Moore 2 Life:Exploring the waterways
Book:'LIFE WITH A NARROWBOAT' © Chas Moore
Chapter 18 : Moore on Rivers, 2012
We return to the boat, Shropshire Union canal pictures
After birthday celebrations we returned our hire car and got the train back to Stafford. The prearranged taxi was waiting to take us to the boat at Market Drayton. Geoff had kindly got the radiators on so the boat was warming up a bit when we arrived. The fire took a while to get going due to the gusty wind. Geoff and Margaret invited us on board Seyella for a very welcoming bowl of hot home made soup. Then we set about unpacking and taking down the decorations.
Next day we moved back a bit to get the diesel tank filled before chasing after Seyella. Geoff, ever helpful, assisted us down the five locks at Adderley where we stopped at the bottom. The expected storm arrived with gale force winds and rain over night and continued the next day. Our fire was turned off in the middle of the night for fear that it got blown out. The only problem with our oil burning fire is that the oil continues to drip in even when the fire is out! It was so windy that our satellite dish moved a bit and the terrestrial aerial actually got blown off the roof!
More help from Geoff got us all down to Audlem where Rock n Roll had arrived a few days earlier. Once settled it was not long before we all met in the Shroppie Fly for an evening meal. Water was taken on to fill the tank before moving on down a few more locks, this time with George's help. Geoff and Margaret had moved on the previous day. We all met again at the Pilate moorings. Our thanks to the Shropshire Union Canal Society for providing so many moorings with picnic tables and mooring rings. Another boat called Armadillo, travelling the same way, has stopped here as well. Graham and Jill are currently suffering from winter colds so we wish them both a speedy recovery. "Don't get too drunk on the medication you too!"
Head for Wales, Llangollen canal pictures
We all moved on to Nantwich, parked the boat near that aqueduct and did some shopping. It is a long walk to the shops at the other end of town. Sunny days and cold nights are normal now. The gang got together and decided to head for Wales. "Well, why not, it is open and less likely to get icy due to the flow of water from the river Dee." We all moved on picking up water and diesel on the way. Great to be all together helping each other up the Hurleston locks. Now we are on what was called the Ellesmere Canal when it was first built. A few days later we arrived at Wrenbury where there are two lift bridges. We had passed up through the three locks at Baddiley. Rock n Roll was the first through and had to break the ice inside the lock. The water constantly flows past the lock in the by weirs. There is some work going on at the second lift bridge so we will have to arrange a time to go through. Mean while we go for a walk and wait for post.
We all rushed about to get all three boats through when the bridge was raised for us at Wrenbury. It was a fine day when we moved so we pushed on up the staircase locks ay Grindley Brook. The expected wind arrived and we were being swayed by it. The trees on the windward side offered some shelter and we had made sure that items on the roof were as secure as they could be. The storm lasted at least three days.
Then it was the weekend and time for a special Sunday Roast. All six of us, and three dogs on board M2L. All members of the group provided contributions of food n drink. Four of us sat at the table and two had lap trays. It was an enjoyable time eating together after that storm. Then they all went for a walk and left me to do the washing up! It was then a short hop to Whitchurch but a long walk to the shops.
There are no less than four lift bridges on our journey towards Ellesmere. Ann and Carol plus their two dogs walked ahead to lift the first two. Carol did the next at Tilstock then Geoff lifted the one at Morris. We all stopped near the Prees branch for one night feeling cut off with the lack of phone and Internet signals. In the afternoon we walked down the two-mile branch to find the marina occupying an old clay pit.
After some early rain we set off next day against a biting cold wind and managed to get to Cole Mere. We warmed up with some soup and sandwiches and set off to walk round the mere in sunshine. We returned after about an hour to set up the satellite dish, finding a gap in the trees. It is a quiet spot and one of our favorites along this canal.
Sadly no time to hang about as our food stock is low and we needed to get on to Ellesmere for the shops. But first we stopped at the facilities for water and disposal of the unwanted. As we reversed off to head down the arm, Seyella arrived at the water point. After finding a space to more, Rock n Roll arrived followed by Seyella. So by lunchtime we were all back together and visiting the new Tesco here.
George just cannot help him self, he lit the Bar Be Q! The last time we saw that happen there was snow on the ground at Gaily. This time it was only three degrees centigrade outside and near those locks at Marton. An American supper with cooked food contributions from each boat. We were not silly, we all sat inside Seyella and consumed it all sitting at table and in chairs by the roaring fire. So cosy and warm inside the side doors were opened for a while!
Moving across to Wales
We are perhaps fortunate to be on the Llangollen canal. Many reports from other canals mention ice! Geoff heard that there was ice on the Montgomery so it was just as well we did not go that way. We all stopped at Chirk Bank on the English side of the aqueduct. Later in the afternoon we walked across to enjoy the view as the sun dropped to the horizon. The surrounding countryside has changed. Now the canal hugs the steep hills twisting and turning above the valley before jumping across to the other side and into Wales.
We had filled the diesel tank at Burland for £1 a litre and that was just over two weeks ago! "Guess we must be a bit less than half full by now." We had passed one hire boat company but they do not sell the stuff to passing boaters. Luckily for us Chirk Marina would fill our tank if we can get in about midday. They were breaking up the ice in the morning. We got in OK and they charged us 95p/l. The EU still insists on two rates of tax on our fuel. There is one rate for moving the boat and one for domestic use.
Geoff got to Trevor first. He reported that there was a space but only along side Seyella and it was icy! Geoff and Margaret were waiting and escorted us across the grand Ponty. "It is an amazing and quite scary thing to cross over the valley so high up." There is only a thin metal wall on one side and a walkway on the other. We squeezed passed all the hire boats and under a very low bridge to get to the visitor moorings. Rock n Roll is waiting for visitors before coming over.
Wherever we are we have to make the best of it. Gremlins can attack at any time! Ann's camera suddenly complained about its memory being full! Geoff managed to reformat the memory after getting the days pictures off. Then we could not get a signal from the Sky. The terrestrial signal provided a list of channels but no pictures! Geoff to the rescue again! He lent us his spare Digi box so we then got pictures. Time to think about getting a new digital TV.
When the canal arrived at Trevor across that wonderful World Heritage Site the company that built it ran out of money. The intention was to continue north to Chester for a supply of water from the river Dee. At Trevor the canal is 126 feet above that same river. Luckily the river is level with the canal six miles west just past Llangollen. So the company built a feeder that just happened to be wide and deep enough for narrowboats!
Often the ends of canals are very unattractive like the one at Oxford but this one is well worth going to the end. The final miles are a bit slow going due to the narrowness and the flow from the Dee. Views of the mountains and across the Vale are worth seeing. Our trip in February was grey and misty. At this time of year the marina was empty and the winter moorings by the facilities were full. The town below the canal provided us with all the essentials.
Horseshoe falls is a further mile and a half west of Llangollen and is where the canal gets its water. The path is much improved all the way from Trevor and makes for easy walking.
All three boats stopped below the locks at Marton and stayed a couple of nights. An increase in the number of moving boats is quite noticeable as the children are on a short holiday. Geoff took us all for a walk in the country. Both he and Ann had magic maps to guide the way. There are usually posts with arrows to show the way and styles to climb over. However, when we got to a farmhouse there were none. We wandered about knowing where the canal was but fences and locked gates prevented us getting to it. Eventually we just got under a fence and jumped a ditch. "It was quite an adventure, getting back just before sunset at five pm."
The convoy has now split up. Rock n Roll are going down the Montgomery, Seyella stopped at Frankton while we continued on to Ellesmere to collect post. Next day Seyella continued to Ellesmere for post as well!
Ellesmere, Prees and Whitchurch
We got the post and sorted out the paperwork. Then took advantage of the shops to stock up. Sunshine encourages us all out for walks to the mere. We were to move off on Saturday but it turned cold and windy and snowed over night. That evening we had a mix of fish n chips and a Chinese takeaway on board Seyella. After we cleared the snow on Sunday we set off to the Prees branch for diesel and gas. The visitor moorings are after the second lift bridge so we stopped there.
The Sky signal was difficult to find due to the high hedge so up went the digi aerial for a clear picture using Geoff's box again. The digital freeview signals seem far better these days. The old analoque signal was never good at the best of times, which is why we got the Skybox. It is time now to consider an up grade to a wide screen digital TV.
We went into Whixhall Marina for our gas and diesel. Good value at £22 for the gas and 87p/l on offer at the zero rate for the diesel. We all then walked down the unnavigable section of the branch. Another half mile to Waterloo Bridge is in water but full of reed and now a nature reserve. The original line of the canal beyond the bridge is dry.
Another days cruising got us to Whitchurch. Here the arm is now open for visitors and that is where we found Balmaha. We chose to lift the bridge and stop just beyond it on visitor moorings. Our first evening together was on Seyella where Geoff the Chef made pancakes for us all on Shrove Tuesday. Actually Margaret had made the mixture earlier in the day. After shopping the next day we had tea n cake on board Balmaha. Mo and Ness moved on next day.
We seem to hurtle on to the end of the Llangollen Canal with help from George and Geoff lifting the paddles at each lock. The water flow from the Dee is also pushing us on through the bridge holes! We managed to stop for supplies at Wrenbury after Ann lifted that bridge for us all. (Just stop the traffic and press the button).
The plan is to do the Weaver as we are up north so we head for Anderton. Turn left at Hurleston then right at Barbridge. On a mission then, doing ten lock miles a day setting off at about ten in the morning. "Not too hard really." We stopped just past the new Aqueduct marina and enjoyed some afternoon sunshine.
We have all really enjoyed being on the Llangollen this winter. It has been quiet and ice free with some spectacular views in Wales. The company has been good as well and we may get up this way next winter. The Shropshire Union Canal Society are doing a good job looking after the canal east west between Ellesmere and Middlewich, and north south between Birmingham and Chester. They even provide picnic tables at the visitor moorings.
Salty towns, Middlewich canal pictures
The Romans were here first, found the salt and realized its value. "Are you worth your salt or salary? Middlewich and Northwich is where we are. The salt is under the ground and gets pumped out as brine. The entire area is sinking as the salt is removed. The canal is getting deeper as the sides are built up to prevent the water escaping. The bridges have flat tops and have to be rebuilt every now and then to allow boats to pass under. We have moved on to Anderton.
Salt is Sodium Chloride. Made from two elements Sodium and Chlorine both of which are toxic! Chlorine is Bleach. Mix Sodium with Fluoride and you get toothpaste! Sodium, Hydrogen and Carbon make Baking powder. Sodium and fat make soap! "So now you see its value!"
Come on down it is free! River Weaver pictures
Our first visit to Anderton was in July 2002 on our way back from discovering the Leeds and Liverpool canal. At that time the lift had only just been restored to working condition and we took a ride on the trip boat. That cost £3.50 then and taking our boat would have cost £30. Now it is free. The lift has two caissons full of water that can take two narrowboats each. They go up and down fifty feet independently using hydraulics, taking boats up and down between the Trent n Mersey and the River Weaver. The river is navigable from Winsford at the southern end to Runcorn in the north, a total of twenty miles and four locks.
Geoff and Margaret went down first in Seyella with another boat. Then it was our turn going in the right hand channel with Rock n Roll in the left channel. Geoff was already at the bottom and was waiting for us.
Now we can discover the Weaver. The river is very calm and peaceful once we get past the salt processing factory. Geoff had kindly arranged all the bookings for the lift and locks for our trip to Winsford and back. So now our convoy is racing along the river and passing Northwich.
British Waterways operators were opening the first huge lock. The lift was push button operated but winding huge handles opened the locks. So it was just as well they were being done for us. The locks are wide enough for all three boats to go in side by side. No need for ropes as the lock gently filled up. The next lock at Vale Royal is a further two miles up river and by the time we got there they were being opened. The visitor moorings were less than a mile further on where it was easy to get off and tie up to rings. This northern river is quite unlike that southern river Thames. This one has a good towpath and moorings are free.
South to Winsford
Next day we set off for Winsford passing the Salt Union mines where rock salt is bought to the surface. Mountains of it stored along the riverbank. The river gets quite narrow as we enter the flash at Winsford. This is where the salt mines have collapsed and created shallow ponds. All three boats turned here managing to avoid getting stuck. Our trip back was uneventful with all three boats cruising down the river in sunshine. The locks were once again being operated for us. We all managed to moor safely at the Northwich town moorings. We tie to an odd bit of chain left by a previous age and climb over the barrier between road and river.
North to Runcorn
The other two locks this way are three miles apart. We all set off one by one to get water and use the town facilities. Then it was full steam ahead to get to Saltersford lock passing the Anderton lift on the way. This lock and the next are much bigger than the previous two. We have to tie up alongside Seyella while Geoff throws ropes up to the lock keeper. George and Carol do the same for Rock n Roll. Once through the locks we all went at full speed on our journey north.
Soon the river heads off to join the Manchester Ship Canal while we continue on the Weston Canal. Industry now takes over from the open countryside. We pass the Western Marsh Lock to turn at the end of navigation and return to that lock. Here we can stop, get off and admire the view. Looking across the waters we see the Weaver on the left where it joins the Ship Canal and in the distance the river Mersey. All the waters heading round Runcorn to the right for Liverpool and beyond. On our return we head for a green field mooring five miles distant where we stayed for the night.
Geoff booked passage back through the locks at eleven am and noon so we set off first to get water. The others arrive just as Dutton lock is opening for us all. Must have done an average of three miles an hour between the locks but the wide deep river allows a higher speed. Going up the locks proved to be more difficult with the water pushing the boats away from the side as we went up. Once through the locks we head for visitor moorings at Weaversham for the weekend.
Up to the Trent n Mersey and beyond
We moved to Anderton on Sunday morning while down on the Weaver. The gang came on board Moore 2 Life for a late lunch. We cooked a chicken, and an apple crumble pudding. Our thanks to Carol for the wonderful vegetable dishes, gravy and death by chocolate pudding she made. What a wonderful gathering of friends soon to face separation. But first our thanks to Geoff for arranging the Weaver trip for us all and to celebrate Geoff and Margaret's anniversary.
On Monday we all moved on to the holding mooring and waited for our lift back up to the canal. Despite being out of season there were another two boats waiting to come down. We have all enjoyed our week down on the Weaver having discovered the river from one end to the other. Another time we will explore with more time to do it perhaps. Now we plan our journey down south and leave our friends behind having enjoyed the winter months with them all. It is now a bit strange stopping for the night without the convoy. No choice but to have a cup of tea on our own boat after the days run.
Our electrical system alarm sounded off the other evening suggesting low battery voltage after a run. "Logically this could not be true so what caused the problem?" Voltage levels were ok at first but suddenly dropped when a load came on. After some consideration I switched the master battery switch off and on. Problem solved, a dirty contact.
After shopping at Middlewich and stopping the night on the Shropshire Union branch we moved on all the way to Hurleston during a cold foggy day.
Moving south, Shropshire Union canal pictures
We got a Gold License this year at great expense so we could go on the River Thames and Wey. The lack of rain over winter is causing restrictions to navigation to save water use. These may affect our plans. Our route south will be on the Oxford canal and some reports indicate problems at the summit past Napton. I think locks will be open for limited times.
The canal system has its own reservoirs but they are all nearly empty now. It may seem strange that a hosepipe ban can save on water use. We can understand it because our tank takes less than half an hour to fill and can last us over a week! There is something to be said for travelling with friends who care and help each other. Now we are on our own other boaters seem distant. A boater left his boat at a water point to go shopping. Not a word to us when he saw that we were waiting to fill our tank!
We are making good progress heading south on the Shroppie with plenty of water north of Market Drayton. It was a bright sunny Saturday that we climbed up the Audlem flight of locks. Unfortunately we had lost contact with no mobile signals. Pointing our TV aerial south got a good signal from Birmingham so we just relaxed watching a program about the restoration of a working boat called Dover now being kept at Braunston. After some rain we were obliged to move further up the Adderley flight and on towards Market Drayton on Sunday.
When we got to Market Drayton we discovered that Les and Jaq on Valerie were not far away. After shopping we moved on to meet them both. An evening on board Moore 2 Life followed and we played an enjoyable game of cards. Next day after visiting the market Valerie continued north while we went south to Knighton. The canal cutting through Woodseaves is strewn with fresh rock falls and shallow. We scraped over some rocks under the surface! BW is actively trying to cut back trees and vegetation through this cutting. Two sunny days later we had got to Gnosall!
The times they are a changing
We have been in the habit of waking at 6:30 because it is so light. On that Sunday half an hour later the 8 o'clock news was on the radio! It is sunny again just like yesterday when I sat outside for a while. It got quite exciting seeing some rain at Malaysia while those cars chased each other round the track. I wonder how excited we would get if it rained here.
BW is asking boaters to save water by sharing locks and shutting gates and paddles. "Some hope." They won't stop bad behavior without lock keepers being on hand to control the situation. Sadly it will be too late when there is no water left! We have found that it is no good getting upset trying to educate the holidaymakers. Seems that we will just have to think ahead about where we go this summer. Keep stocked up incase we get stuck somewhere.
Bits n pieces
We took the bus to Stafford to collect the train tickets. It was wonderful to walk through the park from the station to the shops. The gardens were so colourful. Meanwhile I am staying put near Wheaton Aston while Ann is away visiting the grand children. By the way the price of diesel was 78.9p/l and my tank soaked up 146 liters.
The local pond has almost dried up here in the field where I go walkabout with Molly. Seems that the rivers are getting low as well. Thankfully, at the moment, the Shropshire Union canal is full. Where ever you are make sure that the lock below you is shut with all the paddles closed.
I keep notes in my diary when it rains. On average it has rained on two or three days each month since 2010. So perhaps we are just using more water now to account for the shortage? During that brief hot spell in March the temperature in the front cratch went from freezing to boiling in one day! A huge range that made the boat groan and creek as it cooled down in the evening.
Don't panic for fuel over Easter holy days. Celebrate the new life that spring brings us with an egg for breakfast. I have been walking round a field with Molly getting her to run after sticks. I think about what my web site should look like. Then I have to learn how to tell the computer how to display what I want. The idea came in a flash but changing the code will take a while. "Is it a sort of translation of intelligence?" After it had rained on another day I was out again when some bloke told me to get off the field. The field is for livestock and I should have Molly on a lead and keep to the path.
It was wet and very windy on Wednesday so we did not go out till late afternoon. Needless to say we walked to the next bridge along the towpath. No cyclists, fishermen or farmers to spoil the walk. The boat is hanging on to the ropes sheltered partly by a tall hedge. I had to wash the side after the storm because it was covered in green stuff off the hedge. The trees were loosing twigs and branches. Some trees elsewhere were being blown across the canal.
The Holy Day approaches and the queue at the lock grow to two or three. All unknown to me and no friendly faces! Such a shame that the weather changed so they all have to wrap up to explore the waterways. The latest news is that the waterways have nearly been privatised. They are to be cared for by the Canal and River Trust with charitable status. So lets all look forward to seeing green shoots of prosperity after we have celebrated Easter.
We have moved on
Ann came back to me on the boat. I planned to provide the dinner after we both went shopping for supplies. On the way back we spotted our friends on Day Dreamer from Market Drayton. They were getting their diesel tank filled and on their way back home. Continuing back to our boat we passed Jandai. Sorry we did not make contact but time was against us and we were hungry. It is one of those times when things do not work out.
In the morning we cut off all the roots and moved the boat backwards through the lock to get water. Then it was full steam ahead to move down the Shroppie, turn left at the end and finally stop after five hours. It was while we were on our way when we got a message from Vanessa back at Wheaton Aston wondering where we were! "Just bad timing again!"
Our first journey together again was mainly in sunshine and ended at Moat House Bridge on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal. The clouds had gathered, the air turned cold and it had started to rain. We stayed there a day while it continued to rain all day. Time to catch up with news from home, deal with a mountain of post and place an order with Tesco.
We continued to Gailey next day to receive our supplies. The location triggered memories of our long stay here when we had been stuck in ice with Rock n Roll and Seyella. These were the same two boats with Carol, George, Margaret and Geoff who we had spent the winter with. Next move was to Penkridge where we celebrated Ann's birthday. Breakfast in bed while opening all those cards. Then it was off to The Boat for lunch.
It all happens at Great Haywood
We moved on all the way to Tixall Wide in sunshine then it rained! We found a space amongst the boats and stayed the night while the wind blew. We had appointments with the Hygienist and Dentist so went in to find a mooring. My Doctor wants me to get a blood test but the surgery here won't do it without a request from him. So I make plans to go home.
A large Union flag was flying above a boat called Plum. Dave and his wife sell and fit Solar panels from the boat. They provide a range of regulators and make and fit their own mounting kits. We were impressed with a demonstration on Plum. Our two existing panels are just about working but really need replacing after six years of use. I have convinced myself that they are good for the batteries when the sun shines. The new panels are more efficient and cheaper these days and can supply more than just a trickle charge. Unfortunately it has rained most days so the framework cannot yet be screwed and glued to the roof.
It was while we were getting water and diesel when Ann fell in the canal! She had the rope in hand and wrapped round a bollard when it slipped off. The boat was still moving and pulled her in. I ran to the front to help her out but could not do it. We both shouted for help. Two men came from somewhere to pull her out and secured the boat as it was drifting away in the breeze! Ann got on the boat, handed me the wet phone and went in for a hot shower. I put the kettle on for a warming cup of tea. I quickly took the phone apart to dry off. Back off, battery and sim card out and all available apertures open. The camera lens on the phone was misty so not much hope for survival after being soaked.
One of the men was from the boat yard and proceeded to fill our diesel tank at 89p/l and we moved out to Tixall Wide. Ann has recovered well after that hot shower and a full set of dry clothes but has a few bruises. She rinsed out her mouth before drinking the tea. We will be going into Stafford to sort the phone out and for me to catch the train on Monday.
On a mission
I got back to Ann, Molly and the boat at the end of April. On my journey back by train I saw that the river Cherwell was in flood all over the fields. Once back at Great Haywood we saw that the river Trent was also well up and flowing fast. So nature balances out to provide our average water supply. As a Nation we do not seem to save enough of it when it comes in a rush. On the boat we have to carry all our drinking water in a tank usually at the front. Another tank near the back contains water heated by the engine, which provides almost instant hot water at the tap.
We had previously arranged to get to Braunston for boat blacking in plenty of time. But because I was obliged to take a week off it is now just doable with some long trips. George and Carol on Rock n Roll has joined us and also needed to get a move on. The first moving day was wet but we achieved twice our average distance by getting to Fradley. We all dried out and had dinner at the Mucky Duck.
George and Carol have planned to get down on the river Nene but now it is closed to navigation due to flood conditions. With no need to rush about they have decided not to continue their journey south. There are many reports on the boater's blogs about the difficult conditions on the rivers at this time. The Environment Agency is advising boaters to stay put for at least a week. We left Rock n Roll behind to continue our journey south. After two long days we have got to Atherstone.
It is almost unbelievable that we have moved over eighty lock miles in five days passing many of our usual stops. After Fradley our stops were at Alvercote, Atherstone, Hawkesbury, Hillmorton and Willoughby. As you can imagine we are wacked and resting a while. The weather was variable but we pushed on regardless. Ann took the helm for a while most days.
The flight of locks at Atherstone were climbed in the dry with only the last three locks being taken by no less than three boats coming down. Taking a lock is when it is set in our favour and a boater sets it in his favour. The lock is filled or emptied with no boat in it. "Send the lock takers back to Coventry!" A local lock keeper is no longer in attendance to control the use of those locks.
As we approached the locks at Hillmorton a boat came out and promptly turned round in front of us. The temporary lock keeper just let the boater go back up! There are twin locks here but one is shut to save water. One of the middle pounds was very low because apparently a boater had left a paddle up! There was no keeper at the top lock to control boats going down and boats were still passing through after hours.
Getting a blacking, Grand Union canal pictures
We finally got to Braunston after a Tesco delivery at Willoughby. Quite a bit of room for more boats and we found a space near Butchers Bridge. Several boats are going up and down the locks. Next day we moved on to Braunston Boats at the bottom lock and waited. A boat is still on the slipway but is not yet ready to go back in the water. Recent rain delayed progress with the painting. We have made preparations by putting loose and breakable items safely on the floor. While we wait, Mike Allen came to check our boat over for its third Boat Safety Examination. After many visual checks and a thorough test of the gas system we were given a pass.
The boat got pulled out a day later than planned and was immediately pressure washed in the morning. A very thorough clean which took at least an hour. Justin recommended that we have it painted with International Intertuf that is compatible but a bit thicker than the standard bitumen blacking. Thankfully the sun came out to dry the boat off so painting started in the afternoon. I looked at the colour bands at the back and realized they needed a make over. Encouraged by sunshine I donned my work clothes, gathered tools and set about scraping loose paint and rust off. Then it rained. "Don't know if I am happy or sad now!" The sun came out the next day so I managed to get the first coat of colour paint on. The next day after a light rubbing down the second coat went on. "Now I am happy." Justin applied the second coat of blacking.
Over the weekend while the boat stayed out of the water we sampled the local public houses. Much has changed over the years and the Mill House became the Boathouse under new management. While The Old Plough kept its name it had recently changed hands. We had often enjoyed the family atmosphere at the Plough but found the Mill House too crowded then. We went to the Boathouse on Saturday with our friends Terry and Myra and really enjoyed a good variety of food with the offer of two meals for one! In reality we ended up paying a normal amount for each meal! On our way out we had a chat with Bob and Jane who were also eating there. I have to say that when we went to the Plough on Sunday we were disappointed with the food and the place has become quite run down. We sat out side with our friends Dave and Lyn with Molly under the table among the long grass.
Back in the water
It was after the weekend that the boat got pushed back down the slope. It is on top of two four wheeled trollies one at each end that run on rails. Once on the move the boat entered the water stern first, going in quite deep till buoyancy lifted it off. Then we got on, started the engine and moved away to a mooring. We stayed a while in Braunston waiting for post and doing some shopping.
The number 10 Stagecoach takes us to Daventry every hour but it does not follow the old Geoff Amos route. When returning to Braunston get off at the Marina or the Church because it goes on to Barby heading for Rugby. It does not pass by the Boathouse!
While we stayed in Braunston I monitored the output from that solar panel fitted by Solarafloat. Over a period of four days not moving the average output was just over four amps. The maximum in sunshine was 8.7 amps. During those four days we had one sunny day. We did not run the engine on that sunny day. For the other three cloudy days the engine was run for just over an hour. It is certainly capable of keeping the fridge and radio going most of the day. The only problem is the lack of hot water when not running the engine!
Napton locks, Oxford canal pictures
Next stop for us is near the bottom lock at Napton. During the afternoon we walked up the hill past a few locks. One top gate had been left open and because the bottom gate was leaking the pound level was very low. When we shut the gate the lock emptied quickly! The shop near the bottom lock is worth a look. They sell canal ware, provisions, books, cards, stamps, and sausages from the local butcher and even Calor Gas! Apparently the Folly Inn does food now and is so good you may need to book a table.
As we approached the bottom lock a volunteer was opening it. So I just carried on in after Ann had jumped off. The volunteer told me that the pumps were already pushing water back up to the top. He also mentioned that he read my blog. There was a boat going up in front and several behind us heading up. Just as many were coming down making for an easy trip with locks being ready for us to enter. The restrictions are less severe now with only the top two locks at Marston Doles being locked at night.
"When you get to the top you see a TV transmitter mast in the distance." The canal twists and turns so much that you loose sight of the mast that is near the moorings we are heading for. Although the water level is normal it is still quite shallow and slow going. "Keep to the middle or you may get stuck on the bends." There are some protest signs against the High Speed Rail Link that may pass over the canal near bridge 128. That is near the mast and the moorings.
Oh boy, hot, hot, hot
We moved slowly to Fenny Compton before it got hot. The Wharf Inn has a tap outside so we took on water. Then we noticed a Launderette there. The Inn also has a small shop inside which sells milk, bread and other items useful for boaters and the campsite. Much of our winter kit, clothes and bedding, have now been washed, dried and packed away. "We do of course have our own washing machine but the big commercial unit took it all in one go for £6."
The five locks at Claydon are open between ten and five each day. We got there to join a queue of two boats going down. Several were on the way up, which made for another easy trip. There are a further three to get down to Cropredy but with no other boats it took longer. Four hours travelling is enough for us so we settled for the first set of visitor moorings. "Not ideal with a soft edge and rocks below!" BW issued a Customer Service Standards document a few years back but as yet has not been able to achieve it. Perhaps C and R T will refer to it for guidance. It is unreasonable to assign a visitor mooring where a boat cannot stop without problems.
After relaxing over a late lunch we were able to move on to better mooring when a few boats had moved away. We walked down to the local Spar shop for provisions. We are sad to report that the Post Office at Cropredy has closed. The next is at Banbury.
While at Banbury
Got water at Cropredy, moved on to Banbury and got diesel then stopped in the middle of town. After a snack lunch we set off to the shops. Our to do list included eye and ear tests, getting finance advice and a visit to the chiropractor. Spec Savers did the eyes and ears for nothing, a good service there then. "Just need reading glasses now for the computer." The bank offered a current account with interest and other cash back offers. Keep an eye on your investments because after about a year they may not be paying as much interest as you started with! ISA's are all very well so long as they remain better than other accounts. Then on to the Chiro who checked us both, causing our joints to click as they were realigned. Ann had got a bit out of shape when falling in the water.
The day got hot again and we almost wilted when we got back to the boat. The public seems to lack respect here and one boater had his generator going all-day and evening! By 8.30 pm we had had enough and moved on down the lock to get away. Our intended mooring was full so we stopped short just before bridge 168 near Morrisons. Industry both sides and trees for shade are preferable to noisy generators. But now the birds in the tree above us are leaving their marks on the boat!
Now that we are this far south we tried to get a signal from the south. BBC Oxford was found but several channels were missing! The trees prevent our use of the sky that at least has all the channels when you get a signal. Now that we have moved away from Banbury we get all the channels from Oxford!
Other things missing are several pictures on our website. There are hundreds of them and I have found many typing errors in the code! The problem only shows up when going on line, which is how you do it after all. When I test the html pages locally on the computer all is fine! Seems that upper / lower case file names are the problem. Thanks to Sue on No Problem who warned me about that problem some time ago. Just need the time to sort it!
What a Wonderful Weekend
It was the Queen's Golden Jubilee event. The whole nation is cheered up with jubilation and celebration. We remembered the Silver when our road was decorated. Tables and chairs came out and we got to know our neighbours. What a marvelous sight it was to see all the boats on the Thames. Apparently it rained on the Coronation day but that was soon forgotten. So many people turned out to celebrate despite the weather and they put their heart and souls into their performances. That alone will be remembered. Are we, as a nation, so in love with our Queen because she is? We have such distrust of changing politics that we look to the Queen for stability.
Back in Banbury with diesel bug
About a week ago the engine was difficult to start, ran lumpy and smoked. We moved up the lock after getting water and found a space near Tooley's. They were not open till noon when we asked for an engineer. He came late in the afternoon and checked the heater plugs that were not faulty. We will have to wait till Monday before he could check out the diesel supply.
So we find ourselves in a situation we do not like, a loss of freedom. Need to chill out in Banbury. We went for a walk round the park where there are signs of activity. A fair was arriving, as it is to be the Banbury Show on Sunday. Crowds of people turned up to walk round. At least it was a warm sunny day for the summer event. We had a look and saw that the arena was setup for a dog show to happen soon. After walking round the stalls we were told that the next event was not the dogs. Then it got cloudy and cold so we decided to leave. On the way out we saw Del and Al on Derwent 6 and had a quick chat before returning to the boat.
John the engineer arrived late in the morning. The water trap was full of water and brown gunge. The diesel filter was also contaminated. It is the dreaded diesel bug. The system was last checked back in October and was OK then. Our last top up was at Sovereign in Banbury a week ago. Anti bug treatment has been put in the tank and now we wait 72 hours for that to kill the bugs. The Fuel Set that we use regularly does not kill the bugs. Now that we cannot use the engine we have been offered a landline for power. Later we will get the tank cleaned out and the diesel polished.
Diesel bug Treatment
Ian and Alison are here have had their motor Truro and butty Draco blacked in the Historic Tooley's Boat Yard. Ian and a friend kindly pulled our boat all the way back to the yard so we could have a landline. Our engine and heater cannot be used but thankfully the diesel fire can. We need it to keep warm while it is so cool outside still. With the mains electric and our immersion heater we do have hot water. Being stuck across the entrance of the dry dock and under that walkway to the museum is a bit depressing and the TV is only just getting BBC from Oxford! 72 hours is a long time to endure the lack of freedom but at least the town and park gets us out.
I suppose there is no doubt where the bug and water came from and I have told the supplier where I last got diesel. Any user of diesel, red or white, is going to suffer from water and bug contamination. The problem has got worse since the introduction of bio and low sulfur diesel fuel. The Canal Boat magazine for June just happens to have a report by River Canal Rescue on the diesel bug that is worth a read.
We are lucky to be in Banbury where Tooley's Boat Yard offers a tank cleaning service. The owner has produced a system of pump and filters that can clean out diesel tanks. The kit has two large filters with water traps and a pre filter which catches the large bits that come out of the tank. He has also advised me that our use of Fuel Set is not so effective since the introduction of bio fuels. Better to use Marine 16 Diesel fuel maintenance that contains MAR 71. It cleans all marine diesel and stops Diesel Bug.
The first thing done was to stir up the diesel in the tank using a copper pipe blowing air into the diesel while moving the pipe all over the bottom of the tank for about five minutes. Then two pipes, one metal that picks up from the bottom, the other plastic that returns the cleaned fuel. The metal pipe had a site glass so you can see what is coming out. During the first five to ten minutes a lot of black flaky stuff came out together with the diesel and water. The pumping was stopped and the dirty diesel drained out of the water traps. The process continued for an hour as water was drained off several times. The diesel with water in it is a murky brown colour. Unfortunately the engine was still unhappy by running lumpy and smoking, even with the cleaned fuel so the injectors have now been removed.
Thanks to all who helped
Del and Al walked up a mile or so, George and Carol arrived on Rock n Roll and so did Geoff and Margaret on Seyella. The engineer had also arrived with refurbished injectors. Soon the engine started and purred like a happy kitten. The cloud above my head evaporated. Del noticed that no smoke issued from the exhaust and tick over was smooth. Many thanks to John the engineer at Tooley's who was also pleased that the pump had not suffered. "I can tell you that I was also much relieved."
Carol invited us all for a celebration on Rock n Roll. No less than four sets of Bloggers on board. Then we all helped each other getting under the lift bridge and down the lock. A sunny late afternoon activity when suddenly several boats were on the move up and down.
We have been away
An invitation to a family gathering that cannot be missed. There were several anniversaries and birthdays to celebrate at a community hall to accommodate every body. It was an opportunity to meet all of them in one place. We went by car to take some items away from the boat that were no longer needed or had been replaced. We had printed our own tickets to get back by train. Enterprise let us leave the car down south. "Oh how they all rush about!" The time spent with the family was almost like a holiday when we did completely different things. The train taking us back to Banbury was packed and there is never enough space for all that luggage! Even the disabled space was filled and was cleared when the inspector came, only to be filled again at the next station! So many people standing that the refreshment trolley could not get through. Moving people about during the Olympics is going to be difficult.
We are getting back to a boating routine by moving, yes moving, up to turn round and returning through Banbury. While getting gas at Sovereign I mentioned our diesel problems with water and the bug. They asked if we had let our tank get too low. "No, I got 80 litres here last time". They also recommend using Marine 16 to kill the bug and have it for sale. We carried on down to the Tramway moorings where Tesco delivered goodies next day. We had run our stocks down before leaving so there was a lot to put away this time. We moved on down the cut stopping first by that farm and then on past Aynho. Enjoying a sunny day before the forecasted deluge. Setting up the TV to watch the tennis in the afternoons.
Moving on down the Oxford canal
We got down Somerton deep lock and stopped by a large field. It is a good place to see Barn Owls in the evening. We watched two of them, as they were looking for rodents in the tall grass. The sporting events had us watching the Grand Prix at Silverstone in which Webber came first and Lewis eighth. Right after that there was the Tennis at Wimbledon. Our first British player, Murray, has been in the final for several years, but sadly he lost to Federa. We were lucky to see the whole match because a rainstorm took away the satellite signal. The alternative terrestrial digital signal was quickly found and we saw the finish.
The next day Dusty the supply boat stopped to fill our diesel tank before we moved on. At least it was dry but the towpath was in a sorry state. Being muddy and overgrown. Many bridges are so low that we have now lowered our Bimini. Below Allen's lock the river Cherwell is higher than the canal as it is well in flood. We stopped above Dashwood lock for the afternoon hoping to find some walks, but the fields were full of cows.
We moved on again after breakfast next day to Kirtlington Quarry. Here we found Ian and Allison with their motor and butty together with Sonya on Zodiac. We then walked up to the village to discover that we were just a day late to see the Olympic Torch pass through.
The rivers are up again
The Cherwell follows the canal down all the way from Cropredy. It crosses the canal at Aynho and joins it for a mile near Gibraltar. We wait at Baker's lock because it is up in the red, an indicator warning not to proceed, but despite that some boaters went on down on the river. Another boat joined us at the mooring and waited while it rained. We are feeling a bit apprehensive about getting down on the rivers during this wet weather. Several of our friends have got up to Letchlade and are slowly making their way back with orange boards and stream increasing or decreasing flow rates.
Next day we walked down the river Cherwell and back noting that at the top end it was still in the red but at the lower end it was just in the orange. Several boats were on the move including Derwent 6 coming up. After a quick hello we went on down, going with the flow and sliding round the bends. Back on the canal we stopped at Thrupp. It had been a lovely sunny day for the trip. The Thames is in the red again and we wonder if we will ever get on it.
While we wait at Thrupp, Annie's Tea Room offers breakfast, lunch and afternoon teas. Maffy and Mortimer joined us at our table while we had a late breakfast. Then we set off with the Sat Nav to walk round the fields heading for the church at Kidlington and back. Ended up back at Annie's for tea during a pleasantly sunny day.
Thanks to Carol on Rock n Roll who provided a link to an EA Thames page on the internet which shows the state of the river. It was mostly red boards up indicating that boats should not move due to too much rain. A day of sunshine encouraged us to move on down a few more locks on the Oxford canal. A mooring near Kidlington enabled us to visit the town. It did not take long to find the shops and a Post Office. As we were forced to wait we decided to have our post delivered here.
A few days later a short hop got us to moorings above Kidlington Green lock. There we met up with John and Rosemarie on Devon Maid. It is not often that we meet people who invite us on board. Our dog Molly just jumped on board almost without asking and we enjoyed a cup of tea and a chat with them!
The towpath is slightly better here but is generally over grown and muddy in places. Somebody has taken the trouble to paint some low branches of a tree red so you do not hit them with your head. "Might have been better to have got a saw and cut them off rather than a brush and a pot of paint!"
The post has arrived, the Thames is decreasing and the sun came out to charge our batteries. While we wait the engine runs for an average of an hour and a half a day. With one full day of bright sunshine the engine stays quiet as the batteries actually gained power. We were out shopping when Del and Al went past and told our neighbour John. Other friends on the Thames have moved on down so after the weekend we plan to chase after them.
Moore on a river, River Thames pictures
At last we are on the river Thames with the stream decreasing at least below King's lock. The lock keeper here has to open and shut the gates and sluices by hand. If you do not have a Gold licence he is there to take your money! It has just got too hot now, such a change caused by that jet stream moving north. The water is still moving quite fast as we slip and slide round the bends. We passed quickly by several moorings before stopping past the A34 road bridge.
When it cooled down in the evening we went for a walk along the riverbank to the next lock passing by the abused Godstow Abbey. "I say abused because it had been knocked down by King Henry and someone has left a sleeping bag and rubbish inside the old walls."
Pressing buttons now operates most of the locks. We got up early next day and started operating the lock ourselves before nine am! The lock keeper arrived at nine and helped us through. She gave us a new cruising guide to the Thames. We were the only boat on the move then!
Two or three miles of the wide river follow through the meadows but then it enters a narrow tree lined section where the river increased its flow rate. A bunch of rowing boats suddenly came to view and were in my path. It took some stopping and the boat ended up under a tree that swept our satellite dish off the roof! The flowers and DTV aerial stayed put. The low Osney Bridge was easy after that. When we had got past that horrible Osney weir and lock, several other types of boat followed on our journey to Abingdon. Moorings above the lock became available as we approached so we stopped there to stay as the day got too hot to continue. Once again we walked out in the cool evening.
Cruising down the river
While at Abingdon we walked across the lock and along the riverbank in the shade of the trees. Back at the boat we were entertained by the antics of an incompetent boater trying to maneuver his boat between the water point, weir and lock. It took him several attempts as boats kept getting in his way. Next morning all was clear and we pulled Moore 2 Life on to the water point. When our tank was full the lock keeper arrived to open the lock for us. We had to shoot the rapids to get on our way past the church and beyond. We stopped at midday when reaching Day's Lock and were pleased to find a space before the lock by the field.
All the locks are operated by the Environment Agency. The keepers are there to help and offer advice about navigating the river. When they are not doing that they are cutting the grass and keeping the garden flowers looking colourful. We have passed through Kings, Godstow, Osney, Iffley, Sandford, Abingdon, Culham and Clifton, cruising down twenty miles of the Thames. Day's lock is near Dorchester, a lovely Oxfordshire village with an Abbey Church. It was once the cathedral city of Wessex. In the morning we walked across the fields to get there for supplies.
Geoff rang wondering where we were and suggested a gathering at Beale Park or Reading Park on Friday. So during another hot day we moved on down through Day's, Benson, Cleeve and Goring. A further thirteen miles got us to Beale before it got too hot. The Thames is very wide here and we watched fours and eights rowing up and down the river. Sadly the lake here is almost inaccessible because nature has been allowed to reclaim it! Even the Thames path is overgrown with nettles.
Friday was the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games. At 12 minutes past 8 in the evening (20:12) bells were rung all over the country. We rang Mum's old cowbell. We did another nine lock miles passing Whitchurch and Mapledurham locks. We passed Derwent 6 on the way and found Rock n Roll and Seyela at Reading Park. Del and Al arrived later in the cool afternoon. Then George and Del got out the BBQ kit and we all enjoyed the gathering with donations of food from each boat. The opening ceremony started at nine so we went into our boats to watch the wonderful event.
Moorings, Locks n Towns (1)
We left the Reading mooring heading down to Caversham lock, round the bend past Better Boating and turned onto the Tesco mooring. As usual they were almost full leaving a gap between trees for us. The rough bank is not really suitable for the popular shop mooring. When we had done the shopping two boats arrived wanting our space. "Sorry, not going yet, but you can come along side." We helped them off across our bow. They were not long getting back and Rock n Roll was soon to pass by. Within ten minutes we were all off on our way again. Our boat still full of shopping to put away! Carol had worked out a schedule of locks and moorings to get to for the next few days. The first lock through was Sonning followed by Shiplake. After that moorings were found at Popular Eyot tucked away among the trees. Rock n Roll had a plank out and Moore 2 Life went along side. Chairs and tables put out for tea and cake on the bank.
Next day we set off down stream heading for the next stop. Through Marsh lock and passing Henley keeping left to avoid the rowing boaters. Temple Island reminded us of our first visit here at the IWA boat gathering in 1997. "Must have been strange for Henley to see so many narrowboats lining the bank for a few miles." The next lock was at Hambleden. It is all new ground for us now in discovery mode, going south past Henley. Then several big boats in the next lock at Hurley join us. It starts to rain as we get to Temple lock. The lock keeper asked us to move forward to let other boats in. Almost against the gates! In fact we had to move back to let the gates open. Out we go letting Rock n Roll go first then us following.
Moorings, Locks n Towns (2)
It was at the last lock of the day at Marlow that the incident occurred. We were told to go forward as in the previous lock but the bow was against the corner of the lock, the gates being narrower than the body of the lock. As the lock emptied the bow stopped going down and the boat started to tip over. I quickly started the engine to pull back as Ann was yelling. The lock keeper also reacted quickly to let water back in, stopping the boat going down further. Suddenly the boat leveled off. After a while we recovered from the shock and the lock keeper came over to investigate. Nothing under the boat but probably the boats base plate had dug into the concrete corner. The lock keeper then let us go down slowly as we pushed off from the side. Both boats moved out to the landing and we checked inside. Some crockery had dropped on the floor but not broken and things inside cupboards had tried to escape!
Then we set off for moorings at Bourne End. An excellent spot with rings to tie to, mowed grass and benches provided by the Thameside Preservation Trust for which we paid £5 for one night. After a late lunch we all walked along the Thames path past the boats to get to the shops. That evening George and Ann went off to get Fish and Chips for dinner.
Next day we set off for Maidenhead where we found moorings against a concrete wall. While we had lunch huge boats were passing making us rock with their wake. We all decided not to pay for the mooring here so moved on down river heading for Windsor.
London 2012 Olympics
The river between Bray and Boveney locks is known as Dorney Reach. The Olympic rowing lake is near the river. Police security requires us not to stop between the locks and to keep over to the right. A wide convoy is heading up stream with police, EA, and other launches forcing us over even further. "Oh look, they look like the British Olympic Team." There were TV cameras on board one of the boats. Later that evening we discovered that Helen Glover and Heather Stanning had won GOLD and were seen on the ITV news.
We were all very lucky to find space for both boats on Bath Island at Windsor opposite Eton. It cost £24 for three nights. Several large trip boats are going by making us rock with their wake. Windsor Castle can be seen not far away. We agree to look after each other's dogs while we go out on different days to visit the Castle.
A significant place
We moved on to Runnymede, through Romney and Old Windsor locks. For such a place the National Trust that own the site have not provided good moorings. We squeezed in between the trees with the stern out in the shallows. I had to get the shears out to cut back the undergrowth. So where is this great place of such significance. Cross that busy road and that field. The Magna Carter memorial was built in 1957. It was back in 1215 that King John was obliged to sign the Charter that marked the foundations of civil liberty and has formed constitutions of many countries including the USA. The place in fact is not as significant as the meaning of the words in the Charter. Not far from the memorial is another to John F. Kennedy, president of the USA between 1961 and 1963. We went through the gate and walked in an acre of land given to America by the Queen.
Heading for history
It is hot and sunny now and the Thames is wide and calm. We passed through Stains and Sheperton to stop for water at Chertsey lock. Then we moved on to Weybridge for the night where we found super moorings where the river Wey joins the Thames. Our plan is to go up the Wey later and spend a few weeks travelling its length of eighteen miles. But first we head for Hampton Court six miles further down the Thames. We picked up diesel at Shepperton Marina for 97 pence a litre and saw a Princess boat there for sale. "Our son works for Princess Boats in Southampton and wanted to know if we see any."
Good moorings were found outside Hampton Court gardens. The day had got hot again so we all went for a walk in the cool evening. Much of the land east of the Court is open to the public with its Long Water. The land was forest when King Henry the eighth hunted deer. There are still some deer left but most of the trees have gone. George and Carol kindly looked after our Molly while we went to visit the Court and gardens. Much has changed over the years since I was taken there as a child. The Maze here for me is the real one so we did that first. The gardens that surround the Palace are spectacular and colourful, their layout and design amazing to see from inside and out. The Palace has been restored to display several apartments in historical time for Henry VIII, William III, Mary II and the Georgian period.
A change in direction
We had turned the boat round at Hampton to face up stream. The recommendation to moor facing up stream was obeyed this time but turning mid stream often results in the boat drifting sideways for a while! The river is busy with many large trip boats moving up and down. Strangely it was the smaller boats that rocked our boat with their wash. We stayed several days tied to the rings at the concrete edge.
Heading up stream is different. More power is required to make progress against the flow. We are now required to give way to boats going down stream especially at the arched bridges. The locks are empty so we can go up. Sometimes the lock keeper will come to take your rope and put it round a bollard that is high up and out of sight. "I used a hooked stick to pass the rope up if the keeper could not reach down."
One or two locks are quite large and able to take three narrowboats side by side. It is important to watch the keeper for instructions for it is he who is in charge. Wide barges go in first then us followed by the plastic ones. Between the locks the boats travel at different speeds only to meet up at the next lock.
Now we go this Wey, River Wey pictures
At Weybridge we stayed on moorings not far from the town. We found the shops and stocked up with some provisions. Just across the water a sign points to the Wey and informs us that the river Navigation belongs to the National Trust. Our right to navigate requires payment of £102 for a maximum of twenty-one days. Once paid and through Thames lock, Carol and George led the way through the next three locks. The locks are all wide enough for both boats and operated by our selves. Back to normal for us after nearly a month on the Thames where the keepers did the operation. The Way Navigation is lined with trees that keep us cool on our journey. We now have a special windlass with a long handle and smaller square to fit the sluice gear. We are not required to shut the gates as we leave whichever way we go.
Three hours after setting off from Weybridge we arrived at Pyrford moorings opposite the marina by the Anchor and stayed over the weekend. Brod came up to see us on the Sunday and we had drinks and a meal at the pub. Later a walk up stream setting a target to find the Abbey, but it was so hot we gave up at the pylons. "It was never, it seemed, just round the next bend!"
Next day Tesco delivered goodies to both boats just after nine. Once the stock was sorted we moved up the lock for water. Both boats then continued up some more locks to arrive at Send where wonderful quiet moorings by the high footbridge were found. They are such a contrast from that busy pub. On the way we found that the Abbey was round the next bend by the lock!
Sorting pictures on the Wey
Cannot stop taking pictures while discovering this old Navigation. It stops at Godalming just south of Guildford and was originally created in 1651. The Wey and Aron Canal past Guildford originally went all the way to the south coast but is not navigable now. So later we will be forced to turn and go back to the Thames. The pictures will eventually get uploaded to our website.
Next day we progressed to Guildford and stopped at the meadow south of the town. On the way the river went off at several weirs while the Navigation turned a few sharp corners to rejoin the river a few locks up. It was best to travel slowly in order to get round. Vertical rollers at some corners are useful when towing with a rope.
Visitors first, then to the end
At the mooring by the meadow Rock n Roll were behind us and later Derwent 6 arrived and put their pins in front. Next day all three boats were cleaned for visitors. We spent a few days here watching trip boats; rowing boats and canoes go past the window. Mother duck came with her chicks for breakfast most days. We are only half a days run to the end at Godalming so we had to get there. We are on our own for this trip looking out for the little boats. Got stuck on a sharp bend and waited for a few of those boats to pass. Then at St Catherine's lock the trip boat driver asked to go in first. It was a wide barge full of people who had parked their cars at Guildford. They could not be late getting back and there was no room for us as well. By the time we had got in another boat came to join us.
Only Broadford Bridge could stop us now with just over six feet air clearance. The lengthman advised us to remove most things off the roof to get under it, that we did, just. Two more locks to get through and we reached the end by mid afternoon. There is not a lot of space here. The horse drawn trip boat occupies one space and we got another behind one other boat. There is a patch of grass at our mooring and despite it being close to the road it is at least quiet. Several other boats are on private moorings. While Ann was off shopping I was surprised to see Del at the window. He had come down on his bike to check out the mooring situation. Next day Rock n Roll and Derwent 6 arrived, got water and found some spaces. We are now as far south as we can get on the Inland Waterway system and have been in discovery mode since Henley on Thames. There are still some more visitors to come before we head north.
A new month and more visitors
We got back to Guildford. September arrived and so did the grand children with their dad. They bought their blow up boat and beds. The boat soon got inflated and they were off rowing up river. Many ducks wanted feeding so after a sandwich lunch the crusty bits were thrown to them. Later we all went to The Boatman for dinner.
There are many different types of boat in use here. Kayaks, skiffs, canoes, rowing boats and trip boats to name a few. Many were out and about before breakfast. Chris and the boys set off again in their boat, this time with a black plastic bag. They collected enough plastic bottles and rubbish floating on the river to fill it. The two boys used up some paper making many drawings and cartoons to keep them occupied. The Pink Panther cartoons on DVD also kept them quiet for a while. All too soon they were off the boat and heading for home.
Next day we set off and got water at Dapdune Wharf in Guildford. We passed Rock n Roll after Triggs Lock. A fishing match prevented us mooring at our chosen spot so we continued to Pyrford.
A medical emergency
On the way at Newark lock we were joined by another boat. They set off first and it was just before Pigeon Bridge where we saw a lady on the ground with a man making a phone call. The poor lady could not get up. We both stopped to help. Ann got off with a blanket to keep the patient warm on the ground. While the crew of the other boat stayed to comfort the lady the man went off to guide the paramedics the quarter mile to the scene from Pyrford lock. I was able to ask cyclists to get off and people to put their dogs on leads as they pass. Ann got to help with the gas and air and was massaging the ladies hand. It was thought that the poor lady had dislocated her arm when she tripped and fell. Eventually she was able to get up and they all got a ride on the other boat to the lock where the ambulance was waiting.
We have continued our journey and arrived at Runnymede on the Thames. We were very lucky to get our boat in to a good mooring, our National Trust Season Ticket worth paying for.
Boats, locks, trees and bridges
We have had to leave our friends on Rock n Roll and Derwent 6 behind. Our plan is to get to Banbury so Ann can get home on the train. We did go south to get diesel at Sheperton marina. The weather is brilliant and the Thames calm and quiet. With only two or three boats joining us in locks and so far plenty of room at the moorings. "Space for four, room for two does not seem to apply now." So often the boats were spaced out with gaps at the moorings. In the past the crew on plastic boats were a different breed but now they all wave back as they shoot past.
Between Runnymede and Windsor the aircraft were flying low over our heads almost every five minutes. We could see them in the distance one behind the other. With another runway on the ground the air could get very crowded. While moored at Windsor the trip boats are running to and fro creating waves between the castle and the racecourse. Causing a tsunami to head our way every time to rock our boat. So much so that the water in our tank sloshes about noisily. Sue's blog reminds us the canals are very busy with many boats joining queues at the locks. We continued our journey to Bourne End and then to Henley. Still in glorious sunshine making the views bright and colourful. At Hurley lock we got the water tank filled, while being entertained by a person strumming his guitar in the sunshine. Molly is not so happy because she is missing her walk along a towpath.
Next day we passed slowly through Henley Reach and under the bridge. Boats of all shapes and sizes approached from every direction. There are quite a few islands in the middle of the river and some times we are not sure which side to go. "If there are no arrows perhaps it does not matter." As we approached Sonning Bridge the lock must have let a bunch of boats go. We saw some through the bridge. Two boats with people walking about on the roof being jolly merry. Then a small cruiser followed through as we hovered, the lady warned us about yet another Steamer. We were obliged to give way as we were going up stream but by now were committed to go under the bridge. Thankfully the huge Passenger boat had seen us and waited.
It had been another hot cruising day as we approached Reading. The moorings opposite the marina looked promising but proved to be shallow. Then we were lucky to get a space under the trees just before the Tesco moorings. "Guess what, we decided to go shopping and stay the night as it was nice and cool!"
Moving every day
Yes, including a Sunday, all of September since leaving our friends behind. The Tesco mooring was not a place to stay long. Travelling about three to four hours maximum is as much as we like. The busy Thames gets quite dynamic with boats moving up and down. Guiding our heavy boat into locks with other boats inside is done slowly and with care. Ann usually throws a loop over a bollard at the front or the lock keeper catches it. At the back I sometimes use a hook to get the rope round a bollard that I can see. If not, the lock keeper gets my rope as well. The other boaters seem to manage with their taller boats. Once secure the engine is stopped.
There is more traffic at weekends. We got to Beale Park only to find most spaces taken and had to drift on looking for a suitable edge. Got the front in with the back out, stuck the pins in and had lunch. Tried to get a TV signal with no success. BBC channels were not available here so we reluctantly decided to move on. Two more locks at Goring and Cleeve to pass through.
Between Goring and Cleeve hundreds of canoes were heading towards us and there was nowhere for us to stop. There was the promise of moorings with a £4 charge above Cleeve. As we came out of that lock we saw another busy scene. Sailing boats all over the place racing up and down and still nowhere to stop! Just had to keep moving slowly on the left away from the sailing course. Soft sandy edges made it impossible to moor despite the invitation. Finally there was a hard edge just for us and we put the pins in. Thankfully the TV signal was better here.
We got to Day's lock near Dorchester after a few more locks and long stretches of nothing but wide river and trees. We have seen many Red Kites flying, those with feathers rather than strings! Clouds and dampness now made us realize how lucky we have been during August. Next day the destination was Abingdon. With just us and another small cruiser for company in the locks.
How wonderful it has been to enjoy the Olympic events this year. It is all over now but with the expectation of more support and participation in sport. Murray did well in the USA. The locks at either end of Dorney Lake have had their control boxes painted gold. I had wondered about the proportion of medals won to the size of the teams. According to Boris Johnston, the Mayor of London, we have done better than most.
A look back over the last few months that have been so different compared to our usual travels on canals. We were so grateful to Carol and George for showing us the way down river and enabling us to visit both Hampton Court and Windsor Castle, for they had looked after Molly. We have also enjoyed the company of Del an Al as well on this journey of discovery down the Thames and Wey.
We have seen so many different boats and houses on the Thames and Wey; from Crown property to floating houseboats; from big boats to little boats; from motors to rowers. A few clever boat names were spotted, Nauty Lass and Shelfish Beach to name only two of them.
Oh such haste now to get off the wide river because we are on a mission. In a way we shall miss the river scene but must admit to feeling more comfortable back on the canal system. Back to the narrows and shallows at Oxford.
Stopping for a while, Oxford canal pictures
Our journey back on the southern Oxford Canal has reminded us how bad it has got. There is just too much vegetation that blocks the view ahead. It will take a lot of effort for the Canal & River Trust to CART it all away! They know that the weather conditions have caused rapid growth so why not get on and cut it back. More donations and volunteers are needed please. Most locks at this end of the canal have huge single bottom gates that are heavy to open. Luckily some willing walkers helped Ann open them.
We have arrived at Banbury so that Ann can head of on the train for her medicals and another chance to stay with the grand kids. The fridge is full of ready meals for me. I can do some cooking so have plenty of fresh veg to add. I must not forget to feed Molly and she will be taking me out for walks! TV reception has failed us here since we have lost our sat dish in the Thames. Most boaters here have difficulty because there are so many trees. Our spiky aerial has been pointed in all directions and the TV retuned several times without success. I have plenty to do updating the contents of our web site with the new pictures taken while on the Thames and Wey. I can listen to my music and watch a few DVD's.
Ann is back with me after going south to see the grand children and family. I have cleaned the pad and now look forward to a real roast dinner on Sunday. While at Banbury I got John the engineer to check over our fuel system. He cleaned the water trap, changed the fuel filter, tightened up the greasy gland and changed the alternator belt. The fuel system was clean this time. The old belt had been squeeking a bit despite being tight enough. Must be at least two years ago since we had the 110 Amp alternator fitted and a new belt then.
We have now moved up a few locks to Cropredy with Rock n Roll not far behind. A new marina has just started to be dug out here, to be open early next year. On Sunday the site is open for inspection and we may go to see what it is like. Boater's facilities will be available including diesel. At least private enterprise is still trying to improve our lot on the canals. There is a lot to do to get it open by early next year.
It is such a shame that so much government money (taxes from us) has gone down the weirs into the pockets of "fat cats" in government employ. Now that a charity is in control of the canals they are appealing to the public to help pay for damage caused in the main from lack of maintenance. As boaters I am sure that our costs will rise, hopefully to pay for more maintenance. It is in our own interest that we pay a bit more. Perhaps boaters should pay for damage caused by them. After all we are obliged to have insurance to cover any claim. It is quite noticeable how much damage boaters going too fast have done. The canal banks are falling in and bridges damaged. The Health n Safety brigade will have a fit if they walked the Oxford canal towpath.
Over the top
Rock n Roll met us at Cropredy for tea and a chat. Then they followed us up the Claydon flight of locks. With several boats coming down most locks were ready for us, so we got up quickly. Ann would lift a bottom paddle to prepare the lock for Rock n Roll but George was often there already. At the top we moved on a bit but realised they had stopped for the day. So we said our good byes on the phone.
They were a day early for leaving their boat at Fenny Compton while we needed diesel there. Then we went on to that mast and stopped for the night, lit the fire and set up the TV. Found the signal easily pointing northwest for Birmingham. Thankfully it then rained over night and we were off again in sunshine. Heading down the Napton flight with boats coming up. We passed Nuneaton towing Brighton with a broken rudder! Many boaters were coming up, some more helpful than others. Presumably heading to Banbury for a weekend boat gathering.
We are pushing ourselves on, doing about five hours a day. Trying to meet up with Sue and Vic and to get past some of the stoppages up north. We have reached Braunston, for us, the start and end place of our travels, but it is full of boats and we were lucky to find a mooring for the night.
The two bridges (79,80)
You know, those two north of Braunston on the Oxford. Been left damaged for years but now at last work to mend them has started. Not just Canal & River Trust but also the Waterway Recovery Group is working on them. The foundations have been dug out and filled with concrete. Vegetation has been cut back so you can see round what were blind bends as you approach.
Doing the distance
We did not move on Sunday and enjoyed a roast lunch before joining the Coventry canal. Then we were slightly ahead of schedule having got past the Nuneaton rubbish and down the Atherstone flight on Monday. The lock keepers house is up for sale here and perhaps C&RT should ask any buyer to become a volunteer! At least the locks are easier to operate than those on the Oxford. Down by Watling Street Ann went off to the shop for provisions.
Devon Maid was not far away and John helped us down to Bradley Green. He and Rosemarie first met us before we got on the Thames earlier in the year. While mentioning friends it has surprised us how many we have met on our journey north. Even before we set off Jill and Graham from Armadillo said hello to me at Banbury. While at Cropredy we met Dave and Georgina. When we got to Braunston Dave n Lyn paid a visit. Then at Rugby our friends John n Militza on Mud Skipper were seen. At Ansty there was Reg n Elaine on Relaine. Just past the locks at Glascote there was Knot Normal with Mark and Margaret on board. Mark is a boat fitter who helped us with modifications on Moore To Life, our second boat.
Vegetation over growth is just as bad on the Coventry as it is on the Oxford canal. Our journey through Hopwas was a one-way street what with shallow edges, overhanging trees, bushes at bends, and blind bridges. Going slow was the only option to avoid possible head on collisions. The occasional moored boat forced us to travel on the wrong side with no room to pass.
On to the Trent and Mersey, Trent n Mersey canal pictures
Vegetation on the T and M is just as bad as it is on the Coventry. So it seems to be all over the system. Much of the water narrowed by increasing growth of reed beds as well as the trees and bushes often on both sides. Then Pete and Pat on Molly May II past us, we have known them since the start of our life style choice. We wonder what is going on, why is it that we are seeing so many friends on this trip north? They do not all have access to the Internet and we do not normally ring to see where they are. So we meet by pure chance.
We ended the day short of our planned destination by stopping at Rugeley. The shops are improving since last seen. Peacocks have moved into the space left by Woolworths. Our next stop was at Great Haywood for a few days rest waiting for dental appointments.
Staffordshire and Worcestershire
"Surely one of the longest names for a canal." We got diesel, gas and water at the junction and lost the unwanted. On another sunny day we pushed on to Penkridge. Boys and girls were returning home from school crossing over the lock gate with their bags n bikes. Back at Great Haywood boat yard we were told that they are not permitted to supply diesel at the water point. The hose is a trip hazard across the towpath but only in the summer! What about our water hose then? We enjoyed yet another sunny day after a night of rain progressing to Autherley Junction. What a treat to find that two miles either side of Gailey the canal was deep and clear.
On the way yet another friend of ours past enabled a quick hello and goodbye to Malcolm and Barbara on Pilgrim. Then it was a right turn on to the Shropshire Union. The first lock being hidden by the junction bridge forced caution in case another boat was there. All clear so in we went. The hire company were loading customers and getting ready to move so we left the gate open as we left.
Part of our reason for haste becomes apparent now because a few bridges ahead lies No Problem with the kettle on for tea! Later we all enjoyed a lovely meal together on board with Sue and Sir (Vic). It has been a very long time since we last did that. Even all three dogs (the girls) got on well together!
The autumn tints
How good it was to spend the weekend with friends but now we continue north to get past the stoppages. They are not due yet but Ann is to go home to look after the grand children and when she gets back, work on the Shropshire Union will have started. That is the other reason for our haste. We are keeping up to our schedule but having to pass many of our favorite moorings. We did manage to stop at Norbury Wharf and got an all day breakfast at the cafe.
We used to live near the New Forest and often drove through at this time to see the changing colours. Now we travel on the Shropshire Union and love to see the autumn tints while passing through the cuttings. Each season has its beauty to appreciate as the year unfolds.
Much to do for C&RT
With all those leaves falling we have seen operatives clearing weirs and sluices. Now that they have replaced the reeds with a swan on their logo perhaps they could remove the reeds from the canals! But do not stop there; it is more than just the reeds that are choking the waterways. We have just pushed our way through Woodseaves Cutting. Rock falls early last year nearly closed it and we bumped over some of them! Now the trees are sliding down the steep sides. It is so bad that the muddy towpath has been closed.
Apparently a disease is killing our Ash trees. While this is very sad news for nature perhaps our canals will improve with less of them? They do tend to grow between the canal and towpath. When horses were pulling boats the trees would not be allowed to grow there.
On the move
We got to Nantwich where Ann went off to see the grandchildren so that I could look after Molly and myself. When she came back we went shopping to restock and next day set off on our travels to head for Middlewich. Nantwich Canal Center now has a mooring on the main line so you do not need to go down the arm for diesel or gas. They sell Non Bio diesel and you can self declare what you intend to use for moving. "Must have been quite low because 150 litres went in without overflowing!" I put in some Marine 16 to keep the bug away. They told me I could use Fuel Set as well so resolved to alternate between the two.
Go East to Middlewich
We had got as far as Venetian Marina before resting over the weekend. Just less than four hours got us across country but with a slight delay at Minshull Lock, which had been closed! A lock keeper arrived late to let several boats up and down through the lock with a fragile gate. A new top gate is being made to replace it soon.
Ann has a slight chest infection that is causing her to cough. While back home the Doctor had carried out some tests. Later the medical center informed her that a prescription was waiting to be collected! Managed to get all our post sent to Middlewich with help from Tracy. When our post had arrived we were able to collect it and do some shopping. Days of rest are called for while Ann recovers between moving days.
Water and lock problems
After that day of rest we moved down Wardle lock to get water. The tap did not have the normal screw on connection so we were lent an adaptor to push on. Several boats came down for water and returned back up the lock that morning. When we got up the pound was very shallow, muddy and covered in fallen leaves.
We got as far as the visitor moorings at Aqueduct Marina. Minshull lock is still waiting for a new top gate and is only open between eight and four if the lock keeper turns up. We were told that replacing the gate should take about a week or so some time before the end of the month!
Ellesmere Canal, Llangollen canal pictures
We have climbed up through those four locks at Hurleston. All the locks were full of fallen leaves making the lock look like it was full of ministroni soup. The leaves are being transported on what is effectively a slow running river all the way from the Dee 45 miles away. The Llangollen heads southwest to Ellesmere in Shropshire so it is not yet a Welsh canal. A quiet weekend now spent at Burland where the corner shop serves the locals.
When we stop we stay a few nights. The problem then is that our unwanted accumulates. How far do we have to go to get rid of it? The first facility was at the top of the Hurleston locks. The next is at Grindley Brooke twelve miles and sixteen locks away.
The Tesco delivery came at Burland where there was a car park owned by C&RT. "You can imagine how much packaging needs to be got rid of now!" It took some time to put the food away so it was next day that we got the diesel tank topped up at Swanley Marina. It is worth a stop there if only to see their extensive library of books and DVD's to swop or buy. Our next stop was at the bottom of Baddisley. After another couple of nights we climbed up through the locks to Wrenbury.
A few days later, after the windy wet day, we pushed on up four more locks to stop for the weekend at the bottom of Grindley Brook. The only difficulty was that automatic lift bridge at Wrenbury as it is very temperamental! It is surprising how much traffic cross the canal there. Even large heavy lorries!
We will not miss moving about next winter when we plan to stay in a marina. But we will miss our travelling companions. Moving the boat in the winter months has been an acceptable challenge but now it is getting to be a chore for us. Unfortunately the lack of sunshine, wind, rain and those grey days are depressing us. We had expected to be travelling with friends by now but they have not been able to get here.
While it was dry we got up the locks at Grindley Brook. That top lock was full of rubbish. Leaves, dead animals twigs, branches, shoes, plastic bags and goodness knows what else. It proved difficult to keep the prop clear as we crawled out. While Ann was dealing with the water supply I was in the weed hatch pulling out a plastic bag. A large bag that at one time had contained horse feed!
Once clear and full we moved on to Whitchurch and got the TV tuned in before it rained. Must not complain but why is it that within two miles some channels are not now available? We saw Colin and Tina on Go For It on our way to the shops. Apparently a new Sainsbury's is to open soon.
Another few days and we were off again to stop near the Prees Branch. It was a very cold but sunny day and many fields were flooded with icy lakes. Originally they were peat bogs but now a Nature Reserve. If only we had kept them as bogs so that all the rainwater could drain away. We have stayed long enough to put out the bird feeders. Within hours various songbirds and a large male Pheasant visited them!
The more you look, the more you see
After the weekend we moved down the Prees Arm for diesel, just two bridges to lift and one mile to the marina at the end. Just as well that the pump was self-service because the office was closed. The pump was switched on once we had inserted our debit card! No declaration was signed because the price was set at 95 pence a litre. The marina is owned by C&RT. We asked a local if we could use the other facilities. "OK by me but they are really for the moorers here," he replied.
Once that was done we set off back to Whitchurch in sunshine with the washing machine doing the cleaning. The new Sainsbury's has opened and we found it up the hill behind the church. The town has more to offer than first meets the eye. Although it is a twenty minute walk it is worth going. It now supports Tesco, Sainsbury's, Iceland, Lidl and Argos. We even found car spares, pet shops and a vet. Fiona's café by Tesco provided us with food and drink at lunchtime.
A wet and windy night followed the sunny day but we woke to sunshine again. Go For It was heading for the facilities at Grindley Brook so we followed. It proved quite tricky to turn with the wind and the river flow. After a chat with Colin and Tina we all set off back to Whitchurch. While they went back down the arm we continued on intending to get to the Prees Arm. But it got wet and windy so we stopped short. Unfortunately there was no net signal so after lunch we moved on. Once again the wind made it difficult to stop and tie up. "It took all our strength to keep the boat against the side while we tied it at each end." A sunny day followed and we set off for a walk. Then Epiphany drifted by. John and Fiona chatted for a while before moving on. After our walk we settled down to a quiet weekend in the middle of nowhere!
Plan B, turn at Ellesmere
What happened to plan A? Long-term plans can be broken if they do not work out. We had dipped our toe into Wales and stopped at Cole Mere, our mooring among the trees being protected from the frost. The sun came out and we walked round the Mere. Only an hour among the trees along a well made path.
Friends rang to beckon us off the Ellesmere canal, as the Shropshire Union is now open. The Ellesmere will close in January so we would not get off till March if we stayed. John on Epiphany had told us that they were asked to get off the Montgomery because that was closing. Careful planning now required ensuring we are near facilities as winter closes in.
After a refreshing drink we set off for Ellesmere in sunshine and were lucky to find a space opposite the facilities. The short arm into town was full of boats and ice. We got an evening appointment for Molly to see the Vet for a booster, worm pills and a manicure. A chance for us to walk through the town to see the seasonal decorations all lit up in the streets.
A few frosty days followed so we will stay a while. Look after your batteries while it is cold, as they may need charging twice a day. If your system has temperature compensation the charging voltage may well be as high as 14.8 volts.
We had turned at Ellesmere so it was a sideways move across the canal to the facilities. Once we were full and empty we were off in sunshine and showers all the way to Prees. Quite a surprise to find thick ice down the arm as we went for diesel. Very noisy all the way wondering how we would get the boat to turn onto the wharf. It took several goes to break up the ice and push it away.
People in the marina were taking pictures! "Like they have never seen boats come in for diesel?" It was easier getting out but it still sounded like breaking glass. Ann had made soup using one of those butterburs and other vegetables. By the time we had got out of the arm and moored it had gone two pm before we could eat it! There was no phone or Internet signal so next day we set off early even though it was a Sunday! The sun came out making it a good trip back to Whitchurch.
Prepairing for a birthday
Once again we filled our larder with goodies even though it is some way to the shops at Whitchurch. This time we got some festive fair - a three-bird roast, mince pies, crackers, brandy butter, nuts, box of wine etc. Ann has made the special pudding as always and the cake of course.
We bid farewell to Colin and Tina on Go For It as we set off for Wrenbury. A dry mild day encouraged the move. Just stopped at Grindley Brook for a water top up and to loose the unwanted. It maybe our last chance before the great day when we celebrate a birthday!
A new trend is emerging among our boating friends. Many have gone into marinas or taken winter moorings near their families over the seasonal period. We have planned to do the same next year; our chosen marina is being created right now. It will be much closer to our family down south and we so look forward to be able to see more of them during the winter months. Edith Piaf sang about regret. There should be no regrets in life but our regret while enjoying our "Life With A Narrow Boat" is that we saw less of our family.
Thank you for reading Chapter 18. Return to Book