We started early, at 7.30, thinking that we might make it all the way to Cropredy today. We had ascended the three Calcutt Locks by 8.30 and were starting on the Napton Flight by 9.30. Our thinking that most people wouldn’t be out and about was right and we had a steady ascent, following another boat and passing a couple of boats coming down. One boat passing us said that they had taken eight hours to get up the flight on Sunday with boats banked up many deep at every lock. The joys of the Oxford in the summer holidays! When we look back a few years we remember that we used to think the nine Napton locks a great chore to be overcome, now they are a mere blip in the day’s progress.
We wanted to have a full water tank before we moored for two weeks so pulled in at the Marston Doles tap at the top of the locks. It’s a very slow fill and took about 90 minutes to fill the half tank needed, so we had lunch and chatted with the many boaters queuing to go down the locks. Then we had the long pound before the Claydon Locks, many winding hours, admittedly through very beautiful surroundings especially with the wild flower edges and the cornfields beyond. About this time we realised that it was many more hours than we had thought to Cropredy and we probably wouldn’t make it all the way today. On we ploughed, taking turns to steer.
The canal was busy, and as usual on the Oxford passing boats were always encountered on the steepest of bends, sometimes two or three in a convoy. We also had a very unpleasant encounter with a road hog of the waterways, of which more tomorrow.
By the time we passed through Fenny Compton it was 4.30 and we thought that we might as well go on for longer, at least as far as the Claydon Locks. Fenny itself was heaving with boats moored before the bridge and continuously from The Wharf pub to the marina. As we came up to Claydon Locks we decided that we might as well go down the flight of five as it was quiet and a beautiful evening, sunny and calm. Just after the bridge before the top lock we came across the boat that we had followed up the Napton Flight. It was moored and the chap was in the water banging at the rudder bar with his gang plank. We stopped to see if we could help in any way: they had caught the rudder on the cill of the first lock and it was bent and the rudder could only be turned half way. There was someone else offering support and after various things were tried we went on after giving them the River Canal Rescue number. (They have just passed us at our present mooring and have a botched repair……….. After winding they will return to Fenny Compton for a proper repair job.)
Even though it was after 7.00 there were still boats passing us on the flight. With just three locks between us and Cropredy it seemed silly not to go on. We thought that we might find a mooring at the approach to the village and then we could look for the best place available to wait the two weeks till the festival. The second lock, Varneys, was the scene of the dreadful accident when a woman hirer was killed two years ago when we last came to the festival. We had thought that there might have been some act of remembrance there for her, maybe a plaque, but there was nothing.
It was 8.45 by the time we finally moored up above Cropredy. I had walked ahead to find a gap and there was a lovely space large enough for two boats. Helpful boaters on either side told me the reason it was empty was because of the wasp nest dead centre. It had been marked with a little notice on a stick after a boat had banged into the bank next to it earlier in the day. The boater and his children had been stung quite badly. The group consensus was that we would fit into the space with clearance of the nest and it should be OK if we took care so I called Alan and along he came. We moored up with about five feet to spare after the nest and shut the rear hatch to keep out any intruders. Alan and I are both sure that there was a nest in about the same area last time we were here. Luckily we had half of the previous night’s meal for dinner: we were famished. That goes down as our longest day’s travel to date; over thirteen hours counting the time spent watering.
Today we did 19.93 Miles, 20 Locks and 1 lift bridge
Statistics so far:-
2921.39 Miles, 1930 Locks, 177 Swing Bridges, 98 Lift Bridges, 57 Tunnels