Saturday 27 November 2010

Friday 26 November 2010 Napton Top Lock

Last night we walked up to the Red Lion to eat returning to the boat at about 10 pm in quite a sharp frost. I had to get up during the night and I could see that the canal was already frozen over.When we got up this morning it was still minus 5.5 after dropping to minus 6 last night and the canal was covered with half an inch of ice. This was much lower than was forecast.
We set off at 1030 stopping for water at the services, I had to breast up to a BW flat which had the new lock gates on ready for Broadmoor Lock which are due to be fitted on Monday. We were breaking ice all the way but all the locks were with us. The short pound on the Claydon flight was down about 30 inches, by looking at the ice line I think this may have dropped this morning. As we approached the top of the flight a lady appeared behind us with a windlass, I asked her if she was following us up as I had not noticed a boat behind, but she said she was meeting a friend who was on her way down, they had left Fenny Marina 15 minutes earlier so we should meet them on the way. We bit her farewell at the top lock, but we didn't meet her friends until just south of Fenny tunnel so I expect she was quite chilly by the time they arrived. The day was very bright but I don't think the temperature ever got above freezing all day.
Once we got to Fenny Marina we were breaking ice again, but not for long. Half way along the visitor moorings the channel was again broken which made life much easier, we followed this channel wondering if some one had been daft enough to go to Wormleighton to moor for the night, at Wormleighton we met the kind soul who had made this channel especially for us, it was a boat called "Helen of Troy" who had been all the way to Napton, turned and were returning to Fenny, so Helen of Troy, if you are reading this, a big thank you.
We arrived at Marston Doles locks in the dark and they were both against us and once below them I was unable to find the cut channel again. We wasted the best part of half an hour trying to get onto our moorings but the pound was so low we had no chance, so we have moored on the towing path opposite. By the time we had secured the boat the temperature had already dropped to minus 4 and things were freezing fast.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Thursday 25 Nov 2010 Cropredy

It wasn't quite so so cold where we were moored last night at the bottom of the locks and there was only a light bit of frosting about when we set off this morning at 10-30.
I go 60 years without seeing a Kingfisher catch a fish and then I see three in two days, that's DSCF5158right, the only Kingfisher I saw today dropped into the water and came out with a fish. The good thing about this is that once they have caught something they have to go to a branch and kill it before eating it, so stick around giving you half a chance to photograph them before departing into the distance.

DSCF5151 There are still some very good crops of Sloes about if you are into making Sloe Gin, we picked and jared ours last time we were on the boat, we will probably bottle it over Christmas and keep it until next winter.

We didn't see another boat moving until we reached Banbury where we met Mark Paris heading back to Thrupp, we were also in the pub with him at Thrupp just like the boater Mark who we met yesterday. The first job to do in Banbury was to visit Sovereign to fill up with diesel at 70p/lt. If you need diesel and are in the area best hurry because he is closing on the 1st. December for 2 months over Christmas. After taking on 140 lts we reversed back down into town to eat lunch and for Diana to do a bit of shopping while I did important things like talk to local boaters.
When Diana came back we pushed off northwards, by now it was quite overcast. Just above Hardwick Lock we came across our first bit of ice on the canal just before the motorway, it was very thin and already broken. The lock cottage at Bourton Lock still looks the same as it did 12 months back, I fear that if there is no progress soon it could well get vandalised again which would be a great shame.
As we approached Cropredy there was a large section of visitor mooring free so we pulled in in the glom at quarter to five with a view to visiting the Red Lion tonight, we hope this will be quieter than the moorings by the lock where we could hear the church clock well into the night.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Wednesday 24 Nov 2010 Kings Sutton Lock

It was quite surprising how much we heard the trains last night, when we moored here going down we didn't hear a thing.  By the time we went to bed it was below freezing with frost on the grass, by this morning it was almost down to -4. For those of you that have travelled this way over the past few years you may remember the Collie that use to insist you threw sticks for it, well I can report she is still going and now 18 years old and lives at the Mill. She doesn't go out to the lock any  more but she still enjoys a stick.
We pushed off at 10-15 in DSCF5133a very bright day and we saw several  Kingfishers in the first few miles and we were even honoured to see two kingfishers catch fish, something I have never witnessed before and needles to say I was unable to catch it on camera. I did get a blurred shot of him sat eating his catch.  I think the reason for all this extra kingfisher activity on this section of the canal is that they are taking advantage of the clear canal water   to catch fish. I suspect they would normally be fishing and moving up and down the River Cherwell that runs close by.

DSCF5148 As we passed through Heyford British Waterways were hard at work cutting the offside trees and scrub, they have already made a big impact around bridge holes by clearing around the base of the bridges, but there is still an awful lot to do. We also saw other teams walking the towing path cutting the hedges with petrol hedge trimmers

We were a bit undecided where to moor for the night, we thought that we would like to get beyond Aynho where we moored on the way  down, so we carried on to finally stop for the night just below Kings Sutton Lock about 4-30 pm. We only met one boat on the move all day and that turned out to be Dave who we had been to the pub with on Sunday night, he was just dropping down in Allan's lock as we approached. As I type this at 5-30   pm it is already freezing outside.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Tuesday 23 November 2010 Pigeons Lock

Last night we ate a nice Thai restaurant just over the from the  canal terminal called DSCF5107Bangkok House. There were surprisingly few people walking past the boat late at night, but we were woken in the early hours by a lot of shouting up on  the main road and we hoped that they wouldn't venture in our direction. On e of the best thing about  the moorings was that you didn't have boats coming passed.

DSCF5108 This  morning we set off at 10 am reversing back to ISIS lock and then dropping down the lock to wind. Since they have put the new floating pontoon below the lock there is insufficient room to swing the stern to the left when leaving the lock to make the tight right hand turn to the Thames and I couldn't even get Harnser round in one and we are only 57 foot, I hate to think what it would be like getting a full length boat round. The pontoons actually take up 11 feet of water, right where you need to swing the stern. If they had just piled the bank and lowered it a couple of feet it would have been fine.
We continued on back to Thrupp with Diana working the lift bridges this time. At Thrupp we stopped to fill with water and pump out the toilet tank. Thrupp Boat Club now have a pumpout machine that is card operated and costs £12 for 9 minutes, you could probably pump to boat tanks in that time.  Once this was all taken care off we were off yet again, by now the sky was very clear and the temperature was starting to fall even with the low sun. We continued on up the River Cherwell and into Bakers Lock which still stinks of diesel and there is still quite a bitDSCF5122 floating on the water. By the time we reached Pigeons Lock it was getting dusk and as I dropped Diana off to operate the lock the bottom gate opened and shortly afterwards a boat emerged, we were soon through the lock and moored in the same spot as Saturday night, the light was going fast and turning cold, only 2 Deg.C and it still wasn't quite 5 O'clock.

Monday 22 November 2010

Monday 22 Nov 2010 Oxford

Last night we wandered up to The highwayman for the Folk night, this pub use to be called The Wise Alderman and is right by the canal with room for one boat to moor against their gardens. It was a full moon but we didn't see much of it with the thick cloud cover.
We set off this morning at 9-30 just after a hire boat had gone by to ensure all the locks were against us. We were in desperate need of water, no showers this morning and we stopped at the waterpoint just through  Langford Lane Bridge opposite The Highwayman but unfortunately our hose connector wouldn't fit and I couldn't find the adaptor ring. It is the first connector of this size that I have come across in over 10 years and I have probably not seen more than 5 in all the time I have been boating, so we pushed on to the next water point. We remembered to hake the chimney down before we got to Yarnton Bridge which is quite low with a bump sticking down from the middle of it  and stopped for water just after Drinkwater   Lift Bridge. This is another bridge that BW have attached a locking mechanism to and when Diana opened it after initially rising it just hovered half way up, at this point Dust was coming the other way with his coal boat and we let him through first.rato While we filled with water I spotted a brown rat making his way along the hedgerow about a foot from the top, I managed to get a photo of him, but you need to look hard to spot him as he was well camouflaged when he kept still. Once full of water we carried on under the new A 34 flyover to Perry's  Lift Bridge the last locked lift bridge on the South Oxford canal, here we were held up for about 10 minutes as a tanker was emptying the Elsan disposal holding tank and his lorry was to heavy to cross the lift bridge, so he was parked on one side and had his pipes laid out over the bridge to access the tank on the towing path side. When he had finished I opened the bridge for Diana to bring Harnser through, this time the bridge didn't lift at all and I had to cross to the far side and open it by pulling the balance beams down, when Diana had cleared the bridge when I tried to lower it it balanced out about half way up, so I had to walk on the platform to close it, surly this cant be any safer than they were before modification. After this it was a straight run to the very end of the South Oxford Canal, mooring at the end just before the rain started at 2 pm. We have been for a quick walk round the area and there is a nice looking Thai restaurant just by the bridge that we will probably try tonight.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Sunday 21 Nov 2010 Thrupp

We were just catching up on the Archers this morning when a boat came up Pigeon lock. That's lucky I thought, it will save us having to turn the lock, wrong. before we could do anything a boat came passed us and went straight into the waiting open lock, so we still had to turn it.
As we passed through Enslow a Crayfish pot came to the surface near the bank, I checked that it was tethered and not just floating around waiting to catch someone's prop and saw that there were three Red Signal Crayfish in it, I wonder how often the owner empties it?
There was a lot of diesel in the water at Bakers Lock, we timed this one right as a boat had just come up and was leaving as we arrived.  Again the Cherwell was hardly moving, but the indicator boards showed it to be just in the amber, I would have thought it hard for it to be any lower. At Shipton Weir we met yet another boat and as the lock was with them Diana helped them through. They said they had come from Sheffield mainly weekending and were making there way back.
Just after this there was a new experience awaiting me, as we approached the lift bridge the anglers not only took in their lines, but one of them, followed by two young lads crossed the bridge and opened it for me to pass under.
There were several vacancies on the visitor moorings as we entered Thrupp but we really wanted to be at the other end, so we went as far as the lift bridge and while I waited for a boat to leave the services Diana walked along the canal to see if there were any spaces by The Boat or The Jolly Boatman. By the time the other boat had left the services and I had come along side Diana returned as said there was a space by the Jolly Boatman and the boat that passed us at Pigeons lock was moored in the middle of 160 ft gap outside The Boat. On the strength of this information we aborted the service stop and made our way to The Boat where I was just able to squeeze in between the bows of the boat moored in the middle of the gap and the stern of a boat on the first Long of the Term Moorings. Since we have been here there have been several boat passing through looking to moor, so I was just as well we moved up when we did.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Saturday 20 Nov 2010 Pigeon lock

Last night we both ate too much in The Great Western Arms, or table was right in front of the fire so I was rather pleased they hadn't made it up and that the embers were dyeing away.
This morning was a bit overcast which was a shame following the lovely clear night last night. We walked the dog to have a look at Aynho Railway Station, It's quite a pretty building but unfortunately the station platform has been removed as has the canopy, which had been rater brutally just chopped away.
We set off at quarter to eleven with still no sign of the sun coming out to play. DSCF5094 One of the first obstacles we had to overcome was Chisnell lift bridge. Since we were last this way BW has seen fit to lock it in the closed position, Luckily Diana didn't have her BW key on string round her neck as the key goes up with the bridge. The bridge is designed to open when released and to be pulled back toDSCF5096 the closed position and locked after the boat has passed. I think this was all set up in the summer when the deck was dry, because Diana actually had to lift the deck and push it as high as she could before I could pass under it. 
It was anther very quiet day on the cut and we only met one boat all day, but we did see 7 Kingfishers including a pair or two flying together because I can't tell the difference between male and female.
We moored  for the night just above Pigeons Lock at about 1530.

Friday 19 November 2010

Friday 19 Nov 2010 Aynho

Well our plans have changed very slightly, we had planned to spend a couple of days going up the Thames, but I downloaded their stoppage list and all we would be able to do would be to go out at Sheepwash and come in at Dukes Cut. I don't think its worth buying a days Thames licence just to do that, so now we will have to terminate at Oxford before heading back to Napton.
Last nights moorings were good and quiet, the moon managed to show its face a few times but mostly the evening was thin cloud, so it never really got dark. When I looked out early this morning there was very light mist and by about 9 the sun was out and it has carried on that way.
After carrying out minor adjustments to the Dickinson, I find the calibration screws creep slightly, so its not been burning at maximum this trip, we set off. As we approached Grants Lock there was a boat following us, they had been moored about a quarter of a mile behind us last night and then as we came round the bend to Kings Sutton lock there was a boat coming up, so that's 2 boats in one day. 
BW have a large pile of rubbish at the Nell Bridge yard whit what looks like aDSCF5078 half decent inflatable dingy and loads of bicycle parts, a bath and all other sorts of stuff, I guess they must have cleared it all from the towing path. I was most impressed with their stock of stop planks with all the ends colour coded. I have still not been able to find the colour coded strong flow indication board below Nell Bridge. There is the useless height indication board between the lock and the bridge telling you what the bridge clearance is, but not the useful one.  DSCF5090 When we arrived at Aynho Weir the indicator board showed we were well into the green, but I would like to know before I get that far if it was in the red. Once through the lock we continued on to moor for the night opposite Aynho Wharf. Once tied up at about 1330 I wandered over the bridge to The Great Western Arms to book a table for tonight. Whilst in there I noticed that not only are they open all day but they also offer a free WiFi link.

Thursday 18 November 2010

Thursday 18 November Banbury area.

Last nights moorings are not the quietest in the world as the church clock strikes every 15 minutes. I think it may stop in the depth of the night because the last hour chime I recall hearing was at midnight.  It didn't help that we are both going down with colds so the nights sleep was not that good. The end result was us crawling out of bed late this morning.
We set off at 10-30 and stopped just through the bridge to fill with water, while there I dumped the rubbish and noted that they now have recycling facilities there. Once the tank was full we were on our way again, as we left I was aware of a commotion in the trees behind the old coal yard, it turned out to be a Rook with pure white wings, the rest was black just like the rest of the noisy flock.
DSCF5068 A BW chap on a bicycle accompanied up all the way to Banbury, he had his data logger on his handlebars and was inspecting structures as he travelled, he was also entering information about trees growing along the towing path.
As we came past the Spice Ball long term moorings, half of which are empty we saw our fist boat on the move in the entire trip. Passing Sovereign Narrowboats I noted that his diesel is 70p/lt. We moored for a bit by the shopping centre, first to eat diner and then so Diana could visit the shops. We had considered stopping here for the night, but as Diana returned at about 3 pm. the sky brightened up and it turned into the best part of the day, so we untied and moved out of town to moor for the night just before bridge 172 at about 4 pm.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Cropredy Wed 17 Nov 2010

Last night the pressure continued to fall and this morning it was down by over 10mb, as it did the wind freshened and the rain arrived.
We pushed off this morning at about ten to ten in cold windy rain and after an hour or so I was beginning to wonder why we were doing it. As we passed Fenny Marina I noticed that there appears a lot of vacancies now, I can't imagine they are all out cruising as we haven't seen a boat on the move in the two days we have been out.  As we entered Fenny Tunnel Diana came to drive while I went below for bit of a warm. At the Claydon flight the locks were all against us and of course there was no one coming up, so it was turn each one. The same was true for all the locks as far as Cropredy. As we started down the Claydon flight the weather brightened and the rain stopped which was nice. At Cropredy Lock the lock side cottage has a white board and marker pens hanging on the fence, written on it was an invitation to help yourself to apples which were laying all over the grass, Diana picked up half a dozen nice red ones as the lock filled. The people who live in the cottage seem quite boat friendly which is quite unusual these days, lots of them seem to be owned by people who would like the lock filled in and go out of there way to make life unpleasant for boaters with notices and fences.
We moored just below the lock for the night at ten past two, just as it started raining again.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

A trip down the Oxford 16 Nov 2010

As you have probably guessed we are back on Harnser again. We arrived back on board around about mid day after stopping at the new Southam Tesco for supplies. We normally bring them from home but this time we have been grandson sitting for the weekend and came to the boat straight from theirs. 
The first job when back on board was to fit a new oil seal to the hydraulic filter head the old one had started weeping so I bought a replacement O  ring while at home, until this job was done  I was not able to run the engine as even out of gear the oil circulates through the filter.    The other important jobs were to light both the back cabin stove and the Dickinson in the galley to warm the boat up.
Thankfully the day was bright and in the sun quite warm, however there was still ice on the puddles and frost on the grass where the sun had not caught it. DSCF5058 We were able to walk Magic right to the boat as British Waterways have put a bridge across the head of the lock while the lock is drained for repairs.
Once Harnser was in a fit state to run we winded in the engine arm and ran backwards to the lock moorings where we tied up and transferred everything from the car to the boat, then still tied to the lock moorings we had lunch, I then went to the Post Office in the village while Diana took Magic for a walk, it was only then at 1420 that we left the lock moorings, it something I have never done before and will probably only do  it once more when we return. With the stop plank in and the lock drained it was very unlikely that anyone else would want to  use them.
The pound between the two Marston Doles  locks was quite low which is not unusual and we got  through with no problem however the summit pound was right on weir, even so the going was quite slow and with no other boats on the move the water has cleared and you can see just how shallow it is in places and how narrow the channel is. 
We continued on not seeing another boat on the move in bright sunshine, however it was slowly getting colder with a clear blue sky. Looking up it was possible to see what looked like very faint rainbows high in the sky.
We decided to moor for the night at about 1630 by the Wormleighton disused DECA radio mast.  Just after we had tied up a mink came swimming by bold as brass, straight down the canal on the surface. In the past when I have spotted them the slightest movement caused them to dive out of sight, not this chap he just ignored Diana, Magic and me out on the front deck watching and talking about him going by . I didn't bother to go for the camera as the light was fading and him being black and moving away at quite a pace I didn't think the photo would be worthwhile.
As I type this the outside temperature is only 3.4c   but the pressure is falling steadily indicating black clouds and rain is on the way, hopefully it will be back on the rise by the morning to give us another fine day.