Reaching For The Summit 23rd September

Bridge 110 to Stoneton Bridge 126
Yesterday the forecast said it would rain today until 11am, then get sunny followed by mounting gusts of wind. This morning it had changed, raining until midday. We pottered during the morning waiting for the rain clouds to clear, which they did at 11, good job we were ready. The forecasts don’t seem to be as reliable as they used to be.
P1410087smWe’d been passed by quite a few Calcutt Hire boats this morning all heading back towards base, only one or two boats were Napton bound. As we got closer to the locks boats were pulling out, either to wind or head up the locks, everyone had been waiting for the rain to finish. Around the last bend there were two boats on the water point, but nobody at the services block, so we pulled over there as a familiar green boat headed straight for the first lock in the flight. The rubbish was disposed of quickly so we were next in line as a very eager man pulled up opposite us, I reached the lock and Lock Keeper before they did.
P1410091smThe Lockie had some handy tips on how to handle your boat in the Oxford locks as they tend to drag you forward as do the ones on the Trent and Mersey. Once up the first lock we had to wait for a boat up ahead to get into rhythm up the flight, so I got chance to chat to the chap from the green boat in front, NB Winding Down (our old shareboat). He was out for a couple of weeks, but had been let down by a crew member so his plans had changed somewhat. One friend was with him today (a lock novice) and they were planning on getting as far as they could on the Oxford before turning back to base, next week he has more crew and will venture further.
P1410096smP1410094smLock 9 is the reason we’ll be on the Oxford until Christmas, it has gone a bit wobbly around the edges. It’s banana shape means that if you are in an aging boat that has developed a touch of waistline spread then you are likely to get stuck. NB Tyseley, the Mikron boat, got stuck good and proper a month ago, she sat in the lock overnight until numerous ropes with people hauling, a boat pulling , the engine going and a tidal wave from the top paddles gave her a boost to get her out. Newer boats don’t have this problem, you just need to have your fenders up, but then they should be up anyway in a lock.
P1410084smThere were plenty of people about to help at lock 9, Winding Down up first. One lady walked up the flight a short way and signalled that there was a boat on it’s way down, so we waited for them. The impatient fellow on the boat behind us didn’t understand why we were waiting. Maybe we’d be saving some water, on this canal it’s in short supply at the moment, but mores the point the pound in between the locks would then have to cope with three boats in it juggling themselves round each other. It looked hard enough for Winding Down to get out of the way of the boat coming down! The man behind would have to wait no matter how much he ran around his boat.
P1410124smOnce through the lock ourselves we were on our own in the growing sunshine. By about the forth lock up boats were coming down the flight towards us, so we didn’t have to close many gates as we left, or open them. Hirers were starting to steam nicely in their waterproofs having battled through the rain this morning. At one lock a lady joined with her dog who sat by the top gate patiently waiting for first us and then her own boat to go through not moving an inch. We both commended the dog and her owner, ‘there’s enough to worry about at locks without a dog adding to it’ she said.
P1410117smWater Buffalo grazed in the fields alongside the canal busy making their milk which is made into chilled medication. The sun was now out and as we gained height we also gained better and better views with each lock. By the time we reached the last lock of the flight we’d run out of downward boats so the Marston Dole Locks had to be reset, we’d caught up with Winding Down, so chance for another chat at the last lock.
P1410127smThere are currently time limits on these locks with the hope of saving water and letting the summit pound recover overnight. Last entry is at 3pm and as we filled with water and had a quick lunch the last few boats of the day came up and one went down before they would be locked for the day.
P1410154smP1410164smThe vintage cars are still at the top of Marston Doles and a short distance on there is still the boat moored in the field. Obligatory photo taken, you’d have thought they’d have done their best to avoid being on a list!
P1410182smP1410183smThe sunny summit pound. We pootled along as the wind blustered around us. Hoping for a view we thought of reaching a mooring we’d stopped at two years ago, but time was drifting. A view, lack of trees but more importantly some day light hours were required by Tilly for some shore leave. As a length or Armco came  into sight by bridge 126 we decided to pull up.
P1410187smHere there is a big tree, it needed to be conquered. I set to with my first leap upwards and started to scoot round the trunk only to come face to face with a wooly mass! What!!! It barrd at me, I leapt off and ran to the cat walk and ran straight down the side of the boat as Tom and her shouted at me. I was safe on the cat walk, don’t know what all the fuss was about, I do it every day. I tried a couple more times but the wooly face was joined by another so in the end I gave up.
P1410195smA nice quiet, apart from the sheep, towpath, only a French family walked across the field towards us and then headed away. The sun setting to our starboard side and the moon rising to the port, what more could you want from a mooring as your Sunday roast cooks in the oven.
P1410212sm

DSCF7114sm9 locks, 6.38 miles, 1 st and 3rd boats following each other, 1 very impatient man, 43 curly horned beasts, 1 full water tank, 1 pooh bucket changed, 0 recycling, 5 wooly faces, 1 cat charge along the wrong side of the boat, 1 sunset, 1 moon rise, 1 mooring going on our list to return to.

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