We were expecting Family to visit us on Sunday and were hoping to be in Thrupp for them to find us easily. As we were only on a 2 day mooring, on Friday we headed off at our usual time of 11.10 am in search of water.
About 200 yds ahead the canal went under the main road, and straight after the bridge is a water tap. We pulled in, and pulled right up to the long term moorers in front, but decided that we would be blocking the canal if we stopped there, so would get water further on.
We carried on, and just a bit further up was our first lock of the day, Roundham Lock. All went well to start with, I set the lock, Gary brought Muleless in.
We worked through the lock – no problem there. I closed the gate as Muleless left and climbed on the boat. As we headed off under the bridge there was a rattling sound from the prop – sounded like a stick had gotten caught up. Gary gave a burst of reverse, and then tried forward again, we still had the noise, and knew we had something round the prop!
We pulled over to the lock landing and tied up with the centre rope – this shouldn't take long we thought!
Wrong! Gary spent the next hour trying to remove the plastic bag and a load of string from the prop! The string was so tight he was struggling to get it loose, so had to revert to unbolting the prop and moving it forward to gain access to the string!
Of course two boats chose that moment to approach the lock – one from each end! As we were blocking the lower lock landing I popped back to explain to the approaching boat and apologise for being in the way, then I went up to the lock to let the boat there know what was going on! They had arrived first and had started to fill the lock to come down, so at least the other boat could just hold back and wait for them to exit.
After they had gone through, as Gary was still struggling down the weed hatch, we decided it was best to move the boat away from the lock landing so we weren't in the way. Just as well we did, as again boats approached from both directions!
Eventually the prop was freed, Gary put everything back together, changed into a dry t-shirt, had a drink and we were free to move on again! Oh well, we have been doing really well and haven't had hardly anything stuck on the prop – even with our trip through Leicester!
The next hazard, according to my e-canal map, was bridge 228 which was marked as low!
We passed under it OK, but would definitely have to be careful coming back or we might lose the chimney!
Then we arrived at Kidlington Green Lock, which had a very long overspill weir which tried to pull Muleless onto it, so Gary had to put Muleless’s nose right on the gate as I readied the lock for us!
Then as he reversed away so that I could open the gate the weir still pulled him over, but not quite so much!
Our next hazard this trip was another lift bridge that was in the down position!
Lift Bridge 231 is locked in the down position for vehicles to cross. This time there are mooring bollards, so armed with my BW key I went to read the instructions!
There is an official BW (CRT now) notice with instructions of how to release the lock, but unfortunately they tell you to insert your key and turn it clockwise to release the locking mechanism – you actually have to turn it 1/4 turn anti-clockwise, and this has been scratched onto the instructions as an addition!
Anyway, I unlocked the bridge and it swung up out of the way, and Muleless came through. As Gary pulled in to the bollards the other side of the bridge we saw another boat approaching, so waited for him to go through the bridge before I pulled it down and relocked it.
I climbed back on the boat and we headed under the bridge. We knew there was a water tap somewhere down here – and we realised it was just after the first 2 boats moored after the bridge! Gary could have gone straight there whilst I waited with the bridge up!
Never mind, the tap was not in use, so we pulled in and started to fill the tank. I knew that Dukes Lock and Dukes Cut were just ahead, so leaving Gary with Muleless I walked on past all the boats moored on the permit holders moorings (most of which were a bit tatty to say the least!) and went to check out the junction.
This was Dukes Cut Lock (leading directly to the Thames) and the cut beyond.
I was expecting something grander!
This is the Oxford Canal beyond the junction heading into Oxford under that traffic jam!
Our goal today was to turn round in the junction, as being 60ft long we wouldn't be able to turn round further down unless we went through Isis Lock and onto the Thames! We wanted to save the Thames experience until another time, so when we had finished filling with water, we headed down to Dukes Lock to turn round.
As usual I had to set the lock for us then Muleless went in. You can see the A34 in the distance, with the traffic jam on it!
I worked Muleless through the lock and stood at the lock with the gate open, so that Gary could go to the junction to turn the boat.
Then he came back into the open lock, and I worked him up again!
Back in Dukes Lock, heading north now!
Mission accomplished for today! Filled with water and turned round. Now all we needed to do was find a mooring before Thrupp!
We made our way back through the locked down lift bridge and back to Kidlington Green Lock, where there was a nice mooring spot just below, that we fitted in nicely. For such a short trip it had been a very long day – 5 hrs 20 mins!!
Just as we were going to bed there was the most terrific thunder storm! We kept seeing forked lightning (no pictures, sorry) and eventually it did rain really hard!
Saturday we had a nice short run heading back to Thrupp ready for our visitors. As we left Kidlington Green Lock there was a strange sight approaching.
I waited at the lock whilst Gary moved out of the way.
The guys in the pedalo swan were heading to Oxford for charity – I had seen them mentioned in other peoples blogs and knew they were heading our way. I think they made a two week journey from somewhere on the Trent and Mersey all the way to Oxford!
Next was that tight bridge we had to go under – we had to stay really close to towpath side to make sure there was room to get through!
Just one more lock and we were back at Thrupp. The spot we had left was still free, so Gary pulled in there whilst I walked round the corner to see if the moorings near the Boat Inn had space – they did, so a quick phone call got Gary coming round to moor up on the 2 day spots in front of the pub!
That deserved another pub lunch, this time in the Boat Inn! Scrummy!
Back to the boat after lunch and we had to prepare for visitors, so there was much washing of boat and cleaning going on and when we had finished we had a visit from Yvonne and Roy who were in their camper van nearby and had come for dinner in the pub – we were still full so just joined them for a drink! Weren’t we good.
Sunday was forecast to start off sunny but turn into sunny intervals – as usual the weathermen got it wrong. It was just grey! But at least it didn't rain.
The first wave of family arrived at 10am. My Brother Terry, his wife Wendy and my Mum and Ben the Border Collie. Terry and Wendy had done some shopping for us (essentials – wine, beer, cider!) so the first job was to get that stowed out of the way, then I gave Mum the full boat tour – it was her first visit to Muleless, and she has never been on a canal boat before, so it was all new to her! About 10.30 the second wave of family arrived, my nephew Chris and niece Cheryl, it was their first visit too, so after I had finished Mum’s tour, I gave them one too!
Refreshments were sorted out, teas, coffees, cold drinks and T&W had brought doughtnuts too, a real treat – Gary wont let me have any normally!!
Then it was all aboard for the start of our daytrip. First stop water and pumpout at Thrupp Services! We pull out all the stops for our visitors!
The service wharf had been free as Gary pulled away from our mooring, but by the time I had lifted the bridge ready to go under, someone had pulled onto the water point! All was not lost though, as Maffi was just launching some canoes (or kayaks!) and told Gary to brest up to the Milly M and use his tap whilst the other boat filled. As this was sorted out an the water was running we saw a hire boat approaching the lift bridge, and its crew trying the pull the bridge up instead of using the electric controls!
I hurried back to the bridge shouting to them that they needed their BW Key to operate the bridge, but the boat kept coming, and as Terry and I crossed the bridge the hire boat actually hit the bridge! The Hirers turned out to be German (or Dutch?) so english was not clearly understood! The crew retrieved their BW key and I assisted them with bridge instructions, the bridge went up and the boat went through – straight on and hit the opposite edge of the canal! By now, both Maffi and Gary were shouting instructions to the steerer (slow down, reverse etc) but he clearly didn't want to be told – with a “I know what I doing” he proceeded to try to ram the edge of the canal, the Milli M and Muleless as he collected his crew and made the sharp left turn to carry on up the canal! Luckily his crew, along with Gary and Maffi managed to push the boat away from trouble, and they carried on, out of our way!
We can see why Maffi says he sees it all at Thrupp!
By now the other boat had filled with water, and so had we, so as he moved away Gary took Muleless over the the services so that we could use the pump out. That went smoothly, and our visitors enjoyed chatting to Maffi and making a fuss of Molly whilst Gary and I did the business! It didn't take long, so with many thanks to Maffi, we finally moved off for our family day trip with all on board.
We were heading up the canal towards the river Cherwell, so everyone was enjoying their first views of the canal from a moving boat – including Ben the dog!
We were soon approaching Shipton Weir Lock, I jumped off as usual to prepare the lock, and Terry, Wendy and Ben also followed to see how it all worked.
I had to empty the lock for us to enter, so whilst we waited for the level to equalise Terry let Ben off his lead for a run round – they often walk by canals, so knew Ben wouldn’t jump in to the water.
Ben ran across the top gate like a pro – but when he wanted to come back over, he was using the bottom gate – and there is not a proper walkway on it because of the bridge over the top – and before we knew it SPLOSH!
PANIC! Luckily this lock hasn't got a big rise/fall – only about 2ft at the moment and it was just about equalised. Ben surfaced and tried to climb out, but of course couldn't, so Terry called him to make him swim over to the ladder where he was getting ready to get him out! Ben swum over, and Terry went down the ladder to get hold of Ben, and he had to go down a couple of rungs into the water so that he could reach the harness that Ben was wearing (lucky it wasn't just a collar!).
Terry hauled Ben as high as he could and a chap who was just sorting out his family and canoes to pass over onto the river, ran over (beating Gary and Chris as they were further away, but on their way to help) and hauled Ben the last couple of feet and back onto dry land!
Disaster averted, everyone could now see the funny side of what could have been a terrible end to a lovely day. The canoeist was heartily thanked and Ben was put back on his lead. After a few shakes and rolls in the grass he couldn't see what all the fuss was!
Terry had wet trousers, socks and shoes, but although it was grey it wasn’t cold, so elected to walk Ben down the towpath to let him dry out – he definitely wasn't allowed on Muleless whilst still dripping!
We worked Muleless through the lock, accompanied by another smaller boat who had caught us up, we left them to shut the gates and with Terry, Chris and Ben walking, carried on up the river.
The next lock was luckily uneventful, and as Ben was nearly dry now, everyone got on board, and Terry could take off his wet socks and shoes.
As I was in the galley sorting out drinks again, a strange thing happened – Gary appeared – he had left Chris steering the boat – and a good job he did too!
We passed through Pigeon Lock (Gary back in control again) and managed to moor up at the quarry for lunch. If we had been able to guarantee stopping there we would have arranged a barbecue, but instead we just had sandwiches etc.
The sun still wasn't out, so we ate lunch on the boat, and then left the quarry to turn in the winding hole just 200 yds up.
The trip back was achieved without any drama, so I had time to take some photos!
Terrys shoes had dried out enough to use again comfortably, so now he had a go at the locks!
Whilst Cheryl kept an eye on Ben!
Chris and Wendy going down in the lock.
This time through Shipton Weir Lock Terry kept a tight hold of Ben!
Ben also like to bark at the water churned up by the prop – and Terry kept a tight hold – just in case!
Mum had been a bit chilly outside, so was enjoying the trip inside in the warm.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the trip back to Thrupp.
As we pulled up to the lift bridge we saw there was space on the 7 day moorings, so we pulled in and moored up there.
We had a brilliant day, and everyone (even Ben) enjoyed themselves. As they had a 2 hr drive home it was time to say goodbye.
After final hugs and waves everyone left us to relax!
I think we might stay here for a few days to recuperate!