Friday 23rd September.
The Anchor was little different from the last time I had been there, except that there were now four Everard’s ales on hand pump instead of just Tiger. There is now a marquee up in the garden, which appears to be set up for band. I did not realise that there was a restaurant there with an extremely extensive menu, which in my book does not say much for the quality of food. In my experience a small, eclectic menu means that what appears at your table is freshly cooked to order by a caring chef.
The Anchor Inn.
Four Everard's ales on tap.
Onward then towards Sutton Stop, with a short shopping break at Bridge 21 in Nuneaton, where there is a Sainsbury’s Local, as well as a corner shop and a chippy close to the gridge.
I had a field day with the camera as I passed Charity Dock. Apart from all the scrap cars, boats and anything else that may be worth money one day, the dressed mannequins are always worth a picture or two. I know from a recent Towpath Talk article that they are dressed by the lady of the house, who obviously has a good sense of humour. The dry dock is advertised on a board, but I would think it would need at least a day to clear all the boats that block the entrance. I wonder if it is ever used nowadays.
Details of Charity Dock are here:- http://www.towpathtalk.co.uk/characters-of-the-cut-pete-gilbert/
On the way, I also made a note of the entrances to the Griff Arm, leading to the now derelict Griff Colliery, south of Bridge 18A, as well as the entrance to the Newdigate Colliery, immediately south of Bridge 13. Both these coal mines feature in historic tales of the old boaters loading coal there for transport to towns and factories across the country.
Arriving at Hawkesbury at 13.30, I expected there to be plenty of free moorings – not so. I realised that I would have to go round the turn and moor up on the Northern Oxford, when right at the end of the line of moored boats there was a space on the end, right opposite the old engine house and in pole position for observing the antics of Noddy boats negotiating the 180 degree turn into the Oxford – result!
Earlier, I had phoned Alice Lapworth to see if she fancied a drink at The Greyhound later, to which she agreed. We met up at 8pm and she brought along a childhood friend, called John Best. The name rung a faint bell in my head and when he said that his dad was Alf Best, I realised just who he was. Like Alice, he was also born in a back cabin and had spent most of his working life afloat in the fifties and sixties on the Ovaltine boats, two of which are still afloat, I believe.
Alice, John and Ray.
Saturday 24rd September.
I welcomed a day of rest at last, with no boating involved. I got a few jobs done that were overdue and cooked up the blackberry and apple, which was delicious with a little double cream on top. It is a pity that there are so few blackberries in the hedgerows; they just don’t seem to have filled out and are very small or have just died off.
It was a grey day with wind and I had the central heating on for the first time, but only enough to take the chill off. Time to clear out the Squirrel stove and refit the chimney for the chillier weather to come.
My eldest daughter and partner came aboard in good time to go to the pub. They came on the motor bike, so she wanted to change out of her m/cycling leathers before going to eat at The Greyhound and it was an excellent evening, needless to say. We had last met on Fathers’ Day in June at The Admiral Nelson and it was great to see her again.
A good time at The Greyhound.
Sunday 25th September.
The fuel boat Auriga came along in the morning and I decided to have a couple of bags of Phurnicite off him, as the nights were drawing in and getting decidedly chilly. Rick Cooper was on board and we had a chat about the Alvecote Festival and historic boats in general. The fuel was old stock, so I got it for £12/bag.
Nb Crane was moored up near the services point and I asked Geoff (with a G), if he was a mate of Jeff (with a J) Holman, as I remember Jeff being on Crane a couple of years ago at Braunston Historic Rally.
It was time to get ahead once again towards Banbury for the annual Canal Day. Although I am scheduled to travel for five hours a day, I like to do a bit more, just in case something unusual crops up, or there is a stoppage somewhere on the system. I headed for The Old Oak, where I knew there was free wi-fi, if I could get close enough to the pub, but I ended up on the services mooring for the chandlery next door, which was reserved for refuelling. Being Sunday, there was no one to ask permission to stay there.
Monday 26th September.
The first thing this morning was to fill up with diesel at the adjacent pump. The tank appeared to be half full, but took 82 litres and at 60p/litre was the cheapest I had found so far. They had run out of self declaration forms, so I got it at that price.
It was a miserable day with rain most of the time. Passing Clifton upon Dunsmore moorings, I was hailed by a man with a paintbrush in his hand, saying something about red paint. I didn’t recognise him at first, until he said his name, Dean Box, who did the sign writing on Stronghold.
I got to Braunston in two hours and immediately headed for the marina, reversing into the arm alongside the laundry and refuelling point. The bed was stripped and put in the wash and then into the dryer, before making the bed again. The whole operation took me three hours, before I moved out and onto an empty mooring outside The Boathouse, for more free wi-fi and a relaxing afternoon.
Tuesday 27th September.
A later start than intended this morning. It was certainly busy there and I was in a three boat convoy to Napton. With a strong oncoming wind in my face, it was not comfortable boating. Surprisingly, there were plenty of available moorings below the locks, which was fortunate, because I had now run out of food and intended eating at The Folly, were the Narrow Boat Trust crew had been two nights previously.
Not long after mooring up, nb Guelrose passed by, with Mike Moorse at the helm. It was only at the last minute that I realised who it was, so no time to say hello unfortunately. Mike and Jenny are continuous cruisers and we have met up on several occasions.
I walked up to The Folly and asked about eating there, but had I reserved a table – well, no I hadn’t. I was offered a place at the bar, which I reluctantly accepted. By the time I had finished my pint, I had changed my mind and was about to leave, when the barmaid said that a table was now free, so I ate there after all
Wednesday 28th September.
I let go at 10am and asked the two volunteer lockies if one would be willing to accompany me up the nine locks, to which one volunteered to do so. I did explain my difficulty first of course.
The locks were very busy and almost everyone had a boat coming down, so It was not too strenuous for the lockie, but there was a lot of waiting time while they locked through.
Looking down Napton flight - sans windmill for a change.
After three hours, I reached the top lock and after waiting for a Noddy boat to make four attempts to get into the full lock from around the bend. He did apologise and blamed his inexperience.
I remember seeing this boat in it's own mooring a while back......
........but now it is no longer open to the main canal.
Might as well have a caravan instead.
I reckon CRT had a hand in closing the opening.
After clearing a pair of underpants off the blades, I was motoring along the winding summit of the Southern Oxford, reaching Fenny Compton at 17.00. With a mooring close to the two bridges, it was a stone’s throw to the pub and wi-fi.