Hatton and onwards! The Stairway to Heaven?

IMG_0682 With the prospect of  the 21 Hatton locks ahead, this morning we set off at 9:15am (yes, you read it right!) and did six locks on our own before catching up with nb Katherine and meeting Allison and Paul between locks 29 & 30 at about 12:30. After introductions and cups of tea we commenced the ascent with the two boats breasted up (roped together) and soon we were operating like a well oiled machine exchanging locks with boats coming down.

DSC08783 About half way up the supply of descending boats stopped and so Allison and Judy took over operating the locks while Paul and I went ahead to set the next one whilst Graham and Joy drove, Joy even taking the pair of boats into the locks a couple of times. We were soon at Hatton Yard & us men admired the old Ford Van. We made excellent progress and by 3:30pm we were at the top celebrating with a cup of tea in the cafe!

DSC08795 We said our goodbyes to Allison & Paul then decided to press on through the Shrewley Tunnel and moored up for the night a couple of miles short of Kingswood Junction on an embankment with great views of the surrounding countryside and spent a pleasant evening with Graham and Judy chatting over a drink or two.


and so to Leamington Spa & Warwick

We were woken up this morning at 6:30am by people talking, we found out afterwards they were fishing which meant we got a bit earlier start.

IMG_0659 We paired up again with Judy and Graham on Katherine, to do some more locks. I feel I am getting more confident steering the boat in and leave the hard work to Chris preparing them.




IMG_0663 As we entered through the back gardens of Leamington Spa we left nb Katherine as we moored up and managed to do a bit of shopping, we found a Co-op and Iceland in easy walking distance from the canal although, would you believe it, on the route to Warwick was Lidl even with its own moorings followed by a large Tesco.

IMG_0666 Passing through to Warwick we crossed the River Leam and the railway line over aqueducts and this evening we walked into Warwick town and got an Indian take away; very nice, even Cattie enjoyed the Chicken Kashmiri, we need to build up our strength for the Hatton Locks tomorrow!



IMG_0671 Tomorrow we have arranged to meet Judy and Graham again so as we can go through the locks together, we shall also have extra crew to help us as our friends Allison and Paul from Kingswood, Wotton-under-Edge,  are coming to help us, many hands make light work as they say..
Let’s hope so 😀

Napton to Long Itchington

Much as I loved Clattercote my new favourite has to be Itchington Bottom (Lock) can you imagine giving that as your address! It was bad enough when we were first married and lived at Bottom Flat, which people though weird until we explained it was below the Top Flat!

IMG_0651 Anyway, I digress, as ever. This morning we said goodbye to the Oxford Canal, and entered that comparative motorway, the Grand Union, it really seemed that wide! We soon encountered our first broad lock, with its strange looking, though well maintained paddle-gear, which we shared with a hire boat going back into Calcutt Boats, then we shared a couple of locks with nb Henry George before they went into Napton Marina the canal seemed quite deserted for a while and we stopped opposite the Boat Inn at Birdingbury Bridge and enquired if there was a local shop nearby as we had been plagued with flies ever since the sheep fields and needed some fly spray, it seemed that the nearest shop was a couple of miles so we passed up on walking that far and had brunch instead.

There was still nothing else headed our way so we were resigned to tackling the 8 Stockton Locks solo, there were boats coming up the locks when we arrived so we waited and helped them through and fortunately for us along came nb Katherine to share the lock with us. As it transpired it was fortunate for them too as their gearbox was becoming more & more reluctant to drive or stop them.

IMG_0650 After the first couple of locks Joy told me they had a problem (and volunteered me to look at it) so we roped the two boats together and breasted up through the remaining locks with Graham driving our boat while Judy, Joy and me operated the locks while another kind gentleman set the locks ready for us and for others all the way down.

IMG_0654 This worked out famously and by the time we reached the Blue Lias Inn, where we moored up, we were firm friends. I checked out their gearbox and found it was lacking in oil so after topping that up with 10w/40 and ourselves with Speckled Hen we continued our journey with them right down the Welsh Road bridge where we have stopped tonight.

Fear not we found a shop near the quaintly named Itchington Bottom Lock AND they sold fly spray.

Bones… you can be proud of Joy she has been taking the boat in and out of locks on her own today, I’m very proud of her too ♥ ♥ ♥

Fenny Compton to Napton

IMG_0645 Good progress made today, after a reasonably early start (for us) we pottered along through the countryside, along the summit level of the canal, through fields of sheep, hedgerows of wild flowers and unimpeded by locks until we reached Marston Doles, where begins the Napton flight. We took a lunch break through the mid-day heat and by this time Joy was feeling better after having a poorly side yesterday, so she sprang into action at the first lock only to strain it again 😦 so after a break for tea & painkillers she decided that she would take the boat through the locks today whilst I operated the gates. In fact she managed very well and grew in confidence.

IMG_0479-800 The locks down  to Napton went remarkably well managing to work with boats coming the other way so gates could be left open for each other with the water levels already right for next boat.

Catty had been getting a bit stir crazy yesterday and wanting to get out and explore but as we were not staying put we couldn’t let her. Before the last lock we let her into the boat so she could stretch her legs however she abused our trust and she was spotted climbing out the kitchen window at the lock, just in time to be captured and put back inside.

IMG_0646 After that we needed to moor up but everyone else had got there first. A lovely spot opposite Napton windmill proved too shallow, Joy didn’t want to be next to a field of cows anyway (They were horses!!! See what you have to put up with when you’re married to an Essex Girl!!!) Eventually we found a space just the right size for us and spent a peaceful night there before venturing onto the Grand Union tomorrow.

Clattercote to Fenny Compton

IMG_0612 This morning it was time to take on the Claydon Five, not some local gang but a flight of locks in quick succession. Joy was suffering with pain in her side so I was in charge of locking and Joy took the boat in, under supervision, and left in charge in the locks and coming out, I must admit I had many kind people help as the bottom gates were all doubles, meaning a sprint around the lock when working them on my own. They were all the locks in today’s schedule and we had a quiet day meandering through the countryside after travelling through IMG_0613 Fenny Compton Tunnel (which has actually been a cutting since 1870, but the name remains and its site can be recognised by the straight stretch of narrow canal in a cutting crossed by several bridges.) we decided to stop for the day, well there was a nice pub, The Wharf, where we had lunch.

We took the opportunity to put the washing machine on and in the evening we had a visit from Bones who was on the return leg of a journey to do with her work.

We just rang our daughter & family in Australia at 6 in the morning, Oops and are now returning to the pub for a nightcap.

Banbury to Clattercote

I just love  the word Clattercote, I’d like to live there just so I could say it more often! OK so I’m losing the plot, our daughter Karen, thinks so too as she has suggested we rename the boat “Adventure before Dementia” !

Cafe Mocha We got away from Banbury about 11am this morning after doing a wash at the Cotton Clouds launderette, having bacon & egg at Cafe Mocha (fantastic value at £2.35) running into Andy & Helen who also used to work at Oxfordshire Narrowboats and catching up with Dusty (Mark Boardman 07986 189 074) at Banbury Lock to pay him for the fuel he put in our tank yesterday whilst we were at Heyford, it’s a trusting community here on the canal 🙂IMG_0602

We set off and reached Cropredy uneventfully where we stopped for water & lunch and while backing up to the water point heard a ting-ting noise which, after groping down the weed hatch, turned out to be the remains of a fisherman’s landing net wrapped round our propeller, no sign of the fisherman, fortunately!

IMG_0604The canal was quite busy this afternoon with hire-boaters and others including the hotel boats Duke & Duchess who were quite a help as there were always willing hands to help at the locks. It quietened down after teatime and Joy was able to try taking the boat in & out of locks which she managed quite well with just a little moral encouragement from me 🙂

We moored up for the night just past the wonderfully named Clattercote Wharf.

Day Off

We went by train back to Lower Heyford today, picked up our car back from my friends Emily and Chris who has been kindly looking after it for us and I went to keep fit at Upper Heyford and had a good work out with individual attention. As some people were ill and others on holiday it turned out I was the only one so I did exercises for building up muscles for all those locks I will be facing in the future,

Got the train back and did some therapeutic shopping, including getting presents for my Grandson Morley’s birthday.

Twyford to Banbury

IMG_0589 Although we didn’t notice it last night we awoke to the droning of traffic on the M40 so that just might have coloured our decision to be a little more disciplined today and make a fairly early start, we also wanted to get into Banbury and do some shopping.

There was only Grants Lock to negotiate which pleased Joy.

IMG_0590The rural scenery which we had enjoyed so far continued right into the outskirts of Banbury with a surprisingly attractive park but as we travelled a little further the scenery became a tad more industrial!

IMG_0592We moored up just outside the  town and went to collect our mail, including a pair of walkie-talkies so I don’t have to shout at Joy at the locks, I had a haircut at Graffiti (how cool am I?) bought an anchor at the historic Tooley’s Boatyard and did a shop at Morrisons. After returning to the boat we brought it up through Banbury Lock and moored up right in the middle of town next to Castle Quays shopping centre. I wonder if tonight will be as quiet as rest of the journey so far.

Upper Heyford to Twyford

The day started in a leisurely way departing from below Allen’s Lock after waiting for the morning rush hour to subside 😀

IMG_0564 We passed through Heyford Common Lock before reaching Somerton Deep Lock which Joy was dreading, in the event there wasn’t much problem except Joy couldn’t manage the lower gate on her own (well the lock is 12’ deep = big gate) so I had to climb up the lock ladder and help. We stopped for an extended lunch at Somerton Meadows (really nice) as a side wind was blowing hard and making it difficult to get off the bank!

Another stop at Aynho Wharf for a “pump out” (empty the loo) and to fill the water tank. Catty is always a great conversation starter and at Aynho Weir Lock Joy got into conversation with a lady who completely misunderstood which cage Catty was kept in when we are travelling and thought it was the birdcage which holds our wren’s nest. I could hear the laughter back on the boat when her mistake was explained to her 😀

We tested my new invention, a ratcheting windlass which now has Joy’s seal of approval for those troublesome, heavy paddles.

IMG_0581 We travelled as far as Kings Sutton Lock before mooring up just before Twyford Wharf for the night at about 6pm. Tomorrow we head into Banbury where we will do some shopping!

Irritations, Preparations & Goodbyes

Last Saturday we visited the Farmers’ Market at Deddington which was very good and we came home with organic carrots, a dough cake (haven’t seen one for years) and, from a second hand book shop in the church, a copy of one of the Grumpy Old Men books  which I have been dipping into over the last week, by Tuesday fiction had turned into fact.

At the risk of turning into a Victor Meldrew clone, I simply couldn’t believe it! I turned on the laptop Tuesday morning and my anti-virus program told me my subscription had expired. Excuse me, but I renewed it a month ago! So how does one contact CA, a multi-national company, the answer is of course “With Difficulty” Circumventing the 0845 numbers which cost a fortune from a mobile ( saynoto0870.com is great) I got through to Customer Service, in India of course, who said “Oh yes sir, your subscription has been cancelled and your payment has been refunded” Why!!! “I do not know sir, you should check with your bank” More phone calls to bank, “We know nothing” at least they were English, well Scouse at least! So another call to India and this operative tells me that they suspected that the transaction was fraudulent. Why??? “I do not know sir, but I can take payment for a new subscription.” Yeah Right! To cut a long story short CA lost a customer and I got a free anti-virus program from AVG but wasted the best part of half a day trying to sort it out.

The week has been spent doing last minute bits and pieces around the boat as I had a dentist’s appointment on Friday to have a post crown fitted and that was hassle as well hadn’t been back an hour when the temporary cap fell off and I had to go back to have it stuck back on.  Oh, I almost forgot, how could I? Scott from Wilsons of Kinver came and fitted our new cratch cover, so we can go cruising looking very smart.

IMG_0539In the evening we had a barbeque beside the boat with some of my ex-colleagues, friends from church and of course Bones & Maffi. Homemade ‘Morrocan’ lamb-burgers from us, homemade Beefburgers from Adrian, the chef at Kizzies, and Boerwurst (A traditional South African sausage) from Mike and Marlene, a Zimbabwean couple from church. We had a great time together and ended the evening sat around a the remains of the barbeque swapping silly stories and, oh yes, my tooth fell out again 😦

IMG_0555 Today our friends Helen & Derek drove up from Dursley with a custom made workbench for the boats back cabin. We dined at The Barley Mow and then boated up to Allen’s Lock. We met Mark, one of our guitarists from church, with his young family on the way and gave them a lift back up to Allen’s which delighted his two little girls.  We moored near the lock and loaded the workbench on to the boat and fitted it, it could have been made to measure, which of course it was 🙂 Thanks Derek!

IMG_0554Fear not the errant tooth was DIY glued back in with cement from the chemist. We will spend the night here and head off towards Banbury tomorrow, we even have TV tonight, satellite reception, what next!