About Me

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The name describes my demeanour and voice! I love narrowboating and that is why this blog is mainly about the boat and our interaction with it. I have been keeping a log for Sonflower ever since we bought her and moved onto her as our main residence. Some incidents in our boating life have been hilarious, some scary and some down right dangerous. I cannot tell what will come in the future but you can now share them! The crew are an 'ordinary' couple. The Best Mate and I.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Birdingbury Wharf Bridge No 21 to The Wharf Inn, Fenny Compton

I am back on the right side of the stoppages at Napton Locks.

This morning I set off for the Wharf in the car and then got a bus to The Boat Inn, Stockton via Southam. Getting there I had crossed the County border into Warwickshire and my Oxfordshire bus pass, valid on this bus from Banbury was not valid in Warwickshire because I was "twirley". I paid out the £2.70. The plan was to get a breakfast in Southam at the No19 Cafe where I have breakfasted between buses before. But today I was greeted by the sign that informed me "Closed on Mondays"! I was expecting to get a 1000 calories inside me to fuel a day in the boat precluding the need to stop to make a meal. So I went in the Co-op and bought some refreshments: BLT sandwich, pukka pie and scotch eggs. Handing my Co-op card I was told "you are in Warwickshire, those cards are not valid we have our own!" They took my Co-op credit card ok.

The target for the day was The Wharf at Fenny Compton. I had convinced myself that I had done this single-handed before. I am not so sure now.  All went well as I approached Calcutt Locks as there was another boat, NB Albert, just ahead and I could join them to aid me up the locks. However, there was no water in the pound between the Bottom Lock and Middle Lock. Not even enough to get over the cill. So a crew member was dispatched to let some down from the next pound. Boats do move better on water!

Just after the flight I was hailed by a BCF member who had an AWCC Burgee for me. He had been asked to take it to Banbury but never got there so in seeing SONFLOWER in his windows shouted out. Just in time as they are moving to Wales next Saturday!

So to Napton Junction and a sharp turn onto home waters: the South Oxford Canal. At Napton a CRT employee was adjusting water levels at the bottom lock. He stopped what he was doing and emptied it to let me through and then told me that there were boats coming down who had been trapped behind a butty that they had just released from the notoriously narrow Lock 9. It had been stuck since 3.30pm on Sunday. Progress was slowed some more by a LNBP boat nb Lancelot which was moored in a very short pound with a central bridge between the third and fourth Lock. The crew had to abandon shop as they could not progress to the Braunston Base with the butty stuck in the lock. It was not a very good place to moor as two boats are unable to pass with ease with the bridge narrows and a boat on the lock landing. We managed, just.

The rest of the flight was slow and steady though I was pleased to have two of the locks set for me by oncoming boats and pleased not to have to shut the top lock top gate as a boat was coming in. I was not so pleased to stub a toe on the roof gangplank rack while getting to the ladder of Lock 15.

I cleared Top Lock at Marston Doles at 1520h. With the loss of the hour on Sunday, I would not have enough daylight to get to Fenny Compton but I pressed on. I did consider a mooring at Brige 131, close to the main A423, but there was no suitable piling here so I pressed on, the last two miles in darkness. The sunset was spectacularly beautiful but I would have valued it to be an hour later today!

I arrived at 1810 and moored by torch light outside The Wharf Inn. I am still "Sober for October"! I limped to the car which I was very glad to get into.

                                         14 miles, 12 locks,  7h 40minutes

Friday, 28 October 2016

Long Itchington to Birdingbury Wharf

Not far today: Grabbed a half day to boat up Stockton Locks.

The bottom lock was set for us but the next was not. How does that happen? The next four were slightly against us in that leakage had filled them a little bit. Then we met a pair of hire boats and swapped locks with them. It took ages to convince one of the crew that we only needed one gate left open. There were boats in the next lock too and also in top lock so we had quite an easy time of it.

We stopped for a bottle of gas at Kate Boats and then moored just past Birdingbury Bridge.

CRT have prepared Winter Moorings here. I wondered why. There are 400 yards of empty moorings on Stockton Long Term Mooring site!

The Best Mate enjoyed the tiller work, even though she hates driving a car, and I enjoyed the footwork and paddle work. It is really good to be boating.
                                            1.1/2miles, 10 locks, 3 hours

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Moorings at Myton to Long Ichington

We needed to move off the pub moorings. Well you can't stay for ever and as I am "sober for October" there was no point in staying any longer so we thought we would move to a suitable 14 day mooring nearby.

While preparing the boat to leave my sister (on nonagenarian mother care duties) called to say Mum was wobbly so she would stay a little longer and get her to the doctor this evening. My decision maker was alert to the possibility that we could now go a bit further and make some progress toward the goal of getting south of Napton locks before the winter stoppages.

The Best Mate agreed with this cunning plan and willingly took the tiller while I returned once more to the car and drove it to Radford Bottom Lock via a Sainsbury's local for a couple of baguettes for lunch.

All went very well with my sister updating me on plans and with great assistance from two retired RAF/civil airline pilots (Concorde and Airbus) who lock wheeled and shared locks from Wood lock to Bascote top Staircase Lock. We had good fun with them but the continual walking and winding, pushing and pulling does take a toll and the Best Mate was almost rigidly fixed to the tiller for four hours.

We also met new BCF members who were working in the opposite direction after the Staircase.
The last leg:200 yards from the mooring spot
So the boat is now near the Two Boats pub. And we are home and hoping that tests tomorrow show Mum is not too bad.

Another thing we had forgotten in assessing whether we could go further today was that I was supposed to be at a management company leaseholders' meeting at lunchtime (I am Company Secretary): oops! Apologies were given by phone but I needed to do it in person on return!

What a busy life we lead! And tomorrow we say "goodbye" to Jo, a very good friend who was taken to heaven far too early for us.

                                                                              7.1miles, 10 locks   5 hours

Monday, 24 October 2016

Budbrooke Junction to The Moorings at Myton

I took my son and family to the boat today. We had a plan. Just a short cruise, a long lunch and some geocaching. But it depended on me getting the car to the lunch pub, "Pub of the Year" winner The Moorings at Myton.   Not an early start but soon were down through Cape Locks. The two grandsons were not able to turn the paddle gear but were well able to open and close the gates. The females of the party stayed on the boat. As the boat full of crew glided away for the bottom lock I started to go back to move the car. I felt in my pocket: NO KEYS! So hollering and shouting I ran after the boat. Fortunately, the Best Mate had gone beliw to light the gas and found the gas was out and empty so they hove to to change the gas bottle. Otherwise, I would have been running for miles. There were no moored boats to slow them down.

Well with gas  bottle changed and keys in picket we parted again in opposite directions.

Parked at the pub, I dawdled down the tow-path toward Sonflower and she was dawdling toward me. I had a nice chat with a chao admiring an old Victorian building which he said was due to come down. He thought it should be preserved. I told him to make an offer! One never knows what scheme or purpose it might be suited for: no good just dreaming and wondering. I once knew a man who said he would buy a castle to turn it into a conference centre after some Cistercian monks had left it. Where there's a scheme there's a schemer! And he was going to do it all on borrowed money.

Sonflower arrived at teh spot where we were admiring the view but my son was not with it. He was buried under a hedge near Leamington Aqueduct trying to find a geocache in the roots of a tree. We hovered in a bridge narrows for him to arrive: "Sorry to be so long: wrong tree!" he said.

A little way further on another geocache was sought under Bridge 44 and then we moored outside "The Moorings" and took up our table for six for a very pleasant lunch. The Ubu Golden Ale looked lovely but it is still October so I'm sober! The Kent Air Ambulance is benefiting.

                                                                                  2 lock, 2.75miles, 2 hours

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Hatton Flight

Today, with Alex as crew, and with the BEST MATE On nonagenarian mother-in-law duties we returned to the Top Lock LT moorings and took SONFLOWER down.

Getting there meant a car journey and a two mile walk up the locks from the layby. On the walk up we saw a CRT volunteer lock keeper and pointed out to him that the pound between locks 29 and 30 was about two feet lower than usual. He was not at that time letting water down but assisting a boat going up. He said he would have a look.

 We set off and filled and emptied two locks before the volunteer popped his head over a gate beam and told me that he had let some water down and we would be fine now. He was on his own today. There were two other volunteers in the "Welcome Centre" but I could not see anyone for them to welcome at this point of the day.

At the start of the steep flight where the locks are close together and dead in line I noticed that the tower of the Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick is straight ahead.  You have to zoom in quite a bit to see it so I have done it for you:

I wondered whether the engineer had deliberately made it a focal point. The church has been there since 1128. We had done about 10 locks with Alex on the bank and me on the tiller when we came across nb Lilly May who was moored in a very short pound between Lock 37 and 36. The crew said that they were having a half time cuppa. They declined to join us in lock 36. Alex and I changed roles. We waited at the next lock for them. There was a boat coming up the next lock so we had nowhere to go anyway. By now they had taken on board more crew including two tiny children, one toddling and one babe in arms. I looked the other way when the toddler was toddling along the top beams of the gates and helping with paddle gear and gate opening! Alex was boating at age 3.1/2 but never without a life jacket.

They shared locks with us for five locks and then moored on a longer pound between Lock 31 and Lock 30 that has a length of armco in the centre. We continued down alone but had the assistance of two boats that came up.

We moored just short of Budbrooke Junction.

                                                         2. 1/4 miles, 21 locks, 4 hours

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Shrewley to Hatton

As we were at a meeting in Hatton Yard CRT offices this afternoon we asked another member of the meeting to drop us at Shrewley Post Office so that we could move SONFLOWER nearer Hatton Top Lock. We are very grateful for the lift.

We were on 48 hour moorings and had come to the end of our concessionary 7 day overstay period.

The plan was to move to 14 day moorings.

But in nearing Hatton top lock we found that there are no 14day moorings between St John's Bridge 55 and the waterpoint at the top lock. What to do?

It was now after half past four and a minimum of four hours can be anticipated for the passage through the 21 lock flight. Not an option!

There was a gap of 12 ring spaces (approx 10m apart) on the tow-path designated "Long Term Moorings, permit holders only", then two small boats and a gap of 3 rings, approximately 90ft, then a single boat before the water point.

We put SONFLOWER in the 90ft gap.

At Hatton Top Long Term Moorings
So another email to CRT Enforcement has been sent. I hope that they agree that I had no choice.

I have arranged crew for Saturday Morning to make passage down the flight. The Best Mate has volunteered to take on the nonagenarian care duties.

Shrewley Tunnel SW Portal 48 hour mooring to Hatton Top L T Mooring, 1.5miles, 0.5 hour

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Out of Birmingham

 This is the view from Cambrian Wharf at the top of Farmers Bridge Flight yesterday morning just before sunrise. We were up early because we had 11.1/2 to 12 hours boating ahead of us and only 11.1/2 hours of daylight to do it in.  We knew that around the corner was a barrier with blue flashing lights and this sign!
No-one was there when we arrived a fraction past 7AM. There are no rings so The Best Mate held the boat on the centre rope while I looked for the police. So although not technically "out of hours" (10PM to 7AM) I called the number. The police respondent said "I'll be with you in 10-15 minutes". He did arrive at the path beside The Malt Shovel to tell us that he could not find the "water team": they had not arrived yet. We had a visit from a lovely little spaniel search dog at about 8.30 and, with two policemen and the dog aboard as escorts we were cleared to make passage to Worcester Bar at 0837h.

It was one of those wonderfully crisp and sunny mornings as we headed south past the University hall and campus where I was an undergrad so many years ago. Over a new aqueduct over a new dual carriageway road past Selly Oak and Bourneville, once a proud centre for chocolate manufacture, now a theme park. Gliding easily across an ebony marble surface. Why the water here has a blackened glassy look to it I do not really know. We used to call it a "smelly ditch" but now, with a re-furbished cycleway on the towpath it is a delightful cruising waterway.

So to the tightest of turns under the King's Norton junction footbridge to join the Stratford canal with its guillotine gated stop lock that would no longer stop anything judging by the gaps between the planks of the guillotines. After Brandwood Tunnel we had a brief stop to pump out, fill with diesel and buy a pair of cornettos. After Lyons Boatyard the canal is a winding delight. Often wooded on both sides and overhead the sunlight splashes through the leafy arch to dapple the mirror surface of the canal and the path beside it. An occasional leaf fell to make wavy circles in the way ahead. Three herons and two kingfishers were seen here too. There are many new waterside developments to accommodate an expanding population on the leafy edge of the Birmingham Solihull conurbation. One has a stairway waterfall which stops just short of the canalside on a mock wharfe. No boats would be allowed to moor there.

We continued apace with no time to stop at Wedge's Bakery and only a following timeshare nb Steelaway for company. They were not in quite sight when we had to close the Shirley Swing bridge to let the traffic flow again but we held the next lift bridge open for them. The Best Mate dawdled on to make sure they could not pass while I lowered it again as we did not want to lose any benefit of any locks that were set for us!  We needn't have worried as they winded before the second and last lift bridge before the locks.

And anyway locks 2 and 3 were set against us so had to be filled. However, locks 4 and 5 were full and from then on we were on a good road. How that happened we were not sure but next to the Lapworth cricket field we saw three CRT blue shirts get into their lorry and scoot away. maybe they had been playing with the levels:we will never know.
Shadows lengthen as sun sinks
A couple of boats came up the other way to interrupt our lonely routine and we had the company of a few walkers and dog walkers in the sunshine.

We left the 20 locks behind as the sun dipped below the hedgerows and we headed out into the Birmingham and Warwick canal, turning south toward Warwick. It got darker and darker until we entered Shrewley Tunnel. When I left it the light didn't get much brighter so I pulled over and we moored on the rings. We were short of our target and a long way short of Warwick Parkway station. We had moored here before and we knew the way up over the tunnel to Shrewley Common where there is a Post Office. I did not notice the 48hour restriction until I lit up the post with my torch. Oops! Near the PO, a kind gentleman suggested that we walk to the Durham Ox to ask after a taxi. This we did and were soon provided with the taxi company's number and a cab was in its way.

The driver suggested that he could take us home for not much more than the train fare so we accepted his offer and were home, exhausted but glad to get home before the train would have left Warwick Parkway.

Now all we need to do is find a time to move the boat the remaining distance to the top of Hatton locks.

Cambrian Wharf to Shrewley Tunnel SE portal:
                                            22.5 miles, 20 locks. 3 moveable bridges, 3 tunnels 12.1/2 hours

Monday, 3 October 2016

Banbury Canal Day

This was the first year since 2004 that SONFLOWER has not been moored where the blue boat with the gold roof in the picture or tucked under Tom Rolt Bridge, from which this picture was taken.

This is the stand of BCF, one of two Christian groups that had stands amongst over a 100 of charities, interest groups and organisations that come to enjoy the first Sunday in October together with about 10,000 folk. We spoke to day trippers from the Isle of Wight, Lincoln and Chester. Such is the renown of the day.

Amongst the craft moored for this event were  nb Livien G, supporting an orphanage in Tanzania; nb Norfolk Belle,selling eco-fiendly products; nb Shammah wrapped up in bubble wrap and with a crew of bubbles; nb Scyeffe with a musical saw artiste; nb Trimstone assisting with safe boarding of trip boats. All very different but with the common purpose of being at the heart of the festival.

WIth our Waterways Chaplaincy gillets on we also walked the towpath and talked with CRT staff and volunteers, boaters and traders.

We are grateful to our friends from Jubilee Church and other fellowships who supported us throughout the day and at our service in the afternoon.

nb Sonflower was missed and some asked where she was and whether we will be back for next year. I am sure that we will be.