Thursday, 31 May 2007

Abrupt halt.

3 Locks 4 Miles. Now moored at Culham.
Total of 337 locks, 464 miles, 16 Tunnels and 8 lift bridges since Nov 2006


This morning started out with light rain with conditions supposedly improving during the day. With this glimmer of hope we decided to go back up through Abingdon lock for water and a pump out. This we managed quite well considering the river was still flowing quite fast. The run back down the lock and beyond was a bit more interesting. After we had cleared the lock we had to negotiate the rapids from the weir and it was rougher than when we had passed through them earlier because we really got bounced around. It was just like being at sea.
Once we had cleared this obstacle we had to steer across the river into the left channel where the trip boats Goring and Reading had been moored. Luckily they were not present probably due to the inclement weather so that gave us a bit more river width to use. After this nothing phased us even going through eddies on the lower side of Abingdon bridge.
While we were watering up etc 3 young people came down river in a punt fully laden which we thought a bit fool hardy but the lock keeper let them through. About half an hour or so later we passed them again and it was 2 men and a young lady. One was doing the pole work while the other 2 were snuggled under covers trying to keep warm and dry.
We eventually reached Culham cut where we nearly ran over 3 men in an inflatable runabout as they appeared to be attempting a fish count or cull as they were trying to put out a large fine mesh net. Once in the cut the river was as calm as a canal. When we reached the lock all the wheels fell off so to speak as the warning board had changed to red and the lock keeper advised us to moor up below the lock and wait for conditions to improve.
This we have done along with 2 other boats who are heading in the same direction. What happened next has got us all flabbergasted. The 3 youngsters in the punt came through the Culham lock and punted their way down river through the weir rapids just below where we are moored. When we came through Culham lock the lock keeper gave us a Red Caution card stating that un-powered vessels are advised to moor up on a Yellow Caution and yet these guys were let through on a Red Caution, beats me. We have heard that there is a military exercise going on around here somewhere and perhaps they are military personnel.
Due to the enforced wait we decided to take a walk into the
village of Sutton Courtenay which is a quaint little village which you would never see by road as it is off the beaten track. This beautiful village boasts a 16th century pub ( as shown in photo below) and a 17th century manor house.


We have been told by the lock keeper that if there is no more heavy rain they will start closing the weirs tonight or tomorrow morning and we should be clear to proceed.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Tricky cruising.

3 Locks 8½ Miles. Now moored at Abingdon.
Total of 334 locks, 460 miles, 16 Tunnels and 8 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Well the river was still at the same level when we arose this morning but perhaps not flowing quite as fast. The weather had improved so we opted to pull the pins and head for Abingdon.
The engine was only ticking over at idle rate but due to the river flow we were still making good time. We had to give the engine a burst of power on some of the bends to avoid being pushed sideways into the bank but on the whole
it was a reasonably easy cruise until we got to Abingdon to moor up. We had been told to moor opposite the weir above the town but there was only 1 space available and when I tried to manouvre toward it things started going sideways so I aborted that idea and carried on.
The narrow passage through the Abingdon Bridge was flowing fairly fast but we spotted a couple of moorings past the bridge opposite Kingcraft boats. This area is very wide and I managed to spin the boat around to face upstream but when I came to moor up we only managed to get a bow rope ashore as there is an eddy on this side of the river which we had not spotted so in actual fact we were now facing into the flow the wrong way. With the help of some bystanders and getting a second rope ashore we were finally able to get the stern in and moor up.
We went for a walk into town for some provisions and decided that the town was so interesting that it needed further exploration.


For a history lesson about this town click on http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=40056

At lunch time we returned to the boat to find that the boat that had been immediately behind us had gone so we moved the boat back to a better position and opted to stay overnight to give us more time to look around.
Except for one heavy down pour of rain whilst out walking the weather was good and this evening there is not a cloud in the sky so hopefully we will have another fine day tomorrow.

Old Almshouses at Abingdon

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Holed up.

Moored at Osney lock.
Total of 331 locks, 451½ miles, 16 Tunnels and 8 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Last night was a wild, wet and windy night. Some of the crew slept soundly while somebody, namely me, only cat napped and kept a watch on the river. Before retiring last night we had noticed that the river level had been dropped by the Environmental Agency by about 6 inches but this morning the river had risen by about 9 inches. The lock keeper told us that there had been 49.3mm of rain overnight, not quite 2 inches.
Because of the state of the river we opted to stay put for another day and hopefully conditions will improve overnight.
We are still getting occasional showers but the weather does appear to be improving but as of yet the river shows no sign of abating.
There has been a few boat movements today but not what you would expect for a holiday week-end.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Ain’t been Anywhere.

Moored below Osney lock on the River Thames.
Total of 331 locks, 451½ miles, 16 Tunnels and 8 lift bridges since Nov 2006

As we are well placed to reach Reading by next week-end and the weather forecast for today was wet and windy we opted to stay put for the day.
We have been playing cards for most of the day and having a great time as none of us have played cards for some time.
We have been watching the cruisers and hire boats moving up and down the river and one small runabout with 5 or 6 guys dressed in bathrobes and dressing gowns went up river and through the lock. We suspect they might have been to the pub because when they came back down through the lock several hours later one of the men was standing on the bow and just as the boat came out of the lock he fell off the boat and was hanging from the safety rail around the bow. From where we are moored we could see them trying to manouvre the boat around and one of the other men came out to try and pull him back on the boat without success. They eventually maneuvered the boat over to the landing next to the lock where he managed to pull himself out. At the time it was raining quite heavily and was cold so I bet he wasn’t feeling too warm after his dunking.
Other than this little bit of excitement it has been a quiet day. The weather is supposed to improve tomorrow or Tuesday so hopefully we will move down to Abingdon.Talking about Abingdon the air show had to be cancelled today due to rain and low cloud which was a shame for those that had paid to go and see it but safety must come first.
At present the rain has eased but the wind is getting quite gusty so it might be a bumpy night.

Oxford Council Buildings with Oxford Castle tower in the background

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Not that busy.

5 Locks, 7 Miles, 2 Lift bridges now moored at Osney lock.
Total of 331 locks and 451½ miles and 16 Tunnels and 8 lift bridges since 5th Nov 2006

This morning started fine but cool and we got away to an early start. First job, fill up with water at Eynsham lock before going down through the lock. From here it was easy cruising to Dukes cut as there were not that many boats about considering it is a bank holiday week-end.
The crew then got a taste of narrow canals and locks as we went through Dukes Cut, Wolvercote and Isis locks on the Oxford canal and then back out onto the Thames. Even this late in the day the river was not that busy possibly due to the wet weather forecast for the week-end. The moorings above Osney lock were all full as we had expected so we moored below the lock with 3 other narrowboats.
Once safely moored we high tailed it into town while the weather was still fine. On the way into town we wandered around the castle which had been the town goal since the 1300’s and the last execution was about 1858. It recently won an award for being the best tourist attraction and it was only opened to the public in May 2006. It was also the scene for several TV programmes, Bad Girls, Inspector Morse and The Bill. If you looked in one window you could see the landings and stair cases used to film Bad Girls and walking round the outside we saw the little windows on the external shots of the goal.


After this little history lesson we pressed on to Sainsbury’s for a top up of essentials and the crew then went sight seeing while I returned to the boat and finished another little chore that had been overlooked for a wee while.


This week-end there is an air show being held at Abingdon which is not far from here and we have had our own free show. We have seen jet fighters screaming over head, an AWAC aircraft, a mid-air refueling tanker and the Red Arrow acrobatic team flying in formation.
The crew has now returned reporting a protest at the University over animal rights as the university apparently uses animals in scientific research. The police were present and were video taping the whole event.

A beautiful piece of brasswork seen on a narrowboat moored at Osney Lock in Oxford

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Bound for the Kennet and Avon.

6 Locks, 17miles, now moored near Eynsham lock.
Total of 326 locks and 444½ miles and 16 Tunnels and 6 lift bridges since 5th Nov 2006

Friday morning dawned fine but as the morning wore on the weather deteriorated to overcast with showers. Before we pulled the pins we went and had coffee with Iain and Myra on their boat and had an enjoyable hour or so talking boats and railways. Eventually we tore ourselves away from this delightful couple and their wicked sense of humour. Hope to meet up with you guys again some time.


Not long after we set off the dry weather turned to drizzle, this remained with us most of the day.
We locked down with several boats including an inflatable with 4 aboard going out for a picnic.

Two of the locks were unmanned so Bunty got to operate a lock again. As the weather was not very good we just kept on cruising until just upstream from Eynsham lock where we moored up for the night.
The crew has decided that as they are enjoying themselves so much they will stay on for an extra few days instead of staying in a London hotel. We will therefore head for the Kennet and Avon earlier than planned but that should ensure we make Bristol. The crew will then disembark at Reading instead of Oxford.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Another milestone.

7 Locks, 15 miles, now moored near the village of Lechlade.
Total of 322 locks and 431½ miles and 16 Tunnels and 6 lift bridges since 5th Nov 2006

Wednesday we marked off another milestone when we reached Lechlade. The navigable waterway goes for another half mile from where we are moored but we will complete that leg when we leave to return to Oxford.
The Thames locks are a credit to the lock keepers in the way they create the gardens and in one case a bush that has been clipped to look like a giant frog.


The final lock, St Johns lock also boasts the statue of old Father Thames and a couple of stone built miniature houses.

We moored by the paddock just below Ha’penny bridge and the farmer had recently cut the grass and was in the process of picking it up and carting it away to a silage pit.
We wandered into town and found several antique/second hand shop where Dot found a shelving unit that will complete and improve our storage space problem. After buying a few bits and bobs at the Londis shop we called into the Crown Inn for a thirst quencher. This pub is truly 16th century with its open beams, bare wooden floor and low ceiling. The land lord also had a pair of Chipmunks living in the public bar, caged of course.

Bus Trip (Tiki Tour)

Thursday morning and we were off up to the village to catch the Tesco’s free bus to Cirenchester. We had been told that the bus trip was worth the ride. Now Cirenchester is only about 7 or 8 miles away but we must have travelled at least 20 miles around all the little villages. To some of the locals it was the highlight of their week as they greeted each other on boarding the bus. They were all quick to notice that there were 6 strangers on the bus but we still got a cordial greeting from them all which included one gentleman of 92 who didn’t look a day over 65.
We passed through villages like Whelford, Marston Meysey or Meysey Hampton and out past the Royal Air Force base at Fairford. The American air force is also based there. The whole trip took an hour driving around all the narrow country lanes.
Upon arrival at Tesco’s we were told that the return trip would be in 2 hours time so we had plenty of time to shop and have lunch in the cafeteria. The bus driver then picked up the passengers he had bought in on an earlier trip from other outlying villages to take them home.
We did a bit of shopping as a contribution towards the free bus and had beef lasagna and macaroni cheese with coffees for the princely sum of £9. The meals were not skimpy either as we were quite full afterwards.
The time came to rejoin the bus and on the inward journey we had noticed that the first 3 seats had had the seating removed leaving the bare framework. When we got back on the bus we found out why; the bus driver puts all the passengers’ wheelie trolleys in there out of the way. On the way back we bypassed one village as we had not picked up anybody there. As we got to each village the passengers told the driver where they lived and he virtually dropped them at their gate. At one village an Indian lady had about 6 or 8 bags of shopping and when she went to get off the bus where she had boarded it the driver asked her how far she had to go and then told her to sit down and said he would drop her closer to home which turned out to be about a ½ mile further on.
The whole journey had been a fantastic sight seeing tour through some of the oldest and prettiest villages and countryside in Gloucestershire and is well worth the cost of a few groceries bought. It runs every Monday and Thursday leaving Lechlade by the library at 10.30am.
Once we had returned to the boat and stowed the groceries we pulled the pins and set off up river to the head of the navigation by the round house. We winded the boat taking advantage of the river flow swinging the bow around and then started back down river.
As we passed our overnight mooring Iain & Myra Powell on n/b Martlet moved off ahead of us and we went down St Johns and Buscot locks together before finding a mooring near the village of Kelmscott. After mooring we broke out the chairs and had some afternoon drinks (5zzz’s for those in NZ). After tea Myra took Bunty and I into Kelmscott village for look around and to see what wild fruit might be growing and we actually came across a pair of pheasants in a field that were no more than 10 feet from us which were quite unperturbed by our presence as they didn’t fly away. I suspect they may have been hand reared birds that had no fear of humans.
The village has its own manor house which is open to the public and was the country home of a William Morris, poet, craftsman and socialist who lived there from 1871 to 1896. Morris described the village as heaven on earth and I’m inclined to agree with him.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Beautiful day for cruising.

4 Locks, 10 miles, now moored near the village of Chimney.
Total of 315 locks and 416½ miles and 16 Tunnels and 6 lift bridges since 5th Nov 2006

This morning we waited for another boat to arrive before setting off so that we shared the first lock. It has turned out to be a fantastically beautiful day for cruising up the Thames (river Isis). There have not been many boats on the move so we have virtually had the river to ourselves.
All the locks are now manually operated unlike the hydraulically operated locks further down river.

At Newbridge we passed under the 13th Century Bridge with pointed arches which is one of the oldest bridges over the Thames. It was a bit of a worry seeing huge great trucks passing over such an old bridge.


At Shifford lock we arrived just after 1pm which is the lock keepers lunch break so we moored up and had our lunch. On his return the lock keeper opened the gates ready for us when we had finished lunch. Not long after passing through the lock we found a nice mooring for the night and the crew went for a walk while I did some painting. The weather forecast for tomorrow is for more of the same so we are starting to get quite tanned.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Oxford.

2 Locks, 5½ miles, now moored at Eynsham lock.
Total of 311 locks and 406½ miles and 16 Tunnels and 6 lift bridges since 5th Nov 2006

Last night we walked into Oxford before it got dark to get the lay of the land. For a Sunday night the place was buzzing with pubs, night clubs and restaurants in full swing. The one thing that was very obvious was all the young people and all the different languages. Oxford not only has a university but many other learning establishments as well.
After a peaceful night we were back off into town for a look see and we got back to the boat in time for Dot to go and meet our NZMCA guests (Wilma & Bunty) at the railway station while I waited at the boat for the Tesco delivery man. While I was waiting I got talking to an elderly couple in the house opposite the boat. The lady told me that she had been born in the house as had her sister. She has never lived any where else in her life. Her parents must have rented the house because she told me that when she bought the house it cost her the grand sum of £800.00. Just recently a smaller house just along the street sold for £385.000, a sign of the times. I also spoke to their neighbour who was a very attractive young Polish lady who visited NZ quite recently.


By the time Dot had returned the Tesco man still had not arrived so we decided to have lunch. That man Murphy intervened again, just as we had sat down for lunch the Tesco man arrived. After stowing the goodies we finished lunch and then moved about 200 yards to diesel up from n/b Dusty who was just waiting for a delivery from Calor gas before setting off up the Oxford canal again.
When we arrived at Eynsham lock (with the lovely manicure gardens) we did a self pump out (£6) and the lock keeper said we could moor overnight at the end of the lock approach jetty.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Now on the Thames.

4 Locks, 6½ miles, 2 lift bridges now moored at Oxford.
Total of 309 locks and 401 miles and 16 Tunnels and 6 lift bridges since 5th Nov 2006

After an early morning photo shoot and farewell to Vic and Sue it was next stop Oxford. On the way we stopped and watered up as we were venturing into unknown territory. Sue had given us a good idea on what to expect so we were not going totally blind.


The amount of unlicensed boats and old wrecks on this canal that wouldn’t have a bolters show of passing a BSS was absolutely astounding. If we can see them why can’t the authorities but as somebody said to us the local housing authority is probably as much to blame as BW because if they kick them off the cut the housing authority then has to house them and they don’t have enough rental properties.
The only boatyard on this last stretch of the Oxford canal, College cruisers wasn’t open so perhaps they don’t get much week-end business. By the time we reached Isis lock we had seen a few moorings but opted to carry on out onto the Thames and hopefully moor just below Osney bridge. We cruised slowly past but the place was full.


We carried on through Osney lock and moored just below that. Just before the lock keeper knocked off for the day we came back up through the lock and breasted up to n/b Formentera who we had met earlier at Roundham lock. They very kindly offered to allow us to breast up but this was only a temporary measure as a boat 2 up from us cast off and left so we moved up into the vacated mooring opposite this very attractive commercial building.


Dot has done her first Tesco home delivery order which is supposed to be here tomorrow between 11am and 1pm so we shall see how this works out.
For the next couple of weeks our style of operating will change as we are now on a flowing river. Going up stream will be OK but on the return trip we will be going with the flow so we will have to be on the ball as far as mooring and locking is concerned.
Kiwis, kiwi’s everywhere. We passed the two from Waiheke Island on Muddy Waters yesterday, we had been forewarned about them and this evening a group of six arrived and asked where we were from. Two of them were from Wanganui, two from Lower Hutt and the others Australian. We can’t get away from them. We are proud to fly our flag which attracts them anyway.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Another acquaintance found.

3 Locks, 3½ miles, 1 lift bridges now moored at Thrupp.
Total of 309 locks and 394½ miles and 16 Tunnels and 4 lift bridges since 5th Nov 2006

Saturday did not turn out as planned but we are not complaining. After a very quiet night out in the country, even though we were close to a railway line, we were up and away by about 9am. We didn’t have far to go to get to the first lock which was set against us. While waiting for it to fill, Brian from n/b Willum of Oseney arrived walking their dog. We had a quick chat and then we were on our way again.
Yesterday we had seen signs advertising England’s only floating farm shop for boaters. It has appeared on BBC TV, ITV and been in 2 newspaper articles and a magazine article.

You just moor alongside and go into the little shop on the back of the narrowboat and shop for fresh free range eggs, home made bread, baking jams and pickles amongst lots of other things and then pay in the honesty box. While there I also found a collection of Morris minor cars and van. They also have 2 horse drawn carriages that can be hired for special events.

The next site on the horizon was the huge satellite dishes which the Nicholsons guide book just lists as satellite earth station.At the next lock, Bakers lock, the canal and river Cherwell become one and it has a flood warning so if the river is in flood you cannot proceed. This goes for about a mile to the Shipton weir lock where the canal and river separate again. It was on this stretch of waterway that we saw our 3rd Grass snake swimming across the river.
As we came into Thrupp we had to slow right down to a crawl because of the moored boats on both banks and at the BW basin you have to pull into the wharf to let a crew member off to operate a lift bridge which is at a 90deg angle to the wharf. Then try to get away from the wharf and turn the boat 90 degs; to get through the narrow opening. We had barely travelled a ¼ mile when Dot spotted n/b’s No Problem
II and Tara (ex No Problem). As luck would have it there was an empty mooring outside the Jolly Boatman which is a 48 hour mooring.
When we knocked on NP
II we found Vic Up to his usual tricks of making a mess in the pretense of modifying the boat. Sue had gone into Banbury to get some bits and pieces and would be back soon. Vic was looking for an excuse to stop work so he put the kettle on for a cuppa.
Since then Sue has helped Dot with internet shopping at Tesco’s and a few other little shopping tricks while I did a bit more work on the 2 rear doors which need finishing.
As we are reasonably close to Oxford we decided to stay here overnight and move on tomorrow.

Another deer.

5 Locks, 8 miles, 2 lift bridges now moored near Nethercott.
Total of 306 locks and 391 miles and 16 Tunnels and 3 lift bridges since 5th Nov 2006

Friday was overcast and windy so steering and maneuvering the boat was tricky and it was because of this that I was concentrating on steering and not on the scenery. Dot had gone to the galley to make a drink when she called out about a deer. I suddenly spotted it high tailing it across the field on my left. It was too far away for a photo but I think it may have been a Roe deer because it didn’t have the distinctive white tail and rump of the fallow deer and was too big to be a Muntjac.
Three of the locks today were quite deep with a 12ft, 9ft and 7ft drops. The deepest one, Somerton had nicely kept gardens and a second hand book stall to raise funds to pay for new plants. Dot didn’t buy any but donated 4 old books to the stall instead. I noticed that the old lock keepers house may have been self sufficient with electricity as they had a wind turbine which was going well in the wind and many solar panels on the out buildings.


At Heyford wharf we stopped for water and lunch and while we were waiting for the tank to fill I watched 2 swallows swooping low over the water catching insects. One of them actually hit the water several times before flying up under the road bridge and perching to preen itself. When I spotted this I immediately got out the camera and went back for some photos and I also found that they had built a nest under the bridge arch as well. The picture shows one bird sitting on a bar and the other one in the nest.


Not long after we moored up for the day we were invited to join Brian and Hazel on n/b Willum of Oseney for a drink and a chat. Apparently the boats name came from their previous dog’s pedigree name.
Dot has been amazed at the wild yellow Iris’s growing all along the canal bank, and the lovely Rhododendron at Heyford The last picture was the only one we could get of this lovely thatched house.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Banbury.

9 Locks, 131/ 2 miles, 1 lift bridge now moored near Somerton.
Total of 301 locks and 383 miles and 16 Tunnels and 1 lift bridge since 5th Nov 2006

We got away to an early start this morning with the intention of watering up at the BW depot in Cropredy. However when we got there some prat was moored on the water point so we pulled around him into the winding hole. Just after this the BW staff arrived and the prat came out claiming he had moored on the towpath side and gone to the pub. When he came back his boat had been moved on to the water point which is on the opposite bank. Yer right, what does he take us for? It was slow going until we were well clear of the village with all the long term moorings. We had a good run through to Banbury where we stopped at Sovereign wharf for diesel (49p per ltr). Then it was a complete contrast to what we have experienced so far as we went through the town centre. First Tooleys historic boat yard and then the hydraulic lift bridge which joins the 2 parts of the modern shopping complex, virtually in the centre of a shopping mall and then a lock right next to the bus station. Many years ago the council didn’t want to know about the canal, it was just an inconvenience. These days it’s a vibrant part of the town centre. When we come back this way in July we will make a point of stopping for a longer visit. After Banbury the locks change from 1 top gate and 2 bottom gates to 1 gate top and bottom and because of the depth of some of the locks the bottom gates are huge and heavy. You really have to put your back into them to get them to move. This came about as a cost saving measure when the canal builders ran short of money by the time they got to Banbury back in the late 1700’s. The trickiest lock is the Aynho weir lock because immediately in front of the lock you have a river coming in from your left going straight across the canal and over a weir. There is an indicator board painted red, orange and green. Green is safe to proceed, orange is proceed with caution and red is too dangerous to proceed. After all the recent rain the indicator was just on the line between green and orange so we were clear to proceed. The lock itself is a wide lock with only single gates and a drop of only 1 foot but again they are heavy gates. We are now moored near Somerton in a nice rural setting although the railway is only a couple of hundred yards away but hopefully it shouldn’t worry us too much. While sitting here writing this blog we became aware of something splashing in the canal as we heard a noise and there were large ripples going past the boat. Dot ran out to the stern just in time to see a deer swimming across the canal and then scramble up the opposite bank and run off down the field. I grabbed my camera and quietly walked down the tow path looking for it. I eventually found it and took some photos but unfortunately the light was not strong enough and they came out like infrared pictures, not clear enough to publish. From what I saw I am pretty sure it was a small fallow deer hind. It’s amazing what you see when moored up out in the countryside like this.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

“U” turns.

8 Locks, 91/ 2 miles, now moored at Cropredy.
Total of 292 locks and 3691/ 2 miles and 16 Tunnels since 5th Nov 2006

The weather had improved overnight and except for some light showers travelling conditions were greatly improved upon compared to yesterday.When James Brindley built this canal he must have had a thing about curves or he hated straight lines, I’m not sure which because this canal not only twists & turns but actually doubles back on itself in several places.

For instance at bridge 131 you cannot see if another boat is approaching from the opposite direction and after a hard pull around and under the bridge you are virtually facing back from where you have just come from albeit on the other side of the hill.

Not long after we set off we saw some BW workmen erecting a fence alongside a nice woodland or spinney as they call them over here. When we spoke to them we thought they were fencing off a private property because we had just seen an elaborate tree house in one of the trees. We were then informed that they were erecting the fence to try and stop people, presumably boaters from dumping their rubbish in there. Why are some people so hell bent on spoiling the country side with their litter. Laziness sums it up I suppose.
Along the way we have seen many old wooden hulled barges moored and most of them are really starting to show signs of age and fatigue but people are still managing to live on them. On the other hand we saw how wealthy some farmers around here must be with their big flash houses or a helicopter parked on the back lawn.
At least today we had more luck with the locks as there were as many boats coming up as going down so we only had 1 lock where we had to fill it before we could proceed.
As we have been travelling around we have seen a lot of rural properties which have been like going through a time machine backwards. Out buildings with toilets, a wash house with an old fashioned mangle outside the door or stables for the family horse with a hay loft above.
Some of them being so old that it makes you wonder what it has taken to upgrade them with running water, power, gas or sewage, things that we take for granted and yet may not have even been invented when the houses were built.
As we arrived in Cropredy we saw a canal side building development where 3 old sand stone barns were being converted into modern day apartments.
Today has been the first day for quite a while where we have arrived some where new and gone sight seeing after mooring up. The village is Olde English with a pub with a thatched roof along with a few other thatched houses. We visited the local church which is built of sand stone and probably 6/700 years old. Sadly it was in need of some serious repairs as there were signs that the roof was leaking, the tower clock had stopped and the bell tower had no bell pull ropes possibly because the tower was unsafe with heavy bells hanging up there.
The shopping centre, if you can call it one, has a Spar superette, a gift shop, a panel beater and car repair workshop and a car dealer where we found the immaculate Mini.

The paint work on it is what they call flip paint which changes colour, blue to green, according to the light. Apparently the car was stripped back to metal and completely re painted. Flip paint costs ₤100 per pint and the whole paint job cost ₤4000 so at the price tag the dealer had on it, the car was well worth the money.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Hitchhiker.

9 Locks, 14 miles, now moored at Bridge 127 Oxford Canal.
Total of 284 locks and 360 miles and 16 Tunnels since 5th Nov 2006

This morning we went and said au revoir to Mike and Liz on n/b Snecklifter before we ventured out onto the Southern Oxford canal.


There was a light drizzle to start off with which got steadily heavier until we reached Napton bottom lock when the rain stopped.
Along the way we picked up a hitch hiker in the form of a mallard duck who flew in as if we were an aircraft carrier. She marched straight up to the sliding hatch in front of us more or less demanding to be fed. When nothing was forth coming she strode up and down the boat looking for tit bits and came back and stood in front of us with a “Are you going to feed me or not look” and then after a few minutes just flew off the way she had arrived.


Going around Napton on the Hill we spotted the windmill on the hill top which because of the way the canal meanders back and forth it was visible for quite a long time.


We had a slow trip through all of the locks due to the fact there were more boats heading to Oxford than there was in the opposite direction.
Not long after we cleared Napton top lock the wind started to get up and the temperature dropped with ominous black clouds circling. By the time we got to bridge 124 the rain became very heavy but I was determined to get to bridge 127, our scheduled over night stop. By the time we reached bridge 125 there was thunder and lightning and hail stones coming at me at great force.
Eventually we reached bridge 127 and found a mooring spot.
Within 15 minutes of mooring up the rain and wind just died away completely, wouldn’t you just know it?
After a change of clothes and a hot cuppa it was down the engine hole to re-fit the Mikuni heater. This went relatively easily and then I had to refill the header tank with a diluted anti freeze mixture. After running just the pump and bleeding the radiators it was time to fire the beast up properly to see if worked OK. Everything went well except the heat wrap around the exhaust was smoking but as it was disintegrating I will have to replace it sooner or later.
The maintenance on the boat is now all up to date ready for a busy summer.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

A day to remember.

3 Locks, 9 miles, now moored at Braunston.
Total of 275 locks and 346 miles and 16 Tunnels since 5th Nov 2006

It was an early start to the day with a brisk walk in the rain to the doctors.
Once in possession of our next monthly supply of prescriptions it was back to the boat to fill up the water and get a pump out before heading south.

By the time we got back to Clifton cruisers a courier had already delivered our Mikuni heater.
While waiting for the water tank to fill Dot started the washing machine so it would be full before we had finished filling the water tank. It appears that the modification of adding the hot water to the washing machine has worked because the whole wash cycle seemed to finish much quicker. By mixing in some hot water this has bypassed the water heating cycle saving time and electricity.
When we left Clifton cruiser’s it was still raining but as the afternoon wore on the weather cleared and by the time we reached Braunston the sun was trying to make an appearance.

It was only a couple of minutes after leaving Clifton that we encountered another boat which was a rather low profile boat painted completely matt black. The name on the side was also in gloss black and hard to read. As we passed the lady on board asked if we were from NZ and when we confirmed we were they pulled over and stopped. We followed suit and Dot went back to speak to the lady who turned out to be Jo along with Alan on n/b Valhalla. I had heard of this boat before but cannot recall from where. It turns out that they are friends of Pat and Mike ex n/b Hyperion. Pat had told them to watch out for us as she was sure we would cross paths.
Our second stop was at Midland Chandlery for a few bits and pieces which we always seem to need. It was then on into Braunston to find a mooring and find Mike and Liz on n/b Snecklifter. By the time we reached the final winding hole at the marina visitors’ entrance we had only seen 2 moorings back on the 48 hour moorings before the road bridge. So we did an about turn to return to the first available mooring. Just as we turned we spotted Mike on Snecklifter and gave him a wave and he told us coffee was ready when we were.
Half an hour later we finally came face to face with the couple who were our inspiration for our present adventure. We spent a very pleasant afternoon and evening with them totaling an hour for each year of their adventure (5 years). Eventually we had to drag ourselves away before poor Mike turned into a pumpkin due to the late hour.

Young calves spotted today between Rugby and Braunston

Monday, 14 May 2007

Water and lots of it.

0 Locks, 2 miles, now moored at Clifton cruisers.
Total of 272 locks and 337 miles and 16 Tunnels since 5th Nov 2006

Not much of a day weather wise. Showers this morning, heavy rain around lunchtime and now light showers again.
We have seen some funny sight’s today with helmsman trying to keep dry, hand held umbrella’s, tiller mounted versions or just wrap up well and brave it souls.
Me, I came in the last category with my gum boots, (wellies) water proof trousers and PVC raincoat. I had to motor up to the Rugby arm and turn around in the winding hole before motoring down to Clifton cruisers to await the return of our Mikuni heater tomorrow morning. All this took less than an hour.
We are looking forward to venturing into new territory this coming week and for the next 10 – 12 weeks, yippee. The Oxford canal (south), River Thames (Isis) to Lechlade and the Kennet & Avon now that’s back in business again.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Windy conditions.

0 Locks, 0 miles, still moored at Brownsover.
Total of 272 locks and 335 miles and 16 Tunnels since 5th Nov 2006

As we were moored on a 24 hour mooring we decided we had better transfer to the towpath side when a mooring became available.
At the time of changing moorings it was quite blustery and Murphy’s Law prevailed in that the wind was against us making it tricky just crossing the canal.
I wandered into the local shopping complex, first of all to Wickes where I bought some HEP20 fittings to connect the hot water to the washing machine. We are trying out what Sue on n/b No Problem as done as she has an identical washing machine. By introducing hot water into the cold fill only machine it shouldn’t have to heat the water saving power. If it reduces the power draw off sufficiently we may be able to do washing while moored occasionally.
Next on the shopping list was Halfords for engine oil and oil filter. I have the part numbers from Isuzu for filters but of course you have to go to Isuzu dealers for these. I tried to find a cross reference number for another brand of filters to no avail. Luckily the last filter I fitted was a Coopers, I can’t for the life of me remember where that came from, and so with a bit of detective work the sales assistant was able to cross reference that to a Halfords number. So if you have an Isuzu engine especially the 4LC1 1800 a Coopers oil filter is a Z1142 or Halfords is a HOP225. Let face it a filter is a filter and its going to do the same job doesn’t matter what name is on the side especially if you service your engine regularly.
After Dot had a fleeting chat with Mike and Liz on n/b Snecklifter the other day we have now been in contact and an arrangement has been made to meet up in Braunston on Monday or Tuesday. We are looking forward to this after following them via internet for 6 years.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

We are operational.

0 Locks, 1 mile, now moored at Brownsover.
Total of 272 locks and 335 miles and 16 Tunnels since 5th Nov 2006

Good news greeted us this morning. Firstly Mikuni Heating rang to say that our heater had been serviced and was repaired. One pipe had to be welded and another tube replaced and with a complete new set of seals and gaskets it’s all set for next winter perish the thought. Apparently they bench test the heater for 3 hours before returning it. They will send it back this afternoon and we should get it at Clifton cruisers on Monday. Fingers crossed.
The second good news was that the parts had arrived from Isuzu and the engineer fitted them straight away. So after lunch we watered up, settled the account and returned to Brownsover so that we can replenish the larder.

Because we have been unable to charge the batteries we have been very sparing with the power ensuring that the fridge kept working. Before we restarted the engine the volt meter was still showing over 12 volt so the batteries have held up well.
We are both looking forward to a good hot shower as well tonight.
Sure sign its Friday because the hire boats have been going past in their droves and there is not a spare mooring to be had around here.
As a foot note we would like to thank Paul and his team at Clifton Cruisers for their help and hospitality. These people know what customer service is all about.

Photo shows an old village water pump spotted in Braunston last weekend

Friday, 11 May 2007

Awaiting parts.

0 Locks, 0 miles, still moored at Clifton Cruisers.
Total of 272 locks and 334 miles and 16 Tunnels since 5th Nov 2006

This morning our injectors arrived back at Clifton Cruisers but we are also waiting for a return fuel pipe from Isuzu because this broke due to the injectors being hard to extract. So another day of idleness due to the inclement weather again. It’s frustrating seeing all the boats cruising past when we cannot even move a foot. Perhaps I should buy a horse and tow the boat just like my forebears did.
One job that did get done was clean the air filter for the Mikuni unit so that when we get that back it’s all set to re-install.
While I was busy in the engine hole I heard Dot talking to somebody who it turns out were Mike and Liz on n/b Snecklifter. We knew they were heading in our direction and we had been keeping a watch out for them. Unfortunately Mike was on a mission and unable to stop however we will try again to meet up for a coffee or something stronger in Braunston.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Clean up.

0 Locks, 0 miles, still moored at Clifton Cruisers.
Total of 272 locks and 334 miles and 16 Tunnels since 5th Nov 2006

While we wait for the injectors to be returned I have been having a clean up in the engine hole.

The water and sludge that has built up and the spillage while taking the Mikuni heater out. It now looks quite tidy but I will have to get some degreasing cleaner before I can sand and repaint in there.
I did manage to finish painting the pole, plank and hook pole and they look very smart. We couldn’t photograph them due to the arrival of rain which has been quite persistent all afternoon.
Dot has been catching up with answering emails in between sessions of feeding the ducklings that seem to visit us about every 2 hours. I also fed them with my fishing bait that were maggots but had turned to chrysalis. They loved them.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Mains power.

0 Locks, 1 mile, now moored at Clifton Cruisers.
Total of 272 locks and 334 miles and 16 Tunnels since 5th Nov 2006

This morning we cruised back to Clifton cruisers to send the Mikuni heater away for servicing and sort something out about servicing the injectors.
An arrangement was made to send the Mikuni by U.P.S couriers at a cost of ₤26.45. Mikuni will ring us when it is ready, approx: 7 – 10 days, so I can give them a return address where ever we may be at the time.
Alan, the engineer had been phoning around to find somebody that could service the injectors A.S.A.P. but it means that we would have no engine for 48 hours. We have now made an arrangement with Clifton Cruisers to moor up in the Clifton Arm which has been partially re-opened by CC themselves for private moorings. We are breasted up against n/b Gemini Dream and on mains power. It will mean that we will run out of hot water but that is minor problem. We will just have to boil the kettle for hot water which is not such a hardship for such a short period of time.

From what I have been able to find out in old documents via the internet the Clifton Arm was originally Clifton Mill Canal. There was a flour mill about a mile or so from the Oxford canal and I believe the Clifton Mill canal had been built to service the mill. The mill was a family run business for three generations and there had been a mill on the site since the 14th century. In 1852 the mill was converted to steam powered so I can see that delivery of coal to the mill would have been a probability by boat. However the coming of the railway would have put pay to the canal as a railway line was built in the same area.

The picture shows a bridge over the canal which is slowly becoming dilapidated. What stories these capping stones could tell by the engraving done by 19th or 20th century lovers.
The canal beyond the bridge is in water albeit shallow and could perhaps become another restoration project.

Alan and I had a few problems getting the injectors out, which makes me think that they may not have been serviced previously as per the service schedule.
When we plugged into the mains power nothing happened so I went and spoke to the electrician in case they had to activate the power supply from the office.

Everything checked out in the office so he came down to where we are moored to check the power supply at the post. He found that the main LCD had tripped out. After resetting it we tried again but it tripped straight away and all I got in the boat was the reverse polarity light flash on and off. He then checked our circuitry which was fine. After a process of elimination he then unplugged another boat and put us on that power point and everything is now working OK. So it turned out that he now has a faulty power outlet which requires his attention. Thank goodness it’s their problem not mine, we have enough to contend with as it is.
Due to the uncertainty of the weather I am reluctant to do any painting so we are having a quiet lazy afternoon being rocked backwards and forwards by a very strong blustery wind. Hopefully this will die down soon.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Wet stuff.

0 Locks, 2 miles, now moored at Rugby.
Total of 272 locks and 333 miles and 16 Tunnels since 5th Nov 2006

Surprise, surprise it was raining this morning and had been most of the night. With the rear deck cover on it meant that I was able to get into the engine hole and remove the Mikuni heating unit without getting soaking wet. It’s now ready to be couriered to the manufacturer for overhaul tomorrow.
Clifton Cruisers engineer came and had a look and listen at the engine and thought there was not too much wrong with it and will make some phone enquiries tomorrow as to what options are available without breaking the bank.
Another visitor this morning was a follower of our blog who rang us yesterday just after we left Braunston. David Elcome is also a caravanning fanatic like ourselves and was staying at Braunston in his caravan. We had an interesting chat about differences in caravanning in the UK and NZ. Among topics discussed was free to air TV which we will investigate further.
Before lunch Paul from Clifton cruisers came to say that the boat that normally moors where we were was returning and we could breast up with him. However we decided that as we needed to visit Tesco’s and Homebase we would move up to Brownsover by the park and return to CC tomorrow. I got a bit stroppy at Homebase because they had the BBQ that we had been looking for with a sign on it saying “Available today” As we could not see any packaged up in the display we asked if they had some out in the stockroom. After a lengthy wait we were told there was none available. I remonstrated with the sales assistant about the Buy Today sign but got nowhere. Next stop was the manager who was no more helpful than her junior staff member. When I said I would take the demo model they said that they couldn’t or wouldn’t sell it to me but they could order one in for me. How long would that take? Three weeks, by which time we will be on the Thames so that’s no help. Why do they advertise “Available today” if there isn’t any? The least they could do is remove the sign or is that too much like hard work. Customer service, poppy cock, they don’t know the meaning of the words.

Rugby railway stations old bay platforms.
There were many of these but only 4 tracks remain.
The missing tracks were generally used for train or carriage storage.

Monday, 7 May 2007

A convoy and novices.

3 Locks, 91/2 miles, now moored at Clifton Cruisers.
Total of 272 locks and 331 miles and 16 Tunnels since 5th Nov 2006

There had not been much movement of boats around Braunston when we left this morning but by the time we reached the Oxford canal junction which was only about 1/2 mile we ran into traffic congestion. Just past the junction is a narrow bridge on an angle which means you cannot see if any boats are approaching. Sure as eggs the boat ahead of me had to do a rapid reverse as there was a boat in the bridge hole. I too had to beat a hasty retreat to avoid a collision. Safely through the bridge we had a slow crawl past all the moored boats and it turned out that we were 4th in a convoy of 5 boats. This convoy lasted right up to Hillmorton locks. The first boat had put some distance between us but the remaining 4 stayed in close contact all the way with varying speeds. Going through the locks split us up and a couple stopped for lunch.
Going through the locks was an education with all the novices on hire boats trying to work out what to do. We even had a woman try and close the gates in front of us as her boat left the lock. Majority of the boaters were helping each other so that they didn’t get stuck on the centre island between the 2 locks.
Along the way we checked out the 2 swans sitting on eggs but neither of them has hatched yet. We also passed another Heron boat “Goosey Gander”. The paint work certainly out classed us but that will change given time.
Upon arrival at Clifton cruisers at Clifton wharf we moored up so that I could talk to them about getting the injectors serviced. The service schedule says that they should be serviced at 1500 hours and 3000 hours and as I am unsure whether or not the 1500 service was done, I want to be certain in my own mind that they are OK. The engineer was not working today but will be here tomorrow so we were given an overnight mooring to await his arrival in the morning.
As the weather was still dry I did some more painting outside and while I did this a Black Prince hire boat tried to wind in the disused arm just ahead of us. Well they either were not told how to turn properly or they didn’t listen. They nosed into the arm instead of the bank and then tried to reverse out again with a very strong side wind blowing. The young lady at the helm got it all wrong and slammed the boat back into the concrete wall and dislodged the rudder. Now she was blocking the canal with no steerage. I managed to get hold of their front rope as they came forward but they had no way of turning the boat so a passing boat took his stern rope and pulled him around so we were able to secure him across the arm and leave the canal clear. An S.O.S to Black Prince and an hour’s wait for the rescue man who was able to put the rudder back into the skeg and get them under way again.
Now this morning our Mikuni heating unit shut down in an unusual manner after a short run. Late this afternoon when the temperature started dropping we thought it strange that the unit had not started working. After pulling half the electrical cupboard apart I found the fuses for the heater and one was blown. After finding a spare fuse we put everything back together and switched it on. The unit started to fire up then suddenly shut down. I checked the fuse and it had blown so it looks as if we will have to take the unit out and send it back to the manufacturer for a complete overhaul sooner than planned. At least the weather is warmer and we can easily put on extra clothing or if necessary use the electric heater sparingly. At least we have a couple of weeks to get things sorted before our next NZ visitors arrive.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Basil Brush look alike.

13 Locks 10 miles, 2 tunnels now moored at Braunston.
Total of 269 locks and 3211/2 miles and 16 Tunnels since 5th Nov 2006


We set off earlier this morning to clear Crick tunnel before the rush started (bank holiday week-end for those that don’t know) and got through without meeting a soul.
Our arrival at Watford flight was not as lucky as there was already 2 going down and 1 coming up so we had a bit of a wait. When we eventually reached the bottom a queue was starting to form. We moored up here for a while and went and had a look at the caravan dealer’s yard next to the bottom lock. We have passed it 4 times without having a look so we thought we had better in case we don’t come back this way again. They had a very well stocked accessory shop where we
bought a few bits and pieces including a new caravan and tow vehicle.

We did have a look at their latest motor home which was on a Renault chassis. It had very nice leather upholstery and swivel chairs. I commented that it was a shame that it only had single wheels on the rear axle which would make it a bit unstable. The salesman told me that they have a new suspension which they also fit to their caravans which makes them very stable. I am not familiar with the make or brand name but anybody interested can check them out on http://www.davan.co.uk/motohomes-adria.html and http://preview2.namesco.net/broadlane.co.uk/
When we had seen enough we returned to the boat and headed off for Braunston. It was lunchtime by the time we reached the Braunston tunnel and thought that like last time we traversed the tunnel at this time of day it would be quiet. Fat chance, we knew there was 1 boat in the tunnel as we ventured into the darkness but by the time we reached the other end we passed 6 boats and lost a bit more paint on the brickwork. Ho hum such is life.

Going down the Braunston flight we did the first couple solo but then got held up because 2 boats coming up didn’t apply the golden rule of giving way if the lock was set against you. They emptied the lock just as we got there and Dot had a few words to say to them about that. By the time they cleared the lock another boat had caught up with us so we completed the flight in tandem.
We cruised on to a mooring between the bridge and the visitor’s entrance to the marina as these were the only moorings available. Within about an hour there wasn’t a mooring left and by this time there was a boat passing our window about every 10 - 15 minutes.

While sitting in the boat having a coffee we were looking at a moorhen sitting on her nest opposite, just then we spotted a fox walking through the bushes just above her but by the time a camera was found it had disappeared. We have been keeping a close watch to see if it shows itself again but no luck so far.