We arrived at Banbury over a week ago, late on Monday afternoon of the 12th March after an idyllic but fairly swift passage (for me anyway) from Warwick. The sky had been overcast totally and we were accompanied by swirling fog patches for most of the time, some of which were quite thick at times. But the Russell Newbery chugged along beautifully without missing a beat and it felt so good to be on the move again.
Catkins an early harbinger of Spring
After our night spent quietly outside the Lidl Supermarket in Leamington Spa, the four man delivery team astern of us rushed off at some early hour as they had planned, whereas aware that there was a stoppage at Bascote Lower lock that would not be cleared until 4pm that day, ‘Futurest’ and I were content to make a more relaxed start at around nine thirty arriving at the lock landing beautifully just as British Waterways were clearing away their debris. Two boats were already tied up near the lock landing abreast of one another, one of which was the boat with no name, with our delivery friends pacing up and down impatiently.
A relic of our industrial past on the Stockton Flight
‘Futurest’ and I ‘hovered’ while the two boats ahead of us entered the lock together and we were subsequently joined by ‘Daisy May’ with mother and son Joy and Colin aboard. We had met briefly before when they had called in at Kate Boats with engine trouble. So we two boats happily shared both the Bascote and Stockton Flight of locks with a night’s snug mooring at Cuttle Bridge in Long Itchington in between.
We left ‘Daisy May’ at the top of the Stockton Flight, when they stopped at the marina not happy that their engine problems had been properly sorted, and we ventured gently down to Wigram’s Turn at the junction with the South Oxford Canal on our own.
This part of the canal system, between Napton Junction and Banbury, is always magical to me and inevitably I tie up for the night at the temporary mooring just above the Bottom Lock.
The mooring between the Locks at Napton
In the wide flat Warwickshire Plain, this little hill, about two hundred feet high, with it’s restored windmill (now a private property) and ancient square towered church on the top among the mantle of trees and the village of Napton-on-the-Hill clinging to it’s side always has a mystical feel about it to me; my brother always laughs at me when I mention this. But without fail, whatever the weather has been up till this point and whatever it is afterwards, the Sun always shines brilliantly at this little mooring. Also, though there are many visitors by road to this spot, it always remains for me very tranquil and quiet. All that one is aware of is the lonely echoing caw against the hill of the black Corvidus, the sharp ‘peewit’ of the lolloping Lapwing or the bleat of lambs as they leap about together before dashing for a quick confidence boost at their mother’s teat. Life to me is peaceful here and I always look forward to it.
The lonely Boundary Lift Bridge, The first on the way south.
But the whole of the northern end of the canal is wonderful as it meanders its way sharply through to Fenny Compton and Cropredy. Apart from these two centres where many boats congregate, there is absolutely no sign of human habitation, apart from the odd farm building usually well away from the canal. Wildlife abounds including the Green Woodpecker, while the close proximity of the Robin is always evident by his sweet underrated call and the occasional Blackbird beginning to loudly sing his heart out again, thrills me inevitably as my daydreams are suddenly cut short by the need to concentrate fully on navigating one of the frequent hairpin bends.
After spending the next night near the Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton, I made an early though very misty start on Monday morning to make sure we arrived at Banbury that afternoon. We made uninterrupted progress and weary but happy tied up close to Tooley’s Boatyard and near the Castle Quay Shopping Centre late in the afternoon.
Life has been busy since then with visitors and making arrangements to have ‘Futurest’ blacked in the dry dock as well as other little jobs that are tedious only, but still need to be done. My blogging has suffered as a result for which I apologise. I hope to be able to do better from now on.
As I passed through Cropredy my friend Maffi on ‘Millie M’ was just leaving to return to Banbury. So he followed me down through the three intermediate locks. He was moored nearby for a while before setting off north again so I managed to catch up with him while he was here.
Also nearby is Bones, the lovely friend who persuaded me that blogging was a good idea in the first place and who has now introduced me to Windows Live Writer. Today is my first attempt at using it so soon we shall see whether I have managed to make a success of it or not. Previously I have used Word 2011 and transferred it from there onto the blog.
A day trip south to Nell Bridge and back
Son Alex bringing ‘Futurest’ to her mooring
‘Futurest’ is booked in for the dry dock on 2nd April so we are killing time till then. The job will take two days and then we shall have to make good time north to arrive in Newark-on-Trent by the end of April to rendezvous with Janis on ‘Roots and Wings’. It might be a tricky passage because lack of rainfall this winter has caused water shortages already in the south and there is currently a restriction of use on the Foxton Locks, which is the way I wanted to go. If I take the longer route via the North Oxford and Coventry Canals there is also a restriction at the Hillmorton Locks. At the moment we’ll be going by the first choice of route and see how it goes.