Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Aynho to Banbury

Today we decided to cruise 3½ hours to Banbury.  First we had to cross over the River Cherwell at Aynho Weir Lock.  This is the second hexagonal lock we’ve come across on the South Oxford Canal.  Paul (Waterways Routes) left a comment explaining they are hexagonal to allow more water to enter the pound.

I’d been anticipating an aquaduct but the river cuts across the canal at 90° entering from the East and exiting via a large weir on the West.

View south towards Aynho. The river Cherwell enters from the left with the lock beyond the bridge.  The weir is quite substantial indicating there must be occasions where there is a considerable volume of water in the river.

The weir

At the next lock (Nell Bridge) we met a boat descending and the lady on board warned Jan the water was on Red Boards.  Jan was left with the impression there was a strong flow on the stretch above Nell Lock.  But the canal guide didn’t mention “river” from this point onwards.  We decided the lady was confused!

At Kings Sutton Lock I had difficulty with Waiouru at the lock entrance.  Jan was draining the lock and the fierce back current dragged Waiouru forward until it collided with the closed gate.  I couldn’t reverse because Waiouru grounded when power was applied.  I shouted to Jan to drop the paddle which then enabled me to slowly back away.  That’s when the ‘local’ who had been watching told Jan about the fierce back current <most helpful…. after the event!>

The canal gently wandered through the peaceful countryside until we reach the outskirts of Banbury.  Karen (nb Quacksilver) had sent us an email advising us there was a large Morrisons supermarket on the southern side of Banbury.  Following Karen’s instructions, we moored south of the bridge and made the short walk to Morrisons where Jan purchased some food for lunch and dinner.  She is going to do a larger shop tomorrow morning at Tesco on the other side of Banbury.  We also need to replace the “dead” microwave.

After lunch we decided to move further and top up the water tank.  Both Jan and I failed to notice the CaRT services block on the left immediately below Banbury Lock as we were focussed on setting up the lock. 

Banbury Lock

All wasn’t lost as there is a second water point immediately above the lock before the lift bridge.  After filling the tank we moved off with Jan raising the bridge. Beyond the bridge is the historic Tooley’s Dry Dock where the boats were two abreast leaving sufficient clear water for one boat to safely pass.  As I entered this narrow section an Oxfordshire Hireboat appeared in the open water at the far end.  To my astonishment the boat kept coming into the narrow section where it hit our bow and pushed Waiouru against the concrete edge to the towpath.  The steerer keep on coming grinding the side of his boat down our gunwale which also resulted in the other gunwale being ground against the concrete edge to the towpath.  As he passed me he made the comment “Tight….. but we made it!”  Impatient idiot!  Jan was back at the lift bridge as they needed to pass under it before I could free Waiouru. The steerer said to Jan “Are you in a hurry?”  To which she replied “I need to catch up with my husband and help him find a mooring”.  His reply to this was “Tough!”  Jan told me she wanted to lower the bridge on top of their boat!  

So we are now moored in almost the precise spot Paul (nb Lola) suggested we DON’T moor as they had previously had their mooring lines untied here in the middle of the night.  One assumes by some locals who had killed several million grey matter cells with amber fluid.  We’ll chance it!

Tomorrow we head towards Cropredy, stopping briefly at Tesco for more food and a new microwave!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Long Day

Fruit and veg stocks are getting low on Waiouru so today’s plan was to cruise twice the normal daily distance and make it to Banbury in two days rather than the planned three.  For the last six months breakfast has been a bowl of porridge cooked in the cheap (£20) Tesco microwave.  This morning mine didn’t cook in the usual 4 minutes.  In fact it didn’t cook on the second attempt!  Oh well; the microwave is two years old but it looks like a replacement will be needed from Tesco at Banbury.

It was a clear but cold start to the cruise with both of us well wrapped up in all our winter gear.  This is somewhat of a worry!  How are we going to cope cruising in the same gear next winter if we’re using it in Spring?  Perhaps our winter clothing isn’t quite warm enough?  Food for thought!

The first lock was Shipton Weir Lock and it has a rather unusual hexagonal (six sided) shape.  It joins the canal and the River Cherwell.  My assumption is the hexagonal shape provides greater strength which may be linked to the adjacent river.

The stretch between Shipton lock and the next lock (Baker’s Lock) is actually the River Cherwell so it’s important to check the water level gauge.

Well it’s not in the RED but is it YELLOW or GREEN?

The first thing we noticed on approaching Enslow were the large satellite dishes.  Enslow has a satellite earth station which is used to communicate with communications satellites (ET phone home!)

There are also a number of residential linear moorings either side of The Rock of Gibraltar pub.

The most recognised boat on the moorings was this one!

Love the skulls Smile

There was a reasonable space between the locks and we climbed steadily until lunch time.  Jan has been trialling and new way of getting off Waiouru.  She is stepping off at the bow before the locks which is actually making it easier for me to control the boat. Reboarding is different.  If there is no other boat at the lock I hold the stern of Waiouru in the “mouth” of the lock whilst Jan lowers the paddles and closes the gate.  The prevents the bow from wandering off and makes it easier for Jan to step aboard at the stern.

Note the hat and heavy jacket!

A few locks later and the warm hat has been discarded.

The South Oxford appears to be very shallow between Thrupp and Upper Heyford.  We didn’t want to erode the banks and eliminated the potential for ‘wash’ by completing most of this section at ‘tick-over’ speed.  We found a nice length of armco piling just short of Upper Heyford so we stopped for lunch.

It was such a nice mooring spot we’ve marked the location on our maps.

We had passed Oxfordshire Narrowboats base immediately prior to mooring and both commented on how well their boats appeared to be presented.  Boats were being washed and brass polished!

Jan really struggled with the large lower gate at Somerton Deep Lock.  The lock is one of the deepest on the canal at 12ft.  Fortunately I’m not claustrophobic!

Having managed to close the lower gate Jan then went on to struggle opening the upper paddles.  The mechanism was very stiff and she eventually adopted a strategy of moving the windlass a quarter turn at a time pressing down on the windlass with her full body weight.

Jan was glad to see the last of Someton Deep Lock.  We then met nb Cullen coming in the opposite direction.  The lady on board noticed the flag on the back of Waiouru and exclaimed “Oh Kiwi’s”.  Then we noticed the rather faded sliver fern flag flying on their tiller arm.  Damned Kiwi’s… they’re everywhere!

Prior to arriving in the UK I spent several years collating canal data into a Google Earth template.  Aynho Wharf had always interested me so I was very keen to actually see the wharf.

The canal appeared to be deeper from Upper Heyford to Anyho and we were able to increase speed to 1200rpm.  We’re in no hurry and 1200rpm gives us plenty of time to enjoy the scenery.  Today’s cruise gave the impression we were in a very isolated area with few roads, although the railway appeared to play “hide and seek” with us!  However you only have to look at the map to see how incorrect the impression is.

We’re now moored for the night on armco piling just north of Aynho.  Tomorrow we should reach Banbury around midday and get some shopping and sight-seeing done in the afternoon.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Thrupp

Somewhere back in the past we came to a decision that whenever possible we wouldn’t cruise on a weekend.  The logic behind this was we would get a good mooring before all the “weekenders” could untie their mooring lines.  We also decided we would finish any cruising around midday.  Again the logic was the hire boaters and others would still be cruising at this time giving us a better chance to grab a good mooring.  So when we arrived at Thrupp around 1.30pm yesterday rather cold from the passing hail storm it seemed a good place to stop.  On the outskirts of Thrupp Jan started frantically reaching for her camera having recognised a moored boat.

No sign of the ‘local entity’ so we pushed on slowly until we reached the 48 hour moorings outside the Boat Inn where we were spoilt for choice as they were all vacant.

A row of terraced stone houses beside the canal and visitor moorings at Thrupp

The CaRT services building can be found adjacent to the lift bridge at the far end of the visitor moorings.  Across the lift bridge (immortalized by Maffi) is Annie;s Tea Rooms.

The facilities building at Thrupp

All very tidy and well presented.  As were the moorings!

Annie’s Tea Rooms looked nice but we decided against spoiling our appetite.

Moored opposite the facilities were two narrowboats in ‘Muddy Waters’ livery.  Readers may recall ‘Muddy Waters’ is a series of children’s books based on narrowboats.

And who should step off the stern of Muddy Waters but Maffi. I first started reading Maffi’s blog when I was researching both narrowboats and employment in Saudi Arabia.  Maffi was recording the building of his narrowboat whilst he was working in Saudi Arabia and was also blogging about living there.

He subsequently joined us for afternoon tea on Waiouru and then we arranged to meet at the Jolly Boatman for a drink (or two) in the evening.  After a light dinner we wandered down the towpath to the Jolly Boatman where shortly thereafter Maffi joined us.  He mentioned on his arrival that Bones ( Bones of Canal Boat magazine) and Alex might be joining us.  Thirty minutes later the five of us were discussing many thing boating!  All too soon three hours had raced past us and Bones needed to leave.  That’s when we realised there were no photos and discovered Bones is adverse to having her picture taken.

You can almost see Bones cringing and Maffi wasn’t raising his fist.  But I did manage to sneak in one photo as Bones was leaving.

After a quiet night we woke early to find a cold and blustery day.  Definitely not a day for moving if at all possible.  Sunday lunch was at the Boat Inn where we again had the roast.  The Boat Inn might be vaguely familiar to Inspector Morse fans as the episode The Last Enemy was filmed near the canal and pub.

Our 48 hours on the visitor moorings finish tomorrow and the weather forecast is for sunshine, so we’ll be heading north.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The leaving of Oxford

Despite some earlier reservations we had a quiet night moored on the Thames above Osney Lock.  Having previously done the tourist thing in Oxford on an earlier holiday in the UK we didn’t want to spend much time in the city.

All the angles

Christ’s College 

The weather forecast was for showers in the afternoon so an early start to the cruising was planned.  This part of the Thames almost looks like a canal.  It was a very short cruise to the junction where the Thames and the Oxford Canal meet.

Right turn for the South Oxford Canal.  The red boat is moored.

The short channel to the first lock passes under two quite low railway bridges.  On the west side of the cutting is a derelict railway swing bridge.  The bridge abutments and approaches still exist but the original rail alignment has gone being replaced by multi-storey housing.

The deck of the old rail swing bridge on the right bank

Isis Lock is to the left and Jan gets to work the first of many narrow locks which we’ll be doing over the coming years.  Not that we’ve never used narrow locks on our previous boating holidays.  It’s just new to Waiouru.

Yes…. the fenders had been removed before we entered the lock!

The stretch of canal between Isis Lock and the junction to Duke’s Cut appeared to contain a significant number of boats on linear moorings.  We also happened to notice a number of them weren’t displaying a current licence.

During this ‘tick-over’ passage past the linear moorings Jan was required to open the first of two locked manual lift bridges.  She had difficulty opening this bridge but eventually managed to unlock it when a passing ‘local’ told Jan to sit on the end of the bridge whilst simultaneously twisting the BW key.

We arrived at Dukes Cut junction to find a boat descending the adjacent lock so we ‘hovered’ in the junction whilst waiting for the lock to be available.

Under the bridge to Dukes Cut whilst we go right into the lock and up the South Oxford.

The next pound seemed quiet and rather picturesque until a boat came from the opposite direct and we went aground during the passing manoeuvre.  The South Oxford seems very shallow, or have we been spoilt by the Thames?

A pattern appeared to be developing as we met another boat descending in the next lock.  Actually there were two boats and we might have gone up between then except the second boat turned the lock in front of us and refilled it for their own passage down.  The boater studiously ignored us as he exited the lock.  Oh well…… we’re not in a hurry!

Entering the lock

Above the lock a group of canoeists appeared.  they were a complete contrast to those we had previously seen on the Kennet & Avon.  Dressed in slacks, blazers and straw boater hats with their canoes full of wine, cheese and crackers.  A group of young men having an amusing outing on the canal.

Got to go back for the crate of wine (being eyed by Jan!)

Black clouds appeared overhead and the light started to fade.  Then the rain started to fall.  Before long Jan mentioned “Some of this rain is solid!”  Ouch…. Yes it was hail!  Fortunately we were almost at Thrupp where we’ve found a 48 hour mooring which will do us fine.  The weather forecast is for showers in the morning and fine in the afternoon so the plan is to stay where we are tomorrow morning and have a Sunday pub roast lunch and then recommence the cruise north in the afternoon.

Friday, April 26, 2013

After Two Years!

Again the day started overcast with the breeze of the river also making it rather cold.  We slowly cruised up the Abingdon Lock where the lock keeper must have seen us coming as he opened the lower gates as we arrived.  The lock was refurbished over winter and it certainly looks “newer” than the other Thames locks we’ve been through during the last two days.  The lock has all the service facilities but we only needed to fill the water tank and dump the plastic bag of rubbish.

The cruise to the next lock (Sandford Lock) proved to be quite cold  and we were both considering donning our coats when the sun appeared.  The tree lined banks of the Thames would probably look more interesting in summer (when they are green) or in autumn with all the browns and gold colours.

We passed Nuneham House where lusty Victoria and Albert spent part of their honeymoon.

The Sandford Lock Keeper must have also seen us coming as he opened the lock gates when we came into sight.

Many of the Thames locks are very pretty and on enquiring we also discovered the lock keepers still live on site in the old lock keepers house.  The biggest problem I have with these locks is trying to find the time to take a photo whilst simultaneously attempting to control the boat.  Hopefully things will improve with time!  Above The lock is the King’s Arms pub.  I bet it does a roaring trade on a hot summers day.

Two ditchcrawlers (narrowboats) and a yogurt pot (plastic cruiser) passed us going downstream.  The second narrowboat (nb Sarah D) had five white stars on the NZ flag so we guessed they were Aussies!  They also yelled some comment about the rugby so we assume they’re still bitter! Smile

The heavy rainfall and flooding during winter has created serious problems for some boat owners.  today we passed two sunken boats and one that had been sunk.  It looked as if the owners were now considering what to do with their seriously damaged boat.

Iffley Lock was particularly picturesque and again the lock keeper opened the gates for us before we arrived.  All the Thames EA lock keepers have been very friendly and helpful.

Iffley Lock - How about that for a home to go with the job!

Very quickly we were on the outskirts of Oxford.  The initial impression was the journey through Oxford would be very attractive.

However it appeared Oxford had turned it’s back on the Thames which seemed to become a dirty winding ditch until we reached Osney Lock.

Osney Lock

There are free moorings above the lock (24 hours) so we decided to stop cruising for the day and spend the afternoon looking around Oxford.

Moored on the Thames above Osney Lock

Jan managed to sniff out a chinese supermarket.  Looks like dinner will be interesting with dim sims and steamed pork buns on the menu.  She also bought some oyster and soya sauce.  I walked further down the Thames Path to the junction of the Thames and the South Oxford Canal.  There I found it…..  after waiting two years… our first narrow lock.  It looks so……… well narrow! Smile

Isis Lock