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Marston Doles

Cool Running

It was cool and overcast when we got out of bed this morning. With just the summit to traverse there was no point in us both getting up and dressed so I got ready, untied and set off while Sue showered and made breakfast for us. Fortified by a round of bacon sandwiches each washed down with a cup of coffee we wound our way around the top of the hill and into Oxfordshire. The sun teased us now and again with a brief appearance or two but it was pretty cool in the easterly wind that blew across the summit on this early June morning. We passed through Fenny Compton and its ‘Al Fresco’ tunnel just after ten o’clock running behind a boat that had emerged from the marina there.

When we reached Claydon top lock the boat in front not only waved us through but then proceeded to help us with the paddles and gates. We followed a boat down the flight and as a result had to fill most of the locks behind them but nevertheless our progress was fairly rapid. We eventually reached the village of Cropredy just after one o’clock where we found a mooring just above the lock. After we had secured the boat and sat down for a few minutes we locked up and walked to the Red Lion just a few yards from bridge 152 below the village lock. We spent an hour in the pub garden with ‘Shandy’ the pub dog, a friendly and quiet canine companion who kept us amused for the duration of our stay.

We left the pub and returned to our mooring via the shop at bridge 153 and the annual music event opposite hosted by the local canoeing club. Sue quickly sorted out our evening meal, chicken breasts that had been marinating during the afternoon with couscous and vegetables. All that remained was for us to just sit and relax in the evening sun.

Fenders Up!–We’re off again.

We left Phoenix III last Sunday with most of our stuff on board including quite a bit of food in the fridge which we left on since we were plugged into the mains electricity. After work on Thursday we returned to the marina with most of the bits and pieces that we thought we would need for our two week cruise. We unloaded the car and then nipped into Daventry where we did some last minute food shopping in Waitrose. On our return to Braunston marina we noticed four vintage cars in the car park, a couple of Austins and two Rileys and wondered if perhaps there was some event at the weekend. We were wrong as it turns out, later on when we carried some bags back to our car and took a few minutes to admire the old vehicles, their owners came back accompanied by one man dressed in traditional boatman’s clothing. We discovered that he had been showing members of a car club around steam narrowboat ‘President’ and butty boat ‘Kildare’. Cheekily but unsurprisingly, Sue asked when we would get our tour of the boats. We were delighted when the boatman, Steve Kirk said that he would show us straight away if we wanted. We didn’t hesitate at all and a few minutes later we were in the cabins of the historic pair. Steve gave us a great talk on the history of the boats and gave us an insight into the living arrangements of boat families of old. It was after nine o’clock when we left Steve ‘Captain’ Kirk and returned to our modern narrowboat for the evening.

Friday dawned and I got up for work, after I left Sue did a load of washing, bedding mainly and then caught the bus to Daventry. She was surprised to find that one of her fellow passengers was the lady that we had met a week earlier in the Saltisford arm on board nb Oakdale. On her return from town, Sue walked up to the village and visited the butcher’s shop, bought some meat and then walked back to the boat where I was able to join her at on o’clock.

After a quick change of clothes and the obligatory engine check we cast off and made our way slowly out of the marina on to the canal and headed in the direction of Braunston turn. We enjoyed the same blue skies that had woken us at six o’clock in the morning as we chugged our way in the direction of Napton. It was all very peaceful, ideal boating weather really as we shared the driving on this the first part of our journey in the direction of Oxford.

We reached Napton bottom lock at four o’clock behind another boat which crossed over with one coming down. After that we had to empty every lock as we made our way up the flight. We did pass one boat coming down but whilst they had the benefit of our lock being ready and would probably benefit from the rest that we had used, we only had their first one in our favour. The crew owned a couple of black Labradors who competed for my attention as the lock drained but once their boat was moving they plodded off down the towpath.  We shared the locks as we had done with the driving with Sue locking up the lower half of the flight and me working the rest to the top. Once clear of the top lock at Marston Doles we rounded the corner and moored at the end of the piling there.

Sue immediately started on an evening meal of minted lamb chops bought earlier in the day accompanied by Jersey new potatoes and a mixture of peas beans and carrots. As if that wasn’t enough, a bowl of fresh strawberries and vanilla yoghurt followed.

So that was it, we were on the summit and it was still only Friday evening. One or two boats passed in each direction and a few dog walkers made their presence known as they tried to keep their animals under some sort of control but other than that we settled down in our peaceful rural mooring for the night.