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.

Hitting Braunston For The Weekend

We left our beautiful mooring this morning in the sunshine, though not before Cyan had her port-side and 3/4 of her roof cleaned. Her port-side windows also got a sharp polish while we were at it.  Before we set off a wash load was primed in the washing machine, ready for washing as we cruised along.

We headed for Braunston Junction to dispatch our rubbish, fill up with water, and to use the Elsan services.

The cruise was pleasant enough in the sunshine, even with an unfriendly wind from the North. Though by the time we reached Braunston, the day had turned grey, and the wind had done it’s worse to turn our ‘bones’ cold!

Since our water gauge ‘gave up the ghost’, we’re not too sure how much water we’ve left in the tank, and I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to keep track of how many showers we’ve had, and how many wash-loads has been put through the washing machine since we filled up last Sunday at Wigrams.

The first task after we moored at the service point, was to start filling Cyan’s tank with water. The water pressure must be incredible here, because by the time we’d taken the rubbish and visited the Elsan, water was flowing out of Cyan’s side; the tank was overflowing – it made a change from us glowering over the tank’s inlet hole; wistfully hoping the tank would quickly fill.

In no time at all; Cyan reversed away from the service point, and back under the bridge from whence she came. As soon as she was clear of the ‘island’ she was sailed through the junction’s right-hand ‘fork’, and onto Braunston.

We’re now moored for the weekend at the bottom of the field by Braunston’s famous church with the iconic steeple.

The weather isn’t looking good for the weekend, but I don’t think that will stop us from having a look around Braunston. We’ve also planned to visit Tradline, the rope shop. Looking at their website, it’s enough to make our ‘mouth’s water’. It’s an Aladdin’s Cave.

We’re looking to replace our two centre lines with ropes that are more ‘friendly’ in cold weather. The ropes we have presently are about an inch thick (not easy to tie), and they are made from a sort of cotton fibre that holds water – so when the weather’s below -OC, the rope of course freezes. Hanging tightly on to the centre line when it’s stiff because of ice is miserable.

Planning Our Next Journey

Instead of ‘floating’ around Braunston waiting for Napton Locks to open around 16th March (we’re heading for the Kennet & Avon for the Spring/Summer months), we’ve decided to go the ‘long’ way round!  It’s an extra 38 miles, with an extra 51 locks – but it really doesn’t matter. (Why didn’t we think of this before?)

We’re in no rush, we’re on a ‘continuous adventure’!

It’s been a quiet day, planning, looking at pictures, reading up on places we’ll be passing through. We’ll be travelling on the Grand Union, cruising via Rickmansworth, and popping out onto the Thames at ‘Thames – Grand Union Canal Junction’ at Brentford. We’re planning to sail past Twickenham, Winsor Castle, Marlow… before joining the Kennet & Avon at Reading. It will be a lovely journey during the Spring.

We’ve never been on the Thames before, so it will be a learning curve. We’re always open to advice… 🙂

Last night’s ‘Full, Blue, Blood Red Moon’ was beautiful. We had an extra bonus while admiring the moon, it was a shooting star! (We’re now looking forward to Saturday’s lottery draw 🙂 ) It was extra magical because we’re in an area where there’s hardly any light pollution, making the stars brightly visible.

Life Is Not Always ‘Utopia’ On The Water

Since our last post, we’ve had a bit of a stressful time.

Weathering the storm ‘Fionn’ over the weekend (20th January), we experienced all of her rage; high winds, hailstorms, continuous heavy rain, snow… we had ‘the lot’ thrown at us. It was a pretty miserable weekend, and we were feeling fed up and depressed. The best we could do was to batten down the hatches, and let the ‘rage’ pass.

Monday morning promised us much better weather; and feeling tired of our ‘scenery’ we were anxious to move on. Unfortunately, life would have us tied on this spot for another four days!

We’d been in bed for just an hour on Sunday night when Rusty started! He started pacing up and down Cyan, panting, and acting distressed. John let him off the boat, and Rusty shot off down the towpath, and disappeared into the dark. The rain was pouring down! Whistles and shouts didn’t bring Rusty running back. John got dressed against the weather, and just as he’d put his boots on, Rusty returned wet and muddy. He appeared OK, he was rubbed down with his towel, and his feet were cleaned. He’d never ran off like that before. After everything appearing settled, John got back into bed.

Then Rusty started again, pacing up and down, panting, and licking John’s face to wake him up. I got out of bed, putting coat and shoes on, and this time clipping Rusty’s lead on him before landing on the towpath. It was all too clear, Rusty had ‘exploding diarrhoea’. Poor boy looked in quite a lot of pain. He was straining badly, but it wasn’t productive, except from wind exploding from his rear.

This scenario was repeated every couple of hours for three days and nights. Obviously we thought it’s best not to move, giving Rusty time to get better. We were all exhausted due to lack of sleep. The towpath was now wet and very muddy. We gave up trying to keep Cyan’s floor clean, and it resembled a ploughed field (luckily we’ve no carpets/rugs). Despite Rusty’s ‘furious’ bowels, he never had an accident – and for that we’re very grateful!

Thursday night we decided we needed help! Rusty hadn’t eaten since Sunday, and it looked like his symptoms were not getting any better. So Friday morning we made a few phone calls to a vets, to Wigrams Marina, and to Enterprise Car Hire.

We were about a mile away cruise from Wigrams, and luckily for us the weather was quite pleasant. Rusty we thought (Friday morning) was showing slight signs of improvement, but we decided not to take any chances. Poor lad was feeling really fed up, and his collar could now easily slip over his head.

Cutting a long story short, Rusty was examined at the vets, he was diagnosed with having colitis, and we came away with kaolin and probiotics. Eventually he started to take chicken breasts cooked with rice I’d prepared.

Last night was the first night we all managed to fully sleep through, and this morning was the first time we could ‘pick up’ after Rusty.

Colitis starts through something in his diet triggering the ‘episode’. I know pork and chicken skin doesn’t agree with him, but he’s not had any recently. We’ve just got to be careful and strict; it’s not always easy when a couple of doleful eyes pleads for a ‘taste’ of what we’re eating. Rusty had parvo as a puppy, so his tummy might be a ‘weak spot’.

We spent 3 nights at Wigrams, and we couldn’t wait to leave. Tottering along the jetty boards a couple of times a night with Rusty was scary. There’re gaps where there wasn’t a boat moored, so walking along the boards, in the wind, made us nervous.

Our past three stays at Wigrams have been great, but not this time. The place is drenched, and the field for exercising dogs is deep in mud.

As we’ve had a week or so of wet weather, our laundry basket was over flowing. I took the chance to do six washes (we’ve got a small load washing machine), and hauled the wet clothes to the marina’s laundry for drying. Except the laundry was busy with fraught boaters competing for a dryer (they’ve got three, but only two were working). I left my two bags in the laundry, with the plan to use a dryer when the bottleneck had dispersed. After several visits, including one at 11:30 pm, I gave up, and brought the two bags back to Cyan to dry (somehow).

Yesterday morning we left Wigrams in glorious weather.

To dry the clothes; all windows, doors and hatches were wide open, and the central heating turned up high, as we cruised along. Some clothes were placed on clothes hangers and hung from curtain poles, some draped on the clothes maiden, some hung onto a ‘peg rack’ hanging in the open cratch, and sheets were spread over our two chairs to dry. Success!

It was a lovely cruise, and it was fantastic to have the warmth of the sun on our backs! Truly a treat from the weather we’ve had to endure.

Eventually we moored by a place that’s looks to be quite a conservation area. Just across the water from where we are is an owl box! With the ‘blue’ full moon we’re experiencing tonight, we might be lucky and see an owl.

Cyan hadn’t been moored too long when we realised we didn’t have any 240 volts! While we were in Wigrams we were on shoreline electric. We double checked to see if all switches were in the correct position – and yes they were!

We use 240 volt AC for recharging two laptops, two tablets, two WiFi dongles, and the mobile phone (plus obviously other items that are not so important such as the soundbar for the TV). This is a disaster!

John checked the system, looking for fuses, and obvious faults. He was flummoxed!

Before the battery ran out on the laptop, I found three boat electricians in the area from the Internet.

This morning, after a phone call to the service manager at Braunston Marina, the manager said there was a slot available tomorrow morning. As it was raining at the time of the phone call, with the forecast telling us the weather will dry up later, we decided to stay put till this afternoon.

While waiting for the rain to pass, John studied Cyan’s electrical system plans. After further investigation with his circuit tester….. Eureka! A loose connection in the ‘Consumer Unit’! A small adjustment to the connection and the 240 volt system sprang into life.

After a quick phone call to Braunston Marina to cancel our ‘slot’, we settled back happy with the thought all is under control for the first time in a week, and with monies saved!

For a bit of amusement, here’s a 70 Piece jigsaw from one of the images on this page. For full screen, click the  at bottom-right of the jigsaw.

Moody Skies

Knew it was cold last night, but didn’t realise we were iced up again.

Had a slight panic; last night we checked the App (Bluetooth access to the solar panel controller) that tells us how our batteries are doing, and how much/little solar energy we’re gathering. We had a good day solar wise yesterday as we didn’t have to turn the engine on to charge the batteries until around 5:00 pm. When we checked the ‘App’ (for want of a better word) just before bedtime, there was a message saying the App needed updating. So we clicked the ‘OK’ button to begin the upgrade…. then typically…. the App wouldn’t connect to the solar panel controller. Sod it we thought, this’ll wait until the morning.

We just thought it was  the App upgrade that was the problem, until we discovered this morning the solar panels weren’t working despite the bright sunshine.

We did lots of tweaks, uninstalling and installing the App, pressing buttons until lights stop blinking, resetting, and pressing ‘this’ upgrade button, and ‘that’ upgrade button, each time we got into a loop. We read the online manual how to fix it, and we wrote to Victron’s help forum. Our head’s were dizzy…

At the third ‘uninstall’ and ‘install’ of the App, it was BINGO all the knobs and whistles worked! Panic over thank goodness. The updated App is a very different layout from the previous level, we are sure we will get used to that. Most importantly the Solar panel output and the boat battery bank condition is now visible with the App.

We set off from our mooring about midday, after about 3 hours of sunshine shining on the ice.

We passed the new Dunchurch Pools Marina.

It’s all looking really grand, and it looks like some boats are already resident. Even though we were just a couple of hundred metres away from where we were ‘iced in’, the marina looked ice free.

The ice was in patches, usually amassed in cold corners.

The huge family of geese didn’t appear to mind the cold water.

We can’t remember when we saw our last wide-beam. This one looked enormous!

Ancient ridge and furrow fields, probably made by ploughs pulled by oxen in the middle ages. Would love to know the history of these fields.

At Braunston Junction we used the rubbish and Elsan services.

Then we turned right to continue on the Oxford Canal.

By the time we moored up the wind had changed to bitter, and we were freezing!

The weather for the weekend doesn’t look brilliant. Think we’ve snow predicted at some point on Sunday, so we might not move for a while. We’re sitting in a lovely spot, quite high up with glorious views and a dry towpath.

Today we’ve cruised over 4 miles. We’ve got about 28 Mbps of WiFi, and great digital TV.

For FUN! Here’s a 70 piece jigsaw. For full screen, click the  at bottom-right of the jigsaw.