Thursday, 24 November 2011

Oxford Canal. Fenny Compton to Marston Doles.

Where’s everybody gone? It’s as if someone turned a switch on November 1st and made all the boats disappear. We do know where they are really. They’re either tucked up in marinas, or they’re on winter moorings…… or they’re on a canal that isn’t a temporary dead end. Read on…

After moving the car to Marston Doles Bridge, walking back and filling our water tank, we left Fenny Compton around 2pm with Luke as crew. This, as it turned out, was about an hour too late. The James Brindley designed Oxford is a contour hugging, meandering waterway; there are several horseshoe bends and one place where, as you go round a bend to your right, the bridge you are going to go under in half an hour is across a field to your left!
It’s all great fun, but the twists and turns make a nonsense of our 4mph top speed. On most of it we were lucky to be doing half that and ended up way after sunset on the final mile and a half with the headlight on. We knew we would be ok though; the Napton flight - which starts at Marston Doles bridge - was closed for maintenance, making the bit of canal we’re on at the moment effectively a cul-de-sac and there were no other boats between us and the end. We got moored at about 5.30 in pitch darkness, took Luke back to The Wharf Inn, where his bike was, then stayed for a meal and for the arrival of Chloe and Shandy in their newly acquired VW camper!
The following day in our hectic social calendar we drove up to Anne’s in Chesterfield and went to a very packed and very enthusiastic barn dance at her local community centre. With the excellent Brampton Community Band and free chips. Oh Yes, it’s all exciting stuff!

The central heating is back together and working better than it has ever done. Why it was put together like that God alone knows. Other good boat stuff: Dave’s got a new toy.
It’s called a Log Grenade. That’s some well-seasoned oak that we picked up a while ago and nothing else would touch it. We went up to Whaley Bridge and got a new pair of fenders from Brian and Ann Marie who own and work NB Alton, trading as The Peak Forest Canal Carrying Company / Renaissance. We first met these guys through the 2CV club and they’ve been a very big step on our road to being boaters, they gave us loads of advice and even had us to stay for a couple of days on their coal run along the Trent and Mersey. We lock-wheeled Heartbreak Hill and sat on the coal through Harecastle Tunnel. Good times.
Thanks B&AM, they look fantastic! Our old hessian back fender was so rotten that it fell apart when it came off.
The varnishing saga is continuing apace; Dave has started on the internal window frames now. We’ve ordered an 18” porthole for the kitchen, that’s been on the list from day one. It’s turned up at Kim and Luke’s and we’ll pick it up next Tuesday when we go to the Quiz Night. Which we nearly won last week, by the way. Not so thick after all!

This is what the Napton Flight looks like without any water.
The whole flight of 8 locks is closed while BW put in 2 new gates, a new balance beam and carry out general repairs. They’ve been draining and re-filling various bits and it’s very interesting to see what goes on under the surface. Here's a view of a lock paddle that you never usually see.
Note the new lock gate. It'll be nice when it's painted.

We had a day of mixed emotion last Monday; we attended the funeral of one of Ann-Marie’s former work colleagues. Helen was well known in the tight knit farming community in South Lincolnshire and the little church was overflowing with relatives, friends and co-workers. Afterwards, at the reception, was the first time we’d seen anyone from the farm since we sold the house, so although it was a sad occasion, it was lovely to catch up, however briefly, with people who were part of our lives when we lived there. We came away feeling ashamed that it took a funeral to get us back in touch. Such is the way of things; Dave used to say that his relatives only ever saw him when he was wearing a suit. Our main reason for taking our chosen path is to spend more time with the people who are important to us. We must make more of an effort.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Oxford Canal. Fenny Compton.

Autumn is getting into full swing now; we’ve been to a 2CV Club Halloween party in the pub, the fire is on all day, there are pumpkins on the bow and we’re going for walks with big boots and woolly hats on. The trees are so magical at this time of year. This is the view through Fenny Compton Tunnel.
Spot the deliberate mistake. In 1860 the top was removed and it was turned into a cutting. Talking of going for walks, we went out a couple of days ago in the afternoon, along the towpath, and then off on two little footpaths forming a loop to bring us back to the canal. It was obvious from the start that the second of these was a rarely used path; there were no other footprints and Old Farmer Palmer had ploughed right to the edge of his field and planted winter wheat, but we plodded on, getting a good workout from the rough terrain. Then we came across an electric fence right across the path. We checked the map to make sure we weren’t in the wrong place before ducking under it and forging ahead. Sure enough, a little way ahead the next yellow way-marker came into view. What also came into view were a couple of cows standing in the open gateway. Now cows don’t bother us much, but these two had their rather large and snorting boyfriends with them. As the saying goes, we made our excuses and left. Sharpish, back the way we’d come and very cross. Ok, so it’s only a footpath from nowhere on a busy A road to a bridge over the cut, and we were probably the only people to have walked it in months, and the bulls might have got there by accident, but the electric fence didn’t . It’s a right of way and our very Britishness has been assaulted. Hopefully there’s some ombudsman we can complain to. We’ll probably use green ink and underline things.

Before and after the very good Halloween party, quite a few of our friends from 2CVGB came along from the pub campsite to see us and our little boat. They were all rather jealous that we could just stagger home when the party ended, rather than having to crawl into a tent. It was good to see everyone and the effort put in to ghoulishness and ghostliness by all concerned was, as usual, excellent.

Last week we had our longest separation since we got together. Ann-Marie went to her parents' for 4 days to help out after Pete came out of hospital following surgery and Dave stayed on the boat. He took the opportunity to empty the wardrobe onto the bed and put some ventilation in. It’s important to get as much air movement as possible through all the cupboards on a boat, so he’s put a slatted panel in both sides, cut slots or holes in the shelves and drilled low level holes around the base.
While he was at it he cut an access hatch in the wardrobe floor, Waxoyled the steel under it and fitted a bilge pump with an automatic float switch.
That’s our lowest point. If, God forbid, we should spring a leak, or if the pipes burst, then we’ll know about it long before our feet get wet. It’s one of the few things that you’re allowed to bypass the battery isolator for so it’s wired up with its own in-line fuse. He also put some diamond vents in the lounge cupboards, painted the drawer fronts and lowered the table and made it hinge 6” away from the wall so we can store the chairs behind it when it’s down.
Busy little what-not isn’t he? Ann-Marie came home to a completely different boat. He also painted an old “Ripple Bonnet” 2CV headlight to use as our tunnel light.
This is what our re-vamped front end looks like now.
This is what it was like when we bought it.
Dave’s now having a varnishing frenzy. All the lower panels in the boat need a couple of coats, as do the new book shelves, the boxes in the lounge, the table, the front steps etc. etc. It is looking good though. All mellow, glowing colours with beautiful grain patterns and all becoming part of the fabric of the boat rather than just stuff that’s in it. Ann-Marie hasn't been idle either, but all the stuff she's been doing is top secret at the moment. All will be revealed in due course.

We had a night at Kim & Luke’s after going to a pub quiz at their local. The questions were really tough, but despite being up against a couple of full-time professional quiz-goers and a team of 16 equipped with I-phones we didn’t disgrace ourselves. We even knew that Roy Rodger’s horse was called Trigger. Shame we didn’t write it down.

While we were at Kim & Luke's we picked up a parcel that we’d had delivered to their house. We’d been very excited about getting this.
It’s called an Ecofan, there’s an electronic gubbins that turns the heat difference between the top and the bottom into a current to turn the motor. It’s fab. It’s eradicated all the hot & cold spots, and it looks pretty. We did look at these, which are powered by a Stirling engine, but unfortunately the 6”x3” base is just too big for our little Squirrel!

The latest project is to change the plumbing on the radiator that runs off the back boiler. Yes, that’s right, just as winter approaches. It’s not complicated though, for a reason so far unknown to mankind, the pipe leading to the expansion tank, instead of exiting from the highest point in the pipework comes from the lowest. So if the water boils (which is quite likely given that it’s gravity fed) a whole radiator full of water would need to go through the vent pipe before any steam could escape. In fact what happens is that about half a pint of water overflows from the expansion tank into the engine room before cooler water flows into the back boiler and it stops boiling. It’s still bloody stupid though. Today we drained the system and tomorrow we’ll get some new fittings from Screwfix and sort it out. That's something else done that was never on a list.

Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Stourbridge Canal. BCN. Grand Union Canal. Kinver to Kixley Wharf

There are 25 locks from Hyde Corner to Merry Hill, but we had a fabulous day working up through them all. The Stourton and ...