Didn’t Expect To Cruise 14 Miles!

For us, we were out of the ‘traps’ early this morning. Our plans at breakfast were to descend three Hillmorton Locks, and perhaps moor somewhere below the locks for the night. The locks were only an hour and half away, and seeing that the day was grey and damp, we thought that would be enough cruising for the day.

When we passed this way about 10 days ago, growth on the off-side of the canal was a pain. Since then it looked like the ‘fairies’ have been, and have cut out the overhanging branches that makes the canal appear so narrow. Miles and miles of the Oxford now looks pristine!

Sometimes there’s an ‘uncomfortable’ cruising to experience. Poor old, cracked bridge, hope it can take the strain of the van while we pass under.

It was my turn to take Cyan into the three locks. This time all 3 pairs of locks were working. With two lock volunteers, and a boat coming up as we were going down, we’d gone through them in minutes.

Surprising to see birds of prey on top of a narrowboat. Obviously they were tethered to their perches, and we just had to take a snap of these magnificent birds. The owner was nearby, I did ask, as we cruised by if I could take a picture, luckily he agreed.  He said they were Harris Hawks. Looking up their spec on Wiki, they are awesome birds, but not birds that are native to the UK. They are the only raptors who hunt as a team. Pretty awesome! I loved the opportunity to see them, but I’m not a fan of having birds caged or tethered.

The part of the Oxford we travelled today was mainly through cuttings, meaning there were high banks either side of the canal. Plus there’s not a lot of moorings. Eventually we’ve moored at Ansty. It’s really been too long a cruise for us today, and we were cold through the dank weather. Still after a hot lunch, a glass of amber nectar, and being toasted by a hot fire, we soon dosed! This is one of the few joys of winter!

I’m also pleased to have now caught up with the diary. If I don’t keep it up, we’ve got no ‘register’ of time and places. It’s our memory aid!

Stunning Sunset

John wanted to pay a visit to Midland Chandlers at the Braunston Junction.

While John bought his bits and bobs for his electrical project, light switches, power sockets, and an LED tunnel lamp, Rusty and I watched the canal traffic.

By the length of time it took John to shop (and chat), we were frozen and now bored!

We were soon on our way again, and passing the famous Braunston Church. I’m pretty sure this view of the church, and the ridge and furrow field, hasn’t changed in a couple of hundred years. Baring the changes in the trees of course.

We moored just before Barby Wood Bridge (# 78). Where the sunset over the Oxford was amazing!

Monday And Back On The Cut

Services done, diesel tank brimmed (70p per litre), and a couple of bags of logs purchased, we left Wigrams.

Turning right onto the Oxford Canal, in the direction of Braunston, we moored before Braunston Junction.

John was itching to fit some under gunnel lights, we’d bought them over the internet, and had them delivered to the Marina. Wigrams are as good as gold regarding accepting packages for owners of boats staying with them. Some marinas, we’ve found, are rather stuffy at accepting packages on behalf of their ‘visitors’.

John got stuck into his project as soon as we stopped.

We were in no rush, so we stayed Monday and Tuesday night, cos we can!

Onto The Windy Oxford, And Visiting Wigram Marina At Napton Junction

It was an early start on Sunday (for us), first duty was to visit the services at Hawkesbury Junction, for rubbish and Elsan chores. We passed through Sutton stop lock, onto the  Oxford Canal from the Coventry just before 9 o/clock. We were on our way to Napton Junction, staying from Monday, 23rd October for a week in Wigram Marina.

There was a fair amount of hire boats on the canal thanks to half-term holidays. Patience was needed in the high winds, and not many hire boat ‘captains’ realised that the slower the boat travelled, the more the wind would take ‘control’ of their boat. It’s the engine that needs to be the controlling power, which obviously works best when worked by a confident hand on the tiller.

Leaving Ansty we met a boat coming towards us, and I’m afraid it stopped my brain dead. I knew the boat… then it dawned, it was NB FreeSpirit. I normally follow their excellent blog everyday, except over the past few weeks I’d been out of ‘the groove’ and hadn’t kept up with the many blogs I normally follow. It was great to meet FreeSpirit on the canal, except I didn’t react until they’d passed!

Bother! I do hope our ‘bow waves’ meet again, and I can thank them for their brilliant blog, which has some amazing pictures of wildlife and fauna along the canal. It’s impressive how Irene can spot the creatures, let alone take lovely pictures.

There was a 3 boat queue to climb the three Hilmorton Locks, and all three locks next to the tow path were sealed off, not in use.

Eventually we arrived in the Marina. There’s a field where dogs can be let off their leads for a run about. On the gate there’s a warning notice saying “Un-leashed dogs” for those who have nervous dogs (or is it nervous dog owners?)

On Wednesday we had a fabulous day with Mairi and Brian, and they came bearing scrumptious gifts from their allotment. It was great to have a good old chinwag and catch up. Thank you both for taking the time out to visit us on Cyan.

Each evening in Wigram Marina we had a super treat. A spectacular display of a murmuration of starlings against a peach coloured sunset. We’ve not seen such a display for years, and I can’t remember when I last saw such a spectacle. Just wish we had a better camera. Must write a’ begging’ note to Santa, it’s not that long now till Christmas! (Only about 6-7 weeks.)

Taking Time Out From The Canal System

We have had a week in the Forest of Dean while Cyan had her kitchen revamped.

The Forest of Dean was brilliant, despite the rain, and moi being held up for 24 hours with a tummy upset!

We met up with friends we hadn’t seen for a while, Barry and Val who are lucky enough to live in the area. Thank you both for a gorgeous lunch, great company, and putting up with our hairy monster, Rusty. It was a real treat to see you again.

We visited Tintern Abbey (for me) in the rain,

and we had a trip on a Wye Valley steam train (for John).

We were rather disappointed we didn’t get to see the Severn Bore due to the tide not being high enough, and that was despite renting a holiday cottage just across the way from the part of the Severn where the bore manifests. Think we missed the phenomenon by two days.

We also manged to get our lock ‘fix’ (as we were feeling a little ‘home sick’) at the historical Lyndey Harbour, which has it’s roots from Roman times.

The countryside verges looked rather messy (we thought), until we were told the verges had been ‘turned over’ by the snouts of feral wild boar in their hunt for food. Glad we don’t have to contend with wild boar on the towpaths (yet!). What should you do if you come face to face with a 20 stone beast? Answer: back away from it. Apparently boar have pretty bad eyesight, though they can ‘feel’ vibrations in the ground on what’s approaching them, or what is moving away.

Fantastic Autumn Weather Turns Snappy

We had a few hours days to kill, so we took a slow cruise back towards Willow Wren Training Centre for John’s date (Saturday, 29th) with his ‘day course’ on maintaining marine diesel engines.

We had phoned Willow Wren Training Centre, and said we would be arriving by our boat Cyan on the 28th; Willow Wren offered us mooring in their ‘arm’.  We were delighted to see a huge board on the side of the canal saying “Welcome NB Cyan” (nice touch Willow Wren!).

John was one of 8 or so students.  After his course, at the end of the day, John was buzzing with ideas, and he had a confidence boost in his technical abilities.  He was able to ‘bounce’ his technical worries regarding Cyan off the tutor; which was a huge relief for him.

On Sunday morning (30th) we set off on our trip to Trinity Marina in Hinckley.  There’s a fantastic website we use to plan canal journeys (canalplan.org.uk/), the website advised that we need to travel just over 39 miles miles to our destination.  Travelling for just 5 hours a day; the journey will take 3 days!  This is us from now on….. such is our pace of life!

We cruised back to the Braunston turning, where we left the Grand Union Canal, and joined the Oxford Canal.

The Oxford is such a beautiful canal, and as a special treat it was clothed in beautiful autumn splendour!
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Pictures (especially taken by our old camera) do not do justice to the pleasant views we’re lucky enough to experience.  It’s magic, like a world time forgot!
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It was great to see canal-side pubs, boaters, and boatyards entering into the ‘spirit’ of Halloween!
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Here’s a ‘traffic jam’, boater style!  The boatyard was totally full of hire boats, and boats for sale, in fact they were moored up two abreast.  So when a ‘customer’ needs the services of the boatyard, they have to moor up ‘three abreast’!  On this occasion stopping the traffic on the cut, which is frowned upon by the C&RT (Canal & Riverside Trust)!

We had the option of chilling out and ‘going with the flow’, or getting ‘excited’!    We chilled!

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Eventually we arrived at Hawkesbury Junction, where the Oxford meets the Coventry Canal.  Before we could enter the Coventry we had to go through a lock.  After the huge flights of locks we’ve been through during our ‘October Cruise’, this lock was minuscule! The levels of the canals was less than a foot!  Reputedly so the canal authorities could charge a toll for ‘barges’ entering ‘their’ canal.

This wasn’t the only ‘minuscule thing’ at this junction, we’ve also been told the smallest police station in Britain is built here!
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Here is where we left the Oxford behind us.  The history of the canals is so fascinating, for example this bridge was built just after Wellington had defeated the tyrant, Napoleon!

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At Brinklow, on the Coventry Canal, we saw a mother duck with a brood of about 8 day old ducklings.  Lovely to see, but so sad to think that their survival prospect is practically nill due to being hatched so late in the year.  The mother duck no doubt has been confused by the mild autumn we’ve experienced.
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At Marsden Junction, we turned right onto the now familiar Ashby Canal.

We arrived at Hinckley Marina during Tuesday afternoon.  We will be moored in the Marina for the month of November, though we’ll probably pop out of the marina several times during the month.  We’ve got the option to stay here during December, which will depend on how cold the weather is, and whether our newly discovered ‘wanderlust tendencies’ need exercising.

We’ve got several jobs to do on the boat, and being on shoreline electricity will help.