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

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

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

Wormleighton update

Not too much to report today. We were facing the wrong direction for Cropredy following our trip to the services, so it meant setting off in search of the next winding hole of 60 feet or more. This morning we finally got the warm sunny weather the Met Office has been forecasting, so a pleasant day’s cruise along the summit of the Oxford Canal was on the cards. The nearest winding hole was at Marston Doles some five miles away. Unfortunately, it was for boats upto fifty foot. We therefore had to descend two locks of the Napton flight, and wind in the Old Engine House Arm. This short arm of canal is now used as private moorings. Having winded, it was then back through the two locks and up onto the summit level. It appeared as if the sun was shining on us metaphorically speaking as well. Having ascended Marston Doles Lock, we saw a queue of five or six boats had arrived and were waiting to go down. As we cruised over the next half a mile, another five boats passed us heading towards the lock. I imagine a two to three hour wait was likely for the last boat. We also got logged twice by the Canal and River Trust. Once just above the locks, and again by a different data checker below. The sun has obviously brought all of them out of hiding as well. We arrived back at the spot we had departed five hours previously, and moored up. We are now facing the right way again.

After lunch a few maintenance chores were completed. The heating system had an air lock, so this was bled to remove that problem. The batteries needed a top up with water and an equalisation charge, and the stern greaser needed filling. We will have a rest day tomorrow, then probably stay put over the weekend due to bad weather forecast. We will aim to be in Cropredy by Thursday as the crew is abandoning ship again to visit family.
Totals 10 Miles 4 Locks
Running total 570 Miles 261 Locks 19 Tunnels

Wormleighton

Our cruise today was simply to get services at the nearest wharf, which happened to be in the village of Fenny Compton. This was about six miles away by the wiggliest section of canal we have yet travelled. As the crow flies it’s a distance of about three miles. However we did not want to get to far ahead of ourselves, so this morning we set off with the intention of winding (turning) and heading back towards Priors Harwick once we had used the services. On the outskirts of Fenny Compton we stopped for water at a particularly busy bottleneck, which consisted of a water point, winding hole, public house, bridge, coal boat and visitor moorings, all within 50 yards of canal. Needless to say we observed some interesting boating manoeuvres whilst we waited. Then it was on to Fenny Compton wharf. We winded in the marina entrance which was quite tight, cheating a bit with generous use of the bow thruster. After our pump out we were off again on a return journey. We had seen a spot near the village of Wormleighton on the way, and this was where we were aiming for. We arrived just after lunchtime and secured the boat.

       

As can be seen in the photo the towpath is wide and grassy and the four legged crew member decided to sit outside for a while.
       

When we arrived at this spot we had it to ourselves. But we have found on our travels that as soon as one boat moors it seems to attract others so we were not alone for long.

       

The view from our side hatch across the Warwickshire countryside. This summit section of the Oxford Canal is very rural, quite and unspoiled, currently. The dreaded HS2 high speed railway is due to carve up this tranquil haven sometime in the future.
We will only stay one night here then continue our journey. The nearest winding hole is back at the Napton locks so we have to go all the way there first, before heading back this way to continue on towards Cropredy and possibly Banbury.
Totals 8 Miles
Running total 560 Miles 257 Locks 19 Tunnels