We ended up staying at Thrupp until Thursday – it took a lot of relaxing to recuperate from the family visit!
We spent a lovely evening with Rob and Suzie from NB Swampfrogs. They are from our “neck of the woods” on the south coast. We forgive Rob for being a Southampton Supporter! They are heading off to the Kennet and Avon, so we look forward to reading about their adventures on their blog, and look forward to meeting up again soon.
When we pulled pins on Thursday Gary had to reverse Muleless back about 3 boat lengths, under the lift bridge and on to the services – rather than head down to Dukes Cut again to turn round!
With two very smart boats behind (NB Swamp Frogs and NB What a Lark) he had to be careful!
Easy does it!
Mission accomplished! and without any boats appearing either!
We pulled on to the services and started to fill with water. Of course it wasn't long before Maffi and Molly appeared, so we gave Maffie a cup of tea (too early for beer!) and had a good chat with him and some of the other Thrupp locals whilst we waited.
As soon as we had filled up we made the now very familiar trip back through the river section and on to the quarry – where to our surprise there were no other boats moored – so we had the place to ourselves!
On Friday, we set of as usual about 11.30 and made our way up Northbrook Lock (no. 38) without incident, but when we got to Dashwood Lock (No. 37), it was a different matter.
It started fine, I emptied the lock for us to go in, worked Muleless up, having been joined by the lady from the boat following us, and as we reached the top and we opened the top gate, a boat appeared above and pulled in to the lock landing, I hopped on the boat, leaving the other lady by the open gate to help the other boat (who was a single hander) close it.
As we started to move out of the lock the boat at the top pulled off the lock landing, but instead of just waiting for us to exit the lock, revved up and shot towards us – at this stage we were still half in the lock (a good 30 ft of us). She (yes it was a lady driver!) rammed into us as if trying to squeeze down the side (totally impossible in a narrow lock!). We shouted to her to stop and let us exit the lock – and Gary added that she had scraped our paint! and she gave a sarcastic “sorry”!
We scrapped past her and looked back to see her “bouncing” into the lock!
A bit further on we stopped for water at Lower Heyford and surveyed the damage. Luckily all the scrapes were below gunwale level – but there were some very deep ones!
Whilst we filled up, the boat that followed us up the lock went past. They told us that the “mad woman” had said that we weren't fast enough leaving the lock! and then proceeded to “have a go” at the husband as he held his boat at the bottom of the lock as she exited! We were all glad she was heading away from us!
Lower Heyford is a real transport hub! Despite it being just a small village, it has a train station on the mainline from Oxford to Banbury, the canal and a road all intermingled!
View from canal looking north – notice the old canal bridge and the newer road bridge.
View from old canal bridge looking north. That is the station, on the left.
The old canal bridge has been utilised as a footpath and the boaters bins are here, along with some lovely flowers!
View from the towpath north of the bridge, but looking south.
We moved on, and moored for the night in the spot above Upper Heyford that we used on the way down.
Saturday was a lovely sunny day, and there were lots of boats moving. We pulled away and ended up between a hire boat and a day boat. At the first lock we queued for a bit, and I discovered the guys on the hire boat in front of us should have been out on their own boat, but when they went to pick it up discovered that a coot had made a nest on their rudder! They were lucky to arrange a hire for the weekend to celebrate one of the crews 50th birthday.
The small day boat behind us had a group of Dutch guys (about 8) and two children on board for their first experience of canals in the UK. We didn't see them again after that lock – hopefully that meant they turned round somewhere and didn't get into difficulties!
Some of the old lift bridges could do with some cutting back and brickwork sorting out – this one is particularly bad!
At Somerton Deep lock the guys on the hire boat ahead went up the lock, turned in the winding hole just above – and came back down again, whilst we waited at the bottom – they had to get back to the hire base! At least that meant I didn't have to open the bottom gate!
Gary took Muleless in – and I tried to shut the bottom gate!
After a few minutes with no success, Gary was just about to climb up the ladder to assist, when a boat appeared at the bottom and its crew came up to help!
We pulled in just before lift bridge 193 – the sun was out and it was time to chill in the sun for the weekend!
The farmer was busy haymaking in the fields the other side of the canal, and I was fascinated by the process!
The tractor furthest away was turning the hay and leaving it in neat lines, ready for the other tractor to scoop it up and turn it into hay bales! In a couple of hours there was no loose hay, just groups of hay bales – 8 in each.
The next step was collecting the bales, so this time it was more of a fork lift tractor with a special attachment that picked up all 8 bales together, and the driver then skilfully put them on the trailer ready to take to a barn!
Sunday Gary managed to touch up our “battle scars” from the mad woman attack, and we just chilled out in the sun again.
Monday we moved on and pulled in to Aynho Wharf to fill with water and top up the diesel. There was a boat already filling with water and also having their batteries changed, so we had to wait a while.
As soon as they had finished with the tap we started to fill our tank. We still couldn't get diesel though as the hose wouldn't reach! So in the meantime, another boat that was waiting just for diesel, brested up to us so that they were ready to be filled.
Eventually the batteries had been sorted out and the first boat moved off, so we then pulled forward so that the diesel hose could reach our tank. As we were still filling with water, we let the boat brested up to us get their diesel first.
With both of us “dieseled up”, the other boat moved away, but we were still filling with water, so a brand new boat that was being delivered to Cropredy pulled out from the Wharf and brested up to us to have diesel too!
By now we were full of water, so a small river cruiser that had pulled in front of us started to fill their tank, whilst also waiting for diesel.
We were now ready to go, but the brand new boat was having problems with its engine and stayed brested up whilst several things were tried to get it going. Eventually he had to give up, and pulled back onto the wharf so that we could move on! What a busy place!
After all that activity it was suddenly very quiet, and we didn't see any more boats until we moored up opposite the Pig Farm Farmshop!
It was at this point that Gary announced he had no more tobacco and that he needed a shop! The nearest shop appeared to be the Post Office in Kings Sutton – 2 miles away, so despite the hot sun, we set off to find the shop!
We had to walk back to the lock, along the main road, crossing the railway and river at this point (the two obstacles that meant there was no short cut!)
A little way on, we had to turn on to a smaller road that headed uphill, and from along the road we could see the farmshop and another boat moored on the canal (not Muleless).
Then we went over the M40!
At least the road now stopped going uphill! and then we saw a footpath sign that was pointing in the direction of Kings Sutton and that would cut a corner off the road journey.
Once we were through the hedge, the path was clearly seen across the next few fields.
We could tell we were going in the right direction, as the church spire was getting closer!
Then there was a little bridge over a stream, and just a field with some sheep in.
And then we were really close to the church spire, and started to walk through the village looking for the Post Office.
We found the Post Office – and Gary got his tobacco!
By this time, of course, we deserved a drink, so headed back to the Three Tuns pub we had passed. It was a lovely friendly pub and we sat in their lovely little courtyard beer garden chatting with some locals and enjoying a couple of cold drinks!
Chatting to the locals, we discovered there was a Co-op in the village too, and that one of the other pubs (there are 3 in total) also had a chinese takeaway service! What a shame that although the canal passes quite close to the village, you can’t reach it without a long walk because of the river and railway not having bridges over them! It is a place that is well worth a visit though, as it even has a train station!
Eventually we made the long slog back to the boat – for a well earned rest!
Tuesday needed to be a nice quiet uneventful day, and it was. We had a pleasant journey through to Kings Sutton Lock (where you can see that church spire again, but still cant get to it!), and found some CRT volunteers tidying up and repairing the lockside fencing.
Leaving Kings Sutton Lock – that church spire in the background!
As we approached Twyford Wharf, we saw the fields beyond were filled with blue flowers and looked lovely!
Just one more lock to do, then under the M40 again and find a spot to moor up before Banbury, leaving just a short hop in the morning.
As we moored up, we could see the M40 had come to a halt behind us – a good day to be on a boat and not in a car!