- Mac & Jacquie Court
- 70 now and our five wonderful years aboard our narrowboat Skyy seem along time ago. Jacquie, allowed me to build my replica three wheeler kit car, which was a great success. Now it's time to start on a bigger project and that is to make a good Triumph Stag even better, here goes.
Sunday, 29 June 2008
Another nine locks today, saw us back at Wigrams Turn, blown in by a stiff breeze, but we got back onto our pontoon without disturbing anybody else. The weather had been very kind to us, on this short cruise and despite several forecasts of rain, what did come down was over one night.
John and Kim did say that the water pump was coming on more often over night, than previously, and thought that probably I was having to ‘get up’ more often. This information made us think that he water on the floor by the rear door, wasn’t just rain, but maybe from the washing machine. John immediately had the machine out of its housing and sure enough there was a dribble from the filler hose. John had it sorted in no time, no more damp and dispelled the myth of my excessive nocturnal wanderings.
We would be saying farewell to K & L on Saturday, after our usual very enjoyable week together, so we celebrated with a fish and chips supper.
SKYY will be staying put for a few weeks, so probably not much to blog about, but watch this place, MAC WILL BE BACK!!!
Eight locks to be worked trough today, chicken feed compared to the thirty five that Jacquie and I worked through in one day on the Worcester and Birmingham, but the work did make us feel quite righteous.
We stopped for the night just before a footbridge, which was just, one single huge beam of timber, stretching from side to side of the canal, which, with the help of a couple of Acrow props, still managed to stay upright, although the beam had taken on a substantial dip in the centre. Both John and I had to go and bounce up and down on it, but except for the rickety hand rails, it was actually much more solid than it had any right to be, but it did give us that Indiana Jones feeling.
We thought it would be a good idea to stay the night at Cropedy, we had found it very attractive on our way to meet K & J, that we wanted to show it off to them. After a proper inspection, The Red Lion was selected as our preferred dining destination, mainly as it was only 5 minutes walk from SKYY.
It was real, home made, well, pub made, steak in ale pie for 3 of us, can’t remember what the other meal, but after a couple of wicked deserts, we ambled back to the boat, kicking the odd larger tin into the cut on the way, no, not true that bit,
Adderbury was our destination, accessed from bridge 177. Only a couple of hours cruising including 3 locks, but my calculation that the walk to the village was only half a mile, was out by a mile, well worth the effort though, a beautiful church and several pubs to choose from to refresh us for the walk back, but honest, we probably spent more time in the church than in the pub.
The weather was perfect and we were able to have lunch and an evening BBQ on the towpath and rounded off with a lovely sunset, great!!
We were aroused from our mid morning torpor by a rude banging on he side of the boat. It was Kim and John with enough booze to sink/float Skyy. Still they were going to be onboard for nearly a week.
It was bright but very windy, so we decided to stay put and catch up with news from the home front. In the afternoon we decided to walk the half mile into Clifton. The river Cherwell passes through Clifton but various off shoots pass under the road, before we got to the village and whilst peering into the sun dappled depths, Jacquie’s designer sunglasses, slipped of her nose and went plop, right into the centre of the stream.
I immediately went into recovery mode, but I was foiled by the slippery bank and the depth of water. Back to the boat to write up a Risk Assessment and return suitable equipped. Not knowing how deep I was going to have to venture it was off with the shorts and safely roped up John lowered me over the precipice. Fortunately the very handy ‘lazy tongs’ (bought to recover things from the canal) enabled me to recover the glasses at the first attempt. I AM A HERO, OFFICIAL!!!
I was revived at the Duke of Cumberlands’s Head, before heading back to Skyy.
My Sister arrived to a disappointingly damp day, but we set off towards Somerton Bridge, where there is a turning point, but on the way there is the twelve foot deep Somerton Lock, which was a spectacular introduction to someone who wouldn’t know a lock from key, particular as the lock keepers cottage, had had a charming restoration.
We missed the rather undersize turning point, but with the help of my new sixteen foot pole we reversed back and eventually turned her round and stopped for lunch.
The sun did it’s best to break through, but lost the battle, but it was great to see my sunny little sister, who really enjoyed her brief trip, but we hope she will be able to join us for a proper trip sometime.
Another swim for Jacquie before we left Banbury in search of a suitable meeting point for my Sister on Saturday and Kim & John on Sunday. Ayhno wharf provided just what was needed. The boatyard said that it would be OK to park in the yard at £2 per day or £10 for the week which seemed very reasonable.
I also purchased from the shop, little bright orange plastic socks, to slip over the top of my mooring pins, so that towpath walkers do not trip over them. I am so considerate!!, but so much smarter than an old supermarket plastic bag which is commonly used.
In the evening we walked about a mile into the village of Ayhno. A self contained little village, with the main road called Roundtown, because that is exactly what it did, leaving the tiny centre virtually pedestrianised, the only disappointment was that the local hostelry was closed for refurbishment.
Ayhno Park is a large house built in a formal classical style, open to the public, nothing unusual there except the church along side the house was give a classical makeover to match the house. A traditional bell tower and then what looks just like the front of a stately house, bizarre.
Jacquie went for an early morning swim at the leisure centre, which was made even more enjoyable as the centre accepted the ‘Free Swim’ coupons that are currently on Kelloggs cornflake packets at the moment.
A leisurely day was spent checking out the small museum, again right along side the canal and as it was Market Day, the market. The day was wrapped up with a major grocery trip to Morrisons. This time by foot, our two fold up M&S wheelie bags, make this possible without finger falling off through loss of blood supply.
Wednesday, 25 June 2008
Our arrival in Banbury was complicated in that we were in need of a pump out, but the local boatyard could only achieve this with the boat facing the opposite way. We managed to turn Skyy by reversing between boats moored in the adjacent marina. Jacquie jumped ashore from the bow and helped to pull the boat around.
Pumped out and moored just on the outskirt of the town centre, we went to explore and were agreeable surprised. A leisure centre was just of the canal and on the opposite side was Quay Centre, a large shopping centre. The whole area was very smart with red brick paving and elegant footbridges plus a classic lift bridge beside Tooley’s boatyard, which has a working forge, were, if you are so inclined, classes at all levels in blacksmithing can be had. Conducted tours of this very active boatyard are also on offer.
There is a good chandlery and we replaced our large pole that we broke trying to get of the mud on the River Avon, way back in April.
We soon arrived at the lovely little village of Cropedy, whose main claim to fame is hosting Europe’s largest annual Folk Festival every August. How they manage to squeeze a festival of this nature into such a tiny space has to be seen to be understood. Our guide book says It all started in 1979 when Fairport Convention held it’s farewell concert there.
The canal was also host to a very active canoe club, where a bunch of youngsters were playing canal volley ball, or ‘Who Can Capsize the Quickest Whilst throwing a Ball’
Again we just pottered along with the intension to stop for lunch at Fenny Compton, a lot of dredging work was being carried out and much of the available mooring was taken up. A chicken roasting in the oven, couldn’t wait much longer, but we did eventually moor up just after the Fenny Compton Tunnel, which now is actually no longer a tunnel as the top was taken off in 1868 leaving a very deep cutting.
The roast chicken lunch was delicious, but needed some serious afternoon napping to help it digest. We didn’t get much further that day, but before we got underway a dog walker and her beautiful Siberian Husky came passed. The dog’s name was Sky and as he was so handsome and gentle and shared most of our boat name, we had to take his photo.
We soon passed under the first of the lift bridges the style of which is peculiar to The Oxford Canal
We had a leisurely start onto the Oxford Canal, heading Banbury way. My sister was planning to join us for the day on Saturday and then Kim & John were joining us on the Sunday for a week, so we had to find an attractive, easily accessible by road, meeting
place and Aynho Wharf, looked on the map as if might be ideal. There was no rush and we moored up between a bridge and the last of the seven Napton locks, a very pretty situation.
The management at Wigram Turn Marina had invited all moorers to a BBQ on Saturday evening, we were advised that we need not bring any contribution as all food and booze would be provided and Brian, the manager and his crew did us proud. Keith from Quidditch was in charge of the barbi and a continuous supply of burgers, sausages, chops and steak, filled our plates alongside all the usual salad and spuds. Jacquie really enjoyed the locally caught crayfish, provided by John another moorer at Wigrams. All helped down with plenty of wine and beer. There was even a sound system for those that wanted to dance on the quay side, but not many takers for that though.
It was an excellent PR exercise and a great opportunity to get to say more than just ‘Hi’ to our neighbors and although there were a few sore heads on Sunday morning, the consensus was that a good time was had by all.
Friday, 13 June 2008
Quite a while since the last blog, as we haven’t been anywhere on Skyy since arriving back at our marina on Sunday 1st and we definitely weren’t going out on the boat today, considering the day/date combination.
However last week we were staying with friends in Surrey, as on Thursday 5th June it was Founders Day at the Royal Chelsea Hospital, where Jacquie’s Dad is one of those famous scarlet coated, Chelsea Pensioners. This annual occasion is a very important day, when a senior ‘Royal’ reviews the parade of nearly 300 old soldiers, the average age of which is 82, with the oldest being 103 and he was actually marching in the parade this year. Jacquie’s Dad doesn’t march now, but he and his fellow, less able comrades, are still inspected whilst sitting and this year the Reviewing Officer was the Princess Royal, or Anne for those less well acquainted with the Royal Family.
Following the formal parade, visitors and pensioners get together for a picnic and with pints at £1.50 the beer tent was always crowded and by the end of the afternoon there were a lot more ‘less able’ old solders being escorted of the battle field, but not until the ‘Belly Dancers’ had done their rounds. This was a great family get together for us, with ten family members. including 3 Grandson and as usual the sun shone throughout the day.
Another highlight or our Surrey sojourn was a lunch time visit, with Jacky, our hostess, for the week, to the very smart, Wiremill Pub, near Blindley Heath, well actually ‘more than just a pub’ according to the board outside, but the pub is beautifully situated right at one end of a very substantial lake and we were entertained by water skiers of various levels of ability. Their antics took all of our attention until Jacky noticed that Katie Price and friend had arrived., not that I had a clue, who that was, until she said that it was JORDAN, my attention then focused on two aspects of her personality. I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I should be, but Jackie informed me, that Jordan’s once formidable assets had been deflated. Unfortunately we didn’t have a camera with us, so I am unable to share this momentous moment with you all.
We returned to Skyy for a relaxing week at the marina, but have managed to get a few outstanding jobs done, like fitting a CO and LPG warning devise and a Perspex sheet to the swan hatch. This allows us to have the hatch open, letting lots more light into the kitchen area, but keeping out the draughts. Cutting the sheet of clear polystyrene to size was an interesting exercise, I had brought my electric jigsaw with me, but no matter how slowly I advanced the blade the material melted and reformed behind the blade. I resorted to my trusty hand saw and finished off the cut with fine wet & dry paper, the final result was very straight and smooth. Four small chrome bolts allows the sheet to be securely fixed into place, job done.
I also managed to get SKYY sprayed onto the other side of the bow. It still needed to have some spray scatter cleaned off, so again OK, but not perfect, but looks fine from six foot away.
Friday, 6 June 2008
Our run back to Wigram Turn included a stop at Braunston so that I could introduce Ashley to the intricacies of a self pump out, he coped well, but I feel that he would prefer to pay the usual pump out fee to a boatyard.
Ashley, under instruction turned the boat and brought it smoothly alongside our pontoon, better than I have ever managed to do, so either Ashley is a natural or I am better at teaching than doing.
Rugby was our destination, the Tesco Extra store is conveniently within walking distance of the canal. The towpath was crowded with moored boats, but fortunately another boat moved on just in time for us to slide into the vacated space.
There is a multi screen cinema and retail centre, with a Halfords, Homebase and Next stores, plus a few others, just a little further on, which is probably why this stretch of towpath was so popular.
The night was spent just before the flight of three locks at Hillmorton, unusual in that there are two single locks side by side, I suspect that the additional locks were added when this section was straightened, obviously done to speed up the flow of traffic, the canal equivalent of a dual carriageway.
For the first time, I allowed somebody else to take control of Skyy whilst I walked the towpath, my confidence in Ashley’s ability was not misplaced, but it was a little nerve racking not being able to take over the helm when things got a bit tight.
We had decided to stop for the day at Stretton Stop, from where we would be able to walk into the little village of Brinklow, but as we moored up we noticed a number of train spotters were lurking about, I must admit that I didn’t immediately realize that they were train spotters, until they asked if we had arrived to witness the steam train that was going to whiz pass. I duly climbed onto the roof and waited so long that just as I bent down to grab a fleece a locomotive and one carriage thundered passed on the adjacent track, allowing me just a fleeting opportunity to get a picture. Train spotting is definitely not me.
Brinklow turned out to be an attractive spacious town with a church on a slope and three pubs, of which The Bull quenched our thirst.
The Transport Museum was fabulous and along with the sunshine my feeling for Coventry was somewhat restored, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to spend anywhere near enough time there as we were meeting Ashley (Jacquie's son) at the railway station at midday, but I soon realized how many car and engine manufacturers had been based in Coventry and not surprising that the German High Command had decided to take City out.
Jacquie had been doing the shops, but we met up in Spon Street, where there is a rather straggly collection of medieval buildings, which had survived the blitz in different city locations and had subsequently been relocated to this area, sadly it didn’t really work.
As soon as Ashley was onboard we said good bye to Mr. Brindley and headed back up the Coventry Canal and turned onto the Oxford at Hawksbury Junction, and surprise, we immediately came upon a stop lock. It was so long since we had encountered a lock and this one only had a difference in water level of about nine inches and I was, for a moment, confused as to whether I had to let the water in or out. I soon got it sorted and we moored just a little further on, surrounded again by rural tranquility.
The morning was misty and muggy as we left the security of the Ashby Canal. We soon passed the very attractive Hawksbury Junction, where the Oxford Canal departed to the left, under the beautiful arch of the cast iron bridge which framed the Greyhound Pub and to complete the picture there was a classically designed pump house on the other side of the canal.
We continued the journey towards Coventry, passing a very strange boatyard, well actually more a junkyard, but enhanced by some very strangely posed mannequins.
The surroundings gradually became just functioning and derelict factories, but Coventry Council had worked hard to turn the canal into a ‘Greenway’ with interesting sculptures and information boards, to make the towpath and canal a safe and interesting place for all users.
Our final arrival into Coventry Basin was accompanied by soaking rain, but what a grand final arrival it was. Entry was through a tiny red brick bridge hole, originally designed for security reasons, but the basin immediately opened out as the canal branched into two arms, surrounded by old, but restored wharfs and more recent, but attractive buildings.
A statue of James Brindley dominated the basin and actually spent all the time we were moored there, staring in through our window.
However the city centre was disappointing, I know that it was virtually destroyed in 1940. but sadly the 1950’s designed rebuilding hasn’t stood the test of time. The new cathedral is impressive, but it’s spire, which is totally uninspiring was lifted into place by a helicopter. It is so spindly it looks as if one burly builder could have carried it up on his back, no wonder that it is known locally as Radio Coventry. A mini fun fare was operating, just to one side of the cathedral and a stage and sound system for a concert was being set up in side the old cathedral and this apparant lack of respect for the area, completed our disappointment of Coventry.