Thursday 12th June
Banbury to Slat Mill Lock
We set off fairly early to complete all our tasks before leaving Banbury. Up through the lock to the water point by the lift bridge, from where we trundled cassettes and rubbish bags down to the sanitary station.
We also met Charlie who hangs around near here all day. He showed us at least four beer cans in various pockets. He said he wasn’t going to start until a lady and a young child had moved off the bench where he normally sits with his fellow homeless guys. We have seen him in other years and have bought him a burger occasionally.
Kestrel came through the lift bridge, and turned round before going back up to get diesel. He is from the South Pennine Cruising Club, at Battyeford Wharf on the Calder and Hebble.
We left about 15 minutes later, hoping to give him time to get his diesel before we arrived for the same purpose. 83p per litre is quite a good price. We went very slowly past all the moored boats, and when we arrived at Sovereign Wharf, he was just arriving from the other direction! He had been up to Tesco to turn. We tied alongside Newark Priory from the Wey Navigation while waiting our turn.
After putting in 105 litres, we pulled over on to the moorings almost opposite to adjust the fuel gauge. Setting off once more, we suddenly remembered that we wanted to visit an electrical fittings shop that James had spotted earlier. Rather than reverse, we tied alongside Sonflower (Thank you Peter). This left a bit of a narrow gap for boats going through under the footbridge, but Harnser came along and managed it OK. We have seen Harnser before – perhaps Little Venice or the Brookwood Rally.
The electrical shop did not have what we wanted (5amp sockets), so we were only 5 minutes before we set off once again and headed out of Banbury. At Hardwick Lock we caught up with Harnser and helped them through. The same again at Bourton Lock, where Caroline Watsham owns the lovely lock cottage, but they pulled up after that to check something in the engine, so we passed them.
The level of the pound here was very low, and we grounded twice. A day boat was trying to moor up, but was having difficulty. We crept slowly and carefully into Slat Mill lock. When we left the lock, we opened one of the lower paddles to help Harnser with the depth.
We moored on piling just after Slat Mill Bridge 156, and Harnser went past a little later. They had had to tow the day boat off as they had got stuck.
It was very hot and we put some bungs in the windows to stop the sun shining in. There were curlews in the field. (or should the plural be curlew, like sheep and deer?).
There was an armada of canoes – at least 25 in the first wave that disappeared down the lock. Then another 22 that came past as far as the bridge and then returned. They were travelling really fast, racing each other. One hit the bank and swung out, with others trying to avoid it. Chaos.
Canoe invasion above Slatmill Lock
James went for a short walk – lovely flowers in the meadows.
Clover in profusion
A tree by the Cherwell
Aren't dandelions beautiful?
Hugo caught a mouse. Then later, after dark, he was spooked by something in the bushes that we never saw. There was swearing and hissing, and he ran in and stayed in.
4 locks, 4 miles, 1 lift bridge, 1 mouse, 2hr15
Friday 13th June
Slat Mill Bridge to Cropredy
As Elkington Lock has been closed for two days, we thought that a lot of boats waiting in Cropredy would leave today. We set off after a few boats had been on the move.
We met Rob on BCF boat Shalom, from the Chesterfield Canal, but there was no time to say more than “hello”. We spent some time with him and Val at the Retford and Worksop Boat Club a few years ago (2005!).
The winding hole and sanitary station at Cropredy was full of CRT work boats. Thankfully we didn’t need the facilities. We found a 48H mooring below the lock and had a very pleasant afternoon chatting to passers-by. It was hot, so we bought ice creams from the shop.
Then it rather turned sour when Hugo raced back into the boat, hotly pursued by a black labrador, who thankfully stopped short of coming aboard. James went on deck to see what was happening, and the dog was by now sniffing the people in the bows of the next boat. A lady was walking slowly along the path.
James: “Is that your dog?”
Lady: “Yes. Was that your cat?”
James: “Yes it was”
Lady: “He’ll be alright. They’re used to it. It’s only natural for dogs to chase cats.”
James: “Are you coming back this way? If so I could keep the cat in.”
Lady: “No I’m not”
James: “That’s fine then”
James went back inside and remarked quietly to Hazel “No apology!”
Lady (with acute hearing): “Do you expect an apology because my dog chased your cat?”
James (emerging once more): “Since you ask, I would have thought so, yes”
Lady: “And you a clergyman too!”
James: “I am not a clergyman, but what has that got to do with it? Responsible dog owners should keep their dogs under control.”
Lady: “You’d better lock your cat up if you are worried about him”
James: “My cat doesn’t chase other peoples animals”
Three things can be learned from this episode.
Firstly that small word “sorry” seems to have a remarkable effect. Earlier, another dog had chased Hugo, and the owner had said “I’m ever so sorry, I didn’t know the cat was there. Is he OK?” We then had a very pleasant conversation and everything was fine.
Secondly it shows that wearing a Boaters Christian Fellowship shirt and having logos on the boat produces extraordinary and sometimes unreal expectations in peoples minds.
Thirdly I should never have spoken about her, saying “no apology” to Hazel.
I regret this conversation and wish I could rewind and think of more positive things to say. We want to be good news to people we meet, and not labelled as grumpy Christians.
Later James went for a walk further up to see who was moored there. He got caught in a sudden rain storm, and while sheltering under a tree, who should come along the towpath with a bicycle but Caroline Watsham, returning from a rehearsal in Cropredy.
0 locks, 1 mile, 0hr35
Saturday 14th June
We had some rain in the night. We had set the Webasto to come on to heat the water, as we had not done much cruising the day before. Success. Hot showers.
Hazel went for a wander round the village, and ended up buying a few bits from the shop. James got his guitar out and put some chords to some old worship songs. He then went for a walk on some well defined footpaths, and was pleased to see a kingfisher on the infant Cherwell. This was the first kingfisher sighting since we left Weybridge. Also spotted: 2 kestrels, a red kite, a tortoiseshell butterfly and a yellowhammer.
Tortoiseshell butterfly - by a great Artist
Meanwhile, Hazel had a sorting blitz in James’ “office”, disposing of some old files and grouping our electrical leads in one place.
Very warm again.
We had planned to have Sunday lunch at the Brasenose Arms after church, but when we discovered that the church service was early – 9.30am, we decided to go for the meal this evening instead. Very pleasant atmosphere and good food. Then the band started. They were very talented, but having a full drum kit and huge PA speakers in a small low ceiling pub room was not kind to the ears. We left when they had their break.
Music at the Brasenose Arms
No boating today
Sunday 15th June
Cropredy to Claydon
We walked up past the Red Lion to the church for the morning service. This was led by a lay preacher and therefore there was no communion. It was called “Service of the Word”. Sixteen people in the church (including Caroline Watsham) plus some bell ringers. The talk was very good, centred on the great commission. Four well known hymns. The odd thing was hymn number three was “Tell out my soul”, and hymn number four was “Go forth and tell”, played to the tune of “Tell out my soul”. I don’t think I have ever sung two consecutive hymns to the same tune before. Nobody seemed to notice or mind, and we had a warm welcome, being invited to the church rooms for coffee afterwards. We met a chap called Graham, who owns a boat called Alnwick.
Clematis on a wall in Cropredy
Back to the boat, where we had reached the end of our 48 hours on the mooring. With help from our bow thruster we reversed back through a pinch point, and under a bridge to the facilities area. This is also a winding hole, and getting the boat tied up so that you can get off at both ends is quite a challenge.
When we had done all we needed to do, we set off under the bridge towards the lock, and a boat was just emerging, which was handy for us.
We cruised past the new marina and negotiated three more locks. We found Scyeffe, and Caroline emerged to say goodbye as we passed.
We moored on some piling below Claydon bottom lock, and walked into the village, following the road from bridge 145. We met a local couple who showed us where the bygones museum had been. It was all sold up when the old man died apparently.
Claydon church was very interesting, with an unusual tower. James signed the visitors book.
We decided to take the footpath shown on the map, back to bridge 144. Apart from an awkward stile, this was OK, but when we arrived at the canal bridge, there was no way down onto the towpath. In fact there were rolls of razor wire preventing anyone creeping through the bushes! There were cows in the field, so presumably the farmer was worried about them escaping, but a simple stile or gate would have helped. Instead we had to walk in the field, following the hedge until we found a way onto the canal towpath. We finally managed it by climbing over a wall by Claydon top lock.
Back at the boat, Hugo brought us a live mouse, which disappeared under the fridge. We managed to catch it and release it in the bushes. Hugo caught another one later on, and left the remains on the back deck.
4 locks, 2 miles, 2 mice, 1hr50.