Thursday, June 30, 2016

Busier river as we head up through the gap.

Between Shiplake and Abingdon, some 35 miles, there is only one public water point and it’s at Cleeve Lock. Experience (and common sense) suggests it’s likely to be busy, so we chose to get off a little earlier today, hoping to beat at least the upstream boats.

This stretch of the river is very attractive, wide and with well wooded banks.IMG_0607

The ground either side steadily rises as we take the river upstream towards Goring. Here, after heading predominately east/west, it’s heading south from Oxford through the Goring Gap between the Berkshire Downs to the west and south, and the Chilterns to the east and north.
The river shares this route through the chalk ridge with rail and road, the Romans drove a road through here, probably following an earlier prehistoric track, to link the settlements of Dorchester and Silchester.
The river didn’t always follow this route though. Evidence suggests that the chalk ridge running southwest/northeast which comprises the Berkshire Downs and the Chilterns was continuous before the last Ice Age, half a million years ago. The river at that time encountered the ridge and turned east, ultimately reaching the sea near Ipswich in East Anglia.
The ice blocked off this estuary, forcing the river to back up and create a large lake north of the ridge. Eventually this body of water breached the obstruction and the river found it’s current course. If it hadn’t happened, would Ipswich, instead of London, have been the capital???

Turning to the north about a mile downstream of Goring Lock IMG_0613
The building, just visible through the trees, is Basildon Grotto, or lately known as Ilam House. Built in the 18th century, it’s now for sale and looking a little sorry for itself.

Glancing back as we approached Goring Lock we were surprised to see a couple of narrowboats followed by a couple of cruisers. So much for avoiding the traffic! There was a “narrer” waiting on the lock landing, too. The lock was on self service, which made the descent of several boats coming down pretty slow.

Traffic backing up below the lock

By the time we’d got three narrowboats and a large cruiser in the lock the lockies had arrived to preside over the operations.

Looking back as we leave the lock

The cruiser chased past, knowing that Cleeve Lock, just half a mile up, was smaller than Goring…

Cleeve Lock
As it turned out both ourselves and Del Boy were left out in the cold.

This lock was also on self-service, so I dealt with the buttons to speed things along. When we were in the lock a chap off a boat wanting to come down did the business.

Then the wait began. With three boats ahead of us wanting water it took an hour before we even got on the wharf. But at least the hose is a big one here, taking only about 20 minutes to fill our almost-empty tank.

After a sunny morning the clouds started to roll in. With another hour and some to Wallingford we decided to pull in rather than chance getting wet for no good reason.

I remembered a likely spot from when we last came this way…IMG_0625
That’ll do.

As it turned out we could have pressed on; the rain didn’t arrive till late afternoon. But we’re in no rush. We just need to be in Abingdon on Monday to collect a package.

Locks 2, miles 4

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