Friday, June 29, 2012

From Cut to River

We had an enjoyable evening in The Boat Inn on Monday night, then decided to move on on Tuesday morning. First, though a good walk with Meg.
Poppys in cornfieldSAM_1129 Poppys near Thrupp

Thatched cottage and Annie’s Tearooms, Thrupp.SAM_1130 Annie's Tea Rooms

Canalside Cottages, ThruppSAM_1131 Thrupp Cottages

We didn’t get too far, two miles and one lock and we were moored again above Kidlington Green Lock.

It’s a bit quieter there than down in Thrupp, and the temptation of the pub is removed!
We stayed for two nights, walking the dogs and having a trek to Sainsbury’s to top up the cupboards, then set off yesterday at around 11:00. Quite a few boats had gone past heading south, the river has no warnings posted for the first time in a number of days, so I guess that’s where they’d be heading. Like us.

Another reason to move, at least from my point of view, was that the mowing contractors had just gone by. Meg and freshly cut grass seem to have a magnetic attraction, at least until she gets back on board, when it all miraculously falls off!

It’s a fairly uninteresting mile and a half to Dukes Cut, with a stop on the way to top up the water tanks.
Down Dukes Lock and Mag’s had to make a sharp right turn into the entrance of Dukes Cut, to enter the uninspiringly named Lock 44B.

Lock 44B. Like the name, the location isn’t inspiring either.SAM_1134 Lock 44B

Dukes Cut is the northern-most of the two links between the Oxford Canal and the River Thames. It’s only a quarter mile long, joining the stream leading to Wolvercote Mill. From there the channel follows the winding mill stream to the river, passing Kings Weir on the way.

On the mill streamSAM_1137 Mill Stream

Kings Weir, well protected from errant boaters.SAM_1138 Kings Weir
They don’t look so savage, do they.SAM_1140 Kings Weir

The channel does a sharp right here, and you start to feel the first effects of the river as you turn into the flow to the weir.

Old barge tied next to the lock islandSAM_1141 Back of Kings Lock

Out onto the river, looking back at Kings LockSAM_1142 Kings Lock

The forecast was for showers in the afternoon and it looked as if we were going to get wet as we headed upstream towards Eysham.

Lowering skies.SAM_1143 Thames

I started looking for  spot to moor; I’d encouraged George and Carol to move today and I’d not be flavour of the month if we all got wet through. I’d almost reconciled myself to getting to Swinford Bridge when a suitable looking spot appeared on the north bank. Gently drifting in, it was deep enough and the bank was just the height of the gunwale, so that’d do.

Tying up against our own hay meadow.SAM_1147 Moored Between Kings and Eynsham
That cloud had blown over, and it started to brighten up by the time Rock’n’Roll arrived.

Here come the Rockers.SAM_1154 Moored Between Kings and Eynsham

Rather than do some extensive veg trimming, they breasted up to us, then out came the chairs and a couple of bottles of wine to enjoy the rest of the afternoon with.

Breasted up, Wytham Great Wood in the backgroundSAM_1155 Moored Between Kings and Eynsham
That’s Meg in the foreground, having a good roll in the grass.

While we were enjoying wall to wall sunshine, over in Leicestershire they were being battered by massive hailstones. My sister-in-law’s car was damaged, roof and bonnet dented and screen broken, and their caravan, with a thin aluminium shell, is pretty well written off. Luckily no-one seems to have been hurt.
June weather, eh.

Locks 4, miles 5¾ (since Thrupp)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Onward and Thruppward

After a very peaceful night near Kirtlington we were on the move at 9 o’clock this morning, heading down to Pigeon Lock.

Pigeon Lock-bound, George on the towpathSAM_1098

Down the lock and we moored just beyond Bridge 214 to walk back to the village. It was a bit further than I thought, over 1½ miles in fact. So we didn’t get going again till midday. Meanwhile Mags had been amusing herself feeding the local moorhens.
Stein and Jacquie passed on NB Like Ducks 2 Water and paused under the bridge to say hello, but we were still in the village so Mags did the honours on her own. Sorry to have missed you, guys.

Moving on it was only a short distance to Caravan Lift Bridge, so George, once again, walked ahead to lift it for both boats. No need though, it was already up.

George watching Carol through the lift bridge.SAM_1109
The abutment has certainly taken some damage, George didn’t drop the bridge as it didn’t look safe!

We expected it to be busy at Enslow Bridge, and we weren’t disappointed. SAM_1112

The Rock of Gibraltar has moorings on the canal, and the association doesn’t end there. It was built in 1780 to refresh the navvies constructing the canal, and the first landlord, Henry Baker, must have been well respected as they named the next lock after him.

Rock’n’Roll leaving [Henry] Baker’s LockSAM_1115

Just before arriving at the lock we met Maffi and friend on a boat they were moving up the canal, arranging to see them in the pub later.

Maffi boat movingSAM_1114


At Baker’s Lock the canal joins the River Cherwell for just under a mile. Although the level indicator showed just under the red zone, it didn’t seem to be flowing that fast and we had a steady few minutes enjoying the deep water under the base-plate.

On the river. Pity it’s only a mile. SAM_1119

The man-made watercourse is regained at Shipton Weir Lock, only 2½ feet deep but very slow filling and emptying compared to the others.

Shipton Weir LockSAM_1122
It’s another of those odd shaped chambers that ensures a respectable volume of water goes downhill when the lock is used.
In the background is the old Blue Circle cement works, built in the 1920’s and closed in the 1980’s.

Shipton Cement Works
SAM_1123 I guess it’s just too costly to demolish it.

It’s just a short distance from here to Thrupp, where we watered up and emptied before mooring beyond the lift bridge.

Into ThruppSAM_1126

Moored near the Boat InnSAM_1128

Now we wait for the Thames to start to behave itself again. Currently most of the river has Strong Stream Warnings posted.

Locks 3, miles 4¼

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunshine and showers.

Well the forecast got that bit right, what they didn’t was the timing. Heavy showers moving in after 13:00, that was the prediction, so we got off at around 09:45, planning to be done and dusted before the rain arrived.
No chance, Somerton Deep Lock was only 15 minutes away and that’s where we got our first dousing.

Splendid lock cottage at Somerton DeepSAM_1069 Somerton Deep Lock

It is deep, as well. Twelve feet in fact.SAM_1070 Somerton Deep Lock
I mentioned yesterday that these single bottom gates were heavy to swing. Well this one I found almost impossible to close, especially with the recent shower making the footing slippery. I finished up with a rope around the end of the balance beam and back across my shoulders, so I could pull from a position of my choosing.

The brisk breeze kept blowing the clouds along, moving areas of sunlight and shade across the fields.

Sunshine and shadeSAM_1074 Sun shine and Shadows

Around Upper Heyford there was a row of pollarded willows on the bank, looking like those Troll dolls you could get in the 70’s.

PollardedSAM_1075 Pollarded Willows
Pollarding involves cutting back the larger branches which encourages lots of thin, whippy branches to grow. These are used in basket and hurdle making.

Allen’s Lock is close to the village of Upper Heyford and is popular for a Sunday afternoon visit.

Leaving Allen’s Lock, gongoozler on bridge.SAM_1080 Allen's Lock

Lower Heyford, a little further down the canal, is another busy spot. Moored boats, a lift bridge, the river and a boatyard all combine to make it a spectators paradise. And there’s a railway station to bring them…

Mill Lift Bridge, Lower Heyford. George is on duty, obscured behind onlookers.SAM_1081 Mill Lift Br

A bit tight for space.SAM_1083 Busy in Lower Heyford

Oxfordshire Narrowboats hire base at the wharfSAM_1086 Lower Heyford

We were following a day-boat, Jolly Boatman, from the hire base. They’d been up the canal a distance, and now were having a look southward. A little nervous, the steerer dived for the towpath each time a boat came the other way, and didn’t move up from tick-over even when we’d passed the moorings. I had to keep dropping out of gear to stay behind, so was pleased when he agreed to my asking if we could pass.
George, steering Rock’n’Roll, was also able to go past soon after.

We had a bit of a hold-up at Dashwood Lock, a boat was waiting to go down and the crew was struggling to wind paddles and open gates while holding umbrellas against the driving rain as another heavy shower swept over.

R’n’R took lead position again here, and we got to the pretty Northbrook Lock to see George chasing about, closing the bottom gates after Carol then dashing back to draw the paddles at the top for us.

George closing up after R’n’R, just before trotting back to start the lock for us. What a star.SAM_1087 Northbrook Lock 
This lock is set in a delightful wooded stretch, full of birdsong this afternoon, with damsel flies flitting in and out of the shafts of sunlight.

Dropping down NorthbrookSAM_1092 Northbrook Lock

Damsel Fly on locksideSAM_1090
The next couple of miles run through overhanging trees, narrow with reedy edges and an overgrown towpath. You could be forgiven for thinking that you were on a river.

Beautiful wooded length with the River Cherwell alongside.SAM_1094 Almost river

We moored up partway along here, a mile or so above Pigeon Lock.

Moored in the woodsSAM_1096 Moored above Pigeon Lock

All being well our mail should be at the Post Office in Kirtlington so I can pick that up and some shopping tomorrow.

Just off the towpath above the river there was a stack of branches trimmed off the trees. So I got out my trusty bow-saw.

Well, you just have to, don’t you?
SAM_1097 Bit of wood

It’s a fine evening, no traffic noise, just birds happily twittering to each other. We’ll stop here again.

Locks 5, miles 8

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Off we go again….

We spent the last two days tied up near Banbury, waiting out the weather. In fact, Thursday wasn’t as bad as predicted, but Friday was worse, so it was a good move.
This morning was the first time in three days that Meg came back from a walk still dry, at least from the armpits (legpits?) upwards!

We pulled pins at around 10, us on point today.

Leaving our mooring of two days near Bridge 172.SAM_1036 Leaving Br 172
Although dry it’s still pretty windy, you can see that the tree-tops are bent over.

The M40 has been a constant background to our stay here, but I’m glad we were on this side, upwind, of it.

Under the M40 (again)SAM_1037 M40
On the other side the noise from the carriageway was deafening, even on a Saturday. I dread to think what it’s like during rush hour. (Then again, if it’s anything like the M25 or the M63, it’ll be fairly quiet at that time. Traffic is mostly stationary.)

Grants Lock was our first today, a little over 20 minutes away.SAM_1039 Grants Lock
All the locks today were unusual for narrow ones, in that they have single gates at the bottom end. Most narrow lock chambers have a pair of mitred gates in this position.
The paddles are mounted on the gate. It makes for easy working from one side of the lock, but those gates can be heavy.

Spells of sunshine highlighted the newly washed countryside as we headed slowly south.

OxfordshireSAM_1040 Oxfordshire
You might have noticed that the chimney has made an appearance again. Well it was so damp and miserable yesterday that we had to have a fire, if only for the cheerful glow…

The village of Kings Sutton lies to the east of the canal, the other side of the River Cherwell. The spire of St Peter and St Paul’s Church is visible for some distance like All Saints’, Braunston. And also like Braunston it’s decorated with stone “crockets”. That’s the knobbly bits up the sides.

St Peter and St Paul’s, King’s Sutton, rises above the trees.
SAM_1044 Kings Sutton Church
Looking at the website, it would be well worth a visit, but it’s a roundabout route from the canal, with the river in the way. The village was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as “Svdtone”, and was listed as belonging to the crown, which state of affairs continued until the estate was granted to Richard De Camvill in 1156 by Henry II for his support.
The royal prefix didn’t appear for another 200 years (Suttun Regis in 1252, then Kinges Sutton in 1294).

There’s a lock on the canal here too.

Kings Sutton LockSAM_1045 Kings Sutton Lock
Meg met a beautiful English Setter here, who lives at the lock cottage.

Lots of tail waggingSAM_1046 Meg's mate

Leaving King’s Sutton we dived under the M40 for the last time before it veers off to the east and heads towards London. There’s a contrast of old and new here, the motorway bridge and the wooden lift bridge both crossing the canal within a hundred yards.
SAM_1051 M40 and Br 183
The motorway crossing was built around 1990, and the lift bridge dates from 2009!
Got you there, didn’t I! Although to be fair the lift bridge is a replacement….

The canal follows a horseshoe course out to the west, before arriving at Nell Bridge. We passed a field full of flowering something or other, a delicate shade of Wedgwood.

Blue stuffSAM_1053 Field full of blue stuff

There’s a Farm Shop here (oh, why didn’t we stop!), BW maintenance yard and another lock.

Farm Shop near Nell Bridge. Sausage, bacon and free range eggs. All home grown.SAM_1055 Farm Shop at Nells Br
Nell Bridge Lock and Nell Bridge itselfSAM_1058 Nells Br
I took the chimney off again here!

SAM_1057 Nells Bridge

The marker on the right indicates headroom from water level. As you can see from the picture above it’s fairly critcal. This section below the lock has the river running across it and is therefore subject to varying water levels.

Today, although we’ve had a fair bit of rain, the stream was quite gentle.

Mags waiting for Aynho Weir Lock.SAM_1062 Aynho Weir
It’s a good job that the flow was amiable; it took me a while to fill the lock as I hadn’t realised that a previous boat had left half a bottom paddle up.

Just a piece of trivia; I already mentioned that the county boundary follows the river. Well, as we've now crossed the river... Yes we're in Northamptonshire, but only for a mile and a quarter till we cross it (the boundary) again.

In the curiously shaped Aynho Weir LockSAM_1063 Aynho Weir Lock
The shape is to ensure that a decent lockfull of water is sent downhill, even though the fall is only a foot. No you can’t really get two narrowboats in, and even if you could, that sort of defeats the object, doesn’t it?

Both boats pulled over to avail ourselves of the services on offer at Aynho Wharf, just a mile further down the canal.

We’re done, pulling away from Aynho WharfSAM_1065 Aynho Wharf
Carol is refitting R’n’R’s water tank cap. You can tell it’s still windy, just look at the willow tree.
It’s a good feeling, having full water and diesel tanks and empty loos. The boaters Sacred Trinity.

We had intended to moor somewhere near Somerton, another lock and a couple of miles further on, but spotted a pleasant looking bit of bank near Bridge 193 so pulled in there instead.

Moored about a mile from Aynho Wharf.SAM_1067 Moored Near Br 193
Although windy it’s been fairly mild and thankfully dry. Tomorrow we’ll head on a bit further, it’s supposed to be nice… although it's raining now.

Locks 4, miles 6½