Mick did venture out today in full waterproofs. He was convinced that the level of the canal had risen so walked down with some rubbish to the bins and then onto the top of the Farmers Bridge flight to see if the water was flowing over the top of the gates.
The wind and rain for much of the day wasn’t as horrendous as we’d been expecting. The occasional squally shower and big gust of wind, but certainly nothing as rocky as we had last summer when we were moored in Marlow. That storm made me a touch seasick, but today was nothing of the sort. I think we had chosen our spot well.
Mick thought he’d chosen well for his little walk, a lull in the rain. But of course things can change very quickly and he was very glad he’d put all his waterproofs on when the heavens opened. The level was up but nowhere near going over the top gates.
Tilly resigned herself to checking the insides of her eye lids for much of the day and I got on with some more model making. I made the main part of the set, I just need to think out how to change the seasons easily and how I want my sideways trees to look.
Late afternoon the boat in front of us started up their engine, turned on some load music and proceeded to untie. The wind did seem to have calmed down somewhat, but still it was a strange time to be heading off just as it was getting dark. A few days ago they arrived just after a comment was made on a Facebook boating group about a boat coming up Farmers Bridge with the crew pissed and leaving gates open. Maybe it was a coincidence them arriving twenty minutes later, but maybe not.
They reversed out of their mooring in front if us. It was very obvious that they would hit us and it soon became very obvious that they would also hit the boat opposite us at the same time! We watched as they continued to reverse back to Old Turn Junction the wind helping them to wind even before they wanted to. A half hour later there was a comment on Facebook about a speeding boat going through Gas Street Basin. The boat across the way piped up, then someone else around the corner, then the boat even further ahead of us. Everyone was keeping an eye on social media. Hope the boat got to where they were hoping without causing too much upset, but what a day to be cruising!
We rounded off the day with roast chicken and watched the new episode of Endeavour. The scene of the murder was at Church Lock near Leighton Buzzard on the Grand Union Canal which is quite some distance away from Oxford where everything else was happening in the story. Also a boat was mentioned going through Braunston, then it arrived at a very rural Gas Street Basin just a day later! Some speedy boating there. Not sure they can use artistic licence as an excuse, but at least they were continuing on from Morse where the canals in Oxford were always broad ones.
0 locks, 0 miles, 1 blowy day, 1 wet day, 3 huge rain showers late in the evening, 1 soggy Mick, 1 bored Tilly, 12ft of garden fence, 3ft gate, 60 seats, 1 roast chicken, 2 speedy boats, 2 bumps.
Checking our vital statistics for a years worth of cruising takes a while. We have a trip computer which records almost all our journeys, sometimes it counts locks twice, sometimes it doesn’t quite catch where we reached before we wind. Before we used this method of recording our journeys I would use canal plan to work out our distances. This method can also miss out parts of our journey but it does give me more statistics. You know how I like numbers! How many bridges, how many narrow locks and what distances we travelled on different types of waterways. So inputting a years worth of cruising takes some time.
Anyhow, here is our round up of the year.
The New Year was seen in at Crick. From here we decided to head to Sheffield to have the last snagging jobs done on Oleanna, we were fortunate that the route north was open with no winter stoppages in our way until we reached Yorkshire. Once in the top chamber at Foxton it was going to be downhill all the way to Keadby.
Sadly our blog started to loose it’s photos, which is a great shame. It was a problem shared by many bloggers who were all doing their best to get things working again. Have to say we ended up jumping ship from blogger to wordpress, but posts still lacked their photos when moved. We hope gradually to rectify this by replacing the missing photos, I miss them when looking back. But this will be a long job.
During January we cruised down stream on the River Trent, the weather was getting colder the further north we got. Our route was clear but at Keadby the lock off the river was being dredged, so our journey was held up a touch. Then with February came cold nights and the canal at Keadby froze over. So we waited at Cromwell for things to improve.
Daylight hours and tides meant we split our tidal journey at Torksey. The early morning start from Torksey was very cold, so I was very glad I’d knitted us both balaclavas, we remained cosy cheeked for our journey.
Our journey up towards Sheffield meant we coincided with the bicentenary of the opening of the canal and a very unseasonably warm weekend. The chaps at Finesse replaced a leaking window, gave us a new one (our choice), sorted out our gas locker lid amongst other bits and bobs. It had been a good decision going to Sheffield, it saved them time coming out to us and it saved us money on the extras we’d asked for.
Next we headed for Goole, the lure of cheap diesel and a night away to see our friends Bridget and Storm on the otherside of the Humber was a bonus. We then hunkered down to sit out storms and rising river levels. Our original plan had been to go to York, but flooding put paid to that, so instead we went by train.
Towards the end of March we decided to give a trip up the Ouse another go, the rivers were at better levels and we still haven’t taken Oleanna there. But first Bank Dole lock wouldn’t fill due to silt, then when we reached Selby the Lock onto the Ouse had a fault which would take too much time to mend for us to wait. This was a relief for Tilly as this was where she’d discovered the difference between grass and duck weed and ended up learning to swim a couple of years ago.
At the beginning of April we headed to Leeds. From here we had a day trip to Derby Crown Court for the sentencing of our original boat builder (Stillwater) who had finally pleaded guilty for fraud. I also spent a more pleasurable day in London, having a meeting for Puss in Boots.
With panto in mind we planned our cruising for the remainder of the year. The remainder of April we made our way up the Calder and Hebble and onto the Rochdale Canal.
Our friend Frank joined us to do the stretch from Sowerby Bridge to Hebden Bridge, which included the deepest lock n the network, Tuel Lane. He’d not done this stretch back in 2014 when he and I walked from Manchester locking Lillian over the Pennines to get to the Tour de France.
Once over the top we picked up a boat to share the locks down into Manchester. Clare and Graeme were over from New Zealand for a few months and proved to be very good company.
On the 1st of May, with the help of a Canal and River Trust volunteer our passage down into Manchester went well. The following day both boats headed down the Rochdale nine with an extra pair of hands from an old college friend of mine, Doug.
During May we cruised down the Bridgewater and onto the Trent and Mersey Canal gradually heading southwards. A short detour up the Middlewich Branch to look at where the breach had been before we carried on southwards.
A pause in the Cheshire Locks meant we got to meet up with Tom and Jan who were over for a visit. For Micks birthday we moored at Barlaston and had a nosy at the wonderful hall on the hill, our plan still stands if any of our family are interested! https://oleanna.co.uk/2019/05/23/the-plan-20th-may/
We saw the end of May out mooring at Tixall Wide before rejoining the Trent and Mersey and heading onto Fradley Junction where we joined the Coventry Canal. With Atherstone Locks out of the way I spent time below working whilst we cruised familiar waters on the flat, it might have rained too!
A day trip to London from Rugby for us both, me to a seminar for Separate Doors 3 and Mick to catch up with his friend Siobhan who was over from Australia. Continuing down the North Oxford Canal to Braunston where we joined the Grand Union Canal to head to London.
A visit to the Royal Ordnance Depot at Weedon meant I bought some lovely yarn to make a cardie for myself (it’s nearly finished!) and caught up with our friend Heather Bleasdale, who just so happened to be moored there as well.
Our route then up and down the Grand Union meant we managed to get to see both Mikron shows this year as well as teaming up with the cast and NB Tyseley to climb the locks up to the summit.
Tilly was left in charge for a couple of days whilst we headed to Scarborough to check on our house as we had a change of tenants. This meant we got to stay with Jaye and Duncan and catch up on the news from home.
We now pressed on down to London where we booked a mooring in Paddington Basin for a week in early July. This gave us the opportunity to catch with with friends and family before we headed back out west and down the Hanwell flight. I made the front cover of Canal Boat for July.
Mid July we locked out onto the Thames cruising the Tidal section to Teddington. From here we transited to the River Wey, brand new waters for us.
With my final design for panto delivered to Chipping Norton from Guildford we could enjoy our cruising a bit more, despite the soaring temperatures which had us hiding under trees for a couple of days.
On the 26th July we ticked off our third point on the compass, reaching Godalming the furthest south you can get on the connected network. On our way back to the Thames we met up with Adam from NB Briar Rose, both he and Tilly got wet that day.
The original plan had been to cruise the Basingstoke Canal whilst we were there, but sadly the levels were too low and the canal closed before we got there, so we spent a while longer on the Wey.
Onto the Thames where we managed to get a space outside Hampton Court for a couple of days and I discovered the joys of standing in line for some fresh veg. Gradually we made our way up the Thames. Waking early and getting going worked for us as mostly we managed to get moored where we wanted around lunchtime. Three years ago we did from Teddington to Oxford in a week but with a months licence we took our time.
The further upstream we got the quieter the river got, less hustle and bustle. We met up with Paul and Christine (NB Waterway Routes), missed Carol and George (WB Still Rockin), finally got to have a proper conversation with Sue and Vic (WB No Problem XL) as we headed upstream.
As the rivers bends got tighter, the banks were harder to get up. A mooring by Kelmscott Manor required a rope from the post to help us get on and off the boat, but it was worth it to visit the house.
On the 26th August we winded at the furthest point we could reach on the Thames on Oleanna and started to head back eastwards. Tilly gave one of our moorings a double stamp of approval and stayed out well after dark!
An incident with engine coolant nearly stopped us from reaching Oxford to see War Horse. But a nice man from RCR got us going again so we had a narrow lock fix and headed to the show catching up with Matt and Bill for a drink afterwards.
Then at the beginning of September we turned off the Thames onto the Kennet and Avon. For the last five years we’ve been meaning to head this way, but for one reason or another it hadn’t happened.
With tales of lack of mooring we kept to rising early hoping we’d get moorings. This mostly worked and wild moorings were very rarely needed, we did still have to use the gang plank every now and again. We only encountered one pound on our westward journey where even the longest plank wouldn’t have helped which meant we had to carry on up a flight with the clock ticking before locks were locked around us.
At Devizes we met an Instagram friend Frankie who’d been working on the flight over the summer. Despite following another boat down the flight we made good time with the help of the volunteers.
Onwards to Bath and Bristol. Here we moored with HMS GB in the background and met up with two of my old school friends for lunch. A big shame we couldn’t stay longer as there was more we wanted to do and see whilst there, we’ll just have to save up for next time as the mooring fees are quite pricey!
The section between Bath and Bradford upon Avon was our favourite, with the aqueducts and views along with the second deepest lock on the network.
Mick and Tilly got to enjoy it for a week longer than me whilst I headed off to Cornwall to eat gluten free pasties and start painting my panto set for a week.
Once I was back we had two weeks to reach Oxford, but the weather had different ideas. What felt like the monsoon season started. There was rain on most days, luckily not the day we did Devizes. We managed to team up with two couples from Bristol on a hire boat, by the time they reached the top of the flight they could work uphill locks with their eyes closed, we left them to master downhill on their return journey.
Our second low pound struck as we tried to leave Cobblers Lock, Oleanna was sat firmly on the ground and unable to leave the lock until a good flushing of water set her free. The rain actually did me a favour as whilst we sat in Newbury hoping for the Thames to drop I managed to get my model for A Regular Little Houdini finished.
At the end of October I headed off to panto land leaving Mick and Tilly a short distance outside Reading, hoping they would be able to get up the Thames in the following week. Our friend Paul came and helped Mick out onto the Thames reaching Goring on their first day. Here Mick and Tilly got to met Carol and George (WB Still Rockin’) who’d been clinging onto the moorings there before heading downstream.
Paul returned later in the week and despite the engine overheating and having to deploy the anchor they succeeded in getting to Abingdon where Oleanna had her second visit from RCR. Mick battled on against quite a downstream flow and reached Sandford Lock before tying up. Here the levels rose and fell, the engineer came for a second visit and found lots of crud in our cooling system.
With the engine in better fettle, Mick nudged his way up towards Oxford and finally made a dash up Osney Lock and onto the canal despite that section still being on red boards. It turns out he’d chosen his moment well as the river has stayed on red boards since then.
Once I left all the singing dancing and glitter behind and returned to narrowboat life we had to sit out high levels on the Oxford canal and on the River Cherwell. We loitered in Oxford, but as soon as it looked like things were improving we were on our way.
We paused in Banbury for Christmas haircuts and shopping before pulling in for a few days at Cropredy Marina, from where we headed to London for a Sibling get together at my brothers.
Onwards to the top of the Oxford Canal the day the locks reopened and down the other side continuing onwards to Radford Smelly for Christmas.
In Warwick we met up with my family and then picked up crew Mike and Chris to help us up the Hatton and Lapworth flights.
The last few locks were done on New Years Eve bring us up to the Birmingham level for the new year.
Quite a busy year. So our vital statistics for 2019
According to Canalplan
Total distance is 1199 miles, ½ furlong and 886 locks . There are 119 moveable bridges of which 22 are usually left open; 139 small aqueducts or underbridges and 20 tunnels – a total of 8 miles 2 ¼ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.
This is made up of 207 miles, 4 furlongs of narrow canals; 399 miles, 5¾ furlongs of broad canals; 102 miles, 5 ¼ furlongs of commercial waterways; 226 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of small rivers; 212 miles, 5 furlongs of large rivers; 49 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of tidal rivers; 150 narrow locks; 626 broad locks; 109 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.
838.2 engine hours
That is 255 miles and 272 locks more than last year! But 246.4 hours less engine running, just goes to show it’s worth having solar panels.
1336.93 litres diesel, 9 (although we’ve got 2 empty now) gas bottles (used for central heating as well as cooking), 6 overnight guests, 6 packs Dreamies, 1 cover cat, 32 friends, 17 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval, 1 double stamp, 5 pairs socks, 3 pairs gloves, 1 baby blanket, 2 shows designed, 1 cover illustration, 5 lots gluten free puff pastry, 9 supermarket deliveries, 39 boxes of wine delivered, 12 bottles of wine delivered.
Even though my sour dough starter seems to have faultered again I had a big jar of discard ready to be used, so this morning I had a go at some sour dough pancakes. These can either be started the night before or a little while before you want to cook them. Leaving them over night develops the flavour, but as my discard is a touch dubious I just mixed the mixture this morning.
With a plate on top of the stove I cooked a half portion of the the recipe and kept them warm under a t towel until I’d finished the batter up. Verdict, very nice. Just wonder what they’d be like with proper discarded starter.
Tilly had been allowed out this morning, she was being kept busy. I was just about to go out and do my mad cat woman shouting when she appeared, Mick opened the hatch and we were three again. Time to move on.
Down the last narrow lock we pulled in and disposed of all the rubbish we’d been accumulating. With no recycling bins until the new year everything ended up in the big skip at the service block. People say where there are no recycling bins the rubbish still gets sorted rather than going to landfill, I hope so.
We then pushed across to the water point and topped the tank up, the washing machine had been run this morning, so it took a little bit of time to fill. With the boat moored on the port side we emptied the yellow water into our container for disposal, the towpath won’t be on the right side for a while so best to make use of it now.
Last year we did these chores on Christmas Eve along with quite a few other boats, but today we had everything to ourselves. The sun was out and we pushed on to Napton Junction. The original plan had us continuing straight on here, but today we turned right for the first time, into Wigrams Turn Marina.
There were plenty of people about, maybe live aboards or just folks preparing for a Christmas cruise. The service mooring was empty so we filled it. We’d guessed that it being run by the same company as at Cropredy the diesel price would be the same, but sadly no, 97p a litre, 11p more! Good job we only wanted a top up and four more bags of coal went on the roof. We are now stocked up for Christmas and hopefully into the New Year, the roof is a touch full and hard to see over!
We winded and then back at the junction we went straight on, onto the Grand Union. First thought was to stop above Calcutt Locks, but then we decided to go down them, the top one almost full.
Back onto wide locks with their candlestick/bomb shaped paddle gears. Winding winding winding. Then that hard to describe fluttering noise, as the water lowers around the large openings of the paddle gear on the chamber sides, almost like Hannibal Lecter’s noise when he meets Clarice,
Down the three locks, then we sought out a length of Armco where Tilly could go out. On the off side a group of old boats are clustered, many with memorable names, Adamant the last one not in steam today. We pulled in and gave Tilly half an hour, she returned in good time, then was a touch miffed at the doors staying closed.
As the evening progressed the wind built up along with torrential rain, this of course coincided with the gas bottle running out. We knew it would as it always does just after you’ve been somewhere you could get a new one. We’re hoping for a lull in the rain tomorrow to get down the Stockton flight without getting too wet.
Bend before Marston Doles to between Locks 9 and 8, Napton
No chance of those views down the Napton flight today as we were surrounded by fog as we pushed off. We paused to top up with water at Marston Doles, both of us checking to see what interesting cars were parked across the way, neither of us checking what state the top lock was in.
Our last down hill lock was at Blakes Lock in Reading on the 23rd October, when Mick with the assistance of Paul made a break from the K&A and up to Goring on the Thames.
As ever at a first lock Mick had forgotten to get a boat hook positioned at the stern to help close bottom gates, he was more interested in tidging the Christmas lights. My comments about how little he cared for me worked and at the second lock the boat hook was retrieved and ready for use.
Approaching the top lock of Napton we came across an uphill boat the first of four we’d encounter on our way down. A small Christmas tree was decorated by the gate to the permanent moorings.
Next boat we came across was a Kate Hire boat out for two weeks, hope their crew walking ahead had good boots on as in places the towpath had the potential to be waist deep mud! They were being followed by two single handers who I spotted so I could leave gates open for them.
Last year Lock 9 was more or less rebuilt. The chamber sides had been getting closer and closer together, older boats with middle age spread were having more and more difficulty getting through it. In fact NB Tyseley ( the Mikron Theatre boat) got stuck on it’s way to do a show at The Folly and was left stuck til the following day when boats and many arms pulling along with a flush of water eventually got her free.
Last winter we had to wait for the stoppage here to be finished. When we came through we were astounded that breeze blocks had been used as Coping stones. A few days later we noticed a sign explaining that the new coping stones that had been delivered were not correct, so new ones would be made, the breeze blocks were a temporary solution to get the lock open again.
So this winter there was another closure this time to replace the breeze blocks with rather nice black stones. Have to say it now shows other locks on the flight up. I think they were worth waiting for and given a bit of time they will meld in.
Between Locks 9 and 8 there was a space ready and waiting for us so we pulled in saving the last narrow lock of the flight for tomorrow.
Time to pick up post and send some. Napton Village Stores and Post Office is always busy. Maybe it’s because we tend to pop in at this time of year and when the school kids are on their way home. Today it was heaving! The chap dealing with the Post office asked Mick to wait for a while as he had a back log to deal with. We wanted some fresh veg and bits and bobs anyway, so this was fine.
When he was ready he found us and processed the post. Post Restante would be dealt with at the other end of the counter when we bought our shopping. Two parcels collected, some locally grown potatoes, some Buffalo sausages and chilled medication for Christmas. I’d considered ordering one of their veg boxes for Christmas, but as our plans have now changed I’m glad I didn’t. I so hope they are busy the rest of the year as it is a gem of a shop. The food in the cafe also looks amazing.
Once showered and none boaty clothes put on we headed out to The Folly Inn where we met up with our friend Lizzie from Crick. We last saw her about six months ago. Lots has happened since. Sadly this last year has been a tough one for Lizzie, we’d wanted to make sure we got to see her before we headed too far north.
So we had a catch up on news and managed to raise some smiles with boat talk and enjoyed some very good food. Yes I had a steak again! Not quite as good as the one in Oxford, but it was very tasty with good chips and plenty of them. The portions were so generous we had to miss out on puddings, a shame as there were two I could have. It was lovely to see Lizzie, just hope next year is a better one for her.
8 locks, 2.38 miles, 0 buffalo, 1 tree, 4 boats, 1 full water tank, 2 bags of rubbish gone, 2lbs potatoes, 2 pints milk, 2 parcels collected, 1 posted, 1 missing however it hadn’t been sent, 6 sausages, 1 pot orange chocolate medication, 0 shore leave, 1 big catch up, 1 steak, 2 scampi, 2 many good chips for pudding.
Ladder Bridge 129 to the last bend before Marston Doles
Tilly got time to stretch her pouncing legs this morning as we had breakfast, but when she returned the second time the doors remained closed, it was time to move onwards.
Soon after ‘Lucky Sods’ Bridge 128 we started to see evidence of HS2. A huge mound of grey stuff, almost a mountain covered a large area on the off side. Someone had been having fun driving a digger up and down it and a moat ran along one side collecting water. Maize still in it’s husks browned along the canal side, had this part of the field been cut off when the mound was created, does the mound sit on top of the rest of this summers yield?
Not much going on, a chap was keeping an eye on the big Siltbuster machines and another walked around further away. Has the work force been given a longer Christmas break to wait to see what the new government will do with HS2?
Then we rounded the next two bends, past the boot in the route of the canal and we were back to green quintessential English countryside. Bird scarers BANGing at regular intervals right next to the bright blue Mango chutney pheasant feeders. We decided that pheasants were most probably too stupid to be bothered by the bangs. ‘What was that?’ ‘Not heard that before’ ‘What was that? etc.
We rounded a few more bends our aim being Marston Doles today. Maybe we’d go down the top two locks, maybe we’d stop at the top, but there isn’t that pretty. In the end we opted for a big M on our map, a good view to the off side and the typical Oxford Canal high hedge along the towpath.
Tilly was given a few hours of towpath leave. This she made the most of returning a few times to show her face and carry on being busy.
Time to get Christmasy. The lights and Christmas hamper were dug out. The hamper requires a couple of shelf supports to be removed in a cupboard so that the shelf can go at an angle to slide the hamper out. The tree, now on it’s fourth Christmas was brought in and given a drink. It has grown since I first bought it in Newark market, half as much again. This year it just kept on sprouting fresh green bits, but still handily grows at the same angle as our tumblehome cabin sides.
Mick set too with the exterior lights, small magnets hold them onto the grabrail. The cratch still needs finishing and a touch of finessing is needed on the off side, but that will be seen to in a lock tomorrow.
She said as Tom was still outside I could have a touch longer shore leave today. So I trotted along the towpath looking for friends. After a while She came outside and tried to encourage me home, but I was too busy and continued on with my trot along the towpath.
Then from around the bend just in front of me I could hear paw pads, sniffing noses. What the????……. Alsatian!!!!!
I quite often stand my ground on such occasions, but I was too far away from the boat for back up. She had gone to put her feet on and Tom was hanging onto the cat walk on the wrong side. Conclusion, LEG IT!!!!!!…….
I ran, and ran some more. She stood at the front calling me her way, the woofer charged behind. I’d already set my eyes on my escape and had too much momentum to stop and turn onto the boat. One leap and a spring, precalculated, had me five woofer heights up the tree right by Oleanna.
The woofer was at the base wondering where I’d gone as I adjusted my footing. Well trees are only toilets and potential sticks to woofers! It turned and headed back to it’s handler who was shouting her head OFF!
I made my self comfortable as I felt I’d need to be up the tree for some time. Well woofers tend to walk one way and then come back again don’t they. I had chosen well with a good vantage point.
The lady was very apologetic, then she realised what had actually happened, she was even more apologetic! She stood two collars firmly in her hands and chatted as I could see Tilly up the tree watching every move the woofers made, her chest pounding. As nice as it was to chat with the lady it would have been nicer if she’d walked away. She did say they’d be back in five minutes, so good warning.
I’d heard this so climbed a touch higher with a better view to behind me. She thought I had enough time once they were out of view, but I could still smell them. They did return five minutes later and I watch from on high as the lady stood and talked again! They soon walked onwards and at the bend the two woofers were let loose again.
I waited another minute. Their aroma fading now. She stood wondering if I’d stay up the tree for ages, no fear of that I was getting a touch chilly now and I knew I’d get extra nice treats when I got inside!
The Christmas tree kept Tilly occupied for quite some time as I decorated it. She was reminded that grown up pussy cats don’t play with baubles, they just admire them from a distance! We’ll see if she can manage to resist the temptation this year.
0 locks, 3.82 miles, 2 outsides, 3 siltbusters, 1 humongous mound, 0 pheasants, 2 Alsatians, 1 very long lead, 100m feline record, 1 handy tree, 1 almost Mrs Tilly stamp, 25m of lights, 1 big mini tree, 6 shoes boxes into 2, 1 boat nearly ready for Christmas,
A cuppa in bed with the papers, no need to rush today.
We pootled up to the water point, we never pass one without topping up at this time of year. The towpath here has been resurfaced with the little stones that we hate. Our anti-slip soles do a very good job of collecting the little blighters and then as we walk on and off Oleanna they get deposited, leaving a gritty mess everywhere.
We pulled up to the last ring, maybe leaving enough space for a boat behind us to wait for the one working tap, maybe leaving enough room for a boat to wind in the winding hole infront. A boat soon appeared behind us, not wanting water, but to wind. We were quite happy to pull backwards to make him some more room, but he said he’d see how he did.
His bow tucked into the off side, tiller over and gentle engine forwards. His stern came round slowly, maybe there’d be enough room. He lifted his rear fender and made a text book manoeuvre, perfectly done.
The sun was out, but the air was cold and blowy for our cruise along the summit pound. Plans for Christmas were discussed at length between us. We have family wanting to come for a night along with some friends and in January we could do with being in Birmingham. The whole journey is about 30 hours cruising, so not a problem. But being in the right place at the right time was.
Our original plan wasn’t going to work, so needed thinking about. Dates were double checked with our friends (who are keen to do some boating), opening times of supermarkets checked, a hire car changed to a different location and a rendez vous sorted with our friend Lizzie. Our new plan fitted together, we just have to hope that the weather plays ball too.
Our mooring for tonight is one of our favourites on the Oxford and we hoped it still would be. The route of HS2 will cut across the valley below the canal. We’ve seen photos of works being carried out along the summit pound from other bloggers this year, but we weren’t too sure quite where abouts they were.
The radio frequency mast came into view, we rounded the wood and then had a choice of moorings, no other boats in sight. We pulled in with a gap in the hedge just long enough for our bedroom and galley windows to have good views. So far the valley doesn’t show any signs of disturbance (from what we could see). The farm below still has all it’s fields, all ploughed for crops and bird scarers dong their jobs. One of the fields had been ear marked by HS2 as a compound that would act as a home for around 100 workers, we were glad we didn’t have to share the view with them yet. More info in last years post (sorry it’s a post that lost it’s photos).
They say they like it here, I do too. A touch on the blowy side, but plenty to do. A farmer had ploughed the field for me, so that needed running around and scratching in. The side ways trees are spiky but have the potential for friends and the grass along the cat walk tastes sweet. With my fur fluffed up I could stay here for days!
As last year I put together a wreath for the front of Oleanna. Ivy, red and silver ribbons, all free. By the time I’d finished it and tied it on it was too dark to get a descent photo of it. If we have any spare lights this year I may just weave a few into it too. Sadly the strong wind has put Mick off putting the lights up, but hopefully there will be a lull in the next couple of days.
0 locks, 3.17 miles, 1 full water tank, 3 boats going there and back, 1 mooring all to ourselves, £35 car, 1 route change, 1 rendez vous, 2 pub planned meals,1 flat sour dough! 1 wreath, 1 view, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval stamped on again.
The rain had gone this morning, but there was still the odd bit of wind. We made ready to head up the next two locks and then see what the situation was with the Claydon flight that has been closed for winter maintenance, it was due to reopen today. Quite often this means that the locks are opened for navigation at the end of the day, so we’d wait until tomorrow. Other times the locks are already open and just waiting to be used.
We pushed off and rose in Varney’s Lock. I realised that I hadn’t lifted our ash pan back onto the boat this morning, maybe Mick had done it. Ash from the stove remains hot for quite sometime and it gives off Carbon monoxide, so our ash pan lives on the towpath next to Oleanna when we’re moored so that any harmful gasses can not enter the boat. Once the ash is cool it is then bagged up and put in the bins, not in the hedgerow where toxins will affect plants and also look horrible.
I asked Mick, No he’d not done anything with it. It wasn’t in the well deck where it lives so where was it? We’d recently got a new ash pan, which was maybe a touch too big for our needs. It’s size and bright shiney silver meant it was hard to miss.
Once Oleanna had finished raising Mick walked back to where we’d been moored, not far just around a bend. He was gone a while, when he returned empty handed there was only one conclusion. Someone had stolen it over night, well it was bright and new with a slight dent in the lid. We both kept our eyes peeled in case we saw it, but no, it was long gone.
This means we need a new one as we don’t like having to spread the ash along the towpath, but for now we have no option. We checked everything else was still on the roof, all present and correct, so we carried on slightly disgruntled.
Towards Elkingtons Lock a C&RT number checker walked by, an ideal opportunity to ask if the Claydon Flight was open again. He was a very jolly chap, informing us that the locks had opened about an hour ago, ‘lovely new gates’, he said.
It was still early so we decided to press on to the top of the flight despite the mounting wind. Along the straight before the locks we passed a couple of boats we’d seen in Banbury recently, everyone biding their time for the locks to reopen.
It felt like we were the first to ascend the locks, but who knows.
Repointing and a new top gate at lock 21. At 20 there were new bottom gates, all with the old paddle gear, nicer than new as it’s all bedded in. On the walkways across the gates something like tar has been used to stick grit to them giving an antislip surface rather than roofing felt. Earlier this year when we headed to London a Lock Keeper had said that roofing felt tends to trap water beneath it encouraging the walk ways to rot. So maybe this is a new method.
Lock 20 had also had quite a bit of repointing done. As I emptied it two pissers showed themselves just past the new mortar.
We worked our way up the flight with the wind blowing a right hoolie around us. The locks just that bit too far apart to walk ahead to set the next one, so each chamber was done in turn and Mick managed to hold Oleanna in the pounds between.
At the top lock work looks to have been completed at the cottage. Blue surrounds to dark pink woodwork give the windows and doorways a jolly feel. Big barn doors open out onto the pound above giving a good view from the sitting room.
We decided to pull in for the day. Mick brought Oleanna through the first bridge to the moorings, the wind assisted by pushing her straight into the side. Mooring up I had great difficulty in pushing her away to get a fender between the boat and bank, we certainly wouldn’t be going anywhere!
Whilst Tilly explored the area the yarn ends on my gloves were woven in, then I pinned them out to block them. Tomorrow they’ll head off in the post to be a Christmas present. I can now start on the last pair of Christmas socks, which I hope will be finished in time to go in the post before the big day arrives.
My second go at the new sour dough starter looked promising today. It was slightly raised and very very bubbly underneath. The new recipe comes with a way of using the discarded starter, you save it up until you have 240 grams from this you can make sour dough pancakes. As what was left today was so bubbly I have started a jar to collect it in. Fingers crossed this time my starter will improve each day, unlike the last lot that got flatter.