|Surrounded by the shopping mall is historic Tooley's yard|
Tooley's then was in its final years as the yard where Tom Rolt's boat Cressy had been made ready for his honeymoon cruise – the voyage that became the legendary book Narrowboat. Indeed our boat was one of the last built before the whole area was redeveloped to form the bland Castle Quays shopping mall.
Tooley's does survive; and it's still a working boatyard but cramped into a small corner marked 'heritage' between Marks & Spencer and BHS.
We've been back on the Oxford Canal for two days now after a long weekend of family visiting. We left the boat in the care of the friendly Thrupp Canal Cruising Club whose immaculately kept moorings occupy a stretch of the canalside in this picturesque outcrop of Oxford.
North from there we've been travelling through Oxfordshire countryside at its finest on a rural route that barely touches a village let alone a town (Banbury is our first).
|Oddly shaped Shipton Weir Lock where canal meets river|
Like the K&A of recent memory the Oxford is largely soft-sided with only minimal piled edges. Trouble is that these get eaten away by the wash of passing boats and often eroded further by farmers' cows coming down to get water. Repairing is a never-ending job.
|Badly eroded canal edge and, below, a sizable repair|
Last night we moored just below Heyford Common Lock where a leaking side weir had been causing day-long problems with very low water levels in the next pound. Wary of this, we made an unusually early start – for us – this morning to get through the pound before the passage of other boats started the levels dropping again.
|Heading into Somerton Deep Lock|
But we finally made it to Banbury – a town whose sometimes scruffy canalside is almost masochistically appealing after the endless miles of idyllic Oxfordshire affluence. I think one night will probably be enough though!