Saturday 22nd August 2015 It must be noted in the blog. We are enjoying a most fabulous of hot, sunny (fluffy clouds up there) day’s. We leave the Grand Union Canal, joining the slimmer waters of the Oxford Canal at shortly (only 30 minutes) after the Yard arm has clicked, in a clockwise direction/rotation over the top. That (clock/watch) arm is now heading down again.
Black Bart is still heading in a Southerly direction, albeit in a wibberly-wobberly westy-southy-east-southy curvey-wervey sort of a way. Wonderful countryside out there. Here, in fact. It be one year & one week (almost to the day) since Black Bart & her crew of who their were only two at that time departed these waters, returning North having cruised the upper Thames from ‘Duke’s Cut’ (nr Oxford) to Lechlade-on-Thames & back, then cruised the return journey from said cut to Braunston. Today, we have joined the beautiful rural Oxford Canal fives miles south of Braunston via Napton Junction, swimming in, from the waters of the famous Grand Union Canal. Historically, Working Boatmen & women knew this junction as Wigrams Turn. The Aptly named Wigrams Turn Marina’s entrance being directly opposite the junction.
Black Bart makes slow leisurely progress round Napton Hill, listening to some good live music at The Folly as we approach the Napton flight of nine locks. What a wonderful combination. Napton Hill, Windmill on the hill & the ice cream boat slowly appears as Bart rises up lock six. Can it get any better.
The wind has picked up a tittle, but nothing compared to our descent of these locks on our way to Braunston last August. We had to prepare locks in advance, & cruise between locks as fast as we dare, to beat the very strong cross winds of that day. Not the most pleasant part of our July 15th to October 15th 2014 (first) live aboard cruise. The rest was pretty well darn Fantastic. Anyway, we make safe passage, ascending just seven of those nine chambers, mooring on the final straight in sight of the upper two ‘lifts’ at Marston Doles.
Sunday 23rd August We awake bright and not early with Bart still moored, a tittle way short of those final two lifts of Napton water. After our Sunday (late) morning soft boiled eggs & soldiers we slip Bart’s fore & aft lines & set ‘sail’ for destinations, yet unknown. Nothing unusual there then. All we know is the general direction we travel, not the distance or where we might land later on any particular day. The pound between locks eight & nine is low, but Bart manages to avoid being caught. As the last of nine is filled & Bart rises, the rain falls. We may be wet, but Bart & crew is a happy lot to laugh in the face of those incessant showers. We save a lost narrowboat, floating (thankfully) across the canal. Bart gently pushes this wayward sole, as skippet saves the day, boarding mid-channel, in stormy waters, without fear & resecures the bow & stern, making NB Jemima safe again. Hip Hip Hooray (Henry) !!!
We continue onto & through Fenny Compton Tunnel. Which is not a real tunnel, but almost. Look it up if you’re interested. In fact, look it up, if you’re not interested.
Bart finally calls it a day after poor old Lister has been running for a wee seven ‘ers. We are in a lovely quiet, middle of nowhere mooring, not far from Claydon’s five Locks. Clouds recede a tittle & the sun even creeps out from behind the clouds to finish our day off beautifully.
Monday 24th August
Many Happy Hoppy Birthday wishes are being sent to big sister of skippet. Congratulations.
The clouds have opened up & the rain descends. Wet & soggy we are. We carry on regardless. Not sure why that lock gate’s arm is over there. Steady progress is made by Bart & crew as we enjoy the Oxfordshire countryside pass us by at a pleasant walking pace. A Happy crew & a Happy Bart is what it is ALL aboat.
Bart successfully climbs down all five Claydon Locks. Sum crew members are very Naughty. No that is not Roxy !! We soggily wind our way through Oxfordshire beautiful countryside, slipping through more locks, on through
Cropredy (Lovely village) (enjoyed their Great fringe festival last year when passing/stopping through). moor locks are ‘leapt’ through before Bart slows down even more, dodging all those tied-up water craft in the wool town of the famous Tooley’s Boatyard. Know-where to land, so lift bridge (first of many coming thick & ‘fast’ now) & Bart’s last (Banbury) lock of the day lowers us a final 5′ 10″. This not so tittle narrowboat & here crew have ‘dropped’ over 80′ (feet) today. Not bad. Well Done Crew. Fabulous !! Really, nothing compared to that day of the Hatton Fly Past. We moor soon after. Still raining. Soggy ground is not good for mooring pins, but we make the best of not the most ideal mooring situation.
Tuesday 25th August Warm pleasant start to the day, but them clouds of recent days (& weeks) come back again. Walk to restock the larder & we make our slow but smooth move, forward. Not much reversing had in recent days. Will have to right that wrong. Lift bridges a-plenty keep moving towards our Bart. They are handled with aplomb. The locks keep coming at Bart, at a slightly more relaxed rate than them up-erty bridge things. We stop close-ish to the bank to retrieve sum luvely looking wood. Have to be cut split later. Starting to build a nice stock ready for them chilly January (and maybe, even February) evenings.
Sum bloke is caught on film striding off with a lump of wood. Not sure where he’s off to. We keep saying hello, then goodbye to those uppy-downy bridges.
The River Cherwell (which tracks the canal) (or visa versa) crosses the canal by Aynho Weir Lock which is only a shallow (0′ 8.5″) lock, constructed in a diamond shape to increase water capacity due to Somerton lock (2.5 miles ‘down’ the canal) being a wee bit shallow-not.
The banks are full of very healthy looking rhubarb. Here comes Crumble !!!
Last ‘chamber of descent’ today is the 12′ (aptly named) ‘Somerton Deep Lock’.
After making what can only be described as splendid progress Bart sneakily carries out a tittle reverse manoeuvre to moor alongside a lovely big (cow travelled) field. Favourite sort of position for our Bart (& crew obviously).
Wednesday 26th August Fabulous Somerton mooring is left behind (with a wipe of the left cheek) and Bart ‘sails’ along these wonderful Oxford blue (almost) waters. The Top & Bottom (not too smelly) ends of Heyford are dealt with, with a not soo brief stop (slow faucet) for a refreshing sluice of Bart’s innards. Extremely good (steady, slow) progress is made as Bart Cruises along, in a not always Southerly direction. Lock after lock is dealt with very professionally by crew. The long standing ‘Pont de rosa’ is admired as we pass on by, shortly before pigeon’s lock nr. Kirtlington.
We join the River Cherwell for a brief mile, after Bakers Lock. Rejoining the Canal again at another diamond shaped – Shipton Weir Lock.
Thrupp (a splendid canal friendly place to behold) is our ‘chosen’ stop for the night. Black Bart decides to moor just at the back end of the mooring ‘queue’. No need to push our luck & try to stop in the centre of town, so to speak.
Thursday 27th August Thrupp is very slowly negotiated, including the tight turn & the powered (yippee !!) lift bridge.
Static boat after static boat, after static boat (yes there are moor than three) to pass by, quietly & carefully. No long foody walks to Kidlington (from Thrupp) like last year (that was fun). Old kiddles is passed on by, well positioned water tappy (no not this time mate) is ignored, even sneered at. Only four locks & a pathetic four (yes, only four) lift bridges (lb) confront us today. Black Bart just laughs in the face of such weak resistance to the team’s progression through this place sum call Oxford-shire. After passing near Yarnton, we deal with lb No.1 & the 3rd (Dukes) lock before we arrive at the junction with (surprise surprise) Dukes Cut. Last year we turned along this less than half a mile of wiggly water, to pick up the waters of the famous River Thames, heading west, on our return trip to Lechlade.
Today, we is passing this particular link to the grand river herself, continuing, for the first time in our narrowboating world (hiring or Black Bart-ing) into a little known place we has heard, might be called summit lyk Oxford. We pass a few designated mooring positions, acquire some more ‘fresh’ water of the tap variety, and push our luck, going all the way , finally mooring just short of Isis lock. This aptly named lock will provide us access & passage in those big wide waters of the River Thames in a few short days time. For now we will (hopefully) enjoy this place we have never heard of before, appearing through the murky mists of this subterranean world that Bart has carelessly wandered into these past days.
Friday 28th August Black Bart & olde Lister has been working soo hard, chugging for hour after hour in recent days & weeks. A much deserved rest is the name of the day. In fact, the name of a few days, maybe. We will See. We met a lovely lady last year whilst moored at/in Lechlade. She on her fab little boat Poppy (now with her new owner), us on Bart,of course. We met again in London a couple of times, weeks later, just after little Roxy had joined our narrowboat family. Late inta’ afternoon (back to today) it was great to see her again. Amazing. In Oxford at the same time. Just walking along the towpath and Black Bart is there. Arrangements made for later tomorrow for tea & cake and a chitty-chat. Catchy-up. As they say.
Saturday 29th August Today, as many past days, most weeks is grey, overcast & rain comes, goes & comes back. So What !! We struggle on. Black Bart is (still) resting. Crew are of the check out the old city next door. Oxford is a truly splendid city full of the most Fantastic architectural delights.
We boaty chums have a great catchy-up. All Great. New Boat (hopefully) to be finished soon. Then the fun can continue. Hope we met again sumtym soon.
Sunday 30th August We may be staying here for another day. Not the only reason (although ??) but it be a wet day, particularly inta’ morning. Guests are nearly upon us and our Bart, on their long journey from a place far far away, called West Bromwich, on their way to the north west tip of deepest darkest Kent. The garden of England. We don’t know this place they call Kent, but we seem to have the endless enjoyment of our own continually expanding garden as we pass by & through many different parts of our gorgeous country. A splendid a’noon is enjoyed by crew & our wonderful guests. We wave them a cheery, but sad goodbye as they are off, on their way. Not sure who they are, but seemed pleasant enough people.
Just past the entrance to Isis Lock the canal side steps to the left, providing a hundred metres or so ‘extra’ for a few residential moorings. Last coupe of moorings available for visitors right at the end of the 1790 Oxford Canal. OK for 20′ (foot) boats to ‘about turn’. Not for Black Bart, a 70′ narrowboat. Although, could have been fun reversing back out.
Monday 31st August 2015 Black Bart hasn’t quite left the Oxford Canal yet. Neither have we. That be Skip, Skippet & 1st Mate (Roxy). Yes the tittle one has been promoted, as Skippet says ‘She is Such a Good Girl’.
Tuesday 1st September Well What do you know ?? Same as us ‘ere ?? Not much then.
Two minutes walk from Bart is the ‘remains’ of the old (1851) Oxford Railway Swingbridge. Only taken out of service in 1984. Quite amazing. It passes over the waterway/channel connecting the Oxford Canal/Isis Lock to the River Thames. Restoration plans are afoot to save this fantastic historical engineering marvel.
Bart is restless. Desire to move on has taken hold. After a bad night of little sleep, we are all up, bleary eyed & lines slipped at 8.00am. Bart slips through the last hundred metres of Oxford Canal waters, slipping into Isis Lock. After a very slippery fall of three.five feet the bottom gate is open & we slip out of the waters of Our lovely Oxford Canal into other, unknown slippery waters. The lock waiting pontoon is handy to hold onto our Bart as we utilise local residential mooring water point. Finally, Bart slipping away, slowly negotiating the very tighty righty turney to travel along the very long and arduous waterway known in these ‘ere parts (by those local yokels) as the Sheepwash Channel. We duck, holding our breaths as Bart sneaks under & through the wide, low railway bridges, feeding the hungry beast they call a ‘station’ immediately to the South of us. It growls, consumes & Burps as it gobbles all who dare, to go anywhere near it’s big, sharp gnashing teeth (& not hiding) inside it’s huge open jaws. Mad !! No just ravenous. A few more full carriages will suffice. For now, hopefully. Anyway, not our problem for much longer. We is getting out of ‘ere pronto. After less than three hundred long seconds Bart is finally nearing the end of the (only one word can describe ) ‘epic’ Sheepwash Channel. Bart starts turning left, Orders issues for new heading of South-Southeast/165deg. We will see where this course takes Bart & crew.
Black Bart has cruised from Napton junction to the Southern end at Oxford, swimming 50 miles of the wonderful Oxford Canal descending/ascending 39 narrow locks & passing under 19 lift bridges. Black Bart will one day revisit this canal & cruise it’s 77 miles in their entirety.