Happy Christmas

Visited the marina today. Lots of ice and some great hoar frost. There were a few boats breaking ice.

Kingfisher marina (Yardley Gobion) with ice, mist and hoar frost

Hoar frost on mooring ring

Hoar frost and cob-webs

Albert's Saloon Refurbished

We have not done much boating this early winter but we have been busy making alterations to Albert's saloon. We have a small two-seater setee (Parker-Knoll Chameleon) and a matching high-backed chair. Both were getting a bit tired and slightly worn in places, so we decided to have them recovered by a local furnishing company, G & M Lawrence of Brackley. They did a really great job. It was very interesting when we had to get the furniture out of the boat. We found that the fit of the chairs through the front doors was very tight; we had millimetres to spare!

View looking aft

At the same time Maggie made new curtains, with the material supplied through Lawrence. Because we are keen on William Morris, and Albert has a Victorian style, we went for Willow Bough from Morris and Company. We saw the pattern used on a replica inspection launch in 2006 and thought it was particularly suitable!

View looking forward

Willow Bough pattern blinds

Waterways Books

Many thanks to Andrew Denny of Granny Buttons for the warm comments on my last blog.

When I looked at the comments left on Granny's site I noticed that a reader had left a comment about Bonthron's My Holidays on Inland Waterways first published in 1916. They had just obtained a copy of the third edition at last year's IWA National. My copy is also a third edition; that edition was published in 1919. There are obvious similarities between the Lloyd's Through England's Waterways and Bonthron's earlier book and this set me thinking.

I then realised that there are in fact two pairs of books here, Thurston & Bonthron and Rolt & Lloyd, and that they have interesting parallels.

In 1911 E Temple Thurston wrote about a voyage on a narrow boat that he hired (Flower of Gloster). Five years later, in 1916, Bonthron wrote about his motor boat (launch) holidays. At that time the canals were still relatively active and both authors travelled along the now closed Thames & Severn Canal. The Flower of Gloster has beautiful illustrations but My Holidays has photographs. Flower of Gloster continued to be reprinted until the 1980s but My Holidays did not.

In 1939 Rolt travelled in his converted narrow boat(Cressy) and changed the face of British canals when he wrote Narrow Boat. This was followed five years later by the journeys described by the Lloyds in Through Englands Waterways. Both the Lloyds, and more famously the Rolts, had great difficulties dealing with a waterways system that was in decay. Narrow Boat has the evocative illustrations of Denys Watkins-Pitchford but My Holidays has photographs. Narrow Boat is still in print and will probably continue to be so for many years, but Through England's Waterways is definately out of print.

Now I know it is dangerous to read too much into coincidences, but for me these four books together provide a fascinating insight into the waterways system at key moments in the last century with the less popular books by Bonthron & Lloyd providing the enthusiast with a complementary view to the much more famous books.

Through England's Waterways by Montague & Ann Lloyd

I suppose it's natural that since winter is here, and we don't live aboard, that our blog will be less about boat trips and more about other matters. That's why our last entry was about an old waterways book.

You might have guessed that I am very keen on second hand waterways books, particularly those that are either old or deal with aspects of canal history. I have a decent collection of the Hadfield's histories, three versions of Rolt's Narrow Boat, a first edition of the Flower of Gloster, and a 1928 copy of Bradshaws which was a 60th birthday present. So it was with some interest that I found a waterways book that I was not familiar with that was for sale on Ebay. However, I did notice that it merited a short entry in Jim Shead's list of waterways books. I was delighted when I won it with the only bid in the auction for around £5.

Through England's Waterways was published in 1948 by Imray, Laurie, Norrie & Wilson who are now famous for producing waterway maps and guides. The book is a first edition. A slim hardback with illustrations, it has a handy slip-in map of the waterways system. The map is a very useful addition to the book which I wish some modern waterways books would follow - it can also double as a handy book mark. Can you imagine reading Terry Darlington's Narrow Dog if it had a slip-in map of the European canals?

So what is Through England's Waterways all about? The book reports travels of the Lloyd family in 1946. It is essentially before Rolt's Narrow Boat, since that had barely been published. Because WWII had just finished the book is full of stories of rationing restrictions and shortages. Yet through this the Lloyds managed to complete an epic series of journeys along rivers and canals that would be a difficult task for keen boaters even today. Montague Lloyd, his daughter Krithia and his daughter-in-law Ann managed to boat along, the Kennet & Avon canal, the River Severn tidal section to Sharpness, the Sharpness Canal, the Severn to Worcester, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, the Grand Union, the Oxford Canal, the whole of the Thames from Lechlade to Brentford, the Grand Union to Trent Junction, the Trent and Yorkshire canals, the Leeds & Liverpool canal, the Bridgwater canal, the Shropshire Union, the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal, the Grand Union to Braunston, and then took the Oxford Canal back to their Thames base at Wargrave. What an epic! Even their Kennet & Avon trip itself was ground breaking given the state of the canal; they met John Gould near Woolhampton who assist them greatly.

So what boat did they use? They actually owned three boats, a Thames cabin cruiser which they used very little, a canoe, and a 29ft mahogany slipper-sterned launch which was used for most of their journeys. She was powered by a Morris Navigator petrol engine and on several occasions they struggled to find fuel. They sometimes slept ashore but often slept under a canvas awning over the boat. They cooked by camp fire on the bank. Their launch, "Silver Stream", had the advantage of having a low air draught (she could get under some fixed swing bridges) and had a shallow (water) draught.

They had very little information to plan their route, they couldn't get hold of an old copy of Bradshaws. This is somewhat ironic given that the publisher of book was Imray. They often found navigations were closed and locks padlocked. Their trip along the K&A required negotiation with the Great Western Railway and on other occasions they were told by officials that they could not use a particular canal but they went ahead anyway.

The trip up the tidal Severn from Bristol to Sharpness in their river launch (with a pilot) was hair-raising, particularly since they didn't have a functioning anchor and the engine was not totally reliable! They met many working boats and their crews, particularly in the Midlands and got on well with them. However their launch did sink on what they called the Berkeley Canal when a barge towed by a tug came around a bend at excessive speed and hit them whilst they were sheltering against the bank! The canal company paid for the repairs. And this wasn't the only time their launch sank. They also managed to damage its propeller regularly, once on a lock cill in Leicester.

Because this is only a short book of some 117 pages, there are few details and there are some errors in the text. Some locks and aqueducts are misplaced, and even some locations mis-named. The book's great strength comes from the narrative which gives you a real sense of their adventure and their incredible drive to cover much of what we now call "The System" in one summer - Montague's "crew", as he called them, were very keen. By the way, the summer was particularly wet and yet some canal companies claimed water shortages as a reason for refusing them passage. The last chapter will leave you in no doubt that you are reading a book that is out of the ordinary. It also helps explain the writing style and the inaccuracies, but I won't give the game away.

It certainly has been the best £5 I have ever spent on a second-hand waterways book and I am not talking about its resale value; I notice that the only copy currently on Abebooks is priced at £25!

Steve Parkin, November 2007

By Thames & Cotswold by W.H. Hutton

During our trip along the Upper Thames we stopped at Lechlade and Steve bought a copy of "By Thames & Cotswold" by William Holden Hutton in a second-hand bookshop. The 1903 first edition turned out to be a little treasure. Although not strictly a "boating book", it covers most of villages and towns of central England including Stratford-upon-Avon, Chipping Camden & Burford, it does have some excellent descriptions of the Upper Thames from around century ago.

W.H. Hutton was a "man of the cloth" who was not only interested in poetry, but was an accomplished illustrator. The book has hand-cut pages and contains nearly 100 illustration, all by the author.

Of particular interest to us were the sections dealing with Kelmscott. Hutton describes Kelmscott Manor and explains that how William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti lived in the house and describes how Mrs Morris (Jane Burden) was still living there in the early 1900s. The author also describes how William Morris is buried in St George's churchyard and quotes extensively from Morris and his News From Nowhere.

As with lots of second-hand books, our copy has annotations (in pencil). It also contains a newspaper cutting from 1930 describing the charms of the village of Kelmscott and its connections with William Morris.

A particularly interesting illustration is contained in the last chapter (titled Envoy) where there is a small illustration which shows a narrow boat (Derry) being unloaded by a wheelbarrow. There is no explanation of the illustration. We particularly like the small figure fishing from the stern; is it a child?

Copies of the book appear to be available through AbeBooks from £5 to £36.

Back to Yardley Gobion

As predicted the weather yesterday was wet and very windy. Summertime ended so we had to alter all four of our onboard clocks. With some screwed to the walls it took some time. We left Bugbrooke at about 9.30 and had a very quiet trip to Blisworth, hardly passing any boats. There were more ramblers out and about than boaters. Just as well since if we had to wait at a bridge hole for an oncoming boat it would have been quite exciting.

The trip through Blisworth Tunnel was much more busy with five boats coming the other way; one going very slowly and creating a lot of smoke. We reached Stoke Bruerne top lock at 11.00 AM and were amazed to find that there was only one visting boat on the moorings! We have never seen Stoke so quiet.

We went down the locks as a single (nobody else going south) and met some hire boats coming up the locks and having fun(!) in the wind. They hadn't discovered that in high winds it was easier to wait in locks than try and negotiate the pounds. After lunch at the bottom lock we reached Yardley around 4.00 PM and then took on the unpleasant task of unloading the boat in wind and rain with fading light. We enjoyed the trip and we think Daisy did too.


Today the leaves started falling. We were travelling behind Watford Gap Service Area when the wind got up and the canal was covered with a carpet of leaves. Albert's prop cut a channel through what looked like vegetable soup.

Waiting for the Watford Flight (M1 in background)

We managed to get up early today and were probably the first down the Watford Flight. We only had to wait for two boats coming up. We got to Norton Junction at around eleven at waited to pair up, but no other boat arrived. The sun shone as we descended the flight and apart from a crew in front leaving a gate paddle up all went well. It is surprising how much water is lost from a paddle open only a couple of notches and how difficult it is to spot!

We had lunch at Whilton and then had a pleasant trip to Bugbrooke. It included spotting a Kingfisher near Brockhall. It's difficult to imagine spotting a such an illusive bird so close to one of the busiest stretches of motorway (M1) in the country.

We moored up near the Wharf just as the weather turned wintry- the clocks go back tonight. We decided that the Wharf looked inviting but were amazed to find that we were one of only five tables that were served all night (we left as they stopped serving). It was very quiet all night. Maggie had to resort to Strongbow tonight after her recent adventures with "real" cider.

Daisy has now developed a boating routine. She settles into sleep when we are travelling and takes her exercise when we stop. That's why at 10.30 at night she is practising here ball skills up and down the cabin. She is the female cat equivalent of Wayne Rooney - very fast, very skilled at ball control, but sometimes over exuberant. At the moment she has just collapsed on the rug in front of the fire - exhausted.

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Watford Flight (Leicester Line)

Another good days boating. We planned to leave Buckby early but managed to oversleep so we didn't leave until 10.00 am. Went up the top lock at Buckby and along the Leicester line to Watford Locks with Pipsqueak. We just missed a batch going up the staircase but it was pleasant watching the boats coming down the flight. Last boat down was Sandringham who we met in 2006 at March. We had a good chat about Denver Sluice and the Great Ouse. A lock keeper at Watford showed great interest in Albert's engine (Ruston & Hornsby 2YWM). It appears his seventy foot boat has the Greaves badged version of the 2YWM. He was particularly interested in the alternator drive system. Just like the man in Banbury earlier in the year he was a great enthusiast for the brand and thought they were the ideal classic canal engine.

Watford staircase locks

Travelled to Crick and winded below Cracks Hill. The trip through Crick Tunnel was great - no boats and no Kit Crewbucket! We climbed Cracks Hill just as the sun broke through for five minutes. Glorious views. An extension was under construction at Crick Marina; we could see them dumping the spoil. Yet more moorings are being constructed. In the last couple of years we have had new marinas built at Wigrams Turn, Heyford and Bugbrooke. And now there extensions are being built at Crick and Gayton.

View from Cracks Hill

We backtracked towards Watford Flight and moored up within easy reach of the top lock. Perhaps we will manage to get up early tomorrow; we have some way to go if we are to get back in good time on Sunday.

Daisy gets more used to boating everyday but she still has a healthy respect for water. She met some friendly ducks today at Crick Wharf when we took on water but she decided that since they were bigger than her she would retreat back into the cabin.

Daisy meets ducks

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Long Buckby

Autumn boating. We decided to have a short trip northwards to test out our kitten Daisy.

Daisy onboard Albert

We left Yardley Gobion yesterday around midday; it took us a while to get sorted. It was probably getting all Daisy's equipment together that slowed us up. The weather was good as we left but it soon clouded over and we haven't seen the sun since. At Stoke Bruerne bottom lock we met NB More who are friends of friends (Lin & Roy Healey). They were turning back halfway through a half term trip.

We went up the Stoke Bruerne flight with a boat with no name - sounds like a Clint Eastwood movie. The owner had a chocolate brown Labrador called Holly. There were lots of hire boats out for half term coming down the flight. With five boats in small pound together they made navigation interesting.

Stopped the night at Stoke Bruerne and went to the Boat Inn. Maggie enjoyed a half of cloudy cider (Heritage). Listened to a boaters story about their cat bringing in a full sized live duck into the boat through their cat flap. With some difficulty he pushed the duck straight back out he but wondered how the cat had managed it!

Daisy coped well, although she doesn't really go for the noise of the engine. Today the we tackled Blisworth tunnel; it was quiet. The trip to Whilton was really very pleasant. Went up the Buckby Flight with NB Pipsqueak and moored near the New Inn. Maggie can continue her cider survey tonight (Old Rosie). Tomorrow we try the Leicester Arm.

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IWA Moorings Petition

Just received news that the IWA are setting up a petition protesting against the British Waterways’ trial of tendering for moorings. The IWA thinks this scheme is unfair and unjust to longstanding applicants and likely to inflate the cost of moorings to the detriment of all users and may drive boaters on lower or fixed incomes off the waterways.

Couldn't agree more. I know BW are short of money but this sounds like a daft idea. You can sign-up to the petition by clicking on IWA mooring petition.

Short Trip to Cosgrove

Sunday, September 23

We took our friends the Peets, who live in Bedford and used to live in Northants, on a short trip to Cosgrove on Sunday. We had our usual Sunday lunch at the Navigation Inn, Cosgrove. We moored up at the pub next to Chris Allin and Maggie and chatted about old times; we all have mutual friends. Chris organises the music nights at the Navigation as well as appearing at other local venues.

Juliet & Mike Peet had recently been boating on the Monmouth & Brecon Canal. They had hired a Beacon Park wide beam boat with a four-poster bed and a hot tub in the bows. Very luxurious! Albert can't match the hot tub but we can provide the four-poster bed. (Although technically it only has one complete post!)

At Cosgrove Lock

Crossing the Ouse

Crossing the Iron Trunk never fails to impress people new to that stretch of the canal. Although its short, it crosses high above the river and the lack of a towpath on the western side makes it look exciting.

Crossing the Iron Trunk, Cosgrove

The weather turned as we came back. It appears that autumn is here. We returned to Yardley in a rain shower.

PS When searching for a link for the Navigation Inn to add to this blog, they don't have a web site, I found an interesting local history site that carries a poignant newspaper report from the Bucks Standard concerned with child labour on the canals. It appears a 13 year-old girl drowned at the bridge by the Navigation in December 1896 when working on a boat. They held the inquest at the pub.

Yardley Gobion

Thursday, August 23

The weather was sunny and warm. Certainly a change from recent days.

We went down the Stoke Flight with an ex (?) Canal Time boat who didn't appear to have much experience and a crew that consisted mostly of young children. They stopped after the second lock down and then tried unsuccessfully to wind. I think they didn't realise that canals are actually shallow near their banks. They had intended to go down and up the Stoke flight and then down the arm to Northampton. Steve didn't want to cool their enthusiasm but he did remind them of how many locks there were in the Rothersthorpe flight. We continued down the flight as a single and didn't see them again. I wonder what they managed to do?

We had hoped to drop-off the bottles we had saved since Oxford at the BW facility at the bottom of the Stoke Flight. We then discovered (remembered) that the only recycling facility around the canal is at Cosgrove. It does appear surprising that giving the amount of liquids that boaters consume there are not more recycling facilities near the canal particularly for glass.

Edward steered all the way to Yardley Gobion. Anne and Edward Winter were picked up at Kingfisher Marina and returned home. Steve & Maggie then packed up and gave Albert a spring clean.

Edward Winter steering Albert at Stoke bottom lock

The next jobs will be to repair the broken bathroom light switch and repair the inevitable scratches to the gunnels - after all "boating is a contact sport".

Steve will soon sort out our photos for the trip and be editing his posts. He expects there have been some errors given the blogs were posted using a mobile with predictive text.

Stoke Bruerne

Wednesday, August 22

The weather improved although the breeze was stiff. Went down the first part of the Buckby flight with a boat that moors at High House but we caught up with a single-handed boat so they joined that boat and, having a larger crew and and a pair following, we continued alone. Some tricky boating near the bottom lock with water levels out of balance and some letting down of water required.

Stopped off at Weedon for lunch where we met Tony Ball on Th'Ilson Giant who had broken down. His Lister JP3 needed a new big-end. He reminded Steve how to tie proper knots. Edward bought a clock from Tony that had been converted from a pressure guage and had the Ruston & Hornsby logo. It made a great present and now has pride of place in the back cabin.

Visited the Antique Hypermarket where we bought a set of Staffordshire Victorian jugs for home and a replacement for a jug we broke on Albert some years ago on the Trent & Mersey.

The good(ish) weather continued to Blisworth. We made our quickest ever transit of Blisworth Tunnel. Completely clear of boats. Unususual for August even at six in the evening. No problem with mooring above Stoke Bruerne Top Lock.

That night we finished our mammouth game of Chicken Scratch dominoes (otherwise known as Chicken Foot). Maggie won, Edward was second, and Anne third and Steve was last. Because we use a double twelve set of dominoes games can take several days to finish. Maggie attributes her success to skill. The rest of us have other ideas!

Long Buckby

Tuesday August 21

Another dull cold day. But the company was warm! We travelled to Braunston and visited Midland Chandlers. We managed to buy the retaining clamp for the stove. In the middle of the night the pull cord switch in the bathroom failed on. Tried to get a replacement in MC but it appears small pull switches are like hen's teeth.

Had a reasonable trip up the locks and a very good passage through the tunnel - only two boats coming the other way. Moored up just below Buckby Top Lock. Going to the New Inn to eat.

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Monday August 20

Last night was so wet and cold we used the coal stove. Unfortunately after lighting the fire we discovered that the rear blanking plate had fallen out! The retaining clamp had split. For safety we had to immediately put out the fire. This required the contents of the fire to be rapidly dumped. The split in the clamp may have been caused by damp in the flue. We will need to visit Midland Chandlers at Braunston for a replacement.

Turning to today, for the first time in several days we had a dry day. Although we woke to the usual cloudy skies the sun broke through in the afternoon and we had what could actually be described as good weather. We had a good trip on the Oxford summit to Marston Doles. The descent of the Napton flight was uneventful but lots of hire boats from the Rugby area were coming up the flight. The water buffalo near bridge 114 were very interesting, especially the young calves that must have been born since we passed going south.

We moored up for the night close to Flecknoe in a quiet spot. Watched local farmers handling their grain after harvest.

Mooring at Flecknoe

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Wormleighton (return trip)

Sunday August 19

Another damp day. We left Cropredy just after two other boats so going up the locks to the summit was slow. However, there was only some occasional light drizzle to contend with. The ascent up the Claydon flight was delayed a little by a hire boat going in front not bothering to tell a boat descending that there was a boat coming up behind. As a result we had a queue in one of the short but twisting lock pounds.

Got a pump-out and fuel at Fenny Compton Wharf. It was interesting when a hire boat came around the bend on the wrong side of the bend and met a boat passing the wharf. It took the intervention of a boater at the wharf to clear the way. He jumped on board hire boat and took control. The result was lots of reversing and manoeuvring.

The rain came down heavily in the afternoon. We takled the Wormleighton bends. On the sharpest bend on the summit we met a boat at the bridge hole in the pouring rain and wind. It took a lot of power to stop Albert - but we did. Sometimes you wonder how boats manage to meet at the most difficult points on the system.

Moored up near bridge 130 where there are usually great views but in the rain you can't see very far. Great cream tea on board for Anne and Edward's 35th anniversary. Champagne to come! Getting dark early. Oh dear it already feels like autumn boating.

Cream tea aboard

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Saturday August 18

Left Adderbury under cloudy skies. We made good progress to Banbury with little traffic going our way. It was therefore with some surprise that we found eight boats waiting at Banbury Lock. I suppose they must have been moored up locally.

Among the boats waiting was NB Guppy who had been stuck in the floods at Lechlade. They had obtained some dramatic photos from the local Lechlade press of their boat and others with water all over the meadow and no banks visible all the way to St John's Lock. They had used their poles to avoid settling on the bank. They spoke highly of how the EA staff had helped them. We also met NB Dreamweaver who moor near us at Yardley Gobion. They had been stuck at several places on the Thames.

We failed to find a pump-out at Banbury (only open Monday to Thursday) but picked up shopping at M&S while waiting for the lock. After lunch we carried on to Cropredy in rain. Moored up at the best mooring in the village right next to the lock. Joined at the mooring by NB Victoria! Couldn't resist a meal at the Red Lion. Although it has been redecorated and gone for a stylised lion logo it retains the feel of a village pub and is very popular. The food was excellent. Edward had a sizzling steak on a hot stone. Steve bought a copy of John Kemplay's book 'In The Wake of The Flower Of Gloster' from behind the bar. It will help his analysis of the original.

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Near Adderbury Wharf

Friday 17 August

Unlike yesterday, when we got caught in showers, today despite the forecast we escaped all rain. We had hoped to pick up fuel and get a pump-out at Heyford Wharf but it was their change over day for the hire fleet and they couldn't help us.

We had a good days cruising. Stopped for lunch at Somerton. The moorings overlooking the meadow take some beating anywhere on the canal system. The lock house at Somerton Deep Lock appears to have been sold. We found this out from the owners who were returning home with their shopping via small boat. Let's hope the new owners look after the house like the present owners. It is certainly a credit to them.

We passed Anyho Wharf and the weir lock and moored up just above Nell's Bridge Lock, Adderbury.

Mooring near Adderbury Wharf

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Lower Heyford

Thursday August 16

After yesterday's "log flume ride" down the Thames today we had a quiet trip up the Oxford Canal.

Moved up to Thrupp and found a good mooring near the The Boat Inn. Washed the boat roof, went shopping and had sandwiches at the pub. In the afternoon we had a very pleasant trip up to Lower Heyford with Edward steering and Steve and Maggie locking. However, we still managed to get caught in a heavy shower whilst travelling through Eynsham.

Went to The Bell at Lower Heyford for dinner; good food but with huge portions. Yesterday's decision to leave the Upper Thames appears to have been right with red boards now being displayed at Radcot, Northmoor and Eynsham locks. We would have been stuck if we had not cleared all the locks on the Thames and gone onto the Oxford Canal.

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Wednesday August 15

Three days boating in one! We went upstream to Inglesham to the Thames Head.

Limit of Thames Navigation, Inglesham

Although we had a morning shower the weather was bright and sunny. Because of the very strong stream we turned with some difficulty at the Head. Albert visited a few overhanging willows and we had three attempts before we got it right.

Father Thames at St John's Lock Lechlade

The downstream journey was very rapid. It was not a problem on most of the tight bends except where fallen or leaning trees were on the "boating line". The break-back on the engine exhaust came into operation several times as the stern went under low trees. Some trees showed evidence of several impacts. In hindsight it would have been better to have used our short exhaust. On the way upstream there is much more time and space to make adjustments. It was tricky going through Radcot bridge with the high flow but the judicious use of high power meant we went through straight. After the warnings from the lock keepers at Radcot Lock it was a relief to go through without a problem.

Sharing a lock with a dinghy (making its way to the River Wey)

The weather forecast was for relatively low winds and sunny periods but as the day progressed the wind became very strong and on one of the many 180 degree bends above Rushey Lock Albert visited the bank. Trying to push a 20 ton boat out of a muddy curving bank in a high crosswind was not easy! Lots of poling, pulling and use of engine. We think a following narrowboat failed to make the same bends. They didn't appear at the next lock. It was clear that the high winds were because some heavy storms were coming. The storms chased us downstream for a while until we got caught in a really heavy downpour. So much for the forecast!

It was immediately clear from the river conditions that levels which had been falling were now rising. Water was already running off the rain-soaked fields. We heard from the lock keepers upstream that conditions were becoming difficult at Northmoor Lock and they were likely to open more staunches and go to red board conditions the next morning.

That convinced us to press on in the pouring rain. It appears that lots of water was coming down the River Windrush. Getting through Northmoor was difficult. The draw from the weir which is next to the lock meant some difficult steering and lots of power to avoid getting swept sideways onto the protecting weir structures. This convinced us that the safe option, to avoid getting stuck with red boards, was to leave the Thames as soon as possible. We pressed on to Duke's Cut and we finally made a mooring near Kiddlington at 7.00 pm. So a three day upstream journey took us one day going downstream! That is why this is posted late.

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Tuesday August 14

The morning was wet and windy but not on the severe warning scale predicted by the BBC weather forecast. Emily (Parkin) and her housemate Kate came from Swindon and joined us at Kelmscott. When Steve met them outside Kelmscott Manor he found a couple who had stayed overnight in a camper van outside the manor in the hope of making a visit. They were mortified to find it closed because of the floods.

After consultation with lock keepers we decided that the weather was good enough to move up to Lechlade, Emily renewed her steering skills taking Albert around some very tight bends against a strong stream and head wind. She thought the effort of steering was akin to a workout with weights! Moored up near Halfpenny Bridge.

Albert at Lechlade

Enjoyed the rest of the day around Lechlade. Lunch at the Red Lion and then some time browsing in the shops. One antique market was particularly good. Steve found a 1903 first edition book about the Upper Thames and the Cotswolds. It includes many references to William Morris and charming engraving of a narrowboat being unloaded.

After Emily and Kate left for Swindon the Parkins and the Winters went into Lechlade again, this time for dinner at the New Inn Hotel. Good food. Tomorrow morning we will visit the head of navigation at Inglesham and then go downstream towards Oxford.

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Monday 13 August

Moved upstream to Northmoor Lock. Steve and Edward borrowed two bikes at the lock and cycled up to Appleton to get supplies from the Community Shop. The shop is staffed by volunteers and the bikes were supplied free. What a great scheme!

Steve & Edward on Appleton Stores' bikes

We passed Newbridge (one of the oldest bridges on the Thames) and Shifford Lock, The course of the river to Tadpole Bridge, and above, was twisting and running very fast. It was certainly good steering practice! Had a quick late lunch at Rushey Lock and then went through more twists and turns to Radcot. On route we passed some reed cutters cutting rushes for chair seats.

Rush cutters on the Upper Thames

Radcot bridge was interesting going upstream. We had to apply plenty of power to get through - it was as though the whole of the Thames was flowing through one small arch. Moored up at Kelmscott.

We walked around the village and visited the Manor House which was the home of William Morris. The house is closed because of flood damage and much of the village has suffered as well. Many of the very pretty cottages had defunct white goods and ruined carpets outside waiting for collection and the Plough Inn was closed; all caused by the floods.

Pub closed by floods!

Tomorrow there is a severe weather warning for this area (rain and high winds) so we will wait to see what to do. We had hoped to go up to Lechlade, turn around and start our way home. We will wait and see. We don't want to get stuck on red boards.

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Sunday August 12

Left Thrupp at eight thirty in drizzle but the weather rapidly improved. A few hire boats were going back north after their short weekend breaks. Went down Dukes Cut onto the Thames.

Once on the Upper Thames (Isis) we found out exactly why the advice was that although levels were low the stream was strong. We made slow but steady progress upstream unlike those going downstream who appeared to be in a log flume. Yellow boards are displayed at locks but some canoeists took the opportunity to go rapidly (very) downstream. Got our EA licence at Eynsham lock. Moored up just below Northmoor lock overnight. On the tree next to where we moored is a homemade marker showing the recent flood level. The mark is about two metres above present levels!

Flood marker near Northmoor

The marked flood level at Pinkhill Lock was above that for all previous floods including 1894, 1947 and 2003. Levels are indicated to fall further. The weather tomorrow looks good but Tuesday it looks like being a wet and windy day.

Flood markers at Pinkhill Lock - the red line is July 2007

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Thrupp (Day 2)

Saturday August 11

Spent the day at Thrupp waiting for Anne and Edward Winter to arrive. Spent the morning reorganising our storage to give them space to store their stuff. Suprising how much space you can find under the floor boards.

NB South Down (out of Yardley Gobion) passing through Thrupp Lift Bridge

The Winters arrived with Fred and Margaret Crawford at around four. Went to the Boat Inn for dinner. Good food and very good company.

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Thrupp (Day 1)

Friday August 10

A very short journey today - Enslow to Thrupp! This is so we could get a prime mooring alongside the road at the village of Thrupp. This is so Anne and Edward Winter can join us for the rest of our trip.

We will stay here tomorrow; they arrive Saturday afternoon. Spent most of the day relaxing although Steve walked to the Coop at Kidlington. Met several boats coming off the Thames who had been caught up in the floods. NB Cygnet, who are moored in front of us, were stopped for sixteen days on the Thames and were supplied with drinking water by the emergency services. At one time they had swans circling the boat while moored up.

Thrupp moorings

The good news so far as we are concerned is that the Upper Thames is now free from red boards. Although the levels are low enough the flow is strong and yellow boards are displayed. We will find out how difficult that makes boating on Sunday when we go down Duke's Cut and join the Thames.

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Thursday August 9

A relatively short trip down to Enslow from Somerton. The weather was good - sunny with some clouds. Stopped at Heyford Wharf to have a pump-out and take on water. Because their pump-out was faulty we spent longer at the wharf than we planned but we were in no hurry. It gave us the chance to try out their excellent cafe. Their homemade cakes were particularly good and their shop was well-stocked with a good selection of real ales.

Met up with the crew of Means of Escape at the water point. Their home mooring is near to ours at Kingfisher Marina. Surprisingly we had not met Neil and Sian before. We moored up for the night near the wharf at Enslow. To complete our day of boat servicing, Steve did an engine oil change. We eat at the Rock of Gibraltar.

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Wednesday August 8

At the risk of being repetitive it was another glorious sunny day. Left Banbury after taking on water near Tooley's Yard . Radio Oxford were broadcasting from the canalside. Albert's dull thud must have provided some of the background sound to the commentary and interviews. Not being in the right place at the right time we were'nt picked to be interviewed.

Aynho Weir Lock

The early boating congestion at Banbury was soon left behind. It was straight forward boating all day apart for the usual encounter on a blind bend or defunct bridge hole. Steve was mystified by the bridges at Aynho. The one to the north by the weir lock has a tricky alignment and the one below the wharf is unexpectedly low. Still not getting it right is all par for the course. I suppose the trick is not getting things too wrong.

Somerton Deep Lock

We were interested to see the lock cottage at Somerton Deep is for sale by auction. It has a wonderful location but with access only by boat or towpath it will be interesting to see who gets it. It certainly deserves good owners.

Mooring at Somerton

We finished the day early (three thirty) and moored up by the meadows at Somerton. It is great overnight mooring spot with a super view. We went for a late afternoon walk down by the River Cherwell. Some signs of the recent floods, and the stream was still flowing quickly, but it is remarkable how the area has recovered. However, just behind where we are moored there was obviously a small breach in the canal that has been filled with a dry mixture of agregate and cement.

River Cherwell at Somerton

Steve got to use his keb for the first time to remove some weed that floated onto the rudder!

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Banbury (via Cropredy)

Tuesday August 7

What an idyllic start to the day! We woke early and saw the sun rise on the Oxford summit. There was a fleeting mist that disappeared quickly as the sun rose.

We left our mooring at eight and made good progress around the tortuous curves of Wormleighton to the Claydon flight. It was relatively quiet until we got close to Cropredy. Lots of boats were moored up ready for the Fairport Cropredy Convention which starts on Thursday. We wanted to moor just south of Cropredy but after three unsuccessful attempts when we found it too shallow (yes even with the recent floods). We gave up trying and headed for Banbury.

We moored up near General Foods alongside the Spiceball Park. Banbury is also busy with boats; we got one of the last few places. Lots of boats passed us going north well into the evening. We wonder where they will end up for the night. Steve found a fellow 2YWM owner moored at Castle Quay. It was a Greeves plated model not a Ruston. The owner was very pleased with it and thought there was no better engine for canal boats, particularly on rivers. Unfortunately Steve did not have time for a longer chat.

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Monday August 6

Although the weather was not very promising when we left Braunston (we had light drizzle) today was another bright sunny day. We left Braunston at nine after taking on water at the turn. Reached the bottom of Napton flight at eleven. It was the first time we passed the new Wigrams Turn Marina. It must get very busy around there at times with all the large marinas and Napton Narrowboats so close.

When we passed the site of Napton Brickworks Steve took a photo of the place where our first boat, Bertie, was built by Peter Nicholls. Busy up the Napton Flight but we had no real problems. We were half-way up the flight when we passed our friends Bob and Lynn who we travelled up the River Nene with last year. They were on their way back to Braunston with NB Moriarty. It was great to see them again. It appears they had met NB Buster from Kingfisher Marina on their travels on the Oxford Canal.

Chatting to Bob & Lyn Doyle of NB Moriarty

Moored up mid afternoon at an idyllic spot on one of the few straight sections near Wormleighton. Good views across unspoilt countryside. Spent time chatting with the crew from NB Pern who are moored up behind us. We played with their dog Brecon who is a star at retrieving objects. Watched the wildlife (green woodpeckers eating insects on the ground) and watched the sun go down. Tomorrow we travel towards Cropredy, probably without stopping in the village. It appears that there are already lots of boats moored up there ready for the Music Festival.

Sunset near Wormleighton

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Sunday August 5

Glorious weather. Lots of boats in Braunston tunnel but our trip through was fine apart from one boat who decided that it was a great idea to station one of their crew at the bows to point their tunnel light in all directions including the eyes of oncoming steerers. I suppose they wanted to test how good we are at steering blind!

Our short cruise to Braunston took a lot longer than expected with long queues at Braunston top lock. The line of boats extended back to the tunnel. This wasn't helped by the recent land slip which has closed part of the towpath. Met NB Warrior going up the flight. Exchanged a few quick words with Sarah about blogs as she entered lock two.

Long queues for the Braunston Top Lock

Moored up close to the Millhouse and polished Albert's brass and watched the boating world go by on a warm summer Sunday. There are far worse things to do.

Steve had an Admans tonight and Maggie accidentally graduated to pint of Strongbow. She wishes to point out that last night she was drinking Old Rosie not Old Rose - its from Westons of Much Markle and very nice - only 7.5 %! .

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Long Buckby

Saturday August 4

Great day's boating! Weather went from cloudy to bright sun. Blisworth Tunnel was very wet but that was hardly surprising given the recent rain!

As usual Steve greeted waterways users as we went along. It was great to find an angler near Furnace Wharf, Nether Heyford who reads our blog.

Historic tug White Heather going down Buckby Flight

We went swiftly up the Buckby flight with a Napton Narrowboats seventy footer with a very helpful crew. Met several crews today making their way to the IWA Festival at St Ives and one boat going to the folk festival at Cropredy. It appears that the EA have started to remove some of the red boards on the Thames so our trip along the Isis looks more certain. Tomorrow we aim to have a short trip to Braunston.

Langit Company on the move

Sat outside to eat at the New Inn at the top of the flight. Food was as good as ever but they were very busy and the service was slow. Steve had a great pint of Frog Island and Maggie had a half of cider called Old Rose that she rated highly. It was busy at Norton Junction. Took the last mooring just below the pub.

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First day out - Stoke Bruerne.

Friday August 3

Albert is on the move again! After a period spent away from the waterways we are taking a two week(ish) trip. We had planned to do the Thames above Oxford but given the floods that is in doubt. However, we are making our way towards Braunston in the hope that the red boards may soon be lifted. If not it will be a trip up North.

Tonight we are in Stoke Bruerne. As usual text posts will be by mobile phone, images will be uploaded when we get home. Weather today was great let's hope it lasts and river levels continue to fall.

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Friends of the Canal Museum Boat Gathering, July 2007

We went up to Stoke Bruerne on 16th July to attend the boat gathering. Took our neighbours the Gibbards with us to Stoke. Their kids particularly enjoyed working the locks. Both Roisin & Sean managed to steer Albert. Sean even managed a couple of bridge holes.

The weekend was a good time for Steve to try out his new camera. He has had an Minolta SLR for some time, but for the last few years he has usually used a Canon Digital A40 Powershot. He has now moved to digital SLR with a Canon EOS 400D. Under poor lighting conditions it was certainly faster than the compact digital and the quality of the images is far better.

Helping with the bottom lock on the Stoke Bruerne flight

Lots of working boats at the gathering. Obviously not as many working boats as for the 2005 Blisworth Tunnel Bicentenary but this event appears to be a useful addition to the "working boat calender" as it comes a week before the Braunston gathering.

Sqeezebox players with a dog that has heard it all before

We were invited aboard Kingfisher, the former Grand Junction Canal Company inspection launch, by Alan Paine. Although Kingfisher moors near us at Yardley Gobion it was the first time we had been able go on board. It's such a unique boat with so many of its original features preserved. The canal company china is still in use. I understand that Alan has also got a load of the old logbooks that record the director's trips. They ran to a strict timetable.

Kingfisher on its return journey to Yardley Gobion

Despite the weather on Saturday there was a resonable crowd, but Sunday with better weather Stoke was packed. Among the different attractions this year were Denis Fellows, the blacksmith who works from a narrowboat and radio controlled narrow boats.

Managed to get Denis to make us a keb (weed rake). Steve only recently discovered what they are called after coveting one for some time. It would have been handy last year when we went down the Nene where to the floating weeds at the locks in Wellingborough were particularly difficuly. The keb was made from an old fork that we supplied. Chatting to Denis he told us he intends giving up blacksmith's work later in the year. He will be missed if he does. He livens up the canal wherever he stops.

Denis Fellows making us a keb

We managed to go aboard Gifford. Great painting by both Tony Lewery & Phil Speight. It was interesting to see the elegent lines of the hull inside the back cabin.

NB Gifford's stunning paintwork

NB Gifford's beautifully grained back cabin

Colin Dundas, who added some of the signwriting and decoration to Albert and whose work we admire, was doing demonstrations on the Saturday. With better weather on the Sunday, Colin was at work on NB Towcester outside the Museum. He got quite an audience.

Signwriter Colin Dundas at work on Towcester

We moored Albert in the "long pound". On Sunday evening, because we wanted to turn Albert around, we took her up through the top lock and turned her around at the winding hole just south of the tunnel. On the way we were joined by Mike Partridge on NB Jubilee. He appeared to be taking Trevor Maggs and others for a trip. Great to pass through locks with an historic working boat and a full crew to help. Rapid locking! Above the top lock the canal was very crowded with boats. Stoke Bruerne looked like it did during the Defra blockade last November. Almost bank to bank working boats.

NBs Jubilee and Albert sharing Stoke Top Lock

Returned to Kingfisher Marina on the Monday morning with heavy showers and lots of water coming down the flight. There was so much water it was very difficult to get out of the second lock. We contemplated calling BW to help.

Cascades of water, Stoke Bruerne Bottom Lock