All’s Well That Ends Well!

We pushed off from last night’s mooring around 10:30 this morning, and we were soon at Gayton Junction Services, doing the necessary!

Pleased to report our water gauge has ‘miraculously’ starting working again. It stopped working around October/November last year; and we missed it. There’s probably a loose connection somewhere, but while it’s working, think it’s best to leave well alone. After the water tank was brimmed, and sanny/rubbish duties carried out, we were on our way!

Our plan was to descend down the 13 Rothersthorpe locks, and 3 others, stopping overnight at Northampton Junction.

John was on a mission to do all the locking, despite my offer to go ‘halves’ with him.

The locks turned out to be great, they weren’t deep, and they were within easy walking distance. The only problem was the lack of water in the pounds.

John tried his new idea (pinched from lockies at a lock on the Thames) to use the boat hook to open and close the ‘off-side’ gate. It worked quite well, and saved him the journey of walking round the lock, and over the top gate to swing the bottom gate.  He couldn’t use his ‘new technique’ on all the gates, as we were lucky that four boats were climbing up the flight, and reciprocally we left gates open for each other.

John’s new technique for opening and closing the off-side bottom lock gate

 

More ‘babies’ except these have big hairy feet

It looks like there’s a ghostly figure sitting on the wooden seat on the left – it’s a figure of an old lady cleverly constructed with ‘twigs’

I imagine no driver on the M1 would spare a thought about the lock beneath them.

On our ‘cruise’ below the locks, it was a real treat to see how clear, and clean the water was. We could see the bottom of the canal, and we hardly saw any rubbish in the water.

At our last lock of the day, thank goodness we managed to divert a disaster.

Our last lock was  Hunsbury Lock no 16. While John was setting the lock, he noticed a log in the water by the lock’s top gate. As I was taking the boat in, and saw a log outside of the lock, by the gate, we thought that was the log he’d seen…. WRONG!

As John opened the paddles, letting the water drain out of the lock, the boat’s stern got stuck against the wall. My first thought that it was stuck on some sort of lip in the brickwork, and shouted to John to push us off the lip. The scary bit was that I didn’t notice how much of a dilema the boat was in (strangely), but John noticed the bow was alarmingly down, yet the stern was hung up.  He quickly closed both paddles that was letting out water, and ran to the top gate to let in some water to ‘re-float’ Cyan. It was there he noticed our prop was out of the water by about 2ft!

When John let water in, the bow came up in the water, but he soon saw the stern wasn’t moving, in fact the water was going above the strike band at the back, and was quickly rising to the level of the exhaust hole. John quickly closed that paddle pronto. Obviously the stern was stuck somehow. At first he thought there was something under the boat, until he looked, and realised there was a log jammed between the boat and the lock wall, causing us to be stuck. All this happened within seconds!

Eventually after banging away at the log with the pole, and with me trying to rock the boat, the log gave way. The lock was filled with water and I backed the boat out of the lock while John cleared the lock of any dross. We noticed there were several of these logs floating about. Just before the lock we spotted that a tree had been cut down and there were several large lumps of timber on the towpath, the probable source of the offending timbers!

They were too heavy for us to haul out of the water, and I’m afraid they are still there – so please be warned. (CRT will be notified).

This could happen to anyone, in any lock, anywhere! What shocked me the most was that I didn’t realise just how much the boat had tipped, it was rather disorienting, perhaps I didn’t have a ‘register’ to the boat’s position?

Don’t think any damage, apart from scratches, was done to the boat or to the lock.

Glad that peace has now reigned once again.

Today we’ve travelled 5.75 miles, and 16 locks

Down The Buckby Flight

We started today’s journey with the weather promising to be excellent, and it didn’t disappoint!

By the time we were ready to ‘roll’, two boats were spied exiting Buckby Top Lock. We quickly pushed Cyan off, and we were grateful to the two volunteer lockies who kept the gates open for us, and locked us down the lock.

This time going down the Buckby Locks we were on our own. Although we were lucky there were several boats coming up the locks, leaving a couple of locks ready for us. Yet there were a couple of locks that were empty, and had to be filled. In a couple of hours, Cyan was at the bottom of the 7 locks.

Leaving Buckby Bottom Lock

Sheep sheerers were very busy…… several bags full!

Come on then…. which one of you is called Shawn?

The bright sun shining on the canal’s water showed up a ‘film’ of pollen

A professional ‘fisher’! One of several we spotted today.

Mother duck shooing her little ones to the side for safety.

Daventry interlink rail and road is well under way

It’s not a very clear pic; one of the cygnets is feeling tired and is having ‘a ride’ on Mum. We actually saw the swan help the cygnet onto her/his back by using a wing.

Cygnet climbing on Mum’s back.

Lupins in a typical English garden in summer

We stopped for lunch at Weedon Bec, afterwhich we continued on until we moored just after Bridge 46. Last February when we came down this way, it took us 5 days! It was so cold; and each morning we were greeted with ‘cat ice’ on top of the water.

Tonight’s mooring is very quiet, and after taking Rusty for his last walk of the day, it looks to be highly populated by bats!

Tomorrow we’ll probably start the day with a cheese and spinach omelette; as we’ll be tackling the 13 Rothersthorpe locks. The flight will drop us down into Northampton, and onto the navigable River Nene.

Today we’ve cruised 11.25 miles, and 7 locks.

Through Braunston and Beyond!

We had an early morning start as we set off on our journey to Cambridge. We wanted to leave before the single woman boater, in the boat behind us ‘stirred’. John received a verbal tirade from her last evening when she returned from her bike journey. We moored on a favourite spot of ours, nearby to Bridge 100 on the Oxford/GU, about ‘half a boat’ (30ft) away from her. The spot was carefully chosen, keeping a reasonable distance from Bridge 99, and taking a bend into account. “Couldn’t you have moored closer, like inside my boat?”, she ranted. “I moor here for seclusion and don’t want you moored on top of my boat! “. We didn’t want another confrontation with her, and thought it a good idea to forgo breakfast, and have brunch instead.

Weatherwise the day started rather gloomy, but we were optimistic the weather would be brighter as we progressed.

At Braunston Bottom Lock #1, past Braunston Marina, John paid a visit to the chandlers at Phil Abbot’s boatyard (Wharf House Narrowboats Ltd). The hooks on two of our fenders have broken, and we needed a couple of replacements, for a bit of plastic, we thought them to be rather expensive. After visiting the chandlers, returning with two new hooks, we joined another boat ascending the locks.

The other boat had a full crew of ‘bell ringers’! They were returning from a bell ringing function in Halifax. Every year, they said, they attend the function in the boat; with the boat sleeping about 10 ‘bell ringers’. When I was safely in the lock with Cyan, and while the lock was filling, John popped into the gift shop next to the lock and purchased the book ‘The River Nene’ to help us navigate the river. We now need to purchase one for the Great Ouse.

Leaving our last lock of the day, Braunston Top Lock No 6 was soon occupied by a boat descending the lock.

It’s only a short journey before we came upon the 2000 yd Braunston Tunnel. Rusty did his normal ‘jelly’ routine, with his heart going ‘nineteen to the dozen’. I cuddled him as tight as I could, in the hope to reassure him. Pleased to say we didn’t encounter the ‘boggart’ who likes to tip up boats!

The sun looked like it tried to welcome us as we sailed out of the tunnel

Dredging and bank repair work being carried out

It wasn’t long before we were at Norton Junction

At Norton Wharf we stopped for brunch, and an overnight mooring!

Today we’ve travelled just under 6 miles, and 6 locks.

Continuing Our Journey To Cambridge

We’ve been hanging around Napton / Braunston for over a week; waiting for our Gold Licence to arrive. The Gold Licence is posted by ‘snail mail’, instead of receiving the licence via email, and leaving us to print the licence for mounting on a window both sides of Cyan. Looking at the Gold Licence I’m sure it could have been emailed to us.

We’ve not been lazy though! The whole of Cyan’s interior (baring the bathroom) has been painted and varnished, including having her ceiling painted off-white, covering the varnish.

Five sets of window curtains, and a blind has been washed, dried and re-hung.

Last Wednesday (27th May) we moored in Wigram Marina, while we hired a car to visit family, picking up the Gold Licence in the process.

Today, after a huge Tesco delivery, we moved out of Wigram, and are now moored for the night just before Braunston Junction. With water and diesel tanks topped up, we’re ready to start the next leg of our ‘continuous’ journey, destination Cambridge.

We now need some glorious sunny weather!

Back To Square One

Gosh it was a cold morning we woke up to. Our diesel boiler had to be ignited to warm us all up.

At around 11:00 a.m. with a blustery wind blowing we set off for Braunston, and  moored outside The Boat PH.

We could hardly believe how ’empty’ Braunston is. Perhaps everyone has gone to Crick?

Cyan was locked up securely while we walked up the hill to Braunston High Street with ‘the granny shopper’. We’ve still got loads of meat in the freezer, so we didn’t want much from the butcher except some rather nice plump pork sausages, and fresh free range eggs. At the convenience store, just across the road, we picked up quite a few provisions, including delicious English strawberries, and other fresh fruit and vegetables. Hopefully this will keep us going until we can go shopping with the hire car, we hope to get in a few days time.

After lunch we visited the Boat House PH, rude not to really, and sat out on the sunny terrace with our lunch and drinks. How changeable is this weather!

So, we’re now ‘treading water’ until the licence arrives.

We’ve managed to catch up on our diary, while listening to the beautiful evening practice bell ringing from Braunston Church, bliss!

Old Stomping Ground – Catch Up

We’re now back in familiar territory. On 5th February 2018 we set off from Braunston on our journey, which finished today.  It’s taken us 15 weeks, to go from Braunston to Brentford on the Grand Union, then onto the Thames (our first time), onto the South Oxford, and back again to Braunston. That’s 245 miles, and 178 locks  travelled. We moved at a slow pace, considering how some boaters travel. We experienced snow, ice, wind, rain, battled with the ‘Beast from the East’, had many more ‘adventures’, and finally sunshine!

Today we popped into Wigrams Marina to top up our diesel tank (70p per litre), change a gas bottle, use their sanny station, and fill up with water. We’ve also tentatively booked Cyan into the Marina for a few days while we hire a car to visit John’s sister, and pick up our Gold Licence, which at the time of writing hasn’t yet arrived.

There is new life all around us following the spring hatching’s. Ducks, Swans and Geese have all been busy protecting, and raising their broods.

Lovely to see some of the ducklings taking after their mum by showing off their white chests

Our best travel companion!

Plants, and pots, purchased in Banbury are now planted. Just hope Jack Frost doesn’t make an appearance!

Down The Napton Flight

We discovered at rather short notice, the Napton lock flight will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday. So rather than feeling ‘trapped’ this side of the locks, we thought as it was such a glorious day, we’d see if we could descend the flight before it closed on Wednesday. It appears Lock 9 of the flight is ‘moving’, and a couple of vintage boats have been stuck in the lock, one of them recently had to spend the night in the lock.

Winding our way through the summit was fabulous, though John had to keep his wits sharp. It wasn’t easy, and he did well not to ground Cyan in the shallow water.

Glorious views from the summit

Now it’s the turn for the Flag Irises to show off their beauty

Lengths some boaters go through to avoid paying their licence fees.

Pill boxes, relics for WW2 showing how important the canal was to the war effort.

Now what’s that supposed to be?

There are now lots of hire boats about, from Calcutt, Black Prince, Rose Narrowboats, Napton Narrowboats, and probably more.

The locks as anticipated were relatively busy, there was only one of today’s 9 locks where we were on our own.

At one of the locks, a silly mother duck took her 10 ducklings into the lock for a swimming lesson, just as Cyan sailed in. Joined by a lady who was locking the boat waiting to come up the lock, John cracked the paddles open just a little bit to drain the lock slowly; we didn’t want the ducklings to be washed through the sluice gates. The mother duck who had now flown out of the lock, was anxiously quacking and pacing up and down beside the lock. By the time the lock was emptied, there was a crowd of anxious onlookers around the lock, watching very closely. As soon as the lock gates were opened, the ducklings ‘torpedoed’ out of the lock, and the mother duck flew down to join them. Disaster diverted!

We moored at the base of the ‘famous’ hill at Napton.

Today we cruised 10 miles, and 9 locks.

Bye Cropredy, Hello Fenny Compton

Another fabulous day cruising in glorious sunshine. A great day for climbing to the Summit of the South Oxford Canal.

Fenny Compton Tunnel – with the top removed

Turnover bridge

The ‘tunnel’ is now a butterfly sanctuary

Remains of what once would have been a fantastic railway bridge

Wonder where this could have led too?

Wondering what these ‘chaps’ are supposed to be? For some sort of war game? We’ve seen similar ‘guys’ further on.

Today we’ve travelled just over 6 miles, and 8 locks.

Visiting Cropredy

On Saturday afternoon, after a ‘bit of a shop’ at Banbury’s Castle Quay Shopping Centre, and after watching ‘The Wedding’, we cruised just half a mile to the ‘other end’ of Banbury. We stopped just before Tom Rolt Footbridge (#164) as John wanted to visit Halfords, and I wanted some compost, plants, and pots from Homebase. The mooring was great, it was right next to a park for Rusty.

This morning (Sunday) we set off, with the shopper to visit Homebase, and Halfords. We were pleased to see a new Waitrose had been built, so new it’s not yet on Google Maps. It’s just across the road from Homebase and Halfords. We popped in for Strawberries and other fresh fruit.

At around 12:30 pm we left our mooring, just before Tom Rolt footbridge

Approaching our first lock of the day, we noticed the lock was being emptied

Colourful towpaths

We’re now back in the land of ‘ridge and furrow’

Today’s mooring’s at the top of Cropedy Lock. After dinner we took a stroll for a drink at the ancient Red Lion pub. We were disappointed with the pub; what a shame!

Cropedy has Britain’s largest ‘Folk Festival’ “Fairport’s Cropredy Convention attracts up to 20,000 people each year, making it the largest annual festival of its kind in Britain. The festival features a single stage at the lower end of the sloping arena field. There are also ancillary events, such as morris dancing in the streets and live music at the village’s two pubs.” More…. This year’s date is 9th – 11th August.

Today we’ve travelled 4.5 miles, and 4 locks.

A ‘Banbury Kerfuffle’

Woke to glorious sunshine, but had a shock when I popped out of the boat at about 6 am, to find Cyan was encased in ice! It didn’t take long for the strength of the sun to warm us all up.

We’ve not planned to travel far today, though we’ve planned for quite a bit to do.

Our last night’s mooring with the King Sutton church in the distance.

Approaching Banbury, we noticed heavy work going on. At a lift bridge John found a notice that confirmed the ground works were part of a development for a canalside pub, restaurant and a canal basin.

We stopped just before bridge 168 to pay Morrisons a visit. I popped off with the shopper, while John stayed on board with Rusty. It took about an hour for me to return with fresh fruit and veg, tins of beer, and bits ‘n’ bobs, including a few garden plants. We were soon on our way again.

Just before Banbury Lock we stopped for sanny duties, and to top up the water tank. It was a bit scary as dodgy ‘goings on’ was being performed under the bridge by the sanny station. There was about a dozen people, teens and adults, with drink and possibly more was involved. Rusty was in full barking mode. He couldn’t believe his luck when we didn’t tell him to stop barking. As soon as we finished watering up, about four boats turned up at the lock. Where on earth had they all come from? We managed to keep our ‘first’ place, and we were soon through the lock.

Passing the famous Tooleys Boatyard

Mooring in a great spot, just after Tooleys 

We hadn’t moored up five minutes when there was chaos! Two boats cruising between two lines of moored boats, meeting each other bow to bow, with not enough room to pass. Unfortunately both boaters wouldn’t give way – the result was a gridlock. They were stuck fast!

It took about half an hour to free the boats. Boats were trying to pull both stuck boats free. After a lot of pulling, rocking, and revving engines, it was a bottle of washing up liquid that freed them. To add more confusion a boater insisted in raising the lift bridge and joining the squeeze.

All was conducted in good humour. Great entertainment for all boaters and gongoozlers!

We have to make a special mention about Tooleys’ staff – they were extremely helpful, and they orchestrated the ‘rescue’.

The Tug from Tooleys Boatyard tried to separate the jam, but without success

We’re moored right by the shopping centre, where tomorrow I’ll be paying the shops a visit. Banbury has a Saturday market, which will be a ‘must’ for me. We hope to move on towards the other end of Banbury where John has a shopping list for Halfords and B&Q. He’s also got to fit in the FA Cup Final, which has been delayed until 5:15 pm to accommodate ‘something’ that’s going on in Windsor. 

Today we’ve travelled 3.5 miles, and through 2 locks.