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.

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.

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.