On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Toad Rock, Tunbridge Wells

Oxford Canal with the Smiths 7-9 October

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Another day on the Oxford Canal, another stay at Bladon Chains, near Woodstock. This must make it one of our most visited sites, I think?

We had the usual Friday evening crawl up the A34, with plenty of traffic at the usual pinch-points. We had expected our friends Martin & Rachel Smith, who live in North London, to be there before us but we arrived first. We managed to nab a couple of adjacent pitches at this always busy site,  got set up and waited for them to arrive. They came over to us for dinner and we had a pleasant evening catching up on what’s been going on in each other’s busy lives. We went to bed at a reasonable hour, though, as we had an early start the next day.

Saturday was fine but overcast and as were were waiting to go we had fun watching a squirrel busily stocking up with acorns for the winter. He was totally oblivious to us and – even though we tried to point him out to Archie – he was totally oblivious to the squirrel. Soon it was time for the off and we all bundled into the car with our picnic, ready for the short trip to Thrupp.


Our pitch


Archie ready for the off

As we were frequent hirers, the handover at the boatyard was swift  and we soon had the kettle on for the first of many cuppas. It’s almost uncanny how, on the canal, the drinks are always freshly made just as you come round the corner to see a lock or a swing bridge, so that when you get back your cuppa is cold. Now that’s fine with me as I can come back to a cuppa, quite happily, after several hours have elapsed but does not please others.

We went safely through the first lock and then it was Martin’s turn to have a go at steering and then Rachel’s. Both took to it like – ahem –  a duck to water. I attribute that to excellent tuition.


Approaching Shipton Weir Lock


Cap’n Smith


Rachel – multi-tasking


Instructing the new crew

We pottered on until lunch time, with Archie keeping on eye out and making sure we were doing everything properly.

Lunch stop was – as usual – the old quarry just outside Kirtlington. We had already winded (turned) the boat and so after lunch we began the return leg. By this time Martin and Rachel were well into the swing of things. Shaping up to be a good crew!


We saw several kingfishers but never managed to get a good shot. And then it was all too soon, time to hand the boat back. Another lovely day on the canal. The route we took seems very short, but it’s probably a total of 6 hours cruising, at a leisurely pace.


After we had handed over the boat, it was back to the site for a quick snooze and a wash and brush-up before dinner. We were booked at the Boat Inn at Thrupp, where we had a very pleasant meal, with plenty of lively conversation. The fresh air had taken its toll, though, and we soon went back for a quiet night, drifting off to the sound of owls hooting. Lovely.

As luck would have it, Sunday dawned bright and beautiful. Typical!  We had a coffee together while Martin and Paul struggled with stowing Martin’s satellite dish, which eventually complied. And then it was time for us to go. The Smiths were staying on for another couple of nights, a luxury denied us “not fully retired” types. But we got home in good time to unpack and relax before the start of another busy week.


Sunlight through the trees


Basking Border

I’ll leave you with this picture. Can you see what it is yet?




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