Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Yes, it has been a while. Now it is past mid November and we are back onboard after a couple of wonderful weeks down under. Having been to Braunston for the weekend we are now back in Blue Haven and Pete has been feeding the local birds (and taking pictures of them).

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Bella's in England whilst the crew is down under

Well, the time ran out to properly update before being swept into the clouds. Dear Bella is keeping herself company in Blue Haven, Josie is keeping the other dogs company in Warwickshire and Bella's crew is off in south Australia. Bella wanted to do the journey herself, but we let her know it might take a little time and the waves might be a little too large for even her amazing courage. Usual blogging service, including updates, will return in November.

Monday, 27 September 2010

September is nearly over!

Well, you can guess that we've been busy! Again, apologies for all the delay in posting. There are things to tell and pictures to post and at least one small outing to record. But it may be October until we've got time to write it all up!!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

August, a birthday and back to Blue Haven

We moved from Braunston to Stowe Hill on the Monday, August 2nd, then stayed put with some work and laundry to do. During the week, Pete and our friend had decided that a Birthday Party would be arranged for Elizabeth on the Friday. What a hoot! It was fabulous evening with the couples from three boats. We have realised a great wheeze for such a party - each couple brings their own plates, cutlery and glasses, then the washing up gets divvied out. Brill!

Saturday morning was slightly hazy... We all shared out again and had a cooked breakfast for six - at 2pm!!!

On the Sunday, we set out north again to make our way back to Blue Haven. We stopped in Weedon for food and flowers, stopped at a bridge for Elizabeth to do a small trek for the Heart of the Shires shopping village, then moored up above Buckby Top lock. It was hard work, again as the locks were busy and it was so very shallow, but we finally breathed in and squeezed into a mooring just above the top lock.

The next day we made it through the Braunston Tunnel and locks with very shallow pounds (again!). We moored up opposite the Boat House and of course, imbibed before dinner. Wednesday morning we made the cloudy but dry trek of only 2 hours and no locks to moor up again at our "home home" - Blue Haven. We'll be here a few weeks as we travel to places in Scotland and as we do a few interior design maintenance things.

August and back to Braunston

From Long Itchington to Braunston today in one hit - easily done, but we just meandered a bit on the way down.

The trip was hugely eventful!! First, the flight was very shallow indeed. There had been more early boats going up the flight of 9 locks than there had been boats going down. So the bottom locks were being filled slowly by the ones above, each time reducing the level of the water as the locks at the top were bringing no water from the pound at the top. By the time we reached the middle pound, the water level was almost half a metre too shallow. British Waterways was on the case, going up to the top to open sluices and get more water in, helping speed the top lock work to get boats down and slowing down the bottom locks work to stop the locks emptying before time. It was fascinating to be involved in and to be part of the water management.

Far more eventful to us was the behaviour of a hire boat family. Ooooooo. A list:
1) When we were waiting in a lock for the BW engineer to tell us when we could leave, Elizabeth went to the lock below (and behind) to let them know the BW plans. She found the boat managed by children, with no adult in sight. She told them to wait the boat until told, but worried...

2) At the same time, the adults were at the bottom lock gates of the full lock above where Bella was, with Pete at the tiller. The upward gates were open, clearly waiting for us to travel out of them. As the upward gates were open and Bella was in the lock, the adults started opening the bottom gate sluices to drain the lock so they could set it for themselves!! A sharp STOP from Pete and they realised....

3) After the Calcut locks, just before Wigrams turn, there is a long straight stretch of canal near Ventnor Farm Marina. Said hire boat was moored up and the three children and father were swimming. Swimming. In murky, filthy, somewhat toxic canal water. A dear canal boater friend of ours has been in hospital twice on serious antibiotics afer an open cut was exposed to canal water. It is not nice stuff. Yet, forgetting that, the canal is narrow (even when double width). We could see them from a distance as could the boat coming the opposite direction (!). They saw us both and didn't move (!!!). They finally swam in close to the boat to let both boats pass. The westward travelling boater told them he hoped they had lots of penicillin on board and we explained about our friend. Reluctantly, they clambered back on board.

Finally after all this, they were speeding so much that, having overtaken us when we moored to walk Josie (oh - about a 5 minute stop), we passed them travelling west OUT of Braunston as we travelled east into the village.

We had to call the hire company. So Monday, Elizabeth made the call. In the midst of the call with the hire company ("we tell people NEVER to swim!!" "We tell people never to leave a boat with children in charge!" "They did What at the lock??"), the company manager realised that the boat had not yet returned but should have been back and serviced by the time of the call. We do hope that the whole family did not end up in the hospital....

July 30 and 31st, Warwick to Blue Lias

We set out from Warwick on the Friday morning, having been met again by our Charleston friends, now travelling companions. We had thought we would set out west, taking us to Stratford on Avon. But in between that decision and this morning, we knew that our eldest would be visiting from New York early in September and that we had a friend, moored up on the eastern section of the Grand who needed a bit of a hand. So we set out and turned east. We went through the Cape locks then trundled through the countryside where our friends learned to identify the squeak of moorhens and enjoyed the aqueducts over both river and rail. We moored up at the Waterside, a pub just outside Leamington Spa, and enjoyed a pub lunch. We stopped in Leamington Spa to let our friends catch a train back to Warwick, and we carried on again to Radford Semele.

On the 31st, we made the 6 mile 12 lock journey back to Long Itchington, but this time, to moor outside the Blue Lias . Again, we took ourselves out for dinner and had a fab time.

July 23 and Warwick

We had booked a space in the Saltisford Canal Centre in Warwick, and arm created by the old end of the Warwick and Birmingham canal, now assimilated into the Grand Union. We have stayed here before and are members of the Saltisford Canal Trust. So it was lovely to be welcomed and to be given a lovely mooring. We had dinner on the deck at our very quiet end of the arm. The roses are a gift from Pete for Elizabeth's 22nd Ordination Anniversary. Can it be 22 years????

The next day we trained our way to Oxford and back and on the Sunday, we made our way to the Parish Church. We were delighted to find that it was a key player in the Warwick Folk Festival, another surprise for our visit. The worship included a folk singer and a Morris dancing side who danced us all out to Lord of the Dance. We spilled out to a busy sight of Morris sides dancing up and down the street between the Church and Castle. In proper Morris order, we went to the pub, the wonderful brick observer of such events over hundreds of years. Fabulous day!

We stayed in Warwick doing a few days of work aboard and in London and then welcomed friends from Charleston, Carolina on the Thursday. On their way up to Northumberland to work with churches including Holy Island, they stopped with us for dinner, having found a Warwick B&B. What a wonderful reunion!

July 20 through 22nd, from Braunston to Radford Semele

A short while after breakfast in Brothers in Farms, we set south for the Groxford (the Grand Union/Oxford canal shared section), preparing to turn towards Warwick. The shared section ends at Wigrams Turn, where the Oxford continues south and the Grand Union sets out west. We do love the canal sign posts. And we are always grateful that it is into a double width canal we turn; you can see how much visibility there is if anything is coming out (not!).

We travelled through the Calcut locks and moored up by the
Boat, at Birdingbry Wharf. On the 21st, we travelled through the 9 Itchington locks/Stockton flight and 1 1/5 miles in what Pete happily noted in our journal - 1.5 hours for 10.5 clicks!! We couldn't move too much, as Elizabeth was unhappily working on a document due the next day. We moored up by the Two Boats in Long Itchington and Elizabeth settled in to work. Harumph.

On the 22nd, we had the most frustrating canal communications EVER. The document was due at noon. Could we get comms? Orange was out of reach, Vodaphone had no spots at all, and Virgin only just connected. Elizabeth finally had to take the laptop and walk into Long Itchington in search of a signal, carrying open lap-top with phone attached. She found a field, struggled with only just a hope of a signal, spotted a pub and went in search of WiFi. None there, she was directed past a duck pond to an early opening pub with comms. Document send in a flash at 11:40. (*&%*%&£$&!!!!) We were both in dark moods which suited the darkening day, but as ever, the canal carries us along and we settle down. We went through the 10 locks in the next 5 1/2 miles letting the lock work take our frustration. Nothing like pushing against heavy lock gates to get rid of a bit of surplus energy!! We moored up in Radford Semele and took ourselves to dinner at the White Horse. In the afternoon, Pete scared away a few bully Swans by hissing and finally rapidly opening and closing the golf brollie (our side hatch awning!) - his wings were bigger than theirs!

July 19 to Brothers in Farms

So, as promised, but much later (!), here goes. We set out from Blue Haven on the 19th of July. We need to note here that on the 17th, a major event occurred. Pete serviced Bella's engine. He had been preparing, buying the odd tool and kit, stocking up when we were last at Oxfordshire Narrowboats. Elizabeth was up in Windermere on work so he had the time to himself. And it took no time at all!!! He was SO proud of himself, and rightly so. On the 19th, we made a huge journey (they smile) to what we call Brothers in Farms. Just an hour south on the Oxford Canal, it feels like another world. The name comes from the field full of bullocks on the north side of the moorings, all of whom nodded to us as we moored. The evening was stunning, the sun shone and we had a peaceful evening. [Sunny b-i-f]

Friday, 23 July 2010

We're not in Blue Haven :-)

Yes, we set out as promised. We'll give more detail in a few days when we're not so rushed!! But we left on the 19th of July, set out south to Brothers in Farms (our name for a lovely rural spot) north of Braunston, moored at Birdingbury Wharf on the Grand Union for the night of the 20th, moored in Long Itchington on the 21st, Radford Semele on the 22nd and now we're in Saltisford Arm, Warwick. We're off to Oxford for the day tomorrow, but we promise to update all details on Sunday.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Blue Haven for a week

We're back in Blue Haven for a small spell to sort out a few domestic things and for Elizabeth to go off to Windermere for a few days work. We set out from Braunston just after breakfast and just after Elizabeth popped in to Tradline Fenders for a new oil lamp. An easy two hours, Pete did the tiller work and Elizabeth wrapped braid around the metal fender holders so that the holders wouldn't scratch the paint. Then did dishes. Then set up the office for arrival. Then made coffee for arrival. Then watched the groundworks for the new Buckby Marina just south of Hillmorton. Then we pulled into our mooring and it all felt as if we'd never been away!!

To Braunston and a tiller CLUNK

Well, Monday the 12th of July was an eventful day. We set out from Stowe Hill in the morning, ready for a full return to Hillmorton in the evening. We did well, enjoyed our trip up the Wilton then Buckby flights of the Grand Union with Katherine, a new boat and new boaters. After stopping at Buckby top to use the sanitary point, we travelled by Norton Junction, then into the Braunston tunnel. It was the first time we have ever not met a boat coming the other way! Having seen the tip in Waterways World about pointing our headlamp up to the right so we could see the roof and sides of the tunnel better, we had much the best tunnel trip ever.

Into Braunston top lock, change helmsperson as usual, Pete worked the downward gates, Elizabeth drove out and CLUNK. The tiller handle dropped with a loud clang. From there, she could only manoeuvre for half of the full tiller sweep. A loud and long sound of the horn brought Pete back from setting the next lock down and together, they encouraged the boat heading up to leave the towpath and GO UP the lock - so we could pull in without hitting them. We tied up Bella and investigated.

OK, here goes. The tiller is connected to the rudder with a long vertical shaft with a protruding bit at the bottom which sits in a collar jutting out from the stern. The shaft had popped out of the collar, allowing the rudder/tiller shaft to drop. Pete had seen this on other boats and knew that with a few heaves, lifts, wiggles and shoves, he could lift it and drop the protruding bit back into the collar. But, oh, the work. He walked down a few locks to get connectivity on the phone (all this would have happened in a hole in the mobile net!!), called our friends at Blue Haven Marine and was affirmed as doing the right thing. So, back to Bella, back to standing on the stern gunwale and stern fender, back to heaving, lifting, dropping, heaving... In the meantime, we both decided that River Canal Rescue might lend a hand and Elizabeth went to call. As we waited, Pete decided to get out the socket set and to undo the bolts which held the tiller/rudder shaft in place, allowing it more wiggle room. Woo Hoo - it worked. We called RCR back again to let them know that they weren't needed after all and we were away.

Five locks later, we sailed into Braunston to be met by a call from the side and there they were - Berkhamstead and crew, one of the boats of the flotilla which had passed us on Saturday, moored up. Insisting that we stop and chat, they allowed us to find a mooring first! We finished our busy day of 10 miles and 13 locks drinking home-made wine from the bows of Berkhamstead, chatting about religion, politics and planning. Oh, and boats.

Stowe Hill visit and many friends

On the 7th of July, we set out from Buckby top (having been taken over by Five O'Clock) and made the flight of double locks all on our own. Great fun! We stopped at the bottom of the Wilton locks, passing Five O'Clock, where Elizabeth went into the Chandlery whilst Pete made a work phone call. Five O'Clock passed us just before we set out again and no locks later, we passed them as they were moored at Weedon, and then we moored up at Stowe Hill (home of Rubgy Boats) to have a good visit.

We sat a day or so, went to Oxford for a fun piece of work, then set out with our friends on Ferret on the Friday evening. What fun! We moored up only 2.5 miles east of Stowe Hill near Bugbrook, had much wine and food whilst sitting on the towpath and generally had a hoot of a time.

The next morning, we both set off to Gayton turn (where the Grand Union Northampton Arm sets out east
), we moored up at the service point and Ferret turned to return west and bagsie a table at the Wharf Inn for us all to have lunch. We used the services, turned, found a lovely woodsy mooring, then walked to the Wharf where we all had a great (late!) lunch. When we set off again, we found we were caught in an unplanned flotilla As we waited for one boat to pass us before we set out, we realised there was another, then another, then another... And one of them was Berkhamstead and we knew the boaters! We had moored opposite their land home two years ago and had so many chats from our hatch to their balcony that we ended up all together on their balcony for our last night in Berko. What fun to see them again! After their slowing for a chat with us, the whole flotilla slowed, then they were followed by our friends on Ferret and then yet another boat. We finally set out and the picture shows the crowd.

Some of the crowd turned, others moored, we passed Berkhamstead boat as they welcomed land visitors, then Ferret and we moored up back in Stowe Hill. Within minutes we were all gathered around with more Stowe Hill moorers. Chatting between sips of wine went on for some time into the evening ...

Buckby Penultimate

We moved out from Napton, meandered north by Wigrams Turn, where the Oxford joins the Grand Union and the Grand also turns west to Warwick and beyond. From Wigrams to Braunston, the single canal stretch is both the Oxford and the Grand. Lock free, it is a lovely piece of canal. We turned right (east) at Braunston and moored up for a bit of shopping.

As we were mooring, we heard a "Hello, Elizabeth!" from a passing Tillerman on Promise Me Too and, after a few minutes, we both realised that this was another URC minister and wife who we knew from Oxford. A small walk out later took us to Braunston Marina where we caught up for a chat with them on the service point. We walked back from the Marina with maps for the western canal network and two new fenders.

We went on to the locks where we met up with It Must Be Five O'Clock Somewhere, another long narrow boat. We shortened their name to Five O'Clock for chatting sake and shared the 6 Braunston locks with this lovely boat and couple. A pleasure. Tunnel next, quite dry of drips as the ground above it was so dried out, then on to Norton Junction. This is where the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union heads north. Five O'Clock had moored up by then, but we headed for the Buckby locks to get through the top lock before mooring for the night.

Lo and Behold, as we got to Buckby top, our dear friend from Rugby Boat Sales was photographing a new boat for his brokerage. When he was finished, he joined us on Bella then we all traipsed off to the New Inn. Brilliant day!

On to Napton

We travelled the very windy windie bit of the Oxford on the 5th, taking ourselves through one of the unique features of a James Brindley designed canal. The section from Fenny Compton to Marston Doles, the top of the Napton flight (the southern end), is sweetly called the Meandering section. The reality is that it twists and turns all over the place. Dear James Brindley, the engineer of the Oxford, was instructed by his commissioning canal company to use as little money as possible. Hence, lift bridges made of wood rather than solid bridges made of brick and stone and - meandering around hills rather than gouging out great cuts or exploding long tunnels. And in the summer, when the Willow, Hawthorne and reeds grow faster than they are maintained, we get sharp blind corners. Wooo - fun! (not). We had a number of near misses with hire boats and bridge holes, but all in all, Elizabeth was able to knit quietly whilst Pete took the tiller.

We did the Napton flight in good time and great laughter. We think we saw every sort of boat from private live aboards like ours, to private boats out for the summer, to private boats out for the weekend, to hire boats, to working barges and even Hotel Boats. The fun here is that one of the Hotel Boat crew was known to us from the Saltisford Arm of the Grand Union. It is so much fun being able to chat on route to people we know!

We moored up outside the Bridge pub (as per usual!) to find it is closed on Mondays. How can a pub be closed???

Sunday, 4 July 2010

NB Acres to Cropredy and on to Fenny Compton

We left NB Acres on Saturday morning and went through our first lock of the day, Kings Sutton. Such a lovely summer day to see the entrance to the lock under one of the oldest bridges on the Oxford; bridge 179. Elizabeth couldn't help taking a picture of Bella as she entered the lock, as the garden looks so wonderful. The three plants on the front are Berry patch (the blueberries), Azzy (the Azalea) and Heidi, the heather. On the roof are Perry, Saxi, Annabellle, Sharon and Lavendar. Stewart and Rosemary tuck behind the deck doors on travel, but are presently sitting on the deck bench, which you can see behind Pete.

We travelled to Cropredy and were able to moor up at one of our favourite spots, just north of the lock. We stayed there one night having stopped off at our local, the Braeneose (so named as it used to be owned by Brasenose College, Oxford). This morning, we set out to a far windier day and moored up early afternoon in Fenny Compton. The weather continues to get windier and cloudier which, thankfully, is quite a change! Apparently, it has been the driest first 6 months of any year in the last 80 years. Though this makes for a very shallow canal, it has made for glorious cruising.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Heyford then NB Acres

We left our friends in Thrupp by moving out of the 14 day moorings in a swift move to allow Snowgoose to move in. Smugly moored is what we call it! We headed out to yet another lovely day (this is getting to be a habit!) and easily made the 8 miles, 5 locks and two lift bridges to Heyford, Bella's old home. We found a superb mooring at the south end of the 48 hour slots and had a walk over the fields to the pub. It all feels so familiar! Home to a great fresh broad bean and bacon salad.

We set out the next morning to water at the watering point just south of the bridge, then moored up by Oxfordshire Narrowboats for diesel. NOTE - there is now a fab B&B at Heyford, which, by the way, is over the canal from the train station allowing you to travel to Banbury or Oxford. We were shown around the B&B and it's lovely. Really.

We set out around lunch time and motored up to our next 'old haunt' at NB Acres, just north of Nell's lock, the northern end of another stretch sharing the Cherwell which starts at the south end with Aynho weir lock. We moored up on the towpath side here when we first moved Bella north. And, we were in NB Acres last July, when we first came across this smallholding owned by the residents of narrowboat Per Ardua. Then we met Clarissa, the rare breed Oxfordshire sandy and black pig and this year, we met her newest family and her family's newest family! In the new buildings, we saw day old chickens and ducks, one cracking into new life whilst we stood there. Today, a turkey hatched and another was cracking out as we watched. So many of our lives are so distant from this, it is wonderful to experience it. One brood of pigs was five weeks old, the other five days. We can hear the squeals as we sit here! The weather has been lovely for us, but for NB Acres, rain would be welcome. Their bore hole is stressed and all their 1.5 tonne water butts are empty. Ah well.

As ever, we are taking advantage of the electrics here and are working on clearing the laundry. The pics are the inside of a lock and the lock wall. We wanted you to see all that grows on it!! And we are privileged to be so close to cows as they wade to the water. In our nearly three years aboard, we never cease to be amazed at how close to nature we are.

Thrupp for nearly a week

We had a wonderful time in Thrupp. It mizzled a little one day, but other than that, we enjoyed summer weather. This is a shock for us! The longest summer since we've lived on Bella. The second night there, we had lovely dinner guests and celebrated with Cava, cream cheese and caviar, pastas with fresh herbs and garlic then finished with chocolate fondu. The beautiful scientist amongst us had never had either the starter or the finish and the fact that we had a set of glasses for each liquid brought some hilarity amongst our boater friends. What a hoot!

The next evening, we had a BBQ on the towpath around one friend's boat whilst we listened to tales of the cut from Rose who was born on a working boat and spent much of her life working them. We learnt to say 'motor and butty' not boat and butty and learned how to correctly pronounce Braunston. Our dear meal provider, Kate, tells Rose's tale in A Boat's Yer Whole World http://www.roundhamlocktheatre.co.uk/edfes.htm. We saw it in Banbury last year and loved it. On Sunday morning, we wandered the country lane then waterside to climb the ages old steps to Shipton on Cherwell parish church. We were SO warmly welcomed and it was good to worship with a friend whilst not in Rugby or Oxford.

We ended our stay, after Elizabeth went to Manchester for an overnight meeting, by having a BBQ outside our other friend's boat (s). What fun. Much conversation about deep and complex things and the enjoyment of the passing (Very Loud) birds. Or cars and lorries. This BBQ was around a fire, outside the boats, next to (in?) the car park, right by the Banbury Road. Brilliant. We'll go back to Thrupp.

The pics are of the moorhen family we watched frequent the opposite side of the canal from our mooring and of the lovely Thrupp evening. That's the Jolly Boatman pub with its lights on just on the right of the bridge. We love the reflections...

Friday, 25 June 2010

How many people does it take to fix a Lift Bridge?

We set out from Jericho early on Wednesday morning, knowing how busy Thrupp can be and we planned to be in Thrupp for a piece of work on Friday. It was a lovely quiet day and odd not to see lots of V hull/plassy cruisers which we got used to on the Thames. It was a lovely day and contained Lift Bridges. This pic called to mind the "how many XYZs does it take to change a light bulb?" jokes. Here is perhaps an overkill of engineers fixing a light bulb - sorry - Lift Bridge!

We moored up neatly in one of only two 14 day moorings the southern end of Thrupp, near the Jolly Boatman. Hmmm. Right near a pub again. Odd how that keeps happening! We were delighted to imbibe with friends that very night.

How many Oxford Dons does it take to change a light bulb?

Jericho again

We realised we've been to Jericho by canal twice before - August 2008 and December 2008 for Christmas. We did a nifty turn into Isis lock from Sheepwash Channel, the southern join of the Oxford and the Thames. Duke's Cut, which we travelled on a month ago, is the northern join. This is an interesting link about Isis Lock: http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM212DWe stayed in Jericho a few days, so Elizabeth could walk the five minutes to Oxford station for a few days work in London. Pete stayed aboard and built an amazing 72 project spreadsheet.

From River to Canal

Back on the Oxford!!! We So enjoyed the river.

Just before we go on, we thought it wise to explain why rivers have locks. Forgive us if you already know this, but for those who don't we try to be helpful (!). To be navigable, a body of water has to be deep enough to take a certain depth of boat (not that you'd know this by some sections of the canal network). Upstream of rivers is usually shallow, so there has to be some way to make rivers deeper to be able to continue to be navigable as much as possible. The cunning plan ages ago, was to dam rivers at intervals, allowing water to build up and therefore allow navigation further and further upstream. These dams are not permanent, but are lock chambers, allowing boats to go up the height of the dammed water, or to travel down from the dammed water to the lower level. A further cunning plan was as a result of angry farmers and mill owners who needed flowing water for their agriculture or for their mills. Allow some water to keep flowing around the dam/lock chamber so that the mill wheel still turns or so that water can still flow into irrigation chambers. This is what the weir is all about; the river still flowing whilst it still builds up in depth. Good, eh?

Canal locks on the other hand, are to allow water to go up and down hill; forget up and down stream. Just up hills, down hills, through mountains, over roads. Canals are water roads. Rivers are rivers. There. Said.

Anyway, we're back on the canal.

Sandford to Osney

We set out on Friday after Elizabeth had a conference call (callers from Wales, Windermere, London and Cambridge - what a hoot!). We wanted to moor in Osney in preparation for seeing friends over the weekend. On the way, we so enjoyed the approach to Folly Bridge, seen here and including the Head of the River.

We stayed in Osney over the weekend, enjoyed a visit, went shopping, purchased a basket at the Towpat Tea Party, went to St Columba's on the Sunday, then set out back to the canal.

Abingdon to Sandford

So, we set out from Abingdon after a few emails and other pieces of work and moored up in Sandford on teh 17th where we had booked electricity as before. Elizabeth set about doing laundry and enjoying hanging it on the line, and Pete set about doing some mechanics. Here he is, topping up the water in the batteries. They are below the stern deck, next to the engine. Much nicer than clearing the weed hatch!!

And look closely at the pic of Bella. Flowing in the breeze is the laundry on the stern. We have been thrilled to get our rotary drier to attach to the cruising rail. What excites some, eh?

Abingdon on the 16th and a Schmitt

We left Clifton Lock in the morning and enjoyed our sojourn to Abingdon. We had planned to be there in order to do a piece of work at one of the local schools, but that was postponed. So, we just enjoyed ourselves! We did a little shopping, then watched people with canoes playing in the "rapids" of the weir for Abingdon Lock. Do note the DANGER sign!

And, just so you know. While we travel, Elizabeth knits. These pics are of the Unique Schmitt. Scarf/Hat/Mitt. Jeffrey put in a request for a single garmet of scarf, hat and gloves so that they were all connected and he didn't lose any. So, here is the result. A Schmitt. SCarft, Hat, MITT. She can't do gloves yet, and besides mitts are far warmer, so here it is. It can be separted into its constituent parts (smaller pic), but it is a unit. It was packaged and posted in Abingdon, but made throughout the journey from the Oxford canal in Hilmorton, through the Thames and the Wey.

Wallingford to Clifton Lock

Yes, it's more than a week later and no, we are no longer in Wallingford, smart readers! We stayed one night, then set out north, hoping to moor up in a little village. As it was, the only mooring we could find was an extended layby at Clifton Lock. It was lovely, actually, and Josie loved the walk! Sorry no photographs, but there we are.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Wallingford on the 14th

On Monday, we travelled only one lock and five rather boring miles to Wallingford. We were delighted to see that there was a new mooring edge and giggled that we had seen it being built as we were travelling downstream. There was room for us, but as the day wore on, we offered alongside mooring to Morwena II, as even with new moorings, there was much demand for space. You can see us doubled up behind a Dutch Barge called Duchess.

On Tuesday we had a lovely bimble around Wallingford and enjoyed the sample of shops, including Just Trading, a fair trade shop. The owner used to live on a narrowboat in Birmingham's Gas Street Basin, so we had quite a chat!

Goring for the weekend

It has been a week since last post - apologies!! Connectivity and busyness are the reason.

We did make it to Goring on Thursday and moored just the other side of the lock in the old mill stream. The water level was quite low compared to the lock side and we were concerned if Josie could get off. We considered a chair, or some ladder, but -- discovered she can jump! We were amazed that from a standing start, she jumped more than the distance of her height (on all fours). Our incredible mutt :-) Pete watched this a considerable amount more that Elizabeth who set off from Goring on the 0836 Friday morning. While Pete did laundry (as we were on electics), bimbled through the village, got to know the John Barleycorn and generally maintained domestics, Elizabeth travelled to see students in Manchester then went on to Chester to manage a ministers' training weekend in Wales.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Pangbourne, alongside Tamesis

We decided to really get going today, knowing that we are due in Goring tomorrow night. We set out just before 8:30 and travelled the decorous stretch through Henly, watcing more awnings and tents being erected for the Henley Regatta. We stopped twice in Reading. Once, where we did on the way down, to do a quick grocery shop. Then we stopped after the lock, just above the Caversham bridge. This was for Elizabeth to hop off for Reading Station to buy tickets for the weekend (Goring, Manchester, Chester, Goring). This is Bella seen from the bridge. Elizabeth returned with tickets and Cornish pasties. mmmm.

Along the way, we saw Great Western trains on the routes to and from Reading - and got two hoots from drivers when we waved. We moored for a while just up at Mapleduram lock in order to dispose of much reclycing, devour ice cream and watch a huge passenger ferry go through the lock. Amazing sight.

Finally we settled into Pangbourne. Having been told by the Caversham Lockeeper that there was room (no problem!), we tried one last place to realise there was no way it would work. We then gratefully accepted an offer to moor alongside Tamesis, a lovely cream coloured broad beam. She's on a long outing from her mooring on the Lancaster Canal, having made it to the Thames by way of the Grand Union. Being wide, she won't be able to make the circle by using the Oxford Canal and will have to turn around. Whatever, we are delighted she was in Pangbourne and welcomed close guests!

Closish to Henly, round the corner from Hambledon

What a lovely mooring we found. We set out from Marlow in the afternoon after a full day of work, Elizabeth ticking through her tasks and Pete building a new reporting spreadsheet. We travelled 7 miles and 4 locks, working the last lock on our own, as it was after the Lockeeper's day. Pete did the controls whilst Elizabeth drove into and out of the lock. This was the first time she did both on the Thames and was quite proud of herself after the stress reduced somewhat.

We had planned to stop at Hurley, but as is so often the case on a river, no moorings were to be found. So we kept going and ended up at Remenham farm moorings on a southern corner between Henley and Hambledon. It was a lovely open field at a wide stretch of the river with full light each side. Across, and looking quite fine, was Henley Management College (home of Belbin Team roles, in case you know). Bella looked on, considering imparting some of her wisdom, but decided to keep to herself.

And we saw 2 Kingfishers. Good day!

Monday, 7 June 2010

From Maidenhead to Marlow via Cookham

We set out yesterday (June 6) from Maidenhead, having visited our neighbour's boat first. Their Sagacity is, to Elizabeth, one of the most beautiful broad beams ever. It is a dear wide shape with an open roof with awning over the bow and brass framed, rounded top windows right next to each other about half way along each side from the bows. The back section has portholes and the whole interior is wood finish and like us, personal rather than fitted furniture. We so enjoyed our tour! For those who understand, it is an inspection launch style and its sister gives tours through Little Venice in London.

From there, we set off north and made the massive leap of 3 miles, 2 locks and 2 1/4 hours to Cookham, which Sagacity's owners recommended. Bella looks lovely, tucked beside Bell Rope Meadow. You can see that we're on a bit of an angle with the stern out, but even Josie could make the leap. The river doesn't have as straight edges as canals!!! After a lovely Sunday dinner, we watched Aviator on our new tiny DVD player, linked to the TV. Yes, there is a DVD player in our TV, but it gave up a while ago.

This morning we woke to a slightly cloudy day and walked to the Stanley Spencer Galley in Cookham - http://www.kwantes.com/SSG%20website/index.html. A wonderful painter, Spencer's work has informed quite a few theological debates! His Christ preaching at Cookham Regatta is an unfinished work but is fabulous with Jesus in his straw hat, sitting in a Lloyd Loom rattan chair in a boat and leaning meaningfully toward those who will listen. Not many it seems, as most were enjoying the boating!

We then spent a massive hour or so with no locks to move on to Marlow. We're taking a slow journey to Goring where we've booked three days on electricity while Elizabeth takes a work excursion to Wales via Manchester for another meeting. We wanted to approach Abingdon for next week, as there is a piece of work to do there and it will be great to do it arriving by Bella.

Shepperton to Maidenhead

We stayed in Shepperton for another day so that Pete could take trains to collect post and packages from Rugby. Elizabeth used the time to get some lovely work done and to knit a bit more. A peacful summer evening was followed by a serious day of motoring.

We had not expected to travel the 19 miles and 7 locks on Saturday, as we expected to moor up somewhere in Windsor. But Windsor was Heaving With Boats. Everywhere!!! Every tiny little moment of a mooring was already bagsied by at least one boat, sometimes two abreast. There was no room at the Palace. Ah well. We kept moving.

We finally came to rest in Maidenhead, below the lock where we had moored the week before. This mooring was on a wider Thames stretch in the middle of whatever bit of town Maidenhead claims on the river. Which is not much - most of the town is almost a mile west. We walked it for some good shopping the next day and took a taxi back with the seven bags of provision/stores.

On the Wey

So we got to the River Wey with great expectation on the Wednesday morning, June 3. But then we met the reality. The history is that these navigations were the first manufactured navigations in England, a century older than canals. The river was diverted with canal type sections and with locks to enable carriage from Guildford to London in 1653. The history and present story is here: http://www.weyriver.co.uk/theriver/wey_nav_1.htm. The boats designed to carry it were wide and relatively flat and over the next 350 years, the navigtations have silted up, grown weed and variously been dredged. The result for this century is a very shallow navigation indeeed. As Bella only draws two feet - there are two feet below water compared to the five or so feet above - you can imagine how shallow this is. The result for us is sluggish travel, difficult maneuvering and frustration.

Added to the shallowness is the work of the locks. We started in the Wey downstream, therefore going uphill/upstream through the locks. These lock gates were, engineering wise, a clear century before the engineering skills of the Oxford Canal and other early narrow canals. In the newer canals (we know - still 250 years old), the locks fill by water inlets deep in the floor of the lock, managed by sluices deep on the lock gate or at the side of the lock bed and operated by paddles at the top of the gate. On the Grand Union, these deep inlets are sometimes added to by gate sluices. These are grilles on the middle of the gates, the covers of which are only opened when the boats are halfway up the rising lock, as the force of water can be huge.

Well, on the Wey, there are only gate sluices and the locks are double width. So as soon as the sluices are opened any amount at all, the water rush is ruthless. The paddles have to be operated at tiny increments at a time in order not to bash the boats or to flood them. And because they are so strong, the boats need to be held by two lines, the bow and the stern. Added to that, there is no landing stage for boat crew to get off and take a line with them. This means that Pete usually let Elizabeth off on the river edge before the lock and carrying a boat hook. This she used in order to reach down and collect lines as Bella went into the locks. There was no switching and swapping crew here; Elizabeth is by far the more deft gunnel walker and there was a lot of gunnel walking to do in order to get to a good place to be dropped off for locks. And we found that all Pete's boat handling experience was critical for the force of this oddly peaceful looking river.

A beautiful day, but not a good experience. Though we had only travelled half of the length, we decided that it was not worth our pursuit. We moored in Cartbridge, near Send, and decided to turn around and go back to the Thames the next day. However, it was good to see that the National Trust uses working boats for much of the Wey upkeep; the picture captures barge and tug.

So the next morning, we set off to another stunning day to take the locks going downstream. Thes was far easier as the locks are slow emptiers and we could enter the lock at the same level as the water which allowed easy exit from Bella to lockside. It felt far more like the locks of the later canals. We were out and through Shepperton lock for a peaceful evening moored by the Thames Court Hotel/pub. Ah.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Queuing in Chertsey

Well, the British do like to queue. And today it was Bella's turn to demonstrate her heritage. We pootled along nicely from Old Windsor lock where we had electrics and did a whole heap more of laundry (zoom into Bella's deck in the pic of her moored on the pontoon). It was a lovely mostly sunny day and we were mentally scheduled to enter the top of the River Wey Navigations a waterway managed by the National Trust. But...

At Chertsey Lock, south west of central London just touching Surrey, the lock gates were not working. At first it was thought that the hydraulics had failed, but that was fine on testing. So some divers appeared and after their deep swim to the bottom of the gates, they found a large log which wedged the gate open. In the meantime, queues were forming upstream and downstream. By the time all was clear and we could move forward, we had quite a band of friends with six boats breasted alongside with us - we were boat two from the towpath in this shot, with Atlantis to our right and three small v hull cruisers outboard of them. We moved forward in three hits, two of the times with Rupert, Pete and John pulling the first-to-the-towpath narrowboats's lines so that the whole raft of six boats could move in one hit. This meant pulling on 65 tonnes of narrowboat steel and whatever the plassy cruisers (v hulls) weighed. What a hoot! We finally untied our raft for the finally decant into the lock.

The first-to-the-towpath narrowboat doesn't have a name yet, as it was only just collected by Rupert from Reading a few days ago. The proud owner of a Metrofloat double width narrowboat style (http://www.metrofloat.co.uk/), he was thrilled for the opportunity to give tours to all the other boaters who wanted a peek! It was touring one of those which made us decide that we could actually make a boat a home, but then we thought we'd try out a 'proper' narrow boat first. We wouldn't go to a Metrofloat now until we have to think about stopping somewhere for good because our bodies can't do this anymore. Then you can probably see us in one, moored up next to a patch of garden on the Kennet and Avon...

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Now in Windsor

It is amazing travelling by historic names and places. Bella glided into Windsor and took a peek at the Castle. Clearly Her Majesty had a double booking, as she was not on the bridge when we passed by. Sad. We travelled beside her Great Park where we noted that we could neither moor nor land and lemented that we could not pop in. Ah well.

When moored up to travel down the next lock, we did catch sight of Eton, the early school of our present Prime Minister.

We meandered through beautiful country then moored up in Old Windsor, where we had booked another mooring on electric. We celebrated the royal route by doing the laundry, blogging and hearing James' news on Skype.

From Henly to Maidenhead

Well, today Bella considered racing and sailing, whilst travelling through our first realy wet day of this latest journey. We woke under our trees to dark skies, but decided to have a go anyway. How different it is to travel in wet on the river than on the canal! We know that wet is wet, but on the river, Elizabeth has to gunnel walk with the centre line to each layby for locks. This means collecting all the water from Bella's side. Mmm. We mean wet.

That said, we had the amazing experience of cruising right down the middle of the raceway of Henley Regatta, right past the grandstand. We had no onlookers, but had we, they would have been mightily impressed at Bella's stature while drenched and pressing ahead.

Then, we hit the outskirts of Maidenhead, where there is a sailing school. Bella thought about sailing, but then didn't like the look of nearly falling sideways whilst tacking. For us, it was an odd experience to share the waters with such sprightly nymphs.

On the way, we saw Sparrowhawks, Nurseries for Geese (hoards of littlies seemingly left off by their parents), a Grebe with Grebelings on her back and a Kingfisher. Wonderful, even though wet. We moored at what we reckon was the best spot in Maidenhead, just above Butlers lock in a secluded spot. Lovely. And then, of course, it stopped raining.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Resident in Henly

Well, here we are, our Stately Home amongst some of the most awesome dwellings in the land. Like our friend, Helen, we prefer our watery version. A fraction of the cleaning and maintenance - and we can move our home whenever we like. The pic shows our over the river neighbours.

Yesterday, Elizabeth took the train from Goring to a meeting in Cambridge and Pete did a little desk work. In the evening we went to the Swan at Streatley, just over the other side of the river and lock, to have our coffee and a wee dram. Elizabeth used to take new Au Pairs there when they arrived each September, to have tea on the terrace and to show them a little quintessential England. It was so much fun to be there by our own boat!

Today's lovely journey took us from South Oxfordshire through Berkshire. We moored in Reading, far prettier from the water than by car or train, and did a little shopping. Had to tie to trees rather than rings, but it worked! The pic is the view up to the trees from inside Bella. As we travelled on, Elizabeth did a work call, we missed an island or two, then moored up in leafy Henley.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Goring and Streatley on Wednesday

Having stayed put for a day, we were ready to move!! We set out at 0900 and sailed through the meandering south Oxfordshire countryside. We saw all signs of new life again, and to add to the Cygnets, we saw Grebes and grebelings, Coots and cootlings and all manner of weensy cows and lambs. One lamb even made it lockside to eat the lock-keepers shrubs!

So - river cruising. Differences:
1) We don't work locks unless the lock-keeper is on a break. The locks are large and Bella usually sits alongside other boats as well as in front or behind other boats. This is a change! The deal is that Elizabeth stays on the bow with a rope around a bollard at the front and that Pete stays in the stern with rope around an aft bollard. This is the rule - one rope each end. Then the water goes down/up at increments and we have to keep the boat as still as we can. Of course, its all down at this stage. Elizabeth hasn't taken the tiller much on the river yet - she's sussing out the terrain.

2) We can travel faster! We can go 5 miles an hour and usually achieve it most of the time, as compared to 4 miles an hour on the canal where we rarely achieve it.

3) We don't have to slow down by moored boats. With so much water sloshing about we hardly notice Bella move when another boat whizzes past and we notice that we don't move moored boats very much at all.

4) We can run aground. And this we did, just north of Shillingford. We moved to the right to allow an oncoming boat to pass and found ourselves on the sandy bed. Elizabeth used the pole and Pete swished about with the engine and tiller and we were away again. What a hoot!

All in all, this is a wonderful experience.

Abingdon on Thames

Elizabeth used to go to Abingdon loads - to take the boys to the paddling pool by the river in summer and to take herself to the Upper Reaches hotel for coffee and a bit of planning time when she was in minstry in Oxford. Pete had joined the Abingdon crowd when we did some work for a few organisations there and when his work colleague hosted dinner in their house backing the river. Well by Monday, we were there in Bella, moored just opposite the park with the paddling pool. How life moves on!

It was a wonderful mooring, full of young people's laughter in the day with much river swimming and falling, and peaceful village sounds and lights sharing our night with us. We stayed put on Tuesday with both of us having errands either in Oxford or Abingdon and some desk work and calls. But what a lovely place to stay put.

From Osney to Sandford

We moved from Osney to Sandford on Sunday afternoon to a bright and busy day of people messing about on boats. We'd had a fabulous Pentecost service at our home church of St Columbas, then untied and moved. What a hoot moving through a busy Sunday afternoon on the water in Oxford. Punts, rowing eights, tiny row boats, large plassy cruisers, Salter's day boat to Abingdon, hirers of craft large and small and owners of holiday palaces - the river had them all. And there were we, gliding smoothly in Bella in the midst of the mayhem. What fun! We had booked ahead for Sandford in order to moor at an elecric point to get a few loads of laundry done. Pete had bought a rotary clothes line which we fit to a pole on Bella's stern and we took advantage of the warm sunshine to dry the clothes. Also - fun! In the one pic, you can just see the laundry line beside the parasol and Elizabeth peeking over the top of boats.

By Sunday evening, were ready for our boating friends, Dom and Helen, whe decided after more than a year of renting a house after having sold their boat, to live again on a boat. They collected their gorgous tug (70 feet and traditional engine) from Staines and anticipated meeting us at Sandford. Pete stood ready at the lock with his camera and lo, they came into view. A fabulous night was had by all, with Cava and caviar to celebrate their move back to water.