We arrived at the boat about 5-30 on Monday evening. One of the first jobs was to fit the new starter battery that I had picked up from Shield Batteries on Bishops Stortford a couple of weeks ago. The one I removed was completely flat and wouldn't even make the oil pressure alarm light glow. While I was doing this we had a bit of rain, but the sun was never far away. Once this was done and everything was packed away our thoughts went to eating and we decided on a take a way of some description, so it was off to Stockton to the Chinese, unfortunately they were closed up so we returned via Southam picking up one from there.
Tuesday 26 April
We woke quite early to a fine morning; there had been rain forecast for last night and today. We set off at 9 o'clock, winding in the arm and heading south towards Oxford, there were a few boats about but mostly privately owned. At Wormleighton I met a boat coming into the bridge hole, I held back but they stopped as well, then one of the crew with a large spray tank on his or her back leapt ashore, crossed the bridge, scurried down the offside and sprayed the weeds at the foot of the bridge. If BW are really so concerned about the safety of their sub contractors that they stop wrg working, then maybe they should look at this operation at least insist that the operative who is clambering on and off the boat, up and down bridge embankments wearing a large backpack spray set should wear a Lifejacket.
It started to rain just before Fenny Wharf so we stopped for lunch and to fill up with water at 12-30. It was still raining when we set off and just after Fenny Tunnel the phone rang. It was Mike Wooding who said "Have you just gone through Fenny Tunnel, if so I have just gone over top of you". Just after this I put the "mamby pamby" steerers shelter up because it was now chucking it down. Things stayed like this until we reached the Claydon Top Lock. As we arrived Diana hoped ashore and I dropped the shelter. Both the bottom gates and both paddles were open on the lock so we thought someone coming up had set them ready, Diana walked down but there was no sign of anyone so we turned the lock. The rest of the flight was set the same, as were Elkington, Barney's and Broadmoor. When we arrived at Cropredy the culprit was going down a boat called "Joey" on board were an elderly couple with and even more elderly father with them. He was working the locks and didn't know how to lower the paddles or anything about the catch holding them up. They winded right in front of us at Cropredy so we let an Oxford narrowboat who was just finishing taking water out in front of them, so at least they had a chance up the locks. At 6 o'clock the sky has gone black so we moored for the night just south of Cropredy where I managed to step in some dog muck while tying up and walk it into the boat.
Wednesday 27 April
I woke during the night to bright moonlight and almost as clear as day. I thought this is ideal for getting on the move with no one about, however the call of the blankets was far to great and I snuggled back into bed for a few hours. We set off a little after 9 o'clock, the weather was far better than yesterday and the barometer had risen quite a bit. Shortly before Banbury it started to rain again so it was out with the coats. The afternoon continued with a mixture of sun and showers finally getting out to a nice evening. We stopped at Aynho Wharf for diesel at 40p per lt. but unfortunately their pump out was U/S so we are sitting with quite a full tank, hopefully we will be able to pump out in the morning. We moored for the night just beyond the lift bridge at Lower Heyford in glorious sunshine just opposite a boat covered in green tarpaulins and no sign of a license, from the garden on the bows it didn't look as if it had been touched for years.. I saw the first Kingfisher of the trip just south of Aynho flitting down the canal in front of us, but it didn't stay long, we also saw a small bird as we approached Banbury, which we think was a Common Sandpiper.
Thursday 28 April
Last night we ate in The Bell at Lower Heyford, which was only a short walk from where we had moored, we left in a rush and failed to take a torch with us and when we came out it was quite dark with no sign of the moon. We walked the dog to the boatyard to enquire about a pump out, "no problem, just give us time for a cup of tea" was the reply. By the time we had walked back and moved the boat up they had plenty of time for tea. We had to moor on the outside of 4 Oxford Hire Boats but I think their pump out would have reached to the far side of the cut. A few minutes later and the deed was done, I was £15 poorer and we were on our way. There was very little about on the cut and we met our first two boats shortly before Pigeon Lock and then had to wait for a boat to come up. The river Cherwell was just on the orange/green interface but the river didn't seam to move. We stopped at Thrupp boat club to fill with water and I noticed what looked like a pump out connection. Itís a pump out connection OK, but you have to supply the pump and hose to connect it to your boat. We have moored early for the night on the Thrupp 7 day visitor moorings, as we are being picked up and taken out for dinner tonight.
Friday 29 April
We woke to a summer like day, before we set of we took the dog for a walk around Thrupp Community Wood, here we had the pleasure of watching a deer who was standing among the young trees just watch us watching him, he didn't move a muscle and we left him in peace. It was gone 10 before we set off heading for Oxford. On the outskirts of Oxford we came across the first of the "Agenda 21" long term residential moorings, I would estimate that now approximately 50% of them are vacant and we only saw about 3 boats not displaying a valid licence, many of them had Gold Licences. Again traffic was very light with I would guess the whole fleet tied up at College Cruisers. The boatyard next door shows no sign of vacating the site. We continued on and dropped down through Isis Lock and decided to go and look at the Thames. The amount of flow on the Thames took me completely by surprise. I pushed Harnser out into the river and turned right. We continued going straight across and only started turning upstream as I reached the far back and I failed to do the maneuver in one operation. We went upstream as far as the meadow before turning. On the bank was a heard of horses, one of then decided it was bath night, wandered into the river, pounded the water with one front hoof, turned in very tight circles and laid down in the water. about 5 minutes later he repeated the performance. As we winded we covered quite a bit of ground sideways showing how fast this apparently still piece of water was moving. We re-entered the Oxford canal and retraced our steps all the way back to Thrupp. As we approached Thrupp we came upon another narrowboat across the cut, this time it was to shallow for me to get ashore so we had to nose the boat back against the bank before I could cross its deck and drive its bow stake back in. We moored just before the lift bridge and went to the Boat Inn to eat. This has changed hands since we were hear last and has gone up market somewhat. The food was very good and the beer £2-30 for a pint of IPA.
Saturday 30 April
We left the moorings a little after 9, there were very few other boats on the move, just a College narrowboat from Oxford who stopped at the Thrupp club for water. We met a hire boat at Shipton Wear as we entered the Cherwell, it was even lower than when we came down, now in the green by half an inch, we met a boat right on one of the bends just before the old cement works outfall and another turned up just as we were locking off.
The new house at Pigeon Lock known as "The Old House" has a turf covered roof on their lean to, I wouldn't want the job of mowing it.
We stopped to fill with water at Lower Heyford; this is quite a good tap with reasonable pressure. As we passed the boat yard nearly all the Oxford Narrowboats were out and a couple that were left were being made ready with fresh flowers onboard. There were quite a few walkers about it being a reasonably ward Saturday with the sun showing it's self occasional. We moored quit early for the day just above Heyford Common lock just after 3 PM and in the first hour that we were here we saw 6 boats on the move, some private and some hire.
As we took the dog for a walk, Diana shouted to me that there was an animal swimming in the cut, it wasn't a vole and it had a large head. It turned out to be a baby rabbit; I didn't know they could swim.
During the night we had a horrendous electrical storm, the whole sky above the clouds was light up. There was not a great deal of thunder but quite a bit of rain containing a lot of dust. The only reason we know about the dust is that Diana cleaned the roof of the boat yesterday and this morning there were dirt lines wherever a rope had been.
Sunday 1 May
We set off about half nine and the day was warming up well, Diana wanted to post a card and hoped off the boat at Somerton while I hovered, a little way up the cut was the boat that I had remoored on our way out last Wednesday (don't worry your not losing it, I forgot to tell you). We met lots of boats coming down towards Oxford and there was a queue of 4 at Nells Bridge. One of them was full of young ladies on a hen party, there were 20 of them in all, the rest were on the boat that we met as we crossed the Cherwell at Aynho Lock; we also met a boat called Genesis who introduced themselves to me. As the day continued we met more and more boats, there were several Black Prince boats from Wigrams Turn Marina.
As we passed through Banbury someone from the shopping centre called out "That's a nice boat" It was my son in law, we pulled over and moored up, a few minutes later my daughter and grand daughter appeared, this was pure coincidence as they had been shopping and thought we were still in Oxford. As we left Banbury moored on the left was Vital Spark but no sign of the new owners. After Banbury we were the ones in the queue, at the first lock we were third, but rapidly became forth when I noticed the boat behind us was only about 40 feet long, 37.5 actually and the boat in front was only 30 foot long. I invited the boat behind to join the short one in the lock, so we lost a place. At Cropredy we passed Jannock and Rumpus on their moorings, no sign of Graham but the owner of Rumpus was working hard with bits of plywood. We met boats at every lock all the way to Claydon bottom where we have moored for the night at 7 30, we have passed all the boats that were in front of us at Banbury and have an empty lock waiting for us.
Monday 2 May
We woke quite early to a lovely morning, but the weather forecast for the day was poor so we slipped off a little bit earlier than normal, this turned out to be a good thing as the boat moored about 200 yard astern had the same idea and he followed me up the flight instead of the other way round. We had a good run almost to the top of the Claydon flight when we came to a small hold-up. The BW man at the top told a boat coming down that there would be no one coming up from Cropredy that time of day and he would set the locks for them as he walked down. As we were working lock 20 we could see the water rushing in through the missing fixing bolt hole in the lock wall.
Shortly after we passed a boat called Geneses, I'm not sure if it was the same one we saw yesterday going down, if so they must have winded and passed us during the evening. We had a steady run through to Fenny where we stopped for water. We had only been there a few minutes when a weed hire boat came the other way and also wanted water. He poked his bow in and put a crewmember ashore and then said "now what do I do" his stern was almost across the winding hole. A few words of advice and he was soon along side the wharf and getting his hose out. Problem 2 for him. The front door key from the boat doesn't fit a BW water point. After a few minutes beavering about by all his crew I opened the tap for him with my key and we left him filling his tanks with water.
While at Fenny I made an interesting discovery. You may remember on our Easter trip I left all my keys hanging in the water point at Calcutt and when we came back some kind sole had handed them in at the marina reception for me, well some kind sole had also removed my BW key from my bunch of keys, so I now need to buy another so I still have a spare.
We left Fenny shortly after a boat that had been moored at the top of Claydon went passed and we were catching them up just before the first sharp bend out of Fenny, it was on this bend that they met a hire boat on the bend and passed on the wrong side, things weren't helped by an Ownerships boat moored right on the bend. While this was happening a pair of walkers passed us and the lady said it looks like fun and games on the bend, I nearly replied that things weren't helped by some idiot mooring on the bend when they could have moored 200 yards earlier on the same quay heading. Just as well I didn't as they got on the boat just after we had passed it. We continued on to our moorings and arrived just as it started to rain. Diana slipped a coat on and hopped ashore I was left on the helm getting wet trying to pull the boat in over the mud bank. While Diana packed all the stuff away and we always seam to have tons of it, I did an oil and filter change within 1 hour of the recommended interval, that's the closest too 250 hours it's ever been done and ever likely to be.