Journey North 26: Kingswood Junction – Hockley Heath

3 miles, 19 locks

We started up the Lapworth flight and all was going well until we saw this:

Canal and River Trust were carrying out maintenance on Lock 14, but it wasn’t planned so there had been no warning. That meant we were delayed by over three hours. 

This meant that by the time we got to the top there wasn’t time to get through to Birmingham so we decided to stop and make our way in on Thursday. 

We’re tied up in Hockley Heath, in a nice spot just by the Wharf pub.

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Journey North 23: Priors Hardwick – Long Itchington

11 miles, 17 locks

Today was a bit more challenging than usual. We’d been warned that some old (wider) boats stuck in Napton Lock 9 as it has sagged but we’d decided to go this way anyway and chance it.

So when we got firmly jammed it was not a surprise. It took nearly an hour to get out of the lock and it would have taken longer were it not for the very welcome assistance of CRT lock keeper Steve Powell. Other historic boaters had said that he would be able to get us through and with a combination of skilled flushing, a snatch from another boat and some judiciously applied washing up liquid we were out.

It was quite exhilarating when finally Willow shot forwards on a surge of water.

Here’s where we stuck:

After this excitement a cup of tea on board Helen and Andy’s boat Wand’ring Bark at the bottom of Calcutt locks was very welcome and it was great to see them as they set off on their southern adventures.

We stopped at Long Itchington and decided that a meal out and a drink was in order so went to the Blue Lias for dinner. 

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Journey North 22: Clayton Top РPriors Hardwick 

9 miles

I was working today and it rained all day but in the evening the skies cleared for a while so we made our way across the summit pound. 

However the rain clouds started to gather and we couldn’t outrun them, so James tried out his new waterproofs!

We tied up and ate dinner at about 8pm (eventually finding a bit of bank we could get close to) but we’re now ready to make an early start down Napton.

This evening we also had a lovely surprise – our friend Pete Tuffrey is a fantastic artist and boater who specialises in painting wonderful evocative canal scenes. He’d seen a photo James took on Facebook yesterday and created a beautiful painting based on it. He entitled it “The Honeymooners” and is giving it to us as a wedding present. We are delighted! 

Pete Tuffrey

The original photo

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Journey North 21: Lower Heyford – Claydon Top

20 miles, 20 locks 

Wednesday was spent working during the day and then socialising in the evening. We saw our friends Jim and Emma for a drink at the Bell in Heyford then visited Bones back at her boat in the evening – she had just finished her masters exams so we shared one of our bottles of wedding fizz with her.

Then today we spent all day boating through picture postcard beautiful Oxfordshire. It was quite stunning especially after the rain of yesterday. Everything was particularly lush and green. 

We had a bit of trouble at Somerton Deep Lock because of an obstruction behind the bottom gate but eventually managed to get past it with lots of flushing and wriggling. It’s not a new problem but we made sure to inform CRT anyway. 

In Banbury we passed nb Muleless (other bloggers) but no pics sadly as I was single handing Willow round a bend and was concentrating on steering when we encountered them!

Tooleys boatyard Banbury

We stopped for water and to empty the cassettes at Cropredy then carried on into the evening to get to the summit pound. There’s also decent signal here for work tomorrow. 

Evening boating

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Journey North 20: Oxford – Heyford

14 miles 9 locks 

On Monday night we had a visit from Maffi on Milly M who tied up next to us. We went on a little tour of old Oxford pubs.

Then on Tuesday morning we set off along the Oxford canal. I did most of the steering and James worked the locks as I’ve stubbed my toe painfully and didn’t fancy too much leaping around locks.

The Oxford canal is quite lovely even in the rain. We tied up at Heyford, just along from Bones, who came over to visit us later on. However with the signal being pretty much non existent, this morning I took the train in to Oxford so I can work (now taking a short break while I upload something! )

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Journey North 19: Abingdon – Oxford

8 miles, 4 locks 

Just a short one today, to get to Oxford where we plan to spend a few days.

We started late so let the cats out for a bit in the morning. Lyra enjoyed stalking geese.

Then on upstream through beautiful Oxfordshire. And quite a few rowers on these waters! 

A novice boat from an Oxford town club

We stopped above Osney Lock to visit a friend and have a drink in the Punter then it was on to the canal to moor at the very end of the Oxford canal.

This evening we spent enjoying exploring Oxford and eating ice cream!

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Journey North 18: Reading РAbingdon 

30 miles, 8 locks

A fabulous day’s boating on the Thames. A little rain in the morning gave way to sunshine for the rest of the day.

Another Severner built by Charles Hill – Severn Enterprise – spotted near Goring.

Beautiful views near Dorchester

We arrived in Abingdon and by chance ended up mooring almost exactly where we moored in 2008 with Maffi when the Thames was in flood.

We spent the evening wandering around the lovely town, remembering our time here in 2008 and also childhood visits with my grandparents.

Willow in 2017

Lucky Duck in 2008

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Journey North 17: Henley РReading 

10 miles, 3 locks

Another evening jaunt to move on to Reading. I started work at 8am so we could set off at 4. So the first two locks were still manned when we passed through. 

Sonning Bridge

Sonning Lock was looking particularly lovely in the evening sun.

We tied up outside Tesco in Reading before going for a walk into the town. James grew up nearby in Bracknell and we also have fond memories of stopping here on Lucky Duck in 2008, when James wrote one of my favourite blog posts ever, The Bollards at Reading Gaol

This is roughly where we moored the Duck in 2008

Yes here we are:

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Journey North 16: Marlow – Henley

8 miles, 3 locks

A lovely sunny evening’s cruising to Henley.  

Salters Steamer

Temple Island

Our mooring in Henley for the next day or so is on the Henley Royal Regatta course.

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Journey North 15: Molesey – Marlow

31 miles, 11 locks

A good days’s boating along the beautiful Thames. 

At Staines we stopped to buy diesel from fuel boat Merchant – we always try to buy from working boats where possible.

Then on through Windsor where there was a huge equestrian event going on including carriage driving. By this time the sun was out and it was a beautiful day for boating. 

Now we’re tied up below the lock on the visitors moorings in Marlow but tomorrow we won’t go far as I need to log in and do some work! 

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