Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Braunston to Bedworth

Friday 20th June

We went for breakfast at Gongoozler’s Rest with Keith and Diane. Very pleasant service, well presented food.

We then moved on to the water point by the tollhouse, and emptied our rubbish. While we were filling up we chatted to George, the enforcement officer. He had nothing but praise for the waterways chaplains, and the church in Braunston, and Marian Thomas.

We turned round in the entrance to the marina, and moved down to the elsan point.

On the way we met David and Jane on Rowan.  They used to be moored on the Wey and were familiar faces at Thames Lock where David was assistant lock keeper

While trying to make boil a kettle, the gas ran out. Another item for the shopping list at Midland Chandlers, where we went next.  We bought some steel rods with fittings for fixing on the ceiling to dry clothes.  We also bought some blue, but they didn’t have gas.

We had a pleasant cruise through lovely countryside to Hillmorton, where we moored above the flight of locks.

There we met David Lee (BCF) on Interlock and had a cuppa on the towpath.

0 locks, 7 miles, 2hr25

Saturday 21st June

Hillmorton was extremely busy with boats going up and down the locks.  We poked our nose into the boatyard there, but they didn’t have the 6kg propane gas we were looking for.

As we left the bottom lock we found Tim and Tracey on their borrowed hire boat Dashwood.  We said we’d catch up with them later, and we cruised on towards Rugby. 

We stopped at Clifton Cruisers – no 6 kg gas. However, we did meet the man we sold our Great Ouse windlass to at Gayton Junction three years ago.

We managed to moor on the left at Brownsover, which is easier for getting to Tesco. We stocked up with the non-perishable things – four heavy bags. Thankfully we have a trolley.

We moved forward to the winding hole just through the bridge, but we discovered it was not quite big enough for 59ft.  We had to straighten up again, and go on to the entrance to the town arm, where there is another winding hole.  No trouble here, except that a hire boat was coming out of the arm and nearly caused a traffic jam.

On the way back, as we went under Bridge 68, a boat coming the other way didn’t see us and carried on a bit before attempting to stop, and we had slammed into reverse by then.  We ended up bumping fenders but no harm was done.  However, as we tried to move off we realised that we had picked up something on the propeller.  We paused when we came to some piling, and James visited the weed hatch, removing a lot of what seemed to be stuffing from a mattress. It was wound round tight and it took a little time to get it all off.

We moored a few boat lengths from Tim and Tracey as they have a dog.  They gave us a tour of their boat, which is being refitted in the drydock.  We then had a meal on board Dashwood. They supplied the main course, and we supplied the wine, and Hazel produced an apple and date crumble. James was sent to fetch the ice cream from Gabriel at the appropriate time, as there was no freezer on Dashwood.

3 locks, 6 miles, 1 mouse, 3h25

Sunday 22nd June

We went in Tim and Tracey’s car to Rugby Christian Fellowship, an Elim Church which uses an old Methodist church building.  The welcome was enthusiastic, the worship was good, and the talk was excellent.  The speaker was from CMJ – “The Church's Ministry among Jewish people”

After coffee they had a large model of the temple in Jerusalem, and they gave a talk about how it was used. Very interesting.

The temple in Jerusalem

We went to a park to walk Oakley, Tracey’s guide dog, before driving to a pub for lunch.

Back at Hillmorton, we had drinks on Gabriel. It was a very warm evening.

Photo taken by Tim for Canal Ministries use

Hugo caught another mouse

1 mouse, no boating

Monday 23rd June

James trundled the cassette along the towpath to the facilities point by bridge 71, and while doing so, saw Rowan coming away from the locks. They were heading for Tesco. We said we were too, and then on to Brinklow.

We brought Gabriel to the winding hole to turn round, while Hazel emptied the rubbish. We avoided the water point, as it is notoriously slow.

Tracey and Tim temporarily on Dashwood

We said our farewells to Tim and Tracey. It had been good to spend time with them. There were no incidents on the way to Tesco, where we moored a little further back, and discovered that we could walk to Tesco through the new housing estate that has been finished since we were last here.  We bought some fresh food this time.

We set off north again, through Newbold Tunnel, our first this year.  We were looking for gas as we went. We tried T F Yates, Lime Farm Marina, and Brinklow Marina but none had the 6kg gas we wanted.

Newbold Tunnel

Birds on a wire – writing music in the sky

We discovered Rowan moored soon after bridge 35, so we moored behind them.  David and Jane came on board for wine and nibbles and boaty talk.

David and Jane from Rowan

Evening at Brinklow

0 locks, 6 miles, 1 mouse 2hr30

Tuesday 24th June

We left before Rowan as we had a bit to do today. We said farewell as we moved off.

There were only four boats at our usual mooring at Brinklow, just before the cutting. We paused at Rose Narrowboats to pick up our 6kg gas bottle at last!  However, their gas cage was under a tree in a muddy area, and the canister was filthy. We also found a card for the Hawkeys who are moving house this week.

We continued through the little swing bridge, and along the extensive line of moored boats, eventually going under the M6 high overhead.  As we neared Hopsford Aqueduct we saw a boat moored up and it had BCF stickers on the front.  Then we saw it had Canal Ministries logos on the side. It was Sandra and Ernie on Maranatha. We stopped just beyond them and they came on board for a cuppa and a catch up. This was an unexpected bonus, as we did not know they were in the area.

Ernie and Sandra from Maranatha

We moved on further and arrived at Hawkesbury junction.  We had a bit of trouble with the lower lock gate, which wouldn’t open fully, but eventually, with some poking around with a boat hook, it opened.

We were now on the Coventry Canal.

We visited the sanitary station where we emptied cassettes, disposed of rubbish, filled the water tank and washed the mud off the new gas canister.

Hawkesbury Junction

We moved on a little further and had a late lunch before phoning Christine to say we were on our way.  Half an hour later we moored up alongside Grace, at their home in Bedworth, shortly before bridge 14.

Hazel was hanging up the washing at the bows, when James received a phone call from Amanda concerning a property she was looking at. The engine had been turned of, so Hugo thought we had arrived, and he sneaked past James, across Grace, and went off into the neighbour’s garden.  We had a bit of rounding up to do, but we got him back.

Terry and Christine came on board for some date and walnut loaf that Hazel had made, and then we had a time of inspection of each others boats, as you do.

Terry and Christine Rigden

We had considered going up the Ashby to see Mary and Jim Sibley if they were there, but we have sent emails and phoned their landline and mobile with no response. We have concluded that they must be away. They could be in Poland visiting the in-laws to be.

We therefore went on past the Ashby junction, and moored up near bridge 17, in the countryside just after Bedworth, and before the built up areas of Nuneaton.  It looked as though it might rain so we put up the pram hood.

Hugo brought in a live mouse, which tried to squeeze under some cupboard doors, but it couldn’t quite fit. James caught it and returned it to the wild.

1 lock, 12 miles, 1 swing bridge, 1 mouse, 5h25

Heading for Tamworth Folk Club on Friday.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Claydon to Braunston

Monday 16th June

Claydon to Br 130 Knotts Bridge, Summit level

We moved off quickly as we heard the sound of the gardening team coming along with tractor mower and strimmers. We didn’t want the boat covered in grass cuttings.  We then tied up again on the lock bollards to put down the canopy, get the windlasses out, binoculars to hand, log books, maps, phones, etc organised.  James emptied the lock for another boat to go up in front of us. There were several boats coming down the locks so they were mostly in our favour. 

We stopped at Glebe Farm to have our breakfast of croissants bought yesterday in Cropredy. We were there for an hour, and nothing went past in either direction. We set off again, and within half a mile there was a boat travelling ahead of us! It must have come from some long term moorings opposite the feeder.  We weren’t in a hurry. 

In Fenny Compton “Tunnel” (now just a cutting) another boat caught up behind.  We stopped at moorings in Fenny Compton, and so did the boat in front. The one behind carried on.  We went into the “shop” in the pub, and all we bought was some “I can’t believe it’s not butter”, which always reminds us of the Vicar of Dibley.

Moving on, we would have liked to moor near bridge 133 for a walk to Wormleighton, but the banks were not suitable. We carried on round Wormleighton Hill, and stopped just after bridge 130, where there are lovely views across to Napton.

There was a buzzard, and several reed buntings. They seem to be more common this year.

James went for a short walk to bridge 128 to see who was moored.  Just three other boats, all facing the other way.  Lovely flowers once again.

A white umbellifer. Anyone know which one?

Another one

a pink one

The humble blackberry in all its glory

Near bridge 130

5 locks, 7 miles, 3hr40

Tuesday 17th June

Br 130 to Br 116, Napton Locks.

Very cloudy this morning – not so good for a walk to Wormleighton. Maybe next time.

Five boats went past in a small convoy over ten minutes, so we waited for thirty minutes before setting off.

We had a beautiful but uneventful cruise along the summit level, which twists and turns, following the contours.

When we arrived at Marston Doles there was a boat going down in the top lock, and one waiting to come up.  The next lock was mostly in our favour as another boat had come up.  There is a mile before the next lock by the old engine house arm, and again a boat had come up, but when we arrived at the lock, it had leaked , and so was half empty.

We moored up round the corner where there was a good view. There are water buffalo in the fields around here.

Water buffalo at Napton

The towpath had changed to the left at Fenny Compton, so we were able to put the second Canal Ministries logo on the boat.  We had a little bit of trouble with the sticky parts sticking to each other, but we mostly sorted it out.  One arm of the cross is pointing slightly down.

slightly crooked

3 locks, 6 miles, 2hr50

Wednesday 18th June

Br 116 to Br 113 Folly Bridge, Napton

Two boats had come up the locks by the time we were ready to depart.  The next lock was therefore mostly in our favour, with just a foot to fill.  Another boat was waiting to come up, and a lady was there with a windlass. The boat was a hire boat, and as I drew near to the stern, I recognised the man on the tiller: Ricky Hamburger, a friend I have known since my teenage years in Cobham.

The lady was Martina, his wife, whom I had never met. We moored up and had a cuppa and exchanged contact details. We had lost touch a bit, and it was great to see them. They had hired the boat for three days.

Ricky and Martina

Lock 10 was manned by a CRT volunteer, and had only one paddle working on the bottom gates.  The whole lock had threatened to collapse inwards, so they had constructed a steel frame to keep the walls from falling down. They have scheduled an eight week closure in the autumn to repair it.

Temporary repairs at lock 10

We continued down the remaining locks, and used the facilities before mooring up and walking into the village of Napton.  We found the shop and bought a few items, including a home baked olive loaf.

We had lunch at the Folly Inn, which was very good. It has changed hands since our last poor experience seventeen (!) years ago.

Hugo caught a mouse.  We started on the olive loaf in the evening – very nice.  Our signal was poor, and we missed two calls from Oliver. James phoned him from the bridge by the pub.

Sign for boaters at Napton. Is this really what we are expected to do with 
our recycling, having left Cropredy three days ago, and not having a car?

Sunset at Napton

6 locks, 1 mile, 1 mouse. 1hr45

Thursday 19th June

Napton to Braunston

We left our mooring and cruised slowly down past Napton Narrowboats to Wigrams Turn. As we approached the junction, we heard two long blasts from a steam whistle, coming from the Grand Union.  It was steam tug Adamant, and they emerged under the bridge to follow us as we passed the junction, heading for Braunston. This five mile section is shared by the Grand Union and the Oxford Canal. In front of us was Barolo, a very smart boat seen earlier on the summit level.

Adamant at Wigram’s Turn

Barolo pulled in for the day at one of the many beautiful rural moorings.  We had decided to moor in the thick of things in Braunston so that we could meet people, and we arrived there at 1200. Another boat we keep seeing is Pond Life, and they were moored a little further along.

Wash day in Braunston

James went for a stroll along the towpath before lunch to see who was there, and found Arachne. Peter and Jean Webb are BCF members moored on the Nene. They are heading for the Saltisford Arm in Warwick for a Sea Otters Club gathering.

Back on Gabriel we had lunch, and then saw Fruit of the Vine (Keith and Diane Yeandl) arriving. They went to turn and moored behind us before coming on board for a cuppa. They told us that Mikron Theatre were playing that evening at the Admiral Nelson pub. Keith and James wandered up to Arachne to tell them, but they were not there, so we left a note for them, as there was no phone signal.

Later a fourth BCF boat arrived – Shammah with Brian and Brenda Gooding. They paused alongside, but were on a schedule, so they said they were going to get the other side of Braunston tunnel today.

Brian and Brenda Gooding

So at around 6.45 four of us walked up the path to find Peter and Jean waiting by Arachne having read our message. When the six of us arrived at the pub, we were able to put our chairs out by the lock.  We were joined by Brian and Brenda who had decided to stay for the performance after all. They had moored at the top of the six locks.

Waiting for the performance to begin

Mikron Theatre were on top form – very talented musically, as well as good actors, and the scene changes and use of props were very slick. An added bonus was that the pub serves Addlestone’s cider.

Mikron Theatre. One of Keith’s photos

BCF members L-R James, Hazel, Brian, Brenda, Keith, Diane, Jean, Peter
Keith's photo again
It was a great evening, quite unplanned.

0 locks, 7 miles, 1 mouse, 2hr35

Friday, 20 June 2014

Banbury to Claydon

Thursday 12th June

Banbury to Slat Mill Lock

We set off fairly early to complete all our tasks before leaving Banbury.  Up through the lock to the water point by the lift bridge, from where we trundled cassettes and rubbish bags down to the sanitary station.

We also met Charlie who hangs around near here all day.  He showed us at least four beer cans in various pockets.  He said he wasn’t going to start until a lady and a young child had moved off the bench where he normally sits with his fellow homeless guys.  We have seen him in other years and have bought him a burger occasionally.

Kestrel came through the lift bridge, and turned round before going back up to get diesel. He is from the South Pennine Cruising Club, at Battyeford Wharf on the Calder and Hebble.
Leaving Banbury

We left about 15 minutes later, hoping to give him time to get his diesel before we arrived for the same purpose.  83p per litre is quite a good price.  We went very slowly past all the moored boats, and when we arrived at Sovereign Wharf, he was just arriving from the other direction!  He had been up to Tesco to turn.  We tied alongside Newark Priory from the Wey Navigation while waiting our turn.

After putting in 105 litres, we pulled over on to the moorings almost opposite to adjust the fuel gauge.  Setting off once more, we suddenly remembered that we wanted to visit an electrical fittings shop that James had spotted earlier.  Rather than reverse, we tied alongside Sonflower (Thank you Peter).  This left a bit of a narrow gap for boats going through under the footbridge, but Harnser came along and managed it OK.  We have seen Harnser before – perhaps Little Venice or the Brookwood Rally.

The electrical shop did not have what we wanted (5amp sockets), so we were only 5 minutes before we set off once again and headed out of Banbury.  At Hardwick Lock we caught up with Harnser and helped them through. The same again at Bourton Lock, where Caroline Watsham owns the lovely lock cottage, but they pulled up after that to check something in the engine, so we passed them. 

The level of the pound here was very low, and we grounded twice.  A day boat was trying to moor up, but was having difficulty.  We crept slowly and carefully into Slat Mill lock. When we left the lock, we opened one of the lower paddles to help Harnser with the depth.

We moored on piling just after Slat Mill Bridge 156, and Harnser went past a little later. They had had to tow the day boat off as they had got stuck.

It was very hot and we put some bungs in the windows to stop the sun shining in.  There were curlews in the field.  (or should the plural be curlew, like sheep and deer?).

There was an armada of canoes – at least 25 in the first wave that disappeared down the lock.  Then another 22 that came past as far as the bridge and then returned. They were travelling really fast, racing each other. One hit the bank and swung out, with others trying to avoid it. Chaos.

Canoe invasion above Slatmill Lock

Peace again

James went for a short walk – lovely flowers in the meadows.

Clover in profusion

A tree by the Cherwell

Aren't dandelions beautiful?

Hugo caught a mouse.  Then later, after dark, he was spooked by something in the bushes that we never saw. There was swearing and hissing, and he ran in and stayed in.

4 locks, 4 miles, 1 lift bridge, 1 mouse, 2hr15

Friday 13th June

Slat Mill Bridge to Cropredy

As Elkington Lock has been closed for two days, we thought that a lot of boats waiting in Cropredy would leave today.  We set off after a few boats had been on the move. 

We met Rob on BCF boat Shalom, from the Chesterfield Canal, but there was no time to say more than “hello”.  We spent some time with him and Val at the Retford and Worksop Boat Club a few years ago (2005!).

The winding hole and sanitary station at Cropredy was full of CRT work boats. Thankfully we didn’t need the facilities.  We found a 48H mooring below the lock and had a very pleasant afternoon chatting to passers-by.  It was hot, so we bought ice creams from the shop.

Then it rather turned sour when Hugo raced back into the boat, hotly pursued by a black labrador, who thankfully stopped short of coming aboard.  James went on deck to see what was happening, and the dog was by now sniffing the people in the bows of the next boat.  A lady was walking slowly along the path.

James: “Is that your dog?”
Lady: “Yes. Was that your cat?”
James: “Yes it was”
Lady: “He’ll be alright. They’re used to it. It’s only natural for dogs to chase cats.”
James: “Are you coming back this way? If so I could keep the cat in.”
Lady: “No I’m not”
James: “That’s fine then”

James went back inside and remarked quietly to Hazel “No apology!”
Lady (with acute hearing): “Do you expect an apology because my dog chased your cat?”
James (emerging once more): “Since you ask, I would have thought so, yes”
Lady: “And you a clergyman too!”
James: “I am not a clergyman, but what has that got to do with it? Responsible dog owners should keep their dogs under control.”
Lady: “You’d better lock your cat up if you are worried about him”
James: “My cat doesn’t chase other peoples animals”

Three things can be learned from this episode.

Firstly that small word “sorry” seems to have a remarkable effect. Earlier, another dog had chased Hugo, and the owner had said “I’m ever so sorry, I didn’t know the cat was there. Is he OK?” We then had a very pleasant conversation and everything was fine. 

Secondly it shows that wearing a Boaters Christian Fellowship shirt and having logos on the boat produces extraordinary and sometimes unreal expectations in peoples minds.

Thirdly I should never have spoken about her, saying “no apology” to Hazel.

I regret this conversation and wish I could rewind and think of more positive things to say. We want to be good news to people we meet, and not labelled as grumpy Christians.

Later James went for a walk further up to see who was moored there. He got caught in a sudden rain storm, and while sheltering under a tree, who should come along the towpath with a bicycle but Caroline Watsham, returning from a rehearsal in Cropredy.

Heavy rain

0 locks, 1 mile, 0hr35

Saturday 14th June

In Cropredy

We had some rain in the night.  We had set the Webasto to come on to heat the water, as we had not done much cruising the day before.  Success. Hot showers.

Hazel went for a wander round the village, and ended up buying a few bits from the shop.  James got his guitar out and put some chords to some old worship songs.  He then went for a walk on some well defined footpaths, and was pleased to see a kingfisher on the infant Cherwell. This was the first kingfisher sighting since we left Weybridge.  Also spotted: 2 kestrels, a red kite, a tortoiseshell butterfly and a yellowhammer.

Tortoiseshell butterfly - by a great Artist

Meanwhile, Hazel had a sorting blitz in James’ “office”, disposing of some old files and grouping our electrical leads in one place.

Very warm again.

We had planned to have Sunday lunch at the Brasenose Arms after church, but when we discovered that the church service was early – 9.30am, we decided to go for the meal this evening instead.  Very pleasant atmosphere and good food.  Then the band started.  They were very talented, but having a full drum kit and huge PA speakers in a small low ceiling pub room was not kind to the ears. We left when they had their break.

Music at the Brasenose Arms

No boating today

Sunday 15th June

Cropredy to Claydon

Cropredy Church

We walked up past the Red Lion to the church for the morning service. This was led by a lay preacher and therefore there was no communion. It was called “Service of the Word”.  Sixteen people in the church (including Caroline Watsham) plus some bell ringers.  The talk was very good, centred on the great commission.  Four well known hymns. The odd thing was hymn number three was “Tell out my soul”, and hymn number four was “Go forth and tell”, played to the tune of “Tell out my soul”.  I don’t think I have ever sung two consecutive hymns to the same tune before.  Nobody seemed to notice or mind, and we had a warm welcome, being invited to the church rooms for coffee afterwards.  We met a chap called Graham, who owns a boat called Alnwick.

Clematis on a wall in Cropredy

Back to the boat, where we had reached the end of our 48 hours on the mooring. With help from our bow thruster we reversed back through a pinch point, and under a bridge to the facilities area. This is also a winding hole, and getting the boat tied up so that you can get off at both ends is quite a challenge.

When we had done all we needed to do, we set off under the bridge towards the lock, and a boat was just emerging, which was handy for us.

We cruised past the new marina and negotiated three more locks.  We found Scyeffe, and Caroline emerged to say goodbye as we passed.

We moored on some piling below Claydon bottom lock, and walked into the village, following the road from bridge 145. We met a local couple who showed us where the bygones museum had been. It was all sold up when the old man died apparently.

Claydon church was very interesting, with an unusual tower. James signed the visitors book.

Claydon St James the Great Church

We decided to take the footpath shown on the map, back to bridge 144. Apart from an awkward stile, this was OK, but when we arrived at the canal bridge, there was no way down onto the towpath. In fact there were rolls of razor wire preventing anyone creeping through the bushes! There were cows in the field, so presumably the farmer was worried about them escaping, but a simple stile or gate would have helped.  Instead we had to walk in the field, following the hedge until we found a way onto the canal towpath.  We finally managed it by climbing over a wall by Claydon top lock.

Back at the boat, Hugo brought us a live mouse, which disappeared under the fridge.  We managed to catch it and release it in the bushes.  Hugo caught another one later on, and left the remains on the back deck.

4 locks, 2 miles, 2 mice, 1hr50.

Thursday, 12 June 2014


Sunday 8th June

In Banbury

Lots of noise from the Fine Lady Bakery opposite in the night. Also a terrible noise from a vixen.  Not a good place to moor.  We went up to the old canal arm by Tesco to turn, and returned to find another mooring on Spiceball Park, the first one after Sovereign Wharf.

We walked to Peter and Fran’s house, where we were given a lift to their church (Jubilee) which is a New Frontiers church plant in a housing estate a little out of the centre. Good worship, good talk based on the “Lord’s Prayer”. There was also a prophetic word about a car piled high with luggage, going on a journey which was not a holiday.  There were several visitors there. Alex was playing bass guitar.

Worship band at Jubilee Church, Banbury

Fran and Peter

Back to Peter and Fran’s for lunch (paella - excellent) then we walked back to the boat for zzzzzz.  In the evening we went to the Mill for a concert by Caladh Nua, a 5-piece folk band from southern Ireland.  Very talented musicians. Banjo/whistle, fiddle/bodhran,  fiddle/voice, accordion, guitar.  Old Rosie Cider at the bar – a pleasant surprise.

Monday 9th June

In Banbury

Lots of boats started moving at around 9am, so we cruised slowly down to Tooley’s Boatyard, where John came to service our boat engine.  He also fitted the diesel gauge sender, and we now have a diesel gauge that works!  Hazel went shopping.

When the engine service was finished (lunchtime) we moved across the canal to another mooring outside the GF social club, where Hugo could venture into their garden.

The moorings here are mostly 48H. The ones in the centre say no return within 28 days.

Tuesday 10th June

In Banbury

We set off fairly early, down through the lift bridge and lock, to the facilities block where we did everything.  Then on to bridge 178 for Morrison’s shopping. Then on to the winding hole to turn and moor up on the 14 day moorings.  We are still hoping to hear from Anna but there is a poor signal here so we will need to return to a mooring just below the lock tomorrow to meet her at either the bus station or the railway station. She doesn’t have a phone but she does have wifi so we will send emails to find each other.

James washed the starboard side of the boat and applied the Canal Ministries sticky logo. We’ll do the other side when we moor port side on.

The new sticker for Gabriel

Hugo brought in a mouse which he lost under the washing machine. Later we think it went under the fridge, as he was waiting there.

Later still we had a hunt for the mouse, and pulled out the fridge, and peered under the washing machine – no sign of it.  The we spotted something on the carpet, and it turned to be the hind legs and tail of a very small mouse!  Hugo had obviously caught it again.

James discovered an email from Anna which he hadn’t seen, saying they would be arriving by train or bus at around 2pm.  Reply sent to arrange to meet by the lock.

1 lock, 1 mile, 1 lift bridge, 1 mouse, 1hr00.

Wednesday 11th June

In Banbury

As we hadn’t done much travelling and the water may not be hot enough, we had set the Webasto to come on early to heat the water for showers. This was very successful.

We moved on up past Morrison’s to bridge 166, below the lock. James went to the post office to post back the defective solar panel controller and Hazel’s Dad’s fathers day card.

We had another email from Anna to say she and Zach were arriving by bus at around 2.30pm, so James checked what she looked like on Facebook, (not seen since she was 5) and went to meet them.

We took them for a cruise up through the lock and lift bridge, past Spiceball Park to the turning point by Tesco, back down through lift bridge and lock, past Morrison’s to the turning point, returning to our start point by bridge 166. Tea and cake followed, and then James took them for a quick stroll round Banbury, including a drink at the Old Reindeer Inn. Back on the boat, Hazel had prepared lasagne followed by strawberries and ice cream.  They caught the last bus back around 1845 (very early for a last bus).  It was great to see them. We are very pleased that they took the trouble to come and find us.

 Zach and Anna

 Zach  Anna and Hazel

Later we wandered up to the folk club, now no longer at the Mill, but instead at the Banbury Cross pub in Butchers Row.  The support act was Dave Oakley, and the main event was the Jigantics, a 5-piece band who had a range of styles – Cajun, folk, blues, rock. Very entertaining.

It was good to see Peter and Fran there.

2 locks, 3 miles, 2 lift bridges, 2hr00

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Oxford to Banbury

Oxford to Banbury

Sun 1st June  (part 2)

Dukes Cut to Roundham Lock, Kidlington

We had to get our windlasses out as we left the Thames and entered the Duke’s Cut and came to our first narrow lock of the trip. This only has a fall of a few inches usually.  Two boats were moored on the lock bollards, and have apparently been there for some time. It meant that James had to get off at the bows to operate the lock. 

Duke's Cut

While we were in the lock, another boat went past our bows at the junction, coming up from Oxford, so we would need to wait for the next lock, just round the corner.

Filling the water tank on the Oxford Canal

We paused for water just before (interestingly) Drinkwater lift bridge.  To unlock the lift bridge, the instructions tell you to insert the key, hold down the bridge, and turn the key clockwise.  After struggling with this for several attempts without success, j
James noticed an arrow in marker pen pointing left. He tried again, turning the key anticlockwise, and unlocked it!

After two more locks, we decided to moor up just above Roundham Lock as we thought we may not find a mooring in Thrupp so late in the day (1745). A very peaceful mooring with rural views except for trains.  Next time, near Kidlington Green lock might be better.

Oxford Canal: 4 locks, 3 miles, 1 lift bridge, 2hr00

Mon 2nd June

Roundham Lock to Thrupp

A leisurely start to give time for boats to vacate moorings in Thrupp.  When we arrived there were several spaces available, and we managed to get on a 7 day one, which was ideal. 

Anne Clark arrived for a chat and to invite us for the evening meal later.

We trundled our cassettes to the facilities and also got rid of our rubbish. Water will have to wait until we leave and go through the lift bridge.

We had a great time renewing our friendship with Anne and David and their dog Angus. Hugo also met a friend near the boat – a small black cat we had seen earlier sitting on a wall.

0 locks, 1 mile, 0hr40

Tue 3rd June

Royal Albert Hall trip

We were collected from the Boat Inn at 1045 and taken to the Enterprise Car Hire base at Kidlington Airport (London Oxford Airport!). We were allocated a small Hyundai which was good enough for our needs.

We drove to Sainsbury’s to stock up a few items, then we drove out of Kidlington and found a pub for lunch.  Back to the boat to unload and find a parking space.

We set off later for London down the M40 and managed to find a parking space quite near the Albert Hall, and we met up with Sue Graves and her friends David and Hazel, and Sarah.  We had a picnic by the Albert Memorial.

L-R Hazel, Sue, Sarah, David, Hazel

The Seekers concert was excellent. The original line-up with Judith Durham, Atholl Guy, Keith Potger, and Bruce Woodley.  They have still kept their voices, despite Judith’s brain haemorrhage last year.

Driving back we could have done with a car with cruise control, and we may go for this next time.

Back to the boat around midnight.

No boating today

Wed 4th June

A wet day all day. No boating.  Rain stopped around 5pm, so James went for a walk up past Thrupp Wide to Shipton on Cherwell, where he signed the visitors book in the church.

Thu 5th June

Thrupp to Somerton

Boats we have been seeing recently, travelling in our direction: Hawkeye, built in 1995, bought by present owners last year. They have a tug boat for sale in Cornwall. Islay, owned by Christians who are not sure about BCF. Sixth Quarter, seen but not spoken to, Chy-an-dour, which means home on the water in Cornish. Chieftan, a hire boat from Twyford Wharf.

Leaving our mooring in Thrupp

We set off at 9am, went through the lift bridge, and stopped at the wharf for all facilities.  Everything here is run by Thrupp Canal Cruising Club, and it is all looked after very well.

Thrupp Wide

On our way again, and we found that the strange shaped Shipton Weir Lock was being voluntarily operated by a guy called Manny, whose boat was moored on the river side of the lock.  He had tied to two poles which apparently used to have “no mooring” signs on.

At Bakers Lock we caught up with Hawkeye who left the lock ever so slowly, and we thought we might get held up by him. 

Bakers Lock
At Pigeon Lock there were boats waiting to come down, mostly hire boats, and Hawkeye was only just going in when we arrived. By the time we were in the lock, Islay had arrived below us, also waiting.

At Northbrook Lock, again Hawkeye was just going in when we arrived.  We noticed badger setts just above the lock. A good place to moor another time?

The lovely tithe barn at Upper Heyford

Hawkeye eventually moored up and we passed.  We moored just after bridge 198, a lovely spot with views, mostly out of earshot of the railway.  Islay pulled in just in front of us.

Willows and water meadows at Somerton

James went for a walk back along the towpath, over bridge 199 and across a field where the path disappeared, and into Somerton, emerging near the church.  Lovely interior, with some old box pews, and ancient tombs from the family who held the manor here.

Wild roses are spectacular this year
Box pews in the church at Somerton

Sadly no shop, pub, school etc in Somerton.  There were some glorious flowers, particularly wild roses which seem to be excellent this year.

7 locks, 11 miles, 2 lift bridges, 5hr50

Fri 6th Jun

Somerton to Haynes lift bridge 170 (south of Banbury)

Our early morning wake up call

We were woken up by some very loud cows this morning, right next to the boat.  Islay had gone. We were just about to cast off when Chieftain came round the corner, so we waited for them to pass before following them.

Somerton Deep Lock was fine. We had heard stories about the bottom gate being difficult to open, but it was OK.  While we were there Chyandour appeared at the bottom.   We passed Chieftain when they were moored up for coffees around the corner above the Deep Lock, where we have often moored in the past.

We paused at Aynho to buy coal and another windlass, so by the time we got to Aynho Weir Lock Chyandour caught us up again.  At Nell Bridge Lock, we found another boat, Vox Stellarum, going up in front of us.  They must have passed us while we were buying coal.  They have a Buddha on the roof and they sell fenders.  Nice friendly people.  We caught them up by the M40 bridge, and they pulled over to let us pass. They are very deep drafted and therefore move very slowly.

The lock keepers cottage at Kings Sutton Lock is up for sale. There doesn’t seem to be a mooring with it.  We heard first and then saw a curlew soon after that, plus a reed bunting.

Grant’s Lock was in our favour – a boat had just left.

We had intended to moor between bridge 171 and 170, where there is some piling.  When we arrived we discovered that some earth-moving vehicles were busy in the field opposite, making a lot of noise, so we went through bridge 170, and moored on some piling on the offside.  Lots of people walking their dogs here, as there are houses just up the hill. The M40 was also noisy.

A tractor came down the hill and put down the lift bridge 170, and went across to work in the field the other side.  Whenever boats came along, James went to help with the bridge because it was very heavy.  When the farmer came back, he left it open for boats, but some walkers who had crossed earlier, put it down again.  James had to put it back up again for boats, as there were quite a few going past.

We noticed a boat called Wren’s Nest go past towards Banbury. They have a fish sign in the window.  Perhaps we’ll catch up with them tomorrow.

Lovely sunny evening, skylarks in the field.

By bridge 170
5 locks, 8 miles, 1 lift bridge (several times), 4hr15

Sat 7th Jun

Bridge 170 to Banbury

Cloudy this morning, but dry.  We took down the pram hood, and set off without stopping at Morrison’s!  We’ll be back in two days, and can stock up then.  We paused to use the facilities before going up the lock and lift bridge in Banbury.

As we went under Tom Rolt Bridge it started to rain, so we stayed under the bridge while we put the pram hood back up.  We moored after Sovereign Boats, where we thought it was 14 days, but it is only 48H.  Still, Hugo should enjoy it here, out of the centre, and alongside the park.

The rain then started properly, so we had breakfast.  When it eventually stopped, Hazel went off to explore the shops.

Wetherspoons pub for evening meal

Rabbits on the towpath.

Church with Peter and Fran Braybrook tomorrow

1 mile, 1 lock, 1 lift bridge, 1hr15