Wednesday, 25 May 2016

One new balance beam for the Napton flight

We did a lot of boating today, getting from Cropredy to Braunston. Having decided to go to Crick for the boat show we thought we'd get there a day early. The outward journey from Braunston to Oxford took 17 days (including three days at home); the return journey has taken just three days!

Not long after setting off this morning I spotted another familiar blogger's boat.

If you don't recognise it, and to save you having to click on the photo, I can tell you that it's Herbie.

In Fenny Tunnel I pulled over and waited while what looked like a chopped-down former working boat came past.

My photos don't show the length of the boat - or lack of it. I asked the name of the boat; I heard "Penny", but I might have misheard. Update: I did mishear. Jan saw the name on the licence - it is "Fenny". I was close!

We stopped at Fenny Compton Wharf to look at the "Two for £10" menu and ended up eating an early lunch. We were under way again before 1300. At the end of the long, wiggly summit level we came to Marston Doles and the start of the Napton locks. Lock 13, part-way down the flight, is the subject of a CRT "notice alert" for tomorrow. The top gate balance beam is due to be replaced. The new oak beam is ready and waiting behind the rotten beam in the photo below.

CRT says there won't be a stoppage as such; while the old beam is off the gate can be opened and shut using a rope.

As we continued down the flight it was evident that Lock 13 isn't the only place where the woodwork has rotted. Some other balance beams seemed to be in as much a precarious state as the one being replaced. There was a friendly CRT chap whom we asked about this; he said they could only do one at a time. He set locks for us all the way to the bottom.

After turning onto the GU we saw no spaces in the length opposite the Boathouse pub, but there was a space right outside the pub itself, which we took. While deliberating over what to eat in the pub they switched off the carvery lights and informed me that the carvery was "finished". I could have had something else, of course, but we decided to return to the boat for a salad. Well, two cooked pub meals in one day would have been a little excessive!

Tomorrow, after a quick nip up to the shop for milk, we shall doubtless meet plenty of boats newly released from the hold-up at Buckby. That won't be a problem going up the Braunston locks, but there might be a queue at Watford. We shall see.

edited to add update above

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Snow scene? And curious metal lockside studs

As we were walking by Somerton Deep Lock yesterday evening Jan remarked how the abundance of white blossom made it look like a snow scene. I didn't have my camera with me at the time, so I walked back this morning to take a couple of pics.

First the view over the Cherwell valley ...

... and then a wintry-looking canal scene.

Except that the amount of greenery gives the game away.

We got to Banbury at lunch time and waited ages to use the water point, having to hang on to the centre line as there was nowhere to secure the boat. Once watered up and through the lock we tied up on a visitor mooring and returned to the vicinity of the services to investigate Naomi's Café. From the back (canalside) it doesn't look very enticing ...

... but it's a different matter inside. Naomi's Café is run as a "community", not-for-profit, eatery. It seems to have a close connection with the arts scene in Banbury; as part of Banbury Art Weeks there was a painting which anybody could add to. I regret to say that we chickened out! The fry-up I had was excellent; I had to put a "donation" in the jar according to what I felt it was worth.

At one of the locks before Banbury I noticed small - about one inch diameter - brass(?) studs set in the ground in the balance beam pushing zone at both ends of the lock.

The lettering is "EABM" which I guess is "Environment Agency Bench Mark" but I might be completely wrong. It's CRT property, not EA's, and it doesn't look like an arrow-type Ordnance Datum bench mark. Does anyone know? It looks like my guess was right. The studs are referred to in this post on a "Trigpointing" forum.

edited to add last two sentences

Monday, 23 May 2016

Blogger's former boat spotted

We set off from Thrupp at 1000 and quickly came to Shipton Weir Lock, where I persuaded the crew of a hire boat to let us share the lock. This proceeded without a hitch; we were soon released onto the river section where the canal takes the course of the Cherwell. I like this bit - the depth means that one is able to let rip. At one point it looked busy as a boat came by.

I think it was at Gibraltar where we went past a boat very familiar to one blog reader.

Nev of Percy fame used to own Waterlily.

The snowy white blossom of blackthorn (?) continues to add interest to the journey.

Who can resist taking this photo at Somerton Deep Lock? (I didn't get any photos on the way down as it was raining.)

We tied up in the middle of nowhere just before Chisnell Lift Bridge just round the corner from Somerton Deep Lock. After a brief shower of rain - where did that come from? - we had a cloudless sunset. Here's a shot of cow parsley silhouetted against the orange sky.

We're on schedule for getting to Crick on Friday, but we'll have to keep putting the hours in.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Caught in the act: man throws garden waste into canal

We went to St. Aldate's Church in Oxford this morning. The congregation was huge - perhaps three hundred - and young, with many students. The sermon was very good, on 2 Corinthians 11, where Paul talks about how he suffered for the Gospel.

After this we took up Brian's suggestion and went to the Bankok House restaurant in Hythe Bridge Street, very near the canal. The food was good, but I didn't like the way the bill came with a 10% service charge added. There had been nothing to indicate that that would happen.

Our time in Oxford was up. We have enjoyed our two days here, but now came the reverse along the moored boats to Isis Lock. I did have a go at winding in the winding hole, but the 52' limit as marked seems to be accurate. Our extra three feet would not fit. So we descended through Isis Lock onto the Thames backwater where I spun the boat round and came up the lock again, this time facing the right direction. Jan took a photo.

At Kidlington I saw a man empty out his lawnmower grass box into the canal ahead of me. Here is the pile of grass cuttings on the water ...

... and here is the man mowing his lawn. The grass cuttings are still visible on the water on the right.

I suppose he didn't want to clutter his precious garden with a compost bin. Does he chuck all his garden waste in the canal? I didn't feel like a confrontation so I carried on past. Should I have said anything? Or is it no worse than CRT contractors mowing the towpath and allowing or even blowing the cuttings into the canal? And what about the tons of leaves which fall in and rot down? I expect the grass cuttings will do the same, in time.

At Thrupp we stopped at the services for a slow water point. All the visitor moorings were full - we eventually tied up outside Shipton-on-Cherwell Church.

BCF member and Thrupp resident Anne came over for a chat; it was good to see her. Immediately before she arrived I had a minor disaster involving a glass of milk. I managed to tip it all over me and the bench seat cushion. My fleece and shorts are in the shower tray; the cushion cover is soaking in a bowl of water. We'll have to attend to the foam cushion in the morning.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

The trouble with a city centre concert venue

Last night was quieter than I thought it might have been, with only some shouting nearby at 0300. Here is another view of our Oxford mooring, with the "Canals 200" memorial/bench seat thingy in the foreground.

Ally brought Josiah to visit today. After a walk around the city we had coffee/hot chocolate at the Vaults and Garden café, then Ally's sister-in-law Hannah came. We all had lunch on the boat, then Ally and Hannah went shopping while Jan and I did some more exploring on foot.

I spotted a small plaque on a house ...

commemorating Edmund Halley (after whom Halley's Comet is named).

Ally said we had to go to a certain ice cream parlour, so we met up at George and Danver in St. Aldate's. I was still feeling full from lunch, so I settled for a cup of tea (and a small amount of Jan's ice cream).

At 1815, with Ally, Josiah and Hannah having departed, Jan and I went to what we thought was going to be a service of Choral Evensong at New College chapel. It turned out to be a confirmation service, but it was very good with an excellent choir.

After this we had just 20 minutes to get to the Sheldonian Theatre, not far away, for a concert by the Oxford University Orchestra. No time for tea! We heard Debussy's La Mer and Bruckner's seventh symphony. The orchestra was huge; we had good seats very near the front. It was quite deafening at times! During one quiet bit in the Bruckner there was some rowdy shouting going on outside. This came through clearly as at the back of the auditorium there is only one set of wooden doors, which is not enough for good sound insulation, especially given its city centre location. Apart from that the venue was superb. The conductor held the orchestra together well, despite its size, and injected huge amounts of energy into the performance. We enjoyed it.

Friday, 20 May 2016

The last mooring in Oxford

We were under way by 0930 this morning, waving goodbye to Bones as she walked Boots and chatted to Dusty Miller.

A few minutes before we untied, an Anglo Welsh hire boat had come slowly. We caught up with them at every lock, not as they were leaving but as they were going in. When we caught up with them at Shipton Weir Lock we joined them in the lock.

They went out first, but at the lift bridge just round the corner they waved us through. Hooray! We had almost finished at the Elsan point in Thrupp when they came past again, but they had said they were stopping for lunch. We passed them as they were tying up outside the Boat Inn. Phew!

Our entry into Oxford was green and leafy.

We continued to the very end of the navigation and tied up at the last and only space on the 48 hour moorings, just a few feet back from here.

The city centre was busy with people, mostly a lot younger than us! We had average fish and chips at a Greene King pub, visited Tesco and the Co-op and returned to the boat. Here we had some of the profiteroles we bought in the Co-op, probably the best packet profiteroles I have had. I first discovered them in the Co-op in Fenny Compton. If you like profiteroles these are definitely the ones to go for!

We appear to have swapped last nights trains thundering by the other side of the hedge for emergency sirens.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Lolly stick saves greasy fingers; fridge fettling

We moored at Lower Heyford and found there was no phone signal and hence no internet. I am therefore backdating this post.

On the way some of the locks had been supplied with lolly sticks with which to operate the pawl.

The stick reads "Keep fingers clean".

We walked round Lower Heyford - church locked - and treated ourselves to a cream tea at Kizzie's at the boatyard. I tried to take some photos which were more than mere snaps. Can you see what this is?

In the evening we had been invited for drinks and nibbles with Bones; we had an excellent time talking with her and Andrew the potter. I took a bottle of wine which had an amusing error on the label.

Perhaps we should have poured it over a wooden crate.

Earlier in the day I attached a temperature sensor to the fridge's radiator and connected it to a module which now switches on a small fan when the fridge comes on. The idea is to make the fridge more efficient by blowing away the heat, but the fan I installed is far too small. It did fit nicely in the hole I made in the floor, though. I shall have to experiment with a larger fan, but there is very little space behind the fridge. Which is part of the problem, of course.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Oil on water

It must have rained quite hard last night as there was a small puddle of water on the floor by the front doors. I wasn't able to work out how it got there, but I wiped it up and it didn't reappear.

I checked the oil levels - both engine and gearbox were fine. And that pool of oil below the engine? As soon as I started mopping it up I realised that it was no more than a thin film on top of water. Phew! That's all wiped up now too.

After coffee we walked into Aynho along the pavement-less 60mph road. Nicholson says it's a mile, but we reckon it's more than that. The hotel in the centre of the village, the Cartwright Arms, looked good. We perused the menu out of curiosity but knew we had the sausages from the farm shop on board, so we crossed the road to walk round the exterior of the church (locked).

There are some rather large houses in Aynho. This one is flanked by similarly grand buildings, hidden from view in my photo.

After lunch we again took our lives in our hands as we walked the other way to Clifton. The lovely-looking thatched pub here, the Duke of Cumberland's Head, has closed. There's an apologetic note from the landlord attached to the hoarding outside - the pub must have been the centre of the community.

Opposite our mooring at Aynho Wharf was this interestingly-named boat. I guess the owner has now left his employment.

We decided to move on at 1700. Almost immediately it started to rain. And pour. And hail. There was a bridge coming up; by the time I got there the rain had eased. Nevertheless I stopped underneath to put my waterproof trousers on (better late than never) and warm up a little. Carrying on we found our second lift bridge to operate; the first being the one in Banbury. There are no photos of Somerton Deep Lock as I didn't want my camera to get wet. Just past Somerton we came across The Barocha, Bob and Jan's boat, so we stopped to say hello. They were in the middle of eating, but we ended up joining them while Jan (the other one) cooked our sausages for us. It was good to see them and to be able to spend the evening talking.

We find ourselves moored at the edge of a cow field. The cows seem to have mooved (sorry, couldn't help it) away, but there is fresh evidence that they have been here recently (watch where you step). Apparently they like to lick the dew off the side of boats in the morning. I'm not looking forward to that. Or they could chew through the MOOring ropes (ouch!) and cast us adrift. Hmm. It was a lovely sunset across the fields, though.