Monthly Archives: January 2015

Explorations on Foot

Having pottered around the Midland canals on holidays for many years, after thoroughly enjoying our sojourn darn sarf last year, the outline plan for Biggle’s 2015 cruise is to meander down from the winter mooring at Cropedy onto the Thames at Oxford, then down past Windsor onto the Wey Navigation and Basingstoke Canal. These latter two come highly recommended, but despite being so close to “home”, we’ve never explored them much at all. After that, who knows?

Anyway, we did manage a couple of exploratory research expeditions on foot…

The first was a winter’s day wander along the Wey Navigation near Ripley on a rather gloomy day – along past Newark Priory (with no public access, sadly) and Newark Lock. Let’s hope we don’t get any red boards when we come down on the boat. Mind you, the last time we walked down this way, the navigation was frozen solid, and the swans were have some difficulty learning ice-skating. Strangely, the boat Newark Priory was spotted on the outskirts of Banbury.

Newark Lock, Wey NavigationNewark Lock, Wey NavigationNewark Priory, near RipleyBanbury Boat

Biggles’ dear  friend Emma (who lives just around the corner from here) came with us, stealing my hat for some reason. We also bumped into Paul, an old colleague from Fairoaks and Farnborough airports (and a locally based narrowboat owner); and Pauline & Alan, a couple of SWMBO’s morris dancing associates (who were also local). Don’t see people for ages, then bump into a string of them all at once.

EJ + Hat

The second ramble was on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year, when our dear friends Simon & Hilary rang up at about 11:00 and said “…’ere, do you fancy going for a walk along the river somewhere” before realising somewhat later that although a lovely sunny day, it was (a) absolutely Baltic by the water, and (b) Hilary had left her walking boots in Suffolk (don’t ask).

So, a pleasant if rather curtailed wander along the less boggy bit of the Thames-side path at Henley before beating a strategic retreat to the Rowing Museum for tea and buns. There were some nice houses that looked warm and comfortable: more than can be said for the intrepid boaters.

Henley WeirNear Henley-on-ThamesHenley Lock

And just off the river, at a humble establishment called Henley Court, a fine indication that at least some people take their model-railway hobby seriously… the real buildings behind give some idea of the scale.

Henley Court model railwayHenley Court model railway

Reflections in a Muddy Canal (2014) …

As we start to think about Sir’s next expedition, a look at last year’s log shows that in the period from 19th June to 25th October we covered quite a lot of ground without trying too hard: when we were actually cruising we averaged about 4 hours a day – hardly enough to charge the batteries!

Anyway, setting off from Stoke, first up was the Caldon Canal to Leek and Froghall, which never strayed very far from the Piper Boats factory, in case of early teething troubles… and there were a few! Then down the familiar (but highly enjoyable) Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley Junction, followed by a jaunt round Birmingham for a change, on the Coventry Canal and North Oxford Canal to Braunston. There followed the lovely South Oxford Canal to Oxford (what a surprise!) before dropping down onto The Thames. The Upper Thames from Oxford to Lechlade and back was delightful and unexpectedly remote from any civilisation (not enough research, Jenkins!) before continuing down to Reading, and joining the Kennet and Canal for the long haul down to Bath. A slight disappointment that river conditions, encroaching autumn and the need to find our way back to Cropredy before they shut the Thames locks for winter meant that we didn’t quite make it all the way to Bristol, but there’s no hurry!

Anyway, to keep Biggles quiet we covered 522 miles and worked 372 locks. The engine was running for 342 hours and we burnt about 450 gallons of diesel.

Wonder how we’ll get on this year!