It’s that time of year again when the Wrens take off on their summer cruise, and yesterday we left our Banbury mooring for the final time as we have taken a new mooring on the Coventry Canal near Tamworth. It’s in a rural area with pleasant views and the moorings have dedicated car parking and facilities for boaters’ rubbish disposal etc. on site, things sadly lacking at our Banbury mooring.
Of course, we will miss our little community of boaty friends here and Joy has to say goodbye to her keep-fit and art classes but we will certainly keep in touch with them all and hope to find friends and activities at our new home mooring.
We arrived at Cropredy yesterday afternoon and as we were filling up with water a boat left the 48 hour mooring opposite so we swiftly took their place.
This morning we were underway by 8:15 am (shock, horror!) and by 1pm we were moored near The Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton. The weather today has been gloriously sunny and nine locks seemed to pass quickly, all went well apart from one incident where the centre line’s ‘fairlead’ sheared it’s mounting bolts whilst tied up at a lock. As there was a short queue at the bottom of Claydon Locks I took the opportunity to drill out the broken 4 mm brass screws and re-tap to 5mm and replace with some steel bolts. It will have to come off again soon because it was terribly rusty underneath.
This is the last of the iconic Oxford Canal lift bridges we will see for a while!
Last Sunday was officially the first day of Spring as the March 20th was the Spring (vernal) equinox, but yesterday, Good Friday, was the first day when it looked like it might have arrived as we awoke to sunshine and clear skies.
What should we do?
Why wake Wrens-Nest from her winter torpor and have a day out!
We left our mooring at Tramway and set off south, it was a little cold at first (note the gloves!) but after working a few locks I soon warmed up and we gently made our way down to Aynho Wharf.
We used their pump out facilities and purchased some coal from them then had a lunch break before journeying back to Banbury.
We were surprised how few boats were on the move, perhaps they had been scared off by the dreadful weather forecast for the following week.
The blog has been dormant since our trip to Australia last year so here is a warning.
This is a ‘Techie’ post about some of my winter projects.
Boaters amongst our readers will know all about the vagaries of ‘mobile broadband’, we currently use EE but connecting it to our Humax satellite box was a bit of a Heath Robinson affair as the satellite box has no Wi-Fi capability. I was also unconvinced that EE was metering my data usage correctly so I decided to bite the bullet and invest in a proper 4G router which could not only provide a wired connection for the sat box but monitor my data use.
After a false start with an ASUS 4G-N12 which after several weeks of consulting with Asus support it was concluded that ‘it was a known issue’ that the data monitoring function did not work correctly. PC World refunded my purchase without any quibble and I popped next door to Maplins and purchased a TP-Link Archer MR200 which was on offer for £99.99 (that’s £25 less than the Asus) and the bonus is that it does what it’s supposed to.
My birthday was last month and Joy bought me a Raspberry Pi, this is a mini computer, kind of a 21st century Sinclair Spectrum. After a steep learning curve involving some programming I’ve managed to hook it up to to the router so I now have a 500GB hard drive as remote storage and have also installed a MiniDLNA media server so we can listen to our music collection wirelessly on our tablets.
The metering system on the boat which is part of the Heart Interface has been returning false readings for some while so I purchased some new meters from eBay and now have some pretty blue meters which after finding how to adjust them now give accurate readings. Oh, and I’ve re-installed Windows 10 on my laptop which has speeded it up considerably.
See, I warned you it was a boring post!
After 4 weeks on holiday in Oz the only thing I won’t be sorry to say goodbye to is Optus Mobile.
I believe my account security was compromised and could not get a customer representative to take this issue seriously.
A catalogue of mistakes including:
- Incorrect address on my sales invoice, only 1 word in address correct.
- On the day I installed the original SIM I was charged $5 for a 5 second international call.
- After 3 weeks working OK no coverage for 2 days (7th & 8th Dec) and SIM being apparently blocked.
- Called number from another phone, rang out but no answer.
- Received SMS messages from unknown person accusing me of stealing their phone.
- Customer service tried to change number, but SIM still would not register.
- Since visiting Optus shop and changing SIM & Service Number on 9th I have had a calls from people I do not know & should not know my number.
- My Optus shows use of my number on 7th & 8th when I had no connection, my SIM only being replaced the morning of the 9th. I also have no data available & Extras credit is $5 less than it should be.
- Unable to contact Customer Service (Ha!) by phone or live chat, sent complaint via website… No response!
- On eventually getting through to Customer Service and changing number again was told no one could possibly have used my number or
- Someone else’s voice-mails and greeting still on new number.
- Asked to escalate complaint, promised response in 3 to 4 days, conveniently after I leave the country.
My whole experience with Optus has been most unsatisfactory and I have wasted hours of my time trying to resolve it. I therefore expected to be compensated for this disastrous performance.
Optus finally admit to double allocation of my SIM card <<Basically a number that was assigned to someone else has popped-up as available and been connected to your SIM as well.>>
The other customer used up my data allowance & extras
‘Customer Service’ appalling, voice service often not available and on-line chat useless if you could even connect. When you can get through operatives are clueless and often rude.
Optus will not compensate me as I have now ceased the service.
Do you know what breach of contract is Optus?
I certainly won’t be using your service again.
Transcript of Facebook Messages to Optus:
Hi Opus, re. your post, details as follows [Private details deleted] In flight on aircraft at present so cannot receive phone calls, but Facebook or email available. Will appreciate your comments on the situation. Regards Chris Wren
Thanks Chris, it does look an issue with double allocation of the SIM card has caused the issue. Basically a number that was assigned to someone else has popped-up as available and been connected to your SIM as well. It sounds like you are en route out of Oz so not sure what we can do to help you, as crediting a service you may not be using again would be a bit redundant. Are you likely to use this Optus service again in the future or pass onto someone else? Meg
Hi Meg, thanks for getting back to me. I guessed that’s what had happened, but none of your customer service staff could accept the possibility, resulting in me wasting my time on the phone. Instead of crediting airtime perhaps a refund against the original invoice would be the easiest way to compensate me for the inconvenience. Chris
PS A card payment reversal would be a way to do it.
Appreciate it’s been frustrating Chris, as Meg advised we can certainly look a credit on the Optus service once it becomes active and is being used. We wouldn’t be able to refund any payments to your card. Esther
We’ve been back at our mooring for over a week now having hopped back down from Cropredy and moored in Banbury Castle Quays (town centre) for a couple of nights to get our post, some shopping and for Joy to return to her art class although she has been doing ‘distance learning’ by following their projects from photos her tutor has been sending her.
I’m not very good at recording distances and all that, but an estimate from CanalPlan AC tells me that over the last four months we have covered…
663 miles, 206 yards and 292 locks.
GPS Visualizer created this map of our meanderings.
Since returning we have retrieved our car from it’s temporary home and and got it through a MoT with help from my ex-colleagues at the college.
Having got the car back on the road, on Saturday we visited Finmere Car Boot Sale, where I was almost tempted to buy an Aladdin Lamp but a new glass chimney and mantle would have increased the cost at least seven-fold! From there we went on to visit my sister, Jan in Rushden to bore her with our holiday snaps!
On Sunday we went to Heyford Park Chapel where we received a warm welcome from our friends after being absent for so long and afterwards we de-camped to Heyford Wharf where we met lots more friends from my Oxfordshire Narrowboats days including Annie & Tim who are now back ‘down south’ running Kizzie’s Bistro where we enjoyed a light lunch with our friends Ruth & Barry who also happened to be there.
As we were enjoying our food the Good Ship Bones appeared beside us in the winding hole and we exchanged greetings before she headed back off in the opposite direction with promises to catch up properly soon.
Yesterday was Joy’s birthday so we spent the day in Gloucestershire meeting friends at the Berry Blue Café in Cam and finished the day with a meal at The Hawbridge Inn beside the Severn near Tirley with our son Jeremy.
As intimated in our last blog we have stayed in Fenny Compton for a few days, on Friday evening we were joined by Ruth and Barry from Heyford for an evening meal at The Wharf Inn and subjected them to a viewing on some of our 2000 plus photos over coffee back on the boat.
On Saturday afternoon our friend Allison joined us for the weekend and on Sunday we spent the day at Stoke Bruerne Village at War, we always enjoy this event and gives everyone an excuse to dress up in 40s style. We were fortunate to see and hear a Spitfire fly overhead and see the displays of historic boats and militaria.
Monday morning was chill out time and after lunch Allison drove us into Banbury and while the girls hit the charity shops I collected the post and got a passport photo done for my passport renewal.
We said our goodbyes to Allison after tea & cake at The Whistling Kettle and then caught the bus back to Fenny.
For anyone passing that way, beware of a hole beside the piling at the end of the waterpoint moorings, just right to break an ankle if you catch your foot in it.
I have emailed C&RT to advise them of the danger.
The rain caught us out at Varney’s Lock then it stopped for a while until we moored up at Cropredy when it poured down again.. ..
.. and now the sun is out!
Yesterday we spent the morning with culinary tasks, Joy made Scouse for tea and then we started converting our foraged damsons and apples into chutney, we were short of raisons and dark soft brown sugar so we made the short journey to the bottom of Napton Locks.
On the way we took pictures of the windmill (again!) the one zoomed in makes the new house look as if it’s right next to the windmill while the other one shows it’s not!
We moored above the first lock and walked up to the village shop for the necessary supplies. After lunch we left the chutney simmering while we continued up the locks to spend the night at Marston Doles. We enjoyed the Scouse and then put the chutney into jars before turning in.
This morning we did a load of washing before leaving and attempted another load at our brunch stop near the famous radio mast but the generator ran out of petrol! After lunch we continued on our circuitous way following the contours along the summit level and arrived in Fenny Compton about 2 pm and were fortunate to get the one available space which even more fortunately a 14 day mooring as we want to stay here for a few days.
In the short time we’ve been moored up we’ve already seen friends, Brian on nb Harnser passed by and Jim from nb Smoking Badger walked past on his way back from the village. More visitors are expected over the coming days, we must be back on home turf (or is that water). Catty is well pleased too as she has been out exploring familiar haunts.
Our only locks today were at Hilmorton and we were assisted at the first pair by a Volunteer Lockkeeper, then we were on our own but met boats coming down the flight at every lock.
It was on through the Barby Straight and 2½ hours later we were at Braunston, we watered up at the junction, then on through to Braunston Marina for a pump out, and moored just outside was Maffi’s boat, Milly M so we hijacked him for a pint at The Boathouse, it didn’t take much to persuade him!
We enjoyed catching up on each others news and generally putting the world to rights and were surprised to find it was 4 o’clock when we emerged.
On we went and at 6 pm we squeezed into a mooring spot near Napton Bridge 111 with inches to spare.
The volunteer lock keeper at Atherstone reminded us that Shackerstone Festival had been on this last weekend and this became clear as we met several of the participants and visitors as we left Hartshill this morning.
At Wood Bridge we met our first of the historic boats, Kangaroo towing the butty Australia on a short line, we were able to pull onto Springwood Haven’s wharf and keep out of the way.
We continued to meet boats until we reached Marston Junction where The Ashby starts to make it’s way to the current terminus at Shackerstone.
Our approach to Nuneaton was marked by an increase of rubbish in the canal even before we had reached any housing, it’s disappointing when a town seems to turn it’s back on the canal. The only item of interest being Boot Wharf with it’s moorings and boatyard.
We were soon out of town and passing the quirky Charity Dock with The Stig & A Fine Lady on a White Horse in residence.
It was then on to Hawkesbury Junction with the 180 degree turn under the bridge and into the basin to queue for the lock, a boat was having issue with opening the lock gate but it was soon resolved and historic boat, Panther went on through, then it was our turn.
We had considered stopping at Ansty or Newbold but there were no moorings available at either, so as the weather was still glorious we kept going until we reached Rugby’s Visitor Moorings at Brownshill.
The longest day we have done for a long time, 21.48 miles, 8h7m, 1 Lock and 76 Bridges, then shopping at Tesco after tea… Phew.
Saturday 5th September
Our visitors, Carol & Ted, arrived at The Gate Inn in time for Elevenses and we chatted (and chatted) reminiscing about our 1988 canal holiday together, the route of which we have re-discovered over the past few weeks. Soon it was lunchtime and we enjoyed another meal in the pub, I tried their Beef Rendang which I really enjoyed, whilst the others played safe with plaice and chips, which was equally good. All too soon we had to say goodbye but not before more tea and snacks had been forced upon them.
We don’t usually start our day’s journey at 5:30 pm but it was just a short hop down to Pooley Country Park to catch up with Ray & Penny (who painted the wrens on our back doors) naturally more tea and cake was consumed!
On the way we passed Narrowcraft at Alvecote where this tug was up on the hard-standing.
Sunday 6th September
We waved them off.. and they promptly got stuck on a mud bank coming off of their mooring! So a kind of push-me pull-you tow was in order, then we moored back up to continue our foraging before leaving.
Pausing only to pick some yummy ripe plums from the trees at lock 8 we arrived at the Top Lock at 2 pm just in time for the volunteer lockies to assist with the last lock (Perhaps they were taking a long lunch break?)
Penny had told us not to miss the Clock Tower Tea Rooms and Cookery School at Hartshill Yard so we moored up in a sunny spot nearby and visited it, sadly for us they had completely sold out of cake (!!!) so it was just a pot of proper leaf tea and a fruit juice. Penny has some of her art work on sale here so we purchased a couple of greeting cards.
We thought we could indulge ourselves tomorrow for breakfast instead only to find that they don’t open on Mondays! Oh well, back to the boat to look forward to Joy’s cauliflower cheese & a fruit crumble instead.