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The Return from the Pennines to the Thames
We are still updating this section as we proceed.
We do not intend to cover the remainder of the trip in the same detail as the Pennine Canals and the 'Ring' but will at least maintain the story until we 'tie the knot' and join our outward route at Kidsgrove and then add some notes of progress back to the Thames. Much of this part of the trip write-up will be a transcription from the ship's log book.
27th June 2007: Castlefield - Waters Meeting - Little Bollington. Having visited the Museum of Science and Industry in the morning, we departed at 1330, and it was only a short cruise looking down on the Manchester Ship Canal until we reached Waters Meeting junction, and turned left towards Preston Brook. We moored at 1530 near NT Dunham Massey Hall just above Bollington Underbridge 26A, the underpass leading to the "Swan with Two Nick's" where we had eaten well a couple of years ago at the start of the trip to the Lancaster Canal. It has unfortunately changed hands and was a disappointment. The beer was good but the food poor, overcooked and smaller portions. Much of the menu was 'off' as were many of their wines - it looks as if they have management or cash flow problems.
28th June 2007: Little Bollington to Billinge Green Flash. We left at 0800 and watered (slow) at the next bridge which also has moorings then went non-stop to Preston Brook where there is the junction with a short arm to Runcorn, and Midland Chandlers. We bought some parts between 1145 and 1215 which just allowed us to catch the 1230-1240 entry time into the Preston Brook Tunnel, saving an hour wait. Unfortunately we were fourth in the line. Preston Brook tunnel is only single width.
We emerged from the tunnel and waited patiently to go through the Dutton stop lock which marked the end of the Bridgewater canal and the start of the Trent and Mersey. Saltisford Tunnel (5 miles away) was now also timed and we only just made it to the entry by 1430. We were checking progress on the GPS to ensure we were not speeding, and keeping an eye on our wash. On entry to Saltisford it is not possible to see through the tunnel and in the past we have reversed out when we found another boat was coming towards us. Having the tunnels timed is a good idea, but the actual timing encourages boats to rush in order to meet the deadlines. The third tunnel, Barnton tunnel, was straight and was not timed. We followed the two boats ahead of us into the darkness, on the basis that they were OK and therefore the tunnel was clear for us. We moored at Billinge Green Flash, a wide lagoon, caused by subsidence with an abandoned barge to remind one it is shallow and adding a foreground to a photo. It was raining hard yet again but we had a lovely view through the windows.
29th June 2007: Billinge Green Flash - Middlewich - Bridge 3 Llangollen. We left at 0800 and stopped after the Big Lock at Middlewich to go shopping and send a letter to Cunard about QE2, continuing onwards at 1100. We filled with diesel, 103 litres at 47p/litre, at the junction - and only just got the discount for having over 100 litres! We also bought a new mooring clip at £5.00 to replace the one left behind at the Poole aqueduct. We would normally continue down the Trent and Mersey, but had a spare week before we were due back at Red Bull services, so had decided to visit the Llangollen canal. This meant we turned across on the Middlewich Branch and up the locks to Barbridge. We arrived at the end of a long queue at Cholmondeston lock at Venetian Marine where we heard that a boat had jammed at 0800 which BW had finally extracted at 1445 and they were only just clearing the queue. It gave the chance for Pete to have a talk with Paul, the Project and Finance manager of the Shropshire Union Canal Society, who was waiting behind us. We were pleased to be on our way up at 1600; there were a lot of boats still waiting to come down and the queue on that side had been over 20 boats, including a lot of hire boats who would be late back to their bases. The locks up onto the Llangollen canal at Hurleston were empty so we went up at high speed in the rain, clearing the top lock as the lock keeper left at 1800, and moored at bridge 3 at 1845.
30th June - 6 th July 2007: We took a week side trip from Middlewich on the Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch to the Llangollen where we also visited the first 7 miles of the Montgomery Canal that is linked to the main system. This is the subject of a separate page The Shropshire Union Canal, Llangollen and Montgomery Canals
7th July 2007: Middlewich - Hardingswood Junction to Ramsdell Hall. Having deliberately moored close to the Somerfield supermarket we left at 0700 to drop down the last lock from the Middlewich Branch to the Trent and Mersey. Even this early there was one boat moving ahead of us, and when they saw us they started to raise the paddles when they left locks. We had a straight run up Heartbreak Hill through to BW Red Bull Yard where we watered before the last 3 locks and then turned onto the Macclesfield Canal. Two kids, who we had seen on our previous trip, were drinking and throwing bottles into the canal, so we warned other boats to move away from the Tesco moorings for overnight. Saturday night can be a problem, and the fire at the car scrapyard had been on a Saturday. We passed Red Bull Basin and had a brief word with Tony at Red Bull services before overshooting to moor opposite Ramsdell Hall where there are nice views and a winding hole. There were wild raspberries growing near the lock at Hall Green, which we collected for later.
8th July 2007: Ramsdell Hall to Red Bull Basin. We had arranged to have Sunday lunch at the Rising Sun at Kent Green and fired up the engine at 1100 to turn back to moor nearby. Then we noticed little charge on the ammeter - Pete checked and found the alternator was hanging on just one loose bolt and the fan belt. The bolt holding the adjustment arm had sheared off inside a blind hole on the engine block. Pete called RCR out and waited whilst Pauline went to the pub as planned for lunch with Olwen and Brian. In spite of it being Sunday, the engineer was very quick to come and extracted the end of the bolt, although it was below surface, and replaced it. We did not have the right tools for that sort of work. We were ready to move at 1430, just as Pauline came back from her lunch. She reported that the Steak and Kidney pie had been excellent. We stopped to fill up with diesel at Heritage Marina as it was still 50p. We also bought tea towels of the Pennine Canals as presents, a Rochdale canal brass plaque and two oil filters. They had offered us temporary moorings if needed, and had been very helpful. It was just 3 miles back to Red Bull Basin. Although there had been torrential rain it was sunny again and local kids were still a problem in the area, swinging wood on ropes across bridge holes at window height and dropping planks down over the aqueduct to the canal below. We moored well away from them on a vacant mooring ready for Tony to start work in the morning.
9th July 2007: Red Bull Basin all day. Tony fitting new a new flexible couple and silencer for the exhaust and replaced the water filler which has been cracked for years as planned. Pauline went shopping in Kidsgrove and fell in hole in the pavement by Tesco and sprained her wrist, as well as bending her glasses. There had been floods and the area had been over a foot deep in water and not only manhole covers had been blown out but also some manholes leaving big holes to catch a foot in and fall. It looks like Pete will be working the locks for a couple of days! Pete had to go to collect her just at the time the owners of the mooring we had temporarily borrowed returned just to add interest - with help we eventually moved down behind Tony where we could again hook up power to keep our fridge running.
10th July 2007: Red Bull Basin - Harecastle Tunnel - Wedgwood. We left just before 0900 and just made the end of the queue for the Harecastle Tunnel as the boats were entering. The Harecastle Tunnel is very narrow and low in places and 2926 yards long. It is actually the second of two tunnels built and for a while they worked in parallel, one each way. The first tunnel subsided because of the extensive mining in the area and had to be closed and the tow-path has had to be removed on the second tunnel to give additional clearance - even now there is very little clearance left in some sections due to the subsidence. We arrived as the last boat in the queue was entering and were 5th in the wiggling line through the tunnel. That meant there were queues at the next 3 locks at the junction with the Caldon canal at Etruria so it was a bit slow. We have made the transition from the wool, cotton and silk mils to the potteries and we took some pictures of the few remaining kilns and workshops in Stoke as we went through. Etruria, where there is still a flint mill and working steam engine in a museum was the centre of the Wedgwood empire 1n the late 1800s.
We moored opposite the new Wedgwood site near Barlaston at 1430. We went into the shop and watched their video but did not do the tour or actually buy anything. We admired one plate, which was in the half price sale, and unpriced - on checking we found it was almost £300. The rest was less interesting than our china on the boat. We were surprised that Waterford Lismore glasses, for sale because Waterford is part of the Wedgwood Group, were now £40 each, and the modern glass has much less fire in its cutting because of the chemical polishing. As soon as we got back Pauline discovered that it was time for a boat service when she came to write up the log, fortunately it was an odd number of hundred hours so it was only oil and oil filter rather than diesel filters as well.
11th July 2007: Wedgwood. - Stone - Great Heywood (behind Comfrey). We departed at 0730 to get to Stone just as moorings freed up. Stone used to be a very important canal town and it is still very much centered round the canal. There are little boxes with maps on the bank as you enter the town and there is still one of the oldest privately owned canal businesses using the old canal buildings and dry dock in the centre. We stopped outside Stone Boatbuilders to buy some distilled water and paint - the new regulations will mean there will be no oil based boat paints in a couple of years time so we need to get ready - after 20 years she must need painting again soon! We then went through the next two locks and moored just beyond the water point to do shopping for food and we also found a Waterford Vase for £1.50 in a charity shop the same as they had been selling at Wedgwood for £100 and it was in perfect condition. We moved on at 1345 and planned to moor at Tixall Wide.
At Great Haywood we saw Neil and Carol on Comfrey, a 60' David Piper, and turned and moored next to them instead of in the wide. We caught up with what had gone on over the last couple of years over a glass or two of wine. We looked at some of their pictures of when they took Comfrey over to France for a year on the canals, they had some impressive pictures of her mixed in with full size shipping.
12th July 2007: Great Haywood to Fradley Junction. We left at 0700 and had a fairly clear run down to Fradley junction where we moored at the top of the locks at 1200 so we could get a Taxi to see Pauline's mother who is now coming up to 93 years old and still living by herself. They have installed proper moorings with rings above the locks and more as you leave on the Coventry canal. The junction is always very busy and the Swan is always full. We got back to the boat just before dusk.
18th July 2007: Fradley Junction to Bottom of Atherstone Locks. We had an early start and were glad we had done so as we passed a long line of moored boats facing our way. A boat had followed us down the two locks at Fradley but then continued down the Trent and Mersey. We had almost 12 miles, lock-free, from Fradley to Tamworth, without any hold ups due to traffic much to our surprise. There were no queues as we expected at Tamworth. One boat even waved us by on the way. We moored at the bottom of the Atherstone flight as planned having watered just before.
14th July 2007: Atherstone Locks - Lime Kilns Inn on the Ashby Canal. We had another early 0600 start and the noise of our engine provoked the boat moored behind us to move as they were already up. We passed other boats gently and nobody else was moving up the, easy to work and well maintained flight of 11 locks, mostly close enough to walk between back and forth. We were clear by 0800. We decided that we would deviate up the Ashby canal as we needed a good place to meet up with friends Antony and Janet and we knew the Lime Kilns at Hinckley had good food and beer. The alternates would have been Newbold where we would have had the possibility of Northamptonshire skittles but a Saturday night would have been very busy. As it was Saturday we decided to reserve a table and a quick Google search gave us the telephone number for under a minute on-line (01455 631158) if you need it. The Lime Kiln's Inn is on the A5 which makes the moorings a bit noisy but easy for them to get to.
It turned into perhaps the best and hottest afternoon since we left the Thames and we took the chance to clean the boat up a bit. We all sat out before going to eat and again afterwards. The food was as good as we recalled on the way up when we ate there twice. We had enormous mixed grills and Pauline had to ask for a doggy bag. Whilst sitting out at the end of the day we were joined by a delightful fluffy cat which made a series of increasingly long forays until it had explored the inside as well as the outside of Corinna. It drank a huge amount of milk and came back to beg for more. It had a collar and bell but we wondered if it had been left behind although it also seemed to be associated with another boat in front of us and there was no sign of him or the cat in the morning.
The other advantage of the Lime Kiln's Inn is that they have free WiFi which reaches to the moorings both sides of the canal and enabled us to upload all the bigger pictures for these pages in just a few minutes. I initially had the laptop on the top of the boat but we found the signal was good enough to use it inside so we could get weather forecasts in the morning - we wish we had not bothered.
15th July 2007: Lime Kilns Inn - Snarestone on the Ashby Canal. It started to rain again overnight and was torrential in the morning so we used the internet to catch up and left about 1000 by which time it was back to almost continuous showers. We decided that we would delay our return home enough to stop at Cropredy when Mikron are playing - we missed the performance we sponsored at Goring Lock as we were on the Huddersfield summit and we need to catch up with both productions which are new this year. This gave us time to spend another couple of days on the Ashby Canal. It was raining and so miserable that we lit the stove again and this is now officially summer! We went as far as the terminus just beyond Snarestone where there is a short but wide and dry tunnel under the town. We bought and picked up various items from The Ashby Canal Society which has build a new little shop before returning to moor at Snarestone just beyond the tunnel at 1610 after 16 miles without locks. We went up to the Globe which has changed hands and chatted to local boat owners whilst sampling the Hobgoblin. We wondered why there was only one other boat on the moorings and found the pub does not do food on Sunday evening.
16th July 2007: Snarestone - Bosworth Field Battlefields - Lime Kilns Inn. There was overnight rain just for a change but it was dry when we left at 0830, a bit late as Pete found one of the alternator mounting bolts was once more loose - he fears it could be the thread on the old extension that serves as a nut is partially stripped.
We stopped at the Bosworth Field Battlefields where one of the bloodiest battles in English history took place. The final chapter in the Wars of the Roses, was fought right here and in August 1485, Henry Tudor defeated Richard III ("Richard of York") to become King. It brought back memories of the three plays by Shakespeare about Henry VIth which we saw recently at Stratford-upon-Avon. Widely blamed for the death of the Princes in the Tower, Richard was not a popular king. During the battle, 4,000 of his approximately 12,000-strong force deserted him to join Henry Tudor, giving Henry the upper hand. Richard's troops were struck with fear by this development, and King Richard himself died in a last-ditch attempt to kill Henry who rode out to seek help from Stanley and his 5,000 men when Stanley joined battle against him. We took the circular walk round past where Richard III finally fell and up to his position on the hill where he had the advantage of height and numbers of troops and the positions of Henry who finally defeated him bringing to an end a century of war. You could see the flagpole in the distance marking where Stanley and his men had waited until they could be sure they would be on the winning side.
We then slowly worked our way back to the Lime Kiln's Inn stopping at Hinckley for Pete to shop for some new bolts and a couple of 8mm Nylock nuts. It was sunny enough on the way to tempt Pete into polishing the brass, it has been a month since the last opportunity which was an indication of how bad the weather had been. We moored right opposite the Lime Kiln's where we knew we could get an adequate WiFi signal but the main reason for our return is that Monday is their special bargain curry evening with a main course curry with rice and/or chips for £2.50. It was a good curry and exceptional value.
17th July 2007: Lime Kilns Inn - Newbold. After a last look on the internet at weather etc., we left for Newbold. We thought about going into Coventry and spend a day looking at the Cathedral etc but, guess what, it was pouring with rain again. We therefore went straight onto the North Oxford canal and met our first locks for many days. You can cruise the Ashby, down to Coventry and back to Tamworth without a lock. Newbold was quiet and we were able to moor on the old fashioned piling with big indentations. There are now rings but you need to hang fenders from the bank off pins. The main reason was to play Northamptonshire skittles which we did for a while however Pauline's hand is still a bit inflexible from the fall at Kidsgrove so we gave up after half an hour. Both pubs have skittles and do food but it has never been outstanding so we went back and ate on the boat.
18th July 2007: Newbold - Rugby - Braunston. A short run took us to Rugby where we did our next batch of major shopping at Tesco conveniently accessible from next to the aqueducts. We also looked in Halfords and Wickes for the gas cylinders for our 'briefcase' camping stove which we have had to use a few times to make coffee and save batteries. We moored just to the north of Braunston with a view of the church and easy access to a bridge and footpath straight into town - we are not sure why we have always moored in the centre in the past. We walked along the towpath into town in case there was a diesel boat, and along to the locks towards the tunnel stopping at the little shop where Pauline got the Montgomery canal brass plaque and we also found the book by Keith Gibson 'Pennine Dreams' on the Huddersfield canal history and restoration which matches 'Pennine Pioneer' on the Rochdale. Both are excellent and written by someone intimately involved with pulling the funding levers - fascinating reading and worth the £16.99 each. We wish we had found them before we did the journey.
We walked on up to the flight to the Admiral Nelson to see if they still had Northamptonshire skittles and sat with a half of Timmy Taylor's and watched people pass through the lock as if we were tourists before taking the footpath into town and after a little searching found the footpath back down to where we were moored - there are two from behind the Church and one needs the one closest to the main road.
19th July 2007: Braunston - South Oxford Summit. A beautiful day at last. We set out at 0700 to get to the locks at Napton at a sensible time. We stopped for diesel at Napton Cruisers when we saw it was 51p - not as low as we had bought before but cheaper than on the Thames and our source of diesel from a farm has dried up. We were in a small queue at the bottom of the locks so we spent the time filling up with water at one of the slower taps - 30 minutes added only a couple of inches, probably under a gallon a minute. The locks were little effort but slow as there were boats coming down and often a couple waiting as we had a slow boat at the front effectively single handing. It was glorious across the summit. The South Oxford is a contour canal and it winds in every direction through all points of the compass giving occasional views back of the windmill at Napton. We stopped at a favourite area where one has distant views across to the windmill on piling and where there are occasional gaps in the hedge, one of which we lined up with.
We were moored by 1400 so Pete took the first opportunity to paint and took off the hinges for the side doors and ground back some rust under them and other areas where we had been caught in Standedge tunnel as well as other chips and bangs below the gunnel from locks. He got on rust converter and the first coat of primer by which time the skies were black and threatening although the sun was still on us. We sat out for supper then it opened up with thunder and lightening making 33 days with rain since we started counting.
20th July 2007: South Oxford Summit. Torrential rain and thunder storms overnight and in the morning when it got so bad the canal started to rise and by 1400 was up about 10 inches and almost to the top of the piling - we had to slacken ropes twice and the back fender had to be changed as it did not reach to the piling. We set up he USB Digital TV dongle and amplified window antenna (£13.99 in Wilkinson's) to see the weather forecast and found much of the country had flash floods and up to 4 inches of rain was expected. We stayed put and read and worked on the web site write up. I will try to write the next few days up as a diary as it happens
21st July 2007: South Oxford Summit - Fenny Compton. By the following morning it was down a bit and we proceeded very slowly along to avoid the slightest wash as far as Fenny Compton where we have secured a place for one to three weeks in the Marina at £40 a week. Overnight the water had been so high it had been going over the retaining bank/dam of the marina several inches deep and stripped the car park. The road outside under the railway bridge was over 11 feet deep we understand. Our route home goes via Banbury where currently the water is level with the platforms of the station and Oxford where floods are expected shortly. We heard a report of boats on the towpath at Banbury which seemed unlikely but we later got confirmation from a driver that he had seen the water two foot over the towpath below the lock opposite Banbury railway station.
The main problem for us will be that the canal joins the River Cherwell twice, in one case the Cherwell just crosses but will make Nell Gwen bridge which is very low impassible as well as the current at the crossing. The other place lower down the canal joins the river for several miles. Anybodies guess when that will be low enough to travel. We have heard that our only alternative way home via the Grand Union and London is ruled out as Braunston Tunnel has been closed - we do not know if it just for an inspection or more serious.
Brian called and told us that the Thames was still low at home but the water is on its way from the upper reaches and the level is expected to rise more than in 2003 when it was up about 39 inches at the lock, probably 44 inches in front of the house. This may hit him and his wife Iris, in the lock cottage and we have them offered and their delightful cat shelter. The worst recorded has been 59 inches at the lock which would be close or at road/garage level but the house is 4 foot higher and there are huge flood plains opposite. The centre of town is already flooded as the local stream has burst and we understand Somerfields and Smiths are flooded as well as many houses and other shops. Brian has offered to check ropes on our little glass-fibre cruiser and also on Cliff's narrowboat as we have been unable to raise Cliff. Landlines in the area are flaky.
22nd July 2007: Fenny Compton Marina .There is no public transport yet and it is now a Sunday so we were forced to stay put. The stoppage notices confirmed Braunston Tunnel is closed but for safety against rising water and because there is a landslip on an area of offside bank and instability of the towpath side opposite. Brian called and told us that the levels at some of the locks above Oxford had been a foot higher than the 1947 flood and that the trains on the Banbury line will not run for another week. We are probably going to take up his offer of a lift back on Tuesday. The Napton and Claydon flights were re-opened so we are thought of taking the boat to Cropredy tomorrow for Mikron performance before returning to Fenny Compton Marina to sit it out and/or commute once we have a car. The Mikron production has moved to the village hall as Cropredy Wharf flooded.
Meanwhile the day has been nice enough to get some more of Corinna cut back and up to primer. It is an excellent marina full of interesting and friendly people and the most incredible sized tame carp which come and demand feeding. The canal is very quiet. I have just been and measured the fall from the high water mark a moorer made and it has fallen 21 inches so far, and over 7 since we came into the marina.
23rd July August 2007: Fenny Compton Marina.
Pete did an opportunistic run back home to see what it was like at home - the internet showed trains running from Banbury to Oxford and from Oxford to London. A Taxi got him to Banbury but by then the waters were rising round Oxford and the line to to London was closed again by flooding at Radley and he was stuck in Oxford. Local taxis would risk leaving Oxford as the roads were expected to close shortly but he persuaded the lady from the local taxi firm to rescue him. The waters were rising on the exit road and were across the road as they left and closed about half an hour later. It looked fine at home and the house and car were OK and the river was very little up so Pete ended up picking a gallon and a half of Cherries and collecting various things we needed before heading back. The back roads to the M40 were clear and then it was a quick trip back to the boat, he first wrote back home before correcting it as after three months away Corinna seems more like home all the time.
Pete got back just in time to get us to the Mikron production of the Lacemakers at Cropredy, a very good show which had been written by Mike Lucas himself. It was the one we had sponsored but never got to at Goring lock. The following night they had moved up to Fenny Compton to the Wharf so we got to see the other production, Married to the Job, about Thomas Telford which was again very good. We chatted to the cast and they were very concerned about getting their narrow boat Tyseley to the Severn which has very severe flooding.
24th July - 11th August 2007: Fenny Compton Marina.
We stayed put at the Marina at Fenny Compton and used it as a base to explore an area we have generally just passed through. Once we got wheels we explored the area round and North of Banbury and have been to a number of National Trust properties (Farnborough Hall and Upton House) and places such as the Claydon Bygones Museum, Burton Dassett Hills Country Park, Edgehill and the Rollright Stones. We have spent time in Banbury and Southam as well as a couple of trips back home.
The second trip home should have been at the peak levels but was a non event - the level was nowhere near the 2003 level at only 29 inches up and was only a few inches above the top of our piling. We picked more cherries so we now have just over 4 gallons in the freezer ready for wine making
The highlight of our visits has been a visit to Hook Norton Brewery which we have been meaning to do for many years. It is very traditional and much of the equipment is well over a hundred years old, it started in 1849. All the main machinery including the grist mill and grain hoists are driven by a steam engine, unfortunately it was only on standby and not actually driving anything when we were there. The tour takes up to 10 people and on busy days two run in parallel - it normally takes about an hour but so many questions were asked that it was closer to two before we had cleared the museum for the tasting.
There were four beers to try and there seemed to be no limit to the number of glasses one could have, but only in half pints. The Hook Norton 'motto' is Where Progress is Measured in Pints - they have 4 core beers which we tried, Hooky Dark, a 3.2% mild, Hooky Bitter at 3.6%, Hooky Gold at 4.1%, an interesting pale crisp beer using American Hops through which the wort is passed through without boiling and Old Hooky a lovely beer with plenty of body at 4.6%.
The weather has been kind and we have spent a lot of time working on Corinna. We have prepared and painted the roof with oil based masonry paint (non slip). The sides and below the gunnels have had every sign of chips or rust ground out and brought back up to gloss (one coat of rust converter where required, two coats of primer, two of undercoat and one or two coats of gloss. We have finished preparing the front well and are painting the some of coach-works for the first time in 20 twenty years - you can not get paint like that these days, the Berger Superfleet we used then was a high lead truck paint. This time we are using Dacrylate primer and Ryard undercoat and gloss. We have painted all the red and green (handrails and side panels) other than the area with sign writing and are working on the yellow coach lines, so far it has taken about 100 hours and ten reels of masking tape! At least it is free of wash in the marina.
We finally ended up with three weeks in the marina, we had been booking week by week and although we hoped we would not need all of the three weeks they had available we ended up using it all as the Thames was slower than we had expected in returning to normal levels. The Oxford canal was, in fact, fully open within a week of the flood as the River Cherwell, the main problem, had fallen quickly. The Thames was however still on 'Red Boards' for over a fortnight. Whilst we were home after two weeks a couple of boats passed and shortly after it started to get down to yellow boards: meaning powered boats are able to move with caution. It had been very unusual flooding, the upper reaches and Oxford were very high causing severe flooding although at Oxford it peaked much more slowly than the usual surge and by us the predicted levels were never reached and it rose slower and for longer than predicted - the EA will need some new models after this.
12th August 2007: Homeward bound at last: Fenny Compton Marina - Somerton
The last day before we left was the Piper owners Club Summer Barbeque which we did not want to miss because it was also being sponsored by Dugald & Leslie and Sue & Eric who were leaving the committee after longer than we can remember and also by Ken and Vera who have sold Galdalf. They had laid on a magnificent pig roast which produced some of the best pork we have ever had. Regrettably we needed to get back to be able to leave early in the morning, both because our time was up, but also to clear through Cropredy past Fairport Convention. We left at 0630 and Pete single handed Corinna whilst Pauline took the car to the first flight of locks at Claydon. Pete immediately started meeting boats coming the other way that had left at 0530 from Cropredy! This reduced the work at the locks at the expense of a little extra time but we were soon through the 5 locks and Pete continued to Cropredy where Pauline was waiting. There were less boats moving than we expected but we passed many breasted up boats for the Convention for a mile or so each way.
We eventually got to a queue of 4 boats at Slat Mill so Pauline left for home whilst Pete continued on to Banbury where he waited till she came back by car at 1330. We made good progress and stopped at Aynho Wharf to put another coat of paint on some of the coach lines. The Great Western does not open on a Sunday evening so we missed our last chance for a pint of Hooky and continued on again. Unfortunately the banks had not been mowed and the grass was so long it would have touched the wet paint so we went further than we intended and stopped at a favourite place with good views below and round the corner from Somerton Deep Lock, the 12 foot deep one.
13th August 2007: Somerton - Godstow on the Thames
Again we had an early start and went through Heyford where we had hoped to talk to Anita and John but they were not up so we had a brief conversation through the window. We made good progress with few real delays and reached the Thames through Duke's cut not much after mid-day. We were warned at King's lock that it was still all yellow boards and that Osney would be a problem if the heavy rain forecast came early, there was a chance of another 1.5 inches the next day. We had arranged to meet up with Sheila and have supper so we could not continue on and clear Osney so we tried to moor above Godstow, the stream was very strong and we traveled an incredible distance turning into stream at our usual place but could not get in as it was silted up and we did not want to leave Corinna aground while we went out for the evening under those conditions. In the end the relief lockkeeper reluctantly allowed us to moor at the very end of the layby as we could not get back against the stream. The evening was worth it.
14th August 2007: Godstow - Home
An even earlier start as there was heavy rain overnight and we set the lock and entered with navigation lights just after 0530. There was no problem below the lock and down past Port Meadow to Oxford. The steam was very strong however after we came under Osney bridge and we tried to moor short of the lock and final weirs which we did with great difficulty, the engine was only just strong enough to halt her with the stream behind. We set the lock and had a few excitements getting off the bank past moored boats but it would have been even worse trying to get onto the layby with the flow over the weirs at the side of the narrow channel. After that it was all fairly straight forwards and we operated Iffley lock ourselves and reached Abingdon just as the lockkeeper came on duty at 0900. It was then a straightforward run back to home which we reached just after 1400. It rained all the way and the wind was blowing it through every gap but it was still not the inch or more forecast. After three good weeks at Fenny Compton it was to be expected that we would be back to full waterproofs for the last day.
We have been away for over three months and, despite the weather had an excellent time. The title Pennine Extremes was very appropriate as we not only had the highest summits, longest and deepest tunnels and most lock intensive canals but we had also had the most Extreme Weather in a century. Kings lock had levels 6 inches above that in 1947, we are just glad it did not reach as far downstream as predicted. A memorable trip which we can recommend to any boater looking for something a little out of the ordinary and prepared for some hard work. It is now time to plan for next year
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