We spent a pleasant 10 days in Heyford, catching up with friends from the boatyard and from church and being invited out for meals on Paul & Rosemary’s boat, at Chris & Emily’s house and visiting The Barley Mow with Barry & Ruth.
We managed to get some kind of internet using our O2 SIM card but it was slow and expensive £10 for 1GB then £20 to top up with another 5GB, if only I had been offered the 5GB preloaded SIM in the shop I would have made it last!
On Thursday we took the train down to Oxford and visited the market where we surprised John who was manning his jewellery stall, Hasket Fasesik. The market has a diverse range of food stalls too, so we had lunch there, me a Greek lamb kebab, cooked over charcoal and Joy a Lángos which is a Hungarian speciality, a deep fried flatbread topped with garlic, soured cream and cheese.
We moved down to the 48 hour moorings by the water-point for our last two nights and on Sunday (18th) we filled with water before turning around to start our journey back to Atherstone. Whilst filling up we had a chat with Bones who was out dog walking with Boots.
Boaters, be warned this tap is extremely slow! The boat before us started filling at 7:30am and we didn’t finish until 11am (reported to C&RT)
We had thought about stopping at Aynho again, but the weather forecast for Monday was rainy so we decided to push on to Banbury and were very glad we did, because in did indeed pour down on Monday just when Jane & Gordon were bringing nb Euphoria back to Banbury after being surveyed.
We spent a couple of nights at Tramway moorings doing a few jobs, fitting a new fire grate and rear fire brick to our Morsø Squirrel stove. The grate was sourced from Warm-Nation.com who offer a ‘Best Price Promise’ & FREE delivery.
I also managed to fix the 24v Klaxon horn from Jane & Gordon’s new boat nb Moon & Sixpence, and repair June’s starter motor, which needed new solenoid contacts.
My good deeds for the day!
On Thursday morning we moved up to the town centre & Joy was able to go to her art class at The Artery, after lunch with Sandra & Norma at the GF Club which we were moored right outside of. In the evening we met June there too to return her starter and we won a £5 voucher in the meat raffle.
The next morning we left for Cropredy and were fortunate enough to find a free spot almost opposite the wharf & water-point. On Sunday night we went to The Brasenose Arms and took part in their quiz night; we didn’t come last although it was just the two of us in the team! And we won some lamb burgers in their meat raffle. (Clearly an Oxfordshire thing!)
Yesterday we moved on to Fenny Compton through drizzle much of the way (it wasn’t forecast to appear until the afternoon) We shall stay here a couple of days and no doubt celebrate Joy’s birthday at The Wharf Inn.
Kate Saffin & Heather Wastie of the Alarum Theatre Company are performing a double bill.
A double bill to whisk you back to the days of WWII when a shortage of crews to keep the working boats going brought a new breed of boater to the canal – later nicknamed the Idle Women. Lose yourself in Isobel’s War (Kate Saffin) and Idle Women and Judies (Heather Wastie) and hear the stories of those young women who took on the challenge to manage a pair of boats and 55 tons of cargo.
Tickets are £11/£9 available in person at Tooley’s, by email email@example.com or phone 01865 364095
SPECIAL GROUP OFFER: Round up a few friends and take advantage of our special group offer. Five or more (and you collect the money from them) and the ticket price is just £8. Let us know via email or phone.
We have spent a couple of enjoyable weeks in the Tramway area of Banbury near our old mooring catching up with our local friends.
Almost everybody on the moorings seems to have caught the boat painting bug, which Joy is hoping I will catch too.
We both had haircuts whilst in town, me at the barbers in Castle Quays and Joy at The Graduate Salon at the college.
We shared a couple of evenings with Jill & John (nb Skylark) involving good food, drink, games and giggles, just possibly occasioned by the bottle of Ouzo which they had brought us back from their holiday!
There was a trip back to Atherstone in the middle of our stay to help Linda and Cookie celebrate their wedding anniversary, but before joining them we had afternoon tea at The Larder a great little ‘40s themed cafe in Long Street Atherstone which we hadn’t discovered before.
We had tried to hire a car for the Saturday but all the companies we tried, wanted us to have a 2 day weekend hire. In the end our friend June offered her car, as she was away for the weekend with her biker pals, so we were able to arrange a days temporary insurance for about £20. It also gave us the excuse to have a nice meal at The Jaypur Restaurant together to thank her before bidding farewell to Banbury again.
On Wednesday morning I had an appointment at The Horton hospital for a eye check up (all OK) so after that I met Joy in Morrisons where she was meeting her friend Norma for lunch and after getting a few provisions for the trip we returned to the boat and set off for Aynho waving goodbye to friends once more.
We arrived at Aynho Wharf just in time to get a pump-out before they closed and were fortunate to be able to moor opposite as a hire boat was just leaving. Later we got chatting to the crew of one of Oxfordshire Narrowboats fleet who were bemused that they had used a tankful of water since leaving Banbury that morning so I helped them shuffle their boat across to the water point opposite. It later transpired that four of them had had showers since filling up so if they weren’t used to being ‘careful’ with their water perhaps it wasn’t surprising they had run out.
Thursday we made our way down to Heyford and found a spot opposite the church where we have moored many times before but never with a view of the bows of the ‘Big Woolwich’ Bath through our front window, dwarfing our modest craft!
As boaters may know Lower Heyford is a renowned mobile phone blackspot so we were glad to be using the O2 network for our phones (via GiffGaff) as it’s the only viable provider in the area and also had the foresight to have purchased an O2 PAYG data SIM before leaving Banbury to temporarily replace our EE contract SIM.
A bit like catching up with The Archers on a Sunday, I’ll try to include the edited highlights.
After returning to our mooring we had two of our grandchildren to stay for a week and before handing them back we put them to work helping us up Atherstone Locks, we spent the night in the town before moving on Hartshill for the next night and thence to Hawkesbury Junction were they were collected by our son and we had a good lunch together at The Greyhound before they went home and we continued on our way towards Rugby.
There seems to have been a theme of cars in canals this week as we passed one at Marston Junction and the next day another at Tuckey’s Bridge, before mooring near Falls Bridge.
Tuesday: It was just a short hop into Rugby for shopping at Tescos and we took the rest of the day off.
Wednesday: Onwards to Braunston and on turning right at the junction we passed nb Twizzle belonging to our friends Quentin & Sue, although no-one was at home we rang them up and found that they were in the chandlers back at the junction. It was decided that we should turn around at Braunston Puddle Banks and moor with them and so we spent a pleasant evening sharing food and catching up with each others news.
Thursday: We set off fairly early to try to reach Napton Locks before it got too hot, we failed miserably of course commencing the ascent about mid-day and were please to find a mooring at Marston Doles where we could recover!
On Friday afternoon we took a short trip along the summit level and spent the night by the radio mast near Wormleighton so that we could have an early run to Fenny Compton the next day in the hope of finding an empty mooring as we wanted to spend a couple of nights there.
Our cunning plan worked and we secured a spot on the 48 hour section which suited us just fine as we had arranged to meet up with my ‘old’ colleague Colin and his wife Maureen for Sunday lunch at The Wharf Inn and found out that the Mikron Theatre Company were performing ‘Canary Girls’ there that same evening and were joined by our friend June for that.
Monday: We moved on to Cropredy
Tuesday: We arrived at Banbury and collected post and eBay purchases including a replacement tablet (which I use for Waterways Routes GPS software while cruising) as mine had died during the week.
Unfortunately the new tablet appeared resistant to downloading any apps from Google (well it was pretty cheap) so I had to arrange to return it and get on my bike and purchase another from Argos. This was an Acer Iconia and proved to be more successful.
Thursday: We moved down to near our old mooring at Tramway to catch up with our friends here.
30th July 2016 – Penkridge
This morning we just moved down to the town moorings above the lock as we wanted the visit Penkridge Market where Joy bought some jigsaw puzzles to keep her amused, we also got some fruit and veg and visited the famous Jaspers Bakery for some cakes to take home for tea. The rest of the day was just spent chilling out and picked the first of the tomatoes growing on top of the boat. These were, San Marzano, a plum variety given to us by Joy’s friend Janet.
31th July 2016 – Penkridge – Great Haywood
Today was supposed to be rainy so we had planned to stay put, but by the morning the forecast had improved so we decided to carry on, through Tixall Wide with the famous gatehouse.
We thought about stopping here for tea, but time was getting on and reached Great Haywood just in time to slot into the last available spot on the visitor moorings.
1st August 2016 – Great Haywood – Fradley Junction
This morning we set off at about 9:15 and arrived at Rugeley at noon in time for some shopping at Aldi and Morrisons. We bought some sandwiches for lunch before setting off again for Fradley Junction where we arrived about 6pm. Phew, that was quite a long day.
2nd August 2016 – Fradley Junction
Today was rainy so we stayed on the mooring and had a day of ‘housekeeping’
3rd August 2016 – Fradley Junction – Fazeley Junction
Just a 4 hour journey today, with a little drizzle, found this stretch of canal overgrown making visibility a bridges very poor and of course we seemed to meet a boat at every bridge (well not quite, I suppose) it also seemed to be very shallow, making for slow progress and we had to stop three times to remove debris from the propeller, the last of which was half a high viz vest which brought us to an abrupt halt. As we approached Fazeley the wind picked up and on mooring up I had a struggle to pull the boat into the side, so here we are for lunch opposite Peels Wharf and here we will stay for the night.
4th August 2016 – Fazeley Junction – Bradley Green
The final leg of our journey should have taken us a shade under four hours, but by the time we had filled up with water, queued for the only two locks on our journey at Glascote, Joy had gone to find a postbox and bought some lunch at Glascote Co-op (on the old Anchor pub site) we were well behind schedule. We needed to visit Alvecote Wharf for gas and a pump out, but arrived just as they were starting their lunch hour, so we had ours as well.
We continued on our way and as we were passing Pooley Country Park Ray & Penny (she who painted the wrens on our back doors) invited us to stop for a cup of tea and a natter, so by the time we left it had started to drizzle of course, but I managed to stay dry-ish under the umbrella until we reached our mooring just after five, a mere seven hours after leaving Fazeley.
It was a good day and it was good to be back ‘home’ for a bit and catch up with local news with our neighbours.
Yes, you guessed it, today is our wedding anniversary so we had a leisurely start to the day, with a cooked breakfast. I fitted the strings which Joy had bought me from Graham the fender maker and Joy fitted her new necklace from Worcester cathedral.
We moved off just after 9:30 and made steady, lock free, progress until we reached Gailey Wharf about two hours later, where we were told that Rodbaston Lock was out of action. The top gate had apparently been lifted off it’s hinge by a boat getting it’s twin fenders caught under part of the steel lockgate. We saw an unusual ‘flat fronted’ boat pass us before leaving this morning which may have been the culprit.
We made our way down to Rodbaston where we were fifth in the queue and the C&RT team were out in force waiting for an A frame to lift the gate back on. Unfortunately the safety certificate of the first A frame which was sent, was out of date so they had to wait for another to arrive so we just settled down for an early lunch.
By 15:40 the job was completed and boats were on the move, Viking Afloat from Gailey had two hire boats trapped down there and had sent cleaning crews down to prepare them for their new hirers. Whilst there we had been chatting to other boaters and had a discussion about whether we were named after the Wrens Nest council estate near Dudley (known locally as The Wrenner it seems) We were told some tales of ‘disappearing’ rental TV scams back in the seventies. Another conversation was about a good place to get a meal and we had two independent recommendations for the Cross Keys on the way into Atherstone.
It was our turn to go down the lock by half past four and with just Otherton Lock to go we were moored just past the Cross Keys by ten past six.
The Cross Keys was as good as recommended, it’s a proper friendly ‘local’ frequented by both regulars and passing boaters. A good deal of friendly banter was going on and there was good, honest home cooked food, simple but well done. I had a huge Lamb & Mint Suet Pudding served with chips, peas and gravy (no cheffy little jugs but a gravy boat full of it) Joy’s choice was Breaded Plaice which Catty was lucky to get a piece taken home for her as it was so good.
We came back to the boat in time to watch the Masterchef Final so full we struggled to stay awake to watch it!
Wednesday 27th July
This morning started off drizzly so we delayed our departure until nearly 11am, while I prepared Kinver lock Joy went off to post a letter but the post box shown on the web seemed to be invisible. No matter, so off we went to the next lock at Stewponey where I could definitely see a post box from the bridge, so off Joy went but couldn’t find that one either. “Don’t be so silly” says I and went off to do it myself guess what? I couldn’t find it; back I come to the lock and sure enough it’s there in line with the blue pedestrian sign, so it’s back across the dual carriageway again and I can see the blue sign and sure enough when I reach it there’s the post-box down a side turning!!!
Progress was good today with most locks in our favour and by the time we reached Swindon (No, not the one in Wiltshire where I spent my formative years) we were ready for a short break to have lunch. After being refreshed and restored we tackled nearby Marsh Lock and less than an hour later we were moored up outside the Round Oak Inn.
We took a look at their menu on line and thought we’d treat ourselves to Black Country Pork Belly Stack & Butternut Squash, Stilton & Spinach Risotto. When we went in to order however, we were told that the website was apparently years out of date so our choices were not available. We felt the current menu uninspiring but since we were there we chose again from 2 for £11 menu (boring old burger + Fish & Chips) only to be told that those were not available after 5pm. Nothing else tempted us to order, although prices were reasonable enough. So much for the Bostin’ Fittle advertised on the web, so it was home made lasagne back on the boat.
Fittle is a local word for food, and therefore ‘bostin’ fittle’ is a way of saying great food. [Birmingham Mail]
Thursday 28th July
The weather forecast for today seemed to have improved since yesterday with no rain forecast until 2pm, they were lying of course but we got though Bumblehole Lock and The Bratch in the dry. We also were through The Bratch before the dredging team arrived with their equipment (Yes! A dredging team) otherwise they would have had priority.
We caught up with Graham the fender maker on nb Warwick and his pal with a single cylinder Russell Newbury engined boat with a 100 year old fore-end above the locks but had to wait for a few minutes as another part of the dredging team were still working here filling hoppers with muddy sludge. We let the two ‘lads’ go ahead at Awbridge Lock as they were travelling together, and again we found mud hoppers being unloaded into an artic.
From here on our luck seemed to change as every time we approached a lock the drizzle started. At Wightwick Locks it really started to empty down so we held up for a few minutes & had a hot drink, but it soon eased off again and we made a dash for Compton and stopped for lunch (home made cheese, potato and leek pasties which Joy had made en route) and a visit to Sainsbury Local as the milk had gone off.
At least Compton Lock was our last of the day and we dodged showers all the way to The Fox & Anchor near Coven where we are moored directly outside the pub.
… and what has happened now? …… The sun has come out!!!
So it was drinks & sweet potato chips from the pub followed by home made burgers and home/boat grow rhubarb pie and custard for pudding.
This morning we were up and away by quarter past nine, and we had an easy hours cruise to Falling Sands Lock. As we headed towards Kidderminster we were so busy looking at the new Hoobrook Link Bridge that we almost missed seeing the Severn Valley Railway steam loco hauling a train over Falling Sands Viaduct, in fact, as you see, I missed the loco, but the timetable suggests it was No. 7802 Bradley Manor
Ex-Great Western Railway.
We had been following a hire boat at a distance and thus had to empty the locks before we could go through and on reaching Caldwell Lock I did the same but one of the bottom gates wouldn’t open fully so I fetched our long handled rake (or keb) to try to move the obstruction, unfortunately our rake’s handle is not as long as it was and was no where near long enough to reach so I poked around with our boat pole also to no avail.
At this point we were joined by another boater who produced a grappling hook, which he had made but never used before, and with that and the the rake tied to a rope a sunken log was finally retrieved from behind the gate. By this time there was quite a crowd around the lock as other boats had arrived. All the while we had been ringing the Canal & River Trust to report the problem in case we were unsuccessful, but they still hadn’t picked up the phone after 20minutes… How do you alert them of a real emergency?
Wolverley Court Lock was in our favour and a kind lady boater opened the gates for us but the next four locks had to be turned as it transpired that we were following another hire boat.
At Wolverley Lock Joy brought the boat in through the road bridge and was surprised to see a crowd of people as she rose up in the lock as it is right next to ‘The Lock’ pub and there were tables either side of us, plus some kids having a canoeing lesson.
Then it was through Cookley Tunnel, this next section of canal is cut through sandstone outcrops in places and makes for some interesting boating.
We were in front of a canal trader who makes fenders and sells rope and other boaty essentials and I persuaded Joy to buy me a present, but more of that later in the week.
Saturday 23rd July
So delayed by a day we left the docks on Saturday, we asked the lock-keeper if we could leave about 9am but there seemed to be so many boats entering the lock that we decided to wait for the next batch. So as soon as the keeper had emptied the lock and given us the green light to enter, we started across the basin only for him to close the gates and put the red light back on. He came over and shouted his apologies as he had just heard that The Edward Elgar was headed for the lock and we really wouldn’t want to meet that, so we didn’t get away until 11am in the end.
We passed a number of boats in the “narrows” but after that it was a quiet trip up to Worcester and despite the promise of an incoming tide we really didn’t notice any effect from it. The huge Upper Lode lock which marks the of the tidal section was negotiated on our own.
At Upton on Severn we caught up with nb Marieke (which I remembered used to moor at Heyford Wharf) and joined them for the next two locks and finally we reached Worcester Racecourse moorings by 7:30pm. A journey of 30 miles taking eight and a half hours.
After a busy day we treated ourselves to a takeaway from Ashleys Indian Restaurant, which they happily delivered to the boat. Joy enjoyed Salmon La Jawab while I had Green Lamb (Tender pieces of lamb cooked with fresh coriander, mint, fresh green chilli, lemon juice and garlic) which despite it’s khaki colour was absolutely delicious.
Sunday 24th July
On Sunday we visited All Saints Church for their contemporary morning worship and had a quiet afternoon as I think I had caught a little to much sun on Saturday and felt a bit under-the-weather.
Photo: Philip Halling [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Monday 25th July
In the morning we walked down to have look around the cathedral before returning to the boat. A few days ago Halfie mentioned in his blog seeing a telephone box converted to a cash point in Chester, guess what, we saw one too on the way back. Joy got a photo, but not with such an attractive person using it as Halfie did. [Go on, click here to satisfy your curiosity] As soon as we got back to the boat we headed off about 11:30am.
Just three Severn locks today and just after 3pm we were ready to climb the double staircase into the basin. After seeing a hire boat down to the river the volunteer lock-keeper asked if we had done the locks before and then disappeared when I told him we had! We needed to fill up with water before tackling York Street Lock, but as we were fourth in the queue that was no problem and when we finally got through we were lucky to find a space exactly the right size for us (and I mean with just inches to spare) at the first set of moorings.
And so, dear reader, you find us where we cruelly abandoned you, at the historic Gloucester Docks. Many years ago when we had Reuben, a Spanish exchange student staying with us we suggested we might take him to see The Docks, a puzzled look came over his face and he replied, “Dogs? I have seen dogs!”
So… for the last few weeks we have been down the length of the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal and back staying for 2 weeks at Slimbridge where we were able to meet up with lots of friends and family from the area where we lived for more than 35 years. (How long sir? – Does anyone else remember that as a Round the Horne/Beyond our Ken catchphrase?) 1
- J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock – the walking slum (played by Kenneth Williams). This dilapidated wreck started his radio career in Beyond Our Ken as the man who had been doing everything for 35 years, and developed into the sometimes King of Peasemoldia – a kingdom somewhere just off the Balls Pond Road.
Solved thanks to Laughterlog.com
Just a few highlights, but the photos give a taste of our time there:
- Discovering a fab new restaurant Greek on the Docks which had only been open 3 days on our first visit.
- Catching up with friends, especially some we hadn’t seen for 10 to 20 years!
- Catty surviving another swim (she must be using up those lives)
- A visit to 25th Lister Tyndale Vintage Rally (meeting more old friends & customers)
- A visit to The Purton Hulks an intentional beaching of semi-redundant timber lighters starting in the winter of 1909, to strengthen the nearby eroding canal bank, eventually numbering some 81 vessels.
- Visiting the entrance to Sharpness Docks and seeing the remains of the The Severn & Wye Railway Bridge (demolished in 1967 following a disaster in 1960 – The remains of the two barges Arkendale H and Wastdale H still visible at low water at Purton)
- Experiencing the hottest day of the year so far causing some of the swing bridges to jam.
- Joy losing her phone in the dock and a day out in Cheltenham to collect a replacement ordered from John Lewis, Hooray for bus passes!
We would have been on our way to Worcester today but today’s engine check revealed a semi shredded domestic alternator belt (and my spare was the wrong size) so a trip back down the canal to moor up outside a bemused GSF Car Parts at Riga Wharf saw us supplied with spares at a very reasonable price. The delay meant that we would have been late leaving anyway but we were also advised by the lock-keeper that a 8.5 metre tide was due and advised not leaving before 1pm.
So a chance for another lunch at Greek on the Docks then, ah well, such is life.
Saturday 25th June
As we entered the basin we spotted nb Avon which used to be moored at Lower Heyford and I believe was used in filming a 1981 episode of Worzel Gummage.
We wound our way through to the Lower Basin and joined the queue to descend to the Severn.
I guess we had to wait about an hour while two boats went down and one came up, but when it was our turn it took about 20 minutes to transit the two double staircases of locks with the help of our cheerful chappys.
Once out on the Severn we were soon at our first Severn Lock, Lincomb Lock, they look HUGE after our little narrow canal locks.
Holt Lock and Bevere Lock negotiated as well we arrived in Worcester to a welcoming party of Dragon Boats who were racing. Their safety boat asked us to wait until they started to race then basically chase them down the course so we would be out of the way for the next race.
Once past the rowing club we found a mooring under the railway bridge, which we had to pay for by buying a £4 ticket at the nearby car park.
After we had settled in we had a visitor who we hadn’t seen for about 25 years; Phillipa was a member of the Cornerstone youth group which we used to run when we were much younger and we have re-connected through Facebook.
Sunday 26th June
The weather forecast today bode well until late afternoon so we decided to try to make it to Gloucester non-stop. There was only Diglis and Upper Lode locks to go through and we made good time covering the 30 miles in 6 hours 40 minutes. We wasn’t speeding, honest, although we did almost reach 6 mph at one point the down stream speed limit is 8 mph.
Finally we reached Gloucester Docks lock just before 3 pm and went up into the docks with nb May Pink, and whilst they successfully reversed onto a pontoon we were blown out of line by the wind and eventually conceded defeat and went in forwards. We are moored up right outside the Dr Foster’s pub and thought that it might be noisy, however as soon as we were settled it started to pelt with rain and as I write this there’s not a soul sitting at the outdoor tables.
We plan to spend a couple of nights here and then head down towards Slimbridge and no doubt meet up with lots of local friends.