Well I’m writing this blog post using my diary as we have been so busy doing what we love most, boating, that we just haven’t had time to do anything, well maybe one thing – enjoy ourselves.
This is how this week went – three weeks ago, if you know what I mean.
Tuesday was a cloudy start to the day and not so warm and after checking the weather App on our smart phone we realised we were also in for some rain fall. We dressed appropriately. The stretch of water we were on is 23 miles of lock free water going through some amazing countryside and some lovely canalside villages. We stopped at one of these to rest and also to dispose of our rubbish, it was Yelvertoft which we have visited many times. It has a small shop and a good pub which does food, on the tow path there is a notice board which has a map of the village highlighting these and more. We didn’t stop long, the rain hadn’t started yet and we wanted to find a rural mooring spot before it did. We passed through Crick and commented on how lovely the marina was there. We will be staying there for 2 days at the next Crick boat show courtesy of Waterway World as a payment for an article I wrote for them – should be really good. We then headed through the Crick tunnel passing another boat along the way. A little further on from the tunnel there are some good moorings; we decided to moor up, even though it was early afternoon. As the weather was still dry I finished off washing and polishing the other side of the boat as the tow path had now changed sides of the canal. Later the rain came, not heavy, but we were pleased we had moored early. We decided to watch a film that Elliott had downloaded onto a USB for us and we both enjoyed a nice meal and of course a good bottle of red wine!
Wednesday was a brighter day cloudy but warmer with the sun fighting the clouds to shine through. We set off a little earlier than usual as ahead of us were the Watford flight of locks, and these can be very busy at times. We got there around 10am and found we had to wait half an hour or so as the lock keeper allowed the boats from the bottom to come up. He then asked us to go through the first lock and moor up in the pontoon and wait, which we did for another 50 minutes. As one boat passed us coming up he hit our boat quite hard, his fault revving like a lunatic to get from one lock to another. Soon after this finally we could go down the locks. We were very lucky as we found from chatting to other boaters running up and down the lock to find the keeper that there was at least eight boats waiting to descend. We arrived at Norton junction to find another plonker moored at the water pump, as we needed water I asked him why he was mooring there, only to hear the reply that there was nowhere else. This was a weird answer as we had moored up a few boats before as we waited for him and there were plenty of spaces, although he would have had to reverse. Clearly he was not going to move, so we decided to stay put and moor up for the day. I told him we would want him off the water point early tomorrow and walked off in disgust. Norbury Junction had a great pub called ‘The New Inn’ with great food, however Emily and Elliott were joining us on the boat and wanted a ‘home cooked’ meal, which they would be bringing. Early evening we strolled down to the pub and waited for Emily and Elliott to arrive, they wanted also to show us their brand new car they had treated themselves to. As we waited we chatted, like boaters do, to a lovely couple who had recently purchased a house just below the lock with canalside moorings for their boat, really nice people. When Emily and Elliott arrived we headed back to the boat and had a great chilli bean Mexican meal, had a laugh and finally said goodbye to them both. When they left we had an early night ready for the Braunston tunnel and the locks the following day.
Thursday it was hot and sunny and we left Norton Junction (after finding the water point vacant!!) after filling up with water around 10.00am. We went through the tunnel and passed three boats part-way through and one entering just towards the end. This tunnel is long and not exactly straight, but enjoyable, exciting and different to normal boating. We met a ‘newby’ couple to narrow boating just after the tunnel; we started chatting to them as we waited for the locks. It wasn’t long before we realised that both of them were really anxious and that the tunnel had knocked their confidence. They had only just picked up the boat and it still had the ‘for sale’ sign in the window. Sandra and I offered our help and they gladly accepted. It seems they had purchased the boat two days earlier, had been given little help and had paid the ticket price for the boat – definitely new to boating to say the least. We worked the locks together and had a good laugh as we tried to show them how to guide the boat into and out of the locks and Sandra also gave good instruction on how to do the locking. After the locks we said our goodbyes as it was early afternoon and we wanted to moor up, they were off towards Coventry. As we moved on a boat pulled out directly in front of me, I was pushed into the non towpath side into bushes as he rushed by me, I asked him why he had not waited until I passed, which he responded with verbal abuse, telling me I should have let him out – even though I had the right of way – another idiot! We were fortunate to find a great mooring spot available opposite the pub in Braunston (Marston’s pub) which had strong enough free WiFi for us to pick it up on the boat. We resisted going to the pub, even though I needed a pint or two, but we did enjoy a great meal on the boat and of course a glass of wine or two later on!
Friday was a cloudier day and not so hot, which was a blessing as we had quite alot of boating to do as we turned off the Grand Union onto the Oxford canal, opposite the Chandlers store where I had purchased my generator from in their annual sale (bargain 2.6Kw Kipor - £465). The countryside along this stretch is superb and we also enjoyed seeing a whole range of boats along the way. We love this part of boating – gongoozling! Just before Napton locks we found a mooring a short distance from the small shop and the pub called ‘The Folly’. This was where we were going to be joined by Colin and Heather our boating friends who own our old boat Miss Lemon. We had decided earlier in the year to have a two week break together heading down to Oxford and beyond. Around 6pm they passed us and were lucky enough to find moorings, albeit partly on the water point (only two feet, so I let them off!). We headed for the pub and enjoyed a few pints; in fact Colin and I tried the flat very alcoholic cider and got quite merry, very merry! It was here we met a young 30+ newly married couple who had managed to get a four month sabbatical from work to cruise their narrow boat, great couple heading in our direction and they soon joined us as we finished off the night – all six of us quite worse for wear. It should be noted we also had a superb meal at The Folly a pub well worth a visit.
Saturday we started off around 9.30 in 24 degree heat, we filled up with water as we like to top up as we go along rather than fill up from empty – it takes less time!! The four of us (Colin and Heather) took the two boats through the Napton 9 double locks. People kept looking at our boats as they are both linked in name to Agatha Christie, ours being Captain Hasting and theirs being Miss Lemon – both characters from her books. We kept an eye out for the field full of buffalo, and were pleased to see them. As we continued our journey I was shocked to see a stark naked rambler walking along the tow path, everything swinging as he strode along! I called down to Sandra to come and see and we both looked at the man – her clearly focusing on something she shouldn’t and I looking directly at his face, embarrassed to look anywhere else – he waved at us and asked if we were offended in anyway, we laughed and carried on our journey. Finally later in the afternoon, hot and very sweaty we all moored up in the countryside – Sandra and Heather sunbathed and read whilst both Colin and I recovered from our over indulgence of alcohol from the night before – pathetic! In the evening Colin prepared the BBQ and we had a few drinks, the girls clearly reminiscing on the ‘sights’ of the day!
Sunday was a bright day, but thankfully a little cloudier and therefore not so hot initially, until around 11am when the temperature rose to 28 degrees – a real heat wave. Both Colin and I plastered ourselves in sun cream and out came our wide brimmed hats! We tackled more locks in the sweltering heat and finally moored up at Cropody Village. We headed for the local pub and were pleased to meet lots of fellow boaters who we chatted to. Unfortunately the pub was managed poorly. They had run out of much of the beer and the menu for eating was very limited. As it was my 57th birthday, the four of us decided to get a cab into nearby Banbury. Once there we hunted for our favourite pup chain – Weatherspoons and enjoyed a few more beers before finding a brilliant Indian Restaurant which served up one of the best Vindaloos I had enjoyed in a long time, everyone laughing at the fact that it could only be me who could enjoy the hottest curry – on the hottest day!
Monday was another good weather day and we headed towards Banbury, this time on our boat rather than taxi. Funny that by boat it took four hours and the night before by taxi only 20 minutes! The heat was increasing as we got into the afternoon so we all decided to moor up just before the town both of us finding quite good moorings shaded by trees – thank heavens. Sandra and Heather walked to the nearest supermarket for supplies and both Colin and I tinkered on our boats doing stuff like you do. We decided to have a quiet night rather than heading into town, both Sandra and I like to have a few days a week without alcohol, so tonight would be one of these days. We still grouped up together and enjoyed a healthy salad as our main meal, playing a mini quiz on our boat. We finished around ten and when Colin and Heather headed for their boat we were soon fast asleep, excited about the day ahead as we neared Oxford and its delights.
So our first week over on our trip south, next week we hot Oxford and have to make a major decision…………