I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Dunchurch Pools Marina (Oxford/Grand Union Canal) – Friday 13th, Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th September

We woke up to a lovely morning on this our last day out on the cut.  It was only a short hop to Braunston where Richard stopped to get some diesel additive from Midland Chandlers then is was a slightly longer hop and we were back in the marina.  We stopped for diesel (apparently, we had been travelling on fumes today!) and to replace a gas cylinder.

It was a lovely afternoon so I’m afraid I didn’t do very much though I did manage to sort out the store cupboards, so we take home things that are going to get to their sell-by date before we set off again next year.
Our last bridge of the season
4.36 miles
0 locks

A beautiful morning – in a way it’s sad we aren’t still on the canals but at least it is a lovely day for the barbecue.

We spent the morning sorting and packing until all that was left were the clothes we stood up in!  We just had time for a rest before going off to the barbecue.  We are fortunate as our pontoon is very close to the office and the party was all set up beside it.  There were a couple of small marquees but as it was such a lovely evening it seemed that everyone was sitting outside.  We had been asked to take chairs and our own drink and we joined the throng walking towards the jollifications!  We sat with the people from the other boats on our bank of pontoons – it was really nice to finally meet people, for me anyway as I don’t seem to spend that much time on Mary H in the marina. 

It was a lovely evening which was rounded off by the most amazing sunset.

So, here are our stats for 2019.
375.69 miles
175 locks
73 days on board
61 days cruising
9 days not cruising

One of the things that has been different this year is that we haven’t left the boat in a marina and both us gone home, which means that Richard (and Muffin) have been onboard for all the 73 days though I have only done 63 days.

We have had a lovely summer.  We travelled the Thames from Shepperton to Lechlade and caught up with friends and family along the way.  We have hardly had any rain though did hunker down a couple of times for bad weather which didn’t really materialise.  The only bad thing about the weather has been the breeze which has been quite strong at times.

I just love the Thames.  It is wide and open and so varied.  I enjoy dreaming of owning a multi-million pound waterside property and having a boat at the end of an immaculate garden!  The livestock we pass always entertain me with lambs gambolling, cattle paddling and the unusual ones, such as water buffalo and alpacas.  We chose the Thames this year so I could go home for my Granny fixes but that was just an excuse really – I just wanted to be there.  I have missed my grandsons but have enjoyed my weekends with them.
I really enjoy our trip to and from the Thames via the Oxford Canal too.  When we moored at Newbury during the winter, we really disliked the stretch of the Kennet and Avon between there and the Thames whereas the Oxford is charming. 

Next year?  Why the Thames of course!  Though we will try and do the River Wey too.  Richard wants to go down the Grand Union and I’m hoping he can persuade his friend, David, and son, James to help him!!

So, this is the last blog post from Mary H for this year.  We are going to Spain for 2½ months in the new year and I will be blogging from there but not putting it on the Facebook pages.  If you want to keep in touch, then why don’t you follow the blog by pressing the “follow” button on the right hand side.

All for now – I’ve enjoyed writing for you, and I hope you have enjoyed reading my rambles!

Friday, 13 September 2019

Chambers Bridge Number 100 (Oxford/Grand Union Canal) – Thursday 12th September

Just one lock left for this year and it was an easy one as there was a Lockie and a Volockie working it for us 😊

Napton Junction came and went, and we were soon at our destination for today – Bridge 100 where they used to be a lovely view but, once again, the hedge is now too high.

Just before we stopped we could see a dog swimming in the water ahead of us, it was in the centre of the canal with its owner on the bank and a boat trying to gradually push it towards the bank, this worked and the spaniel was unceremoniously pulled out of the water and put on a lead - it didn't seem any the worse for it's experience. As the boat passed us, we realised that it was Wine Down which is moored on the same bank of pontoons as Mary H at Dunchurch Pools.  Richard met John and Elaine, earlier in the summer and discovered that not only do they moor their boat near to ours, but their “home mooring” is on Hayling Island where we are also moored!!

I’m always trying to research something!  Sometimes nothing comes of it and other times the result, for me anyway, is fascinating.  Today, as in the past, I have been trying to find out what the stretch of canal between Braunston and Napton is really called.  The numbers on the bridges follow the Oxford numbering but if you look at a Grand Union map, they show their own numbering sequence.  Today I have found that the bed of the canal here was actually owned by the Oxford Canal Company, and once upon a time they retaliated against the Grand Junction Canal people (as they were known then) by charging them excessive tolls to move the Grand Junction narrowboats across their section of the canal at this point.  So, I have deduced that today this part of the canal is known as the Grand Union but, in fact, it should be called the Oxford Canal.  However, the North Oxford finishes at Braunston and the South Oxford starts at Napton so what is the bit in the middle called!!!  I was just discussing this with Richard, and he said that as this seems to be a wide canal it must be the Grand Union!

5.60 miles
I lock

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Above Napton Bottom Lock (Oxford Canal) – Wednesday 11th September

We were late getting away this morning but who cares?  We don’t and we aren’t in hurry!

If the theory that a bumper crop of berries means that it is going to be a hard winter is anything to go by, we are in for a really cold one.

We passed the site of HS2 and were amazed.  We were last here on July 5th and this heap of earth wasn’t anywhere to be seen!  I guess there must be other HS2 sites around the country but what will happen if, in the end, it doesn’t go ahead??

This is a photo of our course today.  The canal between Fenny Compton and Marston Doles is crazy!  It takes 7½ miles to travel the 3¾ miles the crow would fly. (Those are my measurements and I don’t take any responsibility if they are wrong!!!).  The summit pound is also the highest and is almost 11 miles long.  The Oxford Canal is one of earliest canals built. It was initially designed by James Brindley but, sadly, he died in 1772 at the age of 56 and was succeeded by Samuel Simcock and Robert Whitworth.  It was opened in sections between 1774 and 1790 with the purpose of bringing coal from the Coventry coalfields to Oxford and the River Thames. 

At the top of the Napton flight of locks is Marston Doles, a small hamlet which I guess grew up round a wharf.  Welsh Road, which runs right by the canal, was a drover's road running through the Midlands, used for transporting cattle from North Wales to the markets of South East England but that was well before the canal was built so maybe the two being so close to each other is just a coincidence.  The nearest building to the canal I suppose was the wharf but I have never noticed before that it was built at an angle

For canal users Marston Doles is known for having a nasty left angled turn (when going down, right angled when going up!!) to the top lock.  Today was very windy and I thought I had got it right but nope, the wind caught me, but I still managed to get into the lock with only a couple of bumps!

We stopped for lunch after the second lock then set off to complete the other seven locks.  There was quite a strong side wind which made holding the boat difficult – either on the bank or in the water.  I got fed up of steering and gave up with only three locks to go.  However, we pulled over just above the bottom lock and moored up in the sunshine.

I was determined to get a good photo of the water buffalo, but the wind had other ideas and twice got me into the reeds – note to self, taking photos while steering on a windy day is not a good idea!  It was rather amusing looking through the photos and I ended up deleting all bar these two.

Napton Water Buffalo now milk approximately 140 cows and have around 100 young stock.  You can buy buffalo ice cream and burgers but not buffalo milk as that all goes to make mozzarella at Laverstoke Park Farm, which is owned by 1979 Formula One World Champion, Jody Scheckter.

We moored up just before Napton Bottom Lock as we like that better than the visitor moorings below the lock.  We went to The Folly for dinner, I had booked a table which was just as well as it was busy.  The menu is nothing special, a typical pub one, but the food is cooked well and very hot.  It remains one of our favourite waterside pubs.

6.29 miles
8 locks

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Ladder Bridge Number 129 (Oxford Canal) – Tuesday 10th September

We pulled pins about 9.45am on a warm but cloudy morning.

Richard did Elkington’s Lock then we arrived at the Claydon flight.  It was really busy but that meant that it was one in and one out and we did it in 56 minutes.  The middle lock had been damaged on Sunday causing one of the top paddles to stick open and as the bottom gates leak very badly the pound above the lock had completely drained.  Apparently the two boats moored in the pound were hanging on their mooring lines!  I bet there was a mess inside.

The lovely house at the top lock is having its garden redone.  It looks as if it was collapsing into the canal as there is a wall which has a nasty crack in it.

This is the last of the 17 lift bridges on the Oxford Canal.  We have only had to open one manually and three electronically, though I am sure that back in 2009 we had to open a lot more.

There are quite a few hire boats out at present both from Napton and Lower Heyford.  These appear to be quite a different clientele to the summer.  The autumn crowd seem to be much more chatty and friendly than the summer lot.  Probably just my imagination but that’s how I see it!!

Down through the narrows where the Fenny Compton tunnel used to be.  The tunnel opened in 1776 and was 9 feet wide, 12 feet high and ran for a little over half a mile.  The Oxford Company bought the land over the tunnel in 1838 with the idea of opening it up. The first stage of this work started in 1838 and by 1840, they had removed several parts of the tunnel roof — a section at each end and a short section in the centre, creating two separate tunnels, one about 140 yards long and the other 450 yards long.  In 1865, the decision was made to open out the rest of the tunnel. The southern end was open by 1868 and the northern by 1870. 

We pulled over at the Wharf Inn to get water and dump the rubbish only the rubbish bin has now gone, and rubbish needs to be dumped at the marina, which we had just passed!  While the water was filling, I went off to post a birthday card.  I had used a post box locator app but, in the end, I went into the pub and asked - much easier!

We moored up just before Ladder Bridge.  We always try and moor here.  Back in the early days of our cruising there was always a lovely view from the boat window but over the years the hedge has grown up and the view has gone.  This year we stopped short of our usual spot and found a view – not from sitting down in the dinette but certainly standing up in the galley I could see for miles.

I am rather pleased with this photo 😊

Could Ladder Bridge be so called as there are steep ladder-like steps up to the deck of the footbridge?  But it is based on a single RSJ supported on brick pillars.  An interesting bridge but not one that I fancy going over!

7.79 miles
6 locks

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Above Varney’s Lock (Oxford Canal) – Sunday 8th and Monday 9th September


A lovely bright sunny morning and we were away by 9.45am.  It was really strange as not one boat had gone passed us, in either direction, since we woke up but there was one coming out of Hardwick Lock and then one waiting to come in at the top.  We then started to see quite a few boats and the first four locks were easy but then the other boats seemed to stop and our last two locks we had to ourselves.  We had planned to moor the other side of Elkington’s Lock, but Richard pulled over after Varney’s lock and that was us for the day.  We have planned our trip back to the marina, so that we have nice short 3½ hour days.  Wednesday’s trip takes us to the bottom of the Napton flight so it would be really rude not to partake of the Folly’s menu!!

 These two are ready for Christmas

We shared the locks today – taking it in turns. 

We passed these two ducks who seem to think that there is a flood coming!

I like Cropredy Lock, it is pretty but I wouldn’t like to live there as one has to walk very close to the front door and windows when operating the lock.

Opposite us are two white geese that appear to live on the bank.  They are a funny pair – I’m not sure what sex they are, but they follow each other around though one of them is a bit lame.  Now me being me just had to look up how to sex a goose – I think I might just leave the venting method, but I did find that “sexing adult geese is more difficult as there are no definitive, obvious differences between males and females. Males are typically larger and have more shrill voices. They also seem to walk around appearing a bit cockier with their chest stuck out, especially when challenged.”  As we don’t know if they are Arthur or Martha (yes, we do watch Eastenders!) we have called them Milky Bar and Kinder!  We are moored just before Varney’s Bridge and have renamed it Goose Pie Bridge!

5.08 miles
6 locks


Part of our planned route back to the marina was to stay put today as the weather forecast was for rain all day.  However, we had one shower in the early afternoon!  It wasn’t worth moving on though as we don’t want to get to the marina too early.  There is a BBQ at the marina on Saturday which works out well for us as we were always going home this coming weekend anyway.

I had a dreadful night’s sleep and didn’t get up until midday.  I didn’t sleep the whole time but dozed on and off.  I do hope I can sleep tonight. 

We are having real problems with a Calor Gas bottle.  It was being used at the beginning of our trip and the oven kept going out, so Richard changed it to the second bottle.  That one ran out the other day and we had forgotten about the problem.  I was cooking a Tesco frozen joint of pork which took 3 hours and 20 minutes!  I was also doing some roasted vegetables.  With about 30 minutes to go I went to turn the veg over and found the oven was more or less cold.  I relit it and went back to it about 10 minutes later – it had gone out again.  In the end I sat on the step beside it and watched it like a hawk!  Fortunately I have a meat thermometer on board so was able to make sure that the meat was cooked but we had soggy veg

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Spiceball Park (Oxford Canal) – Saturday 7th September

We left Aynho about 10.15am and headed to the diamond shaped Aynho Weir Lock.  There are two such shaped locks on the Oxford and one on the River Avon.  There may be more, but these are the only ones I have come across.  The Oxford Canal joins the River Cherwell at two places and each of the diamond shaped locks are the lock where the river heading downstream becomes the canal again.  Apparently, the diamond shape is to feed extra water from the river into the canal.

At Nell Bridge Lock we came across a boat doing their first lock.  Fortunately, the boat in front of us had stopped to show them what to do as, according to the lady, they hadn’t been told! 

Two more locks and we pulled over for lunch before heading into Banbury.  We followed a boat going so slowly – it really was painful.  A mile on tick-over is not good!  Fortunately, we were stopping so that I could go to Morrisons, so it gave them a chance to get ahead.

A quick dash round Morrisons – well it wasn’t really either quick nor a dash but I like the sound of it!  Shopping put away then off to dump the dumpables and fill with water.  The lock in Banbury in always a gongoozler’s paradise but with it being a Saturday afternoon it was really busy.  I was locking so just had to look efficient and answer silly questions while Richard was the real centre of attention – would he bash the boat or not??  No, of course he didn’t!  A boat going down held the lift bridge for us – what a nice man 😊

We couldn’t decide where to stop.  Spiceball Park or go on to Slat Mill Lock.  Some of the moorings on the park are very close to the bakery factory and as much as I like the smell of fresh bread it can get a bit much!  In fact, we stopped on the very last visitor mooring and we can’t smell the bread here!

As we passed Tooley’s Boatyard I noticed an old working boat moored up outside.  She had Historic Narrowboat Hardy on a banner on her side.  I decided to look up her history and how she got to Banbury. Hardy had been languishing on the bottom of the canal at Braunston since being abandoned in 2014.  In May 2018 she was raised from her muddy bed and towed to Banbury where she was cleared of debris, stripped and cleaned.  However, in August last year she was hit by a passing boat and sank again. She was obviously pumped out and, I guess, is waiting for money so she can be restored.

7.10 miles
5 locks

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Aynho Wharf (Oxford Canal) – Friday 6th September

A short day today as Aynho was our destination.  Yesterday I was having a messaging conversation with a friend, Dee, who was going up to the Lake District with her husband, Geoff, and labradoodle, Tess, and wondered how far away from her journey northwards we would be.  Aynho was the best place but it proved very difficult to find somewhere for them to stay that was a) dog friendly b) not horrifyingly expensive and c) wasn’t booked up!  The messaging went quiet then she came back and said that she had hired a motorhome for the weekend and that the Lake District would have to wait!  She had never driven a vehicle as big as a motorhome before but has towed a caravan.  This morning she said that she has booked a site which is about half a mile from Aynho.

As I said in the last paragraph, Dee has a Labradoodle.  Tess just adores Muffin!  The feeling isn’t really mutual as Muffin isn’t that struck on large dogs having been attacked by one once.  The two dogs will go mad when they first see each other but then Muffin gets fed up, but Tess doesn’t!

There was one boat in front of us at Somerton Deep Lock, but it does fill and empty quite quickly for a 12 foot deep lock.  There was a boat waiting to come down, but no help was forthcoming – the chap just stood there holding the boat and the wife just stood on the boat.  I was so tempted to thank them for their help as we went passed them but controlled myself!!
Mary H still has evil eyes!
When we arrived at Aynho the ring moorings were all taken so we went up beyond the marina and moored up.

We waited to hear from Dee.  I was worried for her, but I needn’t have been.  She rang from the Great Western Arms having driven passed the entrance for their caravan site.  We walked up to the pub where both dogs were overjoyed at seeing each other – it was nice for us to see Dee and Geoff too!  I can’t believe that I didn’t take any photos of the two dogs

My wooden duck had had an accident so Richard decided to mend it.  Poor thing - rather undignified!

It was only 5pm but that didn’t matter.  We sat in the bar and had a drink before ordering a meal at 6pm.  The food was very good, and the service was excellent.  We have always sat outside before - this was our first time inside and we were looked after really well.  We had fed Muffin before leaving the boat, but Tess was hungry, so Dee asked if they had any sausages and if so, could they please cook a couple for Tess!  These were duly cooked and came out all cut up – Tess had most of it, but Muffin was overjoyed at a surprise sausage!  They weren’t put on the bill 😊

Dee had managed the motorhome very well but they both complained about the rattling – mainly of things in the cupboards.  I remember my sister saying this – each time they went to drive away things had to be wedged and paper put between plates etc.  It is much easier in the caravan as we don’t hear what goes on!

I got a message from Dee later on to say that they had had to drive under an archway to get onto the caravan site and had got stuck breaking the two skylights!  It seems crazy to me that to get onto the site you have to drive under an archway.  Dee said that it looked, by the state of the archway, that they weren’t the first people to have done it

5.57 miles
3 locks