Sun 12th April
Moving down through Banbury
We started by moving the boat, as we had been on a 48-hour mooring for 48 hours. We moved down through the lift bridge and the lock, and visited the facilities block, which we thought looked very neglected. Leaky taps, unwashed / unwashable backplate to the elsan facility. Why do they insist on building brick walls round these things, so that you have to pour the contents of your cassette from a height, which then splashes? Bah, humbug! There was also no hose to wash things down with, which was why the back wall was filthy.
After that delightful Sunday morning experience, we moored beyond the next bridge, on a 14-day mooring with rings. With a wall behind the towpath, and a car park opposite, it wasn’t the most scenic of venues, but it suited our purposes.
We walked back a few yards to the Mill Arts Centre, where Banbury Community Church meets on a Sunday morning at 1030am. There was quite a good turnout, with a healthy spread of ages, from small children to even older than us. The worship was led by a lad on a keyboard, plus a guy on a flute and tambourine, a guitarist and a chap on a boom box. It was a little bit sombre, and the keys were too high for us. The speaker was Jonathan, a man from Uganda who spoke about the story of Zacchaeus. Are we prepared to invite Jesus into our homes and have a close relationship with him? Jonathan was obviously touched by the Holy Spirit when the leaders prayed with him at the end.
Banbury Community Church worship band
We went into town afterwards to see what was open. The music shop was closed (Hazel needs more strings for her guitarlele). We bought a phone-charging platform and went for a Chinese buffet lunch.
In the afternoon we crashed out after the busy day yesterday at the BCF conference. We watched Transporter 3 on the TV and set alarms for the morning.
1 lock, 1 mile, 1 lift bridge.
Mon 13th April
Banbury (and Nottingham)
James got up early, and armed with identity papers, walked the 15 minute walk to the Enterprise Car Hire base where he collected a small Toyota, and drove it back to the Mill Arts Centre car park, getting fairly lost on the way.
45 minutes later we were on our way to Nottingham, for the funeral of Hazel’s Auntie Frances. There were ten of us altogether at the crematorium. She was over 92 and most of her friends had gone before her. We all went for a meal at the nearby pub and it was good to catch up with her son Rod, Mary his wife, and their sons John and Richard.
Back to Banbury, and a visit to Tesco to stock up, while we had a car to transport it all in. We happened to see Caroline Watsham there (BCF) and we agreed to see each other at the folk session that evening.
We had a hurried bite to eat and a cat to feed before rushing out once more to the Bell Inn at Adderbury. The village is quaint, and there was a morris side practising in a side road (appropriate!). There are several pubs, all ancient. It was called a singers club, and it was led by an acapella trio who were very good. Then there was Sarah, blind but with a lovely voice, who used backing tracks. Then Caroline, who played autoharp. Then a couple who sang and played guitar and had considerable volume, and two other guys with guitars, one of whom sang Christian songs. Love songs from heaven by Noel Richards was not something we were expecting to hear. There was also a guy who sang traditional songs unaccompanied very well. We sang A long way down; Waterloo Road and Some Ladies are Foolish. It was a good evening.
In the Bell, Adderbury (pic by Caroline Watsham)
Noel Richards Song
Back to the Mill to leave the car overnight and walk to the boat, where we turned on the Webasto, as it was cool. There was a car in the car park opposite with an alarm going off every few seconds, and then it finally stopped.
No boating today
Tue 14th April
Banbury to Upper Heyford
The forecast was for a hot day, but it was cool again in the morning, so we had the Webasto going. James set off back to Enterprise with the hire car and got lost again. Why don’t the car hire companies provide a simple street map showing their location? He filled up the fuel tank - £16.50. The car cost just over £20 for the day.
A walk back via a burger van and a quick departure, as we had some distance to cover. We met Peter of Petula (BCF) moored just after Morrisons. There was also a boat called Wren’s Nest, which had a fish sign in the window.
A short while later, all our domestic electrics went. We had the washing machine going, and Hazel fancied a slice of toast. At that point the washing machine stopped, and the toaster stopped working. Hazel tested the lights and pumps – nothing.
We contacted Mick, the boat fitter, but there was nothing he could do at a distance, so we decided to call in at Aynho Wharf to see if someone could sort us out. A guy called Mack identified the problem – the master fuse had blown. It was 150a, so he replaced it with a 250a. They should have 400a, but the wiring was not big enough (Should be 50mm, not 40mm)
We took on some diesel while we there (70p). A boat called Ada of Ashby came alongside while we were there – very nice people.
Crossing the Cherwell at Aynho Weir
Aynho Weir Lock
Rough weather warning
It was a glorious day, and saw some wildlife: a kingfisher, a swallow, our first orange tip butterfly, a red kite, a buzzard, two kestrels seemingly courting, a sandpiper, and we heard a curlew.
We passed Ada of Ashby moored at Somerton. We didn’t get as far as we wanted to due to the two hours at Aynho, so we stopped between bridges 202 and 203 at Upper Heyford. A pleasant mooring except for occasional train noise. Hazel hung out the washing, which had completed the cycle.
6 locks, 11 miles
Wed 15th April
Upper Heyford to Kidlington Green
We had a heavy dew this morning, then eventually it was very hot for the time of year. 250C
Away from it all
Approaching Dashwood Lock
Most of the locks seemed to be half full due to leakage. We saw a group of five kites circling on a thermal. A lovely day. We spotted a sandpiper and a kingfisher.
White blossom everywhere
At Bakers Lock there was a pair of boats going down. The butty went first, then another boat came up, and the motor went down to pair up with the butty. Meanwhile we had filled the lock again and started down behind them. This is a river section and we managed to pass the pair as they were going very slowly. The next lock was Shipton Weir Lock, and we were through that and we left it filling again for them before they had arrived.
At Thrupp we filled the water tank, very slowly, before going through the lift bridge, operated by a CRT man. We moored just before the cottages, and Anne Clark arrived with David, to take us to a Harvester pub in Kidlington. It was good to catch up with them once more.
Back at the boat, we met Tranquillity Too, a BCF boat, just as we were setting off. Dragonfly was also moored there. We stopped an hour later just above Kidlington Green Lock, which was a fairly peaceful mooring.
7 locks, 11 miles, 2 lift bridges, 1 mouse
Thu 16th April
Kidlington Green to Oxford
Hugo had obviously been busy in the night, as there was evidence of a mouse on the mat in the stern.
We left early (0725) as we had shopping to do in Oxford. We negotiated the lift bridges and locks as we passed the long lines of boats along this interesting way into Oxford.
Instead of going to the end, where we were not sure of a mooring, we stopped on the visitor moorings at Aristotle Bridge. There is a recreation ground here, which suits Hugo.
Our mooring in Oxford
We caught a no. 6 bus to the city centre, where we looked round the indoor market, and several shops. Hazel found a blouse to go with her jacket, and we returned to the market for a Thai lunch – very good value. Then we discovered another market at Gloucester Green – a great variety of stalls, and a wide selection of food on offer. Maybe next time.
Back at the mooring, it was very peaceful, after the children’s playground had been deserted.
3 locks, 4 miles, 3 lift bridges
Fri 17th April
Oxford to Abingdon
Not such an early start today, as we didn’t have a busy schedule. Against all predictions in the weather forecast, it had rained in the night, leaving little blobs of sand all over the boat.
We headed south slowly down the remaining mile of the Oxford Canal, to Isis Lock, where we noticed a new sign with warning lights to show the levels on the river section. Also some instruction about how to leave the lock, tie up on the bollards on the pontoon below, and turn the boat round with ropes before setting off. This might be useful when there is a strong flow, but today there was very little, so we left the lock and turned to starboard, as we have always done. No problem.
Isis Lock exit instructions
The connection to the Thames here is called the Sheepwash Channel, no doubt for historic reasons. There is a rare sight: an old disused railway swing bridge across the waterway, which, since our last visit, has been cleared of brambles.
Then we were out onto the Thames, and going under the low Osney Bridge, which keeps all the high boats out of the upper Thames. The Osney moorings were nearly empty as we passed – very unusual.
Few boats on the Osney moorings
Osney Lock was self-service. There was therefore no one to buy a licence from. Another narrowboat was just going in as we arrived, and we shared the lock with them. We left before them, as they had to pick up their crew.
Round the sharp and blind corner there were two rowing eights completely blocking the river. Reverse gear needed! We warned then about the other boat following us. The rowers usually use the wide and straight stretch below Folly Bridge.
By contrast to the Osney Moorings, the moorings below Folly Bridge were full.
Moorings below Folly Bridge
There were several rowing eights and pairs along the main rowing reach. There was one particular pair who were over near the right bank so we planned to pass them on the left. They then pulled out into midstream and stopped, so we had to apply reverse thrust to avoid ramming them. We then went to pass them on the right, and they started to row to the right as well!!! Powered vessels are meant to give way to unpowered vessels, but everyone is surely meant to use some common sense? We noticed that they did exactly the same to the narrowboat following three minutes behind.
A narrowboat was just leaving Iffley Lock, which was also self-service, but they had closed the gates, so Hazel went to open them, only to find that the paddles on the lower gates were open, and the lock was emptying. There was no apparent reason why they had left the lock like that. No boats were approaching from below.
We re-filled the lock, opened the gates, and shared once more with the other narrowboat. As we were about to exit, a cruiser came in sight from behind us, and took over the job of opening and closing the gates for us. This time the other narrowboat went first, as James had to get Hazel back on board.
The next lock was Sandford Lock, the deepest on the Thames, so we were surprised to find this was also unattended by a lockkeeper. It took a while to fill it, and by the time it was open, the cruiser had caught up, so there were three boats in the lock. We left first, followed by the cruiser, and then the other narrowboat.
It took a further hour to get near Abingdon, and the cruiser over took us early on. The other narrowboat was not far behind us. We spotted a kingfisher, and several cormorants, with red kites overhead. Canada geese, Greylag geese, and “farmyard” geese were also evident, but no Egyptian geese yet. We wonder when we will see the first new babies.
We wanted to moor near the Swift Ditch, just above Abingdon, as there are great views of the meadows, and we hoped to see deer, or barn owls. All the moorings there were taken, so we moored on the visitor moorings just above the lock. We still don’t have a licence.
James went for a walk and saw some lovely flowers including great fields of dandelions. He also saw a swallow and a sparrow hawk
4 locks, 9 miles
Sat 18th April
Abingdon to Wallingford
It was sunny but cool, with a fresh breeze. It seemed like a few hundred runners came past the boat, and apparently this happens every Saturday.
We moved the boat down the few yards to the water tap, which is notoriously slow. While this was happening, James went to buy a Thames licence, before we went down through the lock. No other boats moving.
Just after Abingdon Bridge, we paused at the chandlery and purchased a new life buoy, to replace the one that disappeared at Milton Keynes last year. We thought it was important, especially as we are heading down the tideway to Limehouse in a week or two.
Clifton Hampden Bridge
Culham and Clifton locks followed, before the long two mile 1800 bend from Clifton Hampden round to Days Lock. As we arrived there, we had to wait for the lock to be filled, and a rowing boat and a small support launch arrived. The launch captain got his rope round the propeller, so we left them trying to disentangle it. We have ropes that float, so it would be difficult to have that problem.
A sunny day near Wittenham Clumps
The lockkeeper at Benson said he had only seen five boats today. We found a mooring at Wallingford on the left bank, where it is easier to get off the boat than on the right bank, where the wall is very high for narrowboats.
There were some youngsters messing about in canoes and a small dinghy. One lad tried to jump from the wall into the dinghy, and missed! Thankfully he could swim.
5 locks, 13 miles
Tomorrow: Ridgeway Christian Fellowship in Wallingford. The rest of the week: heading downstream and into the River Wey for three days to catch up with our church, our tenants, friends and neighbours.