Sunday, 1 June 2014

Henley to Oxford

Sun 25th May

Henley to Reading

Our central heating unit performed well this morning, coming on at 7am, and heating the radiators properly.  This has never happened before!

We wandered in to town and found a wide choice of cafes and coffee shops for breakfast.  We had croissants and lattes before going to Henley Baptist Church.  There we found Roger Cole leading things through.  He is the brother of Ben Cole, who used to be at Pioneer with us, and who teaches at Heathside School in Weybridge. Last time we saw Roger was at Abingdon Community Church a few years back.
Roger Cole at Henley Baptist Church

The welcome was good, and the worship was good.  There was no bible-based talk, because there was a report back from a team who had visited Malawi recently.  We didn’t stay for coffee as we had to move on to Reading. 

It was very sunny, and a lot of boats were about, so we had a lock queue at Marsh Lock with a 30 minute wait.

 A busy scene at Marsh Lock

Then upstream through Wargrave, where Paul Daniels got flooded again.  He was refused permission to raise his house up on stilts after the last flood. Now I wonder if the council will pay for his damage this time?

Past the two islands where we often moor – Hallsmead Ait and The Lynch, and through Sonning.  There was a fast crossflow by the bridge, which required some careful judgement and some strong power to get through.  The boat behind us, a white cruiser, had a bit of trouble and took three goes at it, but got through OK in the end.

Then up the long straight into Reading, turning into the mouth of the Kennet and through Blakes Lock.  We managed to get three narrowboats in the lock, including Chavori – a chap called Dave, who we have met before in Oxford.

We moored in the loop by the prison and the abbey ruins, and in the evening we took guitar and bodhran to the local folk club – Readifolk.  The theme was rail and sail, so we sang Windmills, Drill ye tarriers drill, and The man who calmed the sea.  Good fun.  We met someone else who is going to the Seekers concert next week.

4 locks, 7 miles, 3hr45

Mon 26th May

No boating today.  Got James’ phone sorted out at Phones4U. It needed new software apparently.

We went into the Oracle hoping to use a Nando’s voucher or Pizza Express, but they were packed out with people waiting. Instead we retraced our steps to an upstairs Indian Buffet restaurant in St Mary’s Butts - £5.99, eat as much as you like.  The food was excellent, and we were the only people in there who weren’t of Indian origin.  Loads of Indian diners, which is a recommendation in itself.  The only drawback were the steep stairs to get in.

Back to the boat for zzzzzzzzz as it was raining hard. It was a 24hour mooring, but we stayed two nights.

Tue 27th May

An early start (0750), with a rapid return to the Thames due to the flows.   

 The Forbury Loop

 Blakes Lock in Reading

We didn’t stop at Tesco, but after Caversham Lock (self-service) we paused to visit Aldi, and then crossed to the island to visit Caversham Boat Services for fuel and toilet blue.  We forgot to ask for coal, which we also needed.

Then on upstream through Mapledurham (Cassette, rubbish). There was a queue for water so we decided to leave it until Cleeve Lock.

Past the Alpaca farm, and Pangbourne Meadows, through the bridge building site to the waiting are for Whitchurch Lock.  There apparently was a problem with the lock gates which would not open. It was on Self-service, so a phone call was made to Mapledurham, and a lock-keeper arrived a while later and sorted it.  One of the other boats waiting was Roundabout, the people to whom we gave a BCF leaflet in Maidenhead.

It was disappointing to see a notice here to say that the water point at Cleeve Lock was out of order. They really need to put this notice at the last water point (Mapledurham), not just two locks before the broken one. This happened last year with the Elsan at Days Lock, which they should have told us about at Abingdon where we could do something about it, not Culham where it was too late.  Grump! Humph!

Up past Beale Park in the rain. Thankfully our canopy serves us well, although it is hard to see through the front window of the canopy when it is raining.

We arrived at Goring and decided that we had gone far enough in the rain.

4 locks, 12 miles, 5hr20

Wednesday 28th May

Goring to Abingdon

No crayfish in the traps James had set.  Remains of one mouse from Hugo.  No emails received.

Set off as the locks opened, 0905.  In Goring Lock, Hire boat Mississipi came alongside, and a FMC (Fellows, Morton and Clayton) boat came in behind us.  James held his bow line as he was on his own.

At Cleeve Lock we established that the water was definitely unavailable, as it had been tested and failed.

We paused at the Sheridan Marine at Moulsford, but they do not stock coal.  FMC overtook us.

Somewhere near North Stoke we spotted a little egret flying overhead.  We also saw Eric and Sue Lewis on Remus, travelling downstream with the flow.  Only just time to say hello.

At Benson Lock we caught up with FMC, and also Tawny Owl, from Pelican Wharf, with it’s new owners, who we had met briefly on the Wey.

We passed Shillingford Bridge, and Days Lock. Wittenham Clumps were shrouded in rain clouds. The terrapin we often see at Burcot was absent.

 Clifton Hampden Bridge

The weather was not too bad so we continued past Clifton Hampden, and through Clifton Lock and Culham locks.  Still no sign of any kingfishers, which are usually frequent just here.

We paused at Kingcraft in Abingdon for coal, managing to get on their low level mooring. The lady in charge said that was a private mooring, and they had lowered their visitor pontoon in response to requests from narrowboats.  The low parts were still level with our roof!  And they didn’t sell coal!!!

As we set off a large white cruiser passed us and decided to moor in the very spot that we had chosen so that Hugo could get off and into the bushes.  We moored a little further along.  They also had a dog which they set loose on the recreation ground, where dogs are not allowed.  There is no notice to say this on the river side, and there should be.  It was a very small dog, wearing a harness and a life jacket.  The owners could pick him up by the handle on his back, like a handbag.

We phoned Redline, a little further back to see if they sell coal. They suggested going to B&Q! Not easy by boat.

After a quick shower and a change, we walked into town to meet John and Barbara Froggatt (Canal Ministries) who had come from Reading by car. They took us to a Chinese Restaurant in Oxford for an excellent meal. We couldn’t decide between us what we wanted so we chose the “Let us decide” option.  Good starters, a mountain of crispy fried duck, and five other dishes plus rice.  All very well prepared. A good time of fellowship.

Back to the boat, where we put out the fire to save coal when we went to bed.  Crayfish traps out.

6 locks, 19 miles, 6hr20

Thursday 29th May

Abingdon to Eynsham

Two small crayfish in the traps this morning. One trap has a broken zip.  That leaves two, plus two new ones, still in their wrappers.

Cygnets getting a free ride in Abingdon
Hazel went to Waitrose, and managed to use some or our John Lewis Vouchers. Then we set off up through Abingdon Lock, where there was no notice about Cleeve Lock water.  The lock keeper did not know, and promised to put up a notice, as this is the last water point before then. The next one is Mapledurham.

We filled up with water (slow), emptied loos, and chucked rubbish before the long run up past Nuneham and Radley to Sandford Lock.  Heavy flows approaching Sandford, where we noticed yellow boards were out.

After Iffley Lock we had to wait a short while for a rowing race to begin.  Quite entertaining with all the rowing eights from the different colleges.   

 Rowing regatta in Oxford

We managed to negotiate our way upstream through the chaos, under Folley bridge and into Osney Lock.  Above the lock there was a considerable flow, and we paused there for lunch on the moorings.  It was sunny, so we took down the pram hood.

 Osney Bridge, the lowest on the Thames

After lunch we continued up past the Port Meadow, where there are hundreds of Greylag geese.  Through Godstow Lock, past all the sharp bends leading to King’s Lock, and then the long stretch past the lovely Wytham Great Wood to Eynsham, where the moorings downstream of the lock were taken so we went through the lock and moored above.

We put the pram hood up again, and soon had a heavy rain storm.  Good timing!

Heavy rain at Eynsham

We had a call from Mark Walker at Aynho to say they couldn’t service our boat engine after all – not for two weeks.  Earlier (at least two weeks ago) they had said that they don’t book more than a week in advance. Frustrating!

Sent a message to Tooley’s Boat Yard in Banbury to see if they can do it.

The two new crayfish traps strangely don’t have bait pouches.  We found something to put the bait in, and put all four traps out.

Hugo very happy – in and out all evening.

7 locks, 14 miles, 5hr20

Friday 30th May

Eynsham to Farmoor

Inspected the traps this morning.  There was one crayfish in one of the new traps, and none in the second one.  The old traps had 6 and 12 respectively.

We made a leisurely start (1045) against a strongish flow, and visited Oxford Cruisers.  Quite challenging to get onto their fuel pontoon, and we could only tie on with a centre line.  James walked round the basin to the office to collect some coal. NO COAL!  Perhaps it’s the wrong time of year.

We arrived at Pinkhill Lock – self service except there was a helpful bloke there who was a camper.  We moored at Farmoor Reservoir.

We went for a walk across the lock and then in a rectangle, North, West, South and East.  It was very uneven underfoot and Hazel’s hip was playing up after she fell off a stepladder at home.   

 Going for a walk!

We went past some lovely buttercup meadows, and at one point we saw a fox crossing one of the fields.  There were also skylarks. 

 Buttercup meadows
When our path returned to join the Thames Path at the river, our map showed a footbridge, but it was missing.  We walked north to cross over by the lock again.

We heard cuckoos, and later James went up to the reservoir, and saw one fly overhead.  Then he saw another sitting on the angled steel cable stay for a telegraph pole.  A wonderful view of this normally invisible bird.

Up at the reservoir he saw large trout leaping, and a very large one in its dying moments, feebly flapping its tail.

Beautiful views over the buttercup meadows.  Sadly no barn owl this time.

Crayfish traps out – two old ones. one new one.

1 lock, 1 mile, 0hr50

Saturday 31st May

Pinkhill to Oxford

James got up early (too early, Hazel says) and checked his traps.  10 in one, 5 in another. None in the new trap.

 Pinkhill Lock

Back downstream through Pinkhill Lock (self service) then past all the buttercup meadows, where we saw Cetti’s warblers, and a reed bunting.   

 Passing the buttercup meadows

At Eynsham Lock we shared with an Anglo-Welsh hire boat.  Emptied loo and rubbish. 

Swinford Bridge

There was a fast cross flow as we left Eynsham Lock, causing us to zigzag. Then a tickover cruise to King’s Lock, followed by all the sharp bends down to Godstow, which was on yellow boards.  James despatched the crayfish on the way to Osney Lock, and at Folley Bridge we found the big regatta going on – Oxford Eights.  We turned to face upstream, and moored just by the finishing post.  The finish marshall looked tired of standing, so we lent her one of our plastic chairs.



Crayfish and lettuce sandwich for lunch, while watching the racing, accompanied by lots of high spirited silly happenings. 

 Grandstand view of the regatta

 High jinks
Then we walked to the Botanical Gardens to have a look round.  These are the first Botanical Gardens in the world, and of course are historically significant, and very compact.  They don’t compare to Wisley or Kew, but there were some lovely plants and flowers. It was a relaxing time, also an opportunity to see the punts at Magdalen Bridge on the Cherwell.  Strong flows meant punts in bushes quite often.

Botanical Gardens

From there we walked to the centre of Oxford where we checked our bank balances and found that our money from the letting has not yet been paid in, despite an email from the agents to say it has.  In fact we were slightly overdrawn which we remedied.  We had an early evening meal at Pizza Express, thanks to Weybridge Methodist Church.

We found a WH Smiths where we wanted to buy a book “Android for beginners”, using a book token we had.  They wouldn’t accept it, saying it was a magazine, not a book!  We will try somewhere else.

Back to the boat where we saw the last race of the day, followed by lots of people, particularly coxes, getting thrown in the river. Then a noisy party, thankfully finishing at around 8pm.

Hugo was introduced to the cricket club over the fence where he was happy.

5 locks, 8 miles, 2hr50

Sunday 1st June

Folly Bridge, Oxford, to Roundham Lock

Some people don’t realise that when they walk past boats in the middle of the night, there are usually people asleep on board.  So they talk and laugh loudly and then there aren’t any people asleep on board.

And then there are the rowers….  There is nothing like an early morning row, with a chap on a bicycle hurtling down the towpath, megaphone in hand, ticking off Sandra for not getting her blades flat enough on the return.

And so we got up early.

We had time to despatch the rest of the crayfish before walking to St Aldate’s church for the Sunday service. There was a little of everything – two Christenings, an engagement, and the sad passing away of a lady in her 40s.  The worship was good, and the talk was about Joshua, returning with the other spies from Canaan. Are we to focus on the grapes (God’s promises) or are we to feel like grasshoppers, too afraid to achieve anything?

 Charlie Cleverly in action
 The worship team
 St Aldates

A brief stocking up in Tesco, followed by a sandwich on board, and then we set off upstream under Folly Bridge, with Hazel steering, and James cleaning the crayfish.

Osney Lock and Osney Bridge not nearly so fast flowing.  The lady at Godstow Lock seems to be a bit of a control person.  She gave out a card yesterday telling me what yellow boards mean.  Today she told me about the red and green markers further up, ticked off two cyclists who hadn’t dismounted, and then undid my stern rope without asking, when the lock was not even full, and the gates were still shut, and I hadn’t switched my engine on.

Then up through the zigzags, where we encountered lots of horse flies.  Normally they go for James, but this time, possibly because it overheard when she called it a hover fly, one bit Hazel.  On went the anthisan cream and down went an antihistamine tablet, as we know that insect bites and Hazel don’t get on together.  The bite went very red very quickly, but then settled down OK.

At King’s Lock we met Martin and Rosie, from Quantum Leap, last seen on the Fens three years ago. Lovely to see them again. They are heading for London.

After King’s Lock we turned right into Duke’s Cut, bound for the Oxford Canal. 
The junction of the Thames with Duke's Cut

Today’s Thames journey: 3 locks, 4 miles

Today’s Oxford Canal journey: see next entry.

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