Saturday 20th June (warm, but with a few spots of rain)
|The crew spent some time packing their belongings into Neil's car before setting off on the journey to Napton Marina. Sufficient provisions were purchased at Sainsburys in Rugby for the start of the expedition. Due the extreme pressure they were under, they declined a fried breakfast at the supermarket and headed directly to the boatyard.|
Sunday 21st June (warm, but cloudy with a just a few spots of rain in the afternoon)
|Progress was good through the 5 Claydon Locks without the hindrance of the alien German Boat. The following 3 locks were busy with other craft, but the narrowboat battled on with its mission.|
|The narrowboat moored before the picturesque 'Cropredy Lock' for a splendid late breakfast including mushrooms.|
|Steadfastly, Neil took the narrowboat onwards through difficult waters towards Banbury|
|Whilst Neil continued to battle with the helm, the others were relieved to see the craft cross beneath the M40, whilst drinking nerve calming tea.|
However, on reaching the centre of Banbury they were horrified by the congestion.
|The crew took time out to admire the magnificent Lister diesel engine of a moored narrowboat|
|The crew felt need to stop briefly in the safety of 'Kings Sutton Lock' to enjoy some Magnum Ice Creams (Classic Variety).|
|The warning signs at Aynho Weir concerned the crew greatly, but their determination to complete the mission drove them on through the hazardous waters. They were confident that their superior skills would enable them to navigate the treacherous waters.|
|The crew were perplexed to see the local inhabitants using strange craft to navigate the waterways.|
Monday 22nd June (warm and sunny most of the day)
Ron elected to take the boat successfully through the the very deep lock, whilst the others stood clear in case of disaster.
|Neil's immense strength enabled a bridge to be lifted to allow the narrowboat onward to its destination.|
|Andy joins the narrowboat for the day with his bicycle|
Neil and Alan felt at home on this section of the canal with locks named after these great mariners.
|Certain disaster was narrowly averted when the crew accurately manoeuvred the craft past a submerged tree trunk.|
|Later, as the narrowboat approached their destination for the night at Oxford, they encountered an immoveable obstacle blocking their passage. However, after explaining to the building site staff the importance of their mission they agreed to lift the obstacle on hydraulic rams sufficiently for the narrowboat to squeeze beneath.|
Tuesday 23rd June (very hot and sunny all day)
|Very quickly the narrowboat came upon the giant Osney Lock, but the weir, clearly marked "DANGER", concerned them greatly. However the cheerful lock keeper lifted their spirits as he sold them a licence for their 5 days on the Thames at a mere £141-00|
|The following locks proved quite busy and the crew suffered some crippling delays to their progress.|
Although the river was wide and the sun hot, Neil found it difficult to relax knowing the dangers that existed ahead.
|Despite the impossible mooring conditions at Wallingford, the cunning crew quickly located a suitable position adjacent to some tree roots. After skilfully turning the boat it was soon fastened to the tree roots and nearby fence. The locals were amazed at their ingenuity.|
Wednesday 24th June (another very hot and sunny day)
|Water supplies were located at Cleeve Lock and the crew were relieved to fill their tanks before entering the lock. They were quick to reward themselves with coffee with Hob Nobs.|
Fast ocean going craft followed the narrowboat at dangerously close distances, but the crew were unperturbed even when they chose to overtake the boat at inappropriate places.
|The locals were seen using unusual craft to travel at high speed down the Thames|
|The crew were amazed to find that the local inhabitants lived in large dwellings having underground caverns for their boats|
|After showers the crew made their way to "The Angel on the Bridge" where Racks of Ribs were enjoyed, together with Brakspear ale at £3-40 per pint and served in plastic containers.|
Thursday 25th June (started cloudy, but turned into another fine day)
Shortly the crew admired the sophisticated racing facilities for the forthcoming Regatta and witnessed several teams practicing their rowing skills
|Considerable delays to the crew's mission were encountered at the following locks, due to high levels of shipping in the area.|
|They therefore put Alan's cunning plan into action and turned to call at the Bourne End Marina to top up with 77 Litres of fuel. Using their advanced skills, they persuaded the considerate boat yard staff to allow the narrowboat to stay at the fuelling jetty, whilst they consumed their breakfast.|
|Whilst in Marlow Lock, the crew spoke with another brave mariner who was taking his canoe the entire length of the Thames, through London to reach Southend in 5 days. The crew compared his skills and bravery to their own.|
Beyond all expectations the narrowboat had arrived at Windsor completely on schedule, but the skipper was unable to establish what stress had been endured by the crew.
On returning from the shops, jubilant with their purchases, Alan & Neil were horrified to find that the intolerable pressures on the crew had taken its toll with Ron, who had collapsed with exhaustion shortly after reaching Windsor.
The skipper felt that shore leave to the local Wetherspoons was the only cure possible.
WILL RON RECOVER FROM HIS EXHAUSTION?
WILL THE OTHER CREW SUFFER THE SAME FATE?
SHOULD THE SKIPPER DECIDE NOW TO ABANDON THE ADVENTURE FOR THE SAKE OF HIS BRAVE CREW?
Friday 26th June (rain during the night and cloudy in the morning, but turned into another fine day)
Good views of Windsor Castle seen by the observant crew, as they departed the town.
|A power cut affecting much of the area resulted in the lock system grinding to a complete halt. Intolerable pressure built up as tensions rose to unbearable levels. However, again the crew of the Narrowboat 'Amelia' devised a cunning plan and saved the day.|
Having analysed the problem and fully understanding the complex
hydraulic systems of the lock, the crew set about devising a method of
opening and closing the lock gates using a manual hydraulic pump. Much
to the amazement of the other boaters and the lock staff, the crew took
turns to rotate the massive pump by hand, slowing inching the giant lock
gates open. The narrowboat was quickly able to continue its journey
leaving the other boaters in total awe of the situation.
|Ron and Neil commented on numerous ring necked parakeets in the area. The Laleham flock is rumoured to have originated from escapees from the nearby Shepperton Film Studios that broke out during the shooting of a film set in the tropics.|
The next sections of the journey were un-eventful, but many strange craft and creatures were seen on the Thames in this area.
The splendours of Hampton Court Palace further amazed the crew
|Neil expertly squeezed the narrowboat into a very limited mooring just before Teddington lock. Ron and Alan quickly visited the lock keeper to book their passage through the lock at 6am the following morning and also to pay the £7-00 mooring fee.|
Ron was in awe of the giant
Teddington Lock, but secretly worried about the crew's fate the
The crew were quick to realise that there were no other narrowboats moored and planning to attempt the passage of tidal Thames. This worried them greatly!!
Saturday 27th June (another hot day, with a little thunder in the evening)
The crew were ready for the terrible conditions reported in Central London
The crew counted the 29 bridges that they would pass, admiring Putney Bridge, before the waters became rough.
Fulham Football Club appeared quickly as they were swept downstream at great speed.
Narrowboat "Amelia" was first spotted by an observer on a bicycle approaching Battersea Bridge.
The staff at the Houses of Parliament arranged for Big Ben to strike 9-30am as the crew passed on their way to Limehouse
|The tidal currents were strong as Ron struggled with the tiller to keep the narrowboat away from the giant bridge structure|
The Millennium Bridge was passed in the fastest, deepest and narrowest section on the river, as the crew battled to keep the boat away from HMS Belfast and in line with Tower Bridge
THEIR GOAL ACHIEVED
Narrowboat 'Amelia' is dwarfed by the giant arches of Tower Bridge
However, the crew are only too aware that they will shortly have to make the infamous turn into Limehouse Basin within the next mile
Near disaster was narrowly avoided by the quick thinking actions of the skipper, when a 'Clipper' catamaran, with inexperienced crew, overtook without giving the correct signals
All available power was employed to make headway upstream against the spring tide as the crew made the treacherous turn into the safety of Limehouse Basin
The crew were un-perturbed by the intimidating size of Limehouse lock and the giant rotating gates.
Spending a little longer than planned at Limehouse, due to the statutory recuperation necessary, after the stressful transition of the Thames, the narrowboat left Limehouse with Mark (photographer and Son + bike) on board to tackle the first of the giant Regents Canal Locks.
Strange creatures were seen on this section of the canal
All the crew were amazed how clear
the water was, although this did mean that all the debris in the canal could
be clearly seen.
The news was out and crowds of well wishers lined the waterfront to welcome the crew back from the dangerous tidal Thames.
Incredible scenes of celebrations were seen at Camden Locks, the likes of which had not been witnessed for years.
Mark's girlfriend Ann-Marie joined the narrowboat to join in with the celebrations and can be seen at the front of the boat.
Many girls commandeered a passing narrowboat in an attempt to board 'Amelia' and overwhelm the crew, but they successfully defended the attack.
The narrowboat continued on it's journey through central London. Mark and Ann-Marie sat at the front of the boat but were unaware of the dangerous Angel Tunnel (960 yds) ahead.
The crew decided to take the narrowboat through the Angel Tunnel at 'Warp' factor speed to minimise any distress to the passengers.
After travelling the length of Regents Park the crew admired the views of Little Venice.
Mooring, including a 'text book' turn by Neil, was achieved in Paddington Basin just before a heavy thunder storm. The crew and visitors finished the remaining wine supplies.
Sunday 28th June (yet another hot and sunny day)
The crew were amazed by the giant aqueduct that enabled the canal to cross the North Circular Road close to Hanger Lane.
|The crew marvelled at the new Wembley Stadium that could clearly be see from the Grand Union Canal.||
Because of the torturous schedule that
the skipper had dictated for this section of the mission the crew agreed the
use of all super human effort in an attempt to get ahead of their planned
stopping point. They therefore travelled onward through Cowley and
Uxbridge to reach Harefield. Healthy dinners of Fish Pie (except Ron)
were enjoyed at the 'Coy Carp' accompanied by London Pride, that the crew
felt was a little flat.
Small portions of cheese and biscuits
were sampled with their Hot Chocolate, before the crew took to their bunks,
excited that they were again several hours ahead of their torturous
schedule. However, they were unable to rest knowing that an important,
but fearful task, had to be performed in the morning.
Monday 29th June (another even hotter day)
The crew awoke at a very early hour
fearful of the impending task that had to be undertaken after their Punctual
Porridge. Yes, as there was no point putting it off anymore, they
set about the fearful task of:
CHANGING THEIR SHEETS AND DREADED DUVET COVERS
Some time elapsed before they immerged from the task, but they considered that, despite a few extra lumps, they had achieved a good result.
The crew realised that for the next few days a massive number of locks had to be passed and the total for just today totalled 30.
Whilst sharing a lock with another narrowboat, with inexperienced crew, Ron heroically attempted to keep the boats apart. As a result of the other boats actions, Ron sustained a wet right foot, hurt knee and shoulder. Characteristically Ron made light of the matter, but the other crew feared for his health, knowing that their cooked breakfasts depended on him.
Despite the crew becoming tandemmed with
two ladies, in a narrowboat in very poor mechanical condition, they were
able to make further progress ahead of their schedule, by reaching Berkhampstead for the evening.
Although the crew were desperately tired
after their mammoth journey that day, they were able to summon strength to
visit a very busy and lively public house known as "The Boat". There
they managed a little London Pride and nibbled at a dinner of chilli
con-carne (except Alan & Neil). They were impressed with a walk round Berkhampsted and located a Waitrose store that opened at 8-30am that was
needed to obtain further supplies of bottled water due to the high
consumption in the excessively hot working conditions.
The crew returned to the boat unable to
manage any food or drink and retired to their bunks in an exhausted state,
but expecting a good night in their clean sheets.
Tuesday 30th June (another desperately hot day)
The crew again awoke at an early hour
anxious to start the ascent of further locks. After Perfect Pleasing
Porridge, Neil left to collect new supplies of bottled water (sparkling) from
Alan and Ron tackled the first two locks alone.
The crew decided that they needed to remain
ahead of plan and decided on another torturous day with a further 30 giant locks,
aiming to reach Leighton Buzzard for the evening. This was a tough
target in distressingly hot conditions.
In a responsible way the crew decided not
to have a cooked breakfast, but to have a healthy salad lunch with just a
little pie. Fresh fruit salad was prepared, but unfortunately they ran
short of time and it therefore had to remain safely in the fridge.
Much to the surprise and amusement of the crew, they passed a moored boat with numerous young scantily dressed females. Shortly afterwards they noticed that the boat had set off and was following them to next lock. It transpired that there were 8 girls on board the small craft for a 4 day trip.
The crew battled on "Lock after Lock" in
the unbearable heat knowing that they had to reach Leighton Buzzard.
With a recommendation from a friendly passing boater, they opted to reach
"The Globe" for evening food and entertainment. Eventually they pulled
into quiet moorings just short of the pub, close to an adjacent sewerage
works. They were hungry, exhausted, dirty and in need of nutrition and
maybe some ale. They looked forward to showers followed by the short
walk to "The Globe".
The Globe exceeded the crew's
expectations with excellent Abbots Ale and dinners of Gammon, with Eggs & Pineapple
(Except Ron), consumed outside in a pleasant canalside setting.
Wednesday 1st July (yet another desperately hot day)
The crew were early to rise, anticipating
another busy day on board. The hard and desperately long two previous
days, had meant that "Amelia" was now almost a full day ahead of schedule.
After Plentiful Pulsating Porridge, Neil carried out a re-calculation of the
options for overnight stops, with three relatively leisurely 8 hour days.
On condition that no more disasters occur, it was agreed that the crew
strive to reach Cosgrove tonight and Weedon the following night. This
would mean that Napton would be the target for Friday night, close to the
The narrowboat set off quickly and
efficiently passed four locks, before some quite long stretches of relaxing
However, whilst the crew were enjoying
the scenery and congratulating themselves on getting ahead of schedule, the
skipper reminded them of two further life threatening tunnels that are still
to be negotiated :-
The Blisworth Tunnel - 3057 Yds (The longest tunnel yet to be tackled by the experienced crew)
The Braunston Tunnel - 2042 Yds (The crew did manage this tunnel successfully on previous adventures)
The stress caused to the crew merely
discussing these fearful tunnels required them to immediately moor close to
Milton Keynes and for Ron to prepare an excellent cooked breakfast with
fresh Orange and Mango juice.
The authorities arranged for the Milton Keynes by-pass to be closed to all traffic whilst the narrowboat made its way slowly and carefully over the aqueduct, so as to keep vibration to a minimum.
|The crew persevered with their journey in the blistering heat||
Much development of the Milton Keynes area had been carried out in readiness for the passing of the now famous narrowboat "Amelia".
Cunningly the crew found a shaded mooring
spot when they arrived in Cosgrove and were quick to share their last
supplies of fresh fruit salad. Due to the incredible progress that they had
made that day, arriving at 4:45pm, the skipper allowed a short
relaxation period for the crew.
They were looking forward to dinner at
'The Navigation' that evening and either "The Reverend Jones" or "Olde
Trip" ale, but the thought of the 3,057 yds Blisworth Tunnel the next
day, prayed heavily on their minds.
The crew enjoyed restful healthy non-fattening dinners by the side of the canal, with a little Olde Trip. Neil felt need for an additional pint of ale, which the other crew declined.
No cheese or biscuits were consumed on
board, as the crew had exhausted all supplies. Due to the excess heat
they elected to retire to their bunks leaving the front doors of the boat
wide open. They only fell into light sleep in fear of possible attack,
but delighted that there had been no disasters that day.
Thursday 2nd July (yet another desperately hot day)
The crew awoke even earlier than normal,
fretting about the dangerous Blisworth Tunnel that would be upon them only
too soon. However, putting it at the back of their minds they Prepared
Perky Pugnacious Porridge, before setting off for a 2 hour cruise towards
the Stoke Bruerne flight of 7 locks.
The crew joined up with another very pleasant couple, in a medium sized narrowboat and assisted their passage through the difficult flight of locks, as well as saving water in a very responsible way.
Due to the exceptional performance through the difficult locks, the crew awarded themselves Carte D'or ice creams (Rum & Raisin, Coffee and Chocolate flavours)
Narrowboat 'Amelia' gently entered the tunnel hopeful that they would not meet a boat coming towards them.
Neil elected to navigate the boat through the tunnel, although the strain can be seen on his face.
Neil's worst fears materialised when a narrowboat appeared out of the misty tunnel travelling at great speed and having an inexperienced crew.
Only Neil's quick reactions saved their narrowboat and crew from a fearful end.
The crew were overwhelmed with happiness to see the boat emerge at the end of the tunnel and were in great appreciation of Neil's super-human skill's by navigating the narrowboat to safety.
They immediately moored in a shady location and prepared a healthy lunch of egg sandwiches and hot-dogs, with French mustard.
The crew left the safety of their
moorings in Blisworth for the 3½ mile journey to their planned stopping
point for the evening at Weedon Bec, knowing that they had yet still to pass
the Gayton Junction.
The crew were humbled to find that news of the crew's successful mission had reached the Ministry of Defence who had been quick to arrange a flypast "Salute" for the narrowboat by the last remaining flying Vulcan Jet
Arriving at Weedon Bec at 4-30pm, Neil
was sent to investigate the possible eating and drinking establishments in
the town. Neil returned reporting that Weedon Bec was not the quiet
village that the crew had expected, but busy and noisy having the A45 going
right through the middle and being not far from the main west coast railway
line. He recommended the nearest pub called "The Heart of England",
where the crew enjoyed 2 for 1 steak dinners and Marston Pedigree Ale.
As supplies of cheese and biscuits had
been exhausted some days ago, the crew sat for a while at the back at the boat
in the fading light,
contemplating their successes over the course of their adventure.
reminded themselves that although there is only one day left, they still
have a number of fearful obstacles, including the Braunston Tunnel (2,042
yds), which could still could cause their mission to flounder!! They
retired to their bunks quietly in deep contemplation.
Friday 3rd July (started with thundery rain, but turned into a fine day)
The crew awoke on the final day of their
expedition to the sound of rain
beating on the roof of the narrowboat. They Prepared Penultimate
Porridge, with extra toast, and decided to delay their start until 9-00 am
in the hope that the rain would stop. They departed as planned in very
light rain heading towards the Buckby flight of 7 giant locks.
The locks presented no problems for the
experienced crew, who by the use of radios and an advance lock preparation
scout were able to organise an almost non-stop lock transition, to the
absolute admiration of the other canal users. Norton Junction soon
passed, where the crew reflected back to a previous successful expedition of
the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union.
|In less than 2 miles the last tunnel of the trip would be encountered!! The 2,042 yd Braunston Tunnel is renowned for it's poor ventilation and choking diesel fumes. Unable to see the other end, in total darkness, with the possibility of a collision with another narrowboat, all made the crew extremely nervous.|
|The crew were alarmed to see giant leaks in the tunnel wall that could easily lead to a complete collapse of the tunnel.|
|Yet again the crew had to deal with a boat, with inexperienced crew, travelling at great speed in the opposite direction. The instinctive reactions of the skipper again saved the day and possibly the completed mission.|
After the stress of frightening
experience in the tunnel and tackling the next 6 locks, the crew were
thankful to reach the safety of Braunston and quickly stopped to prepare a
late breakfast without baked beans, but with scrambled egg. The
journey from here took the narrowboat to its home base at Napton,
signalling to the crew the completion of a successful mission.
As Neil pointed out that stopping at the boatyard
would effective isolate the crew from the outside world and any
source of food or ale, they chose to pass the boatyard, but this
would require a complete 180 deg turn in a very difficult and narrow
This was accomplished by Ron, just before mooring in close proximity to the Folly Inn.
The crew prepared for the last night
celebrations of a well planned and executed mission. They
selected the nearby 'Folly Inn' for their evening visit, where they looked
forward to a night of food and drink. Although the Old Hooky ale meet
with the full approval, they considered the food was overpriced and the pub
and staff needed a complete makeover.
The crew celebrated their successful mission and pondered on their next expedition planned for September. However, they contemplated what more dangerous and daring mission that should consider for next year !!!
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