Napton to Bristol and Back Monday 23 March 2009 Tomorrow we will be setting off south down the South Oxford Canal until we reach Oxford and the Thames, here we will turn left down the River Thames until we reach Reading. Here we will leave the Thames and turn right into The Kennet and Avon Canal. We will follow the Kennet and Avon Canal until we reach Bristol. Once there we will turn round and do it all in the opposite direction. This is of course assuming that BW have the pumps running on the K&A so there is sufficient water to float on and that the sunken boat presently blocking the navigation at Burghfield Island has been removed. The weather forecast for the first week of our journey is not as good as we would have wished for, but providing we don't get so much rain it puts the rivers in flood it wont be a problem.
Tues 24 March Napton to Fenny, S. Oxford By the time we had loaded the boat on the top lock, lock moorings it was quarter to three. We were about to set off when a boat came up the locks, as we were on the lock mooring we helped them through. Just as we were about to reverse back to the Engine Arm to wind a second boat came up the locks, this was most handy as when they filled the lock the water draw helped us turn in the mouth of the arm. We made our way to Marston Doles bottom lock and after the boat ahead left turned the lock and invited the boat behind us to go through as they were travelling together. Once they had gone we made our way through. I tied Harnser with the centre line to the mooring post below the top lock and went up to help Diana, when I came down Harnser was floating backwards down the pound and I was just able to jump onto her bows. I had tied her with the centre line using a lightermans hitch, but of course the pull was almost vertical on a very wobbly bollard. As we entered the lock the crew from another boat on out moorings appeared, with them they had their sons dog, just as we were leaving the lock Magic decided it was time to say hello, as he is now completely deaf I had to get off to fetch him, luckily Harnser's bum was still in the lock so I just left her in reverse while I fetched him, by the time I had him back onboard we were over half way back into the lock. We pushed on towards the radio mast at Wormleighton, from here to Wormleighton bends the smell was something else, it smelt like they had been spraying raw sewage on the fields. Just south of the bends between bridges 131 and 132 was a BW work boat and I was very sorry to see that they have removed the wooden footbridge that use to span the canal here. It was the only one of that deign that I have come across but being wood I suppose its days were always numbered. We pulled into the moorings just south of The Wharf, Fenny Compton just after 6 pm, it wasn't until Diana went ashore with the bow rope that we realised we were bow to bow with Derwent6, the last time we met was in Debdale Marina when we were waiting to go in for our paint job. As we passed the water point I noticed that the last boater had left his keys in the water tap, so I took them into the pub in case he comes back looking for them, He was on a smallish tug heading south so we may pass him still moored up in the morning if we get away early enough.
Wed 25 March Fenny Compton to Aynho We set off in good time today, just before 9 am. The weather was mixed, a bit of sun, a bit of snow, a bit of wind a bit of rain and a few calm moments, the only thing missing was thunder and lightning, but that was made up for but the jet fighters thundering over at low level. As we approached the Claydon flight two large Golden Retrievers bounded up to Diana, luckily Simon was not far behind. For some reason BW have changed the moorings above Cropredy to 24 hr moorings, that is I would suggest a complete waste of time, most people arrive at a mooring late in the
afternoon and leave normally at a reasonable time in the morning regardless how long they stay for. This means that on a 24 hr mooring realistically you are only able to moor overnight, 48 hrs would have been a much better option. We gave a wave to Matilda Rose as we passed them below Cropredy on the 14 day morning, well to Graham who stuck his head right out of one of their opening portholes. Sovereign in Banbury opens at 2pm we arrived at about 5 minutes too so had to wait for them to open, the owner actually turned up at about quarter past, we took on 80 lt's of diesel, they don't take credit cards or give Green Shield stamps but they do give FREE bantam eggs, so we took 6. We continued on and at Nell Bridge where someone has put in some very nice off side moorings all with water and electricity. There was very little flow on the Cherwell as we crossed into Aynho Lock, but the woodwork protecting the weir is getting in very bad condition and soon some of the timbers will escape if BW don't do something, maybe it would have been better if they had invested in 10 X 6" nails than the big notice that tells you the air draft at Nell bridge because even if you know the height of your boat the notice doesn't tell you if its the centre of the arch or at handrail and I think once I have dropped the lock I can tell if I can get through or not. We have moored for the night opposite Aynho Wharf and plan to eat in the Great Western Hotel.
Thursday 26 March 09 Aynho to Thrupp We have had a slight change of plan that has required us to put our visit to the K&A off until the summer, as we now need to be home early April, so this meant we could have a lie in this morning and not move off until 10 30 as there is no need to be on the Thames first thing tomorrow. We had a very good meal at The Great Western Arms last night, its a bit more expensive than most pubs but not as much as some restaurants and also as a plus they sell Hook Norton beer. Just after we set off the weather had a lot of problems making up its mind what it was going to do, we started in sun with quite a bit of wind and then very fine drizzle coming very fast and at one point some heavy rain. Our first bit of excitement was as we approached lift bridge No. 193. BW have put new mooring bollards on the towing path side to work this bridge, I was just admiring them and thinking what a waste of time for a bridge that is always open, when it started to shut and then open again. This bridge is one of the few on the Oxford that is normally left shut, today it was for some reason open, but only balanced open, not fixed and the wind was threatening to close it as we approached. I stopped with the bows just in the cheeks of the bridge and Diana was able to get off on the off side and go and sit on the bridge beam to ensure it didn't close as we passed through. The next point of interest was about half a mile north of Heyford Common Lock. Here the canal bank has been breached on the off side and the canal is happily flowing into a brook. I rang BW and got transferred to Milton Keynes, told them the problem only to be informed that they where aware of it. If they know why don't they do something like drop a couple of dozen sand bags to stem the flow and stop it getting worse. Just beyond Lower Heyford lift bridge one of the gardens on the off side has a wonderful show of daffodils in their garden. We continued on towards Thrupp and got waved down by a boat coming towards us, it turned out to be a couple that we had been on holiday in France with. We arrived at Thrupp at about 5 pm. Most of what are normally visitor moorings with rings are marked as "private" but there were three 48 hour moorings free near the pub, so we bashed a couple of stakes in and tied up for the night.
Friday 27 March Thrupp to Oxford back to Thrupp
We left the 48 hour visitor moorings at 10 am and headed off towards Oxford in cool sunshine. When we arrived at the lift bridge at Wolvercote there was a chap standing in the middle of the bridge with a stop/go board indicating that we should stop. The fact he was standing on the bridge indicated that we couldn't pass. The reason for this holdup is that they are demolishing the A34 viaduct and building a new one, this one is only about 45 years old but is past its sell by date. The ongoing operation was to lift off the road span over the canal, to do this they had cut it into 6 strips and had an 11 axle crane to lift it off one section at a time and they were about to lift the first section. After 10 minuets of inactivity the man showed us the green side of his board, left the bridge and opened it for us. We then passed under the viaduct and had to wait another 10 minuets while they raised a temporary hydraulic flat bed bridge that they are using to get the plant across, earlier this monster crane had crossed it. The bridge is rated at 100 tones. At Wolvercote lock BW had a flat and a tug full of rubbish they had collected including lots of bicycles, they were accompanied by several BW chaps and a group of volunteers with litter picking equipment. They told me that if I had been a little bit later I could well have been on the TV as they were waiting for a TV crew to come and do an interview. I assume this is the new BW we love volunteers face to the public. We continued on to Isis Lock, dropped through onto the Thames to turn round and then locked back up onto the Oxford Canal and retraced our steps back to Thrupp. When we arrived at the viaduct the chap that operated the hydraulic bridge came down the towing path to speak to us. He said there would be a delay of about half an hour as they were about to lift the FIRST section off. They had been at it all morning and hadn't made a lift yet and they had hoped to have all 6 off by now. We tied up and waited, there was burning going on and the a large Jack hammer on wheels breaking bit off from the adjoining sections. eventually the big crane took the strain, lifted the now free section a few inches, slewed round and lowered it on the ground. The bridge driver got the OK and lifted the bridge for us and then got the OK for us to proceed. I checked on the BW web site Waterscape and the only work mentioned on the Oxford was work on the moorings at Jericho. From here we had an uneventful trip back to Thrupp visitor mooring apart from meeting lots of people we knew so stopped for several chats on route. We moored up at about 6 pm and ate onboard.
Saturday 28 March 09 Thrupp to Lower Heyford Last night when we returned from the pub, The Boat , which is now under new management and being well supported by the local community, there was ice on the roof of the boat with a very clear star light sky and not a breath of wind. This morning when we woke up the boat was rocking and it was blowing quite hard. We set of at 10 am. the first stop was The Rock of Gibraltar to drop of some flyers for Kate Seffin who is performing one of her one woman shows in Oxford from the 6 to the 8 April. She is also performing for us at the CIBC rally at the Blue Lias in September. We then continued on to Lower Heyford where we tied up for the night. Once moored we walked round to Oxfordshire Narrowboats with some more flyers and the adjoining cafe Kizzis's where we also had coffee and cakes. Tonight we have a table booked at The Bell and we will be taking them some flyers as well.
Sunday 29 March Lower Heyford to Aynho Wharf Last night we ate in The Bell and I was surprised what good value it turned out to be, I was expecting much higher prices. The place was heaving and there was live music in the bar. When I took Magic out last thing, again there was a good layer of ice on the roof and looking out this morning it was still frosty. As most of you will realise by now the clocks went forward last which meant that we all got a hour less in bed last
night. I thought I would change over gently, say 10 minutes a day for the rest of the week and I would be there. However the Collage Cruisers moored a short way down the cut had other ideas and came chugging by at 7 30 then the dog thought that maybe we should be up, so in the end I, like most people did the whole hour in one bash. We decided that as the weather was so nice we would have a wonder round Lower Heyford before setting off, bad move. On Sunday all the Oxfordshire Narrowboats, day boats were out and 3 of them were going the same way as us, then a couple of private boats followed them so locking became slow going, even just travelling at tickover between locks I still caught up with the last boat, and at Somerton Deep Lock somehow the last private boat had got ahead of the last day boat and they were still waiting at the lock when we got there. About half a mile above the lock we pulled over for lunch. This is not a bad mooring, piled edge, deep and a hill between the cut and the railway. We were going to stop for the rest of the day but the batteries still needed another hour of charging so we continued on to Aynho Wharf where we filled with water and moored opposite the boat yard, again the buildings are between the cut and the railway so stop most of the noise. Once moored we did a few jobs around the boat in nice warm sunshine. y, 30 March 2009
30 March 09 Aynho to Cropredy We left Aynho at 1030, it was a bit cooler than yesterday but dry with light winds. As we approached Banbury a couple called from the bank enquiring what the name of the boat meant, so I explained. They then asked if the spider web painted on the bow had anything to do with Cutweb to which I told them it did. They then went on to say they had applied to join and were waiting to hear back about it. I took ÂŁ10 off them and wrote a membership card out there and then. We pushed on through Banbury only stopping to top up with diesel at Sovereign Narrowboats and leave him some of Kate's flyers. As we were about to leave Hardwick Lock I spotted a steam locomotive sitting stationary on the lines just by the bridge and she was making steam, I took a couple of photos hoping to get one of her steaming by as we moved up the canal, when did she decide to go by, just as I entered Bourton Lock, I scrambled up but the bushes ruined the shot, a few minutes earlier and it would have been open track. We met a few boats on this stretch so the locks were all with us and we moored for the night just below Cropredy Lock, opposite the canoe centre on the few remaining 48 hour moorings in the village. Posted
31 March 09 Cropredy to Napton Top Lock The canal was quite busy this morning with most boats coming down the locks which gave us a good run as far as the Claydon flight, from here they were against us. We did a brief stop at Broadmoor lock to buy a new button fender for the bow as yesterday in Grant Lock when it caught the bolts holding the running plate it got quite a pasting. As we approached Claydon top lock we saw a boat above but one chap was sitting on the roof meditating and the other was polishing his engine, merrily moored to the first lock mooring, so there was no way they were going to come down and give us a good lock. Diana had just turned the lock when a BW boat came along heading for Cropredy, at least they had a good road as we hadn't met anyone since Cropredy Lock. We pulled over at Fenny tunnel so I could take some photos of the winch and track where I am told they use to load bricks, there is even wire on the winch even if the wooden drum has rotted away. Along the summit we met Ten Bob Note and said hello as we passed.
We moored at about 5 30 right opposite our home moorings as I wanted to do a bit of work on the Port side doors and also change the engine oil. Again there was a steady flow of boats coming up the flight. Our plan now is to have a run down to Stoke Bruerne arriving Friday and hopefully getting some tuition on the new IWA web site on Saturday.