Sunday, 12 March 2017

River Thames Cruise - Week 4

Monday 6th March - Napton on the Hill to Fenny Compton

Woke to a beautiful morning and made our way to the water tap to fill up with water.

We then began our ascent out of Napton on the Hill via the 9 Napton Locks.  The views looking back at the village were amazing and the locks were a delight to work.

This is the Engine House Arm now used as linear moorings.  Originally it enabled coal boats to take coal to a stationary steam engine which pumped water back to the canal at the summit section.

Marston Doles is a tiny settlement which owes its existence completely to the canal as towing horses used to be stabled here. Now it seems to house a selection of vintage Citroen cars.

We were completely baffled by this - a narrowboat in a completely landlocked piece of water and a dog that took great exception to Toby!!

Having climbed the locks we are now on the summit of the Oxford Canal, lock free and very twisty and turny.

Bridge 131 came at the point of a hairpin bend with no sight of any on-coming boats. Toby and Dave walked that section so they could warn me of approaching boats. Needless to say there weren't any!!

This bridge is called Wedding Bridge - a simple wooden footbridge but with a delightful name!

We moored up for the night at Fenny Compton and ate at the Wharf Inn - an amazing place. It has a shop, laundrette, waste facilities and water tap.  Almost everything a boater needs, and also very welcoming!

Tuesday 7th March - Fenny Compton to Cropredy

A lone tree standing proud on Shime Hill, this was the view from our window as we left our mooring this morning.

We passed Fenny Compton Marina where we shall call in for diesel on our return journey and found a sweet little boat called nbToby moored up.

Leaving behind the marina the canal enters a straight, deep, narrow section.  When the canal was first built there was a 1,000yds tunnel here, but it proved to be too much of a bottleneck and the top was taken off eventually. This is an elegant cast iron turnover bridge which takes the towpath to the other side of the canal.

Looking back at the end of the cutting, the canal widens out again and continues it winding way towards Banbury.

This dilapidated railway bridge used to carry the old Stratford and Midland Junction railway, one of those forgotten little lines.

This drawbridge straddles the county boundary between Warwickshire and Oxfordshire.  It is a drawbridge, left open and is the first we have come across on this canal.

Further on there were some private moorings with large plots of land and rather quaint gypsy caravans on them.

At the first of the Claydon Locks you can still see evidence of Oxford Canal Company's workshops, it would have been a very busy place in it's time.

At Clattercote Wharf, it looked as though the scarecrows were having a cigarette break!! They did make me laugh!

Coming in to Cropredy there is a large new marina and moored in the front was nbAnnabel, we have seen two out of the three now, just Laura to look out for!

We moored up in Cropredy and set off to explore the village.  The church is beautiful and the setting is delightful.  Cropredy has become famous in folk music circles as the location of an annual music festival centred around the folk rock group Fairport Convention.
It was certainly quieter than it would have been during the festival!

Wednesday 8th March - Cropredy to Banbury 

The next morning we set out for Banbury, it was a lovely morning and we ambled gently through three well spaced locks and into the delightful visitor moorings right beside Castle Quay.

At Bourton Lock, the lock keeper's cottage is derelict, but it looks as though it has been bought by local boaters and hopefully will eventually be restored.

We then passed under the concrete bridge over which the M40 roars.  We go along here when we are driving south to visit Annie and Pete.

We moored up for the next two days opposite the Castle Quay Shopping Centre. We are allowed to moor for two days free of charge, and above us is a carpark which charges by the hour for parking!

Thursday 9th March - day in Banbury

We spent the day exploring the town and meeting and chatting to many people beside the boat.  

We went to the local market and bought primulas, bellis and tete-a-tete daffodils from Adams of Banbury Market, and we carried them back to the boat and filled the tubs.
Many thanks to the lady who served us for all her help and advice.

Behind us is a bridge named after Tom Rolt, he wrote about Tooley's Drydock, where nbCressy was in drydock and refitted prior to the cruise of 1939 recounted in his book 'Narrow Boat'.  At the chandlery we bought a long handled weed hatch cutter, sharpened at the yard, can't wait to use it!!

We also found Banbury Cross as referred to in the nursery rhyme 'Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross', wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it was in the middle of a crossing of two very busy roads.
We also sampled Banbury Cakes at the Museum Cafe - a bit like Eccles cakes but nicer!!

A clever piece of graffiti, on a wall as we were heading back into the market square.

We found a delightful Real Ale pub called 'Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn' purported to be in the oldest building in Banbury!!  We have had a lovely couple of days in Banbury and look forward to stopping again on our way back!  

Friday 10th March - Banbury to Aynho Wharf

We left Banbury in very different weather to yesterday - dull and drizzly.  As we continued on our way we encountered the first of the canal's drawbridges, most of them appear to be chained open, so we don't need to do anything.

The locks from here to Oxford have just the one large bottom gate instead of the usual 2 mitered gates, certainly help to save time at the locks, although they are pretty heavy to move.

King's Sutton Lock is very pretty, opposite the simple stone faced cottage is the former blacksmith's forge and stable block, with the village station's old name board attached.

The canal follows the course of The River Cherwell and at some points the towpath appears to be the only strip of land separating the two!

We passed 'The Pig Place' where some boaters moored up in 2007, running a canalside small holding specialising in pigs, poultry and sheep and selling their wares to passing boaters.

Further along the canal the river actually crosses the canal and if the river is running high then you are advised to wait until it goes down.  At Nell Bridge Lock, if the water is high it is impossible to get a boat through the very narrow, low bridge.

Here is the weir opposite where the river crosses the canal, today it was flowing on yellow, so you can cross with care.

The river is coming in on the right and we have come up the left side.

Into Aynho Weir Lock - an unusual lock, diamond shaped and shallow, but difficult to get into and hard to work.

We pulled into Aynho Wharf, filled up with diesel and water and then eased ourselves across the canal to moor up opposite.  We shall stay here tonight and enjoy a walk along the canal with Toby.

Saturday 11th March - Aynho Wharf to Lower Heyford

We left Aynho Wharf about 9am and set off for Lower Heyford.  Alongside the canal runs two railway lines, one on the same level and one on a viaduct.

We then came to Somerton Deep Lock, which is very deep 12ft!!  It is reputed to be one of the deepest narrowbeam chambers on the system!

Certainly from where I am standing it is a long way down!!!

The private moorings at Somerton look very nice with landscaped gardens coming right down to the canalside.

We moored up at Lower Heyford opposite the River Cherwell which appears to be running quite high!!

As the internet signal was pretty awful, we decided to go for a walk across the fields to Steeple Aston.

As we walked back into Lower Heyford we passed Rousham House looking towards the river.  The house was built in 1635 and is still owned by the same family.

The village is very pretty with all the buildings being made from the same stone. It is also a base for Oxfordshire Narrowboats, a hire centre, railway station and delightful canalside tearoom.

Sunday 12th March - Lower Heyford to Thrupp

Today the weather has taken a turn for the worse and it was continuous drizzle for most of the morning.  However we decided to press on anyway, heading for Enslow and if the weather cleared up possibly on to Thrupp.

We passed through the drawbridge in the village which was down and we had to operate it with a key.  The weather gave me a good excuse to wear my new hat!!!

Believe it or not, just to the right of the trees on the left of the picture is a woodpecker on the ground.  I know it was there as I took the picture!!

Then in the next field was a muntjac deer, who wasn't in the least bit worried about us trundling past!

We carried on to Enslow, but there was very little space to moor and the weather had begun to brighten up so we decided to continue towards Thrupp.

Just beyond Enslow the River Cherwell merges with the Oxford Canal, a passing boater assured us it was fine to boat along and had left the lock gate ready for us!!  The level indicator showed it was in the yellow, continue with care!

The River flows in from the left and continues with the canal for about 0.5 mile. It was very exciting, a little taste of what it will be like when we are cruising on the Thames!!

Shipton Weir Lock is another diamond shaped lock and is incredibly difficult to open.  It took 2 full grown men to open the gate!!  The boat is called nbLaura, completes our set of three! 

'There once was an ugly duckling with feathers all stubby and brown...' and yes this was a juvenile swan all by himself!!

We cruised in to Thrupp and found a mooring beside a very pretty terrace of cottages fronting onto the canal.  Thrupp was once an important maintenance centre for the Oxford Canal but the yard now houses a tearoom and canoe and kayak hire outlet.  It has also featured as the location for one of Inspector Morse's grisly murders!!

This ends the fourth week of our cruise and we feel we have done very well to get this far.  We look forward now to the delights of Oxford and the River Thames.

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