Saturday, August 30, 2014

Quiet morning, busy afternoon.

Rain overnight had cleared by the time we were ready to go today. One or two boats had passed first thing, and Spey, the tar boat we passed yesterday, went down the locks at 11:30 last night!

Just one lock down was Lock 10, the one with the damage to the wash wall. Yesterday there were a couple of volunteers directing traffic, this morning we were on our own.

Lock 10, NaptonIMG_1408


It takes longer to empty this one, leading to the queues yesterday. This is why - IMG_1409

We met boats coming up at the last two locks, then got rid of the rubbish and emptied a loo at the services at the bottom.

Napton Bottom Lock, Lock 8IMG_1413
It’s odd, this is Lock 8, but there are only four locks to the terminus at Hawkesbury Junction. this is because the 3 at Hillmorton are paired, and numbered 7&6, 5&4, 3&2. The Trent and Mersey paired locks on the Cheshire flight both carry the same number, and are identified by the suffix east or west.

From here we had a steady cruise around Napton Hill and past Napton Narrowboats at Coventry Road Bridge.

The obligatory picture of Napton Windmill…IMG_1416

Change over day at Napton Narrowboats.

At Napton Junction AKA Wigram’s Turn the Oxford Canal shares it course with the later Grand Junction Canal.

Wigram’s Turn

In 1805, when the Grand Junction was completed, it formed a fast route from the Midlands to London. This was superior to the old Oxford, being a more direct route and avoiding having to use the River Thames downstream from Oxford. But in order to head west to Birmingham on the Warwick and Napton Canal (1800), it had to use 5 miles of the Oxford Canal, from Braunston to Napton. The section was improved by the Grand Junction Canal Co. but still remained under Oxford Canal ownership. They repaid the investment by charging exorbitant tolls for traffic using “their” bit of the new route.

In an effort to stimulate declining canal trade the whole route from London to Birmingham, including several branches and arms, was amalgamated into what we now know as the Grand Union Canal. In the 1930’s some flights of narrow locks were rebuilt to broad standard, the navigations were dredged and widened and bank reinforcement installed to withstand the projected increase in boat movements. IMG_1424

All in vain, of course. Following WWII there was a huge surplus of ex-army trucks available for knock-down prices, the road network was improving, and it was deemed to be more cost effective to use wheeled, rather than canal-based, transport.

We pushed on, past Shuckborough, and moored near Flecknoe Fields Farm. It’s a popular length of piling here, I was surprised that we were on our own. But only for a while. By this evening there were boats moored all along the next ½ mile of canal.

We’ll be staying here tomorrow, then cruising into Braunston on Monday. Our mail, including my race pack for a week on Sunday, should be at the Post Office by then.

Locks 4, miles 4½ 

1 comment:

Adam said...

You've given me another opportunity to mention one of my favourite bits of canal trivia, concerning the shared Oxford/GU section: boats travelling north on the GU go one way along this section, while boats going north on the Oxford go the opposite way!