Thursday, 9 October 2014

Autumn’s on its way …. ghosts? and rain. And wind.

Saturday 4th, Sunday 5th and Monday 6th October – Wormleighton Reservoir – Fenny Compton – Napton – Calcutt
It was raining lightly as we had Saturday breakfast and watched Nutbourne and Raymond go by on their way down to Banbury.  Soon it was raining heavily so we had another cup of tea ….  Unfortunately we had run out of bread and really needed to get to Fenny Compton, so we told ourselves to stop being wimps, got full wet weathers on and pulled pins around 11.  By midday we had tied up at Fenny and the rain had eased a little.  I needed a run today, so took the rucksack and set off in the rain up to the village.  Luckily it is the first Saturday in the month and the little farmers’ market was there by/in the village hall, so I bought some lovely bread before getting a few other bits in the Co-op.  Even more luckily the rain stopped and held off till I got back to the boat.
The sun came out mid-afternoon, so off we went for a 2-hour walk round the fields and footpaths.  We met a family hunting for fossils in one field – they had found plenty of little ones, including what looked like an oyster shell and possibly some crinoids, known as sea lilies (though they were not plants).  We got a bit lost after that, as Nicholson’s is not the best map for walking with, but made our way back eventually.  Meg found a pond to get muddy in and we also put up a couple of partridges, which we don’t see very often.
We had a pleasant meal in the Wharf this evening, where it was nice and warm.  It had got quite chilly and we put the heating on once we got back from the pub.
No pictures today! and just a mile and a half cruising.
A slow start to Sunday.  Dave took Meg up to the village to get a paper and I shook out the dog’s blankets and cleaned our walking boots of yesterday’s mud.  We moved down to the water point, sharing the space with some Napton hirers who had had a wonderful holiday, in spite of yesterday’s rain, and declared themselves hooked on the waterways.  We got going again in sunshine, with some more autumn colour – I think the red leaves here are Guelder Rose, a wild Viburnum, which also has bright red berries which gleam in the sun.
1 autumn colour near fenny compton
We stopped for lunch between Knott’s and Ladder bridges, and got another bowl of lovely blackberries.  I had a discussion the other day with a boater about when you should stop picking blackberries – is it 1st October or 1st November?  I remember as a child being told that the devil  ‘swishes his tail’ over them on 1st October and they become inedible, but we couldn’t believe that was right as they are still so good.   I found different versions of the legend on the web – St Michael threw the devil out of Heaven on 10th, or maybe 11th, October (old Michaelmas Day) and, landing in thorny blackberry bushes, Satan took his revenge by cursing them, spitting (or maybe peeing) on them.  Or it might be the modern Michaelmas (29th September).  Whichever it is, apparently you are more likely to find grubs in them now than a few weeks ago and the increase in tannins at the end of the season is supposed to make them taste bitter.  Though they were still delicious on the 5th this year! and no unwelcome protein either.
As we neared the top of Napton locks we came across a group of youngsters training for their Duke of Edinburgh’s award.  It seemed to be their first trip with heavy packs and they had just got up from a rest!
2 d of e hitching
They tried hitching, but of course they were walking faster than we were going.  We caught up with them again at the lock where they were thrilled to learn about locks and be allowed to help with the bottom gates.  The rest of the flight was pretty slow – near the top we had to wait for boats coming up, but halfway down they had all gone.  Then we found that the boat ahead of us had left all the bottom gates open and the pawls flipped open (they are the catches that stop the paddles dropping when you open them).  This annoys me, partly for safety reasons – if something goes wrong, the paddle gear could crash down and send the windlass into your face, or damage the paddle itself - but also because they get covered in oil which transfers to your hand when you engage them if you aren’t careful.  On the Claydon flight someone had put little sticks on the top of the ground paddle stands to flick the pawls with.
Lock 10 is the one where the approach wall on one side collapsed a while ago.  It has been braced, so the lock is safe to use, but is one of the early stoppages this year for repair.  They will also be replacing the top gate beam on the bottom lock.
4 damage at napton flight  5 damage at napton flight
On the left (below) you can see that the fallen masonry has been removed (or is underwater) and the bank covered with a tarp to stop it collapsing further.
6 damage at napton flight
We paused at the bottom to empty a cassette, and moored just before the winding hole at the Folly moorings.  But there was no radio signal on either the boat radio or the portable, so we moved on a bit, deciding to continue to the Bridge and try to get a meal.  It was getting dark too quickly to go much further.  The moorings were full – Napton changeover day tomorrow -  but there is a stretch of Armco a bit further along.  We could see people in the restaurant as we passed, but when we got there we found the kitchen closes at 6.45 on Sunday (and the pub is closed on Tuesdays this time of year).  The King’s Head in the village serves food till 8, but the beer at the Bridge was good and the company congenial so we stayed and enjoyed a pleasant pint while chatting to two chaps (wives on the boat….)  They were experienced Napton hirers having a short weekend break to assess whether the two couples were compatible for a longer boating holiday together.  One of them looked a little doubtful though!  They went back to their boat while we had another pint and chatted to the barman.  Although Nicholson’s asserts that the pub is haunted, he is certain it’s not, and regaled us with creepy stories of three pubs he had worked in where he had definitely felt a ‘presence’ …..
We tottered back in the moonlight (well I tottered, two pints is quite enough for me), hearing what we thought was a barn owl on the way, for a fry-up on the boat.  An enjoyable evening, even without a restaurant meal.
9 locks, 10 miles
On Sunday night of course autumn blew in with a vengeance, with the boat rocking in the gusts.  We stared glumly out at the rain as the Naptons went past on their way back to base, with several other narrowboats also on the move.  One appeared to have no-one at the helm!  We looked out in alarm for a steerer in the water but the engine note changed and the tiller moved so we guessed it had a wheel at the front too, or possibly remote control - a few years ago we saw a boat being brought out of one of the Audlem locks by a man with a remote control handset.  When we thought there was a lull in the wind and rain, we hastily got ready; we cast off and were promptly blown back onto the bank.  So I had to get my trusty short pole to hold the front out so we could get off the edge and round the bend, and eventually off we went – just a short trip to Calcutt but we still passed 4 boats as the rain poured down.  The locks were straightforward, but the turn into the marina was a bit of a nightmare as the wind had other ideas for us.  Luckily for us the central island in the marina sheltered our mooring so we slipped alongside the pontoon without trouble (though Dave decided not to risk reversing in this time!).  No pictures today – a bit wet for the camera.
1 mile, 3 locks
Back home now.  Chuffed is semi-winterised, in that we have taken the bedding home, along with packets and opened jars from the galley, and left the water-tank half empty with taps open etc.  We expect to be up again before winter sets in though, so didn’t want to drain everything right down.  Time to light the woodburner …