Saturday 11 March
I have quite a lot to write today, so was up and about very early. Before I began writing I was watching a couple of young goats jumping around, front paws ready to box and heads ready to butt each other. They appeared to be having such great fun that I envied them for a while; there’s not a lot of room to play in a narrow boat. I love to play – my humans can’t believe how puppy-like I still am – but Rosie really isn’t interested so Leigh has to pretend to be a dog – she gets down on the floor to play tug with me, using an old sock. Other than that it’s ‘fetch’ with my faithful ‘ball’. Ok, ok, I know it’s not really a ball (it’s a long orange toy that resembles a sausage-dog) but I know that particular human-word and when Leigh says, ‘Where’s you ball?’ I immediately fetch my toy, knowing I can race up and down almost all fifty-six foot of the boat fetching and bringing it back. It’s quite good fun I guess.
Leigh has been hogging the keyboard for the last few weeks, so I just haven’t found the time to write. I prefer to write while everything is fresh in my mind, so I’ll just precis what we’ve been up to over the last three weeks.
After working the Lapworth locks on the Stratford Canal we crossed over onto the Grand Union – main line – which is where the Hatton flights are to be found. As you may remember from my last diary entry (blog-post) Leigh had worked these two steepandnumerouslocks over two days and was exhausted. However, the very next day she realised that yet another couple of (short) flights of locks were on the cards. Yelp!
Being a steely old bird (she has a big birthday on the horizon) she said the Bascote and Stockton flights would be, ‘Chicken Feed’. Famous last words.
Arriving at the short flight of locks at Bascote she didn’t quite have her wits about her and began opening the paddles at the bottom of the staircase locks*** without checking for any boats in the top lock. Yelp!
Now, I reckon she sortofrealised what she had done as soon as she began to open the paddle, but the relief of knowing she was a lock or three away from a good rest, meant she carried on, fingers crossed that there wasn’t another boat at the top. She is only human after all…
Lucky for her the boat at the top of the locks had a crew of two lovely, elderly men; very experienced boaters who move boats for people (what a fab job to do?). Being experienced, one of the guys had walked down to the bottom lock to see if any other boats were around and to see how the lock was set.***
Leigh hadn’t even noticed him and when she looked up from her windlass he made her jump. Flustered (unusual for ‘her casualness’ as I sometime refer to her) Leigh apologised for not going up to the top to ‘look-out’.
‘That’s perfectly fine’, she was told. ‘Staircase locks are always a bit of a conundrum – we haven’t entered yet so carry on. We’re certainly not in a rush anyway – we just let the locks and the water control our travels and take our time’. What barkingly good advice and what a lovely old chap?
He and Leigh then relaxed into conversation about life, boating, and allsortsofstuff. How wonderful to still want to be active and ‘Have a reason for living’ – which was this old chaps comment when telling Leigh why he moves narrowboats and cruisers from one place to another. He works for a few weeks then has a couple of months where he may just ‘potter’ – then works again. Sounds like a wonderful life to me!
From Bascote, Leigh managed the Stockton flight of just eight locks pretty easily and then we enjoyed an easy cruise down to Napton Juntion, stopping off at Calcutt Locks to purchase a new (this is the third top for the chimney) from the chandlery there. We seem to have a knack of losing these….
Turning right onto the Oxford canal gave us our first sighting of the restored windmill at Napton on the Hill; quite glorious on a sunny day. I will tell you about Napton on the Hill later – there is a reason for this.
From here we carried on to Fenny Compton; boy, does the canal become rather curvaceous on this stretch. At one point it even snakes back on itself – there must have been a reason for this but I’m not knowledgable enough to tell you!
You may wonder, from reading this part of our adventure so far – I call it the aborted leg – why we seem to be on a mission to get to a particular destination. After all, living on a narrowboat is surely meant to be chilled, relaxed and s-l-o-w! Well, Tom wanted to gain some more in-depth information on the workings of all things boat-related (hob and oven excluded) such as electrics, mechanical, battery, inverter, solar energy and so on. He managed to connect to a guy called Phil; in my humble, canine view Phil is an absolute boffin and very pleasant, easygoing sort of chap. Phil really does know so much about so many things – not just boats. Anyway, Tom had asked to meet up with Phil and the agreed destination was Fenny Compton. Phil certainly lives up to his reputation; Tom and Phil have done several adaptations to Very Pinook whilst discussing boats for hoursonend while Leigh was occupied with her OU studies. Suffice to say we spent daysanddays in Fenny Compton – at least ten.
During this period storm Doris appeared, disrupting the U.K. in a big way. Trees down, flights cancelled, trains restricted, cars thrown across roads and roofs taken off houses and hurled skywards. Lucky for us, we hardly noticed the storm on the boat although it did affect Leigh’s business trip to Northern Ireland – she was delayed, but at least she arrived safely.
Personally, I found the cut and surrounding area of our mooring at Fenny a tad uninspiring; apart from leaving Phil behind, I wasn’t sad to move on. It was at this stage of our adventure that my humans decided to turn back to Tardebigge rather than carrying on with our adventure south. The reasons for this are purely personal and family related. Leigh’s mum is moving house and Leigh wants to be there to help, Tom’s step-brother has been poorly, so Tom wants to sort things out to make his life more comfortable, and Tom needs a small operation on his knee.
These things needs sorting fairly swiftly and we can travel any old time so it make’s sense to flex our travel plans. Hence, I am writing this having watched Leigh labour all the aforementioned locks again. Lucky for Leigh she had help at Hatton from her sister, Pamela, and at Lapworth from her very good friend, Sara. Both days were full of giggles – Leigh laughing at Pamela as she cautiously worked the locks, coming out of her comfort zone to walk across the gates on one occasion.
Today saw Leigh in fits of giggles with Sara when she and Leigh locked the NB and it’s crew (Tom, me and Rosie) in a lock. Yelp!
They were so busy chatting that they forgot to open the gate once the water was at the correct level. Tom had to shout, ‘Excuse me’, to which they spun around, realised their error and bent over the gates doubled up with laughter. Yelp!
On our way back from Fenny C we stopped off at Napton-on-the-Hill. After a good old walk up to the Church (apparently intended to be built in the middle of the village until the ‘devil kept moving the stones to the top of the hill’ according to folklore) Leigh and I mooched around the old, atmospheric graveyard and then strode out whilst descending the hill, taking in the amazing views and scents of the flowering hawthorn, hedgerows and various pretty flowers. I felt inspired at last – the time at Fenny Compton had lowered my senses and I need to use them all to feel at my very best.
I feel very privileged to have sight, sound, taste and (above all for a mere canine) smell – not everyone does and that’s a fact worth remembering. The village shop at Napton is an absolute delight. It appears to stock everything – from fairy-doors to home-baked bread; Aladdin’s cave – eat your heart out.
The canal-side pub in Folly Lane is aptly named – The Folly – you will see why if you visit! Excellent food is available in this wonderfully decorated pub – a great place to sit, drink, eat…and peruse all the objets d’art and curiosities that make this pub live up to the name.
Napton-on-the-Hill is a must-see village for anyone who wants to step back, enjoy an excellent meal at The Folly, relax over (sogoodwehadtobuythebeans) coffee and cake at the village shop, purchase a few unusual gifts, take a good walk, enjoy super views….get the picture?? Yes, I loved this village. Anyway, that’s all for now folks.
Woofs, Martha xx
*** Staircase locks – these are where you cruise directly from one lock to another. You do not have a ‘pound’ in which to wait if an oncoming boat needs to pass so it is critical that you check well ahead before entering a staircase.
*** Set – if you arrive at a lock and the water in the lock is at the same level of the water you are entering from, then it is ‘set’ for you – the benefit is that you don’t need to open the paddles (less work) – just the gates. When this happens Leigh is elated and may do a little dance on the spot.