Saturday, 17 September 2016

A tight squeeze up the South Oxford. Then home waters.

On Sunday morning, the rain had cleared, as had the clouds somewhat. It was a fleece day, but at least the rain wear remained on the hooks. Time to bid farewell to Banbury. With the aroma of baking bread and coffee wafting us out, we departed.

We again had a sort of schedule. Ali was departing for a long weekend away in York with the female clan members, so the idea was to head for Braunston, collect yet another hire car, then for me to sit tight. That meant a slow bimble up from Banbury.

 The first day saw us mooring just before the summit of the Claydon flight. Well, two locks down actually, one of our favoured mooring's. It remained surprisingly quiet boat wise, even though the weather was on the up and the end of the school holidays was fast approaching. This usually signals a rapid exit from the marina's of the "Silvertops". But it appears, not just yet!

The next day, up the two locks and onto the long summit pound. What struck us most since we were last here in early May, was the rapid growth in the bankside shrubbery. It was somewhat choked then, but even worse now, restricting the navigation severely in places. Luckily, the traffic remained light. The Fenny Compton tunnel would have been a nightmare with more traffic as it was so overgrown, but we negotiated this without any dramas, that was until we reached the bend near the marina. We had slowed to a crawl rounding the bend, aware of the linear moorings and narrow passage. But this did not prepare us in meeting a boat on the wrong side, who made no effort to move over, forcing us into a hawthorn bush! God help anyone they meet in the tunnel...

After topping up, we continued the meandering course, following the contours, eventually mooring for the day near Knott's bridge, with splendid views over the valley and with Napton windmill topping the skyline in the distance. This was the start of Ali's foraging for blackberries. They are super abundant this year, not so the Sloes, which have cropped poorly.

The next day, it was the Napton flight. We expected this to be busy and in fact there was a queue for the first lock. But the traffic was nearly all one way. After the initial block of boats began the descent, we did get moving, but very slowly. It seemed to take an interminable time to complete the descent of what is but a short flight of narrow locks! Because of this, we decided to moor up near the now defunct Bridge inn. These usually popular moorings were completely vacant upon our arrival, such is the effect of the pubs closure.

Next stop, Braunston. Initially, we stopped just before getting to the Boathouse PH. But, as the moorings are only 48 hours and I would be resident for longer, we reversed back, then back some more, until just before bridge 88, we found the right spot. Clear of the road, not under trees, with a fine view of the church and an easy walk in to the village. My abode for the weekend sorted. After collecting the hire car on Thursday, Ali abandoned me...

The following Monday, we bimbled back down towards Napton. We know a spot were the bank is low, enabling a spot of TLC to be rendered below the gunwale to the battle scars from the summer. The weather had turned again, from very warm, to blooming hot! I was a little under the weather from something I had eaten I think, so Ali completed some touching up on the starboard side whilst I snoozed! The next day, we made a hop to the winding hole near Napton junction, the returned to the same mooring to complete the port side. This area had a super abundance of blackberries and so we harvested a good supply for the freezer.

This area really is the super highway of the canal network. Boats were passing us in waves whilst we were moored. The good weather obviously temped many to sever their umbilicals and exit the many marinas in this area. On Wednesday, it was no different as we approached Braunston once again. But, once we had turned towards the locks, it was a different world. We used the services without a queue, stopped for a shop and then for fuel at Union Carriers below the bottom lock. Hardly a boat moving. Then fortuitously, we found a lock mate to ascend the broad locks. Through the tunnel we passed only one boat, but it was the smokiest passage we have ever made through it. You could hardly see!

How cute?

Our mooring for the day was a spot near Welton Hyde marina. The next day saw an easy passage up Watford locks. We arrived just as the descending block of boats were reaching the bottom, so had only a short wait which we used to water up. By the time we began the ascent though, three boats had arrived behind us. Once at the top, we used the services, then after another smokey passage through Crick tunnel, we moored up just prior to The Moorings. As we were staying on Friday in order to pay a quick visit to family, this spot allowed us to hop to the services before moving off on Saturday. It was in the lee of trees though, but not directly under them, so whilst we has some leaf fall to clear, we did not have any seasonal purple bird poo!

So after spending the late afternoon and evening at Jane & Paul's, seeing the children and once again having a great meal, we returned to the boat. We had missed the storms over the previous 24 hours thankfully, but the weather had certainly broken. By Saturday morning, it was cold, with a fine drizzle which started not long after we cast off. By early afternoon we called it a day and moored up near the junction with the Welford arm.

The summer cruise is sadly, nearing its end. Time to start thinking of home and I suppose, replacing the stolen car. Something of a reality check from our world on the water.

54 miles & 34 locks, Braunston tunnel & Crick tunnel

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments