Friday 26 August 2011

Still alive and kicking…

This is just to let our regular readers know that we are still alive and kicking and haven’t retreated to non-blogger land!  We have been staying with Mum in Northampton while we get an early start on looking for somewhere to live for the winter, and to return to whenever the weather gets to horrible for us wimpish souls to brave life on board.  We have spent rather a long time in the car and have looked around lots of houses, the majority of which weren’t to our taste.  Quite a few which were to our taste were unavailable to us because the landlord refused to have a dog in the property.  Anyway, we have found somewhere and are just waiting for the references to come through before we can make arrangements to liberate our worldly goods from storage and set up home ‘on the bank’ again.  More news when it happens. 

Sunday 14 August 2011

Welford to Foxton…

Yesterday morning we left Welford for Foxton.  It was another damp and mizzley morning, with the promise of sunshine later.  We had an uneventful morning, apart from some idiot we met at a bridge.  We spotted him and went immediately into reverse well before he saw us.  On doing so he sounded his horn very aggressively, (not the ‘Oops,  have you seen me’  type beep, more the ‘Get out of my bloody way, I’m coming through and and bugger you’ type beeeeep) and continued coming at high speed through the bridge, straight for us.  Rog had to reverse hard to avoid him hitting us!  Then he had the cheek to smile sweetly as he zoomed past us.  Needless to say, he got the ‘Pippy Death Stare’!  I managed to keep my comments to myself until he was out of ear-shot!  We arrived at Foxton in one piece, and moored up behind the Chandlery boat.

SDC11195We could see a long way when we got the chance in between the trees which line the towpath on this stretch

SDC11196A little work need with a chainsaw here

This morning we started down Foxton Locks at about 9 am to get to the bottom before the gongoozlers arrived and we had to fend off stupid questions.  We didn’t have to queue, but there were two boats in front of us and one coming the other way, whom we passed in the centre pound.  I was at the helm at the bottom, and totally cocked up the turn towards the swing bridge onto the Harborough Arm.  In my defence, there was a boat moored very close to the lock, waiting to go up.  Anyway, I managed to turn without hitting him, so that’s a bonus (I don’t usually do that sort of manoeuvring as I’m not very good at it!)  We moored up just into the Harborough Arm and walked back up the locks to treat ourselves to breakfast from the cafe.  The locky said I did very well in the locks, but I could only have one sausage as I cocked up the turn!  I threatened to insert my windlass without anaesthetic, somewhere that the sun doesn’t shine!  He laughed and said that someone did that to him last week, and he liked it!  I have to admit that I called a halt to the conversation at that point!

It has been a very busy weekend here at Foxton, plenty of boats, and lots of people as it’s ‘Buskers Weekend’.  Some buskers much better than others!

Tomorrow we are heading to Debdale Marina to leave the boat for a few days while we check out a few house to rent near Market Harborough.  We will de-camp to Mum’s in Northampton so we can leave Cassie with her during the day then we won’t have to worry about leaving her alone on the boat for too long.

SDC11197Nice and quiet when we started down the locks this morning

SDC11201Little plant struggling to grow halfway down a lock wall

SDC11204Really leaky gates to one to the locks in the staircase

SDC11205Just about to enter the last lock

Saturday 8.7 miles and 1 lock

Sunday 0.3 miles and 10 locks

Friday 12 August 2011


We made for the Welford Arm in misty drizzle this morning.  We had a phone call yesterday evening from long-time RAF (now, like us ex RAF) friends Shirley and Andy to say they were going to be in the Leicester area today, and could they come and see us.  We arranged to meet them in the Wharf Inn at the end of the Welford Arm for lunch.  They stayed until 3.30 when they had to leave to go and do some Sainsbury’s shopping for Shirley’s mum.  It was great to see you both again, and thanks for making the effort to come and find us.

SDC11190Turning onto the Welford Arm

SDC11191Up the jungle again

SDC11193Shirley and Andy (and Rog and Cassie of course)

3.8 miles and 1 lock

Thursday 11 August 2011

No Medieval village here…

This morning we left Crick, heading for Welford Junction.  We planned to stop just short of the junction and make the short trip up the arm to Welford tomorrow.  It is very empty on this stretch of the Leicester Section on the GU, but very pretty.  Nothing much to take photos of except fields, trees, red-brick bridges and the occasional tractor.  It started to rain quite heavily at one point, and after 20 minutes of getting wet the sun came out again.  Shortly afterwards we found a nice spot to moor a little earlier that planned, just past Bridge 36 and in the shadow of Downtown Hill.  We have had rain showers on and off since then, so we are glad we moored up when we did.  I took a walk between showers to the site of the Medieval village of Downton.  Nothing to be seen there now except for a stubbly field.  Up on the top of Downtown Hill there is what looks like a gate-house or lodge to be seen, but neither Nicholson’s or Pearson’s mentions anything about a it.  We have checked Google and OS maps and can find nothing, except several farms with ‘Lodge’ within their name.  Very puzzling!  Downton Abbey perhaps?!!

SDC11185All alone!

SDC11183Site of the Medieval village of Downton (or Downtown, depending on which map you are looking at)

SDC11186Rain on the way again!

DSCF0050-1The mysterious lodge or gatehouse on the hill

8.1 miles and 0 locks

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Watford Locks…

We trundled off to Watford Locks this morning, wondering how long we would have to wait before being able to ascend, as we had heard reports that the average waiting time was between 3 and 5 hours.  As it turns out we were in luck, we were third in the queue to go up (they were letting six at a time up and down).  The first of the six coming down was exiting the bottom lock as we arrived, and we only waited just over an hour – it would have been slightly less, but a boat broke down in the 3rd of the staircase and had to be bow-hauled out and through the 4th lock into the pound above the 2 single locks to await repair.  It was very windy, and we had a job to keep the bottom gates shut while we got to the paddle gear.  We could have done with a locky to hold one shut while we let some water down, but, as usual, if you know what you’re doing they let you get on with it, which is as it should be I suppose.  I didn’t take particular notice of the time when we started and finished, but I know we were through and on our way by just after midday.  Next to negotiate was Crick Tunnel – it was raining in the tunnel!  We have never before had to pass so many boats in a tunnel – 6 in all, with 3 more heading towards it as we exited –  loads of boats going in the opposite direction to us – we wondered what they knew that we didn’t!  We found a mooring just opposite Crick Marina, and decided to stop for the day.

SDC11179Reflections – taken yesterday evening at Norton Junction

SDC11180Watford Locks – in the first of the staircase 4 with the two single locks below


SDC11182Rog preparing the last lock in the flight as it was so windy, so I could go straight in, but in the event I chickened out and made him take over at the helm!

5 miles and 7 locks

Catching up…

I was beginning to bore myself with the blog so I thought I’d have a couple of days off, and give our readers a rest from my drivel, but it’s time to catch up now or I’ll forget it all!

On Monday we had a short journey, with nothing to report, and moored up about an hour from Braunston.  There was a lot of harvesting of fields going on by our mooring, so it wasn’t the quietest in the world but interesting to watch how these huge Combines make short work of the field.



Yesterday morning we set off for Braunston.  It didn’t seem as busy as usual as we approached, and there were a few mooring spaces which we have never seen before.  We stopped and watered up and emptied loo cassettes and then continued on towards the locks.  We wanted to go to the chandlers by the bottom lock, but as we approached it was obvious that it was rammed with boats waiting for the lock, so we managed to pull in to a mooring space before we got there and walk the rest of the way.  Purchase made, we waited for the lock, and were lucky enough to share with a great foursome on a hire boat – obviously experienced, and a great deal of fun.  The chap at the helm was an ex fireman, so there was a lot of joshing going on, and some friendly insults along the way.  We seemed to be up the 6 locks in no time at all.  We carried on to Norton Junction and found a mooring just after we turned onto the Leicester section on the GU.  We tied up and wandered down to the New Inn for some lunch, but we missed it by a couple of minutes – they stop serving at 2.30 by the bar clock, which is 5 minutes fast – so be warned!  When we got back from the pub we set to making use of our purchases from the chandlers.  We have struggled to find something to put on the rear deck to make it non-slip, but rubber matting was always too thick as we have an upswept stern and the back doors only just clear the deck when opening.  When we met up with Triskaideka a couple of weeks ago (they have the same stern as us) we noticed that John had lifted his back doors with washers and put some rubber matting down – doh, why didn’t we think of that??!!  We had bought the matting and the washers at the chandlers.  It was a tricky job, but didn’t take too long – the matting had to be cut to shape, and we had to use nine washers on one of the doors to lift it high enough to clear the matting.  But we are very pleased with the result, and Cassie likes it too as she doesn’t slip when jumping on or off the boat.

SDC11154Lovely morning

SDC11158Sunken boat on the approach to Braunston

SDC11162The famous Horsley Ironworks bridges at the junction with the South Oxford

SDC11163The obligatory photo of Braunston Church

SDC11169Exiting Braunston Tunnel

SDC11173Our mooring



SDC11176Our handiwork – and very pleased we are with it too

Monday 3.2 miles and 0 locks

Tuesday 7.1 miles and 6 locks

Sunday 7 August 2011

Off in a hurry…

Amid strong towpath rumours of an impending closure of the South Oxford due to very low water levels, we decided that we didn’t want to get stuck on the summit and would move down Napton today, however long the queues were.  We were lucky and arrived to find that we were third in the queue. The ‘towpath telegraph’ being what it is, on the way down we were told that BW had a meeting tomorrow and in all likelihood it would happen, then later that someone had phoned BW and had been told that it was going to happen!  However, there were still scores of boats going up the locks and reports that hire companies (Black Prince, Calcutt Boats, Viking Afloat to name but three)  hadn’t told their customers not to go this way!  Restrictions have been in place for a fortnight, so they can’t say they had no warning.  More fool them – they will be the ones who will have to recover the boats if they get stuck on the summit, and have to refund people’s money if they can’t get the boats back in time for next weekend’s change-over day. Of Napton Boats there was no sign so they are obviously on the ball.

We started the day in glorious sunshine, but by the time we were halfway down the flight we were getting the odd shower or two.  As we finished the flight and headed onwards towards the Bridge pub, the heavens opened and yet again Rog got drenched (I disappeared inside!)  We managed to find a mooring by the pub, so I’m being treated to a meal tonight as recompense for being dragged out of bed before I was ready this morning.  The sun is shining again now!

SDC11151Napton Hill in the sunshine as we started down the flight

7.6 miles and 9 locks

Saturday 6 August 2011

Ladder bridge…

We had a nice little cruise this morning from the top of Claydon Locks.  Good job we are on the summit as neither of us was in any fit state to be tackling a load of locks today.  Cassie had her latest fit at 1 am this morning, quite a severe one, and we were pacing the very dark towpath for an hour with her weaving around our legs in anti-clockwise circles.  She was very distressed and disorientated and almost impossible to control, almost falling into the water several times, despite being on a very short lead.  She quietened down after about an hour, and after we had settled her we were able to go back to bed.  However, I couldn’t get back to sleep and was still awake at 4 am.  I dropped off soon after that, but was very restless, waking numerous times until Rog got up and made some tea about 7.30.  I hauled myself out of bed around 8.15 and we were underway by 9.  We stopped at Fenny to top up the water tank, and reached our planned mooring at Ladder Bridge by midday.  It’s the nicest place to moor on the summit – with views over towards Napton.  We may stay here tomorrow and catch up on some sleep!

SDC11148Napton Hill in the far distance

SDC11150Our mooring

6 miles and 0 locks

Friday 5 August 2011

A miserable day and a good day…

Yesterday was a miserable day – we knew the weather would not be good, but we had to move as we needed water, and to empty loo cassettes, and the cupboards and fridge were nearly bare.  So we set off for Banbury in drizzle and by the time we arrived it was pouring  - we got wet walking to and from Morrison’s and even wetter servicing.  The Elsan was almost blocked, and I just managed to empty the cassettes before it blocked completely!  (duly reported to BW.)  The rain stopped for a while so we decided to move on a little and get out of Banbury (which was rammed anyway, the only mooring to be had was right beside the Industrial Bakery which was horrendously noisy)  As we approached Bourton Lock the heavens opened and it came down like stair rods - we got soaked to the skin.  Enough was enough, and we moored up just above the lock.  Then we discovered that we were sitting just above a ledge so we banged down on it every time a boat came past or someone filled the lock.  It was okay when the boat traffic died down though.  So all in all a thoroughly miserable day, we were glad when it was over and we could go to bed!

This morning we awoke in a much more cheerful frame of mind – the sun was shining and the air was a lot fresher than it has been of late.  Our goal was to at least get through Cropredy before we stopped today as we have been hearing tales all week about how rammed it was with boats arriving for the Fairport Convention Festival, and they were right!  The water point was empty so we topped up the tank and then continued on.  There we boats moored solidly from about a mile before the village, some breasted up, all through the village on the visitor moorings and all the way to the next lock.  I took a photo, but the lens on my camera was fogged up so it was no good.  We found a nice little mooring spot just above Varney’s lock and were considering stopping when we were told that the restrictions that have been in place all week on Claydon Locks might well turn into a total closure so we decided to press on and get them out of the way.  We were also warned that there were anything between 8 and 10 boats queuing for the bottom lock, so we prepared ourselves for a long wait, just hoping that we would get started before the cut-off time of 3.30.  It turned out that we were number 5 in the queue, and we only waited an hour before starting up the flight.  We had a pleasant and quick trip up the locks with boats coming in the opposite direction all the way, and everyone helping each other and having a laugh and a good time.  When we reached the top there was a space on the moorings so we grabbed it as we weren’t sure what else would be available along here.

SDC11147Queue for Claydon Bottom Lock

Yesterday - 4.5 miles and 4 locks

Today – 5 miles and 10 locks

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Twyford Wharf again…

Had a short and unremarkable journey today, and we are now moored at Twyford Wharf, the same place as we moored on the way down.  It’s very hot, but not as humid as yesterday.

3.6 miles and 3 locks

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Lunch with my girls…

We stayed here at Aynho today to meet up with Emma and our 3 granddaughters who were coming to lunch.  We had a lovely lunch at the Great Western Arms, and then back to the boat for a couple of hours.

SDC11136Lizzie and Emma watching the ducks

SDC11138Lizzie and Granddad

SDC11141Three gorgeous girls, L to R, Milly, Lizzie and Flo

SDC11144The lovely birthday card they bought me – to make up for me never being able to get a photo of a Kingfisher!

Monday 1 August 2011

Yesterday and today…

I really couldn’t be bothered yesterday to break out the computer and do a blog, so I’m catching up today.  Yesterday we moved from Kidlington Green to Lower Heyford.  It was another beautiful morning so we got an early start to beat the Sunday rush.  We were at Thrupp before 8.30 and finally caught up with Bones, who came over to the water point and had a chat, Maffi also appeared a few minutes later.  We hung around until after 9 o’clock to see whether Annie’s Teas Room would open early as we had a hankering for bacon butties by then, but we were to be disappointed as it didn’t open until 10.  We had to move off then as we had a boat breasted up to us at the water point by then and they were about to do a pump out.  We really didn’t want to be between them and the wharf while that was happening!  We waved goodbye to Bones and continued on.  2 locks later we were even hungrier so I dashed down into the galley to make fried egg butties and eat before we arrived a Pigeon’s Lock – we needn’t have worried though as we then hit the morning queue!  This time we were fourth, and there wasn’t room for a queue that long, it was mayhem, with boats everywhere!  It was an hour before we were through.  We eventually moored at Lower Heyford, having first moored for an hour or so a little way above Dashwood’s Lock, but we were banging and crashing on a ledge which was very uncomfortable, so we moved.

SDC11131Bones waving goodbye

SDC11132Rog had help from these two cuties at one of the locks, about the same age as our granddaughters, Flo and Milly

SDC11133Mayhem at Pigeon’s Lock

SDC11134Lovely day again

This morning we set off for Aynho, where we plan to meet up with Emma and the girls for a birthday (mine) lunch tomorrow (not sure yet whether son-in-law Ben will be able to join us or not).  Just before the first lock the Anglo Welsh in front of us pulled over to let us past – and we hit the lock with another boat just setting it for themselves – I helped as Mrs didn’t seem to do anything but stand and watch, letting Mr do the work (she did make a half-hearted attempt to help with the gates).  We followed them all they way to Aynho, plenty of time for them to get ahead, but each time we arrived at a lock, there they were, only just emptying it!  We filled with fuel and bought a few provisions at Aynho Wharf and then carried on to moor a little way before the lift bridge.  When we moored here last week to await Triskaideka’s arrival, it was empty – today it was jammed when we arrived, and we have been lucky to get a space at the very end, just before the bridge.

Sunday 8.7 miles and 7 locks

Today 6.3 miles and 3 locks