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Tuesday, 18 August 2009

From Oxford back to Debdale

Wednesday August 12th

We are heading back to Debdale as we have Emily(7) and Annabel (4) with us next week & we need a car. Annabel is very keen on going for a cruise, but it only lasts for 10 minutes before she wants to do something else. Carol also has a doctor’s appointment so it all fits in well.

Getting older is not all fun. We love our life afloat and seeing things at leisure, but our bodies don’t perform too well. Apart from aching joints, many of us need pills to keep other things in order, and I realised last night that we were close to running out. We had prescriptions but just needed them making up, so I set off first thing into Oxford as Carol was on her last day’s supply. I had to go to a couple of chemists to get them made up and it took some time, and then I walked to the motor factors to collect additional alternator belts. Getting back at lunchtime and the intermittent light drizzle of the morning continued through the afternoon. We hoped to moor at Thrupp but all moorings were taken so we cruised on past covering 7 miles, 4 locks & 4 lift bridges to a pleasantish mooring but with a road nearby. People coming the other way told us that Cropredy was very busy for the Fairport Convention Festival the next weekend.

Thursday 13th

Bright start and promised well and away at 9. Filled with diesel at Kingsground, not cheap (and 2 days later Dusty and his fuel boat passed the other way and it would have been much cheaper!) but at least we are now full above the level that caused us trouble as we left Battlebridge. Slowish cruising meeting boats at all locks. Also had ½ hour wait whilst BW did some work backfilling towpath works. We made steady progress with boats at most locks, some reporting 4 hour waits at Somerton Deep Lock the day before but we went straight in. The boat coming down was owned by the owner of Oxfordshire Narrowboats, those very smart blue boats with fresh paintwork. He said their bookings were 30% up on the previous year, and that year had been a record.

Achieved 14 miles & 9 locks till 5.30. Had a lovely BBQ with our new machine bought at Hampton Court Flower Show moored opposite a new smallholding, going over in morning to get home reared pork & sausages.

Harvesting is progressing apace around the country, and it is noticeable that the barley has much shorter stalks than of old, cutting down on the amount of straw produced. A good idea too you might say seeing the great stacks of bales lying around farms, year after year. Farmers also fertilise after harvesting, and this lovely device was wandering over a field under its own power spreading what smelled like sewage works output!

Friday 14th

Lovely start & great forecast, we crossed over the canal at 9 to get the meat, but found despair. The couple who had developed the mooring and smallholding had been burgled overnight. Their steel container had been broken into and their brand new mower had been stolen, where the credit card bill with its purchase on it had still to arrive, together with chainsaw, strimmer and other tools. We sympathised with them, even more when they told us that they had been struggling with getting insurance, waiting 8 weeks for the quote, which still had to arrive! They said enough, what meat did we want, we told them, off she went to get it, and returned empty handed as the burglars had been there too, clearly they had been watched and we worry that their other kit and livestock could soon disappear too. We hope the Police will actually do something, but we left them to trying to get their lives back together.

A stop in Banbury over lunchtime and away at 2, we cruised on slowly, hitting Cropredy at about 5. Amazed at how big the Festival was, boats extended over about 2 miles with boats 2 and 3 abreast in places making meeting another boat a problem. Fortunately all other boats had stopped so we went through on tickover withot meeting any, stopping at 6.30 after covering 11miles and 10 locks.

Saturday 15th

Bright and breezy, but it clouded over and we had the odd sprinkle of rain in the morning, but during the afternoon it cleared. We set off at 10, just behind another boat, but after under a mile we were at our first lock and we met other boats through the Claydon flight. Lunchtime coincided with us reaching Fenny Compton and it seemed a good idea to enjoy a pint, and a very good pint of a Cornish beer it was too.

We then continued and stopped for the night at the top of the Napton Flight. I then set too and polished the port side of Lily, the first time since April and how it was needed!!! It was noisy here with yapping dogs. At the neighbouring farm the British National Flyball Championships were being held, a 4 day bash with possibly 10,000 dogs taking part in 4 dog team races.

On the way today we passed this house with its ha-ha. I have always loved these and would have loved to own a home that needed one, but I wonder what the great god Health & Safety says about the unprotected drop? The lovely old one tree trunk bridge is no more, here it is, but note the new bridge supports, but I’m sure it will be a more standard bridge this time.

Sunday 16th

An incredible start to the day with sun streaming through the side door onto us in bed, but it was breezy. We dropped down the 10 locks to the sanitary station, before stopping at the Bridge Inn for a surprisingly good £4.95 Sunday lunch main course. The Black Sheep bitter was good too.
Water Buffalo alongside Napton Locks

The much photographed Napton Mill
After lunch we cruised slowly into Braunston, mooring outside the marina at 4. Carol the set to the work on her troughs as the lobelia was looking sad and surgery was required. I set too scrubbing the mess from the flowers off the roof, before polishing the starbord side of Lily. A good day, she now looks presentable again. 10 miles & 7 locks.

Monday 17th

Walked into marina to see if fender maker was open, he wasn’t but I saw President, historic steam powered narrow boat, getting up steam, and I guessed she would be going up Braunston locks and onward to the national IWA Festival at the top of the river Soar. It seemed sensible to go sooner rather than later, so at 9.15 we were off and met Kingfisher, a shared ownership boat, at the bottom lock. We had a pleasant passage up the flight with them, crossing several boats descending.

Braunston tunnel followed and we only met one boat in it, a fibreglass cruiser with large white balloons on the side, and out into fine weather. From a blue sky before the tunnels rain had fallen, but after the tunnel we had a fine day. We stopped at Watford Gap services for papers & coffee, then on a bit further for lunch, during which time President and her unpowered butty Kildare passed us. When we reached the Watford Flight we were able to follow them up, but it was very slow progress. They stopped for a cup of tea, we were out of the top lock at 3.20 and cruised on in the improving weather. Met one boat in Crick tunnel before stopping just before 6 at bridge 22.

It is very sad to see a badly neglected boat such as this when only a couple f years before it was clean, polished and loved.

Yelvertoft marina is being dug out by a large team of backhoe excavators and about 8 all wheel drive dumper wagons. I noticed part of the excavation looked to be in a sort of shale rock, I just hope they had a proper ground survey before they planned the job and that they allowed for making the rock waterproof!

Tuesday 18th

Dawned bright & breezy but the day clouded over as afternoon progressed. We made steady progress in the shallow pound, though the level was almost on the weir and in bridge 28 something hard scraped the bottom of the hull. Met innumerable boats, including 3 in Husbands Bosworth tunnel and arrived at the top of Foxton at 2.30, and had a 2 ½ hour wait for our turn. Enjoyed the ice cream, though, and President & Kildare arrived by 3.30.

Dave Stott, Chief Engineer of President

We moored overnight in the bottom basin and went to Bridge 61 for a drink. Chatting to Tony Matts in his new garden area over a pleasant pint of Langham Brewery's Bridge 61 ale the first of about 16 hot air balloons passed over. One of the balloons was seemingly fairly steady, then suddenly lost height, perhaps he ran out of gas? Anyway the crowd of multicoloured envelopes passed over and landed about half a mile away.

Wednesday 19th

President & Kildare came out of bottom lock about 9 and tied up outside the Foxton Locks pub for the day. Foxton Boat Services trip boat, Vagabond, was walked past Lily, her 11 foot long drive shaft had sheared and she needed to moor alongside a bank where a crane could gain access. We also saw a couple of Brookfield Bowling Cub colleagues waiting to ascend the locks, we didn't know they too are boaters. After a few pleasantries we set off back to Debdale where I ordered a new water pump. We have two pumps in parallel but one of them had started dripping water though it still seems to pump well. As we reached the marina this burnt out boat was moored outside. We understand that it was vandalised near to Blaby and has been brought here by its insurers for craning out & disposal.

The blog will now pause for about 2 weeks while we do domestic things.

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