Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Braunston Tales
After a very wet day on Tuesday travelling from Banbury to Fenny Compton we awoke to a misty morning which augured well for the day ahead. The promise fulfilled, we made it through to Braunston Turn by mid afternoon. As we approached the white arched bridges which span the junction of the North and Soouth Oxford canal with the Grand Union we could see Autumn Venture tied up on the wharf at Midland Chandlers. Finding a mooring just round the corner was a surprise, having never seen this stretch of the N. Oxford free of boats.When they had spent up Nigel and Jeanette pulled over to join us.
Late the next morning Norman and Margaret on L'Attitude Adjustment arrived to complete our domination of the moorings.
During a shopping expedition to the chandlers on Friday we encountered Darren (late of Severn Valley Boat Centre) who is working for Midland Chandlers. As he is staying in a local hotel three nights a week we took up his recommendation to eat at The Old Plough in Braunston. Well the food was superb. REAL home cooking - not the Brake Bros/deep frier/microwave home cooking provided by most pubs. Lamb casserole was tender and tasty and the lasagne and ham, egg & chips all were a success too. The cherry crumble (made with fresh cherries, not canned pie filling) was top of the pud charts. Real ale and good prices make this a pub to return to. If you look it up on Google be careful as there is also an Old Plough in Braunston in Rutland. We didn't go there. The one you want is in Northants.
Over dinner we exchanged tales of boats we had met. There were the usual tales of novices who don't realise they have to operate the locks. We related our experience on the S. Oxford when departing a lock iIwas confronted by a hire boat coming at me full tilt. As the two crew jumped off and tried to stop the boat with ropes (they had not been shown the reverse gear) my only escape was to reverse completely into the lock again. The most bizarre story told concerned an American couple who were found looking at their first lock completely bemused. They had arrived at Canaltime directly from the airport and yes they had not understand the relevance of the video shown to them before being given the keys to their craft. What really puzzled them, howeer, was that they thought they had booked a country cottage on the internet! Our story tellers gave them some rudimentary instruction and worked through some locks with them but how they fared for the remainder of their holiday we can only hope it improved.
As we walked down the hill back to the canal the rain had cleared and we enjoyed the view of the church spire which can be seen from so far away on the canal approaches to Braunston Jct.
Autumn Venture left us early next morning headed for the Ashby canal. We followed some days later.

Braunston Church and an old plough

Monday, 27 July 2009

Weaving SOX

Forthe past few weeks we have been weaving our way along the S. Oxford canal.

The summit pound is so convoluted that it should not be undertaken with a hang-over as there is a serious risk of permanent mental harm. The experience is made more exciting by the BW policy of not trimming vegetation proximate to bridges. There is also, apparently, an unwritten rule that if one boat sounds its horn on approaching a bridge it is not appropriate for a boat approaching from the opposite direction to respond in a similar manner as this spoils the fun.

As you approach a half-hidden bridge (on a bend, of course) the suspense mounts – what will we find? Perhaps a Yellow Peril like the one which dented our bows on this very stretch last year by careering through a bridge with a man at the front holding a boat hook like he was jousting. Perhaps a yoghurt pot who thinks 20 tons of steel can stop in 4 feet as he can.

However there are many interesting sights on this canal:

Buffalo at Napton

Apricots in Aynho

Aynho has a recorded existence back to the time of Edward the Confessor. Nearly all the buildings in the old part of the village are of local limestone, and most were originally thatched. The Cartwright Arms, an old coaching inn, was named after the family who were the squires of the village from 1616 to the 1950s.

The original manor was burnt down at the end of the Civil War by the Royalist troops vacating the premises under the command of the Compton brothers. The troops had occupied the house on the retreat from the battle of Edgehill and retained it most of the time until the end of the war. Charles I stayed the night there on his way to Oxford after the battle of Edgehill. Charles II paid the family compensation after his restoration to the throne, and Park House was restored in 1680.

The church of St Michael and All Angels is built of limestone and the tower is 14th century. This was also damaged severely during the Civil War and the main body was demolished in 1723 to be replaced some time later.

The village hall was built in 1920 from stones taken from the ruined plague house in Pesthouse Wood. Plague victims were once isolated there, and villagers would leave them food every day at the boundary fence.

The Cartwright family suffered a tragedy in the 1950s when a car accident claimed the lives of both father and son. The bereaved sister also had to cope with double death duties which necessitated her selling the whole estate. When they had owned the village the Cartwright family planted apricot trees against all the cottages. Any fruit not required by the family was given to the residents..

Narrowboats don't bend!

When She who must be obeyed opened the bottom gates of Sommerton Deep Lock I was confronted with this view.

How I was expected to get round the boat waiting to ascend the lock I am unsure.

On our return journey it took us two hours to get through the lock due to a traffic jam.N

Thrupp is not a disease!
When we went to the wedding in France we left Gecko in Thrupp. We managed to get a space on the 14 day moorings as Martin and Steve on nb Chough were just leaving. Behind us was a small steam boat.

We also caught a performance by the Mikron theatre who travel around the canals putting on entertainment in pubs and gardens.

On our return from the ACS EGM (see To the Circus - July 11) Dave and Margaret came to stay overnight and when the rain cleared on Sunday morning we decided to leave the canal at Isis Lock and travel up the Thames to re-enter the canal at Duke's Cut. The weather was glorious until we rejoined the canal when the rain returned.

We met a few of these

As we approached Braunston we received calls from Nigel and Jeanette on Autumn Venture and Norman and Margaret on L'Attitude Adjustment each saying they were soon arriveing at Braunston. But that is another story.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

This one is for Juliette
Whilst visiting Banbury I found this sign above a retail unit in the High Street.
Obviously literacy is not important in the estate agency business. (or at least some companies)

Saturday, 11 July 2009

To the Circus
A busy day ahead.
First we have to catch the bus from Oxford to Aylesbury to attend the Aylesbury Canal Society EGM called to consider the proposed move to a new marina to be built about a mile out of town at Circus Field
This is to be followed by Tea on the Lawns after which we have to get back to Oxford as Dave and Margaret are coming to stay for the night.
When we arrived in Aylesbury we were met by Nigel from Autumn Venture who informed us that a boat had come down the arm on Friday and they claimed to know us. This turned out to be Norman and Margaret on L'Attidude Adjustment who we have not seen for over a year.

After availing ourselves of the shower facilities we went to the EGM where outline proposals to move the Canal Society out of the town basin and into a purpose built marina situated two locks up the arm were considered. At present the field is just that - a field - but it is zoned for residential development alongside the marina.
Having seen how new residents can impose restrictions on long established boating communities I am a little concerned over the proximity of the new houses.
Tea on the lawn was a very civilised affair with sandwiches, four varieties of tea, scones with jam and cream and home made cakes of all kinds. As we trundled back to Oxford on the 280 it was difficult not to doze off. Oxford greeted us with rain which grew steadily heavier as the evening progressed so we walked into Jericho with our visitors and had dinner in the Jericho cafe before turning in with fingers crossed for a fine morning.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

To the Beach
After a couple of days in and around Arras with our friends we hired a car and drove to St. Quentin from where we could drive to the wedding comfortably. Our hotel was opposite the Basilica which is undergoing some repair work at present.

From our bedroom window we could enjoy this view of the Basilique with its elegant flying buttresses. (What a shame about he brick additions)

Just down the road from the Basilique is the Hotel de Ville which for the duration of the summer is on the beach. tons of sand have been brought into the town square along with two pools, boats and all the fun of the seaside except perhaps the waves.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Angels & Demons
We have been away for a while - to France by Eurostar.
We were visiting friends near Arras and attending a wedding between St. Quentin and Laon.
We find the Eurostar so comfortable and convenient and there always seems to be some good fares around. Ninety minutes after leaving the beautiful surroundings of St. Pancras station we were in Lille where we walked to the Flandres station to take a train to Arras.
We were a little puzzled by the plastic statue in front of the station but when we looked along the street towards the Opera our puzzlement was increased by the vision of more such statues either side of the carriageway.

Apparently the film - Angels and Demons - which is the sequel to The Da Vinci Code was being shown at the cinema. That made us glad that on this occasion we were only passing through.

On arrival at Arras we were met by friends who are living on their narrowboat nearby.
With moorings at less than £400 a year including electricity and water and the French cuisine why are we not all over there?

Chris, Paul and Ivy (the dog) brought their narrowboat - Dream On - over here in 2008 and have been cruising around the north of France. The mooring they have secured is on the same site as a water sports complex where the top canoe and kayak rowers train. We stayed on Dream On for two nights. I wasa little apprehensive. Although we have had visitors staying with us this is the first time I have stayed on someone else's boat. Living on a narrowboat demands a discipline which is not necessary in a house. Thus live-aboard boaters develop their own particular regime which is unlikely to be the same as their neighbour. As far as we are concerned we need not have worried. Whether this view is shared by our eerstwhile hosts time will tell.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

July 4th - A Day to Remember
Of course some 233 years ago one of our more troublesome colonies finally cut its ties with UK but this year we had a more important reason to celebrate July 4th.
Today my godson - Adrian - married his French finacee - Clotilde. The wedding in a small village in Picardy was beautiful, the weather scorching and the celebrations phenomenal.
When the bride and groom emerged from the church we were all gathered around the gold Rolls Royce for their departure and we were all taken by surprise when they left on horseback - still in full wedding dress.