Follow the ongoing travels and adventures of Rob and Marlane as they cruise the Canals of the UK and Europe aboard their narrow boat 'Oo-La-La', read the monthly account of their travels and view photos documenting those travels. Follow the adventures of Rob and Marlane as they cruise the canals of England and Europe aboard their narrow boat OO-LA-LA
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Travelogue: England - 2002


March

(All photographs can be viewed at a larger size by clicking on the image)

As we left Aylesbury we had much calmer weather than when we entered. Spectacular even. The high winds died down and rain had abated so the towpath was not so muddy. Rainbows broke out over the rolling green farmlands bordering the Aylesbury Arm and the 16 locks flew by in about four hours.

We were back on the Grand Union. On the way through Marsworth we stopped in at the Red Lion where we had enjoyed quite a party last autumn. It was a weekday evening and thus a bit less lively but no less entertaining as we met the proprietor, Dick, a retired policeman of 22 years from Surrey. Filling us in on the history of this picturesque pub he told us that it had been a pub continuously since the 16th century. The interior has retained a unique, cozy layout that has not changed either.

Fishing TournamentIn Leighton Buzzard we ran into n/b PapaFlora again, this time as the member of a fishing tournament we found outside our back door one fine morning. Approximately 60 fully outfitted fishermen sat in serious silence as we alighted from the boat. Fishing tournaments are not uncommon on the canal however we have yet to see a fish bigger than a minnow. Mr. PapaFlora told us that this was a particularly prestigious tournament; there was an MBE in the group. Duly impressed, pictures were taken. Leighton Buzzard has a very convenient Tesco supermarket located right on the canal so we stocked up. One of the drawbacks of cruising so early in the season is that the newly refurbished locks are very tough to work. Having been tightened or replaced over the winter, we are the first to break them in and it can be quite a challenge.

River OuzeThe high winds picked up again as we cruised towards the Soulbury locks that British Waterways was actively repairing. We arrived around 1PM on a Friday afternoon and work was completed at 2:30. Cruising through uneventfully we approached Cosgrove where the winds became so fierce that we were forced to moor. The weather reported 70 to 80 mph gusts and it seemed worse. Just before entering Cosgrove there is a high viaduct with no guard bars. As OO-LA-LA cruised past the wide-open plunge down at least 100 feet to the RiverOuse we were thankful to be pushed away from the unprotected side. White caps churned up the canal and the boat tilted severely as it was blown from wind traveling across the open country. It was the scariest moment we have had yet, and hope not to see it again.

Grand Union CanalIn Cosgrove, after tying up, we decided that we sorely needed a pub after that adventure. We returned to the Barley Mow where we found a lively scene of people taking shelter from the wind and even our engine mechanic who had worked on the quirky motor problem of last year. John introduced us to his mates and we found ourselves surrounded by fellowboaters. He helped us last year with the mysterious engine problem that we have grown to master. Our 100-amp alternator, that charges the 400 amp-hr house battery bank puts a strain on the engine when the battery level is low. We learned that after an evening of TV and a well-lighted boat, the battery level goes down about 25%. Running the engine, charging the batteries for about 15 minutes prior to casting off prevents the motor from over loading. See September article for details of the adventure in the Blisworth Tunnel.

Triangle barBack in the Barley Mow, after chatting with locals, we met folks from Alaska traveling on a hire boat. The Thomas/Schneider family own The Triangle Club bar in Juno and we enjoyed swapping Key West stories for Juno stories, two towns that are geographically as different as can be. It's great we could become buddies on the English canals. The next day we met them again as we entered the Stoke Bruerne Locks, a flight of seven. Apparently there was a boat that was in a great hurry ahead of us, racing up the flight of locks and not shutting the paddles on the gates. Consequently, the pound between the first two locks had dried out as the gates drained the water out. It was a first for us, and certainly for our Alaskan friends.

OO-LA-LA got its first taste of sitting on the bottom for a spell, not much longer than 20 minutes,but still an alarming situation. The pound refilled and we were afloat, grateful not to be reliant on tides to get us off again. We met up with them in Braunston and had a lively dinner at the Admiral Nelsons, a canal side pub. In Braunston we pass a milestone. This was where we purchased our boat in September last year and had there after cruised down the Grand Union canal. Now we were heading for the Oxford canal. After dropping into Braunston Marina to say hello to Tim and Paul, we make the turn and are on the Oxford Canal. The countryside becomes very green and remote with occasional towns gracing the hillside with church spires to mark their spot. This is a narrow canal; the locks are only big enough for one boat at a time, just like the Aylesbury Arm. Again, the gates are very stiff and we have a great workout through the Napton Locks and moor overnight in the tiny town of Marston Doles. Horses that towed workboats in the 18th century used to be stabled here. Now it is an elegant group of stone houses. Bollards are provided.

Windy weather persists but it also means we are usually in sun as the clouds are blown away. The charming town of Cropredy has a gorgeous mooring that looks like a flower garden and also has the only grocery store we have seen on the Oxford in several days of cruising. It is a good thing we stocked up beforehand. In Cropredy we do a bit of restocking and the weather is so beautiful we continue on to Banbury. Not a great idea as the mooring is much more idyllic in Cropredy.


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Oxford Painter Oxford Canal Oxford Liftbridge * *
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The next day continues with high winds and steering can be a challenge at times as the boat gets blown about. Navigating some of the narrow and ancient stone bridges on the Oxford, we struggled not to collide with them as we pass through. On the way toward Kirtlington we meet the man who has painted the lock arms on the Oxford for the past 30 years. He is in a hurry as we go through the lock and as Rob works the paddle, he continues to cheerfully paint around him saying that he is behind schedule.


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Isis Mooring Thames warning * * *
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We finally arrive in Oxford on a very rainy and muddy day,grateful for our Wellington boots. Moored in the town of Jericho, a neighborhood of Oxford, we are soaked. The weather has turned very wet and for most of the day we had worked through it. There are several lift bridges just outside of the city and they are easy to operate but can be heavy. Moorings in Oxford are very restricted. 48 hours at a time and No Return for 28 days. It is the first time we have seen such a sign. Even London allowed 14-day moorings. The Thames River is Code Red, meaning that the stream is considered too strong for narrowboats. After two days we realize 48 hours is up so called up British Waterways in Braunston with the dilemma. They gracefully told us that the warden of the area would be informed and we could stay until the Thames was no longer on high alert. That was a very good thing for us since it was a week before the river calmed down. We took the opportunity to play tourist in town and restock water, gas and groceries. We also get our mail, discovering that the post office will receive it for us if it is sent 'Post Restante'. (oxford_thames) Toward the end of the month, the river Thames finally becomes 'Code Yellow' and we are free to go. The weather co-operates as the day dawns clear and bright. It is now officially Spring and it feels like it. Several towpath walkers snap our photo as we cruise out of Isis Lock onto the river and through the towncenter. Then we are truly released into the river, beautiful high hills around us dotted with the occasional castle ruin or magnificent mansion. It is great to be back on the Thames, we enjoy it for the grand scenery and nature. Initially the river intimidated us but it is now a familiar friend. As we pass Goring another milestone has been met; the ring has been completed that is comprised of the Grand Union, The Thames and the Oxford Canal. Temperatures are regularly in the 60s by the time we moor in Reading, outside of Blakes Lock, the last stoppage on our trip. The lock is repaired and the Kennet and Avon Canal is open for business. Next stop Bath.


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Thames Morning Thames and Oxford * * *
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.....on to April 2002

 


 
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