NB Muleless

NB Muleless
Moored at Alrewas Sept 2013

Sunday, 22 June 2014

To Dukes Cut and back and a family visit

We were expecting Family to visit us on Sunday and were hoping to be in Thrupp for them to find us easily. As we were only on a 2 day mooring, on Friday we headed off at our usual time of 11.10 am in search of water.

About 200 yds ahead the canal went under the main road, and straight after the bridge is a water tap. We pulled in, and pulled right up to the long term moorers in front, but decided that we would be blocking the canal if we stopped there, so would get water further on.


We carried on, and just a bit further up was our first lock of the day, Roundham Lock. All went well to start with, I set the lock, Gary brought Muleless in.


We worked through the lock – no problem there. I closed the gate as Muleless left and climbed on the boat. As we headed off under the bridge there was a rattling sound from the prop – sounded like a stick had gotten caught up. Gary gave a burst of reverse, and then tried forward again, we still had the noise, and knew we had something round the prop!

We pulled over to the lock landing and tied up with the centre rope – this shouldn't take long we thought!

Wrong! Gary spent the next hour trying to remove the plastic bag and a load of string from the prop! The string was so tight he was struggling to get it loose, so had to revert to unbolting the prop and moving it forward to gain access to the string!

Of course two boats chose that moment to approach the lock – one from each end! As we were blocking the lower lock landing I popped back to explain to the approaching boat and apologise for being in the way, then I went up to the lock to let the boat there know what was going on! They had arrived first and had started to fill the lock to come down, so at least the other boat could just hold back and wait for them to exit.

After they had gone through, as Gary was still struggling down the weed hatch, we decided it was best to move the boat away from the lock landing so we weren't in the way. Just as well we did, as again boats approached from both directions!

Eventually the prop was freed, Gary put everything back together, changed into a dry t-shirt, had a drink and we were free to move on again! Oh well, we have been doing really well and haven't had hardly anything stuck on the prop – even with our trip through Leicester!

The next hazard, according to my e-canal map, was bridge 228 which was marked as low!


We passed under it OK, but would definitely have to be careful coming back or we might lose the chimney!

Then we arrived at Kidlington Green Lock, which had a very long overspill weir which tried to pull Muleless onto it, so Gary had to put Muleless’s nose right on the gate as I readied the lock for us!


Then as he reversed away so that I could open the gate the weir still pulled him over, but not quite so much!


Our next hazard this trip was another lift bridge that was in the down position!


Lift Bridge 231 is locked in the down position for vehicles to cross. This time there are mooring bollards, so armed with my BW key I went to read the instructions!

There is an official BW (CRT now) notice with instructions of how to release the lock, but unfortunately they tell you to insert your key and turn it clockwise to release the locking mechanism – you actually have to turn it 1/4 turn anti-clockwise, and this has been scratched onto the instructions as an addition!

Anyway, I unlocked the bridge and it swung up out of the way, and Muleless came through. As Gary pulled in to the bollards the other side of the bridge we saw another boat approaching, so waited for him to go through the bridge before I pulled it down and relocked it.


I climbed back on the boat and we headed under the bridge. We knew there was a water tap somewhere down here – and we realised it was just after the first 2 boats moored after the bridge! Gary could have gone straight there whilst I waited with the bridge up!

Never mind, the tap was not in use, so we pulled in and started to fill the tank. I knew that Dukes Lock and Dukes Cut were  just ahead, so leaving Gary with Muleless I walked on past all the boats moored on the permit holders moorings (most of which were a bit tatty to say the least!) and went to check out the junction.

This was Dukes Cut Lock (leading directly to the Thames) and the cut beyond.


I was expecting something grander!

This is the Oxford Canal beyond the junction heading into Oxford under that traffic jam!


Our goal today was to turn round in the junction, as being 60ft long we wouldn't be able to turn round further down unless we went through Isis Lock and onto the Thames! We wanted to save the Thames experience until another time, so when we had finished filling with water, we headed down to Dukes Lock to turn round.

As usual I had to set the lock for us then Muleless went in. You can see the A34 in the distance, with the traffic jam on it!


I worked Muleless through the lock and stood at the lock with the gate open, so that Gary could go to the junction to turn the boat.


Then he came back into the open lock, and I worked him up again!

Back in Dukes Lock, heading north now!


Mission accomplished for today! Filled with water and turned round. Now all we needed to do was find a mooring before Thrupp!

We made our way back through the locked down lift bridge and back to Kidlington Green Lock, where there was a nice mooring spot just below, that we fitted in nicely.  For such a short trip it had been a very long day – 5 hrs 20 mins!!

Just as we were going to bed there was the most terrific thunder storm! We kept seeing forked lightning (no pictures, sorry) and eventually it did rain really hard!

Saturday we had a nice short run heading back to Thrupp ready for our visitors. As we left Kidlington Green Lock there was a strange sight approaching.


I waited at the lock whilst Gary moved out of the way.


The guys in the pedalo swan were heading to Oxford for charity – I had seen them mentioned in other peoples blogs and knew they were heading our way. I think they made a two week journey from somewhere on the Trent and Mersey all the way to Oxford!

Next was that tight bridge we had to go under – we had to stay really close to towpath side to make sure there was room to get through!


Just one more lock and we were back at Thrupp. The spot we had left was still free, so Gary pulled in there whilst I walked round the corner to see if the moorings near the Boat Inn had space – they did, so a quick phone call got Gary coming round to moor up on the 2 day spots in front of the pub!

That deserved another pub lunch, this time in the Boat Inn! Scrummy!


Back to the boat after lunch and we had to prepare for visitors, so there was much washing of boat and cleaning going on and when we had finished we had a visit from Yvonne and Roy who were in their camper van nearby and had come for dinner in the pub – we were still full so just joined them for a drink! Weren’t we good.

Sunday was forecast to start off sunny but turn into sunny intervals – as usual the weathermen got it wrong. It was just grey! But at least it didn't rain.

The first wave of family arrived at 10am. My Brother Terry, his wife Wendy and my Mum and Ben the Border Collie. Terry and Wendy had done some shopping for us (essentials – wine, beer, cider!) so the first job was to get that stowed out of the way, then I gave Mum the full boat tour – it was her first visit to Muleless, and she has never been on a canal boat before, so it was all new to her! About 10.30 the second wave of family arrived, my nephew Chris and niece Cheryl, it was their first visit too, so after I had finished Mum’s tour, I gave them one too!

Refreshments were sorted out, teas, coffees, cold drinks and T&W had brought doughtnuts too, a real treat – Gary wont let me have any normally!!

Then it was all aboard for the start of our daytrip. First stop water and pumpout at Thrupp Services! We pull out all the stops for our visitors!

The service wharf had been free as Gary pulled away from our mooring, but by the time I had lifted the bridge ready to go under, someone had pulled onto the water point! All was not lost though, as Maffi was just launching some canoes (or kayaks!) and told Gary to brest up to the Milly M and use his tap whilst the other boat filled. As this was sorted out an the water was running we saw a hire boat approaching the lift bridge, and its crew trying the pull the bridge up instead of using the electric controls!

I hurried back to the bridge shouting to them that they needed their BW Key to operate the bridge, but the boat kept coming, and as Terry and I crossed the bridge the hire boat actually hit the bridge! The Hirers turned out to be German (or Dutch?) so english was not clearly understood! The crew retrieved their BW key and I assisted them with bridge instructions, the bridge went up and the boat went through – straight on and hit the opposite edge of the canal! By now, both Maffi and Gary were shouting instructions to the steerer (slow down, reverse etc) but he clearly didn't want to be told – with a “I know what I doing” he proceeded to try to ram the edge of the canal, the Milli M and Muleless as he collected his crew and made the sharp left turn to carry on up the canal! Luckily his crew, along with Gary and Maffi managed to push the boat away from trouble, and they carried on, out of our way!

We can see why Maffi says he sees it all at Thrupp!

By now the other boat had filled with water, and so had we, so as he moved away Gary took Muleless over the the services so that we could use the pump out. That went smoothly, and our visitors enjoyed chatting to Maffi and making a fuss of Molly whilst Gary and I did the business! It didn't take long, so with many thanks to Maffi, we finally moved off for our family day trip with all on board.

We were heading up the canal towards the river Cherwell, so everyone was enjoying their first views of the canal from a moving boat – including Ben the dog!



We were soon approaching Shipton Weir Lock, I jumped off as usual to prepare the lock, and Terry, Wendy and Ben also followed to see how it all worked.

I had to empty the lock for us to enter, so whilst we waited for the level to equalise Terry let Ben off his lead for a run round – they often walk by canals, so knew Ben wouldn’t jump in to the water.

Ben ran across the top gate like a pro – but when he wanted to come back over, he was using the bottom gate – and there is not a proper walkway on it because of the bridge over the top – and before we knew it SPLOSH!

PANIC! Luckily this lock hasn't got a big rise/fall – only about 2ft at the moment and it was just about equalised. Ben surfaced and tried to climb out, but of course couldn't, so Terry called him to make him swim over to the ladder where he was getting ready to get him out! Ben swum over, and Terry went down the ladder to get hold of Ben, and he had to go down a couple of rungs into the water so that he could reach the harness that Ben was wearing (lucky it wasn't just a collar!).

Terry hauled Ben as high as he could and a chap who was just sorting out his family and canoes to pass over onto the river, ran over (beating Gary and Chris as they were further away, but on their way to help) and hauled Ben the last couple of feet and back onto dry land!

Disaster averted, everyone could now see the funny side of what could have been a terrible end to a lovely day. The canoeist was heartily thanked and Ben was put back on his lead. After a few shakes and rolls in the grass he couldn't see what all the fuss was!

Terry had wet trousers, socks and shoes, but although it was grey it wasn’t cold, so elected to walk Ben down the towpath to let him dry out – he definitely wasn't allowed on Muleless whilst still dripping!

We worked Muleless through the lock, accompanied by another smaller boat who had caught us up, we left them to shut the gates and with Terry, Chris and Ben walking, carried on up the river.

The next lock was luckily uneventful, and as Ben was nearly dry now, everyone got on board, and Terry could take off his wet socks and shoes.

As I was in the galley sorting out drinks again, a strange thing happened – Gary appeared – he had left Chris steering the boat – and a good job he did too!


We passed through Pigeon Lock (Gary back in control again) and managed to moor up at the quarry for lunch. If we had been able to guarantee stopping there we would have arranged a barbecue, but instead we just had sandwiches etc.

The sun still wasn't out, so we ate lunch on the boat, and then left the quarry to turn in the winding hole just 200 yds up.

The trip back was achieved without any drama, so I had time to take some photos!


Terrys shoes had dried out enough to use again comfortably, so now he had a go at the locks!


Whilst Cheryl kept an eye on Ben!


Chris and Wendy going down in the lock.


This time through Shipton Weir Lock Terry kept a tight hold of Ben!


Ben also like to bark at the water churned up by the prop – and Terry kept a tight hold – just in case!


Mum had been a bit chilly outside, so was enjoying the trip inside in the warm.


Everyone seemed to enjoy the trip back to Thrupp.


As we pulled up to the lift bridge we saw there was space on the 7 day moorings, so we pulled in and moored up there.

We had a brilliant day, and everyone (even Ben) enjoyed themselves. As they had a 2 hr drive home it was time to say goodbye.


After final hugs and waves everyone left us to relax!

I think we might stay here for a few days to recuperate!


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Have we really only travelled 14 1/2 miles since last blog?

Monday last week we were moored opposite the Farm Shop, so when we set off we moved all of 100 yards – and moored up to nip in to the farm shop! They no longer sell Napton Buffalo products, so we just bought some pork sausages and burgers to try, and after saying goodbye to the crew of Lucy Lowther (who reads the blog!) we set off properly!


Straight away we passed yet another canalside home for sale – this one has its own lift bridge!


We were very quickly at Nell Bridge Lock which would take us down to the first of the River Cherwell sections of the Oxford Canal – you have to take this one carefully if the river is up, as there isn't much headroom through the bridge below!


I walked the short stretch to Aynho Weir Lock to get it ready for Gary and Muleless, but luckily a boat had just come up and another was waiting at the bottom to come up too – so I didn't have to work the lock!

The river cuts straight across the canal here from right to left – if the river is up it will push boats over to the wood barrier before the lock – making it difficult to get into. Lucky for us the river is not flowing too hard . . .


and Gary brings Muleless in with out hitting the sides!


The lock is an odd shape – you can fit more than one boat in if the size is right!


I believe the shape is to let more water through, even though it is only about 1 or 2 feet drop!

We were soon passing Aynho Docks where it was quite busy – and not much room to pass!


Further round the bend we were running parallel with the railway and this fabulous viaduct that we usually see from the motorway.


Just then we spotted a nice spot of armco and decided to moor up and enjoy the sunshine – just an hour and a half and 2 1/2 miles after leaving the farm shop!


Gary soon had the shears out to tidy up the towpath, and decided to do a spot of touching up of battle scars – we have to keep up with Chance after all!


Chairs were soon out, and we chilled in the sunshine after a long journey!!!

Just as we were ready to leave in the morning the strimmers and mower arrived, and stopped for a rest at the lift bridge (before trimming the towpath near the boat), so we quickly moved off hoping to get to Somerton Deep Lock before them!

A boat had just come up the lock and told me that the bottom gate was really difficult to shut, so we decided Gary should wait at the top to help me with the gate whilst Muleless went down the lock on her own!


We opened the gate together – and then a boat arrived at the bottom – so we didn't have to shut the gate after all! Gary climbed down the ladder back onto Muleless and moved out of the lock.

This lock definitely lives up to its name – it is 12 ft deep!


We motored on, passing some bankside moorings with huge gardens.


And then this narrowboat complete with torpedo launchers!


This unusual tent was in a garden.


We went through Heyford Common Lock, and as it was warm and sunny again we looked for the next available mooring spot – and found one just before Allens Lock.

We moored up and then NB Harnser went past, and we shouted greetings as they went by!


We decided to have a walk into the village of Upper Heyford to find the pub! Another short cruising day, just 2 1/4 hrs and 3 miles.

Wednesday we moved off, went through Allens Lock and a mile further on found ourselves heading towards another lift bridge that was in the down position, it confused us for a minute as it wasn't the usual black and white painted version, but silver!


As we approached we could see another boat the other side, and thought they were about to open the bridge, but as I approached the single hander on board called to ask if I could open the bridge, as he couldn't work out how to get through it on his own!

I had to pull the bridge down to open it – and then sit on the beam to hold it there – whilst the boats went through – it was impossible for the bridge to remain open without someone holding it, so a single hander would always need assistance from someone – good job we had come along!


Safely through the lift bridge and then we passed another desirable residence!


We were then passing the moored boats on the approach to Heyford Wharf and the Railway Station, and these two characters were moored there!


We were hoping to fill up with water, so after squeezing through the moored boats, and passing a couple of boats coming the other way, we pulled in front of the boat already filling with water to wait our turn.

There were some very nice houses with lovely gardens and narrowboats moored, right opposite the water point – lovely except for the trains that kept whizzing past just behind us.


They also had some unusual security!


It was a very slow tap! Eventually the other boat was full and left and we pulled back to the tap to take our turn, then a hire boat pulled in front of us to wait for the tap too – we gave them the bad news that it was a slow tap and we would be quite a while – but they were happy to wait! We made lunch, and chatted to the other boaters, and then another boat came by and wanted water, but decided not to wait!

For such a busy spot, there isn't much room through the bridge!


Eventually we were full and moved on. Today was getting to be a long day, so we started to look out for a mooring spot!

We headed through Dashwood Lock


and on to North Brook Lock – which had a most unusual overspill weir!


The canal was starting to get very overgrown now – Gary even had to pull Muleless over as he left the lock – or else he would have gone straight into the bushes before he could steer away!


We wanted a nice open spot in the sun if possible, so that we could dry the towels that we had been washing whilst on the move, but the canal just closed in more with trees all around and lots of overgrown towpath!


And then we arrived at Washford Quarry, and as luck would have it there was room to moor! Just then a boat appeared from the opposite direction, but we made our intentions known and he waited whilst we manoeuvred into the spot, assisted by one of the boaters already moored. The other boat then squeezed in on the end, and the 48hr moorings were full!

We had left our mooring 4hrs and 40 minutes before – a really long day for us, even though we had only moved 5 miles!

We got the chairs out and whilst I relaxed and read my kindle, Gary went to explore the quarry with the camera!


When he returned we got chatting to the crew of NB Rivendell who were moored behind us and had helped us pull the boat in. It was them that had passed us on the water point and had not wanted to wait, and also they had been the boat following us when we got stuck with the awkward lift bridge just out of Banbury!

We also discovered that they came from Stubbington (only a couple of miles from our previous home of Gosport!) – what a small world! We had a great chat with Geoff and Ellie, and admired the wooden louver blinds that Geoff had made himself for his front doors!

The next morning they left before us – hope to catch up again soon guys!


The quarry is a lovely spot to moor, but we did have trouble getting right in to the bank!


We were ready to move off at our usual time of 11.20 and we were soon at our first lock of the day, Pigeon Lock.


We were soon passing Enslow Wharf, the home of Kingsground Narrowboats – we had attended one of their open days during the early planning stages of Muleless, so it was another milestone location we were looking out for.


Right next to the Rock of Gibraltar pub was this house with a “floating” patio! It looked a bit precarious though.


The moorings were busy outside the pub, so it was a tight squeeze through!


We passed this narrowboat who must have been trying to contact aliens – just like these giant dishes were!


Then we arrived at Bakers Lock, which was taking us back down to the River Cherwell again, the lock was overflowing – so it looked like the canal was feeding the river – not the other way round!


As we left the lock and headed onto the river we could see the old pump house chimney and the dust from the demolition that was going on. There was a boat moored that had obviously been there for a while!


We followed the river as it meandered around.


Then, in the distance, we could see a narrowboat moored by a white sign that we couldn't read – and were unsure if the river went straight on or to the right!


It was only when we got really close that we could read the sign! and by then we knew we were at the lock and had to go through!


There was a boat just coming through, so after a quick chat we swapped places in the lock with them, and by then a hire boat that was following us arrived at the lock and we waved him in with us – we were in Shipton Weir Lock – another of the strange shaped locks!


We let the hire boat leave first, as we were hoping to moor up soon (before Thrupp if possible), and as another boat was approaching we didn't have to shut the gate, so that was handy!

Unfortunately the towpath here is still very overgrown and the only clear spots were taken, so we were soon passing the pretty gardens of the houses at Shipton on Cherwell and were nearly at Thrupp!


The moorings on Thrupp Wide were full, so we had to follow the hire boat right into Thrupp.

As we passed the service wharf we saw NB Swamp Frogs, and then had to take the sharp right turn to go through the lift bridge, that the hire boat crew were holding open for us – and the boat that had just left the water point!


Gary had to make sure he was going really slowly and carefully through the bridge – just in case Maffi was around – and guess whose boat we passed as we did so!


We were now second in a queue of three boats looking for moorings in Thrupp!

The hire boat managed to pull in by the Boat Inn, and that left us and the other boat going on round until the Jolly Boatman pub – where luckily there was space to moor for both of us!

Another long day- 2hrs 40 mins and 4 miles!

As we were right outside the pub we thought it was rude not to go in – so decided to have lunch and nice cold drink to recuperate!

After lunch, as we were moored amongst trees we thought we would check if there was a more open spot a bit further on. A quick walk found what we wanted, so we moved the boat on another 300 yards to a more open sunny spot. We then walked back along the canal to check out the service wharf and lift bridge (and look for Maffi). We definitely needed the walk after the pub lunch!

We didn't see Maffi, so after a mooch round we returned to the boat and chilled out on the back deck under the sun shade!


Later in the evening there was a strange site – a very tall lady walked past, so Gary popped out to take a photo!