Saturday, 12th January 2008: Our New Year's Cruise!
On Boxing Day, Wednesday, 26th December 2007, we started the engine and cast off from our home mooring at Cropredy en-route for Welford on the Leicester Section of the Grand Union Canal. We didn't travel far on the first day and after winding (the proper canal term for turning a boat round) at Cropredy Wharf, we made steady progress in fine weather to Claydon and moored just above Claydon Top Lock - at this point, Jane had been steering and as Graham stepped off to secure the bows with a line to one of the mooring rings conveniently positioned on the towpath at this location - Jane fell in the water!
We have no idea how it happened - one minute she was standing on the back deck with rope in hand ready to tie-up, the next minute she was in the canal, still hanging on to the rope! Not the best way to start our 'New Year's Cruise'! Fortunately, Jane was not hurt - she soon managed to scramble out to enjoy a hot shower and was in dry clothes (and sipping a very welcome glass of whisky) within a matter of minutes!
The following day we tied up at Marston Doles, at the opposite end of the Oxford Canal's summit level, and met up with Steve and Brenda Day (also from Cropredy) on their boat 'Daisy Rose'. We then made steady progress on the almost deserted canals and reached North Kilworth on Sunday, 29th December 2007 where Graham's brother, Martyn, was kind enough, to ferry us back to Braunston where we had left our car - later that day we enjoyed a most excellent roast dinner prepared by Karen (Martyn's better half) at their Leicestershire home. Karen is an exceptional cook and both have all the right contacts to ensure that they obtain high quality local meat and produce.
On New Years Eve, we had lunch with Bill and Debbie Ford (Bill was the first chairman of the revived Great Central Railway in 1976 and is now the company's president) and it was subsequently arranged that Bill would join us for an excursion to Foxton on New Year's Day - after breakfasting on hot bacon sandwiches we set off and reached Foxton Top Lock within a comfortable two and a half hours. We visited the restoration work on the inclined plane and the chandlery and pub at 'Bridge 61' where we met Tony Matts and enjoyed a pint and a hot Cornish Pasty. The photograph below shows Bill Ford at the tiller with Jane on the return journey from Foxton to North Kilworth. After the trip, Bill said "there is only one thing wrong with 'Alnwick' and that is that I don't own it!" - praise indeed for Phil Trotter's craftsmanship.
As previously mentioned in our 'news' reports, our friend, Richard Lovatt, died in July last year 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 are now in the process of selling his former home, a delightful canalside cottage - with a 75 ft. mooring close to the famous 'Navigation Inn' at Barrow-on-Soar.
For more information about Richard, click here to read his obituary.
We eventually reached Welford on Wednesday, 2nd January 2008 and although the weather had been typically damp, by the weekend we had more sunshine. We also had more very welcome visitors - Robin Ridley, one of Graham's old friends from the days when he lived in Rugby, came over from Lutterworth on the Friday afternoon and on the Saturday, a group of our friends and former neighbours from Eaton Post Office days came over to see us. The pictures below show, respectively, Jane sitting on 'Alnwick' at Welford (we must make an effort to repaint those back doors!) and then the two of us joined by Bernard, Jill and Rita from Eaton.
We set out to return to Cropredy on Monday, 7th January 2008 - the plan was that Graham would take the boat, single handed, to Braunston and Jane would take the car - but things don't always go to plan! Although the sun was shining and the water levels in the canal were high, navigation was slower than expected due to strong winds and the occasional bank of silt where it had been washed in with water running off from the adjoining fields. As a result, when 'Alnwick' arrived at Watford Locks just before 3:00 in the afternoon, they were already chained and padlocked for the night! So, we had no alternative but to tie-up (with all the noise from the adjacent M1 and A5 roads as well as the West Coast Main Line railway) and wait until the chains and padlocks were removed at 8:30 the following morning! Things went rather better the following day and Graham managed, comfortably, to reach the site of our old Winter Mooring at Napton - a distance of just over 14 miles and 13 locks from Watford.
It has often been said that cats have a short attention span and do not remember incidents or places for very long but this is not the case with 'GC' - as soon as we rounded the corner to approach Napton, the intrepid ginger cat was out on deck and as we approached our old mooring spot, he jumped ashore to explore his old haunts with enthusiasm! Graham had considerable difficulty mooring in the gusting westerly wind, which kept blowing the boat back out into the canal and he was most grateful for the help offered by another boater who caught and held the lines secure.
The following morning (Wednesday, 9th January 2008) we met Ernie and Rhonda on 'Ten Bob Note' - Ernie took the photograph below of Graham bringing 'Alnwick' round to the water point. During the whole of our trip from Welford to Napton, that week, 'Ten Bob Note' was the only other boat that we saw under-way! Ernie and Rhonda have an excellent website with lots of useful links as well as describing their adventures with 'Ten Bob Note' - click here to visit them. The bottom photograph shows 'Alnwick' ascending Napton Locks, later on the same day. You can just about spot the windmill on the hill in the background but the white sails are camouflaged against the wisps of high cloud.
All in all, we had an excellent trip and got back to our mooring at Cropredy just as the fine weather broke and gave way to more rain and floods. The photograph at the very top of this page shows Jane steering 'Alnwick' on the approach to Varney's Lock, about a mile north of Cropredy, on the last day of our cruise - Saturday, 12th January 2008.
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© Graham & Jane Oliver 2008