Friday, 31 July 2015

Aynho Wharf

A very tranquil night out in rural Oxfordshire.  Jan actually heard a noise and got up at 2am to find Waiouru surrounded by mist.  The noise was the ropes creaking.  We weren’t the first boat to move this morning but those we did see were going in the opposite direction.  That meant the first two locks were in our favour.

Jan noticed a garden in front of a canal side house.

floating garden

A floating garden!

We stopped at the Heyford Wharf water tap and whilst filling the tank I got my first glimpse of a “killer rabbit”.  It’s the first time I have seen one!

killer rabbit

After Heyford Wharf we found a short queue at every lock with boats going up and down.  It’s interesting how you can think you are the only boat on the canal until you reach a lock and then discover the canal is almost crowded Smile

busy lock

Three going up and two coming down

Once through each lock we were back on our own.  At one point we passed a large barn.  I assume the holes have been left in the sides for owls.  The farmer encourages to owls to control mice.  Am I wrong?

old large barn

At one point we were going around a blind bend in the canal when a hire boat appeared from the opposite direction.  The poor steerer lost control and they ended up with their bow in the bank.  Not that it appeared to worry the lady on board.  She called out “Waiouru!” and one of the male passengers called out “We’re from Hamilton”.  More kiwi tourists enjoying the canals.

exeter

The kiwi’s recover!

Somerton Deep Lock is aptly named.  It also takes longer to fill and empty.  That resulted in an even longer lock queue.  Still, everyone was enjoying the fine weather and crews were assisting each other through the lock.

somerton deep lockThe former lock keeper’s cottage is occupied I must check on google If there Is road access. It does not appear to have mains electricity as a petrol generator could be heard rumbling in the background. 

somerton lock cottageJust after leaving Somerton Deep Wharf we passed NB Ratty.  Actually we stopped and reversed back to discuss fenders with Doug & Jeanne. 

ratty

We first met them below Foxton Locks in 2013.  They make and sell rope fenders and we bought two of their long thin sausage fenders for the bow.  This time we wanted two more for the stern.  I’ll take a photo when they are fitted.

On one long straight it appeared a narrowboat was approaching from the opposite direction.  However the scale appeared wrong.  It wasn’t a row boat or canoe as there was no sign of oars or paddles.  As it got closer we realised is was a small electric boat.

electric boat

Now will he go down through Somerton Deep Lock?

We want to stop for the weekend and also have the usual Sunday roast so we decided to carry on to Aynho.  There was a very familiar boat moored at the southern end.

barrogill

Last time we saw NB Barrogill she was for sale at Clifton Wharf, Rugby.

Jan has been noting the interesting names some people give their boats.  This one appeared to be particularly amusing.

noddy boat

The ringed moorings here are 48 hour max and as we won’t be leaving until Monday morning we’ve moored just beyond those moorings against a bit of rough ground.  Everything is fine.  We have the dot in the sky, a terrestrial TV signal and a good internet signal.

aynho wharf sml  I’d like to buy a spare belt for the 175A alternator but the Aynho Wharf chandlery doesn’t have any in stock.  We will have to keep looking.

Thursday, 30 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.

thrupp1sml

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.

dis

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.

Wednesday, 29 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.

ssbb

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.

queuing

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. 

punts2 

punts1

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.

Monday, 27 July 2015

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.

carnival

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.

danes

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!

samsara

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.

steamer

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.

SAMSUNG

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!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Goring

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. 

SAMSUNG

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