Last Of The Chianti. 28th April

Bascote Aqueduct to Flecknoe Fields Farm Bridge 103, North Oxford Canal

Would we find a locking partner today? By the time we were ready to push off we’d already been passed by a boat heading to the locks, they were at least half an hour ahead of us. Then looking back behind us there was no sign of anyone behind either. Oh well, we’d be on our own again.

The Former Railway Bridge behind us has been improved as part of the National Cycle Network route 41 (Bristol to Rugby), soon the towpath will be closed for improvement works. Maybe some more rings will be put in too, you never know!

Mick holding back

First two locks are by themselves before the thick of the flight. It would be a while before any downhill boats appeared on the horizon, so each lock would need emptying. The walk between the first locks easier on the feet than in Autumn as today it wasn’t covered in crab apples.

Soon in our routine, we started working our way up the remaining eight locks. I could just make out the boat ahead four locks up, I doubted we’d catch them up to share. Once we were up to the third lock keen crew appeared behind us, how many boats? Two, no point in waiting then. If they caught up with us they could help close up saving Mick some time.

Being followed

Then up ahead the first of the down hill boats appeared. A pair, Mick could now leave the gates, he moved out of the lock to vacate it. The crew behind were so eager to climb the flight that their advance party wound up a paddle at the bottom end of the open lock. Mick shouted back to her, she didn’t hear. It took a while before her mistake was acknowledged and much shouting from Mick as the level of the pound gradually dropped.

Looking up the flight

In the lock was NB Ducketts Passage, a yellow boat. Having had a yellow boat (Lillian) we tend to make note of others and this one used to moor at the top of the Buckby flight, they gave up their mooring there in January. Nice to chat them and their locking partners.


Then a single hander who seemed to have a volunteer with him. There was another single boat coming down behind so he’d wait once we’d passed us, but the keen crew behind whizzed him through whilst the boat ahead of us sat in the top lock waiting. The volunteer carried on walking down the flight.

Surveying equipment

Also coming down hill were a couple of C&RT chaps. One on a bike who stopped, tried to wiggle the lock ladders, surveying the lock and making notes. The other had a measuring wheel and marked stick, he was checking the width of the upper track by the locks. Their conversation suggested that he was checking to see if the upper track was wide enough for vans. It was as there were obvious tyre tracks from a couple of days ago. Maybe they were checking things out for next winters stoppage list.

Nearly at the top

With one lock to go we realised a training boat from Willow Wren was coming down. They would wind and we’d swap with the other boat to accompany the training boat back up. This of course all took time, the novice crews first ever lock, the crew following us stood looking on puzzled.

We listened to see if there were any new tips we could pick up on. One was if sharing an uphill lock to always open the paddle on the side of the boat furthest forward first, this then holds both boats to the same side. The instruction was very clear, but very much tailored to the Ham and Baker paddle geared locks of Hatton to Calcutt. Hopefully at some point in their instruction they would be taught that not all locks are made the same, about gate paddles and how locks can leak requiring all paddles to be opened to equalise the levels so you can get out.

Chisiwick or Chiswick?

A pause for lunch in front of this Harland and Wolff Woolwich which couldn’t make up it’s mind on it’s name.

A good nosy at the Willow Wren set up as we passed, another had at Wigrams Turn of the campsite there. Both still possible party venues.

Kath I’ll save the homemade biscuits for when we eventually coincide

The familiar paintwork of NB Herbie on her new mooring at Ventnor gave her away as we passed.

A partner!

Pulling in below the bottom lock at Calcutt we were joined by a boat coming out from the marina, perfect timing for us and them. With two boats coming down the middle lock we swapped over, four boats managing to find space to avoid any collision course.

Our partners stopped for diesel, tucking in next to the hire boat fleet and NB Driftwood whom we’d shared locks with around London last summer. No sign of Rod or Nor today sadly.

Which way?

The last of the locks on our own again. The design of the locks means that as you empty them they give a particular noise as air takes over from water in the recess to the paddle gear. It reminds me of Hannibal Lecter.

At Napton Junction I stood in the bow to give warning of a passing boat, then we turned left towards Braunston. We pootled on passing numerous returning hire boats. When bridge 103 was passed we’d start looking for a mooring, we very quickly decided to stop at the first available space in case there wasn’t another. Two hours Tilly time was cut short by Mick as we didn’t want a recurrence of yesterday.

Braunston Please!

This evening I caught up on news with some of my Scarborough Chums on zoom whilst Mick chatted to our neighbours. They used to moor at the top of the Stockton flight at Kate boats, but when all the hire fleet were moved there they were offered a mooring down in Warwick, they have since moved to nearer Calcutt. Their suggestion is that the hire boats will now stay at Stockton leaving the Warwick base for leisure mooring.

13 locks, 3 shared out of 46, 6.44 miles, 1 left, 1 new access point, 6 turns, 1 blogging boat, 4 in a pound, 1 ex-locking partner.