Monday last week we were moored opposite the Farm Shop, so when we set off we moved all of 100 yards – and moored up to nip in to the farm shop! They no longer sell Napton Buffalo products, so we just bought some pork sausages and burgers to try, and after saying goodbye to the crew of Lucy Lowther (who reads the blog!) we set off properly!
Straight away we passed yet another canalside home for sale – this one has its own lift bridge!
We were very quickly at Nell Bridge Lock which would take us down to the first of the River Cherwell sections of the Oxford Canal – you have to take this one carefully if the river is up, as there isn't much headroom through the bridge below!
I walked the short stretch to Aynho Weir Lock to get it ready for Gary and Muleless, but luckily a boat had just come up and another was waiting at the bottom to come up too – so I didn't have to work the lock!
The river cuts straight across the canal here from right to left – if the river is up it will push boats over to the wood barrier before the lock – making it difficult to get into. Lucky for us the river is not flowing too hard . . .
and Gary brings Muleless in with out hitting the sides!
The lock is an odd shape – you can fit more than one boat in if the size is right!
I believe the shape is to let more water through, even though it is only about 1 or 2 feet drop!
We were soon passing Aynho Docks where it was quite busy – and not much room to pass!
Further round the bend we were running parallel with the railway and this fabulous viaduct that we usually see from the motorway.
Just then we spotted a nice spot of armco and decided to moor up and enjoy the sunshine – just an hour and a half and 2 1/2 miles after leaving the farm shop!
Gary soon had the shears out to tidy up the towpath, and decided to do a spot of touching up of battle scars – we have to keep up with Chance after all!
Chairs were soon out, and we chilled in the sunshine after a long journey!!!
Just as we were ready to leave in the morning the strimmers and mower arrived, and stopped for a rest at the lift bridge (before trimming the towpath near the boat), so we quickly moved off hoping to get to Somerton Deep Lock before them!
A boat had just come up the lock and told me that the bottom gate was really difficult to shut, so we decided Gary should wait at the top to help me with the gate whilst Muleless went down the lock on her own!
We opened the gate together – and then a boat arrived at the bottom – so we didn't have to shut the gate after all! Gary climbed down the ladder back onto Muleless and moved out of the lock.
This lock definitely lives up to its name – it is 12 ft deep!
We motored on, passing some bankside moorings with huge gardens.
And then this narrowboat complete with torpedo launchers!
This unusual tent was in a garden.
We went through Heyford Common Lock, and as it was warm and sunny again we looked for the next available mooring spot – and found one just before Allens Lock.
We moored up and then NB Harnser went past, and we shouted greetings as they went by!
We decided to have a walk into the village of Upper Heyford to find the pub! Another short cruising day, just 2 1/4 hrs and 3 miles.
Wednesday we moved off, went through Allens Lock and a mile further on found ourselves heading towards another lift bridge that was in the down position, it confused us for a minute as it wasn't the usual black and white painted version, but silver!
As we approached we could see another boat the other side, and thought they were about to open the bridge, but as I approached the single hander on board called to ask if I could open the bridge, as he couldn't work out how to get through it on his own!
I had to pull the bridge down to open it – and then sit on the beam to hold it there – whilst the boats went through – it was impossible for the bridge to remain open without someone holding it, so a single hander would always need assistance from someone – good job we had come along!
Safely through the lift bridge and then we passed another desirable residence!
We were then passing the moored boats on the approach to Heyford Wharf and the Railway Station, and these two characters were moored there!
We were hoping to fill up with water, so after squeezing through the moored boats, and passing a couple of boats coming the other way, we pulled in front of the boat already filling with water to wait our turn.
There were some very nice houses with lovely gardens and narrowboats moored, right opposite the water point – lovely except for the trains that kept whizzing past just behind us.
They also had some unusual security!
It was a very slow tap! Eventually the other boat was full and left and we pulled back to the tap to take our turn, then a hire boat pulled in front of us to wait for the tap too – we gave them the bad news that it was a slow tap and we would be quite a while – but they were happy to wait! We made lunch, and chatted to the other boaters, and then another boat came by and wanted water, but decided not to wait!
For such a busy spot, there isn't much room through the bridge!
Eventually we were full and moved on. Today was getting to be a long day, so we started to look out for a mooring spot!
We headed through Dashwood Lock
and on to North Brook Lock – which had a most unusual overspill weir!
The canal was starting to get very overgrown now – Gary even had to pull Muleless over as he left the lock – or else he would have gone straight into the bushes before he could steer away!
We wanted a nice open spot in the sun if possible, so that we could dry the towels that we had been washing whilst on the move, but the canal just closed in more with trees all around and lots of overgrown towpath!
And then we arrived at Washford Quarry, and as luck would have it there was room to moor! Just then a boat appeared from the opposite direction, but we made our intentions known and he waited whilst we manoeuvred into the spot, assisted by one of the boaters already moored. The other boat then squeezed in on the end, and the 48hr moorings were full!
We had left our mooring 4hrs and 40 minutes before – a really long day for us, even though we had only moved 5 miles!
We got the chairs out and whilst I relaxed and read my kindle, Gary went to explore the quarry with the camera!
When he returned we got chatting to the crew of NB Rivendell who were moored behind us and had helped us pull the boat in. It was them that had passed us on the water point and had not wanted to wait, and also they had been the boat following us when we got stuck with the awkward lift bridge just out of Banbury!
We also discovered that they came from Stubbington (only a couple of miles from our previous home of Gosport!) – what a small world! We had a great chat with Geoff and Ellie, and admired the wooden louver blinds that Geoff had made himself for his front doors!
The next morning they left before us – hope to catch up again soon guys!
The quarry is a lovely spot to moor, but we did have trouble getting right in to the bank!
We were ready to move off at our usual time of 11.20 and we were soon at our first lock of the day, Pigeon Lock.
We were soon passing Enslow Wharf, the home of Kingsground Narrowboats – we had attended one of their open days during the early planning stages of Muleless, so it was another milestone location we were looking out for.
Right next to the Rock of Gibraltar pub was this house with a “floating” patio! It looked a bit precarious though.
The moorings were busy outside the pub, so it was a tight squeeze through!
We passed this narrowboat who must have been trying to contact aliens – just like these giant dishes were!
Then we arrived at Bakers Lock, which was taking us back down to the River Cherwell again, the lock was overflowing – so it looked like the canal was feeding the river – not the other way round!
As we left the lock and headed onto the river we could see the old pump house chimney and the dust from the demolition that was going on. There was a boat moored that had obviously been there for a while!
We followed the river as it meandered around.
Then, in the distance, we could see a narrowboat moored by a white sign that we couldn't read – and were unsure if the river went straight on or to the right!
It was only when we got really close that we could read the sign! and by then we knew we were at the lock and had to go through!
There was a boat just coming through, so after a quick chat we swapped places in the lock with them, and by then a hire boat that was following us arrived at the lock and we waved him in with us – we were in Shipton Weir Lock – another of the strange shaped locks!
We let the hire boat leave first, as we were hoping to moor up soon (before Thrupp if possible), and as another boat was approaching we didn't have to shut the gate, so that was handy!
Unfortunately the towpath here is still very overgrown and the only clear spots were taken, so we were soon passing the pretty gardens of the houses at Shipton on Cherwell and were nearly at Thrupp!
The moorings on Thrupp Wide were full, so we had to follow the hire boat right into Thrupp.
As we passed the service wharf we saw NB Swamp Frogs, and then had to take the sharp right turn to go through the lift bridge, that the hire boat crew were holding open for us – and the boat that had just left the water point!
Gary had to make sure he was going really slowly and carefully through the bridge – just in case Maffi was around – and guess whose boat we passed as we did so!
We were now second in a queue of three boats looking for moorings in Thrupp!
The hire boat managed to pull in by the Boat Inn, and that left us and the other boat going on round until the Jolly Boatman pub – where luckily there was space to moor for both of us!
Another long day- 2hrs 40 mins and 4 miles!
As we were right outside the pub we thought it was rude not to go in – so decided to have lunch and nice cold drink to recuperate!
After lunch, as we were moored amongst trees we thought we would check if there was a more open spot a bit further on. A quick walk found what we wanted, so we moved the boat on another 300 yards to a more open sunny spot. We then walked back along the canal to check out the service wharf and lift bridge (and look for Maffi). We definitely needed the walk after the pub lunch!
We didn't see Maffi, so after a mooch round we returned to the boat and chilled out on the back deck under the sun shade!
Later in the evening there was a strange site – a very tall lady walked past, so Gary popped out to take a photo!