Our principal reason for mooring at The Pig Place overnight was to get the batteries charged up fully and equalised. It costs £12 to moor overnight, and £15 with electric hook-up. From our perspective, the electricity is the only thing we get for our money. We could tie ourselves to the bank a few boat lengths away for nothing, and mooring to have lunch or a drink from the bar is free. With all the noise about the current price of electricity I wondered about their economics. According to our on-board systems we used 28KWh of electricity overnight. At the current domestic price that is getting close to £10 worth, so they are still £5 up on our stay.
The day looked damp and cool first thing, so we were in no hurry to get going. The level of activity around us gradually increased. Several boats were reversed past us and then back again, and a man with a strimmer was spraying grass clippings very close to our boat. When I poked my head out, the owner of the boat behind us (who works on the farm) told me his boat hadn’t been moved for about four years, and they were trying to get the silt out from underneath. We decided to take ourselves away from the mayhem.
I’d gone half a mile when I remembered we had planned to empty our recycling bins before we set off – missed that chance! We ambled slowly making good use of the electric drive. The day gradually warmed and brightened. Before we’d reached the first lock we’d had two kingfisher sightings. Unusually, in both cases they were flying towards us, speeding by low over the water, flying on until lost around a curve in the canal.
Today we went through another two deep locks. I know from experience that the boat can be slammed in to the front of the lock with considerable force when the paddles are opened. So when I was driving at the second one I used my usual tactic of driving right to the front of the lock (which is to say the bow is at the front, I am nearly 58 feet further back). I’d noticed a strange piece of metal below the lock gate above the bow, but paid it no real heed. Clare and the woman from the boat waiting to come the other way opened the paddles. As I rose in the lock they started shouting that something was stuck and that I should reverse. I applied full throttle in reverse with no obvious effect – did I mention the force of the water can be very strong? A few seconds later both lock workers relaxed and so did I. Afterwards Clare explained that a piece of metal (presumably the bit I had seen) was being lifted by the nose of the boat. We don’t seem to have come to any harm, and the lock still seems to be functional as boats have come by since we moored.
The plan for today was to moor up near enough to Banbury for a battery charging drive in the morning. We returned to a pretty spot we’d used on the way south. After lunch I wanted to walk in to town to see where our likely moorings would be tomorrow. Clare didn’t fancy the walk so I went alone. There was some evidence of the Canal Festival we missed over the weekend, which also explained some of the additional traffic we had seen on the canal today.
Having identified some likely mooring spots and picked up our train tickets, I headed back. I walked back on the other side of the canal knowing I could cross the bridge just behind the boat when I got back. I was walking through a park when I heard a thud a few feet behind me. I looked back to see I had just missed being hit by a conker.
Swing bridges are a major feature of this canal. They all feature a narrowing to just wider than a boat, and are built to a similar design, but there are many variations. The bridge itself can default to open or closed, or be absent. If operable the mechanism can be electrically operated, hand cranked hydraulic, or simply a see-saw. On my walk back I got a good look at one bridge which is locked open. Opening the padlock buried in the mechanism would allow it to be used, but who has the key?
A short distance further was another bridge. Inscribed in the wood on the side is its date of manufacture: MMXXII – this year! We’ve missed the scheduled closure next month to install a hand wound pneumatic mechanism. Next time we come along here we’re likely to have to stop to open the bridge – tomorrow we’ll be able to cruise through. It is apparently policy to add the classic black and white paint two years after installation.
We’ve had an enjoyable few weeks on the South Oxford Canal. Tomorrow we have to go back to Edinburgh again for a couple of weeks. Clare used her customary skill to combine the tasks of emptying the fridge and producing an excellent evening meal. This wasn’t hindered by the distraction of bats flying over the canal in the sunset.