Tuesday, 16 July 2019


Friday 12th July; Oxford to Pigeon’s Lock

One of these years we will moor along the dead-end arm.  Last night the trains were just a bit noisy … it would have been quieter along the arm.  By 9 I was on my way into town.  I had drawn a map as we are only familiar with small bits of the city centre.  I found Boots with no trouble, then got muddled when I came out and turned the wrong way.  Eventually I worked out what I had done and found Sainsbury’s in the Westgate shopping centre.  Then did I take the right exit?  Of course not.  There were still hoardings up last time we were here, and now there are just too many ways to go.  But I asked a lovely 87-year-old – as sharp as a needle - who put me on the right route.

The canal was quiet as we pottered past Aristotle bridge moorings, which were nearly empty, and under Frenchay Road Bridge with its lovely artwork.

Muddy Waters was still moored along here, and then at a defunct swing bridge there was a short musical interlude – the young lady was playing classical guitar.

At Wolvercote lock was a surprising notice – there was nothing like this on the hoardings at Jericho Wharf! Well, that exhibition was for today.  No use to us, going in the opposite direction!

We had to operate all the lift bridges today.  At the A40 bridge there were some donkeys relaxing in its shade.

At Duke’s lock there were several boats on the move so the dredging workers were taking a break. 

taking a break
Squishy mud
screening the lumpy bits
We took on water at the tap above the lock, and pulled in further along for an early lunch stop. Then it was our bad luck that the dredger at Drinkwater’s Bridge was pushing its pan of sludge back to the lock for spreading, and the banksman was cycling back along the towpath for his lunch, just as we were setting off again.  So I had to deal with the wretched thing myself.  I got it open ok …

looks a bit skewhiff  too
But could I get it closed?  I got it almost low enough to switch from pulling the chain to leaning on the deck to bring it right down, but it kept springing back up.  I tried to get it lower, and was almost lying on my back on the bank – I could hold it but not change position!  Luckily the resident boater was just returning and stood on it before Dave could get back and rescue me!  He said that CRT re-balanced it earlier this year, but the bridge was wet, and when it dried out it was unbalanced again.  It gets electrified in November!  Hurray!

On the way through Kidlington we saw some beautiful hollyhocks

and the perfect boat to see in Oxford.

We didn’t stop in Thrupp.  The Milly M was still there but we didn’t see Maffi or Molly.

We met no other moving boats as we went along the river section, nor through Enslow which was very quiet.  I took a photo of the telescopes, which we always thought were on the east of the canal, but for the first time realised they were actually away to the west!

As well as a hunched heron, we had our first glimpse along here of red kites.  Oddly, we saw none on our way to Oxford.  They seemed to be flying purely for enjoyment – soaring high and then side-slipping at speed before soaring up again.  It did make it difficult to get a photograph though – many had to be deleted!

We thought we’d moor below Pigeon’s lock for the night, but no luck – there were four 40’ gaps on the proper moorings, and then two boats on the lock landing itself.  They weren’t about to leave, either – moored for the night and all the crew inside somewhere.  The one nearest the lock had the stern hanging out as the bank was all concrete with nowhere to bang in a stake, so we couldn’t avoid biffing him as we went into the lock (serve him right) – there was just enough room for me to jump off the bow and open the gates.  At least the lock was empty - it would have been rather awkward if I'd had to empty it too. 

It turned out to be much nicer above the lock.  There is a tiny little narrowboat moored permanently here, and as there was a lady enjoying the peace and quiet in her garden just before it, we went past it to moor.  We were just thinking what an excellent peaceful spot it was, when a boat announced its arrival with tooting, cheering (and waving to the residents at Jane’s enchanted tea garden), then loud singing until suddenly it all went quiet.  Why have you turned off the radio? There’s a boat and a house! Oh, ok.  It was a delightful group of ladies on a hen week, though it was painfully clear this was their first day and some had had a bevvy or two ….  then as they steered ever closer to the offside they realised they were stuck.

Dave shouted instructions to the steerer, and managed to get their centre rope and pull them free as I relayed instructions for forward/reverse and where to put the tiller!  After effusive thanks they were on their way.  The hire boat that had been waiting patiently followed them, but the share boat, with more experience, decided to call it a day and moored up in front of us.  The hens were such lovely ladies, we hope they have a wonderful trip and the wedding is fabulous!

The rest of the evening was peaceful.  It’s much better above the lock than below. 

10 miles, 7 locks, 4 lift bridges (1 electric)

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