Saturday, July 21, 2012

Busy old river.

It was bound to be, when you think about it. A fine forecast for the weekend, most red boards now off, and the first weekend of the school holidays. How could it not be busy!

From 8 o’clock onwards there were groups of rowers and canoeists out on the water….SAM_1686 Busy Morn above Iffley

Last evening we took the pooches for a walk along the Thames path, but first had a look up into the village of Iffley.

Parochial School, then Infant School, now Village HallSAM_1672 Iffley

Fine thatching….SAM_1671 Iffley

The star attraction just has to be the 12th C church.

St. Mary the Virgin, IffleySAM_1673 St Mary's, Iffley
Apart from the addition of the Chancel in the 13th C, the basic structure is unaltered since it was built in 1175. Some windows have been changed, reflecting changing architectural styles, but a worshipper from 1180 would still recognise the church today.

Elaborately carved door and window framesSAM_1674 St Mary's, Iffley
SAM_1677 St Mary's, Iffley

Looking back to the baptistry…SAM_1680 St Mary's, Iffley

…and forward to the chancel.SAM_1681 St Mary's, Iffley
Both taken from below the central tower.

 Back to the outside…

Harp-playing angelsSAM_1675 St Mary's, Iffley
And spouting gryphons.SAM_1676 St Mary's, Iffley
An impressive building. If the tower stonework looks too good to be true, that’s because it is. Extensive renovation recently took place.

We were away before 10:00 this morning, just a couple of minutes around the corner to Iffley Lock.

Approaching Iffley LockSAM_1687 Iffley Lock
The ornate balustraded bridge to the right leads to skiff rollers, bypassing the lock.

There was a boat already waiting on the landing but the locks are getting bigger as we head downstream so there was room for all of us.

Iffley Lockpano

There is 1½ miles to the next lock at Sandford, under a main road and a railway. It’s a pleasant, wooded reach, but signs of industry intrude.

Kennington Railway Bridge and power pylons.SAM_1691 Kennington Rail Br
The footbridge on the right crosses the entering Hincksey Stream.

Just above Sandford Lock is the Four Pillars Hotel, with a rather ridiculous galleon style river boat moored outside.

OTT or what…SAM_1693 Four Palms Hotel

Sandford Lock is the biggest encountered so far, and also the deepest until the tidal lock at Teddington. We had four narrowboats in this one…

Leaving Sandford LockSAM_1694 Sandford lock

The next reach, down to Abingdon Lock, is delightful. Remote and wooded there’s only one crossing (another railway bridge) in over four miles.

Lock Wood on the leftSAM_1702 Lock Wood ahead

Nuneham House sits in it’s own parkland to the east, looking out across the valley.

Nuneham HouseSAM_1701 Nuneham House
This Palladian style villa was built in 1756 for Simon Harcourt, 1st Earl of Harcourt, who then demolished and re-sited the village of Nuneham Courtenay a mile to the north-east in order to create the landscaped park around the house.
It was requisitioned during WWII by the MOD, known as RAF Nuneham Park and used for photo reconnaissance interpretation. Returned to private hands after the war, it was sold to Oxford University and is now a spiritual retreat.

We reached Abingdon Lock at 11:30, and finally left it at 13:00! We wanted water, but unfortunately so did everyone else. With a long queue and a slow tap it took a while. George and Carol dropped down first with another boat, and managed to secure a spot on the busy moorings in the town. We were not so lucky and, having mooched up and down the river for a mile below, finally got tied up in the weeds about half-a-mile from the bridge.

Fierce flow from Abingdon Weir as we head on our fruitless quest for a mooring in the town.SAM_1705 Abingdon

Still, there are compensations. It’s very quiet here, and we’ve a delightful family as neighbours….

Grebe familySAM_1713 Grebelets
The pronounced zebra stripes on the chicks’ head and neck must be a form of camouflage.
Mum and Dad are keeping busy; one of them has just paddled past the open side hatch as I write, with a fish supper for the kids.

It’s been a fine warm day, with more on the way if the weatherman is to be believed. Looking good.

Locks 3, miles 7

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