Saturday 31 August 2013

Onwards to Thrupp

Thursday 29th August

An early start for a change – up at 6.30 to find the sun just creeping above the trees and the mists rising from field, canal and river. 

mists 3

The boat behind us left at 6.45.  So many people have warned of the difficulty of mooring at Thrupp and Oxford that we left our moorings soon after 7 to be sure of arriving in time.  It was fantastic cruising as the sun came up and no-one else was about – until we got to the lift bridge at Upper Heyford.  No sooner had I raised it than a boat appeared round the corner – we waved them through only for another boat to appear behind us.  Well, that was two good deeds out of the way! and we had plenty of time.  Plenty of boats on the water but no serious delays and we cleared Pigeon lock soon after 11.  Seeing the sign pointing to the village shop, we tied up below the lock and foolishly I didn’t check Nicholson’s before I set off or I would have sent Dave on his bike!  It was a mile uphill all the way, but we did need some milk so someone had to go.  Last time we came this way, there was a narrowboat – Jane’s Floating Shop - selling cakes, eggs and veg above the lock – it’s no longer there, but you can now visit (from the track to the village) for tea on a Sunday – cream tea, high tea or even a champagne tea! It’s a lovely quiet mooring below the lock and we stayed for lunch. 

Off again past Enslow with its long permanent moorings to Baker’s Lock.    Mortimer Bones’s boat was at the wharf.


At Enslow we passed the Rock of Gibraltar pub.  We were unable to moor once as night fell and stopped at the pub’s mooring – the pub had a Greek owner at that time and the food was delicious.  The mooring itself was good, at the end of the pub garden, but unfortunately the yard by the towpath opposite started loading its lorries at 5.30 next morning, which was rather a shame.

At Bakers lock we could see these dishes across the fields – I have done a quick Google search but not found out anything about them and I don't want to waste any more precious internet connection minutes on it so it will have to remain a mystery!satellite dishes

Here is the attractive towpath bridge over the Cherwell below Baker’s Lock;

towpath bridge over the cherwell

the chimney of the ugly cement works beside the beautiful river;

cement works

some other river users.  Rather like meeting other narrowboats at bridgeholes when you think there is no-one else about, we came round a bend to find canoes and another narrowboat coming toward us.  Technically it was our right of way over the other narrowboat but we had to hold back as best we could as the canoes came past with him rather close behind them.  We felt he should have held back until the canoes were well past us.

canoes on the cherwell

and Chuffed leaving Shipston Weir lock.

shipston weir lock

We found a mooring at the start of the Thrupp controlled area.  This is the sign that greets you as you approach;

notice at thrupp 2

With moorings so controlled you expect something decent to tie up to; the 14-day area where we were had no rings or bollards and a hard towpath - the boat in front had come back from a couple of hours away to find his pins had pulled out.  There was no Armco piling and nowhere to drop chains, at least where we were.  Luckily we found some rope loops which someone had managed to fix so we could moor safely.  Later on a volunteer came along with a tablet to record boats moored – apparently if you cannot find a public mooring space, and you can find a volunteer, they  will tell you which long-term space you can use.  (We saw at the services next day the name of the boat where you can find someone, but by then you are past half the moorings!)  There is a lot of info to take in on the posts if you are on the move;

notice at thrupp

Grumble over.  If we remember we will send a comment to the relevant bit of CRT.

It’s a quiet spot here and we saw this delightful roof garden a little way along; the board advertises the services of Monsieur Jardin, a local garden designer.  Clever!

roof garden

Thursday 29 August 2013

Banbury, High Wycombe and Somerton!

Tuesday 27th August

The boat in front woke us soon after 6.30 and cruised off a few minutes later, so we put the kettle on.  Soon two boats came past from the direction of the town, so Dave wandered up to see where the spaces were and by 9 we were moored outside Castle Quay shopping centre, hoping for a quieter evening than yesterday!  Fortunately the bedroom end of the boat, with portholes rather than windows, was less affected by the distant roar of the M40 and the nearby roar of the factory extractor fans or whatever they were, but it was very intrusive in the rest of the boat.

Anyway, we were soon on the train to High Wycombe to visit our daughter Jen in her new house in High Wycombe.  It was a shame her partner Will had to work though.  He we are after a relaxed lunch in the sunshine watching the gardeners in the allotments below and enjoying the lovely view across the valley;

jen and dad

jen and mum

At the end of a lovely day out we were back in Banbury after a hot and tedious journey after the train was delayed, but passed a white Buddleia on the short walk back from the station with clouds of butterflies; here I snapped two Small Tortoiseshells with several others out of shot.

small torts on white buddleiaLater we walked up to the town and had a delicious meal in the Thai Orchid – we wish we could do stir-fried veg as well as they did!

Yesterday evening we went for a walk round Spiceball Park, which has this lovely sculpture near the car park – it is a single tree trunk mounted on a steel base and fantastically carved at the top.  The first picture includes Dave to give an idea of scale – the second is my effort at an artistic shot against the evening sky.

spiceball tree sculpture             spiceball tree sculpture 2

Wednesday 28th August - Banbury to Somerton

Another early morning with three boats away before 7.  By 9.15 we had done a quick shop, gone down the lock, emptied a cassette and topped up with water and were soon out in the countryside again – what a relief.  The sun was out and it soon became very hot.  There were a lot of boats about – the Napton Narrowboats and Black Princes mostly on their way back to base – but we had no long waits at locks and plenty of time to enjoy the lovely countryside.  All the lift bridges today were open;

lidt bridges how we like themHere is Chuffed approaching Aynho Weir lock past the towpath bridge over the Cherwell, which is flowing very gently at the moment;

 approaching aynho weir lock

and in the lozenge-shaped lock; I thought afterwards I should have gone up on the bridge for a better shot!

in aynho weir lock

We moored a few hundred yards before Aynho Bridge for a quiet lunch, watching the trains – yesterday we could see this part of the canal on our way to High Wycombe.  4 hours by boat, 15 minutes by train!  I didn’t get a photo of a train going by, but here is a shot of the viaduct a bit further on from Aynho;

railway viaduct near aynho

There was a very new calf between Aynho and Somerton Deep lock – it must have just been born in the field as although it was fairly steady on its feet the umbilical cord was still dangling.

new calf

You see some odd things on the cut sometimes – this was stranded at the top of the bywash at Somerton Deep lock!

pineapple at somerton deep lock

We had heard horrendous stories about the awfulness of this lock and this notice did not make me feel any less apprehensive (the lock beam was at an angle, and the camera was straight, honest!);

sign at somerton deep lock

Hey you down there!!

hello from somerton deep lock

The paddles were easy enough, as was opening the gate, but I couldn’t get it closed on my own – grrr!

We noticed that the winding hole soon after Somerton Bridge which is still indicated in Nicholson’s had been closed and now belongs to a boat club; we turned here some years ago, carefully avoiding touching the boat on the end of the private moorings – it had the largest assortment of tyres and fenders we had ever seen.  We moored a little further on round the bend on the delightful, if rather full, Somerton moorings.

the lovely mooring at somerton

Time for a few painting jobs (Dave) and some relaxing (me).

Monday 26 August 2013

Claydon locks to Banbury

Bank Holiday Monday 26th August

We decided to leave before 9 to try and avoid the hire-boats, which turned out a successful strategy, at least to start with.  After a cool grey start it was soon back to shorts and t-shirts again, with the brasses gleaming in the sun after Dave’s hard work with the Brasso yesterday evening!  We passed Forge Farm with its pumpkin fields – too early for pumpkins but the scarecrows are there;

scarecrow 2

Last time on the South Oxford we were on our shared boat ‘Padworth’ at the end of October; it was cold, the light was poor, this boat had a row of pumpkins along the roof, some with faces cut in them;

no pumpkins this time

and the scarecrows all seemed to be watching as we passed …..  very spooky!

Here is the pretty Elkington’s lock as we were leaving;

leaving elkingtons lock

As we approached Cropredy we passed the new marina site, where the construction was held up so badly by last year’s appalling weather.  It is still not connected to the cut so is sadly deserted although the pontoons are all ready.

cropredy marina

At Cropredy, we joined the queue for the water point as we hadn’t filled up at the end of our last trip.  The water point is quite awkward if you are going south and are longer than 50’ – especially when someone decides to wind as well!

awkward water point at cropredy

At Slat Mill lock there was a bit of a delay as the young lad on the boat in front had raised one of the bottom paddles to its limit and couldn’t release the catch to lower it – it took all Deb’s strength to raise it a tiny bit more so that he could get it free.  There was an inquisitive herd of cattle watching us as we went down, this chap blissing out as he scratches an itch;

aah thats better

After a brief lunch stop near the M40 bridge we joined the queue at Hardwick lock, then grabbed the first mooring we found on the 48-hour stretch before the bend at Tom Rolt bridge, which was lucky because when I walked up a little later soon after 4 the town centre moorings were packed.  Although we have the noise from the bakery here, we don’t want to go beyond Banbury as tomorrow we hope to catch a train to visit our daughter in High Wycombe.

This cottage is on the approach to Banbury; one year we came past and Dink and Malc (whose picture is on the wall to the left of the downpipe) were enjoying what seemed to be a hot tub on the veranda!  They would have needed a cool tub today …

dink and malcs

There is a continuous stream of boats in both directions and we are glad we tied up early!

8 locks, 6 miles

Back on the water again!

Sunday 25th August.

We drove into the car park at Fenny Compton Marina as the sun came out and loaded up at quickly as we could to make the most of the weather.  We were away soon after 4, as this birthday boat moored up at the wharf;

leaving marina 2

There were quite a few boats out this afternoon, though no-one about as we passed under the bridge at the start of the Fenny Compton ‘tunnel’ -

bridge at start of fenny tunnel

and only one which kindly waited for us to come through the narrowest part;

leaving fenny tunnel

There are plenty of blackberries this year and the crab-apples are laden;

crab apples

At the top of Claydon locks we pulled up behind a Napton Narrowboat, just one of the group that left Napton yesterday …… as they had to turn every lock and there were no boats coming up we made slow progress, eventually mooring below Claydon bottom lock after 6.30.  With luck all the hire boats will have moved on before we get to Banbury tomorrow, but at least the hire companies have got some business at last!

5 locks, 3 and a half miles.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

A lonely little zebra and we beat the gales to Aston marina

Sunday 29th March

Well it was pretty wet from the word go.  We left Salt at 9.30, later than we’d hoped as we’d missed an hour’s sleep with the clocks going forward. The aim was to to get to Aston Marina before the forecast strong winds arrived.  I took this photo just before we left – you can see it’s raining from the surface of the water – not especially heavy but very steady.

1 salt bridge inthe gloom

Luckily there was no wind and we had the complete raingear on so we just got on with it.  The Anglo-Welsh that had moored the other side of the bridge had long gone.   As we approached Sandon Lock we could see activity in the lock tail, but had to get quite close before we could see what was going on in the gloom.  It was Spey, re-attaching the towline to Betelgeuse which had just come down.  There were several crew, not all suitably dressed for the weather – those jeans must have been getting pretty uncomfortable.

4 spey tows betelgeuse sandon lock

They were using a long towline.  Dave had been tucked in to the side but Spey pulled him out as it passed, then Betelgeuse was suddenly caught by the strong bywash.  The steerer worked hard but couldn’t prevent a collision, though fortunately it was only a gentle biff.  I took this photo after they had straightened up.

6 betelgeuse has just biffed chuffed 

Above Sandon Lock, CRT has placed a notice on the shelter for the stop planks.  Maybe they are being just a little over-cautious?  You’d have to be very unlucky to trip over!

7 odd notice   7 odd notice

Propped up at one end against a pile of debris was this lonely little zebra.  A child somewhere must be missing it.  I hope it gets reunited with its small owner.

8 little lost zebra

We were just a few hundred yards from the marina when the wind started to tease us, but luckily not enough to make mooring difficult.  It didn’t take Dave long to get the paperwork done in the office, but the weather was worsening all the time and the wind was quite strong as we moved to our designated mooring.  We expected that we’d have to go in bow first but as Dave lined Chuffed up the wind caught us and blew the bow so far round he changed his mind, and though needing plenty of revs got Chuffed lined up for a silky smooth mooring without touching either the pontoon or the boat next to us.  Class.  And five minutes later there was a violent hailstorm and we were  rocked about by the wind in spite of being sheltered between two boats.

9 we just missed the worst showers

We dashed to the bistro for Sunday lunch, luckily close by, trying not to get too wet.  But by the middle of the afternoon, though we were still buffeted by the wind, the rain had gone so we walked towards Stone to gauge how long it would take Dave to get to the station tomorrow.

4 miles and 1 lock

Monday 31st March

Dave was off to the station by 8.30, in sunshine, to travel back to Calcutt and pick up the car.  In between cleaning and packing I took Meg off for a walk, and as we walked back down the pontoon I chatted for a while to another couple of moorers about the Bridgwater canal, which we hope to visit before the summer. Then Terry and Monica Darlington, whose boat Phyllis May II is moored a few boats along, walked up.  We got chatting about dogs, as you do – anyway Meg was treating Terry to a full frontal cuddle, preventing him getting past.  Not many people get that (though we do discourage it generally).  They didn’t have Jess (their whippet) with them, so no playing for Meg. Dave was back soon after lunch and we managed to pack up the car before the rain started again.  I got pretty wet securing the pram cover though, and then we had a tedious journey home in the rain.  This time we spotted the aqueduct over the M5, which someone blogged about recently, though no boats were crossing at the time.

I got rather behind with the blog this trip.  Yesterday was Good Friday and Dave made a yummy batch of Hot Cross Buns.

HCBs 2

We are at home now for a few weeks for various appointments, and to get the garden sorted out (I hope).