Tuesday, 15 August 2017

You heard it here first - we are officially 'nearly old'!

Tuesday 15th August 2017
Fenny Compton

We are a day ahead of schedule as we are booked in to Cropredy Marina tomorrow and Thursday, so today was to be a day off.  The plan was to get lots of jobs done, however we didn't!!

We were up about 8 and just had a slow start and did a few domestic duties including a load of washing - it was a lovely day and a shame to waste good drying weather.

The Wharf Inn by the canal has a small shop selling basic provisions, but does not have newspapers, so we decided to walk to the village.  It is a long road and Monty definitely had his 'town ears' on - flat back against his head, but he copes well with most traffic that whizzes past.  The odd large or noisy vehicle makes him dive for cover, but always away from the road.  We walked down the road from the pub, but discovered on the way back that there is a ginnel from the main road that leads to FC Marina and that does cut off quite a bit of road walking.  Tow path is so much nicer for all of us.  I have to say it is a long, boring walk just to get a newspaper and the village itself is nothing special to look at.

There is a railway bridge on the long main road

With this warning as you approach

Getting closer you realise they really mean it!

The local store is a small Co Op with basic provisions, but unless you really want something they don't sell at the pub, it probably is not worth the walk.  We did discover that you can get your hair cut, but I suspect you have to call ahead.

The view between the store and houses is far reaching - something that must enhance the back gardens

We decided to break our walk with a drink in the local pub - The Merrie Lion.  It is a Community Pub - it was to be shut a few years ago and the village all go together to save it.  The lunch choices looked interesting, so we decided to stay.  A good decision as it was the best pub lunch we have had in a long time and worth the walk.

So why are we officially nearly old?  When we were in the pub a man probably in his 40's was talking to a couple, probably in their 30's and we overheard the man saying 'they are all nearly old as they are all over 60'!!  I bet he won't say that when he is in his 60's!

Once back at the boat the urge to do jobs had gone!  We will be off early in the morning - there are a lot of boats moving on this canal, but most don't seem to start until 10am.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Boats, Bridges and Bends!

Monday 14th August 2017
Napton to Fenny Compton
10 miles, 9 locks

We were off by 07:30 (I know that is late for some of you, but not for us!) this morning and we were in the first lock by 08:15 having filled the water tank, moved under the bridge to the service wharf and deposited the rubbish and the 'yellow water' in the elsan disposal point.  

The catches to hold the paddles up on the top gates on the Napton flight are new to us (we were last this way in 1998 and my memory is not that good!)

The views are wonderful on this canal - miles of wide open countryside.

At one of the locks I noticed this creature in the distance.  At first I thought it was a bull alone in a field,

however as I looked to the right I realised there was a large herd of something, but what?

When I zoomed in I realised (with the help of my Pearson's guide) that these are water buffalo which have been farmed in Napton for many years.

Going back to the one on its own - I think there was something wrong with it which is why it was alone.  I could see it from a couple of locks and her stance looked strained and apart from the odd flick of her tail, she did not move

 Looking closer I fear that maybe she has given birth to a dead calf, but nothing we could do about it apart from hoping the farmer would be round to check on his herd soon.

A couple of locks later and here he was

A pirate boat for our granddaughter, Evelyn, yesterday and today one for her big sister, Molly

the Hippie Boat

Mind you I think some of their wares are probably more suited to Evelyn

We were happy to see that there are quite a lot of stretches of good armco along the flight, so plenty of mooring opportunities.

Lock 15 and a sign that has escaped the cull when C&RT took over from British Waterways.

Lock sixteen is the last one and we had only seen one boat coming down in the two hours it took from bottom to top.  At the top there was one going out

with three waiting to go down. We made the right decision to leave early before the queues had time to build up.

From there on it was a about a 7 mile cruise under around 13 bridges, most of which are on quite tortuous bends.  At virtually every one we met at least one boat.  At one point I thought I had Victor Meldrew on the back deck! This canal is very bendy!  We lost count of the boats that were travelling north (we are going south) and we can envisage the huge queue there will be at the top of the Napton locks if they are all going down!

We made it to Fenny Compton before lunch and moored the other side of the bridge in this picture.  I had looked through when we arrived, but there were no spaces.  We were on a bit of a bend, so not ideal, but beggars cannot be choosers.  Mid afternoon we went for a walk with Monty and on our way back a boat left the space we are now in.  Probably not our first choice as it is quite near to the pub, but it is straight and the only space available, so we moved hoping no one would come the other way and beat us to it!

The last time we were in Fenny Compton was in August 1998 when Chris and I had moved Sue and Ken's (Boatwif and the Captain) boat, nb Cleddau from near Milton Keynes to Fenny Compton.  Back in those days we all had work to fit in to our boating lives and they wanted to start their summer holiday near to Cropredy so they could attend the festival.  For many years they had said we could borrow Cleddau, but for some reason we were reluctant - it seemed a very big favour even though we knew they meant it.  When they asked us to help them out and move her we jumped at the chance and went via Stratford - a very large diversion!  We had 10 days of wall to wall sunshine and when they took over from us they had several weeks of rain and wind!  How young we all look!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Onwards and upwards - battered and bruised, but still functioning!

Sunday 13th August 2017
Boat Inn, Birdingbury Wharf, Grand Union Canal to below Napton Locks, Oxford Canal
4.5 miles, 3 locks

After I had posted yesterday's blog we went back across the bridge towards the pub to explore what we felt might be a different walk for Monty.  As we looked over the bridge we spotted this boat.  The mooring has no signage to indicate a long term mooring, but surely this boat has not moved for years?  As we went past today we spotted that the back deck is piled high with tyres - no room for a helmsman.

Anyway back to the walk - this is just one of several notice boards introducing the area to newcomers

It was certainly a drop of 'Monty Heaven' -wide open spaces which are just perfect for ball throwing

Not a place to be visited after a lot of rain judging by the paw prints backed into solid earth

There was a bit of woodland

and then we came to an area under some sort of construction

with a swing bridge in the distance

Is this a road under construction?

It leads to Nelson's Wharf which was not like this when we came past two years ago and looks as though there is room for more expansion

This is the view from the wharf to the canal

We certainly had a very happy dog, although we did get back to the boat with one ball less than we left with

 And so to today.... how would I be?  Well I had a bad night with a lot of pain, but not to my knees.  It was my lower back that was giving me grief.  I had had to take a couple of paracetamol in the wee small hours and I got up this morning still in a lot of discomfort, so it was a slower start than we had anticipated.  Chris did the morning chores and took Monty for a short walk to do all things a good dog has to do first thing in the morning and we pulled pins around 10am.

This is a view of the new moorings at Nelson's Wharf from the canal as we passed today.

It was an uneventful trip to Calcutt Locks - just three of them and all we had to do today, however when we got there we encountered our first queue of this trip.  We were the fourth boat, but with two boats going up at a time it was only a 20 minute delay and with the sun shining on us and people to chat to it was all very good humoured and a pleasant interlude.  As we arrived the man on the boat ahead of us came to take a rope and pull us in.  Always welcome, but particularly today with me not at full strength.

Monty immediately took to his daughter and they quickly became firm friends.  Not something he does very often - we think he is missing Evelyn

He also made friends with this rather beautiful Samoyed

All it good time it was time for our locking partners, a Kate boat, nb Jenella and ourselves to enter the bottom lock.  They had a big crew, so I was lucky that I was not required to do much.

It was very busy with boats going this way

and that.  By the time we got to the third lock there was another boat waiting to go up and the Jenella crew insisted we go ahead which was very kind of them.

 Once we were out we came across this boat which I am including for Evelyn.  She kept looking for pirate boats and now we have found one - now there cannot be many pirate boats with a huge ice cream cone on the bow!

It was the wrong time of day for us to partake of their offerings, but with younger crew a stop would have been a must

This amused us - it says ' STOP HERE for all your pirate booty - hats, flags, bandannas, swords and sailors outfits - knock and give us an ARRRRRRRRRR!'   How could we not think of Evelyn when she told us her joke of the moment 'Why are pirates called pirates?' 'Because they arrrrrrrrrr!'

The next point of interest was the junction where we were to turn right

onto the Oxford Canal towards Oxford

Suddenly we were in wide open country with expansive views

plus the frustration of following a canoe who was too slow for us not to catch him up, but not slow enough to overtake!  In the end Chris put the bow to the bank so that Monty and I could disembark and walk ahead.  The delay was just enough to get a decent distance between him and the canoe.

Now that is a good name for a boat on the Oxford Canal

The views just kept coming

This boat took us by surprise being so low in the water.  Chris reckons it was a tunnel tug - does anyone know if he is right?

Then suddenly you round and bend and know that you are approaching Napton with

the windmill perched high up on the hill

How is this for a house?  It looks as though they have had a garden room built on that is nearly complete

As Monty and I approached Napton all we could see was a solid line of moored boats.  Would we find a mooring.  Someone was smiling down on us as I found a Tentatrice sized gap that we slotted into.  After lunch we walked up to the village to get a paper - the sign by the canal says is is 50 yards (we reckon they forgot the last '0') and that is open every day early to late. That is not the case as it shuts at 14:00 on Sundays and we got there at 14:45.

Back to the canal and we then walked up the locks.  We spotted the church in the distance high on the hill.  Legend has it that it was to be built on the village green, but that the devil persisted in carrying the building stones up to the site where the church was eventually built.  Apparently you can see 7 counties from up there.  An expedition we might have undertaken if I had been in better form.  Another time maybe - who knows?

Neither of us has ever come across a 'Christadelphian Meeting Room' before.  Courtesy of Mr Google I now know the following - Christadelphians aim to get as close as possible to the faith and practice of the early Christian church. They describe themselves as "a lay community patterned after first century Christianity". Their name comes from a Greek phrase, Christou adelphoi, which means 'brothers (and sisters) in Christ'

Once again we were afforded fabulous views and a taste of what we can look forward to tomorrow.

This is looking down the locks from lock 13

We walked back down again back to the boat via The Folly for a swift pint

I survived the day taking alternatively paracetamol and ibuprofen which worked well and I hope I get a better night tonight ready for the 9 locks we have to do tomorrow.