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2011 Trip Reports

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9th April 2011 - Bourne End moorings to Grove Bridge
H.C. 9487 - 9492 Distance 7.5 miles 17 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham

Bird of the day :- Majestic Herons
Not quite Jannock's first trip of the year, as she was turned round a couple of times for maintenance purposes, but a great way for me to spend my birthday doing what I love best. We bade a cheery farewell to our boaty neighbours and immediately went into a lock share all the way down to Boxmoor where the other boat was stopping. Then on in absolutely splendid weather, a high summer day in April (when I remember this day 25 years ago - snowdrifts and a week of fog or even 3 years ago with cold and snow it's hard to believe how different one month can be.

At Apsley locks three boats were moored, two abreast, on the lock moorings - section 8 notices a-flutter - that made visibility and manoeuvrability a bit difficult entering the lock . If BW put them there then shame on you!
As we left Red Lion lock we found two canoeists tucked under the bridge by the bottom gate. they did not want to ascend the lock but we having a break whilst hanging onto the concrete bridge side. Jannock had to swing over to take the immediate bend and they were looking peeved as our stern got closer and closer to their canoe. They didn't think to remove their paddles from the water until Brenda shouted at them to do so before they got snapped. They did not seem to understand that they were in a very dangerous place. Lifejackets, helmets - of course not! Brenda spotted the dinosaur looking over the bank near Kings Langley, I believe, although I never spotted it myself ;^(
At our chosen destination I found it difficult to get the mooring stakes in due to very stony ground and then managed to trip and fall between the bows and the bank , whilst tying up, giving myself a very nasty graze all down my shin. Not the best way to end a birthday cruise because antiseptic gel really stings.

16th April 2011 - Grove Bridge to Uxbridge
H.C. 9492 - 9499 Distance 11.5 miles 14 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham

Wildlife of the day :- Woodpeckers
In order to set off from Grove we had to shift Jannock off of the mud as the water level in the pound had dropped quite a lot during the week we’ve been moored here. No wonder Sue on No Problem complained about getting stuck there. We moved a little way to Grove Mill bridge where we tied up and loaded the Di Blasi etc. as the walk to the boat from the car was a bit long. Once loaded we set off an immediately ran aground again above Cassiobury Park top lock when I tried to get off the boat to set the lock – luckily a passer by assisted with the re-floating effort as I couldn’t move her on my own no matter where I tried with the pole. Before Iron Bridge lock I met the aforementioned Sue and hubby Vic on the tow path as they were going for a walk with the dogs and so a very brief hello was said, and Brenda introduced, as we passed.

We stopped at Ricky Tesco for a mega-shop once we had manoeuvred around a new boat owner who was trying to be in control even though he was constantly being attacked by a tiller that was far too long to allow him to use it from the rear deck of his traditional stern boat. As we were untying from Tesco we agreed to pair up with nb ‘the Cat’s Whiskers’ and managed to share with them all the way to Uxbridge. At Coppermill lock we met Dave and Beryl Chapman (nb Peddler) heading North towards the IWA bash at Northampton. I helped work them through whilst having a good chat with Dave. Once through Coppermill lock I managed to cycle past the bank where Brenda fished our lock-wheeling bike out in 2006 without it wishing to return into t’cut. The flowers on the tree at Black Jacks lock were so nice I had to take a picture of them. We moored up for the night along the Uxbridge straight having bade farewell to the Cats Whiskers as they continued on to Cowley to view their new mooring.

17th April 2011 - Uxbridge to Hanwell
H.C. 9499 - 9503 Distance 7.5 miles 8 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham

I was out and on the road at 6:30am to move the car from Grove. Brenda was amused when I reported “I got lost in Southall, I hate traffic lights – they’re a nightmare” on my return nearly 3 hours later. After breakfast we untied and set off immediately passing a moored narrowboat that has been done up to resemble a galleon (see picture). We met the Cats Whiskers heading back North again who reported that their prospective new mooring was good and so they would be moving to Cowley marina.

The rest of the day was relatively un-eventful passing down through Cowley, then Bulls Bridge and onto the Hanwell flight. There was a BW widebeam workboat loosely tethered with the regulation length of baler twine immediately below lock 95 which blocked off half of the lock entrance so I’m glad we were in a narrowboat. Any widebeam trying to exit that lock would have to go and rein it in a bit first. Brenda was wondering what the ‘secure’ unit was alongside lock 95 but we have since learnt that it is St. Bernards Hospital. We finally moored up above a rotting collection of autumn leaves which made the canal surface bubble with a horrible smell as we moved in over the top of it all. – loverly ;^)

21st April 2011 - Hanwell to Kingston
H.C. 9503 - 9507 Distance 10 miles 7 Locks.

Crew - Graham, Brian and Brenda

Quote of the day :- I'd prefer to see a current licence
We started at 2pm today and had Soddit Brian as an extra crew member because he wanted to come down through Brentford with us. As we were sorting out Jannock, ready to set off, a southbound Wyvern hire boat came past so I asked the steerer whether we could share the locks down to Brentford as we were just setting off. We took a while, stirring up a lot of unpleasant smells, extracting ourselves from the methane mine and then arrived at Osterley lock to find them just leaving and to experience the weirdest rain ever. We filled with water above the gauging locks and then moved down to Thames lock with 10 minutes to go before our allotted 4pm time. At 3:55 the lockie arrived and the first two boats descended onto the Thames. We followed on the second locking and the lockie asked to see Jannock’s license. I pointed to the front window only to notice that it had shattered and was just a mass of crazed toughened safety glass which would explain why he couldn’t see the license. I jumped down in through the front door and extracted a license disk to show him. His response was “I’d prefer to see an in-date license” – I had only presented him with last years one instead of the current one which was languishing in the recently vacated mooring disk holder below – Ooooops"!

We left the Grand Union and turned right to head upstream, immediately running into quite deep waves caused by a mix of tide race and downstream traffic which was a bit bouncy for the first 10 minutes. On up through Richmond weir and onto Teddington lock where we waited for while due to the lockie having to issue a temporary licence to the Wyvern hire-boat.

Crewman Brian was un-ceremoniously deposited on the bankside just before Kingston railway bridge so that he could find his way back to Thame whilst we continued up through both bridges and moored up on free 24 hour moorings on the starboard bank just above the road bridge. The next hour was spent washing the roof and starboard side of Jannock to remove the grubby deposits that had accumulated over the last couple of weeks. Terry Streeter (nb Arun) rang to enquire where we were moored as he was about to leave Brentford and so we greeted his arrival at 20:30 in the dark.

22nd April 2011 - Kingston to Cox's Lock (River Wey)
H.C. 9507 - 9512 Distance 10 miles 6 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham

Quote of the day :- Sod Kate Humble - I'm doing Parakeet watch!
Terry on Arun joined us last night at Kingston and so this morning Jannock set off for Hampton Court Palace while he did some shopping in Kingston. We then travelled up through Molesey and Sunbury locks and met up with him again at Thames lock on the Wey at 2pm. Brenda had been watching Parakeets coming and going from their nest hole in a tree, from her bed, this morning and so was pleased to see a couple overhead still. Once through Thames lock and £63 (7 day Wey licence) less well off we continued on through Town and Cox’s locks above which we planned to stop. It was a very hot day so we were pleased to moor in the shade, albeit a little shallow, for the late afternoon and evening.

Our evening took on the format of a B-B-Q, fuelled by beer and red wine whilst the passing towpath users looked on in envy (or amazement, who can tell ;^) Brenda concluded the evening with a one person illuminated frog hunt in the trees alongside the towpath.
Julian rang to tell us that Parglena’s planned visit to the Wey has been called off :^( After doing battle with a broken swingbridge at Winkwell, three locks later Caro slipped down some steps and has broken her foot. Get well soon Caro – another one spending the bank holiday weekend plastered!

23rd April 2011 - Cox's Mill to Dapdune Wharf
H.C. 9512 - 9519 Distance 12 miles 9 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham

Silly answer of the day :- Did you have far to walk for your meal? No, we had a reservation!
After a very peaceful night we were up, breakfasted and ready to go at 10am. Luckily so was Terry on Arun and so we set off up through New Haw lock and past the junction with the Basingstoke canal. Now Jannock was once again travelling on new waters. We shared locks with Arun until Triggs lock where there was a single boat entering as we arrived and so Terry went in with him and we followed on sharing the next one with nb Thumper. At Bowers lock we rejoined Arun again because we let Thumper go in first and share with Terry’s previous partner. We finally moored at Dapdune wharf for the night and Terry joined Brenda’s brother Gary and his partner Carol for an evening meal aboard Jannock. As I was opening the gate for Carol and Gary to leave, the crew of another boat, that were also overnighting here at Dapdune Wharf, were returning from an evening out and the question answer session quoted above occurred during the walk back down the drive.

24th April 2011 - Dapdune Wharf to Godalming & return
H.C. 9519 - 9525 Distance 10 miles 8 Locks.

Crew - Brenda, Graham, Wally, Peg, Uncle Jim, Heather, Frank and Pheobe the dog.

Sound of the day :- church and cathedral bells.
Our guest crew, Wally, Peg, Uncle Jim, Heather, Frank and Phoebe the dog arrived before the National Trust had unlocked the wharf and so I ended up doing gate duty for our guests as well as the crew and passengers of the Surrey County Council community boat. Jannock set off southbound, through Millmead lock and into maritime mayhem. Skiffs, rowing boats and punts akimbo filled the river out past Guildford rowing club. It was here that a rowing coach, concerned about his charge who was out in a single skiff, told Brenda to slow down. She replied “ but I am in neutral” “I know” he replied adding “ but slow down anyway”. We continued down the Godalming navigation, through St. Catherine's lock and into Unstead lock where a tiny boat, powered by an electric outboard, and containing four adults and a small child insisted on sharing the lock with us. This combination of 62’ narrowboat and 6’ rowboat made operating the paddles very difficult so as to keep them safe. Brenda expressed her concern that the toddler did not have a life jacket on, to which Grandma stated that she was holding on tight to the child. Brenda couldn’t help herself at this point and commented that if Grandma fell in then the child was sure to go in with her in that case. As we exited this lock, Terry on Arun arrived to go down on his return journey to the Thames.

We winded at Godalming wharf, having failed at Farncombe boathouse due to getting stuck on a large underwater obstruction, and then tied up for lunch at the wharf. The steak and kidney that Brenda had prepared in the slow cooker during yesterdays journey was excellent and enjoyed by all. We watched the horse drawn trip boat depart and then met it at Cattershall lock on our return journey. Our return trip included a very near miss with an out-of-control day-boat on which the steerer kept pushing the tiller the wrong way and Graham putting Jannock’s bows into the foliage, much to the disgust of the front well passengers, on a very sharp bend. We returned our guests to Dapdune wharf and then tidied up the boat ready for tomorrow’s repeat trip with another guest crew.

25th April 2011 - Dapdune Wharf to Godalming & then Send church bridge
H.C. 9525 - 9531 Distance 14 miles 10 Locks.

Crew - Brenda, Graham, Jo, Adam and Alex.

Answer of the day :- Brenda to steerer of a hireboat sharing the lock with us :- “Where are you intending to pick up your crew? “ Answer – Oh no, we’re going home today so I won’t need a crew!
With Jo, Adam and Alex as crew we repeated yesterdays Family Familiarisation cruise. The weather was equally wonderful but the day was much improved by there being fewer rowists with a death wish out and about. The chap who was projectile peeing off the back of a rowboat, in full view of the world and his wife, got frit to death by a blast of Jannock’s klaxon and hastily scuttled ashore to complete the task behind a tree. Alex and Adam got very handy as lock crew and Alex enjoyed learning to steer. Some passengers on the widebeam Guildford tripboat were impressed to see him at our tiller.

Jo remembers these waters from boat trips with her family as a child and was able to tell us a lot about the area which was very interesting. We dropped the crew off at Dapdune wharf and thanked the National Trust staff for their hospitality, with a donation to funds, and then headed down river to a quiet mooring near Send church bridge.
We were very pleased to see narrowboat hirers being given very clear and comprehensive training in two locks we shared today. Well done Farncombe and Guildford Boat Houses.

26th April 2011 - Send church to Laleham park
H.C. 9531 - 9538 Distance 13 miles 13 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham

Aaaaaargh! Shiver me timbers, and other nautical pish pash. What happened to the weather? Back to British summer-winter time today.
A cooked breakfast was in order as the wind was so cold when we surfaced, so :-
Recipe of the day :- Eggy bread made with left over hot-cross bun bread, delicious.
We left Send church bridge, which was a wonderfully quiet mooring away from the A3, and made our way through Send and Pyrford back towards Weybridge. Note to self :- the towpath bank between Dodds footbridge and Pyrford marina looks like a good ‘first day’ mooring unlike the shallow section we chose above Cox’s Mill lock last Friday.

Quote of the day – “ If I see another pun on the word ‘Wey’ I’m gonna throw up “ Thanks Brenda ;^)
As we approached Cox’s Mill there was a small girl cycling along the towpath, with her Grandma following, who hit a pothole and took a dive into the river. We stopped and Graham helped recover lass and bike, supplied a towel to dry her off a bit and gave a very upset Grandma advice about getting her home to a hot bath and to watch out for tummy upsets. So if your small child is cycling near water then a lifejacket is as much use as a cycle helmet! Neither is just daft.
Hold up of the day – Thames lock was out of action for an hour whilst they tried to repair a paddle that had dropped off the bottom gate. Having reported the cycling incident to the lockie, it seemed that a crew was en-route to fill the potholes in the towpath before we had even left Thames lock.

We finally said goodbye to the River Wey and arrived at Shepperton lock to find Steve Haywood (renowned author of this parish) just leaving the lock on board nb Justice, on his way to the Cavalcade event at Little Venice. We passed through and treated ourselves to an ice cream from the kiosk whilst doing so as the sun had come out now. We moored for the night in a too short spot at Laleham, near the Abbey, by tying the stern to a convenient tree. After a dinner of ‘slow cooked duck’ we went for an evening constitutional around Abbey Park and Laleham

27th April 2011 - Laleham to Windsor racecourse
H.C. 9538 - 9542 Distance 11.5 miles 5 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham

Today we have mostly been looking at houses that we cannot afford, even though some of them are for sale.
Quote of the day “ I do not shout at my customers, I shout TO them !” – Old Windsor Lock keeper.
A leisurely start found Graham witnessing a southbound hire cruiser having a head on collision with an un-attended moored boat on the offside, opposite Jannock’s overnight mooring. As the hirecraft just left the scene he recorded all of the details and we then asked the keeper at Penton Hook lock what he should do. The lockie took the information and phoned Kris Cruisers as he recognised the name and could confirm it had passed through the lock just before the incident happened. We then continued on and then moored in Staines so that I could do a car shuffle from Hanwell whilst Brenda re-provisioned after our busy weekend.

At Bell Weir lock a very large and expensive gin palace pulled in along side us. The skipper pointed down at Jannock and said jokingly to his crew “ we’re OK because there is a really large fender here”. Brenda replied from the front well deck with “ are you calling me fat?” which really made him think that he had un-intentionally offended her ;^)
The pound above Old Winsor lock contained a floating hazard :- a small hire dayboat with 3 males aboard that was completely un-predictable. They went fast and then they went slow and then they went around and around a lot. All with no regard for any other craft in the area. We were glad when they pulled into the afore-mentioned Kris Cruisers to return the craft. We passed through Windsor and then Boveney lock and moored up for the night immediately above it in ‘plane spotters heaven’ below the approach path to Heathrow – now where’s my notepad and pencil?

28th April 2011 - Windsor to Aston
H.C. 9542 - 9547 Distance 15 miles 6 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham

Brrr – needed coats today. The tourist weather must be gearing up for the Royal Wedding no doubt – well, one should always wear gloves to a formal do.
First lock of the day was Bray where a visitor by car was asking the lockie if he’d seen a missing, presumed stolen, day boat. As we left the lock we spotted the missing boat , secured to the channel marker in the middle of the river at the end of the lock reach. We phoned Bray lock and told him where it was so he could let the hire-base know. On through Maidenhead admiring more houses that we could not afford to own and then up through Bolters lock onto a very cold and wind-blown Cliveden deep. At Cookham lock we filled with water and then moored up after the bridge in order to meet up with Julian and Caro for an excellent lunch. We said farewell and “get well soon” to J & C and then paid a visit to the Stanley Spencer Gallery. All this year they are showing his Shipbuilding on the Clyde series, painted by commission during his time as a War Artist. They are wonderful pieces, on loan from the Imperial War Museum, reproductions don’t do them justice.

We continued, in better weather, on through Marlow and Hurley to Aston where we found Terry on Arun moored stern in against the upstream side of the Flowerpot pontoon. We slipped in on the downstream side and moored alongside him so that both boats had their bows pointing out into midstream. We thought we’d seen and heard the last of the Parakeets as we moored up, being so far away from Shepperton. Oh No! Just as Brenda uttered her opinion on the subject five of the little blighters wheeled overhead screeching away as they went to roost. I wont mention what she said then! Terry and I fitted navigation warning lights to the boat bows and then went up the Flowerpot for an evening leaving Brenda back on the boat. Whilst there we purchased a take-out of strawberry cider for her.

29th April 2011 - Aston to Beale park
H.C. 9547 - 9553 Distance 18.5 miles 6 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham

I was up and out by 6am to move the car from Datchet to Wallingford. Back by 8:20 and ready for breakfast. We bade farewell to Terry who set off downriver en-route to London and then cast ourselves off from the pontoon for our trip upstream. Henley straight was just that, very straight (and cold). Parakeets above Henley, whatever next!
We crept up on the lockie at Shiplake and found him listening to
‘the wedding’ on a radio in his hut with the door shut. Sonning lock was the first to show any form of decoration for the day and that consisted of an edifice resembling the Queen sat in the lock cottage garden as well as loads of bunting and flags. We thought we heard some of the flypast aircraft overhead but the clouds were so low we could not see anything.

At Caversham lock we could see and hear the Reading beer festival going on in the field next door, we considered mooring up and going there until we saw how far the queue for entry stretched. We would have had to queue for hours. A few boats had bunting and balloons out, some even displaying the union flag! but for the most part it passed us by. We did meet a boatload of Vikings who were using the occasion as a diversion to invade the country – longboat, NO it’s a narrowboat you fools.

We hope the royal wedding went off well; no family punch ups, no corgis being sick after wedding cake and prawn vol- au-vents. We celebrated with escalope of pork in honey and mustard with a reduction of roast duck jus, followed by a lemon and white chocolate curl pavlova all washed down with strawberry cider after we had moored up at Beale Park.

30th April 2011 - Beale park to Clifden Hampden
H.C. 9553 - 9560 Distance x miles y Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham.

Tree of the day :- The Horse Chestnut, they are in full flower and are glorious this year.
We left Beale Park and headed towards Goring in a pleasantly sunny morning. Brenda appeared on the rear deck in time to pass her favourite house, just south of Goring.
Do the maths – we got talking to a 3 person crew who’d hired from Guildford a week ago. They said their intent was to get to Oxford and then return to Guildford in two weeks. As they were still short of their target they realised that early starts were now a necessity and had started out before the locks went from manual to electric – hard work before 7am. Then they were faffing about, trying to moor up, near the river Thame at 1pm in order to take luncheon. I suspect that they wont make it. Once through Cleve lock Brenda took over to enjoy the lovely scenery, albeit familiar as we are now so close to home, and the super blue skies. Graham undertook to clean all of the windows, both layers inside and out, during this long pound – my hero!

We met up with Andy and Jan Greener aboard nb Whisper and spent a couple of hours in the garden of the Plough at Long Wittenham. Beware the landing stage at the back of that pub, the wood is getting quite rotten and dangerous in places. That said we got out the chairs, Andy found some splendid cheese, Brenda organised tea and some cake that needed eating up and we sat until the sun was called in for it’s supper. Before we had finished we were joined by a superb little electric slipper launch who moored behind Jannock whilst they visited the pub. We bade our farewells and moved off, Clifton Hampden for us ready for Clifton lock in the morning.

1st May 2011 - Clifden Hampden to Hagley pool
H.C. 9560 - 9566 Distance 18 miles 8 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham.

Quote of the day :- 4 hoorays oboard a wannabe gin-palace "The Basingstoke canal is, like, lock heaven, Yah?" Yeah right, the Basingstoke canal is, like, mostly closed - so there!
As ever, Abingdon lock was hassle, but the lockie was letting boats ascend with room for one or two more of those left waiting and also opening the bottom paddles before all craft had exited at the top making it difficult for some to leave. We entered the lock and tied up to watch the confusion that was an Anglo Welsh crew come into the lock. They seemed to think that as long as their bows were in then someone (anyone) else would complete the manoeuvre and tie up for them. We suggested to the lockie that if they came forward then the small boat behind them could also get in. Well, he thought about it and decided it was a very good idea. We thought it bleedin obvious. Then he decided to try and get another cruiser in as well. We could see it was too wide to fit but he had to try, and then pull it back out again after attempting to crush it's stern with the gates. The Anglo Welsh crew then started to have a row, based on domestic inadequacies, as to who would hold their front rope in the lock. We finally ascended and exited to try and access the water point which was now full of craft waiting to lock down. We finally moved across onto it and were approached by the crew of a southbound cruiser wanting the hose as they'd not been able to get any water out of the hose at the pumpout station. Brenda pointed out that it was a sewage disposal point. "yes, but we can't get any water out of it" was the puzzled retort. What fun?

We met the Anglo Welsh crew again at Sandford lock. It was self service now as the lockie was at lunch. They entered the lock and we followed on Jannock. I suggested that Brenda played lockie, she declined stating that there were 6 of them - except all 6 were now back on the boat. One of them then realised the situation and went lockside but only to take the ropes - he tried to do one at each end at the same time. Then he realised that he'd have to operate the lock as well and then wondered why nothing on the control panel worked. He even tried turning the wheel but to no avail. I suggested he closed the bottom paddles which he did and went up to the top end of the lock and started flirting outrageously with a couple of girls whilst getting 25p off his girlfriend, aboard the boat, to buy a cigarette from them. He told the girls that he was "having to do it all because the lock keepers didn't work Sundays". Brenda was not having that so she told them that it was only due to lunchbreak that the lockie was not there. He then continued to inform the girls that his hireboat had a bed and a 'banging sound system' Yeah really? We left the lock with me explaining to him that he needed to close the gates and paddles, as no-one was waiting, and suggested that his boat pull over onto the lock landing to pick him up. Personally we would have just left him behind. A Darwin Award could be in the post.
Do the maths - We saw them again today, moored just below the Head of the River, at 15:00. They aint gonna make it back to Guildford in time!
Port Meadow in a strong wind is a phenomenon of nature no boater needs. The lockie at Godstow was great, using our barge pole to try and prise boats off of the lock landing and into the shelter of the lock. We continued up through Kings Lock and on towards Eynsham until we found somewhere suitable to turn, and tie up against the wind ready, for an attack on the Southern Oxford tomorrow.

2nd May 2011 - Hagley pool to Thrupp
H.C. 9566 - 9568 Distance 4 miles 4 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham.

I thought it was hard work last night mooring up Jannock with a strong wind trying to blow her out into the centre of the river at the same time. Eventually I had her firmly connected to terrafirma using four mooring ropes, two onto long stakes and two connected to corkscrew type screw in eyes. Last night’s strong wind had increased this morning which made the process of untying more of a logical puzzle. I left the centre line connected and removed all the others but still needed Brenda to anchor one of the stern lines to keep the back end in near the bank. I then wrapped the centre line around me while I unscrewed the mooring eye from the ground. This meant that both of us were on the bank, being anchors, and the wind was trying to move Jannock out into the river. Eventually I got Brenda to get aboard and then I ran and jumped on board carrying the centre line with me. I just made it – phew.

The wind was so strong as we made our way towards Dukes cut that Brenda needed a fleece winter hat on as she got earache without it. Up through the stop lock and things were getting a bit more manageable now. The crew of a southbound boat coming down through Dukes Lock were complaining about the effect of the strong wind on their boat. I pointed out to them that they aint seen nuffink yet and things were going to get a lot worse once they got out on the Thames. We experienced a couple of dodgy moments when we slowed to pass moored boats and found ourselves being blown onto them by the crosswind. No pictures today as were far too busy trying to stay mid channel ;^) We found a suitable mooring for the week outside the cottages in Thrupp and tied up, Brenda created a great lunch from what was left in the fridge and then I was off to Wallingford on the Di Blasi to fetch the car. The wind now became very useful as I covered the 25 miles back to the car in under one hour – the Di Blasi normally averages about 20mph due to the effect of hills but the tail wind sorted that out today. I even had 38MPH on the clock at one point on the Oxford bypass which is definitely a first, never been above 35 before. On my return to Jannock we finished packing and putting away and then set off home. It has been a glorious 12 days and we did not have one drop of rain fall on us even though we watched several thunderstorms pass by one evening last week.

6th May 2011 - Thrupp to Lower Heyford
Spring SODDIT Cruise Day 1

H.C. 9568 - 9573 Distance 8 miles 5 Locks.

Crew - Graham, Ian and Brian

Friday evening we arrived at Jannock carrying fish and chips collected from Smarts in Kidlington. We ate these and then loaded all our stuff onto the boat. I then parked the car up before we started playing Soddit. We managed 4 games before calling it a night and retiring to the sound of heavy rain beating on the metal roof.
Brian got a nasty surprise at 08:00 as my phone, located at the rear of the boat, was still connected to the bluetooth handsfree kit in the lounge and he got a very loud wake-up ‘alls well’ text from the alarm system. A lazy start as it was still trying to rain but we were moving by 10am, up through the lift bridge and onto Thrupp Wharf for a water fill. Kate Saffin was moored next to the wharf and I also met Maffi for the first time as he came a calling on her whilst we were there.
I always thought ‘micro-fish’ was a method of storing printed matter until I saw Ian’s first catch of the day. We stopped just North of Enslow wharf for a spot of lunch and fishing.

The resulting catch here was two (too?) small Perch. Much of this trip the canal and River Cherwell followed the same route. The river looked a much better option for fishing but being ‘out of season’ this would only be hyperthetical. One area in particular looked good and the possibility of nice Roach and Chubb was much in evidence.

On test from the Vale Brewery for this cruise was my firm favourite, Vale Pale Ale, and also their May monthly special ‘Brill Steam’. We managed to make quite a large hole in the stock during Friday evening and Saturday. We moored for the night just above Lower Heyford on the well kept visitor moorings there. A very nice peaceful setting for a slow roast beef dinner and more Soddit.

7th May 2011 - Lower Heyford to Aynho
Spring SODDIT Cruise Day 2

H.C. 9577 - 9573 Distance 5 miles 3 Locks.

Crew - Graham, Ian and Brian

We had a lot more heavy rain during Saturday night but it cleared for Sunday morning. After breakfast we set off North and at Allens lock I put Jannock’s bows onto the lock landing to drop of the crew and then selected reverse to get back into the centre of the cut ready for the lock gate to open. I heard a metallic twang and discovered that the gearbox was now permanently in reverse due to the gear cable not functioning. I opened up the engine covers and stepped down onto the engine bearers from where I operated the gearbox by the selector arm and managed to steer back onto the lock landing again. We let another Northbound boat have the prepared lock, complete with willing crew to operate it, while I dismantled the Morse lever and re-fitted the gear selector cable to the operating lever. It was all done by the time the lock had been turned again and we continued on our way with only a 5-10 minute delay. Above Allens lock we past nb Virgo with Guy and Connie on board. They obviously noticed the name or Cutweb logo on the bows as they came rushing out for a chat.

At Somerton deep lock, there was plenty of water leaking past the top gate and so I tried to hold Jannock back against the bottom gate to keep the front well dry. The eager crew of two Southbound dayboats whacked both paddles straight up so I didn’t stand a chance of keeping her there. A short whitewater ride later and the front fender was firmly planted against the top gate – thanks guys! We stopped for lunch, and another session of ‘non contact’ fishing, just above that lock where Ian prepared “I can’t believe it’s not Duck” to eat. After lunch, with a steadily increasing wind, we continued on until we reached our destination for the trip. I then fought that wind doing a car fetch on the Di Blasi.

15th May 2011 - Aynho to Twyford wharf
H.C. 9578 - 9581 Distance 4 miles 3 Locks.

Crew - Graham, Brenda and Gladys

The weather looked reasonable and so we persuaded Gladys, our neighbour who normally feeds our cat whilst we are away boating, to come out for a day trip. As we were preparing to set off from Aynho another northbound boat passed us so I didn’t hurry with my task of casting off. Finally on the move we found him just entering Aynho Wier lock as we arrived and so he allowed us to share this diamond shaped lock with him. Once through he went out first, and Jannock followed leaving the lock open for two southbound boats. I walked ahead of the boats to prepare Nell Bridge lock . Although he claimed to have owned his boat for 20 years, this single handed man did not exhibit a high level of boat handling skill and took a long while to get his boat into the lock. Never mind, as they say in football, “in off both posts is still a goal”. I worked him up, then assisted another boat down before working Jannock up through the lock as well.

By this time the wind was getting up and the sky was overcast and exhibiting all the signs of raining soon. Around under the M40 and the light spots of rain started. At Kings Sutton lock we caught up the boat in front again and I worked him through again. This time I turned the lock for Jannock as there was no southbound traffic. Once through the lock, with the rain going from light spots to a drizzle, we stopped for lunch and later decided to call it a day and moor Jannock up for the night where we were.
Once I had fetched the car from Aynho, we drove into Banbury to visit Tesco where Gladys purchased a flat screen digital TV ready for the switchover which we’ll get in September. Then home to a hot meal that had been slow cooked on a timer while we were out.
It was a brief enjoyable day spoilt only by the combination of cold wind and drizzle that made it feel worse than it really was.

20th May 2011 - Twyford wharf to Banbury
H.C. 9581 - 9582 Distance 3 miles 2 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham.

We arrived at Jannock and loaded our stuff on board. I then proceeded to remove and refit the front and rear most windows on the starboard side as they both leak water when it rains and, having replaced the broken one last weekend, I thought they both needed re-sealing. I installed them back into the boat using ‘window tape’, a kind of thick double sided tape that is sold by Bottom Lock chandlery at Braunston. I then sealed the edges using clear silicon sealant to provide an extra layer of protection.
Once my task was completed, we decided that the ambient noise from the M40 was too much so we headed North into Banbury. We passed nb Laura, still attributed to her previous owners, moored at Banbury tramway. She's looking a little more dowdy these days. We stopped at Banbury services for a water fill and then proceeded up through the lock to find a mooring space. The usual collection of down and outs was assembled by the lock and one of them closed the towpath side bottom gate for me. He then moved up to the top gate and sat on the end of the balance beam while I worked the paddles. It was only when the gate needed opening that I joined him there and got my first whiff – WOW that was the worst smell I’ve ever smelled and I’ve changed a nappy on a newborn. I left as soon as I could to attend to the lift bridge and to prevent me throwing up.

We moored for the night almost below the road bridge at the end of Castle Quay. During the evening Brenda wanted to explore Banbury’s architecture and so I was dragged along for the exercise. The photo on the left shows the wonderful brickwork that now houses a restaurant. I wonder what it originally was? I did manage to persuade her that the inside of Weatherspoons was definitely worth an inspection and so it proved to be, they had an excellent ale called Marshmellow brewed by the Oxfordshire brewery at Marsh Gibbon. We returned to Jannock and had a very peaceful night.

21st May 2011 - Banbury to Claydon
H.C. 9582 - 9586 Distance 7 miles 13 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham.

Wildlife of the day :- Wildlife!
During last night’s tour of closed down shops and abandoned pubs imaginatively entitle ‘Banbury’s interesting architecture’ I spotted a Majestic Wine Warehouse just up Castle Street from the Quay. This morning, having fitted the new shorter gear change cable, I took Jannock’s folding sack truck and restocked with four cases of beer whilst Brenda shopped successfully for some new jeans – weeks of endeavour now over ;^).

She also went to photograph some of the buildings for the log and was asked what her interest was in the old Co-op building was. The enquiries were from an Australian couple who’d been photographing it earlier having discovered that her ancestor had founded the Banbury Co-op Soc. She’d been told of antecedents in the town and had been to the library to research it. They were overjoyed to identify the relative and find the Co-op and his home only a couple of streets away from each other. They’d also been entranced by Tooleys Yard and asked why on earth a large development had been built around it. Brenda explained it’s history, significance and listed building status as well as trying to explain the effort that went in to preserving it.
Once she’d returned to the boat we set off North, along a bit of canal that we haven’t travelled since we left our Cropredy mooring in 2005. It was interesting to notice the changes since our last visit. A lot of bank protection has been completed but unfortunately the keepers cottage at Bourton lock is now empty and someone’s had the slates off of the extension roof. Shame but a notice on the door says that it has been bought by local boaters so I hope they manage to do something with it. On through Cropredy and only one boat still moored at Old Mill who was there when we were, everyone else must have moved on as we did.

As Jannock ascended through Claydon bottom lock I noticed a grass snake swimming in the canal just above the top gate and managed to get a picture on my phone before it hurried of under the trees on the off-side. We decided to moor up on the summit, the first place we tried found Jannock pivoting on an underwater obstacle meaning I could get either the bow or stern against the bank but not both. We moved on 200m and found another spot where she fitted nicely against the bank. I then returned to Twyford Wharf on the Di Blasi to fetch the car whilst Brenda tidied up and prepared for home.

4th June 2011 - Claydon to Adkins lock
H.C. 9586 - 9590 Distance 11 miles 2 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham.

Flower of the day :- Dog Rose
We arrived at Jannock and loaded up on the promise of sunny weather and 24 degrees. What we got instead was a cloudy sky and a very strong head wind. We left Claydon and headed towards the summit only pausing for while to allow a Southbound boat to get through Fenny ‘tunnel’ before we could pass through. We had no other problems all the way across the summit level meeting quite a few boats coming the other way but none of them at those awkward places like Griffins bridge corner. Speaking of there, we notice the old droopy wooden footbridge just before Griffins has been replaced since we last passed this way. The new one is inscribed “Wedding Bridge MMIX” so was obviously put up in 2009.

After passing down through Marston Doles locks we spotted a small bird perched upon a branch, singing it’s heart out, that we definitely could not identify. Luckily we found it in the Birds of Britain book that sits on the shelf in Technocupboard which identified it as a Reed Bunting.
We moored for the night above Adkins lock, immediately opposite nb Harnser and nb Goody Two Shoes (both Cutweb members) where I did an engine oil and filter change as well as spending a few minutes chatting to Peter (off of the latter boat) who was also doing engineeringy things. It's the first time I have managed to change the diesel filter on Jannock and not get a hiccup from the engine when it is run afterwards. I must remember the technique I used for the next time.

5th June 2011 - Adkins lock to Flecknoe.
H.C. 9590 - 9593 Distance 7 miles 5 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham.

We only had to turn two locks in the Napton flight on our way down today, all the others had ascending craft as we approached. Once out of the bottom lock I re-filled with water whilst Brenda went and explored the Folly shop. Out towards the junction Brenda had to take pictures of the miniature horses in the field as they were moulting and looked really tatty just like our cat Oscar does.

We get used to seeing craft not displaying a current licence, we get used to boats displaying out of date licences but this was a first for us – a licence that has had the date obliterated, deliberately scratched out so as to be un-readable. They’d only done it on one side so by looking at the one on the other side of the boat we observed it was out of date by two years. Boat reg. number was 4000149 get your act together. Guess what – it’s another BW craft. Rules is rules !

Here is the weather postcast :- the forecast was rubbish! Did we get the promised rain overnight? No. Did we get the sunny intervals? No. The scattered showers? No. (thank goodness). What we got was grey with cold gusty winds that impeded steering in tight situations. One of which was meeting Tony Brooks at a bridgehole on a tight corner. The briefest of chats counted as our 2nd Cutwebbery event of the weekend.

19th June 2011 - Flecknoe to Welton wharf
H.C. 9593 - 9597 Distance 5.5 miles 6 Locks.

Crew - Brenda, Simon and Graham.

Happy Father's Day. Simon (No. 1 son) joined us today for the short run through Braunston as we wanted to clear the area before next weeks Historic working boat rally.
We set off from Flecknoe following a Black Prince hireboat who had the misfortune of meeting all on-coming craft on bends or in bridgeholes. One of those was nb Shilling whose steerer announced that they were followers of our blog. Hello, nice to meet you briefly.

On we processed slowly towards Braunston building up quite a log-jam behind due to the amount of traffic going each way. I do hope they do not build any more marinas on this pound as it’s getting very busy at weekends now and being weekenders ourselves for most of the year we cannot avoid having to traverse it on a Saturday or Sunday. We finally made it to Braunston where we passed Draco and Success, saying a brief hello to Krystina and then moved on towards Bottom Lock where we met John (nb Black Pig) for a chat as well. A single boat, Larry, was just entering the lock as we approached and so we shared with him all the way to the top of the flight. Once through bottom lock we found ourselves 6th in the queue for No. 2 and only experienced one other ‘straight in’ lock entry during the rest of the flight and that was the top lock.
Our passage through Braunston tunnel was missing one important ingredient. No, not oncoming boats because we met several of those, on this occasion the tunnel roof was dry. It’s not often you experience that lack of annoying drippy bits. I suspect it was because I had made the effort to rig up Jannock’s mega-torch aimed at the tunnel roof to assist me in avoiding them.
Sod’s Law that is!

When we had finally moored up at Welton wharf, just after the tunnel, Simon wanted to find a tree to hang his para-gliding harness onto so that he could adjust the straps to get them comfortable. No suitable trees were to be found and so he installed the gang plank into ‘diving configuration’ and hung his harness from that. Job done.

25th June 2011 - Welton wharf to Weedon
H.C. 9597 - 9601 Distance 5.5 miles 7 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham.

Plant of the day – Lime trees with their wonderful fragrance.
Wildlife of the day – Bats flying in and out of the aqueduct over the river at Weedon.

We started the day with a visit to the Historic Boat rally at Braunston. The parade of boats seems to get longer and longer each year. The English language needs a new word to describe very, very slow mayhem. Having watched most of the parade attempting to chug past we finally decided to return to the car the long way round. At the bottom lock we warned an emerging time-share crew that they’d be held up and would need to manoeuvre in very close quarters. The response was a very angry “ you pay good money and then you get this! I don’t need holdups and hassle” No appreciation for free entertainment and a colourful spectacle then. They obviously hadn’t realised that the canal system is there to be enjoyed by anyone and much of it’s attraction is provided by it’s users. Should’ve gone to Disney land.

We made our way to Jannock and set off South towards Buckby flight which we shared with a boat that possessed a willing crew of four. One lad, an Aussie, was a willing worker – steering, locking, holding ropes and even lighting a BBQ on the rear hatch top etc. The remaining 3 crew were willing to let him. To be fair, the other lad on board had a broken ankle but his attempts at steering were impeded by dis-interest and the amount of alcohol it was obvious he had used as a painkiller. The two women were chatting to each other, or into mobiles, for most of the time with lots of drinkies and one attempt to turn a windlass each. Boats across the cut were ‘de riguer’ today, many new hirers out. I had to rescue a ‘moored’ boat (Dances with Ducks) which was only attached to the bank by it’s cable that connected it to a substantial land based TV aerial. It would seem the mooring rope had been snapped by the effects of passing boats – it wasn’t in the best of condition to start off. Luckily there was a chain dangling from the rear deck that I could use to moor it back up to the piling with.

We moored for the night on the off-side, next to the church at Weedon. We’d like to turn into the Jannock tourist board at this point. We encourage you to visit Weedon from the church end rather than from bridge 24. Go down the steps from the 48 hour mooring and it’s a short walk to a pretty village with it’s history marked by it’s architecture. In the main village you will find a Post Office, supermarket, chemist, green grocers and a couple of pubs – no food served unfortunately as we were looking for a meal. There’s a quilters and patchwork workshop too. Walk on up the hill and there’s a gem, the old ordnance depot, established when Napoleon threatened our security. On the right is an accommodation block reminiscent of Victorian Aldershot. Most of the barracks are gone now. On the left is the main depot through smart grade 2 listed gates with the storage buildings ranked either side of the very visible military branch canal.
We decided to try the Heart of England hotel for a meal but they had a 45 minute wait for food so we went to the Brinjol Indian restaurant next door and had a very tasty meal. Then back to Jannock, via ‘Bat Watch’ alley to sleep it off.

26th June 2011 - Weedon to Gayton wharf
H.C. 9601 - 9603 Distance 6.5 miles 0 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham.

We need not have worried about any possible disturbance from the adjacent railway line last night. We heard one train pass just after we’d gone to bed and that was it until breakfast time. Talking of which, we were still full after last night’s Indian and so we postponed the ‘full English’ until lunchtime. After a lazy start we set off towards Stowe Hill and Bugbrooke meeting many northbound boats, luckily none in awkward locations. Passing the new(ish) Heyford Fields marina near bridge 34 I noticed that their sign stated “One berth remaining” so it looks as though they are doing OK whilst others are complaining.
Just past Banbury road bridge we found Allan on nb Pengalanty and Toni on nb Snowdrop both moored up enjoying the lovely summer weather. Soon after that we decided to pull over ourselves and share a nice shady tree with the crew of nb Red Red Wine, another ‘ex-Black Prince’ craft. Once the promised full English lunch had been eaten, Brenda spent the afternoon sitting in the shade chatting to RRW’s crew whilst I returned to collect the car from Welton. When I got back to Jannock we tidied and closed up and headed home. A short cruising day but very enjoyable.

9th July 2011 - Gayton wharf to Northampton Washlands
H.C. 9603 - 9610 Distance 8 miles 20 Locks.

Summer Holiday on the Nene - Day 1
Crew - Brenda and Graham.

We made it to Jannock by 10:30 in spite of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone which meant a long diversion. Once everything was loaded and I’d topped up the diesel tank, Brenda set off solo to move the boat to Gayton Junction whilst I drove the Car to John and Angela’s house at Gayton yard where I had been offered car parking for two weeks. When Jannock arrived Brenda performed a perfect manoeuvre onto the waterpoint right outside the Cheeseborough residence, where we then had a cup of tea in a lovely sunny garden whilst waiting for the water tank to fill.

Having said our farewells we moved down to the marina to purchase an Environment Agency key and a couple of Imray guides as our favourite, Nicholsons, don’t cover this river. Whilst waiting for the office to re-open after lunch we took the opportunity to have our lunch as well before setting off down the seventeen narrow locks of the Northampton Arm to join the Nene. Most of the locks on this flight seem to leak water badly from the bottom gates so even though we met a couple of boats coming up the flight I still had to fill every lock bar two in order to descend. Just after Hardingstone lock we had a grass snake, who was swimming across the canal, decide to try and climb onto Jannock’s rear fender. Not being able to reach, it continued towards the offside bank instead. Jannock’s prop was increasingly impeded by weed. Eventually we had to stop and I pulled a load of weed, some rope and plastic bags off. Progress was slow until we got onto the River Nene proper although we did enjoy the novelty of being able to see the fish swimming in the clear water around the boat and the ability to tell the fisherpersons where to cast for hopeful fishing. In the distance we could see the Express lift tower, previously used for elevator testing and now a Grade 2 listed building.

Once onto the river Nene we picked up speed again. As you enter Northampton you pass this lovely old grain store which has been converted into domestic accommodation now. We continued on through Northampton hoping to find a peaceful mooring for the night. We finally moored on a pontoon 48 hour mooring, tucked in behind a little island, at Weston Favell. A hasty supper was taken before we went off and circumnavigated the Northampton Washlands flood defences. It’s about a 4km walk during which we invented the Olympic sport of ‘Trudging’. We realise that all school children used to be trained for this sport, but were told it was a ‘nature ramble’. When required the Washlands will hold about 500 million gallons of flood water preventing it from backing up and flooding the surrounding areas. Just beyond our overnight mooring spot is the ‘Northampton Boat and Shed club’ – just go and see! The evening ended with a wonderful firework display across the washlands at about 10:30 – unfortunately only Brenda saw it as I was fast asleep due to exhaustion.

10th July 2011 - Northampton Washlands to Ditchford
H.C. 9610 - 9616 Distance 12 miles 11 Locks.

Summer Holiday on the Nene - Day 2
Crew - Brenda and Graham.

Last nights mooring was so peaceful that we felt no need to hurry away. We ate our Krispies watching the waterfowl go about their business. Our first guillotine lock was not as troublesome as expected, Brenda found she could counteract the forward surge as the gate started opening with a little blip of reverse so we gave up using ropes to check our forward movement. At Billing Lock I had to politely insist that some fisherdads and kids remove themselves from the lock landing as we were about to occupy it. There were two teens fishing in the lock who also ceased whilst we passed through. There was much huffing and tutting from fisherdads as they packed up so Brenda was waiting for the rude comments to start as she was raring to point out the large E.A. sign their chairs were in front of. The one that said, and even had a cartoon of, “No Fishing”. Those dads’ll wonder why their kids grow up with no respect for authority. As we left the lock we were amused to see a little cruiser approach from below to hold up the teens ‘in-lock’ fishing for another 10 minutes or so. We were even more amused when said cruiser completely trashed their keep-net which they had secured to the lower lock landing. Well they should have complied with E.A. instructions to Ho Ho.

After we’d passed through Cogenhoe lock we noticed a couple of dead pike floating in the weed, and then a few little roach and then literally hundreds of dead fish floating in the river as we approached Whiston lock. We reported this to the E.A. emergency line who rang back and were sending someone out immediately. The dead fish stopped as suddenly as they started. Pollution or de-oxygenation? It was great to see so many out training for Olympic trudging today; hot weather training. We were joined for the last few locks by another narrowboat who kept having to dive down their weedhatch. Jannock has coped well with no visits down there today.

At Upper Wellingborough lock, next to the prison, we came across three families picnicking and fishing in the side stream. Wine, cider and eats had all been supplied by Mr. Tesco, a five minute walk away. We moored for the night on the left bank after the imposing viaduct , but before the water sports lake. This lake is shown in the wrong place in the Imray guide I purchased yesterday which does not seem very hot on accuracy of cartography. Once the British Olympic banana-boat screaming team had finished their days training it became another quiet spot with only the wildfowl and the occasional dog walker for company.

11th July 2011 - Ditchford to Middle Nene sailing club
H.C. 9616 - 9622 Distance 10 miles 7 Locks.

Summer Holiday on the Nene - Day 3
Crew - Brenda and Graham.

All these wildfowl nature reserves are a bad influence on Graham. He was up with the lark today; he’d prepped breakfast, tidied away weeks of his “stuff” and finished washing the roof before I surfaced. To make matters worse he worked out how to secure the new washing line so that gravity is no longer a problem. I wouldn’t mind but I’m not even the ‘owl’ to his ‘lark’. The heron in the picture here was just over the bank from our mooring. We coasted into the Rushden and Diamonds FC moorings to find that the services are still closed as the football club has gone into administration. No, I don’t understand that either. The Doc Martins factory shop is also closed – manufacture moved to China.

Onto the lock when Graham’s phone rang. He was listening intently and looking negative. I assumed problems at home and cut the engine so that he could hear better. When it was time to re-start – no go! I went through the drill, No go! Much to my astonishment the engine stop button broke off in my hand. We pulled Jannock from the lock using the rope and lock wall chain and Graham went into the engine bay. The earth wire to the starter solenoid had broken, the problem and I’d just made it so that we could neither stop nor start now. Good thing Graham is an engineer because he held the earth wire to chassis and the engine started.

Oh, the phone call? The Environment Agency were letting us know that the dead fish were due to the weed cutting de-oxygenating water with already low oxygen levels. “One of those things, sadly” We were thanked for our call, the only one about the incident, the officer wondered how many people had seen the situation and done nothing. At Upper Ringstead lock the pollution plot thickened. Graham asked some E.A. weedcutters, taking lunch, if they knew of a chandlery and explained how our stop knob broke. He also mentioned his call to the E.A with regard to all the dead fish yesterday and the response he'd just received. They were most upset at weedcutters being implicated in the Piscicide as they routinely check Oxygen levels before cutting and knew that the small cutter at Whiston Lock to be less of a problem than their huge one. He demonstrated that the Oxygen levels could cope and asked us for our Incident number in order to check out the situation. He suspected sewage pollutants.

We stopped at Thrapston for water and provisions, a useful little town with most things you might need including a vet. Post Office on the river side of town, large Co-op and chippy at top end. Banks etc. are there to. We had to reverse into the Thrapston mooring in order to breast up to a boat already there. Frank and Sheila made us welcome alongside and put up with Graham fixing the starting and stopping mechanisms whilst the water tank filled. When I returned from the shops the beers had been broken out.

At Islip lock a rather tatty cruiser approached as we entered. We waited for them to come in and had to wave them alongside. Their refusal to share was based upon the advice given when they picked up this, their first boat. Never share with a narrowboat, they will crush you. We put them right, they joined Jannock and lived to tell the tale.
We moored for the night at another nature reserve which gave us the view shown on the right from our outside dining area (the fold down cratch table)

12th July 2011 - Middle Nene sailing club to Ashton Mill
H.C. 9622 - 9626 Distance 11 miles 6 Locks.

Summer Holiday on the Nene - Day 4
Crew - Brenda and Graham.

Wildlife of the day – The Fotheringhay green woodpeckers. We’ve seen more today than in a year at home and we have some nesting near there!
You know your are rural when the spray-can graffiti on derelict walls goes thus “ UHT, use it when you like, it’s still milk”
Today we moved from the Nene (pronounced Nen) to the Nene (pronounced Neen) without needing our passports or having to pass through immigration!
We set off from our delightfully rural mooring, on the offside just downstream from the Middle Nene Sailing Club, at 10am. As we approached Titchmarsh lock (and the Middle Nene Cruising Club) we passed nb Lexa’s empty mooring as Bernard and Sandy were off doing the Thames. At Waddenhoe we stopped on the Kings Head moorings and explored the village, including the church and the dovecot, before having an excellent lunch back in the pub. Beers were Norfolk Wherry and Cocky Blonde – result! The food was very good as well.

Down through Waddenhoe lock and the head wind was getting up making outer garments essential. We saw two cock pheasants having a stand-off in the field alongside the river. Unfortunately the fight was over before we managed to get a photo. At Upper Barnwell lock, Brenda held Jannock on the lock landing whilst I set the lock. When ready, as soon as she loosed off the wind took Jannock’s bows straight across the river and all her attempts to counter it failed. The stern rammed into the bank and the tiller shot round and tried to knock her off of the back of the boat. With sheer effort she managed to stop it and then I was able to heave the bows back into wind to allow her to enter the lock. She was fair shook up by the experience and now has painful shoulder and ribs as a reminder of how close she came to being knocked into the river. A local boater waiting to ascend the lock told Brenda that this lock is an “accident black spot” in windy weather with many boats ending up across the stream. He said the locals didn’t pass through if the wind was strong.

We called in to Oundle marina to see if they stocked Engine stop cables but they didn’t so we untied and continued on. We finally moored for the night in Ashton cut and walked up to the village for a look around. Nigel on nb Goosander said that the path to the village was blocked by a fallen tree last Thursday but it has been removed now, in fact we are moored in the exact spot that it fell – anyone want any free logs? The Chequered Skipper in Ashton has 3 real ales on and offers two meal courses for £10 Monday to Thursday (lunch & evening) and Friday lunchtime. Having eaten in the Kings Head at lunchtime we were tempted but resisted. The food being served looked good and we might try to stop for a meal on the return journey. The wonderful ambience of the village, built in 1900 by the Rothschild family, is enhanced by the number of Peacocks (& hens) strutting around.

13th July 2011 - Ashton Mill to Wansford station
H.C. 9626 - 9632 Distance 13 miles 7 Locks.

Summer Holiday on the Nene - Day 5
Crew - Brenda and Graham.

Weather – Bah humbug Grey with a chilly wind causing more hassle.
As we left Ashton cut a boat had just arrived at the lock landing; goody a share. Wrong! I prepped the lock whilst Graham reversed Jannock out of the mooring. Older chap took his boat into the lock, younger chap helped me. His dad (on the boat) said he was a squaddie on leave. I was impressed with his battle fitness as he took no time at all to raise a paddle. Both boats were in and Graham went down to raise the guillotine gate. Deja vous as the tiller thumped me again as the rudder was forced over by the water rushing in through the still open paddle. Squaddie had managed about 1/4 open whilst impressing me and then carried on opening it when it was time to close them again. Orders were barked, he can at least take orders. At the next lock I got Jannock in, despite the wind, but older chap got in a real pickle and ended up across the river with a tendency towards the direction from whence he had come. That was the point he decided he was giving up and returning. Squaddie was having a muddlesome time throwing me knitting thinly described as rope but he eventually made their boat safe, pointing back up-stream, so that older chap could walk the dogs. His dogs were attached to frayed poly rope and out of control. The rope got wrapped around Graham’s leg at one point and he has rope burn now. It seems that older chap has spent three years fitting out his boat and it went into the water for the first time this morning. It seems he took none of that time to actually try boating and acquire some skill. I decided that the Army is a safer place this week, because a certain squaddie is on leave.

Later we caught up with nb Great Escape and spent the rest of the day and the locks with them. Their experience was very handy in the increasing wind. Moorings being few and far between, unless you are happy to pay £4 at Fotheringhay – no wonder Mary Queen of Scots lost her head – we found one boats length free at Wansford Station pontoon and so moored up two abreast just in time for the gents to get excited about seeing the last train of the day puff past.
There have been many lovely churches to see from the river over the last couple of days.

14th July 2011 - Wansford Station to Overton Lake
H.C. 9632 - 9637 Distance 15 miles 5 Locks.

Summer Holiday on the Nene - Day 6
Crew - Brenda and Graham.

River Canal Rescue saves the day – and we're not even members!
Last night I found that the gaiter fitted around the Aquadrive universal joint had split and that it had sprayed the engine compartment with Molybendum grease. I cleaned up the best I could and then I fabricated a ‘grease guard’ from out of date RCR brochures, which was the only source of stiff card I had, and some parcel tape. This did the job of preventing it re-covering the engine bay whilst we continued to Peterborough.
We left Wansford station at 10 am and shared the next two locks with nb Great Escape but arrived first at the third lock to find another boat had just entered and so we bade farewell to Gt. Escape and shared with the new partner instead.

We continued on into Peterborough where we turned round and moored at the services on the Town Quay. I filled the watertank and did a pumpout before we moved to moor on the embankment and go shopping. If you need the rubbish disposal point here it is around the back of the building with the pumpout switch fitted on the wall. You’ll need an EA key to get at the bins and the door is not signed. Brenda was not impressed with Peterborough market but the mains shopping streets have all the things we needed. Visit the cathedral and the old city square and shops before going on to Asda where we did our main food shop. There is also a Majestic wine warehouse at the rear through Asda's car park.

At 4pm we left Peterborough and set off upstream to find a more peaceful mooring. We popped into Thorpe meadows for a look-see but decided we would not moor there for the night as the smell of chips from the Boathouse pub adjacent to the mooring was too much to bear. We passed up through Orton lock again and went into Overton lake where we have breasted up next to nb Bill Badger. Nb Great Escape failed to escape as we have them on the other side of us.
Oh dear. Brenda purchased ‘oven bake’ Spam fritters at Asda which has really made my evening. They were so good I was grinning like a Cheshire cat for quite a while. After a fritterful dinner we took a walk around the lakes at Ferry Meadows park. It was lovely to see so many families out enjoying it at 7:30 on a Thursday evening. There were three groups of Guides, Brownies and Scouts having their ‘end of term’ parties, much laughter. As the evening drew to a close we wondered if it was a sunset we could see or the Brownies BBQs getting a little out of control.

15th July 2011 - Overton lake to Elton
H.C. 9637 - 9643 Distance 12 miles 4 Locks.

Summer Holiday on the Nene - Day 7
Crew - Brenda and Graham.

Out of the seven boats moored on the 24 hour moorings in Overton lake last night we were the last to leave. I took the opportunity of having a full length pontoon to polish Jannock’s paintwork. I then pushed her over to the next vacant pontoon and did the other side as well. Once I had finished then we set off and rejoined the river, turning up stream.
At Alwalton lock we brought Jannock in and two cruisers arrived on the lock landing. One was too wide but the other did not want to join us either. Just then another narrowboat (nb Tane Mahita) arrived and was waved past the cruisers to share with us. They were obviously disappointed not to overtake the pair of us before Water Newton lock as they had to follow us through that one and did not even come up to the lockside until after we had left. The next section was a lot longer and they were determined to overtake us so they despatched the fastest cruiser, with a single crew member on board, as soon as the lock gates opened and he overtook us just after Wansford Station. The other cruiser with the rest of both crews on board came steaming past just after Pat Buckles yard. We found the pair of them waiting at Wansford lock whilst yet another narrowboat was working through ahead of them ;^)

Brenda spotted her first Kingfisher of the year at Wansford today and also her Amarylis, which she bought with us from home, has opened two lovely flowers.
We moored for the night just above Elton lock where we have had to use our gangplank between the back seat and the bank. Brenda is grateful to the ‘Beale Park Woodpecker’ as we have had to pin the plank to the bankside to stop it slipping off. - Right, off to explore the pubs of Elton.

16th July 2011 - Elton lock to Ashton
H.C. 9643 - 9646 Distance 6 miles 3 Locks.

Summer Holiday on the Nene - Day 8
Crew - Brenda and Graham.

The Crown Inn at Elton proved to be an excellent pub last night, go past the mill from the moorings, across the meadow and into the village. It’s down Duck Street to the left.
This morning we awoke to mizzle and breakfasted as the rain increased. By normal setting off time we chose to listen to classic FMs best, read Terry Pratchett, start and immediately get wrong an epic-strength cross stitch and check out the window leaks that became apparent during the downpour. Graham got cabin fever despite the activity and chose to prepare lunch – another historic meal; we are using up ye olde shippes provisions at a goodly rate. We also haven’t died from these new fangled best before dates yet either. To ward off scurvy we opened Iris’ wonderful nutty and fruity cake, especially provisioned for the voyage.

We upped pegs and set off at 13:30 hours, our meteorology report having been phoned in by one Mr Holt, currently of this parish, who informed us that it had just stopped raining in Northampton. We met a group of very be-draggled young canoeists. They looked no more cheerful than the all England wet-weather under 18s trudging team who passed by whilst we were moored up after obviously camping out last night. That Duke of Edinburgh has got a lot to answer for.
nb Gower was leaving Elton as we did so we asked if they were happy to lock share. They said that they’d be winding before Warmington lock so we started locking only to have them turn up at the lock landing when we were halfway through because they’d changed their minds. When we arrived at Perio lock we sat and waited for them to arrive and shared. As we arrived at Cotterstock lock, a couple of cruisers crewed by some 20 somethings, beers in hand, were about to descend. We were about to pull onto the lock landing but were pleased when they left the lock in our favour. In we went, they were even prepared to wait for Gower to arrive. We’ll admit we had to examine our predjudices. After waiting with no sign they decided to start the locking process but then Gower rounded the bend and so they raised the gate again and Gower slipped in beside us. Thanks, much appreciated.
After passing through Ashton lock solo, as Gower moored up in the meadow near Oundle, we pulled into the mill stream and moored for the night in the same location as last Tuesday. Our second favourite mooring of the trip and luckily not restricted to 24 hours like our favourite.

17th July 2011 - Ashton to Titchmarsh Mill
H.C. 9646 - 9650 Distance 8 miles 5 Locks.

Summer Holiday on the Nene - Day 9
Crew - Brenda and Graham.

Graham’s grooming tips :- never perform your Sunday morning ablutions so vigorously that you get cramp in your neck and it gets stuck under your armpit!
At 08:30 I awoke enough to realise that Graham had gone on a goose rescue mission. A canada goose had got in a right pickle with cramp or some such. It was floating down the mill cut with it’s head stuck behind it’s wing and was fading fast. Nothing Graham or the fisherman on the opposite bank did allowed them to catch it and help. Eventually, just as it looked as if it’s goose was cooked, one last flap and kerfuffle saw the head pop out from under the wing. Goose paddled slowly off with a visible crick in it’s neck, now able to stay the right way up, breathe and feed. Phew!

Name that bird - please?
Last night it was delightful to hear, at 05:30 this morning I wanted to shoot the bl@@dy thing. It sings from the treetops, loud short bursts of song, each repeated two or three times, each different and melodious. A warbler of some description? Unfortunately our Birds of Britain book doesn’t do audio snippets.
We strolled into Oundle and had elevenses (whilst sheltering from the rain) in a very nice coffee shop. It’s a very pretty town with most necessities. There is a decent Co-op as you enter or leave using the Ashton path. As we walked through the fields we were in danger of joining a ‘trudging team of the third age’. Later as we travelled up river we witnessed the extended sport, a duathalon of trudging (inc. hauling heavy trolleys and bags) and fishing. Surely a good bet for 2012?

The sunshine and showers turned to windy and heavy showers so I found it convenient to keep popping inside to wash and rinse the laundry whilst Graham remained doggedly at the tiller. We moored for the night on the 48 hour moorings below Titchmarsh lock in a howling gale and watched the water pour over the top gates of the lock. Telecommunications with Mr Holt of this parish informed us that the river was high enough further upstream to prevent narrowboats going under some bridges without damage, so an early stop gives a chance for the water levels to subside as long as it doesn’t rain more.

18th July 2011 - Titchmarsh Mill to Denford
H.C. 9650 - 9653 Distance 4 miles 2 Locks.

Summer Holiday on the Nene - Day 10
Crew - Brenda and Graham.

The volume of rainwater coming downstream means that we are now experiencing the ‘windlass free lock’. The lower guillotine gates do not require one and the amount of water spilling over the top gates means that there is no point winding up the paddles as the lock fills quite quickly without doing so.
As we approached Thrapston we found the big E.A. weedcutter descending Islip lock. The crew were trying to move it downstream below Islip Mill footbridge, which is the lowest on this part of the navigation, before the levels rose too much. The driver reckoned he might have about 1-2 cm to spare despite the funky rising cab it is fitted with. Their technique to get it under the bridge was to shift all of the harvested weed on the conveyor forwards towards the cutters which made the front of the craft dip into the water. They then lowered the control cab to it’s lowest position and as they inched under the bridge they used the conveyor to move the weed load towards the rear at the same time as accelerating to dip the stern. They just got through. As we left Islip lock we were warned that the river levels are increasing and to be careful.

The truth about Rushton and Diamonds – straight from the Environment Agency staff. The water and power to the services at Rushton and Diamonds were cut off when the football club went into liquidation. The E.A. have not been able to get anyone to restore them and latterly have been refused access to the facilities. The E.A. is trying hard to be able to re-instate electricity, water and management of the facilities.

Lunch stop was the Woolpack in Islip in the company of nb Harnser’s crew, Brian and Diana, who turned up on cue as the coffee and cake was ready for us and the E.A. man. Two more cups please! A pleasant lunch was had by all. And then Brian exited the awkward mooring and went through the bridge in one go with much aplomb. After that we set off for Denford moorings for another rendezvous. Kettle magic again – just as the tea had brewed the Rigdens pulled into the moorings behind us on nb Grace.
nb Melaleuca hoved into view a good few minutes after we’d heard his Lister engine. Honestly there is no pleasing some people. He asked if we were the Jannocks who blogged, we agreed we were. “You’re going the wrong way then” he said. We then posted on the blogsite ' Readers, please keep up to date! we write this rubbish, the least you could do is read it on time ;^) ' to which Simon on nb Melaleuca replied ' We read this stuff, the least you could do it update it :-) ' due to me posting a little bit late this evening as I had to finish the washing up first.

19th July 2011 - Denford to Woolaston
H.C. 9653 - 9660 Distance 13 miles 9 Locks.

Summer Holiday on the Nene - Day 11
Crew - Brenda and Graham.

Last night we spent a very enjoyable evening with Terry and Christine aboard nb Grace catching up on the three years since we last met. They left the Denford mooring at 9:30 this morning and we set off in the other direction at 10:00.
Near Woodford we passed this Olympic athlete in training for the “Duathalon”. He had just completed the “Trudging with a heavy load” course and was about to start the fishing coarse!

After Upper Ringstead lock Brenda went inside for a bath whilst I remained at the tiller, passing time watching all of the fish in the perfectly clear water in this stretch. I spotted a couple of reasonable size pike within a couple of hundred metres of each other.
A flight of seven powered gliders flew overhead in something that loosely resembled a formation, obviously Air Cadet aircraft being dispersed to RAF stations ready for the impending Summer Camp season.
At Irthingborough lock it started to rain heavily and so once through, we tied up on the Rushton and Diamonds visitor mooring for lunch. The rain passed and so we continued on to Wellingborough where we stopped for water and a quick trip to Tesco. Back on board, and still solvent, we continued up through Upper Wellingborough lock and then moored for the night against a bank just before Wollaston lock.

20th July 2011 - Woolaston to Weston Favell
H.C. 9660 - 9664 Distance 8 miles 9 Locks.

Summer Holiday on the Nene - Day 12
Crew - Brenda and Graham.

After a very peaceful night pegged to the bank just before Wollaston lock we set off at about 10 am. As we rose in the lock another upstream boat arrived and so we agreed to wait for them at the next lock. We had seen this couple aboard their anonymous boat at Aston lock last Saturday. At Doddington lock we settled inside the empty lock and waited for them to catch up with us. As we waited a down-stream boat arrived to pass through but the crew agreed to wait on the lock landing for our potential partners to arrive. This boat was an ex-Viking afloat boat on it’s way to Willy Watt marina for blacking and I had a long chat with it’s owner about the stern fender as it was similar to the Black Prince style fitted to Jannock. Our partners arrived and we worked through the lock together. As we were leaving another down-stream boat arrived to share with the boat that had waited and so it all worked out OK in the end.

At Whiston lock there were lots of large weed clumps floating about in the entrance to the chamber and they prevented Jannock from entering alongside the other boat. I had to man-handle them out of the lock using the long shaft before we could get in alongside the other boat. We took it in turns to stay and turn each lock as we passed through except for the two locks where we met boats going the other way – which definitely makes life easier.

We bade farewell to our partners at Weston Favell lock, just after the Northampton Boat and Shed club, as they were continuing on to Morrisons in Northampton whilst we moored up opposite the Washlands again for the night. I used the nice pontoon mooring here to allow me to remove the middle bedroom window and re-install it in order to fix the leak we discovered during the heavy rain last Saturday. I’ll do the two on the other side of the boat later on this week.
In the evening we walked across the Washlands to the village of Little Houghton, explored the village and finished off with a very nice pint in the Four Pears (NOT Red Lion as stated in the Imray guide) which appears to be an up-market gastro-pub, so up market that even the local vicar looked under dressed.

21st July 2011 - Weston Favell to Gayton
H.C. 9664 - 9670 Distance 8 miles 20 Locks.

Summer Holiday on the Nene - Last Day
Crew - Brenda and Graham.

Red sky at night …. is possibly a load of old twaddle! Another red sky as we walked back from Little Houghton last night, another grey, cold and damp morning – Ahh high summer.
I reversed elegantly from our overnight mooring and fell in behind nb Toad of Toad Hall. We had been warned when we met Brian earlier this week that they were en-route between the Middle Levels and the Canal system. They were a pleasure to share with all the way today. We pulled onto the service point at Midsummer Meadows today hoping for a pumpout, but despite everyone's efforts no effluent was going anywhere. The pump appeared to be working OK and investigation beneath the man-hole cover above the sani-station showed that the drains were blocked because the man-hole was full up to the brim. We phoned Northampton council, as instructed on the signage, to let them know but they’d obviously all popped to the loo!

We went past the Carlsberg mass keggery to possibly the best smell in the world, spent hops and malt. It reminded us of our school days in Alton, Hants when there were three breweries active in one town.
We were pleased that nb Toad of Toad Hall went first up the Northampton Arm as they were 3 crewed and back-set all of the locks for us which made our passage that little bit easier. At lock 14 we had to drag a ‘Yeti’ out of the way before we could open the gate. Simon from nb Melaleuca had warned us about low levels between locks 7 and 5. Luckily, even though they appeared lower than when we came down, we had no problem as we don’t draw much which is why the wind blows us around so often.

Up to Gayton we went as we are going home one day earlier than planned. Due to the Aquadrive gaiter surrendering during our trip, Graham had ordered the repair kit on the internet and we need to fix it.

To sum up – a busy two weeks on new territory for us, friends old and new well met, beautiful countryside, lovely villages and towns visited, disappointing weather – but then we didn’t get really wet as we stayed inside during the deluge at Elton. Wind burn rather than sun burn ;^)

Tree of the trip – Lime the scent was gorgeous and reminded me of my mum.
Bird of the trip – the Terns They were a pleasure to watch.
Animal of the week – Matt’s kitten Mooshie who has had a car accident while we’ve been away and has had to have the top of his femur removed. Get well soon Puss!

23rd July 2011 - Gayton to Welton
H.C. 9670 - 9676 Distance 8 miles 20 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham.

Wildlife of the day – A bat! Yes, we mean “of the day”. At first we thought it to be a rather louche swift but as it got close it was a bat skimming the water for insects at about 3pm just below lock 9 at Buckby.
We left Gayton and turned right heading North again towards Braunston. On the long run up through Bugbrooke and Weedon we had more boats pass us heading South than we saw all fortnight on the Nene.

As we approached Buckby bottom lock a single gate was open and we were waved straight in. It had been prepared by the crew of another boat whose Cap’n had suddenly decided to cross over to Whilton Marina, and get a pumpout, without telling them. We ascended solo in order for a waiting Southbound boat to be able to descend. As we entered the 2nd lock the steerer of the single boat in front of us returned to let us know he was waiting in lock 3 for us to join them. Thanks nb Buccaneer – you were a pleasure to share with, especially as they had the quietest and most smoke-free Lister SR3 that I have ever come across. It would appear that he’d recently had it serviced by “someone that knows”. We had a slight wait for Buckby top lock as we’d caught up the boat in front. The New Inn was heaving and doing a roaring trade.
We stopped at the first convenient 14 day mooring where Brenda had dinner ready before I’d even tied up. I did a Di-blasi run back to fetch the car from Gayton before we locked up and said farewell to the ‘Buccaneers’ who had moored just in front of Jannock.

7th August 2011 - Welton to Hillmorton
H.C. 9676 - 9681 Distance 8.5 miles 6 Locks.

Crew - Brenda, Simon, Lois and Graham.

We arrived at Jannock later than anticipated due to the queues of Fords that were completely blocking the A43 whilst trying to get into Silverstone. Their refusal to move over and queue in the left hand lane added 25 minutes to a 1 hour journey. Simon and Lois were already on-board, having arrived some when after 3am and so the boat was open and ready on our arrival – however Simon and I did a car shuffle first as we had two vehicles available.
We set off at about 11am and went into Braunston tunnel which was remarkably dry considering the rain we’ve had recently. I got the impression we were following more than one boat through and we met seven coming the other way. Lucky for them this wasn’t a Soddit cruise with DJ Brian on board playing Jerusalem and the Dambusters march at loud volume during our passage.

We arrived at the top of Braunston flight to find ourselves fourth in the queue to descend. We paired up with nb Owl and shared the top lock after two lockings of ascending craft had passed. In the next pound the two boats in front of us were waiting whilst more ascending craft were coming through their lock and it stayed like this for the whole flight. Brenda overheard a woman walking up the towpath telling her friend that she was suffering from “water can envy” after she had observed the nicely painted cans on Owl’s roof. We parted with Owl at lock 4 as an earlier singleton had broken up another pairing and so every-one was changing partners. The place alongside us as we descended lock 4 was taken by a Willow Wren hire craft with a 10 strong hen party on board – two of which seemed to know what they were doing whilst the rest just watched on in a bemused fashion. We were told that the ‘bride to be’ was still in her bed and was unlikely to surface before the bottom of the flight. Seventy percent of the crew were still imbibing and getting worse, lock by lock. I’m glad I wasn’t at Hillmorton when they attacked those locks. Above the bottom lock we found four boats waiting (and a moored butty) and so were unable to move out of the second lock until two of them had moved into the bottom lock to go down. This also meant that the two ascending boats wanted to get into the lock we were still in. After the Willow Wren boat had moved out, one of the ascending pair came in beside Jannock so that the chain could move and Jannock could get out – you know, like one of those puzzles where you have to move the squares around inside a frame. We then had to change partners again and the hen party went down with Owl who was now a singleton and we were joined by yet another partner – a bit like country dancing I suppose.

Whilst we waited above the bottom lock, the heavens opened with a really heavy rain storm so Simon and Lois rushed inside whilst Brenda and I got us down through the lock. By the time we were out, Brenda was completely soaked below the waist and so I sent her in to get changed and I took over the tiller. After all, I was in shorts and sandals below my waterproof coat so it didn’t matter about my lower half getting wet. I steered us past the junction and onto the North Oxford canal where we found ourselves ahead of a group of three boats. The rain stopped and the sun came out again and funnily enough so did our crew ;^) and so it was time to teach Lois to steer Jannock. For a first timer she did quite well, only getting wobbly a couple of times when instinct says push the tiller when she really needed to pull it. She appreciated my ‘New steerer top tip’ – point the wooden end of the tiller bar towards what you want to MISS! We ended the day, after mooring up, with a nice hot curry that had been cooking away in the slow cooker all the time we were moving. A quick wash-up and lock-up before we took them back to Simon’s car and said farewell. They were heading back to Manchester and us down to Oxford.

14th August 2011 - Hillmorton to Brinklow
H.C. 9681 - 9685 Distance 8 miles 3 Locks.

Crew - Brenda, Gladys and Graham.

This Sunday we were accompanied by Gladys, our neighbour who feeds our cat for us when we have weekends and holidays away, and we arrived allowing plenty of time to get through the obstacle. As I was preparing to set off two boats passed us heading for the locks and when a third appeared further back along the cut I hastily cast off to join the queue. What queue? Both locks of each pair were in use and we just had to wait one boat before we could enter a top lock. It would appear that after the complaints received, BW were operating both locks between 09:00 and 16:00 at weekends and reverting to single lock operation for the rest of the time.
At each of the remaining two locks we entered a ready lock after an ascending boat had departed and so a good run down the flight was made. Brenda did have a steering issue exiting the second lock as were on the towpath side and the boat waiting to ascend insisted on parking himself right outside the lower gate giving her no room at all to get out. She finally persuaded him that moving out of her way would allow him to enter the lock quicker than just sitting there. Out of the bottom lock and both taps were in use and so we didn’t stop for a water fill. On through Clifton and Rugby with no problems until we were passing through Newbold tunnel. A hireboat approaching from the other end decided not to enter the tunnel but go into the offside bank just outside the northern portal. They managed to go aground effectively blocking the canal due to having two boats following them that now had no where to go. We stopped and waited whilst they got themselves unstuck and then informed them that the tunnel was wide enough to pass in.

As we approached Lime Farm marina a boat was coming out through the bridge so we stopped mid channel again and waited for them to finish their manoeuvre. Unfortunately as the bows came round to point south, their stern went aground on a large submerged obstacle that is against the piling at the north side of the marina entrance, and they found that they were unable to move at all. The marina staff came out and assisted getting them afloat again and off they went. I decided I’d take the opportunity to fill Jannock’s tank and so I reversed her into the marina and filled her up. We said farewell and managed to get out without encountering any submerged obstacles and moved on until we found a suitable 14 day mooring. I then fetched the car from Hillmorton whilst Brenda and Gladys picked blackberries from the hedgerow. After dinner we cleaned up, locked up and headed home in time for my regular Sunday evening Soddit session.

26th August 2011 - Brinklow to Sutton Stop
H.C. 9685 - 9689 Distance 8 miles 0 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham.

I took today off work to have a 4 day bank holiday weekend. We left home in the pouring rain hoping it would improve as the day went on. It was still raining when we arrived at Jannock and so we got wet unloading the car as well. We decided to have lunch before setting off and the rain stopped and the sun tried to come out whilst we were doing so, it dried up enough for me to be able to move the car to a safer parking place and return on the Di Blasi without getting wet. We set off heading North with the intent of doing the Ashby this weekend. I jumped ship as we approached Stretton stop so that I could walk ahead to get the swingbridge. Mean while Brenda had to pass a southbound Viking Afloat craft on the wrong side and wait whilst a narrowbeam barge was moved onto the slipway before she could move on. Both tasks were hindered by the Rose hireboats being moored two abreast between the railway bridge and the arm junction. Once passed Stretton the rain started again and so Brenda disappeared inside whilst I took the helm. We had passed through Ansty (including stopping at the water point and filling up) and were alongside the M6 before she re-appeared having fallen asleep on the sofa. She is still blaming the general anaesthetic she had ten days ago but I think that excuse is getting a bit weak now ;^) We moored for the night on the visitor moorings before Sutton Stop so hopefully we will wander down the Greyhound later.

27th August 2011 - Sutton Stop to Bradfields Bridge
H.C. 9689 - 9696 Distance 15 miles 1 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham.

We set off and immediately ran straight into a Bank Holiday traffic jam, 4th in the queue for Sutton stop lock. Progress through would have been faster but for the two 60+ foot boats moored inside the turn outside the Greyhound pub (which we didn’t visit last night due to the persistent rain). They gave very little room for those needing to manoeuvre to ascend the lock. I think words were ‘had’ as the hire boat that seemed only to be there for fishing moved off all in a dither.
When we passed later they were moored up again, just up the Coventry canal, past the 14 day moorings and the rods were out again. The lads sat on picnic chairs on the roof were unhappy about taking their lines in as other boats passed so Brenda warned them about the risk of getting their tackle caught round a propeller – were they bovvered?

We moored up against Grace at the rear of the Rigden villa and went in for tea, cake and catching up. We were also treated to a scary movie that someone had taken of their attempt to enter the Great Ouse. Then off up the Ashby and our first harvest of the year. The joy of scrumping apples and there is a great tree full of nice cooking apples on the offside at bridge 3A. Within one hour (i.e. 3 miles) they were stewed so think of the food-miles!
As we approached Stoke Golding we found ourselves tagged onto the end of a funerial procession of two cruisers following a very slow narrowboat. By the time we reached Bradfield Bridge the number of boats in the queue had increased and so we pulled over to moor for the night. Intelligence gained on Sunday showed that all three boats at the head of the queue were together and the narrowboat had an engine problem. We spent an excellent evening on our quiet mooring glued to the television. Serial episodes of Last of the Summer wine' followed by the comedy prom on Beeb2. All in all a day of sunshine and heavy cold showers which required the cape.

28th August 2011 - Bradfields Bridge to Dadlington wharf
H.C. 9696 - 9705 Distance 22 miles 0 Locks.

Crew - Brenda and Graham.

I got up and set off towards Snarestone at 8 am this morning whilst Brenda was still in her bed. By 9am we were passing through Bosworth Wharf which is the furthest we have been up the Ashby before and so we were now clocking up more new territory again – we’ve done well so far this year.
Shackerstone was busy with all the reserved moorings filling up before the festival next weekend. We continued on through Snarestone tunnel and up to the canal terminus where we winded to return through the tunnel and moor at the southern end in order to take Sunday lunch in the Globe Inn. An excellent roast dinner washed down with Brains S.A. and followed by home made plum crumble (that even had real stones in ;^) This establishment gets a Jannock recommendation although their kitchens will be closed between the 6th and 12th of September due to staff holidays.

After lunch we returned through the Shackerstone chicane where we passed Nuneaton and Brighton moored in the reeds and even had to follow a reversing boat for about 1/4 of a mile as he looked for his mooring. We had one really heavy rainstorm during this exercise which lasted until we reached Market Bosworth again.
Upon mooring for the night at Dadlington wharf we decided to go for an evening constitutional around the village. It was at this point that the fun started. Having completed a walk around the village green we then headed down the Stoke Golding road hoping to find the canal in order to return to Jannock along the towpath. Halfway down the hill we came across a young man who was covered in blood and exhibiting signs of concussion. We persuaded him to sit on a bench seat and use my handkerchief in order to try and stem the bloodflow from a large gash above his left eye. It would appear that he had been riding an off-road motorcycle with a couple of mates and he’d fallen off. There was no sign off his mates now and he was wandering around looking for them. At that point a lady stopped her passing car and offered to help. Alex, the patient, said he lived in Hinkley and so she offered to take him home if we accompanied her. On arrival in Hinkley it became obvious that Alex could not remember where he lived and as all of our attempts to contact his girlfriend using his mobile had failed I decided it was time to dial 999 and get him some professional help. We were parked in the car park between the Windmill Inn and Halfords. The emergency services operator insisted on me giving a road for where we were. I had no idea as I’m not familiar with this area at all and so I ended up having to run out to the main road in front of the pub in order to find the road name.

A paramedic arrived quite quickly closely followed by two police cars. It was decided that Alex required hospital treatment and so an ambulance was summoned. During all this time Alex spent his time either asking us who we were or else apologising to Brenda, me and the medic for inconveniencing us. By the time the ambulance arrived so had Alex’s missing mates, their mum, his girlfriend and even his dad almost filling up the car park. The manageress of the Windmill pub came over to explain that they did not have any CCTV cameras panned on the car park and so could not provide any evidence on what had happened to Alex. We re-assured her that the incident had occurred else where. At one point the paramedic said he needed to check Alex’s blood sugar levels. After searching through his pockets and scanning the contents he’d removed Alex admitted to the medic that he did not have any sugar on him. Once Alex was inside the ambulance everyone seemed to just disappear and so the nice lady returned us to Jannock at Dadlington wharf in her car. What an evening!

29th August 2011 - Dadlington wharf to Brinklow
H.C. 9705 - 9713 Distance 20 miles 1 Lock.

Crew - Brenda and Graham.

If it's August - why are my fingers and toes numb? An un-eventful days cruising in disappointing weather. The highlight of which was a concerted effort to get as many cooking apples as possible from the tree adjacent to bridge 3A. Graham made a collecting device from his new bucket and the broom using a couple of cable ties to join them together. Initially he dislodged the apples using our short boat hook whilst attempting to catch them in the bucket as they were well out of reach. This was only partly successful and so he then used the bucket/broom to collect those he’d not managed to catch from the water where they had landed. During this activity we were passed by steam nb Tixhall, heading up the Ashby, who had a trail of three boats queued up behind him. All crews smiled and approved heartily of our scrumping activities. What is the adult world coming to? We should have had our ears boxed and given a severe talking to ;^)

Onto the Coventry canal and we travelled to Hawkesbury where we turned onto the Oxford through Suttons stop with no queues. We continued south meeting lots of northbound craft proving that the water shortages further south were encouraging people to try the north Oxford instead. After a couple of hours we tied up on a suitable 14 day mooring at Brinkow and Graham fetched the car whilst I prepared dinner. A tidy up and home ready for Graham to go back to work tomorrow.

10th September 2011 - Brinklow to Willoughby Wharf
Autumn SODDIT Cruise Day 1

H.C. 9713 - 9719 Distance 11 miles 3 Locks.

Crew - Graham, Ian and Brian

Last night we arrived at Jannock having visited the excellent fish and chip shop in Brinklow. They were definitely the best I have had since I visited Busy Lizzies in Skipton during 1995. We then loaded our provisions etc. aboard, cracked open the beer and the Soddit began and continued on till well past our bedtimes ;^)
Saturday morning dawned bright and far too early so we breakfasted and then departed almost immediately. This was un-usual because neither Ian or Brian set up their fishing rods prior to us setting off – they usually have a breakfast session before the off. Are they losing interest? During transit of the Newbold tunnel, Rule Britannia was played at full volume much to the amusement of a Black Prince hireboat that we passed mid tunnel. The family that were walking through using the towpath were not so amused though. We stopped near bridge 58 to fill with water whilst Brian nipped across to Tescos. Once on the move again we immediately passed Linda aboard nb The Busker and Sarah-May on nb Shelley-Anne. I called hello but Sarah-May only appeared as we had moved farther away and so a brief shouted greeting occurred. They are both en-route to the Cutweb rally next weekend as we are.

We stopped for lunch before Hillmorton locks and the fishists (well Ian) even managed to catch a few roach although he seemed to lose a lot of hooks in the trees opposite our mooring in the process. No queueing through the locks so a quick ascent was made using a lock recently vacated by a northbound boat each time. All the time the wind was gradually increasing to I was glad to clear the locks and get up some speed again to fight the side wind.
On the Barby straight we passed Draco and Success moored up. I spoke with Mike as we passed but did not stop as I had just got past a very slow and unpredictable boat that had been ahead of us and I didn’t want him to pass me again. We finally moored up for the night in the shelter of a large hedge just past Willoughby Wharf. Ian cooked the dinner and then another evening of Soddit commenced finally giving up at about 12:30. There was a big full moon which kept it quit light all night.

11th September 2011 - Willoughby Wharf to Stockton
Autumn SODDIT Cruise Day 2

H.C. 9719 - 9723 Distance 12 miles 3Locks.

Crew - Graham, Ian and Brian

We decided last night that I would get up early and set off as a strong wind was forecast for later in the day and I wanted to wind in Braunston before it got too strong. Consequently I was up and away at 7:30 whilst Brian and Ian had a more leisurely start. There was sunshine, blue skies and little wind as we made our way down into Braunston. We passed Virgo, moored up just before the A45 bridge, which was sporting an enormous HF aerial attached to the rear of the boat. Guy appeared at the front doors complaining about us being up and on the move whilst he was just getting up.
At the Braunston sani-station I set up the self pump-out equipment only to find that the pump had sprung a leak as one of the diaphragms had perished. So I put it all away again and we then winded in the marina entrance to set off toward Wigrams turn and the Grand Union towards Stockton.

Once we had crossed the puddlebanks (and noticed that the old BW house at the turn is up for auction) we found that most of the offside trees and hedges between Wolfhampcote and Flecknoe have been removed and so the strong wind blew across the canal and took Jannock with it making steering very difficult. Luckily there were not so many boats about today so we didn’t keep having to wait at bridgeholes. At Wigrams we turned under the bridge and arrived at Calcut locks just as nb The Angels Share caught us up so we shared the flight with them. They were a newly delivered boat that was having it’s first long trip down to Stratford-on-Avon and back.
Once through the locks we moored up for lunch and more fishing so I went and fetched the car from Brinklow using the Di Blasi. At the end of the weekend, Ian had caught all the fish (eight in total), Brian won at Soddit and I negotiated a deal for some special Cutweb beer to be sold at the charity auction next weekend. Result!

16th September 2011 - Stockton to Blue Lias
Cutweb Rally 2011 - Day 1

H.C. 9723 - 9725 Distance 1 mile 8 Locks.

Crew - Graham and Brenda

En-route to Jannock we stopped at Lee Sanitation and collected the ‘manual pump-out repair kit’ that I had reserved for collection earlier in the week. After loading all our stuff aboard Jannock I set Brenda off towards the top of Stockton flight and I drove the car to park it in the little car-park opposite the Boat Inn. I then walked to the top lock and had it ready when Jannock arrived. This is the first time we’ve approached the rally at Blue Lias down the flight without a horde of helpers that have walked up from the bottom to assist. We completed the flight in 1 hour and 15 minutes which we thought was good. On exiting the bottom lock we found eight boats already in attendance and we winded in the arm and moored alongside Lord Toulouse, third out from the bank. Having assessed the mooring situation we decided to shuffle a few boats around and then moor Jannock in the ‘buffer-zone’ (the mooring right outside the Blue Lias terrace immediately in front of the bridge) which made more space available for the fifteen boats expected. The rest of the afternoon and evening were spent catching up with people we hadn’t seen for about a year and me collecting everybody's money to pay for the rally.

17th September 2011 - Blue Lias
Cutweb Rally 2011 - Day 2

A lazy start was followed by an overhaul session with our self pump-out equipment to replace the perished bellows and prepare it for our return journey through Braunston on Monday. The weather was threatening to rain in the afternoon when it was planned to have a boules tournament on the lawn so I opened up the Blue Lias function room and set up Brenda’s Wii so that we had an indoor alternative. This turned out to be an excellent insurance policy as the Beeky Boules competition passed without any of the threatened rain interfering with proceedings. Tea and cake on the lawn, that followed, was moved into the function room due to the rain clouds finally arriving and an impromptu Wii ten pin bowling competition started.
Our evening entertainment was provided by Life an Times who sang the songs from their production Where the working boats went. During the intermission a poor attempt was made at devouring the Ploughman’s buffet which saw quite a few French sticks being returned to the kitchens un-eaten. The evening was rounded off with Cutweb Infinity Raffle.

18th September 2011 - Blue Lias
Cutweb Rally 2011 - Day 3

The booking in time for items to be included in the morning auction was 10.00 and so no laying in bed this morning. I had obtained some un-labelled Vale VPA beer in presentation boxes of 3 bottles and had made up new labels identifying it as Bowthruster, Cutweb Pale Ale. These seemed to sell well in the auction with one pack reaching a whopping £10. Unfortunately for the purchaser, he wasn’t there so he certainly got a pleasant surprise when he received the bill ( and the beer ;^)
After the auction a roast beef sunday lunch was served to all who required it with Sunday afternoon being Free Time. I took the opportunity to take my car to UCC at Braunston bottom lock as that was where we would be heading on Monday in order for Jannock to be placed in the dry-dock to be blacked. I returned on the Di Blasi in time for tea ready for the evening quiz which was organised by Brenda and myself as we were part of last years winning team.

19th September 2011 - Blue Lias to Braunston
H.C. 9728 - 9733 Distance 9.5 miles 12 Locks.

Crew - Graham and Brenda

There were six Cutweb boats wanting to ascend the Stockton flight at about 8am on Monday morning and we were first off the blocks partnering nb Uncle Mort. We breasted Jannock against U.M. once in the bottom lock and let Andrew use the power of his Lister JP3 to move boat boats while Brenda, Sheila and I did the locking with Dillon the Spaniel supervising. Luckily the first 4 locks were set for us with bottom gates opened by crew members from the other boats behind and so we completed the flight in 45 minutes. On then to Calcutt locks where we met a pair of boats leaving each lock as we were ready to enter and so we passed up that flight quite smoothly as well. Thanks to the crew of Hampshire Rose and all the other boats through the year that have called out to say they enjoy Jannock’s blog and the website content. We’re tempted to say “get a life” but that would be rude and also a complete antithesis of how pleased we are that our (Brenda’s) rantings brighten someone's day.

At Wigrams we turned left towards Braunston and started the slow slog across the level pound meeting lots of on-coming craft and eventually becoming pig-in-the-middle of a procession of eight boats until we reached Braunston turn where most of the ones in front of us turned left towards Rugby. We stopped at the Braunston sani-station again and this time I managed a complete pump-out due to not having a perished pump.
Once completed Brenda made a snack dinner which was rapidly eaten as we made our way towards the bottom lock. We ascended this lock and then pulled over to moor up whilst awaiting the previous user of the dry dock to leave so that we could reverse in. We then loaded all our stuff into the car and left for home.

22nd September 2011 - Braunston to Weedon Bec
H.C. 9733 - 9739 Distance 8.5 miles 12 Locks.

Crew - Graham and Brenda

We arrived at Braunston dry dock to find Tim re-fitting Jannock’s front fender prior to letting the water back in to re-float her. He had nothing un-toward to report about her hull condition except that the front and rear anodes (fitted 2000) will need replacing when she’s next blacked. We left the dock and made our way to the next lock where a single boat had just ascended. I called to the steerer to try and determine whether anything was coming down and got a ‘Yes’ as the answer. OK, so he now knows we are following him, I wonder if he’ll wait. The answer was no, they continued up through Nelson lock solo. Meanwhile, while we waited for the northbound boat to descend through the lock, another two boats joined us waiting to go up and so we ended up sharing the rest of the flight with an ABC hireboat. However, at the next lock the single boat had decided to wait until they saw two boats coming up together at which point they carried on regardless so we never got chance to offer to share so that the ABC boat could return to it’s original partner. One of their crew did not want to pass through the tunnel, she had walked over the top when they came the other way but Brenda persuaded her to stay aboard the boat. It stopped before the tunnel to let her off but she decided to remain on board and was proud that she had overcome her anxiety.

We arrived at Buckby top lock and Peter the lockie asked us to wait until another boat arrived. Eventually the same ABC crew arrived and so we shared this flight with them as well. At lock 9 their oil warning light and buzzer came on and so they wanted to stop. Knowing that there is better access at the bottom of the flight we breasted up with them and Brenda brought them down through locks 9, 10 and 11 whilst they phoned Gayton marina for advice. By lock 12 the ABC engineer had asked the crew to do some checks on their engine and then declared that the oil pressure switch was faulty and that they could continue using the engine. We separated the boats again and continued the flight independently.
All the time we were descending Buckby flight we were accompanied by a nice old couple who were walking along the towpath alongside us. She was keen to see what was happening and how the water was let our through the paddles and he was carefully explaining everything to her as they went. By lock 13 (bottom lock) I had found out that he had been the Buckby lock keeper for thirty-odd years and had lived in the cottage at the bottom lock. He told me how the blacksmiths forge that used to be behind the building, accessed through the low arch, was where the Buckby windlass was made and that he had been presented with the last one ever made there. I asked if he still possessed it but he said he had given it away years ago. He also told me how when the cottage right beside the lock was sold by BW, they included all the grass right up to the lock edge in the sale. Consequently, when he went to cut it a few days after the new owner had moved in, he was told off because it was not BW property anymore.
Once through the locks and onto the long pound we had lunch on the move and then found a suitable fourteen day mooring, on the offside near Weedon church, to leave Jannock on as Graham had a sign writing course the following weekend.

1st October 2011 - Weedon Bec to Stoke Bruerne bottom lock
H.C. 9739 - 9744 Distance 11 miles 7 Locks.

Crew - Graham and Brenda

Well here we are in October and needing the factor 30 by 10 am. 28 degrees or thereabouts. At 2 pm we entered Blisworth tunnel where it was a chilly 17 degrees with frequent drips and deluges that cooled Graham down nicely for the locks. As we emerged from the tunnel it became obvious that their ‘Village at War’ event had been declared and so I searched out my boatwoman’s bonnet and put it on for a while. As we stopped to prepare the top lock Graham was ordered by a clip-boarded warden to move the boat nearer the lock in order for the trip boat to be able to access it’s mooring. He pointed out the fast back pump outfall and explained that if we moved forward into that we’d end up in the pub opposite. That in itself would make getting into the lock difficult enough without the hire boat that was bobbing about in the general hoo-haa also waiting for the lock. Mr warden looked very sheepish and went about his characterisation elsewhere. We shared the whole flight of locks with the hireboat using their crew to work the boats through whilst Graham cycled ahead and prepared the next lock. By the bottom lock I had trained their steerer to stay alongside as we moved the two boats between locks together.

We decided to moor up at the bottom of the flight and walk back up to the village to enjoy the war. Mooring was a bit of a problem, insofar as there were none within easy marching distance but then we noticed nb Justice (belonging to Steve Haywood ) moored there and so we took advantage and moored alongside. We met up with Sean (sb Laplander), had a quick recce and a look at the black market (they call it vintage clothing, I call it a jumble sale, only the price breaks are different) before deciding on the pub.

The place was heaving with soldiers of all nations (including Germans). The yanks looked like the cast of South Pacific and were augmented by the navy. There was even a gentleman trying to sell corsets and parachute silk directoire knickers. Our cider was attacked by a wasp (told you it was hot) and all this militarism was getting to me. so I killed it! I then flicked it towards the cut but it flew like a kamikaze pilot into some poor blokes beer. Oh how they laughed! I offered to buy him another but he declined. What a gent.
The people sat next to us had some rather un-pleasant children and were not really looking after them. I decided to make their lives as unpleasant as they were making ours so I bought myself an ice cream. That made the little darlings whine and plead. Result! The ice creams at the Boat are highly recommended. After more drinks, a meal and lots of chat we wandered back down the flight. Graham had promised me a moon lit night, star spangled as there were no clouds. Just as well that I’d taken a torch as the black-out warden had obviously spoken to the man in the moon. I overhead someone saying it was not a night for a dambusters raid – too dark.

2nd October 2011 - Stoke Bruerne to Cosgrove
H.C. 9744 - 9747 Distance 5.5 miles 1 Lock.

Crew - Graham and Brenda

… 2nd day of tropical temperatures.
The cabin temperature was 27 degrees by 12:30 and 33 degrees by 14:00. Luckily we only had a short day today caused mainly by staying late for an enjoyable evening at SB. It was a lovely day today with the early autumn colours, the hawthorns heavy with deep red berries and the farmers preparing the winter wheat fields all looking at odds with the temperature. Just before noon we encountered our first fishing match of the season and it seems that being warm and dry doesn’t improve the mood of those with grumpy tendencies one jot. I have always put their curmudgeonly demeanour down to trench foot and chilblains but no excuses now. We moored up and had lunch after which Graham fetched the car whilst I tidied and locked up before desperately trying to find some shade in which to await his return.

8th October 2011 - Cosgrove to Stoke Hammond
H.C. 9747 - 9752 Distance 14 miles 2 Locks.

Crew - Graham and Brenda

09:45 and Jannock’s cabin temperature is the same as outside = 11.5 degrees. How did that happen? Normality resumed I suppose but I’m not so sure. After an un-eventful day in the environs of Milton Keynes we can report hedgerows full of blackberries and their flowers, sloes and plums alongside crab apples and ……. pussy willow?
We left Cosgrove after chatting to a couple off of another boat who introduced themselves as fellow Cutweb members. They spotted us by our large bow stickers but we would not have spotted them as we could not see any trace of Cutweb on their boat as we passed. Brian on Harnser recognises members by their boat names but I’m useless with names, much better with numbers me. The herons on this stretch just sit and watch you pass, no flying off as the boat nears for these tough guys. It was good to see the restored mural alongside the track south of Wolverton, and a sadness to see that some prats have already defaced it with their oh so simple minded graffiti.
The run down through MK revealed the same boats on the same towpath moorings with exception of the official BW long term moorings just south of Fenny lock which now seem deserted compared to last year. After all, we’ve been doing this same post-rally run south for 6 years now and I’m amazed how many boats I recognised. We filled with diesel at Willowbridge marina (95ppl domestic) and as they were selling small trial phials of Fuelset, I purchased enough to treat Jannock’s tank for the winter closedown. Shortly after leaving there I suffered a sneezing fit. About 15 minutes later we identified the allergen as a swathe of oilseed rape in bloom – this is supposed to be October!

15th October 2011 - Stoke Hammond to Marsworth
H.C. 9752 - 9759 Distance 12 miles 15 Locks.

Crew - Graham, Brenda, Bob and Di.

Today we were accompanied for another leg of our homeward run south by neighbours Bob and Diane. Bob has been crew on Jannock before (Tardebigge 2010) but it was Diane’s first trip. We set off from Stoke Hammond at 10:00 in another bonus day of summer. Mid October, us in T shirts (Graham still in shorts) and quite literally not a cloud in the sky all day. We met nb Earnest (yes, that one) moored for lunch above Church lock and Linda reported that they had woken to a heavy frost and ice on their roof despite the cabin heating being on. I’m sure we won’t cheat autumn for much longer. It seemed we were unusual in that we were travelling south, but that meant that most of the locks were set in our favour, top gate leaks not withstanding, although we passed through them all solo. The pound between the two Ivinghoe locks was about 18” lower than it should be with the bottom of the cut being exposed at both sides. This meant Jannock’s steering and progress were difficult although the northbound Dutch tjalk that waited for us to ascend through the top lock must had had even more problems in that pound as he drew 3 foot compared to our ‘less than’ 2 foot.

All of the other pounds during our journey were close to normal levels and some of the lock bypasses were running. On arrival at Marsworth we moored up and Graham went to fetch the car from Stoke Hammond whilst Bob, Di and I walked to Marsworth reservoir. Here it was very clear that we have paid for our sunny days with water; and that’s over a couple of years now. The normal reservoir water level was clear to see some 10 foot above the fishermen who were a little way down the ‘beach’ which has been sufficiently exposed to allow green plants to establish themselves on it. It was a surprise to see that the White Lion pub, by Marsworth bottom lock, has closed – but once it had been bistrofied I guess their business plan didn’t meet their customer base and so it was likely to be all downhill. The Red Lion and Angler’s Retreat have both been enjoyed by Jannock crews so it’s not a beer desert in Marsworth yet.
On our journey home we were guiltily amused to see the fire engines, all lights blazing, attending Marsworth’s mobile fish and chip van. They weren’t picking up savaloy and chips for sure. It reminded me of comedy sketches . . . . didn’t Last of the Summer Wine use a mobile chippy to remove a dead body from a lady’s boudoir? Do I remember Arkwright providing Granville with an equally flammable catering outlet in Open All hours? Ah British culture at it’s best and men in uniform. What an end to a lovely day. Thanks to Bob and Di for their company and help along the way.

22nd October 2011 - Marsworth to Bourne End
H.C. 9759 - 9765 Distance 10 miles 20 Locks.

Crew - Graham and Brenda

Here is a photo of the water levels in Marsworth reservoir that we mentioned last week. The drop down to the fisher-persons tent is about ten foot.
Yet another glorious day, but almost as cold as mid-October should be due to the wind. As we approached Marsworth flight the crew of nb Vital Spark asked to share with us. We worked alongside them, steerers chatting and lockers grafting, an amiable ascent. They were completing their trip to new moorings at Cowroast marina as we were completing Jannock’s seven month trip back to Bourne End. Along Tring summit I saw my first Kingfisher of 2011, a bit late but better than no sighting at all. As we approached Bushes lock a little Springer Waterbug pulled out and lead us to the lock landing. There were five adults and a bouncy teenage girl aboard so we were pleased thinking that they’d lighten the load down the rest of the Northchurch locks. I jumped off and opened the gates and both craft entered. There was one lady on the Springer who knew what to do and the rest appeared to be visitors of some sort as the men stood around a lot with windlasses in their hands without a clue as what to do with them. I tried offering advice to get a sequence going but it was all forgotten by the next lock. I told their captain that I would cycle ahead and get the next lock ready and so left them to sort out the bottom gates. At Gas lock Brenda and I were pleased when they said they were stopping at Waitrose as it would be easier doing the locks without them.

We moved down to the next (bottom) lock and I jumped off and opened one gate for Jannock to enter. The Springer appeared between Jannock and the towpath and declared their intention to come through with us. I set off over the lock and to open the other gate whilst their steerer decided she’d just continue on in through the first gate causing Brenda to hit reverse and do some nifty manoeuvring to avoid crashing into their boat or the still closed off-side gate. Their steerer made some comment about not realising that Jannock had intended to enter the lock on the towpath side so Brenda pointed out that was why I had opened that gate. She was told that there was “ no bl@@dy need to be sarcastic”. The crew just hung about, with windlasses in hand as usual, and left most of the work to me and their steerer. Black looks accompanied my departure, having carried the lock-wheeling bike across the bottom gates, to get Raven’s lane lock ready. Once both boats were in, with the assistance on the towpath side top gate of our local BSC examiner, he then started telling off their steerer for the hazardous state of their gas installation. It was a trip hazard at best as well as being lethal if it leaked. Their excuse was that they didn’t have a cylinder of the correct size for the housing and they had to set off in a hurry. His comment was “the number of times I’ve heard that excuse, still doesn’t stop it being dangerous”.
I continued on down and set Rising Sun lock and left them to complete Raven’s lane. They couldn’t get the offside lower gate fully open due to something being stuck behind it but still wanted Jannock to exit first so that they could pull their boat out and close the gates afterwards. Brenda persuaded them to go back in the lock a bit and then got Jannock out around the obstruction. We sighed with relief when they announced they were stopping at the Riser for a drink so once out of that lock we left them to it.

Just a little further on we stopped alongside Tiami for our regular autumn chat with Debbi and Simon. Debbi injured her foot a while ago and I lent her some Terry Pratchett books, to stop her going mad whilst incapacitated and stuck in the boat, so she returned them whilst we were there. A single hander on a rather old and smoky boat came past whilst we were chatting and so we decided not to hurry to lock share. When we finally set off we found her at Top side lock . It was set with just a single top gate open but she rushed round and opened the offside gate for us before bringing her boat in. What a difference! She was only out on her ‘new’ boat for the second day and was keen to learn all the rules and etiquette of the cut. She wanted to become a safe and efficient boater as soon as possible. The company was as good as our first share of the day and far less effort than our second. We continued on through Bottom side and Sewer locks and explained that we’d be mooring up before Winkwell locks. We pulled onto our mooring at Bourne End and waved a cheery farewell to her and a very interesting cruising season. We left our mooring heading South in April and returned heading South in October and for once have not had to retrace our steps on the southern end of the Grand Union at all.

That's all Folks! .... We hope to see you in 2012.

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