Thursday, 28 July 2016

It’s all the birds’ fault you know …..

Tuesday 19th July;  Slat Mill lock to the Wedding Bridge

…. the vegetation on the offside, that is, of which more later.

Well, the forecast was for even higher temperatures today so we were on the move by 7.30 and straight up Slat Mill lock, leaving the top gate open for the approaching boat.  

1 another early riser enters slat mill lock

By 8am, including ourselves and the early bird who had crept by at 6 am, we had seen (or heard) 9 boats.  By 8.15 we were in a queue at Cropredy lock and had seen our 12th boat.  So that was that for our plan of avoiding the queues!

I nipped off at the bridge to go up to the shop while Dave pottered on to the lock.  Seyella was moored between the two, but it didn’t look as though anyone was about so I didn’t stop.

By the time we got to the next lock the boats in front had spread out a bit, and there were no more hold-ups.  Along the way to Claydon locks we watched two horses galloping down a hill and then back again.  They might have been pestered by flies but it looked more like they were running for the sheer joy of it.  Of course by the time I was ready to take a picture they had stopped.

2 horses galloped away

We were helped up a couple of the Claydon locks by some CRT workers who were taking two workboats down to Aynho to do some piling.  Waiting to come down behind them was a narrowboat whose crew ruefully told us the workboats had gone by just as they were putting their hose away at the Fenny water point.

The CRT men warned us that visibility was poor at the Fenny Compton ‘tunnel’ because of the vegetation.  They explained that they weren’t allowed to do any trimming work till the end of August to avoid disturbing any nesting birds.  That’s good obviously for the wildlife though rather inconvenient for boaters.  It wasn’t quite as bad as they had warned, but jungular nonetheless.

3 fenny compton tunnel jungle

And very pretty in the dappled shade too, as well as giving welcome respite from the sun.  We stopped at Fenny marina for fuel, and Dave got some anti-freeze at a good price to replace that which was lost when we had our engine problem a couple of weeks ago. 

Plan A was to moor at Fenny, where the sun eventually goes behind the trees, and eat in the pub.  But as it was just about lunchtime there were no spaces.  So we topped up the water tank, noting the shiny new Yale lock replacing the broken one we reported -

4 shiny new yale on fenny water point

and disposed of rubbish, and looked for a mooring beyond the bridges.  But with just one space on the bend and one more beyond the piling in full sun, we went on to a guaranteed shady spot at the Wedding Bridge.  This is the un-numbered footbridge between bridges 132 and 131.

5 wedding bridge words

The words often go un-noticed now, but when we came this way on our old share-boat nb ‘Padworth’ in autumn 2009 the bridge cladding was new and the carving clear.  We thought then that the happy couple must be connected to the farmhouse on the offside, and guess they are still there – and still married – because I found the tell-tale remains of a little bit of ribbon which must have tethered an anniversary balloon a little while ago.  I did a quick Google but no-one on the first page of results knows either!

After a late lunch out on the towpath we spent a relaxing afternoon in the lovely shade, where it was cool enough for Meg to chase a ball  which she lost in the canal more than once. Dave is just getting the broom from the roof to retrieve it.

6 dave gets the brrom to recover a tennis ballThe heat was overwhelming if you exerted yourself so we read and watched the boats going by, including several old working boats.  Here is Cassiopeia coming through the Wedding Bridge.

8 cassiopeia in purloined shades

Eventually it was cool enough, and so was the engine, for Dave to lift the engine boards and do a bit of cleaning up.  While I was preparing tea by the side hatch a passing boater asked if I had seen a particular working boat (which I won’t name as this is just hearsay).  The two had been moored near the top of Napton locks and the passing boater said its owner had not only pinched his expensive sunglasses from the top of his boat but left an inferior pair behind.  ‘And I have a witness’ so maybe a confrontation happened when he caught it up!

Apart from an hour in the early evening the mooring was in shade all the time and we were astonished that no-one else joined us, though there were a couple of boats under the trees a few hundred yards further on.  There is plenty of room here and an excellent piled edge.  Apart from the main road to Fenny several fields away, which was a bit noisy at times, it was very peaceful.

9 miles, 10 locks

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