Cropredy, Banbury Canal Day and Aynho

On Saturday we left Wormleighton around 9 o’clock and the sun was just burning off the early morning mist. The dew highlighted numerous spiders’ webs some stretching from the boat to the hedge beyond the towpath. We felt quite guilty destroying their night’s work.

The “wiggles” at Wormleighton can play great tricks with your sense of direction, on this occasion it was the direction of the sun. One moment it was shining on your back the next into your eyes.

We had a delightful morning cruise to Fenny Compton. We took on water by the Wharf Inn which looked very pleasant and was offering an almost irresistible cooked breakfast. As our water tank filled one of the staff from the inn dragged the canal with a rake looking for a helicopter! Yes, it was a model aircraft. He borrowed my magnet but I doubt it any of its structure was magnetic and nothing but a rusty bolt was retrieved. We then continued our boat “pit stop” at Fenny Compton Marina by taking on diesel and bottled gas.
The Fenny Compton "Tunnel" - opened out
Lively flow from a feeder weir on the Oxford Canal Summit
By midday the sun was bright and the skies clear; great autumn cruising weather – shame it never lasts. We went down Claydon Locks meeting a good number of bloats coming up. This made locking simple. We eventually caught up with NB Heather Bel being bow-hauled through the locks – no engine. She was being towed by another boat but with single locks the steerer had to split up his pair. Being single-handed he was travelling slowly and was grateful for our help with the locks. Eventually, just before Cropredy he let us pass.
Claydon Flight
At Cropredy we saw the earthworks for the large marina that is being constructed. It is advertised as being open in Spring 2013. They have got a lot to do before then!
Cropredy Marina under construction

We moored up just above the lock at Cropredy and were soon joined by NB Eileen (they are fellow bloggers). I admired their former BCN boat and its riveted cabin.
NB Eileen
After a session brass polishing - what else on a dry sunny day, we visited the Red Lion. Now I have to admit that to me the Red Lion has its own place in boating history. E Temple Thurston came to inn on his epic voyage by horse boat that he reported in The Flower of Gloster. Tom and Angela Rolt left Banbury on their ground-breaking voyage spending their first night afloat on Cressy after spending the evening in the Red Lion. We understand that the inn has gone through several hands recently, but does appear to have lost its character and some of its quality. There is no recognition at all of its boating heritage.

Sunday also started misty but cleared as we approached Banbury. It was the day of the Banbury Canal Day so we were prepared for congestion. We were not disappointed. The canal side was packed with boats, stalls and visitors. It was great to see such a successful event. The only negative was the canoes moving in and out of the narrowboats. Although manoeuvrable compared to a 25 ton steel narrowboat, they are delicate and the prospect of a canoe being crushed by a narrowboat must be real. On the whole the canoeists behaved well but some appeared a bit gung-ho.
Canal Festival Banbury
Canoes at Banbury
Stationary Engines on display at Tooley's Yard
Busy at Banbury Town Lock
There were lots of volunteers on hand to help with the town centre lift bridge and the lock. We were then out into the country and passing raised lift bridges and spotting kingfishers. That is definitely in the plural, over the rest of the day we must have seen around half a dozen.

As we approached Kings Sutton it was clear that the River Cherwell was in flood. The fields in the flood plain were full of water, more than we saw in our 2007 trip which followed the famous floods. A check on my emails indicated that the Thames also had problems since red and yellow boards had been posted. It appears that the heavy overnight rains of Thursday and Friday were having their effect. It was at that point that we realised that our autumn trip down to Henley would not be possible and we must change our plans.

Floods in the Cherwell Valley near Kings Sutton
At Aynho we found that there was more flooding. Even the normally relatively benign section where the Cherwell crosses the canal was “on red”, as we found out as we entered the Weir Lock. It caused an eventful excursion under the bridge. As the cliché says “boating is a contact sport”.

Level board by Aynho Weir Lock
 where the River Cherwell crosses the Oxford Canal

We moored up at Aynho wharf and decided that this will be our temporary base whilst we carry out some grand parenting duties. The evening meal we had in the Great Western Arms helped restore our morale and our faith in canal-side inns. We found this to be great watering-hole some years ago. It still is!
A flooded field near Aynho

Monday saw dull and damp weather return but we managed to keep up our spirits. The flooded fields are draining into the canal at the moment. The level in the Cherwell appears to be dropping but the Thames still has red boards at some locks between Oxford and Henley.