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Tuesday 17 October 2023

Wharves and Wonderings.

Another quiet night, but as we had not enough power through the ether we couldn't publish the blog, sorry folks, but I hope you have it now. 

 As we approached Allen's Lock we passed the barn at Manor Farm in Upper Heyford. The farm is owned by New College, Oxford and the barn was built between 1419 and 1421. It has 9 bays and two entrances. In the background is St. Mary's Church. The oldest part of the current church is the tower that was erected in 1425, but there was a wooden church at the time of the Norman Conquest.
As we approached

This was the first lock of the day and is Allen's Lock. There was a boat that passed us whilst we were moored so we knew we would have to drop each lock.

I had just put some hard wood logs on the stove just before we left to keep the fire ticking over until we stopped, so we had to suffer a bit of smoke for a while. The sun was shining on the brickwork of Bridge 200 that is just before our next lock, Heywood Common Lock.

As we approached Somerton the views across the flood plain became extensive.. It is here that there are no real hedges at the end of the fields so the towpath just cross the fields so gates are needed at the end of each field. Some of the fields were already flooded a little so I expect that there will be plenty of birds taking advantage later in the year.

It felt like we were coming out of a tunnel as we came through Bridge 198 with the boat shining in the sunlight. Well, perhaps shining is not the correct word!

In the distance, among some trees, you can get glimpses of Somerton Mill. The current building was constructed in 1869, but on the site of an earlier mill from 1513. A 12' water wheel was installed and powered 2 pairs of stones. It last worked commercially in 1935 but everything is still in place and occasionally  they do produce flour.

Somerton Wharf was not where these boats are now moored but close by the bridge. It was a spot where Council road stone was regularly dropped off. They also used to have cattle sales there too. Just through the bridge we found to old boats partially adrift so Helen held the centre line under the bridge whilst I tried to moor them up as best I could.

There must be some sort of a bye law or rule but this bridge was up when we came through on the way south, but it was down on the way back. Is it like the country code where if you come across  a gate leave it as you find it? I suppose they can be opened/closed from either side.

Souldern Wharf was built soon after the canal was opened in 1790. In 1918 the wharf was still working and was for rent, along with 76 acres of grassland too.

There were much shenanigans when the Great Western Railway wanted to extend to the north via the Midlands and Birmingham in particular. LNWR were also looking for this traffic and didn't want competition. GWR eventually got the Acts of Parliament required and construction started in 1849. There was little money as the GWR Directors had put their own money into it. The Acts of Parliament had eventually said that the lines could be mixed gauge as GWR were just about the only railway using the broad gauge. They had to include another rail so that other companies could access the route. Originally it was heading for Curzon Street Station, that is reopening for HS2, but before the Birmingham and Oxford Railway was opened the station had moved to Snow Hill Station. The line opened in October 1852. There are a couple of viaduct on the route just before Anyo Wharf. Eventually the GWR decided that trying to extend their broad gauge to the north wasn't working and in 1869 they decided that all routes north of Oxford would be narrow gauge. The broad gauge survived elsewhere until 1892 though.

At the diamond shaped Anyo Weir Lock I noticed the date of 1931. This was the same time that the Grand Union was being updated to wide locks and bridges etc,. There was a lot going on then on the canals.

We were soon through Nells Bridge Lock and there is another story about this lock, in a similar vein as my one on Wednesday 11th on the way down. This happened in 1848. A boatman had his horse rope across the bridge despite it being against Canal regulations and a sign saying the penalty would be £5. A man on a horse came across this and stopped when the boatman, Joseph Fisher, asked him to wait while he unhitched. Whilst this was taking place a man on a runaway horse came hurtling down the hill. They collided with the line that was so tight that it snapped and the recoil flicked away, catching a 78 year old woman, the mother of the canal foreman, around the neck. She was catapulted down the road over 10 yards and was almost dead instantly. The inquest followed the next day and the death was called accidental! However the boatman was later fined the £5 for breaking the regulations. Different times. During the actual inquest three other boats going through the lock did exactly the same thing.

This is Adderbury Wharf that has been converted and added to, to make a large posh house. In 1854 it was under the tenancy of James Wycherley and consisted of a dwelling house, granary, stables, coal wharf with a nearly new weighing machine. There were also 2 lime kilns and a barn as well as other outbuildings. There was 5 acres of land with it too.  

I was intrigued by the stones I had seen along the bank, especially as I had spotted one and it didn't match up with the old maps. Just after going under the M40 I saw this stone with the four holes that would have held a plate in place. The map says that the distances were all measured from Longford and this was 68 miles away. This was the original Junction with the Coventry Canal where the two canals ran parallel with each other, until the junction was made at Hawkesbury. There were a couple of blokes lounging around a fire. I thought they may be fishing as the River Cherwell is just out of the picture to the left, but I saw no gear. 

We went up Kins Sutton Lock and moored up soon afterwards. We decided to wash the st'bd side of the boat as the bank was a good height and were had time whilst the engine cooled down. After that I did the oil change on the gear box and engine along with filters etc. It may be the last dry day for doing such things this time away.

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