SOW Blockade, Banbury
harnser 2

 Wednesday 22 November 2006
We left Lowestoft in bright sunshine at 10-30 in the morning, but by the time we arrived at Daventry it was raining and it was fairly chucking it down when we arrived at the boat. We found the pond down a bit and later learned that a few days ago it had been down by 7 to 9 inches. I eventually managed to push Harnser off the mud with the bows out into the cut. We motored down to the lock to load up the boat from the car. No danger of anyone coming up the flight today as BW has a couple of the pounds lower down drained dry. It was a slow journey up to Marston Doles bottom lock which was empty with the lower paddles both up, we found the top lock set just the same. Above the lock we found the top pound at a good level and progress improved and the rain continued. There was a nice section of piling just through bridge 123 where we pulled in for the night. With Napton closed we have only seen one other boat and that was moored opposite our mooring by the Engine Arm.

What a night it was last night, the wind blew and it rained all night. This morning Magic's alarm had went wrong again and I was woken up in the dark with a big black Labrador trying to eat my left ear. After I explained to him it was far to early to get up yet he curled up under the bed and set to washing himself for the next half hour or so and not particularly quietly. By 8 o'clock we were enjoying the sunshine and by 9 we were on the move to a chilly but very pleasant and much better than expected day. Again we didn't see anything on the move and the first moored boats were just before Fenny Compton Wharf, needless to say half of them weren't displaying valid licences. The first expired January 06 and the next some time in 05 where as the third, a narrow beam Dutch barge style boat being fitted out on the 14 day moorings where it was during the summer when we returned from the National was not displaying a licence at all. I wonder if BW saw these when they did there checks at the beginning of the month. As we passed Fenny marina I spotted a very smart boat called "Willy No-Name" with the sun reflecting the water on her shiny new paint work. At Claydon all the locks were against us and all the pounds were on weir. As we approached Broadmoor Lock we again passed several boats not displaying valid licenses and the top gates of the lock its self was under water. If the bottom paddles had not been left open the whole lock area would have been flooded and you could see where the water had been flowing down the footpath at the tail of the lock. As we don't need to be at Banbury until Saturday morning we have moored for the night at Cropredy, stopping a few minutes after two just before the first rain of the day started.

Today started even better than yesterday weather wise, it was sunny and warm enough not to need a coat. We set off at 10-30 met our first boat today, well we didn't exactly meet him, we were about to set off when he met us and informed us that Hardwick lock was flooded as the bywash was blocked, I told him that Broadmoor was the same. By 11 am the weather had taken a downward turn, it was now quite a bit colder and slightly showery. There was quite a bit of flooding to the east of the canal with a lot of the meadows partly under water. We passed through Bourton Lock but of course there was no face at the window. I heard that the lady who use to live there use to write to Finch while he was inside. Hardwick Lock was not as bad as expected, the bywash is partly blocked with a bit of water topping the gate but nowhere near as bad as Broadmoor where all the water was flowing over the gates. As we approached Banbury we had the pleasure of first watching a Kingfisher as he flashed along and then he sat on an overhanging branch as we passed within 5 feet of him. Why is the camera always down below at a moment like this. We have moored just past Sovereign Narrowboats yard on the towpath side for the night and since we have been here we have seen several boats go by in each direction.

Last night we ate in a very nice Italian restaurant in Banbury a short walk from the canal, Luckily the weather was reasonable with only a slight drizzle, however this was to change and during the night the skys opened with heavy rain which continued until about 10 o'clock this morning. We set off about 9-30 to go down through the town and lock for about half a mile to wind and come back to moor at Castle Quay. Just as we entered the lock there was a large flash of lightning followed by an almost simultaneous crash of thunder. We moored with 15 other boats and a little before 11 o'clock we started to form a blockage across the canal in support of the fight to stop DEFRA cutting BW and EA's budget. The local press turned up as did the local MP for a photo shoot. The next 3 hours was spent collecting signatures on a petition to send to the House of Commons. At around 1-30 the management of Castle Quays decided that we should not be collecting signatures of display posters on "Their Bridge" over the canal or outside their store, so we moved over to the towpath side. The blockade finished at 2 pm with lots of horn blowing from the boats which caused many people to leave the shops and come to see what was happening, at this point Castle Quay called the police to tell them that there was some kind of demonstration taking place on the canal, we had only been there 3 hours. After a bowl of hot soup and some crusty bread onboard we bid farewell to Guy and Sean who had come by car and set off towards Cropredy for the night. We now had Connie onboard who had arrived with Guy and was spending the night with us. The water flow along the canal just north of Banbury was like being on the Cherwell, this was due to drainage water
coming into the canal. Our journey to Cropredy went well and an extra pair of hands on the locks made all the difference to our journey time so we arrived just below the lock in Cropredy about 4-30.

During our 2 hour cruse or plans changed slightly, Connie decided that she would like to stay onboard until we reached Napton as opposed to jumping ship at Cropredy and that we would all go to the Brasenose Arms in Cropredy for a meal on the Saturday evening. As it was Saturday we set off early and walked up from the cut avoiding as many puddles as possible. When we arrived at the pub the front door was locked but 4 regulars had just turned up and they lead us round to the back door and into the restaurant where I enquired if they had a table
for three. Why do they always ask you if you have booked at this point, if I had booked I wouldn't have asked if they had a table free. Anyway they didn't have a table but said we could eat in the bar but it might be a bit smokey, we retraced or steps out of the restaurant, round by the toilets and in through the unmarked door into the bar. It wasn't a bit smokey, you could hardly breath it was so thick, so we decided to give it a miss and go else where. We walked through the Church yard to the Red Lion only to find they were closed for the night for a private party. Luckily for us Connie's car was at Cropredy so she drove us to the Wharf at Fenny where we enjoyed a very good meal, by far the best we have ever had there. They had a very varied menu with lots of fish dishes and Connie and I had baked cod with ginger and peppers while Diana had duck with 5 spices, but before the main course was served they brought us a dish of Prawn Crackers and 3 very small glasses of fruit punch.

As appearers to be the norm this trip it pored down with rain overnight but today was fine and sunny, even if the wind was a bit cool. We set off at 9am and made very good progress, The water level in the canal was down a bit compared with Thursday but the level in the fields was up. We met one boat at the top of the Claydon flight heading back from Fenny to Clattercote Wharf. A bit further along there was a sheep in the cut, she had managed to get her head and fore legs on the bank but couldn't pull her back end up due to the weight of water in her fleece. Luckily the water was deep enough for me to get the bow of Harnser against the edge of the field so Connie could jump ashore and pull the poor old girl to safety and within a couple of seconds she had got back onto her feet and was heading up the field with her friends. Connie had done her good deed for the week! We carried on back to the moorings where we found a better level of water than when we left and moored Harnser up at 3 o'clock. We felt that this was quite good going and over the two days we had done Banbury to Napton in just under 8 hours with about half the locks against us.

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