Monday, 31 October 2011

All is revealed, and no, it's not a lace doily

Well done Ross, aka Bert the Gnome, for correctly identifying the mystery photo.

Ross got it after seeing the photo below.

I was going to go on to these ...

... by which time, of course, it's obvious that it's a dandelion gone to seed.

Looking at the whole photo I wasn't sure that I'd got it in focus, but when I zoomed in I was pleased with the resolution of my 12 megapixel compact camera bringing out the fine detail.

Photo taken on a walk last Saturday.

Ross, by the way, started his blog a couple of weeks ago. He's looking for a boat ... well, read what he says here:

I'm Bert the Gnome aka Ross and i answer to both!
I've called it Magic Potion as thats in the running for the boat name and it's one of my favourite songs too ....

A quick intro - There's 3 of us .... me,the missus and my daughter and we have decided to sell up the house and buy a boat to live on .......... however it wont be a new build boat as the house wont sell for that much.
So we are going the used route,this wont take place until next year as we have to tart the place up and that'll start after crimbo ... it'll be a slow process and we are looking to be on 'the cut' in roughly a years time

Until then i'll be walking the towpaths in south northamptonshire,looking at boats,moorings and chatting to whoever will talk to me,after all,knowledge is everything!
SO if you see me(fat dude,long white goatee and a walking stick) wave ,shout,say hello and its black tea 2 sugars thanks!

I tried to leave a comment on Ross's blog, but Blogger is playing up again ...

Sunday, 30 October 2011

What is this? - more

As promised, and as no-one has correctly identified it, here is a little more for you to feast your eyes on.

Top Thirty, 2011 Week 43

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 1200 on Sunday 30th October 2011. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

3 CanalPlanAC (=)

4 Pennine Waterways (=)

5 - Forums (=)

6 (=)

7 Granny Buttons (=)

8 Jannock Website (+1)

9 Water Explorer (-1)

10 Towpath Treks (=)

11 boatshare (+3)

12 ExOwnerships (=)

13 Herbie (+17)

14 Waterway Routes (+1)

15 nb Epiphany (-2)

16 UKCanals Network (-5)

17 (-1)

18 Canal Shop Company (-1)

19 Takey Tezey (-1)

20 Narrowboat Bones (+2)

21 nb Waiouru (-2)

22 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-2)

23 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-)

24 Google Earth Canal Maps (-1)

25 Narrowboat Caxton (-)

26 Chertsey (+2)

27 Derwent6 (-3)

28 Warwickshire Fly Boat Company (-)

29 nb Piston Broke (=)

30 Halfie (-)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart;
(-) denotes new entry or re-entry into the top thirty;
(=) denotes no change.

There are 147 entries altogether.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

What is this?

No hints yet.

Sorry it's so small. More will be revealed tomorrow.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Was Fenny Compton Tunnel Turnover Bridge split?

Looking at my photo of the turnover bridge at Fenny Compton "Tunnel" on the Oxford Canal I see that the handrails have breaks half way along. They have been joined by smaller bits of metal. The bridge deck also looks to have been made in two halves, the bridge number (137A) spanning the join.

Was this bridge at one time a split bridge - like many on the southern Stratford Canal - designed to allow the tow rope to pass through without being unhitched from the horse or boat?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Mystery signpost

On the Oxford canal, along Fenny Compton "Tunnel", just southeast of the turnover bridge, is this signpost. Milages are carefully inscribed in the fingers, but the plates with the names of the places to which they refer have been removed. Great.

The milages given are: away from Oxford 44 3/4 and 26 3/4; towards Oxford 38 1/4 and 10 3/4. Taking the bigger distances first, the total is 83 miles. My Nicholson's gives the length of the Oxford Canal as 77 miles (Oxford to Hawkesbury Junction). So perhaps the distances are to Coventry and Oxford centres. And I think the smaller distances are to Rugby and Banbury.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Beware the chickens at Somerton Deep Lock


We saw no chickens, only a couple of people who worked the lock for us. I had quite wanted to do this myself, one of the deepest narrow locks on the system, but if someone offers to help you can't really refuse, can you?

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Every sheep has a silver lining

My father asked me about backlighting after I'd referred to it yesterday. Here are some sheep near Bridge 195 on the Oxford Canal.

The low sunlight behind the sheep gives each fleece a bright outline.

Compare with these sheep photographed an hour earlier:

Monday, 24 October 2011


I like close-ups. These flowers are all from our recent trip on the Oxford Canal, with the exception of the first one, which was by the Grand Union in Braunston. Oh, I like back-lighting too.

If anyone can assist with identifying these I'd be grateful. I think the second one is a dandelion, and the fourth is a dahlia. The first, second and fifth are wild flowers.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Self-operated pump-out

We're home after a brilliant week's boating. Today we went to the 0930 service at the (Anglican) church of the Holy Cross, Shipton-on-Cherwell. Back at the boat we finished cleaning it. David and co. arrived and dumped their stuff on board, then David drove me to Wigram's Turn Marina so we could retrieve my car and leave his there. Then it was a bit of a rush to take Shadow to the service point to water up and pump out. The pumpout is self-operated, using a card bought from nb Marilyn Jane for £12. I think members of the lively Thrupp Canal Cruising Club get it cheaper. Doing the pumpout was straightforward, unmessy and unsmelly. The machine gave plenty of time to complete the operation, including two good rinses.

Then we moved the boat nearer the car park so we could unload our things. After a goodbye to David and his crew - and a goodbye to Bones, who had been watching me frantically unloading - we drove back to Norfolk, sad that the holiday was over. But I have to go back to work tomorrow.

Two photos from our trip: At the top, this morning's post-service coffee in the church. And here, one from when we arrived at Wigram's Turn that long week ago to see a microlight buzzing above the marina.

Top Thirty, 2011 Week 42

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 2100 on Sunday 23rd October 2011. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (+1)

3 CanalPlanAC (-1)

4 Pennine Waterways (=)

5 - Forums (=)

6 (=)

7 Granny Buttons (=)

8 Water Explorer (+1)

9 Jannock Website (+1)

10 Towpath Treks (-2)

11 UKCanals Network (+1)

12 ExOwnerships (-1)

13 nb Epiphany (+3)

14 boatshare (-1)

15 Waterway Routes (-1)

16 (+2)

17 Canal Shop Company (-2)

18 Takey Tezey (-1)

19 nb Waiouru (=)

20 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+1)

21 nb Lucky Duck (+4)

22 Narrowboat Bones (-2)

23 Google Earth Canal Maps (=)

24 Derwent6 (+4)

25 Contented Souls (-3)

26 Rock n Roll (-)

27 Baddie the Pirate (-)

28 Chertsey (-)

29 nb Piston Broke (+1)

30 Herbie (-)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart;
(-) denotes new entry or re-entry into the top thirty;
(=) denotes no change.

Halfie is at number 31.

There are 150 entries altogether.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Back to Thrupp via a Thames backwater

Our autumn holiday on Shadow is nearly over, I'm sorry to say, and it's been a really good one. We've done a bit of canal I hadn't done before, and the weather has been superb. Yes, we had a bit of rain one day, and it's been quite windy on two ir three days, but the sun has shone, we've been able to have the stove going , and we've had a very good time.

As I indicated yesterday, our first task this morning - after buying a paper and some provisions - was to reverse to the junction with Isis Lock, go down the lock and wind on a backwater of the Thames.

This was straightfoward. I nosed up to the new pontoon, as instructed by the sign at the lock, and swung the stern round so as to point back up the lock. It would have been easier had the pontoon not been quite so wide, but there was not much flow and things went smoothly. Jan stayed on the bank!

The lock looked splendid in the morning sunshine.

In order to resent my brother with a full tank of diesel when he takes over Shadow tomorrow we stopped at College Cruisers, where we were told we'd have to wait ten minutes before they could attend to us.

Half an hour later I reminded them we were here, only to be told that they'd had a breakdown, which I took to mean that one of their boats had had a problem; and that there were only two of them, which I took to mean that they were actually too busy to be concerned with me. OK, then. We'll take our custom elsewhere.

I'd not been idle while waiting, though. I fixed the manual operation of the bilge pump switch. Up to this time, pulling the switch on the intrument panel had not been causing the pump to run. I discovered that the wire from the switch was loose in the engine hole. I was pleased to find that the float switch still operated the pump. Phew! It was a simple matter to reconnect the floating (so to speak) wire. Now all is as it should be.

In the distance in the next photo is Roundham Lock, viewed through the skew railway bridge.

And here is Shadow tied up on the visitor moorings at Thrupp, outside the lovely terrace of cottages.

We started the boat cleaning job before our handover tomorrow - I washed the outside of the boat and Jan did the windows and bathroom. Carpets and galley tomorrow.

Oh - I must do a blog post about the magic cloth I use. Another time.

We ate at the Jolly Boatman and enjoyed really excellent food (mmm, red cabbage!). And Bones, you were really excellent company. Thank you.

Friday, 21 October 2011

The last bit of the Oxford Canal navigated

Thrupp to Oxford

At the very (Oxford) end of the Oxford Canal

At last. I have now covered every inch of the Oxford Canal from Hawkesbury Junction to Oxford itself.* Today I did the last bit of "new" water, between Isis Lock and the terminus in the town centre. Tomorrow I'll have to reverse back to Isis Lock to be able to wind to return northwards. And that will involve locking down onto the Thames to wind, and then going back up again. I haven't told Jan yet - the Thames is not her favourite waterway!

But first, this morning we walked from Thrupp along the towpath to Hampton Gay looking for the ruins visible in the fields. Again, I cursed myself for forgetting to bring my OS maps. We walked along a footpath in what I thought was the right direction, but we couldn't see any ruins. The annoying thing is that we found them easily the last time we were here, about ten years ago. We did see something I hadn't seen before, though. We all know there are several boats with the same name. Kingfisher, Narrow Escape etc. There is more than one Shadow, too. But how often do you see two bosts with the same name moored next to each other?

In Oxford we came across a rehearsal for a concert taking place later in the evening, so we sat and listened for a while. The Aurora Orchestra was preparing for an evening of Mahler.

The bits we heard - a movement from his fourth symphony and a song from Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen were superb. We really ought to have gone to the performance, but we hadn't eaten, and I'd already planned to go to Choral Evensong in one of the colleges.

I went to Queen's. The choir was excellent: I could hear every word!

*I'm not including all the bypassed former loops or arms,as most of these are private moorings.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Wind, rain, Bones, Boots and what dogs do

19th October 2011

Cropredy to Upper Heyford

(Two days in one post - no signal yesterday)

We had a bit of catching up to do, so we set off from Cropredy at 0745 in chilly but sunny conditions. At 1015 we tied up by the Castle Quay shopping centre in Banbury and went shopping. Not in Castle Quay. We had a look round the town, and found the famous Cross.

It doesn't really lean - that's my camera's lens distortion.

Two hours after stopping here we got under way again, just beaten to the lift bridge and lock by Goshawk, whom we followed all the way to Aynho Wharf. In Banbury the wind had got up, and for much of the way we were going diagonally down the cut. Then it clouded over ... and then the rain came. A really heavy shower, making full wet-weather gear essential. We would have stopped had we not been trying to get to Upper Heyford where we still thought we might be meeting up with friends from Milton Keynes. This was the first real daytime rain of the week.

Jan steering into Aynho Weir Lock

Well, we made it to Upper Heyford, tying up above Allen's Lock at 1845 almost in darkness, but our friends sent a message saying they wouldn't be coming. We walked up the hill to the Barley Mow pub and ate there - cottage pie for Jan and steak and ale pie for me.


20th October 2011

Upper Heyford to Thrupp

I had calculated that Upper Heyford to Thrupp should take four hours, but that was assuming we'd be through Allen's Lock. As it was, we didn't get going until 0815, bowhauling into the lock before starting the engine.

We passed through some wonderfully remote locks - I think I'm right in saying this is looking back at Northbrook Lock.

The countryside around here is beautiful. This is on the River Cherwell section upstream of Shipton Weir Lock.

At Shipton Weir Lock we were met by Mortimer Bones, who helpfully lifted Bridge 219 for us. At Thrupp we took on water and tied up on the visitor moorings by the cottages. The time: about 2 pm. I must somehow have miscalculated. It didn't matter.

Having read Maffi's and Bones's eulogies on Annie's Tea Room I was keen to try it for myself, so we went with Bones and had cream teas. Excellent clotted cream! Then we offered to take Boots for a walk, so Bones kitted me out with a bag of dog poo bags and a piece of sausage, and showed me how to hold the lead. (I'm very, very new to this game!) Then, feeling quite a weight of responsibility, I held on tightly to the lead, and didn't let go for an hour and a half. I am gradually getting over my childhood fear of dogs. Despite Bones assuring me that I was in control, I often felt as though it was Boots taking me for the walk, not the other way round. He dictated the pace - fast, with occasional stops for sniffing the grass - and seemed to know the way to go too. In a first for me, I had to use one of the poo bags, turning it inside out and putting it on my hand like a glove to pick up the poo as I'd seen other dog walkers do. I steeled myself and did the deed. It wasn't too bad, and we even found a convenient bin in which to dispose of the bag with its revolting contents.

We walked to St. Mary's church on the edge of Kidlington before returning along the right bank of the Cherwell. It was a very pleasant walk, on well-defined footpaths through fields and woods.

We were pleased to be able to share a meal with Bones on board Shadow later in the evening.

Tomorrow we go to the very end of the Oxford Canal: into Oxford itself.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Maffi's prediction

Fenny Compton Wharf to Cropredy

Before talking about today, here's a photo from Saturday as we cruised from Napton Junction to Braunston. Sun has been a welcome feature of this holiday so far!

Oh, and here's another photo from earlier. We've had the stove going (hooray!) to combat the chilly mornings (and evenings). Shortly after lighting, the amount of smoke pouring out of the chimney can hinder visibility somewhat. No danger of that today, though, as the wind has blown the smoke away as soon as it dares to emerge.

Our view this morning looking from the bow back towards the Wharf Inn.

I woke Maffi at half-past nine, and he came on board Shadow for a cup of tea and a chat.

Maffi reckons this will be another harsh winter, judging by the number of berries on the trees. At Cropredy Lock this tree was certainly berry-laden.

This must be one of the shortest cruising days we've done, travelling on the Oxford Canal from Fenny Compton Wharf to Cropredy - about four hours.

We're in no rush as we want to be in Thrupp for Thursday evening, so we stopped in the sunshine below Cropredy Lock.

It's been quite windy today, making the entrance to most of the locks a matter of sliding along the coping (on the left) with the tiller held over to the right, until the nose popped in to the chamber.

Monday, 17 October 2011

At Fenny Compton Wharf

I write this sitting by the stove with its gently whirring Ecofan, having just eaten a slice of (M&S) coffee and walnut cake with cream. Jan is also sitting at the table doing a "Codeword" puzzle.

We are tied up at Fenny Compton Wharf next to Maffi, whom we saw for a bit, but then I cycled with Ben to get his car from Marston Doles.

I'd better start from the beginning (of today). It is son-in-law Ben's birthday, and we had a late start as we had a present-opening session at breakfast. He was very pleased with the cycle panniers we gave him.

At 1015 we set off from Marston Doles along the Oxford Canal towards Oxford. It's been another dry day (apart from a small amount of rain just now), but quite windy.

We stopped by a bridge convenient for visiting the village of Priors Hardwick, which was a gentle half-hour's walk, and well worth doing. We looked round St. Mary's church, with its butress scored by arrow- or knife-sharpening, and encountered a slightly eccentric Portuguese gentleman wearing a jacket with the crest of The Butcher's Arms (the restaurant in the village), a portcullis badge on one lapel and a pair of crossed flags - Union and Portuguese - on the other. He claimed to be very famous and to own the restaurant, but he said a lot of incredible things.

Back on board we carried on to Fenny Compton where we watered up and then moved a few boat lengths to be next to Milly M.

Ally and Ben had to leave us at this point, so, as I have said, Ben and I cycled back to get his car. Our route took us through Wormleighton, where there is an interesting gatehouse (I presume) with an archway under it. Unfortunately I had forgotten my camera. A little further on was a farm building whose roof was completely covered in PV solar panels. I quickly estimated there to be more than 300 of them!

After Ally and Ben had gone Jan and I went to the Wharf Inn for a meal. It was just after 6 pm, and so we had just missed out on the "2-4-10" - two main meals for £10 deal. Oh well. Jan had beef (sic) bourguinogne (OK) and I had lamb shank (on the tasteless side).

Maffi said something about possibly seeing us in the pub later, so I'd better publish this and get along. Sorry for the lack of photos - I haven't got round to uploading them and resizing etc. Perhaps tomorrow.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Where is this? - the whole photo

Yes, it's an aqueduct, but which one? It's not on the BCN.


We are now tied up at Marston Doles on the Oxford Canal. Ben's parents have been with us most of the day - John seemed particularly to enjoy the joys of working locks, as he assisted with our ascent of the Napton flight.

Top Thirty, 2011 Week 41

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 2145 on Sunday 16th October 2011. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 CanalPlanAC (=)

3 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

4 Pennine Waterways (=)

5 - Forums (=)

6 (=)

7 Granny Buttons (=)

8 Towpath Treks (=)

9 Water Explorer (=)

10 Jannock Website (=)

11 ExOwnerships (+1)

12 UKCanals Network (-1)

13 boatshare (+2)

14 Waterway Routes (+2)

15 Canal Shop Company (-1)

16 nb Epiphany (-3)

17 Takey Tezey (+1)

18 (-1)

19 nb Waiouru (=)

20 Narrowboat Bones (+1)

21 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-1)

22 Contented Souls (+8)

23 Google Earth Canal Maps (-1)

24 Trafalgar Marine Services (+4)

25 nb Lucky Duck (-1)

26 Halfie (-)

27 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-4)

28 Derwent6 (-)

29 Narrowboat Caxton (-4)

30 nb Piston Broke (-3)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart;
(-) denotes new entry or re-entry into the top thirty;
(=) denotes no change.

There are 150 entries altogether.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Where is this? - even more revealed

OK, you can say what it is, if not where.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Where is this? - more revealed

I obviously made it far too difficult yesterday (no guesses!), so here's a little more revealed.

More tomorrow.


I've just booked the Napton Bridge Inn, or The Bridge at Napton as it calls itself these days, for Sunday lunch for six of us.

I've just spent a large part of the evening working out a complicated route and car shuffle. Ally and Ben are joining us as we board Shadow at Wigram's Turn on Saturday at noon, then we'll cruise to Braunston, stopping there for the rest of the day (and night). The next morning we'll return to Wigram's Turn where Ben's parents will join us, then cruise up to the Bridge Inn for lunch. After that we'll head for Marston Doles where a bit of bike and car movement will ensue so that Ben's parents can drive back up north.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Where is this?

Here's a small clue for you.

I'll reveal more tomorrow.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Boat, very orange, in Norwich city centre

A week ago I was surprised to see this boat outside The Forum in Norwich. There was almost no information about it, it was just sitting there on its trailer.

The banner at least tells you it is from Survival Systems International. The California-based company supplies "lifeboat survival capsules". It has a service base in the UK, at Great Yarmouth, just 20 miles away.

They're used by (or supplied to) the offshore drilling industry.

Orange, isn't it?

How long before it ends up on a canal somewhere, like these I saw last year in London? (Orange one on the Paddington Branch; green one on the Lee)