Thursday, 20th December 2007: Wintering at Cropredy!
We have been at our 'home mooring' on the towpath at Cropredy since returning from St. Ives on Sunday, 9th September 2007. As previously mentioned in our 'news' reports, our friend, Richard Lovatt, died in July and, in accordance with his wishes, we have been deeply involved with the complicated business of managing and disposing of his estate. The bulk of the work is now almost complete and we hope to have his former home, a delightful canalside cottage (with a 75 ft. mooring close to the famous 'Navigation Inn' at Barrow-on-Soar) on the market shortly after Christmas.
For more information about Richard, click here to read his obituary.
We have had ice on the canal for the last week or so and the above picture shows our boat 'Alnwick' tied-up at Cropredy Wharf while we replenished our water supply on 13th December 2007. We are not sure how much water the tank holds because we have never had to fill it from empty but it is enormous and always lasts at least a month before we need to worry about it. We had to break through ice to get to the water point and were pleased to find that the taps had not frozen! Running astern in ice is a challenging experience but it wasn't as bad as when we had to come all the way back from Banbury a few days earlier: We had planned to do our Christmas shopping in Banbury and decided to go by boat and make a weekend of it - when we were within about a mile of the town centre, we found the navigation temporarily closed for repairs to Hardwick Lock, so we tied-up and walked the rest of the way - there is nowhere to turn (or wind) a 62 foot boat on this section of the Oxford Canal and we subsequently came all the way back to our mooring at Cropredy - a distance of about two and three-quarter miles - astern!
We have been made very welcome by the local community here at Cropredy and were delighted when we were invited to join the local bellringers so that we can resume learning where we left off at Eaton - in truth we learned very little about the art of ringing at Eaton because in those days we were far too busy with work and business. There is a webpage dedicated to the Cropredy Church Bells here - you may even see one of us lurking in one of the photographs!
This has all helped us to make new friends but we still keep in touch with as many as we can of our more established friends - in October we had a pleasant weekend visit from Bill and Debbie Ford - the photograph on the right shows them on the bridge near Cropredy Lock after we all had enjoyed an excellent lunch at the Red Lion Inn! Bill (W J C Ford) was the first chairman of the revived Great Central Railway in 1976 and, along with Richard Lovatt, we worked together (I was then company secretary) during the difficult period when British Railways were threatening to tear up all the track because they had lost confidence in the ability of the charity, Main Line Steam Trust, to raise sufficient funds. It was Bill who worked out the solution to that particular impasse and it was his efforts that undoubtedly saved the railway. More recently, Bill and Debbie were extremely kind to Richard during his illness and, as the condition deteriorated, they looked after him and made him as comfortable as possible. Following Richard's death Bill and debbie have also helped us with several matters, mostly relating to Richard's estate, for which we are extremely grateful.
With the canal closed by Winter stoppages, we could not have gone far (even if we had time for boating) but we did manage some important maintenance. One of the jobs was flushing out the engine cooling system: our Kelvin K3 was designed for cooling by raw seawater and this can be very cold off the Scottish coast where the engine was intended to operate. The system installed in 'Alnwick' involves a tank on the bottom plate about six feet square and just over an inch deep - the engine's original reciprocating pump circulates the coolant from this tank, round the cylinders and cylinder heads and then to a small header tank from where it returns to the main tank on the bottom. The system is effective at canal speeds but the engine gets very hot when running for more than a couple of hours at anything like maximum power - fortunately there a few occasions when we need so much power! After thoroughly draining and flushing the system, we filled it with a mixture of clean water and 3% 'Ankorsol' - a specialist corrosion inhibitor produced by Morris Lubricants Ltd of Shrewsbury - this mix turns the coolant a luminous green colour (see the water level sight gauge in the photograph below) and, as a result, it is very easy to see the level in the gauge and also to detect any leaks. Please note that the Courage pump badge is not intended as an insult to one of Graham's former employers - on the contrary, we are very fond of 'Director's Bitter'.
'GC' (link to GC's web page) has been much happier of late at Cropredy and managed to catch a mouse on the tow path this morning - his change of mood may be down to the fact that there are fewer cats here in the Winter but he still runs back inside the boat at the first hint of a dog coming along the tow path! There was an amusing incident when Graham found his old 'in-tray' (from the Great Central Railway) among Richard Lovatt's effects and brought it back to the boat to sort through the papers - 'GC' immediately commandeered it (as you can see from the photograph below) and it was several hours before Graham could get at the papers!
Those who remember 'GC' from his days as 'the railway cat' will recall that he always had a habit of sleeping in that 'in-tray' as well as in several other unlikely places!
Another minor, engine related, task completed during the last month was pumping out the old engine oil and cleaning out the sludge that had accumulated in the sump. While the sump was empty, we took the opportunity to solder a new section of brass mesh on the Kelvin oil strainer - its not the prettiest job but it is much better than the old one that had been bashed about, torn and fixed over the years with staples and odd bits of wire.
The engine has now been refilled with clean oil and we are getting ready for our post-Christmas cruise on the Leicester section of the Grand Union Canal; all being well, we plan to arrive at Welford in good time for New Year's Day!
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© Graham & Jane Oliver 2007