Tuesday 25 August 2020


 Today's Canal - Oxford

After a pretty full-on week back home we set off yesterday to drive backup to Lower Heyford where we had left the boat under the watchful eye of a friend;y local boater. The motorway was significantly busier than a week ago, mainly cars, caravans and camper vans but also an increase in the freight traffic. We were not especially delayed although sheer volume of traffic reduced speeds on several occasions.

Once we arrived we had to unload the car, although we had reduced the amount to carry to the boat to a minimum. We spotted a space on the 48 hours visitor mooring just beyond the road bridge, next to the station so that we had less than half the walking to do. nevertheless we still had several trips over the station passenger bridge (30 steps up and 30 down each time!)

Christine had already booked a table for 7.30 and the nearby Bell Inn, which we had been to before when we used to moor here. It has only very recently re-opened - although it would have had to close because of Covid, the new owner had planned a major overhaul anyway. It turned out that the pub has been bought by the owner of Oxfordshire Narrowboats who operate out of the Lower Heyford wharf. We had an excellent meal with dishes that were different from ones that we would make for ourselves. Very friendly place and the current social distancing rules meant that it was less crowded than it might otherwise have been. The 'Eat Out to Help Out' government scheme gave us a welcome reduction in the price but even at its full prices it would have been reasonable. We also had a long friendly chat with the couple at the next table who were overnighting in the village on a cycling tour mainly along the canal towpaths.

This morning we did not aim for an early start as we needed to fill up with diesel from the wharf but they asked us to wait until after 10:30 when their day boats would have gone out.

We reversed about 100 m from our mooring and duly filled up - as well as emptying our elsan cassettes. Christine met David Dare, the owner of Oxfordshire Narrowboats - and now the Bell Inn - and was surprised to be recognised - is about 9 years since we moored here.

Alas, by the time we could return to our mooring another boat had just pulled into the space. There was another possible spot about three boats along but it was just a little too short but Christine persuaded the adjacent boat kindly to move up a teeny bit so that we could fit in!

We really wanted to be able to moor here as we had not brought food stocks with us, planning to go a supermarket yesterday afternoon. (We put that trip off because the weather forecast for today was a very wet and then windy morning, turning better in the afternoon) The re-fuelling and re-mooring took longer than we had expected and it was around midday before we could set off to Tesco in Bicester which is only 15 minutes away in the car.

We completed our shopping but as it is a large Tesco Extra it took some time to locate all our items.

By the time we reached the boat and unloaded (two trips over he bridge this time!) we had a rather late lunch. We might have stayed put for another night but a sign requests that engines and generators are not run whilst on the mooring (presumably to appease the nearby residents - who have to tolerate a busy railway line just a few metres away from the canal) and we needed to charge up our batteries.

So we made ready to set off only to be pipped by a couple of hire boats just setting off from the wharf. Actually they passed us about ten minutes before we were ready but they were cruising so slowly that they were still in sight. We were not concerned at this point as there is a long line of moored boats to pass first and so we should all be moving slowly.

We hoped that things would move along a bit better after the first bridge but alas, their speed was minimal, less than Alchemy can do on tickover. As a result their steering was a bit uneven and they dived into the canalside bushes on more than one occasion and we had to coast in neutral much of the time. Every time they veered offline, they went into reverse. Still, even after 53 years we can remember the mistakes we made on our first trip!

By the time we arrived at the first lock, both boats were still on the upper lock landing. Eventually it was our turn. The wind was still blowing strongly and holding the boat without a bollard was rather tiring.

At the next lock the same happened again with the added bonus that both boats tried to empty the lock with a top paddle still open.

By now it was well past the time when moorings are easy to come by (not easy on this part of the Oxford anyway) and although we had not progressed as much as we hoped, we pulled in just after Old Brighton Bridge when we spotted a space marked on Waterway Routes. There was a full length boat already tied up but enough for us - the only query was whether we could position ourselves not opposite the excessive shrubbery on both sides. Just a little earlier the canal was reduced to a single boat width by untrimmed reeds.

2.9 Miles - 2 Locks

No comments:

Post a Comment