On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Toad Rock, Tunbridge Wells

Oxford Canal trip – Autobots on tour! Aug 9-11

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We are avid quizzers and meet most Tuesdays at our local, The Seagull, where we enter the weekly quiz. The quiz is free to enter and the winner’s prize is £40. The team (The Autobots – named by Jacquie’s son Harry at one of our early quizzes)   have had a pretty successful year and have saved our winnings. Initially we had a vague idea of going for a curry on the proceeds but as they mounted it was suggested that we should do something more adventurous and we hit upon the plan of hiring a canal boat for the day with a luxury picnic from M&S! The core of the team is four, with others joining as and when to make up the max of 6. Not everyone could make it and in the end there were 7 of us. (Us, Anne and Gray and their daughter Holly and Jacquie and Rob).

We drove up to Woodstock on the Friday evening and stayed at the Bladon Chains CC site, where we had been once before a few years ago. It is in the parkland on the edge of the grounds of the beautiful Blenheim Palace

Up early the next morning and excitement was high. We drove the short trip to Thrupp where we were picking up our boat from the Oxfordshire Narrowboats base there. Being “local” we were first to arrive.

Jacquie and Rob were next to arrive, closely followed by Anne, Gray and Holly with the picnic. It was clear that we would not starve! We had our briefing and were off! On the kids party boat! Funny!

Party Boat

P1010747

The kettle was soon on and we had breakfast continental style (pastries) and headed off towards Aynho. At our first lock (an unusual diamond shape) we encountered a stag night party on 2 boats. Much banter ensued!

The Groom with Jacquie and Holly

The Groom with Jacquie and Holly

All this for a tea-bag. Mmmm

All this for a tea-bag. Mmmm

I thin k it’s fair to say that they were the most disorganised bunch ever and the operation took ages but we had a good laugh with them before we made our way through the lock.

Discussing the lock

Discussing the lock

The pretty River Cherwell meanders in and out of the canal on this stretch and you are rarely far from it. We passed the Rock of Gibraltar pub (thus legitimately enabling us to claim we had been to Gib on this trip). No sign of any Sapnish fishermen , fortunately!

Gibraltar!

Gibraltar!

Our turn round point and lunch spot was the disused quarry at Shipton on Cherwell and we feasted royally – even though we also had afternoon tea planned!

Here are a few more images of the day:

Or the twins as we like to call them!

Or the twins as we like to call them!

It's a love thing!

It’s a love thing!

Busy dog

Busy dog

Approaching the diamond lock on the return leg

Approaching the diamond lock on the return leg

A lift bridge

A lift bridge

A lock

A lock

Rob - putting his back into it!

Rob – putting his back into it!

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Our gallant skipper

We arrived back at our start point with an hour to spare, so set off in the opposite driection, towards Oxford. We had afternoon tea on this leg. With scones and clotted cream………..

Afternoon Tea

FOOD!

As we turned (known as winding) the boat we saw this sign which afforded us much amusement:

Isn't it ironic?

Isn’t it ironic?

All to soon it was time to hand over and go home. Another lovely day on the canal. I want a boat!

No evening meal was required that night and we had noticed that the Mikron Theatre Company were at The Jolly Boatman and decided to go and see them perform. They are a touring company, using the narrowboat, Tyseley, as a base. Envious much! We had seen them many years ago, when the then unknown Mark (Suits you sir!) Williams – now more popularly known for being Ron Weasley’s dad –  was a member of the team (1983-85).

It was packed at the pub and we struggled to park. We managed to find seats by moving a bench and shared that with a few others.  This years show is called Beyond the veil and has a bee-keeping theme. Such a talented bunch (Acting, singing and playing instruments) and a jolly good evening.

Beyond the Veil

Beyond the Veil

We returned to the site and tumbled into bed tired but very happy.  We followed the usual Sunday morning “routine” of boiled eggs and a leisurely read and then packed up for the journey home, looking forward to our next trip, the following weekend with our niece and nephew.  As we were leaving the site, I got a call from the boatyard to say that a BW key for the electric lift-bridge was missing. A mad flurry of texts followed and, as suspected,  Rob was the culprit. We agreed to post them back and all was well! Phew. Roll on next weekend.

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