Friday, 28 September 2012

Royal Leamington Spa.

We are now equipped with a car, Enterprise kindly came out from Leamington Spa and conveyed us back to their depot where we did the paper work and took control of a Vauxhall Astra. Nice motor but it has an electronic parking brake, a truly odd and pointless "improvement" that means you need three feet to do a hill start, what's wrong with the good old hand-brake?
As we were in Royal Leamington Spa, a town we had never visited, we had a wander round.

The Royal Pump Room, the basis of the towns fame and growth in the early 19thC., the saline waters were supposed to cure a wide range of medical problems, including stiffness of the tendons, rigidity of the joints and that scourge of the regency gentry, gout. The small village soon grew into a smart town,

notable for its splendid terraces.

By the start of the 20thC. however the town had fallen on hard times as spas' became unfashionable. In his poem "Death in Leamington", from 1932, John Betjaman wrote

"Do you know that the stucco is peeling?"
Now though, most of the centre of town is well looked after and we were pleasantly surprised at how smart it all appeared.

Splendidly ornate town hall.

and it has not been moved back, the old queen is still an inch off true.

Beside the River Leam Jephson Gardens are a pleasant green oasis.

Complete with fountain,

flower beds and

some of the fattest squirrels I've come across.

As to what this is? Three bronze elephants, one with a young lad sitting on it, baffles me.
It made for an enjoyable trip out, we quite liked Leamington.
This may well be the last post for a while as we will be off on our road trip,

Watch this space............

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A route from Napton to Stansted?

It's difficult to find anything to post about when all you've done is move a mile and moor in a marina.
Wigrams Turn, once a remote canal junction unknown to any but working boatmen, now a large marina, I must admit it is quite pleasant here, for a marina.

This afternoon the clouds were threatening more downpours but by this evening

the sky had cleared and we were watching a glorious sunset and even the clouds had a benevolent appearance.

The moon showed itself

and, as I had fitted the chimney and prepared the stove ready for action, the temperature went up and we have been treated to a positively balmy evening.
Tomorrow we pick the car up ready to go and collect the boy on Monday. As it's a bit of a drive from Napton to Stansted and then down to Plymouth we have booked a hotel for Sunday night at the airport to break up the journey. Having booked I looked at the hotel's web site which claimed to provide you with a route to the hotel, I entered Napton as our setting off point and pressed "Find route". After a few moments up came a route, from Napton, Arrow Rock, MO. USA. to Stansted, Essex, U.K. It gave road numbers until it hit the Pacific Coast in Washington State where the instruction reads,"Kayak across the Pacific Ocean", it takes you through Hawaii, further kayaking to China where the script changes to Chinese, onwards through Russia, instructions in Cyrillic, to, I think, Poland and across Europe to Le Tunnel and so onwards to Stansted. Eight pages of instuctions. I'm still chuckling, someone out there has a sense of humour.

Watch this space.........

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Wind and weather.

It crosses my mind that even without the boy coming over for a week we would not have made it up to Lechlade, although I havn't checked I should imagine that after the last couple of days the Thames is on red boards.
We sat out the weather up on the summit, never seen so much water in the summit level. Today we have tootled along to Napton, defying the wind which was howling.

I have never been through Marston Doles without a gale blowing across, even on a fine summer day it cuts across, just as you try to make the awkward turn into the lock there is invariably a gust and today was no exception. Got half way round when "WHOOSH", just escaped the ignominy of being blown onto the bank but did leave a bit of paint on the lockside. C'est la vie.

I felt really sorry for the buffalo alongside the locks, they're from the tropics for crying out loud. I was feeling a bit chilly, imagine how they must be feeling.

What's the difference between a buffalo and a bison?
You can't wash your hands in a buffalo!!

 You have to speak Sarf Lunnon to get the best from that one.
Just for a change I refused the classic shot of the windmill on the hill.

Took one of the church nestling amongst the trees on the summit instead.
Debating whether to light the fire tonight, certainly nippy enough.

Watch this space...........

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Amy Clare, an old friend.

Up on the summit level again. Yesterday we came through Fenny Compton "tunnel".

It doesn't look much like a tunnel now as it was opened out in 19thC. It's still very narrow in places and can lead to some quite interesting encounters with boats coming the other way. We were lucky, no one was coming toward us.

The turnover bridge towards the north end of the tunnel was installed when the roof was taken off the tunnel. It's a pity we seem to have lost the art of combining beauty with function, the adjacent modern road bridge is just a concrete slab supported on girders. Did someone mutter,"Old curmudgeon"? Well in my young day.......

Just after we had stopped for the day Amy Clare, a Kate Boat from Warwick, went past. She was our favourite boat in the long ago when we were hirers, she's knocking on a bit now but still looks as trim as ever. She has a lot to answer for, without her we may never have moved onto the boat, I did warn the current hirers of the danger.
Weather forecast for the next two days is diabolical so we are staying put, once again by the Decca mast.

Watch this space................

Friday, 21 September 2012

Work, the word occours in this post, even a picture of it happening. Sorry.

They are working on the M40 bridge and just north of it this splendid sign suggests that the workforce are either exceedingly damp

or are imbued with supernatural powers. We could not give a definitive answer as, when we passed, there was no sign of a workforce, just a few scattered tools. Perhaps they had sunk?

Work has started here on yet another marina. It's busy enough along this stretch already, it will be murder if they achieve capacity here and stuff another two hundred and forty nine boats in. That's without the fifty in another project below the lock. Where do they think all these boats are going to come from? Most of the marinas we pass seem to have plenty of empty spaces so will the future be a price war, followed by marinas going bust, followed by some really good fishing lakes?

Ten out of ten for ingenuity, they're doing a proper fix on it tomorrow. Today they are on the Claydon Flight.

working on the bottom gates of lock 18.

The beam was rotten right through, just softwood you see, doesn't last.
One of the ladies off of the boat that was following us came up, noticing the missing beam she exclaimed, "No paddle on that gate?" Following up with, "That's a good strong piece of wood. Looks like hard work, what's it for?"  We crept out of the top gate, gently closed it and sailed round to the moorings before collapsing with laughter. She wasn't even a blond.

Watch this space.............

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

All change at Banbury.

All plans out of the window, our son is flying in from Tenerife on the first of Octber. Not seen him for two years so we have to pick him up from Stansted and transport him to Plymouth. This means we need to leave the boat and it has to be somewhere secure. Now booked into Wigrams Turn Marina so we are going to wind and set off back up the Oxford, autumn trip to the Thames now cancelled. Car booked, blasted kids, they get no less awkward once they've flown the nest.
We've moved from the town centre down to Tramway and raided Morrisons, so it's off north tomorrow.

Ye Olde Reine Deer, the oldest pub in Banbury, we lunched there on Monday, bubble and squeak with ham, egg and baked beans, 'twas 'andsome, proper English vittles.(That's actually spelt victuals but no one ever knows how to pronounce it).

These are the inscriptions on the gates to the back yard, 1570 was the year the building became a pub. Bit of provenance there then.

Banbury Cross, as in the nursery rhyme, "Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross". It's actually a 19thC. replacement, the original having been destroyed by puritans in 1600 as a blasphemous image. They didn't approve of beer, cakes or Christmas either, right boring bunch.

This is the statue to the "Fine lady on a white horse", she appears to be checking that her under arm deodorant is working.

By the gate of the municipal cemetery, do you get a candle atop your tombstone?
Finally, if you are ever in Banbury seek out a restaurant called "Quisine", it's just opposite The Beer Tree pub. We had a meal there last night, everything was individually cooked by the ex chef de cuisine of the Q.E.2. You don't get a menu, he serves you a meal. We had four starters, two main courses and four desserts! It was of surpassing excellence and the owner/chef is a star. We will eat there again. Should mention that you have to book in advance.

Watch this space.............

Monday, 17 September 2012

Well we've got to Banbury.

On our way down to Cropredy, just above Elkingtons Lock, we passed Eileen at her moorings. Another ex B.C.N. day boat.

Owned by Nick Holt and the subject of  "Eileen Inlanding", yet another boaters blog.
Cropredy must be one of the most picture perfect villages anywhere,

St. Mary the Virgin, the 14thC. parish church is the centre of the village, flanked by the thatched cottages and pub

in Red Lion Street. Guess what the pub's called, the clue is in the street name. There are some wonderful street names, Creampot Lane and my favourite, Roundbottom, are just a couple.
Through Cropredy and on towards Banbury we went through Bourton Lock

with the old lock cottage still sadly derelict and the lockside garden

completely overgrown. As there is no road access and no mains services I can't see it ever being lived in again.

Now here's something you don't see everyday going up the Oxford, it's a rowing eight crewed by students who are rowing from Oxford to Cambridge, well it takes all sorts.
As we arrived at Banbury we ran into Owen, an old friend, on his boat Guilt Free Indulgence, you can take that literally as we collided as we both tried to get through the same gap at the same time, it was his fault of course, I got there first!!!
Out and about in Banbury tomorrow.

Watch this space....................

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Gosty Hill and a hike around the northern reaches of Oxfordshire.

After stopping at Fenny Compton to purchase a service kit for our d.i.y. pump out at Lee San we have moved on to Claydon. On the inline moorings above the locks Gosty Hill is looking somewhat sad.

Originally a day boat for Stewart and LLoyd on the B.C.N. Built 1909 she was converted to a motor and had a wooden full length cabin fitted in 1977 and was used as a holiday boat. In 1999 the cabin was removed and a steel back cabin fitted.

Since then Ian and Alison have traded on her on the North Oxford, Coventry and Ashby Canals but have now decided to give up the round and sell her. They'll be missed by all the boaters on their run. So if anyone fancies a life as a working boatman here's your chance.

The parish church of St James the Great at Claydon, early 12C. in parts and with a very early clock in the 14C. tower, it does not have a face but strikes the hours. Unfortunately we have yet to find the church unlocked.
We walked along a bit of the Macmillan way today, the full path is 290 miles and runs from Boston, Lincs. to Abbotsbury in Dorset, we covered about a mile and a half of it but it was through wonderful Oxfordshire country side.

Through stubble fields awaiting the attention of the bailer and to the top of  the hill by Highfield, once a farm

but now empty. There were views in all directions.

We were then off the footpath and onto minor country lanes, passing the delightfully named

Appletree Farm, sounds like somewhere out of Enid Blyton. The oddly shaped building to the right was once a dovecot, now a des. res. It was another couple of miles back to the cut, the boat and a welcome cuppa. One of the problems with living on the canals is that the legs become unused to climbing hills, one can only assume that the exercise is doing us good.

Watch this space........