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Upper Heyford

The Heyfords

On Saturday morning we were woken by heavy rain but by the time we had sorted ourselves out, the sun was out and so we decided to move on from Aynho wharf. There was no particular reason behind the decision, we just thought it would be a good thing to do.

This trip has been defined by its lack of having an itinerary to follow, the only big decision that we make each day is whether to move or stay where we are and that’s only important because if we stay, we heat the water for a shower and if we move we let the engine heat the water and we shower after we tie up. We can survive about ten days before we have to worry about toilets and fresh water so there is no pressure to move every day or every other day for that matter.

After leaving Aynho, we travelled for two and a half hours covering five miles and passing through three locks before finding a quiet mooring between Upper and Lower Heyford. After securing Caxton and then making ourselves presentable to the outside world, we walked along the towpath to Heyford station, three quarters of a mile away. A few days earlier, Sue had broken the frame on a pair of her glasses so we thought that it would be a good idea to travel to Oxford and find Specsavers, leave the glasses with them and then collect when we arrive by boat – whenever that might be. The train only takes fifteen minutes to make its way to Oxford and it didn’t take long after we arrived there to find Specsavers. Luckily enough, the frame style is still available so the repair could be done there and then by swapping the lenses, all we had to do was to leave the old ones and return an hour later and this we did.

We hadn’t been too interested in spending time in Oxford as we knew that we would have plenty of exploration time once we had landed properly so after the repaired HD equipment had been collected, we returned to the station. We had a bit of time to kill and who should we bump into on the platform but none other than ex Prime Minister, David Cameron. Of course you can’t really bump into him because if you did, one of the burly body guards who accompany him would no doubt make mincemeat of you. So we passed him by, he looked aloof as usual and walking remarkably upright for a man with no backbone.

We were back on board our boat by five o’clock and then we just sat outside and watched the world go by from the comfort of the front deck.

Sunday dawned, bright and blue and with the big decision of the day being to stay, we took our time and got showered, dressed and breakfasted. By mid morning we were ready to start our daily walk which on this day would take us back along the towpath to Allen’s lock, up the hill to Upper Heyford and then along the main road to Lower Heyford. It was a beautiful day and not too hot for walking either so we were able to keep up a good pace all along the route. Both of the villages are very pretty with many stone built houses and cottages but being the Sunday of a Bank holiday weekend meant that the narrow streets were full of cars which somewhat spoil the image. By the time we reached The Bell in the market square at Lower Heyford we were in need of a refreshment so we popped in for a drink before carrying on to the wharf where we had lunch at Kizzie’s Bistro. We sat outside and ate in the garden overlooking the canal, quite idyllic! After lunch, it was back to Caxton where we did a few chores before settling in for the evening.

Down to Thrupp

We slept in!

As predicted, we didn’t get up as early as we’d hoped but nevertheless we were still on the way before eight o’clock and made our way down to and through Allens lock. Another mile saw us at the lift bridge at Lowe Heyford and then we were through the wharf and on to the water point. Once we had topped up the tank we started on our way again and continued our journey southwards. We saw a few boats travelling in each direction, nothing exciting but enough to keep the locks moving. It wasn’t a great day for the wildlife, an abandoned duckling in one lock, an abandoned moorhen chick below another and then a dead hare in Pigeon’s lock. We passed the narrowboat ‘Bones’ belonging to the canal boat magazine columnist Mortimer Bones. Mortimer’s monthly column often describes her haphazard attempts at maintaining and improving her floating palace. You’ve got a bit of work on your hands there girl but on a positive note if the mag keeps paying you for your articles while you do it, you’ll have a job for life!!

After we passed through the weir lock we encountered a boat that had become untied at one end, it was too difficult for us to stop and re-tie the partially drifting vessel so we decided to carry on and hope that someone travelling in the opposite direction would pull in on the lift bridge mooring and pull the boat in.

A few minutes later and we reached Thrupp where we found a mooring just after the lift bridge on the bend of the canal. The wind was starting to pick up and there was the odd spot of rain in the air as we tied up the seven day mooring. We wandered down to the Boat Inn where we chose steak and stout pie with mashed potato and peas for lunch. Unfortunately the steak and stout pie was basically mushroom pie with gravy, the odd piece of beef and a random silverskin onion. Not great particularly if like me you don’t eat mushrooms, lesson learned – remember to ask if steak pie contains mushrooms.

After lunch we walked around the waterfronted village of Thrupp before returning to the boat where we have settled down for the rest of a day which has now become dull and drizzly. Only six miles and four locks now separate us from the end of the canal in Oxford where we are hoping to spend the next couple of days.

An early dart out of Banbury

We awoke at five for no reason particularly and then couldn’t get back to sleep. At half past six we gave up trying, got dressed and moved Phoenix III through the lift bridge and on to the water point. Having spent the whole of Monday moored at Castle Quay we were in need of all facilities so we did what was necessary and were on our way by ten to seven.We passed a hire boat from Braunston as we exited the lock so that made things easy for us. Needless to say there weren’t many boats on the move at that time of the morning but we made our way peacefully through the light drizzle of the grey June morning anyway. With two miles to the next lock Sue immediately got cracking in the galley and rustled up a couple of bacon sandwiches made with the cheese and onion artisan bread that we bought on Sunday at the Banbury show. Fuelled by our high octane breakfast we made easy work of the locks and miles heading south on the Oxford canal. We caught up with a couple of boats heading in the same direction as us but our waiting time was minimal and by the time we reached Aynho weir lock there were boats travelling in the opposite direction.

We reached Upper Heyford at one o’clock and decided to stop, finding a mooring just above Allens lock. We have travelled through here a few times before but never visited the village so we locked the boat and went to explore. Upper Heyford is one of those dormitory villages with nothing much to offer except a post box and a pub and even that was nothing special, we had a drink and then walked back down to the canal where we’ve settled for the day. There’s no internet at this spot but we can get television, tomorrow we will move on to Thrupp, we’re planning an early start but you can guarantee that we’ll sleep late instead!