Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Three out of four, not bad

Monday 25 July. 13 miles, 6 locks.

Last night we were told that Kelmscott Manor was close to the River Thames. This was the summer home of William Morris and Diana is keen to see it. After a bit of research we discover it is near the top of the navigable section and it is open on Wednesdays. We set off at a reasonable hour knowing that we need to put some miles in to be there on time. First lock is off the Oxford canal and down onto a short connection to the river. Just a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city we are out in the country with cows grazing, geese and ducks swimming and the general air of canal travel is back with us. So this is how the day progressed. The next 5 locks are all manned which makes life easy. At the second lock we buy our 7 day temporary licence to be on this river as it is not administered by the Canal & River Trust. Most of the day was countryside interspersed with delightful lock cottages. When we reach the 4th manned lock it is lunch time so we have our lunch while waiting for the lock keeper to have his. We can do them ourselves if we want to. There are few bridges. Three carrying country roads, one a major road and two foot bridges. It was a good feeling going under the two stone arch bridges as I feel like I have done 3/4 of a bucket item. Sailing my boat, on the Thames under Tower bridge. Well did all those things except it wasn't Tower bridge. Tucked into the river bank with mooring pins in a farmers paddock. The farmer may ask us for a mooring fee.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Oxford. Where English used to be heard on ever corner.

Friday 22 July. 5 1/4 miles, 4 locks, 4 lift bridges.

An early start as moorings may be a bit tight in the centre of Oxford. At the second bend we are at Kidlington, the northern suburb of Oxford and although there are houses nearby it feels like we are in the country until we are within a mile of the centre of Oxford. Pull up where there are moorings with the intention of walking ahead to see what is available. We are behind a Scott and Dutch couple we had meet in Banbury. They say where they were had been a good spot and then, talking with boaters coming out of Oxford we are told that there are moorings ahead but best we go and have a look because they think we are in the best spot. After lunch we walk the mile down the towpath into the centre of town, visit the information centre then do the 2 hop on hop off bus tours. Good for orientation. Spent a couple of hours with the cameras clicking. Diana over the moon with subjects. Finished at Jamie's Italian. Very nice too. Coffee and biscuits on board before bed.

Saturday 23 July.

Chatted to the neighbors across the canal as they put a canoe in and then three very excited small boys we taken for a paddle. Walked into town down some streets the bus tour had taken us. Came across a small alley way market with good quality food. Further into town we joined the thousands of tourist. The Colleges are closed and have been taken over by the international student groups doing there English history immersion trip. It was bedlam with que's every where. We bought lunch at a supermarket and eat it on a bench on a bridge over the river Cherwell. This is the river we have been following for over a week. It took an age to find a cafe for a coffee which we eventually did mid afternoon. Back to the boat via a different route. Dinner on the back of the boat with peace and quite. We are not used to this pace of life. I think Diana exceeded her record for number of photos taken in a day, I didn't do too bad either.

Sunday 24 July. 880 yds.

Moved down closer to the centre of town so we can stock up the cupboard before venturing on to the River Thames. Moored up in front of the Scott and Dutch couple who moved down on Friday. Walked into town with the intention of a coffee and some internet. Crowds just as big as yesterday and difficult to get into a cafe. Eventually did, before supermarket shopping and back to the boat about 1500. I was keen to move on to get back to the pace of life we have come to enjoy but not sure that we should venture onto the river late in the day. Checked the forecast and rain was predicted for a couple of hours so decided to chill out. Early evening the Scott/Dutch couple appeared on the towpath for a drink and we joined them. Soon after boating friends of theirs, who were moored on the river joined us. This was great as they had recently been where we were about to go.

A week on the Oxford

Saturday 16 July. 10 miles, 12 locks.

Moved off in time to moored up at the pump as they opened at 1000. 80 litres of diesel and a few knick knacks later we were on our way. pulled in at Cropredy for a late lunch on the boat. Walked into the village for an icecream, checked out the church and antique store. Cropredy is known for its music festival which is in about 3 weeks. Not sure if we want to participate as have heard stories of boats 3 to 4 deep leaving barely room for boats to transit over that weekend. Moving on we arrive at Banbury and Diana is sent ahead to see if there is a spot. She finds a mooring in the centre of town next to Castle Quay shopping centre. Had the potential to be a bit noise as we were partly under a pedestrian bridge. Turned out to be a very quiet night. 

Sunday 17 July. 440yds, 1 lock.

Off in the morning to stock up with food. Found a Tesco local with limited choice and they told us where the Morrisons was. Did a good sized shop, including Vogels bread and lugged it all back to the boat. Back into town again for lunch and check out the buildings including " Banbury Cross". We needed to catch up on the washing and moved out of town to run the generator. Moored up in an industrial area. Nice and quiet till 7 in the morning. we were next to an Iron foundry.

Monday 18 July. 6 miles, 4 locks

Walked back the 440yds into town so Diana could buy some makeup at a very good price and I had a haircut at OAP rates. Lunch was a coffee and pastry before back on the boat and heading off. Turns out we had moored up almost in Morrisons car park so we could have avoided the heavy load yesterday. The temperature was in the mid 30's so stopped for a break at Twyford Wharf. Then we probably made a bad decision and walked over a mile into Kings Sutton. We were joined by a local lass, Naomi, who gave us good information about and what to visit. We followed her to her place where we were invited in for a drink. A pint or two of water later we were once again feeling like exploring. spent nearly an hour looking around at the Church, thatched cottages and stone buildings before buying an ice cream and taking the walk back to the boat. It is now early evening and a bit cooler so put in another 3 miles and 3 locks before stopping for the night.

Tuesday 19 July. 5 1/4 miles, 3 locks, 1 lift bridge.

Another hot day so away a bit earlier cruising down pleasant countryside until we reach the lift bridge. A good basic bridge, well balanced so all you need to do is pull on the chain and it will open. The chain was installed by someone of 6ft stature. Diana can't reach the chain. A bit of problem solving to be done. I nose the boat into the bridge and climb off the front with a throwing rope to pull it down. Don't need to use the rope as I can reach the chain and open the bridge with Diana sitting on the arm to keep it open. Lucky 2 other boats turn up so Diana gives up her sitting duties, gets back on the boat and off we go. We will see what happens on the way back. About 1300 we need a break and eventually find a small bit of shade that will get bigger as the sun moves around. A pleasant lunch and after 4 hours the area of shade is a lot bigger, we are a bit cooler so move on. Around the next corner is a lock and a lovely shady spot so that's it for the day. Walk into the village of Upper Heyford where there is, surprise, a nice church, thatched cottages , stone buildings of various ages etc. Talk to a local in his garden and told we need to visit the pub. Great idea as we need a drink. Stay for diner and back to the boat in the shade.

Wednesday 20 July. 8 miles, 5 locks.

Set off stopping at Lower Heyford for water. The canal is still much the same wandering around the contours with open farm land and hedge rows, occasional bushy sections to give us shade. Another hot day. We pull in beside a disused quarry as Rachel had sent us some information on face book about Jane's amazing tea gardens. It only opens 4 days a month and today is not one of those. After a bit of a trek we find the place. Talked to Jane's partner, although be wouldn't admit to it. Nothing special to us, more a hippy type set up and a very small garden. The trek back was a different route and we went through the old quarry which is now a nature park. Interesting mix of rugged rocks and re-generating flowers etc. Lunch on board then off again finishing the day on the approaches to Thrupp. Walk down the path and end up at the pub for a drink before back to the boat for dinner. Looking at going into Oxford tomorrow.

Thursday 21 July. 880yds, 1 lift bridge

Pretty hot overnight so didn't sleep that well and didn't get up early. Talked to the lady on the boat behind and she suggested we take in the Church at Shipton-on-Cherwell. Again a nice church but nothing spectacular. Had a noisey around what is a small village and found a couple of large houses. Later in the day we are told that is where Richard Branston used to live. Moved off around midday and stopped in Thrupp for water and a pump out. Went through the lift bridge and moored up for lunch. There is a well patronised tea rooms here so would have been rude not to go there for lunch. We have run out of internet at the moment so this was an opportunity to use there wifi and catch up. Later in the day we are told about the ruins of Hampton Gay Manor. They are in a farmers paddock with keep out signs all around but we know that they don't apply to Kiwi's. Can't be bothered moving again so a pint to cool off before diner on the boat seems like a good way to end the day. Oxford tomorrow?

Friday, 15 July 2016


Wednesday 13 July. 12 miles, 3 locks.

With a short day yesterday we need to reduce the distance to Oxford by quite a bit. Within a mile we have the 3 paired locks at Hillmorton to climb. I like paired locks as there is double the chance that one of the pair will be empty. As we come around the corner we see the gates open and volunteer lock keepers on duty. Next lock we are following a hire boat and one lock is set for him. He was making a pigs ear of it so the volunteer sent us through ahead. Third lock, straight in and out. Easy. Drifted on down towards Braunston with many sights bringing back memories of 2010. Turned right at the junction with little other traffic around and pulled in for lunch not much further on. As we hadn't done a village today we walked in to Lower Shuckburgh. I nice stone church with different styles of masonry made it worth the visit but not much else. Didn't get inside unfortunately.  Moored up short of Napton Junction.

Thursday 14 July. 7 miles, 9 locks.

It is not long before we are on the Oxford canal. New territory for us. There are 39 locks to Oxford. the first 9 take us to the canal summit. A bit of a slow start as we pick up water before the first lock then while going up the lock Diana finds out from the lock keeper there is a nice village shop in Napton on the Hill so we moor up and walk up the hill into town. The shop does its own baking and serves coffee etc. Lunch is in order but they were a tad slow with service. While we waited we meet an older couple of cyclist who had just returned from a cycling tour of the Outer Hebrides. The village had a variety of cottage designs and ages. Eventually back to the boat with 8 locks to do. There was a stream of boats coming down so all the locks were set for us and extra hands on the locks. Diana finds out that the last but one lock had gate repairs being done to it and one boat coming down had a 4 hour wait. By the time we got to the top there were still 5 boats in the que to come down. I suggest that our time spent in a village was better than sitting in a que. Moored up near the village of Priors Hardwick. It was such a beautiful evening we walked the half mile across a farmers paddock to the village. We took photos of cottages, churches, manly old but a few new houses. There is a restaurant there which I had wondered if we might stop to eat but when I passed the car park it looked like it was out of our league. Jaguars, Audi's, Range Rovers fill most of the spaces. As Diana walks past the owner insists that she go inside as he has something for her. What an incredible place this was. Owned by a Portuguese, he had bought an old pub site unseen at 2am one morning many years ago and had turned it into a quality restaurant. There were pictures on the walls of many famous people and the motor racing elite had made it there place. Worth a look at www.thebutchersarms.com  Back to the boat for sausages and mash.

Friday 15 July. 5 miles.

Looking to get a bit further down the track today. Stop for lunch at Fenny Compton. Read up about a village a mile to the East so walk up the hill for a look. Turns out to be heaped in history as the village of Wormleighton is the ancestral home of the Spencer's. Once again a variety of buildings dominated by the orange coloured Northampton Stone. Talked to a local and are told that only two buildings in the village are not owned by the Spencer's. Too late to move on and with a pub next door the choice for diner is obvious. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Schools in.

Tuesday 12 July. 2 1/2 miles

Overcast morning. Walked to the co-op for milk and bread and brought crossaints back for breakfast. Had a chat with those on the boat in front and behind before moving off just as the first of the drizzel started. None forecast till late afternoon. A short time later I hear a horn tooting and presume it is a car going over a hump back bridge but the tooting continues so I look behind to where a boat has rapidly caught us up. I get no hand signals but see a kid on the boat and guess he is playing with the horn. A bit later I feel the presure wave and look around to see the boat very close so move to the edge and invite him to pass. As he goes past he asks if this is the way to Braunston! About now the dynamics of two 7ft wide boats travelling in the same direction on a narrow canal take over. As he powers passed me I almost stop with the pressure of his bow wave. When he is halfway past I ride his stern wave which means his motor is trying to pull two boats. I speed up and he slows down. Soon after there is a narrowing of the canal so I power off but we are still travelling at the same speed I ask him if he is going to make the gap. At this point it all gets too hard for him and I go through the narrow first. Soon after we have reached the spot where we are going to moor up and he goes past. I hope he found Braunston.

Drizzel has stopped and we made the 35 min walked into Rugby. It was getting cold and without a jacket I frequent a couple of Charity shops and spend 4 quid on a nice warm one. We take in some of the architechture and then a late lunch. Call into the info centre to find out what to do and what to plan for on the way back. We are given the Blue Plaques brochure and a map that she points out a couple of buildings to look at around Rugby School. We decide to do the school ones. Well when we get to the first we see some more down the road and then some more till eventually we have to turn back towards the boat or we will never get away. As we pass an open doorway Diana puts her head in and starts taking photos. From behind us a bloke on a bike says go on in if you like. Off course we did. Then he says you can go over the court yard and down those step if you like. The place had beautiful buildings and gardens. As we were about to leave he turns up again and askes if we would like to look in the Chapel. Too right we would. Well it was a couple of hours before we got to the Chapel as he gave us a guide tour through so many of the buildings that are not seen by the public. We were lucky that summer holidays started last week.
To Michael the porter, Thank you. I hope Diana will have pictures on her blog to show the magnificence of the buildings and interiors. OK it is now almost 6pm and the drizzle is back as we walk the 35 min back to the boat. I'm not happy where we are moored so don my wet weather gear and head out of town as the rain becomes continuouse. It is not too long before we find a suitable spot for the night and tie up behind the same couple we were behind last night.

Monday, 11 July 2016


Friday 8 July, 12 miles, 2 locks.

Set off watching the engine temperature gauge very closely. Sat at its normal temp all day so no conclusion on what happened yesterday. It was a bit windy, blowing the boat about and difficult to handle at times. Did the 2 locks through Tamworth and moored up to the east at the village of Polesworth. Walked into the village to a variety of architechture, black & white, thatched, stone and an Abbey dating back to the 10th Century. Found a chippy so had F & C in the park for tea before returning to the boat.

Saturday 9 July. 6 miles, 11 locks.

It absolutly through it down last night and still was when we woke. It is forecast to improve around lunch time so we are not moving. Late morning the rain stoppd and it looked like it would be OK for a while so went back into the village to look in the Abbey that was closed last night. It had an interesting interior but nothing different to others we have visited. A lovely Sensory garden that won a civic award in 2006. The original 10th Century Gate house is all that remains from that era and is now used as a house. Set off about 2pm. Just before Atherstone there are 3 sets of locks, 2 in each. After those 6 we have a choice of  stopping or doing the remaining 5 to get to the top of the Atertone flight. We decide to go on as we should be through reasonable quickly.
Lock one, good. Lock two, A boat comming down decided to pinch our water. By the time the lock is ready we let a boat behind go through because in chatting to them earlier they have just been told they are about to have their first grandchild and need to get back to their marina. Felt a bit sorry for them. They had started down the flight when they got the call and had to contine down 6 locks before they could turn around and come back up the same six. We first meet then on the 5th one going down. Lock 3, 4 & 5 were straight forward except at the top lock and olde guy, about my age started talking and I guess it was 30 minutes later before we got away and then moored up by Hartshill for the night.

Sunday 10 July. 9 miles.

Being Sunday a Sunday roast is the plan especially as it is Diana's birthday. Asked a few people about a good pub and they all recomended The Greyhound at Hawkesbury Junction. We are booked in for 6pm. Off we go through Nuneaton, past the Ashby Canal Junction and arrive at Hawkesbury around 5pm. Tiddy up and walk to the pub for a very nice meal to finish with ice cream and a special coffee. Should have mentioned Diana's treat. I got the generator out this morning so she could use her hair dryer.

Monday 11 July. 11 1/2 miles, 1 lock, 1 swing bridge, 1 tunnel.

An overcast start to the day with wind gusting to 30mph. Not looking forward to the "U" turn required to get onto the Oxford canal. In the end it turned out OK and there were no major crashes. Spent a good portion of the day within earshot of, alongside or under the M6. Passed the spot where we had Dinner on Molly Rose as guests of the previous owners in 2010. Have moored up on the outskirts of Rugby at Newbold on Avon.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

On our way to Oxford

Tuesday 5 July.

A Summers, chill out day. Moved the boat a few yards to where we will get sun in the morning overlooking the wider expanse of Tixall Wide. Farted around on and with the boat all morning. Walked into Great Haywood for a coffee and to take advantage of the cafe's power and internet.

Wednesday 6 July. 10 1/2 miles, 2 locks.

Time to get back on track. Enjoyed the scenery where we were then moved off to Great Haywood Junction. There we had a pump out, filled with water and had lunch at the top of the first lock. On our way by 1400. We decided to make sure we were through Rugeley before mooring up for the night as we had been told not to moor there last time we went through. We were surprised to see a large number of boats moored up in reasonably good neighbour hoods. Stopped to go to the supermarket as there is a good Morrisons not to far from the canal. As we left the towpath, there in front of us not more than 100 yards away was a brand spanking new Tesco superstore. It is great to have these facilities so close to the canal. A bit late away from there but the evening was pleasant enough. I was aiming to stop at a spot we had stayed on this day in 2010 with Robert & Mary. I knew we were close and as I passed the spot it looked familiar but going a bit quick to stop so went for the next good spot. It didn't come so ended under trees about a mile on.

Thursday 7 July. 7 miles, 3 locks.

Only 3 locks on the programe today. Away about 1030 and arrived at the first lock number 2 in the que. There were 4 boats comming the other way. Approaching the top lock at Fradley Junction the mind goes back to 2010 when as we approached this lock the reverse gear failed and we made a controlled crash into the approaches. Today is different. Straight in, volunteer lock keepers on duty to work the locks. At the junction turned right onto the Coventry canal and trundelled on down until the engine overheated so pulled over and moored up in front of a Pub. It was the only thing there. Had a good look to see what the problem was, talked to a couple of boaties and between us decided we couldn't figure it out. Rang, River & Canal Rescue, (AA of the waterways) who made some suggestions which I tried. In the end they sent an engineer who couldn't tell me why we had overheated and checked every thing out as OK. Late now so staying the night next to a busy railway line. Tomorrow I will watch the temperature guage like a hawk.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Half a summers day

Monday 4 July. 6 miles 1 lock.

Beautiful summers day. well it started that way. I went into the "Hough Retail Park" to get a replacement toilet seat for the one that had been holding on by two, then one and eventually no screws. The shop was about a 20 minute walk towards Stafford. Managed to get one that was all the right measurements except its length that was a bit longer than the broken one. Fits but only just. It will have to do. Caught up with Diana at another retail centre where she looked in most shops and bought very little. Back on board for lunch then up the canal to turn around. I was expecting to go 3 miles and 1 lock to turn then back throuh the lock and 3 miles back to where we started from. As it turned out there was a boat club a mile up the canal and before the lock. Their entrance was just big enough to turn in. We also filled with water as the tank was getting very low. Trundled down the canal under an overcast sky and a cool wind to end the day in the Tixall Wide. The canal widens out into a bit of a lake and the bird wife is meant to be good here. As it turned out our summers day had left us by now and the birds were all hidding out of the rain.