What better way to spend a beautiful summer’s day than on a cruise up the South Oxford Canal with friends?

Every now and then I get a chance to get out on one of our boats and enjoy the canal myself. So a weekend in July seven friends and I set off from Oxford… destination Kirtlington.

Once all were on board we left Oxford with sprits high. John, a keen – and I have to say very talented – photographer was behind the camera, myself at the helm and the table laden with goodies for a snacking lunch. (Another advantage of a break on the canal is that everyone brings a contribution. I supplied dinner, Jan was in charge of breakfast for next morning, Lorrie and Alyson provided our very ample lunch.) And the corks where popping – Alyson made sure of that.

We drifted gently along chatting, catching up with news and enjoying the scenery. It does not take long for everyone to relax and slip into the gentle pace of canal life and forget the strains of 9 to 5!!

Suddenly everyone had a role and we all enjoyed a bit of banter and activity at the locks. Then back on board for another little snack from the table, sink into a comfortable chair in the bow, eyelids become heavy and it’s not long before Colin is having a well earned snooze.

Once out of Oxford we begin to climb, the locks get deeper, the scenery more rural. Through Kiddlington Green lock, and on to Roundham, then gently but determinedly on to Thrupp.

We admire the boats moored – the good, the bad and in some cases the very ugly. Even so they all have a place in the great canal community and add to the unique character of the “Oxford”.

Lift bridge negotiated, Alan and Gordon back on board. Exeter and I navigate the Thrupp wide…

Probably time to sample our on board house gin… Roundwood Gin, created by Lorrie’s daughter Emily in her distillery in Cambridge. Lorrie had been given very strict instructions for the preparation; orange peel and thyme are added. The result is delicious – I definitely can recommend it. (Buy it online here!)

Out of Thrupp the church at Shipston on Cherwell looks down on us and the cows in the field stop munching to check us out. In the distance is Shipston Weir Lock – a diamond shaped lock which will take us out onto the river Cherwell. The sky is blue , the sun is high in the sky, the gentlemen are wearing their straw hats, and all is very well with the world.

Exeter is preforming well despite being followed very closely by a rather eccentric gentleman in a small, cross-looking narrow boat!! As we are on the river now and the water is deep, I decide to pull away and happily leave our tail behind !!!

Turning the bend, the very pretty iron bridge comes into sight and with it Bakers Lock which takes us back onto the canal. We exit the lock, gently collecting crew members who by now are very slick and efficient with the dealing of the locks, and head for Enslow.

Dinner is in the oven and the smell of Acapulco Chicken is wafting out of the galley. We float past the Rock of Gibraltar, waving to the customers sat in the garden enjoying a early evening beer, past Kingsground Marina with boats all moored in a tidy row, paintwork shining in the evening sun.

We have by now well and truly switched off from the real world and are part of the canal world, enjoying the scenery which changes with each bend, watching for herons, kingfishers and moorhens. Alan suddenly spies a very small bat clinging to a reed – we decide he got caught out and stayed out past the curfew time!!!

Kirtlington and Pigeons Lock is now in our sights. The lunch table is a memory, rice is on to boil and garlic bread made and waiting to be popped into the oven to accompany the chicken. The cheesecake has been decorated and all is ready to go… we are very hungry!!!

We negotiate the lock and find a convenient mooring just past it. The boat is tied up, the engine silenced. Exeter is given a pat for getting us to our destination.

The chairs are scattered about and dinner is served along with a few bottles of very good red wine. We settle back to discuss the day and put the world to rights.

As I said at the beginning of our trip “what better way to spend the day than with friends on my favourite canal?”. Thankyou to my mates and to John who caught our happy memories on camera!!

If you would like to do the same, give me a call and we can discuss… 01865 554343.

Carys