A day in Banbury then back ‘home’ to Heyford

On Wednesday we spent the day in Banbury (it poured with rain and was no weather to be boating) shopping, attending to various business matters and collecting our post which included a letter for Joy from DVLA. I had received my new licence some weeks ago but despite Joy having verified her identity with her ‘digital’ passport on line, DVLA had returned her application saying she hadn’t enclosed her passport, a phone call to Swansea assured her if she simply wrote a note on her application form giving them permission to check her passport number all would be well (wasn’t that what she did on line???) So imagine her frustration when this letter said that they suspected that the address she had given was an accommodation address; another phone call to Wales to advise them that yes, of course this was an accommodation address, because the post man doesn’t deliver to moving boats. “Ah well” Taffy said “Then you must send your mooring permit” “We don’t have one! We are Continuous Cruisers” “You must have one” so went the exchange until Joy got cross and demanded to speak to his manager.  Joy explained the situation again and that her bank, pension service, Royal Mail  and phone provider were all happy to use this address and so it was agreed to fax a couple of documents from these organisations and they would send the licence out that day and true to their word the licence arrived next morning.

Another frustrating conversation was also had with our ex-bank trying to close an old account. Isn’t it the limit when organisations will only give 0845 numbers to contact them and far from being local rate, cost about 30p+ per minute from mobile phones, even 0800 numbers aren’t free. SAYNOTO0870.COM usually comes up trumps with alternative geographical numbers but on this occasion we struggled until finding 0800 Buster on Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert site  and then realising we could use SMS Listo’s access number service for the 0845 numbers for considerably less. They are a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Provider) and you can also call direct from your PC if your broadband is good enough. We already have an account with them as they offer 90 days of ‘free’ calls to Australia for a subscription of £10.40 and you can use your balance after that at less than 2p a minute to Oz or 2.8p/min for 0845 numbers. Oh well… Enough ‘Grumpy Old Git’ writing for today!

After collecting Joy’s licence Thursday morning we headed off for Lower Heyford and arrived through light drizzle at about 6:15 and moored up just short of Heyford Wharf, however lack of phone, internet AND TV signal prompted a move to the 48 hour moorings just after Bridge 206 & the water point. We couldn’t have been there 10 minutes when we were greeted by our friend Andy, who was doing some painting on Acorn No5, who asked if I could fit a shower pump for the owner, and later we met David who owns Oxfordshire Narrowboats at the wharf who asked if I could look at a misbehaving battery charger for him, what it is to be in demand :-[

We picked up our car Thursday night from the friends who had been looking after it and went to The Barley Mow for a meal, then on to church, which is nearby, for a social evening/quiz night. It was Ian, the minister’s, birthday and we made up a team with him, his lovely (and surprisingly competitive!) wife Erika and Mike from Zimbabwe, couldn’t have been a bad combination because we came second.

Today we have reversed down to the wharf for a pump-out and a catch up with the staff, fixed their battery charger and found ourselves a 14 day mooring down by the next bridge which is very peaceful (or at least it was until we started our generator to so we could do some washing) we have good internet, phone & allegedly good TV signals too.  Catty was pleased to be allowed out to roam and showed her appreciation by bringing in a young sparrow, we explained that as Wrens we couldn’t approve of that and made her give it up whereupon it escaped frightened but apparently unharmed.

Moored up in Banbury before the streets are aired!

DSCF0416 Our mooring last night was, of necessity, just on the outskirts of Banbury because there were just so many boats on Castle Quays in town. Just after we stopped a coal boat went past towing another trad in need or some restoration. After a night disturbed by noise from the neighbouring factory we were awake early and saw nb Cream Cracker go past, who we knew had had a mooring in town, so Joy went out on a recce and soon phoned to say there was indeed a space so off I went and bagged it!

DSCF0414 Rewind to yesterday… It was a longish day with 12 locks to get to Banbury. Down through Claydon locks, lunch stop at Cropredy with stew & dumplings cooking all day in the slow cooker. Around Cropredy we saw what seemed to be BW’s entire fleet of workboats putting in new pilings, 2 in one place and no less than 5 in another.

The weather held again until 7pm as forecast! Also as forecast was strong wind gusting up to 40mph which made for some ‘interesting’ entries into the locks at times but Joy did very well.

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Fenny Compton Wharf & of course The Wharf Inn

This morning we awoke to grey skies but no rain so we set off up the rest of the Napton locks to Marston Doles, the traffic was considerably lighter this morning, it was suggested by another boater that this might be due to the fact that the Folly Inn was drunk dry last night following the weekend’s ‘Folk n Boat n Beer Weekend’ (I couldn’t possibly suggest that boaters would have has anything to do with consuming that much beer!)

Marston DolesJoy has now taken charge of bringing the boat into the locks, mainly because there is no place for me to step off at the lock mouth coming up this flight, so it was Hobson’s choice but she now admits to enjoying doing it 🙂 not to mention the admiration she receives. She even navigated out of the top lock at Marston Doles which has a right hand turn as you emerge and on this occasion a boat waiting to come in.

wharf_fenny_compton_1a The Met Office forecast was spot on and as predicted it started to drizzle as we approached Fenny Compton and we were very fortunate to find a space to stop just past the Wharf Inn which we visited on our outward journey, so lunch was partaken therein and while we ate the heavens opened and we were so glad to be safely inside!

The pub also has a campsite, a small, if somewhat expensive, shop (even DD doesn’t charge £2 for half a dozen eggs) and a launderette which we are currently making use of. Tonight they have a ‘Spice Night’ with various curries and also spices for sale so we might just have to try that out.

As I’m typing this the sun is out again and we have just seen one of Oxfordshire Narrowboats’ fleet ‘Deddington’ go past us (the first one in over 2 months) so we must be nearly back ‘home’

Sorry, not our own pictures today, too rainy.

P.S. Saw Kangaroo & Australia (Trad motor & butty) go past this evening and the crew in the pub later!

Almost up the Napton Flight

DSCF0390 We left our quiet berth this morning and set off for Napton and as we journeyed along we noticed the dreadful state of some of the bridges, the one pictured being the worst example, yes… it’s only an accommodation bridge & not therefore British Waterways top priority I suppose, but failing to spend a few hundred will surely soon mean a bill of many thousands if neglected.

DSCF0400 The weather was glorious today despite the forecast of heavy rain tomorrow. Soon the spire of Braunston church came into view and we shortly we were at the water point seemingly at a really awkward place adjacent to the junction and opposite a row of moored boats! Whilst we were filling up with water and disposing of rubbish we heard a whistle and out of the junction came steam narrowboat Adamant 

 

DSCF0407 As we passed the windmill and approached the corner before Napton Bottom Lock we caught up with several boats and soon found ourselves in a queue of 8 boats waiting for the lock and had to breast up against a Viking Afloat hire boat until it was our turn. Our time was not spent idly as there was an event at the Folly pub nearby with a band playing my kind of music, Van the Man’s Brown Eyed Girl, amongst many others and Joy bought some cheese from the Cheese Boat. When it was finally our turn there was people operating the lock for us and collecting money for JJ’s Memorial Event at the pub.  (JJ’s Memorial Fund primarily raises money towards helping injured Paratroopers and supporting the families of Paratroopers killed in action.)

We made our way slowly up the locks and nearly reached the top before finding a place to spend the night moored behind Moore2Life as due to the volume of traffic we thought that them ahead of us might have nabbed all the spots after the top lock.

Anyone for Tennis? Err I mean Rugby

Yesterday we said goodbye to our friends Carol & Ted at Newbold, their daughter & grandchildren came to pick them up and we took them down the towpath and through the tunnel to see the pretty lights.

After saying goodbye to them we just motored down to Rugby Visitor Moorings and moored up there. In the afternoon we made use of our bus passes and caught the No 4 down to Rugby town centre to do some shopping. On our return we found that Tesco was just down the footpath so we had to go there too.

We decided to stay the night as it was quite pleasant there (the moorings, not Tescos) next to a small park and picnic area, we spent a quiet night and in the morning visited Tesco again and treated myself to breakfast 😀

I had trouble connecting to the internet this morning and discovered that my PAYG mobile broadband had run out and it took me about two hours to get it connected again, so I decided that I would sign up for a monthly contact. You would imagine that a quick phone call should sort this out, but Oh dear me no! “We can’t do that sir, you must sign up for a new contract and we will send you a new dongle & SIM card”  and could I get my £15 I had just paid refunded? Could I ‘eck as like!

Oh for goodness sake :(  I’d better bite the bullet and go to the O2 Shop in town and buy one there, at least I won’t have to wait for it to be delivered. So off we went again courtesy of the bus passes and eventually I managed to get one after endless trouble with registering our address and bank details, you wouldn’t believe we are existing O2 customers!

On our return we treated ourselves to a meal at the Bell & Barge (Harvester) adjacent to the canal, not bad food and a good ‘help-your-self’ salad cart but alas no real ale.

About 3pm we decided we better move off as we were on a 24 hour mooring AND the rain had stopped. We reached Hillmorton Locks and of course the heavens opened just as we were going through!!! The locks here are in pairs which was meant speed up the traffic, however we did meet another crew who came from Gloucestershire and lived about 4 doors away from one of our friends in Charfield!

We had to travel a bit further through the drizzle before we could find somewhere suitable to stop for the night as this part of the canal is edged with sloping stone slabs which as we discovered at Newbold made for a noisy night as the bottom of the boat bumped against them! So here we are near Barby (That’s Barby not Barbie) Wood just far enough away from the M45 in one direction & HMP Onley in the other!!!

From Sutton Stop to Newbold Tunnel

DSCF0361 We went for a short walk up the Coventry Canal last night & enjoyed some of the Canal Sculpture trail including this footbridge, by the time we got back it was getting dusk and  the junction bridge was reflected beautifully in the water below.

 

 

DSCF0362 The buzz of motorway traffic murmured away in the background all night and we followed the M6 for quite a few miles this morning, firstly passing under the M69 & then the M6 then after losing the motorway we followed the railway.

 

 

towpath bridge Some excitement was occasioned at Ansty where we went through a bridge and started to round the corner which inevitably follows when we lost steering because the propeller got wrapped up in a large piece of material, we managed to stop with the bows between two moored boats! Normal service was reused after diving down the weed-hatch and removing the offending article. Joy said it was a sari, I said it was dressing up clothes.

DSC02789At lunchtime we stopped at Stretton Stop and after eating we visited Rose Narrowboats’ shop where bought some prezzies and some ice cream before setting off again.  This section of the canal was straightened in the early 1800s and there are the remains of some of the old loops which can be made out in places, marked by elegant cast iron bridges which in some places now form the entrance to marinas but the highlight of the day was Newbold Tunnel which has been quite spectacularly lit with coloured lights.

 

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Sutton Wharf to Sutton Stop

DSCF0345 We left the 48hr moorings at Sutton Wharf this morning and cruised back down to the start of the Ashby Canal at Marston Junction. We had a straightforward journey, stopping for diesel at The Ashby Boat Co. at Stoke Golding Wharf and admired their mobile pump-out truck based on a Reliant Ant pick-up.

The later part of our journey was rather slow as we got behind a hire boat who were letting their children steer, no problem with that but a backward glace to see who they were holding up was a long time coming before we were waved past.

Ted was moved to write a poem inspired by his canal journey so here it is:

Walking to Heaven

Along the towpath of life

With Jesus by my side

To show me the way

Through the locks of life’s experience

Showing the depths of his love

Reflection of canal waters

The glory of his grace

Bridges to cross

He holds my hand

Junctions to turn

He guides the way

Around the dangers of weirs

He’ll never disappear

Winding holes will bring no fear

With Jesus’ hand on the tiller of my life

I’ll be in heaven when the time is right

We reached Marston Junction and turned left onto the Coventry Canal, and after about 3 miles along there we reached Hawkesbury Junction where the junction involves 2 90° turns into Sutton Stop Lock which we managed in one 😀 DSCF0362(OK just a 20 second burst of the bowthruster)

We found a mooring immediately and settled down with a meal of meatballs, potatoes and runner beans with a pepper sauce, better than Ikea!!!

Bosworth Battlefield

After the return of the wandering moggie we decided to stay put for the night, but yesterday morning we moved the few yards back to Bosworth Battlefield Moorings, and waited for the arrival of more visitors, Carol & Ted our long-time friends from Dursley who sold their house there within days of us doing likewise and have moved to this area, near to their daughter & family. DSCF0329 They soon arrived and took us out for the day having & picnic & walk at Staunton Harold Reservoir followed by a visit to their new home and an evening meal there. We had a look around the Coalville area and ending our evening with late night shopping at Tesco before being chauffeured back to our mooring!

Carol & Ted are joined us again today, transport courtesy of their daughter & grandchildren, and are going to spend a few days with us, quite fitting as we took our first canal holiday with them about 27 years ago.

DSCF0332 This morning we did a few chores and then walked down to Shenton Station on the  Battlefield Line Railway which runs a steam train service between there & Shackerstone, from there we waalked on through Ambion Woods to Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre where we had a cuppa &  a snack.

525_anniv_strip_copy[1] Did you know it’s the 525th anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth when Henry Tudor stole the English crown from Richard III?

DSCF0339 This afternoon we cruised up to Sutton Wharf where we shared Spaghetti Bolognese for seven (our biggest guest list yet) and after tea Joy played games with Charley & Jake and later Carol & Ted walked back to the car with Lorraine & the kids, then back to the boat!

Up the Ashby, an afternoon with Hilly & Peter and an escape bid

Another early start, whatever next! A short run down to Marston Junction, where I almost made it through the bridge but started the turn too late and hit the kerb on the corner of the junction. By the number of chunks out of the stonework I wasn’t the first, but why does there always have to be an audience!!!

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The Ashby is a lovely canal, very rural and no locks. This is the first canal we have entered from the ‘beginning’ going in through bridge number one and we had arranged to meet our friends Peter & Hilly at Bridge 35, would be ever make it before 2pm?

 

DSCF0308 About 1:30 Peter called and said they were about 15 minutes away OK says I we’re about 30 minutes away, in the end we arrived first, moored up at Bosworth Battlefield Moorings, took a walk down the footpath through King Richard’s field (his by virtue of the fact he was killed there)  to the road and who should drive up but our guests with Bobby their doggy. Hugs & greetings were exchanged and they were welcomed aboard, not bad going since they had been to their church first, near Nottingham, to play in the worship band.

DSCF0315 We had lots to catch up with over lunch as we don’t get to see them often. We took a mini-cruise up to Bosworth Wharf and back, well not quite as just as we were crossing Shenton Aqueduct Catty managed to jump ship and disappeared into the woods. No amount of chasing or calling would persuade her to return so we decided to stay put and sure enough she came back of her own accord… eventually!

We had to say goodbye to our friends and Hilly went off worried about Catty’s whereabouts so we had to file a report on the miscreant on their return home.

Up the Atherton flight with Richard & Penny

DSCF0297 Richard & Penny joined us today and we met them nearly at the bottom of the flight, they weren’t difficult locks and it wasn’t too busy either so we made steady progress, despite rain on and off, up as far as the Kings Head where we managed to squeeze onto their moorings and partake of some lunch and a couple of drinks (nice atmosphere & very reasonably priced).

After we were suitably refreshed we visited the nearby Co-op to restock with provisions and then completed the rest of the flight following nb Victoria Plum, a sort of Dutch barge style boat with a mobility scooter on the back deck, handled single-handed by an elderly gent whose Pièce de résistance was taking his boat into the lock with a remote control! Not to be outdone we let Richard take our boat into the last two locks before we said goodbye to them at the water point at the top.

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After that we decided to press on and try to reach Marston Junction as it was only just gone 5pm and there were no more locks. We passed Hartshill Wharf and BW Yard with it’s clock tower.

 

 

Valley Cruises On the way we met a number of hire boats from Valley Cruises which looked very well turned out and indeed their tagline is Excellence Afloat  and as we passed their base it was clear that they took great care of the way the premises looks.

 

 

We pressed on through Nuneaton and here we are moored up for the night near Griff Lane Bridge on Gypsy Lane.