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Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Back to Base

We came across this lovely tree as we cruised towards the Foxton locks.

Wednesday 15th October Overnight rain and not a very pleasant day. About half a dozen boats passed us on their way to Watford locks before we cast off, and this was followed by about another 20 boats crossing through the day. I took the tiller and of course met 2 boats as we went through Crick tunnel, Carol seems to avoid meeting boats when she is in charge. The umbrella kept most of the water off us and as we emerged I remarked on the very sad looking boat about 50 yards from the north portal. It is nearly new but covered in green slime and leaves & I'm sure it hasn't moved since we went South in June. Just past it and approaching the bridge I crossed the next 2 boats, before tieing up at the Wharf to fill with water. Exchanged waves with Barry in ABNB, we'll see him back in the marina.

The day carried on much the same, but the canal was incredibly shallow north of bridge 26 for a mile or so and if BW don't do something about the reeds in other places there will be no clear channel, and of course silt will be building up around their stems and forming a load of stuff that will need dredging soon. I reported this to Derek at Foxton when we got there, and he asked how water levels were, there had been a problem over the weekend. We moored up near bridge 47 for our last night out.

Thursday 16th dawned much brighter, but much cooler. We set off much earlier than usual, being under way by 9 as we wanted to collect our post from Sally as we had some urgent stuff to deal with. The sun shone and there was not too much breeze and there were some lovely sights, including a lovely pony & trap passing alongside a nearby road. Unfortunately the gaps between the hedges were very small but I managed this snap.

We also noted that some of the fields had started to get their winter colour and nature, but the cows and sheep seemed pretty content.

We reached the top of Foxton just after 10 and were told we could go straight down. Approaching the top lock there is this lovely new statue that has been erected as part of the new interpretation scheme.

Carol loves the Bennetts ice cream the Top Lock Cottage sells and despite the cool day considered she deserved to lick one as we descended. Ice cream cones and a windlass don't go together too well, so I didn't have one, and anyway it was a bit early and cold for me. Our traverse was pretty quick and we saw Mary & Tony by their home at the bottom lock and exchanged news and views.

We cruised on to Debdale and were securely tied up by 11.30. All I need to do now is work out our total journey details.

As our winter is going to be even more boring that my blog, with me probably going back to work for Blaby District Council part time and Carol being highly social, I don't intend to return to blogging until something interesting arises.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

From Birmingham back to Debdale for the Winter

Wednesday 8th October After spending an interesting few days in Birmingham it is time to head back to base and rekindle our social life.

Whilst in Birmingham Carol did a bit of retail therapy, freshening bits of her wardrobe for the coming winter. We also visited the Jewellery Quarter which is quite close to Cambrian Wharf where we moored. I went to see the Museum of Science an Technology which now rejoices in the title "Think Tank" and is about 500 yards from New Street station. I last went to Birmingham's Science Museum about 45 years ago and it was located in a building alongside the Farmer's Bridge locks. It is now in a very new building, the other half of which is part of Birmingham City University. It has lots of interactive displays covering the whole range of subjects. I was very brave and watched a video of a hip replacement without fainting once! I went on Monday, reckoning that it would be busy at weekends.........but forgot there would be school parties! I must say I was disappointed with it. There were dozens of displays where the integral lighting was not working, loads more where the "action" buttons didn't do anything, and a video display of reminiscences of earlier years and in particular the war & rationing was spoiled by the sound being drowned out by sounds outside. I will be writing to them with suggestions, but it is worth a visit. I spent about 4 hours there!!

Much to my surprise, and needing to stock up for our trip home, I found a large Tesco store quite close the Gas St basin. There is a small Sainsburys just up Broad St from the canal, but if you walk on about 1/4 mile just as it intersects with one of the ring roads a Tesco is buried under a multi storey building and it is a quite large one, even running to clothing, electrical goods & pharmacy. So on Tuesday I loaded up for our return journey & then Carol cooked a few dishes that we froze for future use. Then at 7 we went to Symphony Hall to hear Mahler's 3rd symphony. It was not a piece we had heard before, and when we looked at the stage and saw an orchestra of 100, plus Soprano soloist plus about 130 choristers, perhaps that is why it is not often heard. It is different from most symphonies too in that it took about 100 minutes to be performed, with the first movement running to about 35 minutes it alone was as long as most symphonies. We enjoyed it, but it neither of us can remember any of the "tunes" in it now, perhaps we need to get a recording & listen again.

So Wed 9th October the forecast was good & we were to be off in good time to get through the locks & out into the country, but first we needed to put water in. As I got on deck at 9 to back to the water point there was a boat there already. It was well past 9.40 before they moved off and we ran the tap for about 30 minutes before we gave up, I could .......... faster! We set off down the locks in lovely sunlight and it was getting warmer.

Working Farmers Bridge locks

Looking back to the National Indoor Arena

The railway bridge by Snow Hill Station

We finished the first 13 in barely 90 minutes passing two boats in the process. As we reached Aston Junction we tied up as I needed to get new alternator drive belts & Google Earth showed a motor factors based there....... not any more!

So we continued on and made good time through the Ashsted Locks. The short tunnel on this flight is very tight. Handrails for the towpath edge are bolted onto the water side of the concrete towpath, reducing the width by several inches and despite Carol keeping the boat tight to these posts we scraped the top of the boat on one particularly low bit, possibly not helped by the water being a bit high, and the water tank being fairly empty.

As Carol brought Lily into the first of the Camp Hill locks, something was wrong. With great technical detail she told me the boat had broken! She could not engage forward, and in fact she was slowly going backwards. Turning off the engine I hauled Lily into the lock and popped down into the engine bay & found the gear cable had broken. I knocked it into neutral and rang the boatyard where I was advised to haul the boat through the locks and then engage forward and cruise on out of the less than savoury area we were in. We enlisted various people who were around the locks to give a heavy, but the big basin between the third & fourth locks nearly defeated us as we were running out of rope. Carol used the bow thruster to guide Lily into the locks. I rang Stephen Goldsborough at Knowle to see if he kept a stock of these cables and was pleased to hear he did.

We cruised on through the afternoon sunlight reaching Catherine de Barnes around 5 & tied up before popping in to The Boat for a restorative pint. We then had a most enjoyable fish pie Carol had made the other day. The Boat is a Chef & Brewer pub and had a pretty good menu, but not cheap, nor was the "English Restaurant" on the opposite side of the road, but at least they had a 2 courses for £10 offer if you ate before 7. The menu looked interesting.

Reflections at Catherine de Barnes

The next morning dawned bright and clear and we pushed off, I scrambled into the engine, engaged forwards & we were off the the boatyard, arriving around 10.30 and getting horribly stuck on a ledge that runs most of the length of the towpath side from the bridge to the water point. I had removed the old cable earlier & was not relishing trying to thread the new one in, but took the old thing to Goldsboroughs, and duly found they had nothing as long as we needed! Two of their chaps came to help us off the ledge & haul us to the water point, and the new one is due on Friday morning. We then amused ourselves with washing and painting things, it would have been so much better cruising! During the day 3 boats passed us, two going down & one up, and all in the space of about 20 minutes, a busy place!

Autumn colours and side pond gear at Knowle Locks

Friday 10th Another lovely day and boats start passing fairly early on, but not one had wanted to use the water point we were tied up to. At 12 the cable arrived and the struggle to get it to fit started. I must have tried pushing it down the narrow tube it had to go through dozens of times but it kept getting stuck near the bottom. The tube had the other, throttle, cable in it together with two bundles of wires. Keeping amazingly patient I tried and tried again and suddenly it went through, only to get to the next problem due to narrow gaps and thick fingers. After I suppose an hour or so I bolted the pieces in place, started the engine and was delighted that both forward and reverse engaged beautifully.

As I was putting things back in place at about 2 a boat arrived to descend the locks, so we rushed to be ready to share the locks with them. We made reasonable time, not helped by the fact BW had just painted the bottom gate balance beams! We cruised on to moor just above bridge 58. It had got breezy during the day and we were disappointed to see several more large clumps of Floating Pennywort. The mooring was not ideal as the M40 and the railway were close, we had managed 7 miles and 5 locks.

Saturday 11th was a lovely day and we set off entering Hatton Locks at 10.15, exiting 3 hours later.

We crossed several boats on the way and had the help of a family on a walk with the locks, he being a boater and an engine man on President, the steam powered historic boat mentioned at Foxton in June. About 15 locks down Carol rang her sister & I heard her talking & realised it was bother in law Mike on the phone ( See Caen Hill locks in August ). Mike is a gadget freak, and I suddenly thought "CAMERA". At the second lock down the flight I took some pictures, put the camera down to work the lock, a boat came up, I talked to the crew & walked off leaving the camera. This was by now over 1 1/2 hours earlier but with hope I set off up the flight. About halfway to where I'd left it I saw a boater and asked if he had seen it, I was hoping someone would have seen it & possibly given it in to the cafe by the lock. He said I should speak to the couple on the boat just behind and the good folks on Wyndale had recovered my camera. My thanks to them.

Carol had spoken to people she had seen walking down the locks and they asked if I had been successful. When told I had been one couple said I should definitely buy a lottery ticket that day. We cruised on and stopped & shopped at Tesco as we approached Leamington. I was leaving the store when I suddenly remembered Lottery, I'm glad I did, 3 numbers came up, the first time in about 10 years, not that I buy them often, but at the Post Office in Aylestone if I bought any I always asked for Unlucky Dip!

We had stopped briefly at "The Cape of Good Hope" lockside just after the main Hatton flight for a restorative pint, and ended the day at 5 past Leamington and just before our next set of locks in a lovely mooring, the bright sun we had enjoyed all day continued until it set. we has managed 9 miles and 23 locks.

Sunday 12th If Saturday was lovely, Sunday was fabulous. Shorts and Tee shirts were worn and we took a gentle cruised to the Two Locks here we had eaten two weeks earlier, tied up outside again and ate delicious Steak & Kidney pie and a very good treacle sponge. I set to afterwards to repaint the bottom of the gas bottle locker. The steel bottles had bashed the life out of the original paint & rust abounded. I got thoroughly filthy as I used a wire brush on the electric drill before Hammerite completed the job. As I finished it a chap came up asking questions and advice (from me!?!). He is fitting out his own 70 foot boat, having never owned one previously. What he and his wife thought of me as I spoke to them I wondered later when I saw myself in the mirror. Despite using a face mask I was covered in rusty dust!

Monday 13th and the weather has turned, I started off in shorts but changed by lunch. Only slight drizzle for a short while but lots cooler. At Calcut we filled with diesel for only 76p!! On the way up the Stockton flight we picked blackberries again, and lots of delicious apples, all going to waste. We ended the night back on the Oxford Canal just past Napton Junction having covered 4 miles and 13 locks. The mooring was OK but a bit noisy, we made a note in future to carry on a couple of miles further in future.

Tuesday 14th Another day much like Tuesday. We reached Braunston and turned towards the locks, and there were Mo & Vanessa off Balmaha. We had last seen them at Foxton but had kept in touch through blogs & email. Rapid stop and coffee and biscuits (home made of course) and a lovely long chat. They had to go the collect V's mother, and as we headed off to the locks a boat joined us, making the flight quick work. It started to drizzle as we left the locks, but within the hour it had stopped, but it was getting colder. We managed to clear the Watford flight before it closed for the night & moored up where we had done on our return trip last Autumn. 101/2 miles and 13 locks.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Into Birmingham

Thursday 2nd October and the day dawned breezy but bright after overnight rain. After two days working lots of locks this day there were just 3 lift bridges and one of those was electrically powered. It was a longish trip and part of it was behind a boat that was moving forward almost as fast as a snail, I didn't know hire boats could move so slowly! The wife appeared from below, they pulled over and let us past, with him saying they seemed to be scraping the bottom. I reckon she po-pooed the idea & they soon picked up speed. The run into Birmingham is very rural to the end of the Stratford, even though the map shows buildings alongside the owners of most of the homes we passed were obviously gardeners.

This was taken at the water point by bridge 5, I guess about 4 miles as the crow flies from New Street Station.

We use a copy of Nicholson's guide that was published in 1997.....well the canals don't move much and they cost..... and it showed the stretch between bridge 15 and 12 as countryside. Not any more, it is expensive housing but as the canal is mostly in a slight cutting it doesn't intrude much.

As we approached Kings Norton Junction with the Worcester & Birmingham canal we passed through a pair of guillotine gates.

The day continued bright as we cruised slowly into Gas Street basin. We passed the Cadbury Works and I fixed for us to return the next day as I am a chocoholic. The distance from Kings Norton to Gas Street is marked as 5 miles in Nicholson, modern cast iron mile posts at one point showed 5km to Kings Norton & 5 to Gas St, which isn't 5 miles! Anyway we kept the railway company as we chugged on and used the sanitary station at Holiday Wharf before turning the corner and mooring exactly where we did many Easters ago in 1998 when we enjoyed a cool but sunny week around the area whilst others were battling the terrible floods of that year. It being a Thursday we sought out a Wetherspoons to get our Curry Night fix on Broad Street, and very good it was too.

What wasn't so good was the crashing and banging around in the wind overnight that woke me at 4am when I found our bows had been cast loose and we were broadside to the canal. I must say that at that time of day it was lovely to be able to simply fire up the engine and use the bow thruster to restore our position with no pulling of ropes or other messing around. The next morning I walked to BW Cambrian Wharf to ask if we could moor in Gas Street and also about where we could moor for more that 48 hours, and was pointed to the wharf basin opposite and which is in a much more secluded area. We set off for it sharpish and exchanged a few greetings with Simba Dada whom we last met at Foxton last Autumn & who were just setting off. We will see there again soon I believe.

The mooring is conveniently placed but is pretty quiet. Carol's back is objecting to even the distance from here into the shopping centre, but she battles on with rests at frequent intervals. On Friday we used a train to get to Bournville to do my chocolate thing. It was pretty good, but very much aimed at children. I wandered off to have a bit of a look at the Bournville village and saw that trees are clearly reckoning Autumn is coming. I never remember seeing such lovely colours when I was a child, whatever the case the colours are tremendous and with luck our cruise back to Debdale should be glorious, if only we get some sun!

We will be staying here till Wednesday morning when we will get mving back to our home base. Whilst here we will go to SeaLife and are going to a concert in Symphony Hall on Tuesday and will probably go to a performance in the newly refurbished old Town Hall on Wednesday lunchtime. Carol has already done some reverse shopping, returning a jacket she bought from M&S in Banbury when the promised long length trousers she was to pick up in Birmingham failed to materialise. Till next time.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Along the Oxford and west to Birmingham

Before we left Oxford Carol had great pleasure in changing her flower troughs to give colour on the roof through the winter and into spring

Sept 19th was another lovely warm day and we cruised gently north. Diesel prices are falling, we filled at Kingsground at 80p which was a useful amount less than College Cruisers in Oxford wanting £1, let alone one place on the K&A wanting £1.09. We tied up for the night just below Allens Lock, having managed 8 miles and 5 locks.........we work really hard at this boating! Boaters who may have used the floating farm shop just above Pigeons lock is no more, merely a sunday tea shop. We did the same on Sat 20th managing another 8 miles and 6 locks mooring above Kings Sutton lock. We picked a good load of blackberries, the hedgerows are laden with delicious fruit.

On Sunday 21st we cruised the 3 miles and 1 lock to moor in Banbury. It was another lovely day but I was not best pleased when I went to raise the lift bridge just south of Banbury. It is normally left raised but because the farmer was combining it was down and I had to lift it but try as I might it would not budge. In the end I saw a chap walking his dog and he gave me a hand. The surprising thing was I also had to work hard to close it...........I banged an email off to BW!

Anyway, we went shopping in the town and stayed put on Monday too when I painted the galley, before going off by train on Tuesday to see my mother and shift the car back to Debdale for our return in October. Such an exciting life, but at least the galley looks better.

On Wednesday we spent an age at the Banbury filling with water. It must be about the slowest water point on the system, but eventually we were off and cruised to Cropredy in reasonable weather, picking more blackberries! Our friend Mike & Gerry on Tubbs rang, they are close behind and will join us in the morning. We moor next to them in our marina saw them at the Foxton Festival and crossed them at Crofton on a bad weather day last month.

Thurs 25th M&G arrived for coffee at 9.30, we had to get up early for them! We then worked our way north with them to Fenny Compton, picking blackberries ( did I tell you there are loads?) on the way and in good time for a couple of pints of Hooky before dinner. It was a lovely day and I was amazed that we both managed to moor close by the pub. 6 1/2 miles and 9 locks.

Friday dawned misty but was sunny by 10, did some picking, then we were off on the very bendy bit of the canal as we cruised with M&G to Napton. It took some time to negotiate because of traffic, and we filled & emptied at the bottom of the flight and then said farewell to our friends as they were stopping at Napton over the weekend.

On the Napton flight, you might just make out the windmill on the horizon. It is a feature of the cruise along this part of the Oxford canal as it weaves it way following contours. The sails can appear in almost any direction in relation to the direction of travel.

We cruised on turning up the Grand Union canal to Calcut and did the 3 locks. I bought oil and filters from friend Brian Carter at Calcut Boats, it was great to see him again and it was a lovely day in all.12 miles & 12 locks.

If Friday started misty, it was foggy on Saturday to start, but by 10.30 was clear and warm. We wanted to be tied up by 2 to watch GP qualifying, so we set off early (for us) and met up with Sandy & John on So Wey Knot at the top of the Stockton flight. It was lovely to work through the locks with them, and they were very quick to work. We arrived at the bottom and were about to pass The Two Boats when we did a rapid stop & tied up outside. We enjoyed a few beers with S&J before watching qualifying, visiting Long Itchington and picking the most enormous load of those 'b' things. We then dined with Sandy & John at the pub & had a very good meal and a really good evening. 3 miles & 10 locks.

Sunday 28th started foggy again. I did my oil change and walked into the village to get my paper and then settled down to watch the GP from Singapore. It was a quite interesting race. Once over we set off, and as we set off the lovely sunny day became cloudy & the wind cool. We cruised 4 miles & 7 locks stopping just above lock 22, filling & emptying on the way and picking .... It was a lovely mooring, only disturbed in the early hours by a boat going past. The forecasts are getting worse.

Mon 29th was cool but bright and we set off before 10 to make our way into Leamington, tying up above lock 40. The weather was annoying, the sun was warm but the wind cold, so we set off walking into the town wearing jackets, only to have to strip off a layer soon afterwards. Leamington is a quite good looking town and there is a lovely park with a modern conservatory.

Carol happy amongst the plants in the very modern conservatory and a pretty flower.

We went to look at the church which Nicholson says is worth a look, sadly it was locked, despite having a very splendid series of ramps to facilitate disabbled access. So we went to look at the Museum......but it was Monday & it was closed too!! Our wander around the town was brought to a close and we returned to Lily for a sandwich, near the boat we found this very colourful hairy caterpillar which was about 2 inches long.

We then set off for about a mile before tying up at bridge 43 to visit Sainsburys. We bought quite a lot and asked if we could borrow a trolley to cart the stuff back to the boat, undertaking to return it forthwith. We were told to get one of the trolley 'lads' to come along to bring it back. (Bill was probably older than me!) Of course as we cruised on about a mile we came across a large Tesco right alongside bridge 46! Still we got our Nectar points. We then cruised on through the two Cape locks and tied up just above Budbrooke Junction. No rain, but the forecast for tomoorow is wet, and we have the 21 locks of the Hatton Flight ahead! 6miles & 5 locks.

Tuesday 30th dawned wet, but drying, and we were not up and ready in time to move with sme very keen boaters from Sweden who passed us at about 8.15 so we started into the first lock at 9.10. The Hatton Flight is 21 wide locks over just under 2 miles that were much improved in the 1930's and are well maintained and as such the lock walls do not leak and the paddles that allow water to fill and empty the locks are large making for quick operation, though it is much easier to share with another boat! The paddle gear is very different from that seen on much of the rest of the system and the tall angled posts in the photo hold the mechanism. I believe they use a crown wheel and pinion system to raise the paddles which are quite easy to operate, requiring about 22 turns to fully raise them.

We made good progess with only light rain occasionally and clearing through the morning, and by 1pm we were alongside the cafe just before the top lock. The smell of warm food was enticing so we tied up & had very tasty toasted sandwiches and coffee, followed by a cone of the same delicious Bennetts ice cream as is sold at Foxton top lock. We then moved on, filling & emptying and cruised on to tie up between locks 61 and 62 in a lovely mooring, a reasonable distance from the railway I had used to get to see my mother a week earlier, and also away from the M40. The evening was lovely and bright but it was cold and we put the heating on.

Wednesday 1st October and after a blustery rainy night it dawned bright but with a poor forecast. We set off to Kingswood junction and just before reaching it we were horrified to see several clumps of Floating ennywort. This invasive weed has been introduced to our inland waterways from garden ponds where the plant has been misguidedly used. In its native North American lakes the severe winters cause drastic die-back each year. Our winters do not do this and it grows at a prodigious rate.

In Leicestershire the IWA has battled with BW to get drastic action taken since one of our members was brought to a dead stop under West Bridge in the city some years ago. Leicester City Council have worked hard removing it in their patch, but it took several years before BW woke up to the risk. Sadly the weed had by that time sprad drastically and has made the task harder to do, though their task was made harder by the Environment Agency being reluctant to permit the use of weedkillers to assist in the task. I understand that there has been a marked improvement this year, but at a cost that would not ave been required had people not introduced the weed in the first place.

So we passed at Kingswood junction from the wide Grand Union canal into the narrow North Stratford canal, and into the Lapworth locks. Over the next mile we worked through 19 locks raising us to the level of the Birmingham canals. The weather remained dry and at lunchtime we stopped before the last 4 locks at bridge 31 and ambled to see Packwood House some 3/4 mile from the canal. It was a lovely National Trust house and or visit was made the more enjoyable by the guides in the rooms describing how the place developed.

We then returned, completed the last 4 locks and the first lift brdge until mooring just before bridge 26. Just as we had completed tieing up, it rained hard...perfect timing! To Birmingham tomorrow.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Away from Oxford

Thursday, 18th September.

Two weeks after we tied up in Oxford we decided to give it best and turn up the Oxford, leaving cruising down the Thames & doing London another time.

The Thames went onto red boards the day after we tied up and with these showing the lock keepers can't stop you cruising but insurance is invalid, needless to say we don't do this. We used the time to visit our daughter's family and to spend a day in Butlins, using a prize we had won at Emily's school fete last Xmas. It was surprisingly good.

When we returned, having travelled by train, I walked down to Osney lock to see what was going on. I spoke to a chap with a hotel boat who was shipping his guests off to another boat on the Midlands canals. He was moored in the cut leading to the lock and the flow was rushing past at around 5 mph. This was on Monday 8th & he had been told it was possible that there would be a window for them to pass through the lock, wind & return and get into the Oxford canal. Unfortunately for him it was only on the 18th that he managed to get of the river, he had spent nearly two weeks tied up, collecting water in a 10 gallon drum, and with a full toilet waste tank too! At least we were able to reverse back along the canal to a sanitary station.

So we were stuck so it was time for work. We had been concerned about some of our internal decorations. Lily has a fully painted interior, not a varnish finish, and has white framing around magnolia panels, all painted in an oil based eggshell paint. I set to cleaning hard and then did some touching up of the paint, and was horrified to see how un-white the white was, the magnola still being OK. So I had to set off and repaint. It was easy when we decorated at first, there was no finished floor, no furniture or soft furnishings, and we weren't living aboard! Anyhow I got on with shuffling things from A to B and so on and got the Lounge/dinette area finished. Carol stayed out of the way. Unfortunately her back was crying hell so she spent 2 or 3 days in bed. I intend to take this colour change up with Dulux as the white paint was nearly the same colour as the magnolia, and it is only about 5 years since we painted her, and we keep things clean. I still have the galley, bedroom, loo & rear cabin to finish. It will keep me quiet. Also we needed to do a few repairs to the curtains, but all s fine there now.

If you go to Oxford by boat, just behind College Cruiser's there is a Raymond Blanc Bistro. They offer an early dinner menue that gives you a chance to sample food designed and presented by a top chef, and at £17 for three courses including a glass of wine, a delicious meal. Opposite to it was a very good Greek place too where they offered a main course and a dessert plus a glass of wine for £10.50, very tasty. These places are close to St Baranabas Church ( which is an incredible place, incredible decoration inside. The guide above shows you something of it, but try to view it personally.

Just in front of us was a couple who were stuck, anxious to get up the Wey, him suffering from severe health problems. They had a couple of dogs, one had a great outlook on life.

We set off and passed through Isis Lock, winded, and returned whence we had come, though earlier in the week the flow past the tail of this lock had been very fast, had it stayed that way we might have tried reversing the mile and a half to Dukes Cut, bow thrusters are great for this!

So our first day cruising saw us travel from Oxford throgh to Shipton on Cherwell. It was a pleasant day, with some sun, no wind and a reasonably warm day, we had our shorts on again! We collected some blackberries, plus the attendant scratches and stings from the nettles, but the fruit was all fairly small, still it will taste great.

We passed this enormous boat on our way, I hope they don't try to carry as much clutter as we do!

Friday, 5 September 2008

Reading to Lechlade........nearly

Thought you might like a pic of the crowds moving up the towpath to get to the Reading Festival. The Salter Steamers were running ferry services from alongside Reading Bridge to Caversham Bridge until the early hours of the morning, shifting tons of beer and other essential festival stuff.

Tuesday 26th August and we return from our trip to Leicester and the National at Autherley. We went on Monday, a good choice as the site was crusting over and there was little mud to be seen and it was a bright day. We went with our eldest daughter and family and the journey from Leicester took under an hour by road, and we were thirsty as we arrived and popped into the IWA lounge, immediately bumping into David & Wadly with Pat & Terry with whom we should have been moored up if we had got our timetable in order. We had a good chat, getting up to speed with latest info before ambling off and meeting John, Wendy and Beryl from our group during the afternoon. With other chats to friends from our Region and others from earlier Festivals it made a pleasant afternoon to add to viewing the displays. We think, however, we will give them a miss for a few years now.

We set to cleaning Lily from top to bottom, plus giving her a polish and doing the washing whilst still tied up at Cavenham Boat Services who made us very welcome. Before we left on Thursday afternoon we had a fender eye re-welded on after it came detatched somewhere on the K&A, plus filling up with diesel at 85p ( remember we saw diesel at £1.09 along the K&A ). The mooring was very reasonable at £7 per night, including electricity and totally secure tied up in the middle of the river. When we cast off we reversed downstream a few yards and tied up alongside Cavershan Park, I polished the other side of the boat and we walked into Caversham and got our Thursday curry fix at Wetherspoons before re-provisioning at Waitrose.

Friday 29th and set off at 2 and bought a 15 day licence, and found that if we want to extend it to 30 days, we only will have to pay the extra £30 or so. Its expensive though at £131. We did this at Mapledurham Lock, where we also bought delicious ice creams, and we then cruised on to moor for the night at Beale Park.

On the way there we came across a load of very inexperienced skullers!
The day showed signs of promise with occasional glimpses of the sun after several days of grey overcast. It was a pleasant mooring.

Saturday 30th. I woke early and it looked as if the sky was clear, but after I'd woken up properly the clouds had rolled back only to disappear and give us a glorious day. We really stretched ourselves and cruised all the way to Goring Lock, all of 2 1/2 miles. We tied up, wandered around, did a bit of shopping, bought the papers, chatted...........lovely! I wandered further than Carol into Streatly

and as I ambled towards the church I saw a box of Bramley apples with a "Help yoursef" sign. I took a few and made a small donation. We had seen a lovely lot of blackberries near the lock...lovely again!
Goring lock with lovely flowers from hanging baskets on the bridge.

Sunday 31st. Bye sun! Cloudy, heavy mist and as we passed through Goring Lock & looked back at the valley we could hardle see the hills that constrain the river. It rained in heavy showers at times and after 5 miles and 2 locks we tied up at Wallingford to have a look at the place, and we were glad we did. As we walked around we could hear loads of bells jingling and then saw loads of Morris people. It was the Wallingford Bungfest when loads of teams assemble to have a rattling (jingling) good time. I enjoy Morris dancing, Carol hates it, but she puts up with me.

We walked to the park where we found a full festival site wth a great beer tent and loads of stalls, including some selling interesting foods. Many of the salls seemed to be selling hippyish things, but despite the weather everyone seemed happy. If you like this sort of thing they seem to put it on the weekend after the August Bank Holiday weekend. There was a lovely assembly of minature traction engines too and I do love steam power.

Apart from this it was a lovely town with an interesting set of castle remains as bashed about by Cromwell. There is a good sized Waitrose too, and as we returned to the boat we came across a wedding party doing photos on three cuisers before the bridal party proceeded downstream to a reception at Moulsford, though they didn't invite us to join in despite Carol being perfectly dressed for the bash.

Monday Sept 1st dawned bright and nearly warm but t clouded over by mid dasy and the wind got up and it rained by 5. We cruised to Dorchester, mooring at the mouth of the river Thame. It is a lovely town with a fabulous Abbey. A very old Roman town 2 hotels and a pub plus antique shops a shop and a Post Office.

This lovely & very different window with the stone cut into the shapes of branches and leaves.

The museum doesn't open till 2 and we wanted to be away, bt there is a big Iron Age history as well as Roman history there. We picked some lovely eating apples off a tree growing on a green before setting off again, ending up at Abingdon that afternoon with the wind strengthening all day. We moored alongside the wall by the Anchor.

Tuesday 2nd was to be time for exploring Abingdon. It had rained and blown hard through the night, but was calmer and drier as we set off on foot. I have to say we were very disappointed by Abingdon, we have seen many more interesting places on this trip. We would have gone into the old town hall to look over the museum, except this week it was closed as they changed their displays.

Abingdon old town hall and museum.

At 1.30 we set off and moored in Oxford opposite Christ Church Meadow. We had heavy rain and thunder in the evening and over night.

Wednesday 3rd, bright at start but wind getting up and we experienced strong flows around Osney lock and other places. Wind got very strong at times and we had one very heavy squall. Locks above Osney are not power operated but are very well maintained. We had some lovely sunshine at times but the wind made it cool, and we tied up at Newbridge, with a strong flow forcing us onto the side. 14 miles and 6 locks (2 worked ourselves) made this a big cruising day . Worrying forecasts for weather due, especially on Friday where there were early warnings of severe weather. We decided to look at the latest forecasts, and they showed the same, so we decided to run back to the Dukes Cut & the Oxford Canal the next day.

Thursday 4th and we had experienced more rain overnight, more forecast and very dark overhead. We set off at 9, passed through the bridge & tried to turn, failing at the first location but just managing it at the next, if we hadn't we would have cruised up to the next lock to manage it. By the time we reached the second lock,Pinkhill, yellow boards were out and the narrow boat owning lock keeper said he recommended the running for shelter we were doing, and by 12 after just 3 hours we were on the cut, covering a distance that had taken us over 5 hours the day before. I then had a whoopsy. about half a mile from the river I saw the line extending straight ahead, but as Lily's bows were alongside, I saw a left turn, and a signpost telling me to turn left, the sign being hidden by trees. Full reverse, but I couldn't stop the bows from overshooting the turn, worse still they swung over an into a banch overhanging the turn. Inspection by Carol revealed the headlight broken off its mounting, and the pole it is mounted on bent a bit, a job for later.

Anyway by 2pm we were tied up below br 240, just where we moored when we were in Oxford in June. There was a new addition to the run into Oxford in the form of a lifting bridge to allow contractors working on the A34 overbridge reconstruction to cross the canal. The bridge was raised by 4 hydraulic posts, one at each corner, controlled by radio from cntral controller, and took at least 5 minutes to rise to navigable height. We only had about a 10 minute wait, but a boat that followed us dow had waited for over 45 minutes on their way up the canal.

The weather had been reasonably good, and we were fortunate in missing one deluge where the lock keeper reported that the stair rods were bouncing up about 6 inches! Less wind than Wednesday, but rain after we tied up. We have decided to stay here and go by train to see our youngest grandchildren over the weekend.

Interesting observation, on Thursday night it rained a bit, and on Friday we have had showers, a few have been heavyish, but far from what the forecasts we had been given, have we been over cautious?

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Bristol onwards, and Boiler problems

31st July to 4th August were spent in Bristol and the harbour and city were heaving with people. We were moored near The Cottage (pub) and opposite to the Grain Barge, one of the entertainment venues, a worry, but music stopped at 6pm and the type of music played suited us!

It wasn't the best way to see Bristol as there were too many bodies around. Wandering along the dockside into the centre and back jiggered Carol on Thursday so she rested on Friday, but on the Thursday we had managed a bit of sight seeing plus a Weatherspoon's curry plus seeing Mama Mia. We thoroughly enjoyed it, though I thought I enjoyed the stage show more, certainly it as a real feelgood film.

I did some ambling around alone on Friday and Sunday whilst Carol recuperated, we did some of the Harbour Festival, especially enjoying the offerings from the Continental Markets, great French cheeses and dried sausages. We were fortunate with the weather and loved the interesting boats that kept tripping up and down. We visited SS Great Britain, what an amazing feat it was to bring this rotten hulk back all the way from the Falklands. Be aware if you visit it in mid winter, you will need to strip off clothes as you go round it as they keep it very warm and dry to stop more rusting. We also had to watch the GP on Sunday. We bussed to Sainsburys on Sunday, getting there for 11.20, hoping to dash round and get home for a 1pm start, only to find this store opened at 12!

The journey there was free, but took over 1/2 an hour, the return by taxi took under 5 mins and cost £5, and a lot easier!!

Monday morning was pretty wet and we filled with diesel at Bristol Marina at 88p (Bath was 98p) and got to Netham Lock at 11.30 to find it closed until at least 12.30 whilst the spring tide dropped. The Avon to Bristol is only affected by tides at high Spring Tides, certainly nothing akin to passing through Cromwell Lock on the Trent.

The cruise back to Bath took the afternoon, sharing locks with cruisers, mooring alongside the main Sainsburys store at 6.30, we virtually headed the rush upstream from the Festival. We were a bit concerned about the mooring, but it was surprisingly quiet & handy for the centre of Bath.

Tues 5th we went up the Bath flight, fairly slowly as we had an hour's wait whilst water was run down to feed the very deep (19 feet) lock 8/9. When they combined the two single locks into one to facilitate a road improvement scheme they did nothing to sort out the water supply problems that were certain to occur. I was very concerned about how water inflow would throw Lily about as I could not get hold of the bow rope to hold her steady. I need not have worried as the ground paddles fed 3 inlets along each side of the length of the lock. It was a wet virtually all day, but sandals and shorts dry quickly, and we tied up outside The George at Bathampton at 5. We were drenched and went straight in for a drink, followed by a warming shower. I then decided to take the boiler to pieces to find out why it would not fire when we were last here. I found it to have around 6 pints of water in the burner chamber, there should have been none there! I got it out by using a sponge, and gave it a short burn to prove it worked, but didn't replace the baffles. Where had the water come from, was there a crack in the boiler?, had it come in through the exhaust? but this is a horizontal exhaust! Worry, contacted Debdale next day. If we had an overall heating problem where we would not be able to use the Bubble stove & back boiler i the lounge we would have to head straight home. Mike assuaged these fears.

Wed 6th and Carol's sister Annette and husband Mike arrived for 3 days of holiday, a holiday I had carefully ensured included getting up Caen Hill locks!! The forecast for the 3 days was poor, but we had a lovely afternoon's cruise through to Bradford on Avon. Poor mooring required use of the plank, for the first time in 19 years of boating! We had a wander into this gorgeous town after we had demolished the wonderful meal Carol had made for us. A & M were keen to see as much of the canal as possible but decided they would like to make a preliminary exploration of the town the next morning. We all visited the incredible 14thC Tithe Barn, Carol returned to Lily, her back is not good, I went on to see the lovely Saxon Church, possibly dating from around 700AD and not "improved". A&M liked Bradford so much they intend to return for a holiday nearby, they may even consider moving into the area, but then A was at college in Bath & loves the area.

We set off after lunch & Mike & I were on the side of the lock waiting for Lily as a shower started. We were in Tee Shirt & shorts, and were wringing wet through in seconds I have never experienced rain like it before! It brightened up shortly afterwards and the afternoon finished bright and warm at Sells Green. Mike had brought his Brompton folding bike and each day travelled back to bring his car to our finishing point. We had a new recipe meal this night, a great one pot dish using Choritzo and beans.

Fri 8th and after filling up with water Caen Hill beckoned and we were off and entered the bottom lock at 10.40. The day started overcast, but brightened as the day went on and was way better than the forecast. We stopped for lunch in a lock about half way up as there were no boats nearby in either direction ( A needs her food ) and had fabulous ice cream from the cafe at the top of the main flight. We had no boat to share the locks until just above the cafe when a fibreglass cruiser shared a couple of locks. It seemed to be over 7 feet wide and was uncomfortable with Lily so dropped out and we cleared the top lock 5 hours after starting up. It is so much easier with extra crew, I was able to set locks in advance. We passed about 6 boats coming down including a wide Dutch Barge being moved down single handed. We got a good mooring at the top & A&M took us out for a meal a lovely finish to a lovely day, at least with the weather improving they were able to enjoy the views.

Sat 9th we said farewell to A&M and cleaned the boat & re-provisioned in Devises and loitered around in poor weather on Sunday, as on Monday our friends came and picked us up to view their area. After seeing their home in Trowbridge we went to Laycock. This is a fabulous village, owned by the National Trust since the mid 1940s, and as such retaining much of its charm, plus Laycock Abbey where Fox Talbot effectively invented photography. After wandering around the place we enjoyed a great evening meal at "The Sign of the Angel" before being dropped off at home around 9pm. Laycock is not on the canal & I doubt there are buses running readily to it, but it is so lovely I do urge you to try to arrange a visit.

Tues 12th was blustery and forecast wet, but we did not have many showers till about 5 when it threw it down in several storms, including thunder and hail. We moored up just before the Bruce Tunnel, needing to use the plank again. Our friends Mike & Gerry on Tubbs (from Debdale) were nearby & we hoped to see them the next day. I made a note that Carol again prepared us a great meal.

Wed 13th dawned very blustery and overcast. We met Tubbbs after two locks down from the summit. They were not able to stop as they had lost some days due to a breakdown with their travelling partner's boat and had a rendezvous to make in Devizes. we were not enjoying the strong winds and decided to stop at Crofton and had great news in that our daughter Clare & family want to join us for 2 days from Thursday. Quick consultation of maps & we decided to set off bright and early the next day to meet them in Hungerford and use Lily as a static home for the two days.

Thurs 14th and we moved on down past Gt Bedwin where we filled & emptied and on a lovely day reached Hungerford by lunchtime. I went shopping at the useful Somerfield store and just as I returned to Lily the mob arrived and we started a lovely two day holiday with Clare, Simon, Emily & Annabel. We were fortunate with the weather and pulled in a great farm park and other things kids love.

We did a short cruise on Saturday with them before they set home off in the afternoon, but Emily stayed. She was desperate to see her cousin, Sam, who was to arrive on Sunday afternoon. We cruised for 3 miles and 3 locks to Kintbury after the mob left and wandered into the pretty village to get lollies.

Sun 17th, rain overnight but a fine bright morning and we set off to Newbury, arriving there by 2. Sally, John, Sam & Hannah arrived about 3.30 on their way back to Leicester from Deal ( odd journey!) and had lunch with us. Sam arrived with his electronic keyboard and scooter and this was to give entertainment over the next week. We tied up alongside Victoria Park though people advised that this was not the best location due to youth interest. We had a very peaceful stay.

Mon 18th, more overnight rain. Both kids slept well and on a warm but breezy day we set off at 11.30 for Aldermaston Wharf. Weather worsened and we had heavy drizzle most of the afternoon and we arrived at about 5 after 10 miles, 7 locks and 4 swing bridges, one of the locks being turf sided.

After a good evening and night we set off for Reading after using the facilities at the wharf. Sam operated the electric swing bridges, enjoying his power to stop traffic. He also took Lily into and out of one lock entirely on his own, he is a very competent boater. Emily tried her hand a steering, but wasn't wildly impressed. One lock was Woolhampton that gave Carol such problems on the way upstream, but it was much milder this time. We arrived at Reading just after 4 as it started to drizzle, it aving been a fine day till then. We just got Lily tied up before the heavens opened. 10 miles and 11 locks.

On our way through the traffic light controlled section past the Oracle Centre we noticed a sandy beach had been built. We visited this with the kids, including Annabel when she arrived on Thursday to pick Ems up.

We also went to see Mamma Mia with them, and all thoroughly enjoyed the film. Buses took us to the Riverside Leisure Centre where we had a great time in the pool, but came across the crowds arriving for the Reading Festival. It was an amazing sight, so many people and sadly so much rubbish. It was fortunate we went on Wednesday to the pool as from that night for several days it was closed for the Festival.

After Clare had left we passed through the last lock on the K&A and onto the Thames, working ourselves through the first Thames lock as it was 7.30pm. We tied up at Caversham Boat Services on Frys Island where Lily was to stay whilst we took the train back to Leicester for the Bank Holiday weekend to see my mother, go to the IWA National Festival & to return Sam home. Our journey on Friday morning involved a ferry, taxi, 3 trains and tube, all with loads of kit including Sam's keyboard and scooter! It went well and having been booked in advance was quite cheap and only took 4 hours.

Next we cruise the Thames, but first of all Hotel Lily needs a good clean!