Because Pat and I have now done so much of the canal network we are often asked which our favourite waterway is. I am rather reluctant to answer this as it really all depends on the weather when we do it. Hence I liked the Leeds and Liverpool as we had wall to wall sunshine most days and didn’t care for the Gloucester and Sharpness, where it rained every day and was grey and miserable.
|A very rare picture of Pat helming up the Napton flight of locks on the South Oxford Canal|
This was re-enforced this week when we cruised down the Southern Oxford canal for the first time in three years. Back then our climb up the nine locks at the Napton flight was made with water overlapping the lock chambers flooding the towpath, as well as falling in great torrents from the sky. It was a thoroughly miserable day but this time it could not have been more different. A still, sunny day, with rolling fields in the distance and the bleating of sheep that seem to be omni-present on this waterway. Because the canal follows the contours of the valley it is very windy, swinging left and right and you are constantly seeing sights that you saw 10 minutes before but on the other bank as it loops around.
|Somewhere near Fenny Compton|
|You get to see all sorts of wildlife on the canal system|
On Saturday we got to Cropredy. Some of you might know this `chocolate box` village, as it the site of the annual Cropredy festival that features` Fairport Convention` and loads of other guests, which has been going for donkeys years. It’s generally folky, but I notice this year they have `Level 42` playing and last year `Chas n Dave` were on the bill so not that folky.
There is also a new marina at Cropredy and we have two pals, Barrie and Helen, who moor their boat `Midnight` there, who we first met on the Kennet & Avon three years ago. Last time we visited, the place was just muddy tracks and the basin was empty. Now it’s fully functioning, full of boats, and we were invited to an owners barbecue on Saturday night. It was a bit nippy, but they made us very welcome and we were able to repay the favour and took Barrie and Helen out for Sunday lunch in the `Brasenose Arms` in the village. Evidently Brasenose College in Oxford, owns a huge swath of land round here, as does the other major Oxford colleges, or so we are led to believe.
|Barbecuing at Cropredy Marina with Barrie and Helen|
Next stop, five miles down the cut is Banbury, and were planning to spend a few days there. We know the town quite well and it is very `boater friendly`. But in the last few days everything has changed and we now have to get back to our marina in Derbyshire in three weeks as our tenants in Welwyn Garden City are moving out and we need to move back in. I reckon the journey would take about two-three hours in a car, but three weeks is the reality in a narrowboat and that’s pushing it. It’s 92 cruising hours! So we will have a day and a half in Banbury, then it’s back the way we came on this twisty, windy, beautiful canal to Braunston, then north to Nuneaton and Rugby, on to Tamworth and then back on the Trent & Mersey at Fradley Junction through Burton-On-Trent to Willington.
|Our mooring under the footbridge in Banbury Town Centre|
(The two boats behind us are also moored at Mercia Marina)
|Part of the very attractive Banbury Town Centre|
Our tenants leaving early is actually good news for us as we want to get in as quickly as possible to take advantage of the weather and get the place looking spick and span, before we put it on the market in September, so we need to get a wiggle on.
It is going to be strange to be back in our house again. We have hardly any furniture and our living room will consist of a small 14inch TV, two camping chairs and not much else though we do have our bed in our garage. We might have guests though, for our pals Penny and Bob, who have also sold their home in Mill Hill, might be homeless for a bit and move in with us. They also have some furniture we could use to decorate the place.
We keep well, though one of the disadvantages on this canal is the horse flies. You don’t really notice them on your skin until they have bitten you, and they are not keen to let go. We just need the weather to stay settled for a bit to get some miles under our belt.