Rewind to Sunday 14th August
Banbury to Fenny Compton
Our guests were due to arrive mid-morning, so we had plenty of time to move to the service point below Banbury Lock to fill with water. Sadly the water point is very slow and while we were filling up, one, then two boats turned up to wait. It took almost 45 minutes to get anywhere near a full tank, but as soon as we had enough we moved back to the towpath side to await our visitors. In the meantime, the service point was a melee as boats shuffled around and brested up to use the services, not helped by the regular flow of boats up and down the lock, often hirers with only a rudimentary grasp of boat handling!
At 11am, we were hailed by Nicci and Paul along with their three lovely greyhounds, blues Harris and Holly and brindle Harvey. Herbie greeted them with aplomb and was soon getting on famously with Harvey – they’re both hounds who appreciate the finer points of memory foam and spent most of the day on the sofa. In the meantime, Harris and Holly were enthusiastic Olympic lookers and took boating in their stride. They were clever enough to work out that the dog-proof deck only works when the boat is above the towpath; in locks, once the top of the deck doors reached the level of the lock, off they jumped! They have very good recall, so it wasn’t a problem and their joyful rummaging reminded us of Blue and Lou, the original Indigo Dreamers.
We really enjoyed the company, but the nearer we got to Cropredy, the more congested the canal became, with busy two-way traffic squeezing its way through a channel narrowed even further by thickly moored boats. There was a grumpy air to proceedings, and I’ve since mused on the difference between moving through a festival in full swing when the beer and cheer is flowing well; and cruising through the morning after!
I’m writing this on the first of September and have been reading the latest copy of Canalboat magazine. I was struck by a letter from a boater complaining about bad manners displayed by some lads on a hire boat. I’m sorry to say that it’s not just hire boats and we had a full dose of unpleasantness below Cropredy Lock. A boat had moored on a legitimate mooring but was protruding over the lock moorings by several feet and had blocked the last lock bollard. The boat in front of us queuing for the lock was a bit precious about moving forward, but I needed to get Indigo Dream tucked to one side as the narrows below the lock meant that it was difficult for boats behind us in the queue to move forward. I tucked the boat’s nose in and, very deliberately, brought the back in to brest up to the moored boat. I’ll admit, the boats touched with a clunk, but as IDs front was stationary (R holding a rope round a bollard) so it wasn’t a violent contact and I thought nothing of it – the boats were touching at the level of their stern mooring dollies. Therefore I wasn’t prepared for the man of the boat coming out and making a huge drama, shouting his complaints at the top of his voice; he subsided briefly, then as the lock opened and I moved forward, careful not to touch his precious boat again, the flow made his rudder bang against his counter, so he stood on his bow some 70 odd feet away and yelled some more. He had things to say about my driving; I saw red and was winding myself up to full voice when I got a grip – no point in two of us being complete gits! We have a photo of the boat and its most unpleasant owner, other boaters commented about him and I’ve wondered about publishing it but, on balance, best to let it go…
After that, I was so glad to get out of Cropredy and move onto slightly saner waters, but it confirmed once and for all that the Oxford Canal is not for us – it felt like a victim of its own popularity and way too busy.
Yet balance was restored when we were hailed by Neil and Kath from nb Herbie, who now moor in the marina above Cropredy. We made some hasty plans for a pint later on. We also had a chat with fellow bloggers Al and Del from nb Derwent 6, reminding us of all the good people on the waterways and the great community which we feel a part of.
Once we were done with the locks, in a virtuoso bit of timing Neil came to collect Paul and Richard from Bridge 143 to take them back to Banbury for the cars. We were so grateful – Neil’s help saved us over an hour on the car shuffle – that’s an hour of precious pub time! In the meantime, Nicci and I carried on cruising along the increasingly narrow and meandering canal to Fenny Compton, which took a while!
The moorings there were very busy, but we found a slightly naughty spot close to the bridge and went off to the pub with Neil and Kath. We took the greyhounds with us and were soon joined by the lady of a boat that had been locking up just in front of us. Richard had wound her up earlier because he was having a pint with Paul outside the pub in Fenny Compton when they arrived and had told them that Indigo Dream had overtaken them in a stealth manoeuvre which is why he was ahead of them! We were chatting with the crew when she mentioned a friend who had lots of greyhounds and a naughty whippet called Rupert – I suddenly realised that we had friends in common and that the greyhounds she’d mentioned were Indigo Dreamers – small world!
We hadn’t seen Kath and Neil since they crewed on our bumpy ride down to the Medway so we had a lot of reminiscing to do. It was wonderful to spend the evening with old friends and new, the day’s misadventures were soon dimmed, helped by the combined restorative powers of beer and chips!