Winter Cruise

Friday 1st February

We arrived at Willow Wren Rugby Wharf at lunchtime.Following a short briefing we took possession of their 47 foot cruiser stern narrowboat Heron.We had chosen this boat as it equipped with a solid fuel stove which seems rare for hire boats and the saloon also contained armchairs.We had decided that our first night on board would be spent prior to the Hillmorton Locks so after loading the boat we eased our way along the Rugby Wharf Arm onto the Oxford Canal.On arrival at our overnight mooring spot we were observed from the boat by the furry member of the crew to ensure we moored correctly.

DYLAN keeping a watchful eye on things


Saturday 2nd February
Today we planned to travel to Braunston.One of the reasons for embarking on a winter cruise was to experience bad weather to confirm in our own minds that full time living on a narrowboat is for us.Today was not going to test that theory as it was a bright and glorious day.The first hurdle was to navigate the Hillmorton Locks.

Lining up for a bump free entry (hopefully)

Safely through the locks we continued on our journey to Braunston.

Our first sight of Braunston Church


Our arrival at Braunston went smoothly.We winded at the entrance of the marina and moored on the 48 hr moorings about 100 yds ahead of the Gongoozlers Rest (more on that later).After spending time taking stock of things we went for an evening walk along the towpath and marina.

Braunston Marina at dusk


Our evening meal was taken at the Boathouse.The meal was very good value and the puddings were very tempting.Returning to the boat was pleasant as the solid fuel stove had kept the inside nice and toasty.

DYLAN and me enjoying the stove


Sunday 3rd February
Our plan today was to travel to Napton but a problem with the battery charging system required Willow Wren to attend.This was not a problem for us as were happy to stay put anyway.The problem was rectified quickly but we then spent the afternoon walking Dylan and reading in front of the stove again.(If retirement is like this then bring it on)
Monday 4th February
First things first was a visit to the water point.We then departed Braunston passing the working fuel boat which had supplied us a bag stove glow at £9.50.Six or seven coals kept us warm all evening.At that rate a bag should last a week.

Working boat TOWCESTER


Shortly after leaving Braunston we were cruising through open countryside towards Napton.On arrival at the Bridge Inn we winded and moored up.Our plan for an evening meal in the pub was short lived as we found the pub closed and up for sale. A walk to Napton locks was the afternoon activity with the condition of the towpath ranging from OK to extremely muddy.

Napton Locks

Essential provisions were purchased in the canal side shop where we had a chat for 30 mins with the shopkeeper.We will definitely support these local shops when we begin life full time on the cut.

Tuesday 5th February

After breakfast our trip today was going to be fairly short.We had seen a rural location with good views close to bridge 100 on our way to Napton.We want to spend a night in relative isolation all though in reality we were only a mile or so from civilisation.

Views from our mooring

Wednesday 6th February
A short hop back to Braunston this morning. We passed Napton marina and the junction that leads to Calcutt marina.This is where will be obtaining our diesel heater from for our boat build as we are opting for the Hurricane heater.Continuing on towards Braunston we passed a pair of working boats that we have seen on the forums – Draco and Success
After arriving back at Braunston we walked into the village to obtain some provisions.Later it was back to the Boat House pub for curry night.(2 currys and 2 drinks for 11 pounds) excellent value.
Thursday 7th February
Our last full day today. I took Dylan for a short walk around Braunston marina.On the way back to the boat the smells coming from the Gongoozlers Rest got the taste buds going.Unfortunately I had already had breakfast or I would have indulged especially as black pudding a favourite of mine was on the menu.I will save that delight until our next visit to Braunston which will probably be on our own boat in 2014.We wanted to get back through the Hillmorton locks to be able to return the boat early on Friday.Overnight the temperature must have fallen as our departure from Braunston involved some icebreaking.

On route to Hillmorton we passed Derwent 6 a boat whose blog we read amongst many others so a quick wave and onto the locks which we passed through with no problem.

Harder work for some

 Friday 8th February

We set off at 8am for Rugby Wharf Arm.Arriving at 8.45 our winter cruise at an end.During the week we encountered icy rain, snow, sunshine and bitterly cold wind.Nothing has changed our wish to live on the canals.During the week we received a call from our builder S M Hudson asking if the build can commence in March 12 weeks earlier than scheduled.This is good for us so next weekend is a visit to finalise the spec. 

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