We had just finished our training at Willow Wren last time we gave an update on our summer cruise, so I thought a quick outline of where we are now and our future plans might be of interest?
Since leaving, we have left behind the Grand Union and are now on the Oxford Canal. We travelled North to Braunston on the North Oxford canal to call in at Midland Chandlers, but they did not have what we wanted. Doh! But it was a very pleasant trip, so by no means a waste of time. we had a couple of very pleasant moorings too, with views out over the heavenly Warwickshire/Northants countryside
We used the evenings to make outline plans for our next couple of sets of visitors. It’s lovely having visitors but it can be a bit of a game finding good places to rendezvous and – more complex – leave cars.
We pored over maps and did calculations and settled on The Folly pub at Napton for our first rendezvous. We rang to book lunch at the pub and whilst dong so, enquired whether it might be possible to leave a car there for a couple of nights. The answer was yes, so we had a plan. And it was a short hop to Napton, which could be done either early morning or in the evening, so as not to impact on Paul’s work.
We decided to have a night on hook-up at a nearby marina (which I won’t name out of fairness to them) and rang ahead to book in. When we arrived, it was not obvious where to go so we rang again. Nobody had heard of our booking (annoying) and they suggested we moor on the spit outside their basin. It was very shallow indeed – surprising for a visitor mooring – and it took us quite a while to find a place where we could get in comfortably. But get in we did and had a quiet night.
This despite one of their employees wandering over to help us get in to the side (or so I thought). But no – he was just enquiring what we were doing and on hearing our explanation wandered off again, agreeing that it was indeed a shallow spot. Paul went in to pay for our mooring and buy a couple of fender hangers, which caused great confusion as no one seemed to know how much they were!
The next morning we set off, bound for their diesel point. We like to keep the tank topped up as there is less chance of acquiring “diesel bug” – yes, it’s a “thing”! Who knew? You can find more info about it here.
It’s a tricky manoeuvre but Paul accomplished it with aplomb. One of the ladies was there chatting. She completely ignored us. She did not even acknowledge our presence, despite being an employee, as evidenced by her t-shirt. In the end, Paul had to go into the shop and rustle someone up to serve us.
It is customary for Marinas to allow you to specify a split for your diesel usage. There is full duty to pay for propulsion but less for heating. On a conventional diesel-engined boat, a 60/40 percent split is common, with the 60 being for the engine and the 40 for heating/charging. We do not use diesel for propulsion as we have an electric engine and our propulsion is provided by electricity and both our heating and use of generator for charging is payable at the lower rate – currently under 80p. Whatever – this Marina would have none of it. We had to pay a whopping £1.15 per litre, so it was an expensive fill-up. But it taught us a lesson – always ask first so you can walk away. We left, not that impressed with that Marina, on the whole.
As there were no locks and Paul had to work, I took the boat down to our potential overnight spot with Ted for company. Bill was content to snooze in his bed but Ted always has to be part of the action. He has major FOMO!
Napton is famous for its much photographed windmill and it was soon in my sights. But – quelle horreur – it has currently has scaffolding over it. Not quite as picturesque as usual, that’s for sure, but it’s a Grade 2 listed building and it’s clearly being well looked after.
It was pretty busy at our planned nightspot, but some very kindly people moved a few feet to make a space for us. Much appreciated!
We were low on bread so, just before closing time, Paul took one of the bikes down to Napton village stores, which has a justifiably good reputation for lots of local, fresh produce. He arrived back with some lovely sourdough and few other goodies – including black pudding Scotch Eggs. I say! Other village stores would do well to follow their lead.
There was a band on at the pub that evening- clearly heavily influenced by Van Morrison. Oh dear. They were also quite sax heavy. Deep joy. But they didn’t disturb us and were over and done before bedtime.
We were expecting an Ocado delivery and were hoping to move up to the bottom of the locks. We needed to top up with water so had just set up the hose at the water point. Obviously this was the exact time that our driver would ring, about twenty minutes early! Poor Paul had to dash off to meet him and grab our groceries.it was quite a trek but he didn’t flinch, bless him.
By the time he got back, the water tank was full and we had to move off because hogging water points is frowned upon – and rightly so. And once we moved off, the only way was up! We just about had time to fling the frozen stuff in the freezer and most of the chilled stuff in the fridge!
The refuse point was just before the lock so we quickly bagged up our rubbish and also emptied the loo. And then it was our turn in the lock. Hectic! It felt like we’d spent the last hour rushing!
Paul had checked with the CRT volunteers earlier that it was possible to moor above the first lock and we planned to wait there for Mel and Evie to arrive from London. That was the plan. However, the pound above the lock was a good 15-18” down. Eek!
I pulled out of the lock and almost immediately went aground, mid channel. This was not good news. One of the volunteers went up the flight (the Napton Flight has 9 locks) to flush some water down.
After a couple of lockfuls I was able to move, and after a few more, we were able to tie up in our chosen spot to await our guests’ arrival. This process took a couple of hours, but they were delayed by Friday traffic and finally arrived about an hour late. I had spent some time conversing with a friendly ewe, who had been a very chatty companion!
We were all hungry so went straight to the pub where we had a very pleasant lunch in the sunshine, listening to an impromptu jam session, which was rather nice and a couple of yappy dogs, which wasn’t!
We emptied the car and decided we could make it to the boat in one hit if we all carried stuff. I had had “one or two” parcels delivered to her address. All necessities, but the unboxing session was just like Christmas!
We set off up the locks with the sun shining. Mel is very well practiced with locks, having been on canal holidays with her family as a kid and she was enjoying the full body workout too!
Eventually we found a place out in the country that suited us and moored up. We wandered down to the bridge to chat to the horses in the field opposite and then it was supper and a fairly early night.
The weather the next day was very acceptable and we twisted and turned our way through the very attractive Oxfordshire scenery. The 78 mile Oxford canal, completed in 1790, is renowned for its curves. In common with many of the older canals, it’s a “contour” canal, which follows the contours of the land, avoiding the need to carry out expensive tunnelling operations. Later canals were more direct and bored their way through by as direct a route as possible.
We stopped at Fenny Compton for a brief lunch break. Sadly neither the pub (the Wharf Inn) nor the shop were open, although I’ve since heard that the pub re-opened on 5th July, which is good news!
As we made our way ever further South, we spotted a number of very “us” looking mooring places, all with good 4G. I have started using What 3 Words to create a catalogue of the places we have moored or may wish to moor.
What 3 Words is a newish Geo-referencing system, which uses 3 words to describe a 3 metre square. They have chopped the whole world up into these 3 metre squares and given each square a 3 word reference. No mean feat. But it’s very useful for providing a very exact location and great deal easier to remember than a lengthy number. They look like this:
The reference above is for my old house in Portchester. If you were to copy or type this into the W3W app or webpage it would take you straight to my old house and also even allow you to navigate to it.
When we moor for the night, the first thing I do (after tying up) is log the location of our mooring, using the app. You can add a label to briefly describe the mooring, too. Here’s what my Grand Union W3W refs look like in list format:
And in map format:
Eventually, I copy these across to my moorings database on my PC, where I add extra descriptive info including whether we used rings/chains/spikes to moor and ratings for internet signal strength, TV signal strength and a score for how much we liked the mooring, with 10 being the absolutely perfect mooring.
It might be construed as being a bit nerdy, but it will be a very useful reference for us, as we cruise our way around the system. I have recently also started adding in good places to meet, leave cars and so on. I love What 3 Words!
We moored for the night not far from Cropredy Marina, where we planned to stay Sunday night and where Mel would grab a cab back to her car, in Napton. It was a very pleasant mooring, just above Elkington’s Lock (///films.newlyweds.blankets). We spent the evening playing Dobble, which is a firm family favourite game, suitable for all age-groups. Highly recommended.
We arrived at the Marina, having made our way down the short distance and three locks. It had been a lovely catch-up weekend, with so much to talk about. We hadn’t seen Evie for nearly 18 months, because of Covid and she has grown into such a lovely young woman. We called a cab and off they went, back to London, while we had a snooze!
We ended up staying another night at Cropredy Marina as it was so pleasant. We also decided to book in for the next weekend as it would be the ideal place for our next guests, our son and daughter-in-law, George and Beth, to meet and leave their car.
Cropredy is famous for being the home of the Cropredy music festival, hosted by folk stalwarts Fairport Convention. I have been a couple of times – most recently in 2014. We got very wet indeed but had a blast! It’s a really lovely festival with a great atmosphere. As you might imagine, moorings around Cropredy are pretty hard to find at festival time. Sadly it has just been cancelled for the second year running, due to Covid.
On the way down on Sunday, we had spotted a very secluded mooring that looked just perfect for us. Our preferred mooring spots are very rural, far from a railway line, with good reception. And if it has “Armco” – A generic name for sheet piles, which are easy to moor to – so much the better. This spot had it all! And just a single boat length of Armco, so neighbours were unlikely. It rated 9 on our “good moorings scale” and would have made 10 if the phone signal strength had been slightly stronger!
We made our way back to it to spend the few days until we returned to Cropredy. Bliss!
It is very quiet – absolutely no road noise and safe for the boys to have a run around without coming to any harm. I got some washing done and did some tidying up. This boat never seems to be tidy! We really enjoyed our time there but soon, it was time to make our way back to Cropredy. We had the same berth booked, so it was just a case of ringing up and telling them that we had arrived,
Sadly, the weather for the weekend looked horrendous, predicting thunderstorms and torrential rain. Not quite what we had hoped for! Especially as it was George and Beth’s first overnight visit and we wanted everything to be perfect
They arrived early Saturday morning in a heavy shower. It had been a trying journey for them, with heavy rain most of the way. But it was such a joy to see them! That’s the one bad thing about this life – missing family and friends. And the boys were beside themselves. They adore George and Beth and could not get enough cuddles! It was a bit of an emotional reunion all round!
We really weren’t quite sure what to do. It was pointless all of us getting wet but we didn’t want them to be bored. As we were humming and hawing, the clouds started to part and we saw some blue sky. Enough to make a pair of sailors trousers, as my grandmother would have said! That was it. We set off.
Other than watching the footy (England v Germany in the Euros) we had no plans. We decided to go back to our lovely spot, so it was back up the three locks and we were soon tying up. It was lovely to see George slipping into doing the locks as he had (grudgingly!) when he was a kid. He spent a lot of time on boats both with us and with his grandad and Nanny Lynne.
We soon arrived at our mooring – thankfully not being used by anyone else! We had lunch followed by drone flying Yes! Our new toy is a camera drone. It’s a DJI Mavic Mini. We did not want to pay too much as it was a first drone and we are more than likely to dunk it in the canal! But we had some Covid savings (from not going anywhere or doing anything) so decided on this model, after reading many reviews. A new model had just been released and we managed to get this older model for a very special price. Here is our very first video! Now you can see the very-nearly perfect mooring too, in glorious 1080p!
As the match did not start until 8pm, we got dinner over and done and settled down, the boys to watch the football and us girls to play Dobble, which was new to Beth. Before the match, I asked the boys for the score predictions. Paul guessed 2-1 to England and George came in with a whopping 4-0. If only he had placed a large bet on that predicted score!
After the match, the boys joined us at the gaming table, where we played until not long before midnight, upon which we retired.
We started the next day with bacon butties and eventually retraced our steps to the Marina. George winded the boat and Beth had a go at steering , proving that she is a natural. The trip was not without incident. We met a hire boat who panicked when he saw us, took off the revs (Oh dear. No gear = no steer!) He was like a rabbit caught in headlights! He was heading straight for us, at speed. I suggested that he might like to start turning, followed by asking him why on earth he wasn’t turning – all the while desperately trying to bring our boat to a halt, while Paul got them to throw a rope so they could recover. Disaster avoided – but only narrowly!
We arrived back at the Marina and had a late lunch and then, sadly, it was time to say goodbye. They set off on their 2ish hour journey home and we had a snooze. It’s beginning to be a habit! Entertaining can be very tiring! But what a lovely weekend.
So we are more or less up to date and have moved around 30 miles. Here is a map of this leg of our journey
Our next leg is South, through Banbury to Oxford and then onto the Thames. We plan, initially, to go upstream to Lechlade and then back down, past Oxford again and further South on the mighty Thames. We’re gonna just go with the flow………