Monday 31 August 2020

Heyford Common Lock

 Today's Canal - Oxford

There is still some uncertainty about how much of the return trip we will be able to do before we are needed to be back home. How long will it take? Perhaps 10 days. When do we have to return? We had planned returning home a week today in which case we will have to find somewhere safe to leave the boat but as it stands Sunday will see us in a bit of a blank spot regarding marinas. Should we cancel some dates, if ;possible, and press on? Still time to decide but in order to give us some more options we opted to move our car back from Lower Heyford where it has been since the start of this trip to Droitwich, our home base.

This was our overnight mooring at Washford Stone Quarries.

As a result we started promptly for the hour and a bit section with a couple of locks. The pandemic lockdown has meant that a large part of the on-going maintenance of the canals this year has, unsurprisingly, not happened. In particular, vegetation management in some regions has been given a low profile and some sections on the Oxford reduce to little more than the width of a single boat.

Today's large dollop of good fortune started when we found that only two of the four visitor mooring spaces just before Lower Heyford Wharf, almost the shortest walk to the car!

No time for photos - Mike quickly changed into less unsmart clothes (from his usual disreputable boating gear!) and set off in the car, mostly by the M40/M42/M5. He called briefly at Warwick services, mainly to book a taxi from the marina to the railway sgtation but also to pick up today's newspaper. Based on the satnav prediction he booked for 12 o'clock, arriving with four minutes to spare and the taxi just arriving.

Last night we had been a bit uncertain about whether it was better to return via Banbury or Oxford - the bus route that calls at Heyford Bridge runs between the two. After consulting the Booking Office, he opted for the route used a couple of weeks ago, ie Banbury. The train to Birmingham was in 20 minutes.

There was just enough time at New Street to pick up some lunch before the second train was due to leave - which id did on time. It also arrived at Banbury as scheduled which gave Mike 11 minutes to get to the bus station! Late anbd he would have a 90 minute wait for the next in the Bank Holiday schedule.

At Stand 6 the S4 to Oxford was waiting and almost ready to leave - Mike was the only passenger at this point.(One other was picked up in the first village) The bus dropped Mike off at Heyford Bridge which left him with about 12 minutes walk back to the boat where a mug of tea was ready! Five hours for the round trip.

After a quick recovery and a change back to boat gear, we were off once more, aiming to make a useful start on the run to Banbury by canal. We will need to take a little time out there to visit the supermarket for a food top up.

Although there had been a boat following us as we set off, we had to close Mill Lift Bridge after us as there was no sign of them and several people were waiting to cross the bridge. Of course, as soon as we had set off again, they appeared, eventually, around the bend!

These old buildings at Upper Heyford are both attractive and intriguing. We have long assumed that the long structure was a tithe barn, the church can be seen just between the other buildings. However, the early OS maps describe the collection of buildings as Manor Farm. Wikipedia has the following to say: 

The Domesday Book records that there was a manor here at least as far back as 1086. For some time the manor contributed substantially to the coffers of successive Earls of Devon. In 1380 it was sold to the then Bishop of Winchester who included it in his endowment for the foundation of New College, Oxford. Twenty years later, the college constructed a tithe barn, similar to ones at two other farms that they owned.

There were short queues at both the next locks - partly as we were already behind the early starters from Oxfordshire Narrowboats, but also because there are maintenance issues that slow down the lock operation. 

See how different that bridge looks from the other side.

As Mike waited for a lock to empty he spotted this strange creature on the left which appears to have six legs.

As we left the lock, Christine discovered that she could get a mobile signal - almost the first time today so we quickly pulled onto a mooring. Not ideal as it is a bit of a bend and most of the boats coming past have just set off bend. However, a nasty piece of bent armco restricted our exact mooring position which left a space before the next boat, a space that tempted at least two boats to squeeze in only to find they were too long (or, as they would probably have seen it, the space was too short) Still, Christine was able to order the boots that she wanted to buy for Mike (his current favourite pair are coming to the end of their life and the same ones were on special offer) and Mike could upload this blog.

Miles - 4 Locks

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