From the 9th of July we stayed in Hillmorton on the outskirts of Rugby. It's a quiet suburb (it used to be a village in its own right, and is mentioned in the Domesday Book) seemingly populated by older people. There don't seem to be any decent pubs, but there is one shop. A man called Roy told us where to find the shop. He told us he had been living here for 44 years.
We went into Rugby on 2 occasions. The first time we waited at a bus stop with a Geordie man who was very helpful and told us where to get off the bus, and once we were in Rugby he escorted us all the way to Asda. People are very friendly here. Rugby is not an unpleasant town, but there's nothing about it that would blow you away. It has all the required shops, and a small market.
Hillmorton has a field full of radio masts which have been there since 1926 and were used for communications during the war. In our first week we stayed near the beginning of a flight of 3 locks and spent some time observing people going through them on their boats. This helped while away the time for Dale, who got a bit bored. I was expecting work to come in that week, but in the end none came.
On Monday 16th July we made a second foray into Rugby. We got to the bus stop and started talking to an old man waiting there. He moved to Hillmorton in 1960 from Durham and worked with agricultural machinery. It was pouring with rain that day, and while we were talking a large vehicle carrying an enormous load of staw was fighting to keep the bales on his lorry. Several other elderly people joined us at the bus stop and we all chatted, moaning about the rain and the lateness of the bus. When we got on the bus it was full of old ladies and all you could hear was loud chattering! We got our stuff in Rugby and on the way back on the bus we met our Durham friend again, and we walked back together to his road and then said goodbye.
In our second week we moved on through the locks and stayed beyond them. There were some other liveaboards staying there - the boat behind us was occupied by Dave and Hayley and their dog Tasha. They asked me to paint a picture of Tasha so I took a photo of her. Another of the boats was called the '70s boat', and was painted with pictures illustrating different facets of that decade. We left Hillmorton on Saturday 21st July and travelled on to a big Tescos in Rugby which is near the canal, and got the shopping for the coming week. After that we went on to Newbold on Avon, a suburb the other side of Rugby where we intended to stay for the next two weeks while I was busy with work. Newbold is nice, it has moorings that attract a large number of holidaying and liveaboard boaters, it has a fantastic Co-op and a nice old fashioned pub, The Barley Mow.
We did our washing in the marina. I phoned my friend Barbara at the top of the hill at 10am (there was no signal below). She said there was torrential rain in Cambridge so she didn't think they could come. So all that cleaning was in vain! We finished our washing then walked up to the village again to look round a bit more. The church service was taking place as we walked past All Saints' Church. There are beaufiful countryside views from the top of the hill. The shop had sold out of any sort of meat so we ended up getting Fray Bentos tinned pies for our Sunday lunch and stuff to make bread and butter pudding again for a treat. We then paid another visit to The Wheatsheaf. My friend Bruce phoned while we were there to see how we were getting on. We had a couple of drinks then hurried back to the boat to watch the Wimbledon final - Murray v Federer. It was very exciting but Federer won.
Saturday 7th July – we got up early and left at 8am to go through the 6 locks. It was a pleasant journey, peaceful and pretty countryside surrounding us. At the last lock I was busy winding up the paddles when a man came out of a nearby shop escorting Molly. 'Is this your dog?' he asked. She had been nosing around as she usually does when we aren't looking. We found a place to moor and went to enquire about doing our big pile of washing in the nearby marina. The man in the shop there was very helpful and also told us how to get to Daventry (we needed to buy some food). It turned out there was only one bus an hour. We followed his instructions, walking past a narrowboat selling old-fashioned sweets and a narrowboat café which appeared to be very popular. Having dawdled a bit we realised when we got to the bus stop that we had just missed the hourly bus. At last it came (an hour later) and we arrived quickly in Daventry. The friendly bus driver (they are all friendly round here, and people say thank you when they get off the bus as well!) pointed us in the direction of Waitrose. Daventry is a fairly small and quiet town and we felt peaceful and calm walking around Waitrose. Everyone was very helpful. We managed to fit all our food for the coming week into our 2 rucksacks and caught the bus back. When we got back we decided to do some cleaning because our friends Bill and Barbara might be coming to see us tomorrow. After that we went up the hill to the village with Molly and visited The Wheatsheaf - a good scruffy locals pub - the sort we really like - which had a nice staffy called Ruby who quickly made friends with Molly. We had a couple of drinks then walked down the hill home.
Friday 6th July – It was raining this morning so I had a lie in until about 9.30am. Dale filled the boat with water and we decided to set off in the rain with raincoats and umbrella. It was pouring with rain but despite this all the boaters we met waved us a cheery good morning. We went through the Braunston tunnel which is nearly a mile long. We decided to stop before the Braunston flight of locks and wait for the rain to stop. Of course it didn't stop so we walked along the squelching muddy towpaths up the hill to the village with our umbrellas. Braunston is the canal junction between the Oxford canal and the Grand Union Canal and was once an important part of the canal transport system. Many former boating families have links to the village. It is a lovely friendly village with a well-stocked shop, a butchers and 4 pubs. We had one drink in the Admiral Nelson and overheard boaty talk in this nice pub right next to the 4th lock in the flight. At last the rain ceased at about 5pm but by then we couldn't be bothered to work the locks. On the news it said there has been widespread flooding around the country.
Thursday 5th July – We left Weedon Bec, passing nice countryside on the way. We were heading for the Buckby flight of locks. As we approached the first lock Dale pointed to a boat moored saying "That looks like Kevin and Ingrid's boat!" As we came nearer we realised that it was indeed our friends' boat Columbia. Ingrid poked her head out and waved so we pulled in and moored up. We couldn't go by without saying hello. We stood on the bank with them chatting and drinking tea for about an hour or so. We told them we were going through the locks and they said they would meet us for a drink in a couple of hours at the New Inn. So we proceeded to go through the locks - we shared them with a couple from Market Bosworth, who were on a week's holiday. Today happened to be a nice day, but it was the end of their holiday and it had rained all the rest of it. She said they came for a week every year and it always rained. She said she hated narrowboating, but her husband loved it, so she did it for him. We were working as a team, so it didn't help when Molly was sick and refused to walk so I had to carry her between 2 of the locks. She was all right after that, except for a disappearance at one of the locks. We found here in someone's garden with another little dog. A gang of youngsters were on 2 boats behind us and they helped at each of the locks so that made it quicker for us. We got to the New Inn, the last lock was there and all the people in the pub garden were watching us. The pub said no dogs allowed so of course Molly wandered in. We finished doing the lock, moored up nearby and went back to the pub to have a drink. Then Kevin and Ingrid turned up and we had a great afternoon chatting, laughing and drinking. The sun was actually out that day and I got very sunburnt. I think we were sitting outside for about 6 hours! We said goodbye at about 8.30pm and walked back to the boat, switched on the telly and fell asleep.
Wednesday 4th July – left Blisworth at 8.15am. It was cloudy but the rain held off. Had a pleasant journey with no locks from Blisworth to Weedon Bec travelling through pretty Bugbrooke and Nether Heyford, surrounded by lovely countryside. Got to Weedon Bec. The map said there was a supermarket on the newer side of the village but there wasn't - only a noisy busy junction with some dodgy looking pubs. We were told by a man at the bus stop to go into the old part of the village. So we walked through a bridge under the canal to the other side - a lovely old village with some new development surrounding it. It had a doctors, a dentist, a school, a greengrocers, an antique shop, a post office, a one stop supermarket and two pubs. However there was a doleful feeling about the village I can't really explain. We couldn't get the veggies we wanted in the One Stop so changed our menu and bought some other stuff. Then we walked to have a look at the ordnance depot which was built during the Napoleonic War but is now owned by some private companies.
Tuesday 3rd July - We got up early this morning and left at 7.30am because we wanted to get through the Stoke Bruerne flight of 7 locks before it started to rain! Got to Stoke Bruerne without being rained on and Dale emptied the rubbish. Stoke Bruerne is a proper little canalside town with 2 nice pubs. Pity it was too early to go in. So we carried on to the Blisworth tunnel. It was quite fun going through the tunnel which is over a mile long. Me and Molly had to keep sheltering from the drips coming from above. It's cold in the tunnel and it smells very musty. When we came out we could really smell the difference. We moored up in Blisworth. The people in Blisworth seem very friendly and helpful. I had a long chat with a lady with a cockapoo called Norman. She asked me if we were retired! Do we look that old?? Went for a walk in the village which is small and doesn't consist of much. In the shop the assistant tried to give us a tatty copy of the Lord of the Rings and some old gloves. Walked back to the canal and had sausage sandwiches for lunch. Had a 'power nap' and then did some painting.
Monday 2nd July - We left at 9am this morning and cruised along in the miserable drizzle to get to Yardley Gobion and the boatyard there. When we arrived we were told that they didn't open until 11am so we were an hour early. They were very busy with dry docking changeovers. So we walked to Yardley Gobion - about three quarters of a mile from the canal. Yardley Gobion is a quiet and pretty little village with a pub, a nice church, a shop and a post office in what looks like a private house. We walked to the shop and got some supplies. When we got back to the wharf the chap filled us up with diesel and we got a canister of gas. He said it was very quiet this year, not many boats around at all. After Yardley Gobion, we continued until just before the Stoke Bruerne lock flight, and stopped in the middle of countryside a long way from anyone else. It was very peaceful. I did some painting and then we bathed Molly, dried and brushed her and attempted to clip her with the new clippers. They didn't make that much difference as her fur is still quite short. She was a very good girl though. We had the generator on so we watched Come Dine with Me. Later Dale cooked steak and chips. We saw a programme about how to make Crunchie bars and both wanted a Crunchie. Watched a good thriller called Blackout later.
Our friends Tim and Jane were going to come to Cosgrove today to see us but phoned up to say Tim wasn't feeling too good. We went to the Barley Mow for lunch and had roast beef which was nice. We came back and finished off the bread and butter pudding.
On Friday morning we awoke in Water Eaton. A friendly young man with an alsation called Layla who lived on the next boat told us not to go shopping in Milton Keynes (we needed to get some clippers to groom Molly) as he said we would get lost. There was a pet shop in Bletchley, so we decided to go there as it would be much quicker. We got our clippers and the lady in the pet shop was very helpful.
Got back to the boat and set off towards Milton Keynes. There was one lock in Fenny Stratford on the way and we thought it would be a doddle but oddly the lock has a swing bridge in the middle of it which made things a bit more complicated.
We got through and carried on through Milton Keynes. My memories of Milton Keynes last time we came (4 years ago) are that it was quite neat and manicured but things seem to have gone downhill since then. The winds that day were horrendous and we were stuck behind a very slow boater for such a long time Dale got boat rage. This isn't supposed to happen on the canals! Your're supposed to get relaxed! At last we got to the top of Milton Keynes - Old Wolverton, and stopped beside a nice pub called the Galleon. Dale made a cauliflower and chick pea curry and we went to the pub for a few drinks. It had a jolly atmosphere - lots of people laughing and chatting.
On Saturday we got up and took Molly for a walk along the towpath. There were lots of friendly people about with their dogs. A great big tattooed man came towards us with a tiny black fluffy thing and we chatted to him - his dog is a cockapoo and 12 weeks old.
We set off for Cosgrove which wasn't far but the wind was bad again. We went over the little aqueduct in the pic above which carries you over the River Ouse. It was quite scarey in the wind, especially as one side has no barrier. When we got to the lock an old man started chatting to me. He has lived on a boat for 29 years and enjoyed every minute of it - he is moored at Fenny Stratford. He's got through 3 wives he said because none of them liked boating. He said he couldn't find a woman who liked boating for its own sake. He told us where to go in Cosgrove for the shop and helped me with the lock gates.
Cosgrove is a pretty little village, very quiet, with a nice pub which we visited later on. You have to go through an old horse tunnel (shown above) to get there. This is a pub that restores your faith in pubs - very old building, unspoilt and full of atmosphere, with good food to boot. We had a couple of drinks and did a bit of people-watching then came back and had the remains of our curry and bread and butter pudding which I had made earlier.
My name is Angie Wood and I live on a narrowboat on the beautiful Oxford canal.
A long time ago in the eighties I studied Art and Design at Goldsmiths College and went on to be a paste up artist and then a graphic designer. I’ve never stopped painting and drawing though – I painted pet and animal portraits for a while and over the past two years have begun creating small oil paintings of vintage objects, textiles and flowers. I collect items from fleamarkets to paint and my little narrowboat is getting fuller all the time! I’m particularly delighted by colourful patterns on textiles and ceramics and I also love painting reflective surfaces. I’m usually attracted to items from the early part of the twentieth century, which bring back memories of my great aunts’ and grandmother’s cosy houses. My artistic aim is to pay homage to the things I paint by observing them as closely as I can, and to create something beautiful that will hopefully make people as happy as I was when I was making it!