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

Wormleighton

We stayed a couple of days on the Napton flight. Aside from being a very pleasant mooring, I needed to do a few maintenance tasks. The main one, giving the hull a coat of black paint, to replace that which had been removed, scrapping along the sides of Locks chambers. We also need to service the engine, in 20 more hours of use, but I put that off for another day, and refilled the stern greaser instead.

This morning we said farewell to our neighbours of the past few days, a herd of water buffalo, that seem quite happy, munching on the juicy grass in the field. They do however stop what they are doing, and stare whenever four legs makes an appearance.

Water buffalo at Napton on the Hill

We had three Locks to navigate, before reaching the summit pound of the Oxford Canal, and the water point. Tank refilled, we resumed our cruise, soon passing a boat moored in the centre of a field. We had seen this before on our previous travels, but the ditch it sits in, appears to have dried out, and the boat now resting on the ground, has a list to starboard.

An interesting mooring location

As the crow flies, the distance to our intended spot was only a mile or so, however the summit of the Oxford Canal, follows the contours, twisting and turning, and almost doubling back on itself in places, therefore it was four miles before we reached Wormleighton. We did see some interesting sights on route, including a teepee, complete with outdoor bath tub. The crew did not think they would use that, whilst watching passing boats go by

Glamping on the Oxford Canal summit

Arriving at our mooring we found it empty, and therefore had our choice of spot. We chose a section which has a large hole in the hedgerow, giving impressive views across the open countryside.

Mooring at Wormleighton
View from the side hatch

The forecast for tomorrow is rain, so we will probably stay put and move on when the weather improves. Our solitude did not last long. Within ten minutes another boat had stopped. Our next move will be to the area of Cropredy, where the towpath switches to the port side. I will then be able to attend to the painting on that side of the hull, and of course the engine service.

Totals 5 Miles 3 Locks

Running total 167 Miles 242 Locks 9 Tunnels

Napton on the Hill (part two)

Yesterday we didn’t move, well at least the boat didn’t. We took four legs for a walk up the Lock flight, and checked out a favoured mooring spot, it was empty. Back at the boat, the furry one was left on guard, whilst we popped along to The Folly for a Sunday roast. In the afternoon it rained, so we sat inside the boat pondering the list of jobs that will soon need attention.

The Folly P.H.

Today we moved the boat up to the water point at the base of the Locks, and refilled the tank. The flight was fairly busy, with boats travelling both ways, but I think the crew is happy to be back on narrow Locks once more.

Looking back from Napton Bottom Lock

One of the Locks on this flight, has recently undergone extensive repairs. Whilst the the brickwork to the Lock wall looks very tidy, unfortunately it seems the job has been spoilt, for the sake of a ha’porth of tar.

The original finish
The new finish

What is ironic, is they must have removed the original top row of bricks, when doing the rebuild. Why they could not replace them is beyond reason. Further up the flight we met an old working boat descending. In conversation with the crew, it seems that numerous complaints have been made about the concrete edging bricks, and these will be replaced during the winter stoppage season. Some good news, but really should have been done correctly in the first place.

We rounded the final bend before our intended mooring spot, and there was a boat there. So we reversed back round the bend and moored.

Napton flight mooring
Our view for the next few days

In the photos above, in addition to spectacular views, you can also see the remains of a pill box. A reminder of how important the canals were in more recent times, that they warranted such defences.

Totals 1 Mile 6 Locks

Running total 162 Miles 239 Locks 9 Tunnels

Napton on the Hill

Well this morning the summer temperatures had returned. We woke to bright sunshine, and could tell it would be a very warm day. Our first job was to cruise the one mile to Ventnor Farm Marina for services. We manoeuvred into the Sunset Basin, and what a delightful setting it is. The staff attended to us immediately and were very friendly, even allowing us to refill with water, and empty all our rubbish. Services complete, we exited the Marina and headed for Calcutt Bottom Lock. There are three Locks in the flight, and we met a couple of boats descending. Passing through the flight, you could see that it was a hand over day for the hire fleet, as all the boats were lined up, ready for new holidaymakers to arrive.

Looking back at the Calcutt Boats

Once above the Top Lock, it is a short hop to Wigrams Turn, mostly done with the engine on tick over, as we passed a line of moored boats. Wigrams Turn is where the Grand Union Canal meets the Oxford Canal, and is where we were turning right, heading for Napton, and ultimately Oxford.

Wigrams Turn and the Oxford Canal ahead

We now had just a mile and a half or so to cruise, until we would reach our intended destination of Napton on the Hill. As the crow flies the distance is about 600 yards, but we had to follow the contour of the hill as we rounded Napton. There is a nice windmill perched high up on the hill.

Windmill at Napton on the Hill

We found a mooring spot and secured the boat. Knowing that just round the next bend is the Folly P.H. and being lunchtime, we popped along for a bite to eat. The Folly is a favoured location of ours for Sunday roasts, during our winter confinement at Yelvertoft.

Well deck view of mooring at Napton

I had the fillet steak, and the crew battered halloumi, it was very nice. The furry one sat drooling the entire time, so begrudgingly I gave him a smidgen of my steak. With the Napton flight of Locks ahead, we are not sure if we will move tomorrow or not, and even if we do, we might not do the whole flight, as there are several options to moor on the way up.

Totals 4 Miles 3 Locks

Running total 161 Miles 233 Locks 9 Tunnels

Napton on the Hill

Weekly update. Following our short stay at Yelvertoft Marina to attend the Crick Boat Show, on Sunday 5/6 we departed in fine weather heading for Norton Junction. We waved to the crew of nb Adagio who were also due to be leaving, and turned left at the exit heading towards Crick. As we approached Crick Marina we saw most of the boats that had been moored on the, pay for towpath moorings, were now gone. Then it was on into Crick Tunnel for an unopposed transit. It was also unusually dry ish. We were soon at the top of the Watford Lock flight. There was a boat waiting, but soon after checking in with the lockeeper we were on our way down the staircase. Half way down, we again saw the crew of nb Adagio checking in. Later we found out they had a three hour wait, boy are we glad we got up slightly earlier than they did. Rounding the final bend towards Norton Junction and the Grand Union Canal it is always a lottery if the mooring spot will be empty or full. We were lucky. We had also arrived at lunchtime, so a quick call to the New Inn just round the corner secured a Sunday roast reservation.

Monday 6/6, we were away early aiming for the area of Flecknoe on the South Oxford Canal. The weather was glorious as we turned right at the junction heading for Braunston.
       

                                                 Heading towards Braunston Tunnel.

       

                                               Viewing back towards Norton Junction.

The previous day this stretch of canal had been really busy, we were expecting the same again. We were wrong. We had no boats with us in Braunston tunnel, and also none to share the six wide locks we now had to descend. The cottage by the top lock is for sale if you have a spare half a million, it’s not one of the best we have seen, but does include 3 acres of land. Onwards down the flight we began to meet oncoming traffic, which meant the locks were in our favour as we arrived at them. Once through the bottom lock it was onto the junction where we turned left onto the Oxford Canal. About a mile and a half later we arrived at our intended spot taking a position just prior to bridge 100. The main mooring area beyond the bridge was very busy, but stopping where we did gave us the illusion of being on our own.
       

       

                                                 Bridge 100 mooring spot on the Oxford Canal.

Our plan was to stay here a few days until our appointment at Calcutt Boats on Thursday. On Tuesday 7/6 we walked back into Braunston for lunch at the Boathouse, and on the way back we managed with a great deal of resolve, to avoid visiting the chandlers. Wednesday 8/6 we set to work with one of our Crick show purchases, ‘Brass Mate’. For the past year the brass on our boat has had a lovely bronze look to it. Both our neighbours at Yelvertoft polish theirs, so now we too can join in the fun and games. We completed one side, and it is now so shiney you need sunglasses just to look at it. Thursday 9/6 we wanted to be at Calcutt for when they opened, so at a very early 7am we were underway. An hour later we turned right at Wigrams Turn, rejoining the Grand Union Canal, and then travelled the short distance to Calcutt locks. Descending one lock we then reversed onto the wharf and checked in at the office. Our hurricane diesel heater was still not functioning correctly in that the exhaust was at times giving off very strong fumes. The engineer dismantled the inner workings paying particular attention to the compressor, as the unit had been running at low pressure thereby causing an incomplete burn of the diesel. He soon found the problem, a small hairline crack in the unit that has probably been present since new. For this reason Calcutts did not charge me for a replacement despite being outside the warranty period, which I thought was decent. By noon we were on our way again heading for Napton on the Hill and a favourite mooring spot by bridge 116. We had six locks of the Napton flight to ascend but the flight is manned by lock volunteers, so sometimes you get some assistance, usually only at the bottom of the flight. Our chosen spot was free so we moored up planning to stay over the weekend. 
       

                                             Mooring on the Napton flight by bridge 116.

During Friday and Saturday we visited the pub and the village shop to support both. Today, Sunday 12/6 we had booked in for lunch at the Folly Inn. Mid morning we received a phone call from the pub cancelling the booking due to a power cut that had affected the whole village. To say we were devastated at the prospect of missing out on a roast dinner was an understatement. Luckily, 10 minutes later lunch was back on as the power had been restored. The pub however in that short time had lost quite a few bookings. The food as usual was excellent. Our plan is to head back slowly towards Norton Junction aiming to be there by next weekend.
Totals  Sunday 5/6.     7 Miles 7 Locks 1 Tunnel
           Monday 6/6.    6 Miles 6 Locks 1 Tunnel
           Thursday 9/6.  8 Miles 8 Locks 
Running totals 141 Miles 91 Locks 7 Tunnels

Flecknoe

Our visit to Calcutt Boats is over and once again we are back on the cut. First thing Monday morning we moved our boat into the covered dock, and transferred a few things onto the hire boat that would be our home for the duration of the works. The accommodation was basic and not at all comfortable, the next few days would be an endurance. Later in the day the engineer notified us that he had made good progress, and that he would be finished the next day. This was music to our ears. Not only would the eye watering quote for the works not be so eye watering, but our stay on board ‘Wild Hemlock 1’ would be very much reduced. The following day, Tuesday, with a few hours to kill we took a walk around the reservoirs and headed off towards the Bridge Inn at Napton for lunch. The pub was closed due to a funeral so we continued on along the towpath to one of our favourite pubs, ‘The Folly’ at the base of Napton locks. After lunch we wandered back to Calcutt Marina. It was quite warm by now so the three of us needed an ice lolly to cool down whilst we waited for the engineer.

       
                                                         Oscar enjoying a twister.
The boat was ready. By now it was late afternoon, so rather than set off we arranged a berth for the night. This would allow for a lengthy test of our relocated diesel heater before we travelled too far. It performed well. During the relocation the engineer has secured it to the boat using a combination of wooden boards and rubber feet. Previously, it had been secured directly to the steel of the boat. It now operates much quieter than before. This morning after breakfast we set off, departing the marina and headed up the flight of locks. The weather was fairly blustery, and there was a fair chance we would catch a shower before we reached our destination. Just as we were arriving at our mooring spot, the hail storm started. The wind picked up driving the hail sideways, and mixed in with the hail just for good measure was some icy rain. No sooner had we finished securing the boat the blue sky and sunshine made an appearance. We plan on staying here till Friday or Saturday depending on the weather.
       

                   Hurricane diesel heater. Positioned at a 45 degree angle to allow service access.

       

   

       

                                          The inner workings which are now accessible.

Totals 4 Miles 3 Locks 
Running total 21 Miles 19 Locks 2 Tunnels

Priors Hardwick

Today we departed Napton on the Hill after our long weekend there. During this time we had become regulars at The Folly. On Sunday, we had our usual roast dinner in front of the large open fire. It was very cosy. We set off up the remaining four locks of the Napton flight, soon reaching the summit section of the Oxford Canal. About a mile beyond the top lock, we passed a sign for moorings available.

       

A little further on we saw what was entailed. It seems if you want to moor here, first you need a JCB to dig a channel into the field. Then, navigate boat into said mooring, before rebuilding the canal bank behind you. The lengths some people will take to avoid the Canal and River Trust license fee.
       

       

A little further on, we reached our destination for the day, near to the village of Priors Hardwick in the vicinity of bridge 124. After securing the boat we nearly put the heating on for the first time. The Met Office had told porkies indicating that this week was going to be warm and sunny. Well it was bloomin cold where we were.
       

     

       

                                            Views of our mooring spot summit of Oxford Canal.

We will probably only stay here tonight before moving onto Fenny Compton tomorrow. Hopefully we will also see the sun.
Totals 3 Miles 4 Locks
Running total 552 Miles 257 Locks 19 Tunnels