Sunday, 9 December 2018

Re-Watering. 6th December

Castle Quays

As a break from Christmas shopping we both headed up the canal (at different times) to have a look at how works were progressing at the bridge that is currently closed. Mick headed out first leaving me to do secret things, then I followed.

The towpath by the bridge is very muddy at the moment, wellies would have been more appropriate wear, at least I’d been wanting to breakdown my new boat shoes.

P1440279smThis morning a boat had passed us, this meant that either the canal was open again or they were from a mooring and heading for water. The latter was the case, they’d left bags of coal and wheelbarrows reserving their space. There might have been enough room for another boat just past them, but we plan to move tomorrow anyway so we’d only gain even muddier footwear if we’d moved.

P1440282smP1440289smTwo blue tarpaulin dams with plenty of scaffolding, have been holding the waters back whilst works have been on going at the bridge for the last three weeks. The water is then pumped out from the gap so that access to the base of the old lift bridge that was once here.

P1440291smA lot of stabilising work has been carried out, lots of new bricks and mortar everywhere.

P1440284smP1440288smWhen Mick had arrived water had started to be pumped back into the gap, C&RT chaps were still on site. By the time I arrived it looked like the levels had just about equalised, but nobody was about. Fencing that had been put on the bridge had been removed and things looked like the canal would reopen on time.

P1440297smChristmas shopping has been on going and it’s been handy being moored so close to all the shops. I’m the only one who’s finished, wrapped as well!

If you are looking for a present for a boater this year, may I suggest Flush Force. Who ever thought of this? A toilet which you fill the cistern with water, then shake to reveal collectable Flushies in the bowl! Turd Mite, and Farty Mcfly are two single flush characters. No wonder they are reduced in the shops.P1440296sm

0 locks, 0 miles, 3 visits to the shops, 1 canal filling up, 2 dams, 150 Flushies.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Canal Closed Ahead. 4th December

Bluebird Bridge to Castle Quay Footbridge

After two loads of washing we needed to top the water tank up before going too much further. Once up through Banbury Lock there would only be one tap we’d be able to use, just above the lock, and this would mean reversing to it as the canal ahead is currently closed. As we were finishing our breakfast the boat that was having engine trouble came past, they pulled onto the water point below the lock. Good job there’s the one above, so we pushed off and emptied the lock.

P1440251smNo matter what time of day there are plenty of people around at the lock and despite the number of signs up saying not to cross the top gates, many people do. Some ask, others don’t. The locals may well be aware to tread carefully as they cross and it does save a walk round to the handy footbridge put there for the purpose. Two more crossed just as the gate was about to be ready to open.

The pound through Banbury was full, so much that the water was over topping the top gates of the lock. There must be a bypass with water being pumped around the closure or a feed into this pound, at least it means that no matter how many boats go through the lock our boat will remain afloat.

P1440254smSoon the other boat was coming up the lock and as we were still filling with water Mick walked up to raise the lift bridge for them. They hadn’t noticed that that was what was happening and pulled over expecting us to go through first, Mick waved them on. Our tank was now full, so no need to drop the bridge, we packed away our hose quickly and followed them through. Tooleys were going to work on their engine problem and they called the boat yard to see where to pull in, luckily there was space for us to pass as they were directed into a space.

P1440258smNext thing was to find a mooring suitable for Tilly to be able to go out. The Castle Quay moorings are surrounded by car parks for the shopping arcade and not somewhere we’d be happy to let her out. I walked on along the towpath to see if there was space by Spiceball Park. I passed a few boats that had come past us in recent days, all waiting for the stoppage ahead to finish to carry on northwards like ourselves. There were also a few familiar boats, those from permanent moorings on the other side of the closure. They had moved down so as to have access to the water point. I walked up almost to the closed bridge, but there was only one space available. This was alongside the park, but also right next to the busy road bridge. If I could have got five boats all to nudge up tightening up their modesty gaps, then we’d have just fitted by the park. So I walked back to Mick and gestured to reverse back to Castle Quays. There was just enough space for us to tag on the end of the moorings before the disabled bollards.

This will do for the next few days. This outside has no view! Just what were they thinking?

P1440262smBanbury is the last reasonable sized town we’ll see before Christmas. So presents and festive items need to be bought whilst we’re here. No popping into town whilst we’re on the summit pound for crackers!

DSCF7114sm1 lock, 0.3 miles, 120ft reversed, 2 taps, 1 beaten to, 1 lift bridge, 5 dogs still woofing, 2 compost boats together, 1 shopping list compiled, 0 shore leave, 0 view! 1 sulky cat.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

The Bus Station Cafe. 3rd December

Nadkey Bridge to Bluebird Bridge via the water point.

The puzzles just weren’t the same in the Sunday paper, not enough of them either.

P1440240smThe weather really couldn’t make it’s mind up as we drank our cuppas in bed. One minute bright sunshine, the next torrential rain. Despite Tilly doing her best to persuade us to let her out she was kept in, so that with the next bout of sun we could push off and make it to the water point. Some serious underwear washing was needed and the water tank couldn’t be relied on having enough to even start the washing machine before we got to the tap.

P1440242smP1440244smOnly a mile and a half into Banbury. On the off side what is going to be a new park has new trees planted. A couple of chaps were trying to straighten them up and retie them to their supports, they did look forlorn. Then the building site where numerous houses are going up. When Mick returned from Morrisons yesterday he was surprised at how many new houses were going up at this end of the town. At least the popular mooring between bridges 170 and 171 will have a park to look at. I say popular but today nobody was moored there, only a few boats at Tramway and a couple near the foundry behind the station.

P1440247smAs we rounded the bend between the two bridges below Banbury Lock I could see that a boat was on the water point, hose out. We pulled up opposite and pulled back away from the lock. A chap stuck his head out and asked if we were wanting water, they had their washing machine on, but were happy to pull away. This they did so that we could take over the tap and put our washing machine on. First they pulled backwards then as the next sunny spell came over head they headed to the lock.

Rubbish disposed of, water tank full, yellow water tank emptied we too pushed off the water point and reversed back to the moorings between bridges. This would mean that we could run the washing machine again and then top up the tank before heading up the lock and finding a mooring by Castle Quays tomorrow. Up ahead on the outskirts of town a bridge is having a lot of work done to it, a dam cuts the canal in half, so once we are past the taps, we would have to reverse back to them as there is nowhere to turn. Shortly after we moored up another boat came past heading for the water point, Monday must be wash day.

P1440250smI headed off to the Post Office to send my knitted items on their way, also to pick up some Christmas shopping that had arrived. A walk through Castle Quays meant a bit of browsing for more presents. I had a few things in mind, but nothing jumped out at me. However a sale at Clarks did draw me in. I’m constantly on the lookout for shoes, I don’t have many pairs on the boat, just enough practical ones to get me by and two smart pairs. Out of the smarter shoes, one pair are for formal funerial wear, the other brighter, but they have now seen better days. So when I spotted some bright red shoes they had to be tried on, at half price they had my name all over them. Now I could have returned back to the boat and put a very big hefty hint in to Mick, but that risked the only pair in my size having gone and he might already have finished buying me presents, so I’d end up missing out on them. There was obviously nothing for it but to buy them myself. Ooops!

This evening we ventured out for a meal. Yes, Mick forever the romantic took me to the Bus Station Cafe! It was our 16th anniversay!!

IMG_20181203_185716SMWhen I say the Bus Station Cafe, I don’t really mean that. From our mooring you do have to walk through the bus station and just on the other side where you’d expect there to be steaming mugs of tea and bacon butties is PawPaw, a Chinese restaurant and takeaway. Brightly lit and colourful inside we hoped their food would be better than we found in Stratford a few months ago. A steady stream of people picking up food on a Monday night was a good sign.

IMG_20181203_190747SMIMG_20181203_193957SMOur table looked very pretty with red rose serviette sculptures. Mick didn’t want to pull his apart as it looked like it had taken a while to make. A bottle of wine, crispy aromatic duck, 2 main courses and a veg side dish were all very nice. Warmer plates for our duck would have been nice, but that was our only criticism. The jolly waitress looked after us very well. A good choice, just a shame about it’s location.

DSCF7114sm0 locks, 1.54 miles, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 0 rubbish, 3 bottle banks, 2 parcels dropped off, 2 parcels picked up, 2 loads washing, 2 showers, 1 pair of shoes, 1 bottle pinot, 1/4 crispy duck, 2 mains, 2 rice, 1 broccoli, 2 more glasses of wine at home, 16 lovely years with my boy.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Last Single Gate. 2nd December

Kings Sutton Lock to Nadkey Bridge 172

Not far today, just edging closer to Banbury. Having no Saturday newspaper made for a different Sunday morning cuppa in bed, no puzzles and no checking if the fashion editor was wearing heels. At least it wasn’t raining, so we pushed off after breakfast to find ourselves a mooring south of Banbury for the night.

P1440222smP1440223smWe pootled past Twyford Wharf where a newly blacked hire boat sat showing off next to a battered and scraped one awaiting it’s turn at Tooleys. A chap worked away on his Ford Capri alongside the moorings, Mick was a touch envious.

P1440225smThen past the lift bridges that brought us to Grant’s Lock, the last with a single bottom gate. Nobody had been through today, it being full the bluey water gradually emptied out of the chamber showing all that lay beneath. From the high vantage point you can see quite a distance, an information board on the M40 informing that the M1 was closed further north and the last two lift bridges were visible with no boats following us.

P1440230smHalf a mile further on and the first possible mooring was empty, so we pulled in. We wanted a good place for Tilly, but close enough to Morrisons for some milk and a parsnip. We could have got closer but the next moorings are quiet close to a big building site, so we preferred the big field opposite with numerous dog walkers calling for their dogs.

Tom stopped this outside before, when she was in Chippy. I liked it then and I like it now. Not far to go to find friends who kept me busy, only one Dreamie visit home today. After what felt like five minutes (4 hours!), she came out shouting for me. So with my latest friend in tow (mouth) I thought I’d introduce it. She seemed a bit too eager and came off the boat to say hello. Unfortunately they didn’t get to meet as she picked me up just as I was adjusting my grip, my friend scurried off into the sideways trees.

P1440235smTilly protested for quite a while, but soon shut up when she was given her advent present of a new pack of Dreamies. Apparently Morrisons didn’t have any advent calendars!

black pawDSCF7114sm1 lock, 1.69 miles, M1 shut, 2 friends, 1 missed introduction, 1 whole packet for 25 days, 2 pints milk, 1 parsnip, 2 mysteron lamb steaks for advent Sunday tea, 1 Sunday newspaper, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Sneaky Rain. 1st December

Belchers Bridge to Above King Sutton Lock

Needing water soon we need to keep moving towards Banbury. Yes we could have pulled in at Aynho Wharf but with little need for anything they could sell us it would have felt rude to stop, hog their service point and fill up the tank. So the next tap is Banbury.

We got ourselves ready and went out to roll up the covers, aiming for King Sutton Lock or there abouts today. As I unzipped the cratch and stood on the gunnel to roll it back everything was just that bit damp. It was that sneaky rain. If you look out of the corner of your eye you’ll catch it, hanging around in the air waiting for someone to land on. This is the sort of rain that gets you really wet when you’re not looking. We both looked at each other and decided to put off pushing off for an hour, hoping we’d be able to fool the weather.

P1440025smP1440140smP1440033smMy completed knitted orders were wrapped and made ready for posting. Back at the wharf there is a post box, but one that looked like it only really liked letters or postcards being fed to it. I could have walked back there to see if my parcels would squidge in but that would mean printing off postage labels and if they didn’t fit then I wouldn’t be able to post them til Monday (you only get til the end of the following day to post things when buying on line)therefore having to pay again. So instead we pottered away the morning, opening up the galley window every now and again to see if the sneaky rain was still there.

P1440143smMick had suggested that this mooring would be ‘surprisingly quiet’ considering there are numerous railway lines close by, three in fact. It was quiet considering two were within sight, one above the other, the third one lying behind the other two. Trains still came and went though so a more peaceful mooring was required for tonight. In the end we had our lunch before setting off and luckily the rain had got bored and moved on shortly after we pushed off.

P1440159smP1440167smI checked the river level before we filled up the foot of water at Aynho Weir Lock, still in the green. At Nells Bridge Lock the level is important as there is a bridge just before the bottom gates. Here a coloured level marker tells you whether to proceed or not. Above this is also a height gauge, for those who want to chance it.

P1440177smPassing The Pig Place there was space on the towpath to moor, but their normal visitor moorings have now become winter moorings. NB Tungsten was tied up close to the coal stocks, no going cold there over winter. All the sofas have been removed, along with the caravan that was a bar, suspect there’s little call for alfresco drinking mid winter.

P1440204smA chap moored on the towpath warned us about bridge 182. The shackles that hold the bridge in the upright position were no longer holding, so he’d had to open the bridge and secure it using one of his mooring spikes pinned through the chain. He said to check the spike was still holding before we went through. As we approached we couldn’t see his spike, but the chain was certainly holding on, so we cruised through in one piece.

P1440208smKings Sutton Lock looked full, so I went up to empty it, only to find it full of boat! An unusual sight at the moment. They were just about up and were going to pull in just after the lock as their engine was playing up. Once the top gate was closed I set the lock for us. The sun was just at that wonderful level where it turns things golden, the lock cottage was getting a good dousing of such light.

The wall along the side of the house was being rebuilt when Mick last came through. Today it looked almost finished, work lamps suggested there’d been a few late evenings trying to get it done and capped off before frosts arrive.

P1440218smAs we rose the boat ahead had moored up and it’s noisy dogs were being allowed out one at a time to do the necessaries. All different shapes, colours and sizes their five dogs certainly wanted to be heard! We cruised onwards past them to find a more peaceful mooring, just nicely within ear shot and view of the M40!

DSCF7114sm3 locks, 3.02 miles, 0 sofas, 2 moving boats, 1 spike held bridge, 1 new wall, 5 woofers, 2nd noisy mooring in a row, 0 Saturday newspaper.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

A Slight Miscalculation. 30th November

Somerton Meadows to Belchers Bridge  189

P1440063smThe sun was out, the winds now gone, time to get moving again.

P1440082smA couple of boats were moving before we pushed off, one of which was ahead of us so by the time we reached Somerton Deep Lock it was very full. With only one paddle on the bottom gates working it took quite a long time to empty the 12ft of water. It then took a lot of patience to wait for everything to level out for me to be able to move the gate, Mick had just stepped off Oleanna to come and give an extra shove when it just started to move.

P1440090smWith the sun out the view from the lock was wonderful. The Grade 2 Lock cottage has no road access, just by boat or the towpath. Last sold in 2007 for £213,000 a dog watched as we worked our way through the lock. A pile of coal bags sat just on the other side of the fence (presumably dropped off by boat from the lock), a wind turbine span round in the garden and a generator whirred away in a garden shed. What a location, Granny Buttons wrote about it in a blog post when it was last for sale.

P1440095smWe had to pause at Chisnell Lift Bridge as it was chained down. I’m now a seasoned lift bridge lifter, unhooked it and crossed to pull it down. The obvious place to grab hold of it was the metal diagonal, but this has been done too many times before and gives way, now held on by a bit of twine. But I soon got the beams down to the ground and sat on for Oleanna to pass through. Here would have been a lovely place to moor for the day, but we wanted to get just that bit further. So we pootled on to Aynho.

P1440112smPassing the permanent moorings we spotted a boat we’d not seen before. We rather liked it, with it’s added play on tumbelhome (term used for the angled sides to a boat cabin).

P1440117smAs we passed the wharf the back end of NB White Swan was visible. Franki (an Instagram acquaintance) has been here waiting to get a new floor welded into her gas locker and her black water tank sorted for weeks. It looked like the boat was being worked on and once we were moored up a touch further along I could hear the sounds of metal being cut. Later in the evening Franki announced that her long wait was over and she’d made a bid for freedom back out onto the towpath in the dark. Sadly she’s facing southwards so our bows won’t be crossing.

Our mooring is where last years winter moorings were, this year they are closer to the wharf. Here we have armco, there they have a worn bank to moor to. We wonder why it seems to have moved, maybe moorers wanted to be nearer the road and pub, or did someone just put the signs in the wrong place!

Tilly went out to enjoy the last three hours of daylight before curfew. The Dreamies lasting quite well. She came and went, showing her face at the glazed hatch doors.

She was gone for some time and returned just as we were watching a Dr Blake Mystery. Was this really our boat cat? A boat cat for three years now. A cat who understands about living by water and it’s dangers. A small nibble cat who all of a sudden appeared at the hatch smaller than normal!


P1440127smP1440134smMy calculation went slightly array and one misplaced paw saw me slip into the wet stuff. It wasn’t the canal. All I was bothered about was getting dry and all she wanted to do was keep me in the bathroom. I don’t need a room to have a bath in, just a nice absorbent surface will do, preferably by the stove! It’s been two years since Tilly was last this wet, then she’d forgotten that water lay between her and some ducks. This time we have no idea what happened or where. But at least it serves as a reminder and luckily one with a happy ending.

DSCF7114sm1 lock, 3.22 miles, 1 lift bridge, 12ft deep, 1 sunny day, 1 view, 0 road, 4 drenched paws, 1 paintbrush tail, 0 fish caught.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Sideways 29th November

Somerton Meadows

IMG_20181129_090041smIMG_20181129_090048smIMG_20181129_090051smIMG_20181129_090055smToday the outside went sideways, it was moving itself. They stayed in bed for ages as I watched it. Too windy for cats they said as Diana might have picked me up and taken me with her. Maybe Diana was the lady walking her woofers.

IMG_20181129_125632smWe all stayed inside for the morning. I practiced my best Tilly stare at her to try to make it all stop. More practice is still required as it didn’t have the required effect. Apparently Houdini’s stare was stronger than mine, I think she must have had lazers in her eyes, but she still wouldn’t have been able to get them to stop the wind.

P1440034smBy mid afternoon it was determined that the wind was now only making things diagonal and the sun was out, so I could go out again. She came with me for a while and we had a bit of a walk along the meadows looking at the other boats and wondering where all the cows were. They must have gone that way and carried on. I really wanted to go and have a climb in the big trees, but she wasn’t willing to jump over the wet bit in the middle of the field so we stayed by the canal, boring!

P1440055smI think she actually came out with me so that she wouldn’t have to give me ‘Thank you for coming home’ Dreamies. Apparently they won’t be able to get any for a few days and this Diana has meant we are a day behind getting new stocks. A very inconsiderate woman!

They spent some of the day measuring up the bed. Getting a quote and then correcting the man who is meant to understand such things. My daytime snoozing will soon be more comfortable, they just hope Tom doesn’t have to chop his toes or head off to fit on the bed.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 very sideways day, 0 trees climbed, 2 hours only, 1 very wet ditch, 3 boats, 1 paw on out of boundness, 0 cows, 137 not 120, 7 instead of 5, 1 free pillow, I cat looking forward to a whole day of exploration tomorrow, but will there be enough Dreamies???