It was a domestic start to the day with loading the washing machine and disposing of rubbish, recycling and glass and picking up water. We had a lift bridge to go through just ahead of the water point and I was ready to hop off to operate it but could see other people there and wondered if there was a boat coming the other way. There wasn’t – just some people who had boats moored nearby having a chat and one operated the lift bridge for us, saying he’d been waiting for us all morning as he did so, while another quizzed us on the boat’s paintwork. There was further banter, once we were through the bridge and Shane was spinning round to the water point, about the usefulness of a bow thruster. Thrupp seemed a friendly place, even if they can’t let us charge up overnight.
Not far along we emerged from a bridge and were reminded of the warning signs that had confused us in the other direction. The bridge is fairly straightforward and there is no hazard obvious on either side and no warning on the other side of the bridge. But on this side were two warning signs. Proceed with caution is a fair enough general piece of advice for life, but this place seemed one of the easier parts of the day’s navigation, as we recalled.
We had made a late start, almost noon, so by the time we had reached the first lock, we remembered this was where we had lunch in the opposite direction and stopping places being few and far between, we might as well do the same again. The lock we had reached was the unusual lozenge shaped one. I had worked it last time and found some gates hard to shift and Shane had driven up until lunch so we were both happy to swap over. He set off to open the gate. A boat had come through while we were having lunch so we knew it was set our way. Once in one felt somewhat marooned!
Shane managed the gates without difficulty. There was a boat waiting to get in and we saw a man approach holding a windlass and a bundle of sticks, but in stead offering assistance at the lock (not that Shane needed it), he proceeded to lay his branches on a bench and set about cutting them up while the lock filled. I didn’t even see him go back to shut the gate when the other boat went in. Who knows if they were together! We had come out, had collected Shane and the other boat went in and he was still cutting up the bundle of wood.
The lock is well signposted, to show it is the way to the Oxford Canal just as well as there is a boat tempting you in the other direction but you are not supposed to enter that part. If you go that way, you will end up at a weir, though there is no warning sign of that!
The river looks tranquil. I thought I might need some high revs going upstream but I was able to back off and wend the way without incident or meeting anyone else, apart from a fisherman hidden in rushes on a bend, who remarked on how cold it was today and it would soon be time for a woolly hat. The chap who had let us through the bridge back in Thrupp had a woolly hat, sheepskin coat, fleece lined boots – and shorts.
Approaching the end of the river section is a very large warning sign with a schematic of a left turn saying no entry and “all craft” are directed along a line straight on past the left turn then later curving to the right. In fact the “left turn” is dead straight ahead with no barrier or no entry sign dangling from the bridge, and the actual course of the river curves right at that point. I was glad Shane reminded me not to go under the bridge as it is truly the desire line.
Leaving the river, you would think it might be less winding, but there were plenty curves on the canal here too. Leaving the lock we saw some people approaching the lock with windlasses, which suggested a boat was coming. There was a longish curved section ahead with boats moored all along where passing another boat would be awkward so although it was barely visible and coming slowly we decided to wait – the lockers sent well ahead were a good warning to expect it and indeed he thanked us, relieved not to have met us on the way through. The proceed with caution sign might have been more useful here. Or indeed at the several narrow overgrown bridge walls (no actual bridge) or strangely shaped bridges. Mysteriously this one has had the footpath blocked off and a knock in the stonework in an inaccessible place.
We were also reminded of incidents of meeting people at bridges when we went the other way. We had a smoother run (though we did meet a boat obscured by trees that we waited for) but noticed the additional obstacles such as moored boats right next to a bridge on a bend or just before the lock at the river exit were still there today.
There were a few more locks and Shane noticed more details of a safety feature inside a lock. There are metal plates that protect the mechanism and give a convenient place to rest the nose and slide up smoothly if at the front. When in the bottom the sill and stoneware also had some cushioning. Just as well as it possible to get thrown hard forwards by the rushing water when the lock fills.
I got a stiff neck and got a bit cold so went for a drink and Shane drove. Almost immediately we were at the next lock. Like a few along this canal the gate did not open completely and Bartimaeus scraped in. They all seem to work, it just doesn’t look like it will. There was no surprise that this boat was still at the exit to the lock. Shane got out while the lock filled to get a picture.
My tea was pretty cool by the time that lock was done. Not a deep lock but only one paddle works so it is quite slow. I was also quite slow to get my camera ready when Shane shouted “kingfisher!”. It is usual for it to be a warning that comes too late but in this case it was just sitting on a branch that was hanging over the boat, but I was too slow to get a picture before it flew over and disappeared behind us. We stopped soon after in the hope of some more kingfisher spotting but alas none have appeared. It is an attractive spot though and there have been plenty other birds around and some noisy cows.