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Thread: Warwickshire to Oxfordshire - in search of gleaming spires.

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    Default Warwickshire to Oxfordshire - in search of gleaming spires.

    For some time I have been planning to paddle the Oxford Canal from Banbury all the way to Oxford and the August bank holiday weekend gave me the opportunity to do so. But hang on, Banbury to Oxford is only about 30 miles of canal and can be done over a normal weekend. I was looking for something a little more adventurous.

    It's very easy to get carried away with trip planning and that's exactly what happened. The thought process went something like this:
    "So how about 3 days of paddling? That's about 45 miles, but what if I was to take a day's holiday and start Friday? Now we're up to 60 miles – that's more of an adventure, perhaps I should make the last day a paddle down the Cherwell via Islip into Oxford? I wonder if anyone else would like to join me?"
    A few pm's later a plan was hatched and I had up to 8 canoes to plan a trip for! I knew a few would drop out but there was enough interest.

    Out came the maps and some potential wild camping spots highlighted as well as a get-in. Over the next couple of weeks I used my journey home from work to check out the suitability of some of the spots. With one week to go I was happy it was a go and I had 4 definite canoes, two tandem and two solo. Four cars meant we could double up and leave two cars at each end making the shuttle a little easier.

    So the paddling group was as follows:
    Mal Grey
    Munch (Heather)
    Pushkin (Hannah)
    Logger158 (Andy)
    Mrs Logger (Cilla)
    Bootstrap Bob

    Day 1

    The get-in was going to be Long Itchington but a last minute change moved it to Napton on the Hill to cut out a series of locks and reduce the distance after the shuttle.

    Bridge number 111 was the start next to the Bridge pub.


    After approximately a mile it was time to get out again and test our portaging at Napton Locks, a set of 6 spaced over a km.


    Most chose to portage the whole lot with trolleys however Mal decided to paddle between after spreading out his gear amongst the rest of us. Unfortunately his trolley had been lost in the car fire some weeks previously so he had very little choice.




    The top of the set of locks saw the first equipment failure of the trip. After catching a wheel on concrete step my trolley decided to break where the two halves are bolted together. I didn't manage a photo but I know the others did so you may have to wait for that. So I too was now carrying or paddling between adjacent locks. Not a big deal but it did slow us down a little.

    Lunch was under one of the many bridges we past.


    Three more locks and then it was a 9 mile paddle to the first camp spot – bridge 139 and Wormleighton reservoir.



    A quick change of clothing for Andy & Cilla so they were at least dry and we set up camp. On the menu tonight was a sausage stew with a melon and cherry starter followed by some rather strange beer courtesy of Andy & Cilla. Mal was desperately trying to open his wine box so he didn't have as much to carry the following day but there were no takers on this occasion.



    So day 1 complete, a slightly later start than planned. Lots of rain, a broken trolley, aching muscles from the portages but a dry camp and pleasant meal to finish the day off. Day 2 to follow.
    Bootstrap
    There's no such thing as inclement weather - you're just incorrectly dressed

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    Nice one Bob,looking forward to the rest of it.

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    Day 2

    A dry start but this very quickly turned to showers once again.



    Today's journey was to take us through many more locks at Claydon then down through Cropredy and Banbury. We were down to two trolleys but spirits were still high. Mal and I devised a good method of comfortably carrying two canoes at once between us and we got quite slick at portaging equipment.
    Heather and Hannah were carrying a fresh basil plant ready for Sunday’s meal and it did surprisingly well in the rain.


    Everything was moving along quite well then disaster struck once again – this time it was the Loggers' trolley, not a breakage but a puncture.


    Andy was looking rather despondent slumped on a bench with his head in his hands as I approached, I think he was a little concerned about joining Mal and I portaging but he cheered up when I pointed out there were two spare wheels available on my broken trolley.


    Fortunately they fitted and we were back under way with very little delay. A couple more locks and we came across a little hut selling lock keys so we decided to buy one in an attempt to make life easier. It didn't really speed us up as we often had to wait for other boats but it certainly kept our energy levels high and allowed time for a quick break and nibbles.
    There was a planned lunch stop at Cropredy to use the facilities and top up with water. A novel approach was applied to fill up the water containers from the provided tap as it was locked and nobody had a key. Fortunately it leaked quite a lot.


    It was this point that everyone found a new item of food had appeared in their rations. During the night the cucumber fairies had visited and deposited one in each members kit. I’ve no idea how this happened but Cilla was heard yesterday talking about an excess of vegetables she had growing in the garden.
    The afternoon paddle was surprisingly uneventful after the morning, we had a means to get through locks, we took it in turn to open them and perfected the art of paddling two canoes at once into them.
    Banbury was a bit of a shock. Lots of concrete and brick after what seemed like a wilderness.


    We were soon clear of Banbury and normal service resumed.


    Camping for the evening was a little unsure other than the approximate location. As daylight was fading due to a late start and we still had some way to go it was decided to look for something suitable. A pretty flat field appeared but signs of recent vehicle usage meant we didn't risk it, we continued with head torches at the ready to the original spot but on arrival noticed a 'Private' sign pinned to a tree. With no other option we decided to push on to the fall back plan of the next lock at Aynho. Fortunately before reaching the lock we stumbled upon "The Pig Place". A small holding with a landing stage and camping.


    After a quick chat to the owners they were happy for us to pitch up (for a small fee). The boats were unloaded and we set up our camp on the flattest bit of ground we could find next to an inhabited pig sty and set about the evening meal.


    Whilst doing so we were entertained by a local, rather drunk ex-employee of the site shouting obscenities from the other side of the canal. The meal tonight was a chicken casserole provided by Andy and Cilla and was very well received after such a long day.

    So day 2 finished a little later than hoped but once again it was dry setting up camp. We had another good meal and there was the promise of sausage sandwiches for breakfast from the owners.
    Bootstrap
    There's no such thing as inclement weather - you're just incorrectly dressed

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    Quite a voyage, Rob.

    Keep 'em coming.


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    Day 3

    Sunday started with sausage egg and bacon sandwiches from the site owners, a good reason to stay there and a nice little earner for them. A special effort was made by everyone to get the boats loaded today after the late finish on day 2 and we eventually got a way at 9:25. It was shaping up to be a very pleasant paddling day with sun blazing and some of the most pleasant stretches of the Oxford canal to come.
    The first notable spot being Somerton followed by Upper/Lower Heyford where we had our first break.


    Mal making friends with the locals.


    A double SOTP shot.



    Beyond the Heyfords it gets a very tropical rain forest feel and we eventually get to Kirtlington and a little nostalgia for the paddlers in the form of Jane's Tea Room.


    Approximately 10 years ago Jane and her husband bought a strip of land from British Waterways next to the canal, since then they have grown it into a self sufficient small holding which started with a floating shop selling pickles and preserves and in recent years this has grown to include the tea room offering home made cream teas, cakes and a plethora of other goodies. The best thing for paddlers is that the tables and chairs are right on the banks of the canal and you can step straight out of the canoe and sit down at a table.


    Cream teas were the order of the day then it was back on the water heading for Enslow marina.

    There was time for a quick nap at the locks.



    And some beautiful scenery to be taken in.

    Before we reached our next camp spot where the river and canal split.


    By the third night we had become pretty slick at erecting our camp.


    Which gave Andy and Cilla time to have a play in the two Chestnut Prospectors.


    Tonight's meal was a spaghetti puttanesca provided by Heather and Hannah and the basil plant. Spaghetti was the pasta twirl variety though.


    Three quarters of the way through now. The sun was shining more than the rain was pouring, there was daylight when setting up camp and we had just paddled through some of the best parts of the canal (in my opinion). Mal finally got to open the wine – well we were having pasta and tomorrow would see us paddling down into Oxford.
    Bootstrap
    There's no such thing as inclement weather - you're just incorrectly dressed

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    Great stuff Rob! A great trip, many thanks for all the organisation & for acting as our Guide in the Wilderness of Oxford Canalsides. Despite the fact we weren't far from civilization at times, it really did feel like we were away from it all for the whole 4 days.

    Here are a few extra photos for the first 2 days:


    The start - loading the canoes in the rain







    Some lovely weather on the first morning








    The first, damp portage. Not sure the navvies who built the canal really thought out how people would portage full canoes on trolleys up steps...











    Oops




    Narrowboat, with Narrowtrailer





    A little bit brighter in the afternoon





    Approaching camp





    At last, Bridge 139 - Rob had been counting them down for us





    The reason Rob's canoe was so heavy? He was carrying a zoo





    Tarp City, mark I




    Misty evening







    Campfire time







    Rob's magic milk bottle lantern, Andy tries to emulate it by hovering his head torch over his rather feeble candle!





    Day two, less rain, but still a few locks!














    At last, we start the downhill leg, and buy a lock key!





    Lunch stop between showers...




    ....but caught out by not eating fast enough





    Filling the water, slowly!




    traffic




    Banbury




    A pleasant evening, at last!







    Tarp City, MkII. Somehow, it just seems to fit in so well with the pig sties!




    Looking forward to the Day 3 and 4 blogs!
    Covering as many malmiles as possible before being distracted by the pub!

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

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    Aha, day 3! My favourite day, in large part due to Jane's!







    Some of the locks were pretty deep




    The weather was SOOOOO much better







    Jane's




    You be mum




    Back in the canoes...hopefully!




    Recovering from cream teas




    There's some interesting industrial architecture all the way along the canal




    Beautiful evening as we approached camp




    Tarp City MkII, professional version, complete with swimming pool by the looks of it





    Across the fields behind;







    Rob demonstrates his party trick. Coke-can whistles.





    Covering as many malmiles as possible before being distracted by the pub!

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

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    Day 4

    So the final day dawned and it was sunny. We packed up camp for the last time and put in on the canal. It was going to be a paddle down the Cherwell to Islip and into Oxford via the Victoria Arms but after a brief discussion we decided to stick with the canal. It was shorter so the shuttle would be more relaxed at the end, we didn't have to worry about any potential hazards and we could make the river paddle a trip for the future.



    A church at Shipton on Cherwell


    Passing by the Jolly Boatman pub just after Thrupp marina.


    Heather using all her strength to turn a rather stiff lock key in Kidlington.

    Lunch stop was shortly after passing under the A40. Andy and Cilla were still eating left-overs that they had brought. Funny how their left-overs made our lunch feel inadequate but at least we had a cucumber each which was rather nice with a bit of cheese and some of Hannah's chutney.


    A brief tail wind meant Heather could break out the sail once again.


    As we approached Oxford the number of small craft started to increase, here we have an ally canoe.


    Followed very shortly afterwards by a Sevylor Colorado on a first floor balcony.

    I wonder how they launch it?

    Once into Oxford a minor excursion took us through the small arches under Abingdon road.


    And a final cruise down to our get-out at the Riverside Center.



    So that was our 'little' journey. I haven't worked it out exactly but I think it was about 55miles in total with (according to Hannah's step meter) around 4 miles of portaging. There was a mixture of weather but at least the camps were dry.
    So what would I suggest for anyone repeating the journey? Well number one is buy a lock key, failing that get a sturdy trolley as you will be carrying quite a bit of gear (especially if part of the group don't have one ). Make sure you are happy with the locations of camp spots and definitely visit the 'Pig Place' and 'Jane's Tea Room'.
    Thankyou to everyone who tagged along, I hope I didn't push you too hard and you had an enjoyable few days.
    Bootstrap
    There's no such thing as inclement weather - you're just incorrectly dressed

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    The final day piccies from me

























    The finish!

    Covering as many malmiles as possible before being distracted by the pub!

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

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    Great Blog, with some places I now know!!

    I'll definitely check out the Pig Place, we were looking at going to Twyford, but bacon in the morning does sound tempting! Is just a case of pulling in and asking, or are they a bit more formal?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dean View Post
    Great Blog, with some places I now know!!

    I'll definitely check out the Pig Place, we were looking at going to Twyford, but bacon in the morning does sound tempting! Is just a case of pulling in and asking, or are they a bit more formal?
    Very informal! Its not an official campsite for tents, its a smallholding & farm shop, with mooring rights & some spaces for self-contained camper vans & caravans. There are no loos etc. http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk/sites/de...sp?revid=10593
    Covering as many malmiles as possible before being distracted by the pub!

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

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    Thanks Bob - loved it

    Somerton Deep Lock is one of the deepest on the network, I think

    I met someone in a narrowboat on the Oxford Canal who fishes for Lock Keys at the locks with a magnet and then sells them for charity!

    For anyone else who wants to try it, an alternative way into Oxford is to cut across to the Thames at Wolvercote (Kings Cut) and follow the river down past Port Meadow. A bit longer, but prettier I think

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Jones View Post
    Thanks Bob - loved it

    Somerton Deep Lock is one of the deepest on the network, I think

    I met someone in a narrowboat on the Oxford Canal who fishes for Lock Keys at the locks with a magnet and then sells them for charity!

    For anyone else who wants to try it, an alternative way into Oxford is to cut across to the Thames at Wolvercote (Kings Cut) and follow the river down past Port Meadow. A bit longer, but prettier I think
    We did consider Kings Cut but discovered that one of the canal bridges south of it was broken so all the narrow boats were using Kings Cut to get around onto the Thames. To avoid the boat traffic we continued on the canal.
    Bootstrap
    There's no such thing as inclement weather - you're just incorrectly dressed

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    Hi, new here, but thought I'd say "Hi" as we met you on Monday morning as your were packing up at Shipton Weir Lock, we were "three up" and making a faff of portaging around the lock.

    This was our first time out in a canoe and we loved it. We hired the boat from Thrupp and got to bridge 199 the first night, Aynho for Sunday dinner and back to Pigeons lock for Sunday night. It was brilliant and we're going again. (I've even started looking at canoe's on ebay so I'm sure I'll be back asking questions). I'm a bit of a canal freak so that's where I'll spend most of my time. The only trouble we had was with a swan at Enslow and getting around Somerton Deep Lock, we had to divert through a field because of the narrowness of the towpath under the bridge and the angle needed to carry the boat.

    Thoroughly recommend the Great Western Arms at Aynho, it was fantastic.

    I'm glad you had a good trip, I took a couple of photo's of your group entering Thrupp, I'll post them up when I get around to it.

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    Excellent blogg,that must have taken ages to put on,thanks for taking the time to share
    "Access all areas, Under the radar"

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    Quote Originally Posted by stange View Post
    Hi, new here, but thought I'd say "Hi" as we met you on Monday morning as your were packing up at Shipton Weir Lock, we were "three up" and making a faff of portaging around the lock.

    This was our first time out in a canoe and we loved it. We hired the boat from Thrupp and got to bridge 199 the first night, Aynho for Sunday dinner and back to Pigeons lock for Sunday night. It was brilliant and we're going again. (I've even started looking at canoe's on ebay so I'm sure I'll be back asking questions). I'm a bit of a canal freak so that's where I'll spend most of my time. The only trouble we had was with a swan at Enslow and getting around Somerton Deep Lock, we had to divert through a field because of the narrowness of the towpath under the bridge and the angle needed to carry the boat.

    Thoroughly recommend the Great Western Arms at Aynho, it was fantastic.

    I'm glad you had a good trip, I took a couple of photo's of your group entering Thrupp, I'll post them up when I get around to it.

    It was good to bump into you. We were impressed that 3 of you with kit fit into the 1 canoe...especially given how much stuff we had!

    Glad you had a great trip...hope there are many more to come. Keep an eye on the For Sale section here!
    Last edited by Mal Grey; 6th-September-2011 at 08:02 PM. Reason: stoopid predictive text...

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    By the way Bob, why gleaming spires?

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    Great read, looks like a fun trip. considering coming over next summer,building a quick canoe and doing some of those canal/river trips.

    MM

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    Quote Originally Posted by stange View Post
    Hi, new here, but thought I'd say "Hi" as we met you on Monday morning as your were packing up at Shipton Weir Lock, we were "three up" and making a faff of portaging around the lock.

    This was our first time out in a canoe and we loved it. We hired the boat from Thrupp and got to bridge 199 the first night, Aynho for Sunday dinner and back to Pigeons lock for Sunday night. It was brilliant and we're going again. (I've even started looking at canoe's on ebay so I'm sure I'll be back asking questions). I'm a bit of a canal freak so that's where I'll spend most of my time. The only trouble we had was with a swan at Enslow and getting around Somerton Deep Lock, we had to divert through a field because of the narrowness of the towpath under the bridge and the angle needed to carry the boat.

    Thoroughly recommend the Great Western Arms at Aynho, it was fantastic.

    I'm glad you had a good trip, I took a couple of photo's of your group entering Thrupp, I'll post them up when I get around to it.
    We were wondering if you intended to join the forum, welcome on board

    As Mal said we were quite impressed by your ability to get three people and gear into one canoe but from what I remember you were eating pretty light or in pubs. That's very civilised.
    Bootstrap
    There's no such thing as inclement weather - you're just incorrectly dressed

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Jones View Post
    By the way Bob, why gleaming spires?
    I'm not sure of the history but that's how Oxford is usually described - "The City of Gleaming Spires" although it's not really a city
    Bootstrap
    There's no such thing as inclement weather - you're just incorrectly dressed

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bootstrap Bob View Post
    I'm not sure of the history but that's how Oxford is usually described - "The City of Gleaming Spires" although it's not really a city
    ...and the spires are covered in pigeon poo...
    Covering as many malmiles as possible before being distracted by the pub!

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bootstrap Bob View Post
    I'm not sure of the history but that's how Oxford is usually described - "The City of Gleaming Spires" although it's not really a city
    To-night from Oxford up your pathway strays!
    Here came I often, often, in old days--
    Thyrsis and I; we still had Thyrsis then.

    Runs it not here, the track by Childsworth Farm,
    Past the high wood, to where the elm-tree crowns
    The hill behind whose ridge the sunset flames?
    The signal-elm, that looks on Ilsley Downs,
    The Vale, the three lone weirs, the youthful Thames?--
    This winter-eve is warm,
    Humid the air! leafless, yet soft as spring,
    The tender purple spray on copse and briers!
    And that sweet city with her dreaming spires,
    She needs not June for beauty's heightening,



    ...and on, and on it goes

    Thyrsis

    Matthew Arnold
    (1822-1888)

  25. #25
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    It's a city because it has a Cathedral (Christ Church) and a bishop

    Just like St David's, Pembrokeshire

  26. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Jones View Post
    It's a city because it has a Cathedral (Christ Church) and a bishop

    Just like St David's, Pembrokeshire
    Although nowadays you don't even need a Cathedral!

  27. #27

    Default Marvelous!!!

    Fantastic blogg of an even better trip. A bitter sweet moment as I was invited! Well done anyway to you all, but particularly Rob as I know this was so meticulously planned. As the military say, and you have proved - time spent in recce is seledom wasted!!!!!

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    Nice trip Bob. I know you had been looking forward to paddling that route for a long time so great to see that it came off so well in the end.

    regards,

    Tim

  29. #29

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    Grand blogs with photos to match.

    TGB
    May the gentleness of morning, greet your silent passage through endless waters...

    May all your winds be gentle. And for ww - May it rain the night before.

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    Five stars blogg!!!
    Tony BR
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    Past 20 years teaching Biology!
    Next 20 building Canoes!!!

  31. #31

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    A great blog and inspiration for the future - just got to convince the wife, children and dog. Hope the trolley is now mended/ replaced.

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    Great blog, fantastic pics. Looks like you all had a great time.

    Roy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bootstrap Bob View Post
    We were wondering if you intended to join the forum, welcome on board

    As Mal said we were quite impressed by your ability to get three people and gear into one canoe but from what I remember you were eating pretty light or in pubs. That's very civilised.
    Yup, first lunchtime was the Rock of Gibralter for fish and chips (this followed a detour from the canal along the Cherwell, started off well but by the time we got opposite the pub we were hacking through reeds), then the first night was....Pot Noodle!! Breakfast was a cereal bar or two and coffee and then a massive roast dinner at the Great Western Arms at Aynho. That night it was pot noodle and tinned curry. I was paranoid about having too much stuff in the boat but after this trip we now know what we need/don't need and also how better to carry what we do need. I need another waterproof bag for instance, one big enough for the tent and maybe another smaller one for food, rather than have it in carrier bags! But you live and learn.

    I'm also going to buy a trolley, the portaging was the worst bit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by trebormann View Post
    A great blog and inspiration for the future - just got to convince the wife, children and dog. Hope the trolley is now mended/ replaced.
    I keep looking at the broken bits of the old trolley and thinking I should be able to do something with them but then I just look at new ones and think it would be easier
    Bootstrap
    There's no such thing as inclement weather - you're just incorrectly dressed

  35. #35

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    Living near Cropredy and hoping to get afloat soon, could you tell us where you camped at night? i know the pig place well and aynho, did you stay at other places? got lost looking at the wicked pics

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    Quote Originally Posted by paul_fox View Post
    Living near Cropredy and hoping to get afloat soon, could you tell us where you camped at night? i know the pig place well and aynho, did you stay at other places? got lost looking at the wicked pics
    Paul,

    The first night was spent at bridge 139 on the canal at Wormleighton reservoir.
    Night two was at the 'Pig Place'
    Night three was at Shipton on Cherwell lock where the canal splits off the river.

    Hope that helps.
    Bootstrap
    There's no such thing as inclement weather - you're just incorrectly dressed

  37. #37

    Default more pics

    I Know its a bit late but here's some more pics of the trip.
    Ranger Bob, our guide for the weekend
    Mrs. Logger in tarp city mk3
    We all ate very well.
    We drank verynicely too
    Oi! where's my tea & cake? This canoe guarding lark is thirsty work you know!
    Being in the locks had a strange effect on some...
    What an adventure! Enjoyed by us all I'm sure Thanks again Rob for all your hard work & planning.


    Andy.

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