Sunday, 29 June 2014

Meeting a Tortoise - Sunday 29th June

We had a late start for us today and meandered down the cut watching the gongoozlers at the bridges and passing 4 separate well behaved Stag Party boats and 3 day boats some of whom were still learning the ropes.


At Hayford Wharf we passed some more gongoozlers this time having morning coffee at the cafe next to Oxfordshire Narrowboats yard.


We stopped for water just after the bridge and as we moved off a couple on the boat coming the other way were waving at us. It was not until they were almost past that we recognised Angela and Michael of Nb. Levik. We had a quick chat and they said that London had been particularly difficult for mooring. The picture shows them disappearing through the bridge hole.IMG_4472

At the next lock we had to wait whilst a boat was coming up and started talking to the people on the boat in front waiting to go down. It turned out that we both were aiming for the same mooring spot and we eventually pulled up behind them. They had a miniature “Jimmy” called Cressy after Tom Rolts famous boat and the two dogs ended up playing with one another on the tow path. Later we shared a bottle of wine and chatted away the evening. Don and Judy have called their boat Nb. Angonoka after the rare breed of Tortoise found in Madagascar where Don had spent several years breeding them to go back into the wild for the  Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.


The canal here looks more like a river as it meanders its way down towards the Thames with plenty of wildlife and the odd Kingfisher.


Saturday, 28 June 2014

Quick Visit to Braunston - Saturday 28th June

Last night as I was doing my engine checks ready for an early start this morning I found that the Stern Gland Greaser screw was not functioning properly and it appeared that the cast brass top had started to split around the thread. I decided that it should be replaced before we went any further so having looked up the bus times decided that if I caught the 7.50am bus from Banbury to Daventry I could then catch the 9.10am bus to Braunston, purchase the greaser and catch the 9.40am bus to Daventry in time to get the 10.15am bus back to Banbury.So this is what I did, all the buses were on time and I was back on the boat by 11.25am and new greaser fitted in time for us to leave Banbury within the 48hr mooring limit. Whilst the bus drove through Braunston it passed the church where there was a band playing and large gathering of people singing in the churchyard. I had forgotten that it was the weekend of the Braunston Historic Boat Rally until I read Adams blog, Briar Rose, and would guess that this was part of that event.

It had started to rain about 11.00am at Banbury so we left all kitted up for a wet trip but after the first mile the skies cleared and the sun came out and we had a very pleasant trip. This stretch of the canal has an abundance of Lift bridges like these just outside Banbury. Fortunately all of them up to bridge 193, Chisnell Lift Bridge are left open.

Lift Bridge

Aynho Weir Lock south of Banbury is a curious shape, with narrow gates at each end, but with a chamber that widens out to around 20 feet, making it awkward for solo boaters particularly as the gates are very heavy to manoeuvre..
The lock only has a fall of around 1 foot, but it feeds the 12 foot deep Somerton Lock, 3 miles downstream. So, one theory is that the unusual shape is to allow extra water to be sent downstream each time the lock is used.The River Cherwell crosses the canal on a level just above Aynho Weir Lock, sometimes creating interesting currents but fortunately not today.Aynho Weir Lock

Just after we went under the M40 for the second time a lovely red Fox watched us pass by without batting an eyelid. But as usual in these situations the camera was not readily to hand.

We moored up for the day at 4pm and Sooty, the Boxer dog on the next boat came to see if Jimmy could go out to play. They had a great romp together over the adjacent field and returned to the boat tired out so we looked  forward to a peaceful evening

Friday, 27 June 2014

Pigeon Pie and Tooley’s Discovery Friday 27th June

We thought we would be having Pigeon Pie for tea tonight but the Racing Pigeon Association phoned us about 9.15 this morning to give us the contact details for Pilgrim pigeon, as we have christened him. I phoned and Terry said that he would come and collect him early on Saturday morning. We still wondered if he would make it for Terry to collect but after we had returned from a mornings shopping he was eating some of the rice we had put in the bowl with him. Whilst out we had bought bird seed and we put some of it in his bowl and he has been eating it all through the day. He is now quite bright and responds when we go in the cratch to check on him so all being well he should make a good recovery.Pigeon Pie

The weather has been so much better than the forecast and we have had only a couple of light showers with some lovely bright sunshine so we have been out and about in Banbury with June exploring the shops and me having a look around Tooley’s Historic Boatyard. As well as being a working boatyard it also has a fine  display of its history.


Among the exhibits is this 1912 Bolinder engine believed to be the earliest example in the country.Some of the other exhibits include the tools for making wooden boats, some very old electrical tools like drills made by Black & Decker and the 200 year old Forge.

Tooleys Tools

Tom Rolt’s boat “Cressy” was prepared for his honeymoon cruise in 1939 at Tooley’s. The cruise was the basis of his book “Narrowboat” which led to the formation of the Inland Waterways Association.

1939 cressy cruise

Whilst walking around the exhibition looking at the photographs I spotted somebody I recognised. It was Pete off the Icebreaker Oxford No.1 we had met earlier in the week, and chatting to the lady in Tooley’s it appears that Pete used to work at the Boatyard and has done much to organise the collection of engines and memorabilia; no wonder he knew so much about the canals history and narrowboats in general. He is obviously a very talented gentleman.

At dinner time we had a call from Terry to say that he could come and collect Pilgrim Pigeon tonight so we readily agreed and he arrived about 8.15pm. We were so glad as Pilgrim was now raring to go and was fluttering around the cratch and pooping everywhere. So no Pigeon Pie tonight.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Pigeon Rescue at Banbury Cross - Thursday 29th June

Another lovely morning so it was up and off through Cropredy Lock mooring up at the Wharf just below to top up the water tank. It was then a leisurely cruise to Banbury passing under the M40 at 09.00 and watching all the traffic speeding on their way. Oh how glad we were that we were just doddling  along at 2 mph. No rush as we did not want to get to Banbury too early in case the boats had not moved off and there were no mooring spots. We need not have worried as there was plenty of mooring right in the centre and even tonight there are still plenty of places available.IMG_4466
Having moored up we went off to the shops and the regular Thursday and Saturday Charter Market to stock up our larder with fresh produce and some for the freezer. Having stowed it all aboard we went off to Druckers for lunch and afterwards explored the town walking up to the Cross and Cock Horse.
The rest of the afternoon was spent washing and polishing the side of the boat and enjoying the lovely su. Later I took Jimmy a walk through Spiceball Park and then around Grimsbury Reservoir which is used to supply drinking water to 34,000 customers and provides a home for Banbury Sailing Club. The water is taken by gravity from the River Cherwell and is processed at a plant next to the reservoir.
Whilst June was chatting to our neighbours in the evening she rescued a pigeon who had fallen into the canal. It turned out to be a homing/racing bird and looked in a very sorry state. We took the details from the ring on its leg and checked the internet for how to report finding it. The advice was to keep it secured and feed it bird seed or dry rice/ lentils and water and usually they recover within 24 hours. As the weather forecast is bad for tomorrow and we have to move the next day I reported the details to the Pigeon Website and hopefully we will get a call back before we have to leave with what they want doing with the bird. The pigeon is now in a cardboard box supplied by our neighbours with water and rice and is being kept in the cratch. We just hope he makes a quick recovery.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Cropredy, a village of unusual Names - Wednesday 25th June

Awoke to a lovely sunny morning so made an early start and were soon travelling through the narrow stretch of canal which had previously been Fenny Compton Tunnel but is now opened up to the sky. Good job no boats were coming the other way as there us very little room for passing.IMG_4446

Approaching Claydon Top Lock a Canadian Canoe came towards us with two dogs and a lady paddling; as she came alongside she called out Junes name and we realised that it was Sue one of June’s friends with her two Pointers and just by chance she and her husband had stopped off at Claydon on their way home from a dog show in Bristol. It never ceases to amaze me how you meet friends and acquaintances in the most unusual places. After a quick chat we proceeded down the locks and Sue on her canoe trip.

Sue Hastwell

We soon reached Cropredy, a lovely canal side village, and there was only one other boat moored moored above the lock so we had a choice of mooring for the night. However by the evening there were no spaces left.IMG_4463

The Church of St Mary the Virgin has a long and interesting history. The South Aisle dates from as early as 1050. The Sanctuary in it's present form dates from the 14th century. The lower stage of the tower dates from 15th century and the belfry was added about 80 years later. The clock, with it's 14ft long wooden pendulum dates from 1831. The tower has 8 bells, six of which were installed in the 17th century and the last two, Fairport and Villager were added as recently as 2007. These bells were named to reflect the good relationship between the church and local Fairport Convention annual festival.


We decided to have lunch at the Red Lion a lovely old thatched pub and had a great home cooked meal using local produce.IMG_4451

Walking around the village you see many unusual street names like this one called Backside which as the brass plaque attached to it says its name came from the fact that it provided the rear entrance to the farms which fronted onto the High Street.


Another unusual name is Cup and Saucer which apprentally derives its name from the old remains of a medieval cross which looks like a cup and saucer.

cup and saucer

Another one I liked is Creampot Lane with the sign on the wall of Monkey Tree House named presumably after the Tree which can be seen in the front garden.


The village is full of attractive and interesting houses with some amazing gardens and here are just a few.


Walking back to the canal I came across this shelter with a sign at the bottom naming it Canoodlers Corner.


Back on board Nb. Indulgence moored up behind us another boat from Brinklow and we spent part of the evening chatting with Helen and Case. The previous evening I had chatted to Denis and Jean on Nb. Shield Maiden also from Brinklow. We all seem to heading towards the Thames.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

An Icebreaker when you don’t need it–Tuesday 24th June

After having breakfast whilst watching a Kingfisher catching fish outside our window, we made an early start and were lucky enough to be able to go straight into the first lock at Napton as the volunteer Lock keeper kindly opened the gates for us as we approached.  Lock 10 still has a supporting iron frame to keep the entrance open as the contractors make good the collapsed wall but June took the boat into the lock with great precision. Presumably the need for only opening the locks between 08.00 and 18.00 is to ensure nobody causes more damage by hitting the iron supports and protecting the workforce.We made good progress through the locks meeting several boats coming down. The last pound was a bit low but the boat coming down had let more water through so as long as we stayed in the centre there was no problem.
I always like the view on the run up to the first lock as the Windmill comes into clear view towering above the surrounding countryside.IMG_4433
The Water Buffalo are still being bred on the farm half way up the Napton flight and this time they had some small calves with them
Although the breeze had been a little cool when we started off at 07.30 it soon warmed up and we had a nice run along this very beautiful and winding stretch of the South Oxford Canal. We moored up near to bridge 129 where there is a great view back over the Warwickshire countryside to Napton on the Hill from whence we had just come.IMG_4436
Moored just a little way in front of us was an old Icebreaker which we could have done with the last time we came along this part of the canal back in the very cold April of last year. (we had been frozen in on 3 mornings)
Icebeaker Oxford
However as always happens we came across it in glorious weather. The owners of Oxford 1, Peter and Diana, had lovingly restored her to as near as they could get to how she would have been in 1943 when she was handed over to the Oxford Canal Company on Christmas day. She had been built in the Black Country and the cabin had been put on by Fellows Morton and Clayton in Birmingham. Peter had managed to find an old Lister Engine which had also been built in 1943 and would have been the same as the one originally fitted. Luckily when the old records of the Oxford Canal Co. had been thrown out of the Hillmorton Offices an employee had rescued them from the skip and they are now deposited in the Warwick archives. Here Peter found the old plans and drawings for Oxford 1 together with some pictures of how she had looked and letters requesting the build to be like the Coventry Icebreaker.
Whilst Oxford is not used as an icebreaker she is still used in her secondary role as a tug and was off to the Braunston Historic Boat Rally to help move some of the boats into their new positions. She has also towed several craft who have broken down to the nearest road access when on her travels around the network.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Another Lovely Day on the Cut - Monday 23rd June

Left the mooring and made our way the short distance to Hillmorton Locks where a boat was just coming out of the bottom lock and we had the same luck with the next two making life very easy for a change. We stopped at Hillmorton Wharf for diesel, a paper, and a few odd bits and pieces and motored on past the wide beam which is moored bridge 76 an unusual sight on a narrow canal. Could not resist taking this photo of the lovely garden at Willoughby Wharf.IMG_4422

I always love the approach to Braunston from Hillmorton with its church high above the village houses and the lovely green fields spread out before you.IMG_4423

Turned off onto the Grand Union at Braunston Turn and motored on to Bridge 103 where we moored up next to a willow tree to provide the necessary shade to be able to enjoy a lovely sunny afternoon on the bank.


Late afternoon I walked Jimmy along the canal to Lower Shuckburgh where we went to explore St Peter’s Church. We have passed this attractive church many times but have never stopped to explore the area. It dates back to 1864 and makes a great use of contrasting brickwork.


Sunday, 22 June 2014

No Wind–Sunday 22nd June

We woke up early to a beautiful sunny and warm morning with no wind blowing across the marina, very unusual for Brinklow. I decided to take the car home and catch the early buses back to the marina, the M6 was very quiet but the 07.15am bus was surprisingly busy for a Sunday morning, as were the other two buses. However, they were all on time and we were met by June as Jimmy and I walked back through All Oaks Wood at about 10.00am.

As we left the marina the canal was busier than we have seen it before, passing 10 boats within the first mile, fortunately all going in the opposite   As we came to the moorings at Cathiron we could not help but notice this vacant mooring spot now occupied by a caravan and lots of children's toys.


We made steady progress through Rugby again passing several boats although there was still plenty of free mooring spots at Newbold and Brownsover. Moored up for lunch just after Bridge 68 and as the weather was so nice decided to stay and enjoy the lovely sunshine sitting on the bank and watching the world go by.


A yellow Labrador came by and decided to play with Jimmy, unfortunately Jimmy is not used to the towpath width and ended up falling backwards into the canal, so we then had a very wet dog. Fortunately he dried very quickly in the warm sunshine.The afternoon proved to be much quieter than the morning in terms of boat movements and when I walked Jimmy up to Hillmorton Locks there were no boats going through at all.IMG_4420

Summer Cruise - Saturday 21st June

We arrived at the boat early evening after a busy day getting ready for the off. After unloading the car the boat seemed to sink further into the water than normal but hey-ho it all went in. June put all the food away whilst I took Jimmy for his evening walk and we met Teddy, Kane and Rocky and their owners having a BBQ on the field so stopped for the usual chat. After a late dinner we retired to bed too tired even to read.

The marina swans have managed to keep 8 signets from the 11 eggs they laid and they are quite tame marching across the driveway to reach the smaller fish ponds or tapping on the boats for food in the mornings. They were not even bothered by Jimmy.