10 Out Of 10 For Effort. 22nd August

Somerton Meadows to above Kings Sutton Lock 31

Meadows, no cows

A few boats came past us this morning, in both directions, but we knew the first lock of the day would be against us. Not a problem really as a boat was waiting above Somerton Deep Lock. The boat in front of us had knocked on the roof of the waiting boat, but had been ignored by the chap inside, but as the levels equalised a head appeared from below. I think he’d been waiting for someone to come along and work the lock for him, cutting out the need to climb the ladder, he was very happy for Mick and myself to close gates and lift paddles for him.

Next it was our turn. Somerton Deep Lock is just that, deep! 12ft 1″ deep and narrow which makes it seem even deeper. Waiting for Oleanna to stop moving about in the lock below means the bottom gate closes easier. After a thumbs up from Mick at the helm I then lift the paddles. The lady from the boat ahead of us had said the paddles were really really hard to work. With a long reach windlass and adjusting where you start to turn the mechanism you can increase your advantage. Starting your turn at the bottom (pulling the windlass toward you) isn’t as good as starting at the top where your weight gives the windlass more umph! as you push down. This does mean checking to see where the paddle gear bites and then adjusting your windlass accordingly before giving yourself a hernia. One slightly stiff turn and both paddles came up.

The cottage

The lock cottage here has no road access, it looks as if the current owner is doing some building work as a cement mixer sat near the front door. Two years ago there had been a small porch in front of the door, today only the flashing was left.


Also two years ago the landscape that surrounded the cottage was more lake like than meadows. Plenty of rain at the beginning of November had brought the rivers up, the Cherwell spilling over the fields and in places into the canal. There are areas where sandbags have been added to the banks of the canal, reinforcing them from water erosion.

That’ll need lifting

Chisnell Lift Bridge 193 was down, we think it’s been down more than up for us. It is quite finely balanced and would most probably just require a push up then pull back down with the chain from the towpath, but I don’t trust these bridges so would rather sit on the beam to keep them open.

One for the telephone engineers

Lots was happening to telephone poles, we spotted at least three Openreach vans in fields. One lucky chap was stood at the top of a cherry picker, in a another field a ladder leant against another pole. It’s a long long time since Mick had to climb one of these.

Aynho Wharf

Aynho Wharf provided us with a top up of diesel at 82p a litre, it was worth filling up.

Aynho Weir Lock took forever to empty and then refill. I checked the river level board before we exited, well in the green today, we’d be fine passing under Nell’s Bridge. A couple of knowledgeable gongoozlers stood and admired our ‘back garden’ in the well deck of Oleanna at the bow! They continued with their dodgy knowledge leaving me smiling.

Nell’s Bridge Lock was waiting for us with open gates, a boat waiting to come down and plenty of people around to help. No limboing under the bridge today and up we rose.

Sofas, fires, bacon and beer

A brief stop for lunch, before passing The Pig Place. Maybe this would have been a better campsite for the London Leckenbys last weekend as they have a bar on site and bacon frying in the morning is just standard.

M40 and a bridge for cows

The canal meanders round the contour and crawls under the M40 where old and new bridges sit side by side.

Bovine Gongoozlers

Cole’s Lift Bridge was down. Where could I be dropped off? The bridge landings overgrown and vegetation along the edge making it hard to actually see the edge. We tried backing up but I wasn’t too sure my footing would be good, my knees don’t like a leap of faith. So we nudged the bow up to the off side and I managed to get off there.

watching every move

The chain was too high to pull on, so it was time to hang off the beam, hoping my weight would bring it down sufficiently for me to get above it. All the time I could see beady eyes following my every move from behind a gate onto the towpath, the reason the bridge exists. My second attempt worked, thank goodness I have quite a bit of inbuilt ballast!

Mooed scores

I couldn’t find anywhere to fix the bridge open so once Oleanna was through it just wanted to close itself. As it dropped back reconnecting the towpath with the offside the cows gave me their marks. 10 out of 10 for effort, 7 for style!

Kings Sutton Lock, after all the building work is settling in nicely. The grass is neat, flower beds established and if the sun had been a touch lower the honey coloured Cotswold stone of the cottage would have glowed at us. A very nice lock.

Kings Sutton Lock

We pulled up for the day, our aim had been Banbury, but the Post Office and shops could wait for tomorrow. After we pulled in several others joined us, here the canal sits half way between the M40 and the railway. Also, thankfully, you only occasionally get the wiff from Kenco in Banbury. I’m not too keen on the slightly burnt treacly smell it produces.

4 locks, 6.21 miles, 2 lift bridges, 1 garden at the wrong end, 1 river in the green, 70.52 litres, 3 bovine judges, 10, 7, 456 sandbags, 1 length of new piling, 4 savoury pancakes, 3 sweet.


4 thoughts on “10 Out Of 10 For Effort. 22nd August

  1. Scholar Gypsy

    I remember when the Maxwell House (as it then was) factory was opened in the 1960s. Until they got the hang of it they used to regularly deposit coffee on the washing lines of Banbury. I remember clean clothes smelling of coffee….

  2. joamungoanddog

    Lots of complaints about the new hoists they’re using .. French apparently and always breaking down. One guy reported he’d been stuck up in the bucket for 3 jobs running!
    I always wanted to be part of the hoisty boys team, if only so I could get my Christmas lights up easier!!!

  3. Dave (Scouts)

    Always know when we are nearly home when we get to smell Banbury or see the Didcot power station towers (now gone).
    Shame you will be so far up by the weekend else would have popped over to have a walk and do a few locks for you.

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