Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Braunston Puddle Banks to Fenny Compton

(posted by Alan)

Despite having set ourselves a moderately demanding schedule, we haven't exactly excelled at early starts.  I am generally up quite early, but somehow things then get very relaxed, and I would struggle to explain how the time gets used up until the engine gets fired up.

We tend to have a broad plan for the day, and our scheduling (such as it is!) is helped by having done a similar trip two years ago.

Lots of boats were moving before us, and it was very busy on the stretch from Braunston to "Wigrams", where the Grand Union Birmingham main line branches away from the Oxford.  Sadly this stretch usually features a few badly stricken wooden ex-working boats, and this time was no different.  I unfortunately am not familiar enough with them to know for certain which boat each is, as they seldom carry an identifiable name.

We had a agreed to deliver some boat paint, surplus to our requirements, to a friend, and this meant a short detour by turning right onto the Birmingham line, towards Calcutt locks.  That done, we turned above Calcutt, but also seized the opportunity to buy some engine spares at the boatyard there.

Starting the ascent of the Napton Flight
 We were soon back on the Oxford, headed towards the picturesque Napton locks, where Cath cycled off to shop at the village store, while I attended to filling water tanks and emtying toilet tanks.  We were soon on our way again, but found this stretch nothing like as busy as our only other previous passage through it.  Oxford locks are some of the easiest around, and we made light work of working up the 9 here to the summit level.

After that it was really just a case of progressing a reasonable distance along the summit, but as Cath didn't fancy cooking, and the pub at Fenny Compton was good on our last visit, we decided to head there.

Not a usual place to see a narrow boat on this stretch.
We made good progress, until we caught  a former "Challenger" "share" boat who's steerer seemed to think he would save time by sticking to the inside of each of the more major bends, (of which there are plenty on this stretch).  Of course each time he ended up in shallow water, and near static with the propeller thrashing as he failed to be able to follow his chosen path.  Cath normally just tucks in patiently in such cases, so I was somewhat relieved when she got permission to pass, and quickly left them floundering behind.
Charlie takes the air!
We then had a very enjoyable run through to Fenny Compton, where, unlike our previous trip, plenty of good visitor moorings were available close to the pub. 

Charlie contemplates am alternate name for "his" boat.
Better still "The Wharf" not only had good vegetarian choices to suit both us and David, but also welcomed dogs in the bar area.  A done deal, then, and we enjoyed an excellent meal.  I particularly liked the "Hooky Gold" - a very acceptable beer they had on tap.

Braunston Puddle Banks to Fenny Compton
Miles: 17.5, Locks:9

Total Miles: 70.9, Total Locks:44

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