Wednesday 22nd August; Aynho to Slat Mill lock
Apart from NB Dolcie Blue passing an hour or so earlier, all was peaceful as we slipped our moorings at about 9. It was cool, but soon warmed up. We met no-one as we rose up the shallow Aynho lock and cruised towards Nell Bridge lock, crossing the quiet Cherwell, which flows across the canal from the centre of the picture -
and passing the raised towpath over the river where it flows off to the left, with its associated soggy bits, though nothing is very soggy at the moment.
We met our first boat at Nell Bridge lock, then passed NB Derwent 6 moored opposite the Pig Place, but no-one was about. A couple of boats passed us going south so we had high hopes that King’s Sutton lock would be in our favour, but no such luck. New hirers were making a meal of entering the lock – all the crew got back on board to go in, though one realised quickly he needed to get off! The women had disappeared inside. I went along to help but with a boat coming down I didn’t seem to be needed so went back down where NB Juggler had arrived behind us. She is a very attractive boat and the owners haven’t had her long.
I was particularly taken with the flower troughs on the roof, which came from the little shop at the top of Buckby locks.
We were happily chatting when we realised nothing much was happening up above. The boat coming down turned out to be a day boat from Twyford Wharf and the puzzled crew was very grateful for some help. Eventually we were on our way and into the long and very shallow pound above. The boats at Twyford Wharf were even more at a tilt.
Dave was only able to cruise at 1200 revs where normally he would expect to be nearer 1400. Luckily we didn’t meet any deep-draughted boats, which would have needed to hog the middle of the canal, and wondered how Juggler would get on.
It was lunchtime when we moored for a quick zoom up to Morrison’s, but we didn’t want to stay there to eat because of the smell and noise from the factories. At the other end of the moorings was this unusual pairing, which looked to have been specially made for each other. Follow the left side of the cratch cover down and you will see where the front section, complete with little cabin, has been strapped to the bow of the boat behind.
It was almost 2 as we approached Banbury lock, and we planned to stop for water, etc, at the facilities block below before having lunch. However, the boat that had nipped out in front of us as we left our Morrison’s mooring had got there first. We had the last laugh though – we went up the lock before them, got our water at the second water point, which is between lock and lift bridge, and Dave could take the cassette down to the Elsan point on the trolley.
However, to get to the water point …. lots of Oxfordshire Narrowboats were on their way back towards Heyford Wharf today and they all seemed to have had lunch stops in Banbury. One came out of the lock, and we went in. Three were waiting! I told the second and third that we needed the water point, so the one sitting on the water point (as there was nowhere else to go) moved across as soon as there was space to do so. I felt morally obliged to open the lift bridge for the boat we had beaten to the lock as another arrived behind us and came up ahead of them too.
Good deed done, and the lunch moorers finally gone, we moored outside Castle Quays just ahead of NB Hardy, the old boat which sank on its mooring after it had apparently been hit by a passing boat. Since we were here last, it has been raised, put in Tooley’s dry dock and caulked. The hull on both sides was fairly covered in chalk marks and black where caulking or other repairs had been made.
There is a great deal of work to be done. Someone must have the know-how and vision to carry restoration through – just look at the state of the inside.
After a very late lunch I disposed of some plastic bottles and papers in the handy recycling bins along the towpath side as NB Dolcie Blue, which we had seen moored at Aynho, left the mooring opposite. it was far too noisy and busy in Banbury so we decided to leave too, catching them up at the first lock. We watched one of those long long goods trains crossing the railway bridge before the lock. This one was taking some of those car transporters off the road. It took a long time to pass.
Neither boat wanted to go as far as Cropredy – Dolcie Blue moored below Slat Mill lock, but we preferred to be on the Armco piling above the lock so continued for a little longer. The railway is not too near and the motorway is only a distant rumble, so it was fairly peaceful.
We were surrounded by swooping swallows taking insects from above the canal.
9½ miles, 8 locks, 11 lift bridges - 10 open, 1 operated twice – once for another boat, once for us.