Wed 4th Oct Thrupp to Upper Heyford
We moved the boat back a length so we could reach a convenient tap and fill our water tank. The taps here are locked with a Cruising Club padlock, and we still had the key. After showers and breakfast, we moved back to the service area to empty two cassettes and the rubbish. While we were there a lady from a hire boat across the canal came to borrow a screwdriver as they couldn’t turn off one of the taps in their boat. Another boat arrived to use the facilities, so we pulled out and crossed to the other side to reclaim our screwdriver, returning once more to drop off our key.
Then we were off, after being moored for six nights in Thrupp. It was slow going, as there were lots of moored boats, and the canal was shallow, limiting the speed.
Thrupp Wide seemed to be as wide as we had remembered. There were a lot of reeds that narrowed the channel.
Shipton on Cherwell
Several boats had gone past in both directions when we had been moored. We passed Holy Cross church at Shipton-on-Cherwell, and soon arrived at Shipton Weir Lock, one of the two strangely shaped ones on the South Oxford. Apparently they are designed to take extra water from the river section to supply the canal section. The lock is very shallow – only 2’ 5” at normal river levels. James couldn’t get off as there was a boat sitting on the lock bollards facing us, with two CRT volunteers on board, chatting to a lady with a dog. There was another boat coming down in the lock, so we waited for them to emerge, and James stepped off at the lock gate as we went in.
Shipton Weir Lock
The horse bridge before Bakers Lock
After the River Cherwell section, the next lock was Baker’s Lock, and a boat was just entering in front of us. It was a hire boat that had passed us when we were still moored up, so they must have been going very slowly. They were Aussies from Gosford, 80k north of Sydney.
We paused at Enslow Wharf as it looked as though they might sell diesel or coal. There was no-one about, so we moved on, meeting the Aussies coming back the other way. They had turned to go back to Oxford.
Pigeon Lock was in our favour, and another boat arrived at the top as we left. Northbrook and Dashwood Locks were both against us, so there must have been another boat travelling in our direction in front of us.
We saw a muntjac deer very close at one point, and we also spotted cormorants on a tree, red kites, a buzzard, a kingfisher sitting on a branch, and a red admiral passenger on our roof.
Old Brighton Bridge
At Lower Heyford we paused at the boatyard. We managed to buy three bags of coal and we filled up with diesel (75p per litre). We also bought a replacement gas hose as the other two we had seemed to leak. When he tried to fit it, James discovered that the leaks were due to not making the joints tight enough. So that has been rectified. Does anyone need a spare gas hose? We have two good ones we don’t need!
While we were there Tony Clarke came past on Tug No 1, heading back to his base on the Basingstoke Canal.
Tony Clarke on Tug No 1
Round the corner was Mill Lift Bridge, which we had marked in our Nicholson Guide as manual, requiring no key or windlass. A boat was moored on the landing stage for the bridge, so James got off early, and walked up to the bridge. He tried to raise it by pulling down on the beam, and couldn’t move it. He then spotted a small pedestal with instructions and a place to insert a key. The bridge has been modified since our last visit two years ago. Hazel had to throw a key to James, who pressed the button that opened the bridge.
Moored on the bridge landing stage
Mill Lift Bridge now electrified
We moored just around the corner, with a view up an open field. Hazel hung out the washing in the bows, but it didn’t dry very successfully, so we brought it inside, where we lit the fire.
Moored at Upper Heyford
5 locks, 8 miles, 1 lift bridge
Thu 5th Oct Upper Heyford to Banbury bridge 170
We had heavy rain in the small hours, and it was cloudy when we got up this morning. A black swan came to visit us. We saw one not far from here a few years ago, so we guess it is the same one.
We set off fairly late, after several boats had gone in each direction. It was all very quiet. We did meet one or two boats, but we mostly had the locks to ourselves.
We passed the Grade 1 listed tithe barn at Upper Heyford, which dates back to the early 15th century. Just after that we arrived at Allens Lock, which was in our favour. The bridge before the lock was too low for our chimney, so we had to take it down.
Allens Bridge was too low for our chimney
There is an unusual bridge by Heyford Common Lock which was also set for us. There is then a two mile stretch before Somerton Deep Lock. Here there was a hire boat going into the lock in front of us. It was one we had seen go past about 30 minutes before we set off.
Heyford Common Lock and Bridge
Somerton Deep Lock, at 12ft, the deepest on the Oxford Canal.
Into the lock
The well maintained Lock Cottage at Somerton Deep Lock
As we reached the top of the lock, a couple came past and they stopped to ask about Canal Ministries. We exchanged leaflets. Keith and Kim Vellacott belong to one of the churches in Banbury. We offered them a lift, but they had arrived by bus and they wanted to walk back to Banbury.
The long walk
Hugo monitoring the helmsmanship
We passed the impressive railway viaduct near Aynho, followed by a line of moored boats, and a demonstration of curious spelling skills.
Railway Viaduct at Aynho
The hire boat we had followed was waiting at the boatyard, and we also paused there briefly for Hazel to nip out for a bottle of milk, before moving on to the second strangely shaped lock – Aynho Weir Lock. The river Cherwell crosses the canal at this point, and the towpath crosses the river on an unusual bridge.
Aynho Weir Bridge
We went under the M40, and were pleased to be down on the canal rather than up amongst the traffic above.
Cows on the cut
From King Sutton Lock you can see the graceful church spire of the church at Kings Sutton, but there is no way to get there, because of the river Cherwell which cuts through the meadows.
Kings Sutton Lock
Kings Sutton Church spire
We were hoping to moor just above Kings Sutton Lock, but there was a strong wind which carried the deafening noise from the M40 right across the fields, so we decided to continue until we crossed back under the M40, where, hopefully, the wind would take the noise away from the canal.
We finally stopped near Haynes Lift Bridge 170, where we have moored a few times before. There is a stand of poplar trees which shields some of the motorway noise. There was a large flock of goldfinches in the field beside the canal. We were treated to some pretty clouds later on.
Moored at bridge 170
7 locks, 11 miles
Fri 6th Oct Banbury bridge 170 to Banbury Spiceball Park
We didn’t have far to go today, co there was no rush to set off. We noticed a sign just beyond the lift bridge announcing a new pub and a marina.
New Marina sign
We stopped just before bridge 168 to go to Morrisons for some items, before having lunch back on board.
The next stop was the sanitary station to do all the usual things there. The quayside was really mucky. They could do with sorting out some soakaway system for the excess water that leaks out from the water point.
Sanitary Station facilities in Banbury
Then we went up through the lock and the lift bridge, where we had to take down the chimney as it would have caught the bridge.
The lift bridge
We found a mooring on Spiceball Park, where Hugo had some bushes to explore. James looked up restaurants on line and we chose an Italian. As we were leaving the boat we realised that the chimney was still down, so James put it back.
Moored on Spiceball Park
Sadly when we arrived at the Italian restaurant we found it was closed for refurbishment. There had been no mention of this on their website. Well, there are plenty of other places to choose from in Banbury. We ended up at Mogul Indian Restaurant, and had a very nice meal.
We went from there to the Town Hall to find out about the folk festival and try to book for tonight’s concert. We found BCF friend Peter Braybrook at the reception desk. We managed to get tickets for the main Friday concert bsut there were no Saturday tickets left. We bought a programme so that we could find out what else was on offer as there are a number of free events.
They were selling Rosie’s Pig at the bar in the Town Hall. There were three bands performing. First on was the Kevin o’Regan Band. They were good musicians, but had several songs with very complicated choruses, so it was difficult to join in, especially as we couldn’t hear the words properly. They also had some excellent Irish dancers doing their tap dancing and high kicks.
Then came Paula Ryan, who sang some lovely songs, accompanied by guitar, Bodhran, and Marimba, a kind of glockenspiel from Zimbabwe. She had some unusual rhythms.
Finally we had the Mighty Doonans, an originally Irish family band who now come from Tyneside. They were very good, with tight arrangements, and polished musical skills.
The Mighty Doonans
We returned to the boat to find we had left the back doors unlocked! They were actually partly opened, presumably by Hugo as he went ashore. We must have been distracted by having to put up the chimney as we left. Thankfully no-one had attempted to come in.
1 lock, 2 miles, 1 lift bridge
Sat 7th Oct Banbury Spiceball Park
We did some shopping before going to the start of the Hobby Horse parade. There were several dance teams, and lots of hobby horses as well as other strange looking outfits. It was a great atmosphere. We found Caroline Watsham there in one of the hobby horses.
Hobby Horse parade
Colourful Morris side
Dancing in the street
We went for a meal in a modern pub nearby and had some very nice pies, accompanied by Old Rosie Cider. It was a different world, with wide screen TVs showing today's sport, while out of sight round the corner there was this ancient folk lore tradition going on in the street.
We moved on to our selected venue for the afternoon, Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn. This is the oldest pub in Banbury. We found a seat, and then gradually upgraded to a better position as people left.
We saw The Tindalls and Scarecrow performing, and then realised we were very tired, so we wandered back to the boat. Peter Braybrook came to visit us and had a cuppa.
Later we went back to the Reine Deer, where we had some soup and some nachos while watching the bands. We saw Under the Wychwood, Lynne Heraud and Pat Turner, and Pete Watkins.
Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn
Then back to the boat once more. We had remembered to lock it this time!
No boating today.
Sun 8th Oct Banbury Spiceball Park
We went to Banbury Community Church in the Old Mill Arts Centre for their 10.30am service. This venue is really very handy for passing boaters. We visited here two years ago.
We walked to the town centre for a quick meal in a cafe before catching a minibus to the cricket club for the final folk club. Hector Gilchrist was there but he left when we arrived. We have that effect sometimes.
Some performers had extended 30 minute slots, and others sang a song each in turn. As we were halfway through the first verse of Long Way Down, the fire alarm went off, and it lasted five minutes. We had to start again. As well as Long way down, we sang Chickens, and Antiques. We had planned to sing Pilgrim, but the event ended 15 minutes early.
We took the bus back. We tried to meet up with Peter but our texts took so long to reach him that we had left the Town Hall without realising that he was inside. We made arrangements by phone in the end, and we met up with him and Fran, and went for a curry in Peter’s car. It was very good food and pleasant company. We did have a laugh when we saw something strange on the menu.
Interesting information on the menu
With Peter and Fran
A dark sky
Back to Peter and Fran’s for a cuppa before returning to the boat.
No boating today
Next: Stocking up in Banbury before the cruise north round to Braunston, where we hope to be next weekend.