Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Through Banbury to Claydon top lock

We woke to a misty drizzly day, so for the first time this holiday we donned wet weather gear, having moored quite close to Banbury we were soon approaching the outskirts, and the permanent moorings before we got into the centre and Banbury Lock.

The moorings here are plenty but as we crept passed the rather full lines we could here talk of very loud music and people not having much sleep, we had a little smile as we'd had a perfect night, out in the countryside. 

At Cropredy there were no cues like we'd seen on our way down so we made short work of it

At Broadmoor Lock the heavens opened, but snug and dry in our wet weather gear this did not deter us.  I picked up some cooking apples again by the lock side to go with some more blackberries we'd gathered, apple and blackberry crumbles seem to have been a staple pudding this holiday.

The first Claydon lock we worked through on our own but at all of the other locks there were 4-5 boats waiting to come down, this should have meant our progress was swift but it wasn't.  Boat crews were just too eager to turn locks in front of us and for them to join the large cues above each lock, so selfish, in fact one hire boat crew of all men couldn't even acknowledge us.

At the top lock we were again on our own, so worked through the lock, and moored just beyond the bridge, and chilled for the evening.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Retracing our steps

We're heading back towards home now, knowing the river section of the Cherwell is just the other side of Thrupp we decided to make another early start, to see it at its most appealing, still and mirror like, we weren't disappointed, here we are before 8, and the promise of a good weather ahead.
We'd thought about mooring up for the day at Pigeon lock again, but as you can see the from the photo above the day was too good to stay still, perfect cruising weather, so instead we put in a longer day.

When we reached Somerton deep lock, we had time to take in the prettiest setting I've seen so far on the canals.
We had a lunch stop a little way passed Somerton Deep lock, and continued on our way. Along passed Aynho and it long line of boats, and through the odd shaped Aynho weir lock.

After working through Kings Sutton lock we decided to call it a day and enjoy the evening, so sat out on the back deck in the sunshine before having our evening meal.

Monday, 16 October 2017

A day in Thrupp

We spent the whole day here, pottering, going for walks (mainly to the pubs - as you do) me knitting, Martin catching up on afternoon nap times.

I also got rather excited when I spotted a flash of blue, so most of the afternoon was spent trying to capture the little so and so, this was done in varying degrees of blurriness! sadly with one with him fishing and knocking the fish out on the side of a boat was not that good.

So some of the failures below.
But the best and last one
maybe next time I'll have learnt a bit more about my camera!

Friday, 13 October 2017

Into Thrupp - before anyone else is on the move

We left our mooring at pigeon lock very early before 7, and enjoyed a mist filled cruise with the sun working hard to clear the skies and the mist rolling off lock I found the lock in our favour, we were soon down the lock and onto the river section where the Cherwell joins, lovely deep water.

At Shipton Weir lock I found the lock again in our favour but the lock gate was so heavy I found it really hard to get going, it did eventually and again we were soon out the other side.  We were now approaching Thrupp, long lines of moored boats greeted us.

As we approached Aubrey's lift bridge we could see the services were vacant so we tied up to fill with water and dump the rubbish, taking the opportunity to ave breakfast while the water was still filling.  This was all done and dusted by 8.30

We were soon on our way working through the lift bridge, well thought out here for single handers with controls on both sides.  We spotted several moring spots on the way past the Boat and the Jolly Boatman, time to decide what to do, as we would be turning below Dukes lock to start are return journey we hoped the mooring back in Thrupp would still be free when we got back.

Having gone through the long line of moored craft leading up to Dukes lock. I set the lock and waited worked the boat down and stayed at the lock waiting for Martin to wind and come back in, nearing completion of the turn a boat appeared from the Oxford direction , Martin explained he was winding and going back up the lock, having worked back up the lock I could get back on board and enjoy the cruise back to Thrupp.  We got to a moorning just outside the Jolly Boatman at lunchtime, having tied up for the day we decided a pub lunch was on the cards, as well as a well earned drink, the sun was again getting very hot so this was most welcome.

Relaxing back at the boat, sitting in the cratch with my knitting it was lovely to sit and watch the world go by.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Time to get the blog up to date - A short day to Kirtlington

We had a really lazy day, we didn't move till gone 10. a short cruise today as we had made up so much time, it is a holiday after all.

A total of four locks to do today, and due mainly to our late start queues were formed at each lock, the boat behind us seemed to think he'd be able to hurry everyone along, it didn't work. It was good chatting to other boaters and helping them through locks before it was our turn.

At pigeons lock our last for the day another boat had got in front of us, with four crew on board I held back and stayed with our boat thinking they would be able to help the crew of two going down in front of the, it was not to be they just stood there. 

I walked on to see what the mooring situation was like below the lock, and was very pleased to see it was empty.  On my way back to Sonia Louise I helped at the lock by closing the top gate for the boat that had been in front of us till this point, we made comment about the lack of willing helpers from the boat behind, and wished each other a good onward journey.

We spent some time Blackberrying once we'd tied up below the lock, and soon put the boat hook to good use.
I want the blackberries at the top please!
After lunch we walked back to the bridge over the tail of pigeon lock and turned right and followed the track along past the quarry and Janes enchanted tea garden and into Kirtlington, a very well kept village, it has a village store, a pub (the Oxford Arms) and the Dashwood a hotel that is popular for food alfresco eating.  We had a drink in the pub and then on our return at the Dashwood. both would warrant a further visit if I didn't fancy cooking.
On our walk back down the track we sought shelter from a big chestnut tree, the outer edge of a thunder storm was passing, and dumped a sudden heavy shower, but the tree provided us with the shelter required to keep us bone dry.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Flapjack currency alive and well

We left our mooring at Cropredy by 8.00 a little cloudier than of late, and headed down through the lock in the village, out passed the long line of moored boats and into the sticks for a while.

At Banbury we stopped for a late breakfast, and decided to shop for fresh fruit and veg at Tesco, via Spiceball Park and the keep fit machines, what a laugh they were.  The noise of the traffic brought us abruptly into modern day life.  This Tesco is massive, I soon wizzed along the isles with my list filling the trolly with essentials whilst Martin visited the clothing and homewares upstairs, we swapped places after that and returned to the boat within an hour. After a coffee we decided to move on again, through Banbury.

We cruised on through the countryside and the many lift bridges, thankfully most are left open nowadays.

We soon arrived at Somerton Deep lock, it looked busy with people on our approach and a thought crossed my mind that something may be wrong.  We pulled onto the lock mooring and I went to investigate. The crew from the boat in the lock had had difficulty winding the bottom paddles up, and there were several children with their mums watching too, checking that everything was ok I got chatting with the children and their mums, it turns out they were out for the afternoon and had just had a ride on the boat going down in the lock, they were learning a little about the canal and the lock in the process.

When it was our turn to come into the lock I'd enlisted some very willing volunteers to help with gates and paddles, 5 really interested and bright children, who worked really hard on their day out, had asked some interesting questions and were now walking along the towpath at our pace, still chatting away to us, at this moment I spotted the mini flapjacks in the galley sat there looking out the window, we were close to another bridge so arranged a flapjack giving.  Many a 'thank you' was heard, and they were soon divided and devoured. That made our day, and actually it made my holiday, they were great.

By now the warm weather was turning cloudier and rain could be seen in the distance, we were making for one of the Helford's and had decided to moor at the first decent bit of Armco.

Just before Allens lane bridge and the bends to the next lock we found a good stretch of straight Armco and moored, overlooking fields and a farmer working away collecting bales.  We put the canopy up too as it had started to spot with rain, with more forecast overnight. 

We also decided to have a meal out tonight, so ventured along the towpath over the bridge and up the hill, quite a steep hill where we reached the Barley Mow, Upper Heyford a friendly welcome and a good meal was had, local banter and we stayed put for drinks after.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

We deserve a short day!

Today again there was no plan, but we thought a short day would be on the cards.

Working our way down the Claydon flight I was told by a lady that the two last pounds were very low and she wouldn't be surprised if the summit was closed, for us it didn't appear to shallow, we could still get the boat to the side without grounding out, unlike places on the Ashby.

We reached Cropredy by mid morning and ventured out for a paper and a walk around the village, walking back along the canal from the service point, checking out the water tap location we could see we'd be in the bridge hole if we needed to fill here, still having over half a tank of water we didn't need to try this out.

A lazy day was had. (in brilliant sunshine, again. (how lucky are we?)

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

A flying start

Today we had a plan, start early and make the most of the coolness the morning air provided.

So we were off again before anyone else stirred.  Passing a long line of moored boats, and no vacant spaces leading to the bottom of Napton Locks, being the bank holiday weekend it really was still very busy.

We passed around the hill that Napton village nestles in, and got our first sight of the windmill.

View of Napton windmill

By 07.45 we were ascending the locks, where the views got bigger and better.  We were soon at the top and looking at the water buffalo grazing in the fields nearby.
After the two Marston Doles locks we were at the summit, suncream applied we were ready for another hot day. 

We were also celebrating out wedding anniversary and really relaxed into the day enjoying the summit views, wedding bridge was very appropriate to cruise under.

By 3 we still hadn't stopped for lunch and by now we had reached Claydon locks so we moored on the Armco above and relaxed in the shade for the rest of the day. 

New ground

We left Hillmorton by 7 am. Another warm and sunny day for us to enjoy and no plan for where we were to finish. 

We've never been to Braunston on our own boat we had an idea that we would visit Midland Chandlers for some additional bits and bobs.  As we approached the junction the customer moorings outside were taken, so we made the turn R towards Oxford and moored up on the visitor moorings. 

Having a leg stretch is getting to be a daily routine so we made our way back to the twin bridges on foot and walked up to the road bridge and into Braunston itself, it was still early and the pub wasn't yet open.  We looked at the produce on display at the butchers and although there was a good queue for the meats, the fruit and veg outside looked well over its best. We walked back through to Midland Chandlers had a good old nose and picked up some of what we had planned to, then it was back to the boat.

On leaving Braunston the Saturday hire boat rush to and from the junction had subsided, and we mad our way past the Napton Hire base, all the boats bar one were out.  We used to hire from here but never turned left from the base, so going past it saw us covering new ground.

We stopped for lunch shortly after, overlooking fields of crops yet to be harvested, enjoying the shade given by a small tree.  I also took the opportunity to pick some blackberries, cooking apples sometimes need a seasonal accompaniment.
Some welcome shade during a long lunch

With the heat subsiding a little we moved on, enjoying the twisting canal until we reached the moorings that run up to the Bridge Inn, Napton, we secured the last mooring, a 65ft space.  After our evening meal we set off up the hill to the Kings Head, the road leading to it is fast.  We sat out and enjoyed the busy garden area along with many others.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Putting in the miles while the weather is so good

We left Hawkesbury Junction at 6.50 with mist on the water and blue skies above, we were soon through the stop lock, and onto the Oxford canal (northern section).  As it was such a nice cruising day that's just what we did, having made a rough plan with the aid of canal plan we were already up on our hours for the day.
Hawkesbury Junction stop lock
Another glorious day, looks like there is a theme going on here, I'm on holiday and the starts are early, but oh so worth it.

We finished for the day just around the corner from Hillmorton Locks, ready for the off the next morning.

After dinner on board we went for a walk into Hillmorton, looked at the Stag and Pheasant - from the outside and decided it had seen better days, so we didn't go in, the walk back took us through the church yard before re-joining the canal path that led past the locks and back to the boat.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

We're on our way - well actually we are back now!

But I'll try and remember what happened and where we were, mainly the sun shone bright.

We had a visit to Spinney Bank farm shop (Bridge 23) by car to stock up on pre-ordered fresh supplies, enough to keep us going for our fortnight, having a decent sized freezer on board helps reduce the number of food shopping trips we need to make.

We wanted to get off the Ashby today, so with that in mind we set off around 10 am, a glorious day was had with shorts and t-shirts to boot.  We passed lot of boats heading in the opposite direction, probably heading for Shackerstone festival on the 2nd and 3rd Sept. 

We also passed NB Cheers another Bluewater boat that we have pinched the stern from for our own boat, we also went to visit the owners before our final decision one what we wanted, it was strange looking back at a boat with the same stern as your own, we only know of the two, a quick hello and brief exchange and the moment was gone.

We passed Charity Dock, not pictures sorry, but the amount of 'stuff' is always amazing, a boat jumblers paradise no doubt.

We moored short of Hawkesbury junction on the armco, where the canal is wider and away from the hussle of the junction itself, we don't particularly like the other side of the stop lock, finding it not that comfortable to moor a longer boat on the long bend.
Hawkesbury, earlyish morning get-away 06.50

Monday, 21 August 2017

It's been a bit quiet on the blog for a while!

I've not had the inclination to blog much during the last 6-7 months. I won't apologise for that as something far more important has taken my time, fingers crossed that is settling down now and I can start functioning with a bit of normality. 

Back in March my mum had a stroke, the second one in two years, after the first she did amazingly well and led her life as she had before it, with some minor adjustments. But this one was far more serious and life changing. I spent 6 weeks visiting mum in hospital every day, the enormity of the challenges ahead were very real and scary.

The down side is that mum is now in a nursing home, requiring 24hr nursing care, and will never go back home, nor will I be able to take her out to lunch, (happened most Saturdays) Christmas or birthday stay overs or see my mum as the witty loving person I know.

My brother and I will instead see very rare glimpses of the mum we knew, but will be there fighting her corner in every way we can or need to.

During all of this Martin and I have managed to steel some weekends away on the boat, a total relax from the stresses and strains.

So we are planning a bit bigger break in a little while, mum used to read this blog and join us from the comfort of her armchair, she'll never do that again, so I may or may not blog about our next trip but then again....

Saturday, 13 May 2017

In search of somewhere to relax and chill

Friday 5 May - We made an early start from home, encountered no travel problems along the M5 or M42 and arrived at the boat for a 9.30 breakfast. We pushed off from the pontoon and turned left out of the marina, the wind being very gusty we crabbed along the canal for a while, but soon the shelter of some of the hedges made it a little easier.

Soon we were arriving at the Moorings just through bridge 47, no problem mooring here, the wind pinned the boat to the bank in no time at all. it was just before lunchtime so a quick coffee and relax before making the short walk to the pub the Horse and Jockey in Congerstone.  I've been past here on my walks but always before opening time, so today we were in the right place at the right time!

A pint of ale each was ordered and being enjoyed while we perused the menu. I really fancied a fish finger sandwich, never had one before but it seems to appear on quite a few menus. Lunch was delicious, and the character of the place great, very tastefully decorated, with lots of original features on show. Another pint each consumed and it was time to go back to the boat. 

The wind had not subsided at all, and steerers were finding it really difficult to hold their boats on course.  One in particular bounced along our gunwale a few times, we have some additional blacking on top of some of our blue paintwork.

At four we set off again, wanting to make it to the end of the navigation, turn and moor back through the tunnel. The wind had abated a little and the sky was still brilliant blue.  There were vacant moorings near to the Globe so we slipped into one, had dinner aboard and walked to the pub to round off the evening, its a busy place these days with a nice atmosphere.
A small posy to add some cheer to the weekend
Saturday 6 May - We had a peaceful night, and woke to a grey day with drizzle in the air, we pulled pins by 10.00 (no rush we only had an hour at the most to go) We stopped just after bridge 57 a break in the wooded areas and a view of some fields the oil seed rape making the distance look sunny.  We stayed here for the day, I got my knitting out and Martin carried on with some jobs, it was a lovely day.

We don't have a stove on board having decided against it late into our build, but we are not missing it, our bedroom is nice and cosy and we are finding the winter quilt too much, it'll have to change for our next trip! This morning was lovely and warm in the sunshine, and soon the side hatch doors were flung open, to reveal my country retreat.
My country retreat.
And the other view from the front garden room

Sunday 7 May - Return trip to the marina. we aimed to get back to the marina for lunch time where we would eat, load the car and return home, in time for dancing that evening, everything worked out to plan and in no time we were heading home. Another great mini break and boy do I need it at the moment.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

New covers

Thurs 13 April - Kathy and Fraser from AJ Canopies have been visiting us for a few weeks now, measuring and templating for our front cover (this being a replacement for a badly made leaky cover by Karl of KC Covers) and creating a new pram cover for the rear.

We went to see them back in October at Braunston, we looked at materials, Kathy was very good at going into detail about the wear of different material types and letting us know what was most suitable for our intended use. 

Orders placed and deposit paid Suzanne from the office was on the phone again in March arranging available dates with us to meet Kathy and Fraser at the boat.

Having made and fitted both canopies the only thing left was a thorough walk through of how to take the rear canopy down and put it back up.  We thanked them both for the smart new look we have, it's also meant that when the rear deck is in canopy up position we gain a further 8ft of useable space, result.

So if you are in need of any canopies I cannot recommend them enough, good communications, stuck to their timescales and kept us informed throughout, as well as forwarding us some photos of both canopies before the walk through. photos curtesy of AJ Canopies, Braunston.

Front canopy, using the existing fittings to the boat, with the added bonus that water is kept out!

New rear pram cover, 10 mins to take down/put up.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

First cruise with visitors

Friday 7 Feb - Sunday 9 Feb - We got to the boat at midday on Friday, having collected two friends en-route., Jimmy and Lindsay.  The cloud started to break as we neared the marina, big smiles all round at the prospect of such a perfect boating weekend.  After unpacking, which was done very quickly indeed, we untied and turned left out of the marina.

The weather by now was warm and sunny with more blue appearing with every second. The woodland areas alongside the canal were alive with birdsong, and the hedgerows bursting into life, hawthorn blossom, catkins and pussy willow all visible.

Lunch was taken alfresco style on the back deck, just by bridge 47, after 3 we pushed off.

After a couple of hours we were at the end of the Ashby and turning at the winding hole.  The moorings here at the end were busy, a boat that had been back at the rubbish point while we turned had a mild panic when they thought we'd be mooring, to many boats here for our liking and all now in shade, so mooring there was not our intention.  We carried on through the short tunnel, out the other side, past the tree lined part of the canal and out into the sunlight, still quite warm at 6 o'clock.

Having settled in to the mooring we went for a short walk to the Globe, where we all had a lovely evening meal with good service.
Trying to impress a lady in the morning sunshine, Snarestone

Saturday - We had a lazy breakfast, enjoying the sunshine.  Our guests reported they had a comfortable night on the dinette bed, good news, it's the first time it's been used!

Todays trip was to be along the canal, past the marina and on to Stoke Golding where we hoped to moor for the night.

What a perfect day, made by the still dry, warm and sunny weather, we passed by plenty of happy walkers, and met one or two boats along the way.

We moored just before Shenton Aqueduct in a peaceful location, overlooking fields of gold oil seed rape, and the sound of the steam train in the background.

We pootled on to Stoke Golding, passing a very busy Sutton Wharf, everyone was out enjoying this rather lovely weather.  Having moored a walk to the village was on the cards to get a paper.  drinks on the back deck reading and relaxing were the order for the rest of the afternoon.  We walked up to the White Swan for the evening , having booked a table a couple of weeks ago, a lovely warm welcome and great food.
Three days of perfect weather, keep the liquid intake up

Sunday - Sunhats and shorts were the order of the day, along with sun cream, glad we still had some on board.  We travelled past Ashy boats, the hire fleet were all out, so it was easy to get through the bridge, usually we have passed here and they hire boats are moored three abreast, making it difficult to manoeuvre. Just before bridge 22 we winded (turned) and moored outside Spinney Bank Farm Shop.  Ice creams sausages and hot cross buns amongst our purchases we returned to the boat to enjoy the ice creams.

Pootling on again, with hardly any other boats on the move we moved on towards our lunch stop, Sunday roast was enjoyed moored at Shenton Aqueduct.  A shout out from a someone on a nearing boat saw us exchanging comments with the Marina Manager Chris, such a happy chappy :-)

The afternoon was enjoyed before we reluctantly made our way back for the last hour to the marina, in true fashion the wind had picked up especially for our return, but on the second attempt to get back onto our pontoon there was a perfect manoeuvre that saw us tying up with no problems at all. 

All that was left to do was a quick pack up and transfer of stuff to the car and the drive home.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside -

Here we are on the last day of January, and the evenings are starting to draw out, more noticeable on a sunny day of which we appear to have had a few.

We've made the most of trying to get out to some nice seaside places, and have taken advantage of the 'out of season' quiet time.

Here are some photos of places we have been in January - both South and North coasts.

Looking over Preston Beach towards Torquay, from Paignton
Fishing off Torquay

Dartmouth, boats in the shelter of the estuary
At Blue Anchor looking towards Dunster and Minehead