Monday, 14 October 2019

July 30 - August 5 Dog & Doublet to Cropredy on the South Oxford Canal

Tuesday July 30 Dog & Doublet to Fazeley Junction (3 ½ miles, 3 locks)
After a weekend to celebrate Flo's 89th Birthday, we returned to Annie, John with a slight hangover! Dull but dry, so we set off to find the locks set. Liana had a nice chat with the lady living by the bottom lock. The rain started, so Liana steered while John put on his waterproofs and brolly. By Fazeley it was time to stop, as the weather was horrid. Later we bought fish & chips close by, for a change. The Mill craft shops had all gone, sadly. With heavy rain falling, we stayed. John felt ill overnight ….. we think fatty foods don't help. At least Liana slept well.

Wednesday July 31 Fazeley Junction to Polesworth
We slept in and set off late, now it was dry. Liana checked the junction, John came round the corner and a moored boat set off just behind him, surprising him when he looked back!
Liana and others walked the mile to the two Glascote locks, where there was a queue above and below. Boats took turns and crossed over in the central pound, which worked well, despite one impatient boater who didn't want to wait for an oncoming boat to enter our lock. It took a while, but we had a pleasant social event!
We cruised on but stopped at Polesworth, at our previous mooring, as clouds darkened. We had lunch and stayed here, as we both felt tired. Binge watched Downton Abbey bluray set, which we have just discovered we like.

Thursday 1 August Polesworth to Atherstone and on to Sutton Stop
John spotted six boats all pointing our way, when an early boat woke him, so set off just before 0800, much to Liana's surprise. She had thought he was starting the engine to charge our failing batteries. These cut out the inverter when less than about 91% charge, which seems weird. Even if they are only 18 months old, it seems that they have had it, or at least some of them have. John is investigating replacements, but the best cost a fortune. It was only two miles to the eleven Atherstone locks, but we didn't find a queue, happily, although boats were ahead of us. An Australian family in the boat behind helped us up the first two locks, but we got into a steady rhythm and ascended the locks fine, despite a family of ducklings trying to die in one lock with Annie. John managed to shoo them out without harm, eventually. Three volunteers helped us at the top lock. We watered Annie partly, but the tap was slow. John did Loo tanks and Liana did rubbish, The Australian family appeared half an hour later.
Sister Alison arrived, and she and Liana went for our car, taking one car to Cropredy, Oxfordshire and returning in the other to Sutton Stop. John took Annie along the long pound through Nuneaton and Bedworth, past Marston Junction. Arriving at Hawkesbury Junction, he turned Annie and Liana helped her through the Sutton Stop stop lock. After mooring, we adjourned to the Greyhound for a couple of pints. Played Settlers of Catan and watched more Downton Abbey later.

Friday 2 August Hawkesbury to below Hillmorton locks (12 miles, 0 locks)
It's a pleasant, quietly pretty route to Hillmorton. First, after the electricity sub station, you see the M6 and Wyken Arm, now moorings. Anstey has a scenic embankment above the houses. Many loops were cut off about 1830, when they shortened the convoluted 43 mile route by 15 miles! Picturesque Horseley iron bridges sometimes mark their disappearance into the undergrowth. John had to take speedy avoiding action when a hire boat appeared at a bridge hole on a corner. Some offside vegetation was overgrown, and John was taking Annie through a short narrow section when an oncoming boat came on regardless. As the grey haired steerer was heading straight for Annie, John moved to scrape along the side and the two boats JUST missed colliding by inches, as the other steerer turned, too. John commented as we passed “Perhaps you could have waited in that wider part back there, Sir”. He could have said more! He was ready for a glass of red wine once we moored up short of the locks at Hillmorton. Chinese Chicken, peas and new potatoes went down well, as did the big helpings of strawberries and cream – yum!

Saturday August 3 up Hillmorton locks to Braunston and the South Oxford Canal (7 ½ miles, 3 locks)
Liana and Ali operated the locks themselves this fine morning. We met a solitary CRT volunteer at the top lock. John backed Annie to avoid a nice Steve Hudson boat emerging, then entered. Once up, we motored through mainly pleasant countryside to Braunston, apart from the big building programme where the Hillmorton masts used to be. John had his third near miss in three days when a lady driving a hire boat came round the corner, panicked and went into reverse, which resulted in her boat slowing but carrying on remorselessly, straight towards the middle of Annie! John revved up and turned Annie quickly around the other boat, just avoiding getting T Boned! He did comment “Normally it's the lady who dances around the gentleman!” with a smile, as we parted.
John visited the Midland Chandlers, we moored near bridge 99 after the Old Turn and had lunch. John typed up this blog, before we set off towards Napton. Finding a pleasant country mooring after bridge 99, we used chains on the armco and got the chairs out. Liana played her computer game, Ali read and John had a beer and admired the view of the wheatfield.

Sunday August 4 from bridge 99 past Wigrams Turn and up the Napton Flight to Marston Doles and on past bridge 129 Wormleighton (12 miles, 9 locks)
The night had been stormy, with thunder, lightning and rain. It was a lovely morning, and John set off at 8am the 5 ½ miles to Napton Locks, passing loads of moored boats. We saw a magnificent dairy herd of what looked like dark oak brown water buffalo, with big horns like an Irish harp. We must look up the breed, which was unfamiliar to John. This section of canal is like the centre bar in a capital letter “H”, being used by both the Oxford canal and Grand Union Canal, so is very busy. We saw lots of hire boats. Annie passed through the tightish Shuckburgh turns uneventfully. At Napton we chatted with various folk including hire boaters who were son and grandchildren of the owner of Napton narrowboats, grabbing a free holiday from grandad! John helped two CRT men reach a dead sheep in one pound, by using the propeller to push the sheep towards the towpath. It worked! Reaching the top, we watched a helicopter taking off from behind the buildings there – obviously high flying business executives. We stopped half a mile beyond for lunch, at a favourite mooring spot. John likes the twisty summit level, which has nine miles on one page of Pearson's guide, instead of the customary four! Sadly, the scenery after bridge 126 has been blighted by HS2, as the train tracks should cross the canal near bridge 128, ruining the isolated peace here. We moored just after bridge 129, with a lovely view across the shallow valley North of the canal in the evening sun. We played our nightly games of Settlers of Catan, followed by an episode of Downton in WW1, rather sad. John has started reading Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve, suggested by daughter Sarah – a weird tale of cities which move across a post-apocalyptic world on caterpillar tracks, but interesting – thank you! Liverpool lost to Man City on penalties after a quality match for the Community Shield :(

Monday August 5 Along the South Oxford Canal through Wormleighton to Claydon Locks and Cropredy (8 miles, 8 locks, Engine hours EH 3874)
With Ali watching at the tight corners and bridgeholes, we enjoyed the unspoilt rural countryside for over six miles, until we reached Claydon. The sunny start to the day slowly clouded over as the day progressed, but it was a lovely trip today. At Fenny Compton we stopped for water behind a boat moored on the water point, so John had to bang in a pin to moor the boat stern. Although it was approaching 10am, the chap came up grumbling about us waking him! He answered John when he asked if there was an Elsan point, but proceeded to grumble and use F words near the girls, as he moved his boat with bad grace. Liana did a “speak to the hand!” gesture, which quietened him.
We passed into Oxfordshire from Warwickshire at the first Oxford Canal lift bridge we met. At Claydon top lock, the old Oxford Canal Co warehouse was being converted tastefully to a cottage. We joined a small queue,chatted to fellow boaters and the time passed pleasantly down the five locks, which are close together in a “thick”. We passed a workboat between locks 2 and 3, and an oncoming boater between locks 4 and 5. John made tea for us to drink in the mile before our last locks. We passed slowly down the last three locks, behind two other boats. One oncoming steerer advised us where there was still free mooring space, before and opposite the new marina, just after these locks and before the village. This we found to be true.
Having found a reasonable rough bank mooring, we used four paired mooring pins to secure front and back (bow and stern to matelots), plus two single pins to secure spring ropes. Hopefully these should help stop the main mooring pins coming out as boats pass.
Walking the short distance to Ali's car, parked by bridge 150 at the bottom of the locks, we checked out the Brasenose Arms in Cropredy. The Sausage and Mash, Gammon steak and Chicken Diane were ok, and the beer was fine. The local convenience store nearby had wine at £10 a bottle, rather than about £6, and bottles of Hobgoblin for £2.99, rather than £1.25 …. was the owner's name Turpin? We gave it a miss. I am sure they will sell out this weekend, anyway.
In the evening we played Settlers of Catan for the last time: Liana 5 games, Ali 3, John only 2 :(

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