Our cunning plan today was to return to The Pig Place and make use of the electricity supply and use our washing machine, £15 for an overnight mooring including electric compares well to a couple of washes at a laundrette.
Before we moved off we had a message from Louise asking if she & Iona could visit as she (Louise) had left her handbag on the boat on the last visit.
Just 1½ miles and 2 locks, but there were queues at both locks and the journey took us an hour & forty minutes.
We just had time to get a load of washing on when the girls arrived and we had lunch from the Outdoor Cafe, half-price thanks to Boris’ Eat Out to Help Out Scheme.
We spent a lovely afternoon with them and later revisited the food bar for our tea, so lazy!
Wednesday 5th August – Day 58
Another two locks today on the way to Banbury and since we came down, the dilapidated Grant’s Lock Cottage had suffered an arson attack, so sad to see.
The grass cutting contractors were out in force with two mowers and two strimmers, will the job get done twice as quickly?
Grant’s Lock Cottage after fire
Four men went to mow!
Just before one o’clock we pulled alongside our friend Jill’s boat and begged the use of her water-point, to replace all that we’d used doing the wash. We found a mooring near Samuelson Bridge, handy for Morrisons just across the canal.
Jill joined us for an impromptu lunch and later I collected a new tool bag for my bike at Argos and spent the evening modifying the fixings to suit my bike. Jill came past again later and had a go on the DYU which judging from the video she thoroughly enjoyed.
We plan to stay here for a few days and do some shopping and jobs on the boat. Oh, and seeing more friends, no doubt.
After waiting for a suitable moment, we cast off this morning following a passing hire-boat, we were travelling backwards through the lift bridge which the hire-boat crew were happy to keep open for us; they were less happy when two more boats came through, but this is the nature of canal boating, anyway, you can’t remove your key from the mechanism until the bridge has been lowered.
The reason for our bizarre behaviour was to save a 4-hour journey to Dukes Cut and back just to turn around. We had intended to call and see bank-dwelling friends, Phil & Bryony, at Kidlington but they were away on holiday! So after negotiating the bridge, we turned at the winding hole (turning point) and pulled onto the wharf where we replenished our water tank.
By 10 am we were off, retracing our route, there was a queue at Shipton Weir Lock and we were helped by the crew of the following boat who we met at every lock. Up the River Cherwell through Bakers Lock, past the Rock of Gibraltar Pub, Kidlington Quarry (where the moorings were as full as they had been empty on the way down) Northbrook & Dashwood’s Locks and we were at Heyford.
A mooring with clear views across the fields was free, TV reception good and we just about had phone & internet on O2 but not EE network.
A quick message to our friend Nicky, who lives opposite and she came around bearing cake made by her daughter, she had spotted our arrival already.
It was good to see her although Mike was ‘busy’ watching F1 (for professional reasons as he works for an F1 team!).
We heard with amazement how old her kids are now and her experience as a GP in this Coronavirus pandemic.
We saw Bones again briefly in passing and spent a good night here despite the railway line next to us as there were fewer trains running, being Sunday.
Monday 3rd August – Day 56
This morning we were making ready to leave when along came Alex for a chat, we bade our farewells and as we were passing the Heyford Wharf we saw nb Nutwood and stopped to see Andy, who I used to work with here. He used his influence to get us a pump out despite being a ‘turnaround day’ for the hire-boats, unfortunately, the machine failed halfway through so we will have to make other arrangements.
There were queues at all the locks today, Heyford Common Lock was still in a bad state with leaking gates and now a paddle out of action but all the boat crews helped each other and we managed okay.
Shortly after we had a problem where passing a moored boat a couple in a canoe approached going hell for leather with no intention of leaving their course.
Being the gentleman that I am I moved over to let them through and got firmly stuck on the mud! Fortunately one of the boaters I’d met at the lock soon came along with his Lister HR3 powered boat (that’s quite a big engine) and after a couple of attempts pulled us off. The Latin motto on the side of the boat “Lister hanc navim impellit ubique” translates to something like “The Lister [engine] propels this boat everywhere”
We stopped for lunch at Sommerton Meadows before tackling Somerton Lock (our last today) again there was a queue but that meant, plenty of people to help us through.
I love the railway viaduct at Aynho (see the ‘featured’ photo at the top of this post) apparently it’s part of a flying junction, info from Wiki2 if it makes you any-the-wiser!
… with the down line from Bicester North grade separated from the up and down lines from Oxford. The junction is the point where the Great Western Railway’s New North Main Line (via Northolt, High Wycombe and Bicester North) of 1910 joins the original Didcot and Chester Line via Oxford. The former line is also known as the Bicester cut-off line.
We arrived at Aynho Wharf just after 4 pm, finding plenty of space to tie up and settled ourselves in feeling a bit weary after nearly six hours boating including our lunch stop.
Today was our 48th wedding anniversary and we contemplated going up to the Boat Inn for an evening meal, but in the end, I cooked us a Boeuf Bourguignon.
Oh, have you noticed I’ve taken a new header photo of Wren-Nest moored here at Thrupp.
Thursday 30th July – Day 52
Wow! Wasn’t it hot today, not a lot was done except to rig up our sunshade and try to keep cool, and of course being Thursday Joy had her online watercolour class, the subject was a bear, the less said about the result the better!
Friday 31st July – Day 53
It was a bit cooler today, well more of a breeze which helped a bit and in the early evening we ventured down to The Boat where we enjoyed a cool beer in their garden.
Saturday 1st August – Day 54
This morning I got the bike out early and rode the 3 miles to Sainsbury’s before it got too hot, I tried using the Sainsbury’s SmartShop app for the first time. You scan your shopping with your phone and put it straight in your bag, scan the phone at the checkout, pay and Bob’s your uncle. The only downside was juggling the trolley, phone & shopping list.
When I got back I said to Joy, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea if the app had a shopping list feature”, guess what… when I had a look at the app a bit harder, it has!
I had to be careful on the ride back with a backpack on not to pull wheelies, I’ll have to find a way to carry the load on the front of the bike.
Joy put a couple of her paintings out on the cratch table this afternoon and was delighted when someone asked to buy one.
Later on in the afternoon, our friend Nina cycled down from Dukes Lock to see us which was lovely as we hadn’t seen her for years, in fact it was when Joy broke the ball of her humerus in March 2013. See the story here.
Later we attempted to polish the side of the boat & clean the windows while tea was in the oven, Greek Stuffed Peppers & Latkas (a kind of Jewish Rosti) proper world fusion food.
This will be our sixth night here so we’d better not outstay our welcome and head back north tomorrow.
Our Sainsbury’s delivery driver found us without any trouble last evening and a local boater was intrigued to know how we had arranged it.
We later walked down to the bridge and saw Gilly, one of my ‘old’ (or should I say erstwhile) colleagues also Steve who’s other-half Marrianne used to run the nearby Annie’s Tea Room.
Well, I’ve been buying toys again, our internet router was a bit unreliable and so one was purchased from eBay & delivered to Argos in Sainsbury’ at Kidlington. I walked up to the main road and caught the S4 bus there and back. The rest of the evening was spent setting it up!
Tuesday 28th July – Day 50
This morning Joy spotted a boat had moved off of the 7-day moorings so we reversed back there tout suite and slotted into that space, hampered only by a hire-boater who seemed unable to grasp what we were trying to do and kept coming towards us.
Our ‘new neighbour’ kindly helped to pull us in and we are now moored in the sunshine enjoying a better phone and internet signal next to a tub of lavender, so we will be staying here for a few more days.
I’ve spent time making a new shelf for the router, slightly moved the TV bracket and tidied up the wiring.
We had intended to stay in Heyford today as rain had been forecast all day, however, there seemed to be a ‘window of opportunity’ this morning until noon. We (I) decided to move off and within 100 yards incurred Joy’s wrath as it started to spot with rain!
We passed nb Twisted Compromise and stopped to talk to Alex for a few minutes before passing all the other permanent moored boats here. Then it was down through ‘The Cleaves’, Dashwood`s & Northbrook Locks, shortly a familiar boat came into view, it was nb Bones so once more we stopped alongside for a chat with the eponymous Bones and had several years of news to catch up with!
A couple more boats away and there was nb Pootle, so naturally another stop to hear Adrian’s news too; will we ever reach our destination?
By this time the sun was out and my disgrace was lifted, past Kirtlington Quarry, Pigeon’s Lock and Caravan Lift Bridge, though sadly all traces of the caravan and bridge have now disappeared you could just see the wheels & axles in 2015 -It was a shepherd’s van actually, you can see a picture from 1976 on CanalPlanAc)
Jane’s Enchanted tea Garden
Rock of Gibraltar Pub
A little further and Jane’s Enchanted Tea Garden peeped through the trees, we really have to pass through when they are open one day! Past Enslow Marina and under the railway bridge and we found a mooring spot nearly opposite the closed down Rock of Gibraltar Pub, such a shame, we used to enjoy stopping there.
It was one o’clock when we tied up and the rain started immediately. My plan was justified! Not so good however for Jock & Katie with Dusty the Coalboat who came along and cheerfully topped us up with diesel in the rain.
We spent a quiet night managing to get TV and some sort of Internet/phone signal.
Sunday 26th July – Day 48
We were away soon after 9 am and passed Georges Bar (moored between the two bridges) negotiated the boats on the permanent moorings and down Baker’s Lock onto the River Cherwell.
I always enjoy swooping around the bends on this river section and soon were at Shipton Weir Lock, another of those odd diamond ones like the one at Aynho.
Old (reliable) Level Indicator System
New River Level Indicator
Down through Shipton and into Thrupp, Joy worked the electric lift bridge and we found most of the 48 hour moorings free so we tied up near The Boat Inn, ready to receive our Sainsburys delivery this evening.
It turns out to be a good mooring spot here above Allen’s Lock, Upper Heyford, not only do we have a good TV signal, but we are further from the railway line than Lower Heyford. We have an open field on one side which has a footpath through it causing us to scratch our heads, to begin with when we heard apparently disembodied voices from behind the trees.
We are right next to the lock mooring which keeps us entertained with a stream of boats through the day. We saw our friends Toni & Chris again today as they were visiting our neighbours Ruth & Barry.
Thursday 23rd July – Day 45
Today I’ve been experimenting with some photography and had some quite pleasing results while Joy has had her regular on-line art lesson.
Tomatoes coming on
Pansies where I planted Corriander???
The view across the canal
Nettles & Hogweed against a cloudy sky
Friday 24th July – Day 46
This morning we travelled a whole mile and a half, we dropped down Allen’s Lock just after 10am and through the electrically operated Mill Lift Bridge at 10:40.
It’s curious that this bridge needed to be electrified (apart fro making it easier for single-handers) because back in 2009 it was so easy to operate that my 6 year old grandson could lift it, so over the years what has changed?
A brief stop opposite the church to reconnoitre, and, yes, there were moorings further on, next to the water point so we passed Oxfordshire Narrowboats’ boats which had been returned this morning and were being prepared for a new set of customers.
We bagged the nearest mooring and before I could tie up Anita from one of the houses opposite called across to welcome us. (We’ll have to behave here as we know the occupants of ALL the four houses opposite)
Later we walked up the road to visit our friend Emily and have a cup of tea in their garden. A phone call alerted us that our personal shoppers (Ruth & Barry) had arrived with some groceries. On the way back we popped into Oxfordshire Narrowboats and said a quick hello to David (the owner) and Phil (the manager) before leaving them to ready their boats.
There was a queue for the very slow water point so we left it until after tea to start our fillup.
We hadn’t got much in when a motor & butty came along so we let them fill up first.
Last night’s mooring being peaceful, tonight’s was right next to the railway line and some trains really shook the boat, it quietened down after 11 pm and wasn’t too bad.
This morning we left the Pig Place just after 10:00 am saying our farewells to Tim & Annie, it would have been a little earlier except two hireboats came racing past which in turn pulled out the mooring pins of another hireboat which started drifting towards us, the occupants being blissfully unaware; until our combined tooting & shouting alerted them! Were they still in bed?
Just two locks today, Nell Bridge & Aynho Weir Lock, where on our first hire voyage we got stuck on the weir due to the high flow on the river. No such problem today as the video proves.
About an hour & twenty minutes later we were at Aynho Wharf and found a mooring immediately opposite.
We contacted our friends, Toni & Chris, from Somerton to arrange a visit, which happened very quickly as they joined us for a meal that evening for a (mostly) vegetable risotto, just a little bacon for flavour.
Monday 20th July – Day 42
We had booked a ‘pump out’ for 10:30 this morning and as soon as I heard the sound of the lawn-tractor towing the poo bowser I pushed across the canal and got the job done also purchasing a cornetto for Joy and a bag of frozen peas.
The rest of the day was spent with jigsaws for Joy and accordion practice for me, Radio 4 Extra has been entertaining us with lunchtime drama series and has become unmissable.
We could have moved on… but we have our first grocery delivery from Iceland tomorrow morning.
Tuesday 21st July – Day 43
Up and ready at 8 am but grocery delivery not due until 10 am at the earliest, so I indulged myself by cooking bacon & eggs.
The boat behind us seemed to have moved off without us noticing, but we were soon joined by another, a small trad, nb Iron, with a Russell Newbery engine, this is the type of engine used in narrowboats in the 1930s & 40s (Also built under licence by The National Oil Engine Company). Indeed the Russell Newbery company has existed since 1909 and a new engine I was told, would set you back a cool £25,000!
We received a text saying our delivery would be between 10:28 & 10:48 so we moved over to the wharf and filled with diesel & water, just on cue the Iceland driver phoned for directions. He wasn’t sure where Aynho Wharf was, but all became clear on mentioning it was next to The Great Western pub!
Our shopping safely arrived we were joined alongside by another boat, nb Byfield, who needed a pump-out, nb Iron wanted water and yet another wanted gas.
Fortunately, we were soon filled with water and by 11:30 extracted ourselves from the melee and squeezed under the low Aynho Bridge scraping the solar panels in the process, three-quarters of an hour later we found ourselves at Joy’s nemesis, Somerton Deep Lock, fortunately, we had help from the crew of a boat coming up, in fact, there was a queue waiting.
We went on our merry way, stopping for lunch at Somerton Meadows and there we would have dallied had we not arranged to meet up with Ruth & Barry on nb Celandine at Allen’s Lock. So onwards to Heyford Common Lock which we found the top gate leaking so much it was hard to open the bottom gate. I was assisted by the steerer of the boat we had seen earlier buying gas.
Fifteen minutes later we were tied up just above Allen’s Lock next to Ruth & Barry. We enjoyed coffee and cake together and a good chat before they had to go home.
Now any of you who know the Heyfords will appreciate the mobile phone signal is abysmal, Joy was fine with GiffGaff on the O2 network, but my phone & our router are on EE’s network and we had zilch! Fortunately, I had a new GiffGaff SIM to hand and managed to activate it in my phone so now we can make calls & use it as a WiFi Hotspot.
A slideshow of today’s countryside
After all that excitement we didn’t feel like cooking a meal, but I had heard that The Barley Mow was doing takeaways so out came the bike and I trundled up the hill to get our tea.
Sonia cooked it while I waited and enjoyed my first pint in a pub in months, Fullers Seafarers ale and jolly good it was too.
The pub wasn’t busy, but I still saw folk I knew from working at the boatyard all that time ago.
Back down to the boat I sped and soon we were enjoying fish & chips for Joy and a homemade steak & stilton pie & chips for me. The food was absolutely first class and much appreciated.
The day started with a bus ride to Sainsbury’s to collect my mouse from Argos. When I returned we cast off and headed through the lift bridge which Joy was winding up when Mark, who used to operate Dusty the coalboat appeared and lent a hand, down through Banbury Lock and on to Tramway where we used to have a mooring. There was precious little space but a kind boater moved his boat to make room for us. Within a few minutes, we had seen four of our friends who moor here.
This morning I forgot to take the faulty mouse back to Argos for a refund, so I got the bike out and found the back tyre flat again so I fitted the new tyre & tube before tackling the uphill climb to Argos. The bike managed it well with some pedal assistance on the steepest bit and coming back I had to use the brakes to stop being too scared at an indicated speed of 35 kph (22 mph).
We quickly settled in and later I walked over to Morrisons for a few bits and to collect a package from the Amazon lockers.
Tuesday 14th July – Day 36
I visited Halfords (by bike) & bought a new security lock for the bike and some ‘Green Slime’ to put in the tyres to try and stop getting more flats.
Later Joy and I walked over to Morrisons for more shopping returning with a full backpack plus an extra carrier bag.
This afternoon we had a socially distanced catch up with Joy’s friend Sandra from the Artery Art Classes.
Wednesday 15th July – Day 37
This morning was spent upgrading my laptop’s Linux operating system, I now have Linux Mint 20 “Ulyana” and what’s more, it’s still working.
Joy prepared a mousaka ready for tomorrow and this afternoon we spent time with our friend Jill catching up on all the local gossip news.
Thursday 16th July – Day 38
We found we were running low on water this morning and coincidentally a mooring became free right next to our old mooring where there is, of course, a tap.
So we made a dash for it somewhat to the bewilderment of Paul who was just coming to see me with a gift of Brasso, was he trying to say that some polishing was needed? We got our fill of water and pruned a few tree branches, with Paul’s help to enable our TV aerial to be set-up.
The ‘patio’ at our old mooring is looking a bit forlorn as the current tenants only visit occasionally. The legend that is Paul returned later with other gifts including window cleaner & teabags!
Thursday afternoon meant Art Class for Joy and Accordion practice for me, I hope it didn’t scare the moorhens too much.
I also did some window cleaning and filled the bike tyres with the slime.
For tea, it was Joy’s delicious homemade mousaka which she prepared yesterday.
Friday 17th July – Day 39
This morning started with domestic chores, up to the service area with the rubbish and get milk from Morrisons (or was it the other way round?)
At lunchtime, we got a taxi up to Banbury and visited the Art Shop again, and coincidentally bumped into Jacqui, who works there, in town. Joy bought a couple of new jigsaws at The Works and I went into Wilco for some cable clips & came out with a bike basket too! Unfortunately, it didn’t fit my bike so I had to return it.
Later, our friend Jill invited us for a meal and we spent a pleasant evening with her enjoying the fresh air and a lovely meal in the front deck of her boat.
Saturday 18th July – Day 40
We slipped away from our mooring at 9 am and soon descended Grant’s Lock where we were dismayed to the lock cottage boarded up, empty and vandalised, such a shame as it was occupied and quite nice last time we passed it, two years ago.
Kings Sutton lock cottage, on the other hand, was looking very good with hanging baskets flourishing, obviously still a work-in-progress as the old outbuildings were brimming with builders equipment.
Under the M40 bridge and we were on our way to the overnight mooring we had booked at ‘The Pig Place’, we were greeted by our ‘old’ friends Tim and Annie. Oh luxury, electrical hook up again!
The reason for this, was my nephew Rowland and family were visiting from Denmark and as it was eight years since we last saw them were pleased to arrange a get together. Jeremy, Louise, Morley & Iona were also part of the plan and arrived in time for a late lunch at The Pig Place’s outdoor cafe & bar.
Rowland, Jeannette, Cornelia, Thomas, their friend Julio, not forgetting Cookie their Jack Russell arrived from London at 3:30 for an even later lunch and we spent an all-too-brief three and a bit hours catching up with news and introductions (as the younger ones hadn’t met each other before) We even had a video chat with my brother Jim (Rowland’s dad) in Spain. It was all quite interesting with a mixture of languages to be heard, Jeannette & Julio are Columbian and Cornelia & Thomas (aka Coco & Toto) are bi-lingual so Spanish was in evidence but thankfully they all speak English very fluently although Coco & Toto have a bit of an American accent!
After Rowland & Co. had departed we sent Jer & Louise off to collect a Chinese takeaway before they had to head back to Birmingham.
A week of birthdays coming up with Morley turning 17 and Coco & Toto are both ten, well they would be, they’re twins!
Another trip to the village stores this morning before we left Cropredy and started the trip down to Banbury, just three locks today.
We have already started to see familiar boats and people; before we left we spoke to Jane on the mooring opposite and just out of Cropredy we spotted Jan & Ed on their mooring who waved frantically.
On the same moorings is an old wooden boat which has been there for years, but it has gained a companion, a tiny steel narrowboat alongside.
On the outskirts of Banbury even more industrial development was underway on what I believe is the old Alcan aluminium factory site. Malc & Dinky were in their garden and gave us a cheery wave as we ran parallel to Southam Road. The ‘Donkey Field’ next to them is up for sale with canal frontage but I couldn’t find the asking price on the agent’s website.
Dink & Malc’s
Along the Spiceball Park moorings we saw more familiar boats and although warned about the Castle Quay development, we were still surprised at the scale of the building work.
Never-the-less, we found a mooring outside the GF Club’s ‘Waterside Bar’ as it has been re-named. Mercifully, being Saturday, the building work finished at lunchtime.
Later we walked over the town, Joy visited The Artery (art shop), we bought fruit and veg at the market and chatted to Maffi & Susan who’s boat is moored at Tooley’s Boatyard.
We treated ourselves to a Takeaway this evening from K2, a new place to us, my favourite, Lamb Pasanda was… different, very mild and quite pale compared to the normal orange colour, but quite nice all the same.
Sunday 12th July – Day 34
A quiet day, except for our neighbour starting his engine at 7:30 am, running it for most of the morning to do his washing which he then hung out on lines between the trees outside the club!
We ‘did’ online church again and in the afternoon Ruth & Barry passed on their boat Celandine & chatted for a while.
Tomorrow I have to pick up a new mouse from Argos as the one I bought only a few months ago has gone faulty, then we shall try to find a 14-day mooring at ‘Tramway’ and catch up with even more friends, so if you’re not too far away feel free to contact us about a visit.
This morning I whizzed down to the Co-op to get some provisions, while Joy made a cake as the main event today was a visit from Joy’s niece Chris who popped in for a ‘socially distanced’ coffee. She came bearing a gift of a lovely jar of homemade gooseberry jam.
Yes! We did find a lighter mooring, next to the (closed) pub garden and waterpoints.
I really think the darkness of these moorings will deter boats stopping at the pub. I met the landlord and mentioned it, he said it was C&RT’s responsibility, but he hoped to open next week when more hire boats were about. I hope it works out for him.
In the afternoon we fired up the generator & did a couple of loads of washing, and got it on the line before the rain came.
Thursday 9th July – Day 31
Yay! An even better mooring became available this morning, with loads of sky, where we could stay for 2 weeks if we wanted to and it’s opposite an ‘End of Garden/Field’ mooring which we would love complete with sheep!
Joy had her on-line art class this afternoon, a dark sky with the moon and hot-air balloons. The rain persisted down for all the afternoon and evening, good job we hadn’t planned to move.
Friday 10th July – Day 32
Hooray! A sunny morning so we were up and away soon after nine as we wanted to call at Fenny Compton Marina for gas, I’d checked prices the previous day and at Cropredy Marina, it was £35.50 which is apparently Calor’s recommended price! At Fenny, it was £32.50 which was a bit better, back at our marina it was £28.50 last month. I thought petrol & gas prices were falling?
Fenny Compton ‘Tunnel’
Fenny Compton Turnover Bridge
Enough whinging, it was a lovely day and we headed through Fenny Compton ‘Tunnel’. You know you’re on the South Oxford when you see Boundry Lift Bridge (header photo). Before 11:00 we were passing our one-time mooring at Claydon. A lady opened her boat window and (politely) asked us not to take photos (???) I explained we used to moor there but I have no idea why she objected, however, I won’t publish the photo as she asked nicely.
Soon after we were starting the Claydon Five (locks) and to our surprise, there was a C&RT volunteer on duty, who has a nice little base at the middle lock.
Four more locks and we were at Cropredy, a new canalside house has been built since we were last this way (just advertised as a building plot then). At the services, we stopped for water and there was a 48 hour mooring waiting for us almost opposite, between the C&RT workboat mooring and the permanent moorings. Excellent!
I popped over to the village stores for fruit, veg and an icecream each. Joy prepared us lunch, a salad topped with black pudding and a poached egg, been watching too much Masterchef!