Our sojourn in Thrupp for three days gave us the chance to catch up on a few things – Bob needed to rest as the cocktail of medications he is on for his eye are making him very tired (amongst other side effects!), the boat needed a clean and starting on the polish, and there is always cleaning to be done.
We also met Chris and Jim – and their beautiful dog Gina – from NB Sylph, who were moored next to us in Thrupp. They also live aboard but have a car that they need to walk back to, to relocate each time they move.
On Thursday 3rd July we ventured about 3 miles up the canal to moor just below Pigeon’s Lock across from a golf course. We took the opportunity to take a walk to the nearby village of Tackley – part of the walk was quite picturesque through fields and across the railway line into the very quiet village. But we found the village hall and shop, bought the obligatory icecream, and meandered back to the boat in time to join our new friends on Sylph, who were moored close by, for a couple of drinks and swapping stories. The night got a little late but was enjoyed by all!!!
On Friday we took advantage of knowing there was access to water at the next proposed mooring at Lower Heyford so caught up with the washing before we headed off. The canal through this section is lined with trees and becomes very narrow in parts. Bob did some very careful manoeuvering to edge past oncoming boats and through the very narrow remains of old bridges.
After refilling the water on the wharf at Lower Heyford, we made our way past a very busy boatyard/marina where several hireboats were on their way out – the occupants about to enjoy the weekend of stag night celebrations. So glad they were headed in the opposite direction to us!!!! We found a quiet mooring a little further upstream far enough away from the ever present railway to minimise the intrusive noise effect of the frequent trains. The towpath was also wide enough for us to get out our table and chairs and enjoy sitting in the sun with a refreshing beverage!! And then played host to Chris and Jim for another lovely night of swapping stories. And drinking. And eating.
During this period we had no internet or phone coverage effectively cutting our communication with all but those in very close proximity within the boating community. We took a walk up the hill and through Lower Heyford in an attempt to find some signal but although we received a couple of messages we couldn’t find any signal to send any!!!
After dinner on Saturday we took a walk to the Bell Inn in Lower Heyford for a drink with Chris and Jim – not the best pub we have found but …..the company was good!!!
On Sunday we took advantage of the fine weather and walked to the charming village of Steeple Aston along some very interesting tracks, through fields, up hills and past the 18th century Folly (also known as the Eyecatcher) built by the owners of nearby Rousham House. A stone wall comprising 3 arches it was purportedly built to enable the owner to see his beloved ‘s house, via telescope,through the middle archway!!! The village itself is built on the slopes of the hills making for an invigorating walk to view the various architecture, church and of course Red Lion pub. We certainly got our exercise that day!!!!
Monday dawned fine and we headed off aiming for Aynho. We knew we had a few locks including the Somerton Deep Lock (one of the deepest in the system) to conquer first. Everything went so well we continued past Aynho and covered off another 2 locks before the looming dark clouds forced us to retreat to a canalside mooring – opposite a farm shop. We settled in for the night – and so did the rain!!!!
As we were talking about leaving on Tuesday morning Bron looked out the window and discovered that the farm shop seemed to be getting nearer. A second glance revealed that we had pulled out the stern mooring pin and were drifting across the canal tethered only by our bow rope attached to a mooring ring!!! We knew this could happen but now had the experience. Bob admitted that the pin didn’t seem very secure but he hadn’t put in a cross peg to help it to hold. All good experience, apparently…..
Another chance to get washing done before we arrived to refill in Banbury meant that Bron juggled the locks, the washing and the map reading and saw very little of the scenery along this stretch. The few glimpses out of the window and whilst waiting for the locks to fill or empty revealed that the landscape continues to be lush, green and very serene. Arriving in Banbury was a rather sharp contrast.
Along the canal in the centre of Banbury there is very little resemblance to the historic canal architecture we have grown used to. Whilst very convenient for shopping it is very busy and new and a little sterile. However a further walk into the older parts of the town reveal an environment more familiar with the market square surrounded by narrow streets of shopping, cafes, pubs and restaurants. A walk in another direction from our mooring gave us the chance to seek out materials to create “buns” for our portholes and other useful items for attaching (and keeping!!??) fenders, as well as restocking supplies at nearby Tesco.
We were also able to avail ourselves of an excellent GP – just tedious routine access to medications but a great service all the same!!!
We have met up with Chris and Jim again here in Banbury and will have a farewell drink tonight before heading off tomorrow for Cropedy.