Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Cats, Kiwis and Racing Cars

Top lock at Stoke Bruerne. (Pat with Camilla-style haircut)

This time of year we expect to receive lots of visitors on board TCW, especially as we are now heading south into familiar territory, and rather surprisingly, we are generally lucky with the weather when that happens. So we kept our fingers crossed last Thursday when we waited for our New Zealand pals Kevin & Helen to arrive in Northampton, where we had been moored for much of the week.
The forecast was not good. Heavy rain and unsettled conditions (which is Met Office speak for more heavy rain!)
Kev and Helen had been in Cornwall visiting family and were finishing their first trip to the UK in over 40 years by visiting us for three days, before we took them down to North London on Sunday,. Plans were to hire a car for a couple of days to show them the English countryside from the canal and country lanes.
Luckily we had no shortage of wet weather gear on board, and we thought we might need it all. There were 17 locks to negotiate back to Gayton junction and around 12 of them in a flight with nowhere to moor in between.
Can I get any wetter?

Kevin & Helen, our New Zealand guests, celebrate finishing the Northampton Flight of locks

It was pouring down as we left Northampton Friday morning and however attractive the canal network looks at this time of year, a grey day on the canal, is a grey day on the canal.
But I must have lead a blameless life, for no sooner had we got through the locks on the outskirts of the town, than it stopped raining and though dull, we remained dry right into Blisworth for afternoon tea and our overnight mooring.
Just leaving  Blisworth. Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Looking around though, it was obvious that a lot of boats moored there were going through the Blisworth Tunnel the following morning to stay at Stoke Bruerne for the weekend, which was also our intention.
So we got up early on Saturday and were through the tunnel by 9.30am and moored up by 10am.
Stoke Bruerne Museum, houses and shops

Kevin, Helen & Pat at Stoke Bruerne Top Lock

And it was a good job we did. Stoke Bruerne is a very busy spot, with two riverside pubs, beside two locks and the Canal Museum. Add a nice, sunny day, and you get lots of activity, both on and off the water.
A few of our boating pals had told us that if we were going to hire a car, then Enterprise would deliver it to the waterside for us. However, I retain a great deal with Avis, which I had through John Lewis, and thought we might ask them to deliver a car to the car park of the Navigation pub in the village, which they agreed to do.
The Navigation, Stoke Bruerne. Not a bad place to wait for your car to be delivered.

What I failed to realise was that Silverstone is only five miles from Stoke Bruerne and the British Grand Prix was on that weekend, with road closures and all the disruption that goes with it.
The car was late being delivered, which was not really a problem and not a surprise. We then drove cross-country to Cropredy, another canal village, on the South Oxford canal.
Pat fancies putting TCW into the new marina that is being built here, when we go away again this coming winter. The builders and owners are confident the marina will open mid-August. I think they should start praying for a miracle. They made us very welcome though and showed us around the site. I think it will be ideal when finished. We both like the South Oxford Canal, it’s only a mile to the “chocolate box” village of Cropredy (and The Red Lion) and Banbury is only five miles away. We’ll try and get back in August.
This will be a working marina in six weeks time

On our return, Stoke Bruerne was packed with boats. Five of them had met up for a birthday party, and we were surprised to see cats running all over the place. I think there were five of them, and they had a grand old time, running along the roofs, and one, a beautiful ginger Maine Coone, enjoyed walks on a lead! We naturally threw TCW open to any visiting feline and soon had one cuddled up beside us on the settee.
We ran Helen and Kev down to Barnet on Sunday morning and did the trip down “Memory Lane” with Helen, visiting our old school, her old house in Friern Barnet, and its local park, before we dropped them off  and said goodbye, We’ll see them again in NZ next February I expect.
Now we have three days to get into Milton Keynes, where we meeting one of my oldest pals, Laura, on Friday night. I really like cruising through Milton Keynes. I think you see the best of it. We’ll probably moor at Cosgrove for a couple of days so we can go shopping in central Milton Keynes. We haven’t had a John Lewis/Waitrose fix since the end of March. My discount card is getting dusty!

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