Friday 19 February 2010

Observer Ethical Award nb. Tia

Many of you in the Braunston/Napton area will have come across Graham on Narrowboat Tia selling Ecover cleaning products. Graham has put his name forward for the Observer Ethical Award in the "Local Retailer" Category.
To win this award which would give not only his business but also the Inland Waterways good green publicity in the National Press, Graham  requires people to vote for him.

If you would like to support Graham in his environmentally friendly business then please vote for him  on the Observer web site at
https://www.global-research.net/oea/details.asp to vote you need to register, but you only need to put in your name and email address to do this, the other fields can be left blank.

Once registered click on "Best Local Retailer" and "Vote Now" The details to enter are:- Tia,  South Midlands, CV47 8HU

More details are on Tia's web site at http://www.tiacares.co.uk/

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Tuesday Fenny to Napton

Last night we ate in the Fenny Wharf,it was curry and a pint for £5 - 95 followed by a sweet which was not included. We had not been in bed long when it started to rain quite heavily. The overnight temperature only dropped to 0.9 deg. but there was still a good ground frost which resulted in several stretches of the canal being covered in ice. The first job was to fill with water before setting off to Napton. The first boats we met were quite close to Marston Doles and they were 3 canoes, shortly after that we started meeting narrow boats, 5 in total before we reached our moorings, After loading stuff from the boat to the car it was a case of draining the water system again, this time making sure the length of copper pipe in the toilet was also drained. This all done we were on our way home at 2 30 pm We had missed the rain but we were going to find plenty between Napton and Suffolk.

Monday 15 February 2010

Monday Cropredy to Fenny Compton

We set off at our normal 10 o'clock ish, there had already been a few boats past. Diana discovered the British Waterways Lock Garden that nether of us new existed before, for those of you who don't know it you can find it between the church yard and the canal just below the bridge at the tail of Cropredy Lock. There are a couple of round picnic tables as well as 2 bench seats overlooking the canal.
We met a steady stream of traffic which resulted in all the locks being with us. One of the boats I met in the top pound at Claydon was called "Wild Kitten", I wonder if it belongs to Wild Cat Boat Training?  if so it could account for the queue of two at Claydon Top Lock waiting to come down.
The summit pound is down by several inches which is probably to an unexpected increase of boats at both Napton and Claydon as we have seen more boats on the move today than the rest of the week put together. The low water made it slow going just prior to Fenny Tunnel as we dragged the mud a bit . We moored just before the Wharf pub at Fenny a little before 2 pm and I installed the wiring for the pair of solar panels that I intend to install, I managed to get about a tenth of an amp out of them at 4 pm. I hope it improves when the sun shines a bit. The plan is only to have them on the roof of the boat when she is at the moorings to reduce the self discharge of the batteries while the boat is not in use, but first I have to get a method of securing them.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Sunday Kings Sutton to Cropredy

Not long after we moored up yesterday evening two other boats joined us,one in front and one astern.  We set off this morning at 10 am and stopped to get a few bits and pieces in Morrison's at Banbury, making good use of the new piling outside Travis Perkins right by the bridge leading to Morrison's. When we returned from shopping our two neighbours from last night were moored behind us. We had lunch while we were stopped and then headed off towards Cropredy where we had decided to stop for the night, we would probably stopped below Slat Mill but BW have back filled  the piling with dredging's completely covering the towing path, not the best place to be with the dog. We finally moored up around 3 30 pm. on the visitor moorings at Cropredy below the lock, hopefully this is not some ones long term mooring who has just gone for water of something.

Saturday 13 February 2010

Saturday Lower Heyford to Kings Sutton

Last night we ate at The Bell, both the quality and the quantity was of their normal high standard. We had a table for 7 in the restaurant, with an imitation open fire burning gas so were nice and warm.
Funny Old Day.
This morning Magic decided that he would like to go out for a wee at 6 am. at that time everywhere was wet and it was drizzling. He then decided that he would like a drink followed by early breakfast. Once this was all out of the way we were allowed back to bed for a few hours.Next time I surfaced it was white with frost outside, so I hate to think what the roads were like.
It was gone 10 when we set off, me steering and Diana working the alloy lift bridge,she had just lowered it and crossed back to the towing path when a boat came the other way. BW have piled the towing path to the north of the bridge for a couple of hundred yards so I decided to come along side to check the depth,it was fine and would provide a much better and quieter mooring for visiting the Bell.  Thanks to meeting the boat the next lock was with us, but after that it was a bit hit and miss, some full, some with us and some half and half. We only met a couple of boats today but there were moored in places like Aynho than when we came down. At Aynho Wear Lock there was a full flock of sheep around the lock with only a couple left in the field. A foot path joins the towing path here and someone had failed to fasten the gate. Diana did excellent service as a sheep dog and soon had them back through the gate where they belonged, far better than some of the 4 legged varieties on One Man and his Dog. We decided to moor just above Kings Sutton lock as we didn't want to be to close to the motorway overnight. There is a well piled edge along here, but it is well used for dog walking with lots of evidence left between the canal edge and the path,the bit you step onto as you get off your boat.
O I forgot to mention yesterday that I bought coal and diesel from Dusty, who plies the canal from Oxford to Cropredy selling such things from his working boat, so we can have the boatman's stove alight again to keep our legs warm as we cruise along, I will just have to try to get some more fire lighters in Banbury tomorrow.

Friday 12 February 2010

Friday Thrupp to Lower Heyford

Last night we decided to eat in The Jolly Boatman as it is now under new management. It was quite busy for a Thursday evening and by the time we ordered several things were off the menu, including the specials, which is a good sign as it shows its not just an endless supply of frozen dishes. We both decided to have shoulder of lamb, what were not expecting was a whole shoulder each, there was a huge amount of meat. We met the crews of Narrowboats Bones,Milly M and Oakfield in the bar and had a few drinks and an interesting chat both before and after our meal. We returned to Harnser  at about 11 pm by which time the canal was completely frozen over with a temperature just below -2 so we were a bit concerned what we would find this morning.
I looked out this morning to find a lot of last nights ice had already gone and what was left was very thin and didn't cause us any problem. We left about twenty past ten with Diana steering so I could open the lift bridges. I heard last night that BW plan to automate the bridge before Easter, I wonder which side they will put the controls as the towing path changes side on the bridge. I also worked the Shipton lift bridge although that is now a lot easier than it was a month ago. BW have now installed rings to fasten the bridges open, unfortunately they have mounted the rings in concrete directly under the bridge arms, so once you have opened the bridge the ring is covered by the bridge arm about a foot from the end of the arm, so you cant get to it to fix the bridge open. I think they must have lined it up with a plum bob while the bridge was closed. All the locks except one were with us today and of course we had to punch the flow on the Cherwell, it was still in the yellow but had very little effect on us. Just before Lower Heyford we met to hire boats on their way out for half term week. The started at Lower Heyford and chatting to the chap that had been instructing one of them I found out they have 9 boats out this week so maybe business is looking good for them this season. We filled with water just before the Lower Heyford Wharf and then made our way past the wharf to moor for the night opposite the church at about half two.

Thursday 11 February 2010

Thursday Pigeon Lock to Thrupp

Last night there was no 3 internet signal at all below Pigeon Lock so yesterdays report was sent this morning. It started to freeze early yesterday, well before dark as I nearly slipped over on the front deck. By 9 o'clock it was almost -3 but it warmed slightly as the night progressed. We left at 10 this morning making our way down to Dukes Lock, there were a few places where the canal was frozen over but it was only about 4 mm thick. We didn't meet any boats today but we were aware of at least one behind us. The river Cherwell was still in the yellow but didn't feel to be moving very fast at all. The first time I came up this river I remember thinking,its a good job those reeds are there or I wouldn't know were the banks are. It must have been in flood but there were no indicator boards then and I didn't think anything of it. I just got on with it and pushed up against the flow. I also remember the river and flooded fields were only separated from the canal by a very narrow pathway.Today, older and wiser, I would tie up and wait for the levels to fall.
As we passed through Thrupp I noticed that their were several vacant moorings, a couple right out side The Jolly Boatman, about 4 by the cottages and even more at the north end of the moorings, so we shouldn't have a problem finding an overnight mooring, unlike last time when I had to borrow a club mooring for the night. We continued on to Dukes Lock where I winded in the entrance to Dukes Cut. Here BW were cleaning up around the lock which had got into a terribly overgrown state. I complained to BW about it last time we came this way, but they past me over to the EA, neither of them seamed to know which one of them owned the lock. It looks as if it has fallen to BW to sort it out.
With no other boats on the move both the locks were as we left them ready for our return. The BW chaps who had been working at Dukes Cut even opened the lift bridge for us as their lorry was parked beside it. The two moorings outside the pub were gone, with a boat mooring right in the middle,had I have really wanted to moor there I would have asked him to move up a bit to one end, but we would prefer the quieter moorings by the cottages, these are 48 hr moorings, but we only want to stop over night. At 4 pm we tied the stern to a ring and put a stake in for the bows. It much quieter here well away from the main road, only the trains going by and there are not to many of them overnight.

Wednesday Aynho to Pigeons Lock

We started a bit earlier this morning at twenty to ten, its was a very bright morning with no sign of ice on the canal. Aynho road bridge is quite low so I removed both stove chimneys and the engine exhaust before setting off, a few years ago I put a good kink in the engine exhaust pipe going through this bridge and I didn't want to repeat it.
Just through Souldern Bridge number 192 the fields were still flooded following the River Cherwell flooding and the shallow water was full of ducks, lots of the Widgeon all whistling  away.At Lower Heyford just below the lift bridge BW are building a flood prevention wall from sandbags between the towing path and the River Cherwell. They are filling the bags at Allen's Lock where they have a cement mixer and a very large pile of sand, they are then stacking the filled bags beside Allen's Lock, so I assume they are transporting them down by boat, but none was in evidence.  Although it was mainly a sunny day we did have some very heavy snow shower and one of these occurred as we passed through Lower Heyford. Negotiating the road bridge by the station is a bit problematic as the boat yard has 3 boats moored stern on, herring bone style with there bows well out into the channel right in the mouth of the bridge, that and a boat moored on the towing path side makes it almost impossible to get through the bridge without rubbing the moored boat, the towpath under the bridge or the bows of the boats. During the winter months the hire base just doesn't seem to have enough room to moor all their boats including the ones they are fitting out. Once through the bridge we stopped to top up with water still in the driving snow. By the time the tank was full the snow had stopped and we were on our way again.
At Dashwood Lock 2 BW men had just completed cleaning under the bottom gate as they had received a report that it wouldn't swing. We had just met a boat so expected the lock to be full, but when we arrived BW had just drained it to check the gate was now OK and refilled it for us as we approached. Whilst talking to them, one of them spotted a heard of deer on the hill side, there must have been about 20 of them including one that was snow white. As you approach Pigeons Lock the market garden/tea rooms on the left now has a collection of fowl in multi coloured wooden houses and runs. The cock bird in the first enclosure had the most magnificent head dress and looked if he was straight from the rain forest, I will try for a photo on our way back. By the time we had worked through Pigeons Lock it was 4 pm so we decided to moor below the lock for the night as there is a decent stretch of piling, as the weather was still nice I reconnected the TV aerial cable, I only cut it through it last January for the boat to be painted. We tried the TV but the picture was rubbish with lots of ghosting so we gave up on that idea.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Tuesday Claydon to Aynho

We set off this morning around 10 am with very thin ice by Clattercote on what must have been an exposed bend. There was ice on the boat as well but it was much brighter than yesterday. Overnight the temperature dropped to -1 but today it been + 7 with some bright sunshine. Diana dropped me off to work Varney Lock and I noticed a large sign saying "Ongoing Work Ahead" but no sign of life so I assumed BW had done some work and left the signs. As I approached the lock a head popped up inside the lock,BW were replacing the bumper on the cill from the back of a boat and were struggling to remove the old one. The chap said they would only be about 15 minutes and we would be able to get through, so we tied up for a cup of tea and gave them a cup as well. It was probably about half an hour before we were on our way and as they had come from Cropredy we expected the locks to be with us,but with the rate of leakage on the bottom gated of Broadmoor lock there was no chance. We stopped for a few moments to dump the rubbish at Cropredy Wharf, BW now have recycling bins here for sorted waste.
The cottage at Bourton  Lock is still looking quite sad, I fear that if the owner doesn't get a move on renovating it,it will suffer even more vandalism, already there is a notice  saying it owned by a local boater and please report any suspicious activity, but places like that are just a magnet to some people.
We continued on to Banbury, I was hoping to fill with diesel but it looks as if Sovereign are hibernating for the winter. We contemplate stopping for the night but as it was such a bright day and only two thirty in the afternoon we decided to push on to Aynho Wharf. BW have piled the visitor moorings both sides of bridge 168 on the edge of Banbury which is very handy for visiting Morrison's. We met 3 boats on the move today, that's 2 more than yesterday,the last one we met was "Dusty" the diesel and coal boat. We met him between Nell Lock and Aynho Weir lock so he left the gate open for me which was very useful, we did a slight wiggle going in as the Cherwell is just on the yellow and it pulled the bows over a bit. Had I met Dusty anywhere else I would have stopped him for a bag of coal and fill up with diesel, but the light was going and I wanted to get of the river section before dark. There was only one boat on the visitor moorings at Aynho Wharf so we were able to get on the rings, just passed the winding hole, in the failing light at about quarter past five. 

Monday 8 February 2010

Monday Napton to Claydon Bottom Lock

The day didn't start well, Before we were up I could hear the wind blowing and when I opened the rear doors it hit me, Diana opened the front doors to come in with magic and the through draft caused a back draft in the Dickinson that in turn caused it to go out.I threw a match into the stove full of hot diesel vapour and was reward with a satisfying whoosh as it relit. I had been in the process of lighting the back cabin  stove and that had also decided to go out, well not quite out as some of the edges of the coal were smoldering so I couldn't relay it, what I did was to place a burning fire lighter in the ash pan and slide it under the coals. This worked a treat and the flames made their way up through the smoldering coals increasing the head and inducing a but of draught. The result was a nice warm fire.
In the meantime it had started to snow, that very fine, powdery snow that gets in everywhere.Just on 10 am and we pushed off, Marston Doles bottom lock was empty as was the pound above it. When I say empty it was a good 2' 6" down and we couldn't get over the cill, so I had to walk up to the top lock, draw all 4 paddles and then walk back to close up behind Diana when she was finally free, walk back to the top lock, close the top paddles and set the lock for her to come in. We needed to stop at the water point to top the tank up,we were only about a quarter down but it was slow slow we still had plenty of time to sit down in the warm and have a coffee.By the time we set off it was snowing proper snow,big white flakes of it but the wind had dropped, the back cabin stove was warm and with the rear doors shut steering was quite pleasant. Going round Wormleighton Bends it was nice to see that the old wooden footbridge has been replaced, it now has a steel span that has been clad with timber to make it look like a wooden bridge and the end supports are wood, so I suppose its as good as we could expect, I wouldn't want to source a piece of timber long enough to make the span.
As usual we had lunch on the move,home made soup, fresh bread etc. what could be finer. There were several spaces on the Fenny visitor mooring but two of them were right in front of the boat we moored behind last time we came this way, he was still in the same spot and still had his generator running. It was also surprising to see the spaces on the long term moorings, I find it hard to believe they are all out cruising in this weather and I have not noticed that many up for auction. You don't think BW would be rationing them to keep the price up, they wouldn't do that sort of thing ,would they?  We pushed on to Claydon Locks which were all against us so every one had to be filled before we could enter, I was locking and Diana steering and having to hover while I set each one. We decided to moor at the bottom as its a nice stretch of piled towing path and it was 3-30 pm.the next decent bit of mooring would be Cropredy and it would probably take us an hour or more to get that far.

Sunday 7 February 2010

Sunday A cruise round the village

This morning we set off about 10 15 on a rather dull morning, the glass has fallen and the bright clear weather left us. We heard a boat pass shortly before we were ready to set go so it was fairly safe to assume that the Napton flight would be against us. The first lock of the flight was about half full due to the bottom gates leaking, that is one advantage of going up the flight as opposed to coming down,most of the locks tend to empty due to leaky bottom gates, the second lock was completely empty. A bit further up we met a boat coming down,the lady of the crew walked down to our lock as the boat was leaving the next lock up, but the crew she had left behind shut the gates. I pointed this out to her but she said not to worry they would wake up in a minute and open them, she was right. The cause of the problem was the crew was suffering from "Game Boy" withdrawal syndrome because the had been kicked out bin to work the locks. We carried on to the top of the flight and moored against the towing path almost opposite our home moorings for the rest of the day as we spent the afternoon visiting my son and his family. For those of you that know this area will now understand what I meant by the title, as the canal goes around the hill while Napton stands on the top.

Saturday 6 February 2010

Saturday 6 The Ownerships Show

Last night we had a very enjoyable meal in The Bridge Inn, Napton, washed down with a couple of pints of Story Teller, I have never tried this beer before,its quite light and slightly flowery. There were three other couples in the bar, all boaters, a couple from Calcutt and one from Wigrams, there were also three other people in the restaurant sitting behind me who were having a slight domestic but they kept the noise down so it wasn't to bad. The night was very clear and the pressure on the rise so it turned quite cold, but by this morning it was misty. unlike yesterdays sunshine so I decided to light the stove in the Boatman's Cabin to keep my bum warm.
We set off about 9 30,and saw several boats on the move on our way to Braunston arriving a little after 11 am, the Ownership boat trips were in full swing, going from the marina to Braunston Junction and back. We moored at the first spot we found just before the bridge opposite The Boat ex Millhouse and wandered down to the marina chatting to several people we knew as we went. There were the normal stands in the marquee and the cheese boat in the marina doing cheese tasting. At the far end of the marquee was the bar/eatery where we partook of a coffee and burger, both good value and very tasty. There were quite a few people about and Ownerships had filled the end of the arm with their boat as well as about 6 outside all manned by volunteer owners eager to tell prospective new owners how great the boats and operation was.
There was not a great deal there to interest us so once we had spoken with old friends and acquaintances we headed back to the boat to continue cruising. I followed one of the trip boats down to the marina entrance where he reversed into the marina to collect another batch of waiting passengers,I had just completed turning when the second trip boat came into view,so I drew back towards Butchers bridge to allow him easy access to the marina, again he put his bows into the offside bank and reversed in, as I came forward passed him the second one started to come out with fresh passengers onboard. He followed us as far as Braunston Turn where we went towards the South Oxford, he went straight by and reversed back into the S Oxford to head back to the marina. There were even more boats about for our return journey. The sunken motor is still on the Puddle Bank,but now there is a dumb barge moored on the outside of it as well as its butty on the inside, so I assume they intend to salvage it shortly, it looks to be in quite deep water where it is with only the cabin top and bow above the surface. We arrived back at The Bridge at about 4 pm and dropped into the last vacant visitor mooring.

I forgot to mention yesterday that Harnser has the dreaded Paint Pox and her roof, handrails, slides and cants are covered in blisters, some micro blisters and some small bubbles. There is a lot of this around from what I can understand , see here and I spoke the the chap that painted her, just 12 months ago about it this morning. Watch this space.

Friday 5 February 2010

Friday 5 February 2010 First time aboard this year

We left Suffolk in pouring rain and arrived at Napton in the sun shine. The fist thing we noticed as we drove through the village was a sign saying that The Folly is now under new management. I don't know if this means its been sold or the owner has just got someone to manage it for him, it will be interesting to see what happens to the place.

The boat was reasonably warm and after a quick check round I started the water pump to refill the system, everything went fine until I flushed the loo. This identified that a plastic elbow had failed in the frost and shot water over my foot and the bathroom floor. I quickly turned the taps on to relieve the pressure and went and turned the pump off before remaking the pipe work with a new fitting.
The engine fired up first shot and was soon putting some amps back into the batteries, not very fast but I do need a new set sometime soon.  I light the Dickinson Stove but the diesel was very reluctant to flow into the burner. At about 2 pm we slid down to the top lock and loaded up from the car before making our way down the flight on a spring like day. Diana steered the boat while I walked with the dog and did the locks. We met a boat coming up at the bottom lock just as we had a few spots of rain, although we only got a few spots it was obviously doing a bit more a short way to the east which resulted in a spectacular rainbow over the BW building against the black sky. We continued on as far as the Bridge Inn where we moored at about 4 pm. The Dickinson was still protesting so I decided to change the inline filter, I have never done it since I fitted it so it didn't owe me to much. I even managed to do it without  the stove going out but then had a bit of hassle bleeding the air out so that the burner would pick up instead of looking like a candle.

I had a look at the history on the weather station, since we were here on the 18 December , outside it had been down to -11.5 and inside -5.5 today its +9c