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Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Cruising at last

June 25th.

Sorry it has been so long, we were busy with the Leicester Festival of the Riverside on June 7th/8th and then with the Foxton Waterway Festival the following weekend. Whilst at Foxton I had hoped to be able to update this, but I had no phone signal.

For a report on the Leicester & Foxton events, please go to the blog made by friend Mo on nb Balmaha. He is streets ahead of me in his blog abilities, and also got around the sites much better with his camera. Go to http://balmaha.blog.co.uk/.

We had spent a week before the Leicester event in Loughborough as the weather forecast was for fairly heavy rain and we wanted to get onto the canal through Loughborough lest the river Soar went into flood. It did eventually and delayed our trip into Leicester, but thankfully the levels dropped to normal cruising levels in time for boaters to arrive. We had over 40 boats with us including four beautifully restored Norfolk Broads cruisers, built out of wood in the 1930's and '40's. They made a great display and complimented a pair of ex working narrowboats. Mo's report gives more details of the whole event that was put together by the Leicestershire Branch of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), together with Leicester City Council and wth Riverside Housing providing useful funding. It is thought that crowds in excess of 14,000 came along.

At Foxton it was the IWA that organised getting boats along, working in conjunction with the Foxton Inclined Plane Trust and British Waterways. The comment I must add to that made by Mo is that the actors were absolutely superb. When you spoke to them around the site, not at or immediately after their play, they continued to speak as if it were still 1901. They had great knowledge of the development of the site in the early 1900's, and nothing of the 2000's. Marvellous!

As we got to Foxton I found that one of the zips on the cratch cover over the front deck had failed, eventually I got the zip to run together, but clearly it was not suitable for an extended cruise of some 6 months. We had bought some new zips from the boat hood manufacturer at Red Hill Marina on the Soar when we passed on the way to Burton. So on the Monday whilst Carol did the washing Ian dashed over to our son in law's factory with the cover and used his upholstery sewing machine to replace the zips and make one or two other repairs. He is a wonderful chap to have as a son in law, and does a fantastic job in upholstery or cabinet making. ( John Barratt Upholstery, Lazarus Court, Rothley, Leics. 07850 130015 )

I pulled in a visit to see my mother too and didn't get back to the boat until 8.30pm, I was bushed, it is very hard work, and was much more difficult working on the whole cover than it was with the parts as I was making it in the first place. We had hoped to get the boat provisioned up that day, but had to leave that until Tuesday. We then took ages getting that done so we didn't get down to Foxton until around 4 pm and were going to be 7th in the queue going up, so we decided to stay put...................no point in rushing!

Wed 18th, at 9.25 we entered the bottom lock at Foxton. It was not the best weather, it was gusting with wind and there was light drizzle, but at least we were off, and we had a pleasant and uneventful cruise as far as Crick in Northamptonshire, mooring close to Crick Marina. We managed 10 locks and 17 miles in this day. The weather was brighter but still breezy the following day as we set off towards the Watford flight of locks. Passing through Crick tunnel we met one boat and we arrived at the locks at 10.30, but there was quite a queue, aggravated by a boat having to be turned round part way up the flight. It was 1.30 when we got out, and we cruised a short distance before tying up alongside the Watford Gap service area on the M1. We scrambled over the fence and dropped in for a coffee and to get the papers!

Returning, the weather was now lovely but the forecast not so good so we cruised on until 7 that night, passing through Braunston Tunnel in which we met 2 boats. Braunston Tunnel is far from straight and passing boats is a slow process, trying not to hit the wall or the other boat, there is not much width to spare, and it always seems to be at a kinky bit! Braunston locks are over 14 feet wide, where as Foxton and Watford just 7, but we had an easy trip down the flight and turned south towards Oxford.

On Friday morning we set off up the Napton flight of locks on the Oxford canal. These are beautifully situated, and were even better that day as at every lock we met a boat coming down as we wished to enter, and then another arrived as we exited the lock. This greatly reduced the effort in working up the flight, and it was a glorious day. I regret I failed to capture any photos, not even of the water buffalo that were grazing in a field alongside one of the locks. We stopped for lunch this day near to Priors Hardwick, and after lunch we walked across the field up into the village. There was a lovely pub/restaurant in the village, the Butchers Arms, with a wonderful menu. It would have been rude not to have a beer there, which was acceptable, and when we have saved our pennies we might get to eat there, but at £16 for 2 course lunch, and for main couses in the evening at over £20, we can't afford very often. One chap we spoke to in there spoke very highly of the food and said he had heard it was one of the best restaurants outside of London. picture follows. Priors Hardwick was fairly pleasant, but the church wasn't up to much.
The pics show The Butchers Arms at Priors Hardwick, fabulous gardens, the sign shows that Portugal is England's oldest ally, and the pub is owned by a Portuguese couple. Then a pic of Carols roof trough. She loved her garden so she has superb troughs on top of the boat.

On Saturday it was pretty wet, and I got even wetter as BW have not shown a mover to the towpath in months, with grasses etc rising to chest high. Walking to locks was a wet process. I also managed to lose my favourite windlass in Elkintons lock. These things are used to wind up the paddles that let water into and out of the lock. I have only ever lost one before in nearly 20 years of boating, but we tied up, I got out my Sea Searcher ( powerful magnet on a rope ) and went fishing, and after 15 minutes or so..........success! We also stopped to watch qualifying for the Fench GP, and cruised on to finish for the night about miles short of Banbury.

Sunday it blew a gale! We made it into Banbury, but it was hard work, with it taking us well over 10 minutes to get away from the side above one lock, the wind was blowing us hard onto the bank. In Banbury, sheltered from most of the wind, it was a pleasant day, as it was on the Monday and we spent the days polishing, shopping, even went to the cinema. Also found a superb little pub, the Woolpack, nearly opposite the cinema. It didn't look much from the outside, but it was a CAMRA pub & I had a superb beer ( Silver Shadow ) and we relaxed in lovely deep leather armchairs, a great surprise and well worth a visit.

There are a couple of pic showing typical Oxford canal lift bridges, one of them incorpoates Lily's swans neck, the other was at an overnight mooring & the boat was at a significant list, moorings on the Oxford canal are difficult.



The trip from Banbury to Oxford was fine Pretty good weather, moderately busy with
boats, and enlivened as we came to Enslow Bridge the boat above was just being craned in, you can see the boom of the crane that has just lifted it off a trailer and dropped it into the water. Another new boat by Kingsground Narrowboats, and about to move a few yards up the canal for final work

Women are not supposed to have good spatial awareness, but as we arrived in Oxford we saw a gap. I thought we would have to ask one of the neighbouring boats to shuffle up a bit, Carol said we had enough space, she was right and there are pics of the gap he judged fore and aft.......brilliant, remember she was nearly 70 feet from the bows as he pulled in!!! The last pic shows or mooring in Oxford, a lovely spot just off the Wolvercote Road. We are about 1 1/2 miles from the city centre, but buses run along the road frequently. Our exact postion is 51 deg 46 00.26 N, 1 deg 16 12.73 west if you Google Earth it.

We stopped in Oxford for two nights. On the first day we took a bus into the town centre, these bus passes for the over 60's are great!. When there we took a guided bus tour which was quite useful. Neither of us fancied wandering around to look into the colleges, many of which were closed anyway. So I had a quick half in the White Hrse on Broad St, a very interesting un-modernised pub that has featured in various ilms, including Morse. Then next door in a bookshop, and what would Oxford be without bookshops!!! Here I observed a real efinition of hard work, a girl was reading a book and making notes on Tolstoy, whilst her child of about a year was asleep in its push chair!

We then had an amble around the back & front streets incuding looking around the Covered Market. If you go to Oxford make a point of going there, it is wonderful, yet there were posters up about "Save the Covered Market", but all the stalls were full, very strange. We finished our amble in the Ashmolean Museum. It is being remodelled to increase display space, but I must say the majority of the exhibits we saw were not our cup of tea, certainly with most of the art.

Carol was bushed by the time our number 6 bus dropped us off, but she created a lovely meal even so.

The next day was another fine day but Carol needed to rest her back, so I occupied myself polishing the Starbord side of Lily, I did the Port side in Banbury. I also finished off painting the engine bay. After lunch we cast off and cruised to the end of the canal and went towards the terminus, breasting up to empty the loo and fill with water, and then locked down onto the Thames and moored for the night above Osney Lock. I took the other pic at Oxford Station, Oxford likes its bikes, though most of them were still there on Sunday morning at 8 as I bought my paper!!!

The next blog will take us down the Thames and the Kennet & Avon Canal.

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