The Long Journey Home – Part 6
Tuesday 5 June 2018
Swing Bridges and Damselflies
The Long Journey Home – Part 6 started with a late start. We were waiting for Tooley’s Boatyard to open at 10:00, where we hoped to purchase 15 W40 oil, Morris’ K99 Grease and a new Windlass. As mentioned previously, Tooley’s Boatyard is an historic place dating back to 1790. It’s dry dock and working forge are scheduled monuments [Collins Nicholson Waterways Guide 1, P160]. It’s a fascinating place and and has a museum as well as chandlery. We managed to obtain a Windlass and some grease but alas, no oil.
We went for a coffee; my first decent barista latte since setting out. I used Wifi to email, I felt I’d made it as a waterway’s warrior. Banbury pulled us in many directions and we ended up buying those final few implements we really needed before heading back to the boat. We finally cast off at 12:02. Our aim was to get to Anyho Wharf to obtain the now grail-like 15 W40 oil for the engine.
A Stretch of Canal
This stretch of the canal and indeed a whole lot more was littered with old, disused and in use swing bridges. They were all up to allow access straight through, via the canal (most just cross the canal from farmer’s field to farmer’s field). The trouble is, each one is wide enough only for a narrowboat, with 3 inches either side! It’s like threading a large, heavy needle. I have got to the point now where I can pass through without touching the sides at will – I’m like the seamstress of the waterways 🙂
The other thing this stretch of canal had in abundance was damselflies and dragonflies. Everywhere, electric blue and electric green flashes filled the canal side vegetation and occasionally they would flit across the boat. At one point, there were several in the boat. At another, they were fluttering around mu like she was Snow White in a Walt Disney cartoon.
We wound our way (yes it was still twisting and winding) and eventually stopped at a spot, just before the M40 motorway for lunch. After a break, with no overheating in sight, we continued on, eventually arriving at Nell Bridge Lock. This lock drops you straight under Nell Bridge which is quite low. If the canal had had a lot of water running through it i.e. it had been raining for example, it would have lifted the boat, making it impossible to get through (and possible decapitating passengers and boat).
It was here that we met our first Navigation Warning System sign (green/amber/red). The trouble was, we spent ages looking for the water level sign (it had said to check before using) only to find it was visible once you had emptied the lock! I passed under the bridge, which was like descending into the bowels of the earth and out. It was then that, horror of horrors; the boat overheated again!
We pulled over (I had just managed to pick up mu from the towpath just after her doing her lock thing), killed the engine, added more water to the expansion tank and let the engine cool down. It cooled down.
We set off, worried about further overheating as we were in the middle of nowhere and we needed to find somewhere to moor but were confident we could make our destination; Anyho Wharf.
Crossing the Cherwell
Just beyond where we had set off from, the river Cherwell crosses the canal, from port to starboard (left to right) causing a weir on the starboard side. This was just before Anyho Weir Lock. Luckily it hadn’t been raining so there was no real flow, only the added complication of someone coming out of the lock thinking the mouth of the river Cherwell was a winding hole (a winding hole is a place on the canal where you can turn a boat around). Seeing how this was a near impossibility and no doubt cursing the Canal and River Trust for such a poor implementation of a winding hole, the couple on the boat thought better of it and continued on.
We entered the wide lock (the first we’d encountered on this canal) and bobbed around like a plastic duck in a bathtub. The lock only dropped a short distance when emptied and so we were on our way the short distance to the outskirts of Anyho Wharf.
We found boats moored to a stretch of armcote between signs still denoting ‘Winter Moorings’ for last Winter. We pulled up to a perfect spot, with a perfect view of a tree, brown cows and rabbits, with no-one particularly near. Anyho Wharf was a half mile walk away.
An S for an E
It was at this point that I took the opportunity to paint out one ‘E’ on the starboard of Mirrless, in readiness for inserting an ‘S’. This converted Mirrlees to Mirrless. I felt that the boat had already been renamed out of the water (the correct way to rename a boat), at Whilton Marina by the team there. All I was doing was just tidying up the bodywork. In any case, we had toasted Poseidon, James Brindley and Mirrless and we had already had our share of bad luck with the overheating – I figured we were safe 😉
Off Down the Pub
One of the great things about the Nicholson guides is that they clearly show you where the pubs are. At Anyho, we decided upon the Great Western Arms in honour of the South West and Bristol. It was very smartly done out, with a lot of eating going on so we retired to the garden to sit under the old pub sign. We were once again freeloading a bit of Wifi but not enough to get ‘Tales…’ written up – we were on a non-existent budget of one pint each a night. Tonights tipple was a golden pint of Hookey from the Hook Norton Brewery (it was very mild-mannered). Mu had the Stowford Press cider.
The walk back to the narrowboat was through voluminous clouds of small white flies. You would have seen us, hooded up, flailing our arms about frantically as the sun sank and as we headed our way back to Mirrless – our home.
Here completes The Long Journey Home – Part 6.