Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Claydon - and yet another thunderstorm

 Today's Canal - Oxford

The forecast for today's weather was much the same as for the past two or three: very hot with the possibility of thunderstorm later. Again we planned to make an early start with a long lunch break.

By eight o'clock as we cast off, the sky was already bright blue and temperature was rising rapidly.

It was not far to the Napton Locks where we first stopped on the water point. Whilst Mike and Jess filled up the tank, Christine went to see if the shop at the Folly Inn was still operational but alas no. (This pub has had a chequered career!) She decline the option to walk to the village store - the sign says only 10 minutes but we have been fooled by that in the past!

Water tank full we then pulled under the bridge to the opposite bank where the disposal operations take place!

There was a volunteer on hand to help through the bottom lock but not at any of the others. A steady flow of traffic meant that most of the locks were less effort than might have been although at one point we caught up with a boat ahead of us so we had to turn that one, with no oncoming traffic to help.

For the past 21 years, one of the notable scenes alongside the lower locks has been the herd of water buffalo which the nearby farm has specialised in. Their website indicates that they are still maintaining this herd but they must have been on an out-of-sight grazing!

It did not seem slow progress but it was only ten minutes under two hours by the time we completed Marston Doles at the top of the flight, waiting a few moments to allow a boat coming down to clear.

The area just above the flight was at one time a substantial wharf - but surprisingly only offers a 50 ft winding hole.

Ahead of us now we had just over ten miles of level cruising. The canal is a classic early contour canal as it twists and turns to avoid building cuttings, embankments and locks.

This boat in its own canal just a few mm longer than itself, is almost an impossibility. To most people the obvious question is Why? In any event, it is a requirement that any passing blogger must include a photo and since we have not been this way for six years, this is an update!

We again passed a site of substantial earthworks. There was nothing to indicate what was happening but later we discovered that it is the Wormleighton Heave Cutting - another HS2 preparatory project. In this case they have constructed a cutting, part of what is planned to be much more substantial, in order to install monitoring equipment to give better data on the ground conditions. This information will be used to finalise the civil engineering design

By one o,'clock we had reached the popular moorings close to the former Wormleighton Decca Navigator transmitter (an important navigation aid worldwide from just after WW2 until the late 1990s when GPS offered a more accurate positioning) where we managed to find a partly shaded spot to take a three hour lunch break.

On again and we passed under the wooden Marriage Footbridge. Although the present bridge has  2009 date on it, it is a replacement for an earlier one, some say with the same name, others call it Plank Bridge. So far we have not found an explanation of how it came to earn the Wedding name.

At Fenny Compton we stopped for an anticipated ice lolly from the shop at the pub. Alas, the shop is being refurbished but the kitchen did manage to rustle up three ice creams in plastic beer glasses. To Christine's surprise it seems that they qualified for the 'Eat Out to help Out' scheme!

The former Fenny Compton Tunnel followed soon after - the final southernmost part is still very narrow where boats cannot pass in opposite directions.

We were aiming to find a mooring close to Boundary Lift Bridge but as we came near dark clouds appeared together with the promised flashes of lightning - but fewer than last night. But just as we pulled in to the towpath (mooring is not good between Fenny Compton and Claydon) a very heavy rain storm also broke. By the time the boat was tied up Mike was really soaked but much cooler!

12.3 Miles - 9 Locks

Tuesday, 11 August 2020


 Today's Canals - Grand Union, Oxford (South)

After a very hot and heavy night - we did get some sleep but it was not a recuperative as it might be - we were up and ready to leave just before eight o'clock. We hoped to split the day so that we travelled in the less hot times. Some hope! At least at first it was cooler, with the slightest of breezes and a slightly hazy and overcast sky.

We were not far from Welsh Road lock which we soon ascended.

We are not usually much taken by boats with 'funny' names (but then perhaps not everyone 'gets' our boat name, even when it is explained to them) This one - A Momentary Lapse of Reason - did manage to elicit a wry smile.

Before long we arrived at the four lock Bascote flight - the top two are formed as a staircase and again we were now back into working as an efficient team!

We have often managed to collect our daily paper at Itchington Bottom Lock. Whilst Christine and Jess popped to the shop, Mike continued to take the boat up - he first had to empty it and the shop is so close that the shoppers returned just after he had entered the lock.

One further lock and we arrived at the Stockton flight, eight locks all close together. By now traffic was building up and we passed boats coming the other way in 3 or 4 of the locks. By the third lock another boat was waiting for us to join them - they were glad of help as one of them was not as fit (in the heat) as they would like to be. We soon developed an efficient operation, with Mike entering the lock through a single open gate and then moving behind the closed gate to allow the other to come in alongside.

By the time we reached the top we were all flagging a little (or more than a little) but pleased that, even with sharing which can sometimes slow down progress, we completed the 8 locks in 1 hour and 13 minutes.

Just beyond the Willow Wren base at nelson's Wharf we found a part shaded mooring where we rested up for well over three hours.

Eventually we persuaded ourselves that we could just about manage to complete the three Calcutt Locks. We set off, passing the steam powered Adamant just after Bridge 18. It seems not to have been out for some time, judging by the prolific webs created by spiders between the funnel and the top deck!

We then passed the substantial Ventnor Farm Marina - this is the third of its boat entrances - before arriving at the bottom Calcutt Lock.

A couple of boats were coming down at the middle lock - they made hard work of the passing routine, mainly by coming out of the lock far too soon and then losing control in the open pound. It is perhaps better not to repeat the comment made by one boater about the other crew, but it was less than would hope to hear whilst out on the canals where there is usually a strong willingness to help each other and to show novices some of the nuances one learns over time.

After completing the flight we cruised down the short straight section to Napton Junction where we turned right onto the southern part of the Oxford Canal. We have not been this way for six years.

We soon passed Napton Marina where it was good to note that every single one of their hire boat pontoons was empty. 

We noticed a boat possibly named after Jack Monk, one of the last working boatmen brought up on  a canal boat whom we used to know when we lived in Loughborough in the late 1960's. (Or was it just a TV character?)

A good mooring just after the next bridge easily tempted us to pull in for the night with just a few minutes run in the morning to Napton Locks. However, the phone signal seems to be a bit of a 'not spot' for the time being so this will be uploaded when we can. (We got there in the end but it was slooooow)

7.0 Miles - 18 Locks

Monday, 10 August 2020

Welsh Road - too hot for some

 Today's Canal - Grand Union

Although the day started grey and pleasantly cool, this did nit last and by mid morning the temperature shot up, rising even further in the afternoon. Looks like we exceeded 30C

We set off just after half past eight as we only had a very short distance before our first stop.

Above the top Cape Lock and opposite the Cape of Good Hope Pub, we pulled in to fill with water. We just had enough room as a late arrival last night considered that the late hour permitted an overnight stop on the water point. Of course, they did not reckon on having a lie in! They set off down the locks whilst we were still filling and we did not see them again all day.

We thought that the tank was full when it started to overflow and the gauge suggested it was up to 'the black dot' but as soon as we put the hosepipe away it dropped down to 5/8. Not sure what happened but it may have been connected with Christine using the washing machine! Off down the lock . . .

. . . quickly followed by the bottom Cape Lock . . .

. . . below which a lady stands, seeming to be directing traffic.

A level run followed, taking us out of Warwick and over the aqueduct where the canal crosses the River Avon. A trust is campaigning for a link of four locks to be built here to allow a connection with between the canal and river an thus create another cruising ring, via Stratford.

Just after the aqueduct w spotted this older looking building, aiming to find out later more about it. It is called Jephson's Farm, and even features on the OS Map. It seems that the planners are especially keen to see it kept much as it is.

We passed Tesco and Lidl, aiming for Morrisons - this footbridge is our landmark for spotting where we need to moor. Mike and Jess went to do the shopping - we think that Christine was quite disappointed that we returned with only a couple of items that were extra to her list!

We finished the morning by continuing on to Radford Semele, a favourite stopping place for us and we managed to find a spot in shade - most of the mooring was in blistering sunshine! We took more than a double lunch break, aiming to carry one a little later than usual to arrive at Long Itchintgton for the night.

As we set off another boat came around the corner and they proved good lock companions. The first lock is Radford Bottom but the locks are now quite spread out, meaning each time there is a conversation about 'How Far?' - should the shore crew walk or ride?

The locks are all still much the same as at Hatton and Cape - this is Lock 22, Fosse Bottom Lock. We made the briefest of stops between Fosse Middle and Fosse Top to empty the elsan - we equally speedily dropped off our rubbish three locks earlier.

By the time we had completed Wood Lock the shore crew were wilting in the the and demanding a stop! Fortunately for them, Mike took only a little persuasion and looked for a suitable spot just after Bridge 31 when he spotted a convenient, short but empty length of armco.

As we were coming in to land we could see extensive earth works either side of the canal.We later discovered that these are 'preliminary' works for HS2 - just south of here is to be a tunnel under Long Itchington Wood, an SSSI.

Christine went to take photos just before meal time. To the south she could see extensive earth shifting going on,. with the huge trucks being filled very quickly.

To the north a sign warns that this is a protected site whilst steps are being taken to displace Great Crested Newts.

As she returned to the boat there were a few rumbles of distance thunder followed by a very heavy downpour of rain - which will hopefully cleanse the air. Just as well we opted to stay put rather than make a late trip up the Bascote Locks - we would have been soaked!

7.8 Miles - 7 Locks

Sunday, 9 August 2020


 Today's Canal - Grand Union

We were not as quick of the mark this morning as some days but when a boat passed us on its way towards Hatton Locks, Christine 'suggested' to Mike that it would be a good idea to follow them down in the hope of sharing the locks.

It was a grey sky to begin with and the cruise to the top lock took about 45 minutes with a very pleasant temperature.

Along the way we passed through Shrewley tunnel, juts under 400 m  in length.

As we arrived at the locks the earlier boat was just about to set off down and were quite prepared to share with us. The couple are very experienced boaters which made life much simpler, especially when meeting boats coming up that were not long out of Warwick on their first cruise. The lifting of some pandemic restrictions has seen a mini-boom for the hire companies as people look for alternatives to their cancelled foreign holiday. It will not make up for the earlier losses but none the less welcome for that.

Mike steered the boat down whilst Christine and Jess, together with the lady from the other boat worked the paddles and gates. Again, Jess made a great contribution, coping with a number of different scenarios  which needed a different approach. She was also very good at letting onlookers give her a hand, especially with the tougher paddles - she was able to open and shut all but a couple of the gates on her own, but still encouraged little ones (and sometimes some no so little ones) to lend a hand.

All this meant that it was not possible for Mike to take many useful photos and the first lock he snapped at all was the 14th from the top! Still, they are all almost identical for the one time extra narrow locks not left only as overflow channels. As this photo shows, the sky was still cloudy but the temperature had risen markedly.

Two locks from the bottom and Jess was especially envious of the blackberry picking by her fellow lock operator so persuaded us (as if we needed any!) to stop for lunch in a longer pound two locks from the  bottom. Alas, it was not a good picking zone but some were found a little later. By the time we stopped there was much more sunshine and so we were even hotter.

After a good break, during which Jess showed us her egg scrambling skills (very tasty) we dropped down the last two Hatton Locks. We were rather pleased to be able to look back at the bottom lock!

Just after the end of the flight comes Saltisford Junction.with an arm straight ahead and a very sharp left turn for the main line. This arm once went almost to the centre of Warwick some time after the late 1930's the section after a railway bridge was abandoned and is now built over. 

The arm is run by a small local charity and we know from he blogs of Keith and Jo on nb Hadar that it is well loved by it tiny community of permanent residents. Normally, he arm offers short term moorings and various facilities but in response to the pandemic closures, it is currently not open to visitors.

In theory we were heading for the water point above Cape Locks but as we approached it seemed as if there might not be room to stay overnight so we backed up to one of the few stretches of Armco for the night. Although we are close to Bridge 50A, a local access route, so far it is pleasant, quiet spot and the surrounding suburban landscape and industrial units are screened by plenty of greenery.

6.1 Miles - 21 Locks