Saturday, 30 July 2011

Oxford to Kidlington Green…

Cassie and I went for a wander down Sheepwash Channel yesterday evening, to look at the Thames.

SDC11125Scary under the very low railway bridge

SDC11122Leading out onto the Thames

SDC11123Looking back up the Channel

SDC11126Isis Lock

SDC11127St Barnabas Church, whose bell rings every hour, right by our mooring!

What a difference a day makes!  After grey cloudy skies the last few days, we left Oxford in blazing sunshine this morning.  We went down Isis Lock, turned and came back up as it is only possible to wind a 50ft boat above the lock.  After watering and getting rid of rubbish on the way out, we continued on and moored just below Kidlington Green Lock this time, a much nicer mooring than we had on Thursday night.

SDC11128Leaving Oxford in the sunshine

SDC11129Tonight’s mooring

4.5 miles and 4 locks (Isis twice)

Friday, 29 July 2011


This morning we set off for Oxford.  We were shocked at the state of the Visitor moorings as we neared the city – most were overgrown and virtually impossible to get into – hence the fact that nobody was there.  I said last year that Oxford doesn’t give much of a welcome to it’s water-borne visitors as we came up the Thames – the same can be said about the canal!  We continued on and managed to get a mooring opposite College Cruisers, just before Isis lock, in the shadow of St Barnabas Church, whose bell rings every hour – I won’t hear it tonight, I wear earplugs!

We went into the city centre this afternoon and took an open-topped bus tour of the city – we’re not into getting sore feet tramping around the sights on foot!  A quick wander around looking for somewhere to buy a few provisions afterwards, and we were back at the boat by 4 o’clock.  Rog went for another wander after a bit and found a Chinese take-away which we will use tonight.  We contemplated going out for a meal, but we don’t like leaving Cassie alone too much and as she was on her own most of the afternoon, we decided that we shouldn’t leave her again this evening (especially as her next fit is due any day now!)  We will go down Isis lock and turn and head on out again tomorrow morning.

SDC11097Dukes Cut and Lock leading to the Thames – not this time!


Visitor moorings?


A few views of Oxford sights follow, but I can’t remember which was where, the Colleges all seemed to blend into one!




SDC11119The New Bodleian Library

SDC11121The Ashmolean Museum

5.2 miles and 4 locks

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The best laid plans…

We planned to have just a short cruise today, a couple of hours to get us a little nearer Oxford.  That proved to not be the case.  Lower Heyford was rammed with boats at Oxfordshire Narrowboats, with only just room to squeeze through, and day boats being taken out everywhere.  We had a lovely mornings cruise and passed several nice mooring spots with an hour of leaving the Heyfords, but it was a bit early to stop.  A couple of locks later we started looking – not a hope in hell!  The bank was far too overgrown to be able to get in, and any likely spots were already taken.  We continued on, through Enslow, past Hampton Gay and on towards Thrupp.  We remembered from last year that it would probably be impossible to moor at Thrupp, and that turned out to be right.  There are far too many ‘Permit Holders Only’ moorings and very few visitor moorings.  On and on we went, until at last we found a space in the exact same spot as we moored last year, just above Roundham Lock in Kidlington.  We have even tied to the same scaffolding post that is stuck in the ground! We had planned to have a slow tootle and arrive in Oxford on Sunday,but it looks like we will be arriving tomorrow instead – lets hope there are moorings to be had!

SDC11090Muddy Waters character boat ‘Jolly’ awaiting day hire at Oxfordshire Narrowboats.

SDC11091Tight squeeze

SDC11092Looking back at Oxfordshire Narrowboats


SDC11096Wild and woolly Oxfordshire

9.3 miles and 5 locks

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Kissing Cousins…

First we had the Beacon Twins (Windsong and Serenity) now we have Kissing Cousins!  Ali and John on nb Triskaideka (Beacon’s latest launch, No 13) duly arrived at Aynho at about 6.45 yesterday evening.  We first met Ali and John at Sawley Boat Show two years ago when Windsong was newly launched, have always got on well, and have seen each other from time to time over the intervening two years.  Conversation started immediately, then we rang the pub to check they could fit us in for a meal, showers were had and off to the Great Western we went.  We had a really lovely meal, which made up for the not so good one in the Red Lion the other evening, and chattered non-stop as we caught up with each others doings since we saw them last.  They have certainly been getting around since Triskaideka’s launch in June.  We needed a torch to light our way back to the boats, and were invited for coffee.  It was well past midnight when we stopped talking long enough to look at the clock, and decided it was time we left and went to bed.  This morning we continued yacking for a while until it was time for us to leave.  It was lovely to see you both and Triskaideka looking so wonderful.  Enjoy the rest of your travels and we will see you in the winter we hope.

SDC11081Kissing Cousins, Triskaideka and Windsong, nose to nose

SDC11082Ali and John

We made a brief stop at Aynho Wharf for water and to change a gas bottle and continued on to Somerton Deep Lock, where we were 5th in the queue, with an equal number of boats waiting to come up.  An hour and a half later we were at last through.  Another two locks later we were still looking for somewhere suitable to moor, and have ended up a little way past Allen’s lock at Upper Heyford.  Not our ideal mooring spot as it’s quite hemmed in with trees, but good enough.

SDC11083Trying to pull away from Aynho Wharf – the Napton Narrowboats hire boat is going backwards, with a crew member balancing on the roof with a pole – pretending to walk a tightrope maybe?

SDC11085No 5 in the queue for Somerton Deep

SDC11086Fed up with waiting

SDC11087Down the lock at last

SDC11089Church, Manor House and 15th Century Tithe Barn below Allen’s Lock

5.4 miles and 3 locks

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Only 3 locks? Felt like 9 or 10!…

I was surprised to discover that we’d only travelled 3.6 miles today and done 3 locks – it took an unprecedented 3 hours as we had to queue at all of them.  And it felt like 9 or 10 because I worked all of them at least 3 times if not 4!  Ok, not on my own, but I helped everyone up or down.  There seems to be a marked lack of willingness to help others this year.  It’s boring waiting in the queue if you don’t go to the lock and wind a paddle or two, and open a gate or two, and have a chat while you are doing it.  If we didn’t do that, the only person we would speak to is each other. 

Moored now just north of Aynho Wharf, and hoping that nb Triskaideka makes it this far today coming in the opposite direction.  If not we will see them tomorrow.

SDC11076Aynho Weir lock – it is only about 8 inches deep, so diamond shaped to allow more water down each time the lock is used.

SDC11078 Aynho Weir


There is a railway line just over the other side of the canal, and when this train stopped for signals, we saw the name of the loco and thought it fitted our travels this year:


CassieWhen Russ was with us he took this lovely photo of Cassie, and he’s just emailed it to me – I thought I’d share it.

3.6 miles and 3 locks

Monday, 25 July 2011

Cropredy to Twyford Wharf…

It was a lovely relaxing day yesterday.  We did a bit of domestic stuff then Rog settled down to fish while I got stuck into my book.  We spotted a ‘celebrity’ passing us during the afternoon:

SDC11067Yes ‘The’ nb Muddy Waters I’m sure everyone has heard of the Muddy Waters series of children’s books by now – we buy them for our granddaughters, and they love them (pity I missed Muddy’s face by a few seconds)


Two of the characters have been turned into real boats – Muddy is for holiday hire, and Jolly is a day boat – both can be hired from Oxfordshire Narrowboats

SDC11068We also had a lovely sunset, but the photo doesn’t do it justice

This morning we set off for Banbury.  It was another lovely morning, but with a chilly wind to start with.  We queued for the first and second lock, and Cassie found a huge pile of weed that had been pulled from the canal yesterday – she had a lovely time rummaging around in it – but she was filthy and stank by the time she got back on the boat – that dog just loves to be dirty!


Just north of Banbury, where the M40 crosses the canal, there is a lot of work going on.  A new marina is being built apparently, and also a flood barrier is being built between the River Cherwell and the canal.  The noise from all the diggers and lorries, plus the roar of the motorway was deafening!


SDC11071Hope the bridge had been strengthened!


On the way into Banbury we spotted another ‘celebrity’ boat:

SDC11073We beeped, but nobody was home – again! One day we’ll catch up with you, Bones!

We stopped in Banbury, but it was so busy and by now the weather was roasting hot,  that we made a quick dash to the M & S Food Hall to pick up a few supplies, then got out again quick!  We really don’t like crowded shopping centres any more. We hurried out into the peace of the countryside again and are moored near Twyford Wharf – well, it’s as peaceful as it gets around here – we can still hear the motorway.


6.3 miles and 5 locks

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Red Lion on it’s last legs?…

Our visit to the Red Lion last night was something of a disappointment.  We have been there several times in the past, the most recent just last year, and have always been impressed with the quality of the food, the choice of ‘guest’ beers and the ambience.  Last night however, there was only one draught beer on, and John Smiths keg.  They had ‘run out’ of draught Guinness, draught cider, and one of the lagers.    The menu was much depleted from last year, and, although the food was okay, it was rather overpriced for what it was.  Rog had a pasta dish which was very tasty, and I had ‘pie of the day’ – gammon and mushroom, which was also okay, but a bit burnt around the pastry edges, and a bit dry around the cut edges – I suspect that it had been heated up in a microwave.  To add to that, although there were more than six tables full of customers (it being Saturday night), there was only one waitress on, a goth with white makeup, who really didn’t seem to care.  She was quite rude to the family of 6 on the next table when they asked for some drinks, and told them curtly that they’d have to get up and go to the bar.  Plates were not cleared after we had all finished our meals, but the waitress didn’t seem to even look at the tables – and it certainly wasn’t because she was rushing around taking orders and delivering food.  After we had sat with our finished dinner plates in front of us for almost half an hour, we decided that we wouldn’t bother waiting for pudding any longer, and paid up and left.  To add insult to injury, there was a 50p surcharge for using a debit card!  Credit card, yes, but we’ve never had to pay a surcharge for using a debit card before. The draught beer ran out as we were paying the bill, and so did a group of customers who had just walked in!  This definitely had the air of a pub about to go belly-up.  And yes, you might all say we should have gone to the Brasenose Arms, and you will be right, but we’ve always liked the Red Lion.

This morning we moved just a mile out of Cropredy and found a nice quiet mooring out in the countryside.

1 mile and 0 locks

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Fenny Compton to Cropredy…

It was foggy this morning!  Very unusual to get fog in July, but it was a very wet night, and when the sun came up this morning I suppose that caused the fog.  It cleared very quickly though, and by the time we set off, although cloudy, the sun came out occasionally.  The goal of the day was Cropredy, but with the idea that if we found a likely spot before then we would stop. But that never happened, so we continued on, through the five locks at Claydon, and three more, until we arrived at Cropredy.  As we approached we saw that, even though it was barely 12 o’ clock, it looked rammed.  We thought we weren’t going to be able to find a space, but as we came around the bend we saw that although the back end of the moorings above the lock was rammed nose to tail with about 8 boats, the rest was free.  Seemed a bit odd though, perhaps they all belonged to a cruising club.  We locked up and went to the shop, in the hope of finding more of the fantastic pork and red onion sausages that we bought last year, but sadly there were none – pork and chive instead!  We have booked into the Red Lion for a meal tonight.

SDC11061Elegant iron turnover bridge

SDC11062Fenny ‘tunnel’

SDC11063The first of the lift bridges, marking the border between Warwickshire and Oxfordshire

SDC11065Claydon Top Lock – and the end of the Oxford summit

5.7 miles and 8 locks

Friday, 22 July 2011

Summit day…

No, not a trip up Everest, but the summit of the S. Oxford.  Eleven empty miles, apart from Fenny Compton.  And what a lovely morning it was, blue skies with fluffy white clouds, such a joy to see the sun again.  Within about 15 minutes of setting off we were behind a very slow boat sporting a slow-revving Russell Newbury engine, and helmed by ‘Mrs’ (‘Mr’ was off the boat taking a walk, we discovered later)  So slow in fact that Rog had to keep coming out of gear to avoid ramming them up the rear end.  The first few miles of the summit is tortuous, with one bend following another, and you often seem to be going back on yourself.  Poor ‘Mrs’ was fighting the tiller at every turn, and came practically to a standstill whenever a boat appeared coming the other way.  She was determined though, that she wasn’t pulling in to let us past, so we had to be very patient. After about 45 minutes of this, she picked ‘Mr’ up at a bridge, and proceeded to get off the boat herself for her walk.  Things proceeded a little quicker after that but when we were still up close behind them (not able, with our modern engine, to go any slower than tickover) after another 45 minutes, we heaved a sigh of relief when she stopped walking and he pulled over to moor up.  We waved cheerily as we sailed on by, gritting our teeth in the process!  .  I know it’s not possible to cruise fast along here, and we don’t ever cruise particularly fast ourselves, but sometimes people with slow revving engines forget that not everyone can go as slowly as them without coming out of gear, and hence loosing steerage.  Anyway, we enjoyed the rest of the morning’s cruise, taking in the wide-open countryside with barely a building to be seen.  We stopped for water at Fenny Compton and decided that lunch in the pub was called for, so we moored a little way past and walked back.

SDC11052Oh, what a beautiful morning…

SDC11054oh, what a beautiful day!

SDC11053Up close and personal!

SDC11055Empty landscape

SDC11058A bridge, seemingly in the middle of the field

SDC11059This is the famous aerial, which quarters the landscape, sometimes in front, sometimes behind, sometimes to the left and sometimes to the right, then in front of you again – it’s very disorientating!

6.9 miles and 0 locks