NB Muleless

NB Muleless
Moored at Alrewas Sept 2013

Saturday, 19 July 2014

A catch up blog!

Gary has been telling me for days (or even weeks!) that I need to update the blog – but the weather has been too nice to sit inside chained to the computer!

I now have a lot of catching up, as even the last blog was a week out of date when I posted it!

So what have we been up to in the last 3 weeks or so?

We spent a couple of nights in Banbury, whilst Gary had an eye test and we caught up with some shopping! Then, as Gary had to collect some new contact lenses and we had to wait a week for them to arrive, we decided to head back down the canal towards Thrupp.

We had a lovely sunday lunch in the The Great Western Pub at Aynho, and they have a really nice courtyard garden too!

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Whilst we were moored above Dashwood Lock, enjoying the sunshine, we saw a familar boat heading towards us.

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It was NB No Problem, with Meg and Penny running the towpath alongside!

We managed a bit of a catch up chat with Sue and Vic whilst helping them down the lock as they headed to a rendezvous with family on the Thames!

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We didnt get as far as Thrupp before we had to head back towards Banbury, and as we went through Lower Heyford Gary managed to photograph me opening the lift bridge for him!

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Kings Sutton Lock looks smart now with its new fencing.

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We stopped back in Banbury again, to collect Garys contact lenses and some on-line shopping I had ordered from BHS, and then headed up towards Cropredy.

We like to moor just below Little Bourton Lock, where there are rings to tie to – but unfortunately CRT have not been getting them cleared – so we had to moor at the far end of the lock landing instead!

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You can only see a couple of rings from the canal – and none from the towpath side!

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In the morning we were being spied on from the grass opposite!

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We were booked into Cropredy Marina for a few days whilst we made a visit down south.

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Yvonne and Roy had very kindly dropped the car down to us again (it takes about 10 minutes for them to drive from home to Wigrams Marina where we stayed before, and only 20 minutes to drive to Cropredy Marina!!)

We headed south, and stayed with Mum again (thanks Mum!). Gary had a final hospital appointment, and we did the usual catch up with family and friends, and I managed a hair cut again! One day I will have to find a hairdresser nearer the canals!!

We had a lovely lunch with Mum at an Indian Restaurant in Port Solent and then had a stroll along to the sea lock – where a boat was just approaching, so we were treated to seeing it work!

The tide was out, and no-one was coming out so the lock was emptied quickly producing loads of froth!

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The cruiser entered the lock. The gates shut behind and the boat tied up to the side.

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The top gates were then opened a few inches to let the water in.

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The water frothed up and the boat bopped about a fair bit!

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When the lock was full the gates were opened fully and the boat untied to head into Port Solent.

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Some complicated lock gates here!

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They have a large boat hoist – and loads of big yachts!

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We headed back to Muleless on Friday afternoon, getting caught in some heavy traffic on the way – but at least we dont have to suffer that very often now!

We were treated to a nice clear evening and the moon rising over us.

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On Saturday we made use of the car to do a really big shop to top up the cupboards and wine cellar!

And I took advantage of the electric and water on hand to catch up with all my washing!

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On Sunday we dropped the car back to Yvonne and Roy and were treated to another of Yvonnes terrific sunday lunches in the company of all the family! Then Roy dropped us back at the boat to recuperate!

Monday we took advantage of the marina services and used their excellent and very powerful pump out!

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We then moved all of 200 yds and moored on the towpath just before Cropredy Lock! As much as we liked the Marina, it was time to move on!

On Tuesday Geoff and Mags and Meg the dog from NB Seyella came past, just as we were about to set off, so after a few quick words as they passed we followed them down the lock where we had a better chance to chat as they went through.

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They were heading into Banbury to do some much needed shopping, so we hope to see them properly another time.

As we headed out of Cropredy we noticed that the towpath restoration works were coming along nicely.

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Gary spotted these “falcons” going past on the railway tracks. He tells me they transport old and new ballast to and from renewal sites. You can tell he is an “old railway man”!!

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We stopped again at Little Bourton lock, and in the morning there was a flurry of boats at the lock, so Gary decided to do a bit of lock work for a change and help some of the boats through!

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We headed off to Banbury, and found it empty! There was hardly a boat moored anywhere!

We stopped to fill up with water, and popped into Morrisons to top up our supplies of salad and milk etc.

We then moved off and moored up just passed that lift bridge that caught us out on our first trip down this way!

The farmer was working in the field opposite the boat – wrapping all his hay bales in plastic using yet another of those handy gadgets! Does anyone know why they do this – and does the hay not sweat and ferment inside?

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As Thursday was promised to be a really nice day, we just moved a short distance down to just before Kings Sutton Lock and soon had the chairs and brolly deployed.

Shortly after NB Festina Lente came past, and moored up just ahead of us. After they had sorted themselves out Andy popped back for a chat – we hadnt seen them since we passed them at Fenny Compton back at the beginning of June!

We had a barbecue dinner, and then sat outside relaxing with drinks as the evening cooled down.

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As we set off Friday, walking to the lock I passed Festina Lente and had a quick chat with Andy and Sue through the side hatch – the perfect photo opportunity – and I forgot again!

We were aiming for our mooring spot by the lift bridge before Somerton Deep lock, and we had a pleasant plod along in a nice breeze which stopped us getting too hot.

We stopped at a very quiet Aynho Wharf to top up with water and had an ice cream whilst we filled, and then moved on to our mooring.

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Again it was straight out with the chairs and brolly – another scorching day!

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Festina Lente eventually pulled in and moored before the lift bridge behind us, so still no photo!

Today was forecast to be thundery showers, so we were staying put! The onboard hairdresser had been booked to colour my hair and we were going to rest after a “hectic and hot” week!

Festina Lente had decided to move on, so I at last remembered to take a photo of them from the side hatch as they passed!

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So there we are, up-to-date! We have sat here today with thundery showers passing around us, but not actually over us and I at last have gotten around to updating the blog!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

A slow plod to Banbury!

We ended up staying at Thrupp until Thursday – it took a lot of relaxing to recuperate from the family visit!

We spent a lovely evening with Rob and Suzie from NB Swampfrogs. They are from our “neck of the woods” on the south coast. We forgive Rob for being a Southampton Supporter! They are heading off to the Kennet and Avon, so we look forward to reading about their adventures on their blog, and look forward to meeting up again soon.

When we pulled pins on Thursday Gary had to reverse Muleless back about 3 boat lengths, under the lift bridge and on to the services – rather than head down to Dukes Cut again to turn round!

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With two very smart boats behind (NB Swamp Frogs and NB What a Lark) he had to be careful!

Easy does it!

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Mission accomplished! and without any boats appearing either!

We pulled on to the services and started to fill with water. Of course it wasn't long before Maffi and Molly appeared, so we gave Maffie a cup of tea (too early for beer!) and had a good chat with him and some of the other Thrupp locals whilst we waited.

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As soon as we had filled up we made the now very familiar trip back through the river section and on to the quarry – where to our surprise there were no other boats moored – so we had the place to ourselves!

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On Friday, we set of as usual about 11.30 and made our way up Northbrook Lock (no. 38) without incident, but when we got to Dashwood Lock (No. 37), it was a different matter.

It started fine, I emptied the lock for us to go in, worked Muleless up, having been joined by the lady from the boat following us, and as we reached the top and we opened the top gate, a boat appeared above and pulled in to the lock landing, I hopped on the boat, leaving the other lady by the open gate to help the other boat (who was a single hander) close it.

As we started to move out of the lock the boat at the top pulled off the lock landing, but instead of just waiting for us to exit the lock, revved up and shot towards us – at this stage we were still half in the lock (a good 30 ft of us). She (yes it was a lady driver!) rammed into us as if trying to squeeze down the side (totally impossible in a narrow lock!). We shouted to her to stop and let us exit the lock – and Gary added that she had scraped our paint! and she gave a sarcastic “sorry”!

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We scrapped past her and looked back to see her “bouncing” into the lock!

A bit further on we stopped for water at Lower Heyford and surveyed the damage. Luckily all the scrapes were below gunwale level – but there were some very deep ones!

Whilst we filled up, the boat that followed us up the lock went past. They told us that the “mad woman” had said that we weren't fast enough leaving the lock! and then proceeded to “have a go” at the husband as he held his boat at the bottom of the lock as she exited! We were all glad she was heading away from us!

Lower Heyford is a real transport hub! Despite it being just a small village, it has a train station on the mainline from Oxford to Banbury, the canal and a road all intermingled!

View from canal looking north – notice the old canal bridge and the newer road bridge.

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View from old canal bridge looking north. That is the station, on the left.

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The old canal bridge has been utilised as a footpath and the boaters bins are here, along with some lovely flowers!

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View from the towpath north of the bridge, but looking south.

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We moved on, and moored for the night in the spot above Upper Heyford that we used on the way down.

Saturday was a lovely sunny day, and there were lots of boats moving. We pulled away and ended up between a hire boat and a day boat. At the first lock we queued for a bit, and I discovered the guys on the hire boat in front of us should have been out on their own boat, but when they went to pick it up discovered that a coot had made a nest on their rudder! They were lucky to arrange a hire for the weekend to celebrate one of the crews 50th birthday.

The small day boat behind us had a group of Dutch guys (about 8) and two children on board for their first experience of canals in the UK. We didn't see them again after that lock – hopefully that meant they turned round somewhere and didn't get into difficulties!

Some of the old lift bridges could do with some cutting back and brickwork sorting out – this one is particularly bad!

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At Somerton Deep lock the guys on the hire boat ahead went up the lock, turned in the winding hole just above – and came back down again, whilst we waited at the bottom – they had to get back to the hire base! At least that meant I didn't have to open the bottom gate!

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Gary took Muleless in – and I tried to shut the bottom gate!

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After a few minutes with no success, Gary was just about to climb up the ladder to assist, when a boat appeared at the bottom and its crew came up to help!

We pulled in just before lift bridge 193 – the sun was out and it was time to chill in the sun for the weekend!

The farmer was busy haymaking in the fields the other side of the canal, and I was fascinated by the process!

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The tractor furthest away was turning the hay and leaving it in neat lines, ready for the other tractor to scoop it up and turn it into hay bales! In a couple of hours there was no loose hay, just groups of hay bales – 8 in each.

The next step was collecting the bales, so this time it was more of a fork lift tractor with a special attachment that picked up all 8 bales together, and the driver then skilfully put them on the trailer ready to take to a barn!

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Sunday Gary managed to touch up our “battle scars” from the mad woman attack, and we just chilled out in the sun again.

Monday we moved on and pulled in to Aynho Wharf to fill with water and top up the diesel. There was a boat already filling with water and also having their batteries changed, so we had to wait a while.

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As soon as they had finished with the tap we started to fill our tank. We still couldn't get diesel though as the hose wouldn't reach! So in the meantime, another boat that was waiting just for diesel, brested up to us so that they were ready to be filled.

Eventually the batteries had been sorted out and the first boat moved off, so we then pulled forward so that the diesel hose could reach our tank. As we were still filling with water, we let the boat brested up to us get their diesel first.

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With both of us “dieseled up”, the other boat moved away, but we were still filling with water, so a brand new boat that was being delivered to Cropredy pulled out from the Wharf and brested up to us to have diesel too!

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By now we were full of water, so a small river cruiser that had pulled in front of us started to fill their tank, whilst also waiting for diesel.

We were now ready to go, but the brand new boat was having problems with its engine and stayed brested up whilst several things were tried to get it going. Eventually he had to give up, and pulled back onto the wharf so that we could move on! What a busy place!

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After all that activity it was suddenly very quiet, and we didn't see any more boats until we moored up opposite the Pig Farm Farmshop!

It was at this point that Gary announced he had no more tobacco and that he needed a shop! The nearest shop appeared to be the Post Office in Kings Sutton – 2 miles away, so despite the hot sun, we set off to find the shop!

We had to walk back to the lock, along the main road, crossing the railway and river at this point (the two obstacles that meant there was no short cut!)

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A little way on, we had to turn on to a smaller road that headed uphill, and from along the road we could see the farmshop and another boat moored on the canal (not Muleless).

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Then we went over the M40!

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At least the road now stopped going uphill! and then we saw a footpath sign that was pointing in the direction of Kings Sutton and that would cut a corner off the road journey.

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Once we were through the hedge, the path was clearly seen across the next few fields.

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We could tell we were going in the right direction, as the church spire was getting closer!

Then there was a little bridge over a stream, and just a field with some sheep in.

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And then we were really close to the church spire, and started to walk through the village looking for the Post Office.

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We found the Post Office – and Gary got his tobacco!

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By this time, of course, we deserved a drink, so headed back to the Three Tuns pub we had passed. It was a lovely friendly pub and we sat in their lovely little courtyard beer garden chatting with some locals and enjoying a couple of cold drinks!

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Chatting to the locals, we discovered there was a Co-op in the village too, and that one of the other pubs (there are 3 in total) also had a chinese takeaway service! What a shame that although the canal passes quite close to the village,  you can’t reach it without a long walk because of the river and railway not having bridges over them! It is a place that is well worth a visit though, as it even has a train station!

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Eventually we made the long slog back to the boat – for a well earned rest!

Tuesday needed to be a nice quiet uneventful day, and it was. We had a pleasant journey through to Kings Sutton Lock (where you can see that church spire again, but still cant get to it!), and found some CRT volunteers tidying up and repairing the lockside fencing.

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Leaving Kings Sutton Lock – that church spire in the background!

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As we approached Twyford Wharf, we saw the fields beyond were filled with blue flowers and looked lovely!

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Just one more lock to do, then under the M40 again and find a spot to moor up before Banbury, leaving just a short hop in the morning.

As we moored up, we could see the M40 had come to a halt behind us – a good day to be on a boat and not in a car!

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