Thursday, July 31, 2014

Top up at Tesco’s then on to Sonning

Just a short day today, moving down through Reading, through Caversham Lock to moor outside Tesco for shopping. We timed it well, arriving at the popular moorings as boats were leaving.

I said yesterday that there are some fine houses on the riverside along here, but there are also some a little less so…
It used to be a boat…

The Canada geese are a real problem here. I had to clear a path through the goose poo when we tied up, and the boarding pontoons for the trip boats are covered in it.IMG_0762


Not a popular measure, I imagine, but we really do need a cull of these birds. Nest breaking would do it…

Under Caversham BridgeIMG_0764

Reading Marine Services is based on Fry’s Island.IMG_0766

One of the drawbacks of the location is that everything has to be ferried across.

Reading BridgeIMG_0768

We timed it nicely at Caversham Lock, I barely had time to jump off before we were waved in.

Shady Caversham LockIMG_0769

Two trips into the supermarket saw the cupboards restocked, then we were on our way again, now looking for somewhere to moor for the rest of the day.

We had a visitor while we were there…
You don’t see many black swans about. Originally imported from Australia for ornamental gardens, a few have escaped into the wild.

A rather dilapidated barge sits on the bottom on the opposite side of the river.IMG_0777

It must be on the bottom, the hull looks a little leaky, and the crew don’t look much better!IMG_0777 cropped

Heading down to Sonning, the river is getting much wider now.IMG_0779

We pulled in just above Sonning Lock, fore-end in, back end sticking out, but that’s been the norm rather than the exception this year. Water levels are lower than normal.

Tomorrow we’ll toddle on, we need to use the facilities at Shiplake Lock, then we’ll find a spot to stay for the weekend. The weather is due to change, we might even have showers on Saturday!

I see a verdict of accidental death has been returned by the Coroner after the inquest into the death of a man in Harecastle Tunnel in May. An unfortunate accident and a sad loss to the family, and at least the Coroner has made some sensible suggestions...

Locks 1, miles 4

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A steady trip to Reading, and a bit of lock rage…

Our first lock today was at Goring, and it was on DIY when we arrived. In the chamber was a small timber launch, the owner having just emptied the lock and opened the gates. For some reason known only to himself he’d chosen to tie up on the opposite side to the control consoles making a lot of walking around necessary.
Two narrowboats were ready to come in, and the first made the mistake of nosing gently into the lock before the launch was out. In fact, before the guy had even got back on. A shouting match ensued, each arguing correct locking procedure. I didn’t get involved, just let them get on with it. Finally the launch-driver reboarded and chugged off, still muttering, the second boat came in and I worked them up. The whole procedure took twice as long as it should have done, and raised one guy’s blood pressure to a dangerous level…
I didn’t take any photos, that would have rubbed salt into an already raw wound.

Egyptian Goose…

…and goslings

Goring Lock and weir.IMG_0721

Ignoring the shouting match across the lock, I took a picture of the weirIMG_0722

Our turn, dropping down Goring Lock.
We were joined by a plastic cruiser and the unusual wide-beam Valhalla. A very odd design.

We had 4 miles of beautiful river to enjoy before Whitchurch Lock, passing between the Chilterns on one side and the Berkshire Downs on the other. The river found this natural gap through the high ground millennia ago, more recently man has poked a railway and main road through there too. You don’t see much of the later transport arteries though, just the odd buzz of a train passing.

Below Goring.IMG_0727

Gatehampton Railway Bridge is a substantial structure, build by Brunel for the Great Western Railway in 1838, the same time and the same builder as the Moulsford bridge we passed under yesterday.

Passing Beale ParkIMG_0733

We shared Whitchurch Lock with two launches, one that we’d followed from Goring and another that we’d caught up with. This lock is smaller than Goring, the wide-beam Valhalla was forced to wait.

Whitchurch LockIMG_0737

Whitchurch Bridge is undergoing extensive repairs.IMG_0739
The bridge is still in private hands, tolls collected go towards maintenance and replacement. It’s been replaced twice, but this current work should see it last a few more years. The Whitchurch Bridge Company has a statutory duty under an Act of Parliament to maintain the structure “such that at all times passage was provided for travellers, cattle and carriages”.
During the current repairs, lasting a year and due to finish in the autumn, a temporary footbridge has been erected alongside.

The bridge connects Pangbourne in Berkshire with Whitchurch in Oxfordshire, and there are good moorings on the meadow on the Pangbourne side.

Just below the bridge, in a field on the Oxfordshire side, I spotted what I thought at first was herd of deer. Closer inspection revealed…

…Llamas (or alpacas, how do you tell them apart?)!IMG_0743
There must have been a hundred of them in the field, their interest was captured by a quad bike arriving, probably the chuck wagon.

Mapledurham Lock was our last for today, very pretty with the long weir and sluice gates alongside.IMG_0749

Another three miles saw us heading out of the rural and into the suburban as the outskirts of Reading are reached. Though suburban implies housing estates and suchlike, and this approach is lined by very nice houses on the north bank…IMG_0755
We moored along here, pretty much where we had a blogger’s gathering two years ago, almost to the day.There are a few boats here, but sadly no-one we know. Missing you George and Carol, Anne and Chas, Del and Al.

Looking from where I’m sitting typing…IMG_0757

Tomorrow we go down through the town to stop and shop at Tesco, near the junction with the Kennet and Avon Canal. Then on a bit further before looking for somewhere to moor.

Hi Alf. Spotted that little bit of bank you're talking about, and was tempted but the £4 a night sign put me off. On the way back, though...

Locks 3, miles 9½

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Another good day.

I can’t believe we're doing so well with the weather. It was a clear, cool night but we had bright sunshine right from the start this morning. And the cooler night made for easier sleeping, for the first time in days I‘ve not left the rear slide open when we went to bed.

It was close to 10:00 by the time we got going this morning, returning from our morning perambulation Meg and I were confronted by a boat surrounded by cows – some with calves. The ones that were unencumbered by offspring moved out of the way as we approached, but there was one cantankerous old biddy who stood her ground. Meg doesn’t do cows, anything larger than a sheep is a no-no, so she took to the water, unfortunately through a very muddy wallow where the cows went in to drink, and promptly got stuck up to her belly in a mixture of mud, manure and bovine pee.
This did give me a chance to persuade the old lady to clear the immediate vicinity, Meg squidged and squelched herself back terra firma and we made a break for safety before they all came back.

Unfortunately for Meg, this meant a bucket-bath before she could be allowed back on board, the mop bucket was deployed and each end was done in turn. She’s not fond of the operation, but generally accepts it as inevitable.

All this excitement put us back a bit, but not too much. We hadn’t really got a destination in mind, we thought we’d see how we went.

Out of Day’s Lock just after 10:00.IMG_0689

After the early excitement the day was a bit of an anti-climax, no dramas just steady cruising downstream.

The confluence of the River Thame, coming in past DorchesterIMG_0691
Nicholson’s Guide reckons that this is navigable by small craft up to Dorchester Bridge, but you’d probably need a machete this time of year…

The river does a couple of sharp bends approaching Shillingford, shallows on the inside of the curves marked by bouys.

We moored here with George and Carol when they still had NB Rock'n'Roll a couple of years ago, enjoying a barbie while watching the red kites overhead. No chance now, new drainage pipes have changed the bank completely, leaving just a short, maybe 30’, length suitable for boats.

No mooring no more…

Beyond Shillingford Bridge the crew of EA inspection launch Colne were tackling an errant straw bale.IMG_0695

Benson Lock was done on our own, it’s very quiet.IMG_0701


Wallingford moorings were pretty full, I guess everyone’s decided to stay put today!IMG_0704


A ferry used to cross the river between Moulsford and South Stoke, but is no more. The popular pub and eatery on the Moulsford side has the imaginative name The Beetle and Wedge and I dismissed it as one of those silly names given to designer pubs, like the Slug and Lettuce, or Pig and Porcupine. But I was mistaken.

Beetle and Wedge, MoulsfordIMG_0711
Once the area was a valuable source of timber for the towns downstream. A beetle was a heavy maul or mallet, used to drive a wedge into the end of logs to split them before floating them off down the river.

Having said it’s quiet a convoy of boats come towards us, having recently come up Cleeves.

Arriving at Cleeves Lock at 12:30, there were two boats filling with water and the lock on DIY. I took Meg for a comfort break and to check out the mooring situation below the lock, by the time I’d returned the crew of the hire boat were setting the lock up, and we managed to fit all three boats in.

Self-service at Cleeves.IMG_0712
The solo boater at the front drew the short straw, he was nearest the controls!

We were going to close up, but by a lucky happenstance two boats arrived heading upstream. Result!

We moored on the right below the lock, the sound of the weir is a gentle susurration in the background, noisier but not intrusive are the trains heading to and from the Goring Gap.

Now that’s a big boat. He neatly filled the lock.IMG_0713

View from the side hatch

Locks 3, miles 10.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lazy day at Day’s Lock

We decided not to move on today, it’s a pleasant spot here so we’ve had a day watching the boats go by.

We had a beautiful sunset last night.

Going down…


This morning Meg and I set off up Wittenham Clumps, the end hill of the short ridge known as the Sinodun Hills. You can see it from the moorings.

It’s a local landmark, crowned by a copse of trees, and giving open views out to the north, west and south. 

On the way up

From the top, looking northIMG_0664
We’re moored just right of centre…

...Just there.IMG_0665

Looking north-westPanorama_0
Didcot Power Station, 3½ miles away, is barely discernable just below the horizon and a third way in from the left.
It’s now lost three of it’s six cooling towers. Apparently the Clumps were a popular viewing site for the demolition, the local farmer enterprisingly selling bacon butties!

Little Wittenham church and the Manor HouseIMG_0674

Later in the morning I made a solo journey into Dorchester village. It’s very picturesque; were it not for the cars, TV aerials and tarmac you could be in the 18th century.IMG_0680



On the edge of the village the farmers were taking advantage of the dry weather.IMG_0678

And a group of four Red Kites were wheeling above the stubble on the lookout for displaced rodents.

Periods of cloud and sun today, and even a few (very few) drops of rain this afternoon. Moving on downstream tomorrow.