Thursday, 25 April 2013

Up the Oxford Canal to the Grand Union

The South Oxford Canal and north of Fenny Compton in particular, is always peaceful and idyllic. As the course of the canal becomes more meandering and the hairpin bends more torturous, in spite of the careful concentration needed in order to keep on the track, a certain peace and tranquillity descends upon me.


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Sharon’s photo of ‘Futurest’ on the Oxford Canal


It is due to the fact that there is not a trace of another human being to be found for mile after mile that allows me in these parts to commune with Nature much more quietly and relaxedly and on her terms, so that I can appreciate and respect all the other forms of life busily going on around me and especially at this time of year with young life abounding everywhere.



Skipper Janis exiting Marston Doles Lock


Lambs frolic and gambol in the sunshine on lush green meadows dotted liberally with fresh new yellow Dandelion and Lesser Celandine while the evolving green bloom of Spring in the hedgerows and trees begins to hide the cold sticks of Winter that seem to have tormented us for so long.

So it was this time on the way from Fenny Compton to Napton.

As we came down to our preferred mooring just above the bottom lock at the latter, the Sun was shining (as is always usual here) and with a warmth that we are not used to this early in the year.



A ewe and her lambs on the towpath at Napton


022  The windmill in the sunset

Napton Windmill at Sunset


The girls and I took a walk to the top of the steep hill via the church and were amazed by the amounts of wild Spring flowers in bloom, from white Snowdrops in great abundance and Primroses and Daffodils. All of them may be later than usual but I don’t remember there being such a prolific display ever.



Bob, Janis and I on the side of Napton Hill


Near the windmill we met Bob the farmer who looks after the rare cattle and sheep breeds that graze on the slopes and he was pleased to show us them in close-up. The viewpoints across the plains that he showed us and his vast knowledge of the area were amazing.

The following day we arrived at bustling Braunston Turn, where the village on the hill keeps itself quite separate from the village of boats in the huge Marina on the canal, though it is the latter community that keeps the numerous small shops on top of the valley, as well as the pubs, in good business. The rural walks in this part of the country though are beautiful and the tiny villages of Northamptonshire with their ancient rich brown stone and thatch cottages are a delight on the eye.



Janis and Sharon on a walk through pretty Flecknoe


030  A spring flower garden

A Spring display at Flecknoe


Finally the journey from Braunston to Weedon, where we arrived last night, was pleasant though more physical as we descended first up then down through thirteen double locks in two days and through the one and a quarter miles of black darkness that is the Braunston Tunnel. ‘Roots and Wings’ hung doggedly close to ‘Futurest’ while we were inside and above the engines I could hear the delighted chatter and laughter of busy Kiwi accents echoing along the tunnel as Janis and Sharon happily navigated the different challenges in the darkness.

As a reward for our numerous exertions of the voyage so far (Oh it’s such a hard life you know) and also as a birthday treat for me, on arrival at Weedon last night we three crew members went ashore to ‘The Plume of Feathers’ and enjoyed a well deserved meal and a pint.

The weather was fine and it was very warm.

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