Friday 1st February 2008
We left home mid morning and had a pleasant drive to Napton in bright sun shine with clear blue skys. The traffic on the A14 was unusually light which I put down to the fact that no lorries were landing at Harwich with the docks closed due to high winds. After refilling the water system, we always drain it when we leave the boat this time of the year, we set off to the Top Lock to load the boat from the car. After 2 locks we met a cruiser that had been moored up on the lock landing since before Christmas, it was being bow hauled by 5 lads and I understand itís subject to a section 8 notice that was stuck on it last week. I suppose that BW will have to find it again before they can take any action. A couple of locks later we met a single hander working his way up. Even meeting these two boats we still had to turn every lock as they now drain so quickly. There is a great deal of work going on on the house beside the bottom lock, It is being re-roofed with windows being fitted and also re-pointed on the end by the lock. We pushed on in the sun but it was getting quite cool by now so we decided to moor at 4 pm by The Bridge pub at Napton and we plane to eat here later. We set to doing a few jobs onboard and at 5 pm fed the dog but his after dinner walk was delayed slightly due to a blizzard passing through. That evening we decided to have a meal in The Bridge Inn. The place was very quiet with only 3 other couples eating and about 4 people in the bar. They had a nice fire in the bar and the central heating was working very well in the restaurant. Saturday morning we woke to a clear blue sky and bright sun shine, the wind had dropped away and there was a frost on the towing path and roof. In sheltered spots the canal had a very thin sheet of ice covering it. We set off about 9 15 am and by 10 am the sky had a high level of thin grey cloud covering both the blue an the sun. We met 3 boats between The Bridge and Braunston and very few boats moored out in the wilds. Braunston was quite full with even a trading boat moored outside the Stop House leaving only about 65 foot for the water point. Ownerships were moored three deep between the Marina entrance and Butchers Bridge, but there was just room for us between the end boat and Butchers Bridge. We spent the afternoon at the Ownerships show including watching the jazz Band and Day Star Theatre, after the show closed we walked up to The Old Plough for meal and enjoyed the entertainment provided by Braunston Pickle and other local artists.
It stayed fine overnight and even warmed up a bit, no sign of ice on the towing path puddles this morning. A leisurely start chatting to other boaters and taking the dog for a walk and then into the show again. There was nothing else we wanted to see so we had coffee and said good bye to our Ownership friends and headed off. It was a bit congested at the marina entrance. An Ownership boat that was taking people for a ride was coming out and a boat coming down also wanted to turn. He backed up and let me turn first and then he turned, by now a second Ownerships boat doing trips had returned and also wanted to get back in the marina. In the Braunston area someone has gone to a lot of trouble making a fine job of laying the hedge right up to Braunston Turn. We headed off up the North Oxford only meeting a couple of boats before Hillmorton Locks where one was conveniently coming up the locks. There are a couple of bridges in very bad shape between Hillmorton and Braunston where BW have floated large buoys in the cut to keep boats to the towing path side. As we locked down a second boat caught us up so I drew the paddles on the other lock for them. All the rest of the locks were empty so there must have been someone going down ahead of us. We have moored for the night at the end of the 48 hr moorings just before Newbold Tunnel at 1600 hrs. It started to rain at about 10 pm and it rained all night, however Monday morning the sun rose to a clear blue sky and very little wind and warmer than yesterday. We set off through the Tunnel of Light at quarter to ten, how they justify the cost of having lights on all day with about 4 boats going through I don't know. The best of it is they switch them off when it starts to get dark. One thing I noticed was that the north brick portal of the tunnel is now in need of some attention with a large crack in the brickwork. We saw lots of Kingfishers flashing along in the sun shine and also lots of Kestrels working along the banks. We passed the entrance to the new Brinklow Marina but I refuse to slow down and sound my horn. Maybe the marina owners should erect mirrors so boats leaving can see both ways along the cut before they barge out onto the main line, or maybe one of the crew members could go to the bow and act as a lookout! The state of the cutting between Brinklow and Ansty is now in a worse state than last time we passed through with more trees having slipped down into the cut. Lots of willow trees are now bursting out with their catkins opening out a sure sign of spring coming, also the mallards are well paired up. We stopped for water just prior to Sutton Stop lock before locking down to the junction to wind. I noticed that The Greyhound pub now is not only none smoking inside but they have also band smoking on the brick paved area out front so customers can sit outside to eat and drink in a smoke free atmosphere. As we took water it started to rain but it didn't last long and by the time we set off it had stopped completely. On our return journey we caught up with two "Community Wardens" in their reflective waistcoats walking the towing path from Sutton Stop to well past the Elephant and Castle where they crossed the canal., I have no idea what their powers are or what there function is. After leaving Ansty we looked across to the new Brinklow Marina, although it must be on a level with the canal it looks to be higher and quite wind swept. As the afternoon was pleasant we pushed on to moor for the night at 1720 hrs by the Barley Mow at Newbold. We walked through the bridge to find the same boats on the 48 hr moorings. A little after 10 it started to rain and carried on most of the night but Tuesday morning it was blue sky and sunshine again. We met lots of boats on the move today, 3 in the area of Hillmorton Locks. 1 left just before we arrived, to late to leave the gates open, one in the middle of the flight and one came in as we left. BW have now mounted the old Hillmorton cast iron lock gates as a display item below the flight on the side of a mound. We were to meet several more boats before Napton but the weather slowly deteriorated with a bit of rain at Braunston and increasing wind for the rest of the trip. We unloaded the boat in Napton Top lock at 4-15 pm before winding and mooring on our home moorings. By the time I had drained the fresh water system it was blowing harder, raining and getting dark, this didn't improve until we arrived home in Suffolk.