Sunday, 9 September 2018

Up an Over!

So back on the South Oxford. Don't get us wrong, this remains a lovely canal, but the lower section does require a good deal of maintenance. We were soon to be reminded of this!

I had hovered under the bridge exiting Dukes cut, whilst Ali went to set the lock. There was a small narrowboat moored on the lock landing, with no one around. The lock was empty, but the gate was closed. Ali opened the bottom gate and in we went. At this point a lass came down the tow path. It was her boat on the landing and, unable to open the gate, she had gone looking for assistance . We continued up and out of the lock, then Ali assisted her in and up the lock.  Turns out she had owned the boat for a year but her only lock experience had been on the Thames. Having to work locks herself, all 6 stone wet through of her, was somewhat daunting. She was heading for Yorkshire! Well three locks out of Oxford was enough for her as she called it a day. Going to be a long trip methinks!

It's a pity she stopped really, because a short way past the permanent moorings is Drinkwaters lift bridge. As we approached, there were two boats waiting on the other side and three people standing around looking somewhat perplexed. It appears someone has removed the counter weights so that once lifted, it would not stay in place. In fact it took three people one to lift then two to sit on the arms to allow transit under said bridge. It was a slow process to get all three boats through and somewhat hazardous. None of us were young, but we were by far the youngest crew.  One lady slightly injured her foot as the arm came down on it. There is no way someone single crewed could tackle it, like the young lass behind us.

Anyway, we finally got through and made our way towards Thrupp once again. Surprisingly, we once again easily moored, this time right outside the Boat PH.

Ever since we came down the Oxford , we have been in fear of its closure due to a potential leak in the pound containing Twyford wharf . So we set off intending to get to the other side of this. If it was to close, it would be a long trip home, down the Thames and up the Grand Union. But first we needed the services just under the now electric lift bridge. The bonus for us was that Dusty, the fuel boat, was on the service wharf, just having taken a diesel delivery and awaiting a coal load. So we breasted up, filled with fuel and water and emptied the nasties. Job well done.

Just out of Thrupp there is another lift bridge. This was decrepit on our way down. What a vast improvement! They have wrapped it in red and white tape! At least it was fixed in the up position. We subsequently found that this was only very recently as N.B.Paneke had found to their cost when the open bridge descended upon then as they passed under it. Fortunately only their tiller pin was damaged!



After Shipton weir lock, we were back on a river for a short while, this time the Cherwell. But the deeper waters soon ended. Up Bakers lock, we were back onto the canal proper again. The locks are isolated and infrequent now. Dodging the overhanging trees and expanding reed beds,  we continued North. Apart from Lower and upper Heyford, which are themselves only villages, this is a very rural section. After ascending Somerton deep lock and negotiating the slalom of overgrowth and oncoming boats, we called it a day on a splendid mooring just shy of Aynho, with just sheep for company.





anyone know anything, they have been there a long time and look like miniature totem poles

it's that time of year


It was the day to negotiate our potential nemesis,the low pound containing Twyford wharf. We passed Aynho Wharf, negotiated Anyho weir lock, crossed the Cherwell and approached Nell bridge lock. As we did so, a passing boater informed us that the pound above was now passable, CRT staff having run down water. We ascended the lock. Whilst the pound was still down, it was better than when we came down, so off we went.




Passing the permanent offside moorings by the wharf though, one of the residents said the water level that morning hardly sustained the fish! There is something seriously amiss here. There must be a leak, I suspect into the river Cherwell which flows adjacent to and below the canal. We wasted no time transmitting this pound and once up Grants lock, felt relieved. A quick stop in Banbury for essentials (Wine!) and we were again off into rural Oxfordshire . Just below Slat mill lock, a tempting piece of piling called to us, so we moored up, just cows for company tonight.




Our last day ascending now, before we hit the summit pound and begin our way down. After the initial rush of several boats descending the lock, coming from the Cropredy moorings and marina, we upped pins just as a boat was leaving the lock and slotted in.  After a short wait, we made use of the services at Cropredy. These do not improve with age! The bins were overflowing and the Elsan point was disgusting.

The locks are now fairly relentless. In themselves, they are easy to operate, just one after another. So close together that Ali walked the majority of the days journey, between each lock. The actual traffic though, diminished. We were trying to get up the Claydon locks to the summit, ahead of the forecast change in the weather. Rain was predicted by 1400hrs. We exited the top lock by 1330, then after three attempts, found a mooring with a straightish bank and enough water depth. Moored up, pram hood up, had lunch and the rains came, pretty much on time! If we can, we dodge the rain if possible. It's mainly hire boats moving in the downpours, because they have to keep to schedule. Done that, got the T shirt.




On the plus side, a Rose narrowboat work boat  Slough, went by, pushing a skip containing a large industrial shredder. Perhaps work cutting back the foliage lower down the Oxford is imminent.



After the previous evenings downpour, we awoke to a clear but decidedly chilly morning. Blue sky, but a chill wind. Ok when in the sun, but freezing in the shade. Still persisting with my shorts though!

Amazing bracket fungus


As we set off, we swapped estimates as to how many boats we would pass. We had several lock free miles to go, including the narrows before Fenny Compton. Approaching the start of the latter, we met a boat exiting. This is the top pound of the canal, always a little shallow, but to be fair, it was fine. We managed the whole length of the narrows without meeting another boat! As this is for some the start of their post school holiday season, we were a little surprised just how quiet it was. The moorings at Fenny were empty, as were those at Wormleighton.  One became almost blase rounding the severe bends on this archetypal contour canal. But not too much, as you never know. By lunch time, we reached the top of the locks at Marston Doles. One boat moored, one just exiting the top lock.






The clouds had built, but it remained dry, if a little chilly. We began the descent. No sign of boat movement, so we took our time. In fact, between locks, Ali managed to collect a couple of pounds of blackberries.  They are super abundant here at the moment. We slowly descended. Lock nine has a problem in that one wall bows in, restricting the width. Not a problem for us, slim young things (Not!), but it was fenders up to mitigate our width, policed attentively by two CRT volunteers.  I did point out to them that we just about floated in the previous pound, so off they trotted.

Descending lock 8, we were down. Our last lock for some time. We made use of the services below, then pottered past the full visitor moorings. In the duration of our journey this day, we had passed ten boats. So not busy. But the moorings here tell a tale. Half the boats were from Napton and on hire. They will be due back Saturday morning, so this is a good place to stop. Plus, it has the Folly pub to round off their holiday. We spotted a final free mooring, slotted in and decided a trip to the Folly sounded a Jolly good idea. And very nice it was too.


He was really enjoying the hawthorn berries

the bulging lockside


Total distance 46 miles 38 locks, 5 moveable bridges

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