Category Archives: Oxford Canal

Seventeen to Twenty. 30th August

End of the Oxford Canal to East Street

With a delivery slot booked for Saturday morning at East Street we needed to time our arrival at the moorings well. Too early and no body would have moved off, afternoon then the spaces would have filled up, lunchtime people would stop for lunch at The Punter. We opted to time our arrival at around 11am.

Our mooring last night was surprisingly quiet, we only just started to hear people passing us as we got up. Or was it that we’d had quite a few glasses of wine and a late night! It’s a shame the road is so close here, meaning no shore leave for Tilly despite there being some very good looking trees.

Do-si-do

The windlass was brought out again and we made our way back towards Isis Lock. A lady was just bringing her boat into the lock to come up off the river. I gave her a hand whilst she clung onto her boat. She was interested in where we’d been moored, so on exiting she moved out of our way and then started to reverse down the arm. With a breeze and no bow thrusters (mechanical or man powered) this was going to be hard. As we were just dropping down to the river she asked how far it was to reach the space at the end. A quarter of a mile. She decided to abort her idea and see if she could find a space up ahead.

Back on the river we turned to head downstream, as we came under Osney Bridge the moorings looked full. But then we were passed by a boat that had been moored towards the other end, there was hope. In fact there was more than hope. Our shopping was booked to be delivered to 17 East Street and there was a long space just there, Bingo! The bollards didn’t work for Oleanna’s length so we nudged up closer to 20 leaving a space not quite big enough for another Oleanna behind. This was soon occupied by a 55fter, perfect. All we needed to do now was alter our delivery instructions from 17 to 20.

With more shopping added to our virtual basket it was time to get some real shopping. Blog reader Steve last year had pointed us in the direction of Osney Food Shed, a fish market and Meat master Cash and Carry. From the moorings on East Street both are very close, we needed something to eat tonight and I fancied getting a lamb joint to roast with plenty left over to try some of the Charlie and Ivy’s Raspberry and Beetroot dressing that is meant to be a perfect accompaniment.

Half a pig

First we headed for the meat. Here there were joints the size my Mum used to get when she bought half of half a cow. Giant gammons that would have strained the sides of my mums biggest catering pans. Amongst the big joints there were more domestic sized joints, we found a suitable lamb joint, some gluten free sausages and some bacon.

Fishy fish

Next the fish. Two sea bass, some smoked mackerel and a few veg bits. We really must get the freezer back on so that we can stock before we head north after Panto. Mick returned to the boat with our food and I carried on to Hobbycraft to pick up some bits for my model. A couple of balls of yarn might just have jumped in my bag too!

Unpacked veg

I called into Waitrose for a few more bits to keep us going until our delivery arrives tomorrow. Here the veg and fruit isles are doing their very best to go plastic free, Unpacked. Large displays of containers greet you as you walk in and crates of pick your own fill the displays. Strawberries and Raspberries in cardboard punnets for you to put lids on yourself. There was still quite a bit in bags, but a lot better than most supermarkets.

Now there’s an idea

Along the back wall was a section of dry essentials, beans, nuts, grains etc that you can purchase loose, an up market version of weigh and save shops, although those had plastic bags. You can also refill your Ecover washing up and clothes liquid bottles. One thing that I did find amusing was that you can also buy wine and beer unpacked. Bring your bottles for a refill. I wonder if they’d refill a wine box?

1 lock, 0.73 miles, 150ft in reverse, 20 not 17, 2 sea bass, 16 pork sausages, 1 joint lamb, 3 fillets, 1 lemon, 0.5kg potatoes, 1 bunch basil, 70grams olives, 1/4inch thick balsa, 1 sheet tracing, 1 blue ball, 1 sheet card, 1 red ball, 4 boxes on order, 1 bored cat, 2 apologies to Kath and Clare, he wasn’t much of an Adonis!

Mighty Horses. 29th August

Swinford Meadow to the very end of the Oxford Canal

Except for a leaking engine!

The cows came to check on us last night and again this morning. We were fine having a cuppa in bed as we couldn’t go anywhere. Around 9am we had a call from RCR saying that an engineer would be with us after he’d finished on another job, he’d give us a call when on his way. So we were patient.

Mick had another look in the engine bay and I got on with some work, Tilly resigned herself to having a long morning snooze, hoping that she might get to have some shore leave later in the day. No chance, not today.

Yesterday Mick had tried tightening various nuts on the pipe from the calorifier to the engine but still the pipe wobbled and leaked. His thought was that it wouldn’t be a simple thing and a part would have to be found. We suspected we’d be sat with the cows for some time yet.

Time passed I got new supports and some fresh welsh mud carved and covered in tissue paper and then started to cut out sections to make a section of the transporter bridge. Having a stationary day was going to be good for my model. Lunchtime came and we wondered if the engineer would ever turn up. Then we got the call, he was five minutes away, didn’t know the area so it might take him sometime to find somewhere to park.

RCR man with tool bag and dog

At just gone 1pm he appeared through the meadow with his dog Caspar. A nice jolly chap who climbed down into our engine bay. Mick explained things, he took them to bits then tightened everything up with that bit more force than Mick had used, everything back together. The amount of coolant in the bilge required the skin tank to be topped up, ten pints of water and half a bottle of pink stuff later the tank could be bled of air. The engine was started up, no leaks, Hooray!! Bubbles of air worked their way through the pipes into the header tank, more water added. He was satisfied he’d solved our problem, only time would tell if we got hot water or not. He finished his cuppa and headed back off across the meadow with Caspar in tow.

2pm. How long would it take to get to Oxford? We consulted our maps, about three hours. Fingers crossed that we’d find a mooring. We rolled up the covers and pushed off. Our original plan for today was to get a fix of narrow locks, having not done one since Hillmorton almost three months ago. But time was a touch short so we opted to miss out on turning down Dukes Cut and head down the faster route on the Thames.

Thank you!

At Eynsham Lock the engineer was sat in his van having his lunch, we waved goodbye and thank you and pushed on.

Kings Lock the quicker route

Right at the junction and at King’s Lock the Lockie walked over the top gate and pushed one side open for us then walked away to start mowing the grass. Mick dropped me off to open the other side.

King’s Lock

This was our last match stick lock so I had the opportunity to use the big long pole to open and close the bottom gates for the first time. Then we were on our way again to Godstow Lock where the Lockie and her volunteer were mob handed to push buttons.

Where’s the cow?

Past the meadows we played spot the cow. The empty landscape had one black cow sat in the middle all by itself, the others miles away towards Jericho. We were making good time, hopefully we’d find a space for ourselves at Osney Bridge. We passed Sheepwash Junction, under the bridge.

There!

A space! Brilliant!! Well except there was a man stood there reserving it. Mick questioned this as we were there before his boat. No he was reserving it and there was his boat a few hundred feet away. We carried on. There were a couple of spaces which would have fitted a shorter boat, like the one heading for the space, but not us. A couple of git gaps, but either nobody was home or those on board were avoiding eye contact. No luck. We managed to wind before the weir and retraced our steps hoping there would be space up on the canal.

Back into the narrow world

Isis Lock was occupied, a boat facing downhill, the lock gates closed, but nobody about. Having spent time here last winter I recognised the boat and knew they’d be filling with water from one of the taps along the permanent moorings. The tank was full and over flowing, it didn’t take long for the chap to come out, disconnect his hose pipe and reverse out of the lock. He said there was plenty of space up ahead, Phew!

Now how do these work?

As I set the lock for us Mick walked down to the very end of the canal. The two day visitor mooring was free, so once out of the lock we reversed down the arm past all the residential moorings and pulled up the closest boat to the city centre, it was a little after 5 pm.

The closest you can get to Oxford centre

Quick showers and we were out the doors leaving Tilly in charge for the evening.

His first ever Nandos

A quick meal was needed, so we opted for Nandos, we know how to live! This was Micks first ever experience and it went down well. Then we joined the long queue to collect tickets at the New Theatre. We were glad we’d got there when we did as the queue by the time we got to the front was vast. Two company tickets to collect and pay for was possibly one of the easiest transactions the box office lady had to do.

Chilled Medication was ordered for the interval, we found our seats. We’d made it in plenty of time. At last we were going to get to see War Horse.

I’ve worked at the New Theatre a couple of times. The 30th anniversary production of Bouncers opened here back in 2007 before going on a National Tour. Before that I sat next to Anthea Turner at the opening performance of Great Expectations, the musical back in 1994 (?) when I was Assistant Designer. I sat with my fingers crossed after a brolly was left mid stage by Darren Day, wonderfully positioned to fowl a big house truck that was about to be winched onto stage. I think only a few hundred in the audience noticed the Stage Manager crawling across the stage to try to rectify the problem.

Tonight however the show was slick, loud, impressive, just how many actors and puppeteers can you get on one big stage? More than four that’s for sure! A fantastic show that I’ve always wanted to see, but never been in the right place, or had the money. Our friends Matt and Bill are currently touring in the show, world wide and we have managed to coincide with them here. Company rate tickets made the evening that bit kinder on our pockets.

Bill, me and Matt

We met up with the chaps after the show at The Lighthouse for a few drinks. It’s always lovely to see Matt and have a catch up, I hadn’t seen Bill for quite some years. He’s been in War Horse now for two years and is signed up for another, spending Christmas is Paris before heading to Australia. Bill was full of all the information about the show. 34 in the cast, 16 local crew and around another 20 back stage staff ranging from an armourer, 3 technicians, 3 puppet technicians who can change Joey’s leg should it get broken mid show, a bit like a pit stop in a Grand Prix.

The puppets for the show are made in South Africa, a Joey puppet costing £250,000 and the cost for the full set of puppets is £1 million. This touring production has two of everything, one set is currently in storage in Australia awaiting their arrival early next year. Lots of money, but it brings the crowds in and tonight, as I’m sure just about every night, it got a standing ovation. If you’ve not seen it you should. It’s only taken us 12 years but it was worth the wait especially as we got to see two old Hull Truckers too.

4 locks, 1 narrow fix, 7.27 miles, 0.25 miles in reverse, 1 engineers dog, 1 nut tightened just that bit more, 10 pints water, 2L antifreeze, 4 uprights, 0 shore leave, 3 hours, 1 space reserved, 3 git gaps, 1 surprisingly quiet 2 day mooring, 1st Nandos, 34 actors, 2 northern Devonshire accents, 2 huge horses, 2 chocolate chilled medications, 1 tank, 1 ship, 3 glasses of wine each, 1 Sainsburys delivery booked for Saturday, 2 fingers crossed for a mooring, 2 am to bed! Now who’s the dirty stop outs!

Waiting Out The Rain. 7th June

Around about Bridge 80 to around about Bridge 87

The forecast was for rain, followed by more rain and then…. yep you’ve guessed it, more rain until about 4pm.

The blog took an annoying amount of time to sort, the internet being so intermittent. Just when you thought it was all sorted and eventually uploaded, I’d put it into preview mode and not only did the photos not appear but half of what I’d written had too! After a lot of frustration I gave up, I didn’t want today just to be about the blog, a rainy day meant I should be getting on with some work.

Dunchurch Pools Marina in the rain

I headed off into the woods. Once the trees had been climbed, I’d done quite a lot of that yesterday, Then some pouncing, I wandered that little bit further. There was a big brick wall. I prefer stone canal walls as they are climbable after some calculations. But this wall had very little claw factor (C) 0.1, Height (H) 1.3 trees high, Friendly cover (FC) 0, Angle (A) 90, Breakfast (B) 15 biscuits, wetness (W) 7.4, Tilly (T) 100%.

Drying off before my next adventure outside

I did my calculations (B x C $} T/W ~ FC x 0.7>A^H+C = :(abort attempt. Back to putting my arms down holes and climbing trees. After an hour or so the wetness rose to 8.2 time to dry off!

I drew out my scenery, everything starting from one point on the whole set means it takes a bit of marking up, but I got there in the end. It will be me painting this part of the scenery, I need to either simplify the floor design or manage to find a very quick way of marking it out.

A mound of scenery

We waited for the rain to ease. NB Chertsey braved the rain as did several hire boats. Every now and then the patter of rain stopped on the roof, Mick would look out of the windows, but by the time he’d stood up the rain had started again. At around 4:30 he decided to move. The annoying internet could not be lived with for any longer and we both knew what happened to Douglas Bader. Getting closer to Braunston would be good for tomorrow and hopefully improve the signal.

Seasonal wool decorations

We cruised only a couple of miles, to be within eye and ear shot of the Banger Spire of Braunston. Internet signal was checked, good, so we pulled in. Tilly went out and explored again, Mick got the stove going and we enjoyed the last of the pancake batter from the freezer.

BANGERS!!! Our mooring for this evening

With only one thing left in the icy box that went into the fridge for tomorrow night and the power was turned off at last. Just how long has it taken to empty the freezer!? But now that mission was accomplished. It will defrost over night have a clean, then be lifted out of the drawer to see if we can improve it’s ventilation anymore. Fingers crossed our combined skills can come up with something.

A rather lovely mooring

0 locks, 1.99 miles, 1 very wet day, 1 very wet cat, she may as well have fallen in! 664 inmates not the 625 it was built for, 2 hours wasted, 3 portals, 1 floor, 1 back cloth started, 2 much grey paint mixed, 2 savoury, 2 sweat pancakes each, 1 instep on its way.

A Good Place For A Conversation. 6th June

Rugby to Dunchurch Pools Marina Bridge 80

Well we had plenty of time

No rush to be on the move this morning, so Tilly was allowed to head off and explore whilst we had breakfast. Next was a shopping trip. We’d opted to moor nearer the station than Tescos so we had a bit of a walk there and back for supplies to keep us going for the next few days.

Lock 4 at Braunston has been shut for 48 hours, opening later today. C&RT have been carrying out repairs to the gates and cil to reduce water loss. Also overnight closures at Watford, Long Buckby etc have come into effect this week so that back pumping can be more effective overnight. Both of these things have put a stop to our plan of popping up to Crick to see our friend Lizzie, instead we hope to catch up with her a bit further south.

So we are in no rush to get to Braunston to join the queue to use the locks, we’d just get a touch closer today. The sun being out helped and despite us being on the flat for a while I decided to have a day off work, well almost.

The new bridge being clad

We pootled along towards Hillmorton. The new road bridge that will lead to Houlton (the new village of 6200 homes, 3 schools etc) has come on somewhat since we last passed. Now the roadway spans the canal and is certainly wide enough to be a duel carriageway. Big bold letters announce the bridges name Houlton Bridge 66A.

Proudly displaying it’s name

Hillmorton water point was empty. This tap is renowned for being one of the slowest on the network, but today that would suit us just fine. With the hose connected we started to fill up, I had a phone call to make about some possible work next year. Now Lynda can talk, but by the time we’d finished our conversation our tank was full, Mick had moved us off the water point closer to the locks and another boat had almost finished filling it’s tank!

Lock beam poetry
Hillmorton Locks

We worked our way up the three paired locks. One boat headed downhill towards us. The top two locks have three paddles out of order, so the chamber we’d chosen took forever to fill. Once they’ve finished at Braunston maybe they should try to get these working a touch better, they are after all the most used locks in the country.

Wild flower borders

Further along the building works are on going, but set back from the canal at the moment. Houlton will be huge, Will it extend down to the canal or will the banks of wild flowers remain?

Giant poppies
Witch in a well

On along Barby Straight, the old ambulance long gone, but giraffes graze the trees and a witch hovers in a well, it gives you something to photograph. The moorings between 78 and 79 were very full so we were surprised at those outside Dunchurch Pools Marina having plenty of space.

Barby Straight

Here Tilly was allowed two hours. Last time we stayed here she was out well past dark. Today Tilly stayed out for three and a half hours, returning for a pit stop only for the doors to remain shut for the night.

3 locks, 5.93 miles, 1 cooked breakfast, 0 boxes wine, 1 chicken, 1 huge bridge, 1 monster development, 1 house up to rent, 1 witch, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

1 Mooring good for cats but not that much else!

On The Flat to Our Destination. 4th June

Power Station Footbridge to Broughton Road Bridge 59

There are advantages of working whilst we cruise on the flat. Today that advantage was that I stayed dry, well most of the time.

Quite a soggy day really. Mick prepared well with coat and a brolly. Normally on days like today we’d not bother moving, but we needed to be in Rugby by the end of the day. We pushed off a little after 10am then I retired below to get on with work.

Trains with cars!

First the M6 sits along side the canal, then after a few minor wiggles the West Coast Main line joins and sits right along side for several miles. Mick was treated to quite a lot of trains wizzing by. I popped out on deck in case my assistance was needed to get through the swing bridge at Rose Narrowboats. At first it was across the cut, but then it swung out of the way. No need for me to step off.

Swing Bridge ahead

A boat was coming towards us but we were already through the narrow section before they had negotiated the bridge ahead. Mick pulled us into the side and let them and a second hire boat pass before we carried on.

She doesn’t mind the rain, she just keeps on smiling

Down below I decided to start again on my over all paint scheme for panto. So I redrew out a sample piece, based it in and then started a fresh. My design is based on some photos of the underground that took my fancy, yesterday I’d got carried away and possibly veered bit too far away from what I liked about the images. Today I stuck to the bits that I liked the most and adapted them to what I was after.

Mark 2

Of course halfway through the penny dropped and I knew which way I should take the main setting, this was no longer possible on the sample I was doing, but if I’d not done it then the penny wouldn’t have dropped.

There was a space at All Oaks Wood, so we pulled up for lunch. We’ve never seen a space here before and have often carried on a touch further to where there is a view overlooking a farm and a great field to play in for Tilly. But this was only a brief stop and we were on our way again shortly.

Newbold Tunnel

A boat pulled out from Brinklow Marina and took his time weaving back and forth across the cut slowing our progress somewhat. Below deck at Newbold Tunnel Tilly was awake. She really is flummoxed by them. Despite the cabin lights being on for me to work she quickly notices that the outside lights have been turned out. I’m really perturbed that She didn’t seem too bothered by the situation so tried running around to make her aware of the problem. She still took no notice so only one thing for it but to shout to Tom at the back doors! He ignored me too!! Eventually someone turned the lights back on.

Why won’t anybody listen to me!!!

A chap on the towpath asked Mick if he’d seen a boat! He’d popped down to Tescos for some shopping (not on his person) and when he’d come back the boat had gone. Maybe they were on a hire boat, confined spaces and some people just don’t get on, so they’d left him!

We carried on slowly to the water point where the slow boat moored up. Our destination a short distance further on, just as well as just about all the moorings were taken. We found a spot with not too much tree coverage and let Tilly out, lit the stove to help Mick warm up and finally got to eat our barbecue supplies we bought a week ago. All was cooked inside out of the rain and very tasty it was too.

Indoor, but still yummy

0 locks , 12.66 miles, 1 swing bridge swung, 1 rainy day, 2nd go at painting, 3rd idea, 1 slow boat, 1 lost boat, 1 destination reached.

A Lot Quicker. 3rd June

Whitley Bridge 47 to Power Station Footbridge, Oxford Canal

Better weather today and an earlier start for us than normal, we had water to cover.

Sunnier day

Boats were already going up the locks ahead of us so we pulled out and joined in. NB Piglet was just pulling out of the first lock of the day, NB Trinity waiting below, we pulled up to wait our turn. The pound between this and the next lock is quite short, NB Piglet and NB Trinity ended up both sitting waiting in it, the level slightly low.

Up went Piglet, I waited for Trinity to start emptying the lock before I started to fill the lower one, not wanting to steal the water that was keeping them afloat. We then pulled out and awaited our turn as a single hander came down.

Stuck and not at the cill yet

The pound between locks 8 and 7 was quite low, a couple of boats moored on it were definitely sat on the bottom. NB Trinity was having difficulty getting into the next lock. Pulling on the bow line didn’t help, pushing them over to the other side didn’t either. So some water was let down hoping to lift them off of the bottom and get into the lock. With water coming down and a diagonal pull on the bow they got moving just as two C&RT volunteer Lockies arrived. They set about running more water down to try to return the pound to a better level without starving others above.

Our turn, we suspected our draught was deeper. Oleanna got stuck sooner, Mick reversed her back a touch and tried a different line. Definitely a build up of silt from a bywash, he got her closer to the lock where she stopped again. I got the bow rope, water was let down and bursts of engine got her moving again and over the lump into the lock. Apparently they had had a single hander on the flight who’d been leaving paddles up, not good practice espcially when there isn’t plenty of water about!

Carrying on up

Some boats were pausing for lunch in the longer pound, others stopping to go shopping, but we carried on, too far to go today and the locks were taking that bit longer than normal. More water was let down by the lockies doing their best to get boats floating again. One chap came past enquiring as to when his boat would be off the bottom, just as water was flowing straight through a lock. Have to say if that was us, we’d move our boat at the first opportunity not stay put for a full two weeks and complain about it. But each to their own!

A pretty flight in the sunshine

We carried on up, boats now coming down the flight, most stopping to wait above lock 5 and taking advantage of the water point there. A slight pause below lock 2 for a boat coming downhill and then we were on our way again and at the top of the flight. After half a mile or so we pulled over for some lunch before carrying on.

Bye bye Atherstone

I retired below to work as Mick pootled us through Mancetter, Hartshill, past our favourite mooring near Springwood Haven, slow going through Nuneaton.

Hello NB Cyan!
Turning to the Ashby Canal

At Marston Junction I stuck my hand out of the side hatch to give navigational direction to keep going straight.

Quick glimpse of Charity Wharf

I only just made it out in time to take a photo of the last mannequins at Charity Wharf before they all disappeared behind the willow trees.

Hawkesbury Junction

Approaching Hawkesbury Junction the moorings were full, a couple of git gaps with familiar culprets in the middle of them. Mick carried on would we have arrived in time to get a mooring anywhere?

I hopped off at the Engine House Footbridge and walked across the grass to Sutton Stop Lock. A Kate Hire boat was coming the other way, the lock in their favour. Outside the pub was heaving and a young lady stopped and asked for directions to the Ricoh Arena. I was able to point her in the right direction to follow the canal.

The gate shutting itself behind us

The hire boat were wanting to moor up in front of the pub,I suggested that was maybe not such a good idea as the 180 degree turn from the Coventry Canal for a 70ft boat would necessitate the full amount of space there. They’d be shouted at by the first boat to come through, as soon as they were out of the lock they could see what I meant and rounded the bend to find a mooring.

Conserving my energy for hunting later

Up we went and then started to look for somewhere to pull up. Rather than moor right on a bend we carried on and found space where we’d moored last year very close to the power station. We’d reached our destination with enough time for Tilly to do some hunting and Mick to have a towpath haircut.

Patterns and colour, still some way to go

Today we passed through the pound from Atherstone to Hawkesbury in 5 hours 13 minutes, last year it took us 32 days, 2 hours and 55 minutes!

Best loaf so far

As the evening went on we could hear music from the Arena. Sadly I hadn’t spotted any ticket towts near the Greyhound Inn so we had to make do with the muffled music from the Arena. A shame as Mick had so wanted to see the Spice Girls!

10 locks, 12.96 miles, 2 canals, 1 straight on, 180 degrees left, 2 stuck boats, 15 tissues all day, 1 painting scheme started, 2 friends, 1 quite tasty,  1 sour dough loaf, 4 Spice Girls, 0 tickets.