Napton on the Hill

It has been a while since our last update. We left the river Thames behind, and are well on our way back to the Midlands, via the Oxford Canal. We were in Thrupp for the August bank holiday weekend, and were very surprised on arrival to find a space available. It did mean we got to eat a Sunday roast in the ‘Morse Room’ of the Boat Inn.

Our next overnight stop was in Lower Heyford. We found ourselves moored in front of nb Bones. This boat is owned by the famous canal feature writer, Mortimer Bones, whose column can be found in the monthly magazine, ‘The Tillergraph’.

Next stop Banbury, where the crew abandoned ship for a couple of days. This gave me the opportunity to deal with a job, which I had been putting off for a while, getting the stove and flue cleaned, ready for its impending winter usage.

Once the crew had returned, we set off for Cropredy, popping into the Marina on route for services. We found our usual spot above Varney’s Lock, then the following day, wandered back into Cropredy, for a Sunday roast at the Brasenose Arms P.H.

Monday 2/9. Departing Cropredy we were soon ascending the Lock flight at Claydon. It wasn’t long before spotting numerous signs, resisting the prospect of a new Marina being built in the area. The problem is, this is on the summit of the Oxford Canal, which is always having issues with water levels, and quite often restrictions are in place. The powers to be say, the Marina will act as a Reservoir, but given the increase in boat numbers taking water from the summit at both ends, it would have to be a big area of water, to make up for the extra use. On arrival at Fenny Compton, we stopped on the Wharf, so I could visit Leesan, the toilet specialists. No dramas, we just needed some de-scaling fluid, to keep everything running as it should. A couple of miles further on, we found a mooring we have used before, close to a large radio mast. It is quite, and several miles from anywhere, so just what we like.

Moored near Wormleighton

The next couple of days were forecast to be fine and dry, so out came the paint brushes, to touch up the war wounds we had gained, during our travels. Most incidentally occurred whilst on the Rivers, the landing stages are geared up more for the height of cruisers and not narrow boats. We also walked the three miles back to the Wharf Inn for lunch. I had the black and blue chicken, grilled and smothered with Stilton, it was delicious. The field opposite our mooring contained several hares, difficult to spot without binoculars. Unfortunately not the season for any boxing matches, but still nice to see them.

Today we set off for Napton on the Hill. Cruising along the summit of the Oxford Canal is very pleasant, with some lovely countryside to enjoy. Sadly this is no longer untouched. The dreaded HS2, is ploughing straight through the middle of it. We thought the new government were meant to be conducting a review, but the diggers are still changing the landscape at a startling rate.

A small section of the HS2 site

We carried on until reaching Marston Doles, and the Top Lock of the Napton flight. Whilst stopping for water two boats passed by, but we didn’t have far to go now. We descended three Locks, and took a mooring at one of our favourite spots, opposite a field of water buffalo.

Mooring Napton on the Hill
View back towards Adkin’s Lock and the Old Engine House Arm

Here we have excellent views, a sheltered area, and good phone and tv coverage. We also have the benefit of our favourite pub nearby, The Folly, and a well stocked village shop in Napton.

Totals 42 Miles 32 Locks

Running total 547 Miles 562 Locks 15 Tunnels

Aynho

This morning we set off for Aynho, five miles and four Locks away. The skies were grey, and in the distance looked black, but at least it was warm. It would be touch and go as to whether we would be hit by a shower. The stretch of Canal we are on now, south of Banbury seems quieter, and we settled into a pleasant cruise through the countryside. We soon passed beneath the M40 motorway, and from then on, it ran parallel to the Canal, but sufficiently shielded to prevent too much of an intrusion. Our third Lock of the day was Nell’s Bridge Lock. It is necessary to check the indicator boards below this Lock, to ensure that the water levels are not excessive. The reason is because at the next Lock ahead, the River Cherwell crosses the Canal, and following periods of heavy rain, the levels can rise making navigation risky, and reducing the headroom at Nell’s Bridge.

Nell’s Bridge, can be a tight squeeze

The next Lock, Aynho Weir Lock is just over half a mile further on. The River Cherwell crosses the canal from left to right, and the Weir bridge is protected by a wooden barrier.

Aynho Weir Bridge

The levels today were fine, and the flow fairly insignificant across the Canal. Once in the Lock and looking back, it could be seen that the gauge was in the amber zone. This is fine for navigation, with caution.

Aynho Weir Lock, Amber indicator board

Aynho Weir Lock has very small drop of about one foot. It also has an interesting diamond shape. It was built like this because the next Lock, which is one and a half miles ahead is Somerton Deep Lock. With a twelve foot drop, Somerton Deep Lock takes a larger quantity of water than is usual. In order to maintain the water levels in the pound between, extra water capacity was needed to be built in, hence the strange design.

Aynho Weir Lock, diamond shaped for extra capacity

Our intended mooring spot was just over half a mile further on, close to Aynho Wharf. After securing the boat, we wandered off to the wharf, and adjacent public house. It was lunchtime after all. The Great Western Arms was very pleasant, as was the food. We have earmarked this for a Sunday roast on our return, sometime in September. Back at the boat I had a minor maintenance task to deal with, and four legs found a spot to snooze on the grassy towpath.

Mooring at Aynho

Tomorrow we will need services at the Wharf before heading off towards Lower Heyford.

Totals 5 Miles 4 Locks

Running total 187 Miles 259 Locks 9 Tunnels

Banbury

Sunday 16/6. We wandered into Cropredy to the Brasenose Arms P.H. for our roast dinner. The past eight days have been awful for June, with some very wet and windy weather, but the forecasts for Monday were better. Having stayed put for so long, we knew our water tank would need a good fill, we also wanted to visit a supermarket to replenish supplies. We therefore decided to set off early, so Monday 17/6. at 7.30 am we were underway. We descended three Locks into Cropredy, and as we approached the water point, a boat was moving away from it, perfect timing. Filling the tank would take a good 45 minutes, so we had breakfast, and the crew made a final visit to the local convenience shop. By 9.30 am, we were once more heading towards Banbury. We had a few more Locks to descend, then on passing Grimsbury Wharf, we were again on new waters. The Canal passes through the very centre of Banbury town, and its strange cruising between shops and a Shopping Centre.

Banbury town centre

Tucked away to one side of the Canal, right in the middle of the town is Tooley’s Historic Boatyard. This boatyard is one of the oldest on the network, and has been in continuous use since 1778. There is also a two hundred year old forge on the site, where you can undertake training to be a blacksmith.

Tooley’s historic boatyard

Just beyond the shopping centre, we had a lift bridge and Lock to navigate, then we moored whilst the crew went food shopping. Back at the boat we had made good progress, and it was lunchtime. Our intended mooring spot was only a mile further on, out in the countryside. We pushed on leaving Banbury behind, but in a few months, what is today a nice rural mooring, will be encroached on by the urban sprawl of new house building, taking place in the area.

Mooring outside Banbury
House building spoiling the rural landscape

With the fine weather, after having lunch I painted the port side hull using Hempel Multicoat. Both sides now look clean and tidy with no scuff marks, though only until we pass through a few Locks. Today, we took four legs for his walk, and headed back into Banbury. I was in need of a haircut, and despite the offer the crew made to do it, I opted to pay a barber. I’ve seen what four legs looks like when he has had an occasional trim. There are currently weather warnings in place for thunderstorms for the next couple of days, so once again we may stay put a day or two.

Totals 7 Miles 7 Locks

Running total 182 Miles 255 Locks 9 Tunnels