Saturday, 30 January 2010

It’s all downhill from here

The weather yesterday would normally have put me off boating as there was a strong wind blowing, and as it turned out it was in my face the whole day, but having had so many days of not moving I wanted to press on. The first lock of the day was Somerton Deep, which I don’t really like as I don’t like heights and it’s deep enough for me to want to avoid the ladder if at all possible. The good thing about this lock is that the bollards are (in my opinion) on the correct (towpath) side. This meant that once set I could let the boat drift into the lock and use the bollards to stop her when she got to the top gate and then hold her against the gate whilst filling the lock. It all worked really well.

Apart from that the only excitement was at one of the lift bridges, or silly bridges as I have come to refer to them. Having got through, the wind pinned the boat across the canal making getting away impossible. I ended up having to throw the front mooring rope across to the towpath and haul the bow across.

I finished for the day at the recently improved moorings at bridge 168. This was as I wanted to do some shopping and didn’t want to go into the town centre on a Friday evening. I did wonder if I had made a bad choice when I felt someone climbing onto my roof, but when I asked them not to it turned out that they wanted a photo of themselves. From their accents I think they must have been foreign students.

For no particular reason, I woke at a ridiculously early hour so made an early start. It had been a cold night and throughout the day I encountered patches of ice, but none of it was very thick. This spurred me on to make as much progress as possible today and make it onto the summit pound. I decided as I approached the Claydon flight that if I was out by 1 I wouldn’t stop for lunch and try to get across to Marston Doles.

I didn’t manage it so stopped for a while at the top of the flight and made my way to Fenny Compton. Still a fairly long day (for me) but with clear skies and little wind it was a wonderful day’s boating.

It’s another clear night, already down to –2 and a layer of ice has already formed, but hopefully it won’t be too thick in the morning.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Moving again

I moved on to the centre of Oxford last Friday, spending the day there but not doing very much as the rain was persistant and quite heavy. There was no option of going any further as the Thames was on red boards, and flowing very fast.

Friday’s rain also meant that when I got back to Thrupp on Sunday, the Cherwell had risen again and so further progress wasn’t possible. This did mean that I was able to meet up with Bones and Maffi and of course Boots and Molly. This meant that I had various visits to Annie’s Tea Room and the Boat Inn to make my stay more enjoyable. Thrupp is a pretty good place to find yourself stuck as there is a great community of boaters there, and a good variety of walks for dogs.

As the days passed the lakes that had appeared gradually turned back into fields and finally, this morning, the river had dropped just into the yellow. I would have prefered it to have been a bit lower and did wonder whether to wait longer but the forecast is a bit unsettled, so I decided to leave.

As I want to get back to my moring as soon as possible I had a longer day than usual and got north of Upper Heyford today. The river in Upper Heyford was much lower than when I came down the canal, so I’m fairly confident that the next river section will not cause a problen.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Oxford……..At Last

The snow/rain turned out to be fairly heavy rain, which was strangely pleasing as it helped to melt the remaining ice.  For weather forecasts I am using Accuweather more than any other now as they do seem to get closest to what actually happens. A workboat had moved up to Thrupp from the south so the ice after Thrupp was all nicely broken, but there was still a lot along the moorings and out near where I was moored, but it was much thinner and I felt it wouldn’t be too bad to get through. Even so I decided to leave it another day as I didn’t see any point in getting drenched.

I ended up regretting my decision when I took Lyra for a walk down to Thrupp as I saw Dusty, the fuel boat, pointing back towards Oxford. I had run out of gas, and didn’t have a huge amount of coal or diesel so was hoping that he would come past me.

It was foggy this morning but I decided to leave anyway. The remaining ice wasn’t too bad to get through and I was soon on the service point. I have been quite frugal with water and it would have lasted a while longer, but it is good to have a full tank again. I also pumped out the holding tank, which was very close to being full.

There was quite a lot of broken ice still about until after the first lock, so most of the day has been in clear water. As I had hoped I did catch up with Dusty and was able to get gas and fill with diesel, but unfortunately all the coal he had was already spoken for. I have enough for a few days and know where I can get some more fairly easily so it’s not a huge problem.

So finally I have (almost) reached my destination. It’s taken me 5 weeks to get from Rugby to Oxford. I stopped a short way from the end at a place I have used before and will do the last mile or so in the morning and spend a bit of time in the city. After being stuck for so long it’s been great to be moving again.

Then it’ll be the trip back, which I hope won’t take as long as there is stuff I need to do when I get back.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Snow has gone, Ice is going

Still stuck here below the lock. The snow got washed away by heavy rain on Friday(?) by the heavy rain. Since then the ice has been receding but it’s still pretty thick.

With the thaw, the river level did rise as I was expecting, but it hadn’t got too high by yesterday evening, only just touching the red sector of the indicator. Waking up this morning I could hear a lot more running water, which seemed to mainly be behind the hedge in the field. The river had risen considerably overnight. The indicator gauge was virtually underwater this morning.

18012010779 The fields between the river and canal are now underwater.

18012010786 18012010787Lyra is confused by all the water as she’s got really used to being able to play in the fields that are now underwater.

18012010789The weather forecast seems to be for more snow on Wednesday, or perhaps rain, depending on which one you look at, but at least the temperature is meant to stay above freezing so hopefully the ice will continue to thin and it will be possible to move on soon.

As places to get iced in go, this is quite a pleasant one and did have plenty of places to walk Lyra, but I’m getting

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Deserted village

After another very cold night, the ice has an even firmer grip on the boat.

Some time ago, idly looking at my Nicholson’s guide, I spotted the entry for Hampton Gay which is a deserted village near where I am moored. It looked interesting and I thought I would have a look if I had time whilst passing, not realising quite how much spare time I would end up with.

It isn’t far from the canal, in fact I can see the Manor from my front door,IMG_9392but the route to it from here is rather longer as the Cherwell is in the way. The footpath seems to have been rerouted since my guide was printed the railway is now crossed on a walkway alongside the river under the rail bridge.

The first building that you come to  is the church which is still in use.


The Manor House burnt down in 1887 and has been left as a ruin since then. It seems that there is a local legend that links the destruction of the manor house with the failure of the lord to provide assistance to the casualties of the rail crash some years earlier when carriages fell into the frozen canal.

IMG_9336 Down by the river, near the manor is what I believe is the remains of the water mill that once was part of the estate.

IMG_9360 More Pictures

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Lots of snow

No further progress has been possible, the canal is still well frozen.

It started snowing about 3 yesterday, by this morning the landscape had been transformed.

IMG_9146 I have posted more photos to Facebook at this location.

The skies seem to have cleared this evening so I’m not expecting to be moving any time soon, At least it is only a couple of miles to the nearest shop.

Monday, 4 January 2010

The lesser of two evils?

I moved on a bit today, which I think was the right thing to do but I suppose time will tell.

Much of yesterday was spent keeping an eye on the level of the river, it fell quite a lot overnight but was still well in the red. Rather than have to go all the way to the lock each time I had a sophisticated level monitoring system in place near the winding hole. Well a series of sticks stuck in the bank at water level. By mid afternoon it looked as if it was worth having another look at the indicator and whilst still red it looked as if it was on the verge of lowering into the yellow. The flow in the river was also obviously much more gentle. Lyra and I wandered down the river section and the indicator at the bottom end was already just in the yellow.

I did consider moving the boat to the top of the lock yesterday afternoon, which with hindsight would have been a good move.

It was cold last night, about –6, and the canal was frozen over, but the river level near me had dropped at least another inch. A walk to the lock showed that the river was now passable. The ice also didn’t look too bad, so it was time to decide whether to go or not.

My reasoning was that it was forecast to be cold again tonight which would thicken the ice further, and if the forecast snow does arrive would mean that I would be stuck until the canal thawed again. The thaw would also probably result in high river levels again, making progress impossible for longer.

Moving therefore seemed to be the best plan. The ice wasn’t too bad at first, but got worse in the more exposed part just before the lock. This wasn’t too easy to navigate along as it is lined with moored boats and also on a bend. Trying to keep the boat away from the moored boats whilst keeping engine revs to a minimum meant wasn’t easy.

After coming down the river section, I could see more ice ahead. This rapidly got thicker to the point that I ground to a halt. I suppose I could have continued by reversing and heading into the ice at high revs, but it would have been hard work and done a lot of damage to my blacking, and I didn’t know how long the thick ice would last. I didn’t want to find myself further along with no hope of progress and no way of getting to the edge, so reversed to the clear water below the lock and tied up.

I expect to be here for a while, but think that I have everything I need to last until I can move again.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Wonderful cruising weather

The spot I chose to spend New Year’s Eve was just right for me. I don’t know if there were many fireworks during the night, if there were they were far enough away not to disturb my sleep or, more importantly, Lyra.

It had been quite a cold night but it dawned clear and bright and the canal was clear of ice. It was cold but that is easily dealt with by wrapping up well. The first challenge of the day was the first of the many lift bridges on this canal, (I’m not counting the one in Banbury which has convenient offside mooring bollards and is hydraulically operated), which turned out to be little problem as it has a convenient ring to secure it open. I tried a different arrangement of ropes to what i have used before (basically a very long centre line) which was not a complete success. Next came Somerton Deep Lock, which is one that I am happier to take a line off with me and haul out of the lock so that I can avoid the ladder.

I ended the day below Allen’s Lock in Upper Heyford. Lyra and I walked down to the next lift bridge as last time I came down this canal there were enough people around that I didn’t get to operate the bridge but remembered that I thought it might be quite difficult as the offside has quite high walls, but once I had seen it I was happy that I would be able to get though alone if necessary.

The river runs alongside the canal on this stretch, and was high enough to be spilling over the towpath.

This morning was again clear and cold, and there had been a very light fall of snow overnight. There was ice on the canal, but it looked to be very thin. The river had also dropped a bit, a bridge crosses it next to the lock and an additional course of blocks was visible this morning.

I broke the ice as far as the lift bridge, which wasn’t a problem to get through. Once through there was a clear path through the ice which must have been made by a boat ahead of me that had been moored near the lift bridge. It has been another lovely day for cruising in bright sunshine, at times too bright when moving directly into the sun when I could hardly make out where the oncoming boat was.

I have stopped just short of Enslow. Lyra and I went down to see what state the river section is in, and it is up in the red. I’m hopeful that the level will reduce further overnight and we will be able to proceed, but if not can either sit it out until  the level does drop or turn back towards home. I am adequately supplied to be able to wait for the right moment to continue, and if things were to get desperate I suppose I could always force myself to move on a little and tie up outside the pub.

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