The first lock we reached this morning was very deep, a completely different character to the ones further north. We were just about to come out when I heard the sound of a horn. An enthusiastic north american boater was delighted to realise that we had left the lock open ready for him to simply drive in. He told me I was an officer and a gentleman – well I am a retired computing officer, so one out of two at least.
At the next lock we could see there were crew from a boat coming the other way. I got off to assist their passage and ours. They were a group of four from Holland – familiar with canals, but not with locks. I gave them a few hints but was careful to let them take their time and enjoy the experience. Meanwhile Clare was finding it difficult to control Bartimaeus. There was an awkward breeze, and most of the mooring posts were missing. She ended up almost out of the way, but in the weeds near the entrance to the lock.
Before they drove out, one of them asked about the etiquette when leaving the lock to somebody else. I confirmed that we would take over where they left off. As they drove out he said: “We won’t kiss your wife, but we may kiss your boat!” The combination of skilful driving on their part and a subtle use of the bow thruster by Clare avoided such intimacy.
In the afternoon we arrived at The Pig Place. We’d stopped here on a previous holiday, so it was not such a surprise this time. This establishment is a campsite, bar, cafe, farm shop and pig farm (other similar establishments may not be available).
A short distance further along the canal was another lock. Once Bartimaeus was in this lock, Clare went to post a letter in a post box just along the road. I started to empty the lock while she was away, but she returned while I was still able to step back on to the boat and hand the windlass back to her. The exit from this lock was narrow and had warning signs – the next pound of the canal is crossed by the River Cherwell and so can have a widely variable depth. If the water is too deep there may not be enough clearance under the bridge either. The recent near-drought conditions meant this was all academic for us.
The original arched bridge over the lock exit has been subsumed in to a modern concrete bridge for the widened road. From the far side it looks a dark and difficult entrance – though probably simple enough in reality. Clare had to cross the bridge and the road in order to rejoin the boat after closing the lock gate. The other end of the pound was equally strange. Massive wooden structures had been placed to stop unwary boaters being washed in to the brickwork beyond. In spate there would be a strong sideways current just at the lock entrance.
As we approached the lock we could see someone was working the paddles. I held back assuming that I would need to give way to a boat exiting the lock. After a while, Clare waved me to come up to the lock. The antipodean woman on the boat coming the other way had decided the lock was more our way then hers and was setting it for us. Her two or three year old daughter was also helping and chatting about what was going on. The lock itself was quite shallow but lozenge shaped. It wasn’t just the toddler who was asking “why?”
We also got a recommendation of a good mooring “next to a tree” with some unusually friendly moorhens. Despite the vagueness of this description, we soon found ourselves at a mooring that seemed to fit the description. We moored up for the night and have had a number of visits from the friendliest moorhens we’ve ever come across.