Sun 5th April EASTER SUNDAY
Napton Bottom Lock to Bridge 118 Holt Farm
Moored at Napton
It was a lovely fresh morning as we set off on foot to climb the hill. We allowed 30 minutes, and it took us 20. The last part was a steep footpath with beautiful primroses and daffodils. St Lawrence’s Church is built of mellow stone and dates back to the12th century. It amazing to think that all that stone had to be dragged up the hill.
Spring flowers by the church path
St Leonard’s Church, Napton
We had a warm welcome and were given a coffee, seemingly a special privilege for puffed out visitors, as no one else was having one. The worship was led by a guitar and a saxophone and some lady singers. The service was pleasantly informal and included communion.
Over a second cup of coffee afterwards, we met BCF member Rachel Franklin, who lives on board Serendipity, moored in Wigrams Turn marina.
Rachel kindly gave us a lift back down the hill to the Folly Inn and we bought some milk and some kindling from the little shop there.
We set off to go to the facilities block before starting up the locks, but it is always a rush here, as the sanitary station is next to the lock bollards. A volunteer opened the bottom gates of the first lock for us, as a boat came round the corner behind us. We offloaded two cassettes and a bag or rubbish, and went into the lock. Another boat was waiting to come down, with crew standing by the top gates, so James went back to deal with the cassettes and the rubbish while Hazel was locked through the first lock. She was halfway to the second lock by the time James caught up with the now empty cassettes.
Lock 10 refurbished after the partial collapse last year
There were lots of boats coming down the locks, so we did not have to set any of them. We managed six locks and a mile in just 60 minutes.
We moored three locks from the top in a lovely location with great views.
Mooring with a view
6 locks, 1 mile
Mon 6th April
Bridge 118 to bridge 129 Wormleighton Hill
A heavy dew and slight mist made the boat wet, so we waited until mid morning before setting off through the final three locks. The water tap at the top was busy, so we moved on slowly in lovely sunshine.
We cruised slowly along the twisty summit level enjoying the views and the sunshine. At one point we saw a very strange sight. There was a narrowboat moored in a tiny pond in a field. He had evidently dug a channel into the field, sailed his boat in, and sealed up the entrance. There has to be a story behind this – maybe someone can shed some light on the matter?
Boat moored in a pond
We passed the HS2 sign, which marks the place where the high-speed railway will carve up the countryside. It always makes us feel sad and angry that the politicians won’t listen to popular opinion.
We stopped a little further on by Wormleighton Hill, with lovely views right back to Napton about five miles away. There were larks everywhere, and a buzzard and a kestrel. Earlier we saw a reed bunting.
We got the chairs off the roof and enjoyed watching the sun going down. The only thing that spoilt the peace and quiet was a bird scarer going off every few minutes.
Watching the sun going down
We decided to let the fire die out, as it was so warm.
3 locks, 6 miles
Tue 7th April
Bridge 129 Wormleighton Hill to Glebe Farm, Claydon (Br 143/144)
There was a lovely sunrise early, and then mist came down and we had no views for a while.
Sunrise on the Oxford summit
As we were preparing to set off, a boat came from behind, so we let them go first. As we pulled away, another boat came in sight, so there was a line of three. Thankfully the boat in front was quicker than us, and the boat behind was slower so we gradually increased the gaps as we cruised the three miles to Fenny Compton.
Here we paused for a few minutes as we used the tap (muddy path and slow flow) and we disposed of rubbish. A short way further on we paused at Fenny Compton Marina to see if they had a suitable life ring. They didn’t seem to want us in the chandlery and they wanted to charge £2 for the use of the elsan disposal point. We moved on. There were no other visiting boats. They probably don’t do very much business.
Round the corner is the Fenny Compton “Tunnel”, now opened out, but still narrow.
Fenny Compton Tunnel
We met Tranquility a BCF boat, and exchanged a few words as we passed. We moored at Glebe Farm, just before the Claydon Locks, where the canal is at the right angle for catching the evening sun. We sat out on the bank to enjoy it.
The peaceful countryside can be quite noisy at times, and we had a very quacky duck, a loud pheasant and some busy wrens. I am not complaining.
0 locks, 6 miles
Wed 8th April
Glebe Farm, Claydon to Cropredy
We had a leisurely departure round the corner to the first of the five Claydon locks. These are quite quick to fill, and there seemed to be several boats coming as we went down, so most of the time the locks were in our favour.
There was one guy, from Holland, who had bought his boat yesterday, and was taking it to London to live on it with his girlfriend and baby. He had never been through a lock until today.
Near Varney’s Lock we saw our first swallows of the year – three of them. There were also brimstone butterflies about and lovely wild flowers.
We passed Scyeffe, but Caroline was not on board. We carried on down to Cropredy, where we moored soon after the marina, on a 24-hour mooring.
We spent some time practising songs for Saturday. Hazel’s guitarlele broke a string, so it had to be replaced. Thankfully it did not happen just as we were about to start on Saturday.
We have still not lit another fire, although in the mornings we have run the Webasto heater.
8 locks, 3 miles
Thu 9th April
Cropredy to Slat Mill Bridge
We walked to the shop to buy a few essentials. When we returned, it seemed as though everyone was setting off. Two boats in front of us and two more that came from behind meant there was a lock queue. It took us 45 minutes to get to the lock.
Leaving Cropredy Lock
After that there was the usual chaos at the water point and sanitary station, which is combined with a winding hole. The quayside is a very strange shape, and it is difficult to moor properly. We had to wait for a hire boat to fill their water tank before it was our turn.
Then we moved slowly on past a long line of moored boats before passing Cropredy Mill. A mile later we came to our designated mooring place, a length of piling with an open view of farmland, just before Slat Mill Bridge.
We saw curlews in the field opposite the boat, and heard their churring calls as every so often they flew over the boat to meadows on the other side. We remember them here from previous years.
Lots of canoes came past. They don’t keep to a speed limit and they made the boat rock.
We had an enjoyable and relaxing time sitting in the bows with some drinks and nibbles as the sun went down. Then as James was watching the curlews, the strap of the binoculars caught the small plastic table we use, and tipped it up, sending our two wine glasses into the canal. Thankfully we had emptied them by then.
After some dredging with a landing net, James managed to retrieve one of the glasses, as well as two fish, some fresh water mussels and two snails, and lots of mud.
1 lock, 1 mile
Fri 10th April
Slat Mill Lock to Banbury
It was very misty this morning, and James went for a short walk to see the sunrise and take a few photos. A boat went past very early, going in the same direction as us, meaning that all the locks would be against us.
Early morning traveller
Sunrise at Slat Mill Bridge
It was an hour later before we set off, and nothing else had moved in either direction. After Slat Mill Lock, our first, we met another boat coming up, so we were expecting Bourton Lock to be in our favour. It wasn’t. Then we met another boat coming towards us, so we were expecting Hardwick Lock to be full, but it was empty. All a bit of a mystery.
On the way to Banbury
We arrived quite early in Banbury and found exactly the right mooring for us, between Sovereign Boats and Tom Rolt Bridge, where there is plenty of space for Hugo on Spiceball Park. By now there was plenty of sunshine.
Hazel went shopping, to look for a decent jacket to wear for a posh do in London later. My cousin Dick Bell has been awarded the MBE, and we are having a family and friends lunch at the RAF Club in Piccadilly after the Buckingham Palace ceremony. As boaters we don’t have much space for smart clothes!
Later, as we were having lunch, a very short shower made everything wet, including the fresh paint applied this morning to the boat behind us.
We both went shopping again in the afternoon, touring the charity shops for something suitable. Partly successful: new jacket acquired. New blouse now needed to go with it! Oxford, Abingdon, Reading etc here we come!
Peter Braybrook arrived with his car to load our PA on board. James was still printing song sheets, but we got most things we needed into the boot.
In the evening we went for a meal in a Thai restaurant. Very good food.
3 locks, 3 miles.
Sat 11th April
Banbury and Fazeley
The boat didn’t move today, but we did. We were up before our 6.30am alarm, making the final preparations for our trip to the Boaters Christian Fellowship Spring Conference in Fazeley. This included making sandwiches, and packing the final guitar plus song words and Bibles.
Peter and Fran arrived in the car park in the rain at 8am and we drove to Fazeley, where we arrived slightly early, but we were not the first. We were welcomed with a coffee and a bacon roll. How civilised!
We took our guitars into the church, where there were several microphones, music stands, and a keyboard. What we couldn’t work out was where to plug in our guitar and guitarlele leads. The microphones were all plugged in, and there were several jack sockets, a little distance from where we were to stand. Thankfully we had brought our bag of miscellaneous leads and bits and pieces, and we were able to use two long jack to jack leads which we normally use for our powered speakers. After a lot of testing we could only find two of the jack sockets which worked, so Hazel and I plugged in there, and Pauline had to use another mic for her guitar. The keyboard was already plugged in.
We only had time to practice a verse or two of each song to establish keys, intros and joins, as we had a very full day of talks and group discussions.
It all went very well, and we were challenged by the stories and teaching. The music was well received as well, although we had no fold back, and could not hear ourselves very well. It was a great atmosphere, and it was good to catch up with many friends.
Peter and Fran took us back via the Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton where we enjoyed a meal together.
No boating today.
Plans: Tomorrow we go Banbury Community Church, who meet in the Mill Arts Centre. On Monday we hire a car, go to Nottingham for a funeral, come back and go to a folk session in Adderbury. On Tuesday we return the car and start south through Thrupp and onto the Thames at Oxford, making for Wallingford by Sunday.