Monday, 18 September 2017

Flapjack currency alive and well

We left our mooring at Cropredy by 8.00 a little cloudier than of late, and headed down through the lock in the village, out passed the long line of moored boats and into the sticks for a while.

At Banbury we stopped for a late breakfast, and decided to shop for fresh fruit and veg at Tesco, via Spiceball Park and the keep fit machines, what a laugh they were.  The noise of the traffic brought us abruptly into modern day life.  This Tesco is massive, I soon wizzed along the isles with my list filling the trolly with essentials whilst Martin visited the clothing and homewares upstairs, we swapped places after that and returned to the boat within an hour. After a coffee we decided to move on again, through Banbury.

We cruised on through the countryside and the many lift bridges, thankfully most are left open nowadays.

We soon arrived at Somerton Deep lock, it looked busy with people on our approach and a thought crossed my mind that something may be wrong.  We pulled onto the lock mooring and I went to investigate. The crew from the boat in the lock had had difficulty winding the bottom paddles up, and there were several children with their mums watching too, checking that everything was ok I got chatting with the children and their mums, it turns out they were out for the afternoon and had just had a ride on the boat going down in the lock, they were learning a little about the canal and the lock in the process.

When it was our turn to come into the lock I'd enlisted some very willing volunteers to help with gates and paddles, 5 really interested and bright children, who worked really hard on their day out, had asked some interesting questions and were now walking along the towpath at our pace, still chatting away to us, at this moment I spotted the mini flapjacks in the galley sat there looking out the window, we were close to another bridge so arranged a flapjack giving.  Many a 'thank you' was heard, and they were soon divided and devoured. That made our day, and actually it made my holiday, they were great.

By now the warm weather was turning cloudier and rain could be seen in the distance, we were making for one of the Helford's and had decided to moor at the first decent bit of Armco.

Just before Allens lane bridge and the bends to the next lock we found a good stretch of straight Armco and moored, overlooking fields and a farmer working away collecting bales.  We put the canopy up too as it had started to spot with rain, with more forecast overnight. 

We also decided to have a meal out tonight, so ventured along the towpath over the bridge and up the hill, quite a steep hill where we reached the Barley Mow, Upper Heyford a friendly welcome and a good meal was had, local banter and we stayed put for drinks after.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

We deserve a short day!

Today again there was no plan, but we thought a short day would be on the cards.

Working our way down the Claydon flight I was told by a lady that the two last pounds were very low and she wouldn't be surprised if the summit was closed, for us it didn't appear to shallow, we could still get the boat to the side without grounding out, unlike places on the Ashby.

We reached Cropredy by mid morning and ventured out for a paper and a walk around the village, walking back along the canal from the service point, checking out the water tap location we could see we'd be in the bridge hole if we needed to fill here, still having over half a tank of water we didn't need to try this out.

A lazy day was had. (in brilliant sunshine, again. (how lucky are we?)

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

A flying start

Today we had a plan, start early and make the most of the coolness the morning air provided.

So we were off again before anyone else stirred.  Passing a long line of moored boats, and no vacant spaces leading to the bottom of Napton Locks, being the bank holiday weekend it really was still very busy.

We passed around the hill that Napton village nestles in, and got our first sight of the windmill.

View of Napton windmill

By 07.45 we were ascending the locks, where the views got bigger and better.  We were soon at the top and looking at the water buffalo grazing in the fields nearby.
After the two Marston Doles locks we were at the summit, suncream applied we were ready for another hot day. 

We were also celebrating out wedding anniversary and really relaxed into the day enjoying the summit views, wedding bridge was very appropriate to cruise under.

By 3 we still hadn't stopped for lunch and by now we had reached Claydon locks so we moored on the Armco above and relaxed in the shade for the rest of the day. 

New ground

We left Hillmorton by 7 am. Another warm and sunny day for us to enjoy and no plan for where we were to finish. 

We've never been to Braunston on our own boat we had an idea that we would visit Midland Chandlers for some additional bits and bobs.  As we approached the junction the customer moorings outside were taken, so we made the turn R towards Oxford and moored up on the visitor moorings. 

Having a leg stretch is getting to be a daily routine so we made our way back to the twin bridges on foot and walked up to the road bridge and into Braunston itself, it was still early and the pub wasn't yet open.  We looked at the produce on display at the butchers and although there was a good queue for the meats, the fruit and veg outside looked well over its best. We walked back through to Midland Chandlers had a good old nose and picked up some of what we had planned to, then it was back to the boat.

On leaving Braunston the Saturday hire boat rush to and from the junction had subsided, and we mad our way past the Napton Hire base, all the boats bar one were out.  We used to hire from here but never turned left from the base, so going past it saw us covering new ground.

We stopped for lunch shortly after, overlooking fields of crops yet to be harvested, enjoying the shade given by a small tree.  I also took the opportunity to pick some blackberries, cooking apples sometimes need a seasonal accompaniment.
Some welcome shade during a long lunch

With the heat subsiding a little we moved on, enjoying the twisting canal until we reached the moorings that run up to the Bridge Inn, Napton, we secured the last mooring, a 65ft space.  After our evening meal we set off up the hill to the Kings Head, the road leading to it is fast.  We sat out and enjoyed the busy garden area along with many others.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Putting in the miles while the weather is so good

We left Hawkesbury Junction at 6.50 with mist on the water and blue skies above, we were soon through the stop lock, and onto the Oxford canal (northern section).  As it was such a nice cruising day that's just what we did, having made a rough plan with the aid of canal plan we were already up on our hours for the day.
Hawkesbury Junction stop lock
Another glorious day, looks like there is a theme going on here, I'm on holiday and the starts are early, but oh so worth it.

We finished for the day just around the corner from Hillmorton Locks, ready for the off the next morning.

After dinner on board we went for a walk into Hillmorton, looked at the Stag and Pheasant - from the outside and decided it had seen better days, so we didn't go in, the walk back took us through the church yard before re-joining the canal path that led past the locks and back to the boat.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

We're on our way - well actually we are back now!

But I'll try and remember what happened and where we were, mainly the sun shone bright.

We had a visit to Spinney Bank farm shop (Bridge 23) by car to stock up on pre-ordered fresh supplies, enough to keep us going for our fortnight, having a decent sized freezer on board helps reduce the number of food shopping trips we need to make.

We wanted to get off the Ashby today, so with that in mind we set off around 10 am, a glorious day was had with shorts and t-shirts to boot.  We passed lot of boats heading in the opposite direction, probably heading for Shackerstone festival on the 2nd and 3rd Sept. 

We also passed NB Cheers another Bluewater boat that we have pinched the stern from for our own boat, we also went to visit the owners before our final decision one what we wanted, it was strange looking back at a boat with the same stern as your own, we only know of the two, a quick hello and brief exchange and the moment was gone.

We passed Charity Dock, not pictures sorry, but the amount of 'stuff' is always amazing, a boat jumblers paradise no doubt.

We moored short of Hawkesbury junction on the armco, where the canal is wider and away from the hussle of the junction itself, we don't particularly like the other side of the stop lock, finding it not that comfortable to moor a longer boat on the long bend.
Hawkesbury, earlyish morning get-away 06.50