Thursday, July 12, 2012

Leaving Lechlade

The “In” was replaced by “De” on the warning boards at St. John’s Lock the other day.

Caution Board at St. John’s on MondaySAM_1491 St Johns
Although not slowing down much, the stream is navigable so we decided to go for it today. The lockies reckon it’s taking so long to go down because of all the water still draining into the river after the heavy rain.

Another reason to get going was our new neighbours. Messy, noisy and nosey they were becoming a bit of a nuisance….

Come in, why don’t you…
SAM_1508 Neighbours

They actually weren’t so bad, but when they started licking the expensive and lovingly applied Carnauba wax off the cabin side it was time to make a move.

We were still facing upstream so went through Ha’penny Bridge to wind in front of the Riverside. This hostelry replaced a warehouse and dock, part of a complex of riverside industry when Lechlade was a busy inland port.

Under Ha’penny Bridge. Named for the cost of the toll once charged. SAM_1509 Ha'penny Bridge

We didn’t expect to get a send-off, but this VC10 circled round several times as we headed off.

VC10 stylish send-offSAM_1513 VC10
The elegant lines and slim, streamlined fuselage make the modern wide-bodied jets look decidedly dumpy…

This is one of eight RAF in-flight refuelling tankers, but the passenger version was introduced in 1964. Operated by the defunct BOAC, it still holds the record for the fastest subsonic Atlantic crossing.

We dropped down St. John’s, stopping below to drop off rubbish and empty a loo tank, then pushed on downstream to Buscot. Concentration was required negotiating the bends, but so long as you didn’t allow your attention to wander it was fine. If you took your eye off the ball the current caught the stern and pushed it towards the outside of the bend and the waiting undergrowth.

Below Bloomer’s Hole Footbridge the A417 Lechlade Road runs close alongside, and there used to be another wharf and large warehouse here. They were used for transhipment and storage of cheese and salt.
It was here we were joined by a party of youngsters in three canoe catamarans, just embarking for a trip downriver.


They chased us all the way to Bascot Lock, gaining as we slowed for the bends then falling behind on the straight bits.


The lock-keeper stacked them in behind us at Buscot, then we left them behind on the straighter reach to Grafton where we stopped above the lock for water.
They went down the lock ahead of us, accompanied by a small cruiser that arrived at the same time.

Fluffy clouds in a fine morning heading for RadcotSAM_1523 Fluffy Clouds

The bottleneck of Radcot Bridge had been giving us cause for concern. It’s a narrow arch, just after a right hand bend heading downstream and you don’t get a second chance if you don’t get lined up correctly.

Approaching Radcot BridgeSAM_1524 Radcot Br

SAM_1524 Radcot Br

The 2-3 mph current is amplified through the arch, but in the event we needn’t have worried. A kick of the engine to push the stern to the right as we crabbed sideways and we shot through without touching the sides.

We moored up on Goose Poop Meadow below the bridge, pleased that although we still have strong stream warnings posted, running downstream wasn’t as fraught as we expected.

Moored below Radcot BridgeSAM_1526 Radcot Meadows

We’ve had a very pleasant morning, warm and sunny, but the cloud built up soon after lunch and we’ve had rain since about 3 o’clock. Just so long as it doesn’t push the river up again…

Today is the official launch of the Canal and River Trust. Now we’ll see what difference being a charity makes to the navigation authority. A couple of the lock-keepers down here have expressed concern about their future, though. A review, due to finish in 2015, may well recommend that C&RT take over the navigations currently under the Environment Agency umbrella. This could leave the future of the famous Thames Lock-Keeper in doubt.

Locks 3, miles 5½

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