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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 53 – North Stratford

Posted by indigodream on 20 September, 2016

Rewind to 23rd August

Lapworth Top to Sheepcote Bridge, Birmingham

Lovely reflections..

Lovely reflections..

We set off at 9am – just as well – it was further into the centre of Birmingham than we remembered!

Today was the first scorchingly hot day of our holiday – it was therefore nice to have a lock-free day, though there were a few lift-bridges

At first we were behind a very slow hire boat, who courteously pulled up to let us pass – after that we didn’t see anyone going into Birmingham, though these was another stampede of boats going towards Lapworth. We hastened through King’s Norton – it has an unsavoury reputation, yet it was quiet and green when we passed through. We noticed that several hire boats had moored at Norton Junction – again, by repute it’s definitely not the place to stay the night and we hope that they were just stopping for lunch.

We enjoyed our trip into Birmingham – it’s a cruise which is replete with memories but the canal and its surroundings are being intensively developed, so we couldn’t just dwell on memory lane – there are plenty of new things to be seen🙂

As we approached Gas Street Basin we decided to moor up at the waterpoints opposite the Mailbox. This proved to be an adventure as the wind tunnel created by the tall building around Paddington Basin are mere summer zephyrs compared to this stretch! We tried every trick known to boaters but she kept being blown off the moorings – I could either get the bow or the stern in, but not both. It was an epic struggle and it must have taken a good 20 minutes to moor up. We’d stopped there rather than Cambrian Wharf because the water pressure at Cambrian Wharf is so low. The pressure is much better here, but the time we saved at the tap we probably lost in the mooring!

This development has aged well - it still looks grand..

This development has aged well – it still looks grand..

With the water tank full, we set off towards Birmingham’s magnificent town centre and its multitude of moorings. As we were planning to head off along the mainline in the morning, we headed for the moorings around Sheepcote Bridge. It was early afternoon when we arrived, and there were plenty of spaces, though they filled up later. We took a place on the left hand side (looking towards Wolverhampton) nearest to the footbridge (by the end of the Oozells Street Loop). The mooring post by the footbridge stated that the moorings were 14 day; but later, when the hounds and I had a bimble down to Sheepcote Street Bridge, the post at the far end stated that they are 48 hour. It was academic this time, as we were only staying for a night, but it would be interesting to know for the future.

Once we’d moored up, Richard caught a cab back to his car while the dogs and I wandered over to the rubbish point on Cambrian Wharf. It was really very hot, so I dunked them under the tap at the waterpoint – they were extremely unimpressed!

The hounds and I got back to the boat and enjoyed a couple of hours watching the world go by – there was plenty to see – narrowboats to-ing and fro-ing, party boats boogeying, trip boats informing, people passing on the towpath,  people on the footbridge looking down and admiring Archie hound snoozing on deck – it was buzzing! Then we had a delightful visitor – Paul Balmer of Waterways Routes popped by – his boat is moored in the Oozell’s Street Loop nearby and he’d spotted us on his way back from the shops. It was great to see him – he’s such a canal enthusiast and always full of interesting tales of his extensive travels round the network.

Cafe culture...

Cafe culture…

Richard had a slow journey back, but the car was now ensonced in Paradise Circus car park as it would be needed in the morning.

Memory Lane exerted itself in the evening when we took Henry and Archie to the Handmade Burger Company restaurant canalside at Brindley Place. We found a nice table outside and got the hounds settled on their sheepies. As always, they were impeccable behaved, thought they didn’t attract as much fuss as they usually do – I don’t think they minded too much We then ordered two meals for ourselves, and, as we did for Blue and Lou all those years ago, ordered the hounds a children’s meal. Bargain! The children’s meals were free with our order. Maybe it was inevitable that the food was not as good as we remembered, though Henry and Archie didn’t complain! The canalside ambience was as good as ever, so we had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

We got back to the boat relatively early, and despite the extensive foot traffic earlier, the towpath adjacent to the boat was quiet overnight…


Just chillin'...

Just chillin’…


The lck-free pound gave Richard an opportunity to get the hoover out, so Archie ended up with the luxury beds on the back deck - sweet!

The lock-free pound gave Richard an opportunity to get the hoover out, so Archie ended up with the luxury beds on the back deck – sweet!


The stretch through King's Norton looks so civilised...

The stretch through King’s Norton looks so civilised…


The Brandwood Tunnel...

The Brandwood Tunnel…


Birmingham approaches - we have a feelign that a lot fo these buildings were just being built the last time we were here...

Birmingham approaches – we have a feeling that a lot of these buildings were just being built the last time we were here…


More Birmingham approach views..

More Birmingham approach views..


The tower cranes suggest a city that is working hard to improve itself...

The tower cranes suggest a city that is working hard to improve itself…


Gas Street Basin - the iconic mix of ancient and modern is emblematic of the whole BCN...

Gas Street Basin – the iconic mix of ancient and modern is emblematic of the whole BCN…


This iconic mix of ancient and modern is emblematic of the whole BCN...

This iconic mix of ancient and modern is emblematic of the whole BCN…


Brindley Place...

Brindley Place…


Old Turn...

Old Turn…


Great city centre mooring...

Great city centre mooring…

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 52 – Stratford Canal

Posted by indigodream on 19 September, 2016

Rewind to Monday 22nd August

Tom o’ the wood to Lapworth Top

A change of canal....

A change of canal….

Having had an early finish and a lot of sleep yesterday, we woke up early and refreshed for a day full of locking and logistics!

I was relieved to find that my ankle had subsided overnight so my first job was to take the dogs for a walk along the towpath. I was surprised to find that a boater moored a few boat lengths away scowled mightily as I walked past with the hounds (who were behaving), yet he’d been quite genial the day before – not a morning person or did he disapprove of my bright red patchwork trousers?!

It had rained  heavily overnight, so it wasn’t the best time for foraging, but I couldn’t resist a long thicket of plum trees and enlisted Richard’s help to pick another punnet for the Tidy’s.

Unusually for us, we managed to get underway by 8.30am, but although we got to the Lapworth flight by 8.50am, there was a boat coming up from the Stratford end just setting the next lock up from the junction. Our hearts sank a little, but they were really courteous and having spotted that we’d be ready for the next lock before them, they let us go first. We got into a nice rhythm as the super-efficient crew of the boat behind kept pace, with us cracking a paddle for them before setting off to the next lock.

These canal cottages are so picturesque...

These canal cottages are so picturesque…

At first, it looked as if we’d have the flight largely to ourselves, but that was an illusion! A few locks up, there was a positive stampede of boats coming down – most were genial and at most locks we managed to cross in the longer pounds.

There was a CRT volunteer lockie walking up and down the lock flight, trying to organise the flow, as some of the pounds are really short and awkward to cross. He was doing a great job until he encountered a hotel boat, who insisted on coming down a lock, forcing a crossing with us in a short pound. It wasn’t a big deal, but the skipper had left a child on the helm and the boat really needed a more experienced (or taller, at least) hand in such close quarters. The skipper was scowling and giving the CRT volunteer some stick, in the end I had to point out to him that he needed to move his boat forward or there wouldn’t be room for me to get past – he scowled some more. I was surprised, it can’t be very pleasant to be on a hotel holiday with such a miserable crew😦

The Lapworth is lovely - always one of our favourites..

The Lapworth is lovely – always one of our favourites..

It was a tiny incident and not enough to disturb a lovely day’s locking – Lapworth is one of our favourites and the hounds enjoyed the freedom of hopping on and off for some light rummaging, though it was obvious that they were tired so they spent more time snoozing than looking!

We got to Lapworth Top Lock and moored up opposite nb Nanshe, who has kept an eye on Indigo Dream when we’ve left her there before. Richard got his bike out with the intention of cycling back to Lapworth train station, where he’d catch a train back to Leamington Spa to pick up the car. Things didn’t go quite to plan – his train was showing on the station board, then, when it was due, it vanished from the noticeboard and the train didn’t show either – no explanation was given! Rather than wait an hour for the next train, he decided to cycle all the way back to Leamington Spa – it’s downhill, but the towpath is pretty lumpy bumpy and it’s quite a distance, so that’s a good workout!

How about some lock-wheeling? A little rummage? No thanks, they said...

How about some lock-wheeling? A little rummaging? No thanks, they said…

In the meantime, I dragged the weary hounds out for a foraging trip – firstly up to the first lift bridge, then down the flight to see if we could catch nb Willy No Name and give them a hand up the flight. We got a few punnets of blackberries, though I was gutted that a laden victoria plum tree growing by the side of the towpath had a heavy infestation of maggots so the fruit that looked so tempting was rotten inside.

It took a while for Richard to come back with the car, especially as he’d done a bit of foraging himself – at Patisserie Valerie – and had some luscious cakes to take for our afternoon tea with Helen and Andy (aka Captain Ahab and Belle). We left the hounds behind and drove up to their house with gifts of cake and fruit. It was so lovely to see them – we talked jam and boating and chemotherapy – we could have talked all night but Helen tires quickly so we only stayed an hour. Just as well, if we’d stayed longer our shed/kitchen envy might have spoiled the conversation. As professional jammers, they have a wondrous new kitchen and Richard tells me that Andy’s shed is a sight to behold!

On the way to Walsall, we’d spotted the Miller and Carter steakhouse not far from the boat – sadly the service was a bit lacklustre, the seats were uncomfortable and the steaks were ok but not good enough to overcome the poor service, which is a shame. Nonetheless, the portions were generous so there were enough steak trimmings to guarantee our forgiveness when we got back to the hounds🙂

It's a lot of locks - to think that we usually do Cape, Hatton and Lapworth in a single day!

It’s a lot of locks – to think that we usually do Cape, Hatton and Lapworth in a single day!





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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 51 – Grand Union

Posted by indigodream on 16 September, 2016

Rewind to Sunday 21st August

Leamington Spa – Tom o’ the Wood

Plenty of room to move on a broad canal - we split up to let the widebean through the middle...

Plenty of room to move on a broad canal – we split up to let the widebeam through the middle…

We got up quite early by our standards because we had a potentially huge day of locking ahead.

But first we had a job to do – I’d spotted a damson tree just down the towpath from our mooring so we went foraging. We had plans to visit Andy and Helen Tidy while we were in the Midlands, and it didn’t seem right not to take a contribution to their jamming! We collected a tiny punnet of ripe damsons – just a token gift but it was obvious that we were reaching the end of the plum season, even up here.

On the way back to the boat, I turned my ankle ever so slightly on a loose stone on the towpath – ouch! I thought nothing of it then, I’d walked the pain off in a few strides, but it was a stupid thing that was to have an impact on our cruising later….

Then we come together for the lock entry - I really enjoyed cruising with Jean and David..

Then we come together for the lock entry – I really enjoyed cruising with Jean and David..

We had a relaxing cruise through Warwick and were soon at the Cape Locks, followed shortly after by the mighty Hatton flight. We didn’t have a fast trip up the flights – there was a slow boat in front of us. But once again we were blessed by excellent company in the form of David and Jean in nb Willy No Name. They were confident on the helm, and we soon fell into a rhythm of leaving the locks via one gate and coming together in tandem to enter the next. As David wryly observed, both boats were going in for blacking soon, so a few bumps would be of no consequence! Though it really wasn’t an issue, both boats handled beautifully and although we’ve never wanted bow thrusters, when we saw how neatly nb Willy No Name manoeuvred, we started to see the benefit! However, we’re not planning a retrofit.🙂

The weather was much better today, and by the time we neared the top of the Hatton flight there were lots of walkers and gongoozlers around.We’d really enjoyed David and Jean’s company, so at the top lock, Richard hopped off and bought us all huge ice creams from the canalside cafe – they were lush!

Nb Willy No Name moored up at the top of the flight and we carried on – it’s quite a long lock-free pound so I went in to make lunch while Richard helmed us through the rather soggy Shrewley tunnel, which surprised us, I don’t recall it being particularly drippy on previous visits.

Classic view from the Hatton flight...

Classic view from the Hatton flight…

Although it hadn’t given me any bother all day, when I got up after squatting down to get things from the fridge for lunch, my twisted ankle suddenly became very painful and I started hobbling like an old woman and the offending joint puffed up alarmingly – meh!

We stopped at the waterpoint at Tom o’ the Wood, where we recalled there was good water pressure. It didn’t take too long to fill the tank and it was still only mid-afternoon when we coiled the hose and contemplated completing the Lapworth flight.

But I called it a day – my ankle had become ridiculously painful, despite being well medicated from the contents of the on-board pharmacy. We moved off the waterpoint onto the 48 hour mooring rings about boat length away. By the time we moored up I’d had enough – I pulled the bed down and had a long nap; actually, we all had a long nap – the boys were tired too!

We woke up feeling refreshed and my ankle was much less painful, so we planned a trip to the pub for supper; but before hobbling back there I gave them a ring to check that they were doing food. I’m glad I did, they stop serving food really early on a Sunday so we stayed in with a simple meal and our stock of DVDs.

When we’d moored up earlier, I was exhausted and out of sorts so I didn’t notice the noise of the M40 – but later on I became really aware of it – sandwiched between the Grand Union and Stratford canals it really exerts it’s aural presence, though the canal feels blissfully disconnected from the real world…

These wooden boats look so sad - big restoration project if they're to be saved...

These wooden boats look so sad – big restoration project if they’re to be saved…




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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 50 – Grand Union

Posted by indigodream on 14 September, 2016

Rewind to Saturday 20th August

Napton to Leamington Spa

Archie inspecting his little cousins' boat :-)

Archie inspecting his little cousins’ boat🙂

We had thought about travelling to the boat on Friday night, but hey, we now had 10 days of uninterrupted boating ahead of us so why start it in a traffic jam!

We had a good trip up to the boat on Saturday morning, loaded with our clothes for a week, various oddments for the boat, and our cruising companions Archie and Henry – always good company on holiday🙂

We arrived at the boat mid-morning and were soon off, having left the car in a little layby above bridge 109. We were anxious to get going as the weather forecast was pretty dire for the afternoon.

We were moored very close to Napton Junction, so we were soon on the Grand Union, watching the wind whip up little whitecaps on the canal – now that’s a rare sight! There were a few boats on the move and we were joined by nb Clarence at the top of the Calcutt flight. They were truly excellent locking companions – efficient and entertaining. We flew down the flight, despite there being some epic winds blowing a mixed bag of showers ahead of them. It was a waterproofs on, waterproofs off sort of day, with the weather deftly changing its face to suit the opposite to what we were dressed for.

The canals are so colourful, in every sense of the word...

The canals are so colourful, in every sense of the word…

We weren’t sure how far we’d get, but nb Clarence were such excellent locking partners we soon found ourselves flying down Stockton as well in 40 minutes! They stopped off at the Blue Lias for a drink – we were sorry to lose their company but we wanted to carry on – not only did we have a cruising target for our holiday, we were also enjoying the freedom of one of our favourite waterways.

The hounds enjoyed their first day of cruising and, as always, failed to pace themselves – there was Olympic looking to be done, as well as lots of lock-side rummaging.

We were soon at Radford Semele lock, which marked the start of the long lock-free pound to Warwick. Richard cycled back for the car and I carried on to “The Moorings” pub. There was a mooring directly outside the pub – very convenient, especially as Leamington Spa’s big stores are a five minute drive away.

We haven’t been to The Moorings pub for years – back then it was a carvery type place and did not allow dogs inside. Now it’s a lovely dog-friendly gastropub – the food was fab and the service friendly and efficient. The hounds enjoyed a lot of fuss, but they were tired and a little bit skittish so they were glad to go back to the boat and to bed.

Tandem manoevres on the Stockton flight - super-efficient and surprisingly manageabe considering how windy it was....

Tandem manoeuvres on the Stockton flight – super-efficient and surprisingly manageable considering how windy it was….

But it wasn’t bedtime for me – although I was in a pub, it’s quite rare for me to actually drink (though I can enjoy a cold cider after a long day’s cruising!), so I was up for taking the car round the corner to Morrison’s and getting our supplies in for the week. I got to the store within a whisker of closing time, but it was blissfully empty of people so I whizzed round in no time and was soon back at the boat. The pub, which is also a hotel, had a generous car park so we left the car there overnight with the intention of moving it to the train station car park the following morning.

The mooring was rather noisy until about 11.30am – partly from the cars crossing the road bridge, which is almost directly above the moorings, and from the really annoying musak from the pub. It didn’t bother the boys, they were fast asleep, having had a busy day’s locking🙂



Tired already, and the holiday has barely started :-)

Tired already, and the holiday has barely started🙂

Olym[pic looking - the team is looking a bit grey around the gills now - I tell Archie that he's ageing beautifully, like Pierce Brosnan :-D

Olympic looking – the team is looking a bit grey around the gills now – I tell Archie that he’s ageing beautifully, like Pierce Brosnan😀

Very leaky gates at the Basctoe staircase...

Very leaky gates at the Bascote staircase…

An abundance of apples at Bascote - but I'm noot equipped for making jam on board...

An abundance of apples at Bascote – but I’m not equipped for making jam on board…

Leaving the Basctoe staircase - I like this flight - wehave mny happy memories here...

Leaving the Bascote staircase – I like this flight – we have many happy memories here…

This sign on Welsh Road lock cottage tickled me :-)

This sign on Welsh Road lock cottage tickled me🙂

Welsh Road lock cottage - who says the Grand Union isn't pretty? :-)

Welsh Road lock cottage – who says the Grand Union isn’t pretty?🙂

Archie's middle-aged now but he's still got it!

Archie’s middle-aged now but he’s still got it!

The camera has always loed Henry Beanz...

The camera has always loved Henry Beanz…

Lcok-wheeling - no wonder the boys slept so soundly....

Lock-wheeling – no wonder the boys slept so soundly….

Not sure what this event above Radford Semele lock was, but it certanly looked like fun..

Not sure what this event above Radford Semele lock was, but it certainly looked like fun..

Pub hounds - they always behave impeccably - even more so when they're exhausted!

Pub hounds – they always behave impeccably – even more so when they’re exhausted!




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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 49 – Oxford Canal

Posted by indigodream on 13 September, 2016

Rewind to Monday 15th August

Fenny Compton to Napton

Such a lovely day...

Such a lovely day…

We had decided to cruise a long weekend to give ourselves a more comfortable chance of getting to our target destination, the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union, by August Bank Holiday. We had to get down the Napton flight, and were anticipating queues, so we got up reasonably early. We had moored close to the bridge, and had notice the passage of several boats very early on. When I took Herbie for his morning walk, I noticed that the back pin had almost been dragged out of the soft ground; on the way back from our walk, I saw the front pin come loose; then, as I was waving at Richard to grab the centre rope, the back pin popped out, setting Indigo Dream adrift. It wasn’t a problem, we were more or less ready to cast off anyway and I mused ruefully that either Indigo Dream was straining to get away from the Oxford Canal, which hasn’t suited her at all; or maybe it was the Oxford Canal ejecting us for not being appreciative enough of its merits🙂

Richard did a car shuffle to Wigrams Turn while I cruised the boat along the long and winding lock free pound to Napton top lock. Luckily there were very few boats coming towards me as I negotiated the contorted convolutions of the summit. However, there was a slow boat in front of me, heading for Napton, and I was aware of the vast bulk of a traditional carrying boat behind me. I had thought it was nb Chertsey, but I later found out that it was nb Renfrew.

"Is my team ploughing?" asked the ghost in Houseman's poem - you could almost see them here...

“Is my team ploughing?” asked the ghost in Houseman’s poem – you could almost see them here…

Coming round one hairpin bend, I suddenly saw that the boat in front had pulled over to the towpath on the left; I thought he might have pulled over to let an oncoming boat through, if that were the case then there would be no room if I stayed on the right so I pulled in behind him too. As it turns out, there was no-one coming – he’d pulled in to let his wife off with the dogs for a walk. He courteously invited me to overtake, but as I maneuvered to get past him, nb Renfrew hove into view behind me and had to hit reverse quickly, as I had done only minutes earlier – you couldn’t make it up!

I had a smooth journey after that, apart from a slight delay from a narrowboat who had lost a flowerpot overboard and had essentially blocked the canal while they tried to search for it with a boat hook. They weren’t so courteous and forced me, then Renfrew, to wait while they had a last prod after their pot before finally decided to move on!

A little further on, I saw a woman and two dogs standing rather irritably on the towpath; I guessed it was the lady of the boat that had let me past earlier. I hastened to reassure here that her boat was fine and that her husband had kindly let me and Renfrew past and that he would be along very soon. She didn’t seem impressed by her spouse’s generosity – oops!

It was a wonderfully sunny day, so I was wearing my rather eccentric, but efficient, sun hat. As one boat passed, the skipper shouted “you’ve been to Zimbabwe”. He was absolutely right, we went there on honeymoon! I asked him how he knew – he said he recognised my hat, he’s got a Zimbabwean sun hat too – he’s the first to have ever recognised its origin🙂

Interesting mooring - that boat is sitting in a hollow basin just big enough for one....

Interesting mooring – that boat is sitting in a hollow basin just big enough for one….

Despite these little interludes, it was another slow journey, but the canal demands your time and attention here. The summit of the Oxford Canal is achingly beautiful, with a rural landscape worthy of A E Houseman. It felt as if I’d been transported to some pre-war idyll before the world had discovered the horrors of industrialised combat. As the fecund fields rolled by, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if the Shropshire Lad had materialised here in Oxfordshire for a spot of ploughing with his faithful team of shire horses.

I was in whimsical mood when I spotted Richard waiting for me near bridge 127 or thereabouts – he’d cycled up the hill from Napton, having successfully dropped the car off near bridge 109. He reported a mighty queue at Napton top. When we eventually arrived there, there were at least 10 boats in front of us waiting to lock down. There were soon 10 boats behind us too, though it was a sociable queue and we had the chance to talk to the crew of Renfrew, who were delightful. Richard had also spotted nb Zavala ahead of us – they had been part of the Medway convoy so I walked up to have a chat. I felt a bit better when they said they’d been yelled at by that boater in Cropredy too! I mused that maybe Indigo Dream and Zavala simply hadn’t adapted quickly enough from the vast width of the estuary to this narrow and bucolic waterway.

Whirlwind! The photo doesn't do it justice - it was an amazing sight...

Whirlwind! The photo doesn’t do it justice – it was an amazing sight…

The queue gave us time to have lunch and to witness a phenomenon. It was a very hot day, and all of a sudden a breeze turned into a whirlwind which carried straw from an adjacent field hundreds of feet into the air – as the whirlwind moved across the canal great clumps of straw fell onto the boats before being carried along to the next field. It was an amazing sight, and one which I haven’t seen since 1996, when I saw a similar whirlwind not so far away from here.

We were next in the queue at Napton top when we had a strange encounter – the lady from a boat coming up the flight was being exceptionally officious as she tried ordering the waiting queue around and transmitted her instructions to her husband on the helm. Her idea was that her husband would come up the flight, wind at the top lock then go back down the flight immediately. She wanted us to moor back from the lock landings so that he would have more room to turn and was aggrieved when we had to shuffle forward to make room for the boat coming up in front of here to moor on the 48 hour moorings just behind the lock landings. The queue wasn’t impressed with her apparent attempt to jump the queue down; or her elaborate explanations for why we’d need to wait while they offloaded crew on the offside etc etc. In the end, they decided not to wind, much to my relief, and went to cause bother at the back of the queue instead!

Out of Africa...

Out of Africa…

I was quite relieved when we started down the flight – we’d been waiting for some time, but once we got going, we flew down. But we did find time to say hello to a little lurcher that belonged to a boat coming up the flight.

We got to the bottom of Napton mid afternoon and faced a decision on how far to go. The car was at Bridge 109, but that wouldn’t prevent us from going a little further – maybe making the turn onto the Grand Union and going down Calcutt or even Stockton. In the end, we found a truly lovely mooring spot just before bridge 109 and decided to finish early and beat the traffic home.


Richard was very unimpressed with the tow path!

Richard was very unimpressed with the tow path!


The vew towards Napton bottom...

The view towards Napton bottom…


I wanter to capture how a big working boat looms over the lock gates - it was quite a sight...

I wanted to capture how a big working boat looms over the lock gates – it was quite a sight…

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 48 – Oxford Canal

Posted by indigodream on 12 September, 2016

Rewind to Sunday 14th August

Banbury to Fenny Compton

Banbury's busy waterfront...

Banbury’s busy waterfront…

Our guests were due to arrive mid-morning, so we had plenty of time to move to the service point below Banbury Lock to fill with water. Sadly the water point is very slow and while we were filling up, one, then two boats turned up to wait. It took almost 45 minutes to get anywhere near a full tank, but as soon as we had enough we moved back to the towpath side to await our visitors. In the meantime, the service point was a melee as boats shuffled around and brested up to use the services, not helped by the regular flow of boats up and down the lock, often hirers with only a rudimentary grasp of boat handling!

At 11am, we were hailed by Nicci and Paul along with their three lovely greyhounds, blues Harris and Holly and brindle Harvey. Herbie greeted them with aplomb and was soon getting on famously with Harvey – they’re both hounds who appreciate the finer points of memory foam and spent most of the day on the sofa. In the meantime, Harris and Holly were enthusiastic Olympic lookers and took boating in their stride. They were clever enough to work out that the dog-proof deck only works when the boat is above the towpath; in locks, once the top of the deck doors reached the level of the lock, off they jumped! They have very good recall, so it wasn’t a problem and their joyful rummaging reminded us of Blue and Lou, the original Indigo Dreamers.

Harris demonstrating his Olympic looking skills :-)

Harris demonstrating his Olympic looking skills🙂

We really enjoyed the company, but the nearer we got to Cropredy, the more congested the canal became, with busy two-way traffic squeezing its way through a channel narrowed even further by thickly moored boats. There was a grumpy air to proceedings, and I’ve since mused on the difference between moving through a festival in full swing when the beer and cheer is flowing well; and cruising through the morning after!

I’m writing this on the first of September and have been reading the latest copy of Canalboat magazine. I was struck by a letter from a boater complaining about bad manners displayed by some lads on a hire boat. I’m sorry to say that it’s not just hire boats and we had a full dose of unpleasantness below Cropredy Lock. A boat had moored on a legitimate mooring but was protruding over the lock moorings by several feet and had blocked the last lock bollard. The boat in front of us queuing for the lock was a bit precious about moving forward, but I needed to get Indigo Dream tucked to one side as the narrows below the lock meant that it was difficult for boats behind us in the queue to move forward. I tucked the boat’s nose in and, very deliberately, brought the back in to brest up to the moored boat. I’ll admit, the boats touched with a clunk, but as IDs front was stationary (R holding a rope round a bollard) so it wasn’t a violent contact and I thought nothing of it – the boats were touching at the level of their stern mooring dollies. Therefore I wasn’t prepared for the man of the boat coming out and making a huge drama, shouting his complaints at the top of his voice; he subsided briefly, then as the lock opened and I moved forward, careful not to touch his precious boat again, the flow made his rudder bang against his counter, so he stood on his bow some 70 odd feet away and yelled some more. He had things to say about my driving; I saw red and was winding myself up to full voice when I got a grip – no point in two of us being complete gits! We have a photo of the boat and its most unpleasant owner, other boaters commented about him and I’ve wondered about publishing it but, on balance, best to let it go…

Nicci learning to drive - the greyhounds are helping...

Nicci learning to drive – the greyhounds are helping…

After that, I was so glad to get out of Cropredy and move onto slightly saner waters, but it confirmed once and for all that the Oxford Canal is not for us – it felt like a victim of its own popularity and way too busy.

Yet balance was restored when we were hailed by Neil and Kath from nb Herbie, who now moor in the marina above Cropredy. We made some hasty plans for a pint later on. We also had a chat with fellow bloggers Al and Del from nb Derwent 6, reminding us of all the good people on the waterways and the great community which we feel a part of.

Ooh wassat? The towpath was made for rummaging :-)

Ooh wassat? The towpath was made for rummaging🙂

Once we were done with the locks, in a virtuoso bit of timing Neil came to collect Paul and Richard from Bridge 143 to take them back to Banbury for the cars. We were so grateful – Neil’s help saved us over an hour on the car shuffle – that’s an hour of precious pub time! In the meantime, Nicci and I carried on cruising along the increasingly narrow and meandering canal to Fenny Compton, which took a while!

The moorings there were very busy, but we found a slightly naughty spot close to the bridge and went off to the pub with Neil and Kath. We took the greyhounds with us and were soon joined by the lady of a boat that had been locking up just in front of us. Richard had wound her up earlier because he was having a pint with Paul outside the pub in Fenny Compton when they arrived and had told them that Indigo Dream had overtaken them in a stealth manoeuvre which is why he was ahead of them! We were chatting with the crew when she mentioned a friend who had lots of greyhounds and a naughty whippet called Rupert – I suddenly realised that we had friends in common and that the greyhounds she’d mentioned were Indigo Dreamers – small world!

We hadn’t seen Kath and Neil since they crewed on our bumpy ride down to the Medway so we had a lot of reminiscing to do. It was wonderful to spend the evening with old friends and new, the day’s misadventures were soon dimmed, helped by the combined restorative powers of beer and chips!


Herbie (black greyhound) is so relaed with visitors - Harvey, brindle, found it such a yawn...

Herbie (black greyhound) is so relaxed with visitors – Harvey, brindle, found it such a yawn…

Happy hounds :-)

Happy hounds🙂

Nicci and Paul enjoying the day...

Nicci and Paul enjoying the day…

Paul was a natural driver :-)

Paul was a natural driver🙂

Happy Holly - we love having new Indigo Dreamers on board...

Happy Holly – we love having new Indigo Dreamers on board…

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 47 – Oxford Canal

Posted by indigodream on 11 September, 2016

Rewind to Saturday 13th August

Lower Heyford to Banbury

We decided not to bother with the Friday traffic this week and came up on Saturday morning – this made for a more relaxed journey but also a later start to our cruising. But it didn’t matter – our target for the day was Banbury, which would be very convenient for some guests to join us on Sunday.

It was another fine but slow day on the canal, though with shorter queues at the locks than last weekend. Of course, we hadn’t realised that this weekend we’d need to pass through Cropredy and its festival – d’oh. That explains why the canal was so busy and felt a little crowded.

I don’t have any notes from the day – we cruised the afternoon away, enjoying the fact that the swing bridges are locked open, which makes for a picturesque but easy passage along the canal. Once we got past Grants lock, we did the car shuffle – Richard hopped on his bike and drove ahead to Banbury train station in time to catch a train back to Lower Heyford for the car. He arrived at the station in good time and was able to ring back some information about mooring spaces. In the meantime, I mooched along the few miles of lock-free pound into Banbury.

Now, we were not looking forward to mooring at Banbury – the last time we left the boat there some kids from the local trailer park stole two of our mooring ropes to make a swing. They had been very moral about it and only stolen ropes that they had deemed to be “spare” and they didn’t untie the boat! The first space I came to was right by the trailer park, though I was gratified to see that the spot where the kids used to swing from a tree across the towpath and canal was now fenced off. However, it seemed sensible to move forward to the next space which was nestled between two other boats and within sight of the station car park. We were only staying one night and would be on board the whole time, however we did spend some time putting complex knots into our spare ropes so that they would be nearly impossible to remove.

The moorings below the lock at Banbury offer great access to the town centre and to the train station, but they are opposite some small industrial units which do generate some machine noise, but nothing too onerous.

It was quite late by the time Richard reached me with the car, so we decided to head off for the big Tesco store nearby and top up with supplies for Sunday. It was so convenient to park in the station car park by the very edge of the towpath and for Richard to hand the shopping bags down to me. Herbie was delighted to see us – Tesco almost always yields a hot chicken so our welcome was guaranteed!


Oh dear, I’ve managed to confuse myself – I don’t seem to have any photos from today, though there is a possibility that I have muddled them into the previous day’s post!

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 46 – Oxford Canal

Posted by indigodream on 8 September, 2016

Rewind to Sunday 7th August

Kidlington to Lower Heyford

Diamon lock...

Diamon lock…

We weren’t too sure how far we’d get today, but we decided to shuffle the cars to the station at Lower Heyford – if we got as far as Banbury (highly unlikely) then I could always get a train back for a car. However, we barely made it to Lower Heyford as we hadn’t reckoned with the lengthy queues of narrowboats at every lock. Maybe the first queue makes the others inevitable as the pounds are not quite long enough to allow boats to get ahead of each other.

The drive to Lower Heyford was stunningly scenic – it was a beautiful morning and the rolling hills bursting with the season’s harvest were an uplifting sight. We were soon at Lower Heyford train station, which has free parking at weekends – very handy! I left my car there and Richard drove us back to the boat.

The day started fair and we set off from Kidlington in good spirits. We were soon at the first of the diamond-shaped locks that mark the boundary between the canal and the canalised River Cherwell. We were fourth in a queue here – the delay apparently being caused by a debate on how many boats you could fit into the lock. It is a wide lock, but, being diamond-shaped, it is only full length in the centre. Some shorter boats were happy to share, others refused because they were concerned that the sides were too shallow. The boat in front of us was crewed by a real character with a broad estuary accent – she had plenty to say about the boats that were too timid to share!



We bided our time and were soon enjoying the lush river section. But after that we encountered queue after queue – at Bakers Lock lock we waited two hours – the lock landings were short and the towpath too overgrown to offload  crew. We settled down and had lunch, confident that this would be the only substantial wait. But at the next lock, there were 10 boats ahead of us! This time Richard had to get off to help – I brought the front in to drop him off then got ready for an hour of hovering, moving forward, hovering – all in a brisk wind with shallow edges and dodging moored boats! There were boats coming down – one got jammed on the cill on the way out, causing a considerable delay, especially when the day boat waiting to come up thought it might be helpful to move into the lock jaws, right in their way. Richard assessed the situation and got busy with the top paddles and flushed the boat out!

Richard was appalled that hardly anyone from the waiting boats came up to the lock to assist – everyone waited with their boats and just came to the lock when it was their turn. However, everyone seemed grateful for Richard’s assistance. In the meantime, I was grateful for the assistance of a fellow boater ho helped me to pull Indigo Dream in to the bank when a boater coming downstream gunned his engine to get past some shallows on the offiside and pulled my bows right across the canal. I’m used to single-handing the boat while waiting for locks, so having a helper was strange and awkward, so I managed to stumble over my own rope and fall backwards into the brambles – d’oh! Then I was really glad of a my helper’s hand as he pulled me out of the hedge!

Looks even worse from up here!

Looks even worse from up here!

Eventually we got to the lock – by now there was a queue of 10 boats behind me – it promised to be a long afternoon! As I was getting ready to enter the lock, Richard brought me some crew – a grandmother and her adopted grandson, who had been watching the boats and was fascinated by how the lock worked. Richard offered them a trip up the lock so on they came. The grandson is a dog-lover, so the minute he saw Herbie hound he lost all interest in the boat and spent his time cuddling on the sofa🙂

As the afternoon wore on, the queues became less as people moored up for the afternoon, but we’d found the Oxford Canal rather wearing after the peace and solitude of the northern waterways last year.

When we approached Lower Heyford we played our usual mooring roulette – moor by Cleves Bridge 207 before the long line of long-term moorings, or press on to the visitor moorings by the station and risk there not being a space. We compromised – we stopped the boat by Cleves Bridge – it was such a beautiful spot and perfect for Herbie to have a bimble – not that he was particularly interested. I sat and took photos of a little moor hen family and of the views opposite while Richard cycled ahead to check for moorings nearer to the station. In the end we decided to stay where we were.

We packed up, minimising the number of bags that we’d have to carry down the towpath. We took a bag of rubbish with us – we had hoped there would be a rubbish point at the services at Bridge 208. But we couldn’t see any skips, so we took the bag home with us. Alas, we’d missed the skips, which are above the towpath on the footpath at bridge level above the towpath.

We enjoyed the walk past the long-term moorers – they were an affable bunch, though we were sad that the famous Mortimer Bones, with lurcher Boots, were not at home. The steep steps over the railway were a trial for poor Herbie and his bad back, but we were soon in the car and on the way back to Kidlington to pick up Richard’s car. We wended our way home via the M4 – probably for the last time, it would be the M40 from now on.


I’ve not done a good job of logging the exact location of these photos but they are all on the Oxford Canal and quite lovely!

The rolling Oxfordshire countryside - so lovely..

The rolling Oxfordshire countryside – so lovely..


Love this vintage sign.

Love this vintage sign.


Got to love these views...

Got to love these views…


I can understand this canal's popularity -a little too popular for our taste...

(Smerton Deep Lock) I can understand this canal’s popularity -a little too popular for our taste…


Two bridges - so different - they've only just allowed enough headroom for boats under the M40 - imagine lifting that for a narrowboat :-)

Two bridges – so different – they’ve only just allowed enough headroom for boats under the M40 – imagine lifting that for a narrowboat🙂


The next big thing??

The next big thing??


Dog-proof deck - they're much more common now :-)

Dog-proof deck – they’re much more common now🙂





Open view....

Open view….


Closed view...

Closed view…


Family life...

Family life…



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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 45 – River Thames/Oxford Canal

Posted by indigodream on 3 September, 2016

Rewind to Saturday 6th August

Kelmscott to Kidlington

Beautiful morning on the water...

Beautiful morning on the water…

We were up early by Indigo Dream standards because we had decided to do a morning car shuffle. We forced Herbie out of bed and thought he might enjoy a trip out in the car with us, but 50 yards up the lane he dug his heels in and let us know that the only trip he was interested in was the one back to his bed – Herbie is so not a morning hound!

I drove us from Kelmscott to Lechlade to pick up Richard’s car, stopping at Lechlade’s great deli to top up with supplies for lunch; then we both drove our cars to Kidlington. Although we’d initially planned to finish our trip at the Highwayman Hotel, it seemed a bit cheeky to leave our cars there all day, so we moved to the adjacent industrial estate and found some parking there. We met our guests, old friends Neil and Jenny with daughter Hannah and spaniels Max and Hugo there then we all piled into Richard’s car for the return journey to Kelmscott.

With our transport all sorted, we could settle down to a lovely day’s boating. It was warm and dry, and the river was as spectacular as ever. Although the flow never seems to be very brisk, we travelled downstream at a pace and were surprised to find ourselves at Duke’s Cut. The cut itself was woefully overgrown, with some of the resident boaters complaining bitterly about the state of the badly-maintained towpath. We felt a little frisson of gloom – the South Oxford has never been high on our personal canal league table and Duke’s Cut seemed a dreary introduction to the canal itself.

Helming the boat? Playing tiller air guitar? All of the above! :-)

Helming the boat? Playing tiller air guitar? All of the above!🙂

Nonetheless, it was good to be back in narrow locks – always the best place for a narrowboat!

Again, I didn’t take any notes – we passed Maffi’s boat, the Milly M (though we didn’t see the man himself) and as we travelled beyond the confines of Oxford itself, we started to get glimpses of the beautiful scenery that makes the South Oxford so popular. However, the canal seemed very slow after the Thames and it was early evening by the time we found a mooring in Kidlington.

It suited us to go back to Kelmscott on many levels – Neil and Jenny could give us a lift there, we could go to the Plough for supper and we could pick up Richard’s car ready for the following day’s car shuffle.We left Herbie on the boat – he was tired after the day’s cruising and we didn’t think he’d be up for the walk down the lane from the Plough to Richard’s car – as well as being an old boy, he has a sore back and paws.

It was warm enough to sit outside and we had another fine meal in good company before our guests drove back to Surrey and we drove back to the boat where Herbie was happy to greet us, but equally happy to get back to his snoozing🙂


More lovely views - this time above Shifford Lock I think...

More lovely views – this time above Shifford Lock I think…


Herbie crossing the lock at Eynsham - the bridges are wide and stable - not something that can be said for locks on the canals :-)

Herbie crossing the lock at Eynsham – the bridges are wide and stable – not something that can be said for locks on the canals🙂


The road less travelled? Duke's Cut to the left; King's Lock to the right...

The road less traveled? Duke’s Cut to the left; King’s Lock to the right…


Here's she comes - Indigo Dream enters the Oxford Canal :-)

Here’s she comes – Indigo Dream enters the Oxford Canal🙂


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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 44 – River Thames, all 188 miles of it!

Posted by indigodream on 2 September, 2016

Rewind to Friday 5th August

Lechlade to Kelmscott

End of the navigation - and a local witness who can testify that we got there :-)

End of the navigation – and a local witness who can testify that we got there🙂

Although he’s not a demonstrative person, Lucio, our guest last week, really enjoyed his cruise and asked whether he could come again with his family while the boat was near his home town. Well, the real reason for coming again was for Lucio have more cuddles with Herbie, who had charmed him the previous weekend. Of course, we said “yes”, but the complication was that he could only come on the Friday evening. However, we didn’t think that would be a problem – Richard took Herbie to work in Croydon and took the afternoon off so that he could have a late afternoon cruise with Lucio. I was working in Sutton and would be able to set off at 4.30pm to meet them in Kelmscott in plenty of time for supper at the Plough.

Our plans were almost scuppered by the M25 and resultant local congestion – we both had journeys of over three hours, and arrived well after our intended target times. Nonetheless, Richard was able to meet up with our guests and, very importantly, enjoy a trip up to the Inglesham Roundhouse to complete Indigo Dream’s Thames transit. Although we know that some boats have chanced the stretch up to Cricklade and successfully reversed out again, that was an adventure too far for a Friday night. One year we will do it, probably need 2 chainsaws at the front!

It was a stunning evening, what a great day to finish off a journey that had started at Sheerness. We have traveled 188 miles on the river and been though 46 locks, we have seen all sorts of craft from kayaks to 1000 foot long container ships. We have been under Bridge 1 on the Thames, we have cruised past Palaces, been along some truly beautiful sections, such a wonderful journey which we finished off with a lovely dusk cruise downriver to Kelmscott.

We are still many miles from the Thames' source just up there - so tempting just to poke our nose up there - not so keen on getting stuck in the shallows though :-)

We are still many miles from the Thames’ source just up there – so tempting just to poke our nose up there – not so keen on getting stuck in the shallows though🙂

I was feeling a bit fraught by the time I arrived in Kelmscott, just before 8pm – having to drive four times round the village to find a parking space didn’t help – I hadn’t realised that the Plough was such a popular destination on a  dusky summer’s evening! I eventually parked and walked down the lane to the meadows just as Indigo Dream came into view. The moorings were empty once again, so we were able to moor close to the gate. We suddenly had to grab the hounds when one of Lucio’s boys went “OW” – the single strand fence a few metres in from the water’s edge was electrified! Although we speculated on whether the boys were having us on, no-one felt inclined to check their veracity🙂

We were soon back at the pub – it was such a lovely evening that many people had chosen to eat outside, leaving us a fine bench table in the bar where we could settle down with the hounds. It was a great end to the night – good food, drink and company – can’t ask for more!


Lucio taking the helm just below St John's Lock - brve man - there'w work to be done on the hel to get through the meanders downstream...

Lucio taking the helm just below St John’s Lock – brave man – there’s work to be done on the helm to get round the meanders downstream…


So worth the journey - a cruise at dusk has to be the best end to a busy working week :-)

So worth the journey – a cruise at dusk has to be the best end to a busy working week🙂


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