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.