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:
Mrs Logger (Cilla)
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.