Monday 28 June 2021

Crayfish cod and salmon

The weather was disappointingly damp, sometimes not so wet and sometimes hammering it down.  
We decided, bravely,  to go for a walk, but what to wear...?  
The path over the fields was a track  but to get to the track we had to walk 200 metres down the towpath in long wet grass.  
I ended up in wellies, David hasn't wellies, hard to believe for a farmer but he says he's going to get some now.

The bridge we needed to cross is a Lift bridge, there are one or two hereabouts and we have never seen them down before.  A chap was walking his dog and had crossed it said actually he had never seen it up before!  Luckily it was a doddle to put down and light enough so you can control it, preventing it from walloping down.

Two minutes away from the bridge the canal disappears entirely from sight, if fact the evidence of the canal is the overgrown towpath!!!!!

Slightly arty shot of the rain on the grasses looking beautifully twinkly.

We took a map and were headed for Souldern.  I had called the pub there during the morning to see about booking a table for lunch but they were fully booked, so just a drink today.

It was a very pleasant walk to Souldern and seemingly without noticing we had gained height and had a pretty good view of the surrounding countryside.  

Souldern viaduct

Supremely arty shot of Souldern viaduct.

Souldern is extremely pretty with a few very large stone properties and expensive cars.
I ordered our drinks by text, simple system but has it's drawbacks when you want to know which gins they have, do they have rhubarb gin? Which beers do you have?
The boss was in the garden and helped with that bit also the very nice landlord found us a table and although it was close to the end of the session allowed us to order lunch.

The walk home was a different route, this time going over the M40, 
I can feel smug crossing motorways as I can guarantee that the drivers would prefer to be walking home from a great lunch instead of being down there.



An example of CART's mooring here, right on top of a bridge hole.  Bless.

Lunch was for me cod and chips and with warm brownie and ice-cream, it was very good but that apricot cheesecake yesterday at The Old Bookbinders in Oxford will be hard to beat this boating season I reckon.

David chose smoked salmon and crayfish risotto which was divine and I had food envy, I will have a go at that on the boat I think.

So Reader if you are on the South Oxford I can recommend a short hike up to The Fox, its not too far or I wouldn't have gone. 

Saturday 26 June 2021

A day in Oxford.

We have the car nearby and had long ago decided on a day in Oxford.  Time does not allow to bring WaL all the way, especially at the speed we go when left to our own devices.

We had decided on the train.  When driving in the car heading towards Lower Heyford it seemed a good time to look at train times... Hmmmm actually should have done it before as of course we'd just missed one, the next one was in three hours time.  So Park and Ride it is.
I say again the Oxford city P&R is baffling.  I didn't have the correct parking app on my phone although I have two others.  I didn't have my own credit card on me, David did his thank goodness, it is possible to play with cash for the car parking but I haven't carried cash let alone coins since the beginning of the Pandemic.  Not at all annoying.

Finally on the bus into the centre of town, this part of P&R is simple.  But what did we find?  Oxford almost empty and plenty of available parking.
Seems the HOARDS of overseas visitors are not in Oxford this year, something to do with the Pandemic...

First stop, Waterstones, nearest coffee shop.  David couldn't help buying a new book called Why Do Germans Win at Everything of somesuch.  We'll be playing them at the Euro's next week so I'm told.
What's the Euro's anyway?

Next stop The Saxon Tower, what an amazing feeling to be climbing the steps that    HERE  that people were climbing between 970 and 1021 years ago.  (Lets not be picky that it actually has modern metal stairs today but you get my point.)
These are some of the Gleaming Spires you can see from up there;

I'm partial to roof tops and chimney pots.

This ancient building is right as you exit the Saxon Tower.  Its a gentleman's hat shop I got David in there but a cloth cap was £85 so we left.

Next stop The Ashmolean for a top up in art.  I have to pick and choose galleries carefully so as not to frighten David and put him off for life, (or the next gallery trip anyway).
Here are some of my favs.

An all different coloured marble inlaid table

A Picasso "Blue Rooves"

A Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece, Home From The Sea, a boy is told of his mother's death, in the background separated by a grave stone is a ewe and lamb....

Barbara Hepworth


An empty street, devoid of cars and people, Boy was it quiet.

It got cold, so cold we brought new clothing to keep warm  later we found a coffee house open, staffed by students and the majority of the customers were students too.  Lots of talk of exams and retakes not that I was listening or anything.  But very few cafes open.

Now a long time ago on his blog, Neil, or Mr Herbie as he's know in our house   HERE  recommended a pub in Jericho called The Old Bookbinders Ale House, now if you used to watch Morse with John Thaw all those years ago, you might remember a murder took place "down in the rough part of Oxford by the canal" 
but today Jericho is expensive smart and desirable (to me).
We followed our noses to find it  and discovering in the process an amazing church which looked like it could easily be located in Florence or Rome.  HERE   A cracker.

It was built in the mid Victorian era, by  fans and benefactors of the Oh So Modern, at the time Pre-Raphaelites they wanted their church to be down amongst the poor and Jericho then was absolutely that.
fabulous inside, simple but uplifting. 

Back streets of Jericho, I had to look hard to find these tatty looking houses, the parking was Audi's, BMW's and worse.

St Barnabas aka St Barney's and it's campanile

Pre-Raphaelite treasure house, right up my street.

View from the front of the P&R back again, we had the entire bus to ourselves and as you can see the road too.

The pub was great, we'll definitely go there again a French inspired menu, thank you Mr Herbie.  We were kindly given a table on the proviso we left by 7:45 which we did by miles as there was a pub quiz at 8pm.  Now I quite like Quizzes but can you imagine the standard of  questions in this university town??? And yes there were lots of students entering the quiz.

We walked back to the bus stop and reflected on how tough shop owners must be finding it in this town in the current times.  Many shops were not open, many more empty and boarded up.
Roll on the UK's borders opening fully and the return of the tourist hoardes.  Oxford needs them.

Supper was  cod wrapped in palma ham with homemade pesto with roasted Mediterranean veggies and apricot cheesecake which I am going to try to reproduce at home sometime soon.


Friday 25 June 2021

Fine company arrive.... finally.

 So before we start I just want to say that I don't ever want to be called a Super Soft Southerner again as I have in the past, yesterday we were up at dawn and boated in the monsoon only to have our Hardy Stoic Northern chums in their big coats stay in bed, it seems I am somewhat hardy too.

But we were delighted when they came around the bend, moored up and I invited them in for coffees.  They decided to shower first as Louise had walked the little dogs along the "Re-Wilded"** towpath and was saturated from the knees down.

They came for coffee and before you knew it four hours had past, it was time for quick suppers and then best foot forward for card playing.

This below is one of my favourite tipples, I usually like them on the terrace, in the Italian sun overlooking Lake Garda, but needs must and I made do here in the rainy wilds of Oxfordshire.  You'll immediately see the error which Louise kindly overlooked it, no slices of orange.

Aperol Spritz (minus the orange)

These went down nicely, in fact Louise I'll restock just in case we meet you again, I hate to be unprepared.

The other game David and I played in the morning was putting on the new ropes.  Four black ropes in a sack with only one label defeated David and we did get them on in the correct places at the second attempt.

Question;  Do new ropes stretch?  The boat moves out on them but the knots haven't slipped. 

I am very pleased with them as they look all clean and new but they are heavier too..

For the first time ever we can have long swirly rope rolls, David spent time doing this one and obviously I pulled it out of coils immediately... 

I am secondly pleased to report that John, (Who had thrashed David and myself last time at Hearts, the game we taught him, but was beaten soundly this occasion.  He can't blame the Aperol Spritz either as he stuck to the beer.  
There'll be a rematch I hope.

Stoically hardy types leaving very early the next morning to beat the boat traffic. 

**  We need to talk about South Oxford Canal towpaths and their re-wilding policy called not cutting the grass.

It's raining, it's pouring.

Rain was forecast this morning, we knew it was coming and dressed accordingly.  David chose full wet weather kit and rain  hat, I chose shorts and plastic wee boat shoes, beach shoes really.  We pushed off from Kings Sutton just before 6am as we were off to meet Boating Pals John and Louise from NB Ploddin' Along.  

While we went home for ten days they had also been home, visited Devon for a week with family, fetched their boat again from further up the Leicester Arm and been down the South Oxford Canal and had turned around to return home again.  They are a speedy pair.

But we had hoped to meet them several hours down the line.  Seconds after arriving at Kings Sutton lock it was drizzling, a minute later it was raining.  

There's been some improvements here and rebuilding at Kings Sutton cottage and barns.  I was disappointed that they have built a great long wall, extra high so I can't see over and enjoy the view or their flowers...

Three years ago I took some photos of this place  HERE  scroll down a bit but also read about the lovely Charlie we met that day

I hope this aging and wobbly wall remains, nice and not perfect.

This wall would keep the Mexicans out of Texas.  Planting might help.

Forget the wall that tree would quickly feel my axe

So ten minutes in and at 06:10 it was pouring and I had regrets on my wardrobe choice.  No more photos as the camera went inside and even though we had the tonneau  only rolled back so to the greater part we were sheltered, a bit.
The next 2-3 hours went past in a bit of a blur but I don't think we met any boats, but we did stop for water at Aynho, then David set off for the lovely meadows south of Aynho with view all over the Cherwell Valley.

I peeled off my wet clothing, leaving only my bra dry, all hung in the bathroom.  Hot showers then I looked at my phone.
NB Ploddin' Along had woken, seen the forecast and gone back to bed, who could blame them?
We'll see you tomorrow instead.

The rainy afternoon was spent napping, reading well finishing books and a bit of blogging too.  It rained for eleven hours in total. 

Supper was a good one, M&S crayfish, mango and chilli salad, shared with feta mint and couscous salad.

Monday 21 June 2021

Looking for someone with more money than sense...

A lazy start to the day.  Quite a few boats had passed us going in both directions so after a leisurely breakfast, we too decided to pull the pins and toddle off.

This house below has been completed in the three years since we came this way.  I remember it having far more trees around it which appear to have gone elsewhere so that's a positive.  I can hear Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs banging on about the beauty of the wood cladding and how it ages to be this adorable silver shimmering finish but I do not share that view and think it just looks tatty in a short while.  A sad lack of planting to soften the harsh lines (and they are harsh), so all in all I won't be making an offer they can't refuse.  At the very least its not ruining the look of all the beautiful period houses that adorn Cropedy proper as it's all here alone.

The water point is very tricky for a full sized boat here at the water point below the lock, so D just hovered while I ran and dumped the rubbish, another hire boat was just leaving, literally pulling out, so that meant we were to follow them quite a way.

A few cows in the spa that were unreceptive to David's calling, (He's losing his touch)

Then later the oh so sad sight of this lock cottage, falling down now.  I wrote about its troubles before, it has no access by car, not needed back in its day and sadly liable to flooding too, mortgage companies are renown for being squeamish about such things so here it falls.  It would make a lovely holiday home for someone with more money than sense, just saying.  

It was a lovely home some years back as on time I picked soft fruits in the garden that had grown wild.  Today gorgeous roses in full bloom.

I thought I'd missed the yellow irises, but here are some beauts.

Unknown Pretty about to open.

White Campion?

My father in law called this Ox-Eyed Daisy.

The next lock was amusing, if you had your sense of humour fixed in place, David didn't really...  The oh so slow hirers finally got in.  There were ropes being thrown up and down although it was a single lock and the boat was descending, the paddles were wound up only half way.  

They were two boats travelling together with four couples of long long standing friendships but that hadn't prevented a mild falling out of the crew.  I got all this from the one chap at the second boat to go down, he was boat holding the rope waiting, I could do with lunch he said, Oh I've only just had breakfast at 11:30 says I.  
His wife approached...  he's a bit twitchy for lunch says I on reflex.....

Eventually the last boat crept out of the lock slower than my mother could have pulled it out by rope on her own...

The next hirer coming up was a pair of guys who had "Lost" their crew in Banbury I'm not sure for a jape or they were intending  to turn the boat around and had left them in the pub, but they were alone, they were quicker than the other boats but not by much, just as the boat was about to leave the lock and David had got ready to come in, the captain opened the cabin door and a dog FLEW out and cleared the boat rail and the edge of the boat landing neatly on the lock side,
"Oh I knew he'd do that" exclaimed the captain as the dog ran
"Why the bloody hell did you do it then!" said the crew
Not at all annoying....

Almost into Banbury and what did we see but the deadly slow two hirer boats with the mildly fallen out crews, stopped for lunch, we passed them quickly.

In Banbury we met a Hero.

We have for as long as we have had WaL had four stakes for mooring WaL, if we have to stake the boat instead of using the clippy on hooks or nappy pins as John calls them, we use two stakes at each end for a firm hold, on a river I'd like to use three and a river after rain I'd want to use six at each end.
When David cleared out HIS lockers last week only three stakes.  We must have left on in the grass somewhere.
In the centre of Banbury is Tooley's Boatyard  HERE 

We weren't completely sure if he'd be here or indeed be in but yes.  Banbury has changed a bit in the last three years with these whoppers on both sides of the canal. 

Goodness knows what this is going to be but boats still moored with clanging and banging all around going on, what could be nicer?

I think this had a board saying Premier Inn

Here he is, Maffi.   HERE, it's been a while but I Yoo Hooo'ed him across the way and his head popped up, Maffi I want a stake I called, he reached into a bucket next to him and said "Here, have this one"
Problem solved thank you very much Maffi.  We hope to see you again in a few weeks or so on our return.


We carried on yabbering to the lock which he helped me with.

WaL coming around the bend.

I've included these two shots as I'm sure in a short while these old yards will have gone and there will be waterside apartments, already looking tatty and have weeds growing in the corners.  In fact in 2014 when we first came down here on our way to the Kennet and Avon Canal we moored opposite the building site below and had a rude awakening when the workmen wanted us to move at about 7am.  Seven years later and it looks just the same

If anything they've made the fields into a park.

Thats the M40 in the background.

Another sad story, last July I think it was someone decided to set fire to this cottage.  I understand that this one was lived in but no more.  Two boats were here waiting, waiting for over an hour as some kind person had thrown a microwave oven into the lock.  CART had attended and fished it out.

It was here that I met a man, a younger than me man, who asked me how long it would take him to get to Tring (On the Grand Union Canal, close to where we had got to in May when we did long days and two boats in the double locks for ease.
You see he was out running and decided to change his life.  He decided to live on a boat and had brought one.  

He was on it now and moving it to Tring.  Well that's quite a change of life style to decide on during a run, yes he said.
Have you lived on a boat before? No,
Have you been on a hire boat before? No, 
Have you any friends on boats? No

So there you are.  I sent him back to his boat as he was next to come in, I wonder how he's getting on.
 I talked to the next lady, I can't quite remember how the conversation exactly started but she is a genealogist from USA, lived over here for 20 years loved boating and wanted to liveaboard but her partner didn't want to.  She had done a DNA test on herself and discovered the disconcerting fact that her father who had raised her was not her biological father, her mother now deceased had denied this whilst alive (Well you would wouldn't you) so following this revelation her other four siblings had also done a DNA test to discover that three of them were in the same boat, but all had different fathers.... Had this news upset or divided your family I tentatively enquired  Oh yes big time

I suggested writing a book and screenplay but changing all the names.  She gave me her name which I don't think I shall ever forget and will be looking out for the book.

We moored up at Kings Sutton, put the tonneau cover on the back just in time for the downpour which lasted most of the night.

I'm still thinking about that American woman's family.... 


Sunday 20 June 2021

Oh Dear!

It was to be one of those early starts associated closely with summer and sun.  
The sky was clear and as I woke to the jolt of WaL's engines going on at a time to wake the Blackbirds of this area, I pulled the bung down as was instantly blinded by the sky.
What a beaut.

I'd got my clothes ready the night before, it had reminded me of being six years old when my mummy got my school uniform ready for me neatly on the end of my bed.  
I was soon joining David on the bridge of WaL.

David takes delight in getting to the top of Flights before other Boaters, this morning was no exception as he'd passed two boats getting ropes ready to push off.
It was of no benefit to us as all the locks needed filling for us and those who followed.

Claydon Top Lock and cottage.

I do so love this cottage and was urging my husband to buy it for me years ago when it was on the market.  
He wouldn't.
I'm also sorry that years ago the previous owners had made scones and cakes that were for sale I brought and enjoyed, the current owners don't offer this service.  

So you see Reader, I'm very fond of this place and what do I see?  Well only what could be described as a "Bold choice in the window frames".
I'll say no more, but red and turquoise? 

The barn had fared better to my mind.

Our grandchildren have started talking and a favourite expression is "Oh dear!" when something is wrong.  Today was a big Oh dear moment as the pound below the top lock was very low, too low to proceed.
David was already in the lock and descending when I'd looked over.  We decided between us to let more water in while he was still in there as opposed to him going out of the lock and refilling it as we thought he'd get grounded or worse stuck half way.

Not a brilliant solution but the people who had arrived behind us meantime decided to refill it and empty it before themselves entering it.

I'd abandoned David to check that all the gates and paddles on the next lock were closed (and they were).

So gingerly WaL crept forward and we went into the second lock.   

Oh dear, actually this was after we had let water through.

WaL coming into the second lock.

After the second lock things had improved and a CART chappie appeared swinging his Lock Key (Called a winder by me), he explained that he was going to send more water down and if we could wait for his colleagues to arrive before proceeding.
Marvellous, we had breakfast.
Soon after I met another of the 11%.  Frequent Flyers to this blog may remember that a few weeks ago at the Braunston Flight again early in the morning I met a female member of the Bank work force.  Today I met another, she's Italian, lives onboard her own boat and has worked for CART for ten years, she too loves her job.

She let us carry on when the Flight was "Healthy"

David went on ahead and was going to fill this lock himself.

The last of six locks, we'd been given the heads up that this paddle was out of action and was the cause of a queue to build up.  

One of the last locks of the day before we dropped down into Cropedy.

A favourite wall of mine, oh and David.

So we landed at Cropedy at 09:30.  In time to see other boats departing and giving us a lovely mooring next to gardens.  I took the view it was too hot to continue with the varnishing and David didn't mention putting another coat on the boat pole.

We cycled around Cropedy gazing at the gorgeous cottages, sadly RightMove didn't show any that I liked for sale.  

We arrived at the Brasenose Arms    HERE   for lunch, the gardens were full of people under umbrellas and in the shade of canopies.

We spent the entire afternoon reading in the sun our excellent books.

Great afternoon mooring.

Lunch was mushroom and stilton burger.  

Books we are reading are;

HERE   We have both enjoyed this, if you can call a good murder enjoyable...


HERE   I love her books.