Having turned round yesterday the way ahead was all a route we had done a few times and Bryn had done once, but every day is different. The weather was better early in the day, so we planned to get going promptly, intending to lunch in Banbury and be there before the rain. Just as we were getting ready a boat was passing, going the same direction as we were., people we had met the day before and helped through a lock. Ahead of them a small CRT tug, pushing, rather than pulling, a large barge full of stones. Bryn was interested in the tight ropes each side to minimise bendiness and keep the two boats aligned. The stones were for repairing the towpath. We had noticed yesterday that some paths were falling in to the water. A few days ago we had seen a recently repaired path. It is a much less muddy surface so it is good to see it happening.
As you might expect the tug went slowly, so when we reached a lock, there was a short queue. We decided to try speed things up by helping the tug through, and the people in front of us. While we were helping the couple ahead of us, a boat approached doing the other direction and I recognised them as the boat, Pineapple, we had seen yesterday at lunchtime, stuck hard against the side in the strong wind. I asked how that had gone and he said he had broken two bargepoles trying to push them off and someone had towed them in the end. I had thought they had just waited until the wind went down as they weren’t very far further along. I saw him taking the chimney down, so at least that shouldn’t break in the low bridge ahead with variable height levels depending on the water.
We passed a moored boat that we had travelled with on Mother’s Day through the Hatton flight, and she popped her head out to chat on the way past. We had seen them briefly the day before too.
At the next lock the queue was another boat longer, one that had arrived behind the work boats. We could see the boat before us struggling at the side and we wanted not to get stuck ourselves. The wind was picking up and this is where the Pineapple was held fast. The boat ahead were holding on the rope and looking in their weedhatch, but that was not the problem, so they had probably just been aground. To avoid that place, we tied to them back and front and moved forward in the queue one place together. Bryn was glad he had training in his work in different knots with ropes.
Bryn and I went to see what was going on at the lock as it was taking a long time, as the tug was just leaving it. They had had a problem here, we had had before. The front of the barge had caught on a plate at the front and held it down as the water rose so they had to let the water out again and refill staying as far back as they could.
I went back to the queue to inform people not to go close to the front. There were two more boats now. It was now around lunch time and we were likely going to have a late lunch. We helped the same couple through again and then we got through.
When the wind eased Bryn had a go at driving and this time he got a good long time and we came across the workboats next to another one in the channel just before a narrow bridge so he had to snake around them, very satisfyingly.
When we reached Banbury, Bryn and I helped a lone boater at the lock. Bryn offered to help the lone boater by working the lift bridge for him too, for which he was grateful, but then I found I couldn’t close the gate alone and a man sitting on a bench came over to help. As we were helping the other boat through the rain started, earlier than forecast, but it was a short shower. Shane was good enough to pop my knitting inside.
Shane wanted to use the electric hook up points in Banbury but they were all taken. They weren’t being used, just had boats moored next to them and we ended up at moorings under a bridge which meant no solar power either. We didn’t want to go further out though as Bryn had been told about the Greek bakery, Koukou Vagia and wanted to try it and it was now three o’clock. Luckily Bryn liked it and we came away with savoury pastries, cakes and some oregano flavoured crisps and a free cup of tea. Then Bryn indulged me in going round my favourite old sites.
He admired the skill of the woman who had made the sculpture and also noted the minisculpture of a frog mentioned in the accompanying notice.
It was still rainy but Bryn had remembered us talking about a pub we had gone to with Anne and Richard, and wanted to go so he bought us a half pint each of the local draught pale ale and he had a pint of ‘canal water’, orange and passion fruit J2O with coke. It comes out just the right colour and intrigued the barman so much he sucked to stirrer to taste it. He likened it to ouzo, which was a surprise.
As we made our way back to the boat, through the shopping centre, we pointed out to Bryn such excitements as the post office where we had posted his birthday present and the steps where I had fallen. But I did spot a new “attraction”.