The SOW Campaign at Banbury
harnser 2

Friday 23 February 2007
We left our moorings at 10-45 am in very light drizzle with the Marston Does lock both against us. Following this I gave the Dickinson Stove its annual clean out while Diana steered Harnser. I got about a whisky glass of crud out or the bottom of the burner. By Wormleighton bends the
drizzle had turned to heavy rain. This pattern was repeated for most of the day with the odd bit of sun between the wet. We met a few boats during the day a couple of them in the Claydon flight. It was quite fortunate we met the first as they were trying to fill the lock with the bottom paddle still up, goodness knows how long this would have gone on for if we had not been coming the other way. I has grave doubts of how safe the safety ladder is in Claydon Bottom lock. Running up behind the rungs is what I am guessing is a level indicator which probably records how often the lock is turned. It consists of a length of pipe about 25 mm in diameter with a large head level with the top rung of the ladder taking up most of the toe room. After clearing Cropredy lock we were faced with a boat at 90 degrees across the cut. The owner had tied up the bows and was taking water, the stern had swung round and was against the towpath leaving the owner standing by the waterpoint unable to get back on the boat. A passing cyclist left his bike and hoped on the stern or the boat and drove it round for him. We moored at 1700 hrs on the 48 hr between the waterpoint and the long term moorings, I think this is probably the first time I have seen any moorings vacant on this stretch.

Saturday
Friday night was a night of very heavy rain which had cleared up by this morning, however the result of this was that the canal between Cropredy and Banbury was at a high level with a slight flow on. At the first lock south of Cropredy we found the top gates open and both paddles up, which I assumed was done by BW to allow water to flow over the bottom gates. so we left things how we found them. The lock had lots of water round it and lots of the towpath were under water. When we reached Bourton Lock again the top gates and paddles were open but in this case the bottom gates were higher that the top ones, so the lock was completely full with
water running into the cottage. When we left this lock we left the bottom gates open which stopped the water running around the front of cottage. Banbury lock was also under water with the top gates open and one paddle up.The flow entering the canal at Banbury was not as fierce as last time we were this way. Once through Banbury water levels were back to normal until we reached Nell Bridge where the River Cherwell crossers the canal on a level with a weir. I had to remove the Dickinson chimney and the engine exhaust to get under the bridge at the tail of the lock. I replaced the Dickinson chimney as it would not burn properly without it. Just prior to the weir we met a boat coming up and he left the lock open for us. We crossed the Cherwell with a lot less problem than I expected and slid under the bridge right on the off side which was just enough for catch the Dickinson chimney spoiling its shape somewhat. We then saw that the rive was on RED. Back on the canal I put the engine exhaust back on and bashed the chimney into some sort of shape. As we approached the bridge in Aynho by the wharf Diana said "are you going to take the exhaust off before the bridge" I said it will be OK but I was wrong. When we moored up I cut about 5" off the bottom to get rid of the kink and bashed the top back into a pipe shape. All around the fields are flooded and I doubt we will be able to get further south than the next bit of the Cherwell.

Sunday
Saturday night it rained hard again but it had cleared up by this morning. The reason for our late start was that we haven't got far that we can go with the Cherwell in flood. Between Somerton Deep Lock and Somerton Bridge the canal was flowing over the bank on to the surrounding flooded fields. At the bridge there was a fishing match in progress where the participants were quite friendly and all spoke as we passed. Below Lower Heyford lift bridge the Cherwell was flowing over the towpath into the canal in some places it was up to 6" deep and a couple walking the towpath were up to their ankles in water. We stopped for lunch just above Dashwood Lock mooring in front of another boat, by the time we had finished lunch the other boat had moved on, so we decided to pull back into their vacant spot and stop for the nigh. The weather started drizzly which then turned to short sharp showers with sunny periods in between.

Monday
During the night the atmospheric pressure rose steadily as did the level of the canal, the result of this was a sunny day with a steady flow of water topping the lock gates. We woke quite early to the sound of the trains running again and some early hour while it was still dark. We didn't see any trains at all yesterday, this may have been due to maintenance on the line or even the train derailing in Cumbria . Just before we were about to set off a boat came up the lock, as we were wandering around with the dog we lent him a hand and worked him up which he was very pleased with as he was single handed. We set off to wind at Enslow as that is the last winding hole before the Cherwell and we had no intention of heading down there with the amount of water in the river. We found some of the locks a bit heavy to open with amount of water coming over the top gates and in several places it was topping the towpath and spilling into the field. After winding we noticed a big difference in our progress, it was like going up the Llangollen. We had an uneventful run up the cut in some very pleasant sunshine with no real problems until we reached Lower Heyford lift bridge, here the single hander who we had seen first thing this morning had left his boat moored just below the lock, right where you want to get off to lift the bridge. Making our way through the bridge required a bit more power than normal with all the water coming down and as we came towards Heyford lock the reason became obvious with the Cherwell flowing over the banks and towpath into the canal. In fact the river looked to be higher today than it was yesterday. Once through Heyford lock the canal was again at its correct level with the bywashes handling the water better than yesterday. We carried on under the railway and up Heyford Common Lock, from here the canal winds round a small hill with the railway running on the other side of it an so shields it from the noise of the train.

Tuesday
Last nights weather forecast of heavy rain was about half right. Monday night we went to bed to a moon and star light night but by the early hours this morning we were getting high winds and heavy rain, however by the time we got up the weather was much improved and the rain had stopped, it stayed like this untill we moored up in a heavy drizzle at 3 pm this afternoon. We didn't see any other boats on the move until we reached Aynho Weir, here one was just leaving the lock which was handy for us to go straight in, the other was sitting on the lock moorings waiting just the other side of the weir. The Cherwell was still well into the red and the first boat we met had scraped there cabin top on the bridge entering the lock, the same place I did my chimney in.We left the lock and crossed the weir with no problem at all but when we reached Nell Lock Bridge there were two boats moored on the lock moorings, one was there when we came down, the second was a hire boat that we had seen earlier in the week and I think he was a bit to tall to get through Nell Bridge, we only just slid under and that was with the rubber duck radio aerial bending down. As we had no particular place to go, looking at the map showed that we would be furthest from both the Motorway and the railway if we moored where the canal forms a loop by the Old Wharf half way between Nell Bridge and Coles Lift Bridge. This we did at 3 pm in heavy rain. By late afternoon we started to list well to the left due to the pound dropping about 3" which was quite strange considering the pound is about a mile long, So I had to push the boat out and use the gang plank.

Wednesday
This morning it was backup to its original level again and we set off at quarter to ten as the forecast was bad, but the weather held until lunchtime at Banbury. We only met one boat on the move all day and that was in the bridge hole below Banbury. This afternoon the weather deteriorated with heavy shows in very strong winds and we called it a day at Cropredy at five o'clock. This evening we ate at The Brasenose Arms in Cropredy. The meal was enjoyable but no way cheep costing us 42 for two with a bottle of wine and they also charge 50p if you want to pay by credit card.

Thursday
Just a short day today. First I winded as we had winded last night to moor so that the gales hammered the front doors and not the back where we sleep. I just got round and started under the bridge when bang, something heavy round the prop. This turned out to be a PVC coal sack, it was round the nut, through the blade and round the shaft, once I worked out where it was and cut it through with a Stanley knife on the nut it came away in one piece. Diana said she had seen a bag blow off one of the liveaboards on the off side and sink, so thank you fellow boater. We carried on north through some quite strong squalls and finally winded again just below the Claydon flight where we have stayed for the rest of the day. As we left a couple of locks the alternator belt protested a couple of times so I got the tools out and tightened it slightly this afternoon after we took Magic for a walk and play with a "frisby" I found in the cut.

Friday
We thought we were well away from the railway when we moored last night, we could barely hear the trains passing, then at about 1830 all the trains hooted twice as the passed through the cutting, thank goodness this stopped about 11pm. In the early hours I was woken by what I thought was a boat coming up the cut but it was a heavy, slow moving train completely covered in lights drawing out of the cutting, I can only assume that they had been working on the line all night. I did notice a few days ago that there are a lot of new sleepers laying beside the track, so maybe they are changing them out. It was a crystal clear moon lite night with bright stars and no wind and today followed with bright sunshine with just a bit of a nip in the
air. While we were taking the dog for a walk a boat came passed, they had been moored about a quarter of a mile further up and would be setting all the locks against us so we were in no hurry to follow them. We set of at 1015 and as we dropped through Elkington Lock I noticed that the next pound was down a bit, somewhere between 18 inches and 2 foot. We crept down the centre of the cut scraping the bottom, as we approached VarnesLock I could see a BW workboat in the mouth of the lock, I managed to get the bows in and we wandered down to see what was happening, it appeared that they were changing the walkway on the top gate and had to drop the pound to burn the bolts out. They said they would only hold s up about 20 minuets and that as soon as the old walkway was off they would pull back and work us through. By now Harnser was in the mud at both ends and I could hardly push the bows out at all, however with lots of revs to was the mud away from the stern and several minuets use of he bowthruster we started to get to the centre of the channel, as we did we pushed a bicycle up about half way along the boat which must have fallen in sometime earlier. BW helped us through the lock and I gave them the bike to dispose of, it didn't look in to bad a condition. We continued on to Cropredy where the boat that had left before us had turned and was about to head back North. The owners were on the bank drying their dog. When they moored up he shot out of the boat and jumped off, he had not realised they had turned round and the towpath was now on the other side and not the way he had jumped. After filling with water in Cropredy where I spotted another coal sack floating just below the surface but out of reach of the boat hook we headed on to Banbury. As we went through the lift bridge in the centre of town the young lady told us that the canal was swarming with police below the next lock which was very true and they had the whole area cordoned off, including the canal as a crime seen and we were unable to pass down through the lock, so it was a case of reversing back across the basin and through the lift bridge to moor opposite the shopping centre. We later found out that the police were recovering a body of an elderly lady from the canal. Weeks later we found out the drowning had been put down to being an accident

Saturday
Apart from the noise of the rain last night our mooring in the centre of Banbury was very quiet. The rain stopped early this morning and the day was very pleasant with blue skys and bright sunshine. We had a very successful day at Banbury with a stand on the towpath opposite the Castle Quay shopping centre where we were moored with "Grey Heron" On the other side of the canal the canoe club from Cropredy had a dry canoe training machine set up. this was very similar to a rowing machine but with a canoe paddle attached to lines instead of oars. In the shopping centre its self we had another small stand where we also collected signatures for the local MP's petition. During the course of the afternoon we met a few fellow Cutwebers including Tony and Jenny from "Jenny B", Mike from "Felis Catus III" and Paul and Karen off "Daniel Oakley" We finally packed everything away at 4pm and set off at 4-30 pm . There was a tremendous amount of water flowing into the canal just north of Tesco bend, the flow was so great that it required a lot of power to make any headway at all. At Hardwick lock we found the bottom gates wide open so were able to sail straight in, by now it was turning cool and the sun was very low in the sky. Just prior to Bourton Lock we met an Ownership's boat so although the gates were closet the lock was with us and then as we approached Slat Mill Lock the bottom gate opened and again we sailed straight in, this time "Water Snail" was waiting above the lock to come down. From here it was a short run into Cropredy and as we completed this last bit a very large moon was rising in the eastern sky. We moored for the night at the same spot we moored on Thursday night, I just hope I don't pick up anther coal sack when I leave in the morning like last time.

Sunday
Last night was magnificent, a clear sky with a full moon and lots of stars, as we were moored at Cropredy there was very little light about and we were able to watch the eclipse of the moon on and off from about 2145 until midnight, when it was just a copper coloured disk in the sky. This morning while we were taking the dog for a walk it started to rain and its still raining as I send this, consequently I got quite damp. We met more boats this morning than we have all week, several Ownerships and a couple of Kate Boats, one at Cropredy that was having its alternator replaced, in addition to this there was only a coupe of private boats. Just before lunch Diana called up that there was a wet patch on the bed, now it wasn't me and it wasn't the dog. It was the seal failing on the Bullseye in the roof of the boatmans cabin right above the bed. This will need removing and resealing, but there is no chance of that in this weather so at the moment there is a rubber mat laid over it to keep the rain off. We stopped for a while at Fenny Compton for lunch when another Ownership passed us, this was the last boat we were to see on the move the rest of the way home.

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