Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Now you see them.....now you don't

We have never seen Banbury town centre so deserted! Beautiful weather in between the showers and no boats.  The few that have come by arrive in groups of three and pass through the town without stopping.


This morning we set off around 8am and met only three boats as we headed down from Bodicote towards Somerton. We arrived at the lozenge-shaped Aynho Weir Lock at 11am.


What a change!When we  came through the lock there were twelve boats queueing the other side.

A few of them knew what they were doing.
But not all.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady on a white horse
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes
It's two years  since we came to Banbury.  There are more empty shops in the town but it still has a busy feel about it, especially on a Thursday night.  My sources tell me that the night to go clubbing is now Thursday. By moving binge night from the weekend hangovers are cleared up whilst at work on Friday leaving the weekend clear for other things.

 As we approached the town from Cropredy on Wednesday there was much earth-moving being undertaken which looked like preparation for a major road or building project

We understand that, in fact,these are flood defences being built by the Environment Agency.  I had never really associated Banbury with flood risk but do remember friends who live in nearby Helmdon suffering floods which made the national news a few years ago.

We had lunch with Julian & Ros in Helmdon yesterday and they recall a narrowboat ending up in a field during those floods.

I wonder how that looked when the waters receded! 

There are fewer boats around than on our last visit and we have moored opposite the Fine Lady bread factory for a change but will probably move into Castle Quay in the town centre  in a day or two.

We made the pilgrimage to Banbury Cross and discovered the nearby statue of the Fine Lady on a White Horse which somehow we had overlooked on previous visits.

I think it is quite a fine statue too -
cast in bronze and mounted on a plinth of local Hornton stone.

The sculptor has not felt constrained by the literal as these details illustrate.  
This has been interpreted to include bluebell flowers on her toes.

By one foot of the horse is this little frog.  The meaning eludes me but it is quite fun.

It is suggested that the rhyme's refers to the riding of Hobby Horses by children and this theme has been stylised in the traffic roundabout where the  current Banbury Cross stands. ( there were three crosses originally at different points in the town and the current one is not the original)

Each year there is Hobby Horse Festival on the first weekend in July.

Friday, 17 June 2011

We were not the only ones not cruising on Sunday: I think the whole world must have battened down the hatches to sit out the rain.  Monday morning there were boats everywhere.  We had a slow start: first we needed diesel, then two toilet cassettes to empty and finally the water tank to fill.
Leaving Braunston we turned left under the lovely cast iron arches onto the S Oxford Canal.

The first mile or two was scattered with moored boats so our pace was leisurely and even more so when we encountered this sunken working boat.  It has been here for 20 months according to locals and BW are still in the planning stages for its removal.

As we approach the flight of seven locks at Napton we have to climb we are overlooked by the old windmill on the hill.
Passage up the flight was easy as there was an oncoming boat at each lock. This was rather a surprise as, since the initial rush of boats when we started the day,  we have hardly met another boat.

On Tuesday we set off at 7.30 am as the weather was so glorious. After refilling the water tank  at Fenny Compton Wharf  we entered Fenny Compton Tunnel which was made topless in 1868 and is now a long narrow cutting.

In parts it is quite narrow but the only other boat we saw was going our way.

We are making a conscious effort to moor overnight in places we have not done before so when we arrived at Cropredy we descended the locks and found a quiet spot south of the village.

Whilst we were sitting on the bank enjoying the afternoon sun this gentleman appeared in a dingy to which he had added an electric outboard motor.  Before his wife died he had a narrowboat but now takes this to a stretch of canal somewhere in the country and potters about for a while. He reckons to manage eight miles on one overnight charge. And his passage is completely silent.

On Wednesday, in contrast, a hire boat followed us down the locks to Banbury and the mother and daughter who were operating the locks we dubbed The Puddings. At each lock they strolled up and stood gawping as Margaret worked Gecko through. It seemed beyond their grasp that if one of them operated the other gate Margaret would not have to keep crossing the lock and they could get their boat in sooner.  It was if they believed each boat passage was a discrete operation and that no cross-contamination was permitted.  We could not even engage them in conversation as they kept well away from us and often turned their backs to the lock whilst we were there.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Health & Safety ?
I would like to direct you to a report on NarrowBoatWorld concerning a tragic accident recently in Stourport and the ridiculous response by British Waterways

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Rain and Spain
As we were preparing to leave Gecko for the weekend on Friday we heard a familiar voice on the towpath and nb Too Sassy hove into view. Paul and Sue were on their way to Whilton Marina where Too Sassy is to be sold.  We learned that the sale of their house in Kings Langley had been completed and they were off to Spain to live. as soon as they got the boat on sale.  We passed Too Sassy moored tother side of Uxbridge a few weeks ago but no-one was on board so we did not expect to see them again before they deserted the UK.  Why is it so many of our boating friends are deserting the UK? (Answer is not required).
We are attending a conference in Daventry and as they have not built the Daventry Canal yet we travelled to the hotel by bus. On the way to the bus stop we passed hotel boat Earlswood moored waiting for the next batch of guests.. This was fortuitous as we had a package which needed delivery to Red House on the Aylesbury Arm which is where they are headed next.

We spent the winter in Aylesbury occupying Earlswood's mooring so we were pleased to catch up with Andy and Sue.  They operate under the name of Classic Waterway Holidays carrying up to four passengers  per trip.  Sue had obviously just been baking but we were not permitted to sample the wares.
It seems likely that our paths will cross again in July as we are both headed for the Kennet and Avon Canal around then.

The conference was  very rewarding and we even had a lift back to Gecko on Sunday afternoon from two of the delegates, Maxime and Amanda, which saved us from the atrocious rain which has arrived.

 Holiday House in Bath
Quiet location 5 mins level & picturesque walk from City Centre

Private parking Sleeps Four
Available all year Saturday-Saturday

Large, modern kitchen
South-facing sitting room overlooking church
Superbly equipped throughout
Broadband connection
Freesat TV

Margaret & Peter Lloyd
07905 905 333                      BathMews@aol.com

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Nuneaton & Brighton
It must be June because we are experiencing April showers and back in April we had the June sunshine.  I am not sure whether the climate is warming up but it is certainly muddling up. Yesterday evening we took a little walk up the Leicester Arm as we are moored by Norton Junction where it joins (or leaves) the Grand Union main line. It was a glorious evening, and, after two torrential showers during the day, a welcome break.

Moored just inside the Arm were the ex-working boats Nuneaton and Brighton which we saw at the Rickmansworh Canal Festival last month. They will be on their way to the Stoke Bruerne Gala this weekend and then Braunston Working Boat Festival the following weekend.

Nuneaton is a Large Northwich style all steel motor narrowboat. Built in 1936 by Yarwood & Sons in Northwich: whilst Brighton is an unpowered butty  built the year before by Harland and Wolfe in Woolwich and hence is a Large Woolwich. Originally they were not paired together but had different partners.   they were built for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company and were part of 86 pairs of that company's Town Class fleet. they were designed to carry 72 tons of cargo between them with a draught of 4'3" and travelling at 6mph.  the canals, however, were never able to accommodate such heavy and fast boats and the typical load was more like 50 tons. In fact the greatest load ever carried was 63tons of grain and was accomplished by Brighton with motor boat Buckden.
Freight carrying stopped for all intents and purposes on the English canals in 1970 and these boats were sold.  After various  roles in private hands they were acquired by The Narrow Boat Trust and now spend most of the summer attending canal festivals and are supported by Trust members and a couple of trips each year selling coal along the canal.
Elderflower Cordial
It's that time of year when the galley is taken over by Margaret for the production of Elderflower Cordial. Two batches have been bottled and frozen and we are enjoying it with sparkling water whenever the sun comes through.
Here at Norton Jct the flowers are more prolific than we have seen anywhere on the Grand Union this year.  so all the equipment has been dug out again form the cupboard and we are making another trip to the pharmacy for citric acid. This is always an adventure as we are subjected to interrogation regarding our requirement for what is only sherbet dab without the dab.
Apparently those who regularly take cocaine have a use for it too which does not necessarily quench the thirst.

Should you be interested in Margaret's recipe leave your email address on the comments and I will send it to you.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Lock up the birds!
Part way through our ablutions this morning a boat came past us headed for the two locks leading up to Stoke Bruerne museum and the Blisowrth tunnel so we dropped  (nearly) everything and tagged along to share the locks. Our hope of sharing the locks at Whilton later in the day evaporated as after leaving the tunnel they steamed off at a rate of knots and we never saw them again.  However when we did get to Whilton (two rainstorms later) we were able to pair up with nb Valerie which we have been seeing around for quite a time.

In the penultimate lock we were joined by a mother duck and eight tiny ducklets* who proceeded to swim down the side of the boats.  Distressed mum went after them and had some difficulty being many times their size.  By moving the boats carefully and splashing the chicks with a sitck we managed to usher them to the back of the lock so we could fill it very slowly. 


They made their escape either side of the boats once we opened the top gates.

Before we started on the locks we passed nb Farne on its way to The Nene: we had not seen each other since the BCN Explorer Cruise in June 2009.

*For my non-native English speaking readers I should point out  thet the correct word or young ducks is ducklings not ducklets.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

A couple of hours cruising only today to moor at Stoke Bruerne. Boats are starting to assemble in preparation for the gala here over the weekend June 11/12.

Raymond was the last wooden working narrowboatboa to be built in UK - in 1958.
For more information of the rescue and renovation go to the Friends of Raymond website.
We are moored nearby and this time I managed to get a photograph.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Flag Day
In 2006 on Gecko's first stop at Braunston we met up with Yorkshire Tyke and despite seeing them several times that year our only other sighting was in Fenny Stratford in 2008.. So we were delighted to exchange 20 secs of chat as our paths crossed today near Cosgrove. On previous occasions they were travelling with another boat from Strawberry Island - Hakuna Matata- but they were alone today and we did not have time to ask any more questions. The other surprise was to find that Hazel, the mooring warden at Cosgrove, was sacked at the end of the winter season to save money.  The moorings are now being treated as 48days instead of 48 hours. by the usual miscreants This demonstrates the stupidity and ignorance of BW who are currently 'coonsulting' on changing mooring regulations in the south-east to combat boats over-staying.  What they seem unable to appreciate is that if the regulations are not enforced the only people to suffer are the honest, law-abiding  ones.  The culprits will ignore the regulators whatever they are.

The railway mural commemorating the local industry and activities has recently been repainted by the Milton Keynes IWA and very smart it is looking too.

The original artist died a couple of years ago, I believe, but his son was involved in getting the re painting done

For the last couple of miles this afternoon we were being chased by the restored working boat and butty Nutfield and Raymond on their way from the WAT festival in Boxmoor to the next one in Stoke Bruerne..  We were too busy mooring up to take a picture of them so here is some other local colour.
 (A note for Mike W - the leading boat is called Rio Drace)

We have finished with festival for this year and so the flags and bunting were all washed before packing them away. We managed to unseat four cyclists and strangle one dog walker whilst drying them.