Visiting Cropedy

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.

Today The Weather Decided To Shine

Yesterday was pretty miserable ‘weather wise’, the wind was blustery and cold. After the overnight rain; dust, flies, and pollen had been ‘dampened down’; making it a perfect day for varnishing. Cyan’s cratch cover was removed, and the cratch was stripped of it’s contents, including flooring, using the towpath for temporary storage. John removed the ‘brass furniture’ from the two front doors. I set too sanding down the cratch’s ‘A’ frame, and the two front doors. The wood was then ‘yacht’ varnished. It didn’t take long before the varnish had dried enough to put the newly scrubbed cratch cover back, and the towpath relieved of its ‘storage’. John screwed the polished brass fittings back in place, and I re-hung the roman blinds.

The blinds are made from the same material as the other window curtains, and I cursed myself when I discovered the material was ‘dry clean only’. It would cost quite a bit of money to get them dry cleaned, plus it would be very inconvenient, so it would be great if I could wash them. It was by a strange coincidence that we shared several locks on the Grand Union with a boat which had the same curtains. After chatting to the boaters about the dry cleaning problem, the lady boater told me she had made a mistake by washing them, resulting in the curtain dye running, turning the lining pink. She rewashed them, putting a couple sheets of ‘Dylon Colour Catcher’ in the washing machine, with a successful result. Our roman blind was washed at 30C, with two sheets of the ‘Colour Catcher’; success!  Enough of the domestics….

We left our mooring early this morning, the weather was once again glorious.

The hedgerows are full of white blossom, reminds me  ‘Anne of Green Gables’, a favourite child’s book about a red-headed orphan girl who used to rename places. She named an avenue of white blossom “The White Way of Delight!” Very fitting!

Me and Cyan, ‘popping’ up in Sommerton Deep Lock, at 12ft it’s the deepest lock on the Oxford, and one of the deepest in the UK.

Rather a scary few moments as we sailed under the lift bridge (it’s kept raised), the heavy beef cattle were rubbing themselves on the bridge, The bridge is counter-balanced, and we held our breath as we cruised under it hoping the cattle wouldn’t ‘drop’ the bridge.

Today we travelled 7 miles, and through 4 locks.

A New C&RT ‘Gold’ Licence

We had planned to stay at our idyllic mooring for another day, the simple reason we left was because of the practically zero WiFi, TV digital signal, and mobile phone coverage. I’m itching to re-varnish the ‘A Frame’ in the cratch, re-varnish the two doors at the front of the boat, give the cratch cover a good scrub, and finishing off with sewing new seat cushions! Oh well, another day will have to suffice! 🙂

Leaving yesterday’s mooring

Thank you Paul (from Waterway Routes), John Hartill, Carole Biggs, and Steve NB Tumbleweed, for your kind advice helping us through ‘the ‘shall we/shan’t we’ get a Gold Licence decision’.

We recently paid £182.30 for a month’s ‘Environment Agency’ licence to cruise (only) the Thames, as at the time we only had a basic C&RT licence to cruise C&RT navigations. If we’d have had a C&RT ‘Gold Licence’ it would have allowed us to cruise the Thames, and all the other Environment Agency’s waterways (EA navigations include the River Thames, Anglian waterways, River Medway, etc.), as well as C&RT’s waterways. We’re planning our next trip to Cambridge which, will take us on the Rivers Nene, Ouse, and possibly the Cam. So we’ll need a licence.

We’ve now moored in a slightly better mobile reception area than yesterday, which was good enough to allow John to phone the ‘licensing dept’ at C&RT (despite the signal dropping several times). The upshot of the discussion, and our decision:

A Gold License is from 1st January till 31st December (you can’t purchase a full year’s licence, say in June). For us to purchase a Gold License now, is complicated. So…. this is what we’ve decided and agreed with C&RT:

  • We purchase a Gold License (backdated from January 2018) costing £1,314.00
  • C&RT will refund us £669.13, which is what’s left of our current licence (our licence ends 30th September) – at the end of last September 2017 we paid C&RT £892 for licensing Cyan for a year.

Example of the calculation:

  • £892 per year > divided by 12 months = £74.33 per month
  • 3 months (Oct, Nov, Dec ’17) @ £74.33 = £223
  • £892 (paid) – £223 (months used) = £669.13 refund

If we’d have thought ahead, we could have saved ourselves £182.30! Still we live and learn, and it wont happen again.

Love nature taking over

Our luck was ‘in’ today, 2 of today’s 4 locks was set for us.

‘Life’s a bitch’ but someone has to ‘patrol’ our inland waterways!

Who said sheep were stupid? This flock is keeping cool in the shade – think I’d make for the shade if I wore a thick woolly jumper

Please, please don’t let us meet another boat at the bridge

Now where are we going to moor today?

Today we’ve travelled 5 miles, and 4 locks.

How Perfect Can A Day Get?

What a glorious and beautiful day!

Leaving our ‘weekend’ mooring outside ‘The Jolly Boatman’

Our first duty was Service chores.

Looking at the bricked up doorway, with the hinges still left in, could this have been stables for barge horses at one time?

For conspiracy theorists (which I’m not); a beautiful display of chem trails?

 

Another one for Conspiracy Theories; an ‘Earth Station’!

We stopped overnight at an idealistic mooring, where the birdsong was enchanting!  Sadly though, the mooring was a little too ‘secluded’ as there was hardly any WiFi – tomorrow we’ll be moving on for a better signal.

Today we’ve cruised 5 miles, and 3 locks.

Back On The Cut!

We decided last evening, while being moored at the top of Eynsham Lock, to wind Cyan. Instead of going to Lechlade, we’ll start our journey to Cambridge; though we’ll return back on the Thames at some point for sure. We’ve had a brilliant time!

Yesterday we temporarily moored at the bottom of Eynsham Lock while sanny duties were carried out. While moored a boat came out of the lock, and crashed into Cyan. The other boat was manoeuvring to keep the green buoys on its left, stearing rather close to where we were moored. The fierce weir, and a strong wind, caught the boater off guard, and he lost control. He was very apologetic, but his boat didn’t half give Cyan ‘punch’. We were told by the lock keeper that the green buoys had been dragged too far towards the lock landing by a narrowboat that got tangled up with a buoy. The buoys are placed to warn boaters of a bank of silt that had been washed down by the weir. The ‘crash’ has unnerved us a bit.

This morning we woke at our leisure, after breakfast, and after Rusty’s walk, John gave ‘one’ half of Cyan a good wash, she was such a ‘dirty girl’. We then winded or turned her around so John could wash the other ‘half’. After filling Cyan’s tank with water we dropped down Eynsham Lock.

Leaving Duke’s Cut Lock behind

A short cruise brought us to Duke’s cut, and onto the Oxford Canal.

Venturing onto the Oxford Canal

We can see how we’ve been spoilt cruising the Thames. Firstly, we’re having to work the locks ourselves (Gosh aren’t they small!), then we’ve got to work harder to steer Cyan, cruising her in deep water was a doddle.

We passed a couple of narrowboats that we recognised, Bones and Milly M. We used to follow their blogs religiously.

Well done mother duck, eleven little ones. Hope they survive.

We’ve moored by ‘The Jolly Boatman‘, and we couldn’t resist popping in for lunch. A pint of Abbot, and fish and chip lunch was delicious. The fish was cooked with scrumptious ‘Abbot ale batter’! Our ‘diet’ has been forgotten for the day – our ‘memory problem’ might stretch two days as we’ve booked a table for a Sunday Carvery tomorrow.

Today we cruised just under 8 miles, and 5 locks.

The Thames Is Getting Narrow Now

We had another ‘early morning alarm’ At 6am it was rowers and their coaches on bikes, with ‘megaphones’! Apparently it looked like we moored right at the end of their training ‘sprint’, turning around behind Cyan. There were groups of male and female rowing eights, and single and double sculls. Instructions were being barked out from the ‘Thames Path’ via megaphone, and instructions being barked out by each cox.  By 9:00 a.m. it was all over. You’ve got to admire the tenacity of these ‘youngsters’ to get out of bed that early in the morning to train on the cold Thames. This smashes the image we generally have of youths, hugging their beds until the last minute. It was an experience we were pleased to see.

Around 10 a.m we left our mooring.

A row of rowing clubs! Each with their own university house crest

Now which way do we go?

Apparently we could have gone either side. We took the right hand channel.

 

From this point on, boat sizes are severely restricted.

The ruins of Godstow Abbey – destroyed by the Reformation. Seeing the artists patiently sketching the ruins, really makes me envious, I’d love to be able to paint.

We saw a sight that we’d have never believed it, until we actually witnessed it.

Way ahead in front of us was a herd of about 50 cattle who were mulling about in the Thames’ water. I was waiting until we got nearer to the cattle to get a better picture. Also watching the cattle was the horse below…

Then all of a sudden the horse started running towards the cattle, spooking and rounding them up, he herded them  out of the water.

It was like a scene from a cowboy film, but without the cowboy! As soon as they were out of the water, the horse pranced back! You could see he was very pleased with itself and commanded a lot of respect from the herd. Was the horse just having a bit of fun at the expense of the cattle? Or was it trying to keep the cattle safe?

Job done!

High and dry!

The Thames is now quite narrow in places.

    

We’re now moored at the top of Eynsham Lock after battling with a strong weir race below the lock,  and the restricted access resulting from the heavily silted area by the lock landing.

Today we’ve cruised 8 miles, and through 4 locks.

Pirates Onboard

Yesterday we visited Abingdon, it’s a beautiful and historical market town. We’d planned to pick up some fresh fruit and veg, and John wanted to find some stainless steel screws, but after a short time, John’s foot started to hurt, so we returned back to Cyan, but not before I bought some plasticised cotton material to make seat covers for the cratch.

This morning we were rudely woken at 4:30 a.m, by about 50 excited geese who were on the grass by our boat. Not sure what the fuss was about; had one of the young goslings been attacked?

While we were moored in Abingdon, we got familiar with the local goose population, especially one family group of three adults and 5 goslings. We watched anxiously  as adult geese fought off vicious swans, playful dogs, and dive-bombing black headed gulls in their quest to protect the youngsters. When John returned from taking Rusty for a walk, he was confronted by a Swedish family on holiday on a ‘Le Boat’, who had moored in front of us. The mother wanted advice on what should be done about a dying duckling. Her little girl in particular was distressed as the duckling was dying near our boats. The other adult ducks had abandoned it, such as it is in nature when faced with imminent death. The little girl had made the dying duckling a pillow out of a tissue, and she was terribly upset. I don’t think John helped the situation at all when he said the gulls will come and carry it off, and that will be the kindest thing.  Whoops John…. that was just a bit too ‘brutal’!

We left our mooring at about 11 a.m. on a bright breezy day.

We had a fabulous view of ‘old’ Abingdon

Venturing under Abingdon Bridge

Our first lock was Abingdon Lock, where I was asked by a little girl if I was a pirate! “Yes of course I am, but I’m a very kind pirate”!

After the lock we topped up our water tank, dumped our rubbish, and used the Elsan service. It’s always a nice feeling when all three chores are taken care of.

A Thames Galleon!

Wisteria adorned some gorgeous properties

We’re now moored just after Iffley Lock, practically just outside ‘The Isis Farmhouse’. (Sad the name ‘Isis’ has now been so maligned!)

‘The Isis Farmhouse’, used to be called Isis Tavern. Strangely enough it doesn’t have direct road access. The beer used to be delivered from the river. I was fascinated to read that during the 1800’s the Landlord would receive 5 shillings, or 7 shillings for each corpse removed from the river, depending which side of the river the corpse was retrieved from.

Though a gammon joint had been slowly cooking this afternoon in Cyan’s oven; we thought we’d visit ‘The Isis Farmhouse’ for a drink, and if the menu looked appetising, we could have dinner there. But what a mucky dive it turned out to be. I sat in the huge garden with Rusty while John bought us both a drink. He returned with a pint of beer for him, and a half for me, the beer was cloudy and it fizzed! John took it back, his was swapped with a relatively decent pint, I declined. We returned to Cyan, and  had a very tasty gammon dinner.

It’s busy where we’re moored with rowers. Now we’ve decided to travel to Cambridge, we’ll be meeting their opposition.

Today we’ve travelled over 7 miles, and through 3 locks.

Gypsy Kings, Here We Come!

We had the ‘day off’ yesterday, and left the Spring Bank Holiday cruisers to the Thames, while we watched on.

Another fine day dawned this morning; and we set off about 10 a.m.

At our first lock of the day, Clifton Lock, we shared the lock with a boat skippered by two lady ‘Waterway Chaplains’. Which was a strange coincidence as we were explaining the role of Waterway Chaplains with our ‘ecclesiastical’ friend, Maurice, last evening. Clifton Lock was unmanned, the ladies closed the gates, worked the sluices, then opened the exit gates, and we closed them after exiting the lock.

To close the gate, we temporarily moored on the lock landing. As there were no other boats around, John took the opportunity to have a quick look in the engine ‘hole’ to inspect the water situation while the engine was cooling down. A small top up to the coolant level and all was well!

Nothing like a paddle on a hot day

Easy to imagine a four poster bed was sailing down the Thames

Clifton Hempden Bridge

At first we thought these two Red Kites were fighting; reading an article on the internet, it appears this behaviour is part of their mating ritual

Spot the boat…

After sharing Culham Lock with the two ladies, we ‘glided’ into Abingdon. What a fantastic place it is too.

We’ve moored on a great mooring, over the way from St Helens Church (once again, thank you George). Mooring is free for 3 days.

Loving the neighbours!

 

We’ve now got a new plan! Today we booked two tickets at ‘The Corn Exchange, Cambridge,’ to see ‘Gypsy Kings’ on their UK tour. So we’ve got to be in Cambridge before the 9th July. CanalPlan.org.uk calculates:

“… 262 miles, 2½ furlongs and 136 locks from Abingdon Bridge to Jesus Green Lock No 1. 

This will take 110 hours and 31 minutes which is 15 days, 5 hours and 31 minutes at 7 hours per day.”

The trip is via Lechlade, so (hopefully) we’ve plenty of time to meander over to Cambridge.

Today we’ve cruised 7.5 miles, and 2 locks.

Best Spring Bank Holiday

We really didn’t want to leave our lovely mooring by Beale Park (thank you for the tip George); the only non-perfect aspect of it, was that it was only a 24 hour mooring. Still no big hardship, every one that passed had  happy smiling faces, and the weather was glorious! After what John calls a ‘Scania Hubcap’ breakfast (bacon, sausage, black pudding, cheese omelette, mushrooms and tomato – yes this is our ‘keto’ diet) we were fit to embrace our ‘incredible’ day.

Our first lock of today’s four was Goring Lock. Approaching was rather tricky as there were two boats waiting go up the lock on the lock landing (so no room for us). There were boats moored rather near the lock, with a weir opposite pushing Cyan over towards the moored boats, she wasn’t able to ‘tread water’ easily. Still we managed, and within minutes we were called into the lock by the lock keeper.

As we left the lock we realised the rubbish bin was below the lock, with the fuss of trying to keep Cyan from ‘hitting’ moored boats below the lock, we never noticed the rubbish area. The very helpful Lock Keeper offered to take our rubbish and deposit it in the bins for us, but we couldn’t allow that, and thanked him for his kindness.

We wondered what the story was behind the derelict property below. Why was such an expensive property boarded up? It looks like it’s been unloved for decades.

Between Goring Lock and our next lock ‘Cleeve Lock’, the author of our guidebook ‘The River Thames Book’, who was/is a volunteer lock keeper on the Thames, let his political side slip and some! Quote:

“The setting is perhaps moderately more attractive since on the Oxfordshire bank lie the backwaters and streams of Cleeve and its mill, not overcome by the mass gathering of tax-losing motor craft as at Harleyford but perhaps enhanced by the manicured lawns and trees of the property of the tax loopholed gentry. To the west lie the water meadows, as yet unsullied by rapacious developers, held off for the time being by the blessed conversationalists.”

Sadly we have encountered a degree of snobbery by some in their very posh ‘gin palaced’ boats, and I can only imagine how these ‘elites’ arrogantly treat some of the lock keepers. This attitude reminds me of the posh upmarket cars owners, against the older bangers on our roads. Though in the main, especially on a wonderful day such as today, the ‘comradeship’ of boaters and lockies warmed ‘the cockles’ of our hearts!

We were soon at our second lock, Cleeve Lock. Cleeve lock was also manned by a pleasant lock keeper. As we left the lock he took our centre line, helping us to temporarily moor Cyan while she was topped up with water.

Wallingford Bridge

The weather was really hot by now, and it was brilliant how everyone appeared to be enjoying the Thames.

The Thames has now (significantly) ‘calmed’ down; we’re now cruising without any official ‘Stream Warnings’. An altogether more relaxed cruising experience.

What fun! The boat ‘Waterlily’ must be the smallest ‘steam boat’ in the world! Can’t help but wonder how the top canvas doesn’t catch fire with the chimney going through it. The chimney must be seriously insulated.

The owners are very proud of ‘Waterlily’

The sun was now high, and we were getting quite hot. We tried to moor in several places, but unfortunately suitable mooring places were taken.

We approached Benson Lock as several boats were exiting. The lock was unmanned (it must be around lunchtime), and John was about to jump off Cyan before entering the lock to work the mechanism when a man shouted down from the lock asking if John would like him to work the lock… great, he must be a boater wanting to come down the lock. Obviously John thanked him. John took Cyan into the lock, and the man closed the gates behind us. We securely tied Cyan, both fore and aft…… but where was the man? The man had gone! We were now stuck in the lock! There was nothing for it, John climbed on Cyan’s roof, then climbed on the lock landing to ‘press’ the buttons.

 

The fancy brickwork on this boathouse is amazing – a work of art!

The vintage ‘work horse’ Gosport (built by Braithwaite & Kirk for the well known carrying firm of Fellows, Morton & Clayton) passed us, we couldn’t make out the ‘tug’, but we think it’s Bascote.

Still looking for a place to moor without success, the banks were rather high, and any attempts were thwarted by silt.

Just before Day’s Lock, we disposed of our rubbish, and used the Elsan services. Day’s Lock was also manned by a pleasant Lock Keeper. As we were the only boat in the lock, it gave the Lockie time to chat. The Lockie lives in a Keeper’s cottage nearby, and he works the weir’s sluices. He can be called out of bed at an un-godly hour to open the sluices during heavy rain.

There used to be moorings along a farmer’s field outside from the lock, the farmer would visit the moorers rattling a charity tin, boaters would contribute what they thought the mooring was worth, and the money went to a local charity. Sadly the farmer had to take several boaters to court because they wouldn’t move, and since then, he doesn’t allow moorings. These squatters appear all over the network, and it’s a shame they are allowed to ruin things for those who abide by the law.

We didn’t have to motor far when we found ‘another’ perfect mooring. We’re now moored on the ‘Thames Path’ side of the river, and alongside what looks like a hay/silage field.

Today we heard our first cuckoo! When we moored we watched and listened to two woodpeckers calling each other, and hammering out messages!

Must mention what looked like an ‘unusual’ bird in the water last night, the bird was swimming low in the water with seemingly bobbles on it’s back; the binoculars revealed it was a female mallard type duck, giving her brood a ride. We’ve never seen this before, isn’t nature amazing?

There’re no notices here saying there’s a fee, or stipulating that we can only moor here for 24 hours. Therefore, we thought we’d take the ‘day off’, and watch boaters cruising the river from our deck chairs on the bank!

Today we’ve travelled 13.75 miles and 4 locks.