Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Thames – Oxford to Reading… in pictures!

We began our journey from Oxford to meet the Kennet at Reading last Friday morning, heading for Abingdon.



Our Oxford moorings by Osney Bridge


We think this is the Folly which gives Folly Bridge it’s name

SDC10661 One of the Colleges

SDC10662 University Rowing Clubs – all in a row

SDC10663Waiting for Iffley Lock

SDC10665  Sandford on Thames

SDC10667Nuneham House – where Charles Dodgeson, (aka Lewis Carroll) used to row Alice Liddell

SDC10670 Beautiful day, beautiful scenery

SDC10671 Abingdon

We arrived at Abingdon at lunchtime after a perfect mornings’ cruising.  It’s on days like these that we feel privileged to be able to live this life!  We were expecting a couple of sets of visitors, so we decided to spend the weekend there.  On Saturday afternoon we were approached by a Heather and Roger on board nb Celtic Kiwi, who had moored opposite us, and said that they had been reading our blog for a long time.  We had a good old natter for a while until they left to have a wander around the town.

SDC10678 SDC10679 Roger and Heather

I promised to give them a mention – it was great to meet you both, and hopefully we will meet again later on in the summer on the K & A.

Later on in the afternoon, daughter Emma and family arrived for a brief visit.  It was lovely to see them, and to see how much Elizabeth has grown since we saw her last, when she was only 5 days old.

SDC10681 Elizabeth

SDC10683Flo and Milly

Friends Sally and Lisa came over on Sunday for a few hours, bearing chocolate and cider.  We all went for a wander around Abingdon.

SDC10672 Abingdon Bridge

SDC10688The ruins of the Abbey

We left yesterday morning, after a short delay  - as Rog put the engine into gear there was a horrible knocking sound.  we discovered that one of the bolts holding the drive shaft was so loose that it was banging as the shaft turned.  In fact they were all loose.  Ian climbed down our engine hole, removed the bolt and tightened the rest, and Karen and I made a quick trip to the nearby chandlery for a replacement and we were soon on our way.  We consider ourselves lucky that it didn’t happen mid-river, or we’d have found a use for our new anchor!!

We had a little trouble finding moorings again last night, but eventually managed to get in somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

This morning was another glorious one, we were up early and witnessed the mist on the river before the sun burned it off


The scenery was again absolutely stunning – the photos don’t do it justice

SDC10701 Hartslock Wood

SDC10702 Hardwick House

We stopped by the Tesco in Reading and did a huge shop.  We decided to stay here on the 24hr moorings and make a fresh start in the morning.  We were treated to a rare sight – a pair of black swans and their fluffy offspring – a perfect end to a perfect day.

SDC10707 SDC10708

We say goodbye to the Thames in the morning, at least for the next couple of months.  We have enjoyed it immensely, and could not have had more perfect weather.  It will seem strange to be back on the canal.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

The Upper Thames – the return journey…

On Tuesday morning we left Lechlade on our return journey

SDC10637 Old Father Thames at St John’s Lock

SDC10638 Model cottage and water mill at St John’s Lock

As we were travelling downstream, we made good time and moored in the same place at Newbridge that we moored on our outward journey.  This time we tried the other pub for our evening meal, the Rose Revived.

Yesterday morning we set off again, in bright sunshine but with a strong, very cold wind, our goal for the day being the moorings at Kings Lock, just west of Oxford.  On the way, just before we reached Pinkhill Lock, Serenity got stuck on a sandbar!  So, we returned the favour and spent some time attempting to pull her off.  We managed it in the end, hampered by the wind and the strong flow which kept pushing us the way we didn’t want to go!

SDC10642 Serenity, well and truly stuck

SDC10645We later had a visitor when we stopped at Oxford Cruisers for fuel

There were no moorings available at Kings Lock, so we continued to Godstow Lock – nothing there either, so we were forced to carry on to Osney Bridge, passing the beautiful open spaces of Port Meadow.

SDC10647 Nunnery ruins at Godstow Lock

SDC10648 Port Meadow

As we got further into Oxford, it became clear that the city does not welcome it’s visitors that arrive via the river.  The area is very shabby and run down, with no mooring provision at all – not that we would want to moor in an area like that anyway.  Not at all what we expected of the Thames!  The canal doesn’t fare any better either, apparently.  Perhaps the council are so high-minded that they only concern themselves with promoting the more historic buildings in the town for tourists to ogle at – most of which claim some connection to the ‘Harry Potter’ films!  How sad that they feel they have to attract tourists with something so mundane! 

We moored between Osney Bridge and the lock, not an easy task as the flow is tremendous here, being forced between the concrete edge, and the high walls of an old factory – the river here is about the same width as the average canal.

SDC10649 The entrance to Sheepdip Channel, and the Oxford canal

Serenity’s crew went sightseeing in the city this morning, but I couldn’t be bothered with all that traffic and noise, so I took Cassie for a long walk along the Thames Path instead.  We will stay here tonight and head for Abingdon tomorrow, where the welcome for water-borne visitors is said to be entirely different.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Our journey up the Upper Thames….

Friday 16th April

After our not very good start on Thursday when we got stuck in the mud, we had a peaceful night and set off up river on Friday morning.

The river crosses some very remote farmland – not a road or a railway to be seen, just the occasional farmhouse and livestock.  It is lovely countryside.  We reached Newbridge at lunchtime and, now aware of the difficult mooring conditions, decided that we would take advantage of the ‘reasonable’ moorings and stop for the day.  We checked out the Maybush Inn and decided to eat there on Friday evening


Newbridge and the Maybush Inn


New Bridge is a 13th C stone bridge.  200 years after it was built, Cromwell is said to have marched his army across it.  In the early mist on Saturday morning, it looked so atmospheric that you could almost hear the sound of marching feet, and the jingle of horses bridles!!

Saturday 17th April

With the early mist and the frost on the grass, it promised to be a beautiful day.  We set off in bright sunshine, and again we meandered through beautiful remote countryside – the river twists and turns and it’s quite hard work to get round some of the tight bends.  A couple of the locks were unmanned so Ian and I worked them – I wish all locks were this easy!


SDC10628 We had quite a long day (for us!) as we couldn’t find anywhere that we could get close enough to the bank to moor, but eventually found a lovely spot near Kelmscott,  We took the opportunity to barbecue, and watched the sun go down.

SDC10631 Reflections

Sunday 18th April

Another lovely day and we had a very short one and reached Lechlade before 12 midday.  The moorings here are much better, nice and deep right up to the edge.  We had a wander around the town in the afternoon, and then another barbecue in the evening.  Today we have been to do some shopping and both Ian and I have had our hair cut.  We are planning an early start tomorrow as we want to try to get back as far as Newbridge tomorrow so we don’t have to worry about where we can moor for the night.  We have enjoyed our cruising up the river, but would definitely advise other narrowboaters that it is very difficult to find moorings that are deep enough to get the boat to the bank, so if you see a spot, grab it, before a cruiser does!

SDC10634 Lechlade in the distance


Windsong and Serenity moored at Lechlade

Thursday, 15 April 2010

£5.00 to ‘moor’ on a mudbank!!…

We had an interesting experience last night – Ian and Karen joined us for a meal, we’d had a few bevvies and Rog said ‘there’s a deer swimming down the canal’  ‘Yeah, right’, we said - ‘how many have you had’?  But he was right!  Poor thing had fallen in somewhere and the bank was too high for it to get out.

SDC10592Not a good photo as it was almost dark and the flash didn’t reach that far, so I had to lighten it up a lot – but you get the picture.  It managed to scramble out a few seconds after I took the photo.

This morning we set off for the Thames.  Dukes Cut lock needs a bit of TLC – it looks like BW have forgotten about it. 


SDC10596 Open vistas on the first part of the Upper Thames

We arrived at Eynsham lock and duly paid for our EA licence – the locky said to moor the other side of the bridge if we wanted to have lunch in the nearby pub – so we tried – and got stuck fast on a mudbank right next to a sign inviting us to moor for £5 a day!

SDC10599 SDC10598

I was on the bank at the time ready to take the rope.  Much pushing, pulling and use of the engine, bow-thruster and boat pole couldn’t shift us, so Serenity reversed back to tow us off, almost getting stuck several times themselves.

SDC10601 Serenity to the rescue


First they tried to pull the back off

SDC10605 Then the front

An hour later we were still stuck solid.  We then decided that we needed further help, but there were no other boats moving to lend a hand, so I walked back to the lock and the locky said that Anglo Welsh were only a few minutes away, and very kindly phoned them for us.  He said that the EA had dredged that bit during the winter, and taken away the buoy which told you not too moor here as it was too shallow – it’s obviously silted up again.  Anglo Welsh came haring to the rescue, but just as they arrived, Karen managed to pull us free.

SDC10607 The  Cavalry arrive


Free at last!!

We are now moored, breasted up, just around the corner, so all’s well that ends well.  We have a lovely view from our side hatch to make up for the stress!  Things can only get better, and we have learnt a valuable lesson – don’t assume that because there is a sign inviting you to moor, you can!!


Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Aynho and Somerton

Monday 12th April

We left Kings Sutton in not such nice weather as we have been having recently and continued on our journey southwards down the Oxford canal, through the odd shaped Aynho Weir Lock – not easy when the wind keeps insisting that you aren’t allowed to leave the lock!  Hooray for the bow thruster!SDC10580 A quite uneventful day, we moored early opposite Souldern Old Wharf – there’s a farm there, and lots of country smells!

Tuesday 13th April

 This morning we set off again, this time looking forward to Somerton Deep Lock, arguably the deepest lock on the system at 12ft.  In contrast to yesterday it was a glorious morning, although the wind was still quite strong and a trifle nippy.  Somerton is a lovely spot, another of our favourites, so I took lots of photos – I hope readers will bear with me!

SDC10581 SDC10583 SDC10582 SDC10586 The Oxfordshire countryside is beautiful here, and we had a lovely run for the next couple of hours through several more locks to Lower Heyford, where we filled with water and also spotted two more bloggers – Bones and Milly M, Maffi’s boat.  No sign of anyone on board either boat,  so they were probably at work.  Sorry to have missed you both, maybe next time!


We are now moored for the night just south of Dashwoods Lock, but it’s a TV and Internet black hole, so this post won’t be published tonight, that’s why I’ve put the dates on.  Hopefully when we get a bit closer to Oxford the signal will improve.

Wednesday 14th April

Today we had a pleasant cruise, but once again the weather was overcast with a stiff cold wind. We spotted a little muntjac deer standing stock peering at us through some trees – of course the camera was inside and I couldn’t get to it quickly enough.  Also spotted a couple of herons, which have been conspicuous by their absence so far on this cruise – we’ve only seen two others since we set out in the middle of March.  We watered at Thrupp, and were dismayed at the amount of permanent moorings there were, and the sad lack of visitor moorings – what few there were were full up with what looked like fairly long-termers.  We continued until we found some fairly decent ones above Roundham Lock, where we decided to stop.  Karen and I hiked into Kidlington to replenish supplies before our sojourn on the Thames.  We are in an ideal position to make a dash for  Dukes cut  in the morning.  This is our first time on a river, other than short stretches, so wish us luck!!