Thursday, 17 August 2017

Cropredy (a sad day but it's for the best)

We had been going camping this coming weekend to Gordale Scar in the Yorkshire Dales with some of the family.  We go up every year as it’s a great place to get the family together and it’s near my parents’ house in Gargrave on the Leeds & Liverpool canal.  Because of my back, everyone was expecting me to pull out but I was adamant it’d be OK.  I finally agreed and we shan’t be going until later in the year.  Camping itself is great for my back as I lay on hard ground; it’s the long car journey and the fact that I’d be tempted to go fell walking as we usually do.  So as I say – it’s a sad decision but for the best.

After reading yesterday’s blog, Issie sent me a picture of how her boat, Black Sheep, looks this year.  She has been far more adventurous than us on the veg front and keeps herself in courgettes, French and runner beans, cucumbers, strawberries, lettuce and tomatoes to name but a few.  Next year we will branch out as our only edibles are toms, chillis, jalapeno peppers and the staple herbs: rosemary, chives, thyme, basil and parsley. This has been the first year we have managed to keep most of the herbs going through the winter.

Issie’s garden

I’m not sure why she has a pot on the towpath for dogs to wee on!  It reminds me of one summer before we had let the house in Kent out.  We were going back for a fortnight to do the final tidying up ready for renting and, as it was the height of summer, decided to take some of our plants back with us for the fortnight so they didn’t die of drought.  We had moored by a bridge at Wilmcote on the Stratford canal and had the pots out on the towpath ready to ferry them to the car.  In retrospect, it was daft way to do it as the tomatoes were immediately the target for passing dogs.  A good dousing in water cleaned them up and we never seemed to suffer any ill effects.

The only downside of growing produce on a boat is that you should really use fresh rather than canal water on them.  Normal flowering plants are fine as they are not eaten, other than say, Nasturtiums.  This does mean that you use even more of a scarce commodity.

Some of our jalapenos are nearly ready for harvesting and pickling

For the last few weeks I haven’t been walking far each day but yesterday I managed 2 ½ miles in all – the first time I’ve dared walk more than two miles in all that time.  We got up as far as Cropredy marina at one point.  This was built in 2013 and we remember going past in the August when it was being built, thinking the planned opening date was a bit ambitious.

Now the marina is fully open and a second area has been opened since.  For those that like marinas it is definitely one of the better ones, in fact, our friends Jan and Gordon keep their boat there.  There are new stanking planks at the entrance so another picture has been added to my collection of stanking plank pictures.

Nice new stanking planks for the marina entrance

We are moored in the centre of Cropredy village courtesy of Mike and Lesley who are having a house and a boat built simultaneously.  Mike has started a blog for the house build and no doubt will include the boat build as that starts soon too.  Click here to see their blog.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Cropredy (garden envy)

We get a lot of nice compliments about our boat flowers from passing boaters and walkers alike.  On Sunday, a boat had gone past us with sunflowers on the roof and immediately made Karen determined to grow mini sunflowers next year.  We did try one plant this year but I think we started it too early as it died off after producing a few flowers.  Anyway, the boat passed me again yesterday and the girl driving told me she tries every year but is only successful every other year.

Mini sunflowers on a boat – quite a different idea

Cropredy is one of those places that is notoriously bad for TV and phone signal.  We have had no TV signal since being here but our broadband receiver has been fine.  It seems, wherever we are in the country, that even when the TV and/or phone signals are bad we still get good broadband internet.

A boat moored opposite us yesterday and they were well prepared for the poor TV signal.  Mike and Mary are in their early fifties and are in their first year of living on their boat.  They have taken career breaks but they are enjoying it so much that they have put their house on the market so they don’t have to go back to work.

Mike and Mary’s solution to poor TV signals - the pole is as long as the boat!

Yesterday, whilst working out where we will cruise after leaving Copredy, it occurred to me that Karen only has six months until she gives up work again.  Knowing that we are going to be in Birmingham in November brings that February date even closer.  Having been cruising around the Warwickshire area for two years we have both been wondering how we will feel when we start travelling the country again like we did before Karen went back to work.  Of course, it’ll be exciting but it may also feel like a holiday to start with as we will be leaving Warwickshire which has become our home.  Actually, thinking about it, before Karen went back to work, every day felt like a holiday 😊
During Tuesday I went for a few little walks as has become the habit of the last three weeks due to my back.  On one of them we saw the boat that the Mikron theatre cast use to travel the country whilst giving their shows.

The Mikron theatre boat built as a working boat in 1936

Sign detailing the boat’s history

They are touring two different plays this year on alternate nights.  The first gives a history of the YHA in a comic and musical setting and the second looks at how to assemble RNLI crews in the electronic games age.  We have often wanted to see one of the productions when we have passed the boat before but have never got around to it, so as they were performing right next to us we joined Mike and Lesley and other villagers to see their Tuesday production.

It was good evening and, as it was outside, I could stand or kneel at the back of the audience to ease my back without getting in people’s way.

The current cast of the Mikron theatre performing on Tuesday evening

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Cropredy (which way shall we go now?)

Most of the festival crowd set about leaving on Sunday but all the breakfast venues were packed during the morning.  This was the canoe club, in full swing, next to where we are moored:

We took it easy during the day and stayed on the boat or wandered around the village to find the scarecrows we had missed over the last few days.  The competition winners had been announced so we also checked out the three winners.  At lunchtime we went to the pub to listen to the last fringe event of the weekend and in the evening, we went to Mike and Lesley’s for dinner – it’s always good when someone else does the cooking and entertaining 😊
On Monday, Karen worked from home and I got on with the househusband chores.  I was obviously really busy all day but if you asked Karen she would say I seemed to spend most of the day laying on the bed resting my back.

As you may know we tend to plan our cruising pattern around upcoming events and now Cropredy is over it’s time to plan how to get to the next event.  It seems crazy that, as continuous cruisers, we have to have a plan as we can just go wherever the fancy takes us.  Indeed, before Karen went back to work, that is exactly what we tried to do.  What actually happened was that there was always something/somewhere we wanted to get to, e.g. children’s graduations, family gatherings and concerts.

We knew we were going to Cropredy this year but seemed to leave the final push until the last few weeks which, in retrospect was not a good thing, especially as my back went into spasm near the end so I couldn’t cruise on my own whilst Karen was at work.  Keen to avoid that happening again, I have been working out where we will cruise until Christmas.

We are getting to that time of year where cruising plans may be affected by the winter stoppages when sections of canals are closed for maintenance for up to a few months at a time.  Our next event, boat-wise, is to get to the centre of Birmingham by November 17th.  We are going to see Deep Purple who are playing at the Barclaycard arena and we plan to moor right outside.  Jake, my youngest son will be coming up to stay and go to the gig too.

I know that if we were on holiday it would only take a few days to cover the 60 odd miles through about 90 locks but, as we take it slowly, we have to plan in where we will take on water and get pump outs, on top of beating the stoppages.  As well as that we need to find mooring stops where Karen can park the car near the boat and get to work easily.

Although there are several routes we can take from here to Birmingham, there seem to be a lot of stoppages this coming winter in this area so making the plan has taken a while.  Over the next few days I’ll get it refined but we’ll probably head up the Oxford, join the Grand Union, then up the Stratford to the Worcester & Birmingham.  We have to join the Worcester & Birmingham canal by the beginning of November as the swing bridge at Shirley on the Stratford is being closed.  We will still have a fortnight to get to Birmingham so we will probably head south on the Worcs. & Birm. and stay in the country at Tardebigge before the final push into Birmingham.

Our likely route to get to Birmingham by the middle of November

To finish today, here is a montage of some of the scarecrows Karen photographed during the festival.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Cropredy (well, that's the festival finished)

Karen and me posing by the Herb boat on Saturday

Before I start writing up the last few days I must clear up a couple of mistakes on recent blog entries.  I had originally said that this year’s Fairport Convention – Cropredy Festival was the 50th and then changed that to the 40th.  Apparently, it is 50 years since the band’s first gig and 37 years since their first festival at Cropredy.

Wednesday was a day of calm before the storm as all the last-minute preparations were made around the village and the festival site.  It was a miserable day weather-wise and, as with most of the last couple of weeks, I spent most of the time resting my back with short strolls around the village in between.

We wandered down the towpath at one point to see some of the trade boats but they were all shut up as it was raining.  

The Hippie boat
Cakes on the cut

More trade boats shut up because of the weather
Over the weekend the weather was better and it looked like they were doing a good trade.

On one of my other walks I came across a road called Cup and Saucer which is one of the many odd names of the streets in the village, like Cream Cup Lane.

Half way along the road is a large stone on the verge which looks like a cup and saucer with a teaspoon in it.

Karen got home early as it was our wedding anniversary and, after dinner, we popped to the Brasenose Arms for a drink with Mike and to listen to one of the fringe bands.  I’ve probably said before that we like going to the pubs and listening to the fringe bands and didn’t really fancy going to see the bands in the festival itself as there were none on the bill that really took our fancy.

On Thursday, Mike and Lesley popped round first thing and as we were standing on the pontoon chatting I heard a girl on the other side of the canal call out, ‘Hello Neil’.  The sun was in my eyes and I couldn’t see who it was and then realised it was Issie and Mike.  We first met them over the winter a couple of years ago as they were continuously cruising the same area as us.  They gave up their jobs a year ago and are now cruising around the northern canals but came down by train to camp at the festival.  We’ve always liked Issie’s boat as it is an unusual lemon colour and also called Black Sheep which I suspect is linked to the fact she was/is a shepherdess.  They have kept both their boats so I would be interested in finding out how they single hand two boats through narrow locks together – I must ask next time we meet up.

In the evening Gill and her friend Clare came over and we went for a drink at the Red Lion whilst waiting for Karen to get home from work and come and meet us.  Gill has a river cruiser called Yogurt Pot and we spent some time locking along the River Avon with her and Carl several months ago and have kept in touch ever since.

At 11 o’clock in the evening we drove to Banbury to pick up Joanna; she had come down on the train from Edinburgh and was staying with us for a couple of nights as she was going to a wedding in Lichfield on Saturday.

The main event on Friday was to find somewhere to have breakfast.  The villagers club together to provide breakfasts for the festival goers over the four days at various venues.  They are open between 7 and 12 and we just got to our chosen venue, the village hall, just in time!

One of the breakfast venues – the canoe club - we are moored the other side of the willow tree

During the festival, the villagers construct scarecrows and place them in their front gardens.  The idea is that visitors vote for the best scarecrow and make a donation to charity.  We spent a lot of the afternoon walking around the village finding all the scarecrows so we could judge them for the competition which is called Scareport.

I won’t include the pictures of the 40 odd scarecrows that Karen took but have included a couple.  Karen wanted to take a picture of me and put it in a montage of scarecrow pictures to see if anyone spotted that I wasn’t a scarecrow 😊  Our favourite was the Queen of Tarts and not just because she was holding a box of free jam tarts!

The Queen of Tarts

Builder's bum

Most people at the festival are old enough to remember this era!

The village squire

Apparently a reveller started playing these at four o'clock on Saturday morning

A version of Marge

On Saturday morning, we ran Jo back to Banbury so she could get to the wedding at Lichfield and then we met up with Mike and Lesley to watch one of the fringe bands at the Brasenose.

Saying goobye to Jo at Banbury station

Everyone enjoying a bit of sun in the pub garden

As we drove to Banbury we went out of the village on a road we hadn’t walked along before and Karen was most upset as there were a couple of dozen more scarecrows that she had missed!

In the evening, we went to the main festival for a few hours.   

On our way out

We saw a band called Marillion who I quite like and they played a good set.  They were followed by a Scottish acoustic folk singer and then the main event was Fairport Convention who were on for three hours until midnight.  We listened to the first couple of their songs and then came back to the boat – their music isn’t really to our taste.  I know it’s strange coming to a festival where the music is based around a band we don’t really follow but the atmosphere is great and the fringe bands tend to be good.

We will probably stay here for a couple more weeks to watch the village return to normal.  The canal is going to get really busy over the next couple of days as all the boats leave – there must be a good two miles of moored boats.  A dozen boats have passed us already this Sunday morning and it’s only nine o’clock!

Finally, Buddy enjoying Fairport Convention