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Navigation Blocked!

After the high winds and rain on Tuesday, we figured that there could be a lot of boats on the move on Wednesday. We decided to get up early and move to the water point which is just beyond the main road bridge on the edge of Kidlington. We got up at 6am, the first time for me since April, and started our journey. Despite the fact that the water tank was almost empty we were on our way again just after seven. Originally, we had expected to complete our journey to Oxford in two stages but having got off to such an early start we decided that we may as well do it all in one hit. The canal is very green and rural as it skirts Kidlington and there are only a few areas that are suitable for mooring. This means that there aren’t too many moored boats to pass and at this time of the year it also means that the canal is lined with green walls of trees and hedgerows. Soon enough we had passed through the second of the Kidlington locks and were heading for Dukes lock, just over a mile away. A tree, presumably a casualty of Tuesday’s high winds, had fallen across the towpath and was partially blocking the canal, creating a sort of watery chicane but it presented little problem to us. After a while, I became somewhat confused because I couldn’t quite work out which way the canal was turning up ahead. I could see the green hedgerow but the water seemed to have disappeared. Suddenly I realised that I wasn’t looking at a hedge but a tree which had fallen across the canal and was completely blocking it about 400 yards ahead. After calling to Sue who was working inside, I brought Caxton to a halt and we weighed up the situation. It was obvious that we could not continue and it was equally obvious that we wouldn’t be able to moor easily either because of the rough and overgrown banks. We knew that there was a stretch of Armco below the last lock and we reckoned that since the blockage could take some time to be cleared, that stretch was probably our best option. It was still only just after eight o’clock so we knew that were wouldn’t be much traffic heading south and there was definitely none heading north so while Sue rang CaRT (Canal and River Trust), I reversed Caxton the half mile back to the lock. The half mile, mainly in a cross wind, through a narrow lift bridge and of course through the chicane created by the other fallen tree went without incident, no doubt because there were no witnesses! CaRT called back and told us that they had instructed a contractor to attend and that they hoped that the blockage would be cleared later in the day. A couple of other boats had arrived at the lock so we passed the message on before walking back to the tree to look at the damage. Once there we could see that the tree was pretty large and we could also see that there were four boats tied up on the other side of it.

Rotted base to the trunk.

Completely blocking the canal.

This helped us make the decision to remain on the mooring for at least another day and in effect revert to our original plan by making the journey to Oxford in two stages. By eleven o’clock we had showered, changed and were ready to walk the mile back into Kidlington where we did a bit of grocery shopping and then had lunch at the Black Horse.

It was two o’clock when we got back to our mooring and the first of the trapped northbound boats was nearing the lock, the blockage was seemingly cleared. I was quite impressed that the work had been done so quickly but even more so when I walked back to the scene and saw that there was very little evidence of the tree left on site.

All tidied up.

Cleared up by 2pm.

We didn’t do much for the rest of the day, the early start and the seven or eight miles walking that we had done left us feeling that we deserved a bit of a lazy afternoon.