On the evenging of Tuesday June 22nd Barrie, Kathy and Henry the black labrador turned up as arranged and we all trooped over to The Great Western Arms again! We had yet another lovely meal there and it was great catching up with old friends again. After the meal we parted company but arranged to meet up with Barrie again in Banbury in a couple of days time as Clive was getting some tyres from him for the TR6.
The following morning we left Aynho Wharf after first filling up the water tank. We didn't go very far, only about four miles but we found a lovely spot to moor up with a reasonable TV signal so that Clive could watch the England v Slovenia match. Then on Thursday morning we cruised up to Banbury then moored up again in order to go to Morrisons for a proper stock up. Once back on board with the shopping I quickly unpacked the shopping and got it stowed away whilst Clive headed into Banbury itself. I had to nip up and do the lock and also raise the bridge to let him through then we moored up right in the centre of Banbury outside the Castle Quay shopping centre to await Barrie's arrival. He duly turned up a short time later complete with tyres and Henry! We stowed the tyres on the roof and invited Barrie and Henry on board. Barried didn't have any trouble at all but Henry was a different matter - in the end Barrie had to lift him onto the boat, no mean feat, he is a really big labrador!! Henry went inside to keep cool but we all sat on the deck drinking coffee and basking in the lovely warm sunshine. Finally at 4.00pm Barrie had to leave but Henry wouldn't come up the steps!! Once again Barrie had to get behind him and lift him up the steps and then off the boat! We said our goodbyes and watched Barrie drive off then we set off ourselves. We cruised for about three hours, passing through Cropredy on the way. Cropredy is famous for several things, one is the battle that was fought there during the civil war between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers another is Fairport Convention's annual folk festival and thirdly a song written by Ralph McTell which Fairport sing called Red and Gold. Unfortunately we didn't have time to stop there this time. We finally moored up out in the country part way up the lock flight.
I think I have mentioned before that our daughter Vicki and her partner Ben are moving house on July 9th and they want us to be there before they move in order to go through all our stuff which is stored at their house. The nearest place we can get to their current address in the time is March on the Middle Levels. I looked through our blog from last year and worked out that it took us 11 days from Gayton Junction to March, admittedly we weren't rushing then. Coming back the other way took 8 days. From our current position we still had an awfully long way to go so we decided to get up early the next morning, Friday, and just get as far as we could. We had also learned from a fellow boater coming the other way that there was to be a huge historic boat festival in Braunston at the weekend - oh dear - we have to go through Braunston!!!
We were up and off by 8.00am on Friday morning and we cruised for eleven and a half hours in total and did 17 locks!! It was a lovely day though and we were passing through some lovely countryside. I even took a turn at the helm for a while to give Clive a break. I am definitely getting more confident however I had a bit of a close shave at one point as I was negotiating a rather narrow bridge which was on a right handed bend and there was a narrowboat moored up just the other side of the bridge - Clive had to come to my rescue or else I would have run into the back of it!! When Clive took the helm again (I think he was a bit nervous after the bridge incident!) I had the opportunity to watch the wildlife and do a bit of photography. I managed to spot some Yellowhammers and got a few photos of them. They are pretty little birds and of course they have a very distinctive song which sounds a bit like: "a little bit of bread and no cheese" - I didn't make that up, its how their song is described in all the bird books!
We have been surprised at some of the strange animals we have spotted on our our travels. We have seen the usual suspects; cows, sheep, horses etc, then there were the Alpacas we saw on the Thames but we were really surprised to spot a whole field full of Buffalo as we were cruising the Oxford Canal today - we could have been forgiven for thinking we were in the Serengeti!! One can only assume that they are farmed for their milk to produce Buffalo Mozarella - mmmmmm yummy!
We finally arrived at Braunston and just couldn't believe how many boats there were! Braunston is always a busy place but never like this - they were moored five abreast in places leaving just enough room for one boat to pass through - it was chaos! We reached one of the bridges and as you can see from this photo it was difficult to see how on earth we were going to get through - but we made it!
After running the gauntlet we arrived at the first of the locks. These are big double locks and take quite a bit of filling and emptying. Fortunately Clive can enter and leave these locks with only one gate open at each end which saves an awful lot of time and effort on my part! We had intended to try and moor up in one of the pounds but there were moored boats in every one. In the end we managed to moor in the pound just before the last lock, No 6! We were absolutely kernackered!!! We had a salad for tea, watched a couple of episodes of CSI Miami then fell into bed and slept like logs!
On Sunday morning we were up and off early again. Through the last lock, a short cruise then into the bowels of the earth through the deep and dank Braunston Tunnel! When we emerged from the tunnel it was only a short cruise to the Napton Junction and then onto the start of the Buckby Flight of locks. We were fortunate that there was another boat just about to go down the flight so, as these are double locks, we went down with them. It makes life a lot easier when there are two boats on a lock flight as you can halve the work and the time. So in no time at all we came through the last lock and moored up at Whilton Marina - the place where we bought Lady Arwen and from where we set off on our epic adventure!
We didn't stay put long - just long enough for Clive to pick up a few things from the chandlery then we had a quick sprint up to the previous lock where there is a carpet shop and if you give them a donation for the Air Ambulance you can help yourself to their carpet samples. These are brilliant for a boat. I have a nice big square one which is just perfect for the galley, another one which is exactly the same size as a doormat, which is in our saloon by the step and also some small square ones which I put down next to the bed at night so we don't have to step onto a cold floor in our bare feet! As it happens there is a garden centre opposite the carpet shop so we popped in there too. I have been wanting have a planter with herbs in it for ages so we bought another tub and some herb plants. We now have Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (I feel a song coming on!) and French Tarragon growing on our roof!
Roof herb garden!
We pressed on after a quick lunch and finally decided to moor up near the village of Bugbrooke because according to Clive's annotations in our map book there is a good TV signal there. Wrong! Well if there was we couldn't find it again! Clive particularly wanted a good signal because the following day, Sunday, there was a Grand Prix followed by the England v Germany football match. We decided to stay put for the night and go in search of the elusive signal the following morning. We had plenty of time the coverage of the Grand Prix doesn't start till 12.00pm.
So, Sunday morning dawned bright and fair and according to the weather forecast was due to be the hottest day of the year so far! We moved a short distance and found a spot where the TV signal was really pretty good. Clive was very happy about that!! So we had a leisurely morning then the Grand Prix started. I decided to go up on deck and sit under the canopy and read my book, it wasn't long before I nodded off! When I woke up the GP was all but finished, then it was the football! I watched that fiasco with Clive - what a total waste of time, they were absolutely useless! However I must admit that Lampard was robbed, that ball definitely went into the goal!
When the match was over it was only 5.00pm so we decided to press on and see if we could get down the Rothersthorpe Flight during the evening when it was cooler. Well we managed it, it took four hours to do it and it never seemed to get cooler at all! We used teamwork to get down the locks. All the locks in the flight were against us, so I went ahead and set the lock in front whilst the one the boat was in was emptying. Clive then climbed up the ladder and opened the gate on the far side, I walked back up and opened the other gate and then when the boat was out of the lock Clive could nip up and shut his side whilst I shut mine, then the whole thing was repeated at the next one. We finally moored up in a lock pound just before Northampton absolutely exhausted! Again we had a salad tea (no cooking involved!) a glass or two of Rose, two episodes of CSI Miami then bed - we went out like lights needless to say.
Well here we are, Monday June 28th! We were up and off at 8.00am this morning and heading into Northampton. Just as we were coming out of the last canal lock onto the River Nene another boat arrived. As they were passing us they told us that the river was being shut for three hours as they were filling a new marina, right by the Becketts Park Lock! Oh dear!! Anyway, we stopped in Northampton itself just long enough to pop to Morrisons for a few more bits and bobs then made for the next lock. As I was walking up to the lock two guys in yellow jackets and hard hats were coming the other way - "are you just coming through" they asked, I said that we were if the passage was clear. He said "you're lucky - we're just about to close it - hurry up, tell him to put his foot down!" So we made it through the lock, passed all the heavy plant and workmen at the marina just in the nick of time! We stopped about a hundred yards further on to make use of the services; pump-out, bin disposal and waterpoint, however when we got there the pump-out facility was broken and there was a notice saying "awaiting parts"!!! Typical - we could have had a pump out yesterday as we were passing Gayton Marina but it would have cost us anything between £10 and £18 whereas the facilities on the Nene are free! Oh well, never mind we will be at the next services by tomorrow all being well - hope that one's working!! We did manage to empty the bin and fill up with water before we headed off again.
It has been very hot indeed today and we welcomed the breeze caused by our passage. We had several locks to negotiate, the first two were normal V gates which require a windlass to wind up the paddles, then we reached the first of the guillotine locks. These have V gates at one end and a vertical gate which is operated electrically at the other and this can be left open as you leave the lock. Finally we arrived at Cogenhoe where we had planned to stay the night. We managed to moor up but about a yard off the bank so we are having to use the plank again to get on and off the boat. The only good thing about that is that the cows won't be able to reach my planters on the roof!
One thing I forgot to mention - the tyres which Clive got from Barrie had started off on the roof of the boat but that evening when we moored up Clive sorted out the cratch (the bows) and managed to get them in there out of the sun and out of sight. Trouble is they almost fill the cratch space it was quite interesting trying to get the hose into the water tank this morning!! Still hopefully it won't be for long, Clive is hoping to get them fitted on his TR6 as soon as we get nearer to Cambridge.
All being well we are having a visitor tonight, one Mr Dave Jolly, a brilliant melodeon player whom we met at a session a few months ago. He lives here at Cogenhoe so he's going to pop over about 8.00pm to pay us a visit. Better go and make tea and tidy the boat up a bit before he comes!