Recent Posts


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.

A week in Thrupp

We left our mooring below pigeon lock on Wednesday morning with Thrupp in mind as a place to carry out our services. In an ideal world we would have liked to find a mooring in Thrupp but since it is a popular place, not only did we hold out little hope, we just didn’t factor in a stop there at all. On reaching Bakers lock where the canal joins the river Cherwell, we noticed that there is a new electronic indicator board showing the state of the water level on the river below. This is an improvement on the simple red/amber/green marker system because it is lock-side rather than out of sight, below the lock. Unsurprisingly, the level was in the green and we were good to go. It’s a twisty section of waterway with some tight bends but it is not for long and soon we reached Shipton weir lock where we parted company with the Cherwell. A few minutes later and we reached the approach to Thrupp and the long line of moored boats. We were pleased to see that the service wharf was free although no sooner had we tied up on it than a boat came through the lift bridge and pulled up behind us. They too had wanted water but seeing that we would be a while, decided to visit Annie’s tearoom for breakfast. While the water poured into Caxton’s cavernous tank, I took a walk around the corner on the off chance that there might be a space to moor for a day or so. I was amazed to discover that there was one last space, big enough for us, at the end of the seven day moorings. The tank seemed to take an age to fill but ‘our’ space was still there when we finally moved around the corner and under the lift bridge. We were secured to the bank a few minutes later, utilising the rings provided with a couple of our pins added as springs fore and aft.

We decided to stay in Thrupp for as long as we could, with our water supply probably being the limiting factor. The nearby village / town of Kidlington, which is probably classed as a suburb of Oxford, is only around 1.5 miles away and provided us with a good walk most days. The high street in Kidlington has a Tesco, Co-op and Iceland as well as a number of smaller shops which have provided the rest of our everyday needs.

Thrupp itself is tiny but around the canal there are a number of businesses; Annie’s tearoom, The Boat inn and the Jolly Boatman pub. We visited all of them in the week that we were there and they were all good in their own way.

The Jam Butty boat.

Another business which was there temporarily was the Jam Butty boat so not wishing to let the opportunity pass, we bought some chutneys from them and very good they are too. I had a chat with Andy or Captain Ahab as he is sometimes known. Coincidentally, he has also just taken early retirement and like me isn’t missing work at all!

In addition to our almost daily walks to Kidlington, we also found time to walk to Shipton on Cherwell and to the abandoned village at Hampton Gay where all that remains now is a ruined manor house and a Church which still has around six services a year. This area was the scene of a terrible train crash in 1874, the details of which are here.

We spent a fair bit of our time in Thrupp cleaning and restoring Caxton to its former glory and by the time we left, the starboard side looked magnificent. The paintwork had been polished and the gunwhales, side hatches and tunnel bands had all been painted.

Caxton looking resplendent after a bit of a makeover.


Cream tunnel band repainted.


Side hatch now matches the other side after a repaint.


Mirror finish!


Staying a week in one place was a bit of a novelty for us and felt a bit like we were holidaying on a campsite but with spectators. The weekend was blessed with good weather and as a result there was a steady stream of visitors to Thrupp. We found it funny to hear passers-by commenting on our boat, seemingly unaware that we could hear every word. We even heard one parent pointing out to their child, “look, there’s a lady doing some knitting”. Well, eventually the notion of being an “extra” in an unofficial living museum wore a bit thin and we were glad when it started to rain on Sunday afternoon as that seemed to disperse the gongoozlers.

The weather turned a bit sour for our last couple of days at Thrupp but we still managed to get out now and again between showers for the odd trip to the tearoom, pub or shop. Had we been on holiday, we would have had to brave the elements and get on with our journey but in our new found existence, that is now a thing of the past. We managed to survive on one tank of water and our solar panels kept the batteries topped up for the first five days. When the thick cloud arrived with the rain on day six, we ran the engine for a while just to make sure that we had enough power to see us through the day.

All good things must come to an end and for us that meant leaving Thrupp on Wednesday morning, our first priority being to refill the almost empty water tank.