Monday 1 May 2023


Today's Canal - Oxford

The morning was generally rather grey and only a very, very few drops of rain whilst the afternoon gradually brightened up and by the time we moored for the day it was most warm and pleasant indeed.

Here is the photo we forgot to take last night showing where we moored. The more critical reader may wish to comment on the untidy stern rope but the excuse is that we were in the process of casting off when we remembered just in time to take this picture!

Just a short distance and we passed Jane's Enchanted tea garden, an eclectic mix of sheds, awnings, caravans, gazebos, tables, chairs - everyone different!

Our first lock today was Pigeon Lock. There are three distinctive houses alongside the lock. Looking at old OS maps, it seems that the oldest is Flight's Mill, originally a corn mill driven by the adjacent Cherwell. 

Which is the next oldest is unclear from the maps and current names. Three Pigeon's is surrounded by trees and shrubs so we did not get a clear picture but looks most recent.

However, the maps from 1900 onwards show Three Pigeon's (B.H.) The middle building today has been very much modernised, in more than one sense, and probably significantly extended and is called simply Oldhouse. It seems likely that this is the building on the map but what is BH? We had not come across this abbreviation on OS maps before but looking it up (Google is your friend!) it stands for Beer House. Presumably there is some difference between this and PH - Public House, or Pub.

The next long bend in the canal took us around Kirklington Golf Course. Although they are too distance to be visible in this picture, the course was busy with players on each of the holes.

We noted in 2020 that Caravan Lift Bridge had been demolished although it was intact  in 2014. It is still in that condition but there was a notice at Pigeon Lock relating to a planning application to re-build it. No indication of a timescale, however.

Next on our agenda was Enslow marina, home to Kingsground Boats. We wanted to replenish our diesel tank - we checked by phone yesterday that they would be open this morning (from 5.30 it seems!) As we arrived one boat was just leaving with another waiting to take its place. Hence we too had to come alongside and wait our turn. We also took the opportunity to empty elsan (three cassettes!) and fill with water, rather than wait until Thrupp, our earlier plan. That service stop can sometimes be quite busy so it was as well to not need it. All in we were almost an hour before we were on our way again.

At Enslow we had a partial view of the communication dishes. (see here for further details)

Bakers Lock dropped us own onto the River Cherwell we joined just after the wide Horsebridge which carries the towing path over the junction.

The next section has some very sharp bends and the flow is still quite fast (but well away from needing a Strong Stream Warning) Makes for strenuous steering. At the end there is a sharp turn into the diamond shaped Shipton Weir Lock.

Like Aynho, which is also a river lock, it has this unusual shape but with a small drop.

The railway line between Oxford and Banbury crosses the canal numerous times. Just after the next such bridge can be seen the remains of a former branch line (see here for more detail)

As we came though Thrupp and the lift bridge, Christine dropped off a bag of rubbish on her way to exercise the Key of Power. Mike was so impressed that he forgot to take any pictures of this well-known bridge and once through we were looking for a sot to stop for lunch. To our surprise we were able to squeeze in to a space just long enough for us.

After lunch we decided that Mike would walk to the nearest Co-Op, mainly for milk but a couple of items were added to the list just as he was leaving the boat! Google gave it as 15 minutes walk but this time it took 20 minutes. After visiting the shop Mike realised that there was a bus service back the way he had walked. Initially he thought that it was just about due but after reaching the bus stop he discovered that he had forgotten that today was not Monday but a Bank Holiday so using the Sunday timetable. Even so, it did not show at the appointed hour, Mike decided that he would have to walk  back anyway. Just then a bus on a different stopped and the driver said that the S4 was just behind! At least we had another use of our bus pass!

Back at the boat we decided to move on. As we passed the rest of the visitor moorings we were surprised that there was room for several boats - usually this is a prized location and all the slots taken up by mid day! we did however learn from the Moorings Warden that the EA had announced earlier this morning that the Thames through Oxford was now open once more - it had been closed for several weeks with Red Boards. We also knew that a number of boats had, as a result, been trapped here but set off as soon as it was safe to do so.

Roundham Lock bottom gate was in a very sorry state when we came through in 2021. It has since been repaired properly.

It was now turning into a lovely early evening, sunny and warm. We knew from past experience that the final stretch before Duke's Lock can be difficult for mooring so we hoped to find somewhere just above or below Kidlington Green Lock (the last before Duke's, which is where Duke's Cut urns off towards the Thames). There was plenty of good mooring above so we checked before descending the lock and there seemed to be as much below as well. So that we an have a good start tomorrow (we will have to get a Visitor Licence at the first lock) we went down.

After we moored, several boats came up, so much that at one point a short queue built up! Perhaps they too had had a long wait somewhere for the flood waters to subside.

6.6 Miles - 5 Locks 

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