rope. Our extra fat fender had to be deployed to help preserve the cabin paintwork. Mick then could join me and give the towpath side of the bridge a lift until I could get my weight on top of the beam to open it. I remember last year there being a strong wind which kept lifting me off the ground.

Wolvercote Junction. Left to the Thames, straight on to the north and Christmas

Wolvercote Junction next where if you turn west you end up on the Thames by King’s Lock. I’d half expected the canal to be high here and Dukes Cut Lock to be partly under water with the Thames being in flood. But all looked fairly normal. We carried on with our course northwards and into Dukes Lock.

Oooo Aaarrgh!

Soon followed Drinkwater Lift Bridge. This bridge is closing in the new year to have work done on the bridge approach walls and the bridge will have a manual hydraulic lifting system added to it. This bridge is used more than the other two we’d come through today, as quite a lot of boaters bypass them on the Thames. Here reading the instructions on the lock have always worked, especially the quarter turn of the key. Once unlocked it’s a quick dash across as the bridge is keen to open. Then on closing it needs some persuasion and to be quick at getting onto it to add your weight to be able to lock it again. With all this in mind it is easy and I managed it without too much bother. Just a shame it’s not Wolvercote bridge getting some attention this stoppage season!

Last one of the day and easiest

Now we had about a mile to go before Kidlington Green Lock came into view. The piling edge below the lock was empty, we found our nappy pins and moored up doing our best not to slip on the muddy towpath. It now being 3pm there was only an hour left before cat curfew. Tilly had been offered some food, a small amount before heading out the back doors, but this was totally over looked.

Hooray!!!!!

At last!!! A whole new outside, yet strangely familiar. There was plenty to sniff and check out. I made full use of my hour exploring, showing myself twice on the cat walk before heading off in a different direction. This is so much more like it! Then when I came inside there was a great big box to sit in, this made up for not being allowed to stay out later.

What’s in here?
A cat, what did you expect?

The joint of beef we’d bought yesterday went in the oven and came out smelling wonderful, it tasted good too!

2 locks, 3.99 miles, 3 lift bridges, 2 pesky, 1 easy, 2 cyclists held up, 3 willow trees ducked under, 1 work boat tied to rotting wood, 1 hour of shore leave, 1 empty wee tank, 50% rubbish disposed of, 1 full water tank, 1 amended Houdini drawing, 1 pair socks, 1 days cruising, 2 smiley boaters, 1 happy cat again.

Catching Up. 10th October

All Cannings to Wolfhall Bridge 103

Yesterday we’d stopped short of our planned destination for the day, today we needed to catch up. So the alarm went off, we had breakfast and were ready to push off into the chilly morning. At least the sun was out and we might be able to see the views that the cloud had shrouded on our way west.

Sun’s out

There are so many boats moored along the Long Pound, progress was very slow but at least Alton Barnes White Horse was in view for much of our way. Then we skirted round the Wiltshire mounds to our north were ancient terracing is very evident.

Mounds

Under Lady’s Bridge and past the wide water where a chap was just coming out of his boat full of the joys of spring!

Terraced Pickle

Just before Pewsey Winding Hole a chap pointed at us from the bow of his boat and then three others waved.

The Rustys

The Rustys had winded this morning and managed to get their boat just about into the side to moor so that they could go for an exploration. our boats were finally pointing different directions and our paths wouldn’t cross again. Hope their trip back to Hilperton is good. There was a bit of banter about meeting up next year, maybe Bingley.

Boat cat keeping an eye on us

We considered stopping to dispose of our yellow water but by the time we realised that the service mooring was actually free it was a touch late, so we carried onwards. The chilled medication emporium wasn’t open anyway!

Birdies

Approaching Wooton Rivers Mick took it very slowly, we didn’t want to get shouted at again. The boat in question seemed to have moved since we’d come the other way a month ago, by a full boat length! Maybe he’d been all the way to Bath and back having returned to the same spot, or maybe not.

At the bottom of the locks we disposed of all our rubbish with the handy recycling bins and then started to make our way up to the summit pound.

A chance photo paid off

Work emails kept me busy when not winding my windlass. Difficulty finding the paint I was after, where’s the drawing for the ladder, would I like an extra painty pair of hands in Chippy. This was all panto stuff, then the emails regarding Houdini started flying back and forth between the writer and production manager. All the time I was aware we would be heading into a black hole of communication once over the top.

Wooton Rivers Lock

Even though I was busy trying to respond to everyone there was still time to buy some eggs at our 2000th lock on Oleanna. I picked out the larger ones from the bottom tray thinking that they would be fresher than those on the top. I’d make use of these in the quinoa quiche I was making for tonight, we were a couple of eggs short before and now we had several very large eggs in hand.

As we pulled out of Brimslade Lock an abc hire boat came from the lock above. We left our gate for them as they closed the gates ahead of us. We all said hello and then we watched them pull into the lock landing to drop off crew, followed by having difficulty getting into the already open lock.

Last lock uphill

Cadley Lock was our last up hill. Sadly the plums by the top gate were now well past their best, most rotting on the floor making it very slippy under foot. But I was surprised at the number of butterflies here. About four fluttered their way around me, one hitching a lift on our roof for a distance. I’d have thought it was way past butterfly time.

Rotting plums

The locks up to the summit and down the other side are still being locked overnight at 3pm. We’d been caught out by the very low pound heading westwards and just made it to the top in time. With two more miles across the top we knew we wouldn’t be down the first set of locks by 3pm, so we’d find somewhere to moor instead. At least we’d caught up some of the time we’d lost yesterday, hopefully tomorrow we’ll get back to where we should be.

Hitching a lift

Through Savernake Tunnel we started to look for a possibility, the railway now very close by but on the off side, so Tilly would be safe. A short distance fro where we’d moored last time we pulled in by another boat. The water deep enough at the stern to get close, but the bow sitting a long way out. Here would do us for the day.

Out of the tunnel into the eastern side

Tilly jumped to the bank with ease and headed off to make friends. I then spent the next three hours trying to catch up on the Houdini emails about Kabouki drops and video footage, finally chipping my ideas into the mix that had been going back and forth all morning. My drawings were scanned and shared. Food put in the oven and after eating I finally got chance to do some model making. Four hours later I had a new version of the proscenium finished, it was now well past bedtime.

4 locks, 2000th on Oleanna, 11.96 miles, 1 final farewell, 1 white horse, 1 must have galloped away, 70 ft in a month, 6 giant eggs, 10 litres paint, 1 ladder, 20 pairs castors, 1 or 2 kabouki drops, 10 scanned drawings, 18 toing and froing emails, 1 prosc, 12 midnight finish., 1 black hole ahead

River’s Rising. 24th September

Ferris Railway Bridge to Green Park Visitor Moorings, Bath

Not wanting to get stuck on a rising river for days we needed to move. As we had breakfast the rain hammered it down outside, even more reason to get moving! We don’t know how the Avon reacts to rainfall, is it a quick rise in level or a slow one that can sneak up on you, or does it just about stay constant unless there is a lot of rain.

Off we go

Mick checked Gauge map, the levels had gone up a bit but it looked okay for us to leave the pontoon. With full waterproofs on we rolled back the covers and got going, the rain starting to ease.

Swineford Lock the weir on the left behind the lock landing

At Swineford Lock the weir was gushing, it had been a bit like this on Saturday, just a bit more so today. I looked around below the lock for a levels board to see if we were in the green/amber/red. But there was no board to be seen. The river level above the lock looked like it was up by a couple of inches as I could see where the usual line was below the surface. On most rivers a rise of this much would bring it into amber, but hopefully not red.

Blue skies!

The rain started to come and go, bright sunshine lulled us into removing our coats and waterproof trousers.

Hardly a trickle on Saturday over this weir

The weir at Kelston Lock on Saturday had hardly been flowing, today it was matching the others lower down stream.

One of two spotted today

Weston Lock took forever to fill due to there being only one paddle working, the other wrapped in a plastic bag. The weir was running fast and it looked like the flood gate was slightly lifted too.

Slowly

Once we’d got to within a couple of feet from the top of the lock we both got distracted by our phones. Two boats headed towards us but winded through the next bridge, then the bow of a hire boat appeared, I’d be able to leave the gates for them.

Dark clouds gathering behind

It was lunchtime. Should we take advantage of the sunnier weather and work up the locks. Should we pull in near to Sainsburys and have lunch, Mick needing some bread. The decision was made for us as the rain clouds burst again over head. Coats quickly back on and we made our way to the 48hr mooring nearest to Sainsburys.

No need to water the plants today

No rings or bollards to tie to here, just a fence which is just at the right height to give you a soggy crutch. Mick headed off for a few supplies and returned with vouchers we would have to use. 3 x nectar points and if we spent £100 we’d get an extra 2000 points, we decided to stay put for the day and go and do a big shop that we needed to do anyway.

My new sour dough loaf was mixed and left to rise for an hour and a half then baked. The smell from the oven so yummy. Once it was out of the oven cooling and the news had finished we headed to stock up with shopping. Four boxes of wine brought the bill to over £100, but the check out didn’t want to accept the voucher, assistance was needed. The chap tried several times but failed, he just gave us the points manually in the end.

Oat and Chestnut bread and chocolate chip cookies. Who says gluten free is dull

As we ate our evening meal a batch of chocolate chip cookies went in the oven. I’d made the mixture a few days ago in case we had any visitors, now it was needing to be cooked. The smell through the boat meant we just had to have one each for pudding. Yummy!

4 locks, 6.77 miles, 2 Houdini questions, 2 kingfishers, 4 busy weirs, 3 downpours, 0 prorogation, 4 boxes wine, 1 box Tilly food, 0 shore leave AGAIN!!! 1 oat and chestnut loaf, 6 choc chip cookies, 2 full boaters.

Views Across Bath. 20th September

Bath

Another day on the trains for Mick, heading to York for our friend Mickle’s funeral. Tilly and I stayed put, two train fares would have been too much or hiring a car too far to drive there and back in a day. Mick left suitably attired in a baseball cap, apparently there were lots of remarks that everyone should have worn one. It was a very rare sight, Mickle without his cap on.

Can I really go out?

Tilly’s mornings for the last couple of months have consisted of sleeping whilst we move the outside, so it wasn’t until Mick was about to leave that she realised that the back door was open for her. At two hour intervals she returned as requested.

Puss in Boots needed some attention this morning, lists, contacting the set builders and prop maker. I’ll be heading off to do a weeks painting soon so needed to check that supplies were on order and how my accommodation would work.

Then I revisited my Houdini model. Various ideas had been chatted about yesterday and extra details like the blue doughnuts needed to be added. Monday is the first deadline for the design, I need to send photos to Vienna and hopefully get the thumbs up from them.

Sneaky peek of the model

Mid afternoon I needed to leave some glue to dry, so instead of sitting watching it I decided to go for an explore. Tilly returned home so was left in charge. Friday is obviously a day when most hire boats are returning to base as the moorings here were just about empty and not that many boats passed all day.

I walked down to the lock, crossed the bridge and headed up to the road above. Straight on was a footpath, so I followed it up the hill. A kissing gate and National Trust sign invited me into Bathwick Fields, I’d stumbled onto the Bath Skyline walk without knowing it.

Pretty good views from up here

Within minutes of leaving the boat I was high above Bath with fantastic views across the city. The curve of the railway, the spires of the churches and the Bath stone rows of houses lined up along the hills.

Bath

I dipped down to an orchard where you could pick the fruit, but sadly I didn’t have long enough arms to be able to reach the top most branches, everything else had long since been picked.

Community Nuttery

Across more fields alongside Jacob Sheep and many squirrels busy collecting nuts. Maybe they had emptied the nuttery I came across. A road that led to Smallcombe Garden Cemetery. For £3 a decent burial could be afford by artisans as well as rich Victorians, over 7000 of them until the plot was full. In 2014 the Heritage Lottery Fund gave support to preserve the cemetery and you are invited to look round the grave stones for locals who left their mark on Bath.

One of two chapels

Up through another field, I seemed to be walking in the opposite direction to every one else, but then I didn’t know I was on a recognised walk. The path led further up hill and by now my glue would be dry and I wanted to return home. Eventually there was a gate not marked as PRIVATE and I started my steep descent back down to Bath, then back up the locks to the boat.

Cemetery

An evening of worked followed which actually finished ten minutes before Mick stepped back on the boat at around 11:30pm. A Regular Little Houdini is now ready to see what the producers in Vienna think on Monday, fingers crossed.

Lines of Bath stone

0 locks, 0 miles, 4 miles walked, 4 trains, 3 tubes, 1 bus, 1 final farewell, 1 cap and guitar, 1 weeks work sorted, 3rd props list, 1 sad gits tea, 1 plant pot headed statue, 1 not 2 bottles of wine, 7 hours shore leave, 1 long day for everyone.

The Natural Theatre Company

THE Red Boat. 7th September

Photos now added.

Greenham Lock to Vicarage Bridge 76

Lighthouse in the midle of Newbury

Saturday, a newspaper to get and some fresh food, so after breakfast we walked back to Tescos and stocked up. With everything stowed we made ready to push off. An ABC hire boat came past with a large crew on board, Mick enquired as to if they were heading for the next lock, either the chap answering didn’t now or he didn’t understand the question, I think they were from Norway. Not much further on they pulled into a space, that answered our question.

An interesting looking place

We decided this morning that we’ll have a look round Newbury on our way back and get some miles ticked off towards Bristol today. Just as well as fairly soon after we’d pushed off I got confirmation of a production meeting and a run through of A Regular Little Houdini in Newport which would be timed with me being close to Bristol. Dan the actor/director gave me the thumbs up for my white card model, I just have to hear back from Josh (the director) now and see if there are any adjustments needed.

Cloughs just like on the Leeds Liverpool, didn’t notice them until we were up

Newbury Lock had eager Mums and sons ready to help with the gates and grey haired boys stood hoping they’d get chance with the top gates. Jenny Maxwell had been right the locks are now not so fierce, ground paddles not gate paddles.

West Mills Swing Bridge

A bit further along was West Mills Swing Bridge, the only one of the day. As I walked up a couple were crossing it, the lady saying ‘They must go under the bridge otherwise they’d be stranded!’ Such comments always make me smile. I pulled the key of power out of my pocket and slotted it into the keyhole, turned it clockwise, pressed the open button and waited. Barriers down, wedge removed then the bridge started slowly, very slowly, very very very slowly to turn. Blimey it felt like a whole life time before it had opened enough for Oleanna. By the time it had closed Mick most probably would have made it to Bristol without me!

Guyers Lock lay ahead, the stern of a boat visible on the lock landing below. Marvelous lock partners. I zoomed in with the camera, it was a red boat, would it be the red boat that late yesterday afternoon had given us a very big bump? The chap at the helm not apologising! It sure was.

Is it? It is!

Did we want to share the lock with them? We’d made a point of them hitting us yesterday, so they were bound to remember us as we did them. But there was nowhere for us to go without making an even bigger point by refusing to share the lock. So we pulled in alongside them, an atmosphere could be felt. Eventually the silence was broken and I chatted away with the chap working the lock and some civil words exchanged at the helm.

Once up the gates proved problematic to close. The chap from the red boat jumped onto his boat saying the gate was stuck, so he was just going to leave it! I then couldn’t close mine, but we certainly wouldn’t leave the gates for the next person to come along. Mick hopped off and we both pulled and tugged at each gate to get them out of the recesses. Eventually we got them moving and closed.

A34 Newbury Bypass Bridge

When we saw a chance to pull in before the next lock we decided on an early lunch, letting the red boat get ahead. We took our time and were just about ready when another boat came past. The next two locks were shared with the crew of NB Pippin who were out for the weekend, it being someones thirtieth birthday tomorrow. Much more conscientious locking partners than the red boat had been. But they stopped for lunch, possibly to let us get ahead!

There they are again

Above Dreweat’s Lock there was the red boat again. Technically not on the lock landing but between it and the lock. They had stopped for lunch with some friends and had a table and chairs out on the towpath. A third black mark, we won’t be sharing with them further up the way!

Who you looking at!

Across in a field two Roe Deer were chomping away at the lush green grass. They stayed for a while but eventually sought safety of a wood as we passed by.

What’s going on here?

Just below Kintbury Lock there was a widebeam pushing off. A dog walker suggested staying where we were as the boat would go right across the cut and then head onto it’s mooring on the off side. It pushed out then a rope was thrown to the bank where it was attached to a horse. They weren’t mooring up for the day, but just setting out, so we waited hopefully out of their way and waved at all the passengers.

Steering away
Horse

Up the last lock and ahead the moorings looked busy, but a boat (possibly NB Harold) pulled out leaving an Oleanna sized space which we very quickly filled. Cat Health and Safety Committee convened, the railway line was deemed to be too close to our mooring and no visible barrier so no shore leave today for Tilly. She did her very best to charm me into opening the doors, you try explaining to a serial killer why you are not letting them out!

Mick got chatting to the boat behind, Charles and Karen on NB Sanity At Last. They are also heading to Bristol and suggested pairing up to do Cain Hill. As we chatted away it sounds as though they take things a lot slower than us. We have a schedule to keep up to so no loitering for too long in one place. But we’ll see what happens.

Pleeeaase let me go out!!

Despite buying fresh supplies this morning we decided to eat out and headed across the bridge, up the hill into Kintbury to find The Blue Ball. The butchers looked interesting, apparently they do very good sausage rolls (not a patch on my GF ones) sadly they will be closed tomorrow but we may visit on our way back.

The Blue Ball only had a few options for me, the usual steak and gammon. I did consider trying out how gluten would now affect me as there was a Steak and Kidney Pudding on the menu. But I opted for the steak, I’ve had better but the chips were good. Mick had liver and bacon which was very nice indeed.

8 locks, 6.12 miles, 1 swing bridge, 0 held up, 1 set of stubborn gates, 1 red boat, 3 strikes, 1 much nicer boat, 1 horse, 2 deer, 2 plans for Christmas! 2 new boater friends, 1 steak, 1 liver and bacon, O shore leave, 2 horrid selfish boaters!

Sideways thumb for TV, due to loss of reception when ever a train passed.