We were away at eight yesterday morning. Hazy sunshine and a cool breeze started the day, the breeze stayed with us but the haze cleared, although it was sometimes cloudy. Still warm, though.
The feeder from Boddington Reservoir joins the canal under a towpath bridge.
Two reservoirs supply the canal at the summit. Apart from the 65 acre Boddington Reservoir, there is also the much smaller Wormleighton Reservoir. Both are well stocked and popular with anglers, and the larger boasts a sailing club!
Contrails in the sky
Remember April 2010, when that unpronounceable Icelandic volcano blew it’s top and grounded all flights into and out of Europe? We had clear, unmarked skies for days.
Boundary Lift Bridge appropriately marks the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire county boundary.
Although the beautiful countryside doesn’t look any different!
We wanted to get going early to get through Tunnel Straight before a lot of boats were on the move.
Approaching Fenny Compton Wharf is a cutting, narrow and overgrown, which was originally a tunnel. In 1868 the roof was taken off, leaving it open to the sky but still narrow.
We did meet two boats, but only in the wider cutting.
The whole length of the South Oxford could do with some serious pruning…
The moorings at Fenny Compton were busy as usual, and the water point had two boats on it so we didn’t stop there. I did pull in just beyond the bridge to dash to the bins with the rubbish, though. Then we pushed on, around the extravagant bends that are characteristic of this contour canal.
Only grass-grown humps and hollows mark the site of the original village of Wormleighton. The new village is over the hill to the right.
The “Old Towne” was deserted in the late 15th century, caused by enforcement of the Enclosures Acts which allowed landowners to “enclose” large areas of land for grazing, thereby displacing the Middle Ages agricultural system of ridge and furrow let to peasants. It’s believed that sixty villagers here lost their livelihoods, and this went on all over Warwickshire and Northamptonshire.
It was starting to get busy on the water as we reached mid-morning. There are several very pleasant overnight moorings on the summit level, and these emptied as the day wore on.
Wedding Footbridge crosses the canal just before it goes around a hairpin bend at Wormleighton Hill.
The a CRT workboat and push tug coming under the bridge. The guy on the towpath is on the lookout for oncoming boats, a wise precaution due to the many blind bends.
If you’re going to meet a boat…
…it might as well be on a sharp bend!
More overhanging greenery, but the shade was welcome!
I finally got fed up with dodging oncoming boats and pulled in just before Bridge 124, Spurfoot Bridge.
Rain came on in the evening, which did freshen and cool the air a bit, so we had a better night’s sleep than of late.
Up early again this morning to avoid the madding crowd, we were off at eight o’clock.
Spurfoot Bridge this morning
Poor little moorhen chicks haven’t got webbed feet, so they have to paddle furiously against the flow of the water as we go past.
One way to avoid having to pay for a CRT license – “sorry guv, not connected to the canal, see.”
About forty minutes took us to Napton Top Lock at Marston Doles, and for once the plan worked! One boat just pulling off the water point, and no-one else waiting for the lock just around the corner.
While we filled the tank another couple of boats turned up from behind us, but it wasn’t too bad as boats coming up the locks had started to arrive as well.
As well as the reservoirs supplying water, back-pumping up the locks from the pound below Lock 15 helps keep the levels up.
Water coming back up to be reused
Considering that each boat using the locks here and at Claydon take around 150,000 litres (33,000 gallons) of water from the summit pound, you realise that every method of conserving water must be considered. This water is taken from below the second lock, and above the third is a canal arm, now truncated, that used to run to a steam-powered pump to raise water from lower down. This brought water, through a series of pipes, all the way up the flight of nine locks, and the arm was used to supply coal for the engine.
When the reservoirs were opened on the summit pound, around 1805, the backpumping fell into disuse. The remains of the arm are now used for moorings.
Lock 15, the modern pumps are at the end of the chamber on the right
Adkin’s Lock, No 14, water buffalo grazing in the field
They produce milk and meat…
We’d never intended to go all the way to bottom of the locks, so stopped on the straight pound between L11 and L12, soon after noon.
It’s been busy, boats up and down all afternoon, and there’s still one or two around this evening.
So tomorrow, after a visit to the village stores, we’ll be off down the remaining four locks then on towards Braunston.
Locks 5, miles 3½