Saturday, September 30, 2017

Five on a boat to Oxford - part 4

On our way out of Cropredy the next morning, we had a long stay at the services point. The water flow was extremely slow, and our tank was nigh-on empty. While I was standing around trying to be patient, along came a man in a small boat with a buzzing outboard motor. He moored nearby, took a large Porta Potti to the Elsan unit, and rubbish and recycling to their respective disposal points. Then he unrolled a hose and prepared to fill a very large water container on his little boat. We got chatting.

He lives on a pair of narrowboats with his wife and children a mile or so down from the village. His little boat is his regular shuttle to the services and the shop. He's been living on the canals for 33 years, but at Cropredy for only seven of those. His wife works locally, and is a local councillor. His children go to a local school, and he drives them there and back. His own trade is carpentry, particularly on boats.

I mention all of this detail because he was the first person I'd ever spoken with whose boat-home is permanently moored, and the family live in the boats just the same way as others live in a house. Their boats don't go anywhere. They don't cruise. All other liveaboards I've met have been continuous cruisers, usually single, and never a family. Now, I know this isn't at all uncommon, but it was a first for me, and I found it quite fascinating, for whatever reason. These aren't the office-workers living on the river in London, York, Oxford and so many other cities. These are country-village folk. And they love it!

On our way finally, we left Cropredy and headed off to Banbury. 4 miles and 3 locks later (2 hours) we arrived in Banbury, where we found a number of mooring spaces to choose from, and chose to tie up next to the Castle Quay shopping centre.

Our visitors hadn't visited the town before, so they went sight-seeing while Grace and I dealt with the more mundane food shopping. Banbury's a nice town, with a nice "feel" to it (but don't ask exactly what I mean by that!)

Christine and Mike treated us all to a meal that evening, though it was really difficult to find a decent place to go to. Looking around on Google Maps, we found "The Cherwell" though our navigators got us well lost, and at one point we ended up at a pub that was closed for refurbishment. It bore no name, but a local assured us it was "The Marlborough", and we continued our search.

"The Cherwell" was good, though at 8:00 pm, they removed the menus from the tables so that diners would make room for the serious drinkers. No dessert for us, then!

Grace and I nipped out to the nearby market on Saturday morning, returning to the boat with heavy bags full of fruit and veg, then we made our way out of the basin (via the services - it was amazing how much difference the extra three crew were making to water consumption and waste creation!) and out into the lovely countryside again.

Through the first of the numerous lift-bridges that span the water down to Oxford; the early ones are either permanently up, or totally missing), and then we meet a hire-boat at a bend with a bridge - where else would it happen? The novice skipper didn't handle it too well, but we didn't collide, and he called out cheerily to us as we passed "That was my first bridge encounter!"

His second bridge encounter was his collision with it about 30 seconds later!

The canal remained bendy and shallow, and one boat coming around a right-hand bend in front of us totally lost control because of bank effect, and crashed hard into our portside bow, actually denting the rubbing strake. It wasn't his fault, but he didn't have a clue what had happened, and looked most alarmed!

At the lozenge-shaped Aynho Weir Lock, the canal starts to feel rather more rivery, but the best is yet to come!

We moored overnight at a beautiful, remote, peaceful spot south of Chiswell Lift Bridge no. 193.

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