Early morning boat movers had gathered all around by the time we removed the port-hole bungs. By 9am Castle Quay was busy, the carousel already spinning the first load of bleary eyed toddlers. In the process of finding out how to get into the walkway over the canal we discovered Banbury Museum. On leaving the Gongoozlers were out in force, there were even oohs and aahs and shout outs as to whether the boat would glide in the lock or smack the sides.
Past the services we pulled in for Morrisons – just over the bridge it’s up there with the best in terms of distance from the water. A delightful group of young locals werre huddled under the bridge, harmless enough – as Nick walked along the roof at them they melted back into the wall turning overly helpful by pointing out a tyre in the water, while their mates launched a shower of sticks from the top of the bridge…but even they chatted while they threw, chucking sticks at boats comes as second nature.
Lift bridges are a common feature along the Oxford canal, being cheaper to install than stone or brick bridges they were originally added as a cost cutting exercise. There seems to be a bit of a war going on: walkers preferring the bridges lowered and boaters favouring them raised, approaching one raised bridge a guy was hanging from the chain, attempting to lower it in order to continue his walk the other side – it was a losing battle as that bridge was permanently padlocked open. Establishing he definitely wanted to cross Nick offered that he walked across the stern, ‘That’d be great,’ came the reply, ‘but how are we going to do this?’ Alarm bells should have started ringing at this point but the guy looked able enough, early thirties, outdoorsy type. Perhaps doing it day in day out we take moves like this for granted – the guy steadied himself, shuffled, leapt…and disappeared under the water. For quite some time. Maybe he just wanted to hide his face down there in the gloom, swamped with embarrassment. Watching in disbelief, wishing the last ten seconds were unwindable we were a little slow in cutting the engine so he was fairly lucky not to get liquidised too. Riddled with shame he stripped off, gladly changed into one of Nick’s t-shirts, asked is we’d bin his cigarettes, introduced himself as Chris, shook Nick’s hand and squelched off in the direction of Banbury.
It’s just three miles, but tonight’s rural mooring is a world away from the centre of Banbury.