Saturday, August 04, 2012

Off the river.

We had quite a long day today, from Abingdon, leaving the river for the South Oxford via the Sheepwash Channel, then up past Oxford to moor north of Wolvercote.

There were queues at Abingdon Lock as we headed downstream, queues for the services and queues for the lock. So we decided to have an earlyish start, hopefully ahead of most of the other boats overnighting in Abingdon.

Leaving AbingdonSAM_2020 Abingdon

Arriving at the lock we were surprised to see no-one waiting, and the lock-keeper just opened the gates and ushered us in.

That’s were all the water’s coming from, the weir is partially open.SAM_2021 Abingdon Weir

The water point above the lock was blessedly vacant, too. It’s a very slow tap, which was part of the reason for the queues on the last visit. It was just after 10 when we moved away, onto the long reach towards Sandford Lock.

Only one other boat had come up the lock behind us, and, as they wanted water, that’s all we saw of them. This pretty well set the scene for the day. Remarkably quiet on the water.

I mentioned yesterday the old navigation channel using Swift Ditch, well here’s the top end of it, where the lock used to be. There’s a spill-weir here now.

North end of Swift DitchSAM_2027 Top of Swift Ditch

There is only one crossing of the river between Abingdon and Sandford, that of the Cherwell Valley Railway. As at Appleford, the line crosses on a riveted iron span, rather than on Brunel’s elegant brick arches seen further downstream.

Nuneham railway BridgeSAM_2029 Nuneham Br
SAM_2030 Nuneham Br
These two bridges were built around 1929, replacing earlier metal spans that had been in use since 1856. The first crossings, when the line was laid in 1844, were of timber construction and were replaced after only 12 years.

Sandford Lock had just disgorged a couple of narrowboats, so we were invited in by the lock-keeper.

Approaching Sandford LockSAM_2034 Sandford Lock
Above Sandford there’s another iron railway bridge, this time of abutments of the same material… in need of a coat of paint!

Kennington Railway BridgeSAM_2035 Kennington Br

Shortly after the A423 crosses on a modern road bridge, with some well-executed graffiti on the supporting wall.

Under Isis BridgeSAM_2036 Under Isis Br
Not sure what the artist was trying to say, though. Now if it said immigration I could understand it being a protest against quotas. Oh, and he got the “S” backwards… I do like the picture of Paddington Bear.

We were in and through the shallow Iffley Lock like a dose of salts, and stopped just above for a ten-minute comfort break for Meg, then headed into the increasingly built-up and increasingly busy fringes of Oxford.

Party time on MV Wargrave, another of Salter Bros boatsSAM_2040 Party Boat
You could hear the music coming for several minutes before they came around the corner!

The reach past the boat-houses and Christ Church Meadow was bound to be busy on a Saturday, but we managed to dodge the ineptly steered day-boats, punts and skiffs. Folly Bridge was thankfully clear of obstacles and we headed through the S bends to Osney Lock.

Folly Bridge, with Salter’s Lady Ethel embarking on the left SAM_2041 Folly Br
There are channels either side of the buildings, but the left hand (across the bow of Lady Ethel) is narrower and tends to have a faster stream, so most boats use the middle arch beyond the landing stage.

Osney Lock, of evil reputation, is just around the corner. Going upstream it’s a pussy-cat, but coming down, especially if there’s a bit of fresh on, can be “interesting”. The lock landing is out of sight on the left as you approach, and there’s a powerful pull from the large weir directly opposite.

Leaving Osney, our last Thames lock this trip.SAM_2045 Osney Lock

Under the low Osney Bridge, around the bend, and we came to the Sheepwash Channel junction, the southern access to the Oxford Canal.

Sheepwash Channel, under the bridge on the right.SAM_2048 Sheepwash Channel on Right
“What” said Mags, “under that little bridge?”
“Yes”, said I.
SAM_2049 Sheepwash Channel Br

‘Tis a bit of a shock to the system after the wide river, though.

At least you don’t have to open the railway bridge any more.
SAM_2050 Sheepwash Railway Br

A sharp left bend takes you into Isis Lock and back onto BW (sorry, C&RT) waters.

No sharing in Isis Lock… but then we’ve not had company all day.SAM_2052 Isis Lock
At least Meg can get off on locksides again.

St Barnabas’ Church in Jericho over the boarded-up Castle Mill Boatyard.SAM_2054 Jericho
The boatyard was the site of a protest by residential boaters after it was closed when BW sold the land to a developer in 2005. The story is still ongoing….

Although there were moorings available at Aristotle Bridge and St Edwards Lift Bridge, we chose to go a bit further out of the built-up area.

The residential moorings along this bit of the cut are well known for some of the unusual boats moored here.

Residential boats in OxfordSAM_2056 Residential Boats
SAM_2057 Residential Boats

We pulled in not far past the entrance to Duke’s Cut, the route we used to get onto the river five weeks ago. So now we’re back to “ditchcrawling” till we get to the Soar just south of Leicester. I reckon we’ll miss the wide open spaces and the diversity of wildlife, but not the shortage of mooring spots!

Locks 7, miles 12.

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