Snake In The Grass. 24th June

Napton visitor moorings to Prior Hardwick Bridge 123

Our lithium batteries had turned themselves off overnight, not a good sign. Good job we planned on setting off early. A cuppa was made and we pushed off at 6:30 and as quietly as we could we made it round the bend to the water point. As the tank filled we had breakfast then we pushed over to the other side to empty the yellow water tank and dispose of rubbish.

A lovely morning to head up Napton

Time to enjoy the narrow locks. The bottom one was empty, as we rose up a hire boat came towards us from the moorings in the first pound. The ladies chatted away, it had been their first narrowboat holiday and maybe they’d be doing it again. Because we’d been chatting I’d got out of my usual routine closing paddles and the of side was still up as the gate was opened. I reminded them that it was up, the ladies took note.

I only had two beers last night! Why am I seeing double?

I walked up to set the next lock, the first few were obligingly empty for us, the pounds a touch low though. Thankfully the lowest pound could be topped up with a lock full of water from above.

Bubbling below an empty lock as the lock above was emptied

The first down hill boat, a couple exploring the whole network, they’d been at it for 2 years and have no end date as yet. They had come through Banbury and had serious difficulty at the now closed lock. It had taken several people to open the top gate, some having to sit on it, as far as it would open. Then as their boat came out of the lock it rose up over something possibly on the gate.

Nice views, water buffalo not visible from here though

At the last lock in the flight we met our third downhill boat. I walked over to the lady, she jumped in (not into the water!) asking me to cross over to the other side where I’d be able to open a bottom paddle for them. I replied that I was happy to do that but thought I’d come and say Good Morning first. She was obviously in locking mode, they were hoping to grab a space below the flight left by a hire boat returning to base, hopefully one of at least three spaces would still be free for them. She also warned me to mind where I put my feet at Marston Doles bottom lock.

I opted to walk to the next lock, about a mile. The towpath narrowed as it does on the Oxford Canal. Some sections narrowed even more due to bank erosion. Then I was soon walking through the overgrown towpath. A manchette at times would have been handy. I managed and got to enjoy being surround by butterflies and damselflies galore. Plenty of wild flowers to keep the insects happy. There are plenty of people complaining on the lack of mowing on the towpaths at the moment, this stretch did feel like it had not seen a strimmer this year.

At Marston Doles Bottom Lock I kept my eyes peeled. Then there it was, a 2ft long grass snake on the lock landing, very dead. I wonder how it met it’s demise?

The pound in between the two locks was really quite low and when I reached the top lock a C&RT worker was letting water down. The top lock has had new gates which are successful in holding back the water. The bottom lock however leeks like a sieve, so every morning the pound requires topping up.

Once up we swapped with another downhill boat and carried on our way. When did we last head southwards on the Oxford Canal? We seem to cruise the Oxford most years, because of Panto. We spent a while thinking about it, a check on the blog just now and it turns out it was 2018 when we last headed south. That’s ages ago!

Originally we’d planned on doing a few more miles and getting close to the HS2 crossing, but Mick was after stopping sooner so as to spend some time with our troubled batteries. A length of armco showed itself with a slightly wider area where we’d be able to sit out for a barbecue this evening. We pulled in just gone 10am and soon adjusted our fenders as few boats seemed to be slowing down to pass us.

Mick waited for the engine to cool off, lifting the engine board to assist. Tilly headed off into the friendly cover, but fairly soon returned complaining that This outside is far too hot! Too hot for cats!!!

Mick spent some time down in the engine bay, trying to alter the bus bars that connect our three lithium batteries so as to cut out the one that is failing. He’d found a suitable sized bolt, but not a nut to fit it. We looked in all the obvious places for a nut, boxes of bits and bobs. Nothing. The hunt extended to boxes of things under the dinette. Eventually I looked at a brand new attachment of doom (a handy grinding disc useful for rust removal). In the bag was a bolt, a nut and a washer, would the nut fit?

Well it was the right size but the thread wasn’t the same. How’s about using the bolt from the attachment of doom instead? This worked so long as you remembered that the thread went in the opposite direction to normal. Finally the failing battery was isolated, leaving us with two batteries and 100 amp hours at 24 volts.

The afternoon was spent adding elements to my white card model. These are details that I’d normally add when upgrading the model to a coloured model, but I felt it important to do them now as they’d affect quotes from set builders. So the Town Square went from being 2D to 2.5D.

An early evening engine run was required. Would the two batteries we’re left with work as they should do, or have they been brought down by the faulty one?

A squash experiment

Burgers and sausages were popped on the bbq along with a foil package of butternut squash. The squash ended up being cooked for a little bit too long, one side a touch black, but roasted with some oil and thyme it was still nice. Our mooring was ideal for the evening.

Just about zero footfall, what a good spot for a bbq

Once the temperature had started to drop Tilly headed out again, maybe a little bit late in the day. All the time we were sat out we could tell that she wasn’t far away, her bell giving away her location. Then as we moved inside I called and called. The dingding bell was dinged. No sign of Tilly.

I tried several more times to call her inside, each time I’d hear just enough from the sideways trees to know she was close. So there was nothing for it but to just leave her to finish being busy and come back in her own good time. 10pm, 10PM!!!! Well you are the one’s that tied up the hot outside!

9 locks, 3.5 miles, 4 passed, 2ft of snake, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 1 top up, 10 improvements, 2 batteries better than 3 (we hope!), 1 nut short, 1 attachment of doom to the rescue, 2 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval.