On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Toad Rock, Tunbridge Wells

Twilite Leisure, Banbury 8-10 June

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Friday 8th

We had viewings on the house and set off right in the middle of one so it was all a bit chaotic, but we were soon trundling up the A34 as we have so oft done before. This weekend was our “Bob & Barb” weekend. Regulars will recall that we met them on our RV trip in Canada back in 2012. We became firm friends and generally meet at least twice a year, now,  to spend some time together and have a good catch-up.

They generally arrive on site well before us as they are fully retired but their journey had not been the smoothest (five and a half hours from Worthing. Oops). They did beat us there, but only just.

“There” was the Twilite Leisure Caravan and Camping Park, which is handily located exactly opposite Twyford Wharf, where we had a day-boat booked for Saturday. It was very easy to miss the site entrance, which could do with some additional signage, we thought. Luckily, we had hired a boat from Twyford Wharf last Autumn so we knew roughly where it would be.

It is an attractively landscaped site with some interesting (ex) industrial buildings. Notably the spotless shower block, which has been built inside an old-brick kiln. Very enterprising.

We got settled and had tea (a CREAM tea for some! Not me. I’ll leave you to guess.) and got nattering. B&B are very easy company and we get on like a house on fire. There is always plenty to talk about. And laugh about. 🙂

It was my turn to cook the Friday evening dinner and I had pre-prepared a Smoked Fish and Spinach pie, which we later ate with some lush Purple Sprouting broccoli. Yum. It was so warm we sat outside for our first course, although as the sun went down the air chilled and we went inside for dessert. Barb provided an array of desserts. And cheese. We went to bed stuffed!

We retired early as we had a reasonably early start the next day – although Bob had got up very early indeed and we found all the previous evening’s washing up done and dried and deposited outside our door when we got up. How nice!!

Saturday 9th

Up early to have breakfast and pack our food, drink and bits and pieces for our day on the boat. Usually there is a short drive to pick up the boat but today, it was walkable! Even with all our gear. The handover was swift and we were soon off towards Adderbury and beyond, heading south on the lovely Oxford Canal.

The weather forecast had not been too promising, predicting an overcast day but it was so much better than anticipated. The countryside looked summer-fresh and it must have been mating day for damsel flies as they were legion! The dog-roses were particularly pretty, too. It was very much a case of being glad to be in England now that (meterological) summer is here (to knowingly and defiantly misquote Robert Browning!).

 

Bob is a natural at the helm and we whistled through the locks, all three of them,  including the unusual diamond shaped weir lock just near Aynho, where the River Cherwell nudges the canal and disappears through a lovely brick-built weir.  This lock has a fall/rise of just 1foot (or 30 cm for younger people among you!). Thence onward to the winding hole that lies just before the impressive Somerton Deep lock. So-called because, yes, it IS deep. In sharp contrast with Aynho weir, it has a fall/rise of 12 feet, which makes it the 16th deepest lock on the waterways. In case you are wondering,  the deepest lock we have ever done is Bath Deep lock on the Kennet and Avon Canal, which is a whopping 19 feet 5 inches (5.92 m) deep. And that is not even the deepest! That crown falls to Tuel Lane Lock on the Rochdale canal at 19ft 8 1/2 inces (6m) deep. It must be said that both locks are cheating a bit, because they were both originally two locks, rebuilt as one.

 

We turned at the winding hole, although being short, we did not really need the width. Which was just as well as a boat had annoyingly moored just north of the turning “arc”, which would have made it tricky for a longer boat.

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Paul spotting the lunch stop!

We had spotted a pleasant spot for lunch, overlooking the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside and, now we were on the return leg of our journey, we moored for lunch. Quiche (rather tanned as I had left in the oven too long, but nonetheless tasty) with a delicious Greek salad, prepared by Barb. A very nice lunch indeed.

We called in at lovely Anynho Wharf for ice-creams and then continued retracing our steps in the lush HOT afternoon sun. We had noticed a sharp decline in Archie’s ability to get about both on the boat and ashore. He needed help. It highlighted his age and the ever-present thought that that he won’t be around for ever. But we still have him for now and he does seem to still be enjoying his boating.

 

All too soon we were back, handed over the boat and made our way back to the site where our vans were. Time for a G&T! And then it was time to get spruced up for dinner at a local hostelry.

I had booked the Red Lion in Adderbury, and as we sat down and ordered both Paul and I realised – almost simultaneously, – that that this was the pub where we had eaten lunch some 15 years ago, when we went to view Archie and Freddie, with Sue and Paul,  as very young puppies. They were born in Sibford Gower, which is not too far away. We actually took Arch to see his birthplace a few years back. He wasn’t bothered!

We had a nice meal and then made our way home. We had a trip round this beautiful Cotswold village and also to Kings Sutton, another attractive village. Many beautiful houses and privileged people.

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Kings Sutton Church at sunset

Back at the van, we had coffee and more chat and then eagerly hopped into bed. It had been a long day in the fresh air!

Sunday 10th

Another nice day but, sadly, time for us to go home. We had breakfast and another last coffee with B&B. They were staying another night and planned to cycle into Banbury town along the towpath (perhaps not such a good idea in hindsight, as it was not without incident – including a puncture and even a couple of falls; one with rather damp consequences).

We bid them a fond farewell, they cycled off and we packed up and set off on our journey home.  Another lovely weekend in their company. And only 17 days until we set off for our summer break. Woo hoo!

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