Saturday 16th July; Thrupp to Pigeon Lock
Dave walked back to Kidlington in the sunshine to get a paper before we set off this morning. For a summer Saturday it was very quiet as we went through the lift bridge, and in spite of the stiff breeze Dave had no problem getting round the sharp bend.
At Shipton Weir lock we caught up with NB Hilarity, owned by a family out on their first trip. They knew how to do everything but of course it all takes a little bit longer while you get used to it.
When we came out of Baker’s Lock after the section on the river Cherwell we met a large crew of sailors. We asked who was getting married – but it wasn’t a stag group, they just though it would be fun to all wear the same!
We moored below Pigeon Lock and had lunch before setting off to walk to the quarry, which we’ve not visited before. It was great! We walked up Mill Lane, the track leading from the lock to Kirtlington village, and found the entrance just past Jane’s Enchanted Tea Garden – which was heaving with noisy families. We walked along shady woodland paths
and found our way to the offside quarry moorings. We have never stopped there, fearing damage to paintwork from the rocky edge, but Hilarity, who were moored there, had found it too shallow for that to be a risk. After a stop for a chat we walked on uphill and eventually found ourselves high above a vast area – the quarry floor – with a labyrinth below us.
Naturally we both walked the labyrinth. (it’s not a maze, as it has only one entrance and one route to the centre; a maze may have more than one entrance and dead ends). You just follow the path which takes you in surprising directions and you think you are about to go out again till suddenly there you are at the centre.
It would be lovely to think that the labyrinth is ancient but of course it can’t have been constructed till after the quarry had ceased working!
There are still exposed quarry faces. The rock is limestone which, as it was formed in warm clear seas, contains fossils of ancient creatures. We only spotted some fossil shells but the Natural England website says ‘the quarry is the richest mammal-bearing locality of Middle Jurassic age known anywhere in the world.’
to find pretty tables under canvas roofs, all hung about with bunting and garlands of exotic climbing plants (artificial but pretty nonetheless).
We easily found a table and had delicious cake from the extensive choice, and tea in bone china cups.
Jane's Enchanted Tea Garden is only open a couple of weekends a month. If you switch off your cynicism and suspend your urban sophistication (we didn’t have to do that last bit) you will be able to enjoy a delightfully retro experience, if a little twee for some tastes. We loved it.
Around the quarry we saw some interesting flowers. Without a close-up lens between us, and by a process of elimination with the flower identification book back on the boat, I think this is a pyramidal orchid.
It was too hot to do much when we got back to the boat. We saw the large number of boats passing in both directions as we had our tea, and didn't fancy queueing at locks, so we stayed put.
3 miles, 2 locks, 2 lift bridges