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.

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