Sunday, 15th June 2008: Back at Cropredy and our first striking competition!
We are now back on our mooring at Cropredy - it took us just two days to get back from Crick and much of the journey was completed in fine weather although we did get fairly wet during a couple of heavy squalls. The photograph above shows the Cropredy Swans - the nine cygnets must have hatched just before we got back and their proud parents wasted little time in teaching the new brood how to demand food at our galley hatch!
We left Crick at about midday on Bank Holiday Monday, 26th May, which should have been the last day of the Boat Show but while topping up our fresh water tank at the wharf, we heard that the show had closed prematurely (just after opening for the day) due to health and safety concerns. Apparently the sudden high winds had caused the collapse of several trade stands and there were fears that the main marquee might also be in danger. This must have been a tremendous disappointment for all who had travelled any distance to visit the show and something of a disaster for the traders who invest considerable time and money in the event. The last few years of the show have been cursed by adverse weather and other external influences but, this year, at least we had a good day on Saturday, 24th May, as clearly demonstrated in the picture below.
When we arrived at Crick, we moored near Bridge 13 (a spot that we have used twice before) and although we were, initially, several feet away from the bank because of the inadequate depth of water, after almost two weeks, a combination of the weights that we had attached to our mooring lines and the movement induced by passing boats, had almost brought us alongside; as can be seen in the photograph below. Compare this photograph with the one we took on Tuesday, 13th May 2008!
Other than having to cope with initial strong winds and occasional bouts of heavy rain, our journey back to Cropredy was uneventful. Back at Cropredy the vegetation along the towpath was more than waist high, as well as being soaking wet and full of nettles, so one of Graham's first jobs was to cut the grass - much to the delight of the swans! Shortly afterwards we received a letter from British Waterways reminding boaters to keep the towpath area, around their boats, clean and tidy - this really infuriated us in view of the unkempt state of the towpath on our return from Crick - keeping the towpath clear of vegetation is a maintenance responsibility of British Waterways! Having strimmed the towpath, Graham set to work on his last commission for the part-work 'British Steam Railways', an 11,000 word epic about the London Midland & Scottish Railway; with that now finished, there is time to enjoy other things!
One of the more pleasant aspects of our life at Cropredy is church bell ringing and although we are part of a team where many of us are beginners, on Saturday, 14th June, we entered a 'striking competition' organised by the Banbury Branch of Church Bellringers at Bodicote. As the least experienced team, we fully expected to come last and, in this, we were not disappointed but bell ringing is one of those activities where the 'taking part' is, in itself, an enjoyable and satisfying experience - all the more so when the team is so friendly and supportive. The photograph below shows our team outside Bodicote church tower after we had completed our 'bout' in the competition; from left to right: Dick Hughes (5th), Jane (3rd), Andries Bosland (treble and Captain), Helen Wilde (2nd), Graham (tenor) and David Hawkins (4th).
While on the subject of our friendly and supportive team, all of the above turned out to support Graham during his recent Confirmation at the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene, Wardington, on Wednesday, 11th June, with the The Right Reverend Colin Fletcher OBE, Bishop of Dorchester. We are most grateful for the continued encouragement and support of our loyal friends.
We have also made many friends through our on-line activities with the Canal World Discussion Forums and the lively 'banters', that have ensued. We will be meeting many of them again during our imminent trip to Saul Junction for this year's Saul Canal Festival, in early July. The (present) plan is that Graham will set out on Monday, 23rd June, and take the boat single-handed along the narrow canals between Cropredy and Birmingham (via the Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals) where he will be joined by another forum member for the ascent of the twenty three locks that make up the Aston and Farmers Bridge flights in Birmingham. Then on Saturday morning, Jane will travel by train and join 'Alnwick' at Dudley Port Junction for the trip through Netherton Tunnel and via the Stourbridge Canal to rendezvous with other forum members for a 'banter' at 'The Lock' at Wolverley on the Staffs. & Worcs. Canal at around midday on Sunday, 29th June. Thereafter, we shall continue to Stourport and down the River Severn and the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal to Saul Junction. After the festival, we plan to return by leaving the River Severn at Tewkesbury and coming up the River Avon to Stratford thence, via the lower Stratford-on-Avon Canal and Grand Union Canal, back to the Oxford Canal and Cropredy. All being well, we shall be back on our mooring at Cropredy before Saturday, 19th July.
And finally, here is another picture of the family of Cropredy Swans. In this photograph they are enjoying the grass cuttings from our initial attempts to trim the towpath in order to find our mooring rings!
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© Graham & Jane Oliver 2008