Cratch Cover Repairs

Our cratch cover zip suffered some problems and the stitching came away. We have had it about eight years. The cover also suffered a small tear when our boat was left at Preston Brook a few years ago.

Over the weekend I looked around on the web and discovered that local cover/hood maker Tim Garland had repaired a few cratch covers for boaters. I left a message. This morning Tim got in touch, this afternoon we took the cover to his base ion Milton Keynes where he renovated the cover and tonight its back in place; all for a modest fee. What a great service! The cover should last a few more years now. We shall certainly get him to quote when we look for a replacement.

Canal & River Trust at Milton Keynes and Superman

Most boaters will know that the Canal and River Trust have upped sticks from Watford and moved to Milton Keynes.

The office is in the railway station building so anyone catching a train in Milton Keynes would be hard pressed not to notice it. Since most boaters won't catch trains in MK I thought I would post a picture of the front door. The visuals around the door are interesting but don''t expect to gain access. The door is firmly locked most of the day and I didn't see any sign of a receptionist. I think they don't expect or want to get any casual visitors.

CRT Headquarters Milton Keynes
Being a long time resident of the area I remember the station being constructed and it being used for filming Superman IV in the late 1980s. If you want to see the CRT offices featuring as the Daily Planet offices go to here. It was the last Superman film that starred Chistopher Reeves.
File:Superman iv.jpg
(Poster taken from Wikipedia)

Long Buckby, Stoke Bruerne and Yardley Gobion

On Saturday we returned to Albert at Braunston. Joining us for the day was daughter Emily and our grandson Hugh - his first boating trip at seven weeks old.  We wanted to take on water so we moved across to the water point by Midland Chandlers. The tap was very slow so when fellow bloggers NB Valerie joined us and used the other tap the flow became a dribble.

NB Hadar

NB Hadar passed us and then moored up around the corner. Jo & Keith came over to chat and then share a lunch with their friends on board Valerie. We left the water point with our tank only half full because we didn't want to spend all our time waiting and there are other taps.

Hugh and Emily enjoying a boat trip

Hugh sleeping on board
Whilst waiting for the bottom lock at at Braunston I noticed NB Mouse. It is so short that its swim is longer than the rest of the hull. Surely the shortest narrow boat? According to Jim Shead's listing she is just 13ft 6in long.
Is this the shortest narrowboat?
We went up the Braunston flight alone, but there was a constant stream of boats coming down making our job easy. At the second lock we met friends George & Ann Davis who were coming down from Crick in their boat Daisy May. The trip through Braunston Tunnel was amazingly easy with no boats coming through in the other direction.
We took on water at Long Buckby. The water pressure was so fierce that the hose shot out of the water filler and soaked Maggie's legs - still it filled up the tank quickly. NB Midnight Rambler were waiting for friends at the Top Lock so we were able to go down the top lock together and moor up just below the road bridge. Unfortunately, The New Inn was closed and bordered up - no chance of a pint of Frog Island and a half of Old Rosie.

Sunday saw us travelling down to Stoke Bruerne. Half way down the Buckby flight we met NB Tempus Fugit who was travelling single handed. We went down the rest of the flight together. Tempus Fugit is normally moored in Wolverton so we see it regularly. It turns out to be a Black Country Narrowboats Tug with a Kingfisher engine that makes a nice sound. My recollection is that Black Country Narrowboats built the famous Ragdoll of Rosie & Jim fame. There was a inconclusive Canal World Dicussion Forum debate on the topic a few  years ago but she still appears to be registered with BW (CRT) according to Jim Shead.

NB Tempus Fugit

Kingfisher KD26
Passing through Weedon, just after lunch, we got into a bit of a queue with two Stowe Hill boats idling back to their base and another boat who appeared to have some engine problems - clouds of black smoke billowed out behind it at random intervals. As we got further south the weather got colder and more cloudy. By the time we got to Blisworth it was quite miserable. The trip through Blisworth tunnel was quick - 30 minutes. There was only one boat going north and that was close to the southern portal. Emerging from the southern portal, we found ourselves in a damp and misty Stoke Bruerne.
We revived ourselves with drinks in The Boat Inn and then retired back to Albert. After seven o'clock the gas cylinder ran out and whilst I was in the process of changing it using my head torch, what handy devices they are, a boat arrived and moored up in front of us. It was a hire boat that had obviously got behind schedule since it had been pitch dark for over an hour.

Autumn leaves at Stoke Bruerne!

This morning, Monday, we woke to wet misty weather. We had moored up under the trees to avoid a pinch spot in the canal just ahead. That was a mistake because by the morning Albert's roof was just covered in leaves, from an ash tree Maggie informs me. It took ages to remove them from the roof and they left a lot of dirt behind which needed pleanty of mopping. The weather improved a little during the morning and after a slow start (it's allowed occasionally) we went down the Stoke Bruerne flight. It was very quiet. We met only one boat coming up and only a pair of gongoozlers, who turned out to be Spanish. We got back to Kingfisher Marina in the early afternoon and set about unpacking the boat.
All in all we have had a good three weeks crusing, not getting to Henley and "grandparenting". 


Last Tuesday the weather started bright and we descended the locks to Napton. It was quiet on the flight which meant that all the locks, except the last, were set against us. However, the narrow Oxford Canals locks are easy to operate and progress was good.  The last lock was set for us by the CRT volunteer.

Napton Flight with the windmill on the hill
Lock side WWII pill box on the Napton flight
Although we have passed this way many times before we particularly noted the World War II pill box close to one of the locks. We have noticed a similar one on the Oxford summit near Priors Hardwick.  Apparently the it's a Stent Pre-Fabricated Pill Box. We once walked up the hill at Napton to view the windmill and noted the plaque on the summit that reports that during WWII there once was an observation post on top of the hill  The sign chillingly reads 'This seat and tree is close to the site of the Observer Post that witnessed the many nights of the Coventry blitz. As a mark of remembrance the rowan tree was planted on the 50th anniversary of the blitz. While sitting on this seat made from Shukburgh grown timber please take time to reflect on the freedom we have today. The support of this country in its desperate hours by such people as the Royal Observer Corps, the Home Guard, the Women's Land Army and all those in agriculture and horticulture who protected and fed the Nation is not always so easily remembered'.
The weather deteriorated as we approached Braunston with threatening clouds appearing from the south-west. As we got to the junction at Braunston we were greeted by a loud clap of thunder! Fortunately only a light shower actually fell on us although to the south we could see lots of rain. We reversed Albert down the North Oxford to make use of the 14 day moorings as we were again called on for grandparent duties and would be away from the boat.
That night we ate at The Boathouse. As always the food was good value and enjoyable but we couldn't help notice how our waitress lacked any form of charm. Quite different from the last time we visited when the young waiter who served us was being trained by a supervisor and was very pleasant and attentive. It turned out his supervisor was also his mother!

Cropredy and Marston Doles

Monday was a dull showery day. We started by filling up the water tank at Aynho Wharf. Whilst we waited for it to fill (slowly) we also had a pump out. Having left my usual pair of water proof trousers at home, with an eye on the weather, I purchased another pair at a very reasonable price.

Aynho Weir Lock
We crossed the River Cherwell at Aynho Weir Lock with the indicator board showing a friendly yellow, and even the green was just showing below the surface. What a difference a week has made.

More Clearance under Nell Bridge this time

The trip through Kings Sutton was enjoyable although the weather was dull. As we passed under the M40 I took notice again of the memorial plaque under the bridge. It is a reminder that even in recent times, with the modern emphasis on health and safety, construction projects can carry risks.

A poignant sign under the M40 King Sutton

The spire at Kings Sutton

As we left King Sutton Lock we collected a "blade-full" of weeds. It is actually rare that a trip down the weed hatch produces only vegetation, but it did this time. However there was a lot of it.

A blade-full of weeds

Banbury was quiet compared to when we passed through on Canal Day. The showers started again and we locked up through the town lock into the basin by Castle Quay and Maggie prepared the lift bridge. A boat was coming south so we waited for them to go under the bridge and also left the lock gates open. The crew were both wearing bright yellow fluorescent jackets so spotting them was easy. As they passed us I realised two things, firstly they were a Willow Wren hire boat and secondly that they were still accelerating sharply! Now the basin is not long and the lock is set at a sharp angle. I indicated to Maggie (by putting my fingers in my my ears) , that there was going to be bang and there was! The steerer made no attempt to steer into the lock and struck the wharf with load clunk. It was only in the last two yards that reverse was selected and at that moment the steerer also let go of the tiller! As I passed under the bridge I noticed the boat make a second unsuccessful attempt to get into the lock - again hitting the quay. I wonder what shoppers in the H&M store made of it all - they had a good view! It was the most inept piece of navigation I have seen for some time.

We then trudged up to Cropredy, squelching through the locks,  and moored up just above the lock in the village. We stayed put for the evening.

Tuesday was a brighter day but it was blowing a gale. The trees were being shaken to their roots; we tried to avoid stopping under them! We went up the three locks to the bottom of Claydon flight. With a number of boats coming down, progress was good. The wind was still blowing strongly up the flight and some locks required extra care.

Cast Iron Gates - Claydon

The crew of a boat coming down announced that the wind would drop after 1 o'clock . It did drop a little as we left Claydon Top Lock, about 1 o'clock, but it was still strong enough to cause me to take an interesting line into a lift bridge (141). I had the boat all lined up until a gust moved us across the canal and I had to line up again. Still we made it without a bump.
Autumn colours

After Fenny Compton the wind did indeed drop. The trip through the Wormleighton "wiggles" was, as usual, interesting. We had to come to a rapid full stop at a blind bridge when we met another boat. A crew coming the other way on a tight bend got it all wrong and we had to select full reverse to stop in time. This section is always a challenge and you need to be wary because anybody can get it wrong.

We moored up for the night in the shelter of a hedge just above Marston Doles.


On Sunday morning, before dawn broke, we go up and drove down to Henley on Thames to support our family who were running the Henley Half Marathon. It was still, misty and frosty as dawn broke and there were some fog patches along the M40. However, it was clear that it was going to be a crisp dry autumn day. The sun began to burn off the mist as we arrived in Henley and we found that the designated car park, part of the rugby club, was alongside the Thames. A pair of cruisers was moored overnight yards from the car park. If our plan to boat to Henley had come off we could have moored there, for £8 a night, and waited for our runners - ah well maybe next time.

Although the river was not in flood, and all warning boards had been lifted, the river had burst its banks last week because part of the car park was still under water. It made for an interesting photo. The Thames is beyond the cruisers.

Cruisers moored at Henley next to a flooded field
Misty town reach
Sculling in the mist at Henley

While we waited for the race to start we watched numerous crews training along the regatta course. With a 10k road race, a half marathon and numerous cyclists the town was busy with sport.

The run went well and we watched and applauded the 1600 runners with our grandchildren.

Andy, Chris & Lucy - half marathoners

Our "team" did well and completed the course in times they were proud of. We then returned back to Aynho.

Registered Where?

There has been some discussion on the modern tradition of decorating narrowboats with “Registered in A Town” with the town mostly being Watford which was the registration home and headquarters of British Waterways. The original reason for working boat registration was not for craft licensing but for health under the Public Health Registers: Canal Boats Acts of 1877-84. But owners of traditional styled modern narrowboats started picking up on the “Registered in” style and soon adopted Watford as their base. It is now ubiquitous.

The question now is, the Canal River Trust headquarters are in Milton Keynes but licensing is run from Leeds. Will “Registered in Watford” soon be replaced by “Registered in Milton Keynes” or possibly “Registered in Leeds”? I doubt it, but who knows.

We are not planning to changes Albert’s signwriting soon so we have some time to contemplate what we will do. However, one boater has no such problem. I spotted this very individual registration near Somerton on the Oxford Canal. I first wondered where the town of Sane was!

Aynho Wharf (Again)

As part of our pootling around the Oxford Canal we are back at Aynho Wharf. This is because we are off to Henley tomorrow, by car, to support our family in the half marathon. Today was another bright day but it was cloudy and there were some showers around.
A packed Heyford Wharf

At Heyford Wharf all the Oxfordshire Narrowboats hire fleet were at home making navigating interesting.  A day-boat was leaving the wharf ahead of us but they pulled over and let us pass after an adventure with some trees! Another day-boat was also moored up near Allen's lock. Unfortunately they had managed to moor up on a corner with ropes set at an acute angle so their stern swung out and nearly collided with us as we passed (on tickover). They latter moved up to the lock and were preparing to empty the lock with the boat only tied on with a stern rope! Maggie walked back to warn them of the possible consequences and also instructed them about how to operate the lock - heigh ho.

Clouds - above Heyford Common Lock

Somerton Deep Lock
The bottom gate at Somerton, which is large (obviously) was very difficult to move. It took both of us to operate it.
As we approached Aynho I was looking behind the boat at our wake and saw a grass snake in the canal. It had wriggled across from the opposite bank but as I continued to watch it it turned around and headed back from whence it came. The last time I saw a grass snake swimming was about 30 years ago. It was in the Grand Union Canal near Cosgrove. Maggie was reading Narrow Dog to Wigan Pier this afternoon  and found on p118 that Terry Darlington has also seen grass snakes canal swimming. He writes very lyrical prose describing their wonderful swmming action.  
Tonight we are going to the Great Western Arms again and looking forward to it.

Somerton and Tackley

On Friday afternoon we returned to Albert from Teddington and took on water at the wharf. It wasn't easy with a hire boat occupying the refuelling point so we stuck out into the canal a bit. Being less than half full it also took some time. A boat arrived to take on fuel and asked about Albert's engine. It turned out that the other boat, Wat Tyler, had a Ruston 2YD; also manufactured in India but installed by Lawrence Hogg in the early nineties, that is just before Albert was built.

Ruston & Hornsby 2YD c1990

We moved on under cloudy skies and moored up below Somerton village where there is good mooring that looks out over the valley. As it got dark it started raining and continued for most of the night.

In the morning Albert's roof had a good covering of willow leaves, but the sun was shining and it was the beginning of a delightful day's boating.

Autumn colours near Heyford
At Heyford Common Lock
The weather, or more accurately, the light was great all day today making for some good autumn boating photography. Our aim was to make for Tackley, wind and then find a suitable mooring. We need to be back at Aynho Wharf on Saturday evening. 

Manor, church and tithe barn at Upper Heyford
Opening the lift bridge at Lower Heyford
Our winding point was by the old quarries just above Pigeon's Lock. It would be easy to miss the winding hole because of the vegetation, but the pipe bridge provides a good marker. Turning was tight. I wouldn't like to carry it out with low water levels.
On the way south we had noticed a number of suitable mooring spots and eventually settled for one that must rank as one of the best around the Southern Oxford. We moored where the Cherwell and the canal run close to each other. As we moored up a kingfisher, one of many we have seen this trip, flew past flashing its blue back and orange belly. We spent a delightful late afternoon just "watching the river flow" and admiring the autumn colours highlighted in the sunshine.
Idyllic mooring - River Cherwell (left) and Oxford Canal (right)

Mooring near Tackley
Tomorrow we continue going north - homeward bound.  

Aynho Village

Earlier in the week we took a walk around the village of Aynho. It lies about a mile away from the wharf up the hill. It is a picturesque stone village and is renowned for the apricot trees that grow on the walls of cottages.

Apricot trees at Aynho

The stately home in the village, Aynhoe Park that was once owned by the Cartwright family was having a sale of unusual items organised by Christies. As a result a film-set spaceship was on display in the garden.

The Martians have landed in Aynho!

Next door to Aynhoe Park is the village church - St Michael. On Sunday they were having their harvest festival and selling cream teas. We could hardly resist! The church is unusual. Evidently it used to be a "conventional" Northamptonshire village church with a Norman tower and nave. However in 1723 it was modernised by the Cartwrights and has a Georgian main building attached to the original Norman tower. It is a bit like having a London church attached to a village church tower.

St Michael, Aynho
Aynho Station - shame it isn't open
An immaculate Bentley was parked by the wharf.  It had some interesting modifications to make it more suitable for modern traffic including telescopic rear shock absorbers and front disc brakes built into the original drums - what a fine machine! I bet it's fun to drive around the Cotswolds.

Vintage Bentley at Aynho Wharf

Cropredy, Banbury Canal Day and Aynho

On Saturday we left Wormleighton around 9 o’clock and the sun was just burning off the early morning mist. The dew highlighted numerous spiders’ webs some stretching from the boat to the hedge beyond the towpath. We felt quite guilty destroying their night’s work.

The “wiggles” at Wormleighton can play great tricks with your sense of direction, on this occasion it was the direction of the sun. One moment it was shining on your back the next into your eyes.

We had a delightful morning cruise to Fenny Compton. We took on water by the Wharf Inn which looked very pleasant and was offering an almost irresistible cooked breakfast. As our water tank filled one of the staff from the inn dragged the canal with a rake looking for a helicopter! Yes, it was a model aircraft. He borrowed my magnet but I doubt it any of its structure was magnetic and nothing but a rusty bolt was retrieved. We then continued our boat “pit stop” at Fenny Compton Marina by taking on diesel and bottled gas.
The Fenny Compton "Tunnel" - opened out
Lively flow from a feeder weir on the Oxford Canal Summit
By midday the sun was bright and the skies clear; great autumn cruising weather – shame it never lasts. We went down Claydon Locks meeting a good number of bloats coming up. This made locking simple. We eventually caught up with NB Heather Bel being bow-hauled through the locks – no engine. She was being towed by another boat but with single locks the steerer had to split up his pair. Being single-handed he was travelling slowly and was grateful for our help with the locks. Eventually, just before Cropredy he let us pass.
Claydon Flight
At Cropredy we saw the earthworks for the large marina that is being constructed. It is advertised as being open in Spring 2013. They have got a lot to do before then!
Cropredy Marina under construction

We moored up just above the lock at Cropredy and were soon joined by NB Eileen (they are fellow bloggers). I admired their former BCN boat and its riveted cabin.
NB Eileen
After a session brass polishing - what else on a dry sunny day, we visited the Red Lion. Now I have to admit that to me the Red Lion has its own place in boating history. E Temple Thurston came to inn on his epic voyage by horse boat that he reported in The Flower of Gloster. Tom and Angela Rolt left Banbury on their ground-breaking voyage spending their first night afloat on Cressy after spending the evening in the Red Lion. We understand that the inn has gone through several hands recently, but does appear to have lost its character and some of its quality. There is no recognition at all of its boating heritage.

Sunday also started misty but cleared as we approached Banbury. It was the day of the Banbury Canal Day so we were prepared for congestion. We were not disappointed. The canal side was packed with boats, stalls and visitors. It was great to see such a successful event. The only negative was the canoes moving in and out of the narrowboats. Although manoeuvrable compared to a 25 ton steel narrowboat, they are delicate and the prospect of a canoe being crushed by a narrowboat must be real. On the whole the canoeists behaved well but some appeared a bit gung-ho.
Canal Festival Banbury
Canoes at Banbury
Stationary Engines on display at Tooley's Yard
Busy at Banbury Town Lock
There were lots of volunteers on hand to help with the town centre lift bridge and the lock. We were then out into the country and passing raised lift bridges and spotting kingfishers. That is definitely in the plural, over the rest of the day we must have seen around half a dozen.

As we approached Kings Sutton it was clear that the River Cherwell was in flood. The fields in the flood plain were full of water, more than we saw in our 2007 trip which followed the famous floods. A check on my emails indicated that the Thames also had problems since red and yellow boards had been posted. It appears that the heavy overnight rains of Thursday and Friday were having their effect. It was at that point that we realised that our autumn trip down to Henley would not be possible and we must change our plans.

Floods in the Cherwell Valley near Kings Sutton
At Aynho we found that there was more flooding. Even the normally relatively benign section where the Cherwell crosses the canal was “on red”, as we found out as we entered the Weir Lock. It caused an eventful excursion under the bridge. As the cliché says “boating is a contact sport”.

Level board by Aynho Weir Lock
 where the River Cherwell crosses the Oxford Canal

We moored up at Aynho wharf and decided that this will be our temporary base whilst we carry out some grand parenting duties. The evening meal we had in the Great Western Arms helped restore our morale and our faith in canal-side inns. We found this to be great watering-hole some years ago. It still is!
A flooded field near Aynho

Monday saw dull and damp weather return but we managed to keep up our spirits. The flooded fields are draining into the canal at the moment. The level in the Cherwell appears to be dropping but the Thames still has red boards at some locks between Oxford and Henley.