Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Up to the summit level

One of those great days today. When everything drops together perfectly, as if it was designed that way.

We decided on an earlier than normal start, to make up for yesterdays truncated trip. Much the same weather though, still breezy.

In an hour or so we were at Napton Junction. A previous visit here saw us turn right, staying on the GU Main Line, heading to Warwick and Birmingham. But today it was on to pastures new, straight on to Banbury and Oxford.

Napton Junction. To the right, the Main Line to Birmingham, to the left Wigrams Turn Marina.
The way to Birmingham
The canal does a wide loop around Napton Hill, and the famous windmill comes into view as it approaches the bottom of the Napton flight of locks. These lift the navigation the final 70 feet or so, via 9 locks, to the summit level at 380 feet.

Napton Windmill, visible for miles.
We reached the bottom lock, and were lucky to see just one boat in front of us. We’d expected there to be quite a queue.
The locks were easy to work, and we made good time, some of them against us, and with the odd boat coming down, some of them ready for us to go straight in.

Into the flight

Near the top, between Napton Atkins Lock and Marston Doles, there’s a short arm which used to have a pumping engine, to raise water back up the flight. It’s now used for moorings.

The Old Engine Arm.

There’s also an opportunity for Blogger spotting, NB Harnser was moored on the main line.

NB Harnser
The final lock, Napton Top Lock at Marston Doles

Clearing the top lock at Marston Doles, the navigation starts to wind extravagantly, first east, then west, but every turn taking it further south. Apart from one, that is. Near bridge 127 I thought I was having a “senior moment”, seeing Napton Windmill ahead of us again. Looking at the map made me feel better. It was indeed the same windmill, we’d taken a short excursion back north around a spur of Wormleighton Hill.

The countryside around here is beautiful. Rolling hills, arable and grazing fields marked out in that typically English fashion. This really is a delightful area, very similar to the Leicester Line summit level.

Open country on the summit.
Curious Calves
We pulled in near Ladder Bridge. Mooring opportunities are limited, and this seems to be a popular spot. We’re looking out to the north, and can see for miles.

Took Meg for an explore and finished up at the village of Wormleighton. Just a small hamlet, but it has a remarkably robust looking church, built from brown stone in the 13c. It looks good for another 800 years. I forgot to take my camera, though.

It’s been a very enjoyable trip today, and could only have been better if that brisk wind would drop. The summit runs for another 6 miles, then it’s all downhill to Oxford. Literally, but I hope not metaphorically!

Locks 9, miles 11

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