We had visitors last evening come to take us for a drink with Sue and Vic.
“Come on then!”
It turned out to be quite a late night, we staggered back to Seyella after midnight. A really enjoyable get-together.
It was a bit dull and drizzly first thing, but brightened up as the day went on. No Problem set off downstream at about 09:15.
Sue and Vic waiting for Day’s Lock
I took Meg for a walk over to Dorchester before we pulled pins and set off in the opposite direction.
The town is in a strategically important position, tucked in a bend of the River Thames with the Thame protecting it’s eastern approaches. The area has been occupied since the Bronze Age, and successive cultures have raised their own style of fortifications and earthworks around the settlement.
Banks and ditches from Anglo-Saxon, Roman and Norman occupations….
….and somewhat later.
We had the wide loop to the west to Clifton Lock to cruise, past the smart houses of Burcot and Clifton Hampden.
We've seen this Piper-built Dutch barge up and down on a regular basis over the last couple of weeks.
Fine (and very new) MV Rêverie
We’ve exchanged quite a few waves and smiles recently.
Both of our locks today, at Clifton and Culham, were quiet and we went up on our own. The course of the river runs to the south of both locks, and the navigation is routed through artificial channels in both cases.
Clifton Cut and the weir above the original course.
Rising up in Culham Lock
In contrast, an earlier channel around Abingdon has been abandoned in favour of the natural course.
Southern entrance to Swift Ditch
Swift Ditch was made navigable as early as 1624, with the construction of a lock at the northern end. Cutting across a loop of the river it was ¾ of a mile shorter than the route closer to the town. Late in the 18thC merchants in the town lobbied to have the nearer channel used, and Abingdon Lock was built in 1790. Swift Ditch is now un-navigable, the lock now converted to a weir.
On the edge of the town was the junction with the Wilts and Berks Canal, finished in 1810 and running the 52 miles from the Kennet and Avon Canal near Melksham.
W&B Canal junction
Although a lot of the structures along the route have been demolished, and the line of the canal built on in several places, the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust has an “ultimate goal of restoring a continuous navigable waterway linking the Kennet & Avon canal near Melksham, the River Thames near Abingdon, and the Thames & Severn canal near Cricklade.”
The Abingdon junction is completely built over, but a new channel, Jubilee Junction, has been cut further upstream near Culham Lock. At present only 150 yards long, it is intended to intersect the original line west of Abingdon. I wondered what that was when we came past….
The length of moorings below Abingdon Bridge was wall-to-wall white cruisers, with the odd Dutch barge thrown in for variety. But there was room just above, so we pulled in there. A walk with Meg up to the lock later revealed no space up there either. Abingdon is justifiably a popular stop over.
Moored near Abingdon Bridge
Locks 2, miles 7½