Napton to Fenny Compton

I’m guessing it’s about time we shared what we’ve been doing again. Mostly, we’ve been quite lazy; just pottering about and doing bits and pieces on the boat. The weather was terrible for a while, strong winds and pouring rain, so we’re happy it brightened up in time to move off from our last mooring in Napton-On-The-Hill.

A few weeks ago, we aimed to move through the Napton lock flight and moor on the far side for a while.

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After battling with the wind for a few hours, we actually gave up and moored half way along the flight. It turned out to be a great spot to stay in; an excellent pub just 5 mins walk away, and water and toilet emptying only a little further.

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There were also buffalo, which felt somewhat exotic.

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I think I should also give a mention to the incredibly cute lambs and ducklings who were our neighbours too.

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The past weekend, we had a lovely visit from my parents. We indulged in beige pub food, trawled the charity shops of Leamington Spa, played scrabble and sang together. A lot of my favourite things.

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I’d also managed to get a new trolley delivered to them, and was very excited to road test it when they arrived. In the glamorous world of having to physically transport all your sewerage, rubbish and recycling, having a decent set of wheels is a great help!

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Then it was time to move the boat again. We guessed it would be busy over the bank holiday weekend, and we were right. There were holiday hire boats everywhere. The benefit of that was seeing people move their boats as incompetently as we do. But it was great that the sun was shining and there was hardly any wind. Plus, it was good practice for me to have to cope with passing boats on the many, many bends of the Oxford canal.

We made slow progress, as there were queues for the remaining 5 locks in the flight. But because there were so many people around, Amy enjoyed having extra hands as we went through.

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Since buying the boat, I’ve always envied people who are relaxed enough at the helm to have a drink and enjoy the scenery. It felt like a milestone on Sunday, when for the first time I had a cup of coffee on the move – and I also took in some of the views. I wasn’t stressed and panicked the entire time. Maybe just 85%… Even when we got stuck (which happened several times) it didn’t feel like a big deal.

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The levels are very low at the moment, so with a boat as long as ours it’s inevitable we’re going to get grounded on such a bendy canal. At one point, I managed to get the boat so stuck that the barge pole wouldn’t dislodge her. I waited to see if the draw from passing boats would drag us off. Nope. After a little while, a very friendly chap passed by and offered to tow us off. I just threw him a rope and his boat got us free.

Aside from a few issues with the shallowness, the cruise was fun and I was loving being out in the sunshine. But then I took a bend particularly badly. Amy stuck her leg out to fend off at the bow (BTW, never do that). Her shoe got stuck on some rusty metal, and she couldn’t get her foot out of the way before the bow crushed it against the armco. I heard her yell and leaned around to see if she was OK. All I saw was her shoe attached to the pilings, and for an intensely horrible moment I imagined her foot had come off.

Thankfully her foot was still attached to her leg, it was just very badly bruised. Me always getting my priorities right, I abandoned the helm to run down the gunnels, leaning out precariously with a boat hook to retrieve the escaped shoe. I was proud I’d saved the shoe, but Amy was a little unimpressed that I appeared to have more regard for the shoe’s welfare than hers.

Joking aside; Amy was in a lot of pain. The foot had swelled up and she couldn’t walk on it. I sent her to lie down while I carried on cruising until we were close enough to a road that I’d be able to get her some help. There was no way she’d be able to walk miles down the towpath. Convinced she’d broken it, and with my car 10 miles away, I phoned for an ambulance and went to wait for them at the nearest bridge.

The paramedic in charge couldn’t have been less impressed that he had to walk for 5 minutes along the towpath to reach the boat. I’m sure he does amazing work saving lives a lot of the time, but on this day he moaned and whined and was generally very grumpy. We felt sorry for his colleagues, who seemed nice but were following his orders. I tried to win him over with a cold drink, but his resentment remained. He examined the squashed foot and said he thought it probably wasn’t broken. Simultaneously, he informed us that even if it were, he wouldn’t be willing for them to carry Amy to the ambulance.

Not reassured by this reluctant assistance, I decided it was best to figure out a way to get Amy to a doctor the following day. Her foot had a nasty cut, and we were told by the paramedics that she’d need a Tetanus shot within 24 hours anyway. The bad news was that it was a Bank Holiday. These things never happen at convenient times.

So early Monday morning, I got up and did my first bit of single handed cruising. It was pretty stressful navigating without Amy’s reassurance, but there were no catastrophes and I found us a good spot to stop, close to road access and a nice pub. The real bonus was discovering the pub had a laundrette too. No more lugging laundry to Daventry!

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The nearest walk in clinic was in Coventry, 35 minutes drive from us. After negotiating the crappy roads of the city, we found the place and were frustrated to find hear that they couldn’t provide the jab. Next stop, hours and hours in Coventry A&E. But they were kind and friendly. They patched up the wound, checked it all out and jabbed her. So it’s just R&R now.

Our current mooring is in Fenny Compton, a small village not far from Banbury. It’s very pretty, with little wooded areas and lots of wild flowers. A good place to stay for a few weeks while Amy rests and lets her foot heal. I’m a bit frazzled doing all the boat jobs without help, but it means I’ll have a useful bargaining chip when she’s better and I don’t fancy emptying the toilet.

It’s also handy that the pub is close by, as our electrics have failed again. The batteries are mysteriously not charging. The obvious culprit would be the alternators, but they were only replaced a few weeks ago, so we doubt it’s that. Thankfully, the engineer who worked on the last electrical crisis is local and heading over to take a look tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I’m tanking up on free coffee refills and charging everything in the pub.

Speaking of which, we met an interesting guy in there yesterday, who asked whether Poppy was ‘fork trained’. Upon asking for clarification, he said proudly that all his dogs have been trained to eat from a fork. We politely informed him that Poppy didn’t have the necessary training and were relieved when that meant he didn’t go ahead and feed her steak and kidney pie from the fork he was using to eat his meal with.

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