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

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

Cropredy

Since our last post we have been dodging the rain. So much for this being Flaming June, it’s been colder and wetter than February was. We have even had the diesel heating on. Having spent a couple of days at Wormleighton, on Sunday 9/6. we set off for Fenny Compton. We needed a top up with water, and due to the appalling weather forecast, it was likely we would be staying put at our intended mooring for up to a week. We also arranged for a pump out at the wharf in Fenny Compton, earlier than we needed, but it does mean we won’t need to move for seven or eight days. Once our services had been completed, we continued our cruise on the summit pound of the Oxford Canal, in relatively warm weather. About half a mile beyond Fenny Compton Marina, we reached the tunnel, or at least what used to be. It was originally built as a single bore Tunnel in 1776, but became a choke point, and by 1870 the roof had been removed. All that remains is a narrow cutting. Soon we arrived at Claydon Top Lock. A flight of five Locks, which dropped us 30 feet, and down off the summit. We had one more Lock to navigate, before reaching our intended mooring above Varney’s Lock.

Mooring above Varney’s Lock, Cropredy

The two geese in the picture above are our neighbours, living in the field opposite. Fortunately they are generally very quiet, except when the cows charge at them. We had been aiming for this spot, because the towpath is now on our port side, meaning I can attend to the jobs that need doing on that side of the boat.

The next five days have been a virtual washout, with very little opportunity to do anything. Our situation means we don’t have to move in appalling weather, but some do, especially hire boats who are generally on a schedule. It hasn’t been a complete waste of time, I have conducted the 2000 hour service on our beta marine diesel engine, and also topped up the water levels on our Trojan batteries. We have had the opportunity to walk into Cropredy on a couple of occasions, and during our visits, we have supported the local businesses, aka The Red Lion, and Brasenose Arms. The small village shop has also had some of our custom.

Cropredy Church opposite the Red Lion P.H

This afternoon the weather finally broke, and we caught a glimpse of the sun once more. Hopefully the towpath will dry out fairly quickly, and tomorrow I can finally begin our outdoor maintenance tasks.

Totals 8 Miles 6 Locks

Running total 175 Miles 248 Locks 9 Tunnels

Cropredy

Yesterday morning with the prospect of a fair weather window we set off from Fenny Compton. First stop the water point which was being used, so we had a short wait before we could fill the tank. After passing Fenny Compton Wharf we entered a straight narrow section of canal cutting. Originally a 1000 yard tunnel when the canal was first built, the roof was removed some time later. Continuing generally South we passed Wormleighton reservoir, one of three that provide water to the summit section of the canal. Shortly we passed a bridge with a very small opening. I thought this would be a bit tight. It was not however for boats, it was a feeder channel from the nearby reservoirs.

       

We had now left Warwickshire behind and had entered Oxfordshire. Soon we were approaching the Claydon flight of five locks. As we descended, an ominously dark looking cloud was getting closer. We exited the bottom lock and the cloud burst. The rain did not last long but it did not need too. In seconds we had been drenched. The moorings at the bottom of Claydon Locks appeared dank so we pressed on. We navigated through Elkington’s Lock then found a nice mooring above Varney’s Lock. We are about 3/4 of mile outside the village of Cropredy.
       

       

Later walking into the village we were pleased we stopped when we did. The moorings in Cropredy are only 24 Hr and we want to stay here till Monday so this would not have been long enough. The village has two pubs, we have already located The Red Lion, and a well stocked general store.
Today we took our walk early in anticipation of the forecast heavy rain, a remnant of a tropical storm that is due.
Totals 5 Miles 6 Locks
Running total 577 Miles 267 Locks 19 Tunnels