Friday, April 29, 2011

Buckby to Braunston

It took a while to get going this morning and Boots wasn’t too keen for a walk which was a relief. We pulled the pins at 10ish and went up the last lock and on to the tunnel. It was a beautiful cruise.  Just as we were in the tunnel proper Pete burst into song which made me chuckle. It took Boots by surprise and he stood up suddenly and stared at me until he recognised Pete’s voice.

Elizabeth and Pete sang a beautiful two part harmony again and then, at the end, Pete burst into the finest rendition of ‘one cornetto’ I have ever heard.

The tunnels have been great fun. I have gone from being rather nervous about them to enjoying themDSC09189

As we approached Braunston Locks I saw David hove  into view.  He very kindly helped us down the flight. As we moored up Chris went past with Scrumpy – twas good to see him again. DSC09191

After a trip to the pub, an afternoon snooze and the arrival of Dr Saffin the evening began. Kate and I went to Elizabeth and Pete’s for a delicious supper filled with much laughter and fun. Again.

Kate has come to help me with the rest of the journey southwards and I am looking forward to spending some time with her again.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Weedon to Almost Buckby Top Lock

It was a beautiful morning as Boots and I took a stroll around Weedon. The shop and green grocers are pretty good so we stocked up on a few things before pulling the pins and heading up the Whilton/Buckby locks.

The first sight was that of the burnt out boat I had spotted on the way down. A sober reminder of the fragility of life:


This stretch is beautiful, not least because it is the home to one of my favourite boats – George:



Coming out of the locks was a pair:


It was a lovely trip and didn’t take nearly as long as I had expected so by the time we moored up we had a long afternoon and evening ahead of us. We went up to the New Inn and watched the boats float by.

Boots is exhausted.

We didn’t play Yahtzee… Yesterdays score wasn’t added up properly and we had to abandon the last game. The pressure is clearly on.

Happy Birthday Hannah.

Stoke Bruene to Weedon: Picture Book

Boots and I took a stroll along the woodland walk before we winded and returned through the tunnel. I was a bit worried about Boots freaking out and Elizabeth said she would come onto my boat and be there with him and report back. He was actually alright, a bit scared, but generally O.K.  I then had someone to chat with all the way to the water point which was really lovely. A bloke already on the water point seemed to be more concerned about my boating than his so I moved out of ear shot (mine and his) and patiently waited for him (in the wind) to get out of the way which he did.  I really like this stretch of countryside so here are some pictures:

This boat went past:

DSC09108 DSC09116



What a lovely boat: DSC09137


I love the way the bridges frame the countryside


Played Yahtzee… I may even have begun to ‘get it’

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stowe Hill to Stoke Bruene

I didn’t sleep well last night, only fitfully and only for a few hours thus I was not firing on all four cylinders.

My mind tends to go over drive on such occasions and I nearly pulled over a few times in order to give myself a good talking to, but I didn’t.  We stopped for coffee before the tunnel in order to don our waterproofs and set on through Blisworth.  I had Boots with me this time on the roof and to say he wasn’t impressed would be an understatement.  It wasn’t the tunnel per se but the showers of water falling from the sky that did it for him which is totally understandable as they came as a shock. 

We moored just the other side of the tunnel with the woodland walk to hand.IMAG1106

The tunnel and where the leggers used to hang about:


The tunnel is made up of these rings now:


A bit of the walk:IMAG1116

I like the topiary although this is not the best view:


but I especially liked the natural topiary – it looked like a man had dived into the ground:


I followed Elizabeth and Pete. They are such an utterly adorable couple.


No Yahtzee. I don’t suppose it will be mentioned again.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Braunston to Stowe Hill

In the morning I walked over the top of the Tunnel with Boots to have a look at the state of the path as Weepingcross was going to bicycle back to his car at some point. The ventilation chambers are quite sweet in the fields:


I peered into the tunnel and put myself off tunnels altogether. It wasn’t too bad as it happens. Elizabeth and Pete were singing in the tunnel which was beautiful. It was a shame my engine drowned them out, I slowed down to hear them and felt incredibly moved as they sailed into the darkness with the echos of two part harmony. 

Weepingcross and I sang our round ‘have you seen the ghost of Thames for a bit and then I whistled to myself with the beat of the engine noise for company.

IMAG1080  DSC09007

I felt very proud when I came out the other end.

Out of the tunnel and we were in a tree lined corridor. Weepingcross disembarked to return to his car and to drive on and meet us at Buckby. He was going to bicycle but the gears on the bike proved to be enough to polish off any desire. He did say it would have been hard to cycle the path, and he walks faster than a Ferrari so it was probably quicker.DSC09022


The locks were quite busy which was good as we had help all along.



We stopped off at the bottom of the locks for lunch before Weepingcross headed home.DSC09041

It is quite some time since we boated together and his departure marked the end of a really lovely time. I am rarely happier than when surrounded by fun and humour.

The trip from Whilton down to Stowe Hill is beautiful. The highlight, boat wise, was seeing my favourite: George


Not long after that I saw the familiar site of Andy walking up the tow path. Seeing him on a towpath is not familiar as I haven’t seen him for 15 years, but his walk is! I stopped so him and Jo could come on board for the trip into Stowe Hill.  So very very good to see them again.

We arrived to the smiles of Steve and Linda who had gone to great trouble and organised a huge BBQ with a roaring fire for the evening. It was lovely to see them again. Boots was pleased, once he had finished stropping and giving midge the cold shoulder in a ‘where have you been’ way, to see his long lost friends Davy and Midge.

Still no Yahtzee – I think they are threatened by the champion developing with every second, although there wasn’t really any time for such things.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Braunston to ..still Braunston

After a relaxing morning Boots and I returned from our walk to discover NB  Calm Down at the water point. I hitched a lift over the other side of the canal to see Lillian filling up with water. We had a good natter while Dave was at the shops.  After one thing and another Elizabeth, Pete and I had coffee before E&P went back to Bella and set off in my direction. I started the engine in order to make sure it was behaving (it wasn’t). Then I turned to notice the hirers behind me had set up a dining room on the stern of their boat “a la fumes de diesel” and were luncheoning. I love this view of Braunston:


and this:


The lock flight wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be. I stayed on my boat while E and P took turns in doing the locks with the hoards of helpers.  The Burtons were at the lock which was a lovely surprise -they have a lovely lurcher who has quite a character! Chris grabbed a windless and helped out with the first lock.

We shot up the locks and moored up just before the tunnel. Kraken came by on Lucian and we had another opportunity to catch up.

Then Weeping Cross arrived. We spent the evening on Bella eating delicious food and embarking upon more laughter.

No Yahtzee….

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Braunston, old friends and Yahtzee

Saturday started with a walk around the church and a visit to the lovely village shop and fabulous butcher. 


For one reason and another I spent a fair amount of time in these parts when I was a teenager and while here I had a very good, loyal friend. We shared a lot of sorrow and a lot of fun.  As we walked the path together there was always something very comforting to know the other was there. Always. Regardless.

Over the years, as ever, we parted and when I noticed my Easter trip would take me near where we met I decided I would look my friend up. Again.

We had many years to catch up on but as we sat having lunch it was clear the years hadn’t come between us.  Funny really. I looked across at her and thought just how special she was just as she looked across at me and said I was one in a million (in a good way).  There is something special about the bond we made in those days added to the security of the passage of time.

Just as my friends were leaving the coal boat arrived which pleased me no end as I was getting a bit neurotic about the contents (or not) of the diesel tank.


Then after a text from Oakfield promising pyramid tea bag tea I walked up to see them.  It was far too hot for any consumption of pyramids so I had a cold drink and a bit of a catch up. After that I walked on to see my friends Pete and Elizabeth on Bella.  I had just missed Pete taking a dip in the canal, great tragedy!  We had a lovely afternoon/evening together at Midland Chandlers and the pub followed by G&T and dinner on Bella. After supper we played Yahtzee…

Despite a game of it I am still puzzled about Yahtzee… apparently it is really simple and takes 5 seconds to learn. This does not bode well for my self respect for I was only just beginning to establish a few things by the end of the game (mostly not to be distracted).  Here are a few things that confused me:

Firstly: I was given a score card full of lines. Apparently you can score above and below THE line. It took me a while to work out which line.

Secondly: It is a game of chance, based on rules that require skill.

Thirdly: Secondly does not compute

Fourthly: After abandoning any thought about Secondly I found that getting wrapped up in the probability of scoring what you need (which is another matter altogether) by throwing 5 dice three times only holds one back.

Fifthly: Abandoning thought about the above points helps focus ones mind on the game.

The thing I did get was the dice. Normally one would have 5 dice with 6 sides each side numbered. Unsurprisingly on Bella things aren’t done what we might describe as ‘normally’ (this may be why I like them so much). The dice they used were more picture than number. They went something like this:

Ace = 1 which scored 3

nine = 2 which scored 6

ten = 3 which scored 9

jack = 4 which scored 12

queen = 5 which scored 15

king = 6 which scored 18

I considered this a nice pattern and rode on that for the entire game.  Apparently one always looses the first game. I take it that as I did lose I am now a threat to the Gray –King establishment so watch out people… I have turned champion over night.


Oh, and I fixed my puncture ( in the bicycle not me)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Marston Dole to Braunston

When I went for my morning with walk with Boots at silly o’clock the sun was already really warm. By the time I had mucked about, filled with water and pottered about it was positively boiling o’clock. On the verge of melting I was delighted to see Elizabeth and Pete hove into view – it is much easier work with friends to grin at along the way: We have been meeting up in the morning, doing the locks and then I sail off into the sunset one way and them in the other.

I picked up my bicycle with a flat tyre from Rick half way down the Napton Flight and from there on the view gets breathtakingly, kneebendingly stunning. DSC08947 I have often seen the post card in the shops of Napton but to actually be IN that scene was magical.  The windmill sits proud on the hill. Men seem to feel the need to take their tops off when the sun comes out so I had to take a second glance at the man in the bottom left-ish corner of this picture as his shorts are the same colour as his skin!



At the bottom of the flight we meandered our way around to the Bridge Inn for coffee in the garden before going our separate ways.  I set off and moored up again as the engine was being silly. It didn’t take long to coax it into action and we were off very slowly to Braunston. very very slowly, just like the boat in front. The boat in front stopped for lunch so I pootled fast and sat behind another very very slow boat. I don’t mind going slow, but I did find their mooching and canoodling rather off putting.  The approach to Braunston was lovely  - there was an extraordinary crinkle top field:


The world is incredibly yellow at the moment. The winding Oxford makes it look like the boats are going through the fields:


with some old boats to feast upon. It was really rather crowded.


I found a mooring spot easily in Braunston and I have been overheating ever since. I spent the afternoon (after putting Boots under the tap) flopped out in the doorway only to be disturbed by yobs tooting their horn. It turned out to be Wand-ring Bark! We had planned to meet on Saturday but they had got their days confused and were going through on Friday. I thought they would be LONG gone by the time I got there, and they would have been had they not been caught in a 3hour queue at Watford. It was a lovely surprise and most splendid to have the opportunity to drink their gin and catch up on the news. I took a splendidly out of focus shot of them as they vanished off into the distance, and then another that is in shot but makes them look like they are jigging their way into the distance.


David popped in in the evening and we went over to the pub and back to the boat for tea. He only had one cup which means I STILL have 4 cups of the nasty tea bags to drink before I can open the nice pyramid ones.

Elizabeth and Pete did ask me if I needed any supplies but I had a full fridge… I failed to recall it was mainly full of cabbage and cheese so I will look forward to a trip to the local village shop which is well stocked apparently. Shopping is not my forte. Clearly!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Broadmoor to Marston Doles

It was a beautiful morning as we left Broadmoor lock and headed towards the top of Claydon.  Boots normally sits on the back hatch with me, but whenever I wasn’t looking he walked up to the front of the boat to stare at something terribly important. I don’t really like him walking about on the roof because his centre of gravity doesn’t suit us being hit by something.  I used to worry about the overhead branches sweeping him and the rest of the boat into the cut, but BW have done wonders cutting the branches back (I wonder if they have tackled those Willow Trees south of Wolvercote). He is funny. He gets to the front of the boat with very little effort tiptoeing between the various ‘treasures’ I have there, but whenever I try and coax him back he walks slowly through the clear bit and then where it isn’t so clear he just looks at me and says ‘you are joking – you want me to walk through THAT, it is a hazard – clear it, I will think about it’. Funny boy.

EP At the tope of Claydon Lock Elizabeth and Pete strolled off into the distance as I did the same in the opposite direction on the boat preparing myself for 3 hours of standing on the back of the boat being fascinated without a lock to distract me.

I was just beginning to lose the will to live at Fenny Compton when I noticed some people staring at me - Elizabeth and Pete had stopped in at the Wharf for coffee and thought they would watch me sail by, so I stopped for coffee too. Very very lovely indeed. With my batteries recharged I headed off with a huge grin on my face.

The summit from Fenny Compton is stunningly beautiful. The rolling countryside is out of this world and as I twisted around the fields to places you cannot get to by car I was reminded, once again, about how fortunate I am to live in this country.  The fields of crops reminded me how important it is to support our British farmers. When walking around the supermarket it is easiest to pick the cheapest, or not even to look, but by buying British we are investing in the views so many of us love.DSC08937

DSC08920 You see it all on the summit and as soon as I noticed an Oxfordshire Narrowboat preparing to set sail I noticed the chap was wearing marigolds. MARIGOLDS I tell you. Boating in yellow marigolds. I had seen it all now… you can imagine my surprise when I discovered it was Dan and Sarah Clacher with their grandson! They weren’t Marigolds – just gloves with yellow bits.  It was lovely to see them, not only are they fantastic company but sharing in the joys of their books (Muddy Waters series) is a delight. Half way around the summit and another moment of cheer to one along the way. They had some wonderful stories to tell of their travels and I left laughing after Dan told me about his sketch of some of the things he had seen.

This is their new boat which will become Muddy Waters at the end of the season this year.DSC08907

With another grin I set off. I was quite tired by the time I arrived at Marston Doles.  A friend, Rick, was moored half way down the Napton Flight and had invited me to a BBQ so off I went – he meant half way in locks, not miles so I was pleased I took my bicycle. Unfortunately I forgot that it was hedge trimming time of year which means the towpath is full of thorns and I arrived with a puncture. It is AGES since I fixed a puncture, fortunately Boots didn’t get any punctures and he ran all the way.  He was rather tired and at one of the bridges he ran off the tow path into the middle of the country road and looked up and down it as if saying ‘there must be a taxi here SOMEWHERE’.

I must remember to pick my bike up which was unceremoniously chained to the back of his boat. Rick walked me home which was rather kind of him.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Banbury to Cropredy then Broadmoor

It is a long time since I boating with a group of friends, but on this trip there were 8 of us including my little cousin Will (I am very blessed with my cousins and the next generation of them is just as fun as the first!). 

Everyone was smiling, laughing, chatting and having a great time. I really enjoyed it.  I really enjoy the short trip from Banbury to Cropredy; the locks are a perfect distance apart and the cottage I nearly purchased is on route. I noticed this year that it has windows… but I forgot to take a photograph!

No sooner had we set off and Miles felt the need to do something with the roof – with a paint brush… I would have handed him a broom but he might have thrown it at me!


Boots took to Tam really rather quickly and remained devoted for the whole day.DSC08857

He looked SO proud to be walking next to her when we all went to the pub for a drink afterwards.  He was looking at me as if to say ‘look, this is how it is done’ Very sweet indeed.

I did enjoy having crew – two smiling chums as you enter a lock is very heart warming. The others did sterling work providing tea, sandwiches and laughter. Periodically a hand and face would bob up from the front followed by a wave. Lovely.IMAG0962

Miss T rather liked this boast as we came into Cropredy – it did look handsome:

DSC08860 Above the lock in Cropredy is 24 hour mooring and as I want to be there for several days we ended up above Broadmoor lock. This is a beautiful mooring and the dog walker (Karen Kendell Pet Care Services) can pick Boots up during the day to relieve the boredom while I am out and about about earning a crust for his bones.  I must write about Dog Walking on this stretch because it really is outstandingly good, very flexible, very reasonable and Boots has an absolutely fantastic time.

Here is the view from above the lock – a lovely spot.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Boots has a good giggle

boots joke