Thursday, 28 April 2011


About 20 years ago I saw a lovely calendar picture of a place in Yorkshire called Staithes and I’ve waited all that time to get there.  Today, I got there!  It was well worth the walk down to the village.

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Sandstone cliffs rise over a steep little valley which is crowded with the rooftops of the quirky village houses.  Seagulls really love the rooftops!  Staithes 020……………

All the houses are really higgledy-piggledy and are connected by countless alleyways and steps.  The village was once a thriving fishing port …………….. now most of the quirky little cottages seemed to be holiday lets – empty holiday lets!!  Unlike Whitby, it was eerily empty of people! (When we attempted to park up in Whitby earlier in the day it was heaving!)

It was really lovely but could do with an injection of money to smarten some of the buildings up a bit.  Apparently the young James Cook watched passing ships from Staithes’  harbour.

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This cottage – three bedrooms  - is for sale.  It is in the region of £150.000.




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Tiny harbour entrance.

Seagulls (as in Herring Gulls!) -  have no fear ………… and no respect ………….. for humans or parked vehicles!

Staithes 009We are now on a campsite called “Bunnyland” – NOT a good place to bring Maggie.  At least it’s the ‘B’ word and not the ‘R’ word!!  The baby goats are simply gorgeous!

Tomorrow we must get a wiggle on  and get some miles behind us – heading for Bamburgh in Northumberland.  Let’s hope this lovely weather holds out.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

And now for something completely different ……

No boat … we are in our old campervan!

Having made the monumental decision to sell our much-loved old van, we are having our ‘swan song’ tour …………. for two months!

Never before have we been able to visit well-known bird reserves at optimum times of the year due to work commitments so ……

1ST  STOP ….. BEMPTON CLIFFS in Yorkshire.

There were thousands and thousands and thousands and  ……. probably even more thousands of nesting seabirds:- guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars, puffins and gannets.  The birds were SO close.  The schools in Yorkshire are obviously still on holiday because there were hundreds and hundreds of visitors …. including young people!  Good news for the RSPB.   We ended up renewing our membership, buying/re-placing two books and getting a new pair of gloves for John ( to match his coat!!).  Such extravagance!! 

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Bempton 019Spot the puffin!!

If you’re not into birds ………………….. yawn!!!!!!  There were actually more people (mostly men) wielding expensive photographic equipment than those wielding telescopes! 

We are currently sitting in a camp site on the edge of the North York Moors.  Never again should I complain about the lack of space in a boat!  We are adjusting to being back in our van though and are really enjoying being able to access a wider range of environments.  Filey was lovely.  A typical (unspoilt) English seaside town.

Tonight we have the all-important electric hook up!  The heater is on, so are all the lights and the internet connection is in full swing!!  In the last eight years campsite fees have gone up considerably but …….. who cares?!!  We are on holiday!!!  Tomorrow we aim to visit Whitby and Staithes. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A Dire Situation

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This is our wine rack!

Say no more!!

Thank goodness we are now back at Crick Marina and have access to the Co-op!

Staying here for the Easter weekend.  Rodney is coming up to see us and bring our mail.  Megan is coming too to see both us and Maisie.  There is a barbecue at the marina on Sunday so that will give us an opportunity to meet some other moorers.  Lots to do to get ready for the ‘off’ in the van on Tuesday.  Then …….. the weather will change!!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre

Weatherwise the weekend has been really lovely and here, between Napton Junction and Braunston, the canal has been that busy.

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We have stayed put and watched the pandemonium!

John took the opportunity to repair the sill of the remaining window.  At long last, after about 18 months of carrying it around, we will be able to dispose of the wooden cover.  It has served well but has been taking up too much room in the bedroom where it was stored when not in use.

Still, 9/9 windows now done. Good job. Thumbs up


“Things Ain’t Wot They Used to Be ….”

So much changes over time and this includes the canal system.  Even since we’ve been boating we’ve experienced constant change.  I suppose the most obvious are:-

  • the huge increase in  the number of marinas and their growing sophistication
  • the re-development of old wharfs and derelict areas – now mostly residential homes
  • the rising costs of everything to do with boating!

Every now and then we meet a seasoned, experienced boater who tells us that boating today isn’t as good as it used to be due to there now being a different breed of boater on the cut.  Apparently the ‘new’ * boaters (and I guess we are amongst them seeing as we have only had our boat eight years) are not so friendly and helpful as their older counterparts.  Sad smile   Maybe …. just maybe …… there is an element of another change taking place here.  Maybe …….. just maybe ……… they themselves are getting older, less tolerant, grumpier, less adaptable and more arrogant??!!  Time to give up and get a campervan or caravan I’d say – mind you, campsites are not without their politics!  Only very rarely do we meet other boaters who are anything but sociable and obliging.

Cushion covers for Sandra’s Inspection ………stepping across 016

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They’ve been a long time in the process but here they are!  Done! 

I know we originally thought about bordering them with red ribbon but, when I tried it, there was insufficient room.

It’s certainly different from putting them in picture frames – it will remain to be seen how well they fare.

*This puts me in mind of remote places like the Scottish Islands where, even if you’ve lived there for 50 years, not being born and bred there, you are still an ‘in-comer’!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Dedicated to Mick Lacey–an inspiration to us all!!


We’ve had our boat now for nearly eight years,

We’ve had lots of laughs; we’ve shed a few tears.

We’ve learned how to live a new kind of life,

And, despite the confinement, – remain husband and wife!!

We’re experienced boaters now if you please

We’ve acquired lots of skills and expertise

Including our knowledge of the seven seas ……………………


Chelsea and Battersea on the rich, Royal Thames,

Whitlesey and Ramsey in the Cambridgeshire Fens,

Then there’s the Mersey where there is quite a swell,

And Chopsey ……………. and Tipsey ……….. we know THEM SO well!!!


In truth we’re still rookies; still very green,

“Knowing it all” is just not our scene!



Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Drama at Nell’s Bridge

Oh, the joys of having a deep drafted vessel!  Coming back up to Banbury – we got stuck half in/half out of the lock at Nell’s Bridge!  Fortunately the performance (unlike Shakespeare’s plays) didn’t last too long!

The bridge is the original bridge built in about 1787 and is remarkably narrow!  Between this bridge and the next lock – Aynho Weir Lock – is a short section that is fed by the River Cherwell.

Now I know we have had very little rain but, being a river section, ………….. low water levels?  Somehow that didn’t make sense.  However, I flushed some water through and at the same time tried to pull John (and the boat!) through the bridge hole.  About a metre was achieved and then we ground to a halt.  Try as I might I could not shift her on my own.  Fortunately, being now the Easter holiday period I didn’t have to wait long for help.  Boats arrived both in front and behind us.  With one guy flushing some water through and the rest of us pulling on ropes …….. we were in and on our way.  Apparently, as the lock was emptied when the next boat went down, a large, yellow plastic container revealed itself.  I suspect that this got wedged under the bottom of our hull and is what caused all the trouble!

Just up from Nell’s Bridge we have, over the last three years, been watching the development of a small holding which specialises in the breeding of rare-breed pigs.  The couple who are developing this live on a narrow boat moored at the site.  They now have lots of pigs in neatly laid out stys, some chickens, a few sheep and the latest addition are some Indian Runner ducks.  They have put in a pontoon with electric hook-up points to encourage boats to stop and visit the newly erected farm shop.  They have also got a lovely old cart stacked up with bags of coal for sale.  Picnic tables and barbecues next?  They have called themselves “The Pig Place” ……………… lovely!  I think people who have the vision, the passion and the courage to do things like this are so enterprising and deserve to do well.

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When we left Mick & Sue we went up as far as Chisnell Lift Bridge justjust a few 003 before Somerton Deep Lock.  We moored up for the weekend overlooking the Cherwell valley and John took another window out to repair the cill.  Gary and Joan called in to see us on their way home from their caravan at Winchcombe in the Cotswolds. 

Spot the little dog who, seeing an open field, thinks this is a good place for a game of ball!  Waiting patiently!


Back in Banbury we were hoping to get our fuel tank flushed out at Tooley’s boat yard.  John saw this advertised in Tow Path Talk some months ago - “Fuel Polishing Service”.  Of course we now realise we should have booked a slot – we might be in this so-called recession but they are really busy and obviously have plenty of work because so far, we have been unable to arrange anything.  For some time now we have had the dreaded diesel bug!  We think we can trace this back to some diesel we bought in about 2006!!  Once established it is really difficult to get rid of.  We thought Tooley’s was the answer but they are in no rush to take our money!!just a few 010

Tooley’s Boatyard was established in 1790.  When all the redevelopment of the area was undertaken the boatyard, being historic and so well known and respected on the cut, was saved, modernised and incorporated into the exhibits at Banbury Museum.  It was from here that Tom Rolt’s famous “Cressy” started her time as a re-furbished liveaboard boat back in 1939.

At the moment we are well aware that it is the Easter holidays.  Even though it is mid-week Banbury is busy with people – busier than we have experienced on previous visits.  Lots of hire boats are out and about and, in my opinion, that’s a good thing because it injects money into the system.

One more observation – on our last visit to Banbury my only criticism was the rubbish lying around in the park when I took Maggie for a walk there first thing in the morning.  I picked up lots of cans and put them in the numerous bins.  Humans!  This time, when I’ve gone up there with the dogs an employee of Banbury Council has beaten me to it – all cleared up and ready for a fresh day.  More brownie points for Banbury!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Finding a Hen’s Tooth

I knew I would be jealous of the afore-mentioned mooring!  I knew it would be nice but ……. it’s even lovelier than I imagined!

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This is the view from the canal bridge.

Mick and Sue (jammy little …….doughnut's!) have acquired the one residential mooring attached to the barn-conversion property owned by a really nice couple.

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They have their own small garden complete with a small shed and a ‘summer-house’ (actually a larger shed but really nice.)  It’s all about being in the right place at the right time!  Everything’s come right for them and we are so pleased for them.  This is definitely a hen’s tooth!

They can sit outside on their decking and enjoy the sunshine.  They have parking for their car and Mick is able to pick up a bit of work as and when he needs to.

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You could be forgiven thinking that this is the resident garden gnome but actually, it’s Mick – the acquisition of a shed when you haven’t had one for a while is an extremely important event!

When we come back next year I want to see a small brewery operating within!  I also want to see a vegetable patch and a couple of chickens!  How about a goat?

We walked across the vast, lush meadows to the nearby village of Kings Sutton.  A lovely village but much bigger than I was expecting – 3 pubs, a primary school, a post-office and a small co-op and a magnificent old church.

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The river Cherwell runs through this big meadow and, believe it or not, when the river is in flood, all of this land is under water!

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The property the other side of the bridge is lovely too and has a small, beautifully landscaped camp site attached.  On Friday nights a fish and chip van calls so Mick & Sue, us and Phil & Sylvia (boating friends of Mick & Sue) got fish and chips and we all sat on the tow path by Phil & Sylvia’s boat eating and drinking …………….. like you do! Colin & Louise, who own the barn and it’s adjoining land, came to join us for a while.  It was a lovely, lovely evening and so what being a boater is all about.

How could you not be envious of this set-up?  As I say ………….. a hen’s tooth.

Thursday, 7 April 2011


When ever we travel on the South Oxford canal I really look forward to being able to stop in Banbury.

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It wasn’t always like this!  The first time we ever came through was on a hire boat back in about 1990.

It was before the wharf area had been re-developed.  There were old warehouses and derelict buildings and it was all very seedy.  There was absolutely no desire to stop then – you just wanted to get through as quickly as possible.  How different it is today!  Boaters are now so keen to stop that mooring is restricted to 48 hours.

All the shops – both in the Castle Quays shopping precinct and the High Street are 5 minutes walk away.  We needed to sort out something legal, something financial and something retail and Banbury came up trumps yet again!

I have also recently found out that I have a second cousin living just 5 miles away.  I contacted her and she came to find me.  It was really good and we plan to see each other again.   Another name for the Christmas card list!

The photograph shows the re-developed canal frontage but there is also lots of mooring beside a large park.  The dogs really love this.  The river Cherwell runs through the park.  We have been told this time how to access a reservoir walk and before heading off today we plan to do that.

We are going to Kings Sutton for lunch  …………. this time provided by us …………… to see Mick and Sue whom we met for the 1st time outside Crick 3 years ago.  They had just bought their boat.  They now have their own mooring at Kings Sutton – complete with garden area – I just know I’m going to be jealous!!

That’s not the only thing I’m jealous of!  Retail – John bought some new jeans AND he still fits into the same size that he has worn for years!  Smug g*t!!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

What’s it all about?

Bridge 144 – Claydon Top Bridge – on the South Oxford canal has a public footpath running right over the top of it.  The footpath actually starts off the road from Lower Boddington to Claydon but, from the tow path that’s about a two mile walk heading away from Claydon.  IF this footpath could be accessed from the tow path at bridge 144 it would enable walkers to go into the lovely little village of Claydon avoiding the road.  There is no longer a shop or a pub but there is a fascinating little museum of ‘bygones’ and it’s accompanying tea room!

I say IF.  It would mean walking about 3 metres across land which is not on the footpath in order to access the footpath and the landowner clearly does not want that!

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The path cannot be accessed from the north ……….

                                                  The path cannot be accessed from the south  …………                               

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  War has been declared!                      Why oh why?

Is it simply that he/she (!) is a mean-minded old git or has his/her (!) few metres of land been so badly vandalised and abused by walkers in the past?  I really would like to know the details of the story to explain why a few metres of land need to be protected by the utilisation of so much barbed wire.  This landowner has obviously watched lots of prisoner of war films!

  So sad!

We are now at Cropredy.  Rodney is delivering our post tomorrow and the least I can do is to provide him with roast beef and all the trimmings followed by steamed treacle pud and custard!!!!  That’s the good intention anyway!