Category Archives: Cruising

Out and about, boating.

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.

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 17

This morning we heard a boat slip past us at about 7:30 followed swiftly by a text saying  ‘Still abed then?’ … Thanks Kate, we had to get up anyway!

DSCF4465After breakfast and a few chores we waited eagerly for a text to say Ted and Carol were on their way to see us from near Leicester (they should have visited us in Market Harborough but Ted was poorly) when the text came we made ready to leave our mooring near The Bridge Inn at Napton and chug along to Folly Bridge about a 30 minute journey, and when we arrived so had they, and were walking around the corner to meet us.

DSCF4468After a tea and coffee break we set off to attack the Napton flight of locks, the lock keepers had had a busy morning with an old working boat getting stuck in one of the locks as well as the normal traffic. By the time we arrived the rush was over with just one boat ahead of us we made steady progress and moored up three locks from the top for lunch.

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It  was something of a trip down memory lane too as our first hire-boating experience was with these friends 30 years ago which included these locks! After lunch they did one more lock with us and drank more tea and chatted until it was time for them to head homewards and us to head onwards.

We completed the flight on our own and reached Marston Doles where the wiggly summit level begins. We considered going on to Fenny Compton but were worried about finding a mooring as it would be quite late when we arrived, however on reaching Stoneton bridges we came across Sue & Quentin, nb Twizzle moored up so we had to stop and chat, one thing led to another and we ended up having a meal with them and stopping there for the night.

That’s the joy of canal travel, plans can be changed so easily.
Our mooring was co-incidentally opposite a field which was full of sheep, compared with four young children on that trip 30 years ago.

 

Summer Cruise 2013 – Day 16

DSCF4455.jpg
Rural view approaching Braunston Tunnel

Today it was up and away by 9am out onto the Grand Union mainline bound for Braunston via the tunnel. You may remember, dear reader, that we have encountered three tunnels so far on our travels and as we are retracing our steps, each of them twice and thus far we have not met one oncoming boat in any of them.

That all changed this morning when we met no fewer than six in Braunston Tunnel, but they all passed with not so much as a touch.

Glad we didn't meet this Fat Boy in the tunnel
Glad we didn’t meet this Fat Boy in the tunnel

Joy’s arm had been giving her some pain after doing Watford locks yesterday and she wasn’t looking forward to the six wide locks at Braunston today, however we were able to share with a hire-boat with two strong lads aboard who seemed pleased to do most of the work, although I couldn’t say for certain as they didn’t speak much English, and we met oncoming boats at most locks obviating the need to shut the bottom gates!

The locks successfully negotiated we decided to revisit The Boathouse for a bite to eat but were surprised to find it closed when we moored up at quarter to twelve. There were hoards of people waiting in the sunshine but the staff soon arrived and were ready to serve us at noon. We opted just to have a starter and share a side combo of potato wedges, breaded mushrooms and onion rings … but when it arrived it included garlic bread and chicken (urgh! I don’t eat chicken). The waitress was most apologetic and we were only charged for what we had ordered, and Catty was well pleased with her ‘doggy bag’ of chicken!

We hung a left at the junction and pootled onwards towards Napton. Pootled was the word, there were boats moored at every conceivable place ( and some inconceivable ones too) picnic tables and chairs out enjoying the unaccustomed good weather. It wasn’t until about Bridge 103 where they piled edging gave way to reedy borders where it wasn’t possible to moor that we were able to travel above tickover.

Swedish Blacks or Manky Mallards?
Swedish Blacks or Manky Mallards?

By that time we were well on  the way to our target destination of Napton and again found a mooring near to The Bridge Inn. Catty was pleased of another opportunity to go wandering the towpath and amused herself, and us, no end by leaping up to catch a long piece of grass that Joy was teasing her with, if only we could have got a photo… she must have jumped about 2 or 3 feet in the air!

Not many photos today but Joy snapped a family of unusual ducks by the boat, are they Swedish Blacks, anybody know?

Summer Cruise 2013 – Day 14

This morning we left Welford with not a little regret, it really is a lovely place. We had been told that the Welford Arm seemed to be in a time warp, I’m not sure what it was about it, but there is certainly something magical about it.

DSCF4425Perhaps it was the grassy edges of canal, (which probably gave me the itchy hands and swollen knuckles which occasionally strike me in the hay-fever season – I suffered with it on honeymoon too, but I blamed that on stress!) or just the peaceful atmosphere there, we will certainly be visiting again.

DSCF4429So after breakfast it was down the one lock of the day, up to the junction and swing left towards Crick. The day was beautiful and we enjoyed elevenses of tea and crumpets on the way (How British!) and paused for lunch just before Yelvertoft, and revisited Tom’s Egg Box to buy another half dozen pullets eggs, it’s just a few hundred yards Foxton side of Bridge 22 for reference.

 

DSCF4438We easily found a mooring at Crick opposite the marina and whilst we were tying up Catty decided to disembark and disappear into the hedge, still wearing  the lead which she wears whilst travelling, sitting on the hatch. Fortunately she soon reappeared and was detached from the lead so she could go wandering unimpeded.

Summer Cruise 2013 – Day 12

Up and out this morning and up to the bottom of the locks, while Joy did some shopping at Bridge 61 shop, I trekked up the locks to book in with the lock keeper who said that we could come up to the halfway point immediately, so it was back down the hill again to the boat and then back up again, working the locks for Joy as she brought the boat up. I tell you I was glad of the rest at the halfway passing point whilst we waited for five boats to come down the top staircase. We were at the top by 11ish and fortified ourselves with a sausage sandwich from the Top Lock Cafe, and a refill at the water point.

From there we progressed onwards (if not upwards as we on a summit level once more) to Welford Junction where we forked left and explored the delights of the Welford Arm, a quiet, pretty backwater less than 2 miles long with just one lock. We turned at the end and easily found a mooring opposite the basin.

Time to explore the village tomorrow, but we can already see the Wharf Inn right at the end of the arm. Time for a little walk I think!

Summer Cruise 2013 – Day 11

huawei-vision-1Today didn’t really turn out as planned, visitors were expected but Ted was stricken with the lurgi and didn’t feel up to it, so we went into town on our own and visited the indoor market, other than that it was a bit of a re-run of yesterday visiting Tesco and Square 53 cafe again. I did have a look at a new phone and was tempted by the Huawei Vision (apparently it’s pronounced WaaWay) at Phones4U but they didn’t have one in stock. Suppose that gives time for someone to tell me if I’m making a big mistake.

So it was back to the boat on the bus, refit the front fender (which I had taken off to paint the pointy bit) with a nice, shiny, stainless steel shackle, and then we were on our way back to Foxton Junction. It stayed dry for the journey and mooring up but became cold enough for me to light the fire (!) and through the evening and night, the rain was quite heavy so we were glad to be in the dry.