Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Somewhere Different.


Well,as the title says,we are now somewhere different,different in that we have not been this way before,ever.We are now moored on the Grand Union Canal North of Calcutt after spending the best part of 7 weeks on the South Oxford Canal with a week or so on the Thames while we were there.I haven’t done a Blog for three weeks because we have just been going very slowly over old ground and I’ve had an attack of writers block which has meant I couldn’t really think of a great deal to write.That’s my excuse anyway.Hopefully tonight will be a bit different and I’ll be happy with the finished product.

Since our last Blog we have steadily worked our way Northwards on the South Oxford,spending a week or so at Thrupp because Lisa had a bit of a tummy bug and didn’t feel like doing much.While we were there we also began to feel the cold,especially in the evenings,so we started lighting the fire again and as a result we got low on coal and I wasn’t sure where we could get some more.I was sitting reading one day,feeling sorry for those poor boaters who had to cruise in the rain that we were enjoying at the time and who should come floating by but the Coal Boat “Dusty”,heading towards Oxford.I didn’t wave him down but a quick look on the Fuel Boats Website,Lock 13, got me his phone number and a short call confirmed he would be returning the next day.I ordered a couple of bags of coal and some diesel and Dusty arrived as arranged the next afternoon.I like to use the Fuel Boats if I can because it’s a case of use them or lose them and in circumstances similar to what we were in they are very handy.As is often the case though,we didn’t open the coal ‘cos the evenings warmed up again,thankfully coal doesn’t have a use by date so it’ll keep till the Autumn.Thrupp was also where we said our farewells to Rob and Suzie off Swamp Frogs.Rob cooked us a nice meal on our last night and after being together for a little over 5 weeks we went our separate ways.They are off to the K&A and were heading to Stratford and the River Avon but I’m positive we will all meet up again in the not too distant future.We had a great time with them and I doubt we would have gone on the River Thames if they hadn’t been with us.

From Thrupp we gently made our way towards Banbury,taking three days to cover the eleven and a bit miles,stopping for a couple of nights where we had moored when we were on our way South.The weather was lovely so out came the barby again.We know the weather can be just a bit unpredictable so we tend to buy stuff that we can cook either on the barby or in the oven on Chyandour just in case.We spent a couple of nights in Banbury and one of the highlights was the Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn,a traditional English pub that dates back to medieval times and where the Old Hooky was delicious.The museum in Banbury is worth a visit too but attempts to visit Tooleys Boatyard were frustrated,it isn’t open Mondays and we needed to leave on the Tuesday to get through a lock further North that was closing on the Wednesday and Thursday for maintenance.Tooleys has the oldest working dry dock on the Inland Waterways,having been in use since 1790,it also has a working 200 year old Blacksmiths Forge.I’ll have to try and visit the next time we are down this way.

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A couple of pic’s of Tooleys boat yard and the covered dry dock,the bridge over the canal is part of Banbury museum and has displays of the information on the history of the South Oxford Canal in Banbury.

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You can see some sights on our inland waterways,these guys were pedalling to Oxford for charity.Enjoying a drink after another barby.It’s a bit smoky ‘cos I’d put some wood on the dying embers when it started to turn a bit chilly,it soon burst into flame.That’s Lisa with Andy and Di off NB Fenakepan,the towpath wasn’t too wide but we didn’t have many people walking past and even fewer cyclists.

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Elkington’s Lock being repaired the day after we got through.CRT were refitting the lock gates to reduce leakage and it was back open by the middle of the following afternoon.A close up of the windmill on the top of Napton Hill where we walked to on Sunday morning.

Having got through the lock that was due to close we moored up for a couple of nights just North of the lock in the company of a couple more old friends,Andy and Di off NB Fenakepan.We left them in Birmingham back in March and now they too are heading to the K&A and as we were crossing paths,so to speak,it would have been rude not to stop and catch up.We left them last Thursday and headed for the village of Napton where we intended to stay for a couple of nights and enjoy a Fathers Day lunch in the Folly,a pub that is ideal in that it is only a short stagger back to the canal and Chyandour.They also sell Old Hooky so I was spoiled a bit.We met some lovely people at Napton,Eric and Jackie,off NB Butterfly,she made us a little tassel for our Tiller Pin and he kindly allowed us to share their table for a meal on Saturday night in the Folly.All the tables were pretty much booked by the time we arrived in the early afternoon,we’d been held up a bit by the problems on Lock no.10 on the Napton Flight.On Sunday morning we took a walk up into Napton itself and up is probably the best way to describe the walk.It was worth it though as you could see for miles around from the top of the hill,there had been an Observation Post on the hill during WW2 from which they had watched the air raids on Coventry.There’s a sort of memorial to the OP post with some seating where you can relax and take in the view.We also got a bit closer to the Windmill that can be seen from the canal as you gently cruise below the village.Apparently there have been Windmills on this site since the middle of the 16th Century.It’s private property so you can’t get too close and the Sails aren’t turning either but the walk set us up for lunch.On our way back down the hill we walked past what looked like a quarry but what was in fact a clay pit that had been part of Napton Brickworks.The works closed in the 1970’s having been in operation since before the end of the 19th Century and there is little left now but the kilns that had been there were originally fired by coal that was brought to the works by canal boat.

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Another lock that’s got problems.Beyond the blue CRT boat is a white sheet where there should be a wall similar to the wall on the right of the lock approach.It collapsed as a boat was entering and now passage through it is assisted until major repairs can be started in November.The boat is positioned to protect the bank from further erosion and the RSJ’s support the remaining wall.I think it’s amazing that these 200 and more year old structures survive at all,it says a lot about the workmanship that went into them and I don’t envy CRT who have the thankless task of maintaining hundreds of them.

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Lisa at the first of the Calcutt Locks this morning next to the unusual paddle gear called candlesticks,they are Broad Locks which can take two narrowboats side by side,the first ones of this size we’ve done since last year.These locks have been relatively easy to use,especially the paddle gear,though Lisa tells me some of the gates are a bit heavy.We’ll try to double up with another boat tomorrow when we descend the Stockton Locks on our way to Long Itchington. Lock number 2 and a novel use has been made of one of the former narrow locks that were abandoned when the broad locks were built.Calcutt Boats use it as a covered dock.

Well,that’s all for this week folks.Since our last blog three weeks ago we have done 39 Locks and covered 46 Miles,that gives us a Grand Total of 773 Locks and 1364 Miles since we set off in October 2012.Take care everyone.

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