Tuesday, 29 July 2014

An “Admiral” time with friends.

Monday evening in Braunston turned out to be the “hoot” we thought it would be!  We spent a great few hours with Neil and Pauline on nb “Waterlily” when we all went to the Admiral Nelson pub for a meal.

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The occasion wasn’t “doctored” but the picture has been! It was a poor pic. taken by the waitress but it still shows the pleasure we all had.

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We all went back on board “Waterlily” for coffee and home made coffee cake.  Pauline (the cup-cake-queen herself) shown here hand feeding her “boys”!

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This morning at 8 0’ clock we did a quick reverse down to turn at the junction at Braunston before heading further on up the Oxford Canal.  Just outside the village the sheep feed on the gorgeous pastureland which finishes at the canal edge in a wonderful pleated appearance.

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This one is for our daughter Vicki – it could have been named after her!

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We positively flew down the Hillmorton lock flight, which we’ve experienced as a real bottle neck on several occasions before.  We once spent nearly three hours negotiating this flight but today it was all of twenty minutes from sailing straight into one of the top locks to being helped through the bottom lock by the volunteer lock keeper. 

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Further on we found another “extreme maintenance” boater.  It’s certainly one way of getting your paint line straight (and keeping cool at the same time)!

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We stopped for a couple of hours in Rugby to visit Tesco and TKMaxx (which we never pass by).  Neil and Pauline on nb “Waterlily” caught us up to do much the same thing but we managed a coffee and a chat with them before moving on.  This is a long shot of Pauline waving from the front of the boat but if James had taken time to zoom in he’d have crashed “Chance” into the bridge!

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Further on we passed through the Newbold tunnel (only 250 yards long so you can easily see the other end) and then on through some lovely long tree lined glades which gave us some welcome relief from the heat of the sun.

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Our journeys end today was to be Brinklow Marina where “Chance” will rest up for a few days while we go on a little ‘excursion’.  John, the marina harbourmaster, was standing  on the pontoon to greet us and help us tie up – bless him. There are a lot of boats out for the summer as the photo shows but the extra space did give James plenty of room to mess about reversing in.  While Doug fussed about inside James checked the batteries and the automatic bilge pump. (Never assume that an automatic safety device is going to work when you want it to! – it’s the 7th Law of Sod.) 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Early arrival in Braunston.

We left Napton at 8 o’ clock Sunday morning, watered up (as the tap was at hand as we got out of the bottom lock) ………

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……… and, leaving this lovely spot, we got this shot of the famous windmill on the hill above Napton (not a good pic. as the morning sun was shining in the camera lens).  It’s not possible to get the iconic view from the top of the lock flight these days as the trees have grown too high around it.

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Anyway, after a very relaxed run (and quite busy with boats) we arrived in Braunston at 10:30 to find plenty of mooring space.  Choosing a shady position James got stuck in to blacking his rubbing strakes (as you do!) while Doug took all the glass out of windows for a thorough cleaning.

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When the temperature got too high for any more work we walked up in the direction of the “Admiral Nelson” and, who should we meet, but our dear canal friends Neil and Pauline (the cup cake queen of the canals) on nb “Waterlily”.  We had agreed to meet up for a meal with them this evening but we’d both arrived a day early.  (The above pic. is the lovely old Victorian pumping station on the canal side here.)

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Anyway, we didn’t have to work too hard to persuade Neil and Pauline to join us for a drink at the Admiral Nelson (which was just yards from where they were moored).

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While Neil and James were in the pub getting the second round of drinks an “incident” occurred outside.  Pauline and Doug, sitting on the same side of the picnic table, overbalanced and they, and the table, began to topple over.  Doug tried to save the situation and caught his leg on the table.  Here he is receiving first aid from Pauline in the form of ice packs and taking a drink to stop himself from passing out with the pain.  James was busy recording the event!

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The moorings where full to capacity when we returned in the mid afternoon, with no more than a few inches between each boat. What a splendid example of mooring efficiency for once!

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Later in the evening a Kate Boats hire boat came past with a drunken ‘stag’ group on board. With a BBQ flaming away on the roof they narrowly missed several moored boats before crashing very hard into the central section of the double foot bridge beyond.  We are very surprised that Kate Boats allow these stag events and, sadly, it seems only a matter of time before a tragedy happens.

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Anyway, after the ‘entertainment’ of the stag group Andy and Rich on nb “Carpe Diem” (who’d moored behind us earlier in the day) brought a bottle of Prosecco and joined us on “Chance’s” rear deck for a very enjoyable end to a very hot day.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Two days- of Hot, Hot, Hot!

Yesterday (Friday) we set off early at ‘something to 8’ ……..

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…… and soon came across Thursday’s canal ‘incident’ – a sunken boat.  An old wooden-hulled job that should be restored but probably wont be.

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“The Crew” at Elkington’s Lock with one of the original little buildings.  This one, we' noticed has a CCTV camera in its eaves.

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Just south of Fenny Compton is the narrow cutting which was once a 1000 yard tunnel, but the rock was so brittle the top was taken off and it now represents a tricky “narrows”. 

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Further on, one of life’s “what’s round the corner” moments occurred.  We met Heather and Mick on nb “Hudson” and, as we’ve said before, “Hudson” was the show boat next to “Chance” at Crick 2011 and is one of the finest boats on the system.  Heather is 70 feet away from Mick at the front!  Notice the colour of the water! It’s just thin mud – the Oxford Canal is so very shallow but never mind that, it was great to see them again.

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We moored last night just after Claydon Locks which meant we were on the canal’s summit.  Today, we had the eleven wonderful dreamy miles of lockless summit to traverse with no civilisation to speak of.  Just gorgeous farmland and far reaching views and the very occasional boat coming towards us.

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This is James being ‘artistic’ - a duck’s eye view!

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At the end of the eleven mile summit stretch we arrived at the first of the two Marston Doles locks and where we start to go back down in the world.

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Soon after Marston Doles are the flight of seven locks at Napton and the highlight here is the volunteer lock keeper’s dog who helps to open the lock gates.

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Having caught up with us (again!) at the second Marston Dole lock our new-found canal friends, Andy and Rich, on nb “Carpe Diem” follow us through the locks until deciding to moor up together on the last pound of the Napton flight. (for non-boaty readers a pound is a stretch of water between to features such as two locks.  It comes from being “impounded” or trapped).

Well, today has been hotter than ever, even though the forecast was for slightly cooler conditions.  By the time we arrived at Napton it was all but unbearable and we decided to call it a day.  The four us had a bit of a race to ‘The Folly’ where, luckily, they had enough bear to quench our thirsts.

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Thursday, 24 July 2014

No better countryside than this.

One of the most enchanting things about the Oxford Canal is it’s ‘countryside’ feel.

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Leaving lovely Thrupp at 9 o’ clock on Wednesday morning we were soon in the valley of the River Cherwell and the canal enters the river a short distance. Before entering the River Cherwell we had to encounter Shipton Weir Lock.  It’s eight sided (if you count the gates) and an absolute devil to keep the boat in one place as the water comes in.

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Our next bit of fun and games, after we’d got back on the canal proper, was coming across a wreck of an old BW working barge wedged between the bank and a moored boat.  Doug soon got things under control, hauled the wreck back to the tow path and tied it up using the bits of string that it been secured with originally.

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Right now the fields are ripe for the harvesting of corn and hay and the aromas are wonderful.  There’s ‘corn’ as far as the eye can see in some places.

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The old Manor House and lovely Tithe Barn at Upper Heyford look down on the canal from their high positions.

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After a bit of a bottle neck of Somerton Deep Lock which took an hour to get through we finally got to Aynho Wharf just in time for a major diesel refuelling before they closed.  New canal friends Andy and Rich on nb “Carpe Diem” had kept pace with us during the day and, after both boats had refuelled and found moorings at Aynho, a meal together at the Great Western Arms was the natural thing to do in the evening.

Today we started from the wharf at 8 o’ clock and were soon at Aynho Weir Lock.  Immediately after the lock the River Cherwell  crosses the canal …….. 

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……. and passes under this wonderful old brick causeway.  The wooden rails stop boats from being pinned to the causeway when the river is running fast – an experience we once had in our last boat!

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The canal passes under the M40 motorway three times in total and, thankfully most of these old lift bridges (and there are many) are left in this ‘up’ position otherwise our journey would be a lot slower.

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Kings Sutton Lock, at 10ft 8ins, is one of the deepest on the Oxford and, when the lock is full the view backwards off the boat provides a very atmospheric view.

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Further on is the town of Banbury which provides us boaters with a very welcome chance to do some shopping.  Getting provisions is not the easiest thing on this very rural Oxford Canal.  At the lock in the middle of the town there’s no shortage of onlookers when the weather’s fine. 

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More flora to be admired – this time huge clumps of Rose Bay Willow Herb …….

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…… and the canal banks themselves are brimming with colour at this time of year.

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After Slat Mill Lock and, hearing of a major holdup on the canal after Cropredy, we decided that calling things to an end for the day was the best thing.  Tomorrow we’ll hope things have improved ahead of us but for now it was a very welcome ‘champers and nibbles’ on the deck of “ Carpe Diem” with Andy and Rich before retiring to”Chance” for a risotto and a rest. Happy Days!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Bloggers Meeting at Thrupp!!!

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Yesterday (Tuesday) the day dawned with spectacular colours at Eynsham lock where we stayed overnight.  This was taken at 5 ish in the morning after which James went straight back to bed.

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Eynsham weir, of which this is just one section, was showing just a trickle of water indicating that the river flow is so low it’s virtually like a long lake.

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It took us about 45 minutes to get from Eynsham to the Oxford Canal via the Duke’s Cut.  This is Duke’s Lock, the first on the Oxford Canal and our first taste of real canal for quite some time.

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About 11:30 we reached Thrupp, the gorgeous little old hamlet of pretty little cottages on the canal side, and where we’d planned to meet up with ‘boaty’ friends, some who we hadn’t seen for over three years.  Here they are (Andy and Helen) arriving in style in nb “Wand’ring Bark” with their recent acquisition “The Jam Butty” Montgomery. 

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We had splendid lunch together at The Boat Inn which we’d managed to get a mooring right outside. Doug, James (pardon the expression!), Andy, Helen and Maffi.  We first briefly met Maffi on his boat “Milly M” back in 2007 just as we acquired our first boat “Spirit”.   He’s known by trillions of people and we have to thank him for arranging the booking of our table today. 

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Well, during the afternoon it wasn’t just the weather that hotted up.  Several more friends joined in for what turned our to be a very splendid and spontaneous afternoon and evening.  Maffi, Helen, Della, James, Rich, Andy 1, Andy 2 and Gary all aboard “Chance” for a bit of a ‘social’.

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All boats contributed sustenance for an evening buffet.  The food had to travel a bit as Della and Gary on “Muleless” (a sister MGM boat) were moored up at the top end, Helen and Andy with “The Jam Butty” were down at the far end with only Andy and Rich on “Carp Diem” next to ”Chance” whose Taff rail served beautifully as a buffet table.

P1050061 Andy and Helen’s “Jam Butty” is just what it says it is – Helen makes the most amazing variety of preserves and has a job to keep up with demand.

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The evening was a pleasure to say the least and made even more special by the company of Maffi’s lovely dog Molly.

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After the brilliant evening we all had it just remains for a final pic! 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Family get-together and a memorable weekend.

After our Saturday night mooring at Lechlade we were able to move up a bit nearer to the bridge and our destined place of eating for Sunday lunch.

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Trouble was, although the mooring was nearer the bridge, the gang plank had to be tested to it’s extreme! We could have moved up even further (due to all the other boats leaving when we arrived!) but it took so much time to get into this position no one was prepared to exert any more energy in such hot weather.

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Hixie didn’t much care what went on, she was happy in her own little world on the rear deck.

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With RAF Fairford and RAF Benson so close to us at Lechlade we were treated to a fly past by this enormous military aircraft.  Any one know what it is?

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Early Sunday afternoon saw a wonderful gathering of James’ family who still live locally to his birthplace.  Basking in the heat of the day outside the Riverside pub and waiting for lunch (clockwise) Vicky (daughter), Sophie (niece), Martin (brother), Doug, Robert (nephew), Sue (Martin’s partner), Frances (daughter) and her partner Kel.

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After hours of eating, drinking, fun and laughter “a few” of the younger family members came back to the boat for some further relaxation in the sunshine (and to beat the record for the number of people we can get on “Chance’s” rear deck!

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We took a very short cruise just beyond the bridge to wind “Chance” and to get our beloved family members closer to the car park.  James’ winding technique is being carefully scrutinised by all on board and the expressions tell all!  

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As it was only 6 o’ clock in the evening when everyone left we decided to get a few miles under our belt for the journey downstream.  On the side of Lechlade lock  the famous figure of Old Father Thames looks sternly down on us modern day boaters.

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We got to Kelmscot where we found a lovely peaceful mooring and where we could use our plank for the third night running. P1050017

Today (Monday) we continued our very relaxed journey downstream with the current in our favour for the first time since leaving Limehouse Basin in London.  Most of the locks are self service on week days on the Upper Thames and much easier to operated than double canal locks.

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As we sauntered on in further glorious sunshine, we had a very big surprise when the couple on a cruiser travelling the other way shouted “it’s Chance – it’s Chance!”.  It turned out to be Doug’s old primary school headmaster David Powell with his wife Gill.  They are also close friends of Doug’s family and the occasion definitely required a temporary mooring up ……….

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…….. and a glass or two of wine on board “Chance”.

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Waving goodbye to them we think Gill may have had more than just two glasses! (only joking Gill).  It was a fantastic and lovely surprise to see them both.

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Getting to Eynsham rather later than planned, and after a pump out of the toilet tank (some things just can’t wait), we breasted up with Geoff and Mags on nb “Seyella” who we’d arranged to meet up with this evening.

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Geoff and Mags had prepared a wonderful meal of cold meat and salad followed by strawberries and cream for us.  With that, and their wonderful company, we’ve had a great end to a serendipitous day.