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Inescapable Banbury

After our walk to Adderbury on Wednesday we were going to walk in the opposite direction and take a look at King’s Sutton. The temperature was already rising outside when we awoke at seven so we changed our mind and decided to get the bus to Brackley, a small town about eight miles away rather than walk four miles in the baking heat. There was no particular reason to go there except for the fact that it would be a new place to explore. The bus arrived at the road bridge just after midday, we boarded and paid the fare. The driver looked a little puzzled and questioned if we really meant to go to Brackley. The bus is a local one and most of the stops are request stops although the driver seemed to know all of the passengers and where they would be getting off. We passed through Kings Sutton, then the village of Charlton before arriving in Aynho. The driver stopped the bus and came to speak to us, explaining that although the service ran all day shuttling between Banbury and Brackley, this run turned around at Aynho.

The driver told us that he only did the lunchtime run and that he’d never picked up anyone from Twyford Wharf who had wanted to go to Brackley – well he wouldn’t, would he if he only drove the service as far as Ayno? I can’t really criticise, after all it was me who didn’t read the timetable properly! Anyway, he gave us three possible options, get off at Twyford, wait an hour and then get back on the bus. Stay on the bus and eventually get to Brackley via Banbury or just go to Banbury for the afternoon. We decided to go to Banbury – just for a change! It was alright though, we had lunch and a good walk around before getting the bus back to Twyford.

We saw Kings Sutton at least, pretty but not much there. We probably won’t ever get to Brackley but the driver assured us that there wasn’t much to see or do there anyway. In any case we had yet another lovely day in the May sunshine.

Now the real journey begins

This is just a quick catch up on what we have been doing over the last week since our last post. We remained moored at the top of Hillmorton and caught the bus into Rugby where we did a bit of shopping and had a birthday lunch at Prezzo, courtesy of Rebecca, Don and the children. Thank you very much, it was delicious!

Caxton safely tucked up in Braunston marina.

On Wednesday we untied and made our way to Braunston, blue skies had returned and with the very gentle winds to accompany us, our journey was very enjoyable. It was around one o’clock when we arrived at Braunston marina where had arranged to leave Caxton for a few days while we travelled to Hampshire for my retirement party. We found our temporary berth which was on the adjacent pier to the one that we used when we moored here permanently a few years ago. After wiggling our way into position with only inches to spare, we tied up and then went for a walk along the towpath to the tunnel. After a quick refreshment stop at the Admiral Nelson, we returned to the marina and paid our fees.

A narrowboat emerging from the tunnel mouth.

We had arranged to meet some friends who live in the village so after dinner on board, we trotted up to the Wheatsheaf for a couple of hours and had a great time catching up with them.

We were up and ready early on Thursday, despite it being Sue’s birthday. We needed to catch the bus into Rugby so that we could start our train journey to Winchester and that bus leaves the village from The Green so we had to climb the hill from Butchers bridge once again. When we first moored in Braunston, the village was well served by bus services running between Rugby and Daventry with some of them stopping on the A45 outside the marina. That ended and then the nearest stop was outside the Boathouse pub, also on the main road. Today, the hourly service only just touches the top edge of the village, stopping by the village hall. Judging by the small number of passengers on the bus, I wonder just how long even this service will remain in place.

Braunston bus? (Actually in Winchester).

Anyway, after the bus to Rugby we caught a train to Coventry and then boarded the Cross Country service to Winchester. We continued the birthday eating theme with afternoon tea at the hotel and very nice it was too. Winchester is a lovely place to wander around at any time but on warm spring days, as we had on Thursday and Friday, it was glorious. We rounded off the birthday week meal festival with lunch at Rick Stein’s retaurant which was perfect.

Afternoon Tea on Sue’s birthday.

Rick Stein’s Birthday message for Sue.

On Friday evening, I had my retirement bash in a Spanish restaurant in nearby Arlesford with colleagues from work, some of whom I have known for thirty years. We all had a good time and they even presented me with a leaving present – a Nikon DSLR camera. Once I get to grips with that, expect to see a more feature filled blog. There were many messages of good luck and some other personal gifts which will be cherished. All in all they gave me a good send off – thank you everyone.

Saturday dawned and we made the return journey to Braunston, re-tracing our route via Coventry and Rugby. It was after four o’clock when we got back and Sue used the evening and the fact that we were plugged into the mains to catch up with the washing and drying.

Our original intention had been to travel south on the Grand Union and return on the Oxford canal later in the summer. However, by the time we were ready to leave on Sunday morning we had decided to go the other way around. It doesn’t make any real difference to us which way we go but we were slightly concerned that there have been some predictions of drought and figured that we might be better crossing the summit of the Oxford sooner rather than later just in case low water levels start to have an effect on lock operations.

Sitting with an unusually large amount of free space around.

We turned left out of the marina and found a place to moor, halfway between the two bridges that carry the A45 over the canal and close to the two bridges that carry the towpath over the junction of the canal. We were surprised at just how empty the moorings are in Braunston but I suppose that it is still early in the season. The reason that we didn’t go so far was because the weather outlook for Monday was for high winds and lots of heavy showers. Sunday was still fine so we walked up and around the village, calling at the Chandlers and the village shop along the way.

The rain started in the early hours of Monday morning and continued on and off throughout the day. We did manage to get a walk around the village again during a dry period after dinner but the rain came again shortly after we returned to the boat.

And so to today, Tuesday. It was still windy but thankfully no rain, although there is a horrible outlook forecast. We took advantage of the relatively good conditions and set off in the direction of Napton, just after eight o’clock. Normally, this stretch of canal irritates me but today it didn’t because there are very few boats on the move and not many moored up either. What normally happens, usually on sunny, summer, Sunday afternoons is that as boats converge at Wigram’s and Braunston turns, convoys get formed. Lines of moored boats then force everyone down to tickover speed and the convoys become condensed. The real fun starts when two convoys meet at a bridge! Anyway, it wasn’t like that today and three hours after setting off, we were moored just above the bottom lock at Napton. After lunch, we took a walk to the village shop where Sue bought some provisions and then we returned to the canal. The rain started mid afternoon and the forecast is that it isn’t going to stop until Thursday morning so it looks like we will have another day here tomorrow. With a bit of luck, who knows, there might be a tiny break in the rain, a small window of opportunity to nip to the Folly for a pint before then!

Tuesday’s mooring at Napton

So now the journey can really begin, we have no timetable to stick to, no set route to follow and very few restrictions to hamper us on our big adventure.

Today’s Trip

July 2017
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