Sunday, 21 October 2018

Over Shooting Banbury. 19th October

Samuelson Bridge to Slat Mill Lock 26

A load of washing went on first thing, my painting dungarees needing to have towpath mud washed off them before they return to being my scenic artist costume. It looks like time has run out for me to give the port side gunnels a coat of black before I’m too busy in Chipping Norton. I just hope there will be a little mild spell mid November so I’m not doing it as it starts to snow, as happened last year!

P1420862smMick lit the fire this morning as it had been left to go out yesterday (It was bloomin freezing!), but something wasn’t right. Smoke was coming into the cabin through the vents so he quickly extinguished it and left it to settle whilst we had breakfast. We hoped that it was just a case of the chimney needing to be swept so whilst I headed out to do a bit of work shopping Mick climbed onto the roof. Once the soot had been cleared out from the stove and everything put back he re-laid the fire and all was well. We’re not sure when it was last swept, but it’s possible it was in the spring, at least it won’t need doing for a while now.

P1420868smIn town I hunted out Banbury Sewing Centre for some felt and Robert Dyas for a new chalk line. Not being very familiar with the town as yet it was made harder by every street being full of fairground rides. Weaving my way through snickets and then around all the stands and rides took quite some doing, but I succeeded in the end. For 400 years there has been a Michaelmas Fair in Banbury and boy does it take over! Even some of the car parks are closed and used to accommodate the fairground workers caravans.

P1420858smNext was a trip to Morrisons to stock up on supplies for the next few days, a bite to eat then we pushed off.

Our mooring had been handy for the station and shopping, but it wasn’t the quietest and we felt nervous about letting Tilly out. So we decided to head out of town for a dose of countryside. But should we head north or south? What ever we needed to fill with water by Castle Quays and then head northwards to the next winding hole. Heading south then would be about an hour and half to the next winding hole, northwards around two and a half. Northwards won out with the hope we’ll be able to get a newspaper in the morning in Cropredy.

P1420873smThe water point below the lock was occupied by a very jolly young single hander. When she spotted us she headed up to the lock to set it for us. She helped with the gates and then returned to her boat to check on the water tank. By the time we were up her tank was full, was there time for her to get up through the lock before a boat came the other way. Mick took Oleanna to the water point before the lift bridge and I stayed to help bring NB Tungsten up. I then offered to close the lift bridge for her as a boat had just come through and left it for her. She said that if we caught her up we should over take as she goes slowly.

P1420881smWe arrived at the next lock to see the stern of NB Tungsten disappearing around the next corner with a big wave. By Bourton Lock we had got closer, she was being helped by a boater moored close by, I joined in and then the helpful chap helped get Oleanna up too. We pootled on, the hours of sunny daylight dwindling. The mooring below Slat Mill Lock was empty so we pulled in, it not being complete armco we ended up having to use pins which took a bit of extra time before Tilly could come out. Her paw had been working overtime at the bathroom window reminding me that she was there, her shouting couldn’t be ignored either. Within twenty minutes she’d found herself a new friend and we’d been forgiven for yesterday.

P1420897smAs the evening progressed we realised that we were near a pedestrian crossing point of the railway as there was a lot of tooting going on. But the sunset and the cows across the way distracted us whilst a pork stew simmered away on top of the stove and two jackets potatoes crisped up nicely inside. The joys of autumn boat life.

DSCF7114sm3 locks, 3.72 miles, 1 chimney swept, 1 full water tank, 1 clean pooh box, 1 collar, 400 years of fair, 12inch square black felt, 1 new chalk line, 4 thermal tops from Gap Outlet, 1 joint of lamb, 1 jolly boater, 1 friend, 4 trees, that’s better.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

A Change Of Roof. 18th October

Brinklow Marina, North Oxford to Lock 7 Long Buckby, Grand Union

P1420800smToday we’ve had a change of boat. This one currently has a bright blue roof and was built around 1995.

Becca and Sam bought their boat last summer along with her mooring at Three Mills in London. They lived on board hooked up until spring this year when they decided it was time to get some work done to her. Both of them are originally from the Sheffield area and ended up asking Jonathan Wilson (builder of Oleanna’s shell) who they should use to carry out the works in the south of England. His suggestion was Brinklow Boat Services who have spent much of the summer working on her on and off. Becca and Sam have spent most of this time sofa surfing around friends and family, but yesterday they picked their home up and moved back on board.

We’d last seen them in the summer at a wedding in Scarborough, got talking about our boats and discovered that they were planning on cruising her back to their London mooring, having done virtually no boating before. Naturally we offered to lend a hand and show them the ropes if we were still in the area. Reaching Banbury yesterday meant that we could catch an early train over to Rugby with a plan of meeting them at the moorings near Tesco. However they’d been held up leaving, but had managed to make it to near Brinklow Marina in the dark.

Excuse me!

A taxi ride got us to the marina gates where Becca met us, then a short walk down the towpath to their boat and Sam. They’ve had all sorts of work done, new floor as the old one was rotten, the batteries had corroded away the battery tray, the galley and bathroom have had lots done to them and they have a new Squirrel stove with a back boiler. We were slightly jealous of the boiler as we’d wanted one, but it proved problematic with the gas boiler that we’d specked on the same system. The copper pipes look lovely running through the boat to several radiators giving out heat. They’ve matched the galley and bathroom sink taps with the copper pipes and their pull out larder unit at the end of the galley is a great idea. All the cupboards have leather straps rather than knobs or handles. It’s going to be a lovely boat when all the work is finished and they’ve re-varnished and painted the interior. Next summer Becca plans on painting the cabin sides too.


Once we’d had a quick look round it was time to fire up the engine and set off, hoping to get through Braunston Tunnel and down the first lock of the Buckby flight before nightfall. The engine took a bit of stirring, but then kept going all day, grumbling at certain revs. I suspect after they have spent the next ten days cruising they’ll be jealous of our hospital silencer.

Sam took the helm and Mick gave guidance whilst Becca continued to unpack inside. Yesterday Sam’s Dad (Roger) had been on hand at the helm and helped them out of the marina. Today we hoped we’d be able to leave them more confident with cruising and handling locks. Progress was slow to start with, but as Sam grew accustomed to the helm the engine was pushed up a bit and our progress increased. It took over an hour to reach where we’d originally hoped to meet them near to Tescos. Passing through Newbold Tunnel gave us the chance to see what their tunnel light was like, not bad, but a bit of a pain to have to go to the front of the boat to turn it on.

Hello! Remember me!!

P1420804smP1420807smTheir stocks of gas were low so when we saw NB Callisto we slowed to see if he’d sell them a new bottle. The gas he had was all spoken for so that would have to wait for tomorrow. The new bridge outside Rudby has come on since we came through. A concrete wall stands on one side of the cut and the reinforcement stands waiting on the other. At Clifton Cruisers Sam negotiated his way around the hire boats as we noticed NB No Problem in the shed. In the strong winds a few weeks ago a large tree fell onto NB No Problem and caused a lot of damage, luckily nobody was injured. We could see a welder busy inside the shed and it looked like a lot of work was happening to the cabin sides.

I’m still here, I’m quiet without my collar.

P1420814smP1420820smApproaching Hillmorton Locks a Lockie set one of the locks for us and as Sam brought the boat into the lock Becca and I hopped off. These three locks would be the only narrow locks they’d come across on their cruise, quite handy as an introduction being lighter than the broad locks they would live with for the next ten days. A work boat came up the lock next door and the lady was very keen to give us a hand, but when I explained that these were their first locks of many she held back and left us to it. This did give them the chance to get ahead of us.

Hello, my bowl got empty far quicker than normal!

P1420823smIn the next lengthy pound we had some food whilst cruising along. No time to stop we had miles to cover to get to do one down hill lock with them.

P1420829smStraight on at Braunston Turn but no sign of another boat to share the locks with.

P1420831smThis was quite handy really as at this time of year they are quite likely to have to do the locks on their own and more importantly we could take our time to explain things to them and try to impart as much knowledge as we could whilst doing the flight.

P1420836smBy the time we were three locks up Mick left Sam on his own at the helm and walked ahead to set the next locks. A boat was coming down so the boats had to pass in the next pound, Sam managed to hold his course and hovered without feeling the need to tie up and wait. By the top lock Becca was getting the hang of doing everything in the right order and safely.

The stove went out ages ago!

P1420839smTunnel light on, chimney removed, and a handy light the boat yard had left onboard was popped onto the hatch for extra light at the stern. Sam still at the helm was about to do Braunston Tunnel, our least favourite on the network. We had the tunnel to ourselves, no one coming towards us, Sam held his line well, not one bump. By the time they reach Islington Tunnel, which is one way traffic, they will be more confident and hopefully they won’t do too much preparation for repainting the grabrails.

It’s getting past my dingding time.

P1420848smP1420852smBecca took over at the helm and cruised us to Norton Junction and then the top of the Buckby Flight. The sun was sinking fast now, we decided it was still worth doing the top lock, so that we’d at least taken them through one downhill. So long as you keep away from the cill and don’t get caught on the bottom gates, going down hill is easier, far less instruction was needed. Sam and I worked the lock in the dark as the light kept flicking on and off at the pub.

We’d reached our aimed mooring, one lock further than they had planned and we’d had three to four miles extra to do too. This was as far as they would be able to go today anyway as the rest of the flight of locks are still being locked overnight to help with water levels. A space quickly showed itself and spikes were hammered into the ground in the dark.

And it is days past morning dingding time!!!

P1420856smA shame we’d not arrived in day light, it was 7pm and we’d still got to get the train home. Sadly no drinks with them at the end of the day in the pub. They had to go to be able to charge their phones after discovering yesterday that they don’t have an inverter and there isn’t one 12 volt socket anywhere on board! Suspect they’ll enjoy their evenings so long as they find a pub.

We walked down the flight past the locked gates of the next lock and joined the road leading to Long Buckby Station. We arrived just at the right moment as a train was pulling in that would take us as far as Coventry where we’d change to get back to Banbury. A long but enjoyable day. We wish them luck for the rest of their journey to London.

Long!! Long Day!!!! Tell me about it! One very long, cold, boring, hungry day! Tomorrow had better be better than today and yesterday.

10 locks, 18 miles, 1 leftish, 1 rightish, 1 tunnel with 2 mysterons, 4 trains, 1 taxi, 1.5 miles walked by torch light, 2 newbies, 0 inverter, 0 hosepipe, 1 new one on the way with Roger, 3 baskets, 1 slash curtain, 3 cuppas, 9 up, 1 down, hope they can remember how to go up again when they get to do it again, 1 hungry cat who should be more proactive about food.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Catching The Post. 17th October

Somerton Meadows to Samuelson Bridge 168

P1420750smStopping at the meadows was lovely, having cows as neighbours would have been great for a couple of days. But we had to press on, we needed to reach Banbury today for me to pick up a paint chart and get some paint on order. After half an hour of Tilly demanding to be let out and with breakfast out of the way we pushed off. Today the sun was out and we had some visible sky above us.

P1420757smFirst lock was Somerton Deep, at 12ft the bottom gate took quite some shifting to get going. Paul last week had warned us about the width of the locks at this end of the canal. They are at least a foot wider which means that if you have to take care as you rise. The metal sheet that is intended for your bow fender to slide up is narrow and you can end up catching the structure of the gate instead. So Mick hung back and due to the depth of the lock I took my time in raising the paddles to full height.

P1420768smP1420770smWe rounded a couple of bends and at Chisnell Lift Bridge we could see NB Muddy Waters was just coming through and a lady was ready to close the bridge behind them, when they saw us she hopped back on board to leave us to close it. Mick hopped off once we were through and closed it hooking the chain around the hook so that the farmer could get back across with ease. From now on the bridges are normally left open to boat traffic.

P1420771smAt Aynho Weir Lock I walked up to check the river level before we proceeded, well in the green still. A C&RT chap was wondering around, checking the weir, then the lock and making notes on a tablet. He had a windlass attached to his belt, so it looked like he was inspecting for any problems at the locks. The lock takes quite some time to level out, far more than you’d expect then the gates are stiff to move. A lady came to assist from an oncoming boat the first of two hotel boats we’d see during the day.

P1420778smP1420781smWe swapped with a boat at Nell Bridge Lock meeting another above at the winding hole. Our stomachs were in need of supplies so we pulled in opposite the Pig Place for some lunch before carrying on. No bacon for us today just the usual.

P1420790smApproaching Kings Sutton Lock there was a hire boat moored up at the very end of the lock landing. It looked like they had stopped for lunch, yet the bottom gate of the lock was wide open. Had someone left the gate? No it was the hirers who had gone ahead to set the lock, an older couple and the lady just didn’t have enough weight behind her to move the heavy bottom gates so her husband was helping. We let them go first and helped with the gates and paddles, these were also a bit too stiff for the lady.

One last lock to get us as close to Banbury as we wanted to get. Just before it the hire boat had pulled in, undecided as whether to do the lock or not they let us past. We ascended and then waited to see if we could help again, but after much discussion between themselves they let us know that they’d be mooring up for the night. Hope that’s what they did as we’d have been very happy to help.

P1420797smOne of the lift bridges was down on our way into Banbury and a helpful chap who was tinkering with his boat walked up to open it for us. The farmer was over in a field possibly sowing crops. The bridge looked very heavy indeed and I was glad this chap had some good ballast to hold it open for us, the hire boat behind would definitely need some assistance when they come through. There was space before Samuelson Bridge on the 14 day moorings so we pulled in and as soon as we were all tied up I headed off into town to pick up my paint chart.

Post Restante had worked a treat and it was sitting there awaiting my arrival. It was straight back to the boat to check colours and photos of the panto model and send an order to Gemma. During the day the amount of work emails had grown, props questions, answers to questions about the cloth we are having printed, good job the internet worked.

DSCF7121sm5 locks, 9 miles, 11 lift bridges, 1 un-lufted, 1 lifted, 9 luft, ! very smiley boat, 5 pencil lines to rub out, 1 english fish and chips, 1 crockery set, 1 shiny cup and saucer, 1 envelope filled with pretty colours, 1 paint order, 7 stone not enough, 0 collar, 2 horrible b**strad boaters, 3 spots of horribleness, 3 months of flee-proofing achieved.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Into The Clouds. 16th October

Soggy Slipper to Somerton Meadows

P1420701smMisty, foggy was the view we opened the curtains to this morning. But the forecast had said it would brighten up. There were various work emails to deal with before we could set off today, our route would take us through a black hole of internet and bad phone reception, only one tiny hole at Heyford station would be available. Not so good when work is cranking up again.

P1420709smPushing off around 11am we rose up Dashwood Lock. Here the mist got thicker, maybe it was still a bit early for the sun to come out. We pootled our way along the mile and a half to Heyford Wharf Bridge where we moored up and filled the water tank. We’d run the washing machine on the way to make the most of the very slow tap. Rubbish and recycling was done, then I worked a touch, then we had lunch. Just as the table was cleared our water tank made the small boom, a prelude to the bigger one that announces that it is full.

I’d been waiting for a response about a large stage manager and a table to come through so that I could instruct a carpenter what dimensions to use and just as we were about to leave the email came through, phew! Chris the chippy could get his saw going again.

P1420712smThe moorings in Heyford are most definitely not the quietest with the railway line only a few yards away. As the trains hurtle past the canal vibrates. So it amuses us that there are signs here requesting you not to run your engine or generator which would disturb the local house dwellers. Maybe they are immune to train noise, we certainly couldn’t hear our engine as the trains zoomed past!

P1420718smThe key of power worked again at the lift bridge and a chink of phone signal brought me a message from my Director wanting to make sure I’d received the email I’d been waiting for.

Allen’s lock took us further up into what must be low level cloud. Planes and helicopters could be heard, but none were visible and the moisture in the air around us gradually got us damp. By the time we’d come up Heyford Common Lock we’d decided to have a slightly shorter day than originally planned and stop at Somerton Meadows. The first stretch of armco was empty so we pulled up to the end and tied up for the day.

P1420735smI wasn’t too sure about this outside to start with. A serious lack of trees! They seemed to be concerned that I wouldn’t get on with the big friends here, but despite not talking the same language we got on fine. I did how ever keep clear of their bottoms! After a while I spotted some exceptionally good trees on the horizon, they kept me busy for quite a few hours.

P1420743smHere at last we had good internet again and just as well as some proofs were sent through for me to check of a cloth that we are getting printed for panto. The detail in the scans was incredible, so much detail that I wasn’t aware was even there! As the sunset, yes we did eventually get to see it, the skies cleared and we lit the stove. Shame we can’t stay on this mooring for a few days, it’s lovely.

P1420749smDSCF7114smblack paw3 locks, 4.82 miles, 1 tasty looking peasant, 1 very big cloud, 1 hour 10 mins to fill with water, 1 litre milk, 4 boats moving, 1 idyllic mooring to ourselves, 37 cows!

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Lozenged. 15th October

Thrupp to Soggy Slipper (below Dashwood Lock)

P1420654smAnother morning waiting for the rain to stop. Forecasts suggested this would be midday but it felt like things were clearing up earlier. We were ready to push off, in waterproofs, by 11.30. Key of power in my hand and I opened up the lift bridge, Mick came through just as a hire boat arrived at speed from the north. The chap at the helm luckily for the concrete edge managed to slow his boat down so there wasn’t an almighty crash.

P1420656smAt the service block two chaps from Lee Sanitation were hard at work taking the pooh sucky machine to bits. Not a nice job, but hopefully they’ll get it working again. Luckily we don’t need pump outs anymore, the only thing I miss about them is referring to them as “Pooh Sucky Machines” which doesn’t happen often now we have a composting toilet.

Once both boats were jiggled I closed the bridge after them, Mick picked me up and we were on our way again. A short distance on we passed the hire boat that had been following us out from Oxford. Antipodeans who are due back tomorrow, they’d decided on a short hire in case they didn’t enjoy it, but they had.

P1420661smThis morning Mick had checked on the river levels in case we’d be stuck at Shipton Weir Lock, but the Cherwell was showing little evidence of the rain we’d had yesterday, in fact it looked like it had only just reached normal navigational levels. To one side a large hole has been dug, presumably by C&RT. It looked like they were clearing a culvert. Piles of earth and bricks were mounded up and the hole covered in boards. Alongside there was quite a lot of roots that had been cut away. Maybe the sideways trees had been working their way through the brickwork and needed taming before anything untoward happened. We saw a similar thing at Pigeon Lock later.

The rain had washed away most of the dust from the leaves near the cement works, only small amounts left on those that were sheltered. Passage upstream along the river section was easy despite us getting soggy from the constant drizzle in the air.

P1420672smP1420679smBelow Pigeon Lock we pulled in for some lunch to dry off and warm up before carrying on a bit further.

P1420694smAlong the next pound we came across two boats heading southwards. The second was The Hippie Boat, from the outside you’d not guess other than the small signs as the boat is of fairly standard blue livery. Just as the penny dropped who it was (I follow them on Instagram) there was a questioning shout from the bow ‘Pip?’ They had weathered out the weekend trading in Banbury. Jules had mentioned they’d be leaving this morning so I hadn’t expected to see them quite so soon, they must have left yesterday or very early this morning, they are due to trade in Marlow next weekend so no wonder they were going for it . Waves came from the cratch as they passed.

At the next lock an American couple were pulling up in a hire boat just as we entered the lock to come up. The lady struggled to cling on as the chap revved the engine. It looked like he kept saying sorry and as we passed them they apologised for holding us up! They’d done nothing of the sort, but it was most probably still their first hour or so of narrowboating and only their second lock. Mick reassured them that narrowboats don’t always do what you want them to, especially when people are watching.

P1420684smA short distance further on and we could see the branch Mick had planted in the muddy hole where his slipper had a plunge just over a week ago. We pulled in, taking care as to where we put our feet. Tilly was straight out and headed up the nearby tree before setting off to worry the cows.

Measurements had come through of one of the Stage Managers on Panto so I had some work to do, mostly trying to persuade them that maybe Gavin was just a touch too big for a certain scene and somebody smaller would be a much better option.

DSCF7114sm4 locks, 5.87 miles, 2nd soggy day, 1 lift bridge holding up 2, 2 let through, 1 luft broken bridge, 1 hippie boat, 3 hire boats, 2 hours, 5 cows riden, 1 big hole too big for my arms, 2 dry slippers.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Hard Yolks. 14th October

Kidlington Green Lock to Thrupp

P1420631smP1420635smWith rain forecast for much of the morning we decided to make the most of it and have a cooked breakfast, finishing off the sausages from the Pig Place and a the end of a round of black pudding my brother had brought us. Last night whilst cooking our dinner the gas had started to smell, a sure sign that it will run out soon. It of course did wihen the poached eggs had only been in the pan for a minute! What a dilemma, everything else was ready, just not the eggs. It was peeing it down outside, would a new bottle of gas be required or could we guess how long the eggs might take just sitting there? Heroically Mick went to switch from one bottle to another and then gave the eggs a minute more. Sadly this meant the yolk was well and truly cooked. No runny yellow for us today.

P1420623smTilly spent much of the morning just watching the rain come down from under the pram cover. Eventually she plucked up courage and vanished for an hour or so of torrential rain, returning almost as wet as if she’d fallen in.

A spate of work emails were sent off whilst we waited for midday to arrive when the rain was due to dissipate. The stove was lit, extra layers were needed the temperature had dropped by 10° overnight. It was almost 3pm before we could push off, the rain cleared up and Tilly back on board. If we could tick off a few miles today it would make the rest of the week easier.

P1420641smWith waterproofs on we pushed off and worked our way up to Thrupp. Rain was still in the air so we were a touch soggy around the edges by the time we found a space to pull into, almost where we’d been a week ago. No chance of doing the port side gunnels this time. As we removed our layers the local number checker came past.

P1420645smP1420649smA cosy evening in with a roast chicken, the stove and Dr Who.

2 locks, 2.29 miles, 2 hard yolks, 1 empty gas bottle, 1 very wet morning, 1 wet afternoon, 1 exceedingly soggy moggy, 2 union jacks, 10m bunting, 1 stove going, 1 Sunday roast.