Saturday, 31 October 2009

Almost home

Saturday 31st October

We awoke early as the plan was to top coat the boat sides before setting off (as there was the winding hole). However we awoke to find it raining - Christine had been woken by very heavy rain during the night. A quick check on the internet gave us an encouraging weather forecast - the rain would clear almost immediately and it would be fine all day.

So, we set off after breakfast and cleared Nells Bridge and Aynho Weir (one of the two diamond shaped locks) locks before calling at Aynho Wharf for diesel. We might have had enough to make it back to Lower Heyford but it was a case of playing it safe. In any event, it was a good price but they could not cope with less than filling up the tank! (Don't ask why - we could not understand it either)

Spotting a good piece of bank (just before Chisnell Lift bridge) earlier than the planned stop at Somerton we moored and Mike completed the top coat on one side. Soon after that we mkoved on to the winding hole at Somerton where there was also a good place to moor and paint the other side.

It was 2:30 before we moved off again - the painting was finished just after two but we wanted to give the paint a chance to set a bit before chancing it through the locks. As it happened, there were no side leaks in Somerton in any case.

Light faded quickly after 4:30 and we were still a mile short of the base so we decided to moor up for the night just below the last lock and complete the last little section to our winter mooring in the morning.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Painting Day

Friday 30th October

After walking into the shoping centre to buy a paper from WHSmiths, we set off down through Banbury Lock, making a quick stop at the rubbish and elsan disposal below the lock.

Although it was distinctly colder than earlier in the week, it was still great boating weather.

Timing today was complicated by the aim of using the tins of paint bought earlier in the trip and to improve the look of the hull between the gunwhales and the rubbing strake.

Just above Kings Sutton Lock we found a good bank and Mike set about sanding down the paintwork on the starboard side. It took some time but eventually he felt it ready for the undercoat. Only then did we realise that this layer takes eight hours before it is ready to re-paint. As a result we will have to organise ourselves to complete to top coat in the morning.

After finishing the painting and a quick break for bacon sarnies as lunch, we continued further until we arrived at Nell Bridge lock. Here there is a winding hole so we were able to turn the boat and moor up with the other side to the bank. It was touch and go if Mike would complete the task before the light faded too much! We shall have to wait to the morning to see how well he did! the plan now is to make an early start on the paint, do one sid eand then wind the boat once more to do the other side. Then we shall hopefull be able to let it dry for a couple of hours before setting off back to Lower Heyford, arriving late afternoon with time to sort out the boat ready for the return to Cornwall on Sunday morning.

Back to Banbury

Thursday 29th October

We made a good start just after nine and set off down the Claydon flight - twelve locks to Banbury. Alice was in good form and helped with most of the locks. She was able to open one of the bottom lock gates on quite a few occasions.

When not helping with the locks, Alice spent a lot of time on her drawing. She built a collection of little sketches which she stuck onto a card to take home to her Mum and Dad! This included: her parents, including her Mum in a dress (!), a boy in a rock band, Take Five narrow boat and Chester the cat.

We called at Cropredy to use the usual services and also to visit the Canal-side shop, including buying a newspaper.

After Slat Mill lock we stopped for lunch but only took half an hour as we wanted to make certain of our three o'clock target for Castle Quay in Banbury. We were just a few minutes over time, largely as a result of having to go very slowly passing all the moored boats. Castle Quay itself was very quite - at least in terms of boats, only three over-nighters moored at the usual place.

Shortly aftere tying up we had a mobile phone call from Joanna to say that she was in M&S so Mike and Alice set off to meet her. Joanna was quite happy to let them take Jessica to the boat whilst she explored a few more stores. By the time she arrived at the boat she had bought a number of items of clothing, both for herself and for Ellie. (We are forbidden to mention the name of the shop where Joanna found several items for herself!)

After tea, the three left us to return home and for us to complete the journey back to Lower Heyford.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Summit both ways

Wednesday 28th October

We made an early start - there was a three hour stretch to the next locks so Mike set off as soon as he was ready, leaving the other two to get up at a more leisurely pace! It was a wonderful early morning - a blue, cloudless sky and amaxingly warm, difficult to remember that it was almost at the end of October. It remained that way almost all day, apart from a short period in the middle of the day when a few clouds made an appearance, to be shooed away for a spectacular sunset.

The long pound gives a chance to take a close interest in the passing scenery and Alice was esepcially interested today in all the colourful fruits and seeds on the trees and shrubs lining the towpath.

Just before eleven o'clock, Napton top lock came into sight. Alice was especially helpful in working the locks - she managed to open several bottom gates all on her own! Two locks down, at Engine House Arm, we turned around and made our way back up to the summit once more. It was lunch on the run as we needed to get as close to the end of the summit pound before nightfall, although we have not yet agreed Alice-pickup arrangements!

Back at Fenny Compton, Mike and Alice jumped off to take a walk along the towpath. They made it all the way along the straight stretch called The Tunnel - it once was a tunnel! Along the way, Alice spotted some late blackberries - just one or two.

We were just short of Claydon Top Lock as night began to fall and so we found a mooring spot - not easy as the banks are very shallow. Time for Alice to continue with yet more crafts helped by Christine. The things she has made and done during the day are just too numerous to list in detail! Finally, Mike made a probably not successful attempt to fill the leak around the chimney. (Not rain but tar from inside the chimney hat)

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

A Day With Alice

Tuesday 27th October

It was a bright sunny morning and, as soon as the local village shop was open, Mike and Alice aked back along the towpath to take rubbish to the bins and buy some milk as well as a newspaper. They also found a glue stick so that Alice could do some sticking!

Back at the boat, Alice undertook to sweep most of the leaves from the cabin roof - it seems that the tree where we had moored decided to lose all of its leaves overnight and drop them just on us - the other boats at the same mooring did not seem to collect as many.

Just after ten o'clock we set off and immedately began the run of locks up to the summit pound, ending with Claydon Top Lock. as soon as we reached the top we moored up for lunch. Christine had perpared a good soup with the lamb bones - but forgot to bake off the bread! By the time it was ready, Alice was definitely hungry!

After lunch we continued along the level, soon reaching The Tunnel - no longer a tunnel since it was opened out from the original construction. nevertheless, it is very narrow in places but on this occasion we did not have any trouble, passing just one boat coming the opposite direction. At the Turnover Bridge, Alice decided that she would like a walk and persuaded Granny to jump off with her to walk the rest of the way to Fenny Compton.

As well as emptying the elsan, we also replaced the gas bottle which ran out half way through cooking the dinner last night. We moved on the the main road bridge where Mike filled up the water tank whilst Christine and alice went to the new little shop in the back of the pub. Very little choice but Alice did enjoy a Ribena lollipop.

We had planned to reach Bridge 131 for our overnight stop but about half a mile short it was becoming dark quite quickly and it looked a good mooring so we decided to call a halt. Alas, the bank was very shallow and it took some effort to moor - the stern was quite a way from the bank! At least there was a mobile phone signal, although no broadband!

Whilst the meal was finishing off cooking in the oven, Alice opted for a night hike. With the boat some distance from the bank, Mike hauled the gangplank from the roof and made a crossing from the boat to the shore. Equipped with a torch, Alcie set off with Mike for a walk along the towpath. They made it to the nearest bridge, found their way up onto the top before turning around and walking back. By now, eyes were adjusted to the dasrk and so Alice was able to turn off her torch for the return trip. Although they had seen a large number of aircraft in the skies, it was a surprise when a low flying plane - probably an RAF fighter jet, passed almost overhead!

The latest news is that Jessica has developed a cold and so Alice will be staying with us for another night - by then we should be a bit nearer home so not so long a journey for her Mum to come and collect her!

Joined by Alice

Monday 26th October

Having stayed overnight in central Banbury, we first called at Tooley's boatyard to buy some black paint for the outside of the hoat. Boat paint is not cheap, but we did get quite a bit of advice on what to do.

Just on ten o'clock we set off on a generally bright and sunny day - at least there was no rain, although several dark clouds made it too risky to begin work on the paint.

Before we went shopping, Mike had sent an email to Ellie to ask how she had enjoyed the Science Museum yesterday and very quickly she replied and asked about where we might meet up for Alice to join us. By mid morning it was established - with a mix of email and mobile phone - that we would wait for them at Cropredy.

In the narrow section - with a long line of moored baost - just before the winding hole we met a BW pan on its way to a new task south of Banbury. Next week is the start of the stoppage season.

After using the usual services we moored just under the bridge and took the opportunity to buy milk from the village shop. Latest info indicated that it would be late afternoon before alice would arrive so we settled down for an afternoon not doing too much! Mike made an attempt - not really successful - to find a neat way of wiring the spot lights.

Mike took more time out to wander into the village and have a quick look inside the church. By 3.30 Alice - with Joanna and Jessica in tow - arrived and both girls soon discovered the new felt tip pens we picked up from Poundland this morning!

Tea and cakes followed with a chance to catch up on the latest news. Rather late in the day - almost dark - Christine and Alice decided that we should move up through Cropredy Lock - they claimed that there would be plenty of mooring space and a good sightline for the sat dish. (Houses were in the way at the earlier mooring) As we pulled away from the lock, Alice waved farewell to Joanna and Jessica.

In fact we were quite lucky to find a suitable gap in the line of moored boats - it turned out not to be as empty as the first sighting had suggested! Anyway, we succeeded and the sat dish also worked. Time to think about preparing dinner and sorting out Alice's sleeping accommodation, whilst she had a helping of CBeebies.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Rest of Sunday

Sunday 25th October - continued

By now we had taken the decision to stay put for the rest of the day - the day ends an hour earlier now. So we decided on more shopping! To our surprise, it was not as far to the sheds as we had previously thought and we called first at Homebase where Christine found the extra blanket bag (the sort that allow the air to be sucked out with a vacuum cleaner) that she was looking for. Wer also saw some coloured trunking that may be of use with the spot lights.

On then to B&Q - next but one but quite a hike when on foot: these estates are clearly only designed to be visited by car! Here Mike picked up a corner shelf as well as the chain shackles needed to adjust the front fender.

On the way back we found an even quicker route signposted for cycles. The canoists were just loading their boats back onto their cars - the car park had a notice ablout being closed for the Canoe Day - shame nobody thought to warn the boaters!

Back at the boat, Mike adjusted the fender and then fitted the shelf for the Freesat box, which until now had been balanced precariously on top of the tv itself!

By now it was dark and so time to settle down and think about roast lamb for dinner! Also time to add some photos to the earlier blog about this morning.

Christine says that there are people who want to see a picture of the inside of Take Five, so here are three photos which she took.

The first one is of the main cabin with the bunk beds just visible behind. The two chairs are the very comfortable ones that we bought in Kinver.

This next picture was taken looking aft towards the door out to the steering position. between the table in the middle ground and the door is the galley - sink to the right and cooker to the left.

Finally, a further picture of the main cabin with the little stove on the right. This does not take a lot of fuel and we have to cut logs quite short to fit in, but it really keeps the cabin snug and cosy. Right at the front is the top of the laptop which is our main means of communication with the rest of the world!

Sunday in Banbury

Sunday 25th October

Although we managed to change all the clocks last night, somehow the water heater clock became stuck at the time it was changed! As a result, Christine started the engine as soon as she realised so that we could have some hot water - but Mike also managed to sort out the timer.

It was a bright and beautiful autumnal morning - just the occasional very light sprinkling of rain from time to time, but mostly clear blue skies.

As planned, we made our way up into town and found St Mary's church - this was where Robin Baker - whom we had known in our time at Christ the Cornerstone in central Milton Keynes, was priest. He was in Banbury for five years until 1991. This is a huge church, shared also with the United Reformed Church. Although they have a full sound system - the church is also a well-used venue for arts performances - we found the acousitics made listening to speech very difficult. Christine ended up with a headache!

After the service we wandered back through the shopping centre and picked up a baguette from M and S for lunch - as well as photographing the Banbury Cross and statue. It is the 150th anniversary of the erection of this cross and there was a celebration in the town centre in the afternoon.

Back at the boat we were soon ready to set off and went up the Banbury town lock only to be met by some aggressive canoists who told us that we should not p;roceed for the next two - three hours as there was a series of canoe races on the canal for the next six miles. There was no notification of this event and we doubted whether they were acting with the consent of BW but discretion led us to mooring up in the town centre.

After lunch, Mike went to buy some Bluetak to make a temporary fixing for the two reading spot lights we bought some time ago but have not fitted. This will allow us to try out the positions before finally fixing them. We don't want to make screw holes in the wood panelling in the wrong place!

Even later, Christine decided that her headache was making her restless and opted for a walk to the DIY sheds!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Autumnal Oxford

Friday 23rd October

After the efforts of the previous day - which ended with taking part in the licensing of our new parish priest - we were not quite as early away as we might have been! We made good progress to the Willow Man - half way point - but around Junction 18 we ran into the delays which resulted from an accident north of the M4. Whilst we were not at a standstill for very long, it did add around an hour to our journey.

Christine had made arrangements with Gilly, who works at Lower Heyford, to make new curtains for the boat over the winter. She had recommended a shop in Kidlington so we came along the A40 to purchase the materials. It was indeed an excellent fabric shop. The main material was only £2.99 a metre but, ironically, the blackout lining material was double that!

By the time we arrived at the boat it was not sensible to think in terms of setting off before dark so we took our time unloading the car and setting up ready for the journey northwards. We spent the night at our mooring.

Saturday 24th October

Neither of us was super energetic at the start of the day and so it was after 10 o'clock when we started off and another quarter of an hour before we winded and were facing in the right direction.

The day started OK but before long rain arrived. Never heavy, but quite wet until later in the day. Nevertheless, it was far from cold and we made good progress northwards.

Just above Somerton Deep Lock we pulled in for lunch. when we were ready to set off again, the rained had stopped - but quickly returned. However, before long the promised better conditions appeared but they were accompanied by rather strong winds.

We had quite a problem at Nell Bridge Lock where a strong cross wind insisted on keeping us stuck to the bank as we attempted to leave! After several attempts to push the boat away from the piling we eventually succeeded.

The pleasant evening tempted us to press on and we finally moored just below Banbury Lock. Mike went on a walk to Morrison to pick up some parsley to put in the sauce to accompany the monkfish for dinner tonight.

We used the A Church Near You website to find out the times of services at Banbury churches. Looks like 9:30 at St Mary's is the best option, but we will report further in the next blog.

Christine phoned Oxford to refine the options for visits from the girls and it seems that we may see one or more in the latter part of the week - Alice may well join us on Tuesday, but the advantage of this trip is that we are not tied to any particular schedule other than having to return to base by next Saturday evening. Of course, the clocks change tonight so evenings will arrive earlier from now on. As well as having to return to Wadebridge, we have also to get south of Somerton by Nov 1st as after that there is a six week stoppage!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Back to Base

8th October 2009

We awoke to a wonderful, autumnal bright sunny morning and it remained thus almost all day.
We had the by now familiar run back to Lower Heyford but were planning the timing to arrive as late as possible - in fact we finally tied up just before six.

Progress through some of the earlier locks was a bit slow: not only was the hotel pair just ahead of us but in front of them was a boat being towed and it seemed that they were not too expert at it! (At least that was the view of another skipper!) However, with such wonderful weather and plenty of time we were not at all phased by the delays.

We took a longish lunch break above Nells Bridge lock, enjoying being able to sit in the sunshine. We set off before the hotel boats and the towing pair were due to stop at Aynho.

Eventually we arrived at Lower Heyford and, taking some time about it, just managed to slot our boat in its proper place. Christine suggested that we go to the pub for a meal rather than cook - not a bad suggestion!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


Yesterday we set off in the morning - the varnishing task left for the day was the bathroom and we wanted to give it a change to dry out before starting.

We left the overnight mooring just after ten o'clock and continued towards Banbury. There was nothing particularly eventful other than it soon began to rain - at times quite heavily.

Mike promised Christine that we would stop at one o'clock for lunch - she obviosuly did not believe him as she was most surprised when, around Adderbury, with half a minute to go, he pulled into the bank and moored up!

After lunch we continued into Banbury, calling briefly at the services below Banbury Lock for water, elsan and rubbish as usual. They we found a good mooring outside the Castle Quay shopping centre where we have moored several times before.

Whilst Mike began work on the bathroom, Christine went shopping and, as well as some food items, returned with a replacement casserole dish for the one which decided to split into two pieces a couple of days ago.

Despite a large building in the way, the satellite reception was OK.

The next morning (7th October) we began by visiting M&S. The reason we went was because Mike needed some new socks - in addition we returned with three new shirts, a tie and a suit!

Well after mid day we cast off and went up to the nearest winding hole to turn around and then came back down. It was only the briefest of stops at the service station but we did not go a lot further before a lunch stop.

Although the morning had been fine and quite pleasant, by by rain returned and we did not go too far before calling it a day and mooring up for the night earlier than usual. This gave Mike a chance to sort out some new coax cables using the connectors we bought earlier in Banbury. This makes it much easier to set up the sat dish as it avoids the need to use screw in F connectors. (The problem, apart from taking time and being fiddly, is that it is too easy to move the dish and have to start all over again!)

Monday, 5 October 2009

Via Lower Heyford

The morning was again devoted to varnsihing - this time we completed the bunk section - although one of the shorter sections it has more than its fair share of varnished surfaces! There are also lots of small doors.

After lunch we set off and by mid afternoon arrived at Lower Heyford. We moored up to fill the water tank and empty the elsan. We had to wait a little while for a couple of hire boats to leave before we could also fill the diesel tank.

Finally, just before half past four we set off again - weather still very pleasant but quite a bit cooler now.

The stretch above Heyford Common Lock has few mooring spots and so we had to continue on to the known mooring stretch just before Somerton Bridge. Alas, the trees on the opposite bank prevented receiving a satellite signal. (Note for the future: check the direction before selecting a mooring spot as it was quite different from what we had expected - the direction of the canal had turned quite a bit!)

Thrupp to Kirklington Quarry

October 4th 2009

Soon after 10 o'clock, Ellie and Alice arrived for a day on the boat - Jessica stayed at home as she was suffering a bit from her cold. After a while we set off, with Ellie opening the Thrupp lift bridge.
Because we had not filled the water tank yesterday, we thought it wise to try again - the tap was just around the corner from the lift bridge. It turned out to be almost as slow and after 45 minutes we gave up and carried on. Who knows how full we were? (Makes the case for a meter read out system!)

It was a pleasant day as we cruised up through three locks - at one we had a queue of two boats already waiting ahead of us, so it was not fast progress. Also, through Enslow there is a long line of moored boats.

As we waited below Pigeon Lock we had our lunch and then it was not long before we arrived at Kirklington Quarry where we moored up at the old quarry quayside. Soon, Ellie was off with the rope swing which she had brought with her (the rope was a spare one we donated to them last trip!) She found a good tree with a suitable branch and easily climbed up - cat-like - sling the rope around and tie it off. Perhaps not the most exciting of swings but Alice certainly enjoyed it.

One of the main tasks was to pick blackberries, but it was not easy - a poor year generally for this autumnal fruit. However, the quarry is a great place to explore and, at one stage, it seemed as if everyone was scattered all over. On the flat area there is a maze laid out - Alice enjoyed learning how to find her way to the centre and back out again.

The rest of the Oxford crew arrived, bearing bribery (in the form of chocolate cakes) in exchange for tea. It was a brilliant autumn evening - Alice took to cleaning the roof of the boat with the mop.
Finally, the three girls plus parents left for home. We tried out the new sat dish but could not 'see' the right signal as a tree was in the way. It took only a few minutes to move across to the other side and around a bend to find a moorable bank and line of sight! Andrew stayed on for roast dinner.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Thrupp to Dukes Cut and back

The main aim today was to varnish the rest of the main cabin. Soon after breakfast the contents were cleared to other parts of the boat (which became impassable as a result!) There was nothing special about this task and with both Andrew and Mike on the job it progressed well.neverthless it was still lunch time before it was finished.

By hasl past one we were ready to set off - we needed to go as far as Duke's Cut in order to wind - three locks down. The first stretch was very slow. Not only a lot of moored boats but very shallow. We thought that we had something around the prop by the time we arrived at the first lock but it seems likely, based on our return expeireince, that it was just the lack of depth and several shallow banks.

After passing through Duke's Lock, Andrew turned the boat around at the junction and we made out way back up again.

At bridge 224, Christine jumped off to visit the Co-Op to acquire a few extra stores - and lock for some more doughnuts as we had made inroads into some she purchased this morning - they really should have been for the girls visit tomorrow!

It looked at first as if we might have a problem with mooring - the paces by the pub were all taken. However, amazingly, the space we left earlier was still empty and we were able to moor as planned.

Andrew finished off giving the rear steps a further coat of his special floor varnish. Should last well. Whilst Mike prepared the evening meal, Andrew and Christine went by car in search of some more varnish - this is turning out to be quite a consumable!

Friday, 2 October 2009

At Thrupp

Up in good time as we were expecting Jessica for the day. Soon after we had finished breakfast she duly arrived with Joanna and Ellie. after a short chat they left, leaving Jessica to our tender mercies!

Whilst Mike continued with the varnishing - the main bedroom today - Christine and Jessica went for a walk up to the lift bridge and along the towpath. Jessica enjoyed exploring the wildlife and the canal.

The decorating was complete by lunch time and Jessica was ready for a chocolate biscuit! The bedroom had taken just over a full tin of varnish - two coats - so we will need quite a bit more.

In the afternoon all three of us went for a walk to the shop near bridge 224 (it turned out to be a Co-Op) but along the way we spotted a sign to a builders merchant where we bought three tins of the required varnish - Ronseal Satin Quick Dry Beech! (Not cheap!)

We returned quickly to the boat as we expected Jessica to be picked up soon after 3:30 - not long after Joanna arrived with both Ellie and Alice. Ellie had had an Inset Day which she spent hanging out with a couple for friends but Alice was in her school uniform.

Down to Thrupp

1st October

In the event - after debates last night about whether to move first and varnish second - we tackled the first section of the varnishing in the galley area. Sanding down and two coats took us close to lunch time.

After demolishing a freshly baked loaf from the boatyard we set off shortly before 2 o'clock. We headed south in order to meet up with the girls, probably some time tomorrow.

It was a wonderful afternoon, bright and warm sunshine which felt as if we were still benefitting from summer! OK, so it is likely to get quite cold overnight - especially with such clear skies - but let's enjoy it while we have it!

We broke no speed records as we ambled down to Thrupp. After a quick stop to refresh the elsan, we found a mooring spot close to the Thrupp pub and village. Amazingly it was also a good spot for the satellite dish and it was set up in record time!

Early October Start

30th September

We had delayed the start of this break because Mike had the rehearsal for the Canon Installation on October 11th to attend on Tuesday afternoon in the cathedral.

We had packed most of the car the evening before so we were ready to set off by 8:30. The journey was uneventful - needing an extra loo stop at Stow-on-the-Wold were surprised to discover that the main public toilets in the town centre required 20p coins! If only we had known, we would have made sure that we had some!

The satellite system we bought early this year had never managed to work on the boat but, during the 'final' attempt at home to sort it out, the wind blew the dish over the railings and made a small - it seemed - indent. Alas this was enough for the shop where we bought it to disown any responsibility - not unreasonably. Not willing to buy anything else which we could not see working, we had arranged to meet with a specialist whose advert in Towpath Talk (a canal special monthly newspaper) had caught our attention. He was due at 2 pm.

Although he was a bit late - nothing much in canal terms! - he quickly set about testing our dish and concluded that it was not very good! We agreed to buy another from him (we have seen a number installed on boats before) on the basis that he set it up and demonstrated it working.

So, we now have a working system although we have occasional signal loss - perhaps as the boat moves around. At this stage, we are happy to recommend Martyn as seen in Towpath Talk.

By now it was too late to set off - we are in no hurry to go too far so there was no pressure to get away. So, we stayed put and spent time setting up channels on the TV, setting up the computer etc ready for the morning and then settled down in the warmth of a small fire to have a relaxing evening!