Saturday 9th July; Heyford Common lock to Oxford (well, nearly)
But at least it was dry and warm, if rather windy. We left our lovely mooring at 8.30, first stop Allen’s Lock where we met a CRT chap with a long rake clearing floating debris. I mentioned the Somerton Deep gate that didn’t fully open and he said the lock needed dredging to remove the build-up of silt. There was an old sign at the lock;
British Waterways at the top and NRA (National Rivers Authority) at the bottom. The NRA became the Environment Agency in 1996! Along the way is a tithe barn though I am not sure why I know that – probably read it in a blog somewhere …...
Mill lift bridge is made of steel and is extremely heavy. I think I would call it a ‘heave’ bridge rather than a lift bridge as you have to give a mighty heave to pull the beams down to open it.
It took me three goes till I got the right angle of the chain to haul it open, then I had to lean on the beam to stop it closing again. And to close it without crashing it down I ended up swinging on the chain. I’m just not big enough!!
We passed the moorings for Kirtlington Quarry, saying we must stop there on the way back – but today we need to be much closer to Oxford to be able to meet one of our daughters on Sunday. At Pigeon lock the gongoozlers were out in force, with one family lockside and another on the bridge.
We got chatting at a lock, as you do, to an ex-Ownerships share boat we met who told us that our old share boat nb Padworth was on its way. We met them just after the Rock of Gibraltar pub. There is a long stretch of permanent moorings on the towpath side, on a bit of a curve. There is adequate room for two boats to pass, and even stop to chat, but a large group of canoes were leaving the pub and were all over the place, so there was no chance to stop safely in the strong wind. But we remembered each other and could at least say hello. Nice to see you again John and Susan!
There was room to moor below Baker’s lock at the start of the river section for lunch while the rest of the canoes portaged past the lock, then we set off again. Everything here - leaves, branches, towpath and the bridge - was covered in white dust from the cement works, which I think is no longer operating.
We would have liked to stop at the facilities block at Thrupp but a boat was already there. The hire boat in front of us had stopped as they needed water too, unfortunately on the waiting area for the lift bridge. Did I mention how windy it was? There wasn’t quite room for us to get round the big bend for the lift bridge (you can see the hire boat through the bridge in the photo) and the wind blew us broadside onto their boat. But I managed to haul the bow round and the lovely hirers went to open the bridge for us by way of apology.
Thrupp is another place we want to stop at on the way back. We haven’t been to the Boat yet. We had to think a bit about the saying for the day -
But as it was only early afternoon we carried on. We took on water before going down Duke’s lock, then it was a long slow trickle down past the long lines of moored boats to Wolvercote where we had hoped to stop on the 48-hour moorings and go across to Port Meadow with Meg. But it was scruffy with nettles and weeds, and the towpath was very narrow with the railway fence right next to it. It was so horrible that although we were tired and getting a bit crotchety we went on, and at 6.30 found a very quiet 7-day spot between bridges 238 and 239. We had to get the shears out to remove some nettles, but it was a much better mooring than at Wolvercote. We took Meg for a long walk over to Port Meadow and along the Thames for a while before coming back up the towpath – we had all been stuck on the boat for far too long today.
14 and a half miles, 10 locks, 7 lift bridges (but we only had to do 4). 9 hours’ cruising, twice what we normally do and the longest day’s cruising for years.