Monday, October 01, 2012

On towards Oxford

Saturday morning was sunny and bright, but nonetheless windy and cold, and we set out after lunch wearing several layers of clothing. This stretch of the Oxford Canal has a lot of lift bridges, all of them already open so far, and there were three locks to descend, one of them being only 12 inches deep. Strangely, however, the lock chamber is wider than the gates, and the one foot descent is stupidly slow!

We see a lot of boat names, of course. Many are very ordinary – Heron, Kingfisher, Willow – and many are human names, mostly female – Jenny, Alice, Anthea, and of course the famous May family; Peggy May, Betty May, Molly May (I'm waiting for the boat called “Cindy Might”, “Mary's Thinking About It”, or “Susie Did”). But today we came across one of the most unusual names we've seen - “P45”! The owner was made redundant, and used his redundancy money to have the boat built. I love it!

We stopped at The Pig Stop, a free range pig farm selling their own produce as well as a small range of other food. Unfortunately, they had sold out of bacon, but we bought a cylinder of gas and fitted that.

We moored in another bright, open and quiet spot just below Belcher's Lift Bridge (no. 189)
Sunday's weather was nothing like the heavy, all-day rain forecast by the BBC. It was cloudy, although the sun broke through from time to time, but cold and very windy. We made our way down to Aynho Wharf for services, but found it closed.

Carrying on along the meandering route through beautiful farming countryside, we found the canal very narrow in places because of large trees overhanging the edges. Although these add to the attractiveness of the canal, they really need to be cut back. The canal is often shallow towards the edges, and passing other craft can be more difficult than it should be.

Where our last lock had been just 12 inches deep, the next, Somerton Deep Lock, is 12 feet deep, with a very heavy bottom gate which I simply could not close on my own. Thankfully, a young lady from the boat which had just left the lock came back and gave me a hand.
We stopped for lunch at Upper Heyford, just above Allen's Lock, and afterwards walked into the tiny village in search of a shop selling food. It turned out that the “shop” mentioned in Nicholson's Guide is an art gallery. In future, we'll look for what the guide calls “stores”!

Since the wind was really quite unpleasant, we decided to stay here the night.

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