Monday, 20 July 2009

Adderbury and Aynho for water

Elizabeth returned from a working weekend to help Pete make the decision about where next. Pete spent the weekend listening to Cricket, playing with the neighbour's dogs, including Maisie the tiniest lurcher/whippet we have ever seen (2.5kilo at the minute) and welcoming in Fred and Wilma, the new ducks. We decided we need to stay here another few days to have a base for yet more work travels to different climes and the local rail station is Banbury - very well connected!

So today we let Elizabeth have a bit of a day off and we went to get water. Hmmmmmm. The nearest spot was Aynho, 1.5 miles south and two locks. Doddle. But we are moored facing north. So, here's the trip:
  1. Untie Bella, set Elizabeth on the towpath opposite the marina holding Bella's centre line, stand Pete at the tiller and throw the throttle into reverse.
  2. Reverse. Through an ex bridge hole and a lift bridge. Reverse by going forward enough to set the stern in the right place, then reverse with the tiller straight so that Bella keeps going the way she had been pointed, forward again to point her bow over a little, reverse with straight tiller again to keep going the same way. Mind the towpath side which somehow keeps appealing to Bella, mind the tall grasses catching the centre line, mind the boats coming up the cut. Mind the wind. The breezy stuff.
  3. Wind. (sounds like the breeze, not the turn. But this is turning. Never mind). Point the bow into the narrow part of the winding hole - the large inlet opposite the towpath. Push Bella into forward so her nose/bow rests in the narrowest part of the winding hole, push the tiller over hard and let her stern end turn from north to south. Mind the boat having just left the lock.
  4. Pull out of the way of the boat wanting to continue north out of the lock. Elizabeth leans on the centre line, pulling Bella towards the towpath, Pete tillers right, left, throttles forward and back and Bella comes to rest.
  5. Go through Nell's Bridge Lock. Elizabeth lock winds in, takes the tiller, Pete lock winds out.
  6. Elizabeth minds the queue for going north through the lock. Pete walks the towpath to Aynho weir lock.
  7. Both mind the British Waterways workers repairing the safety rails under the weir bridge over the Cherwell. We are now on a canal/river shared stretch.
  8. Pete helps everyone at Aynho weir lock wind, push, and generally move boats. And spot the Kingfisher watching the action. And try to hear the shouts over the roars of the cows going over the bridge over the entrance to the lock. And mind the fishermen/boys catching Carp and Pike.
  9. Elizabeth moors up to wait for the lock. And minds the BW barge sitting at the repair site. And watches the cows, workers, fisherpeople, boatpeople...
  10. Go through Aynho weir lock, then out on to the canal, Pete having hopped back on board.
  11. Moor up at Aynho Wharf, having spotted the winding hole to turn around and go north again. Funnily enough, it doesn't look like an inlet opposite the towpath, it looks like a berth in a boatyard. And Mrs Armitage, moored alongside the berth looking widing hole looks a little too large for Bella to turn around next to. Pete sets up the water flow, Elizabeth checks that there is a winding hole. Oh yes! A 69 footer? No problem. Just reverse up canal past the hole, let one of you take the stern line to keep her hard to the towpath, point the bow into the wet dock gate and you'll be fine. OK. Water filled, we pull out.
  12. Reverse. Elizabeth on the towpath first with the centre line, Bella snuggles up and waits for two working boats to pass going south. (Where did they come from?). Bella reverses past the berth looking winding hole. Definitely not the winding hole looking berth.
  13. Pete points Bella's bow into the top of the winding hole - the wet dock gate. No engines here, as it seemed a little too risky for the other boats. So, Elizabeth now has the stern line and works the stern around from the towpath. Pete now has the boat pole and from the bow and as bow Gondalier, is also working Bella around. So far so good. Pete then gets back at the throttle and tiller and reverses Bella out. It's at this point that being like a London bendy bus seems a good idea.
  14. Get stuck. Stern on the towpath side. Bow somewhere along the side of the berth/winding hole. It was time to ask for help. With some disbelief, the marina staff came to see why we couldn't quite get Bella out and reversed to face north again. By the time they had moved Mrs Armitage (the 58 footer), opened the wet dock gate, moved the tiny narrowboat in between Mrs Armitage and the next 50 footer so that Mrs Armitage turned into a lovely angled winding hole southern edge, they realised. No easy winding hole this!!
  15. Get under way. Finally moving north again, we pulled out and headed back to the weir lock.
  16. Wait for ahead boaters to empty the lock, move in, fill the lock, move out, then Pete to empty the lock once again so Elizabeth can now move through. During the wait, Elizabeth fed the ducks, walked Josie, knitted, watched the cows and had a sesame bar or two.
  17. Elizabeth entered the lock, Pete set it, it filled, the gate was opened and Elizabeth took up her knitting again. A few rows of ribbing later later, the BW workmen had finished fitting the timber to the weir bridge railings and moved their barge out of the way of the lock entrance/exit gate.
  18. Finally go through Nell Bridge lock, lift bridge 183 and moor up at Nell's Acre, facing north.
4 hours, two locks twice and 1.5 miles twice. Good day off! And the sun shines and there was no rain.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Laundry Day - just so you know

We thought you might like a few pics of life aboard. We often get asked how we manage what we have been used to in a land-home, so here's a bit of the water home.

Pete's brother Dave says that Pete is always in a jacket... here's proof down near the bottom of this post! Another pic - Josie's having a nap (ish) in the stern corner. Then there's a pic of Elizabeth preparing a laundry day brunch in the kitchen. We never tire of the wide view of the canal world as we do ordinary things.

So - to laundry day. Here is the process. Levi comes out from under wraps where he usually lives in between the Gas lockers on the back of the stern. If you look at the pic with the parasol, Levi is the blue box sitting on the deck - he's the generator we need to create enough electricity to run the washing machine. Then, as it was a rainy day, the other brollies go up outside the hatches, allowing air to flow through Bella to dry clothes. You can see the sheets hung on the airer in the clothes/laundry room. The odd view of two brolly handles is the real one to the left of the pic and the reflection in the hallway mirror just beyond the clothes/laundry room. You can see the airer next to the ceiling on the right, as you look to the stern on the left of the pic. One shot is of the billowing sheets at the top, the bulging laundry bags on their hooks on the wall (sad - we sort as we throw - the colours are the laundry loads) and the washing machine tucked into the corner of the room next to a large chest of drawers, the top of which becomes a surface for folding. And one shot is of the washing machine itself (ah - no name!!), topped by wooden boxes with fabric, settling neatly beneath the open shelf with laundry and washing materials. Elizabeth thinks it is the prettiest laundry room she has ever used.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Adderbury with Clarissa and the Saddlebacks

We left the wooded lands near Tackley yesterday morning and moored up in the lovely named Nell's Acre. A new quayside has been built for short term moorings and includes electrics and the near proximity of Sarah and Dean's smallholding on which they are growing veg, raising rescued chickens and breeding rare Oxfordshire pigs. Clarissa is our closest companion and is a russet coloured beautiful beast, only two weeks away from her mating. The saddlebacks are three gorgous young ones, happy enough to make the most delicious roasts... A bouncy Jack Russell terrier has Josie on edge and the tiniest whippet puppy has leaned to swim. Pics will follow!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Countryside again

We set out from Thrupp just before noon to moor up for water, just past the lift bridge. As we were filling, Elizabeth took advantage of the book swap, contributing Alexander McCall Smith's Scotland Street and No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series and taking away Sheilds' Happenstance, Carter's The Magic Toyshop, Bowering's What it takes to be Human and Seth's An Equal Music. The choice in the surrounds of Oxford is certainly better than the swap choice at other places!

We moored up at the Rock of Gibraltar in Enslow, tied up and stowed quickly, then took Kate's car keys to her car parked just over the canal where she had left it on her journey north. We drove to Thrupp, collected Reg, then both drove to Banbury where Kate is now moored post play performance. We had lunch with Kate, then car keys and parking permit safely handed over, did some shopping and collected a stainless steel barrel shaped BBQ which fits under the cratch when cool and some citronella oil to burn in the aromatiser to rid us of the bugs.

Reg got us back to the Rock at Enslow and after a small stop in the pub garden for light refreshement, BBQ assembly and a spot of knitting, we then got Bella's engine going again by 6pm and set out. Oh and we watched the most hilarious mooring by a College Cruiser hire boat loaded with a bunch of sports club lads having a hoot of a time. One threw the bow line to a helper from the pub - and realised it wasn't attached at the bow! Great good humour all around.

One hour and Pidgeon's Lock later, we moored just east of Tackly station as the crow flies, but what feels to be the depth of the Oxfordshire countryside.

Leaving Thrupp

As we prepare to set out, we'll just sum up our week here. It has been busy with work, with us going to the office every day. Now THAT is a shock! It has been fun, as we like our Oxford office, really a desk in a shared space in the Ethical Property Company's Old Music Hall building on the Cowley Road only just around the corner from where we used to live and have our office. So it's a bit of old stomping ground with the added benefit of other people in the office, colleagues, networking, fast internet and all that good stuff.

Of the boats, we've caught up again with Virgo, a lovingly and well restored Grand Union Canal Carrying Company boat owned by Guy. We first met last August in Braunston. Then we met up again with Utrecht and her Dutch owners who we first met a few weeks ago on the Watford flight on the Leicester section of the Grand Union. Thrupp is a busy boaters meeting point with regular passings and moorings each day. You can see that Bella is far from alone in her mooring.

We've been moored opposite horses whose whinnies are wonderful to hear, have been seeing large fish - perhaps carp - some of whom don't look well and we wonder... There has been the lively aroma of muck spreading which we masked indoors with a little Tea Tree and Ylang Ylang oil in the aromatiser, Pete has seen a Kingfisher fly back and forth in its patch and we have enjoyed the regular visits of the ducks and their ducklings. Bella's garden continues to grow and Fuchsia is about to burst forth! And we've been moored up alongside 200 year old cottages, one of them lived in by Juliet and family - Juliet and Elizabeth used to work in social enterprise advocacy together. Small world in so many ways! It has been fun to be here amongst people we know. We've visited the pub with Kate, Maffi and Iona, then met Guy and others there. Kate came to breakfast the morning after her party, then we met her in her office on Tuesday.

And, though we have not moved Bella, other than to moorings closer to the bridge as they are free, Pete has been driving boats. Tuesday night, Pete was tillerman for Kate and Morning Mist as Kate stayed inside making some order out of her chaos and Elizabeth drove to Enslow to collect Pete when they all arrived. Moving on again on Thursday, Pete took the tiller and drove Morning Mist to Heyford with Kate still working below decks. Elizabeth drove to Heyford to lift the Lift bridge, to collect Pete and wave Kate and Morning Mist on their way towards Banbury.

Friday evening, our boating friends Dom and Helen, now between boats and living near Fenny (see blog about us helping them warm their house), met us at Tooley's Boatyard in Banbury as we all attended a performance of Kate's play, Ramlin Rose. Tooley's dry dock had been turned into a theatre for the event and it was quite an experience sitting inside the oldest dry dock on the Oxford canal watching a friend bring the experience of living on the canals to life. Moving between tears and laughter, we heard of her Rose and Syra's cargo carrying life. Wonderful.

Today we'll set out north again.

4th of July - Thrupp day

We set out from Heyford on another blazing sunny day. It is wonderful finally knowing what Bella is like in the warm. Elizabeth was back on deck for much of the time, each of us sharing locks as ever.

We had a wonderful encounter at Shipton Weir Lock. Elizabeth was lock side and went to help a single hander in a cruiser named Sally. Elizabeth looked at the boat, the brain cells started buzzing and she asked, "Do you moor up on an arm off the Napton Flight?" Answer, yes. "Do you Flickr?" Yes. "Ah - there's Pete!!" It turns out that this was Sally and Dick Penn, a Flickr friend of Pete's, who have been chatting and sharing photographs for years. They had a great chat and we counted this as another meeting of the Oxford Canal Flickr Group. Dick was bringing Sally back from a traumatic visit to Reading where she had been vandalised. Much work later, Dick was only just getting used to the new engine.

We pulled into Thrupp easily finding a space - which boaters coming up had told us might not be possible. Indeed, we found a space immediately next to Morning Mist, Kate's boat, the 10 year relationship we had come to celebrate! She greeted us, took a line to help us moor in, then spotted the beautiful winged creature on our cratch cover. Here it is - our welcome to Thrupp butterfly.

That night we joined with many other boaters and non-boaters at The Boat pub where we all enjoyed a fab pig roast and party. What a great arrival!

3 July from Deer to Boats

We set out from the deer country to moor up in boat country - Lower Heyford and Oxfordshire Narrowboats. Bella seems hard wired to stop there somehow and we always oblige, enjoying saying our hellos and enjoying the space and the memories. Our first hire boat was Burcot, a tiny 30 something footer from Oxfordshire Narrowboats and Josie had her first swim off the pontoon there. Dear Richard, himself a foster parent of German Shepherds, pulled her out sharpish and we giggle at the memory. We'd had a long feeling cruise, though not more than a few hours really. During the cruising, Elizabeth was mostly at the computer working and Pete was struggling with wondering where his deck hand was.

July now and the 2nd is in the Country

On the 2nd, Elizabeth returned from Cambridge and we set out from Twyford just past 4 in the afternoon. We had a warm and lazy cruise through to such a country setting beyond Aynho and short of Somerton Deep Lock. We passed this lovely Swan family on the way. Clearly they have managed to keep the one Signet from the vagaries of the food chain.

Along the way, we travelled through Nells' Lock, by Nell's bridge, the oldest on the Oxford Canal. Just lovely. And amazing to know that 250+ years later, it is still in active use.

Our mooring was so isolated that we moored next to long grasses where you could hardly have seen us! We believe that we were almost on the county line of Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire. In the morning, Pete heard quite a splash and turned his head to see this swimming deer. It seems likely that it fell in while going for a drink and then surprised itself with a swimming lesson! It tried a number of places to climb out again and seems to have been successful, thankfully. We haven't yet taken lessons on How To Save a Deer From a Canal. We must sign up.

June 30th sees us at Twyford

Before we got to Thrupp, we woke to a beautiful day on June 30th, setting out at 7:30, going through the lock (pictured), then stopping at the service point. The day was fine and we moored up in Banbury at 10:45, giving Elizabeth a chance to shower and get ready for a meeting in Birmingham. As she set out on deck to leave for the station, a gentle knocking on the boat revealed our friend, Kate, having just visited Tooley's boat yard to do a risk assessment for her play to be performed there a week Friday. What fun! The same Kate we were on our way to meet in Thrupp.

As Elizabeth trained to Brum, Pete stayed aboard, worked, did laundry and went shopping. On all meeting up again, ropes were dropped and we set off south again at 6:30pm, taking us by the station then round to Malc and Dink's place. This is one of our favourite places!! Malc and Dink have their photo on the side of the house, according to one of our boating friends, because they wanted people to know who they were. They offer moorings, keep goats, a few sheep, geese, and generally are canal entrepreneurs. Do enlarge the photo to get a full sense of activity!

We moored up at Twyford wharf, just west of Kings Sutton, at 8:10. It was a warm and wonderful day and we had a great chat with the house owners opposite the towpath. As we raise our parasol, they asked us when the Pimms would be served...

Pete having collected Reg, we stayed in Twyford a few days for Elizabeth to go to Cambridge for meetings, while Pete and Levi got through a few wash loads. With good comms, he did a fair bit of work as well!

Monday, 6 July 2009

In Thrupp

A week later, here we are in Thrupp. We'll write more about the journey, but we got here on Saturday for Kate's party which was a hoot. This is a quick post just to let you know we're here!