Aiming for Banbury on Friday, we headed off through Aynho Weir Lock. Like Shipton Wier Lock, it’s an odd lozenge shape that’s fine for 70ft boats and for any less than about 30ft, but a right bu**er for 58ft boats like Song & Dance. Onto the River Cherwell again, I jumped ship some way in advance of Nell’s Bridge Lock, as you need to cross a main road to get at it, Walking up the towpath, I noticed a small commotion: it looked like a sparrow having a dust bath, as one sometimes sees. Quietly moving closer, it appeared to be two smaller birds having a dust bath together – robins I originally thought. Creeping even closer it became clear it was two young wrens having a serious punch-up. They were both flapping around and pecking away at each other, rolling on their backs and trying to trap the other in the claw waving disembowelling move familiar to any cat staff (but with only two legs, rather less successfully). Never seen anything like that before! With no camera to hand, I got within two feet before both jumped onto their feet then flew into the hedgerow. Adolescent brothers, maybe…
Stopping at the Pig Place just above the lock, madame was again failing to cook bacon sarnies, so we bought some sausages for later, had lunch on the boat and trundled off through Kings Sutton for Banbury. One of these days we’ll visit Kings Sutton – it lies very close to the canal and looks interesting, but with no way across the intervening River Cherwell and railway line the nearest point of access is a couple of bridges up then a long walk back along a main-ish road. Next year maybe.
Anyway, we pottered into Banbury late afternoon, and passing through Castle Quay noticed Herbie again with someone on board, so mooring up again at Spiceball Park, we strolled back along the towpath and banged on the hatch. Sure enough, Neil & Kath emerged: they’d seen us at Heyford when they returned by train from a cultural trip to Oxford. They’d had some friends on board, hence “That’s not Neil at the helm”. Anyway, the teapot was produced, and after a considerable natter we retired to Song & Dance for DIY bangers and mash.
After a shopping expedition on Saturday morning for Sir’s provisions and some clothes for the FO, we set off to get up through Slat Mill Lock and moor by Peewit Farm, just short of Cropredy. The plan was to get into Cropredy Marina on Sunday morning, and make a start on the enormous laundry backlog. Monday would be devoted to much the same, with maybe a side trip by car to the big Tesco on the outskirts of Banbury, while Tuesday would see an early start down the M40 to Ruislip Crematorium for a funeral. Coming out of Banbury, by the huge new Amazon warehouse, and still miles from the misnamed Peewit Farm and the other side of the M40, we heard a pair of curlews bubbling away. An omen?