Sunday, 30 September 2018

Fast Flow, Toes, Sofas And Too Much Barking. 29th September

Hayes Lift Bridge to The Pig Place
P1410649smMick got up to put the kettle on. Outside the morning looked very chilly, my phone suggested –1C. Steam rose from the canal and the greenery around us had had a visit from Jack Frost scattering his icing sugar over everything. Then Mick noticed that the canal had a flow to it. Not unusual in itself, but this was flowing faster than the Llangollen Canal. We both looked out of the window, it didn’t feel right. Yesterday when we’d pulled up I considered doing more to the gunnels as the towpath was at an okay height to reach them. But this morning they were out of view, the pound had dropped by at least 6 inches if not 8. Oleanna was on a list.
P1410645smThe gas was turned off under the kettle and we both got dressed, Oleanna pushed out and with windlass in hand we set off to walk down to the next lock. Maybe someone was coming up in the lock and hadn’t closed the bottom paddles properly so water was flowing through the lock. Maybe someone had opened the paddles at both ends of the lock (the cause of the Middlewich Branch breach in March). Maybe there was a breach and the water was disappearing into a field somewhere. As we walked towards the lock the flow of water was still fast, through bridge holes it rushed past.
P1410642smA hire boat had passed us before we set off, would they sort the problem before we got there? Were they aware that there might be a problem? We got about half way to the lock when the flow on the canal slowed, then it stopped. No point in carrying on as the plug hadn’t been pulled after all. So we turned and headed back to put the kettle on and let Tilly out for an hour or so.
P1410660smAfter breakfast Mick got a bike out and rode back towards Banbury to Morrisons, about a mile for our Saturday newspaper. Once back we wanted to make a move so I gave Tilly a half hearted call from the hatch, she appeared and jumped on board, perfect. Why doesn’t she do that every time? Because I get busy!
P1410673smP1410677smWe pushed off late morning and headed to the lock. Here at Grant’s Lock the design of the locks changes. Instead of having two bottom gates there is just one. This means that they are heavier and that the locks have to be longer, therefor more water needed to fill them. But it does mean you don’t have to hop across the gap or walk round to open and close both gates. Once down the bottom gate was a touch reluctant to open fully, but Oleanna managed to get through. From here I could see that a boat was coming towards us, but they were getting on for over half a mile away, So I closed the gate behind us.
P1410685smA mile and a half to Kings Sutton Lock, the church spire in view for much of the journey. As we approached there was a boat just leaving, perfect timing. Another chap stood waiting to help as his boat was waiting below. We chatted away for a bit and I soon came to the conclusion that I knew of this chap, we’d met once before. They moored at Cropredy, had just had a month out on the Thames and were finding it hard to adjust back to being on the canals. This just had to be Neil from NB Herbie. Neil writes their blog, an amusing read, but his wife Kath keeps up to date with other peoples blogs.
P1410689smNeil suggested that the rushing water this morning may have been C&RT letting water down into the next pound as that pound tends to get quite low. Certainly a possible explanation.
P1410696smAs we came out of the lock Kath spotted that it was us so we paused mid channel for a chat. Luckily what ever we got round the prop just as we slowed down managed to drop off by itself. We had known our paths would cross soon and it was good to say hello again. I didn’t do too well at taking Neil and Kath’s photos though!
By the time we reached the Pig Place we were peckish. The moorings here had just filled up and at the time we didn’t spot that there were rings on the towpath. Just as we passed, one of the boats pulled out. We paused to let them pass and then winded to return and take their mooring.
P1410705smThe Pig Place is a Farm Shop with fringe benefits. You can’t miss it on the bend with three piece suites laid out on the grassy hill. Each area has a fire pit and logs are for sale. There is a bar and cafe selling bacon butties amongst other things. Over the last few days we’ve been trying to work out where to spend Christmas, here they have moorings with electric hook up, so it was worth an ask. We climbed the hill and talked to the lady who weighed out sausages and bacon for us. Their winter moorings were full, taken from November to March, so no space for us for a week. The shop has lots of jars of jam and bottles of beer, then lots of pork to buy and cook. But very little in the way of fresh veg and fruit to tempt us. So we left with our small purchases and headed back to Oleanna pushing over to the towpath for lunch.
P1410665smNow we’re facing the wrong way! We decided to leave that problem for tomorrow and opened up the back doors for Tilly. She was too busy trying to convince me into letting her out for her to notice she was being given todays rules and that the back doors were already wide open. But eventually the penny dropped and off she went.
If it wasn’t for the long lean woofers across the way in this outside it would get a Mrs Tilly stamp of approval. Just how am I meant to surprise friends when they bark at me! At least they didn’t want to come and join in with my fun. Every time I came out of the friendly cover they announced my presence! Which we quite liked. It did mean that we wouldn’t have wanted to moor here anyway for the safety of Tilly.
DSCF7114sm2 locks, 4.21 miles, 9 lufted lift bridges, 2wice under the M40, 1 wind, 1 blogging boat, 2 feet, 1 paper, 8 sausages, 6 rashers, 1st autumn cooking on the stove, 1 clean boat inside, 2nd pair of socks finished.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Strange Goings On. 28th September

Castle Quays to Hayes Lift Bridge 170

Boat and ropes were where they should be this morning.

Before continuing on our way we wanted a few bits from town. Mick wanted more cable ties, we were running short and come in handy every now and again and I wanted some sheets of card to make some stencils for Panto.

P1410615smMick headed to Wilkos whilst I walked across town to find an art shop. Tucked behind The Old Town Deli Cafe is a small but well formed art supply shop. I’d rather buy from a shop like this than Hobbycraft. The lady helped me pick out some cheaper card to cut up, I just want to draw round it so I didn’t have to fork out for expensive manila card. This will save a lot of time in marking out the main portals of my set which have a repetitive pattern.

I decided to have a look in M & S as I’d spotted what looked like a tasty gluten free chicken pie the other day. Cutting out pastry from my diet has reduced the amount of sausage rolls and pies we have and I do like a good pie. They had some in the chillers and handily Mick had turned up there too, so he paid.

Back at the boat we decided to move on a bit so that Tilly could have some shore leave and we could enjoy a full nights sleep without her careering around the boat to use up her energy at 3am! The Banbury Museum can wait till next time we’re here.

P1410617smAll covers were unclipped and rolled back. Mick hunted through his tool box for some snips to cut through the cable ties he’d put round the ropes yesterday. But the strange thing was the cable ties had gone! They weren’t reusable ones, you had to cut them. No sign of the bits either, just what had happened to them? Where had they gone? Strange.

P1410622smBefore Banbury Lock there is a lift bridge which is well used by people crossing to reach Castle Quays. I waited for a lull in pedestrians and wound it up, a very easy mechanism, there’s plenty more to come that won’t be so easy. Once through the lock we stopped at the service block to fill with water, empty yellow water and dispose of rubbish. By the bins, Mick happened to pick up the latest brochure for Chipping Norton Theatre, handy to see what is on especially the two films on Sundays whilst we are in rehearsals.

P1410625smWe pulled on a short distance further on for lunch, a hire boat selfishly having plonked itself right in the middle of the first moorings! As we cruise now we are taking note of suitable moorings for ease of access to work for me, but suitable for Tilly and Mick also. The first stretch by the station are a touch noisy, but beyond near Morrisons are better. Another mile further on between two lift bridges just past a large building site, we pulled in to an Oleanna sized gap, this would do us for the day. Tilly and I had a walk up to look at the next lift bridge and Mick chopped up the big bit of wood we’ve had on the roof for a while.

P1410629smThe stove is lit and we’ll most probably try to keep it in tonight as the temperature is due to drop. A cosy evening in front of the stove knitting socks for strangers with the rumble of the M40 in the back ground, who could ask for more.

P1410633smDSCF7114sm1 lock, 1.48 miles, 3 sheets card, 1 litter picker, 1 pack cable ties, 1 very tasty gf chicken pie with jacket potatoes from the stove, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 0 rubbish left onboard, 1 tail held high cat, 1 peaceful nights sleep ahead, we hope.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Upton House. 27th September

Castle Quays, Banbury

Still tied up this morning we left Tilly to hold the fort whilst we headed off to catch a bus.

P1410431smA study of the National Trust website and transport around the area identified two close properties that we could visit. Upton House and Gardens and Farnborough Hall. Farnborough Hall would have been closer at Clattercote, just about walkable, but it’s opening days didn’t coincide with our cruising. Public transport looked into, well we didn’t want to have to stay there for a week before the next bus back to Banbury so we chose to visit Upton instead.

Buses are more frequent, but then one a week isn’t that hard to expand on! We researched websites and ended up discounting the NT website suggestions of how to get there as the times and bus numbers didn’t tally with the bus website. A short walk to the bus station, just by the lock in Banbury, for the number 6 at 10:20. This took us around villages, winding up and down quite steep hills across the Cotswolds on a bright sunny morning. The bus driver stopped for us at a cross roads. To get the bus back we’d have to stand near the house gates and flag the driver down as there is no official stop. If we missed the bus we’d have to hitch or walk back.

P1410433smWith no path to walk along to get to the entrance we waded along the grass verges. Membership cards scanned we were given a map and told to book an entry slot if we wanted to look round the house. Then a grand drive way leads you to the front of the house.

In Medieval times the land here was used by a monastery from Coventry, one of their fish ponds is still in water on the site today. In 1483 Sir Walter Danvers bought the land plus more surrounding it and built a new house, Upton was then passed down through the generations for 150 years until in 1675 John Danvers died heavily in debt and it was sold on. The house and land then passed through many hands, Andrew Motion (the grand father of the poet of the same name) selling it to Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount of Bearsted in March 1927.

P1410456smThe house was run down and in need of modernisation so Walter and his wife employed architect Percy Morley Horder to remodel the house into a country home for them. The house would also house their large art collection. Two towers that had been built by previous owners were knocked down and replaced with new rooms more in keeping with the house. Walls were removed, a squash court became an art gallery, one floor was removed to give a double height room with a balcony. All in keeping with the 20’s and 30’s style, good quality without ostentation.

P1410563smP1410566smOn Lord Bearsted’s death in 1948 he left the house, gardens and art collection to the National Trust. Most of the house has been left how it was when he died, the entrance hall being the exception. This is where you are given an introductory talk about the house and it’s history. The hall has been dressed in Victorian style with stuffed deer and nicnaks everywhere. Where one of the walls had been removed a large curtain printed with a photograph was hung, showing you what the space looked like before it’s makeover. Our guide told us that the staircase behind had been remodelled and turned to face into the hall for those moments when a grand entrance was required. What a shame we couldn’t see the hall how it had been remodelled. A bigger shame that when we got to eventually see the staircase you descended it into another photograph of the hall. We could see what they were trying to do, but not being able to see the hall in one go, a mistake.

P1410511smP1410521smOnce through into the long gallery (another room you couldn’t see from one end to the other due to a large photograph) we were left to walk around the house on our own and gleam bits of info from the guides in the rooms. Many of the walls are painted with scumble, similar to the process used to scumble back cabins on narrowboats, except the glaze is patted out with a brush, sponge or rag, so no wood graining here. The rooms now have a simpler feel to them a smaller pallet of colours in each room which helps to show off the art works.

P1410519smP1410522smThe barley twisted balcony looks down from the library into a room where huge portraits are displayed, one by Joshua Reynolds, a cosy sitting area with inglenook fireplace to one side and a billiards room to another. In the centre of the connecting room sits a large dolls house, a replica of Upton House. People have been invited to make items to be added to furnish the house to match the life size one. The scale of 1:12 is a little bit odd to me, although the pieces in the house so far are very well made I can’t help but get uptight about how some things if scaled up would be far far to big. Someone has cross stitched a wonderful rug for one of the rooms, a beautiful object, but scaled up it’s thickness would be getting on for over two inches thick, a trip hazard. But that’s the theatre designer in me.

P1410559smP1410562smBedrooms upstairs are large, many rooms have been made into exhibition areas showing life on the French Riviera. These people had a lot of money, Lord Bearsted’s father having founded The Shell Company. 1930’s advertising posters cover many of the corridor walls and ladies dresses clothe mannequins for you to marvel at their bias cut elegance.

P1410537smLady Bearsted’s bathroom is something else. Chinese lacquer red and aluminium leaf with archways. Quite something in it’s day I suspect, now a touch over the top and amateurish.

P1410538smP1410546smThe leafing of the walls and ceilings must have taken some time to do. The large bath tub with it’s temperature control, cold, tepid and hot.

P1410532smP1410541smThe mirror and a wonderful electric fire stood out as the most deco items in the house.

P1410452smP1410453smThe gardens upstage the house in our view. The south facing terrace in the sunshine made the house glow , then flower beds followed by a large lawn with swimming pool. The bees and butterflies were certainly enjoying the sunshine and the blooms. One very fat bodied butterfly/moth zoomed around from bloom to bloom, we wondered what it was.

P1410463smP1410474smBeyond the grass is the biggest Ha ha you’ve ever seen. The land drops away at an alarming rate. Terraces of shrubs, asters, the the kitchen garden lead you down the steep hill to the mirror pond below. Here dragon flies bobbed up and down, but no fish were visible, they were too busy enjoying someone's sandwich in the stew pond half way back up the garden. There is a bog garden and cottage. A yew tree walk.

P1410487smP1410495smLarge Cedar trees that have straps to try to keep them standing rather than toppling over onto the grass. Rose garden, An orchard full of apples. A wild garden. You could spend all day here just hiking up and down the hills in the garden.

P1410579smOur walk back to find a suitable place to wait for the bus was accompanied with a tub of chilled medication, we’d worn off enough calories in the garden. We stood on the wide grass verge as cars and lorries sped past at 60 mph. We’d made sure we arrived early as there was only an approximate time for the bus and it could be early. Large conkers kept us amused for a while, but as time went on we both silently wondered if we’d got it wrong and we’d missed the last bus back. About ten minutes later than we’d expected the bus came into view, the driver smiled at us as we waved our arms in a manner that couldn’t be ignored. The bus only runs on school days and it was obvious why as it was full with kids returning to Banbury from Stratford schools.

P1410586smP1410603smBack at the boat all was well, Tilly had done a good job. We had new neighbours and before we settled down for the evening Mick added some cable ties around our ropes to make it impossible for a chancer to lift them off the bollards.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 buses, 1 big house, 1 El Greco, 3 Canaletto's, 1 Bruegel triptych, 1 Van Gogh, 1 large dolls house, 1 high haha, 1 vast mirror pool, 1 rather rude squash, 2 colours of spinach, 2456 bees, 2 jacket potatoes, 2 teas, 2 tubs chilled medication, 2 cable ties, 1 bored cat.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Instant Karma. 26th September

Cropredy Lock to Castle Quays, Banbury

P1410377smBoats had started to come down from Claydon by the time we got moving this morning and a large gap had been created behind us, enough for three maybe four boats to moor. We paused and had egg and mushrooms on toast. A boat just appeared as we were about to push off, so we held back for them to approach the lock first, they had to wait anyway for their turn. I walked up to lend a hand with two boats going down and two Oxford Hire boats coming up. The hire company must drum into them about going slowly which is a good thing, but neither of them seemed to know about reverse! They both came very slowly into the lock, one not having enough umph to steer and both only stopped by crashing into the top gate.

By the time we were on our way down another boat was behind us, a long term hire from Stone, they had five weeks left before they had to return the boat.

P1410393smWe met boats at most locks. One left their two dogs to walk themselves along the towpath. Except one of them was adamant that I would throw a stick for her. I did my best to ignore the pleading eyes knowing full well that should I pick up a stick then I would have a dog for life, Tilly would not be happy. She tried and tried, her boat getting further and further away, she tried some more, at last bringing me a stick. Eventually the lady on the back of the boat started to shout “Daisy!” it took a little while but in the end it was decided that I was a lost cause. She turned and started to run only to return to claim her stick and charge along the towpath with it.

P1410399smWe only caught up with the boat ahead at the last lock before passing under the M40. They pulled in soon afterwards for lunch, we carried on to make use of one of the moorings shown on Waterway Routes nearer the next lock. Certainly not a place you’d want to moor overnight unless you could take your hearing aids out, but suitable enough for lunch. Down the last lock to Banbury. We pulled in by bridge 163 with the plan to top up with shopping from Tescos.

P1410400smEarlier in the day I’d noticed we were missing our boat pole. Nowhere on the roof. Where had it gone? I spent some time this evening going through photos to see if I could identify when it went missing, we’d both heard a noise yesterday evening which we hadn’t thought much of. The last photo it appeared in was on the 9th September heading down the last few locks to Radford Semele, the first it didn’t appear in was on the 17th. So someone relieved us of the weight of it either in Leamington Spa or out at Radford Semele. B**rds!

P1410414smP1410417smBy Bridge 163 there is a B&Q, Homebase, Dunelm Mill. When our boat hook broke on Lillian we replaced it with a pine pole, not perfect as it’s not a strong as Ash, but it did us and possibly still is for her new owners. So we had a look round for some banister rail or chunky dowel. 35mm diam pine 8ft long was on offer, but we decided to think about it. We were also on the hunt for some matting to go on the roof before we stock up on coal. Dunelm came the closest with rubber door mats, but there was no where for water to run out from underneath, so we’re thinking on that as well. Our distraction meant we were now right by the new Waitrose, we couldn’t be bothered to walk back to Tescos so did a top up shop and headed back to the boat.

We decided to move on up a short distance into Banbury, it was too late in the day for Tilly to go out so mooring somewhere she’d not like wouldn’t matter too much. Pulling under bridge 164 a hire boat was just about to push off, the only other spaces were under bridges. So we held back for them to vacate the space and tied up facing a Black Prince boat. Bridge 164 is quite a busy bridge and car parks border both sides of the canal attracting skate boarders until 8pm when the car parks closed, so not the quietest of moorings.

P1410429smAround 11:30pm, lying in bed reading before lights out we suddenly noticed the boat dip and rise. This was far too much to have just been an effect of someone working the lock a couple of hundred yards away. Someone was on Oleanna!

Extra lights turned on Mick popped his dressing gown on and opened up the hatch as I peered out of the bedroom window. There was a man on the towpath, Mick could see that our bow line had been untied along with that of the Black Prince boat. “What’s going on?” Mick says. “I’ve just untied your boat” says the man. “Why?” “ For a laugh!” The chap then walked up to the stern of the Oleanna. Mick closed the hatch and quickly put some more clothes on. The boat moved again, he’d untied the stern!

This was very quickly flowed by a large SPLASH! Once clothed Mick went out the back, no sign of the chap and Oleanna was right across the cut, both ropes undone. The stern had reached the far side so Mick gave us a big push to try to get us back to where we’d been moored. This got us part way back but not far enough, only one thing for it turn the engine on. Sorry neighbours, no choice, and it wasn’t as if we were moored! Once we got back to the towpath it became obvious what had happened. There was a very big puddle where our stern had been and very wet foot prints heading away under the bridge. He’d fallen in!

Our concern for Oleanna and ourselves turned into laughter. The chap had been right, it was a laugh! Instant Karma.

Mick retied us and managed to get the hire boat pulled back to the towpath. No body seemed to have stirred on board or maybe they were lying in their beds worried about what was going on outside. Our ropes got an extra turn around the bollards (we normally do this as it’s harder to pull a rope off a bollard, but I’d forgotten to) and we returned to bed. No damage done. Well unless the chap had an expensive phone in his pocket!

P1410422smDSCF7121sm4 locks, 4.43 miles, 2 gods in the post, 1 big queue, 2 slow to steer, 1 missing pole, 0 pole to buy, 0 mats, 1 chicken, 24 meatballs, 500 grams mince, 2 pizzas, 1 free newspaper, 0.5 of a sock, 1 extra person on board, 3 ropes untied, 2 boats floating about, 1 very soggy man, 2 boaters laughing, 1 John Lennon song going round in our heads.