Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Not far now….

Well, today was supposed to bring rain. But it’s gone 6 now, the sky is still clear and the sun is shining. Not that I’m complaining, though!

Had a superb walk around to Steeple Aston last evening. It looks like a place worth spending a bit of time exploring. It’s even got it’s own folly, looking like the gable of a large building, standing in the middle of a field. Not to mention a couple of llama farms. Or maybe they were alpacas…..
Then we swung around to pick up the canal again at Somerton Mill.
Forgot my camera, of course, so you’ll have to look at the pictures on the village’s own website.

Slightly later away today, around 09:30. The wind is still brisk, making slow speed manoeuvres a bit of a chore.

The first lock of the day was just 10 minutes away, and we were soon through and on to Lower Heyford. The wharf here is the base of a hire fleet, and space is at a premium.

Not a lot of room to squeeze through. Heyford Wharf from the water point.

We topped up the water tank, then carried on. The canal continues to be pleasant to cruise, although it’s a bit shallow in place.

Dashwood Lock is in a fine location, with long views across the river valley.
After Northbrook Lock the canal runs through a leafy section, full of birdsong.

Then it’s back to the bustle of Enslow Wharf, home to Kingsground Narrowboats. There are several examples of their work moored here, with the distinctive KG insignia in the livery.

Enslow Wharf.
Someone likes good TV reception! No, seriously, it's the big dish at the Satellite Earth Station.

At Bakers Lock (named for one of the canal contractors, who was also Landlord of the Rock of Gibraltar pub at Enslow), the canal drops down onto the River Cherwell to share it’s course for a mile or so.

Bakers Lock
This was not a solution favoured by the canal builders, leaving the navigation vulnerable to closure in very wet weather, but it does ensure a ready supply of water. Another examples of this is at Alrewas on the Trent and Mersey.
I usually enjoy river sections, the character of the waterway is more natural, the water is clearer and somehow smells different. But I’m afraid I wasn’t impressed with this one. The water remained turbid and the channel just seemed like a broader stretch of canal. It did twist and turn like a river should, but then so does the Oxford!
The section finishes at Shipton Weir Lock, another lozenge shaped chamber to dump a useable volume of water back into the canal.

Shipton Weir Lock.
There’s a derelict cement factory visible from the lock, looking like a medieval fort. It used to use the canal for transport of materials.

Cement Factory
Another mile or so took us to Shipton On Cherwell where we pulled in for the night near the church.
From here it’s just 7 miles to Oxford, with 4 locks to negotiate. That’ll take us close to the city. But we may stay a bit further out, near Dukes Cut, and then I’ll catch a bus in for the race on Sunday. We’ll decide after a recce tomorrow.

Took Meg for a walk across the water meadows to Hampton Gay, a "lost" village, intending to then go to Hampton Poyle, returning via Thrupp. But poorly marked tracks, No Entry signs, and a field of inquisitive bullocks put paid to that. So we retreated back to the canal and had a walk along the towpath instead.

Locks 6, miles 9.

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