Wednesday, 13 July 2022

In no particular order

We’ve been so busy travelling and having visitors, I’ve lost track of what we did when!!

I just love seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and we’ve been through a few these last few weeks.


The tunnels on the Grand Union Canal are big enough for narrow boats to pass each other. On one of our trips, a boat was going too fast & hit us almost head on!!


As I was steering the boat down Stoke Bruerne locks the gear selector cable broke, which meant I ended up going full speed backwards out of the lock I was just entering. You need to pop the boat into reverse to slow down. So I just switched off the engine to slow down. A hire boat crew helped us moor. The breakdown people came and the young lass fixed the problem & we were on our way within a couple of hours.


We spent a few days in Apsley and our niece Alice & her fella Sam came and worked from the boat.


Our friend Yvonne came to stay for a week. Her friend dropped her at Apsley and picked her up a Leighton Buzzard. Her friend had a short ride with us too.



Yvonne experienced a bit of a hold up as a pound between locks near Berkhamsted was empty.



We decided to have lunch at the end of the Wendover Arm.


Yvonne brought me some lovely fibre to spin.


We visited ‘River Knits’ who used to run their wool dyeing business from their narrowboat, they now have a unit at Weedon Bec in the old ordnance depot. A canal arm & military depot were built during Napoleonic times of unrest. The junction with the main canal is now in-filled & a housing estate built, but the portcullis where the boats used to enter the depot is still there and the channel still has a little water in it.





 

 

 

I brought some yarn from them and it just so happened to be their knit and natter that evening, so we went back to joined them.



Don’t go into locks with swans or ducks is the general rule of thumb, and some locks have notices on them stating that. There are always ones that want to break the rules…….a whole family just sitting waiting for the gates to open!! So, we had to entice them away from the lock with cornflakes, then we had to get the boat in & gates shut before they’d finished their meal.



Winkwell electric swing bridge was having some work done to it. The workforce had to wind the barrier manually & pull the bridge for us.



John lassoed this huge log in Boxmore Lock & we managed to lift it out of the water.



For the last few days we’ve been in Rugby. We met up with a friend of John’s who owns The Merchant’s Inn, in the town. It was wonderful to see the pub so busy mid-week and we were locked in until 02.00!!! (The photo is from mid afternoon.)



In a previous blog I spoke about how twisty the Oxford Canal is as it followed the 300 feet contour. A lot of the twists were straightened out on the North Oxford section. We have explored on foot one of these disused bit of canal, the Brownsover Arm. This arm is still in water as it is a feeder from the River Swift.





The Cosford Aqueduct was built in the mid 1700s and was only used for a few years until the main line was straightened.  

 







Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Crick Boat Show

We were at Crick Boat Show for the jubilee weekend and had booked a mooring there. The last time we attended the show was 2015, and we camped there to get all the boating things we needed for when we moved aboard. Sadly, no doubt due to the pandemic, there were fewer stands, and we got nothing from our 2022 shopping list.


As soon as we moored up we put our day-glow bunting, pompoms & fairy lights up. Only one other boat had hand made bunting, and very few boats were decorated at all!!!!




 


 

 

  Just like our Edmund, this boat put up their bun-tin!!!!



Boat decorating done, we headed off to pick elderflowers for wine & cordial. This is a good shot of where we were moored, right near the north portal to Crick tunnel, and everyone was double moored.



Bank holiday Thursday, we took our chairs and first bottle of boat-made nettle wine up Cracks Hill for the lighting of the beacon. There was quite a party atmosphere up there. Sadly, it was a bit cloudy, so we couldn’t see the sun set.




The weather wasn’t the best during the show and as we were moored in a cutting under the trees it was pretty chilly, which meant there wasn’t the towpath tea party we’d envisaged!!!

There was music all day in the beer tent, which was really good. However, the main acts in the evening were a David Bowie and the next night Amy Winehouse tribute acts, that we weren’t too impressed with.



It was so good to catch up with some of our pals on the BOG*. There were 8 Braidbar boats in attendance. It was super the Braidbar show boat came 2nd in the voting for best in show.


We celebrated John’s birthday on our way to the show at the New Inn, right on Buckby top lock.



The weather was just right to go down Watford staircase locks. You have to book in with the lockkeeper as boats can’t pass on the flight. We had just over an hour to wait for them to set the locks and help 5 boats up before we could descend. So, I polished all the brass while we waited.



We are OFFICIALLY in the south, as we were moored up just south of Watford Gap, sandwiched between the M1 & the west coast mainline.


*Braidbar Owners Group







Thursday, 26 May 2022

Banbury

We had a super few days in Banbury and considering it’s only just over an hour's drive from Luton, I’m surprised we haven’t ever been there! Our first mission was to restock the larder and 3 trips to the new spacious Lidl, mission was accomplished.

Of course, we had to visit Banbury Cross, in the middle of a very busy roundabout. Plus, the bronze lady riding on a bronze horse. Interestingly, there was an early photo in a pub that showed the cross on a green with a dirt track around it!



Banbury Museum spans the canal, with the canal exhibits being in a glass walkway over the cut, which meant we could watch the boats go under, have a birds eye of view of the town lift bridge and Tooley’s Historic Boatyard. I was unaware of Banbury’s textile history, being the home of ‘plush’ weaving, a velvet type fabric.



John operated the lift bridge for me and locked me down.




 

 

 On a remote stretch of towpath heading toward Fenny Compton, we had company. The deer trotted along, cautiously looking over its shoulder every now & then.



John spent ages snapping this red kite being bullied by the crows. We know we’re in the south with these massive birds overhead.





We opened Jubilee Fibres at Napton last weekend. The weather was perfect, but the towpath seemed busier in the week than at the weekend. We had 3 lots of our southern friends come to visit.



  Richard with just one of his motorbikes.



After we shut shop, most of us retired to the Folly pub, where we sat in the garden and got drinks from their new ‘Potting Shed’ bar.



As usual, we’ve had some stunning sunsets.




 

 

We suffered from a bout of noisy neighbaaaars.



And these parents have been renamed ‘our big knocker’!! They really do peck the side of the boat hard & knock very loudly!!



Now I am going to grate the horseradish and chop the mint we’ve just harvested from the towpath’s hedgerow.



Wednesday, 18 May 2022

A quick turn around

 

We had planned to stay on the Oxford/GU sections for a couple of weeks. But we had a phone call from some friends who have moved to live close to the Oxford Canal, between Cropredy & Banbury. So we decided to wind (turn around) and head their way for a few days.

The Oxford Canal’s towpath is dreadfully eroded, narrow & uneven in most places. We passed some lads piling a long section, you can hear the thumping noise a good way away.



I’d had a water buffalo milk ice cream at the Long Itchington beer festival, which was lovely, in addition there were buffalo burgers, but we’d eaten before we went. We’d brought some of the cheese in a village store & that’s nice too. As we ascended Napton locks, we saw the buffaloes grazing in the fields.



Because the locks on the Oxford Canal are narrow, I took the boat up, as John’s brave enough to step over the bottom gates. I would have to walk around the lock to shut them.


We’ve read about the manual lift bridges on this canal, they have a balance beam, which appears similar to a lock. This bridge is fastened in the up position (thank goodness). Our pals on nb Free Spirit recently wrote on their blog, about helping someone who couldn’t get one of these bridges down.

These southern canals are far busier than our old favourite, the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. By the time we’d got to the top of Napton locks there was a queue of 6 boats to go down and within a short distance we passed another 8 or so heading for the queue!!!! 

The Oxford Canal is one of the oldest in the south and follows the contours for 11 miles at the top of Napton locks. However, as the crow flies, it’s only 4 miles. !!! It is a VERY twisty, turny route, with lots of sharp bends, usually where there’s a bridge. I took my spinning to the front, so I could peer as far ahead as I could.


As we were arriving in Cropredy our friend phoned and invited us for dinner. They picked us up for the evening. Cropredy is such a pretty little village, with local stone & thatched cottages.



We tried both the pubs and prefer The Red Lion, a good old-fashioned boozer. We had a lovely lunch there with our friends and her sister at the weekend.


 

 The other pub, the Brasenose Arms is a glorious old building, but we feel the interior d├ęcor has ripped the life out of it and there were only 3 tables for ‘drinkers’, the rest of the place regimentally set for dinners. John felt a bit uneasy in the gents and closed the door as he went in, but the way the door opened, toilet goers would be on full view of those in the corridor!!



As we were leaving the Brasenose Arms, John noticed a leaflet about an open day at the grade 1 listed parish church of St Mary the Virgin’s tower the next day. I used to ring the church bells at St Margaret’s church, Edgware, as a young teenager, 44 years ago. We just had to go, and had a super morning. I had a ago at ringing again, they said it would be like riding a bike, you never forget how to!!!! I had a good old ring on their bell number 4. They have 8 bells (St Margaret’s had 6) but they don’t have enough ringers to use all 8 at the moment. I had to decline their offer of joining their band, as we probably won’t be back here for a long while. I used to get paid 50p for ringing for a wedding in the 1970s, now they get £20!!



We went up the tower. First stop off was the clock room, and we were told about its unusual mechanism.



The bell chamber was gorgeous. We were all armed with industrial type ear protection as someone downstairs rang bell 5, so we could see it in motion, AMAZING.



Then onto my favourite place of any tower, the roof. We would always go onto the roof for our break at bell ringing practice. There’s an excellent view of the fairly new marina in Cropredy, and I gather from our guide there was a lot of objection to it being dug. But, several of the ringers, including our guide, have boats moored there.


A view down the Red Lion pub.