Saturday 31 August 2019

Another scorcher

Monday 26th August; Northbrook lock to past Somerton Deep lock
It was delightfully cool when we set off soon after 8, with a short delay while I trotted back to retrieve a forgotten  
mooring pin!
The horses were enjoying the early coolness, but by 9 it was hot and it just got hotter.  And hotter! 

We were behind a boat at Dashwood, the first lock, but then enjoyed a pleasant cruise on the long run to Heyford, especially the shady bits!  There is a garden alongside the canal in Heyford, with a thriving veg patch which I eyed enviously.  Why doesn’t mine look so wonderful?  Could be something to do with going boating instead of gardening, I suppose ….

 It was changeover day at Oxford Narrowboats, with families hauling luggage back to their cars.  All the ones we have spoken to have had a great time, even on the day it rained!  There were a few boats on the move, but there was enough time to pause at Allen’s lock for a bowl of blackberries. 

The cattle on Somerton Meadows were drifting across to seek the shade before it vanished as the sun moved round.

At Somerton Deep lock we were delighted to see no queue for once, and even better, a boat just emerging from the bottom.  And with a boat waiting at the top there was extra crew for the work.  It didn’t make the top paddles any easier though – I did one with my longer windlass but the other lady couldn’t shift hers.  On we went, wilting in the heat, through the open Chisnell lift bridge, then past our normal mooring along here to find somewhere with some shade so we could have lunch without melting.  With the window hoppers out since first thing, and the curtains drawn, it wasn’t too hot inside.

Then it was time to haul the fridge out, clean the back and try and improve the ventilation at the back.  Dave had routed out 3 holes in the floor, to get air from the bilge, a few years ago. 

But we don’t know if it’s the batteries beginning to show their age, or just that the fridge can’t cope with the intense heat and is using much more power than usual.  As the router bits and pieces were at home, Dave had to use the drill.  This time the holes went through to the locker under the dinette.  You can see that Dave encountered the ballast when he made the holes into the bilge.  He also had to be careful that the holes weren't where the fridge feet go.

Once that was done, I made some gingerbread – we have run out of cake and gingerbread takes less time to cook than a fruit cake – and a quiche for tea tonight, so we can have something cool to eat this evening.  We had an assortment of towels keeping the direct sun off the cratch and side hatch, and gradually the sun went round and we were in cool shade once more.  We had already decided we were staying put, so out came the chairs, cool drinks and newspapers.

The swallows were twittering and zooming around, making us realise autumn is on the way in spite of the heat wave.  If you ignored the distant sound of the M40, the trains, small planes and farm machinery, it’s a very quiet spot!  Gradually the planes went home and the farm work stopped, but the M40 kept on till late.

6 ½ miles, 4 locks, 1 lift bridge plus one left open.

Thursday 29 August 2019

Hot and slow, but a lovely day

Sunday 25th August; Roundham lock to above Northbrook lock
It was already hot by the time we got moving at 9.30.  Dave spent a bit of time doing stuff down the engine hole before we left.

He dropped me at bridge 224 to pop up to the Co-op for the paper and some milk, and waited to pick me up again on the noisy moorings by the road before the main Thrupp moorings.  Could we stop to exchange a book at the pub?  I had seen one I fancied when we ate there the other night, but hadn’t finished the one I would exchange it with.  But it was a bit early, and anyway we were being waved through the lift bridge.  I managed to hop off to get rid of some rubbish though.

It was busy at the lock onto the Cherwell.  The boat in front of us in the queue was only 45’ and invited us to share the lock with him.

Busy at Shipton Weir lock
We fitted easily, and then, as they were only going to the Gibraltar for lunch, they insisted we went ahead.  The river was lovely in the sunshine, with families walking in the meadows, and their dogs enjoying the water ...

And families in canoes on the water ...

and all in all the river was beautiful and it was a day to make you glad to be alive. 

We ascended Baker’s lock back onto the canal, and passed quietly through Enslow, thinking we would moor above Pigeon lock for lunch.  However …. we arrived at Pigeon lock to find a boat going up, but also 3 ahead of us.  Once we reached somewhere Dave could get off and hold the boat, I made some sandwiches.  When we finally reached the lock moorings, we ate our lunch.  We were waiting for about an hour and a half in all, and it was gettingextremely hot.  Eventually we were up, regretting that the Enchanted Tea Garden was not open, but admiring the doves anyway.

The sun was so strong that the picture is rather over-exposed.  On the way to Northbrook lock we realised that the lovely shady mooringsalong this strtch may be rather more exposed next year – the towering ash trees are thinning out with the wretched Chalara die-back disease, and will probably die.  When the branches fall there will be good firewood, I suppose.

At Northbrook we waited behind a share boat which had been stuck behind two dayboats for an hour or so.  We ascended Northbrook lock and found one of them with an engineer in attendance – the gear-box had run out of oil so it wasn’t surprising they were a bit slow!  Not much further on, we reached a spot with a bit of shade, which got deeper as the afternoon progressed.  Thank goodness. 
But even after 7, it was still hot outside.  The green woodpeckers were calling and a squirrel was complaining about something on the other back – but it was so hot that Meg just lay stretched out on the towpath.

6½ miles, 3 locks, 1 swing bridge done for us.

Wednesday 28 August 2019

The heat starts to build

Saturday 24th August; Aristotle Bridge to Kidlington, above Roundham lock
Another beautiful morning greeted us as we opened up.  Unfortunately the little deli was closed for a holiday, so no Saturday paper, at least to start with.  Meg was disappointed to be leaving this little park by the canal.

But she still enjoyed being in charge at the stern, at least till it got too hot for her to sit outside.

A lot of boats had left Oxford by the time we moved off at 9.30, and we caught up with a boat at Wolvercote lock, but then we pulled over at the small but comprehensive service point by Perry’s Lift bridge.  We made full use of the facilities – the rubbish bins are over the bridge.  We caught up with another boat at Duke’s Lock.  While I was turning the lock after they had left, I noticed how much the field where the dredgings had been spread had greened over in just a few weeks.

Chuffed approaching Duke's Lock
Drinkwater’s lift bridge was a pig again – it was very reluctant to give up my key, but I managed it in the end.  The previous lock, under the busy A-road bridge, is left unlocked now – the keyhole is damaged – but it has been weighted properly so unlike last year, when I had to hold it open at full stretch, it was fairly easy to do.  The man who lives on the boat moored on the offside at Drinkwater's often helps out if you are having trouble, but unfortunately they are off cruising at the moment!

It had become very hot by the time we moored between Kidlington Green lock and Yarnton bridge.  It’s about a mile to the Kidlington shops from here, but it was nearly lunchtime and we had run out of several things, so off I strode.  The market was on today, so I got some good veg, and the butcher was good too.  A few bits from Tesco – including the paper – and I went back to the boat, hugging the shade wherever I could.

It was so hot we didn’t want to go far after lunch, so we just went up Roundham lock and moored in some good shade a hundred yards or so above it.  Then we lazed around trying to keep cool.  At about 6, we walked up to the Highwayman at bridge 224 for a drink.  They were having a beer and music festival – there was a good rock band, with music very much to our taste even if we didn’t know it all.  It was a shame we were moored too far away to hear the rest of the evening’s entertainment, but we were tired and our meal was ready prepared back on the boat.

They were playing Woolly Bully when I took this. I had only had one pint so I can't imagine why they seem to be out of focus as well as playing on a slope!  Nobody dancing, which was a shame. I think some of the audience had been there all afternoon.

5 miles, 4 locks, 3 lift bridges and another left open.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

A longer walk than planned!

Friday 23rd August; Aristotle bridge
We had a lovely relaxed start.  After breakfast I popped over to the deli for the paper and some samosas and a pasty, then after a coffee it was time to give Meg a good walk.  We started off across the park to Port Meadow, then began walking towards Wolvercote, intending to come back down the towpath.  But it was such a beautiful day, and the river was calling .... we wished we had more time to go up to Lechlade.

On the way across the meadow we found some lovely plants which thrive in the general dampness of the meadow –

Water mint and anphibious bistort (?)

water forget-me-not
Then across the meadow we went to the river at Black Jack’s Hole.  The cattle were wandering by, so we moved away from the water to let them past. 

The river was so beautiful we just carried on walking, all the way to Godstow.  There is a car park there, a picnic area, and a memorial to the aircrew from the WWI training airfield on Port Meadow, who died in accidents while stationed here or visiting.

Unfortunately, as we were only intending to walk for an hour, we had no water or food – so the logical thing was to call in at the Trout.  Lucky Dave had some money with him, wasn’t it!  It was still before midday and not very busy, but I think over the bank holiday weekend it will be heaving.  I counted over 40 tables outside and there are plenty inside too …

The beer was expensive and the kitchen hadn’t opened, so we had expensive crisps with our expensive beer.   Then we walked back over the bridge,

and past the lock, where of course we had to stay on the public path.  We walked through the ruins of Godstow Abbey, which are not extensive.

But there is some fairly ancient graffiti.


Does its age make it ok?

Then we strode out along the Thames Path, to cross at Rainbow Bridge and return across Port Meadow.  The bridge near the marina was, as usual in the hot weather, in use as a jumping platform into the pool.

We were ravenous when we got back and those tasty snacks from the deli went down very well.

After lunch, Dave went for another visit to the Natural History museum and I went down through Jericho to get a fridge magnet of the fish mosaic we saw in the Pompeii exhibition.  I never normally buy souvenirs, but this reminded me of our previous visit to the big exhibition in London years ago.  Anyway, our grandson loves fridge magnets!

We ate on the boat, but before we did we went to the Anchor just over the bridge.  It is a hipster pub and apart from one other couple everyone was 40 or under.  Our beer was served in mugs with handles, which I commented on – the barmaid (who had been discussing Betamax/VHS tapes with a customer, and who apparently also has an MA) explained that their customers liked retro, and proudly showed me their soda syphon.  Nice beer, anyway.

Sunday 25 August 2019

A new little arrival and two family visits

Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd August; Oxford and back to Aristotle Bridge
On Wednesday we started with a visit to Sainsbury’s for something tasty for lunch, before making our way to the station for a trip to meet our new little grandson.  The train was NEW!  Comfortable, clean, with air-conditioning and not crowded.  It was Meg’s first trip on a train, and she coped well.

We had a lovely day with new grandson and his big brother

before getting the train back to the boat.  We went to the Four Candles (Wetherspoon’s) to eat, as my laptop needed charging!

On Thursday, we stayed in Oxford.  Dave took Meg off to Port Meadow for a walk and I did a bit of cleaning, before we left Meg and went again to the Natural History Museum, which we had enjoyed so much on our last visit.  This time we went upstairs and spent a while looking at the insect cases, where there were live cockroaches, stick insects and a tarantula.  I also admired the beautiful glazed roof and the decorated ironwork and masonry.

We finished at what looked like, from a distance, the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.  But no – these were herbivores, as you can see from their lack of teeth!

And there was also a Stegosaurus fossil skull.

We had to be at the Crisis cafe for lunch, where we met my sister and brother-in-law for a delicious lunch, before we walked back to the boat.  We had been in Oxford two nights already, and had to move – so we toddled down to Isis lock to turn

Then we cruised up to Aristotle bridge, where we just squeezed in at the bridge end.  After tea and cake, our visitors left fpr Wolvercote, where they had left their car.  We ate on the boat.

1 lock (twice), 1 mile

Saturday 24 August 2019

Oxford bound

Tuesday 20th August; Thrupp to Oxford
When we set off at 8.30 it was sunny.  The Boat looked lovely in the early sun, but the gravel works a little further on in Kidlington must have made the permanent moorings there a very noisy place to live.

It was still chilly enough on the shady cut to need a fleece and woolly hat.  There were quite a few permanent moorings.  This is one way of ballasting your boat, though I’m not sure how well it would last if it were cruising.

Once we got to Roundhams, the first lock, the work soon warmed me up.   The bottom gate was leaking so badly that I had to keep both paddles open in order to get the top gate open.  Kidlington Green was less deep and easier, and also had a lovely crop of blackberries for us.

At the horrible Drinkwater’s Lift bridge, CRT were in attendance trying to correct the balance, so I didn’t have to work it.  Hurray!  We stopped for water at the point above Duke’s lock, and were passed by the hire boat that had been dogging our footsteps, so to speak.  By the time we had filled up they were long gone, and after a boat had come up Duke’s lock we went down.  The field where the dredging spoil was being spread just a month ago has greened over and there is no evidence of dredging – apart from some easy cruising and this notice.  It shows the locations for the dredging that has been taking place over the last few months.

There is another water point at Perry’s lift bridge, where we wanted to stop to empty a cassette, but the hire boat was there (we should have waited to get our water!). So we stopped on the bridge moorings temporarily.  Then it was on, under the decorated Frenchay bridge
and we moored at Jericho as we usually do.  We had run out of bread, so I made a quick loaf of soda bread for lunch

before we went down to the Ashmolean to visit the Pompeii exhibition.  It was fab, though not as large as the one at the British museum many years ago.  There were objects we are still familiar with

Mattock and prunng hook - we have similar ones at home, if less rusty!
And some cooking pots we would not use today,

 though the bun tin looks familiar (but not a good photo unfortunately).  

 They even had non-stick 'red' ware with a special coating.

We saw the lovely fish mosaic we remembered from the London exhibition – we bought the poster then, though I fear it is long gone now.

You might think that the cooking pots were fairly rudimentary, but just look at this decorative strainer – a bit smarter than my plastic colander!

There were some examples of carbonised foodstuffs recovered from the excavation (you did remember Pompeii was smothered by lava and ash from Vesuvius, didn’t you?)

There was even a cast of a poor lady who had been overcome.  The cast was in resin and showed her poor mouth agape in her last agony.  It didn’t seem right to take a photo.

But my favourite exhibit – very appropriate for a boater, don’t you think?  was a chamber pot!

On our way out we passed a (free, unlike Pompeii) exhibition by an artist who began his career in the GDR before the unification of Germany.  He used A R Penck as a pseudonym, which he adopted to avoid persecution by the authorities.  The stick man motif appears in most of his work.  It made us think, once we had read the info about him, but it’s not what we would fancy on our walls.

This was all along one wall.  Recognise Gorbachev?
When we got back to the boat, we took Meg back up the canal to Aristotle bridge for a play in the park, and came back via the Bookbinders Arms in Jericho for a pint.

6½ miles, 4 locks, 4 lift bridges (1 open, 1 opened for us).