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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.

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