Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Surprise Meetings

Yes, we are back on board and moored back in Braunston.it is not where we planned to be at this stage in our cruise but, since we have family visiting this week, it seems a good place to meet up and show them some of the canal features here.

Leaving Brinklow yesterday lunch time we headed south through the Newbold tunnel. As we emerged who should we see but NB Muleless moored at the water point. It was a nice suprise as we were under the impression they were in Coventry. After drifting around alongside for a while we arranged to meet at Hillmorton. On our way through Rugby the Captain spotted a couple of fenders floating by, and since he can't resist a freebie, we just had to reverse back and pluck them from the water. By this time Muleless had caught us up and we cruised together to Hillmorton where we had a great afternoon sitting out in the late sunshine catching up with all the gossip.
After separating to cook our respective meals, we met up again on board Oakapple for a very enjoyable evening.
This morning it was fairly misty but that soon cleared to give us a warm trip up the locks. Still plenty of work going on with the locks but as they are paired, there was not much delay and we had a very pleasant run into Braunston where we found a good mooring near the marina.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Captain to the Rescue

On Sunday morning we set off for Brinklow. Quite a chilly start but by 11.00am the sun was warming nicely. The canal seemed fairly quiet with only a few boats on the move.
We stopped briefly for lunch at the moorings at Onley by the prison before carrying on towards Hillmorton. That is where things got interesting. There was a Napton hire boat waiting for the locks with just a couple on board. As it was obviously their first lock, I went up to give them a hand. The first two locks went OK. It was at the last one that things took a turn for the worst. The lady was just about to move into the lock when a gust of wind caught the boat and it ended up across the canal. At this point I suppose she panicked, and shot back and forth across the canal like the boat was on elastic! First hitting the Badsey boat, and then going backwards into the bank. At one point she appeared to be heading into Granthams yard. After putting a boat into there for blacking we know it is not an easy place to get into. As we told her later, "at least it's a dead end".
By this time Oakapple had arrived, and, fearing for it's paintwork, I summoned the Captain to see what he could do to help. After asking permission, he managed to leap aboard and was able to get the boat alongside the bank ready to go into the lock. As she was obviously in a bit of a state, the captain offered to put the boat in for her, but, fair do's, she insisted on doing it herself, and made a very creditable job of it.
They moored  just below the lock and as we passed, we could see they were quite upset by the incident. As we  were planning to spend the night there we invited them on board for a glass or two, hopefully to stop them dwelling on it and spoiling their holliday. They were a lovely couple called Ros  and Dave and after a pleasant hour or so they returned to the boat in a more positive frame of mind.
Monday morning saw us going on the last bit to Brinklow. There seemed to be a lot of work going on along the embankment at Rugby, with work boats all along the offside bank. One curiosity, some appeared to be wide beam. As this canal has narrow locks this does not seem possible, however, as they moved the workboat aside to allow us past, we could see that what appeared to be a wide boat with a digger on board, was actually a narrow one which cunningly folds in half so that it will fit into a narrow lock.
After negotiating the Newbold tunnel we arrived in Brinklow Marina and there was, for the second time running, no wind. Oakapple slid alongside the pier with barely a bump.
We have now had to pop home again for a few days but hope to be back on board at the weekend.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

A Social Whirl?

Sorry. No pictures on todays blog. The weather has somewhat changed from the sunshine we have got used to and has been damp and drizzly for the last couple of days. Not the kind of weather for photographic inspiration.
We had a great evening with our friends, Colin and Katie. I rustled up a cashew nut paella which is usually a guaranteed success. Katie brought along a fine crumble made with blackberries harvested from the hedgrows. Don't you just love the towpath freebies which are there for the taking this time of year. We sent them on their way full to bursting. Well, that's what those kind of evenings are for: isn't it?
Yesterday morning the rain started but we invited Dick and Sue from NB Frog on board for coffee and,by the time we were ready to move off, it had abated to just drizzle. The cruise along the rest of the winding summit level was pleasant, but damp and misty, at one point seeing the same farmhouse from three different sides as the canal twists around the hill it stands on.
We came down the two Marston Doles locks and moored below the first of the Napton flight, once again opposite the field of water buffalos. NB Frog was soon moored behind us, after following along the summit.
We were invited on board 'Frog' yesterday evening for drinks. A game of Uno was mentioned, however we did so much talking that the cards never made it to the party. Unfortunately this time of year brings out the Daddy Long Legs, (crane flys) who gatecrashed the pary in droves and were ejected by Sue with a newspaper.
This morning dawned with more mist and rain but, braving it we moved on down the Napton locks and made it into Braunston where we are now moored in our usual spot opposite the 'Boathouse'. If you are wondering, we resisted going in. (We did however walk up the locks for a pint in the Nelson)
Well sometimes it has to be done!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Coffee with the Frogs

Not real frogs, obviously. Dick and Sue are the owners of a lovely 30ft. tug style boat called 'Frog' who we previously met at Brinklow. They arrived at Banbury whilst we had sneaked off to spoons for the steak club offer on Tuesday.
We had left Aynho Wharf  about 9.00 am just as the mist was lifting. It was a fine trip, with the sun gradually getting stronger till, by the time we got to Banbury it was quite hot. Yesterday morning we popped over the canal to say hello to Dick and Sue and spent an hour on board Frog before setting off towards Cropredy. Whilst we were filling the water tank, Frog came past us to moor above the lock. We intended to go a bit further and finally moored below Claydon locks in a very quiet spot. We set off at 8.00am this morning to go up the Claydon lock flight onto the summit level. Again quite misty but has turned into a lovely day for mid September.
We are now at Fenny Wharf waiting for Colin and Katie from NB Fratie, to pop over for dinner this evening. While we were in the Wharf Inn for a lunch time pint who should arrive but NB Frog. I guess it gives a whole new meaning to the expression, 'leap Frogging'
The Wharf Inn is a fine old pub which has a great 2 for £10 afternoon deal. It was hard to resist, but since I am cooking tonight, we had to be strong willed. The beams in the bar are decorated with some interesting slogans. Had to take the picture.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Lift Bridges and Diamonds.

Weren't sure about the weekend in Banbury town centre but needn't have worried. After the shoppers had dispersed and the skate boarders on the car park ramps had all gone home it was as quiet as you would hope for. We had a quiet day on Sunday watching the boats come and go before moving on this morning.
We woke to some drizzle in the air but it came to nothing as the morning progressed and by the time we moored up the sun was out. Leaving Banbury you start to see more of the lift bridges that are a unique feature of the Oxford canal. Luckily all the ones between Banbury and Aynho where we stopped are usually left in the up position which makes life a lot easier. This stretch of the canal is a bit bendy in places and can be quite shallow but if you take your time it's fine and you are treated to some classic English countryside. Just before Aynho Wier lock the river Cherwell crosses the canal. The lock is not very deep but is  wide and diamond shaped. The lock was designed to let as much water as possible into the canal from the river. The unusual shape was to stop the old boatmen cheating the system and putting two boats in together. Of course with leisure boats often being shorter    than the 70 ft. Working boats it is possible to share the lock. We have in the past seen four boats in there. James Brindley, the canals designer would have had kittens!
After turning Oakapple at Aynho Wharf we wanted to walk up the road to see the village but the road was so busy and fast we gave up and went into the 'Great Western' for a pint instead. It makes a change to go in a canalside pub with a railway theme. To be fair, the railway is as close as the canal.
The interior of the pub is very nice with lots of railway memorabilia and this super fireplace. Must be very cosy on winter evenings.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Non crosses and non tunnels!!!!!

Hi readers, yes, we are in Banbury. Home of the cross of nursery ryme fame. It's not actually a cross, but marks a crossroads in the centre of the town. The original cross was demolished in 1602 and the present one is a 19th century replica.
Leaving Fenny Compton yesterday we soon came to what is known as Fenny tunnel. It is not a tunnel now but was opened up into a cutting not long after the canal was built. We had a very relaxed cruise round the rest of the summit level before the locks started to appear, this time going down. First the five Claydon locks, followed by several more spread out till we reached Cropredy, where the famous folk festival is held every August. It is a lovely sleepy village, with a fine old thatched pub, The Red Lion. Before going in for a pint we explored the old church. The brass eagle lectern is of interest. On the eve of the battle of Cropredy bridge during the civil war, it was hidden in the nearby river Cherwell to save it from the puritans. On its recovery one of the lion feet was missing. The lectern was so tarnished they thought it was bronze so it now has stands on two brass and one bronze lion feet. The clock in the tower has one of the slowest ticks I have ever heard. It is almost hypnotic and very much echoes the pace of our life on the canal.
This morning we set off for Banbury. Just as we left the water point the local canoe club were also setting off. I have grave misgivings about the wisdom of putting children in such fragile craft on the same water as 20Ton narrowboats. They just didn't seem to grasp the potential danger and surrounded us, much too near the prop. for my liking. Eventually we lost them at the first lock and we made our way into the centre of Banbury, mooring right alongside the shopping centre.
On the way in past the permanent moorings we spotted a familiar boat. She is called Dorothy Mary, and is the first narrowboat we owned, Oakapple being our third. We had a brief chat with the owner who said she has been refitting her.
 After shopping in town we decided to stay tonight. Town centre on a Saturday night? Not sure but lots of other boats moored here as well. Hope it's a quiet night!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Canalside Grazing!

After our lazy afternoon in Braunston we were in no hurry to move on yesterday.  Eventually the Captain fired up the Gardner and we headed for the water point and the turning place at the marina, finally  leaving Braunston at 11.00 am.
It was a super run down through Flecknoe and on to the Napton locks. After slowing down for a brief debate we decided to go on up the locks. There were quite a lot of boats on the move but they didn't hold us up and we moored in fine open countyside below the old engine arm. There used to be a pumping engine here to pump water up to the summit level but the arm is now used for moorings.
Today we woke to another fine misty morning. Intrigued by the chomping sound from outside we looked out of the porthole to see a herd of water buffallo in the field opposite. Yes, I know it sounds far fetched, but they are quite a local celebrity in these parts.
We were soon under way and up the last three locks onto the summit, but not before letting some water down into the last pound which had become very low overnight. It was a long gentle cruise round the many twists and turns till we got to Fenny Compton. Along this stretch there are several old pill boxes from WW2 remaining beside the canal. One of them alongside a lock, and another in a field at a drunken angle, as it has sunk over the last sixty plus years. I suppose the canal was seen as a defensible line at the time. Similar constructions are to be seen along the Kenet & Avon canal.
Just before reachin our goal at Fenny Compton Wharf we spotted the towpath hedgerow black with ripe Blackberries. Ordering the Captain to stop I shot down below for a container, and, for once doing as he was told, I emerged to find Oakapple alongside the bank, where we soon set to picking enough for a pie or two. An added bonus: there was a stall at the Wharf Inn with fruit & Veg. including some fine apples to go with our hedgerow scrumping.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Heading south

Yes, Oakapple is heading south down the Oxford canal. After being home for a few days we find we have to return again in a couple of weeks. Since it is about four years since we went down the Oxford canal it seemed a good plan to fill in the time revisiting the stretch down to Banbury.
After settling up with Brinklow Marina we left about 11.00 AM yesterday in glorious sunshine. It was a perfect day and we were soon through Hilmorton locks, finding a very quiet spot to moor just past bridge 87.  There are very few places that you cannot hear either a road or a railway, but this ticked all the boxes. The only sounds were the sheep in the field opposite.
This morning dawned clear and warm again, the only disturbance was the working boat 'Ling' passing, the distinctive sound of a Bollinder engine echoing across the fields. Entering Braunston we passed Ling stopped for water and after mooring up she passed us heading for the locks, followed by two other working boats, 'Apple' and 'Perch'. Three together is a rare sight and we made the most of the moment.
After a stroll round the village and a visit to the shop we found ourselves in 'The Boathouse' taking advantage of the Tuesday offer of two steaks and a bottle of wine for £20  Bargain!!!!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The View from the Crown?

We left Hawksbury after the beer festival heading towards Brinklow. It was a grey and wet morning but we hoped to bump into NB Caxton who we knew were heading our way. It happened almost literally on the first bend as we left the mooring. We managed to drift around and have a chat before going our separate ways.
The day continued to get wetter but at least there was no wind. We arrived at Brinklow marina around midday and were greeted by John and Eric who directed us to an empty pier where we could leave Oakapple for a few days while we returned home.
I think most of us find it difficult to stay indoors when we are home and we often drift into our town centre and the local Spoons: The Crown. While sitting at our favourite table in the window you can see all of life passing by in the pedestrianised precinct. As the Captain was returning from the bar I spotted a paramedic's car stopped outside the shops. I could not believe my eyes. A traffic warden strolled round it, wrote out a ticket and stuck it on the window and then proceeded to photograph the offender. She must be the ultimate 'jobsworth'. Shame on you!
On a much lighter note, we saw the cutest little dog attached to a railing  outside. Now it's fair to say the Captain is a bit of a Mutt Slut. He is known to fondle any dog that wags its tail at him. If our food hadn't just arrived he'd have been out there. I suppose I'm lucky. Some blokes treat women that way!
After our short stay at home we are now looking forward to returning back to Oakapple tomorrow.