Tuesday, July 22, 2014

First full day on the Thames.

And we didn’t get very far!

We saw Doug and James off at just after 9 this morning, they’re heading for a lunch date in Thrupp so had to get away handily.

Bye, guys. Good to see you again.IMG_0531

I made a trip up to the Co-op in Eynsham for a paper and a few bits and pieces, then we debated what to do. I disposed of the rubbish and emptied a loo cassette, and we still hadn’t made up our minds. There are some very pleasant meadow moorings above the lock, or should we turn around and start heading downstream?

The decision was almost made for us when a boat came down the lock, those open-wide gates looked inviting. So we went up and moored on the meadow. Not ones for unconsidered actions, are we!

Leaving Eynsham Lock, pursued by a large river launch.IMG_0532

Under Swinford Bridge, dating from 1769IMG_0533
The bridge replaced a ferry crossing, and is still privately owned, charging tolls to crossing traffic. Pedestrians and cyclists use it for free…

We moored a few hundred yards up on the open meadow, just upstream of the Swinford Manor moorings where they charge £10 a night!

Moored on the meadow above Eynsham LockIMG_0534

There are several other narrowboats dotted along the bank here, and narrowboat owners are not generally known for throwing money about, so I guess it’s free here.

Riverside view…IMG_0535

…and bankside view.
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I love rivers!

Locks 1, miles maybe ½, just about…

Monday, July 21, 2014

Three miles on the Thames

Yes, we’re finally on the Thames again. The first half-mile of today’s short trip took us down to Dukes Lock, a right turn into Dukes Cut and up Dukes Cut Lock, then along the short cut to join the King’s Mill backwater. From this point we’re actually on the river.

After topping up the tank next to where we’d moored we cruised on tick-over past the long term moorings and caught the lock just as another boat was coming out.

Dukes Lock, the last of the Oxford Canal locks for the time beingIMG_0514
A hard right turn beyond the lock cottage took us into Dukes Cut Lock, also just vacated by a boat rejoining the canal system.

Under the bridge…
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…and going up around a foot onto Dukes CutIMG_0517

There are various boats moored in the weeds on the backwater…IMG_0518

…some trying, and failing, to be inconspicuous!IMG_0521

The backwater emerges just upstream of Kings Lock, and we’re on the main channel of the river.

Looking back at Kings Lock
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We had just less than three miles to cruise upstream to Eynsham Lock and a planned rendezvous later in the day.

Wide, wide water.IMG_0523

The 24 hour moorings above the lock gave us a meeting place for tonight, and I went and paid money over to the lock keeper for the privilege of cruising the river. We paid for 4 weeks, due to the pricing strategy it’s actually cheaper than 3 individual weeks. We may not stay down here that long, we’ll see how it goes.

A beautiful 1930’s carvel-built launch leaving Eynsham LockIMG_0525 

Looking out of the side hatch
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Late afternoon I took Meg for a walk a bit further downstream, and spotted a familiar boat headed towards us. It was Doug and James on NB Chance, arriving to join us for the night before heading back onto the canal.

NB Chance under Swinford BridgeIMG_0529

They joined us for tea and we had a good time catching up with all the news since we last met. They’ll be moving on in the morning, on a bit of a schedule.

Locks 2, miles 3½

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Poised for the Thames

We didn’t want to drop down to the river today, being a fine Sunday there’s likely to be a lot of day-trippers on the water, and the lockie at Kings Lock will be busy enough without having to worry about issuing a temporary licence for us.
So we just moved down to near Dukes Lock, the last Oxford Canal lock we’ll see as we’re using the Duke’s Cut to get to the river. The alternative takes you a further 2¾ canal miles, skirting the city, to Isis Lock and the Sheepwash Channel.

The weather wasn’t as dire as predicted yesterday, at least not in Oxfordshire. There were showers about, and a bit of thunder included in the afternoon, but overall it was quite a good day.

Maffi and Molly came to visit, the dogs discussed the price of Bonios while the humans focussed on more weighty matters over a cup of tea. I declined Maffi’s invite for a beverage at The Boat, I‘m well into my training now (check out the panel on the right) and a fast 6 miler would not have followed a beer or two the night before very well.

Leaving Thrupp this morning we passed NB Paneke, hovering to chat with Jane for a few minutes. Then we toddled on, past the extensive lengths of long-term moorings which get longer as you approach Oxford.

Langford Lane mooringsIMG_0505

There were quite a few boats on the move, mostly hirers out of Oxford, presumably those who started their holidays yesterday afternoon. This meant that most of the work at the two locks was done for us.

Leaving Roundham Lock
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Past back garden Kidlington
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We pulled in just above Kidlington Green Lock to allow a couple of boats past, new hirers tend to be a little erratic on the tiller and there wasn’t a lot of space with boats moored on the towpath side. One of those moored was Mike and his two terriers who we met on the Llangollen last winter. We had a quick catch up as the boats passed, then headed down to the lock ourselves.

Dropping down Kidlington Green LockIMG_0508

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Only our second lift bridge to actually raise on the canal, Drinkwater’s Lift Bridge.

Mags holding while another boat heads towards the bridge I’m holding open (sitting on).IMG_0512

And that was it for today, just a couple of hours. We moored just beyond the bridge arch in the above picture, on the end of another length of long termers. Tomorrow morning we’ll be on deep water…

Locks 2, miles 3½

Friday, July 18, 2014

A rude awakening and an early trip to Thrupp.

A quarter past two this morning, it was. Mags thought I‘d fallen out of bed, Meg shot up, I jumped out of bed to close the windows I’d left open for ventilation, then spent the next 10 minutes watching the lightning tracing across the sky and listening to the thunder rumble off into the distance. Quite an impressive display of nature’s power.

This morning we’d planned to be off a little earlier than normal to make up for lost time yesterday and also to make sure we got a mooring in Thrupp. Not easy during the summer!
I thought the plans had gone awry when a heavy shower passed over as I took Meg for her constitutional, but that cleared, only to be followed by another 15 minutes later. This was the last though, so we were on our way a little before 09:00, into Dashwoods Lock just vacated by an Oxford Cruisers hire boat.

Off we go this morning
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Only just over half a mile took us to Northbrook Lock, passing through a heavily wooded section above the River Cherwell.

A bit bosky..IMG_0468

Northbrook Lock.
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We were doing well, two locks done, no queues and both set ready for us. The canal sticks close to the river along here, so it’s understandably a bit green.




If you don’t mind the trees there are good moorings on the towpath south of Old Brighton Bridge (No 212) and on the offside at Kirtlington Quarry.

Kirtlington Quarry moorings.IMG_0470

This is where we’d originally planned to be last night. Just beyond the quarry there’s a tea gardens on the canal bank, where you can choose to sit in a variety of locations with birds for company. Typically English eccentricity. Great!

Jane’s Tea Gardens
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Inevitably we caught up with a queue at Pigeons Lock, a boat going down ahead and another coming up.

Caravan Lift Bridge is showing the scars of countless encounters…IMG_0480

Enslow Mill is a busy spot, moorings, a marina and boatbuilder all cluster close to the Rock of Gibraltar pub.
It’s a bit tight in places.
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The next lock down, Bakers, is named after Henry Baker, one-time landlord of the canal-side hostelry.

Bakers Lock, still queuing, but at least it’s not too hot yet.IMG_0490

This lock drops the navigation down to a short but pleasant excursion onto the Cherwell, just less than a mile but with deep water under the boat a pleasure to cruise. The overnight rain hadn’t affected river levels, still well in the green.

On the River Cherwell heading for Shipton Weir LockIMG_0494

We expected a boat in front of us at Shipton Weir, but not this one!

NB Milly M, waiting for the lock.IMG_0495

Maffi was as surprised to see us as we were to see him, although we should have expected to find him lurking about Thrupp during the summer; he looks after the canoe hire there.
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We shared the lock, another of those diamond shaped ones designed to dump a substantial amount of water downhill for a shallow fall.

Shipton Weir LockIMG_0497
[I’d not noticed before how much lens distortion there is on this new camera. The fore-end of Seyella looks twisted!]

Strictly speaking, like I said when we came down Aynho Weir Lock, this defeats the purpose of the shape, but both boats were stopping before the next lock so it was immaterial.

Shipton-on-Cherwell Church of The Holy Cross sits alongside Bridge 220IMG_0500

Heading into Thrupp, busy, busy, busy!IMG_0501

We’ve taken to filling our water tank at quieter water points, like yesterday at Lower Heyford. This means that we can just make a flying visit to busy sanitary stations, just to empty a loo and dispose of rubbish. This allowed us to queue-jump the preceding boat and follow Maffi through the lift bridge at Annie’s Tea Rooms.
I’d jumped off without my camera to do the bridge, so no pictures of the operation. Good job eh, Mags! With all those people watching too…

We managed to wiggle into the last space on the 7 Day moorings, thanks to the chap behind pulling back a foot. Even so I’ve had to lift the bow fender. We’ll be staying here tomorrow, hopefully avoiding those heavy, thundery showers that the weathermen are talking about.

Moored in Thrupp
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We tied up at 12:15, it’s just starting to get hot again.

I don’t know if it’s the weather that’s bringing them out, but we seem to be plagued by horse-flies this year. If you can get them just as they land, fine, otherwise you finish up with an itchy bump when they bite.

To paraphrase General Philip Sheridan, on meeting Commanche Chief Toch-a-way in 1869 :–

The only good horse-fly is a dead horse-fly!
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Cottage pie for tea tonight, maybe not an ideal choice considering the climate, but you can only eat so much lettuce...

Locks 5, miles 6

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Too darned hot!

Blimey it was hot around lunchtime today! Instead of pushing on to Kirtlington as was the plan, we cut today’s trip short at half one, just to get in the shade.

It wasn’t too bad as we arrived at Aynho Wharf at half past nine, pleasantly warm.

Aynho WharfIMG_0428
There was a boat already there, filling with diesel and water, so we pulled on in front to wait our turn. By the time we were done it was manic, boats reversing, hanging about waiting to get on, and coming from both directions.

Chaos!
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As soon as a gap appeared we were off, heading out into clear water.IMG_0430

Emptied out, the ladies are off to munch some more grass while waiting for this afternoon’s visit to the parlour.IMG_0431

Chisnell Lift Bridge was open when we arrived, although it was down first thing as I passed on my morning run. So the first interruption to travel was Somerton Deep Lock. I wasn’t looking forward to this one; I struggled to close the large single bottom gate a couple of years ago, finally resorting to using a Spanish Windlass from a fence post!

Somerton Deep Lock, oh ‘eck.IMG_0432

The lock was full, so that bit was easy. The problem was expected after the lock was empty and Mags had left.
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If push came to shove I could always wait for help from another boat…

Someone must have sorted it, although the gate wouldn’t go right back into it’s recess, closing it was a doddle. No worse than some of the shallower locks.

Below the lock there are four curious sculptured posts along the towpath.IMG_0435
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For a change we weren’t following another boat, which meant that upcoming traffic had left the locks ready for us. And we even managed to leave the bottom gates open at Heyford Common Lock!

Leaving Heyford Common LockIMG_0443

A farmer is always outstanding in his field, even when he’s sitting down!IMG_0444

Allen’s Lock was also full and ready for us, but no-one was waiting to come up, unfortunately.

Allens LockIMG_0446

The lock is on the edge of the small village of Upper Heyford, close to the canal is the “Big House”, tithe barn and the church, it’s battlemented tower just visible over the trees.IMG_0449

Lower Heyford seems to be a popular spot to stop, although why I don’t know. The north end of the canal is overshadowed and gloomy, the south end dominated by the proximity of the West Coast Main Line.

Lower Heyford moorings near Mill Lift BridgeIMG_0453

Mill Lift Bridge, the first of several to deal with now, as we head down the last 12 or so miles to Dukes Cut.
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Lower Heyford, canal wharf and railway.IMG_0457
We filled with water just beyond the bridge. With rubbish disposed of at Aynho, we’ll now only have to empty a loo at the busy Thrupp services.

I had to chuckle at the C&RT notice asking visiting boaters not to run engines and generators on the moorings opposite the houses. Just the other side of the hedge there’s a train every 10 minutes or so, rattling windows and making it difficult to hear yourself think!

“Quiet” zone… IMG_0458

We’d had enough by this time, and pulled in on a likely looking bit of hard edge not far past Cleeves Bridge.

A bit of shade
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It’s been a very enjoyable trip today, this southerly stretch is probably the prettiest. Mostly open with views across the rolling Oxfordshire ripening wheat fields and pastures, there are some woody bits that make the EWBS-ometer needle swing  into the upper levels…

Open views..
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Near Deep Cutting Bridge, EWBS rating 4IMG_0440
We’ll aim for Thrupp tomorrow, but no guarantees…

PS
Tried TV and phones, TV poor, phone reception non-existent. So we moved ¾ mile and are now moored above Dashwood Lock, everything works here. No shade but it’s getting a little cooler.

Locks 3, miles 7¾