An excerpt from Wind in the Willows

Nice? It's the ONLY thing, said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING - absolute nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing, he went on dreamily: messing - about - in - boats; messing----'
From 'Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Burton-on-Trent and back

My friend Brian and I decided to attend the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) Annual Festival and Shobnall Fields in Burton-on-Trent.  Our home moorings are on the River Wey in rural Surrey so we had a long way to go (and return).  The following is a copy of the daily E-Mails we sent to a number of our friends.


05-July-2011

Spent the night on the ‘wall’ at Weybridge and enjoyed a very pleasant evening meal in the Minnow Pub.

Off at about 08:30 – initially we explored the weir stream to Shepperton Lock and then made our way up the Thames, stopping just above Bell Weir lock for lunch in bright sunshine.

Continued on – the rain started as we were in Romney Lock (Windsor). We had planned to overnight in Windsor and found pleasant mooring behind the island.

Shared Romney lock with Penkenna who moors at Addlestone on the Wey.  Understand Rod and Val (Byfleet Boat Club) are not too far behind us and may have been enjoying lunch below Bell Weir lock when we were having ours.

Still speaking to one another……

Will try and send one of these each day - if we miss a day don't worry you will get two days worth next time.

06-July-2011

Well not a lot to report really for day 2.

We decided to have a sleep in and a fry up this morning and then spend the day in Windsor - we are in no hurry and the idea is to relax and enjoy ourselves - we have a very nice quiet mooring.

Brian got a bit wet yesterday (no he didn't fall in) in a rain storm so today he bought a lovely new coat in a sale - it matches the boat and is 100% waterproof and he looks very smart in it. Not to be outdone I exchanged by Blackberry mobile (which I found challenging to use) for a an iPhone - seems great so far and almost no cost. My thinking was that if Brian can handle an iPhone then I should be able to.

Aiming for Marlow tomorrow.

07-July-2011

Slipped moorings on both boats at about 08:30 and arrived at Boveney Lock just in time for the lock keeper at 09:00.

Brian needed a pump out on his boat so we went to Tingdene (although I had a sneaking feeling there was a pump out just a wee bit further up).  Anyway Tingdene it was – what a long way in – about 20 mins and trying to turn in the small area with wind and rain was a trial especially as Brian put his boat on the mooring that didn’t say Fuel Only.  However the fuel only mooring also was the pump out one – great – so we had more turning from Brian!  We got back out onto the river about 45 mins later and went past the pump out that was on the bank – you live and learn and neither Brian nor I will forget that one and won’t go to Tingdene again in that area. The saving grace was that the pump out was very good but next time we’ll use Windsor Marina on the river.

The day brightened up and we made our way slowly to Henley.  We had thought we would moor close to the Henley Festival stage but it was blowing hard, there were yoghurt pots (plastic boats) everywhere so we decided that with two boats discretion was the better part of valour and we moored just upstream of Henley bridge.

Forecast for tomorrow looks a bit grim so it may be another day in Henley – we are in no rush.

08-July-2011
Still on speaking terms…….

A quiet day in Henley.  A bit wet and grim in the morning so a quick walk into town (not far) and nice coffee in a Nero. It brightened up in the afternoon.

We got back to the boats and not long after a pair moored in front of us and used the same ring for their rear ropes as we used for our front ones. All seemed fine until both Brian and I noticed that our fronts were describing an arc and we were going out into the river and downstream.  It seems the boats in front were running in gear and had put too much stress on the ring we were moored to – it gave way.  Not a problem except that the crews on the boats in front were more concerned about their rear ropes and restraining them than in our boats which were describing an arc and heading off downstream only restrained by the their rear ropes.  There followed a frank exchange of views between Brian and the two men on the boats in front along the lines of them being northerners (they were) and Brian being a ‘poncy’ southerner – well he is a southerner but anyone less ‘poncy’ I can’t think of.  We resolved the situation ourselves. We think everything is OK now but are quite concerned as to what would have happened if we hadn’t been there and how the our boats would have been returned to their moorings or if it had happened at night.  We have’ doubled up’ on ropes this evening, as we don’t really have much faith in the crews immediately in front of us and don’t have the best of relationships with them at present !

Ended the day with a nice drink at the Angel pub on the bridge

All’s well that ends well we think (and hope).

09-July-2011
Enjoyed Henley but decided to move as it was expensive and very crowded.

Have moved just above Mash lock (just one lock today) no need to rush but internet access very dodgy.

Planning to go to Reading (Tesco) tomorrow

Very nice mooring for just the two of us - nice and sunny and warm.

Total 'chill out' day. But Brian is watering his flowers……

10-July-2011

We left our pleasant moorings above Marsh Lock (internet access there was very dodgy) and headed off on a cloudy but very still morning. Up through Shiplake and Sonning and on to Tescos.  A very strange thing happened at Shiplake - we wanted water and there was  Guildford hire boat on the water point.  The chap said we could use it before he did as he was in no hurry.  I detected a Kiwi accent and without going into a long story it turned out the couple came from the same small town as I was brought up in in NZ.  They owned one of the big garages and we had a lovely chat - it turns out he was a diver so he had a lot in common with Brian as well.  Small world.

Tescos done and Brian wanted, if possible, to watch the Grand Prix - no reception outside Tescos (which is going back to old ways with fishermen and liveaboards) so we moved on.  Caversham Lock was like Piccadilly Circus with queues stretching for a long way.  Caversham, as some of you will know, is a smallish lock and the Lockkeeper had gone off for lunch - not helped by the slow fill and empty on 'Self Service' and a jamming upper gate.

We moored this evening at the very bottom of Pangbourne Meadows (that was quite full but surprisingly  the Thames seems quite empty and not at all busy).

Don't have a plan for tomorrow - quite exciting really - don't have to be in Abingdon until 16-July-11.

11-July-2011

Walked into Pangbourne to do some shopping and bought (as boaters always seem to) some pies from the pie shop (arguably the best pies around).

Decided to stay the day here as it was such a lovely day.

Brian took his stern gland apart and repacked it and did a very good job of it - Kathryn just provided moral support and coffees (and a beer).

Brian spoke to a Brigadier from 40 CDO RM and found about a Thames Challenge rowing the full length of the Thames by former wounded members of 40 CDO RM finishing this weekend.  Tooted horns and cheered them on their way.  Brian needed consoling!

Stunning day - plan to go to Wallingford tomorrow.

12-July-2011

Left Pangbourne this morning and travelled up to Wallingford - the wind was directly in our faces and it felt quite cold.  The moorings in Wallingford were full so we ended up tucked in just above Wallingford - Mick and Suzanne will know exactly where we are - same place as valerie testd my shower (fully clothed) last year.

Internet access awful.  I am writing this in the boat whilst Brian stands on the towpath with the 'dongle' held high above his head - bless him.

Nice afternoon in Wallingford - lovely town.

Not sure of our plans for tomorrow.

13-July-2011

Moved up from Wallingford to just above Day's Lock today - quite busy above Day's Lock.  We popped in to Wallingford mid-morning to buy newspapers and Kathryn wanted to pay a bill. Yawn yawn.

First Lock was Benson but just as we left our mooring the two boats that had been a pain to us at Henley appeared.  Brian got out in front of them but Kathryn, who was moored on the inside, had to let them both go past.  Once they were past Brian (who had slowed for Kathryn) Kathryn also passed Brian (making him tail-end-charlie).  At Benson our two 'friends' went into the Lock and Kathryn was also beckoned in - trying to make a break from Brian perhaps - Brian thought it was treasonable… - but with the assistant only on had to back out again as there wasn't enough room (Brian thought poetic justice ?) - a small cruiser from the back was brought in.  The Lock was big enough but perhaps the assistant was still on the learning curve and who hasn't learnt by making mistakes.

On to Day's where we learned that the Lock keeper has only 10 days work left before he retires. He is quite concerned about making such a decision but we assured him it was a good move.

Very pleasant mooring tonight alongside some sheet piling - doesn't sound good but we are out in the open and it is solid.

Abingdon tomorrow.

No legs broken, not boats sunk but trying to make these updates as informative as possible.

14-July-2011

Well back to day 10 really to start with - after struggling to send last night's email we concentrated on trying to get Brian's TV going as it wasn't terribly good.  We managed to get it running on the 'digital' side but couldn't find any channels but we knew there were 7 available as Kathryn's could find that number.  We changed all manner of things on Brian's setup - cables, booster boxes and finally the aerial - it turned that the aerial was at fault and with Kathryn's aerial attached to Brian's TV we managed to obtain a wonderful digital signal - only needed to buy Brian a new aerial which we did on Thursday at Abingdon Boat Centre. Brian has gone ballistic as he now has 105 channels and doesn't know which one to watch.

Before leaving this morning Brian and Margaret on Zavala stopped for 5 mins (really an hour) - they are on there way up the Oxford too.

We travelled up from just above Day's Lock to Abingdon today and called in at Abingdon Boat Centre for a pump out, gas, water and fuel - the man who runs it is so nice and helpful - an ex WO2 from the Army so got on well with Brian.

We moored on the swimming pool side at Abingdon and popped into town as Kathryn needed to get the key for her friend Sue's house to turn the fridge off so it is defrosted by tomorrow - Sue is coming up from Tenby and has sold her Abingdon house.  We popped into the British Heart Foundation charity shop - Brian bought 3 DVDs - £0:99p each and kathryn just managed to find a pair of orange (favourite colour) leather shoes - naughty …….. £20 - Brian says they look very attractive.

15-July-2011

Apologies but I believe I got the day number wrong yesterday.

We stayed in Abingdon today as we have the licence to do so and because we had both agreed to help my friend Sue, who has just sold her house in Abingdon, to move out the last few remaining bits this evening.

We decided to take the bus to Oxford, (first time Brian has ever used his bus pass - now he is a real OAP) which was faultless - we had a nice time in Oxford.  Kathryn tried to change her Broadband modem which had broken - what T-Mobile can and can't do is legend but she had to buy a new one and was left to take it up with their Woking branch on return - not good but it seems the staff had their hands tied over what they can and can't do - they could not even copy Kathryn in to an E-Mail they sent to their Woking Branch.

Brian bought a multi-meter to check his flat batteries - too much TV now he can see it perhaps.

Now waiting for Sue who is on her way from Tenby.  Sue may join us for the next few days - weather forecast doesn't look too promising. Brian has just opened his boat to the public and Kathryn wonders if he is trying to recoup the costs of the TV aerial from paid visits.

16-July-2011

Last night we had a nice meal at an Indian restaurant (courtesy of Sue) prior to helping her move her last bits and pieces from her house.  Sue spent the night on Kathryn's boat - Brian disappointed.

Off and onwards up the Thames in the morning at 09:00.

Well talk about heavens opening - it rained stair rods all the way from Abingdon to Oxford. Brian managed to snap his wooden tiller handle in Abingdon lock (that Lock has a lot to answer for having ditched Rodney into the water recently).  Sue had taken her car to Oxford and met us at the Sheepwash Canal junction.  Acting on advice we went on up the Thames to Kings Lock and then turned down Dukes Cut and on to the Oxford Canal.

The Lock Keeper at Kings Lock was a PRATT - he would not empty the lock until we were moored on the lock lay by rather than as had been the case all the way up the Thames where they had let the lock go (empty) when we were waiting in the stream  and allowed us straight in - this guy insisted that we moor up in lay by before he would let the lock go which proved difficult because of the very strong cross wind. Brian disappeared into the weir stream but he did reappear sometime later. The lock has a very small rise on it.

The final lock out of Dukes Cut surprised us with its rural setting and I don't think we were expecting the lock immediately after the turn onto the south Oxford.

Finding a mooring was quite a challenge but we eventually found a very nice one just a few meters down from Kidlington Green Lock where we have now consumed three bottles of bubbly and Brian's hopes are 'rising' by the minutes.

17-July-2011

Set off at about 09:30 and dropped Kathryn's friend Sue off after about 20 mins - she managed to catch a bus almost immediately and made her way back to Abingdon as she has a routine Doctor's appointment in the morning. Kathryn was very sad to see her go as she is such a good and loyal friend and good fun as well.

So on Brian and Kathryn went through the narrow locks - although there was one rather odd octagonal one just at the start of the Cherwell River section.  A fairly uneventful day - we did notice that there
were masses of boats moored up along the lower Oxford Canal which hinders making reasonable time - almost too many we think.  At the final lock there was a terrible stink of something dead. No, it wasn't Brian…….

Moored up tonight just south of Lower Heyford.

Despite the moored boats we both think the canal is beautiful and so nice and rural.  Brian is happy as the TV reception is very good and he can watch the final of the Apprentice tonight. The internet connection is very dodgy.

Sorry not a very exciting update making Brian a bit miserable.

18-July-2011

Last night we decided we thought we could make it to Banbury today but that it would mean an earlyish start so we agreed we would start at 08:00.  In the event we were off at 07:30 - best time of the day - almost no one around (except the two who passed us at 06:00 - going in the opposite direction thankfully).

Within a couple of hours we had got caught behind a slow boat - 57' and had on board Mum and Dad, 2 children under 8, Grandparents (2 of) and three dogs.  Hate to think what it was like on there in the wet…..  The steerer was 'gunning' the engine in locks and I offered a suggestion that perhaps in these narrow locks he could ease the front fender onto the upper gate and engage forward gear and let the boat hold itself on the 'sliding' plate at the front.  Well he wasn't too impressed so we left him to it.

Kathryn got a large piece of wire around her prop coming out of a lock but managed to clear it quite quickly and without any help but Brian was on standby.

Brian had a small altercation with a guy going downstream who hit Brian just above a lock.  He excused himself by saying it was a 'contact sport' and that Brian shouldn't have been there anyway - he had clearly taken no account of the strong crosswind - Brian 1 other man 0.

Made good progress and managed to moor just a few yards downstream of bridge 168 which has a Morrisons within a few meters.

Kathryn took Brian out for dinner in Morrisons cafeteria and then we did a little shop.

Now off to discuss plan for tomorrow.

19-July-2011

We had planned to leave Banbury at about 07:30 but during the night Brian thought of a pressing need to stay in Banbury for the morning so we had a nice coffee and a mooch around Banbury and also went to look at the lock (closely followed by a lift bridge) and looked at Tooley's boat yard once Brian had been look for a birthday present for his grand-daughter in Melbourne.

We headed off just after 12:00 - stunned by the number of boats crowding the centre of Banbury and the number of revolting liveaboards amongst them - almost a mile of running at tickover just to clear the moored boats. We moored above Slat Mill Lock - just below Cropedy - lovely views and away from the noise of the railway and the M40.

Highlight of the day was the lowing flying DC3 that flew almost up the canal.

Spoke to Rodney tonight - they are about 4 days ahead of us and we are expecting to run into Travellers Joy (Brian and Margaret) who are coming down the Oxford. Once we get to the bottom of Napton - estimate Thursday - we will have got the hard work over.

Will try and make it as far as Napton Top Lock tomorrow.

20-July-2011

Started off at 07:30 and made our way through Cropredy - very slow with all the moored boats (on both sides).  Brian scraped over an underwater 'something' but all was well despite some concerns.

Climbed up the Gaydon 5 and it wasn't until after we started that we encountered other boats coming down so we had a good start.

The summit pound (where we are moored at Bridge 127) is quite shallow.  Just after we started on the summit pound Kathryn met some friends from her Citroen 2CV days and shortly after that we met Barry and Margaret from Byfleet Boat Club on Travellers Joy.

Brian rescued a hire boater who had gone firmly aground.

We continued on past Fenny Compton up to the radio masts (Radio 4 broadcast from here on Long Wave Kathryn thinks) where we moored.

Huge funnel cloud behind us which Kathryn took a number of pictures of - she'll try and attach one of them when we have better internet reception (reception has improved as it is attached).


The funnel Cloud as seen from bridge 127


Brian has managed to watch some Tour de France so he is very happy - Kathryn washed one side of her boat.






21-July-2011

Well quite an eventful day - the short bit of it is that we travelled from our moorings last night to Braunston.

More detailed information is as follows - we hadn't gone far before a boat heading the other way came to a bridge hole just a little too fast, Brian got past and he then came through the bridge hole almost sideways and very nearly slammed into two moored boats luckily keeping away from Kathryn. A wee bit further on Brian was about to pass a boat coming towards him on a narrowish bit of the canal when the other boat hit a sticking out bit of the piling (there by design) and cannoned into Brian striking him a glancing blow - no damage done but he thought it was Brian's doing.

Anyway on to the Napton flight and all was going well until the 3rd lock. Brian was going ahead and was about to set a lock for Kathryn, having checked if any boats were coming up - there was one in the next lock down but it wasn't moving so the decision was to set the lock for Kathryn - however when Brian closed the lower gates one of the crew from the boats coming up (Hotel Boats - www.reedboats.co.uk) opened the lower gates, Brian went and closed them and there was an altercation - Kathryn does think Brian was more than justified in setting the lock for her.  Brian went back to his boat and continued down to the next lock.  The hotel boats came up (Ash and Oak) with the engine being run somewhat furiously.  As the motor entered the lock Kathryn approached the steerer and asked if she may explain what our view was of the situation. Two words out and then the man lost his temper (he is a retired Anglican Minister).  Kathryn has never seen someone lose his temper as violently as this man did.  The engine was run at full power for every manoeuvre. Out of the lock they went and Kathryn went in very slowly to try and set an example. As the lock was being readied for her, by a very kind family who were following us down, our ex Reverend backed his motor (full speed again) into the upper gate sending water over the top and shaking the gate and then gunned the engine in forward to send water cascading down on the 'counter' of Kathryn's boat some 5 feet below.  It wasn't very pleasant but at the end of it all the only thing to do was laugh at the ridiculous behaviour of our Reverend but what he was doing was dangerous and no one should be in charge of a boat (let alone a hotel boat and butty) who behaves like that.

On to Braunston and a refuel and pump out at Braunston Marina (and it will be the last time).  Customer service was appalling and the salesman was really very rude to Brian saying that he wasn't to moor where it was obvious he should as the salesman wanted to move a boat there.  We had to manually move the boats twice and it was almost impossible for Kathryn to fill up with diesel without encroaching on the 'reserved for the salesman' slot - he never did come back and put his boat in the slot which was covered and it was raining hard.

Ho hum - tomorrow is another day and we hope we will meet nicer people.

Brian thinks northerners need a lesson in manners when it comes to boating and etiquette.

22-July-2011

A very uneventful day.  Travelled from Braunston Turn to just short of Sutton Stop. We chose to stop just short of the junction because we understood it was fairly crowded and it was about to rain.

Kathryn met three different friends today - two more from Citroen 2CV days and one whom Mick and Suzanne may know - Bernard from the tug Enterprise No 1 whom we met at Stretton Stop.

Brian is bored - no altercations with anyone but still feels northern marinas have no patch on southern ones when it comes to customer service.

Brian has over 84 channels on his TV but not the one he really wants to watch the Tour de France or the cricket highlights.

Planning to get to around Atherstone tomorrow.

23-July-2011

Set off again at 07:30 but we are planning a rest day tomorrow.  Brian wishes to watch the Grand Prix and the Tour de France and the cricket along with the beers he bought at the corner shop at Hawkesbury Junction.

Kathryn had a curry last night and fears for the loo system on her boat !!!!  Brian thought that was too much information first thing in the morning……….. Brian's dinner will be ham, eggs and chips rather than curry tonight.

Brian managed to obtain a replacement tiller handle in Nuneaton by simply avoiding an oncoming boat and stopping outside a chandlery.

Last night Stockton and Beetleguese (old working motor boat and butty) passed us - they looked wonderful  We met up with them again in the middle of the Atherstone flight of locks and had an interesting chat with them.

Kathryn is going to see someone tomorrow about the red paint on the boat which didn't sparkle after it was cut and polished.

Rest day tomorrow - plan to look up a friend of Brian's in Tamworth and see about going to the National Memorial Aboureatum.

We'll give you a boring update tomorrow after our rest day.

24-July-2011

A rest day today - moored up nicely between the flights of locks at Atherstone.  Good shopping nearby with an Aldi and a Co Op.

Brian repacked his stern gland after discussing it with a nice man called Trevor (a continuous cruiser) in preparation for watching the Grand Prix from Germany which he enjoyed.

Kathryn polished her brass and then went off to discuss boat painting with a chap at Stratford and had an enjoyable day out.

A few people went past our mooring a bit too fast but the one who took the biscuit with his reply was one who turned around and said if we didn't like it we should buy a caravan - lost for words Kathryn was and that doesn't happen often.

Finished a very pleasant day for both of us with an evening meal in a local pub.

On our way again tomorrow.  Hope to stop off and visit the National Memorial Aboretum.

25-July-2011

Up and off by 07:30 from Atherstone.

Brian left a note for Trevor (who had helped him with his stern gland) to say 'thank you'.

The first two locks were set for us but a boat coming up seemingly stole our water and when asked about it became very defensive and said it was done by the boat in front - there wasn't one……

Continued on and Kathryn had to jump off her boat on a corner as a boat coming the other way forced her over onto the bank and there was a liveaboard moored near the bridge hole as well.

We loved the working boats at the old Samuel Barlow yard - Brian took a large number of photos as did Kathryn.

Pushed on through Tamworth - lots of traffic and some boats coming the other way didn't seem to want to yield right of way in bridge holes at times. Brian has concerns about boaters north of the Thames not having a slow forward or reverse gear.

A long wait for the Tamworth two locks - about an hour or so but it gave us time for lunch.

Lovely mooring just a few yards short of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal at Fazeley Junction.  We plan to meet up with Rod and Val tomorrow on the Trent and Mersey.

Brian made some delicious cheese pate, pickle and biscuits for brunch.

26-July-2011


Off again at 07:30 and down to Fazeley Junction to top up with water and get rid of our rubbish.

On up the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal which changes into the Coventry again without any ceremony.

On to Fradley Junction by 13:00 where there was a bit of a crowd.  Brian and Kathryn were 3rd and 4th in the queue respectively and Brian kindly let Kathryn go ahead.  It was some time before we negotiated the first lock (with the help of the Inland Waterways Association - IWA).  On down the next two locks again with IWA help but the at next lock were on our own but helped by the boat in front.

We had spoken to Rod and Val who advised that we should look for a mooring after the first four locks so we found a nice place out in the country.  Later we walked in to meet up with Rod and Val (Brian went via the town of Alweras which everyone says in beautiful - and it is).  A nice hour or so with Rod and Val and then back to our boats.

We plan to be off at 07:00 tomorrow and cruise quietly down to Burton before the crowd gets there - we hope that's the case.  Need to be there by 16:00 tomorrow if possible as Brian is a harbourmaster.

Brian lost his waterproof boating hat - last seen forlornly sailing upside down to never never land.

We will give you all an update tomorrow and then we will take a break whilst we are at the IWA Festival.  We'll start again (if you can bare it) - not 100% sure of our return journey but we hope will include the Hatton Flight.



27-July-2011

we have arrived at Burton-on-Trent.

The last few miles took quite some time due to the number of boats arriving at the festival and the fact that some locks were managed by the IWA and some not - most of the un-managed locks worked better than the managed ones except of course that run by Rod and Val which was nice and quick.

We set off at 06:30 and by then some three boats had already passed us.

We have a nice mooring just above Horninglow Basin which is just a short walk from the festival site.

Brian looks resplendent in his harbourmaster's uniform - Kathryn just hopes it doesn't go to his head.

We went to try and find Brian and Margaret Oliver - every has seen them except for us - perhaps they are trying to avoid us..........

This is the last update until we start to retrace our steps towards the River Wey but we will go a different way.

01-August-2011

We had a lovely weekend in Burton-on-Trent with Brian being the harbourmaster for our area and our friends (and fellow Byfleet Boat Club members) Rodney and Valerie Wardlaw winning the award for the best boat at the show with their boat Hazell Nut . Everyone is delighted for them and for Mick and Suzanne who fitted out the boat.

We left Burton at 05:15 as we thought there would be a lot of boating traffic (there was).  We stopped at Alweras and did some shopping and popped into the pub for a quick one and then on to Fradley Junction (junction of the Coventry and Trent and Mersey Canals).

We had a good trip up and have a nice mooring very close to the Swan at Fradley (which we intend to check out this evening).

Plans for tomorrow are to head for Birmingham and then later in the week down the Hatton Flight of locks and on to Napton and down the Oxford Canal and on to the Thames at Oxford.

Boats look a bit dusty after the weekend with all the people walking past them and kicking up dust from the towpath.

02-August-2011

Brian and I left 06:45 to get ahead of any of the residual traffic from the IWA event.

No locks all the way to Fazeley Junction but had planned a pump-out and refuel at Streethay Wharf but it looked deserted so we continued on to Fazeley where we had a cup of coffee and biscuits provided by Brian whilst Kathryn removed what could have been part of a Sari from her prop (no body).  Then on down the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal to pumpout and refuel at Coleshill Marina (very good and helpful).

Have stopped from the day just short of Curdworth Bottom Lock as the M42 comes in there and where we are is beautiful and quiet with hot sunshine.

On towards Birmingham tomorrow.

03-August-2011

Spent last night on a delightful mooring at the bottom of the Curdworth Flight of locks. We were right alongside Kingsbury Water Park which was lovely.

We heard last night that the Oxford summit pound is only open 09:00 to 16:00 and may be closed.  That could mean we have to go back on the Grand Union all the way to London and then up the Thames to Weybridge.

First thing departure again (06:45) and started up the Curdworth Flight.  No one around to start with but as we progressed more and more boats appeared.  The family behind us were very helpful - one or two pounds were so low as to almost prevent mooring at the lock waiting area.

After we left Curdworth we started up the three Minworth Locks - again very nice but water levels low.  Then the canal turned into an industrial area and was full of all sorts of rubbish - Kathryn got an 'onion' bag around her prop which luckily came off easily.

Kathryn then got some wire around her prop but managed eventually to remove it.

We made our way to Salford Junction (Grand Union, Birmingham and Fazeley, Aston flight and Tame valley canal). We turned down the Grand Union (very tight turn almost back on ourselves) and found a lovely mooring on a BW pontoon outside the Star City Casino - neither of us have suitable attire to go I am afraid.

Brian, after nudging a few lock entrances and running aground in a few empty pounds, has rapidly fallen out of love with single locking with all the curry smells - roll on Weybridge - he is really enjoying himself in reality.

Off to try and get to the bottom of Hatton tomorrow.

04-August-2011

Well quite a day.  We started off at 06:45 and headed up Garrison Locks.  They were quite OK but when we turned to tackle the Camphill Flight the water turned inky black with oil on top and almost not enough water to make our way between the locks.  Brian was lucky in that he nudged the lower gates of the first lock on Camphill and they opened - there is nowhere to moor unless you reverse back past the junction. We had to run water down from above (draining water down from the upper pound) as there were no boats, that we were aware of, coming down.  There was plenty of water coming from the sky - it really did rain at times but, we understand, not as heavily as it did in the South East of England.

Kathryn lost a fender and Brian had to spend some time down his weed hatch clearing off all kinds of rubbish - a 'weed hatch free' day for Kathryn.

We pressed on through the rain and tackled the Knowle Flight of locks at the end of the day (Rodney and Suzanne you were right - no chance of making Hatton).  We brought the boats down breasted up (Kathryn on the boats and Brian operating the locks) which helped but being as it was at the end a 12.5 hour day we found it quite tiring.

We are now comfortably moored at the bottom of Knowle (arrived at 18:30) and looking 'forward' to Hatton tomorrow.

Brian has forgiven the Basingstoke after his experiences today !

Of more concern is the fact that a lot of canals around here have restrictions on lockage due to water supply issues.

We are still talking and enjoying ourselves - wouldn't have missed it for the world.

More tomorrow.

05-August-2011

Day 32 and the day of the much anticipated Hatton 21 - the 'Stairway to Heaven' as it is called although Brian christened it the 'Stairway to Hell' as we were going down and not up.  It is a stunning piece of engineering work considering it is over 200 years old and seemingly in very good working order.

We started off with a leisurely cruise of some seven miles from Knowle to Hatton with a 400 yard tunnel with lots of drips and some ducks quacking loudly in the middle - very strange.  The were some stunning views on the way looking out over the Warwickshire countryside.

The first lock of Hatton was operated for us by British Waterways as they were doing some work on it.  That was a pleasant welcome for us.  After that we breasted the boats together so one of us could manage the boats and one could do the tough work of operating the locks.  Kathryn looked after the boats (very skillful work she says) and Brian took control of the locks and a grand job he did to.

We had some of casual help on the way down - one man was an oil tanker captain who said he would give Kathryn a job - lot of difference in her mind between a narrowboat and an oil tanker and she thinks she enjoys retirement too much.

When we arrived at the bottom Kathryn mentioned that she thought Hatton was easier than Knowle which seeing Brian did the work he thought was hilarious

Brian did the tough work so Kathryn has offered to buy him a beer or two in the local pub tonight - the Cape of Good Hope.

We are moored outside the Cape of Good Hope on a glorious summer evening.

Still concerns over the amount of water on the Oxford Canal for the way home - a check up with Rodney and Valerie on Hazell Nut confirmed they have come across issues with the Hilmorton Locks (double sets narrow locks) on the north Oxford Canal where there are restrictions on travel downwards and you can only go if there is a boat coming up - Rod and Val waited 3.5 hours for a passage up that flight.

Tomorrow we hope to be at Napton ready for the Oxford (assuming it is open) so we can make our way to the Thames and home.

06-August-2011

Well quite a day.  We started off at Cape Locks in Warwick and made our way through Warwick and Royal Lemington Spa to the bottom of the Fosse Flight of Locks.  Kathryn got off her boat and managed to drop the rope - Kathryn on shore and boat floating away - some embarrassment.  Managed with Brian's boathook and his help to recover the situation.

On up the Stockton flight of locks which was quite a long haul.  The final flight was the three at Calcut which were being run by the Warwickshire Branch of the Inland Waterways Association as a 'lock ransom' so we donated a few pounds to their cause and sailed through.

We knew there were issues with the summit pound of the Oxford because of lack of water so after discussing things with Rodney and Valerie on Hazell Nut we climbed the Napton flight (all but Marston Doles which were locked). We are third and fourth respectively in the queue.

A 12.5 hour day but well worth it to ensure we can get home on the Oxford canal and then the Thames.

The locks above us don't open until 09:00 tomorrow so at least we can have a little sleep in.

07-August-2011

The local Brisitsh Waterways (BW) man was on the job well before 09:00 and we had the OK to travel up the last two Marston Doles locks and head along the summit for the Gaydon Flight.

A lot of boats waiting to come down but we were soon on our way but it was very shallow in places - we both ran aground (stemmed up) a few times especially on tight corners .  Brian had issues with his starter battery so we called in at Fenny Compton Marina and picked up some distilled water but the back of his boat still smells a bit like rotten eggs - Kathryn assumes it is the battery and not Brian!

We pushed on and were escorted down the Gaydon Flight by BW staff and were surprised that there was no waiting.

We are moored up about a mile or so below the Gaydon bottom lock and intend to go to Banbury tomorrow to fill up with supplies and get Brian a new battery.

Rod and Val tell us that Cropredy is full with people attending the Fairport Music Festival and there is three miles of single line working with boats moored everywhere - what a delight we have in store for tomorrow.


08-August-2011


A relatively quiet day.

Brian's mind, quite understandably, was focussed on his battery issues but we were still off at 06:20 to try and make it through Cropredy before anything else was moving (we almost made it).

There were about 3.5 miles of moored boats all there to attend the Cropredy Festival which starts later this week.

We pushed on to the next lock after Cropredy and saw Rod and Val starting off in front of us.  They kindly set a couple of locks for us.

We fueled up in Banbury and Brian had an audience with Timothy West and Prunella Scales and received a loaf of bread and a signed programme for his efforts.  Well done Brian. 

We decided to moor in Banbury above the swing bridge with Rod and Val in front of us.

Brian had put in a call to RCR (River and Canal Rescue - the canal equivalent of the AA and/or RAC).  They were a bit naughty in not phoning him back as they promised but eventually (around 17:00 they did call).

Kathryn received an E-Mail from BW who advised that the restrictions on the Oxford summit mean that the locks are only open from 10:00 untill 14:00 - things are getting bad up there and without rain there could be a full closure.

Update late in the day from RCR is that Brian's alternator is not in good health and of course they didn't have one with them.  We hope to move on later today assuming Brian's alternator can be replaced.

We went to a local pub last night and had an enjoyable evening with Rod and Val.

09-August-2011

A very quiet day spent in Banbury.  River and Canal Rescue (RCR) turned up about 15:30 to fix Brian's boat and installed a new alternator and starter battery.

Brian and Kathryn intend to head off about 07:00 in the morning and should be in Oxford in a couple of days.

10-August-2011


Off from Banbury at 06:30 for a top up of water and then onwards towards Oxford.

Rod and Val caught up with us at Anyho Weir Lock and we continued as a threesome to Lower Heyford where we found a really nice mooring out of the gusty wind.  We had a nice drink with Rod and Val on the towpath - Pims for the girls and beer for the boys.

Repairs to Brian's boat in Banbury have been successful.

A hire boat going past (Rodney asked of he could go any faster to which he replied 'yes') managed to pull out one of Kathryn's mooring pins and bend it at the same time - naughty man driving hire boat.

Plan is to go to Thrupp tomorrow and see if there are any moorings and take it from there.

Thrupp will take us within easy striking distance of the Thames; we can then choose our time and date to set off on the homeward leg.

11-August-2011

A shortish day today.  we left our moorings at Lower Heyford at about 08:00 and travelled down to Thrupp - in reality to the Boat Inn at Thrupp !

At one lock we came across the speeding boater of yesterday moored on the lock waiting area - Rodney spoke with the people on the boat about boating etiquette.

We found excellent moorings at Thrupp and enjoyed lunch with Rod and Val at the Boat Inn.  Ham, eggs and chips 'to die for' for Brian and Kathryn and at BLT for Valerie and Mushroom soup for Rod.

We then decided that three of us would go back there tonight (subsequently cancelled because we didn't think we could do justice to the food).  We had a short walk which included the Thrupp Canal Cruising Club (waiting list for a mooring is 8 years) followed by a cream tea at a local tea shop called Annies.  I think most of us had a wee sleep after that except Brian who washed his boat and is looking forward to the cricket highlights.

Lots in the news about the Oxford Canal being in trouble over lack of water so we are fortunate to have made our way successfully almost to Oxford; we don't envisage any issues between here and Oxford - just three miles and three locks.

Looks like we will be on the Thames tomorrow.


12-August-2011


Off at 07:30 from Thrupp towards Oxford.

Had a bit of an issue at the last swing bridge which was locked down (it wasn't on the way up or perhaps there was someone coming down).  Kathryn went to unlock the bridge and raise it.  There was a boat coming up to which Kathryn gave a 'stop' signal.  She struggled a little bit with the key for the bridge as it needed so much downwards pressure on the locking device to release the key - she had to stand on it.  When the bridge was up the 'other' boat tried to push through as Brian was coming past Kathryn's boat - he continued to push through and at one stage we had the three boats abreast across the canal - not a very happy situation - least said soonest mended perhaps.

On down towards Oxford where we decided to take the Wolvercote Lock route rather than go via Dukes Cut and on to the Thames earlier.  We were surprised how 'easy' it was - just one locked swing bridge and a two locks to contend with, the second of which was operated for us by a kind gentleman - Brian gave him a coupe of beers for his help. Also surprised how many short term moorings were vacant.

Out through the Sheepwash 'cut' and onto the Thames and the purchase of a four day licence (very expensive) at Osney Lock to see us home to the River Wey.

We made our way down to Abingdon pleased that we were on deep water once again after the 'struggles' with shallow water on the Oxford. Also pleaed we managed to get a mooring there on the 'Park' side - he last one in Abingdon.

We plan to be back on the Wey sometime on Monday next.


13-August-2011


In Reading now moored just below Caversham bridge.

A long run from Abingdon interspersed with locks which gave us a welcome break.

There was a very difficult man at Cleeve lock who wanted Brian and Kathryn to move their boats so far forward they would have been damaged by the gates as they opened.  Not only that but we had a rowing skiff in the lock as well which was on a charity trip.  Unfortunately the lock was on 'Self Service'.  The lock keeper was around but not showing much interest and it was after 14:00 (the finish of their lunch break).

Down to Clivden or something similar tomorrow and back on the river Wey on Monday.

14-August-2011

Off at 08:45 this morning just in time for Caversham Lock to be operated for us by the Lock Keeper.  It was a longish day with no incidents at all and we are now safely moored just above Boveney Lock (Windsor) so it should be an easy run in to the River Wey and home tomorrow.


15-August-2011


Well it is all over now so this is the final bulletin.

We had a beautiful day to start with - cloudless sky and warm temperature which got slowly colder and skies became more cloudy as we got closer to home.

The Thames is very low, so low in fact, that Brian's boat got very temporarily caught under an overhang at Shepperton Lock - no damage thankfully but something to be aware of when the river conditions are as they are at the moment.

We had to wait a while at Thames Lock (first one on the River Wey) whilst a hire boater filled their water tanks - perhaps not the best place to have a fresh water supply (slow to fill) with the setup they have there and perhaps the hire boats should come with a full tank.  We had to wait 40 mins for the lock to be free - perhaps the National Trust should give advice that there is a better supply of water at Chersey Lock.

I think we'd both do it all again and I believe we covered some 408 locks and covered about 410 miles over the six weeks.

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