Monday, 16 August 2010

Fenny to Newbold then to Fradley

This part of the Oxford canal must be the wiggliest, following the contour of the land. Just passed Wormleighton the radio mast comes into view, while travelling round the hill the mast is viewed from all four points of the compass. After motoring for miles and not getting very far we reached Marston Doles, this is a very well kept area with very well maintained buildings.
This is the top of the Napton flight that takes you down to the old quarry at the bottom. It looks like the quarry is now closed and being demolished, yet more industry bites the dust. From here to Braunston there's not much to see or talk about except a few wooden boats either sunk or see through. Turning left at Braunston turn and making our way to Newbold, this part of the canal, in fact all the way to "Sutton's Stop" has been re-routed quite a lot, it used to wander round every hill there is. Now it cuts through the hills, leaving redundant loops, some returning to nature and some being used for off line boat yards, such as Viking adrift, sorry afloat, and Brinklow boats. We got to Newbold around tea-time and got tied up just before the rush, by the time I'd done a few jobs around the boat, tapped the home brew, or is it boat brew now, we settled down for the night. Setting off early next morning hoping to make plenty of progress before the battle of the bridge hole started. We didn't get far before we caught up with Dad trying to teach son to steer, it was a bit like the blind leading the short and blind. We watched with amusement and plodded on behind. At "Sutton's Stop" they went round and round and finished up behind us, don't know how but did. The first bridge hole battle was at the narrow bit just on from the junction. A boat coming the other way obviously didn't see the narrow, he hit the wall at a good speed then gave us a good glancing blow. No damage done only to his pride and probably his crockery. After that, we had a steady run to Atherstone expecting to see queues at the locks, but nothing, amazing! As we descended boats came up just right enabling us to leave the exit gates open and entering a lock set for us. Until...we caught up we the boat crew from Benidorm. I'm not a snob by any means, but these people must have booked the wrong holiday.
The first episode was to virtually drain the pound between locks 8 and 9 then after my input, decided to be just bloody awkward at lock 10, to the point I had to open one top paddle to flush their boat out of the lock. At this point one of the day-glow-track-suited half breeds decides to square up to me and make an issue, he soon backed off and they went on their way, albeit very very slowly through the last lock. Not wanting the situation to get any worse we decided to hang back a little and let them get out of sight. We past them at Fazeley taking water, we just made eye contact and left it there. I was in the mood for cruising so we motored on, arriving at Fradley 12 minuets before time was called in the Swan.
All in all, it's been a good trip out but a bit busy for me.

Heyford to Fenny

After watching By Canal in the '50s last night we were keeping an eye on things today. Things haven't changed that much, obviously trees have grown over 60 years but, paddle gear and buildings all seem pretty much the same. The railway secretly follows you up to Banbury, I say secretly, because it's one of the few lines not festooned with dam gantries and electric wires. It only shows itself when a train goes past or you spot the odd signal post or bridge. Could be a nice steam run, Oxford to Cropredy?

Arriving in Banbury I was expecting the smell of the cast iron foundry we had a whiff of, on the way down, forgot it's Sunday and all's quiet. Just the intermittent clang of a hammer making adjustments to some piece of machinery. We meandered through all the moored boats in Banbury. By now it was a pleasant day with lots of people just watching the boats go by and men sticking their noses in the engine room and boring their wife to death with their running commentary. Approaching Cropredy the south bound traffic was nose to tail and the queues at locks were endless, obviously the Cropredy festival was over. We came round in to Cropredy and spotted a boat with it stern against the bank and its bows adrift. It was obvious the steerer had too many things to do at the same time and the brain couldn't cope. As we approached, he's shouting "you're going far too fast" and calling me all sorts of names. At this time I had just passed a canoe, the skegs in the mud and we're doing about 2 mph. Anyway, to our amusement, he was that busy teaching me a thing or two, he went up the bank and grounded. I later discovered it wasn't his boat and I've put the incident behind me, but at the time I was quite irritated to say the least. Cropredy was still quite busy with boats and now it was the shinny boat brigade turn to irritate me. Why won't they just keep coming, stopping and reversing only makes things worse. After Cropredy lock things got better and we just followed the stream of boats up the locks. by the time we reach the top there was just a little boat called Purple Haze, Purple boat, purple lady, infact purple everything. They cleared the way through the Fenny Compton Tunnel for us, which by the way is no longer there, it's just a narrow cutting now and very shallow. We then tied up for the night just past Fenny marina.

Sunday, 15 August 2010


Well, we got there, turned round...
...and came back

Someone at one of the locks said "It's not what you think, you'll be disappointed" He was right, there's nothing there. I was expecting a lock keeper at least, but nothing. I must admit the houses that backed onto the canal were quite interesting in design and construction. That's about all I can say. We headed back doing everything in reverse what we did earlier. The weather deteriorated as the day went on and at Shipton weir lock, the heavens just opened for ten minuets, wet eveybody through the sun came out. We plodded our way to Lower Heyford and tied up for the night and watched a DVD containing a 1952 film of the Oxford canal. The film is by Ralph Lee when took Stentor around the country, very good viewing.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Banbury to Thrupp

When leaving Banbury this morning we passed Tooley's Historic boat yard, can't see much history except the little building on the left. We didn't go in to see the all the carefully placed paraphernalia, might call on the way back. Apparently this is where Tom Rolt soaked up all the little gems for is book. I did start to read Narrowboat but thought it better to sit for a while with the likes of Joe Holinshead, Henry Johnson and George Wain. I remember as an apprentice in the Sheffield steel works, incomers, similar to Rolt, sat in the snap cabins being entertained by the old hands and their tall stories and basically having them on. Believe what you will.

Soon out of Banbury and into the greenery. Every now and then there's an odd building to look at and a lock to break the monotony. Soon at Aynho, can't pronounce it but it has a peculiar lock. According to the reading, It only has a rise of 12 inches and it's there to prevent flooding but also to pass the same quantity of water as a large lock. And it takes ages to empty.
There's another one of these at Shipton, still don't get the design, I'll have another look on the way back.
We're now tied up, out side the The Jolly Boatman which was very luck it was the last place for miles. Off for a pint then Oxford tomorrow.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Achilles and Jack meet

I know this blog is about Dove and not Achilles but I'm not starting another blog just for a few posts. Last week we had a visit from our Son, Daughter-in-law and Grandson Jack. So I smartend up the Gardner ready for a small trip out.
As you can see Jack came dressed for the part, wearing his Gardner jumper and with no fear at all, sat watched the 4Lw wizz round.
We only went up to Hoo mill and turned round at the winding hole, If we'd have been on Dove I'm affraid the dopey hire boat tied smack opposite would have had to move. However, Achilles being only 57 feet, we managed to turn after a little contact. Jack didn't make a full shift and passed out on the table later in the afternoon.
This outing was a good test for our trip out on Achilles down to Oxford. The engine hasn't had good run in quite a while so this was an ideal time to see what bits are going to fall off. As it happend, none did.
We're sat in Banbury at the moment, nothing much has happened, yet, I'll take some photo's on the way back. Looks like things could get interesting tomorrow with these weir lock things.