Friday, 12 August 2016

Just William

With it being an August weekend and with there being a lot of boats about we were anticipating queues at Napton locks so made an early(ish) start, which turned out to be totally unnecessary as we arrived at the bottom lock with not a boat in sight!

We did meet one at the second lock - although its steerer didn't seem very pleased to see us. The lock was empty - and therefore in our favour. The other boat was just leaving the lock above as Sunshine was almost ready to leave that below. My understanding of the "etiquette of the cut" led me to open the bottom gates, although by now the downhill boat had arrived at the top. It wasn't as if they were in a hurry as they hadn't bothered to send a crew member ahead to set the lock for themselves.

"Was the lock full or empty?" asked the steerer, rather aggressively.  It called for a one-word reply:  "empty" and the conversation proceeded in that manner:

"Well, the volunteer locky (who was nowhere to be seen) told me it was full!" 
"So we'll just have to wait for you then?"
"Yes". (although I did add "saves water")
He then returned to his boat and needless to say offered no help to speed our passage through the lock that was "holding him up".  I was ready with a smile and a "how do" as we passed but he avoided eye contact and that was that.

It was the only incident of note - the rest of the day being taken up with the usual meander across the Oxford summit level. It's a lovely stretch of canal but not as nice as it used to be since the towpath hedges were allowed to get out of hand and become trees, obscuring what used to be fine views over extensive stretches of countryside which added enormously to the feeling of remoteness you get on this section.

Royalty class "William" at Fenny Compton. You wouldn't want to meet this on a blind bend!
We stopped for the night at Fenny Compton, where the youthful proprietors of the Wharf Inn are making a huge effort - not just good beer and food but a shop and laundrette on the site as well. Just after tying up we heard the unmistakable sound of a Bolinder engine and I poked my head out to see the impressive sight of a Grand Union "Royalty" class bow, riding high out of the water and heading straight for us as camping boat "William" came under the bridge.

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