Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st July; Wedding Bridge to Napton, Napton to Calcutt
It seems odd to be writing about the sweltering heat of last week now we are back at home and the weather has changed to drizzly and comfortably cool.
Tuesday night was uncomfortably warm and another hot day was forecast, but we decided to let the early birds get out of the way and clear the Napton flight ahead of us. So we got on with some jobs while the traffic went by, then set off at about 10 when it had quietened down a bit. It was hot, but with a pleasant breeze which made for lovely cruising. The canal winds around all over the place and bridges appear in the most unlikely places.
As we got closer to Marston Doles boats began to appear at regular intervals, indicating that the locks were busy, at least with boats coming up. When we arrived at the top there was only one boat waiting, a very slow hire boat we had been behind before – a young lad with his grandparents. I went along to help, as one does, which was lucky as they only had one windlass. We stopped near the old Engine House arm for lunch.
Under the scorching sun it was a bit of a slog down the rest of the locks, with boats ahead of us again. The water buffalo didn’t seem particularly bothered by the heat.
There were lockies around – one was off to check water levels at the summit, then another came along and after he’d helped us into one lock I suggested the hire boat, who’d had a longer lunch stop, might appreciate some help. At one point two planes flew over very low. Don’t know what they were or where they came from.
The boat ahead of us had nabbed the last spare mooring above the bottom lock, with the front third of their boat in the shade of the big tree there. The lockie had prepared the lock so we could go straight in. We stopped at the service point to dispose of rubbish and empty a cassette – much more convenient than waiting till we get to the marina tomorrow, where our berth is likely to be a long way from the facilities. We crossed over to take on water and I popped up to the shop for ice-creams. The shop only had yesterday’s papers and not a lot else. He scoffed at me when I said it had been slow down the locks – I think we were probably lucky in our timing. His opening hours are now 12 – 8.
Kath and Neil from nb ’Herbie’ waved from their comfy seats on the towpath round the corner but as expected, the Folly moorings were jam-packed so we went on. The canal had been so busy we were concerned that the moorings at the Bridge would be full so we pulled in before then at Brickyard bridge where there was a bit of shade. The short stretch of piling here had an unattended boat slap in the middle leaving insufficient room for us. The rough bit we used is not a good spot and we won’t stop here again. The industrial fan at the works by the bridge was switched off before 5, but there is also a lorry depot of some kind which clanged and banged for an hour or two after that. It was still boiling hot but we noticed that the barometer is dropping. The indicator has been over to the right for most of this trip.
After tea we walked up the hill to try and find the windmill. It is a long drag up the hill past those big modern properties so beautifully situated above the canal. The views are wonderful but I bet they suffer from the factory noise below. Further up the hill the local yoof were having fun at a motorbike scrambling course. Hard to get a good action photo as we were looking towards the setting sun.
We passed some beautiful stone cottages and a lot of more modern houses some of which were not beautiful at all. We walked on and on and eventually found the church and walked round the extensive graveyard. But no sign of the windmill behind the huge trees and high hedges. We had to turn back as dusk was coming on and with no lights or torch we wanted to get back down the lane before dark. When we looked at Nicholson’s later, we realised the lane wound round the side of the hill and we had chosen the worst possible route to the village! Never mind, another time ….
9 locks, 8 miles.
We had a very quiet night. On Thursday morning the lorry place was active at 7.30 but we were already up, anticipating that the factory would be on the go by 8. In the event we left before they started work. This was not a good mooring at all – we discovered a couple of places where mooring pins had pulled out in the past and the bank had collapsed along the whole length, leaving the towpath narrow and leaning towards the canal. Looks quite tempting though doesn’t it?
I dropped a note to CRT as I reckon it will get worse over the summer but am not holding my breath for repairs! We were at Calcutt locks by 9 and moored up above to wait for Jane at the marina office to arrive so we could sort out a mooring – we are only temporary moorers here and can’t be sure where we will be put. So a lot of the cleaning and packing got done while we waited. We were safely on a pontoon by 11 and left for home at 2.30. We hope to be back some time in August.
1 and a half miles, 3 locks
I have just looked back in our old logs to find out when the winding hole at Somerton bridge was still open. We used it in October 2007, very carefully and without touching any other boat I am glad to say. We were on our share boat nb Padworth, 58’. One of the people moored there was watching, and said he once was hit so hard at the stern that his boat needed a welding repair so it’s hardly surprising the moorers wanted it closed.