Friday, 23 December 2016

Christmas

A merry Christmas and a happy new year  to all our blog readers ,

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Out of Wales, heading south.

reluctantly, we left the basin in Llangollen after the two days we were allowed there, and started our journey back towards the midlands.
Because of the water flowing down the canal from the river Dee, the progress down through the narrows to Trevor is much quicker than the journey up, and we were soon 'flying' over the aqueduct 120ft above the river.
Making continuous progress we soon found ourselves back on the Shroppie. The autumn weather has been exceptionally kind, plenty of sunshine and no sign yet of the first frosts. Passing through Grub Street cutting we passed a setlement in the woods. A couple of moored boats, and old vehicles decaying among the trees reminded us of a scene from the movie 'Deliverance'. All it needed was the sound of a banjo ringing through the leaves!
Friends of ours from the winters we spent in Stone were heading north and we all met up at Brindley bank near Rugeley. This is the site of the 'bloody steps', the scene of a murder which happened in victorian times. A lady, Christina Collins, was killed by the crew of a boat she was travelling on. The body was taken up the bloody steps to an inn above the canal.
After meeting up with our friends we made our own way up the steps to find a pub where we had a great meal and an afternoon catching up with all our adventures since we last met up on the Thames back in the summer. It all seems so long ago now!







Sunday, 2 October 2016

From the Thames to Llangollen

it's been a while since our last blog from Lechlade. since then we have left the Thames in mid. August and made our way 240 miles to the basin in Llangollen.
We travelled the full length of the Oxford canal, joining onto the Coventry canal to it's junction with the Trent & Mersey, finally making our way onto the Llangollen canal via the Staffs. & Worc. and the   Shroppie.
We knew it would be busy, being one of the most popular canals in the country, however we were dismayed by the number of hire boat bases along the whole length. Still, it is incredibly scenic and just gets better as you cross over the Chirk aqueduct and enter Wales. Of course the highlight is the Pontcysyllte aqueduct, 127ft tall and 1000ft long, it crosses the river Dee on 18 slender stone pillars in an iron trough. Some people can't cross it, and some can only do it by staying in the cabin. We love it however.
When we bought Oakapple we were told she couldn't go all the way to Llangollen because of the depth of the narrow channel for the last 5miles, however, up for a challenge, we made it all the way into the basin at the end. There were just a few spots where we found ourselves bumping along the bottom but mostly it was just slow. This is because the water flows down the canal from Horseshoe falls on the river Dee to feed the reservior right at the end at Hurleston junction.
Surrounded by stunning scenery, we spent two days there. Rode on the steam railway along the Dee valley, and climbed up to the ruins of Castell Dinas Bran with it's fine views into the mountains of Wales.










Friday, 15 July 2016

To the end of the navigation.

We made our way to Lechlade. The actual end of the navigation is at Inglesham but the last 1/2 mile is too shallow for Oakapple to risk so we made do with walking as far as the roundhouse which marks the point where the Thames and Severn canal used to join the river.
Quite fortuitously, the weekend we arrived was the date of the airshow at nearby Fairford airbase. We had a grandstand view of the aircraft doing thier stuff, with fighter jets howling overhead and the red arrows doing what only the red arrows do. Actually there was another team which were as impressive. We think from the colours of the smoke trails that they were Italian. The whole weekend was perfect, just about worth the trials of the last bit of the river. Extremely bendy, with extravagant loops which tried the captains helmsmanship skills to the limmit.
On tuesday we had a welcome visit from our daughter. One thing which Lechlade boasts is a permanent Christmas shop and Emma is a serious Xmas babe. A visit was a must.
The cows on the field we moored at are renowned for their relationship with the boats. They lick the paintwork, chew the ropes and generaly cause mayhem. They even nicked the mop and lifebelt off the boat in front of us. We were not sorry to leave them behind, taking with us teeth marks in our paintwork as a  souvineer..






Wednesday, 6 July 2016

A trip to Oxford.

For the weekend we cruised to Abingdon where yet another bridge of medieval origins spans the Thames. On Sunday we had another birthday on board, mine this time. For once the sun shone and we sat out on the bank and celebrated in the usual style with a cake, a glass or two and a jazz band playing in the pub garden across the river.
We wanted to see Oxford, but, being unsure of the moorings there, decided to bus in on Tuesday. After popping in somewhere for a coffee we set to, exploring some of the sights and admiring the historic architecture of the University buildings.
In Broad St. there is a cross set in the cobbles of the roadway. This marks the spot where Archbishop Cranmer along with Latimer and Ridley were executed on the orders of Queen Mary, daughter of Henry VIII. Cranmer had been one of the chief architects of the churches break with Rome and all three were burnt at the stake for heresy. They are now considered martyrs and a gothic style memorial to them stands just round the corner.
In the same road is an old pub, the Eagle and Child, dating from 1650 in which a celebrated literary group used to meet. Thier members included JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis who always refered to the pub as the 'bird and baby'. The Captain is a great Tolkien fan so we just had to go in for a pint. As he said, "it's the nearest I can get to rubbing shoulders with the great man"







Friday, 1 July 2016

Wallingford to Wittenham.

Moored in front of us at Wallingford was a large motor cruiser, 'Cream Cracker' owned by John & Sharon, which had come up the Thames from Rochester. We had a great evening on board Oakapple and compared our very different cruising patterns. Although we share the river, they are used to going to sea. After another day moored up in the rain we both departed yesterday morning. We watched the cruiser starting its twin 8ltr. engines. One started in a cloud of smoke and as it settled down the other burst into life, producing a throaty roar. The captain said it reminded him of those old films you see of a Lancaster bomber getting fired up. At a rather more sedate pace we started our Gardner and followed in thier wake upstream as far as Days Lock.
We moored on a field full of young bullocks, overlooked by the two beech crowned hills called Whittenham clumps, sometimes known as 'mother Dunch's buttocks, after a 17th century lady of the manor.. It is a good walk to the top with fine views of the Oxfordshire landscape and red kites soaring  in the skies above. (The birds, not the ones on strings)
One of the hills is the site of an iron age hill fort, with its defensive ditch earthworks and dating from around 600bc. The site was ocupied up until the time the Romans arrived in the area.
Making our way back towards the river we visited the little church behind the lock. As with all old churches, the minute you shut the door, the world outside receeds, the building seems so peacefull. There is a very ornate tomb there with efigies of a Knight and his lady. Carved into the base are representations of thier 9 children. The lady, who may have been the one to inspire the nickname for the clumps, was the aunt of Oliver Cromwell, lord protector of England in the time our country was without a monarch after the civil war.








Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Beyond Henley.

We have reached the little town of Wallingford on our travels upstream after a brief stop again at Henley to pick up mail. The whole town is now in full regatta mode. As one group of ladies flashed past us I caught the captain laughing his head off. The man in the trainers boat had shouted through his megaphone, "more power, get those chests out!". Don't know what the captain was thinking but well, perhaps I can imagine!
We left behind the corporate circus being prepared for those who will be there, not to see but to be seen, and made our way as far as Reading where there is a huge Tescos with mooring outside. We strolled into town just to have a look, but it is not a very inspiring place. Its main interest for narrowboats is the entrance to the Kenet and Avon canal which passes through the town. After filling up our diesel tank we moved on to a mooring at Beale Park for the weekend. The sun made a good attempt to shine and it was good to relax away from the crowds.
The showers continued as we cruised up a very lovely stretch of the Thames to Wallingford to a good mooring right by the medievel many arched bridge. There is the remains of a Norman castle here which was destroyed after the civil war. It was the last stronghold to capitulate to the parliamentary forces. Very little remains except a few walls and of course the earthworks, however it is a poignant reminder of our turbulent past.








Monday, 20 June 2016

Steamers and Launches

The one thing you notice about the Thames is the great variety of boats making thier way up and down the river. I thought that on this post I would give just a flavour of some of the diferent traditional craft we have seen.
Back at Hampton Court, paddle steamers seemed to be the theme. Various trip boats up and down. Unfortunately the paddle wheels were for show, but, hey ho, I supose it is the look of the thing.
As we have come upstream there are more of the traditional Thames steamers.
Two sister ships, Nuneham and Streatley, both built around 1900 and kept in superb condition. We watched Streatley passing through Hurley lock, with clouds of steam and a toot or two on her whistle, she was expertly handled and a joy to watch. Several times we have seen Alaska, a rather smaller steam boat which is the oldest on the river, built in the 1880s. Available for charter with crew in uniform, it is not a cheap afternoon out!
For the less afluent there are the slipper launches, a style unique to the Thames. Very elegant with varnished mahogany decks and an air of the 1930s about them. I think the owners just cruise up and down to show off the quality of their boats. Moored here at Cookham we can watch people sailing on the river mixing in with the cruisers up and down all weekend.
Way down in the pecking order there are the traditional Thames rowing skiffs, much in the style of 'three men in a boat' and 'Wind in the Willows'. Just goes to show that there is something for everyone, and as Ratty said, "there is simply nothing quite like just messing about in boats".
As I write this the rain is coming down steadily. Just hoping the levels don't get too high!









Thursday, 16 June 2016

A Rowing Mecca

You might have guessed from the title that we have made our way to Henley, home of the world famous regatta. On the run in to the town we saw the rowing course being laid out and the grandstands being built. The town moorings had plenty of room and we got in with NB Inca in time to go out for a steak and a glass or two of the red stuff.
Henley has a great holiday feel to it with launches of all kinds bobbing at the moorings and bunting strung across the streets. I know it is nearly time for the regatta but you get the sense that it is always like that.
Sadly, yesterday morning we parted company with NB Inca. We have been cruising together since meeting up on the Grand Union and we have had a great time exploring the rivers Wey and Thames. It will seem very quiet without them.
Deciding to stay in Henley another day and see a bit more of the town, we discovered a vintage tea room called Upstairs & Downstairs. Up a windy staircase and you find yourself back in the 1930s.
A variety of different teas, served with cake, scones with cream and preserves, all to the acompaniment of subtle jazz in the background. Even the plates and teapots are from the era. The whole town gives one a hint of  Edwardian splendour and a bygone age.






Tuesday, 14 June 2016

A Royal Conection

We have spent a couple of days in Windsor. It is a magic town, overlooked by the famous castle, which is of course one of the residences of the Queen.
After seeing her Majesty in Berkhampsted, and seeing her horseguards turn out in London when we were there, you might think she was stalking us, however, as it was her birthday, she was in St. Pauls.
We did visit the Castle and do the tour of the state rooms, as well as visiting St. Georges chapel, (more like a cathedral than a chapel), where many of the past royals are interred. We saw the stone under which HenryVIII and Jane Seymour are buried. There is a gallery which was built for Catherine of Aragon to watch the services taking place while she was still in favour with Henry.
We were moored on the park with a fine view of the castle down the river and a nice area to put our chairs out in the sunshine which obliged us with its presence most of the time we were there.
From Windsor we continued our passage up river as far as Cookham which was once reckoned to be the third richest village in the country and has been home to some famous people including Chris Rea .They did charge us £3 each to moor there breasted up alongside NB Inca, not the most expensive mooring we have found on the Thames to date!