Friday 8th July; Banbury to Heyford Common Lock
Oh dear, we won’t moor under that footbridge again. No trouble last night, but three people in noisy shoes walked across for their 5am shift and woke us up! Fortunately we got back to sleep ok. Before we left I took Meg into the park again, as she’ll be stuck in the boat for a while. We moved down to the service block, and while I sorted things out Dave went back to Tooley’s boat yard to talk solenoids, because Barrus doesn’t deal with members of the public. He was there at 10 as the receptionist opened up. They didn’t have the right part, as expected, but she kindly called us later with the unwelcome news that Barrus was out of stock and it could be over a week before they could get hold of it. So, as we were not entirely sure when we would be back this way, we opted to order it through Calcutt.
We stopped further along to shop at Morrison’s before we finally got going. All the lift bridges were open this morning. The M40 was very busy, and I always feel a bit sorry for the drivers batting along over the motorway bridges (although also a little smug that we are down here on our boat).
The wind was blowing the racket from the motorway towards us as we continued down towards King’s Sutton lock, and at our lunch stop the noise was so bad we couldn’t have the side hatch open in spite of the warm sun.
Continuing on to Aynho, the weather got warmer and the shorts came out at last. There was a boat in front of us so Dave hovered the other side of where the Cherwell crosses the canal while I filled the lock.
The bricks at the lock which you brace your feet against (is there a technical term for them?) were too far apart for someone with short legs (i.e. me) and the gate was heavy, so I struggled a bit but it was ok in the end.
One bridge needed lifting this afternoon. A lady moored a little further along shouted as we passed that I should have left it open. I replied that we always leave lift bridges as we find them but she was adamant it had been open before we went through. No it wasn’t.
There was a queue at Somerton Deep lock, then an additional hold-up when a boat got stuck. The bottom gate wouldn’t open fully (silt, we found out later) and he hadn’t raised his side fenders. Eventually he managed to reverse back into the lock and pull them up. By the time it was our turn at the lock, all the other boats had disappeared. I felt obliged to take a photo of course, especially as I – or at least my shadow – was in it too.
I am very proud to report that I managed those heavy gates all by myself, even the bottom one where the end of the beam is a bit high for us shorter folk. I had to pull it from the underneath to get it going, but it worked. There was plenty of room to moor at the meadows, and if we hadn’t needed to get to Oxford for Sunday we would have stopped. Instead we went on and moored below Heyford Common lock, which is also lovely and the railway crossing at the next bridge wasn’t a problem. Dave finished the final coat on the front bit of the boat (not quite sure of the proper term).
11 and a half miles, 7 locks, lots of lift bridges though all but one was open.