Summer Cruise 2013 – Day 37 & 38

Are we home yet?
Are we home yet?

Hey Ho, back to work tomorrow!

This episode winds up this year’s summer cruise.

Monday morning dawned rather later than we had intended, perhaps being away from the railway line just on the Banbury side of Mill Lift Bridge helped us to sleep soundly but after a leisurely start we were away. Before long reached the dreaded Somerton Deep Lock, where there was a hire boat waiting to come down and the girl crew stood ready to lock us down, I asked them to be gentle on the paddles, which they were. It transpired that despite their youth, most of them were old hands on their fourth boating holiday, they were a pleasant crowd, four girls, three dogs and (I guess) Dad on the boat supervising from a discrete distance!

Is that an admirer on the bridge?
Is that an admirer on the bridge?

Our plan was to meet up with our son & the grandchildren at The Pig Place just past Nell Bridge Lock and when we got there we sent a text to say we had arrived. He had only just left Gloucester, by car, but was there by mid afternoon, complete with kids and tent which we managed to put up almost alongside the boat before it rained!

 

I knew he'd be useful one day!
I knew he’d be useful one day!

In the morning after more bacon butties we packed up the tent and all boated up to our home mooring via some shopping in Banbury. Then began the business of mending the puncture on my bike, retrieving our car from its temporary garage, and finally collecting Jer’s car from The Pig Place, before he returned home leaving us with the grandkids for a week.

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Summer Cruise 2013 – Day 35 & 36

Apologies for the radio silence for the last couple of days, we’ve been in Lower Heyford, that well known black hole as far as internet signals are concerned.

2013-07-26 20.24.41We spent the night moored outside The Rock of Gibralatar after an evening meal there, Joy had a starter of Whitebait and a main of Spanakotiropitta (Spinach and Feta Pie to you) whilst I had a Meze of assorted dips, dolmades, olives & salad. Our night was a little disturbed by the drunken crew of a hire boat who couldn’t seem  to find their way back to the boat or even remember its name!

DSCF4829We departed in the morning and covered the journey up to Heyford easily if slowly, The Oxfordshire Narrowboats fleet being out in force, a crew  going north caused confusion by entering the lock mouth at Pigeons before the oncoming boat had exited the lock and then decided to tie up on the next lock landing for a picnic although one of their crew did open the lock gate for us. Their day boats were all coming south too and we met also our friend Paul instructing an all female crew (poor chap) off on a Hen Weekend on one of their 69 footers. We arrived around lunchtime and called in at Heyford Wharf where we winded and got a pump out at the almost empty yard, just two hire boats in, and those due to go back out that afternoon.

You may be wondering why we turned at the Wharf, but we had a Prior Commitment to fulfil on Sunday. We had promised some of our friends from Heyford Park Chapel a boat trip and so we met them and fed them bacon butties for lunch and then boated back to Kirtlington Quarry for a picnic.

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On our way we met the ‘Hen Crew’ on their way back to base, who incidentally were noticeably more competent (and sober) than their male counterparts. “The bride to be wore a fetching sailor outfit which caused some entertainment by catching the wind and exposing even more leg than it failed to cover normally!”

We found that Northbrook Lock had become progressively more difficult to negotiate with the bottom gate being prevented from opening fully by some obstruction. {Must email C&RT when we have internet again} but they enjoyed operating the locks and the brave ones even tried steering the boat.

Despite the forecast rain we only had a few spots until we were just arriving back at Heyford to return them to their cars at the station.

Summer Cruise 2013 – Day 33 & 34

2013-07-24 21.11.46We stayed 2 nights at Thrupp taking advantage of the quiet road side location to organise another Tesco delivery and say Hello to friends in the area.

The first night we visited The Boat Inn, which has a new landlord since our last visit who aims to make it a boater and local friendly establishment.

 

IMG_20130724_212426That night there were Morris Dancing sides making merry in the pub garden including (Shock Horror) an all female side with a ‘squire’ rather scarily dressed as a French maid and performing an energetic sword dance!

But that didn’t stop us enjoying a couple of drinks there with Maffi and Mollie the Wonderdog.

We spent a quiet day yesterday waiting for our groceries and doing some work down the ‘engine ‘ole’, checking oil levels, batteries, adjusting the alternator belts and re-filling the stern-tube greaser.

 

finding-libby_31631

As we were thinking about bed a knock on the side of the boat announced Kate Saffin’s arrival with a windlass to return to Maffi, which she had needed for a photo-shoot publicising her performance of Finding Libby at the Edinburgh Fringe next month.

This morning Bones & Gilly walked past  walking their dogs and stopped for a few words.

After filling up with water at ‘The Wide’ where Dusty was having some welding done by Alex we were on our way.

Through Shipton Weir Lock onto the River Cherwell to Baker’s Lock, apparently named after one Henry Baker the first landlord The Rock of Gibraltar pub where we moored up and partook lunch; a little bit of Greece in Oxfordshire thanks to Stamatis and his team, Greek Salad, Tzatziki & Pitta Bread, washed down with a couple of pints of Butty Bach for me & Cinzano & lemonade for herself (he’d run out of Ouzo!!!!)

Rock of Gibraltar

Summer Cruise 2013 – Day 32

bunters deliOur day started with a 5 minute trip up to Aristotle Bridge where we stopped to visit Bunter’s Deli in nearby Hayfield Road to buy croissants for breakfast, samosas & sausage rolls for elevenses and baguettes for lunch, a handy one stop shop for boaters and locals alike.

We continued our gentle way among the leafy suburbs of Oxford, some complain about the lines of boats on the Agenda 21 moorings but to us it’s just part of the richness of the canal community. What are Agenda 21 moorings you ask?
This is what the Oxford ‘Agenda 21’ Mooring Agreement says:

The Oxford Local Agenda 21 moorings are a unique arrangement, which has come out of a collaboration between British Waterways and the Oxford Boaters’ co-op.

This mooring agreement sets out standard BW legal requirements and certain Agenda 21 ground rules. It represents a commitment from the permit holder and British Waterways to recognise and support the broad ideals of Agenda 21, the international commitment to local communities and the environment made in Rio in 1992.

Oxford boaters form a strong, inclusive and supportive community with a commitment to an ecologically sound lifestyle. To support this, the moorings have the unique feature of being residential but with low services.

DSCF4814Just four locks and a handful of key operated lift bridges today, and few people out boating until we approached Thrupp which was probably just as well as there was just room for us to squeeze in the first space of the 48 hr moorings, opposite The Boat Inn and just in front of nb Gallifrey, I bet the boys who live on board love telling people they live on Galifrey.
[Link for non Dr Who aficionados]

Summer Cruise 2013 – Day 31

sThis morning we slipped quietly away from our mooring at Bablock Hythe into a misty morning with heavy rain forecast by 10am, but despite a few distant rumbles of thunder and a solitary flash of lightning we were pleased that the sun decided to shine instead, and the weather was pleasant all day. There were just 9 ¾ miles, four river locks and one canal lock today.

Yes we are back on the Oxford Canal, we entered by Sheepwash Channel, past the remains of the old railway swing bridge, swung round in the Castle Mill Stream Junction up Isis Lock and moored opposite the boarded up

DSCF4812Jericho Wharf (Castle Mill boatyard) which has had an uncertain future over the last few years. However at last it looks as if the City Council are taking action to prepare a document “offering clear planning advice on how the site should be developed…” which will hopefully enable the Jericho Wharf Trust to buy and develop the site for the benefit of for the community.

Joy has again been taking some nice photos of our journey today so I will let those tell the story.

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WEJourneyMap-18169This afternoon we ambled down to the city centre for Joy to buy some new summer tops and a few groceries. Before returning to the boat we sat in Bonn Square with an iced smoothy apiece, boy they certainly were cold! Brain Freeze!! Later we cooked our first hot meal in days, good old bangers and mash, chilli flavoured organic sausages from The Cotswold Food Company, and settled down to an evening of music from our mp3 library punctuated by the chimes of St Barnabus’ clock and the trains passing by an the other side of Castle Mill Stream.

Summer Cruise 2013 – Day 30

2013-07-22 13.22.53Today’s jaunt took us back to Bablock Hythe and through some of the Thames’ more over grown meanderings, Joy was stationed at the front so she could warn of approaching craft, which was very helpful and gave her the chance to take some photos from a different perspective..

 

 

 

 

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2013-07-22 13.23.38Our timings today meant that we hit a couple of the locks when they were on ‘self-service’. Generally boaters are glad to help each other out in these circumstances but some do seem to be on another planet, I opened the lock gates for a rather odd looking wide-beam cruiser with a crew of five, only one of whom got off to help and then, without so much as a by-your-leave he jumped back on leaving me to close the gates for them as well! Perhaps they thought I was the hired help.

We then overtook them as they had stopped, I presume for lunch, but they caught us up at the next lock and enquired if we were going up or down (the pointy bit facing the open bottom gates was a bit of a clue I thought, not to mention  the fact that we had chatted with each other an hour or so before).

As we cleared the bottom gates a young lad then started to shut the gates in the face of the boats waiting to come up until I pointed them out to him! The balance was redressed at Northmoor lock by a lovely guy and his dog in a little cruiser who had been all over the river and canal system and was heading back to Leicester; he couldn’t have been more helpful.

Joy was just dozing ‘up front’ as we passed under Hart’s Weir Footbridge when one of a group of three lads ‘bombed’ off of the bridge just as we passed. Bet he did it purposely to wake her up… It certainly worked!

The last stretch from there to Bablock Hythe is unusual in that there are a number of riverside dwellings on the right bank ranging from mansions to the most modest ‘summerhouses’, see the slideshow below to see what I mean.

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As soon as we moored up we needed showers to cool down, followed by a refreshing pint of something at The Ferryman where we returned for our evening meal, Joy indulged herself by choosing their BBQ ribs once more whilst I contented myself very nice chips and onion rings as their menu doesn’t favour the reluctant meat-eater, I didn’t fancy a veggy curry and tried their burgers last time (nuff said) .

Summer Cruise 2013 – Day 29

DSCF4682-001Today started with a bang, well more of a crash actually, at about 6:45am there was a noise which woke us up instantly. I thought it was thunder, Joy thought we had been hit by a boat and we both leapt out of bed and I looked out of the front of the boat, nothing there, meanwhile Joy stuck her head of of the kitchen window and declared “There’s a cow in the river beside us!”

By the time we had pulled some clothes on the silly moo had got out from between the boat and the bank and was swimming round to the back of the boat where I tried to calm her and encourage her to swim back towards the bridge where she could climb out. Daisy was having none of it however [Cow number 204468 just sounds so formal, doesn’t it?] and continued to swim downstream whilst we wondered what to do about it. The farmer had collected our mooring fees but not given a receipt let alone any contact details, so perhaps the local police could help with a phone number? Not a chance, gone are the days when you could talk to a local bobby who would know whose beast it was, call the fire service on 999 was the advice; but I only want to alert the farmer…
no… call 999!

DSCF4684The emergency services were efficiency itself and promised to send a crew to attend and soon fire engine and 4 x 4 were in the field being directed down towards St John’s lock where the animal was last seen headed. Could they find it, could they heck! We can only assume it got itself out, Joy was very glad she took a photo so she could prove it wasn’t a hoax. She phoned the campsite across the field who promised to pass a message on to the farmer but despite leaving her number no one called back or came out to check the poor creature was all right.

After all that excitement we didn’t want to go back to bed and felt at a bit of a loss, nothing for it but to have some breakfast and wait for today’s air display. As it was cooler today we cooked a roast dinner at lunchtime and in the afternoon we had more visitors, another colleague, Matt who lives nearby, called by with his two boys and spent some time with us.

2013-07-21 21.23.15After they left we went up to the town and got some provisions for the journey back. At about half past six after some salad for tea, we winded outside the Riverside Pub and set off down stream to take advantage of the cooling temperatures and get ourselves through the worst of the wiggly bits of river while traffic was quiet. All but the first lock was on self service and moored up at Radcot at about 9:30pm.