Friday, 31 July 2015

Rural Oxfordshire

The idea was to leave Thrupp early this morning and be the first to moor on the services block.  Unfortunately another couple had the same idea and their water tank was empty.  Actually they told us the water pump was sucking the rust of the bottom of the tank.

Thrupp is a lovely location, well maintained and where the mooring rules are enforced.  We have no problem with that.

Our mooring last night was very close to The Jolly Boatman pub.  Being a Wednesday night there wasn’t much of a crowd outside the pub.


It took almost an hour for the other boat to fill their water tank and by then a 3rd boat had arrived wanting water.  It took us less than 15 minutes to top up the tank, however Jan didn’t miss the opportunity to put on a load of washing while we waited.  This meant we left with a full tank.

Someone had dragged two bikes from the canal near Shipton Bridge and left them beside the dog poo bin for collection.

canal bikes

I have my doubts about the bikes being collected and suspect it’s more likely they will end up back in the canal!

The first lock of the day was Shipton Weir Lock.  It has a very strange shape being quite wide with only a small fall in water levels between full and empty.  When you exit the upstream side you’re out onto the River Cherwell. 

shipton weir lock

The reason for the wide lock becomes apparent when you realise the River Cherwell is the water source for the canal to Oxford.  If the lock was the conventional width, but with a fall of only 18 inches, then the canal might rapidly run out of water.  Making the lock wider ensures a conventional lock’s worth of water enters the canal each time it is used.

We were cruising along when I had to frantically reach for my camera to take a photo of this red van parked in the trees beside the canal.

old van

After three hours of cruising we found ourselves a quiet rural mooring.  I went for a walk and didn’t see a building around for two kilometres.

tonights mooring sml

During the walk I came upon this cast iron marker with the letters DIS on it.  My guess is it is a distance marker.


Then I came upon this stone marker which is so old any markings have eroded with the passing of time.

old distance marker

It’s interesting that sometimes you see things when cruising which are not seen when walking.  And when walking you see things not usually observed from the boat.  I would not have seen either of these markers from the boat.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Last of the Thames

After dinner last night I went for a walk west along the south side of the Thames to Godstow and then back down the opposite bank walking across Port Meadow.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  There are two photos of Abingdon left off yesterday’s post.  We were closing up Waiouru and about to go to bed when Jan glanced out the porthole and exclaimed “Whata nice scene!”  I then spent several minutes fiddling with the camera settings attempting to get a reasonable photo. It was a little easier the following morning.

abingdon steeple

leaving abingdon smal

I’ve previously mentioned Port Meadow on the western outskirts of Oxford.  Some 300 acres of open grazing land given to the Freemen of Oxford by Alfred the Great for helping him to defend his kingdom from the Danes.

port meadow

port meadow 2

At the far end of the route were the ruins of Godstow Nunnery which I have also previously mentioned.  This time I was able to enter the enclosed area.

godstow nunneryruins

There isn’t much left apart from the exterior walls.

There is an old SSBB (single storey, single width, Bailey Bridge which provides pedestrian access across a branch of the Thames just below Medley Footbridge.


I built a number of these during my military career.  I wonder when it was last crack tested?

This morning a quick trip was made to Aldi for the weekly magazines and then we headed upstream to Duke’s Cut.  There were a large number of rowers on the river adjacent to Port Meadow which had us weaving and dodging for part of the route.  It’s Wednesday and I wondered where they found the time to row.  Jan then mentioned it was school holidays.

lady rowers

King’s Lock was the last we will do on the Thames.  There was a boat already waiting below the lock.  A couple from South Africa who remembered us from a previous meeting.  I was wondering why I didn’t remember them (perhaps age?) and then they mentioned they had repainted the boat since our last meeting.

king's lock sml

A portion of Duke’s Cut is a bit of a squeeze in places.  There are a number of boats here that are unlicensed and almost look abandoned.

crusties in dukes cut

We were following NB Merryweather II and discovered there was no lock landing at Duke’s Cut Lock.  The crew on Merryweather II managed to get off their boat at the bow whilst we loitered behind.


Whilst they were working down the lock I noticed why there was no lock landing.  It appears the last continuous moorer is moored on the lock landing.  Actually the boat has been there so long the landing is overgrown.

duke's lock landing

As luck would have it a boat wanted to come up the lock.  Jan mentioned the problem with the boats above the lock and was told the ownership of the cut was unclear and neither EA or CRT wanted to do anything about the boats.

duke's cut map

Affected area shown on the map above.

The last time we cruised on skinny canals was 2014.  The first thing we have noticed is how close the bottom of the canal is to the top.  It’s very slow cruising on the South Oxford.  But the narrow locks fill much faster.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Pump out and sharing mooring rings

The Environmental Agency (EA) has a very good pump out machine at Abingdon lock.  Ten minutes of suction for £10.  This morning we had a problem the card Jan had purchased wouldn’t work in the machine.  Fortunately most EA locks have a rostered lock keeper and he was able to set the machine on manual.  This did get me thinking.  The EA machines rarely fail and the cost for using it is £10.  The Canal & River Trust machines always seem to be breaking down and the cost is £15.  Why do CRT machines cost 50% more yet are less reliable.  I can only assume a larger number of CRT’s customers are not as considerate when using the machine and this has resulted in a increase in maintenance costs.  These costs are then reflected in the increase to all customers.  I did ask the Abingdon lock keeper if their machine experienced problems.  He informed me most of the problems were with the card reader but that he hated vegetarians and posh boats!  Apparently the pump doesn’t like expensive toilet paper or lentils! Smile

It took just under three hours to cruise from Abingdon to Oxford.  Things got rather busy on the river around Christchurch Meadows.  Numerous punts had been hired out to groups of teenagers and they were attempting to steer using the poles.  Few of them were watching where they were going and none were looking for other boats. 



We weaved amongst them attempting to predict in which direction they were heading.  This proved almost impossible as they didn’t know.  Eventually we reached Osney Lock.  There had been nothing behind us but to our surprise a small boat came into the lock behind us.  I enquired where they had come from and was informed they had just left the marina below the lock and were out for the day.  The owner informed me it was a trailer boat weighing just under two tonne.  They usually cruise in southern France towing the boat behind their Range Rover.  He told me they prefer the French canals.

The 24 hour moorings above the lock appeared to be full of crusty’s.  Each leaving a spare mooring ring between boats.  If they all closed up there would be room for an additional two boats.  One of them called out to me.  I thought he said “Are there any vacant moorings beyond Folly Bridge?”  Jan thought he said “There are moorings beyond Folly Bridge!”  I replied “Where is Folly Bridge?”  He just rolled his eyes, shrugged his shoulders and turned his back on me.  Later I checked the map and realised he was asking about moorings opposite Christchurch Meadows.

We found room for two boats at the end of the 24 hour moorings and reversed back so our stern rope was sharing the same ring as the fibreglass cruiser behind.  This left just enough room for another narrowboat in front of us.  The crew of the cruiser came out and grumbled at having to share a ring, mentioning there was plenty of room in from of us.  We ignored them.  20 minutes later a narrowboat arrived and gratefully grabbed the mooring in front.  I would have thought it was boating courtesy to close up when mooring space is at a premium.  The crew of the boat behind must have been displeased as they departed two hours later.

After lunch we wandered into Oxford.  This time we made a trip to the covered market.  It was mostly window shopping, although Jan did buy some red gooseberries and a couple of dark plums.  It’s damned hard to buy gooseberries in Australia and Jan just happens to love them.

We noticed an interesting cake shop down one of the covered alleyways.  It was possible to watch the staff decorating cakes through the large shop windows.  Very interesting!

SAMSUNGcake 1smlSAMSUNGWe thought these last two were very cleverly decorated examples of famous Oxford buildings.

Tomorrow we will be back onto skinny canals.

To Day’s Lock……. Errr maybe!

The forecast today was for scattered passing showers.  Jan was up early for her call back to Australia and shortly thereafter I arose for breakfast.  The call to Oz continued whilst I washed and dried the dishes.  We only do them once daily as it saves on water.  The dirty water gets tipped out the side hatch rather than down the sink.  Doing this minimises the need to clean the sink bottle trap.  There’s only one risk tipping the water over the side.  I’ve been known to feed teaspoons to the fish!

Whilst Jan finished her pre cruising tasks I decided to walked into Goring Village and buy some bread.  On the way I disposed of our rubbish.  Back at the boat with the bread where Jan reminded me she had told me yesterday that today she was going to bake bread and the dough was rising.  Looks like there will be some happy ducks!

We were away just on 8am and no sooner than we had untied the mooring lines it started to drizzle. I cruised the short distance up the Goring Lock with the pram cover up but quickly realised drizzle on the clear plastic front window made for poor visibility.  The lock was on self service so we used our locking technique rather than the EA Lock Keepers method.  They require bow and stern lines with the engine off.  We use a centre line and keep the engine going.

There only a short reach between Goring and Cleeve Locks and we arrived to find it also on Self Service.  Jan worked Waiouru up without any difficulty.  The is a good water point above the lock so we stopped to top up the tank.  We last filled at Aldermaston on Wednesday.  The tank was still three quarters full but we like to keep it topped up.

It appeared the Goring Regatta might have been held on the field to the south of Cleeve Lock as the last of some carnival rides appeared to be leaving.


The Moulsford Railway Bridge crosses the Thames above Cleeve Lock.  I’m impressed by the sheer number of bricks that went into its construction.  There are 10 layers of brick in each arch.  I’d have loved to have won the contract to supply the bricks. 

extensive brickwork

Just before Wallingford three wooden rowing boats passed us going downstream.  Some of the crews were wearing red clothing and initially I thought they might be the crews conducting the royal tupping of the swans.  Then we realised they were Danish Vikings returning home after a successful raid.


At Benson Lock we caught up with another narrowboat.  The steerer of NB Samsara ask me if were were “The kiwi bloggers?” and “Did i know Sue?”  The answer to both questions was “Yes!”  He then asked us if we had seen Sue.  We were able to tell him she was well south of Reading.  We still haven’t asked the boater for his name.  Very remise!


The plan was to moor against the bank above Day’s Lock.  Unfortunately a number of boaters had the same idea and arrived before us.  Our three hour cruising day just got longer.

Day’s Lock to Abington is rather boring.  It’s almost as if you are circling Didcot Power Station. 

We noticed NB Free Spirit moored at Clifton Hampden.

free spirit 1

Just before we reached Abingdon a small steam powered launch passed us going downstream.  It reminded us we had seen two similar powered boats when going this way in 2013.


We had already heard the Abingdon moorings were full and were quite relieved to see two vacant mooring spots.  We took one and Samsara the other.

So here we are back in Abingdon.

Abingdon Again

It’s been a grey misty and drizzly day with patches of sunshine.  In the evening I walked up to Abingdon Lock and then around the southern side of Abbey Meadow to reach Abbey Gardens.  In the far corner are some ruins which I thought might be the remains of the original abbey.


However it’s possible they might be the remains of Trendell’s Folly.  After a short search on Google I think I can confirm the ruins are actually Trendell’s Folly.  Trendell was a prosperous wine merchant with an outlet on the High Street in Abingdon.  In 1853 he bought the Abbey House and gardens.  He enlarged the house and set out the gardens in a fashionable Victorian style. The folly was built around 1872.  So Henry VIII had nothing to do with this set of ruins!

Whilst walking back to Waiouru I managed to take a photo downstream from Abingdon Bridge using the smartphone.

SAMSUNG The boat in the foreground is ABC hire boat Little Bunting from Aldermaston Wharf.  There was a rather interesting boat immediately beyond the bow of Little Bunting in the photo above.  The first think I noticed was the high mast.  It wouldn’t have been able to get this far up the Thames with the mast erected.  Then I noticed the flag on the stern.

festina lente

It looked like the French Tricolour but the boat name wasn’t French and the name on the stern looked Belgium or Dutch.  My knowledge of flags isn’t what it once was and I had to check.  It’s the Tricolour!

Monday, 27 July 2015


Goring is an attractive village on the Thames.  After walking around the area we realised it is Goring on the north bank and Streatley on the south.  The area is sometimes known as the ‘Goring Gap’, a narrowing of the Thames where it cuts through the terrain between the Chiltern Hills and the Berkshire Downs.  Apparently there was a ford here and later there must have been a ferry as the name of the narrow road leading down to our mooring is Ferry Lane.

The scenery around here was the setting for books such as The Wind in the Willows, Watership Down and Three Men in a Boat.

goring moorings

Moorings at Goring

The main visitor attraction here is probably the bridge across the Thames, built in 1927 and Goring Lock and weir.

goring lock 2015

The Swan Hotel is located on the Streatley side of the river.

goring cafe There was a wedding reception beside the replica paddle boat.

wedding party

I wandered up through Streatley looking for a pub eventually finding The Bull.  However after checking the online reviews we decided against having Sunday lunch there.

the bull

The John Barleycorn is on the Goring side and actually closer to our mooring. 


We received a very warm welcome and had a tasty meal  Another good choice!

Apparently Goring was a very fashionable place to live in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Notables included Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur (Bomber) Harris and Admiral Sir William Harwood, victor of the Battle of the River Plate.

There are some attractive boathouses and dwellings in the approach to the old mill race.

rare goring moorings

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Goodbye K&A and the rare Reading water vole

We quietly (hopefully) slipped away from our Burghfield morning at 8am leaving our mooring companions to their slumbers.

burghfield boaters

Nbs Tentatrice and Cleddau

On reaching the first lock (Southcote) we discovered the lower gates were open.  Either the boat in front of us was deliberately leaving them open or they were poorly hung and drifted open when the lock was empty.

On our way to the next lock (Fobney) we passed Nb Adelaide moored on the towpath.  It was here just over a month ago that we partnered up with Adelaide when heading to Reading.

adelaide again

We found the lower gates at Fobney Lock open, so there was a lazy boater ahead of us.  We weren’t sure how we would complete Fobney lock.  The river joins the canal from the right immediately below the lock and after the heavy rain yesterday there might be a strong flow.  After a quick look below the lock our concerns abated. 

If anyone passes this way in a fortnight you might want to check if the apples are ripe on the heavily laden tree beside the lock.

It was on the stretch of water below Fobney Lock that we saw the rare Reading water vole.  It’s appearance was fleeting and unfortunately the photo is out of focus.  However we were able to determine it was a male gathering food for his family.

reading water voleHe was a rather timid creature scurrying for cover when he realised we were approaching. Smile

CRT should really cut back the willows on the approach to County Lock as they impair visibility.

county lockThe lower gates were again open,but that is usual practice for this lock.  It makes entrance easier for boats coming upstream.

Jan worked Waiouru down and then pressed the traffic light button getting a green light for our cruise through the narrows at Reading.

working county lock Note the read light in the distance.

We had the green light and were just pulling away from the landing when the bl**dy light changed back to red.  That’s not supposed to happen.  The instructions state it will stay green for 10 minutes.  We frantically went into reverse thinking a boat was coming towards us and then Jan pushed the button again.  The light immediately turned green.

traffic light


Pulled along by the current, Waiouru fairly flew through Reading.  Jan took a few photos whilst I concentrated on the steering.

old locals

Some of the Reading senior citizens


The only point where there is a potential for things to get tricky is Duke Street Bridge which is on an angle to the river.  When we first went this way in 2013 blog reader Bill told us to aim for the right abutment and the current would drag the bow into the centre of the stream.

old reading bridge1

It’s good advice and we passed through without any issues.

old reading bridge

Looking back

Blakes Lock was on self service which meant our license would probably be checked at Caversham Lock.

Jan did the last manual lock we will pass through for the next few days.

goodbye k&a

Goodbye Kennet & Avon Canal.  We won’t be returning by boat.  It’s not that the locks are particularly difficult or the scenery poor.  It’s the lack of moorings and the large number of continuous moorers.  The Bath end is very attractive.

We turned upstream on reaching the Thames passing all the squatters moored outside Tesco.  Jan had written several emails to Tesco complaining and their response was it’s a Reading Council problem as they own the land.

tesco cms

Obviously the council isn’t interested.

The new footbridge has been erected over the Thames at Caversham.

reading footbridge1

reading footbridge

The bridge hasn’t been opened to the public.

Our plan was to find a mooring a Beale Park but we realised there is no TV reception there.  Nor is there a pub for our Sunday roast lunch.  We decided to check and see if many boats were moored beside the park and if not, we would continue to Goring in the hope of getting a mooring there.  It turned out there was only one boat at Beale Park and plenty of room at Goring.  Lunch tomorrow is looking positive!