Banbury and Beyond.

  We stayed in Lechlade until Monday 30th September as the forecast for Sunday (29th) was pretty grim. We had a long journey on Monday; the first part of the river was almost as challenging as going upstream – the steering is interesting (!) as you are carried along by the flow of the water. We visited a couple of trees on the side again and even did a complete 360° turn at one hairpin bend – without wanting or intending to!! We have learnt so much about the handling and steering of the boat this last week, so though not exactly enjoyable, it was definitely an experience!! We moored at Bablock Hythe (after two attempts) – trying to moor upstream with a fast flow against you is another interesting experience!! As it was late and we’d had a long, tiring day, we decided to eat in the pub. Showered, dressed and running across the field in the rain, we arrived at the pub to be told they weren’t doing food that night! Doh!! Really couldn’t be bothered to cook, so a packet of crisps and a tin of ravioli out of our emergency food supply sorted it!

As the forecast was so awful for Tuesday, we stayed put but got up early on Wednesday morning  (2nd Oct) for the last push back to Oxford. It was a beautiful autumn day! We stopped at Oxford Cruisers (getting in and out of there was a bit of a test, too – a sharp right turn across the flow to get in and reversing across the flow to get out!!) to top up with diesel and to buy a gas bottle and was moored up back in Oxford by 2 pm outside The Punter pub again, but we didn’t frequent it this time! A short rest and we walked up to the Oxford Canal, which was the next waterway for us to explore, to check out the moorings for Thursday as I was hopping on a train on Friday bound for Southampton as Mel was aiming to buy her wedding dress (exciting times!), so we needed a mooring near the station. We moved the boat round on Thursday (3rd) from the mooring on the Thames, after having a short trip further down the Thames in order to turn round. We went through the Sheepwash Channel – it’s name being rather more attractive than the reality – to take us from the Thames onto the Oxford Canal. The mooring we were heading for, being near the station, was right at the end of the canal and had no turning point at the end so we reversed in – something we would have avoided only a few months ago! I got the train on Friday as planned to go to Southampton – a lovely day and a successful shopping trip (not enlarging on that anymore as it’s not my story to tell, really!) Again, I enjoyed the train journey.

We decided, on Saturday, to do a Hop On Hop Off bus tour of Oxford – mainly because we thought the city centre was too busy for Sal and she just wouldn’t like it, so the bus tour would be the quickest way to see the highlights of the city whilst leaving Sal on the boat. It was a good call, everywhere was packed and she wouldn’t have enjoyed it at all. The bus had a guide rather than the recorded route commentary – she was very good in that she talked very quickly and constantly as the landmarks passed but we both wished, by the end of it, that she’d just shut up! Too much information, as they say!! It was a good way to see the city, though.

On Sunday, we moved a short distance out of the city centre and carried on up the Oxford Canal to its other, northerly junction with the Thames and moored at a pretty spot. We were working towards being in Kidlington for Sal’s second vet’s appointment on Tuesday 8th, so we moved to Kidlington on Monday and moored in preparation for her appointment. We had a lovely flying visit from Tony’s ex business partner Mark as he was passing within a few minutes by road – and he kindly brought us 5 bags of coal! It was great to see him! After Sal’s appointment, we moved to Thrupp to the Jolly Boatman and prepared a huge shopping list for a nice Tesco man to deliver on Thursday! We stayed at the Jolly Boatman for two nights; on Wednesday (9th) I made a cover to go over the outside of the duck hatch – what a difference that has made! No more wind whistling through the gaps! It took longer than I thought but then most things do! We had our supermarket delivery on Thursday morning as planned – that works really well! We left the Jolly Boatman as soon as the shopping was all packed away and made our way to Lower Heyford – the weather was reasonable so we decided to carry on whilst the going was good and did a long day (for us) covering 15 lock miles. Friday, unfortunately, wasn’t quite so nice – windy again and heavy rain showers, so we stopped when we were fed up with getting wet! We moored just past Somerton Deep Lock. On the way, just at the entrance to a bridge (which was very narrow as it was!) we hit an underwater obstacle, which caused us to veer suddenly to the right. Although we managed to slow the boat quickly, we couldn’t avoid hitting the low arch and, consequently, lost our WiFi antenna. Although it’s annoying, it could’ve been a lot worse!! The solar panels could’ve been damaged; we could’ve damaged the top box and its contents; the bike could’ve been swept off the roof. So, all in all, we got away quite lightly.

On Saturday (12th), we had another fairly long day and made it to Banbury. We’d planned to be there by Sunday morning so that we could have a nice roast dinner at Sunday lunchtime. We found a nice old pub – the oldest in Banbury and did, indeed, have a lovely roast! As a coincidence, we found the couple sitting at the next table were also boaters, and even more of a coincidence, we were moored in front of them! Of all the pubs and restaurants (of which there are many) and of all the boaters (of which there are a fair few!) we managed to be in the same place at the same time!

On Monday we have put up the new antenna (ordered on Friday evening courtesy of Amazon Prime), Tony did a small restock shop and I went to the hairdresser. Whilst in town, I went to Banbury Cross, but I was on Shanks’s Pony rather than on a cock-horse and there was a distinct lack of fine ladies on white horses!! We moved from Banbury on Tuesday  (15th), thankful to see the back of the rain from Monday, and stopped en route to pick up a Click and Collect parcel (new boots for both of us) eventually mooring quite late in the day just north of the lock in Cropredy. We popped into Cropredy Marina on Wednesday to top up with diesel (lovely marina!) then continued on our way. It was quite a nice, breezy afternoon, so we stopped at Claydon Middle Lock (halfway up the flight of five) to put the washing out for a bit of a blow !! Got to take advantage of days like that!

We moved on Thursday (17th) to just outside Napton, which was our target by the end of the month as they are closing the locks for maintenance for a while, so we are well ahead of target. We stayed at Napton for a couple of days to relax and do some more chores (there always seems to be something that needs doing!).  

This last part of the Oxford Canal has been much nicer than the first part – from Oxford to Thrupp was OK but not overly scenic, whereas this more northerly section is very rural and quite lovely. It has also been very quiet – very few boats moving or moored and few people walking the towpaths, too! We have decided that we’ll stay on the Oxford Canal and make our way up towards Rugby (the Oxford joins the Grand Union at Napton so we had a choice of route). The weather for the next few days  promises to be a bit better than of late, so that’s something to look forward to!