The day started out normally. We had no idea how hairy it would get. We left Cropredy and headed on the Banbury. The plan was a treat, a shop, and cruising as far as we could manage for the day. It just wasn’t as far as we expected.
We moored up a bit north of Banbury centre and walked in. We had a look at how the lift bridge worked and a peek at the lock before finding a place for a tea and cake. After that we found a Lidl and got a few bits we needed and headed back to the boat completely unaware there were problems ahead.
We set off again knowing it is a very tight squeeze down through town to the bridge. Alan had his walkie talkie and reported no one coming my way but someone in the lock just after the bridge. I told him to get them to hold in the pound between the bridge and lock so I could safely manoeuvre past them. They did not listen and barged their way through the bridge Alan had opened for me and I had nowhere to go with boats on either side of me.
I slowed and even tried to back up but narrowboats don’t steer in reverse. They got over into the landing but the lady didn’t have the strength to control her boat and it come out in front of me as her husband wandered off. I tried to miss her and hover but the wind took me and I hit everything! I ended up stuck with my only option to use their boat and an old boat in the boatyard to pivot myself enough to move forward through the bridge. I was livid! I am till livid that they couldn’t have waited a moment to keep things safe nor control their own boat. Was just glad to move into the now open lock and head on.
What we didn’t know was that some idiot had opened a sluice near the M40 and all by emptied the canal below Banbury. We learned this too late to do anything but limp along down to the next lock. It was so low that we heard the bottom of the canal on our base at times and the boat in front of us near the end of this section grounded under a bridge and had to barge pole free. It was only 2 miles but it took 3 hours!
In sight of the lock there were two boat ahead of us. One out of control at the lock in need of assistance and one grounded on the side before the landing. I had dropped Alan off at the bridge where the again grounded boat had last grounded and luckily we seem to be more shallowly drafted then them so we were ok. All I can do is hover and pray I don’t get grounded.
Alan helps those at the lock first as the grounded boat has several hands working. Then When the first boat is in the lock and helps the grounded boat get down to the landing which is a bit deeper. I am still hovering but with nowhere to go I know I have to let the wind take me to the side where the last boat grounded. I just floated into the space so though grounded it was only gently and I managed to push myself off while the previous boat got into the lock. I moved forward to the landing and held the boat to the side until it was my turn to safety.
The truth is though that every one of us that went through that lock was making it worse but there was nowhere else to go. We couldn’t turn our boat and go back up the Banbury as the winding hole was tools for us to fit. We couldn’t moor up as the sides were too low to safely moor. We know the Canal and River Trust were working on the situation from upstream so just pushed through.
It was a while after we got to safety until we could find a mooring. For the night we moored near a place called The Pig Place which is a campground/farm shop/ bar all in one….obviously pig themed. It has serviced moorings you can rent for the night or more just like for motor homes at a campground. There are sofas outside to relax on with you drinks or food. They also had a lovely cider that tasted properly apple-y. Just an excellent place.
It was nice having a place to stop and relax after such a stressful day. We walked back to the boat and decompressed with some tv and went to bed. Hope we never have another day like that!