Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An update from Saturday’s events


It would appear from communications that we have had from another Cutweb member who travelled down the Buckby flight on Sunday, the day after we went down, that the two gents supposedly delivering the boat in Braunston were doing no such thing.

We wondered at the time how their knowledge of working locks could be so bad if they had brought the boat down from Leeds. It turns out that our fellow club member was sat outside the pub at Buckby top when they arrived and sat next to him. They informed him that it was their boat, had no licence, BSS or insurance and they were after someone to give them a tow down the flight due to the engine and gearbox being dodgy. They admitted to him that the boat delivery ruse was made up as a cover while they travelled.

After they caught him up going down the flight on Sunday he rightly refused to share locks with them due to their lack of insurance. Had we known on Saturday we would not have done so either.

Be careful out there!


Sunday, September 28, 2014

No locks today ……

Sunday 28th September

… only bridges. If yesterday was all about hassles with locks, today was about meeting boats in blind bridges. No sooner had I undone the mooring ropes than the first boat appeared rapidly through the A5 bridge. From then on it seemed we met approaching boats at every bridge that could not be seen through, sometimes several boats following each other quite closely. At Flore Lane bridge we had just narrowly avoided a head on collision with a boat that seemingly appeared from no where when a second then appeared as well. When I pointed out to the hirer that it was best to leave a bit of a gap when following another boat through a bridge he explained the the first boat had pulled out smartly in front of him the other side of the bridge – that might explain the speed then.IMG_0839

IMG_0836 Today Brenda has been taking pictures of the nice paintwork  on a couple of working boats and even got one of the owners to throw in a pose. We decided to moor up and have lunch and then I went and fetched the car from Hillmorton whilst Brenda cleaned and tidied before we headed home. The weather has been good this weekend, not as warm and sunny as predicted but not cold or windy either.


It was OK until Braunston

Saturday 27th September

We set off from Hillmorton at 11:10 and had a good clear run into Braunston, meeting Mike, Krystina, the dogs and ferrets on Draco, about to MuddyBullocks2 go fetch Success, en-route. We stopped briefly for a water fill and pumpout at the sani-station before making our way to the bottom lock. As we arrived, a single hander had just opened a gate and so we joined him in the lock. He complained that the ten strong crew of fit males on the hireboat in front had failed to wait for him and had ascended the lock solo. He was only passing up into the first pound as he wanted to be close to the Admirable Nelson and the second pound was well down with the top being far too close to the bottom. It turned out that the whole flight was like this, we know not why.

We shared the second and third locks with a pair of gents delivering a boat from Leeds to Cambridge. The boat was quite old and it’s gearbox worked on the ‘one armed bandit’ principle – you waggled the stick about to see what you could get. How they’d made it this far we do not know. Once through the third lock and opposite the Nelson they decided to moor alongside the hireboat with the 10 fit young men on board and join them rather than continue up the flight. A mooring rope was thrown across the roof of the hireboat dislodging a zillion empty bottles and cans from the roof. As we were ascending the third lock, the gent who’d stopped two pounds down waved his pint at Brenda and said “you want one of these love” She responded that she didn’t want to get arrested for drunk-in-charge. He replied “that’s the benefit of being a live-aboard. If it’s your home they can’t do you for drunk driving” He also thought it applied if you owned your own boat. Worrying if it is a shared belief – explain that to a magistrate.

We continued up the next couple of locks solo and were slowly catching up a single boat ahead. The water levels were between 12 and 24 inches down in each pound until the summit which made transiting between locks very difficult, It’s at times like this that I’m glad we have a shallow draught boat.. As we ascended the penultimate lock in the flight we spotted that the other solo boat was waiting for us in the empty top lock. At least something worked out well.

On through Braunston tunnel where Brenda steered most of the way through, only handing over to me as we approached passing the first of three boats heading the other way. Sod’s law dictated that we met him in one of the bends within the tunnel and removed a bit more paint from the top of the cabin side at the front. When we arrived at Buckby top we were fifth in the queueIMG_0835 as there had been a three hour stoppage after a boat had lifted a top gate out of it’s seating. I went down the flight, on the bike,  to identify what was happening and  spotted a single boat at the head of the queue which would mean all of the pairs would split up. So, with no-one else wishing to descend, we passed down through the first lock solo and then shared the rest of the flight with nb Silkwood. The gates and paddles on this flight have not got any easier and I ended up helping the lady from Silkwood with her half of the lock as well when there were no ascending crew about to assist.

Out of the bottom lack and it was rapidly getting dark but I had no intention of mooring up alongside the M1 so we continued on to Landing Spinney where we moored in the dark adjacent to the A5 road bridge.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Late crop fruit harvested

Tuesday 23rd September

Misty Graham was up and at ‘em at snoozle o’clock again, I put my head out just as Son 1 phoned; a quick stop-over in Manchester to sort out a passport. We were able to have a quick chat but not able to give him the answers he needed as we had no internet connection on board – and I was completely unable to top-up my Three account successfully due to the Visa Secure system failing to work when I tried to use my card. Never mind, all was eventually sorted by the time he got to the passport office in Liverpool.

The time advantage that Graham created by starting early was spent harvesting fruit from the offside of the canal. Blackberries were found in the cutting above Brinklow and the same Plum tree at Clifton still had some serviceable plums left on it’s branches. As we passedLostTortoise Armada Marine at Brinklow wharf Graham spotted the diesel was a very good price (£1.02p per litre 60/40) and so we stopped there to add 150 litres to Jannock’s tank.

On down through Rugby where CaRT contractors are edging and dredging opposite Willow Wren’s yard; little boats all over the place with two tugs returning having just taken a dumb barge full of mud down to the road. At the road bridge we met a HillMortonstrange little craft sprouting wires everywhere and manned by blokes wearing what looked like deep sea divers suits. They were EA folk who were stunning all the fish and counting the species. They told Graham that they had very few Zander when he enquired.

We were moored up by 4pm, ready for a car shuffle and home. Another successful Cutweb rally , thanks guys. And as for the Pork rolls and roast beef at the Samuel Barlow  .  .  .  .  .  .  I have never seen so many doggie bags being asked for after a meal. The food was too good to leave on the plate, and far too much for many of us to finish. We were so pleased that we had not ordered a dessert to follow Sunday lunch. Mind you, that looked so good we also wish we’d had room for some as well. We drank Bonkers Conkers as well as playing it, we played Boule, we treasure hunted (and we won) we quizzed (and we didn’t win) we ate cake, we enjoyed Cutweb company and the rally had a new company of auctioneers – Floggit, Loggit and Droppit! We hope to do it all again next year.


Monday, September 22, 2014

And so the run home begins

Monday 22nd September

I was up and at-em at 07:30 helping nb Just Heaven extract themselves from the raft to head South.PooleyHall Nb Earnest (yes, that one) had left at 6:45 and we set off behind at 08:00 after I had used our car to give Glen’s camper van a jump start.  The run to Polesworth was very atmospheric with the low sun lighting up the mist rising from the canal. Brenda surfaced at about 9am bringing me a much needed refill of tea. As we  approached Grendon I managed to get some breakfast ready for the run up Atherstone flight. The first 6 locks were either in our favour or someone was leaving as we approached and so we had a smooth run up to the bypass bridge. We stopped there to visit Aldi as we needed some bread and milk. What we came back with was a rechargeable vacuum cleaner, a waterproof jacket and a new blade for my circular saw at AtherstoneFlighthome. Very expensive bread and milk then.

The run up the remaining 5 locks of the flight was equally easy with every lock being vacated as we approached. We have never had a run up Atherstone like this before. On through Hartshill, Nuneaton and Bedsworth where we stopped and tied up alongside nb Grace for SparklyTree a chat with Christine and Terry. They fed us tea and cake as well as returning an empty beer bottle in exchange for a couple of full ones. After a couple hours I decided we had better set off so I paid a visit down the weed hatch and removed a large sheet of black plastic from around the prop before we left.

As we turned onto the Oxford canal we found the lock empty with the gate open so I steered straight in, it’s definitely been our day today. I walked ahead as Brenda brought Jannock along the moorings and i found a gap that was just the right length. Brenda got annoyed because as ByeByeRigdens she was bringing Jannock nicely into this gap, the bloke on the boat in front obviously thought she was going to hit his boat and damage the paintwork so he pushed Jannock away which really messed up the manoeuvre. He then hung around until he was happy with my knots and mooring ropes before scuttling off back into his boat. The next boat along complemented me on the skill used to get Jannock into such a short gap so I was a gentleman and gave the credit to Brenda who had steered her in.

Faggots for supper  ( yum!)  followed by an evening doing nothing as I was absolutely shattered.


Friday, September 19, 2014

And so to the 2014 Cutweb rally.

Friday 19th September

Whilst we were walking to the Indigo Lounge last night Brenda got into conversation with an old lady walking along the towpath. She lives in the flats by the canal and walks every day. She told Brenda how she remembered when she was young and her father worked in the coal pit, the nice FMC boatmen would give her a lift IMG_0773up to the pit to meet him when he finished his shift (only with mums’ permission though). A lady with a very interesting past.

We left Polesworth for the short run to Alvecote where we found nb Just Heaven already in the layby. First job was to get Steve to turn her around so thatIMG_0777 she was stern in to the bank and then Brenda expertly manoeuvred Jannock back in alongside him.

When Brian and Diana arrived on Harnser, we persuaded them to collect nb Black Pig, which was moored on the 48 hour moorings opposite, and bring it into the raft as well.IMG_0787

From there on the day continued with general organisational duties and getting more boats into the raft. In the evening we had an informal meal and drinking session in the bar having moved all the tables to form one long one.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Willing helpers down Atherstone

Thursday 18th September

We arrived at the boat at about 11am and offloaded our stuff from the car. As I approached Jannock I heard a ‘plop’ in the water near the rear tyre fender and was in time to observe some ripples in the water. We use floating wheels to keep Jannock off of the bank and provide protection against passing boats that are going too fast as they absorb some of the too-ing and fro-ing that is generated on the ropes. There was clear evidence that during our stay at Hartshead the rear tyre had been a feeding base for a water vole or rat. It had a smooth layer of mud with loads of droppings scattered on the upper surface. Once loaded, I loosed off and noticed a furry creature swimming about in the reeds opposite the towpath but was unable to clearly identify what species.

We cruised along towards Atherstone and tried to grab a sandwich for lunch before the activity started. At the top lock we met Brian and Diana (nb Harnser) who had moored their boat at the bottom of the flight and kindly volunteered to help work us down. They said they need the excercise. I wasn’t fussy what excuse they need, it was great to have their help and the flight was cleared quite quickly with no major issues.

Once out the bottom we stopped at Grendon services to fill up with water and then continued on to Polesworth where we moored for the night beside the sports field and tennis courts. I returned to Hartshead, on the DiBlasi, and then moved the car on to Alvecote marina where we are having the Cutweb Rally this weekend. I then returned to the boat and the four of us went out to the Indigo Lounge for a meal. They do a nice Sunday to Thursday deal of four courses for £9.95p and very good it was too. Another advantage is that this establishment is at the rear of the Fosters Yard hotel so the beer selection is what they have on in the bar.

It’s international Talk Like a Pirate Day tomorrow so that should provide us with some amusement whilst we are setting up for the rally.


Sorry – no pictures as the camera remained packed for the journey today.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

First job of the day–Scrumping

Saturday 30th August

Well, we have to promote the Old English Traditions in this age of multi-Plumscultural and Euro centric era. Add it all to the mix I say, and that’s my excuse for taking three large bowls of plums from trees overhanging the cut at the bottom of the gardens of a Victorian terrace. Jam will be made but 8lbs of plums means that I need to get more sugar in.

We also had a good crop of Cutweb members today as well. We passed nb Rosie and nb Jacob whilst they were moored up. We also met Mike and Krystina on nb Draco, passing like ships in the day so only managing a few words. Approaching Sutton’s Stop we found nb Levick moored so we pulled alongside and had a lovely catch-up with sunbatherMichael and Angela until the next boat came along towards the lock and we had to move off to get out of their way.

Charity Dock appears to have gained a sunbather now.

As Jannock approached Marstone Junction, nb’s Tench and Ilford were making the tight turn onto the Ashby canal. There’s precious little room to manoeuvre at the best of times but Ilford was working long line throughIlford running blocks so we held off and admired the skill and boatmanship being displayed as they completed the turn with just the gentlest of shoves to Ilford’s bow to get her through the bridgehole.

As we were searching for a quiet overnight mooring spot we passed a little boy who was up a tree. He shouted at Graham about his googly eyes. As we were mooring he, 4 years old, his sister, about 8, and dad all came along on their way home. The lad was intrigued by everything. It felt like the Spanish inquisition – it’s the EU influence! Having asked politely if he could hold our centre line for us whilst Graham was making us fast, he considered all things Jannock. A guided tour was quickly arranged. Big sister was most impressed by my rhubarb crumble, waiting to go in the oven (the Italian oven – EU again) and our tiny bath. Little lad was impressed with my ‘flap-up’ serving table, all decorated with roses, and the spider in the engine bay. Bless.  It seems that Dad had taken them for a walk yesterday – “too few people walk these days. They don’t know what they are missing” – and they had picked enough blackberries for a crumble. So Dad stepped up to the mark and had made his first ever crumble, and he was so proud. Off they went to tell Mum that boats float away when you are in bed if you don’t tie them up.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Napton on a bank holiday–why do we do it?

Sunday 24th August

We started by being second in line for the first lock with another boat behind us. Descents were interspersed with ascending boats of various skill levels. The Kate boats crew in front of us had a habit of leaving the top paddle up whilst trying to empty the lock. They were embarrassed when this was pointed out but it didn’t stop it happening at the next lock as well. They did, however, back set for us where they could.

A Calcutt hireboat heading up the flight had a crew of six who all got onboard after a lock and then had fun and games trying to get off again at the next lock, all of approx 20 metres. In the lock, mum had to climb the slimy ladder and then take ropes from front and back before realising that the windlass was still on the boat. We persuaded them that walking between locks was OK and that ropes were not really required in a narrow IMG_0675lock.  Try telling that to a Thames lockie came the response. Well, these locks and Thames locks are totally different beasties.

As we were descending lock 10, where CaRT are working to shore up the wing wall, another boat turned lock 9 that was set in our favour and waiting for us to enter. This meant that we now had to try and shuffle three boats around in the intermediate pound which already had two CaRT workboats in there. The lady was not impressed when I expressed my disappointment that they could not wait a few minutes and instead had now created a log jam in between 9 and 10.

Down through the bottomlock and we found that the Folly had a marqueeIMG_0676 in the garden. This must have been where the ‘music on the wind’ was coming from last night. Once we were on the Napton to Braunston stretch, Brenda went inside to have a shower and I immediately came across a loaded plum tree on the offside just past Wigrams turn. Luckily there was little traffic so I could hold Jannock on the offside and harvest a load for Brenda’s Plum Vodka that she has obtained a recipe for.

AugustDucklingsWe went into Braunston and did a water-fill/pumpout at the sani-station before winding at the marina entrance and heading North on the Oxford. We had a good run with no issues until we passed Wharf Bridge at Hillmorton where we spotted a couple more plum trees on the offside in the narrows and raided them as well.

Today we spotted Goody Two Shoes, Rosie and SilverCrest which are all Cutweb member boats


Aground again

Saturday 23rd August

We arrived at the boat last night to find her aground again, this has IMG_0667happened so often this year that it’s not novel any more. The angle that Jannock was listed over was not as steep as on the Thames. Brenda thought we might be able to sleep aboard without tipping out of the bed but I had other ideas. Having worked out how to ‘float my boat’ last time I decided it shouldn’t be too difficult here, the level was only down about 6 inches. After the prep work, and with a small shove from another boater, we were free to move back into deeper water and moor for the night against some piling in the glow of a terrific sunset.

We loosed off this morning and found ourselves aground yet again. It was easy to get her afloat this time but I do not know what is wrong with the Cropredy pound. The locals were complaining that it had been like this for three days. Village opinion was that there was some illegal extraction occurring as both the canal and river levels were well down.

As we set off up the locks from Cropredy to the summit we decided that this was the most boat traffic we had encountered all year so far. This is the first time we have passed this way since the new marina has opened and we spotted PC2 moored parallel with the canal and safely hooked up to a mains cable. We queued for every lock, usually third in line and it was the same for boats coming the other way. Aaah! August Bank Holiday on the Southern Oxford, mostly sunny with blue skies but the wind was very chill.

Once on the summit I was amused to find a boat approaching us through Fenny tunnel ( not a tunnel anymore as the roof was taken off a long time ago, but still narrow) with his tunnel light on. When I commented that it was the first boat I’d ever seen use a light there the steerer said that he thought it would make his grey boat stand out more.

Many of the boaters we met today were hirers. All seemed to be having a good time. If the weather co-operates an English holiday floats many a boat ;^)

As we moored for the night (well, actually Brenda was making our supperIMG_0672 and experimenting with the Italian oven, Blackberry sponge worked well at Gas Mk 6 and the top of the oven, it took 45 minutes) part way down Napton flight, a hire boat came past very close. It’s crew of lads were walking to the next lock. We’d put the closeness down to the canal narrowing and inexperience. Not so, the steerer was almost taking the paint off the whole side so that one lad could get back aboard across Jannock’s cruiser stern. No “do you mind?” – of course we wouldn’t have, or “ may I?” Manners maketh the man or some such.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Back to the past

Sunday 17th August

Last evening we checked the weather forecast for today – Rain 30%. Now, in a rare cerebral moment we entered the worlds of meteorology and statistics ( a word I can spell but not say) What does that mean? Rain for 30% of the day? A 30% chance we’ll get some rain? The latter meant a 70% chance of no rain and was a better hope. Possibly rain all day but at 30% of total wet out. None of the above it seemed.

We set off, arrived at the first lock and found that it meant that in the few minutes it takes to lock through a narrow lock only 30% of your clothes will remain dry, and 30% of all cabin space will be taken up by dripping hats, coats, trousers and so on.

Flypast of the day – a Canberra. Not a common sight round here.

We arrived in Banbury to find it was awash with gongoozlers who are happy to stare into your home and watch your every move but not catch your eye or acknowledge you. By now the rain had stopped and eventually the sun came out but it was accompanied by a strong wind that increased as the day went on.

By early afternoon we were ready to moor up in a convenient spot and get out of this steerer unfriendly wind. Other boaters heading South reported that they had not seen any rain at all. We moored up just before Cropredy Old Mill, a place where we had moored for 5 years after we first bought Jannock, and locked up and headed for the comforts of home.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Blackberry Scoffins

Saturday 16th August

We set off from Enslow wondering if the day would be summer or autumn. Luckily it tended towards the former, although the fruits along the canal IMG_0655have all come early and herald September. A short run and we pulled over at Kirtlington quarry. We’ve had good blackberrying there before and it lived up to it’s promise. Another boat pulled into the mooring in front of us, so we told her that we’d be moving off once we finished gathering fruit. She said she’s hoped her teenage daughters would get up out of bed, maybe they’d collect blackberries. I suggested that blackberry muffins would get them up, a ‘must do’ after a previous visit here many years ago. “How do you make them?” I gave her a copy of my MayoMuffin recipe so she decided that a mother-daughter baking session was in order.

Since I’ve had my new Italian cooker on Jannock I’ve avoided baking. TheIMG_0660 IMG_0656

oven heats the base and it cooks very differently to any other oven I’ve used. It browns the bottoms leaving the tops pale, and best position in the oven has been too difficult to calculate. In went a batch of blackberry muffins and ten fingers were crossed. Twenty minutes later we were eating them hot on the back deck. The remainder were spotted by a gongoozler whilst they were cooling in the galley, I’d put them to cool upside down with the brown flat surface uppermost, he complimented me on my scones. Time to rebrand , Blackberry scoffins!

IMG_0658We were advised that we were following both a stag and hen party heading North up the Oxford. The stags were not to be seen but at Aynho wharf we passed the hens. It was clearly a ‘girly’ party before we got to them, the smell of perfume was carried down the cut by the wind. A refreshing change from the smell of booze normally associated with hen cruises. Forget our scoffins, as we passed their boat a traditional afternoon tea was laid out on the table. We’d already been offered Indian treats by the crew on a dayboat, as we passed them lunch was being passed around and Brenda commented “oooooooooooh lunch!” Would you like some? was the very fast response – shame we’d just eaten our own lunch so “no thanks” was my sad reply. Just as well no hen tea was offered, could we have resisted?

We moored for the night just south of Banbury. After we’d eaten our dinner Graham went off to move the car before it got dark.


Saturday, August 09, 2014

Christmas pud in August

Saturday 9th August

Having heard that hurricane Bertha will be sliding past tomorrow we made a prompt start and were in Abingdon lock by 8am whilst lockies were still having their morning cocoakrispypops. As we entered it was obvious that a little cruiser had decided to share with us and was storming up towards the lock. Such was their haste that Mrs cruiser was still in her nightie and slippers whilst working through the lock and then filling with water above it. Once we’d brimmed Jannock’s tank we had a pleasant and un-eventful cruise up to Oxford. At Christchurch meadow there were no pleasure boaters to scare us, just a few eights and sculls. We eschewed Port St Barnabus Church spireMeadow as the wind seemed to be building up and went onto the canal and through Jericho instead. Jericho boatyard is still flapdoodle and College cruisers still appear to be operating from their base although the ground next door has been cleared. The wind brought some rain so we pulled over before Wolvercote lock for lunch.

Just as we were finishing, a boat was coming down so we set off and went straight into the empty lock. It was ‘Britains Premier Pirate Party Boat’ operated by Oxfordshire narrowboats, Yes really! The eight crew members that we could see were all AussieTomatoesa bit befuddled but we did find out what Pirates eat for lunch : booze and pot-noodles. Graham commented to one lad that it looked like a really healthy lunch. Irony. The reply was “there is sweetcorn in it!” Touche’

We saw this terrific way to grow tomatoes – hung upside down so that the rain keeps them well watered without any effort.

Stupid place to moorAt Dukes lock we found a hire crew had moored their lengthy boat between the bridge and the lock mouth and gone in search of a pub. That will make life difficult when the traffic builds up in the afternoon. Above here we met another Oxfordshire boat that had real pirates on it. Real pirates wear real pirate uniforms, they have hats and ruffled shirts. They also have lady pirates all glammed up. Real pirate lunches are picnics, on water points, and they slosh glasses of  Beaujolais Nouveau or Malmsey wine. We  saw!

An then there was the crew coming down Roundham lock who had to called back from the lock mouth, where they were waiting to reboard their boat, to wake up their steerer who was just not aware that the gate had opened and he was needed to start moving. It would seem he’d fallen asleep whilst the boat descended in the lock – they say the canals are relaxing ;^)

On through Thrupp, passing Nuneaton and Brighton moored outside the cottages and on to Shipton Weir lock where we were joined  by a single hander. Due to the shape of this lock we were both able to share, but once in he was having an awful time working out who was needing to go out first, mixing up the concepts of first and second. He admitted having cruised to the pub and was still supping from a can as he cruised home. It’s enough to send you teetotal for a couple of xmaspudhours maybe.

Tonight’s dessert was a Heston Blumenthal candied orange ‘stuffed’ Christmas pudding with custard – remember them? Graham found it in a cupboard and decided that now was a good time to try it. Slow cooked all afternoon, it was delicious. We even shared it with the boat moored behind us – after all, it says to serve 8 – 10 people.


Broken lock delays passage

Friday 8th August

Once the kids in the campsite opposite and RAF Benson’s helicopters had given up and gone to sleep we had a lovely quiet mooring for the night. We set off just after 9:30 and headed for Benson lock. Once through I decided it was shower time and so left Brenda in charge. Sharing Days lockThe next lock was Day’s lock, no dogs requiring rescuing this time ;^) Once through, sharing with a Salters trip boat, we made our way towards Clifton. En-route, we had discussed visiting the Plough at Long Wittenham for lunch but decided against it. Turning into the Clifton lock cutting we found a lot of boats, including the Salter’s trip boat. The lock was closed UFN (until further notice) due to a hydraulic failure so we moored alongside another narrowboat at he front of the lock landing leaving the rest available to the multitude of cruisers that arrived. The Salter’s trip boat turned around and headed back towards Wallingford after discussing the matter with their passengers as the keeper had said it may be tomorrow before some-one would come to fix it.

After two hours, a bloke wearing dungarees and carrying a monkey wrench arrived and started furkling around down a manhole and managed to sort the problem. We were then let into the lock to test it and were soon through once he’d finished. To celebrate getting through Clifton lock the Red Arrows flew over in formation as we were leaving.

A different vista - what's missingOn through Culham lock and on to Abingdon where there was an acute shortage of free moorings available. We finally managed to tuck ourselves in between two other boats alongside some reeds. Matt and Alice were coming for dinner and arrived just as the rain started, which lasted all evening.

Brenda would like it to be known that she is not dirty because she showered once I had finished.


Friday, August 08, 2014

Farewell K&A–it’s been fun

Thursday 7th August

Up and at-em for 9am and a very pleasant run down the last of the K&A.IMG_0590 County Lock had caused me some distress in past years, and on the way out this year, but with little rain recently it was a pussycat. Some junior paddlers, who had come up through the Oracle centre, waited for the lights to change to green and then followed us back down through again. They grouped as we appeared out of the Prison loop and IMG_0591then asked if they could share Blakes lock with us. Whilst we were working through G went fruit picking, adding apples and plums to the blackberries he gathered in the Cunning Man carpark last evening. Once out of the Kennet mouth they turned right whilst we turned left and headed upstream towards Oxford.








Our free food haul was supplemented later in the afternoon when he also prepared the six crayfish he caught last night. We had an easy run up to Wallingford in glorious weather seeing a few IMG_0607kingfishers, one with a fish in it’s beak, and a mink amongst the usual collection of wildlife. The mink was swimming near the bank in amongst some tree roots and frightened off a heron that was sat under the tree. I wonder if that was what the mink was after?

We decided on Wallingford as a good overnight stop, convenient for car IMG_0615shuffling, but would there be a place for us? The official moorings were all chocca but we found a secluded mooring, in the shade, under a couple of trees alongside Wallingford castle. RAF Benson’s helicopters gave us a wonderful display as they hone their skills. We suspect that we’ve nabbed the last reasonable mooring spot as we’ve watched boats pass and repass going up and down the river obviously looking for somewhere to stop. I say mooring, we are actually tied to two trees.

IMG_0612A very elegant launch passed as were eating on the front deck. “Are you moored or parked?” the expensively attired crew enquired, all panama hats, white jackets and frothy frocks. “We are having our dinner” we replied. “Bon appetit” & “ can we come over and join you” was the cheery reply. Beef and red pepper in a black bean and ginger sauce with noodles for 10! I don’t think so.


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Brenda has a 3 knicker day

Saturday 2nd August

Dear Met Office, it’s not so much that the weather you forecast was wrong, it was just that the timing was well out. Rain in the morning, you said, thunder and lightning before lunch, clearing up with the coffee and petit fours and a Pimms afternoon to follow. I should cocoa! It rained a little as we traipsed our stuff from the car to the boat, stopping as passing boaters donned their waterproofs and then starting again as they took them off in the warm sun.

Kitchen window viewThe moorings on the K&A are quite unique – there are not many places where you can see the towpath from the boat.  We set off under a clear blue sky but only got as far as Heales lock before the rain started again. We were soon soaked through and so decided that stopping above Woolhampton lock for lunch would be a good idea. I cooked and then crafted whilst Graham ate and then did indoor bicycle maintenance. One and a half hours later Graham washing the boatthe skies cleared and so we decided to set off again in a fresh set of dry clothes. We had just committed to the Woolhampton lock, weir stream and swingbridge combo when the heavens opened with an even heavier rain storm started. To our shame we just tied onto the end of the bridge moorings and sheltered.  Two thunderstorms later and G had completely washed the boat and dried off and changed.

We finally set off towards Aldermaston once it had stopped but still had to grab waterproofs now and again. We met some day boaters who were very damp but still enjoying themselves. At Padworth lock we shared with a hireboat that had reversed down from the wharf in order to wind below the lock. A good idea but it would have looked strange to any passers by – one boat facing each way. It’s the first time we’ve ever shared a lock like that.

So, two complete sets of clothes so far, and that was all for G. My third set was needed after Tyle Mill lock. We stopped on the water point to fill the tank. the tap was so close to the filler that we only needed the short hose, usually used between the reel and the filler. I put it into the tank, as usual and did other things, as usual. As I stood with my back to the tank filler the hose came out with such force that it whipped about and soaked me in the process, head to toe, all layers. It’s a very powerful tap here ;^) A complete change of clothes was needed again, but only for the back as the front was completely dry. We moored for the night in the meadow, across from the services, and after supper we watched the sun go down on the port side whilst big grey clouds scudded past on the starboard.

Thames Valley Police had an open day at Sulhampstead College and had a dance in the evening afterwards. The band were loud but not that good at a distance. First plums of the year picked today.

P.S. When I typed the word ‘knicker’ in the title the software indicated that it was spelt wrong. When I did a right click to see what the suggested correction was the list contained “knickers, knocker, knacker” That made me laugh out loud.

Sunday 3rd August

Part timers today and the Met Office got it spot on for a change, a lovelySwans near our mooring morning in wonderful countryside. The river Kennet is running faster after all that rain yesterday. Our first 3 locks were set in our favour today and the fourth (and last) was shared with another boat so an easy morning. If only we had sat out yesterdays weather then we’d have less wet washing to take home.

Graham caught two crayfish last night so they were prepared for consumption – two more invaders despatched. We moored outside the Cunning Man at Burghfield and went for Sunday lunch there. The food was very good and when we came out we noticed some excellent blackberries in the carpark so we picked two pounds of them as well. They are very large, possibly cultivated, berries with loads of flavour. We then took the blackberries and crayfish home leaving Jannock well pegged in until Thursday.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Plan C day–then a lack of water stops play.

Monday 21st July

Plan A was to cast off after G had completed a telephone conference call scheduled for 09:30 (dratted work getting in the way of his day off).

Plan B was to cast off earlier, pass down through Town lock and moor in Victoria Park so that he could have his call and I could go shopping for necessities ; viz pies (from Griffins) and beer making supplies. I checked for Griffins opening hours last night only to find that they were not displayed, and I had a feint memory that they shut on Mondays. They do! Beer making supplies, at Wilko’s, all except the one thing G wanted.

So, plan C – find a good sale and buy some Xmas presents. That went well ;^)

Back to Jannock to find that the Plan A conference call had been postponed for 1 hour. and plan B was that G should be available at 10:30. He could not promise that as the locks come thick and fast out of Newbury and so both plans were dropped. The one delegate became stuck on a train that was not going anywhere and so he rang G and had a little conferette.

We loosed off and followed on behind yesterday’s sharers. Their plan A had been to loose off quickly and follow us down through Town lock hoping to catch us up and share again. They did not know about the Victoria park stop and so passed Jannock while G was on the phone.

So started a day of boating for me and cycling for G. All was well until Ham lock. G indicated that Jannock should enter on the left gate. I slowed down past the boats moored outside the marina, took the corner towards the lock to find myself being pushed broadside into the weir stream by a very strong current that was not visible on the surface. Still waters and all that. I failed to have enough momentum to overcome the sideways drag and ended up with the bows against the top gate and the stern well into the weir stream. Plan A has always been ‘never to try and enter a lock sideways’. Plan B was G on a rope but there was nowhere to go forward. The weir way backwards and turning impossible. Much jiggery pokery, the second top gate opened and plan C saw us safely in the lock. G had spotted that the safety ratchet on one of the top paddle mechanisms was broken so he phoned CaRT emergency number to report it. As Jannock left the lock and the weir stream joined the channel the amount of water passing through the weir was obvious.

At the next swing bridge there were a couple of fellas walking back to their vehicles and one had a CaRT lifejacket on. G decided to mention the Ham lock problem with the safety ratchet. He enquired whether either of them worked for CaRT. CaRT asked one of them, who’s that? G pointed out the logo on his lifejacket and said Canal and River Trust, you know CaRT. He finally admitted being employed by that organisation as an engineer and agreed to take a look at the Ham lock problem. All that money spent on rebranding etc. and obviously the employees do not know their own organisation as CaRT.

not enough water to continueWe eventually caught up with our ‘yesterday sharers’ at Monkey Marsh lock. Our original Plan A had been to travel to Aldermaston as that is where G had moved the car to but we decided that there were not enough hours left to get there and still make G’s blood donor appointment this evening. Plan B was then to stop at Thatcham instead and G would fetch the car back from Aldermaston. However the 14 day moorings below the lock at Thatcham were full with some of the same boats that had been there when we last passed on 7th June. Local intelligence was that we should get to Froud’s bridge marina above Aldermaston lock in less than 2.5 hours so we decided to press on reverting to Plan A again.

As I approached Brimpton lock, G radioed Getting the DiBlasi out through Jannock's front doorback that the lock was padlocked closed and the canal the other side of it was empty of water due to a weir collapse further downstream. CaRT were working on the problem but did not think the section would be re-opened until tomorrow. So we pegged in and joined the merry flotilla waiting above the lock for it to re-open. G used the Di Blasi to fetch the car from Aldermaston.


Back to Newbury

Sunday 20th July

A busy but eventful day, but boy, was it hot. As we left the mooring at Froxfield a hand appeared from a porthole in Lee’s boat and he waved us off. He’ll be heading towards Bath during the school holidays. At least he’s still in education, and Pip the dog, which is more than can be said of Mr Gore after the cabinet re-shuffle.

There was a cruiser descending down through Oakhill down lock but they refused to share with us as they claimed they were too wide to do so, If they trusted us and removed the space hopper fenders then I’m sure they would fit. So we ploughed on slowly towards Hungerford with G. on the trusty who would even think to do this, or that it is acceptable.lock bike and me bringing Jannock behind. We were following another single boat but never managed to catch them up before they moored at Hungerford. Some-one has defaced this empty lock cottage, who would even think to do this, or that it is acceptable.

At Wire lock we met the horse drawn The horse takes up the slacktrip boat coming up so we held over and hovered on the offside so that we were not in their way, which would have been the case if we’d gone onto the lock landing. We had already met the other wide beam trip boat, full of Cubs or Scouts, coming up through Denford Mill lock earlier.

From there on all locks were shared with a sequence of partners all the way to Newbury. After Kintbury we decided to moor in the shade of an over hanging tree for an hour where we met an interesting passer by. He told us how a boater was recently arrested for Drunk-in-Charge  after causing damage to structures and other boats in the Kintbury area.

Graham closing the swingbridgeWe moored above Town lock in Newbury, under another shady tree. Two firsts : our first fly-past of the year, a bit late so we made it a good-un, the whole Red Arrows team, 10 plus 1. And then it was the first time this year that I have thought it would stay warm enough at night so we’ll need the double glazing removed and the windows opened.

Boaters Note – Newbury High Street now has a Morrison’s Lite that is open until 11pm every day. Don’t forget to visit Griffins, on the town bridge, for pies, ham, faggots and so forth. Recommended by us for years.


Monday, July 14, 2014

July ‘oliday Day #8

Saturday 12th July

I was up and out on a car shuffle at 06:30. A weird sensation – riding a motorcycle through WARM mist/fog. Usually it’s cold. Best way to get through Devizes with no hassle is to do it before 07:15. Fetched the car from Sells Green and moved it to Crofton.

You know it’s time to get a new Nicholsons guide when they’ve re-numbered the bridges. A tad confusing. Lock 63 at bridge 63 turns out to be lock 63 at bridge 98 and there are no longer two bridge 102’s – and there is now a bridge 100.

Today was Scorchio Scorchio, first shady tree stoppage this year – just for resting. Sat and had lunch above the Wooton River locks and it was too hot to start off again. We finally dragged ourselves IMG_0485back into action as we IMG_0484spotted the wide beam boat, moored just down from us, were preparing to set off and didn’t fancy having to follow them down Crofton locks. We set off again at 3:30 and crossed the summit, including passing through Bruce tunnel, before descending the nine locks to moor before Bedwyn Church lock.

IMG_0482We then walked into the village and went to the Three Tuns for dinner, you can tell that there are not a lot of supermarkets along this part of the K&A. We enjoyed an excellent meal but at a slightly premium price, but I don’t mind paying a bit extra for good food that is over and above pub grub. They are enjoying the increase in trade as the Cross Keys is temporarily closed.

We were sad to see the decline of the ‘Stonemasons Museum’ as we walked through the village. The plot is currently up for sale, for the development of a ‘substantial’ dwelling (smaller units for village folk might be a more popular idea, if not such a money maker) Many of the old stone mason’s IMG_0490pieces now adorn the walls of the Post Office as that has moved into the building.

We had a damp walk back to Jannock due to lots of rain arriving whilst we were eating in the pub.


Sunday 13th July

A live-aboard couple we met in a lock told us that the moorings we were heading for in Hungerford were likely to be full as it was the Carnival there today. Apparently a lot of boats had decided to visit the town for the event. So, as so often on this trip, Plan B was actioned. We pulled in next to Lee and Pip instead. Lee was out for the weekend on his boat and so was mooring it up for the week. He and Pip have to return to Somerset to work the last week of term. He works in a unit for children excluded from mainstream school. Pip, a young Spaniel-Collie cross of sleek black tresses and much energy, works alongside him. Pip is loved by children and can help, calm and communicate with children who aren’t best pleased with adults. Truly a working dog. I wonder what Michael Gove would make of her?

We moored up ready to tidy, make secure and lunch and within 10 minutes the rain started. Luckily it had ceased when G. decided to go and fetch the car. You know it’s time to go home when  . . . . . . .