Monday, 8 June 2015

Back to Oxford

A short cruise today from Eynsham Lock to Oxford. The two Environment Agency (EA) employees who had accompanied us in their boat for most of yesterday appeared again this morning as we prepared to go through Eynsham Lock.  They told us the boat was being taken to Henley as part of the EA Henley Regatta preparations.  They also cautioned us to avoid Henley during the regatta.  As they left the lock their parting comment was they might be taking a few detours so not to wait for them at any of the locks.

On reaching Duke’s Cut we realised the purpose of these “detours”.  They were going down the various Thames arms and tributaries to check boats had licenses.

ea checking

They had already “pinged” one boater when we took this photo.  It appears some boaters slip off the Oxford Canal (CRT waters) and loiter in Duke’s Cut which links the canal and the Thames.

The pay moorings above King’s Lock were full of plastic boats which appeared to be enjoying themselves in the morning sun.  Almost half of them had tables out on the adjacent lawn enjoying a late breakfast.  The smell of bacon on the bbq wafted on the breeze!  The grounds around the lock were in excellent condition.  I guess this is how many of the CRT canal locks looked when they had permanent lock keepers.

kings lock

Our last lock for the day was Godstow Lock.  Jan went forward to check if there was a lock keeper and I happened to look behind noticing what appeared to be the ruins of a monastery.

abbey ruins

Some guessing about the name confirmed these are the ruins of Godstow Abbey.  The abbey used to be sited on an island in the middle of the river but one branch has now disappeared.  It was consecrated in 1139.  It grew in size and wealth later that century as a result of various gifts from King Henry II.  This is attributed to being the burial place of his mistress Rosamund Clifford.  By coincidence I’d recently finished reading a novel about Henry II, which included Rosamund.   You won’t be surprised to read the abbey was supressed in 1539 by Henry VIII who (of course) seized the assets.  The abbey was then converted into a house before being badly damaged during the Civil War.

Downstream from the lock and on the north bank is Port Meadow, a large open space of open common land which has never been ploughed.  In return for their support against the Danes, King Alfred the Great gave the land to the freemen of Oxford for the grazing of cattle and horses.

port meadow

It was along this stretch of the Thames that the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson started to develop the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 

We had far more practical considerations focusing on avoiding all the rowing crews out practicing on Sunday morning.

rowing skiffs at oxford

Lunch was at the Kite Inn.  Probably our worst Sunday lunch decision to date.  Jan ordered the beef and I chose the lamb.  When it came Jan tasted her meal and said she had the lamb.  We swapped plates.  I couldn’t taste any difference and neither could Jan.  The meat was chewy and full of grizzle.  The carrots came from a tin and the yorkshire puddings from Aunt Bessie (frozen).  I don’t suppose you can win all the time. 

Later in the afternoon a small fibreglass boat moored behind us with some very inebriated young males aboard.  They were very noisy and rolled around on the grass before one took a plunge into the river.  The police then arrived and moved them off before securing the boat.  Several hours later a small dingy with a couple and a dog arrived.  They tied the dingy to the boat and then motored off.  We never quite worked out if the boat had been stolen?

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