On the Sunday after Cropredy has finished, Dave usually takes his boat back along the canal to its home mooring and brings along as many people as want to come as passengers/crew/layabouts/skivvies depending on preference. In the last few years the boat has been a bit crowded or the weather has been pants and I have headed off in the morning and left everyone to it. This year however, Lizzie (who was driving and therefore got two votes) and I both really wanted to go on the boat trip and there were no crowding issues. The only issue was timing as we wanted to be back in Nottingham by early evening and so would have to set of at an unprecedented early hour in the morning.
We usually have a bit of a lazy morning and then head off mid-morning to get water and turn round to head to Banbury. By the time we get to the first lock there is usually a healthy queue and we spend much of the day pulling the boat along with ropes on the towpath queueing for the locks. We had decided that if there was a big queue at the first lock Lizzie and I would walk back to Cropredy and drive home to avoid being really late home. A fall back option was also established to taxi back to Cropredy once we got to Banbury. Fortunately neither of these options was required.
I got up early and headed over to the camp site to help Lizzie de-tent and pack up the car. Even at 8am people were already driving out of the site on their way home. I left the others to ready the boat for leaving. Lizzie had a new tent which we weren’t sure how to take down and the car had taken quite a bit of packing on the way out so we had budgeted 2 hours to get sorted. Packing up in the camp site took far less time than we expected and we were back on the boat by 8.30! We did cheat a bit by not trying to fit the tent into it’s bag and just putting it in the boot. We decided to head off as early as we could manage and felt a bit guilty as we were leaving Ellie at Cropredy so she could drive home and prepare for an important business trip to the US. She had photos of the festival on Facebook before we made it to Banbury!
Because we had gone for water at the beginning of the festival, we were already pointing the right way and were able to head straight off towards Banbury which saved us an hour or so and put us ahead of the usual queues for the locks and bridges on the way so we were making pretty good progress already! We made breakfast while Dave piloted us to the first lock and ate on the move.
There were a couple of boats ahead of us and a hire boat behind with children who insisted on “helping” us through the locks, at one point gaining a murderous look from Lizzie after stealing her job of opening the sluice gates. I can’t help but feel that Dave can actually get through a lock quicker on his own than with us helping him. It is pretty impressive to see him step off the boat as it is moving towards the lock, open the gates, get back on board and drive into the lock, jump off, close the gates, fill or empty the lock, open the gates again and drive out, all with the minimum loss of momentum. Still we did some useful things, helping to open and close gates etc.
Soon we were in Banbury where we stopped to fill up with water. This took so long that we started to worry that we weren’t actually filling the tank but some other void in the hull instead! We were passed by the hire boat and gained a different boat immediately in front. Dave added to the activities listed above by hopping off to empty the toilets while the boat was passing through one lock and getting back on before I was called on to drive out of the lock. This may have something to do with what happened last time I had a go at steering!
As we left Banbury, we re-passed the hire boat which had also stopped to take on water. From then on our passage was relatively umimpeded with very few other boats encountered. There is some lovely scenery along the canal, if you ignore the industrial stuff around Banbury and the city centre of Banbury itself. We didn’t make our usual stop in Banbury for a drink but decided to push on as we had lost a bit of time.
John and Dave seemed well at home driving so Lizzie and I made ourselves useful making dinner out of the meagre rations left in the boat following our invasion for the last 4 days. We eventually found some red pesto, an onion, some garlic, spaghetti and a tin of sweetcorn which made quite a lovely pasta. Unfortunately slightly overcooked as it was ready just as we needed to go through another lock.
In the afternoon I wasn’t feeling well and slept for much of the last part of the trip. Woke up to help moor up when we got home.
And so it was all over for another year, time seemed to have passed so quickly. I’m already looking forward to next year and wondering when the tickets go on sale.