Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Early Bird Beats the Rush!

Wednesday 16th  - Thursday 17th August 2017
Fenny Compton to Cropredy Marina
5.75 miles, 8 locks

Well the early start worked again and we were off before anyone else around us, so well ahead of any queues.  About a mile before the first locks we came to the first lift bridge which are typical of this canal.  Thankfully most are left open.

And so to the first set of locks - five of them at Claydon.  Spotted in the distance were a couple of C&RT workers.  We knew it was too early (08:45) to be volunteers, so we hoped the reason they were there was not going to cause us too much of a delay.  Thankfully only 10 minutes whilst they moved water down to the next pound that was very low.

These locks are very rural and fairly easy to work, although the state of this lock beam leaves a lot to be desired.

There are more signs that have yet to be updated with the C&RT logo

As we left the bottom lock we found out just how low the pound was!

A bit of scraping along the bottom, but passable as long as you stayed in the middle.  As we were still ahead of the game we did not have to pass any moving boats - I am sure that might well have been easier said than done.

On past Clattercote Wharf (what a great name!) with this BW historic boat

and onto the start of the next three locks.  It was still wonderfully peaceful with far more of these ladies than humans

 This is Chris approaching the first of the last three locks, Elkington's lock, which is where we met our first moving boat. It was in the lock coming up - always helpful.  There were also other boats down below waiting, so plenty of helping hands to work the lock.

We only had two other locks to do and once again there were boats coming up at both of them, so a very easy passage for us.

At the last lock, Broadmoor lock, there is a stall selling ropes, fenders, apples

and plums at £2 a pot - they are certainly fresh and represent a good profit for the vendors as they

(we assume) been picked off the tree next to the stall!

Needless to say we passed by without opening our wallets!

We arrived at Cropredy marina around 11am.  The instructions were to go past the first entrance

and into the second

We filled up with diesel and were then shown to our mooring.Shortly after we moored up the boat next to us moved off leaving us a double space all to ourselves! Very much appreciated as with the side hatch open, you don't feel so hemmed in.

It rained and rained in the night and the air was still very damp when I took Monty out first thing. The sun came out and in the main the day was hot and sunny, but with a brisk wind.

An engineer was due around 09:00 to service the engine and Tesco was due with lots of provisions to re-stock our very empty fridge and freezer.  Both came and went and I spent quite a long time re-packing all the fresh stuff (I tend to remove most things from their packaging and put them into plastic pots as I find they last better and take up less valuable space).  Monty had a short walk around the marina, but all in all it was a pretty non-event of a morning.

After lunch we set off to walk to Cropredy itself.

As you walk across to the reception area you go past this gate - the marina is closed today as all electric supplies to the area are off for some essential maintenance, so there is no one we can ask who Chris is/was and we will be gone before they open in the morning.

The road to Cropredy is long and straight, but not as long as the one to Fenny Compton

There is a welcome seat at  the top of the incline where one can take a breather

Past this lovely field with a fabulous outlook, but a sad sign of the times that they have had to comprehensively block all vehicle access.  Having lived near an area that at one time that was invaded by 'travellers', I can fully understand why they are protecting their property.  The damage, filth and devastation they frequently leave behind is horrendous.

Not something you can miss as you enter the village!

I was chatting to a fellow boater and blogger yesterday (Brenda from nb Jannock who we hope to meet up with tomorrow along with husband Graham) and she told me to look out for this charmingly named street.  I have to say the name conjured up chocolate box cottages rather than these semis!

This is what I expected to find in Cup and Saucer!

Next door but one to the above was the unmistakable sound of children having fun on a trampoline and in a large paddling pool.

Almost opposite the thatched cottage is a sign with details of a village trail.  We could have done with this sooner and then we might have found the stone feature in Cup and Saucer - another time, maybe.

On we went towards the canal and past Vicarage Gardens with a view of the church in the background - I would love to have seen this when there was a large vicarage and gardens rather than a housing estate.

When you reach the Old Canal Wharf you are,  not unexpectedly, very close to the canal

I hope not too many more boaters want to deposit their rubbish - the smell was not appealing

Views both ways along the canal

We reached our destination - the Bridge Store.  It is well supplied with most basics, but not brilliant if you are after fresh fruit and vege.

I do love this sign

Our route back was to take us along the canal past Cropredy lock to Broadmoor lock where we would go back along roads to the marina.  At Cropredy lock are these four sculptures

The wording is as follows:

The humpbacked bridge
Is taking umbrage
and making a bright hoop

of its bricklined arch
like a sturdy instep 
on the unbroken surface

Where the quilled stumps
of pollard willows
shiver like the steel bristles

On a flea's armour
or rest head-down like sable
brushes in a jar of turps.

Make of that what you will!  I assume this is the bridge it is referring to.

There is very little mooring below the lock, but plenty above.

One of the houses opposite these moorings has a really pretty garden - I do love it when people embrace the canal and make the most of their wonderful settings.

The walk takes you past the marina which is not accessible from the towpath.  The arrow marks our mooring!

Back at Broadmoor lock the plums are now £1 a pot!  Chris is sure they were £2 yesterday, so they have either lowered the price or he got it wrong!

Boats seen today:

This is for a friend of ours - if the Chinese underneath is impolite we deny all knowledge!

And a name that took our fancy

I am not sure whether this sky bodes well for tomorrow or not.....

Having now read the guide book it appears that we missed a treat both visually and gastronomically in not visiting The Red Lion - we will just have to come back again one day!

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!