Rugby to Marston Doles

Rugy to Marston Doles – Oxford Canal

The weather forecast was pretty accurate today. Rain, no rain, rain, sun, rain, no rain etc. And freezing cold at tea time too – that wasn’t so much the forecast as a general observation from the tiller.

Hillmorton locks were all but desserted today, and between showers the day was quite a pleasant relief from yesterday’s scorcher. In fact the showers were quite pleasant too – even warm – until one particularly vicious one which caused us to do an emergency parking manoeuvre beneath a large tree until it passed over. Not too far to Braunston from here, so Seth got a nice three mile round trip to the supermarket and back. Naturally the gentle rain wasnt wet enough for him, so he simply jumped into the canal on the way with a “That will teach you to keep me on a boiling hot boat all day” look on his face. I gave him a “That will teach you that wet dogs have to stay off the sofa” look in return, but he didn’t understand. Such are the innocent pleasures of being a dog.

After so many miles and so few locks it was actually quite nice to do 9 in a row, especially with the cold evening turning into a lovely warm mellow summer twilight and not a soul to disturb us.

So pretty much on schedule for arriving at Cropredy tomorrow. Just one slight problem – we have no food on board!!! Eeek… the South Oxford without food. Planning was never my forte. We may even have to resort to pub bistro food, such are the facilities en route. Still I guess the village stores in Cropredy will be taking in bumper stock this week ready for a 72 hour festival sized queue next weekend, which hopefully will not have materialised by the time we arrive.

Hawkesbury to Rugby

It was all part of the plan. A few days in Newbury and then back to Zulu, who has been on the 7 day moorings at Hawkesbury Junction for 6 days now.

With two boats we now play the car-boat-boat-car shuffle. No car and one boat is the most simple variation, but we are doing the more complicated version of two cars and two boats. Except today I thought we should take the train instead.

Newbury to Coventry – £34.00 single.

But lets do the train fare shuffle.
Newbury to Banbury – £22.10
Banbury to Coventry – £7.90
Total Newbury to Coventry with two tickets, same train – £30.00 saving £4.00

Now lets use my Network Rail Card which gives 30% off off peak fares for only £20.00 per year.
Newbury to Banbury – with 30% off – £14.60
Banbury to Coventry – £7.90 (no railcard discount)
Total Newbury to Coventry with two tickets,same train – £22.50 saving £11.50

Unfortunatley part of the journey – Oxford to Coventry was with Cross Country Trains – formerly operated by Virgin, and a common sight when boating on the Oxford canal as the sleek modern trains zoom past the boats at a rapid rate. What you cant see from a boat is the inhumane conditions passengers are expected to tolerate inside these trains. Today we had nine people and two dogs, a pushchair and two of the biggest suitcases known to mankind, not in the carriage or even on the train itself – this was in the vestibule area before even getting into the carriage which had obviously been completely full before arriving at Oxford. So we had to stand and sweat and put up with stupid people who obviously thought that the nine of us were too stupid to look in the carriage ahead, dragging their bags over the dogs and squeezing past the suitcases in the doorway only to find that the carriage ahead was also crammed full, and also was first class, and then they had to come back past the cases, and the people, and over the dogs before doing similar to our alter-egos in the next vestibule, while their counterparts made their way from the back to the front of the train. God how I hate Cross Country trains. Why cant they add more carriages – it would not be amazingly complicated to provide a service compatible with the demand by doubling the number of carriages. Or maybe they should stop selling discounted advance tickets for a tenner for a ten hour journey.

So we got tipped out of the opening door onto Coventry Station platform, took the bus to Longford, which I now know to be pronounced Long … Ford, and walked the fifteen minutes up to the boat, stopping for lunch at the Greyhound and savouring yet another gorgeously poured pint of Mild.

The weather forecast today was for cooler weather than of late, with rain moving in from the west. Excellent – it won’t do that then! In fact it was somewhere between boiling and unbelievably hot with not a cloud and certainly no rain, as we set off for Rugby and tonight, many hours after leaving the train we are just outside Hillmorton.

Braunston to Sutton Stop

Its funny how first impressions can be so lasting.  I have long intended to venture up the Ashby but once on the Coventry canal I have gone past Marston junction in “next time” mode.  Somehow it just didn’t seem to fit my criteria for being interesting enough – possibly something to do with when I used to live in Shardlow and took the odd day trip to walk the towpaths which were, to say the least, remote.

And so it finally dawned on me that with the boat in Braunston and the prospects of visiting a new canal it would be no great hardship to pop up the Ashby for a week or so.

Leaving Braunston was emabrassing.  Heads popped out of hatches as I tried to nonchalantly reverse several hundred yards to the junction to save a lengthy trip to the first winding hole towards Napton but the wind decided to have some fun with us causing a rapid change of plans and direction.  Once at the winding hole I had a bit of fun with the wind and made the turn in one.  Nice one wind! Pity nobody witnessed this manoeuvre instead.

Zulu Warrior in Sutton StopBraunston was much busier than last week but the North Oxford seemed pretty quiet as we headed towards Hilmorton.  Predictably the wind played havoc with the queue as we hung back with half a dozen other boats and crazy though it sounds, everyone was being so polite with each other that nobody knew who should have the next lock – you know the “… no – you go first; no please, YOU go first…. no, no no no…”. So we we were waved through ahead of couple of others and soon clear of the third and last lock for many miles to come.

Boy was it busy too – each pair of locks surrounded by a dozen or more windlass-weilding hire boat crews all eager to do something but not quite sure what.  This is, after all, the first set of locks experienced by hundreds of hire boats each weekend.

Despite the wind (why do you always meet an oncoming boat in the narrowest sections) we made good progress looking forward to a pint of Mild at the Greyhound.  Rugby’s moorings were very busy and Newbold visitor moorings were virtually empty.  I bet that wouldnt have been the case if we intended to stop there!

And so on to Hawkesbury where despite being after 7pm we found a lovely mooring just under the pylons.

Beer at the Greyhound is amongst the best in the world – it is a sheer pleasure to watch it being poured through a tight sparkler, first fill half the glass, then let it settle and then fill it to the top leaving a thick creamy head.  Oh boy if only the Newbury bar staff could be brought here to learn the art of pouring rather than the one handed pull resulting in not a single bubble on the top of a freezing cold flat pint being gently warmed at the edges by the glass.  Why do we have to pay £3.00 a pint for such crap, when at the Greyhound a pint of Hansons Dark Mild comes in with 10 pence chance out of two pounds. 

We ate a huge plateful of home cooked food for a very reasonable price and left as very satisfied customers.

I note with great interest that there is to be a beer festival at the Greyhound on 15-17 August and decide that whereever Zulu is that week, we will be returning.

Rickmansworth and beyond

Zulu Warrior at Croxley Green, Grand UnionThis is almost our first cruising log entry. Day 1 didn’t really count as we only went to Tesco in Rickmansworth, so this weekend will be the first real test for Zulu Warrior. All week I have been trying to contact the various boatyards to see about getting some work done on the boat – dry dock or crane required. I won’t name names but getting in touch with boatyards has proved to be a bit of a problem – most are on voicemail – understandable if the owner is up to his elbows in oil, but unfortunately nobody at all has replied to my messages, not even those left in person.

One boatyard answered the phone instantly, dealt with my questions and called me back first thing next day when they had received a copy of my survey report by post. They then came to visit the boat to preview the work and offered to do start this week.

So far so good then. If all goes according to plan I will let you know how the work goes once it is done – right now I don’t want to tempt fate.

I had a lovely weekend leaving Rickmansworth and heading north at a very leisurely pace. After being used to a modern diesel engine which only ticks over comfortably at around 900 rpm, the old SR3 is a delight, with a slow running speed of, I would guess, 400 rpm which allows for cruising at maybe 1mph; wonderful for passing moored boats and taking in the countryside. Even up to full 3 mph (I don’t think 4 is possible) the engine isn’t labouring too much and she makes hardly any wash at all, which is marvellous compared with most boats I have steered. The boat has been steady as a rock – its possible to pop inside, put the kettle on and return to the tiller without finding the bows running up the nearest bank, and when reverse is required we stop in a straight line. Without knowing the engine history we definitely need an urgent service, but the most important work right now is to get a small amount of plating done to the bows and a pair of new diesel tanks. And even more importantly we got to our destination without any problem at all.

So right now Zulu has an appointment with a crane on Tuesday. I can’t believe how fast this is all happening!