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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Banbury to Cropredy.

Saturday 31st January.

Banbury to Cropredy, 3.8 miles and 3 locks.

Yesterday evening as we had no TV signal to speak of, Keith and I were both working on our computers. Keith was on facebook and I was working on my family tree, which has become very addictive. In the past few days I have learnt that my 2nd Great Granduncle Thomas Henry Cosser was an able seaman on H.M.S Duke of Wellington in 1881. She was the flagship of Sir Charles Napier at the Crimean War. I also lost two relatives in WW1 Albert William Cosser a private in the 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment and Albert Victor Brewer of the Gloucestershire Regiment, 13th (Service) Battalion (Forest of Dean), both are buried in war cemeteries in France. I always thought my family was boring, but it appears not. Even my Grand-father was a Warrant Officer Class 1 RSM in WW2 and served in the 8th Army under Montgomery. It really amazes me that I never knew this from my family, not even about my Grand-father. I am really enjoying the ancestral search and cannot wait to find out more about my family. It has all been with the help of a friend, who loves doing family trees.
Before heading off to bed, I made up the back cabin stove and whilst doing so with the doors open, I got chatting to Jen from NB Witchcraft which was moored behind us. We met her husband Bill earlier in the day. It was a really lovely evening to stand out chatting, whilst watching the police cars and vans rushing over the Tom Rolt bridge, just a typical Friday night for them I guess.

It occurred to me this morning that as January draws to a close, we have been on the move for just over a year now, and in that time we have covered 1317.7 miles and worked 907 locks. OMG 907 locks, I guess I should remember them all, but I am afraid I do not. It has been an incredible years cruising. We have met some fabulous people, made many new friends and caught up with old friends, around the system and of course sold coal to lots of lovely customers. We look forward to another year of excellent cruising to pastures new.
So now on to today, we waved goodbye to Banbury at 9.55 am for this year and left Brian on NB Kyle behind. Unfortunately we did not get to see him before we left, but we have no doubt that we will see him again, hopefully later in the year.
Our jaunt to Cropredy was pretty uneventful and only took us 1 hour 45 minutes, we only saw the Cropredy Canoeists out for their Saturday session. It was such a contrast to a couple of weeks ago, when we were struggling through ice, the same trip took us 4 hours 35 minutes, but then we were pushing through 1 to 1 ½ inch thick ice at the time. The weather has turned colder and there is snow forecast, yippee. But whether we will see any of it is another matter. Having arrived in Cropredy we pulled into the 14 day moorings and tied up before I made us some lunch and a coffee. During the afternoon we took a stroll up to Cropredy Church to have a look around the church yard in search of a friends ancestors, sadly we did not find their head stones, but so many of them are now unreadable, which is a real shame.
Right now it is absolutely beautiful out, a cold sunny winters day on the Oxford Canal.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Catching up with friends.

We have arrived in Banbury once more to gather food supplies and a few extra bits and bobs we need. Yesterday we passed Ernie on NB Ten Bob Note, he was filling his water tank ready for a cruise south for the winter, so we wished him well and went on our way. We moored overnight below Banbury on the 14 day moorings, where we took the opportunity to get rid of some unwanted items to a charity shop, we also spent a peaceful night onboard.
This morning we got up and went food shopping at Morrison's. Having stowed the food away, we then slipped our mooring and headed for the sanitary station, where we had a number of items we wanted to throw away, as well as emptying both toilet cassettes. Whilst Keith untied Hadar I set the lock with Gongoozlers watching on from the bridge. I then got chatting to a gentleman about coal and which were the best sorts to burn on what types of fire. I think he went away happy with the explanation. Having exited under the lift bridge, we then managed to find a mooring on the 48 hour moorings which would be fine for us overnight.
As I was tying off, I spotted a boat in front of us which looked very familiar, but I could not place it (old age). It was then I saw the owner and realised that it was NB Kyle and her owner Brian, who has a new member onboard named Ghost. Ghost is a 2 year old collie-spaniel cross and is absolutely beautiful. Brian has found a real gem with Ghost. Brian, Keith and I got chatting about where we had been and what we had done since we were together on the BCN Cruise, when Keith came up with the idea of going to the Top Wok for lunch, so I invited Brian to come along. We all enjoyed a fabulous buffet lunch as always. It gave us the opportunity to have a real good chin wag. Having left the Top Wok, Keith and I went off to do some retail therapy before heading back to Hadar, where we then unloaded 8 bags of Excel for Brian. It is always so wonderful to meet up with friends. we also notice that NB Lazy Days is moored up, not sure if we will see Alan and Frances before we leave in the morning. it was absolutely wonderful seeing Brian again and meeting his dog Ghost and maybe we will see them again during the year.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Shipton-on-Cherwell to Banbury.

Monday 26th January.

Shipton-On-Cherwell to Somerton 9.8 miles, 7 locks and 2 lift bridges.

A fabulous morning greeted us at Shipton Bridge; it looked so good for cruising, that we set off at 9.45am.The whole day was an absolute joy. Not only did we have wall to wall sunshine, there was no wind, so it really felt quite pleasant. I did not wear my donkey jacket all day and Keith managed to take off his fleece, which he normally wears under his donkey jacket, so it was almost tropical.We only met two other boats, one was Mike on coal boat Dusty, which was laden down with coal, gas etc.We cruised up the River Cherwell even though it was registering red on the water level indicator by about 2 inches. Hadar did not find it a problem at all.
Most of the 7 locks were with us, which made for an easy days cruising for me.The River Cherwell, which follows the canal was extremely high and had broken its banks in some places, flooding the fields and meadows.What was lovely to see, were the snowdrops out in flower along the canal.Our day finished at 2.35pm at Somerton overlooking the water meadow.

Tuesday 27th January.

Somerton to Outskirts of Banbury, 7.9 miles, 5 locks and 2 lift bridges

Cold, crisp and foggy for our cruise today to Banbury. It was a beautiful start to our day, which began just after 10am, when we prepared Hadar for the off.We really love cruising when it is like this. The countryside takes on a whole new life when it is shrouded in fog.
As we approached Somerton Deep Lock, the sun was trying to burn off the fog, so that it may pop its head out to wish us a good morning.No matter where we looked along the Cherwell valley, it was covered in water, where the Cherwell had burst its banks.We got through Aynho Weir Lock without a problem, the water level indicator was on yellow, which surprised Keith seeing how high the river had been on the run up to the lock, and was therefore ok for us to exit the lock and carrying on to Nell Bridge Lock, where we got chatting to a lovely couple, who were out walking.
Although we were only cruising for around four hours, by the time we moored up just outside of Banbury at Nadkey Bridge 172, it felt like we had been cruising all day.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A pleasant couple of days.

Saturday 25th January.

A very cold and frosty beginning to the day, the temperature dropped to -2.5C overnight, so everything around us was frozen, including patches of the canal.
After breakfast, we took the boat down to the Thrupp sanitary station, where we wanted to wind Hadar. On arriving opposite the station a boat was moored on new bollards near the lift bridge. The bollards had been put in a couple of days previous, we watched as they were concreted into position and our immediate thought was, how long would it be before boats moored on them who were not using the lift bridge. Well it only took a couple of days. We were told that BW had removed mooring rings from there to stop boats mooring up, and now that there are bollards they will find they will have the same problem. This meant that it made winding a little more difficult. Not only that as we were winding, another boat came through the lift bridge, without waiting for us to finish our manoeuvre, which I felt was very rude. We took over the mooring at the sanitary station, from another boat which moved off through the lift bridge. We took on water, emptied both of the toilet cassettes, and got rid of domestic rubbish. I also added a couple of books to the collection outside of the Elsan. The books are there for anyone to take; you just leave a small donation in the box. Whilst we waited for the water tank to fill Steve (PJ) from NB Ocelot joined us for a natter. With the tank eventually filled, we then made our way back to our mooring near Shipton Bridge. Later in the afternoon, Bones very kindly took me shopping at Sainsburys, which was very sweet of her. So Keith and I can eat again for a while. Many thanks Bones.

Sunday 25th January.

We had a very pleasant day, polishing the back cabin and engine room brass and copper, so it all looks very shiny for five minutes. Whilst we were in the cleaning mood a family walked past the boat and enquired about house coal, as they have an open fire in their house. They wanted to know what would be the best coal to burn and ended up leaving with a bag of house coal to try. I did not envy them carrying the 25kg bag from Shipton Bridge to The Jolly Boatman, it must be at least a mile along the towpath.
We also had a knock on the boat asking about buying some coal from us later in the day, which we said was fine, even though it was Sunday, what we did not expect was the time he arrived to collect his 2 bags of coal. he knocked on the boat at 10pm. Both Keith and I dispatched two bags of Taybrite from the hold for the guy and gladly took his money, before climbing back into the boat to continue watching "A Short Stay In Switzerland" with Julie Walters playing the role of Dr Ann Turner. It was an amazing drama and certainly got us talking about what we would do in her situation. Julie Walters was as always fantastic in her role and made it very convincing.
It was then time for bed. We would be making a move tomorrow.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Panto and the pub........ what more can we want.

Thursday 22nd January.

We got up to a wet morning, with a gusty wind. Because of all the overnight rain, the field by us was beginning to flood, a lot of the problem is the stream that runs alongside the field is clogged up with fallen trees and leaves, so the water overflows into the field, because its normal path is blocked. I suspect this is the case with a lot of flooding that takes place all over the country. Paddy did not hang around when on his walk, so once back onboard, we had breakfast and a cuppa, before I set about doing a job, I had been putting off. You know what its like, you keep looking at something, which you know needs doing, and it gets put off until you can no longer look at it. Well for me this was the washing of the back cabin curtains and cabin lace. Since lighting the stove back in October the curtains and cabin lace have been gathering dust, and today I could look at them no longer. I stripped the cabin and piled it all into the washing machine. Whilst that was on its cycle, I washed down the ribbon plates and woodwork to get rid of some of the dust. Coal dust is an occupational hazard when burning house coal on a stove, it just means that the curtains etc, need washing more often to keep them clean and the dust down. I am in the process of making a new pair of curtains, but I want to save them until we go to the festivals this year.
1.30pm and we met Keith’s sister Wendy at the Jolly Boatman for lunch. Now since the last time we were in Thrupp the Jolly Boatman has had two new owners. This new owner has made the pub into a more of a wine bar, restaurant type of place, which really does not suit it, but that is just my opinion. The food when we ate their last time was excellent; it was to a very high standard, the same cannot be said about the foods this time. I had cod cooked in beer batter and hand cut chips. The fish was ok, but the chips looked like they had been deep fried to within an inch of their lives and with it came a small finger bowl of peas. For £8.75 I really expected a higher standard of cooking. Keith had the Steak and Ale Pie and said it was ok and Wendy had the Chilli, which she said was alright, but the portion was small. After lunch we came back to Hadar for a coffee and a chat before Wendy drove us to her house and then on to the Panto which she is performing in at the Corn Exchange, Witney. Wendy is part of the Witney Dramatic Society and their Panto this year is Dick Whittington. We had a fabulous time; the Panto was really very well done with excellent performances by the dancers from the Jill Stew Dance School. There was plenty of laughter and audience participation, making for a very enjoyable evening. Wendy played one of King Rat’s henchmen, and looked very evil in her red wig and makeup. It was late by the time we got back to the boat, but we were hungry, so I made us some toast and a cuppa whilst we watched the end of Wyatt Earp, after which we headed off to bed.

Friday 23rd January.

Nothing much to report, we had a nice quiet day just chilling out. During the afternoon Bones and Maffi came calling, so we sat onboard eating cake, drinking coffee and chatting about all things boating. Later on we walked up to The Boat Inn for an evening of chatter with Bones, Maffi, Steve (PJ) and friends of Bones and Maffi; it was an excellent evening of laughter.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Kidlington Quarry to Shipton-on-Cherwell.

Monday 19th January.

Kidlington Quarry to Shipton-on-Cherwell 3.3 miles, 3 locks and 1 lift bridge.

After a night of yet more rain, we both had somewhat of a restless night. Keith ended up getting up at 4am, so I got up and made us both a cup of tea. Whilst he played on his computer, I took my cuppa back to bed with me and tried to go back to sleep, but to no avail. Oh the joys of the menopause and the night sweats. Men you really do not know how lucky you are. Eventually when Keith came back to bed, we both dozed off for a while, before getting up at 9am as Paddy needed to go out.
We left the quarry mooring at 10.30am, destination Bakers Lock 8’6” to see how high the River Cherwell was and if it was possible to navigate it. When we arrived at Bakers Lock, we both walked down to the navigation board to see how high the level of the water had reached. It was just touching the red marker, so we then walked on down further to see how fast the river was flowing. Keith reckoned that it was fine and no worse than the River Wey which we did last year, which was running fast. So we agreed to go for it. Keith has had plenty of experience of boating on the Thames, so we did not feel the River Cherwell would be a problem and it wasn’t. We had a very pleasant cruise to Shipton Weir Lock 2’5”. I wish I could say the lock gate was as easy. It took every last ounce of strength I had to get the bottom gate open. I even had to use the wall of the bridge to give me some extra leverage. It really is a shocker to open and it does not help that the brick grips for your feet are in the wrong place. After the lock we then had the lift bridge, which was reported about on Narrowboat World, when a single handed boater jumped from the open bridge and broke both his legs. Our cruise concluded at Shipton Bridge, where we moored up on the 14 day moorings and this is where we will be for a few days, whilst we catch up with friends and family.
After some lunch, we walked up to Thrupp and Gunpowder Wharf to see Maffi on NB Milly M, where we were welcomed onboard for a coffee and a catch up chat.
Later in the day, we heard a knocking on the side of the boat and it was not coming from the towpath. I leaned out of the side window to see Maffi and Bones in her outboard motor boat coming alongside. Bones had got back from work and wanted to say hello. We made arrangements to meet up at The Boat Inn for a drink later on. Whilst walking up to the pub, we knocked on NB Ocelot to collect Steve (PJ) for an evening in the pub. We had a fabulous evening of good conversation and wonderful company. There was many a laugh, whilst we enjoyed a pint or two. For Keith and I this is not the norm, because we only really ever drink when we are out for a meal, but Bones, Maffi and Steve are wonderful company and good friends, with whom we would always want to spend an evening with in the pub. The walk back to Hadar, was under a star filled sky. It was incredibly beautiful and not a breath of wind, just the moon and stars to keep up company, as we dodged the muddy puddles. Back onboard Paddy and Marmite were laying in the back cabin ready to welcome us home. Marmite spent a good 10 minutes meowing, as if to tell us all her news from the evening. Paddy just rolled over onto his back and wanted his tummy tickled, typical male huh.
Our evening finished with a cup of Jasmine tea, before retiring to bed.

Tuesday 20th January.

It was a day of chopping up wood for the back cabin stove, selling coal and doing boat jobs. We did leave the boat to walk up to the sanitary station to get rid of rubbish. The sanitary station now has recycle bins, thanks to Cherwell Council, which is fantastic for anyone wanting to recycle their rubbish. We then walked up to the Jolly Boatman to book a table, as Keith’s sister is coming to see us. We walked back along the road to find the closest bus stop to Shipton-On-Cherwell, in case we should need to go and do a food shop before we leave. We found out online that the 59 bus runs every 33 minutes past the hour in either direction to and from Kidlington, which would be fine for us, if we should need to use it. During the afternoon, Phil Brogan, the BW Patrol Officer for the area, knocked on the boat. We had been in touch with him whilst in Banbury about the ice by email, and said that if he saw us on his patrol to give us a shout, which he did. We stood out on the towpath for a good hour chatting about everything from dredging to un-licenced boats. It was really nice to chat to Phil and it gave us the chance to clarify a few things with him, he is a really approachable person, so thanks Phil for your time.
With our evening meal and showers out of the way, we settled down to an evening in front of the TV. With an excellent digital signal here we could actually watch film4. The 9 o’clock movie was The Omen the 2006 version. Now I do not do scary movies, because I tend to have nightmares after watching them, especially if they involve a lot of gore and violence, but I wanted to see this version of The Omen and was not disappointed, it was very good and not to violent. The worse bit was David Thewlis getting his head chopped off. He will never see things the same way again ha ha. Keith is quite happy watching scary movies, he has the Alien collection. When I tried to watch them he had to screen them first, so he knew where the gory bits were, so he could warn me to look away. (Daft I know). When it came to the Alien Resurrection he watched it whilst I was at work, and told me on my return that I could not watch any of it as it was all too gory for me. I do not have a clue why I cannot watch these sorts of films, maybe something from my childhood, I really do not know.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Kirtlington Quarry for the weekend.

Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th January.

Kirtlington Quarry.

Saturday was a day of doing boat jobs. I began with sorting the coal out in the hold. It needed restacking and is now all ship shape and Bristol fashion in the hold for five minutes or until the next time I decided to have a tidy up. Whilst I did that Keith was adding switches to our smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, so we can switch them off whilst making up the fires, especially in the back cabin. Because when I make the fire up with house coal, 9 times out of 10 the smoke alarm goes off, even with the back doors open. With those two jobs done, we then set about cleaning out the engine room, which has become rather cluttered. With everything moved and tidied, mats swept, floor washed, we could once more see the wood for the trees. We now have a bag full of rubbish for the Thrupp sanitary station when we get there. All in all the whole boat got a good tidy inside, which was really cathartic.
During the afternoon we were joined on the moorings by NB Lazy Days. When the boat passed us, I thought I recognised it, but as we see so many I did not give it another thought, until later in the afternoon whilst making up the back cabin stove a voice shouted "hello" from NB Lazy Days. Alan and Francis had just got back from a walk around the quarry and so we introduced ourselves, and the fact that we both had blogs, which we had of course both read. Almost every boater we meet now has a blog of some description. It is always lovely to meet up with fellow bloggers and we stood outside chatting for sometime, before I announced I really should check dinner, which was cooking in the back stove, with that we both climbed back into our boats for the evening. During the evening we were deluged with rain and strong winds, which meant that smoke was blowing back into the boat down the chimney of the saloon stove, so we closed it down to allow it to go out.

Sunday morning began bright and sunny, which was a promising start to the day, although not so good was the fact that the back cabin stove was almost cold, so it would need making up again. But first of all Paddy was asking to go out for his walk. It was not long before he was on the hunt for bunnies to play with. He then decided to lie down for a few minutes in the middle of the stone maze.I told him he had to find his own way out. Ha ha.
Paddy has never been one for a lot of exercise and so takes every opportunity to lay down whilst out walking. It all stems from the fact that if he gets to out of puff, he walks around as if he was drunk. The vet that examined him said it is all down to the fact that he cannot take in enough oxygen, so Paddy is a dog of very little exercise and that suits him.Whilst Keith did us a cooked breakfast of bacon, egg, mushrooms and tomatoes on toast, I once again cleaned out the back stove fire and checked the chimney for any blockages. It’s a wonderful job for a Sunday morning, having your arm pushed up a chimney. Reminded me of when the vet, would come to the farm and put his arm up a cows behind, LOL. Amazing what comes to mind from ones childhood.
With a yummy breakfast swallowed down, we did very little during the morning. I did relight the saloon fire and back stove, bringing some warm back into the boat. After a hot dog lunch, Keith and I took a stroll around the quarry.Kirtlington Quarry was worked from 1907 to 1928. The Oxford Portland Cement Company, had a very busy working quarry here. Shipping of the cement took place along the Oxford Canal to the Midlands. Whilst the quarrying took place it exposed fossils millions of years old, making Kirtlington Quarry a site of special scientific interest.
Sunday has ended with strong winds and heavy rain, so we will be staying inside watching DVD’s until bedtime.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Somerton to Kirtlington Quarry.

Thursday 15th Janaury.

Somerton to Lower Heyford. 2.7 miles, 2 locks and 1 lift bridge.

We enjoyed a nice quiet night at the Somerton Moorings, so we were up and ready to go on a dull but dry morning. We eventually set off at 10am heading for Lower Heyford. On route you get to see the picturesque scenery which follows the canal and the River Cherwell, which kept us company, wandering through water meadows. We meandered through woodland to reach the two remote locks, which we had to do today, they were Heyford Common and Allens Lock, which is situated on the out skirts of Upper Heyford. Just after Upper Heyford I saw a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, scrambling up the side of a tree, but was not quick enough to take it's photograph.
The Mill lift bridge announced that we were coming into Little Heyford, which is where we found a mooring for the night. Flying along the canal near our boat was a kingfisher, who looked like he owned this stretch of the canal, and so we may get to see a little of him. Before making us some lunch, I went stick collecting once more for our back stove. There were plenty of damp sticks to be had near our mooring. After lunch Keith and I took a walk into Lower Heyford, which is a splendid little village built amongst the woods. If like us, you are a lover of stone cottages with thatched roofs. You know the ones you used to see on chocolate boxes, then this little village has it all, including a pretty little church. Whilst walking around the village we watched as a master thatcher went about his craft, which is something you see very little of these days. I remember it from my childhood, because I grew up in a thatched cottage. Our walk ended up back on the canal towpath by Oxfordshire Narrowboats and the railway station. We strolled back along the towpath to Hadar, which is where we would stay for the remainder of the day.

Friday 16th January.

Little Heyford to the disused Quarry Kirtlington, 3.8 miles and 2 locks.

Having got up and dressed, I laid out breakfast before taking Paddy for his walk. I so wished I had taken my camera with me, because we had the privilege of seeing the kingfisher, it was just one step ahead of us as we walked long the towpath, and I could have easily taken its photograph. Oh well maybe on the return trip if it is still around.
We set off from the mooring at 9.50am and the first thing we wanted to do was take on water just past Heyford Wharf Bridge. As we were waiting for the water tank to fill up, Keith noticed working boat Dusty, which meant that Mark would not be to far away. In fact he was making his way down to us a long the towpath for a chat. It was really nice to meet up with Mark again, we got to swap towpath chit chat and find out how things were with him. Keith and I both like Mark, he is so easy to natter to, and with him what you see is what you get, which we both find so refreshing (No blushing now Mark, if your reading this). We look forward to hopefully seeing Mark on the return trip and I will make him a coffee, if we all have the time to spare, as we know how busy he is with his regular customers. With the tank filled, we wished Mark well, said our goodbyes and headed off past Mark’s boat Dusty, which was laden down with coal and diesel, and into an indifferent morning as far as the weather was concerned. It could not make its mind up whether to rain or not.
We had the Cherwell keeping us company once more, along with a couple of cormorants, a kingfisher and the usual ducks. There is plenty of rolling farmland to look at, if you ever get bored of looking at the River Cherwell and the water meadows, but who could ever get fed up with scenery like this. We finished our day at the disused quarry near Kirtlington at 12.45pm. I made us some lunch and then took Paddy for a walk into the quarry, which is really stunning and teaming with wildlife. Paddy discovered that the rabbits were great for chasing. We will enjoy our weekend here and get a few boat jobs done in the process.

Apologies for the lack of photographs, but we have a poor connection, so I would have to spend too long uploading photographs.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Belchers Lift Bridge to Somerton.

Wednesday 14th January.

Belchers Lift Bridge to Somerton, 3.3 miles, 1 lock and 1 lift bridge.
The temperature over night got down to -5.1C, so it was no surprise to wake and see that Jack Frost had cast his icy hand over the land. It was a very beautiful picture and there was no wind whatsoever. Having taken this photograph, I climbed back into the boat and made us a cup of tea, before going back to a nice snug bed for another hour. What a difference an hour makes though, because when I climbed out of the back cabin to take Paddy for a walk, this is what greeted us.Not only was it now white on the ground it was also a pea souper. The clear skies had gone. Paddy did not mind running up and down the towpath though; he really did enjoy himself in the heavy frost.
10.35am we left our overnight mooring, having untied the frozen ropes and fenders. With the heavy fog and frost the canal had a haunting feel about it, all very mystical.
I had just one lift bridge to operate, which was not difficult, but had to be done with care due to the slippery conditions. I take safety very seriously, because if I fall I could break an arm or leg or much worse, it would mean that Keith would have to take care of me whilst I mended. No one should ever get to glib about their own safety. Keith took this photograph whilst I tried pulling on the chain to lift the bridge.I was thankful I had my gloves on, because it was so cold that my hands would have stuck to the chain.
We then arrived at one of the prettiest lock cottages on the Oxford Canal, Somerton Deep Lock. It is known as deep lock because it is 12’0” deep and one of the deepest on the canal system. The cottage itself is so pretty and well looked after.Whilst I was operating the lock, I was joined by a very friendly little Robin, who was not a bit bothered by us being there. He got up close and personal with Keith, whilst Hadar lowered in the lock.
Having left the lock we continued past Somerton, which is a grey stone village, which winds up the hill where the village church can be found with its decorated tower, but due to the fog we could not see anything of it today.
We moored up just after Somerton Wharf on open farm land. Having moored up Paddy was allowed to get off of the boat for a run, Keith played ball with him, whilst I made us some lunch. Marmite also had the privilege of getting off the boat without her harness and lead on. As you can imagine she was one very excited pussy cat, but she never went far from the boat, I do not think she liked getting her feet too wet.It was really nice to be able to allow her off of the boat on her own. Some walkers came past the boat with their dog, so Marmite made straight for the safety of the back cabin, which is what I had hoped she would do. Maybe we will allow her off on her own more often. But we do worry that we will lose her.
Tuesday 13th January.

Banbury to Belchers Lift Bridge, near Aynho Wharf, 5.8 miles and 4 locks.

The temperature in our boat last night was red hot, despite the fact that I had dampened the fire down. Neither Keith nor I slept too well, due to the warmth, I put it down to being menopausal, but that could not be the same for Keith, so he was up early hours sitting playing on his computer, I also got up and made us both a cup of tea. I went back to bed with my cuppa and tried to get back to sleep. Eventually we both drifted back off to sleep, before having to get up all over again to go and do a food shop at Morrison’s.
With the food shop done and put away, we left our mooring in Banbury at 11.30am and no sooner had we done so, we saw NB Ten Bob Note on residential moorings, but Ernie did not seem to be around, so we will maybe see him when we come back to Banbury in a few weeks time. Just after passing NB Ten Bob Note, we then saw NB Epiphany moored up. Fiona was waving to us through one of their portholes. We will definitely see them again on this trip, which we look forward to. On leaving them the heavens opened and a rainbow appeared just behind NB Epiphany. That was the first of two rainbows during todays cruise.
We continued our journey through the fabulous Cherwell Valley, with its lift bridges, which these days many are left open. The locks along this stretch look over the valley with spectacular views. I always like it when we get to Kings Sutton lock (10’8”), it still has the old out buildings and its pretty lock cottage, on this occasion we met NB Bess, who was being single handed by her owner, so I did the lock for him so he did not have to worry about climbing up the lock ladder. We passed the time of day before both going on our way.The one lock on this stretch which I really dislike is Aynho Weir Lock (1’0”), it may only be a shallow lock, but oh boy it is so difficult to get the darn lock gate open. Eventually I did manage to open the gate, after having a good old moan to myself. Having exited the lock, we cruised on to find a place to moor just past the derelict Belchers lift bridge at 2.15pm.The weather today has been a little hit and miss, with sunshine and showers, but really quite pleasant, with our second rainbow finishing off our days cruising. What we found a little surprising was there was still some ice floating around on the canal in sheltered places. I heard yesterday that we have another cold spell coming soon and it will be just as cold as the one we have just had, bring it on and some snow please.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The freeze is now over.

Monday 12th January.

Banbury 1/2 mile and 1 lock.

The weekend saw the tale of two weathers. Saturday it was still very cold, with the canal still frozen solid. But Sunday the thaw began with the temperature up to 8C during the afternoon. Even the back cabin stove was in overdrive as far as the heat was concerned, it resulted in me leaving it to go out before bedtime, otherwise we were going to have a very hot night between the sheets (get your minds out of the gutter, you know what I mean). For us the weekend was a quiet one, but there was plenty of activity outside as the car parks ebbed and flowed with cars and people, who were no doubt hoping for some bargains in the sales.

We awoke this morning to rain tapping on the boat roof. The weather had gone from the sublime to the ridiculous within the space of 48 hours. It was as if the freeze had never happened, because on opening the back cabin doors, the canal was no longer frozen. This was good news because we could now move off of the 48 hour moorings and down on to the 14 day moorings. So with Paddy walked, breakfast done and the fires stoked we left our mooring, with the rain holding off. I walked ahead to the lift bridge and opened it ready for Hadar to pass through. We gave a wave to John on NB Epiphany; they have been moored at Tooley’s Boatyard since having the boats hull blacked. No doubt we will see them again, whilst heading for Thrupp. As I was working Banbury Lock (5’10”), I was approached by a boater asking for coal. He was moored below the lock, so having emptied the toilet cassette at the sanitary station; we pulled in ahead of him, unloaded and delivered 10 bags of Taybrite to his boat. We moored up just past Albion Bridge on the 14 day moorings.

After a bite of lunch we walked into town, even though it was now raining again, to see if our new glasses were ready at Specsavers. They had told us that they would take a week, but we thought there was no harm in asking if they were ready, just as well we took the chance because they were ready for us to collect. So Keith and I now have new glasses and a brand new outlook on life. Next time we will not leave it 4 years before getting our eyes tested.
We will probably make a move tomorrow after a food shop, although we will wait and see what the weather is like first.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Ice Cold In Banbury.

Wednesday 7th January.

Another bitterly cold night in Banbury, with temperatures dropping down to -8.4C, by the time we were up and about the temperature had risen to -1.4C, and we had a thin coating of snow on the towpath and boat.Because the canal is still frozen, it has given the local youths a new game to play of an evening. It is called ‘Break the Ice’. This new game has no real rules; you just have to find an item which you think will crack the ice and then throw that item onto the icy surface of the canal. So far we have seen house bricks, bottles, logs and stones thrown on to the ice with no effect, there has not been the slightest sign of a crack. This morning it looks like they went one step further. On my way to the laundrette I saw a Wilkinson’s shopping trolley standing on the ice.It was probably pushed on to the ice by the group of youths who were throwing things on to the ice very late last night near our boat. On the way back from the laundrette it had been removed by someone, as its wheels left tracks in the snow on the ice. Thankfully the ice is thick, so the trolley did not get a chance to sink, causing a hazard to moving boats that is when any of us can actually move. The laundrette in Banbury is not far to walk from the canal and it is really very good. I did a large wash for £5.50 and the tumble drier cost me £1.60. I bet your asking yourself, why use the laundrette when they have a washing machine onboard. The reason for using the laundrette was to save our water and it also meant we had no wet washing hanging around the boat. Because this load consisted of bath towels, and bedding all large items.
During the morning we have had flurries of snow, but nothing to get us over excited. I would love to see a couple of feet of snow, I am just a big kid when it comes to snow.
After some lunch, Keith had finished a few jobs on the boat, so we set off for our eye test appointments at Spec Savers, dropping off rubbish at the sanitary station on the way. We have never used Spec Savers before, but were very impressed with the service we received. The downside of going was the fact that we found out we both needed to upgrade our glasses, as our eye sight has deteriorated over the last four years. I was really surprised how much mine had gone downhill. So we now have to wait for our new glasses to be prepared which can take up to a week. We have said that we may come back for them later if we find we can move off, as the weather is supposed to improve over the weekend, and we may therefore be released from the icy grip we find ourselves in at the moment.
We like Banbury, but oh boy we always seem to spend way too much money when we stop here. Still needs must, and no one should ever neglect their eyes. The only draw back about mooring in Banbury is the fact that the TV signal is poor, because of being surrounded by buildings. We therefore have relied on our DVD collection for entertainment during the evenings. Usually around 9pm I stoke the fires up for the night. The back cabin stove gets filled up with house coal, so I need to have the back cabin doors open when filling the fire up as it gets very smoky, and can set the smoke alarm off, which drives Paddy nuts. I then add a layer of wood on top of the coal, this acts as a dampener to keep the fire in over night. In the mornings I just need to open the fire up and away it goes, as the wood catches thus kicking the fire into life once more.

Thursday 8th January.

Overnight temperatures dropped no lower that 0C, but the canal is still frozen as is the ground, so we are still not moving.Keith rescued a mobile phone from the ice near our boat with a fishing net. Its battery and Sim card were missing. We thought it best return it to the phone shop from whence it came, to see if they could trace its owner. For all we knew it may have been stolen and then discarded. Like for so many people the New Year, means it is time to have a clear out and even though we live on a boat the same thing applies. I had a rummage through our storage boxes to see if there were any items of clothing we could take to the charity shop, thus giving us room for other things. It was not long before I had filled two refuse bags. So we took both bags to the Katherine House Hospice Charity Shop, where they were busy sorting through other bags of items left by people.
The surface of ice on the canal appears to be thawing, but beneath the surface it is still frozen hard and with the temperatures dropping below zero again tonight, it does not bode well for us to be moving just yet. BW is aware that we are like so many other boaters at the moment frozen in. Keith e-mailed them to let them know of the situation in Banbury, and they are quite happy for us to be where we are until the canal ice either melts or is broken up. He thought that as we are on 48 hour moorings, he should just clarify the situation at the moment, although we are not the only ones stuck on the 48 hour moorings.

Friday 9th January.
There is no change as far as the weather situation is concerned and we are still frozen in at Banbury. This weather is a good photographic opportunity though, as who knows when we will see this again. Not only that we may not be in Banbury at the time. So during the day I have been out with my camera taking a few snaps.As the years pass by, I will be able to date this photograph, not only by the frozen state of the canal but also by the Woolworths sign in the back ground. Another iconic store bites the dust. Since being in Banbury we have been surprised by the number of stores that have closed down. In the Castle Quay shopping centre alone, Woolworths has already shut down, Whittards and the Officers Club are having closing down sales, Passion for Perfume has gone, as has Hawkins Bazaar and there are a couple of other empty units. The town itself is littered with empty shops and I guess this is just the beginning.
During the afternoon Paddy got to go out and play ball in the park. He always gets so excited when the ball comes out, because he knows it means playtime. When he has his ball, nothing else matters and he takes no notice of anything else going on around him, which was just as well today, because it was not long before we were joined by two other dogs, which came bounding across the park. Thankfully they were friendly enough, but their owner had very little control over either of them. Paddy on the other-hand sat in front of me, just mesmerised by his ball and obeying everything I said until they left us alone to play our game. After 15 minutes of constant ball chasing he was ready to admit defeat and headed back towards the boat, where once onboard he collapsed into a heap.A mist is now engulfing the cut and with it the temperature is beginning to drop once more, they are forecasting -5C tonight, but it is then supposed to warm up and give us some rain. So we shall see what the weekend has to offer in respect of us moving off from Banbury.
Before I go for the weekend, I would like to say hello to Tony & Noeline Gill on N.B Mary Russell, who are ice locked in the centre of Skipton at the moment. We met briefly in Stone this summer at the Food and Drink Festival when they were moored behind us. Thank you for the e-mail and photographs. Stay safe and warm and maybe we will see you on the cut sometime.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Iced in at Banbury.

Since arriving in Banbury, the temperature has continued to drop. Last night it dropped down to -8.7C, which is freezing by anyones standards. The one good thing with being iced in at Banbury is it means we get to do all the shopping and jobs that need to be done. Yesterday we spent the day shopping in Castle Quay and and surrounding shops in Banbury. We of course did all the charity shops as well. We both had a list of things we wanted to buy, which included things for the boat and personal items.

Whilst out shopping we took the opportunity to have lunch out at the Top Wok Chinese Buffet, which does a lovely buffet meal for £6.50 each. We have eaten there on a previous occasion and really do enjoy the food they cook there. Having eaten lunch we then walked up to Maplins and B&Q to get items for the boat. So it was a day of retail therapy.

As many know who read our blog I am always going on about respect and courtesy to others, and I do get annoyed when others seem to let the side down, this happened yesterday when I went into a shoe store to buy a pair of slippers. I chose my slippers and went to the counter to pay for them. The lady who was behind was on the phone talking to someone from another store. Infact she was moaning about another store manager. What got my goat was that she continued talking on the phone whilst serving me. Now as I see it, what she should have done was either put the phone down and call the person back later, or ask another member of staff to serve me. I find it dreadfully rude to do such a thing. I paid for my slippers and left the store feeling really annoyed.Today we had the task of doing the food shopping at Morrisons, which was a bit of a walk through Banbury to get to, but we had nothing else to do so we pulled on our winter gear and rucksacks and set off in -5C to stock up on food. The Morrisons in Banbury is really well set out, and I remarked to Keith on how well the shelves were stacked, it seemed a shame to take things off the shelves. With Christmas and the New Year only just put to bed, shock of all shocks, Morrison's has Easter Eggs on the shelves, I couldn't believe it. These eggs will be past their sell by date when Easter arrives. Back onboard Hadar, I unpacked the shopping whilst Keith went back to Maplins to exchanged an item. I then went with my rucksack to the fruit and veg shop in the town to buy all our veg for the next few days. After lunch we went in search of an Opticians, as we both need our eyes tested. Eye tests vary in price we discovered from £22 to 27.50, depending on where you go. We have opted for the Spec savers who charge £22 for an eye test. That is tomorrow afternoon taken care of. Whilst in the town we went back to one of the charity shops to buy a cheap teapot we had seen yesterday. Whilst in the shop, eagle eyed Keith spotted a well known book that was the height of fashion when it was published in 2005, and many boaters have bought. For just £1 we could have purchased Narrow Dog to Carcassonne. We declined the bargain basement offer and left the charity shop with our £2 teapot a much better bargain. it just goes to show how fashions change and how quickly people go off items.
As we are going to be in Banbury for a few days now due to being iced in, we have taken the opportunity to book eye tests for tomorrow. Neither of us has had them done for about four years and I know my eyes are getting worse. Oh the joys of getting older arghhhhhhh.

Many would find this weather a complete nightmare, but Keith and I absolutely love it. I find it really magical. it hasn't been this cold for a long time, so we are making the most of it.

So we shall see what the next few days brings as far as the weather is concerned. We hope that where ever you are, you are staying nice and snug. With coal onboard we will never be cold that is certain. I did however have to clean the chimney in the back cabin yesterday as it had got a little conjested, that is the only bug bare of burning housecoal.

Take care and stay safe and warm where ever you are.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Wormleighton to Banbury.

Friday 2nd January 2009.

Near Wormleighton to near bridge 143 Claydon, 5.2 miles.

We woke up to the sound of sleet pitter, pattering on the boats roof. When I opened the back cabin doors, I was hit by a blast of icy cold air from another cold morning, so cold that the canal was frozen over again. Having done all the usual mooring things, we left our mooring at 9.45am, our first port of call was Fenny Compton to get rid of rubbish at the Wharf Inn, where there is also a water point, which was leaking rather badly and had been frozen over the past few days.

With ice on the ground from the leaking water point, it did make it dangerous under foot. With the rubbish deposited into the skip behind the Inn, we were on our way once more breaking through the ice as we made headway. It was clear that not much was moving as we seemed to be breaking virgin ice for most of the journey. A couple of boats came past us going in the other direction from Fenny Compton, but after that we saw nothing else moving in either direction. Our day ended near bridge 143 at Claydon. The sun had disappeared and it had turned very cold once more, so having shut the boat up, I made us some tomato soup for lunch, which was very warming. Paddy and Marmite spent the afternoon playing chase up and down the boat, with Marmite always getting the better of Pad. Paddy never gives up though. I am sure he thinks that one day he will be top dog. We spent a nice quiet evening onboard before making our way to bed.

Saturday 3rd January.

Claydon to Cropredy, 3.5 miles and 8 locks.

The temperature fell to -5.3C overnight, so when I opened the back cabin doors to see what the morning had to offer, I was greeted with a frozen canal and a beautiful morning. Not a breath of wind, it was just wonderful.By the time we were up and dressed the temperature had risen to -4.2C so slightly more respectful, but cold enough to freeze a dew drop on the end of your nose. As I donned my hat, coat and gloves, Paddy was jumping around in the back cabin with either excitement as he was looking forward to his walk, or maybe he was desperate for a wee. His excitement did not alter just because it was cold, he was running up and down the towpath like an daft puppy.The canal takes on a completely different look when it is covered in ice. It has such a magical quality. At this point we had no idea how thick the ice was, but thought we would move anyway as we wanted to reach Cropredy.
Before setting off Keith got a pole from the hold, to break the ice away from the bow of the boat, it also gave us the opportunity to see how thick the ice was. It proved to be a good ½ inch thick, so it would be a challenging mornings cruising. We made it to the top lock at Claydon and as expected everything was frozen up, so we took our time to work the lock. Once I got the top gate open, Keith bought Hadar into the lock, where he then used the pole to clear the sheets of ice away from her hull sides. He did this to make sure that there was no chance of her getting jammed in the lock, when I opened the paddles to allow the water out. This exercise was done at each lock and was very effective.We both had to work really hard to get down the Claydon flight, it took us two and half hours to do five locks, but we had no need to rush, we both wanted to make sure everything was done with safety in mind. I kept thinking who needs a gym membership, when you can workout like this in the fresh air for free.
On approaching Elkington Lock, we had gongoozlers standing at the lock, watching in awe as the ice flicked into the air, after being struck by the bow. They were fascinated by the sound the ice made. One of the ladies commented, that it sounded like glass breaking.
At Broadmoor Lock, we were greeted by a boat coming out of the lock, leaving it ready for us to enter. They had come up from Cropredy, which meant that the rest of our journey to Cropredy would have a path already cleared for us. We arrived in Cropredy at 1.10pm and moored up above Cropredy Lock. No sooner had we stopped a lady asked if we had any house coal onboard, she and her family live in one of the houses opposite and she wanted 3 bags of house coal. She explained that she would normally buy it from Mike on N.B Dusty, but she had not seen him for some months, and wondered if we had seen or heard from him, which we had not. Later in the afternoon she and her husband came with their wheelbarrow to collect their coal and hand over payment. Since being moored we have seen another couple of boats moving.
We really have enjoyed today’s cruising, even though it was hard work, I would not have changed it for the world. I know the boaters amongst you reading this will think, their blacking must have suffered, which is has but Hadar is going in for blacking soon, so we are not to worried. If she had been done recently we would not have bothered moving at all.

Sunday 4th January.

Cropredy to Banbury 4.2 miles 4 locks.

Just when you think this cold spell cannot get any colder, the temperature overnight dropped to -6.7c, which meant on opening the back cabin doors, I was greeted with another very heavy frost and frozen canal. We did not let this deter our plan of getting to Banbury however, it just ment that the going would be slow. Because it was so cold we did not bother leaving our mooring until 10.30am. I walked down to Cropredy Lock to set it, whilst Keith manoeuvred Hadar out of the ice which was holding her in against the bank. It was not long before he was crashing his way through the ice towards me and the lock.
It was so cold that my gloves stuck to the beam of the lock gate, just as well I wasn’t operating the locks without gloves on. We needed to empty the toilet cassettes once more, so pulled into the sanitary station, which was very slippery under foot, so all care was taken with everything we did. We also took on water from another leaky water tap, it seemed to take an age to work as the water pushed its way along the frozen hosepipe, squeezing the ice out as it went, eventually we were in business and the tank was getting replenished. Whilst waiting for the tank to fill. N.B Ayla’s owners from Shipton-on-Cherwell asked if they paid for four bags of coal now, would we drop them off at their boat which was moored below Slat Mill Lock, which we said would not be a problem. We also met Nick who was dropping of rubbish. Nick is the new owner of Bourton Lock Cottage. We got chatting about boats as you do, and he then said that when we reached Bourton Lock we were welcome to go in and view the cottage and see what had been done so far, which was really nice of him. So having finally filled up with water we set off, through what was now thick ice. In places it was at least 1 inch think. We dropped of four bags of coal to N.B Ayla and then we arrived at Bourton Lock and its lovely old cottage, Nick came out to greet us and help us with the top gate which was frozen shut.The bow rope was called into action, as Nick wound it around the whipping post a few times, then Keith reversed Hadar and hey presto the gate crunched open.Once in the lock, Keith cleared the ice away from Hadar’s hull, as he had done at every lock this past couple of days. Nick then invited us into his cottage and showed us around, whilst telling us of his and Caroline’s plans for it. What is so lovely is that they live on their own boat and he wants to bring the cottage back to its former glory, which is so refreshing. We wished he and is wife Caroline the very best of luck and were once more on our way, getting ever closer to Banbury at a snails pace. Just as we approached Banbury we were waved down by another boater, who was desperate for a bag of coal, so of course we were only to happy to sell him a bag of Taybrite. He told me he could now get warm. As we arrived in Banbury, there was sleet in the air and the temperature was dropping rapidly. We were a bit alarmed to see that the moorings seemed to be full up, probably due to the fact that between Nov-March, they are 14 day moorings, but we did find a place opposite the shopping centre, which was just big enough for us. Today was another long and hard day cruising, with the temperature never getting above freezing, but that’s the way it goes when you’re faced with an iced up canal. It made me think back to what the boatmen and their families used to cope with and how difficult it was for them, when they were trying to work their boats in such conditions, making their days very slow and long for the small wage they would earn. I guess we do not really know how lucky we are in this day and age, even in this present economic climate.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

From the Old to the New

New Years Day 1st January 2009.

Happy New Year to all our readers.
We hope that you are not waking up with to much of a hangover this morning.
New Years Eve was an extremely cold day, having had temperatures down to -5.6c over night. Everything was frozen outside; it looked like a winter wonderland. Paddy thought he was in seventh heaven, when he leapt off of the boat for his morning walk.
Everything under foot was crisp as the temperature was still down to -2.4c and it really did not get up much throughout the day.
The surface of the canal was frozen, which caused the swans a real problem as they tried to swim along the canal. A boat which had been moored behind us over night set off early back towards Napton Locks, carving a channel through the water for the swans to swim in, making their lives a little easier.
With the weather being so cold, we did not venture outside too much, the warmth of the fire was much more inviting, until a knock on the boat got me scrambling from my chair to see a gentleman stood outside wrapped up against the weather, wanting three bags of coal. He said “They had moored in the perfect place, not only a great view, but a coal boat on hand as well”. My reply was “All’s you need now is a sanitary station to hand and you have the perfect mooring for the New Year”. It made him laugh. With the coal delivery made Keith and I climbed back onboard and into a nice warm cabin, with the copper kettle boiling, ready for a coffee.
We did sit up to see the New Year in by watching New Year Live on BBC1, whilst enjoying a glass of Single Malt Whiskey. The fireworks display in London was a spectacular way to welcome 2009 in and say goodbye to 2008.
Has anyone made any New Years Resolutions?
We never make them, because like with millions of other people we know we will only break them.
With our Whiskey drunk and the New Year half an hour old, it was time for bed, where we listened to a firework display taking place down in the valley.

New Years Day 2009.

Brrrrrrrrr it is another very cold morning, but not as cold as New Years Eve. All around us is still white with a heavy frost and there have been a few flakes of snow floating around. It would make for a perfect beginning to the New Year if we had some decent snow.
Keith cooked us eggs, bacon and mushrooms on toast for breakfast, which was very nice. I then headed outside to move coal around in the hold. It needed restacking again to make it easier to unload off of the boat as the number of bags decreases. Keith was now on the last leg of finishing our rag rug, it is really beautiful, and he has made such a fabulous job of it.
Several boats had moored up with us, and I got the chance to chat to some of their owners as they walked past with their dogs, on their morning stroll. Many would be on their way today as they had marinas to go back to, with work calling on Monday. How glad we are that we do not have a mooring in a marina, or have to head back to work, not that we have anything against marinas, they are just not our cup of tea. We have the luxury of another year of continual cruising, where we will meet and greeting old and new friends. We will be doing a couple of boat festivals during 2009, so we hope the weather will be a little kinder to us this year.
As the afternoon light faded into the dust of the evening, Keith completed his marathon task of making a rag rug for our back cabin and it looks amazing.He has done a fantastic job making his first rag rug. All the painstaking work of cutting up old t-shirts has proved to be well worth it. Getting out of bed in the mornings will be all the more pleasurable, as we step on to our new rug.
New Years Day is drawing to a close and with it my first posting of 2009. I will draw to a close by wishing you a safe and peaceful year, and for those of you who are cruising during 2009, we hope to meet you along the waterways of the UK.