Monthly Archives: October 2016

Homeward Bound – Part the Second (Biggles Gets a Ducking)

Ascending the Atherstone Flight of 9 locks on Monday morning, having lost another chip from a tooth, the chief navigator complained of toothache, which was getting worse. And it was the one that had been causing trouble earlier in the cruise. Tying up at the visitor moorings above the top lock, a dental appointment was secured for the Tuesday morning. By early Monday afternoon the screams of pain were getting the Captain and Chief Cook down, and the dentist’s receptionist suggested visiting immediately. By the time the dentist had taken an X-Ray, the pain was wearing off; he could find nothing untoward, and suggested it might be a sinus related issue. Having shuttled in agony between doctor and dentist several times with a similar problem some decade or two ago, raising two fingers to the medical establishment the chief cook’s emergency supply of antibiotics was raided, and no further problems occurred.

Skirting Nuneaton without ever really seeing it, and turning off Coventry Canal onto the North Oxford Canal at what is variously known as Hawkesbury Junction, Sutton Stop or The Greyhound, the journey home continued without much drama, decent weather or anything else of note. Sutton Stop was quiet, unlike the first time down this way, and for some reason no photos – midsummer and busy – were posted last time. Such an oversight will be rectified in due course, particularly as we suspect we’ll be heading back this way in the spring.

The North Oxford canal itself is quite pleasant cruising, apart from the fact that the edges are (a) shallow and (b) rock infested, so finding suitable mooring without needing a gangplank is problematical. Rugby was similarly skirted, and the “dual-carriageway” Hillmorton Locks negotiated without problems. By Friday lunchtime we’d reached the outskirts of Braunston, and were pleased to see that a pair of peregrine falcons were still in residence on the church steeple.

Finding space in the prime mooring place (just above Napton bottom lock) on Friday evening, we rewarded ourselves with dinner at the splendidly quirky Folly pub, and a visit to the splendid Napton Post Office for coffee and fresh bread the next morning.

Crossing the winding summit of the South Oxford Canal is always pleasant, even though by now well familiar. Obligatory photos of the Napton water buffaloes were taken.

Napton Buffalos

Finally stopping for Sunday night just above Claydon Top Lock, one away from our final destination, we knew there had been problems earlier in the summer with the lock, but on Monday morning we weren’t sure whether to be appalled at the state of things or admire the ingenuity of the “temporary” repair. Armco would be proud!

Running RepairsRunning Repairs

And so, by Monday lunchtime our 2016 cruise had come to an end, and Song & Dance was safely tucked up in her winter quarters at Cropredy Marina, next to a boat called Catflap (which was a misnomer, as it didn’t have one).

With a car to fetch from home and a boat to pack up, we stayed overnight. We heard Sir exit his catflap early in the morning, presumably for a constitutional. Later, there was a very heavy and prolonged outbreak of rain, and when we got up, no sign of the boss. Despite calling him, he failed to appear. Sometime considerable time later, mid morning, walking to the marina office, a very wet and bedraggled cat emerged from under the recycling bins – some 100 yards from the boat – and moaned mightily. A lady in the office said she’d seen him under the bins about 7am, and was going to feed him if he was still there later. We don’t know if if fell in somewhere, or just got thoroughly drenched by the rain, but he had clearly failed to find his way home. Think we’ll need to send him on a marina orientation training course before next year.

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Homeward Bound–Part the First

With everyone suitably repatriated onto the boat, we commenced a revisiting of our first year’s journey in Song & Dance, although with shortening and cooling days and largely indifferent weather, there was much less to write home about.

Tuesday night saw us mooring opposite the World of Wedgewood factory and visitor complex: the quartermaster’s first job was to tour the establishment stocking up on Christmas and Birthday presents of the bone china variety. As well as travelling this way on Song & Dance’s first proper cruise, we had been on this stretch of the Trent & Mersey canal many times before; Wednesday saw us tying up in Sir’s favourite spot just below the Star Inn at Stone bottom lock, and by Friday evening we’d reached Fradley Junction without any problems with the Captain disappearing. This success was celebrated by dinner in the well known pub The Swan (aka The Mucky Duck), which was surprisingly quiet.

Turning onto the Coventry Canal at Fradley on the Saturday morning, we stopped at Streethay Wharf for fuel: an interesting little spot with a novel approach to mooring boats: they’re randomly scattered over the cut up to three deep, and if there’s a queue for diesel…

Airstrip

Just beyond Streethay we moored up for lunch, then realised we were in the overun area of an airstrip we’d never noticed before, and kept our fingers crossed.

Staying on the Coventry Canal at Fazeley Junction, we stopped just short of Tamworth, and on Sunday morning stumbled on the Tamworth 10K Charity Run, which kept the towpath busy! They seemed to have a novel approach to stewarding.

Tamworth 10K RunTamworth 10K Run

Just  a bit further down, we wondered what this builder chap was doing filling his containers with canal water, when there was a perfectly good tap a few yards away at the lock.

Water Water Everywhere

The weather was by now so pleasant that we stopped for an al fresco Sunday lunch at the Samuel Barlow

Pub Lunch, The Samuel BarlowNeeds a wash & polish

Where's my lunch

… where Sir posed in the best place to ensure that everyone knew the boat needed a wash and polish, then demanded pudding. Fran and Biggles had stayed here for a couple of days on the first cruise, due to a funeral your scribe had to attend. Pub seems to have changed hands since then. Eventually, a post-prandial cruise saw us mooring up on the outskirts of Atherstone after a busy week.

Back to the Beginning

With a family Christening to attend at the weekend, the logistics of getting both of us down to Surrey for a weekend while looking after the Captain’s needs had proved too difficult. So we’d booked the boat into Festival Park Marina at Stoke-on-Trent for a few days, so that the chief cook could travel down by train, and the Captain and First Officer could spend the weekend in a male bonding session (a.k.a. as catching up with the laundry backlog). We’d also arranged for Piper Boats to come and look at some things, so it looked as though we could kill several birds with one stone, as they say. But we had to get there first.

Setting off on the Thursday morning, a pleasant cruise down the last bit of the Macclesfield Canal saw us re-joining the Trent and Mersey just north of the Harecastle Tunnel. The water turned a very odd colour…

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Just after launching Song & Dance we’d spend our first night aboard just south of the tunnel, but hadn’t ventured through. Actually, although interesting from an engineering point of view, the 40 minute transit is both somewhat tedious and  hard work, requiring considerable concentration. (And we’re not the only ones that think that).

Anyway, we ended up mooring for the night at Westport Lakes, a pleasant reminder that first night afloat on Song & Dance. A first time for the Captain though, who amused himself taunting the Canada Geese.

On Friday morning a short cruise down through Longport (where Song & Dance was first launched) and we were soon tucking ourselves into Festival Park Marina, a busy Black Prince Hire Fleet base, even at the end of the season. This was where the Captain first joined us, after our initial week’s proving cruise.

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Anyway, SWMBO was despatched South, Pipers’ people came and went, loads of washing got done, and after a very very wet Saturday, on Sunday the morning dawned bright clear and still.

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In fact, it was so nice, Sir decided to come out and pose…

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With baby Rufus’ head suitably wetted, the chief cook safely returned on the train, the nights drawing on and the end of the season rapidly approaching, we prepared to revisit our first proper cruise with the Captain aboard, and make the trek south back down the Trent & Mersey Canal, Coventry Canal and Oxford Canals to Song & Dance’s winter quarters at Cropredy Marina. We were going to be busy.