Well I think this visit makes Bladon Chains our most visited campsite. The first time we visited, back in August 2009. it was just an overnight stop on the way back from “oop North”. The remainder of our visits (3) we have stayed because of its adjacency to Thrupp and the Oxford Canal. This trip was no exception. We were meeting our dear friends Bob & Barb Shorter, as we have done as least once a year since we met them on a Camping and Caravan Club guided RV tour of the Canadian Rockies. The trip, which inspired us to go on our American odyssey in May/June of this year, was back in May 2012.
This year, we decided on a trip on the Oxford Canal as we knew they had much enjoyed our trip on the River Wey last year. Both being retired, they arrived before us and saved us a space next to them at the familiar and very pleasant site – useful for a visit to Blenheim Palace. We had left late afternoon and made surprisingly good time – even though traffic on the A34 was pretty bad. As soon as we arrived Barb had the kettle on and we had a nice cuppa before setting up the van. There was plenty to catch up on – even though they had come to watch Paul abseil down the Spinnaker Tower a few weeks earlier. It was also the first time they had seen our new van so we gave them the “five bob tour”- as my Dad would have called it.
It was my turn to produce the main course and it was soon heating up to a golden sizzle in the oven. We had Tartiflette with a green salad and ciabatta. It went down very well and – after a break – we then tackled dessert. Barb was responsible for this course, and we had an amazing selection of puds to choose from – plus cheese for those who could manage it! We talked and whiled away the evening in an atmosphere of conviviality until bedtime was indicated by loud yawns (mainly from us as we don’t ever seem to get to bed early enough).
It was up early to pack the picnic, which I had prepared the day before, and breakfast and showers and then we were off to Thrupp to pick up our boat for the day. We went via Woodstock, where I picked up some fresh bread from the handy Co-op, while Paul gave Bob and Barb a whistle-stop tour of the very cute little town. The week leading up to our trip had been a bit dodgy weather-wise, so we were relived to find that we had a lovely sunny day. We boarded and were briefed and were soon off, with the kettle on the boil for the first of many cups of coffee. We shortly encountered our first lift bridge, swiftly followed by the unusual diamond shape lock, which ushers the River Cherwell into the canal. Bob was at the helm. He had taken to steering like a duck to water on our previous trip – a real natural and he was to spend most of the day at the helm. His choice I hasten to add! He and Paul chatted at the stern while Barb and I set the world straight in the pointy end.
As we had done this trip several times before, we knew the route and – more importantly – the location of the turn round and lunch spot. Bob expertly winded the boat and we moored at the old quarry near Kirtlington for our lunch. The home-made quiches and salad went down well and we were soon full. A quick look at the old quarry and we were off on the return leg. We made our way back in a leisurely manner as we had plenty of time to arrive back without incurring a fine (about which we had been most sternly warned before we left!).
One lock before the boatyard, we stopped for a lovely cuppa and a cream tea. Very hungry-making, this boating lark! Here are a few images from our return journey.
We returned the boat and made our way home via the rather lovely Combe Mill – a Victorian steam and water driven sawmill, owned by the Blenheim estate. We were investigating it as it was it was going to be “in steam” the next day, but it was further away than we had anticipated and thus not an option for B&B to visit by bike, sadly.
I had booked a table at a local pub for our evening meal but (a) we were not hungry enough to do a meal justice and (b) we had loads of left-over food to use up, so we cancelled. We went our separate ways for a while on our return and we both had a beepy (or snooze) to refresh us. We spent the evening Chez Shorter, in their lovely vintage Hymer van. We ate more, drank more, chatted more and then it was bed and a lovely peaceful night.
The Shorters were staying an extra couple of days to explore the area, the lucky devils, but we had to be back for Paul to work on Monday. We shared a last cup of coffee and then bid them a fond farewell, agreeing that we would meet for our usual pre Christmas meal. So – another lovely weekend and only another couple of weeks and we’ll be off to Norfolk for the Bank Holiday weekend. Can’t wait! We love our van 🙂