The Jolly Boatman to Kirtlington Quarry
Traffic started speeding past us quite early, certainly not the quietest of moorings, but it served it’s purpose. Sainsburys arrived just after 10:30, when asked the driver said he’d read our instructions before even thinking of heading to Canal Road. Thank goodness there hadn’t been any confusion.
Once the six crates of shopping had been loaded on board and the freezer filled up some more I set about finding places for everything to go. It all tucked away neatly however worryingly the fridge didn’t look as full as it normally does after a big shop. This was because most fresh food went straight into the freezer.
Whilst I printed out postage for a 21st birthday card to be sent to Australia, Mick walked back along the canal. Paul from Waterway Routes had asked us to check on some facilities back by the water point we’d passed yesterday, not far to walk and worth it to keep his maps as up to date as possible. Mick came back with news of an elsan and bins with their location ready to pass back to Paul. We were now ready to push off.
I walked ahead with the key of power so that I could use the post box hidden away on a garden wall by The Boat. On a little footbridge to the side of the canal I spotted some yarn bombing. Last year Thrupp had a yarn bombed wheelbarrow that had faded in the summer sun, this year a caterpillar (or centipede, minus a few legs) was crossing the handrail bringing a smile to my face.
Aubrey’s Lift Bridge I waited for Mick to catch up before pressing the button. Of course as soon as I’d put my thumb on the OPEN button a car appeared wanting to cross, they’d have to wait. Recently there have been problems with the bridge and cars, the cars not stopping to wait for the bridge to be level. There are no flashing lights here, no barriers, little impulse to use the bridge as a ramp to fly through the air, but still it has happened. Luckily today the car waited for the bridge to close and for me to wave them through.
At the water point there was another boat already doing their chores, but there was space for us too and another tap. With the water filling we made use of the bins and recycling before pushing off again.
At Shipton on Cherwell we got views of the river, too fat to remain in it’s channel, over spilling into the fields, the flow visible through the hedges. Would we be able to pass Shipton Weir Lock and get onto the river and up to Gibraltar?
First we had a lift bridge to contend with. Last year this bridge looked very sorry for itself, all buckled and a lack of handrails. Even with new rails it didn’t look much better. As we were about to pull in for me to hop off a walker said he’d do the bridge for us. He crossed and pulled down on the chain at the end of the beam (the bridges coming out from Oxford don’t have these). He could only get the bridge so far before it dropped back closing the canal, extra pulling power and weight were needed.
By the time I’d been dropped off another walker had arrived and the two of them just managed to lift the bridge. With the amount of rain we’ve had of late the bridge was far heavier than normal, it having absorbed a lot of water. We thanked our helpers and carried on.
Whilst in Oxford we’d been keeping an eye on the river levels, especially the Thames and the Cherwell. Gaugemap is a useful site where you can see what effect recent rainfall is having along a river, but you don’t know if a section is passable. Then there is the C&RT Strong Stream Warnings page. This is quite handy as it usually tells you if a stretch of river is navigable or not. I say usually as it is ‘presently experiencing technical difficulties with the water level monitoring system, which are being looked into. Until this has been resolved please check our stoppage notices for further information, or contact us if you need advice before proceeding.’ Just when the rivers are in flood is when you need a page like this the most.
* 27th November the Strong Stream warning system came back on line. Shame it doesn’t cover Aynho and Nells Locks.
Mick has emailed and tweeted C&RT about this. This morning he had a live chat with someone about it. They do say sorry, but can’t offer any idea of when it will be fixed. It must be quite a problem as the system has been nonoperational for over a week now.
So the only information we had was that NB Dusty the coal boat had come down stream last week to Shipton Weir Lock. We compared the levels from last week to today at Thrupp. The level was starting to rise again, but was lower than last week. Conclusion, we should be fine.
Approaching the lock we could see signs stuck on the beams ‘Strong Stream Warning’. The levels board was also visible, no red lights, Amber, levels falling proceed with caution. The flow past the lock didn’t look too bad so we were good to go.
Oleanna’s rev counter got up to 1500, nothing compared to 2000 she’d done on the Thames recently. Her temperature gauge stayed where it should be too. As we pushed the water away the satellite dishes of Gibraltar showed themselves above the trees and soon Baker’s Lock was reached where we rose up onto the canal away from the river.
By now it was raining and time was slipping away. Our original aim for today was to reach the Muddy Slipper mooring below Dashwood Lock, we changed our minds when we saw space at the Quarry on the offside. Our arrival was a touch late for a cat chomping at the view.
Trees, rocky bits, it looked fantastic! I was given half an hour. Half an hour!!! What a tease. She opened the doors after reciting the rules and out I dashed to make the most of a fantastic playground. This lasted about 0.5 seconds. It was wet, very wet, so torrentially wet that it hurt. Mission abandoned.
I’d timed opening the door to perfection, Tilly ran straight back inside, rejecting an almost guaranteed Mrs Tilly stamp of approval mooring.
3 locks, 4.34 miles, 2 lift bridges, 1 held up, 1 nice delivery driver, 6 boxes wine, 2 boxes cat food, 1 large chicken jointed and in the freezer, 1 full water tank, 1 empty pooh bucket, 0 rubbish, 2 nice walkers, 2 amber lights, 1 Gibraltar reached, 1 stretch of river left before Christmas, 2 deer, 1 rejected outside.