Thursday 25 July 2019

Back to Calcutt

Thursday 19th July; Napton to Calcutt marina
I’m writing this a week after the 19th on the hottest day of the year (so far!).  But last week we awoke to a cool-ish grey day for our trip back to Calcutt.  The drizzle started before we had finished breakfast, then it rained properly for an hour before going back to drizzle.

So we did our packing and tidying on the mooring.  It’s a much prettier outlook than the side of another boat.  The other benefit here is that the Elsan point is closer than if we were in the marina!  So when the drizzle looked as though it was clearing up Dave dealt with the cassette.

The little flotilla of Mum and 11 babies is still intact.  Fingers crossed most of them are still surviving, at least for a while, though some will doubtless soon be tasty morsels for a pike or other predator.

When the rain cleared completely we had a pleasant cruise back to our summer base.  Dave reversed neatly onto the visitor moorings next to NB Perspective whose new owners had just come on board for the first time.

We quickly packed and got away for a trouble-free journey home.  My pot waterer had left the hosepipe in a lovely pattern.

Our next trip won’t be for a few weeks as we have to juggle family visits, village functions, hospital visits (me) and a significant birthday (not me!).

Today’s journey by boat was 2½ miles and 3 locks.  A lot more miles by car!

Trip stats
100½ miles, 84 locks,
98 miles, 7¾ furlongs of narrow canals; 1 mile, 3¾ furlongs of broad canals; 76 narrow locks; 6 broad locks (thank you Canalplanner); plus Isis lock twice and a little bit of the Sheepwash channel where we winded.

Tuesday 23 July 2019

A blot on the landscape

Wednesday 17th July; radio masts to Napton
This is a lovely spot, one of the best on the South Oxford.  Moored a little further on from us was this boat, with an ‘impossible’ name – I wonder if the owners are two mathematicians?

We left soon after 9, in hot sunshine.

Looking back at our lovely mooring
We dawdled our way along the summit level, deciding this was perfect boating – a bit of a breeze to temper the sun, beautiful views, birdsong, wild flowers …what could be more wonderful?  Certainly not THIS!

Preparing for HS2
The vehicle might look like a farm tractor, but was twice the size and had a massive blade underneath to level the earth.  I wonder how the noise of HS2 will affect our lovely mooring?  We still haven’t looked up the full route, but this stretch of the canal will certainly lose some of its attractiveness.

Quite a few boats were coming towards us by now, some on bends and in bridgeholes, naturally.  It was a good thing we were going at little more than tickover as we needed to avoid the shallow edges.  As we got to Marston Doles we caught up with a boat going down, and one soon arrived behind us.  With boats coming up too, and everyone helping each other, it was easy work in spite of the heat and humidity.  At lock 13 was a notice about damage.

Someone has given that a bit of a wallop, haven’t they?  We pulled in between locks 12 and 11 for lunch, and when we spotted the first of the post-lunch rush at lock 11, we were off again.  Once more the work was shared, though below lock 10 the water levels were very low and Dave only just got over the cill.  We reported it to the CRT men at the bottom lock – they were about to go up to sort it out.  There wasn’t space for us above the lock, so we dropped down, stopped at the Elsan for the necessaries, then went across to the water point.  I strolled over to the pub to see if they had ice-creams – but nothing!  Now the little shop by the pub has closed, it is the village shop or nothing.  So, after finding a part-shaded mooring round the corner, we set off up to the village and had a pleasant time eating our ice-creams at the tables outside the shop and watching the world go by.

As we were getting ready to go to the pub, this little flotilla went by.  11 little bumble-bees!  I wonder how long they will all survive?

We had to eat outside as the tables inside were fully booked.  It started to rain so we and the other diners all went under the big marquee.  Dave’s chicken pie was outstandingly good, but my spinach canneloni was less successful.  Pie for me next time!
9 locks, 5½ miles

Monday 22 July 2019

Not a wise move ….

Tuesday 16th July; Claydon locks to the radio mast mooring
This is such a lovely peaceful mooring!  We have stayed here many times.

 We washed the starboard side before we left.  Two boats passed on their way to the locks before we set off, shortly before 10.  By the time we got there, the bottom lock had nearly emptied itself, and the next was half full.  There is still a great deal of work needed here to stop the loss of water.  Thereafter, we met boats coming down at each lock.

By the time we reached the top there was a queue developing to come down.  Three workmen were hard at work at the top lock cottage, so it looks as though it has at last been sold.  With the only road access two locks down the flight, a lot of potential buyers would have lost interest.

Boats passed us regularly on their way to Cropredy and though we weren’t counting we guessed there had been more than 20 during the morning.  Some boats clearly don’t move much though – how do the owners even get around the boat with all those plants?

The bottom of the top pound was rather too close to the top in some places.  I don’t think cattle cooling off helps matters as the silt they disturb will eventually find its way into the main channel.

We made our slow way through Fenny ex-tunnel, and paused in a wide bit to let an oncoming boat get by; he warned us about the ‘road works’ up ahead, where the boat following him had grounded.  New piling is being installed along a section of towpath which slants quite steeply toward the edge anyway but I seem to remember the edge was breaking up too.

The large gap is being filled by dredgings (hurray!)  so I imagine it will be taped off for a while as it settles.  But then maybe it will be suitable for mooring.

Squishy dredgings by the armco
Both the piledriver and dredger had to stop work each time a boat passed – they must have had a very disrupted morning’s work.  We stopped at Fenny Marina to fill up with fuel and dispose of rubbish, then moored a little way further on for lunch.  It was pretty hot now, so we were hoping to moor for the night at the footbridge between 131 and 132, the ‘Wedding Bridge’, where there is shade.  But water levels were at least a foot down

And some people clearly had had difficulty getting moored – no armco, stern hanging out, mooring pins are such a faff – why not use those handy branches? 

Filling the fuel tank it transpired, had been a foolish thing to do.  We found we couldn’t get within a foot of the bank at Wedding Bridge, and as Dave wanted to do some work on the port gunwale we moved on.  We tried 5 places in all and were getting a bit concerned by the time we had got to bridge 130 and were delighted – and astonished – to find the shady mooring at the radio masts stretch not only free, but with enough depth to pull right in to the armco!  As it was shady the boat was not too hot for me to get some baking done.  Dave prepped and masked the gunwale and gave it a coat of red-ox.

Boats continued to pass in both directions till the evening and we were rather surprised to still have a fifty yard gap between us and the next moored boat.  These moorings are often pretty crowded.  We had some little visitors who were getting their feathers but are still quite a way from being able to fly.

Dear little stubby wings
I was just ten minutes away from dishing up our evening meal when the gas ran out.  Dave was conveniently putting his painting things away at the time so the canister was quickly changed.

5 locks, 6½ miles

Sunday 21 July 2019

Another hot one

Monday 15th July; Banbury to Claydon locks
The chilly start came as rather a shock, but Dave took advantage by giving Meg a run in the park before we left. 

Then we went to B&Q (Dave) and Tesco (me) before we left.  In all the years we have been coming this way, we never really realised they were there – we had a vague idea that there was a big Tesco but never bothered to investigate as Morrison’s is so close to the canal.  It was quite a hike though, and crossing the roads in the morning rush hour was not easy!

We were away by about 10.30, passing the cottage with the hot-tub.  Many years ago we saw Dink and Malc (there is a picture with their name on it on the wall) waving cheerily as they enjoyed a G&T while they relaxed in the tub.  We’ve never seen it occupied since, though Malc was in the garden when we passed and confirmed it’s still there!

It soon got hot and T-shirts and shorts were once more the order of the day.  The rosebay willow-herb was a blaze of glory all along the offside with a lovely patch of it by the M40.

At one of the locks, can’t remember which, I was chatting to the crew from the boat coming down when we realised we have met before though mostly through the blogs!  It was Neil (NB Herbie) wielding his new toy.  We waved to Kath as we left the lock.

Several boats had passed on their way to Banbury, and they kept coming, so we didn’t have to turn any locks.  We cruised on to Cropredy where we snaffled the single mooring shortly before the facilities block for our lunch stop.  The gentleman with the waterworks problem seems to be ok now and able to enjoy a spot of fishing.

Before we moved on again, we walked Meg to see Jonah’s Oak, which Dave had discovered on a previous stop here.

After making full use of the facilities block, we carried on to moor once again below Claydon locks.  I washed the roof to remove the accumulated bits of tree and sticky aphid honeydew, while Dave used the wood he had bought in B&Q to reinforce the lids of the wooden bow lockers.  We were joined on this long mooring by just 3 boats and once more it was a lovely quiet evening.

7 locks, 5½ miles

Saturday 20 July 2019

Back to Banbury

Sunday 14th July; Chisnell lift bridge to Banbury
We woke early to find the mist that was lying over the fields last night had vanished in the early sun.  We were on our way by 8.30, in lovely cruising weather.  Not too hot for Meg yet, and she clearly detected some enticing smells – ears pricked and nose whiffling for the first half hour or so.

In Aynho, few people were about and most seemed to be still abed.  This chap was looking alert though, with his (or her?) dog on his lap playing with its non-skeletal toy.

Some boats have so many tubs and planters on the roof that it is a wonder they can see to steer at all.  This boat was not on a permanent mooring so they must move somehow!

All was quiet at Aynho lock too, with the Cherwell flowing placidly across above it.

We didn’t meet another boat until we got to Nell Bridge lock.  They had just left the Pig Place mooring, having spent the night there - £12 plus 3 quid for electric hook-up, which seemed a bit steep.  I suppose it’s what they charge visitors to their camp site.  Anyway we pulled in to get some sausages and eggs (which were on offer at 2 boxes for the price of one).  Outside, the tables were heaving with happy campers having what looked like delicious breakfasts.

Around Twyford Wharf, there were several fields of what we think was flax (linseed) with its beautiful blue flowers.

The water level was much better than last year, when the boats moored at Twyford Wharf were grounded and listing.  One bridge has a ferocious-looking guard shark.  Having a bad hair day, I think.

We started meeting more boats as we neared Kings Sutton lock, having to wait for one to go up and finding 3 at the top waiting to come down.  At Grant’s lock, I noticed that the bridge has two numbers – 174 and, faintly, 148.  I remember reading something about why there are two numbers, but now I can’t find it.

We carried on to Banbury, stopping on the Tramway moorings to have some lunch and get the paper from Morrison’s, before carrying on through the town centre and managing to pick up the same mooring by the park that we had on the way down.  Naturally Meg demanded a proper walk as she had been so patient today.  We took her right round Spiceball fields as well as the formal park.  These are much rougher and more fun to go sniffing about in.

Geranium pratense

It was really still too hot for Meg, so we had to go over to the river and find a low bit of bank so she could get a drink.  Revived, she had plenty of energy for more play before we returned to the boat.

9 miles, 5 locks

Friday 19 July 2019

Flowers, butterflies and samosas

Saturday 13th July; Pigeon’s Lock to Chisnell lift bridge
After a few days’ dodgy signal, and another day spent packing and travelling home, I have got rather behind with the blog.

After yesterday evening’s excitement the night was quiet.  It’s a good spot here.  We started off by walking up to Kidlington village shop for the paper.  I hate to think what the property prices are around here, so close to Oxford and with such pretty cottages.  Shame about the riff-raff strolling about .....

On the way back we took a turn round the quarry for the benefit of Meg, but also to see what flowers and butterflies were about.

ladies' bedstraw

not fennel!

a pyramidal orchid?
No butterflies would sit still long enough to be snapped, but we saw ringlet, meadow brown and marbled white.  Back at the lock, the edges have not been close-mown and there is a lovely stand of yarrow.

When we unpacked our bag, the aroma of the samosas we bought in the shop was so enticing we ate them at once – and they were delicious.  It was getting on for 11 by the time we were on our way.  Meg said she was exhausted and retired inside for a nap.  It’s too hot for her anyway sitting out in the sun.

The canal was quiet till we got to the first lock, when we started to meet a few boats.  Dashwood lock was just as leaky as last year, when I reported it to CRT.  Later on we met a CRT employee and I passed this on – he looked resigned, but when I said I thought something was caught in the top gate he brightened up and said he was on to it. 

leaky Dashwood lock
Heyford was quiet.  The golfing frog is nearly hidden by purple loosestrife, but the murderous hare/rabbit was clearly visible.

There are some very attractive houses and cottages built of local stone along the South Oxford.  The ones on the far side of Mill Lane lift bridge, for example

I think the tree is a medlar
and the lovely barn a bit further on.  It’s a shame about what looks like poultry sheds next to it though!

We found a lovely spot to stop for lunch, some way before Allen’s Bridge.   Allen’s bridge is constructed with attractive bricks, and is very pretty with small ferns growing in gaps in the mortar.  I hope they don’t get ‘weeded out’ – they are not going to get much bigger than they are now.

Along the way to Somerton, we spotted a couple of very handsome ducks, or maybe geese – but we decided in the end they were Muscovy ducks.

Somerton Deep lock was its usual stubborn self.  The sun wasn’t shining strongly enough to get a decent shadow picture against the lock sides, but at least I can still manage that heavy old bottom gate on my own.  The gate paddles at the top weren’t exactly easy either.  I whiled away the time it took to fill the lock by watching a little family of moorhens on the spillway above the lock.

We went through Chisnell lift bridge, which was open as it usually is, and moored a couple of hundred yards on, where we have stopped before.  The lack of wind meant that the motorway could be heard, but otherwise it is a peaceful and lovely place.  There was plenty of space to moor, but no-one joined us.
5 locks, 1 (electric) lift bridge, 8½ miles