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Mid-day, Grant’s Lock on the South Oxford. It’s bright and hot. Good to see that the old lock cottage is being restored.

Locks are a bit like Marmite, something you love or hate. For me, they punctuate a journey, and create periods of animation and action. They’re excuses for sharing, or making a brew; or moments to stop and stare as the lock chamber fills or empties. Travelling at just above walking pace the 10-15 minutes at a lock can be factored into the journey as ‘lock miles’ ie. they take roughly the same amount of time to complete as travelling a mile along a lock-free pound. That’s the theory at least. On Eileen we seem to travel at just under walking pace and take that little bit longer over every lock as there’s always something to see or say. And, well there’s no need to rush, that’s not what inlanding is about, rushing about on the water road misses the point entirely.

We try and get the kids involved in working through a lock as much as possible. It’s nerve-racking; you need focus and eyes-in-the-back-of-your-head but respect for the massive potentially destructive power of a lock is something the kids need to learn and learn early. They’re slowly getting to grips with the fact that locksides are not playgrounds, but neither are they to be shied away from, with care and attention kids soon get to grips with lock etiquette and as they grow they’ll take greater responsibility for the workload involved in moving our boat around the inland waterways.

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The lock furniture is being tidied up too…
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Down at Nell Bridge and we’re at work on the final stages of setting the lock to accept Eileen.
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With the lock full and Fin and I returning to the boat, there’s just time for Mol to take a photo of Claire and Joe… (Mmm, sorry about the typical ‘brothers response’ to a sister’s request to smile!)
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Joe watches on as Fin guides Eileen out of Nell Bridge Lock and under the A41.
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There’s something magical about the lock environment, the hump-backed bridge below the bottom gate, the towpath and Cut squeezed under the arch; the chill of the water-cooled and shaded lock chamber; the flurry of activity when another boat’s awaiting entry; the chance meeting of people and the general divvying out of duties around the lock… it’s all part of the alchemy of the Cut…
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Eileen ‘serene’ in the afternoon sunshine, tied by her centre rope to a timber bollard, above Tarver’s or Kings Sutton Lock
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Time enough at a lock for Molly to get creative with the camera in the grass!
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At Aynho Weir Lock Fin and I wait in the clear water where the River Cherwell crosses the canal and flows on under the arches…
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Last lock of the day. The diamond-shaped Aynho Weir Lock is always a bit of a faff, slow to fill and the small gates unevenly-balanced and reluctant.
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And finally, another Summer’s day, in the dramatic ‘depths’ of Somerton Deep Lock

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