Through Dukes. 22nd November

Aristotle Bridge to Kidlington Green Lock

Someone last night seemed to have moved a street light! I woke up several times with the chink in the curtains glaring light down on my head. The someone was Tilly, having a good old peer out of the window as the almost full moon came into view and took it’s time to move across the sky. No matter how many times we ask Tilly to close the curtains when she’s finished she just ignores us!

P1430723smWe woke to quite a frost and the first thing to do was to hunt out the padded trousers from under the bed. With extra layers on and a bowl of porridge each in our tummies we were ready to push off. The canal was so clear you could see right to the bottom, all those leaves settling down there amongst the bikes.

Another load of washing was done before we reached the first water point where we stopped and filled the tank, emptied the yellow water tank and disposed of the contents of our bin, box and bucket, all of them. With everything empty or full we were ready again. I decided to walk on ahead, as some thoughtful person hadn’t picked up after their furry friend. This meant I could set the next lock and bridges ahead.

P1430734smToday it would be two locks and three lift bridges, the locks would be easy, but the bridges?

P1430748smP1430750smThere is a chap who seems to always be hanging around the first of the bridges. He most probably loiters for some conversation with passing boaters, not many of them around at the moment. Today he watched me unlock the bridge and then haul it up to sit on the beam. On closing it he said it looked like the lock was on it’s way out again, then asked how far we were heading. Our plan was to reach Kidlington Green today, ‘Well you won’t be going much further!’ said the voice of doom. I enquired why. ‘Well Shipton Weir Lock is closed, and will be for a while yet’. We were aware of the closure for works and had been planning our cruising accordingly. However yesterday we had a notice come through from C&RT saying that they were pleased to inform us that the lock had opened two days earlier than planned. Somewhere along the line we’d missed them moving the opening date by a week to accommodate works at Dukes Lock, never mind the two days! So I could inform Mr Doom and Gloom that the way ahead was actually open for us all the way to Banbury. His reply was that they’d be putting the licence fee up now! Jolly soul.

P1430754smThe next bridge was the hard one Wolvercote Lift Bridge. Walking towards it there seemed to be a cyclist loitering, maybe I could enlist his help, but he moved onwards before I got within ear shot. When last I came through here there had been a long chain added to the off side beams, this should help me pull the beam down. Except the chain was no longer there! Would I be able to manage? I was certainly going to give it a go.

I hooked my hands over the furthest part of the beam that I could reach, ‘Give me a leaver and a fulcrum and I’ll move the world’(F. Matthews), going through my head. The beam started to come down, but I knew I’d have difficulty changing my grip to get my weight above it. So I changed tactic, I walked my hands along the beam to increase my advantage over the weight, as it came lower I moved along and along until I was in a suitable position to change my grip. I quickly sat on the beam, Success!!!

P1430756smDukes Lock was full and a boat was sitting in Dukes Cut Lock facing the canal. The chap on board spotted me as I walked past to set the lock for us, he didn’t seem to be in any hurry. Dukes Lock closes on Monday for an emergency closure so we were glad to be through it. The next pound was a touch low, possibly to do with the badly leaking top cill at the lock, but we managed to make our way with one more lift bridge to open before we’d reach our destination for the day.

P1430770smUp ahead a Kingfisher showed us the way through the mist that now surrounded us. As we approached Kidlington Green lock it look like we’d be joining other moored boats. As we got closer we could see that it was actually two C&RT work boats, most probably heading from Shipton Weir to Dukes Lock. We pulled in, the second attempt getting us close to the side. My fields here have green tufts in them. I’m not sure whether they needed any digging, but I did some just in case the farmer hadn’t done enough. I have to say my towels on the boat are not as white as they once were, must have a word with the crew about that!

DSCF7114sm2 locks, 3.42 miles, 3 lift bridges, 1 straight, 1 mass of net, 1 Matthews mantra, 1 chilly day, 1 field well and truly tillied, 2 brown towels once white!

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