Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Still Thames cruising and lost my beard!

The weather forecasters were spot on. Stopping and staying put at Kelmscott was a good move. Friday it persisted it down all day. Saturday was initially dry, but the wind was something else.

The reason for stopping here was to visit Kelmscott Manor, the rural retreat of William Morris, he of the arts and craft movement. At 11am, we braved it, donning our waterproofs we made the short walk in. No rain yet, but the bleary sky did not bode well. Fortunately, the worst of the day held off. We sauntered around the gardens and had a coffee in the café, then entered the house.

hard to believe this was found lining a dog basket

Thanks to the Friends of, this has been held almost in aspic, to the extent that the great man would in all likelihood recognise his abode. A lot of time effort and money has been expended to achieve this, but well worth it. The house is timeless. Simply furnished, but in keeping with the Morris ethos. A beautiful place, well worth the effort and support if you happen to be in this area. The on site shop also managed to relieve us of some cash, so all good for the Friends.

When the time came to depart, the weather held. So we walked the village and visited the rather understated last resting place of the main man. Then, it was fitting that we raised a glass in the local, The Plough and also enjoyed a bite to eat. I say enjoyed. It was busy. One table seemed intent on drowning out all others as only a certain class of southern folk can. But hey ho...

We managed to get back to the boat before the deluge and the wicked winds, battened down and sat it out.

Sunday was not unpleasant, but the wind persisted. We had not planned on an early start, but circumstances dictated that we got a move on! For some reason, the local hire base in these parts, operated by Anglo Welsh, a national hire company, seem to give some perverse instructions to its clients. We, along with many, started our experience hiring boats. We are not anti hirer's by any means, far from it. But...

Why does this base instruct all hirers to travel at full throttle. To run engines untill well gone midnight and that it is possible to turn a 70ft boat on a section of river that is 55ft!

That was what got us up, dressed and ready... It was hard to explain that their intended manoeuvre was a physical impossibility, but after much revving and white water, concerned cows and disturbed ducks, they gave in and proceeded up river to a more suitable spot to wind. At least it got us up!

So, now wide awake, we began the journey down river once again. We did not travel that far, as the wind remained viscous and moored up just past Radcot bridge. A great mooring, but a dodgy pub, so we missed Sunday lunch and enjoyed provisions bought at Lechlade.  The problem with this section is lack of re victualing stops! By Monday,we were running low on supplies, so just had to stop at the Rose Revived at New bridge for a meal. Twas ok...

Tuesday dawned fine. And got hotter and hotter. For the second day running, we started with a wash cycle, then continued down river. Somewhat twisty here abouts, but the locks have a plentiful water supply to replenish that used. We even just missed being TV stars, as at North moor lock, Jeremy Paxman was filming for a new series on rivers. No time for a photo though. He was somewhat stymied though, as the EA should have provided a launch for filming a cruise. It broke down!

So on went we. The temperature and humidity ever rising. My hirsuteness was by this time almost painful. When we stopped just below Kings lock, enough was enough, so out with the beard trimmer. Now I have not used this much of late, so was somewhat surprised when the first sweep left me baby faced! Ali had to finish me off and tidy up!

So if you find a grey beard, tis mine!

The trauma meant that we had to walk to The Trout at Wolvercote for a meal. A busy, but delightful stop, I am not sure Morse would approve though. It was extremely busy. That said, the staff were very helpful and we really enjoyed our meal.

The Trout

The heat was building from early on Wednesday morn. We really did need a shop stop. With this in mind we hopped down the lock, crossed the meadows and headed into Oxford. The loose plan was, if there were river moorings free top of Osney lock, we would stop. And there were! So in we went. We like these moorings. Not too far to Aldi & Waitrose if our all terrain trolley is utilised.

Dawn on the Thames

So after securing the mooring and a spot of brunch, we shopped. Time now to chill. Had to make sure we had a good TV signal though, because Bake Off starts again!

We are going to make our way down to Abingdon, again... Hopefully, Jane &Paul will come to visit on Friday. We really must get back on the muddy waters again soon. But the Thames has been once again a joy.

26.5 miles.
9 large locks.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Some very sad news & Abingdon, and beyond

RIP Elaine

We had the very sad news last night that Elaine had lost her battle with cancer.  Anyone who had met Elaine knows what a lovely person she was, with her infectious smile and just one of those people who have an impact on us.  Our heartfelt condolences go to Paul and their families at this very sad time.  We have very happy memories of our too few gatherings. RIP Elaine. xx

and onwards

Abingdon. What does the name conjure for you? I suppose, for me it is a southern Midland industrial town, cars and such. How wrong am I. My only previous experience is calling in for fuel from the A34. From the river aspect, it is just so different.

For a start, this town welcomes boaters. Five consecutive days FREE mooring is unheard of on the Thames, so it is very popular. The town centre has a pleasant blend of old and sympathetic new. Not wow, but erm, yes. Well done. A rather understated place, but none the worse for that.

So it was with some regret that the time came to bid the town farewell. Claire and David I hope, enjoyed their visit, although unsure if the hotel really met their standards. We had a good time and they even got to meet as Martine and Malcolm would say, the Cliff!

Monday was the day of departure from fair Abingdon. A really pleasant cruise up river. This section of course, holds no surprises, as we came this way earlier in the year. The spectacular Riverside properties are now somewhat behind us, but the river remains interesting. Deep and wide waters for us ditch dwellers are always a bonus.

Approaching Oxford, we met with a dilemma. The moorings above Osney lock were full! So either carry on up river, or divert slightly, go up Isis lock onto the South Oxford, in order to meet up with Malcolm and Martine.

Up Isis went we then....

We managed to moor up just beyond NB Penny Less, who had a prime position, despite being resident for but a moment(!) Bit of a chat, then blow me, it was time to go for a beer, I mean food, of course. We wandered down to the Punter above Osney lock and had a quirky meal. I enjoyed mine, not sure about the others. Would you believe Ali & Martine drank them out of Gin!

Malcolm and I of course remained completely sober and escorted the ladies back for a night cap, or three. Malcolm I believe, like me, met Cliff. Again. Honest, this is completely out of character for me...

Tuesday, with a heavy head,(heart) we said farewell to Malcolm & Martine. Odd to be in an urban environment again, although it did allow us to replenish supplies thanks to M&S food. Now we either carried on up the Oxford, or reversed back, down Isis lock, and continued up the Thames.

No contest really, the Thames it was. Descending the lock in reverse was novel, but also gave us the chance to chat with Maffi, who kindly assisted us. Nice to meet you once again, but please ignore our use of the bow thruster.  The river was a lot more benign than on our way down. Hardly any flow at all.

Up river from Oxford, the rivers character changes. Gone are the automated locks and the river itself meanders severely. A little chopping back of the odd tree would not go amiss. Adds to the experience though. Ali says she needs travel sickness pills though!

On Tuesday we moored in splendid isolation, with ner a sound of the 21st century. Not a lot of residences or villages here, nor bridges. On Wednesday, we wended our way onward and called it a day just short of Radcot. The weather has been more than kind, as has been this beautiful river. So chilled out, for the final push, before the weather finally breaks?

But it has held for one more day. Thursday was stunningly hot. A bit of morning cloud, but after that, it was hot, with ner a breath of wind . The trip up river from Radcot is a joy. Whilst the countryside is flat, the meandering river makes up for this. Deep, albeit at times narrow waters, whose contorted course offers a challenge at every bend. And there are many! Too many for Ali really, but she endured. No dramas on the way up river, for us anyway. A couple of small cruiser style day boats pirouetting as they left Buscot lock raised a smile though.

Interesting Craft

We arrived in Lechlade by lunch time. The plan was, a shop and look around, then back down river to Kelmscott. This was primarily weather driven. Kelmscott Manor is only open Wednesdays and Saturdays.  Friday was looking dire, with Saturday not much better but with high winds added to the mix. We managed to get onto the mooring,at Lechlade, in through the bridge on the town side. No cows here Malcolm! A shop, wander, then time to go. Back down river went we. The locks are far easier going down, for me anyway. Being vertically challenged and trying to lasso a bollard going up, I have yet to master!

We are now moored in rural isolation at Kemscott. The harvest is in full swing, the cows drinking the waters opposite and not a train or automobile to break the tranquillity. Just the odd military transport heading for Brize Norton. You can never fully escape the 21st century, but here, it's as near as damn it.

After enjoying the afternoon sun, we walked into the village and enjoyed refreshments at The Plough, in this stunning picture postcard Cotswold village. It's like being on a film set and expecting to see Miss Marple bicycling past.

So, hunkered down for the predicted deluge, then dodging in to visit Kelmscott manor on Saturday.

Just as an aside, TV. We really have not watched it much this year,apart from the Olympics. Some years ago now, we met a chap who had one of these

He raved about it. So bought one, but it was an e-bay buy, and was rubbish. That said, until the connector parted company from the lead, it worked, occasionally! This was when we had a sat system. Since buying the Maxview OMNIMAX with signal booster, TV has not been a problem, but leaving, £80 worth of aerial on the roof occasionally was a concern. Especially when in more urban areas.

We saw several boats using these in Windsor, so thought, let's give it another go.

The thought was, why not try a similar aerial again, in conjunction with the booster, so bought one from Maplins, understanding that it would only work in strong signal areas. It has been a success. Discreet on the boat roof and gaining on average 108 digital TV channels and 39 radio. But only in good signal areas.

Worth a £17 punt though. Only had to revert to the Maxview once since purchasing (so Ali could watch the Olympics).

Total distance 52 miles and 21 locks

Monday, 15 August 2016

An unintended spurt, then slowly does it.

After we had moored up on Sunday , the wind certainly got up. (Not me you understand, but the veg at lunchtime didn't help!) Whilst it remained sunny, there was a nip in that breeze.

Monday morning was similar. A beautiful morning to sit tight for an hour or so and complete a wash load, then hang it in the cratch to dry whilst we travelled. Only problem was ensuring it didn't blow away! A shame to be moving on from Henley though, tis a lovely town. The Riverside houses are stunning in these parts.

Our intention was to travel perhaps as far as Caversham, or even sooner if we fancied a spot. It was not to be. A pleasant day, but it did cloud over by late morning and the wind remained somewhat keen. We decided a shop was needed. The old alcohol stocks being somewhat depleted. Passing the entrance to the K&A, we spotted a rare thing indeed, a free slot on the moorings outside of Tesco Reading! We got in ok, but the bow of a tree was threatening to exfoliate the cabin side. Nothing for it but for me to remain as a human fender, whilst Ali shopped.  At least she could bring the trolley to the boat.

After that, we decided to see what Caversham offered by way of moorings. Well yes, we could get in, but neither of us fancied an overnight stop there, so onward.

By late afternoon we spotted a spot at Beale park and slotted in. Seems to have been a rather long day, in fact 18 miles long...

I think a combination of the wind, sunshine and early starts of late, have taken their toll. We were both knackered, so an early night. A shorter hop on the cards.

Tuesday, weather wise, was almost a repeat performance of the previous day. Dry, bright at times, but with a keen wind. We were determined to limit our cruise range. The scenery heading towards Goring is truly stunning, as are some of the properties boardering the river. We have lost some of the more idiosyncratic boats seen around Henley now and are in cruiser and wide beam country. Some are huge. Passing through the town and it's lock, we soon reached Cleeve lock. It was busy and we wanted to top up the water. This is situated just above the lock and was a tad congested with large cruisers filling their voluminous tanks. Eventually, one pulled off and we drifted over to fill up. At this point we were hailed by George from Still Rockin. They were moored just beyond the lock, so once filled, we moved up and breasted up to them. It is a lovely wide beam boat, it's dimension's dwarfed us and so much interior space. An ideal boat for these broad deep waters. We must have had a good couple of hours nattering before it was time to leave them in peace. Thank you both for your hospitality and enjoy your fantastic boat.

We were now in the long lock free section and poodled along enjoying the river, but keeping an eye out for likely mooring spots.   None spotted, without already being occupied and so seeing Wallingford bridge, we thought the chances of a free spot here were slim. But, we were wrong. One rather tight slot available, but a kindly couple on a small cruiser moved up for us and we were moored. This is a rather pleasant market town and we enjoyed a late afternoon walk exploring and getting a bite to eat.  You do not find budget supermarkets in these parts, so Waitrose had to do for a few essentials.

On Wednesday the weather pattern somewhat persisted. Fleeces on but the wind not perhaps quite as strong. Again, no rush, so doing 1300 revs pushed us along nicely. Not much flow on at the moment.

One place we have promised ourselves to visit is Dorchester. This small town lies a shortish walk from the river. As we approached Day's lock ( Home of the World Poosticks championship) a large wide beam was exiting. On the way up the lock, Ali asked the keepers if the water was deep enough for us to moor up on the starboard bank. He pointed out a stretch only a short distance away, stating the wide beam had just vacated the spot, so in we went. It really is wonderful countryside here. We initially walked into the very picturesque town, admired the varied architectural styles, then visited the Abbey.

Back on the boat, the sun peeked out and after admiring the view of Wittenham clump, decided a further walk to the top would do us good. Taking our fleeces proved unnecessary. The sun was rather warm by this time. But the views from the top are truly stunning.(If you ignore Didcot, sorry Sue & Quentin)

The boat looked tiny from this vantage and all alone!

That did not last long though. As we sat out enjoying the sun, we assisted one boat to moor eventually behind us. Then as we were eating, another moored up in front of us, almost touching! So much for tranquillity! Obviously a popular stop over point. Perhaps they are Poostick aficionados?

Something of a theme developing with the weather. Thursday dawned cloudy, but not as cold as previous day's. We had decided to make an early start as we wanted to get to Abingdon and get a mooring secured before it became rammed. We were meeting Claire & David there on Saturday, but arriving to near the weekend would not secure us a decent spot. It is something of a honeypot, being near to Oxford and allowing five consecutive days on the visitor moorings, gratis, something of an exception for the Thames.

By 0800 we were off. Still a chill to the wind. The river takes a large loop here, do it appears you travel a fair distance only to discover you are almost back where you started. We certainly saw the remnants of Didcot power station from all perspectives. Only two locks to negotiate and the first, Clifton lock, we arrived at before the keeper was on duty, so self service once again.  Then out along the long lock cut and back onto broad waters.

It was just after 0900 hrs when we arrived at Culham lock. This is deeper than most of late, but the keeper was on hand to assist with the ropes. I must admit, controlling the boat and trying to lasso the bollard, is not my forte at the best of times, especially in a deeper lock so I was grateful for his assistance. Anyone else notice that keepers on the Thames seem glued to their mobiles? Once again, just us ascending, but a few more boats moving by this time, including Marpessa waiting to descend.

From there, around the broad bend and past the marina and into Abingdon. Our first call was at the Boat centre, near the bridge for a fuel top up. They also have a tap for drinking water top up here. Only £2 rather than £4 for the privilege as we were getting fuel!! Don't ya love the Thames...

Still, getting water here negated going up a further lock and possibly missing a mooring. Initially we turned back downstream and onto a lovely mooring opposite the church. But it was shaded by tall trees. Ali had a scout and reported a good mooring free a couple of hundred yards past the bridge, so we upped and moved briskly and slotted in. As we are not far from the lock and services above, out with the trolley and two cassettes loaded. This was due to the last Elsan point on our travels being out of order. Once that was done, we settled in and chilled. Well I did, even had a siesta, an age thing I know! Ali did some work...

Our friends arrived on Saturday having had a good journey except for the last 15 miles!  We had a catch up over a few bottles of wine and retired to the pub for dinner and then back to the boat for a nightcap.  Sunday we went took them for a little trip along the Thames and managed to get moored on our return (we did have plan B - we had arranged to breast up with another boat if we couldn't get back in).  We had  very relaxed late lunch at the Nags Head on the Island, they have live Jazz on a Sunday from 5pm so we enjoyed the start at the pub and then continued to enjoy from the boat, they left early evening hoping that the journey home would be a little quicker on their return.

David at the helm

Sun rise at Abingdon

41 Miles of large rivers.
13 large locks.