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.

Monday, 15 October 2018

22°C 13th October

Almost Isis Lock to Isis Lock to Kidlington Green Lock

P1420515smThere is still plenty more we could see and do in Oxford but time is ticking on. We’ll come back, possibly next year and visit some of the places people have suggested.

P1420513smFirst today we needed to stock up on some provisions. Sainsburys is in Westgate but there is also a Waitrose across the Thames a similar distance away. We’d not seen the Thames as yet so decided to walk over the mill stream down the side of the old rail swing bridge and then along the Thames Pathway crossing the river at Osney Bridge to find Waitrose. With 5% back on our shopping and a free newspaper for our trouble it would have been daft not to.

P1420520smAfter a bite to eat we were ready for the off. I walked ahead to set Isis Lock in our favour. At the lock, along with river level lights there are instructions of how to turn your boat to head out onto the Thames. This involves using the lock landing and doing a manoeuvre a bit like what we call an Andy (named after our helmsman course instructor). Tying your bow line to one of the cleats on the landing you can force the stern round, you then pull the bow up along the lock landing as the stream from the river helps to carry on pushing the stern round, you then will be facing the lock and ready to push out towards the Thames. This method can also be used obviously to wind to get back into the lock.

Except today there was a boat moored on the lock landing. The lady was filling with water from one of the taps on the residential moorings. Luckily for us there was next to no flow below the lock so hopefully she wouldn’t be in the way. There was still the matter of the strong wind gusting around the place.

P1420529smP1420531smP1420534smP1420535smP1420538smP1420541smMick brought Oleanna out of the lock giving himself enough room to be able to swing the stern round away from the landing. Then straightened up, a touch of sideways (helped by a short blast of the bowthruster) and then he swung the stern around again. No need to fend off anywhere, the lady come out to congratulate him as he brought Oleanna back into the lock.

P1420580smP1420583smIt was incredibly warm considering the wind and that it is mid October. As we cruised back northwards we wore t-shirts, no need for jumpers today. We paused to fill with water and dispose of rubbish at the first water point just before the start of the Agenda 21 moorings. Along the towpath there was an old chap pottering about being followed by a few cats. As he walked away we could count them, a bouncy kitten joining the other eight. Passing his boat it was only 30ft long if that, there wouldn’t be that much space in there, they’d all have to sleep on top of him. At least it would save him money on coal!

P1420600smWe worked our way slowly back up Wolvercote Lock showing a hire boat that was following us what to do. From here I decided to walk, no point trying to pull in to drop me off with the wind as it was and I would beat Oleanna to the next obstacle that needed opening anyway. The first lift bridge was fine, as long as you step onto it before it gets too high. Walking up to Wolvercote Lift Bridge it was open, brilliant I wouldn’t have to struggle. Maybe C&RT had chained it open for boats. Then a hire boat came through and the bridge dropped. I was fortunate enough to be able to catch the chap who gave me a hand to get the bridge going.

P1420610smWith the beam lowered I quickly sat on it. Mick was taking his time. The wind gusts were so great I could feel myself being slightly lifted from the ground. I managed to nudge myself right to the end to make as much use of my weight as I could and still I was being lifted. I’d considered waiting for the hire boat behind us to save their boat getting even more scrapes along the cabin side from the high overhanging bridge landing, but the wind was such that I wanted to go ahead to open the next lock. I stood up and the bridge immediately wanted to close. A C&RT sign suggests they are looking at better ways of operating this bridge as the lock has been vandalised.

P1420613smAfter Dukes Lock and Drinkwater’s Lift Bridge we were confronted by two pirate boats. Young women sat on the roof of the first accompanied by a chap with a parrot on his shoulder. The following boat also seemed to have a lot of people on board. Courses were altered to avoid collision. There was a lot of drinking going on, but it seemed that the chaps at the helm were capable and not (as yet) intoxicated. One chap asked where they could turn which meant we’d be seeing them again.

P1420618smBelow Kidlington Green Lock we moored up and gave Tilly some freedom. It was rather nice being able to sit there with all the doors open which we did until the sun bobbed down behind the horizon. It was around about this time that the pirate boats returned. Travelling in convoy, from two different hire companies, they were very noisy! Laura was being egged on to do something, not sure what but thankfully we didn’t hear any splashes.

DSCF7114sm4 locks, 4.28 miles, 1 wind, 1 straight on, 3 bridges lifted, 1 luft, 0 held up, 1 riverside walk, 4 bags shopping, 1 free newspaper, 1 full tank of water, 1 empty pooh box, 1 empty pooh bucket, 9 cats in 30ft, 1 bouncing bridge beam, 2 pirate boats, 8 stowaways at least, 22°C!


Sunday, 14 October 2018

Up To Date And Overstaying. 12th October


Mick nudging us up yesterday worked a treat, only one train through the night that we noticed and no compressor noise! A good nights sleep all round.

This morning we had a quick tidy up as we were expecting a visitor. Paul from Waterway Routes had come to visit. He brought with him the 80th update of his canal maps, we were the first to receive them.

We’ve been using Waterway Routes since mid April and find it very useful. The maps include all the information you could want whilst boating, water points, moorings, access to towpaths, to mention only a few. All the positions on the maps are accurate down to a five digit grid reference and those who have the maps are encouraged to give updates or corrections as they cruise the network, therefore making Paul’s maps the most up to date you can get. Every month there is an update. Today he very kindly came out to see how we are doing with them and so that we could upload the latest version onto the lap top.

P1420496smMick checked to see if our contributions had been added and of course they had been. Paul doesn’t just rely on boaters giving him updates he also does a lot of checking himself. Earlier in the week he’d had a trip up to Scotland and cycled 40km to check the information he has on the Union Canal into Edinburgh. During the summer months he and his wife cruise the network collecting data and recording journeys on their boat to produce DVDs. This summer their plans had to change somewhat due to lack of water, slower than planned restoration works and canal closures.

overlayThere was plenty to talk about and catch up on, even Tilly woke up from her morning snooze to say hello. I passed on information I’ve been collating from the outsides we’ve tied up and Paul is considering how best to add cat friendly symbols to his maps. This may be on an overlay as not every boater will need them. Tom and her have done an overlay of their own for the winter stoppages on the Oxford Canal which they think will be useful this winter. Just hope those stoppages are near good rabbit holes.

After a morning chatting, Storm Callum was taking hold, the train ride I’d been on yesterday was not possible today due to the high winds and waves at Dawlish. The serious winds meant we weren’t too keen on moving so we decided to stay put for the day. I had quite a few work emails to deal with and Mick wanted to go to John Lewis with his phone to get it mended. Many branches and twigs had been blown off the trees along the towpath into the city. Whilst Mick went to sort his phone I also ventured out to catch a bus to Kidlington. I most probably could have walked there from the boat when we come to leave Oxford, but that would have been too late.

P1420498smIn the old days when we lived in a house and I had a work room at the top of the house, I had a full colour swatch book for Dulux paints and others for theatrical paints. If there is one thing I miss now it is those swatch books. Choosing paints from either a computer screen or a swatch book with a fraction of the colours is impossible. So a trip to the nearest Dulux Decorators Centre was needed. Plenty of buses head out to Kidlington and there was a bus stop bang outside, so I didn’t have to get blown too far to get some shelter.

P1420504smI first perused a stand and picked out the best colours for various things I’ll be painting and then asked if I could look at their big bumper swatch book. They obliged and I found just the right colour, checked prices, thanked them and was on my way back to the boat. A successful trip. Mick’s trip wasn’t as successful, his phone is having to be sent away to be mended, it may be a couple of weeks before he gets it back, fortunate we’re staying on the Oxford so he can always get a train back to pick it up. He returned with his sim card and has managed to find an old phone to keep him going.

The wind is still strong, so we won’t be going anywhere today, hopefully any C&RT number checkers will be sensible and not report us for overstaying.

P1420500sm0 locks, 0 miles, 1 good nights sleep, 80th update, 1 stoppage overlay, 1 cat friendly overlay to be worked on, 2 windy to move, 2 windy for cats, 2 bus to Kidlington, 1 Tilly imposter, 7 bus back, £88.60 for 10L, 1 poorly phone, 2nd snake nearly finished.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

The Gods In Cornwall. 11th October


Oxford to Cornwall to Oxford

There were only 3 trains that we noticed last night, but it was more the generator going all night that disturbed our sleep. We couldn’t go and knock on the roof of a boat to get it turned off as it was on the railway line across the mill stream. Anyway the alarm went off early as I was due to be on the 7:21 train.

Gemma and I had planned our journey with the aim that I would already be on the train that she would catch to Plymouth. I had to do a route that missed Reading and split my journey in Bristol to save almost £200 on my return ticket.

P1420428smFirst change was at Didcot Parkway where the sun was just trying to peak through the very dark clouds. A quick count of those heading into London on the opposite platform came up with three newspaper readers out of getting on for a hundred people. Most stood looking at their phones, at least this takes up less space on the platform compared to the days of everyone reading broadsheets. Next change Swindon. Here I got on the train Gemma should be getting. There were no reserved seats, just as well as mine was meant to be in coach J which didn’t exist! I found a table and staked my claim.

As the train neared Bristol I got a message from Gemma asking if I’d like a cuppa if she had time to get one. Marvellous it now felt like an age since I’d had one back at Oleanna, however it did feel like she’d but cutting it fine. At Bristol Temple Meads the train pulled in and most people got off, I kept an eye open to see if the only other table in the carriage became free. It didn’t. I waited and waited. The train pulled out of the station, no sign of Gemma. Maybe she’d got on at one end of the train two teas in hand and was working her way along the carriages to D. She’d let me know if she’d missed the train surely. I waited and waited.

Ten minutes later I sent her a text, ‘Did you miss the train?’ nothing came back. Another ten minutes and I was so puzzled I gave her a call. ‘Just wondering where you are, and where I am?’ She was puzzled. Yesterday I thought we’d agreed to be on the train leaving Bristol at 9:12, I was on that train, but it was going to arrive 35 minutes earlier than I thought. Gemma was going to be on the train that arrived at the right time, how had that happened? No idea, but at least we’d both end up in Plymouth.

P1420450smI made the most of the very grey rainy journey and moved over to the left side of the train. As we pulled out of Exeter I put down my knitting and armed myself with my camera for the journey along the coast at Dawlish.

P1420452smAs far as I’m aware I’ve never been along this line before, but sadly today the view wasn’t at it’s best. However the tide was in and waves were crashing against the seawall casting spray up towards the train. I didn’t manage to time my photos too well despite trying to guess which would be the seventh big wave. It was still quite dramatic.

P1420463smAt Plymouth I had chance to get something to eat and chat to a second carpenter who is building bits for panto. When Gemma appeared we were off and into a taxi dashing to meet the Cremyll Ferry. Down little back streets  we were dropped off at Admirals Hard where a concrete jetty heads out into the bay.

P1420465smOur next form of transport arrived, the Edgcombe Belle. The crew needed to get some steps so that people could get on and off at the bow as the tide was in, it looked calmer here than it had at Dawlish. A touch damp outside we opted for shelter as the boat made it’s 8 minute crossing, the later part getting really quite lumpy. I may live on a boat, but I don’t do waves if I can possibly help it!

At the Cremyll landing we were met by Lou one half of Snell scenery builders who drove us up to the workshop whilst one of her dogs in the boot kept dropping a rather soggy ball on me. Theatre life is so glamourous!

P1420470smP1420473smA couple of hours followed with us going through all the drawings of my set, looking at what was built so far, chatting to the scenic artist and hunting for references of Lotus flowers. There are still a few bits to build including the Dames Gin Palace. They have managed to put together enough time and materials to make my 2.5 D Gods, which is marvellous. All is going well and the next time we’ll see it is a week on Monday when it all arrives in Chipping Norton.

P1420479smOnce we’d finished work Adrian and Lou brought out photos for me to look at. A couple of weeks ago in an email Adrian had asked me if we’d ever been past the lock cottage at Kings Lock on the Soar near Leicester. At the age of 19, Adrian had been on the hunt for a house in need of some TLC. He’d spotted the lock cottage, which had recently been broken into by vandals who had set light to it on Bonfire night. He contacted British Waterways to see if he could buy it. Only available as a leasehold he was told if he was interested he’d need to do something about it in the next six weeks as after that it was due for demolition.

P1420478smFor a peppercorn rent of £1 for the first year Adrian took on the project. Once restoration work was completed the insurance company would pay out several thousand pounds. He arranged for a group of friends from the pub to help him one weekend to clear the site. Only one person turned up and that was Lou, this is when they got together. They worked on the cottage for many months scarfing in new roof joists etc, camping outside in all weathers until it was weather proof. The water froze and they could only flush the toilet by collecting water leaking through the lock gates in a bucket. They stayed for another nine months once the work was completed, but as the cottage would never be theirs they decided to move elsewhere. For those who don’t know the canal and cottage it is now a well known tea rooms. Kings Lock marks where the canal starts and river section ends, so is a safe haven for boaters should the river go into flood. We’ve moored there but never been inside. Three years ago when Adrian and Lou last visited very little had changed from when they lived there, just minor adjustments for the tea rooms. It’s a small world.

P1420485smP1420491smA lift back to the ferry now in sunshine, a shame we couldn’t take our time as I only got glimpses of the Cornish bays. The tide was now out and we had a much longer walk back up the Hard to reach our waiting taxi, we didn’t need the steps either. The journey back was much brighter outside, but Gemma and I had things to discuss and work on before we reached Bristol. Two more trains and I was back in Oxford just after the sun had gone to bed.

P1420492smMick during the day had climbed a tower to look at views of Oxford. Discovered that his phone microphone no longer worked and nudged Oleanna up by about three boat lengths hopefully enough to move us away from the generator on the railway. Unfortunately he tried a factory reset on his phone and lost any photos he’d taken.

DSCF7114sm0 locks, 0.04 miles, 6 trains, 1 ferry twice, 2 taxis, 2.5 D Gods, 4 groundrows, 1 palace, 1 backdrop, 1 canoe, 1 pyramid, 1 grubbery, 0 model box, 1 tower climbed, 1 cottage saved.


Friday, 12 October 2018

A Little Bit Closer. 10th October

Aristotle Bridge to almost Isis Lock

P1420371smOur two days at Aristotle Bridge would be up today, so after breakfast we pushed off and nudged our way just that bit closer to the city centre.

Debby from NB Chuffed had given us some handy hints on the moorings further along. As we pootled we discussed our options.

1 We could stop at the back of St Barnabas Church, this is very close to railway lines therefore noisy.

2 We could head down to the far end of the canal where the road cuts off the original route. There are 2 day moorings there and a waterpoint. The trains are further away so it is quieter, but the proximity of the road and a resident cat may not be so good for Tilly. Mick had been concerned that the depth may be a problem, but we’d now seen some boats up there.

3 Which way should we face when we got there? Which ever ‘there’ was to be?

P1420257smWe opted for pulling up near St Barnabas Church to see how noisy it was, if it was bad we could then carry on to try at the end. The occasional train came past, but not as many as we’d been expecting. So we decided to stay put for the night. The rail traffic is mostly freight, which of course continues through the night so we still had the option to move on. Tilly was allowed out and seemed to prefer here despite the many people on the towpath.

Plans were formulated for tomorrow as I am heading off to see how the build of the Panto set is going. It looks like my route will mean that Gemma the Production Manager will be able to join me on the same train as it goes through Bristol where she lives, so we can have a catch up and chat over various things before we get there.

P1420366smP1420368smMick and I had a walk into town via the station so that I could pick up my many tickets. This meant we walked along Snake Island, we’re not going to tell Tilly about it just in case. Then we passed  the old railway swing bridge that crosses over the Sheepwash Channel which leads out to the Thames.

P1420372smP1420377smThe covered market was first on our agenda today. Many shops of all sorts in a good building, not quite as stylish as Leeds. This meant we were close to Whittards so I was able to stock up on my morning brew. The Bank was visited to check for Mick’s new credit card and that had arrived. Great, not much other than sight seeing to keep us here now.

P1420306smA visit to a college was next, plenty to choose from as most of them open their doors in the afternoons so that tourists can have a good nosy. The entrance price varied quite a bit between them, we decided to see what Trinity College was like, a cheaper one, most probably because it hasn’t appeared in Harry Potter, but is a location in Morse, Lewis and Endeavour. We paid our entrance and the lady buzzed the gate to let us in.

P1420379smP1420405smTrinity was founded in 1555 by Sir Thomas Pope and even though it is physically large it only has 400 students. Originally it was a male college but since 1979 it became coeducational. Some of the buildings date back to 1421 when it was Durham College. Large gardens surround the buildings including some very large trees. The central quadrangle focuses on a raised grassed bed, the chapel and dining room to two sides and staircases lead off to student rooms on the other two sides.

P1420387smP1420394smThe chapel is quite small but it’s decoration more than makes up for it. It was the first chapel to be built in the Baroque style, designed by Henry Aldrich with advice from Christopher Wren in 1694. As you walk in the organ towers above you, then you walk through a screen into the chapel which more or less consists of a choir. Virtually all wood, ornately carved with bulls, men and cherubs who seem to have a big problem with cowlicks in their hair! Some of the wood was Oak, the pillars pine (I think), but much of the rest of it I wasn’t sure of, Frank Matthews would have been able to tell me, but I guessed at maybe mahogany. What a splendid room. Trinity has one of the largest choirs in the university mostly from members of the college.

P1420410smP1420416smWe sneakily followed a group of French students into the dining room as there was a sign saying no entry. Here a large room very much as you would expect with the top table and then rows for the students. It had a slight shabby feel to it despite it’s ornate chandelier. Thousands of food trays have worn tables down through the decades. The walls are hung with portraits, at the moment they are all women, quite a few photographs of past students who’ve made it big in their profession. I assume these are here to help mark the centenary of women getting the vote. The photographs do look at little bit odd in such a room where oil paintings normally hang, but not as out of place as the very large dispenser for Heinz Tomato Ketchup.

P1420400smP1420402smThrough the next arch way are entrances to the staircases leading to the student rooms. The college obviously has rowing teams and chalked up on the walls are various years in which they ‘bumped’ other colleges. If this had happened at my school it would have been classed as graffiti and we’d have been reprimanded. But here it is obviously tradition.

A wander around some of the shops in the Westgate Centre meant that I found a bag suitable for me to take a weeks worth of clothing to Chipping Norton. We’ve not needed anything this size for a while and it had to be able to fold down into next to nothing for storage under our bed.

Back at the boat Tilly went out and carried on enjoying her new surroundings. She was particularly interested in the semi sunk boats on the Castle Mill Stream which sits just behind us. This kept her busy far too late and I had to try to find her and encourage her home. Yet every time she surfaced from the sideways trees and brambles she’d carry on trotting up the towpath in the direction of Banbury. Eventually she tired and I managed to catch her, having to carry her back along the towpath for quite a distance without her escaping again.

DSCF7114sm0 locks, 0.63 miles, 1 proof on it’s way, 2 return tickets saving £200, 3 packets tea, 1 credit card, 1 market, 1 college, 3 hours, 6 boats, 1 surprised man on a bench, 5 trees, 1 chair, 5 minutes clinging onto a busy cat, 6 minutes out.