Tuesday, 22 April 2014

More from Cropredy

I've come to the conclusion that if I HAD to live in a marina, this is the one for me. It's not quite finished yet but is almost full. The people are friendly and the facilities are good. But the main reason I'd live here is the village pub with it's superb music scene. There's live music every Saturday night and most Sunday tea-times.  It's not a big pub by any means and on Saturday night it was rammed. The group were Buick 6 who played rock & blues and did a couple of my favourite Hendrix tracks. My only complaint was that they were too loud.  I really don't understand why so-called "sound engineers" seem to think that louder is better.  It was so loud that we moved into the restaurant after they'd finished serving food and that made all the difference. Not only could we hear to talk amongst ourselves but the band sounded 100% better too. For once it wasn't just me being old either, as most of the band were way older than me!

On Sunday evening we went back to watch Dave Onions, a solo acoustic multi-instrumentalist who was fantastic. He was supposed to start at 6pm so I pre-cooked the veggies and put a chicken in to roast just as we went out, thinking that he'd be finished by 8pm and we could come back to a cooked meal.

It just goes to show that I shouldn't be so organised. He didn't come on till 7pm and although we were having a great time, we had to leave at the interval or the dinner would have been ruined.

Cropredy village is lovely. There are some beautiful houses with wonderful cottage gardens and whoever named the roads had a sense of humour.

There's "Backside" and "Cup and Saucer"

but the best is a shelter on the green

We really would have liked to be here for Fairport's Cropredy Convention in August but unfortunately we've already made other plans.  I'm insisting our next year's cruising is planned with this in mind though.  We'll definitely be back.

Saturday, 19 April 2014


I'm really enjoying the Oxford Canal. I suppose the continuing good weather helps but so far it's really rural with huge fields of rape seed, sheep and lambs or cows and calves.

These calves were really interested in the boat and all stopped and turned to watch us go past

until Chico barked at them and they all ran away

The coal boat "Gosty Hill" is up for sale

We've been attacked by a couple of male swans recently. They seem to think our boat is a rival and are protecting their nesting mates.

This sunken working boat was just above one of the lock landings (can't remember which one) and still has a drum kit on board. I really doubt that the floatation barrels and water pump will be able to refloat it anytime soon.

Anyone want a restoration project?

We've come into Cropredy Marina for a few days to catch up with friends Keith & Bronwyn on another of our boats "Kotuku". Last night we went into the village for an excellent meal at the Brasenose Arms and tonight we're planning a return visit as it's Blues Night.

Poor old Chico wasn't happy and went to his "safe place" under our bed.

What had frightened him?  A 50p flimsy plastic fly swatter!

He's a rescue dog who must have been beaten in his previous life and, although he's lived with us for 6 years now, if either of us picks up the swatter or suddenly raises an arm anywhere near him he runs off to hide under the bed where he stays quivering and quaking until he thinks it's safe to come out. I doubt he'll ever get over it and if I ever get my hands on whoever was responsible for scaring him so much I couldn't answer for my reactions!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Waters New

We left Braunston after lunch yesterday and cruised to Wigrams Turn Marina to visit old friends John & Joan who live on one of our boats "Tagine Queen". It's the sign of good friends when a 3 hour visit passes in an instant and we've promised to call in again on our way back for a longer visit and a trip to the pub.

When we left the marina we turned left onto the Oxford Canal and new waters as we haven't been this way before.

You certainly see some strange boats on our waterways.

It looks like the upcoming Bank Holiday weekend is working it's black magic on the weather which has taken a decided turn for the worst. It's been quite cold today and the shorts I unpacked the other day will be staying in the drawer for a while yet.

This is the windmill on the hill above Napton

and these are a couple of the Water Buffalo which are farmed here. They sell Water Buffalo ice-cream in the canal side shop beside Napton Bottom Lock.

We've seen lots of signs beside the canal protesting against the forthcoming HS2 railway.

We're now moored at Fenny Compton.  The canal has been extremely busy today and we've met lots of hire boats in bridge holes or on the tight bends.  The visitor moorings here are rammed too and we were lucky getting a spot just as another boat pulled out to go for an evening cruise.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Long wait at Watford Locks

We set off fairly early yesterday, after I'd paid a flying visit to Crick Garden Centre for some new plants. As Monday night had been a bit frosty I'm going to need to bring the planters into the cratch at night for a while so I tried not to get carried away.

Crick tunnel was wetter than I remember and we could have done with an umbrella in places as it was really "raining".

We got to Watford Locks at 11.30 and were happy to see that we were third in the queue to go down. That soon ended when the volunteer lockie came to book us in and told us we wouldn't be moving until at least 2pm.  C&RT were replacing one of the paddles on the bottom lock of the staircase.  That wasn't going to be the main delay though. He then went on to say that there was a queue of 15 boats at the bottom who were going to come up before we could go down.  Why?  Because "they were here before you"  was his answer!  Now Watford locks have always worked on 4 or 5 boats up followed by the same going down and usually with boats passing in the main pound. But that was in the days of employed lock keepers not these volunteers who couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery!

We waited for 2 hours under the M6 bridge while the repairs were completed.  The man standing on the side of the lock holding the rope was really nasty and told me to stop taking photographs. I asked why and he said because it was a work site and I shouldn't even be there! Stupid man. The couple on the opposite side of the lock peering down at the two men doing the repairs were also taking photographs so what was special about them?  I've always praised C&RT workers as without them our canals would grind to a halt and, up until now, they've always been unfailingly polite, but not this idiot. I think he should have been wearing a "job's worth" T-shirt rather than a C&RT one. When the work boat came past us the driver was one of the men who'd done the work and he was happy and smiling and asked where we were going next, the total opposite of his boss.

After half a dozen boats had come up the locks, the owners of the two boats in front of us started kicking off and eventually the volunteer lockies (there were 4 of them) decided that we could go down.

The staircase locks are controlled by coloured paddles. Back in the days of paid lock keepers, one of the couples who looked after Watford Locks were Crystal and Mick. Crystal used to teach new boaters a rhyme to help them remember how to operate the paddles safely. "Red before white and you'll be alright.  White before red and you'll be dead"  But in those days, even when boats were queuing for hours after Crick Show, the boats up/boats down system was used and no-one got wound up. We had boaters coming up to the locks to help speed things up and they were certainly needed as the tiny little female volunteer could hardly open the paddles and when she went to set the bottom locks she only opened one paddle. To think that there were 4 lockies on duty made the delays even more disgraceful.

We eventually made it to Braunston at 6.45 after sharing the 6 locks with a lovely family on a hire boat, and were greeted by this mother duck and her new family.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


 We haven't had any internet or phone signal for the past few days, so this is a bit of a catch-up.

On Saturday we had a late start and went up Foxton Locks at lunchtime. We'd timed it right as there was no queue, although the volunteer lockie told us it had been very busy earlier.

Although it was nice and sunny the wind was bitter and there weren't many people about.

 There are lots of events planned at Foxton in the coming weeks.

I'd forgotten to put the cratch down when we went into the locks and as this lock gate leaked so badly the bow got quite wet.

We moored for the night just before Husbands Bosworth tunnel and went walkabout into the village.

There's not much there apart from a church and The Bell Inn. We sat outside in the smoking "garden" as we had Chico with us. I couldn't see into the pub as their windows were so dirty it was amazing they let any light through!

On Sunday we had a lovely sunny cruise to Welford and were treated to plenty of aerial entertainment courtesy of the local Gliding Centre at Husbands Bosworth.

We turned down the Welford Arm and I worked my first lock for almost 12 months. It felt really good to be properly active again, I get really bored just steering all the time.

We moored up and went into the village with the aim of having Sunday lunch in The Elizabethan pub, but it's closed down. The blackboards outside advertised pole dancing at Christmas which seems a bit unusual to say the least for a small village pub!

Postman Pat was a tree stump sculpture beside the bus-stop.

As we hadn't managed lunch at The Elizabethan we settled for a roast in The Wharf. I hadn't fancied eating in there as last time we had a really mediocre meal, but this time it was actually quite good.

Roger was really taken with this motorbike which was parked outside. He got talking to the owner who had built the bike himself.  Apparently he has "several" bikes which he qualified by also telling us he "earns good money". He didn't tell us what he does for a living though, but he did look like a banker/accountant/solicitor type.

To walk off the lunch we took Chico for a long walk round the two reservoirs that feed the canal. On the left of the dam is the Sulby and on the right is the Welford reservoir.

The reservoirs are home to a private fishing club.  Look at the size of those carp!!!!

On the far side of the reservoir is a large house with a flock of really cute brown sheep. We got talking to a man who lives there and he said the flock is a bit inbred as they started with 10 sheep and now have over 50.

The boys were really cute but I reckon they need a haircut.

Friday, 11 April 2014


Shortly after I'd posted the last blog about the ducklings, the mother took them for their first swimming lesson, not that they needed any instruction. They just jumped over the edge and went for it. Now I can see where the expression "like ducks to water" came from.

Market Harborough is a very affluent area but that hasn't stopped this cruiser being used for target practise, maybe from a BB gun or air rifle.

There are some fantastic houses alongside the canal.

I particularly liked this bungalow as the garden was full of primroses and bluebells.

We had an audience as we passed this field.

Even the moorhens have started nesting

It was such a beautiful day that we only cruised as far as Foxton Village where we moored up and went for a walk.

We've never stopped here before which is a shame as Foxton is a beautiful village. Most of the houses are very grand, this was one of the smaller ones.

This Magnolia tree was stunning

Roger had somewhere in mind for a quiet pint in a beer garden but unfortunately the Black Horse was closed

so we continued walking over the hill to Foxton Locks and did a bit of "gongoozling" (watching boats)

The cafe beside the top lock was open and I can highly recommend the morrello cherry ice-cream!

Over the past couple of weeks the fields have turned yellow as the rapeseed crop ripens. It may look beautiful but it plays havoc with my hayfever!