Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd October - Wormleighton to Cropredy
It was very grey first thing, though still mild. We set off a bit later than usual and gently pottered to Fenny Compton behind another boat. The canal was quite busy, with oncoming boats at bridges or bends in the usual way, including the hotel boats Duke and Duchess.
The boat in front stopped for water and as we only needed to dispose of some rubbish, we were away first. As we came through the Fenny Compton ‘tunnel’ the cloud began to break and by the time we reached Claydon Locks the sun was out again and the shorts back on. The lock cottage at the top is still for sale – with the nearest road access a quarter of a mile away at the next bridge I can’t think that Tesco would be doing a doorstep delivery! We saw the present occupant walking down to her car with cushions under her arm and a rather beautiful lurcher alongside.
There were plenty of boats coming up, and we were down in time for lunch on the long moorings at the bottom. We were attended by a couple of splendid hairdos -
I wonder how quickly the introduced genes disappear from the wild population, or do they hang around for ever, occasionally producing a tufty-headed duck?
The autumn colours are hotting up a bit – a good crop of rose-hips at the bottom of Claydon locks;
and a large berry-bearing shrub at Broadmoor lock. The hawthorn bushes have a heavy crop too. I suppose people will say it means we’ll have a cold winter, but I think it has more to do with a good spring and early summer (though my apple crop is very poor this year!)
Before we got there though we were on the lookout for the scarecrows and pumpkins at Clattercote Farm above Elkington’s lock. Disappointingly, there were only a few pumpkins on a trailer and the scarecrows had all gone into a huddle by the barn.
One year we passed at the end of October and the boats under the canopy had rows of grinning pumpkins all along their roofs. Cropredy Marina looked pretty full and is clearly very popular – we were later told by a share boater based there that there are no vacancies at all. We arrived at the Cropredy moorings at 3 o’clock and were delighted to find there was plenty of room. We moored at the start of the 24-hour stretch and went off for a stroll round the village and to check the pub menus. On the way we passed nb Herbie, moored closer to the lock, and had a chat with Neil who was washing the outside. We fell into conversation with another dog-walker outside the Red Lion and discovered that the couple who had run such an excellent restaurant had moved on last year – somewhere near the river in Oxford. The menu now is just a basic ‘pub meal and chips’, so rather than risk spoiling good memories we thought we’d go to the Brasenose Arms to eat. Dave took Meg out for a walk before we went to the pub, and noticed the two narrowboats the other side of the narrows had had their mooring pins pulled loose, so went back with the mallet. A few years ago when we were moored there, Dave went out to check we were secure before we went to the pub and found the hire boat behind us was on the other side of the canal! We shouted for some time before they heard us and came out – at least they had plenty of help to get secure again. We weren't entirely happy with the Brasenose Arms food – Dave had a curry, which was nice enough but not with enough rice, and I had a steak pudding with suet crust which was rather crispier than you would expect – nice filling, but not the best crust.
8 locks 9 miles
Friday 3rd October – back towards Fenny Compton
A grey start again but not cold. We weren't in a hurry, just turning round below the lock, so we waited for the early batch of boats to go down before moving off. I wandered down to the shop for a few bits and noticed there were two boats at the service area, one moored in the winding hole, so there was no point rushing! We finally moved off after 10. The lock was empty and a boat was approaching below, so I opened up for them as Dave brought Chuffed along. Herbie was following us down, and this morning we met Kath, who kindly gave me a hand. Fortunately the services were deserted so Dave reversed into the turning area so we could get the cassette off to empty it. The tap (for rinsing the cassette) was slow, and we were only just leaving as Herbie came down and moored for water. (You can hardly see it but they have got hold of a rope!) Cropredy must be one of the most awkward water points on the system!
Nice to meet you both, and thanks for the help at the lock! There was a prolific conker tree at the services, and I gathered a few – they are supposed to deter moths – as another boater arrived to collect some too. He strings a few up and puts them by open windows as he reckons they deter spiders. So that’s one to try. Anyway they are glossy and beautiful, and look and feel lovely so I always have a few on the shelf in the autumn.
Back we went through the bridge and moored on the rings. Dave had spotted a broken shackle holding the rear fender and wanted to fix it before we went on, so we had an extended cake and coffee stop. Very enjoyable (for me anyway, I wasn’t upside down over the stern). Then an industrial extractor started up above us and an occasional waft of car paint drifted by from Cropredy Bridge garage – ‘The Original Home of Jensen’, and they still have ‘Jensen specialists’ above the door. We used to work with a guy whose Interceptor was his pride and joy. Anyway, we moved on up the lock and then the three above Cropredy with someone ahead of us all the way. The moorings above the lock were deserted by now, having been full by the end of yesterday afternoon.
But the weather’s lovely again, so no worries. We stopped for lunch below Claydon locks, hoping that the boat ahead would have long gone by the time we started, but of course someone else came along so we had to turn all the Claydon locks too except for the one below.
The Claydon bottom gates are amenable to opening if you stand on the towpath side gate and push the offside one back with your other foot, to save going all the way round to open it. I leant too far forward while doing one of them and my hair brushed against the paddle, coming away with a lump of black grease – not really the best conditioner…… at least it came out quite easily. The autumn colours are beginning to show now.
According to the radio, this is going to be the last of the warm sunny T-shirt and shorts days, so rather than going on to Fenny as planned we pulled in on a sunny spot by Wormleighton Reservoir to make the most of it. (A lucky action photo, Meg is in mid-air).
Apart from the trains, which don’t bother us, this is a very peaceful spot. We walked up onto the reservoir embankment by bridge 139. There is a footpath running along the canal side of the reservoir, but you can’t walk all the way around it. We’d expected a large lake, but the water level was very low with huge expanses of mud. The reeds show the normal water level.
The outflow was dry where (we assume) it would normally run into the canal. There are other reservoirs such as Boddington which I think supplies the feeder that comes out at Feeder Bridge. Though some pounds have been a bit low we haven’t had any problems with water levels.
10 locks (Cropredy twice) and 4 miles.