Breaking A Way North. 14th December

Tramway to Cropredy Wharf, nearly

Frosty leavesThermal vests, check.

Long johns, check.

Heat holder socks, check.

Hats, check.

Scarves, check.

Gloves, check.

Hand warmers, only one.

It was a touch chilly this morning, but nothing we weren’t expecting.

Foam filled cratchWinding to head north for ChristmasWe winded and then headed straight for the service block. Whilst filling with water, we disposed of rubbish, emptied the yellow water and emptied the pooh bucket. Last night Mick had chopped the big bit of mattress up into four so that it would fit in a Biffa bin, it took up most of the cratch. Luckily the bins were fairly empty so the blocks of foam fitted in leaving space for others. Just as Mick was about to add the narrower section of the mattress the ladies from the boat we’d passed with engine problems arrived. The cushion would do them and their five dogs nicely, we’re glad that someone could reuse it.

Now we were empty and full in all the right places we were happy boaters. It was time to wave farewell to Banbury for the last time this year, we’ve spent quite a bit of time here over the last three months with our first arrival on the 26th of September! Definitely time to get moving.

Bye bye Banbury

Up the lock, through the lift bridge, say and wave goodbye to Kate Saffin as we passed (she may or may not have been in) and then back along the familiar stretch heading northwards out of Banbury. Once past the two winding holes at Hennef Bridge we were the furthest north we’d been for months. We could tell we were north when we reached Neithorpe Bridge, up ahead was a small patch of ice on the canal. We hadn’t been expecting this, it hadn’t been cold enough for the cut to freeze, but there it was with a larger patch by Malc and Dinks house.

Slowly through the ice

Mick slowed Oleanna down and we carefully cruised past a plastic cruiser, the ice couldn’t be too thick but still we didn’t want to be responsible for any incident. The further we got out of town the expanses of ice increased, how far would we get? We’d hoped to reach Cropredy to be able to buy a newspaper tomorrow, would the ice stop us?

Ice hole

At Hardwick Lock there was a sheet of ice above, but as I filled the lock the pressure of the water created swirling holes by the paddles and the sheet soon broke up. Only about a millimetre thick we continued onwards. Oleanna was the first boat through today and the ice crackled, not too thick to inhibit steering, but enough noise to make us check our blacking on the bow, which was okay at the next lock. Should we carry on or should we moor? Tomorrow the weather forecast is bad so we decided to crack onwards.

HornsOverhead cowsToupeed cows

Once up Slat Mill Lock we were on the canoeing pound into Cropredy. More moored  boats and the local population is predominantly bovine, we’d disturbed their peace, all of them taking a good look at us as we broke ice. Would the canoes be out in force in the morning, creating big wakes or would the ice put them off?


We thought about mooring above the next lock to avoid them just in case, but would there be ice there. Always ruled by Tilly and her safety, when we saw a mooring surrounded by water we decided to call it a day (shore leave for her can be cancelled when it is icy in case she tries to walk on it). The water point is just within view, therefore the shop is close and we have a view of the trees across the way that need climbing! Can we move across to get to them pleeeeease!

4 locks, 5.08 miles, 1 wind, 1 bridge, 1 empty wee tank, 1 new pooh bucket, 1 full water tank, 0 old mattresses, 1 boat with space again, 2 wrapped up boaters, 1mm thick, 2 in places, 1 more boat behind us, 1 cruising plan in formulation, 2 many closures, 1 embankment closed for months, 3rd route to be checked, 1 pot of sticky chicken on the stove, 0.5 of a Christmas sock knitted.