Hooray etc. The ice has gone so yesterday we transited the marina to the services for pump out, diesel, coal and gas. Full house. It was quite fun as it was blowing a gale but we survived, mind you the bill nigh on gave me a coronary.
To escape the cabin fever we took a trip out to Buckby locks, it was only a twenty minute drive, sometimes I almost like cars.
What a sad sight at the top of the locks, The New Inn closed and boarded up. It always seemed to be a busy place with a friendly welcome and a decent pint. A sign of the times? Are we becoming less sociable? Too idle to leave the comfort of the T.V. and the computer? It all seems a great shame.
The locks are closed at the moment for work on the flight, hence the work boat tied across the canal.
There was plenty of water coming over the gates on the flight. Even though in places there was still a covering of ice.
A contrast in bridges. The bottom one carries the West Coast Main Line north to the land of the haggis and the kilt. This must have been a place to sit and watch the world go by when the Royal Scot and the Duchess class hauled the L.M.S. expresses and the Grand Junction was busy with the sound of Bolinders and the colours of roses and castles.
How many changes have these seen? All these bits of sculpture and murals that crowd along the towpath these days are fine but this is the true sculpture of the canals.
The second to bottom lock of the flight is undergoing heavy repairs and the bottom pound
is virtually dry, so if you have ever wondered what the bottom of the cut looks like.......
The last remaining side pounds on the flight. Once a water saving device, now just a curiosity.
At one point we actually passed a grump group of anglers fishing in between the ice floes. Now I enjoy a bit of maggot drowning as much as the next man but there are limits. Their total catch? The square root of b*****r all.
The ice still covers the marina but, according to the met. office, the thaw is on it's way. Mind you, according to the Daily Express, the big freeze is yet to come. No, I don't normally read the Express, it was in the dentists waiting room yesterday while I was waiting to see the hygienist and I happened to pick it up. It also had an article about a friend of mine from Plymouth, Chris, who lost his right hand in a jet ski accident four years back and has just had a "Bionic" hand fitted. The first in Britain with what is called the Michaelangelo hand. It works from sensing muscle movement in the arm and moves the fingers and thumb accordingly, amazing what they can do.
Jill has now got a date for her cataract removal, next Thursday at 1600. Hopefully that means we will be on the move again in a couple of weeks. Depends how quickly they give her the all clear.
All day yesterday it snowed and for a good part of the night it continued. This morning we were marooned at the end of the pontoon.
Only about six inches down the length of it, no problem to a chap like me.
So it was out with the trusty shovel and off down the pontoon with snow flying in every direction.
It's harder than you think, deep water at freezing point either side and a narrow pontoon to slip and slide on.
Have you got a brew on, I asked.
But on I went.
Three hours later I was within a boats length of the shore but had to give up as there is a boat either side of the jetty and nowhere to dispose of the snow but at least we can get ashore now.
Apart from back ache, stiff legs and arms that feel like they may drop of at any moment I'm fine(ish).
Yesterday went better than expected, luckily the hospital put the appointment back by an hour so the roads had time to clear a bit. From Napton to Banbury was a touch slippery but the M40 was virtually clear of snow and traffic.
Saw the consultant who explained every thing and gave us all the options. Now we are just waiting for the appointment for the operation, hopefully in the next couple of weeks. Amazing how quickly a private hospital can get things done. Not knocking the NHS, their frontline staff are wonderful, it's just the layers of bureaucratic jobsworths that infest it.
Still snowing here at Wigrams, might just venture down to the showers in a minute.
Murphy's law, Jill has a hospital appointment in Oxford tomorrow morning and is it snowing? Not 'arf it ain't.
Listening to the BBC traffic reports it seems that every road from here to Jericho is closed by snow, accidents or snow+accidents. If, as the prophets of doom predict, our winters are going to get harder then why are we so unprepared? I could almost get political about it.
Water now turned off to the pontoons, luckily I topped the tank up yesterday and we are fine for coal, logs and diesel, no worries about hypothermia. Wine rack also bulging with red and The Master's snooker is on the telly, it's not a bad old life.
Not surprised to wake up this morning to a smattering of the white stuff. Just poked my head out the side hatch and it has started again. It's January, it's England, what else can you expect?
Jill is playing with the new bread maker that we bought the other day and the boat smells delightfully of baking. There are three smells that make my mouth water, fresh bread, fresh coffee and frying bacon. Sounds like a jolly good breakfast to me. Next best thing today though, smoked haddock. No, it's not fattening, well not very, just put less butter on it.
Have now got to stow the laptop and lay the table.
We are on a new year regime. Even I admit that I need to drop a few pounds, that's avoirdupois, not sterling. I put it down to lack of exercise, as the dog got older we didn't cover as much ground and since she popped her clogs earlier this year walking has slipped way down the agenda. Therefore, besides cutting back on the victuals, we are trying to put walking back in our lives.
Today we drove over to The Folly for a walk up the locks and back through the lanes. Well the lane down to the Folly was parked cars end to end, we'd just managed to park when, over the canal bridge
came the local hunt, off on a drag hunt across the fields. It's good to see that they are thriving under the new laws.
There was even one chap in pink.
Looking up the locks it was a tad on the thick side but undeterred we set off,
visibility closed in as we walked up and we were surprised to see a boat on the move.
Dreamcatcher from Ventnor Farm.
They were out for the weekend. Lucky them. I'm bored with marina life already.
Over the bridge, down the lane to Chapel Green and round to The Folly were we found someone had parked their 4X4 right on our rear bumper so I couldn't roll backwards and the verge ahead was pure mud and the wheels just spun when I tried to move. Stuck. Luckily a trio of hunt followers came along and put their weight on the back of the motor and we slithered out onto the road. Rescued!
We headed off to Southam for another visit to the pharmacy, can't move on the boat for various proprietary medicines. We'll beat the plague yet.
Well the walk by the Wandle didn't do me a lot of good, by the evening my temperature had soared and I had developed a cough that sounded like a colony of seals barking. Next morning my dear lady took one look at me and said, "You're off down the quacks". A very nice lady doctor gave the once over, tutted about my weight and then issued the antibiotics, said it was a secondary infection and I was close to pneumonia. My "bon mot" of the other day had come home to roost. So it was Thursday before we shook the dust of Morden from our feet and headed back to Armadillo.
By Sunday I was feeling vaguely human so we drove out to Upper Boddington Reservoir. This a fair sized lake that is owned by the C&RT and is one of the main water supplies for the summit of the Oxford Canal.
It was't the best of days, damp with a bit of a wind, but it didn't stop those dedicated masochists
the carp fishermen from enjoying themselves. Apparently it is one of the top fisheries owned by C&RT. I must admit that large lakes have never really appealed to me as a fishing venue, probably because I'm rubbish at casting.
Banbury Sailing Cub also uses the lake,there were only three boats out but weekends in the better weather it seems it gets busy.
We set off around the perimeter and in the nearby ploughed field the local seagulls were partying, there were plenty of them on the reservoir as well.
Along with the rest of the country it was all a bit squelchy.
Dam wall and
water take off. It feeds into the canal feeder
which runs cross country before joining the canal just above Claydon locks.
All in all a well used lake, keeping anglers, sailors and us ditch crawlers happy.
In a desperate attempt to clear our heads we went down to Morden Hall Park for a breath of what passes as fresh air around Sarf Lunnon.
The park was originally a deer park for the hall which is just visible in the background with the River Wandle foreground. The Wandle was once the most heavily industrialised river in Britain and the first public railway in the country ran roughly parallel from Croydon down to Wandsworth on the Thames. It was actually a tramway and you brought your own wagons but it was public and was called the Surrey Iron Railway.
As the river passed through the park it was turned into a series of streams to give the required picturesque views.
Elegant iron bridges cross it in places.
To pay for all this grandeur the owners, the Hatfields, doubled up on the river and used it to drive a snuff mill,
powered by two undershot waterwheels, only one remains and that is only a replica. The other would have been on the building opposite.
Some of the buildings associated with the mill, mostly cottages.
The tobacco leaves were fed into two edge running mill stones.
The stones revolved relatively slowly, five to ten times a minute and the leaves were ground to a fine powder, snuff. By the middle of the twentieth century snuff was out of fashion and the mills closed. The estate was handed over to the National Trust who now run it as a park and an education resource.
Cast iron boundary marker beside one of the streams. Careful study revealed that it read Mitcham Parish. Have not found any information about it but it obviously marks the boundary between Morden and Mitcham.
Rather splendid fungus on a decaying log.
Roll on tomorrow and peace on the boat.