Perfect Harmony

Perfect Harmony
Moored at Huntingdon

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

30th April '13

We have had an amazing day and are now, believe it or not on the River Kennet! We have travelled 23 miles and done 7 locks in just under 7 hours which is really good going. Only possible because of the flow of the Thames, I hasten to add, now we're back on a smaller river, and going upstream, it's going to be a different story.

Poor Paddy has had a bad day though as we were only able to give him one comfort stop, so when we got here, he got off, wee'd for his country and refused to get back on board! I gave him a good walk and he's forgiven us now.

We've been seeing lots of red kites in the last few days and I finally got the better camera out and managed to get a shot, it's not brilliant but better than the one I got on the Nene, for those who have been following this from the beginning.

The red kite is the speck in the centre of the picture over the tree, believe me!

Just a beautiful view of the Thames on a lovely (if still very cold) day.

These are an example of designated moorings - we saw some like this that were on private land that wanted £4 a night to stay there! Chatting to a chap in one of the blocks, he can't believe that the river authorities don't invest minimal capital in putting in some decent jetty's along the way, since it's been a leisure facility for the last 30+ years. He has a point.

This is the lock where I was having the conversation! We went in with 2 rather impressive plastic pigs! Apparently you can get 3 narrow boats in side by side in this one as it's 21' wide.


There are so many beautiful properties along the river, we have been in raptures over many of them, some with huge gardens leading down to the river, however this one caught my eye as it seemed to have been built high enough to avoid the floods, which can be quite impressive judging by the marks shown on the locks.

This is the rather unprepossessing entrance to the Kennet, there's a tree down that covers half the opening and you can only see the signs when you're on top of them. Mind you this is true for much of the river. There have been several occasions today when we've been cruising onwards, not completely sure which way the channel goes, they don't seem to see it necessary to tell you and this can be quite tricky!

This is the opening once you have avoided the tree - mind you there were some black swans on the corner and I've never seen them in the flesh before. I took a photo but it didn't really show them that well.

Here's the first lock on the Kennet, it's very wide and typically the lock keeper wasn't on duty today and so John had a bit of a shock doing it all himself, especially since the paddles were worked by wheels to turn on each gate. It was a bit weird being in such a huge space on my own, but at least it gave me a chance to use my wonderful long centre rope. John cusses it every time, but it really does need to be that long for the deep double locks!

Thanks to Allison and Dave we were directed to some moorings off on the right - we'd never have found them otherwise as again they aren't marked, we sort of guessed that the cream building just after the weir had to be the entrance and luckily it was! As we went into the side channel we spotted the boat we'd been moored next to at Oxford, so ignored the map that was wrong and took the first left and got a mooring which is apparently near the Reading Gaol. Tomorrow we shall have a bit of an explore.

Just for anyone in the SW who isn't on facebook, we expect to be at the Caen Locks by the weekend of 11/12th and then over the next week we'll be travelling down through Bradford on Avon, Bathampton and Bath area so we're hoping that friends and family will come and see us at some point. Just let us know if you want to meet up.

Monday, 29 April 2013

29th April '13

OK, I'll admit it, I was wrong, I'm enjoying most of the Thames that we've been on so far. It's been a long day so I'll say it with pictures.

Well I would if I could upload them in less than 10minutes each. I'll go and cook tea and see if it's better later.

Here we are coming out of the Isis lock onto the Thames. We started early today so this was about 9.30 - well it impressed me!

This is an old railway turntable that obviously used to hold up the boats when the trains were using it. It just seemed so strange to see that I had to photograph it.

Allison and Charlie on Free Spirit waiting for us - Dave is at the front sorting out the bow rope. This is just before the first of the big locks that have wonderful lock-keepers who do it all for you.

Here we both are in the lock - I asked one of the lock-keepers how big they were and he said that he'd be able to get a 50' boat in front of us plus the same on the other side so if they were smaller boats they'd get quite a few in. At one lock we had a plastic pig in with us.

These are some of the boat houses for the Oxford boats. Unlike at Cambridge we didn't see any boats out rowing in Oxford although we did see some later on at Abingdon.

Looking back on the river - a bit wider than the canals we're used to but it's quite a lot easier than I expected, and SO beautiful.

Here we are following the others along where the river goes off to a weir on the right and we go left towards the lock. It looks quite a nice day, but it was very cold and pretty windy despite the sun doing it's best.

This is the weir at Abingdon - thank heavens for locks! The river is amazingly quiet, we have only passed a few boats in either direction all day. Long may it last!

The first family of goslings we have seen - ahhhh.

These were opposite our mooring at Abingdon - it looks a lovely place - probably worth a good look around at some point, but John had only bought a 3 day license for the Thames so after an awful mooring (despite being told otherwise, John felt sure we'd be OK with the middle rope to pull us in, even with the help of others it was impossible, so he had to turn completely around in the river and moor, which then meant that he had to turn the boat again before leaving) we had a quick lunch, popped into the Co-op for some supplies, said au revoir to Allison and Dave and continued on our way.

Then I remembered the other thing I hated about rivers - the lack of moorings. We only intended to go about an hour along and there were moorings marked on the guide. Well I can only say that no moorings were seen. We continued on for quite a bit further and eventually found what is laughingly called a mooring. The edges are all in and out, we're pretty much grounded at the hull and there's nothing resembling a path to be seen. Still we are here and the interesting fact of the day is that the village of Dorchester (not that one) that lies over the way, hosts the World Pooh Stick Championship! Isn't that great?

What can tomorrow hold I ask myself?

Sunday, 28 April 2013

28th April '13

Really bad night for me - for some reason my back decided to play up and so I gave up just before 2 and went and took an anti-histamine. My thinking was that it knocked me out the other day so hopefully it would do the same. The time schedule seemed to go a bit awry, since at 4 I went to bed still wide awake, but freezing and eventually fell asleep, only to wake up at 7 for a wee, at 10 because Paddy wanted to go out (fair enough really) then as my beloved said he'd take him out I settled down and the phone rang. I love Darren, I really do, and it was wonderful to hear from him, and I'd love to hear more often, but did it HAVE to be just then? Sleep was gone but John said to stay in bed anyway, which I did until midday!

Got up to find a message from Allison suggesting we meet for lunch, so a mad panic to walk Paddy as John wanted to see the Thames and the first big lock we'd come to, then after bringing Paddy back John needed to go and find a hole in the wall. Anyway we eventually got to a really nice pub and had a fantastic Sunday roast with Allison and Dave. Isn't it ridiculous how you can discover so much in common with people who were strangers 24 hours before? We are going to catch them up in the morning as they are moored just next to the lock and then travel down with them. Eat your heart out Darren, we've found some other cruising buddies!

The locks are HUGE, you could fit an ocean going liner in them, well maybe not quite, but they are definitely the largest locks we have had to use. I'm not panicking, not even when Dave told us we have to get the stern of the boat in as the stream will catch it and pull you out otherwise, not even when hearing that we need the anchor on the back of the boat in case. Just wondering if the 2 litres of scotch we bought back from Cape Verde is going to be enough?

Last night was pretty noisy on top of everything else. Not only is the rail just over from us, but it is also the station, and trains seem to enjoy lingering there for a long time overnight, running their engines and giving the occasional hoot. Lovely. The Church bells stopped at midnight until 7 and I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the ringing between 10 and 10.30, felt like Oxford proper.

Here is said Church and bell tower. Very attractive.

Right, we are going to be away about 10ish in the morning to get down through Isis lock and onto the Thames, meet up with NB Free Spirit and off on our adventure. (where did I put the life-jacket?)

Saturday, 27 April 2013

27th April '13

One of the nicest bits about boating is the people you meet. We met a lovely couple today who are also going to Bath, although on a slightly different timescale as us, and we are hoping to meet them along the way - possibly at a pub? Anyway Allison and Dave, nice to have met you and really hope we see you again, hope you found a mooring on the Thames!

We actually started off at 9 today! Yes, really we did. This is pretty amazing, those who know us will have to admit. Actually it felt pretty good, and I'm sure we'll be ready for bed tonight. Well we've made it to Oxford, and have actually got a brilliant mooring very near the Isis lock that takes us onto the Thames. We're going to stay here until Monday though and do a bit of exploring. We've had a quick wander into the city and remember almost nothing about it from our previous trips here. Senility really is creeping in - well galloping almost - still we are learning to enjoy it!

John kept getting it mixed up with Cambridge - he's decided that Oxbridge really exists and that we are there!

Weather has been cold again and there have been a few outbreaks of rain, but it's been very short lived, barely time to get an anorak on really. Last night we had a pretty impressive hail storm after I'd written the blog. We had no TV signal and so are working our way through the Red Dwarf DVD's that Chloe gave us for Christmas. Great fun. John is pretty hopeful that we are OK here as we want to watch Endeavour tomorrow night - we really are that sad - but hey - Oxford in the 60's, we're pretty much there.

Family names number whatever. My maiden name was Marshall so this was close enough to count I felt - also pretty unusual for a boat name.

The next in the series - and here we have the proper spelling for Katie! At least for our Katie....

These are work boats for the CRT and they are doing some much needed maintenance to the canal edges - it really is falling in at lots of points along the way so these were a welcome sight.

They are now using these bales of a hessian type material as plants etc can grow into them and apparently voles can also nibble their way in to nest, so very environmentally sound.

Here's the repair complete. There is hessian abutted to wattles and then covered with mud dredged from the canal all held in with wooden posts that stay there to keep it all together until nature takes over and then we presume they sort of rot away eventually. I thought you'd like that little lesson in canal tow path maintenance - never let it be said that you don't learn stuff from here - not a lot maybe but I try to scatter nuggets of knowledge when I can.

I took this photo a couple of days ago and then didn't add it as I wasn't sure it was interesting, but now I think it's a bit more relevant. This is a section of tow path that has been allowed to return to nature - not only are the edges poor but the path is completely lost in overgrown shrubs and trees. A section that desperately needs some TLC one feels. At the moment walkers have to trek across the field next to it to get past and this is a designated footpath!

We have come through several of the lift bridges today and some of them have been down and locked - the first one we came to I jumped off and said I'd do it (a first) anyway I couldn't shift it and felt a bit foolish - so John gets off the boat as I get back on and he discovers that it needs a key. I have the key on the boat and much to John's horror, I throw it onto shore. I don't know why he was so worried - it didn't go in the water despite him screaming, and then he went back to unlock said bridge - after a few minutes in which the air above him became blue and full of !*!!** type marks, he said he'd need his pliers. He clambered back on the boat for them - I'm sure I COULD have thrown them - and eventually he managed to open the blessed thing. None of the others were as bad but apparently that one is notorious.

This is the view from our bow. You can see the bridge that goes over Isis lock ahead. It looks lovely and peaceful but we appear to have the train station on our right and a beautiful Church with an Italianate bell tower that insists on ringing out the hours. mmmmm - a quiet night may not be on the cards.

We are about to go out in search of a takeaway as a treat - plus we've bought some fudge from the shop in town where they make it so that's pudding sorted. Diet not going so well.

Friday, 26 April 2013

26th April '13

Something of a change in the weather today. Last night John took Paddy out for his last airing and found that it was drizzling and the grass was decidedly wet. This was a bit of a shock after the lovely day we'd had and then when we went to bed the rain hammered down. So this morning when we woke up and found it was cold but sunny we were quite pleased and prepared for the day to warm up, wearing longs and summer tops. I can only say that this state of affairs didn't last long... by the time we'd gone through the first lock we'd both gone below and changed into jeans, long sleeves and socks and shoes. By the end of the day we'd added jackets as well!

We must stop using the words, beautiful, idyllic, tranquil and lovely. Ever bend we go around we seem to say the same things.

The Cherwell has stayed with us all day, here it is but has changed sides and is now on our right after the brief river crossing yesterday. I discovered to my horror that there is another river section of about a mile where the canal and the river are one. Still it will prepare me for the horrors of the Thames!

Today we did notice the absence of as many moorings and also the sides of the canal are reverting to the stone shelves that we had around Braunston. As you can see it doesn't make for friendly moorings!

Here I am in Somerton Deep Lock - I think I mentioned it yesterday. We were still in summer gear at this point and in the locks it's fine as you're out of the wind and when the sun is shining it's rather nice! It's a different matter at the top though, especially in today's winds.

I took this because the bridge spans both the river and the canal, but apparently the bit over the river was originally a very old pack horse bridge. It was hard to see whilst on the move but I like bits of history. A bit after this we crossed the original path of the Akeman Street, a Roman road. You can't see any traces of it from the canal unfortunately, it's all too overgrown.

This was one of our idyllic moments - it was just such a beautiful setting, nothing to be seen for miles and nobody about, the trees and hedges are getting greener as we watch and even the sky was blue for us (you can't see the wind but it wasn't QUITE as cold here). Paddy was able to get off here and have a run around to stretch his little legs. His paw is completely healed now but it took the best part of a week, poor chappy.

We wonder what the boat must look like? Someone had really smashed into this - it's the base of one of the lift bridges and you can just about see that the whole structure has been pushed out towards the canal. This must have taken some doing - these have been here for a long, long time and they are pretty solid.

We came through the delightfully named Pigeons Lock saying this is the last lock of the day and there were moorings about a mile further on at Enslow. (Incidentally we couldn't moor at the lock as some prat was on the white bollards, engine running and busying himself inside. Despite seeing us struggle to get against the side he didn't come out and move forward a bit, despite the fact that there was plenty of space, grrrr). Anyway...We get there and pull into a slot behind the 3 boats moored where the visitors moorings are, but there is nowhere to moor and not enough ground to put pegs in so John goes off on a recee to see what is around the corner. He comes back saying that they are all long term moorings so we resigned ourselves to go on a bit and this meant going through a lock ..... onto the river section!!!!

We got through and to be honest it was fine - hardly scary at all, in fact if I hadn't seen the signs and read the guide I wouldn't have known it was a river at all.

The lock off the river was another of the lozenge shaped ones but only 2'5" but took ages to fill and then an equally long time to empty. This is looking back from it onto the river bit.

We moored up just a few hundred yards further on, next to a lift bridge. Now we only have less than 9miles to Oxford and 5 locks - a doddle. Just hope that there are moorings - we plan to get up early(ish) tomorrow to try to get ahead of the game. For some reason today, EVERY lock was against us apart from 2 and we NEVER saw a boat in front of us. If I ever find this phantom boat that goes ahead of us, I'll scupper it! Mind you it was very quiet today - we saw one boat behind us but only to the first lock and I can only remember 2 going the other way. Hope Oxford is as quiet, but I doubt it somehow.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

25th April '13

Sorry for the lack of blog last night - it wasn't for the want of trying but I had a disaster (best said as Craig Revel Horwood). I plugged my iphone in as per usual and it asked if I wanted to download the latest edition, naturally I thought that would be a good idea - NOT SO..... after 30+minutes my phone shut down and I lost my connection and nothing could be done to rectify the situation. There was actually some conversation between me and the phone at this point - well not so much conversation as it didn't reply, but words were said.

This morning I had to go into town to the 3 shop where I waited for them to open at 9, helpful if somewhat young oik told me that they didn't have access to itunes which is what my phone was asking for. I ask you - a phone shop - selling iphones - with no access to itunes - where's the sense in that????? They suggested a computer shop around the corner - so off I trundle (thinking that our departure was getting later than expected) only to find that said computer shop didn't open until 9.30. So off I go back to the boat to explain to John what's happening and have a comfort break (wee) and then trek back to shop, that still isn't open but I'm first in when the shutters went up! Another young and friendly guy is unsure what to do, but his helpful boss, by now serving the other person who came in the shop at the same time as me, would know what to do. At least they had itunes so we were getting somewhere. Eventually boss is able to come over and tell me that my phone has hit a brick and has to be restored to it's original settings - not with everything I've loaded on it but as per virgin phone. GREAT. Anyway they did this and at least I now have my phone and internet again but instead of it being Nancy's iphone on the identity it's now something else and I have no facebook on it so will have to re-load it. Even plugging it into my computer and syncing it hasn't worked. GRRRRRR.

ANYWAY - back to the blog. We liked Banbury a lot and stayed there until this morning (see above). It's a lovely little town with lots of small shopping lanes with many independant shops. We had a lovely lunch in the oldest pub in the town The Reindeer Inn, and found everyone very friendly. I forgot my camera but took photos on my phone - guess what happened to them? Anyway there's lots of lovely architecture and I'm sure if you Google Banbury you can see what we saw!

Banbury was one of the very few places I'd have liked to stay - this is obviously the general point of view as lots of boats appeared to go through but on closer inspection they were pretty much the same few going backwards and forwards over the almost 48 hours we were there.

The weather has been lovely again today - in fact it's been a real Wind in the Willows day - simply nothing is better than messing about in boats.

We've decided that we really like the South Oxford canal - it's certainly beautiful in most places and the moorings seem fairly plentiful and good. Even the locks are friendly in the main.

Mother and baby duck! There were quite a few ducklings about but they were hard to see and too far from mum.

This section of canal is known for it's lift bridges - luckily left open mostly. They mean that the farmer can get to fields on the far side of the canal and boats aren't left having to stop every 5 minutes - it also negates the need for moorings for boats to pull into and out of.

This is one of the locks we've done today - there are some deep ones on this stretch - I think this is about 10' but tomorrow we do one that is actually called Somerton Deep Lock and is 12' and is one of two of the deepest narrow locks in the country! One good thing about them is that the bottom gate is a single and not double as usual which means that John doesn't do his stepping over bit so that's a relief for me!

In fact here he is shutting the gate while I wait outside for him! See the sky - oh it was a lovely day.

Amongst the reeds down there is the river Cherwell which was on our left for most of the day - and very close! Just the other side of the towpath. It's quite narrow and doesn't seem very significant but it does in fact help feed the canal.

Believe it or not this is classed as a river section - you can just see on the right a stone structure that takes the towpath over the weir, which is something of a non-event. Maybe it gets a bit more scary when the rivers in full flow, but it was at the top of the green on the board which means that only an inch or two means you have to proceed with caution. I was doing this on my own at this point so it shows you that it's really nothing. John was up ahead opening the lock for me that is under the bridge ahead.

This has to be the weirdest lock on the system! It's Aynho Lock and called diamond shaped in the guide but you can just about see that it's sort of lozenge shaped really. Very difficult to hold the boat in as you go in and out at the centre of the shape and it narrows both sides. Certainly a tricky one if you're on your own - especially if it's a long boat as you can't really get to the sides easily.

We moored just after this before we got to Aynho Wharf where we want to stop to get water tomorrow. While we were moving I got 3 loads of washing done and since it was such a nice day we got the clothes line out and so here we are being domestic!

Me pleased to have washing drying in the sunshine - first time in about a year!

And here's John cleaning the chimney! See the lovely rural scene in the background - it really is nice here.

John came shooting in the boat to get the binoculars as he'd spotted loads of yellow birds in the field opposite - it turns out that they are Yellow Wagtails! Can't believe how yellow they are - I've only seen the usual black and white ones before!

We've been under the M40 twice today - hopefully that is now it! We are about 20 miles and 13 locks away from Oxford now so we'll be there for the weekend at some point - just in time to be there to watch Endeavour on Sunday night. Then the Thames - still trying not to think about it too much!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

St Georges Day '13

Why is it that on St Patricks day pubs etc go emerald and shamrocks appear everywhere and Guinness is on special offer and when it's St Georges day nothing happens? Just asking.

It's been glorious today, bright sunshine most of the day with either a cold wind or a chilly wind but the sunshine has made up for it. We are both somewhat red and are still sat on the boat with the hatch and both doors open - I can't remember the last time we were able to do this.

After yesterday being really quiet and hardly seeing a boat all day, today we have been in a procession for most of the day. We've done really well though, travelling 11 miles, going down 12 locks and all in 5 and a half hours. The half hour was spent queueing at the top lock while a lock keeper opened all the paddles as the pond at the bottom lock (of 5) was almost empty, and we were the 3rd boat in the queue to go down. It helped that almost all the locks were in our favour and the few that weren't filled quickly, which was lovely.

Waiting at the top lock in a queue. Even earlyish it was still promising to be a nice day.

in total contrast to yesterdays winding route, these two photos taken one after the other show that we had one stretch of over a mile where it was completely straight. What a contrast. That bright light in the sky boys and girls is known as the sun. It used to come out in the summer but seems to have been lost for a while.

Incidentally we went to the pub last night - it was an amazing place, apart from the pub, they had a small shop, a salon for basic beauty treatments, a laundrette and a spice / herb area. Quite a little enterprise, plus they opened at 9am for breakfasts and there was a small site for caravans there as well. Oh and they did takeaways! Shame half of my steak was inedible, but everything else was great!

My quest for family names reached a high today with two daughters in one! Katharine was spelt wrong but the thought was there!

This is our mooring tonight and probably for most if not all of tomorrow as well. We are in Banbury, that of the cross (Ride a cock horse etc..) so as well as getting some groceries tomorrow we want to see the cross (not apparently the original - think Cromwell got rid of it) and also to see the boatyard where Tom Rolt (he who is named on the bridge) got his boat Cressey fitted out. For those non-boaters who may be reading this, Tom Rolt is the Grandaddy of the canals. He cruised them just before the outbreak of WW2 and through his persistence, the canals were kept open as the trade was diminishing for the leisure industry. He realised what a fantastic asset they were and fought for them. He wrote a book of his journey called The Narrow Boat and it's well worth a read if you have any feeling about the canal network. Great man.

Banbury appears lovely from the canalside. We have walked Paddy along the towpath past the new shopping complex, so tomorrow we will investigate further. There are lots of moorings here and it really feels as if the place welcomes boaters, it makes a nice change from some of the places we've gone through.

Just before arriving here we went under the M40, looking at the map it appears that we're going under it twice more. Strange. Also as we were coming past the outskirts we were assailed by the most wonderful smell of roasting coffee beans, as that faded there was freshly baked bread and as if that wasn't enough then there was the smell of warm jam doughnuts. We were in a state of frenzy by the time we moored up, sadly there are none of those smells here but the memory lingers on......

Monday, 22 April 2013

22nd April '13

Don't know what happened there - I'd written a couple of paragraphs and it all just disappeared!

Anyway as I was saying.... we have only got as far as Fenny Compton today due to a mix of cold winds and me having a bout of hay fever today that was somewhat unexpected. I didn't have my usual brand of tablets so took an anti-histamine that I'd bought for someone else a while ago, and it had a weird effect on me. It stopped the hay fever but it left me feeling totally disorientated and very tired. Since I couldn't wear my contact lenses because of the hay fever I found that I couldn't actually focus on the side of the bank when I was jumping off with the rope - scary. Anyway we pulled in for water and decided to stay the night. I promptly fell asleep for a couple of hours - very unusual for me - and now after a walk and a shower feel much better

So much so that we are going to conserve our groceries and have a meal at the Wharf Inn which we are moored outside!

This totally unremarkable view is taken from just around the corner from our mooring of last night. The hedge that you can see is where we were moored against. I mentioned that this is a winding section of canal.
Not to labour a point, but this is a photo of the map of where we have travelled today! We started at the loop just above the large F at the beginning of the text and we are now on the last loop at the bottom of the page. This has been quite a challenge in the wind we've had.

Here we are approaching the bridge on the bend that is in the middle of the page, at the bottom, where we had to swing right back on ourselves. Luckily we didn't meet anyone!

It's been remarkably quiet on this stretch. We have only had 3 boats go past us and we passed one moored before we got here. Nothing has gone past us in the few hours we've been moored and one boat has just come in behind us. If only the sun came out and the wind died down it would be idyllic!

So ever onwards and more southerly tomorrow - the canal straightens out slightly and we have the locks to do, so here's hoping the wind dies a bit.

Talking about dying, John has seen an amazing amount of dead animals in the canal - mostly sheep apparently - he doesn't draw my attention to them bless him. An added incentive not to fall in I feel.