Tuesday, 4 September 2018

A farewell to decrepitude, for a while!

The weather forecast for Sunday turned out to be absolutely spot on. It was wet and miserable all day. I only wish our meal at The Boat made up for it. Very disappointing.

Anyway, Monday dawned a lot brighter and dry! It was time to move off and into Oxford. Truth to tell, the journey in was not really that pleasurable. The bottom half of the South Oxford appears in dire need of basic maintenance.  It is shallow, overgrown and the lift bridges are in a dire condition. On the trip into the city, almost every lock had a bottom gate paddle unserviceable,  so progress was slow. The first lift bridge after the Dukes cut junction, would not balance and had to be propped up with a boat pole.  Downright dangerous. So we plodded on slowly, passing the numerous permanent moorings and dodging the overhanging trees.





By the time we got to Jericho,  just above Isis lock, we called it a day and moored up. We were virtually opposite College Cruisers base. We had debated dropping down onto the river, but decided against it in case the Osney moorings were full. Wish we had by the next morning. Not only were we right on the railway, but a loud diesel generator ran all night.

We did manage a walk around Oxford in the late afternoon, always a pleasure admiring the ancient buildings.




Apparently - all the 13 Emperors heads have different beards!



Next day, we dropped down onto the river. Deep calm waters again! After a chat with the locky at Osney lock and purchasing a seven day licence,  we were on our way. Surprisingly, this locky remembered us from our last visit two years ago!




we have seen so many Kingfishers on the Thames

We were quite surprised how quiet the river was. Our intention was to head for Abingdon, arriving early in the day in order to stand a chance of a mooring. This is a very popular destination and has good free moorings, unusual for the Thames. You can stay for up to three days as well. We watered and emptied at the services above the lock, then dropped down.

We had a choice of moorings before the bridge, but elected for a spot on the town side next to the outdoor swimming pool. An easy walk into town and for shopping. We went for a stroll and found virtually no boats on the visitor moorings below the bridge! A meal at the Nags Head situated mid river finished off the day.



So the rivers are as quiet as the canals this year. All very odd.

As we only had a seven day licence, we pootled down river the following day. It is so nice to be back on the Thames again. The waters remain deep, well compared to the canals and with a hardly perceptible flow, the going was easy. Throughout our visit, the weather remained kind. Warm during the day, but not the wall to wall sunshine we got used to. But it is late summer and the nights are drawing in.

It's all very civilised on the Thames.  A great variety of boats, mainly manned locks and pleasant cruising. But you do have to plan for water points and bog disposal sites, as these are somewhat infrequent. With only in reality three days out then three back, we did not venture far. Our second night above Cleeve lock amongst the thistles as our two preferred mooring we couldn't get anywhere near the bank. 




could live in this boat house

Moulsford Railway Bridge



The following day onward to Beale park, just short of Pangbourne where we spun her around and moored for the night.





We began the return journey on a Friday. Quick stop at Goring for a wander around the village, and an equally brief chat with Carol & George from WB Still Rockin, who were just leaving to go to Beale Park!  There was a weekend of music at Wallingford, so we knew the river traffic would increase somewhat, all heading for the somewhat limited town moorings. We could not find a space coming down river and going up, well it was rammed with boats moored three/four deep. How did the Environment Agency prepare for this migration? They gave all the lock keepers the day off apparently. We muddled through, but without the keepers to effectively police transits, it did become a little muddled at times, with a rare mixture of steel boats of all shapes and sizes, plastic boats of a similar variety with the odd canoe & kayak thrown in for good measure.


I must say, barring the goose poo, one of our favourite moorings this trip was just above Days lock. We found a straight piece of bank, with a good depth of water and settled in. Signs have been placed since our last visit, inviting you to pay £8 per day for mooring, by either paying the farmers representative,  or phoning to make payment! We would gladly pay if someone came to collect, but sorry, we are not chasing to make payment or giving card details out over the phone.  Assume its due to the signs, but we were alone on the once popular moorings.








Next day, it was back to Abingdon. A little busier than our last visit, but it was the weekend, so that's to be expected. We still easily found a mooring and just HAD to revisit the Nags Head!







Sunday was our penultimate day on the river. We set off needing water. No problemo, as there are full services above Abingdon lock, whose ascent we shared with a fellow narrowboater.  He also needed water. There is but one, slow tap here. It turned out that as we arrived, a boat was already filling, another waiting, then us two! So fourth in the queue were we. It was slow going though.

We wended our way up river, now in trip boat country. Large beasts, but creating very little wash. The locks are again manned. This helps as securing lines whilst deep in the lock can be a little tricky if blind lassoing is not your forte. It's not mine, so we were ever grateful for assistance.

A sponsored Breast Cancer Walk starting in Abingdon,we didn't think there were very many walkers then realised Abingdon is the start of the 25 mile walk!

Its not on fire, there was a BBQ on the back deck!


Soon we were in the pleasant outskirts of Oxford once again, dodging day hire motor boats and punts, which zipped about somewhat haphazardly.  All part of the fun though. Then, up Osney lock again and thankfully, we found a free mooring right outside a rather nice pub, called The Punter. Whilst this is riverside, it's not pretentious.  Great beer (Speckled Hen on tap), chilled atmosphere and with a somewhat quirky menu. All rather nicely bohemian as befits this city of academia . Morse would have loved it! We missed out on Sunday lunch, but enjoyed our meal none the less.




never realised that the Hydro is a community project

Our final day on the river dawned bright. After our experience coming down the canal into the city, we decided to take an alternative route off the river via Dukes cut. By taking this route, we bypass the congestion and failing infrastructure of the canal through the city whilst enjoying more of the river past the meadows. A much more pleasurable trip. We had two river locks to negotiate which we did on our lonesome.






A budding canoeing Banksy?

You see all sorts


Then we turned off the river proper, onto Dukes cut, linking back to the canal north of the city. As soon as we entered this, narrow and overgrown channel, it was welcome back to decrepitude. We brushed under hanging boughs, dodged fallen saplings as we tried to follow the channel. The lock approach is dark, gloomy and lined with almost forgotten boats. The residents of these living in an almost separate world. The lock actually worked fine though and exiting this, we were back on the Oxford canal.





Total distance 71 miles and 27 locks, 5 moveable bridges, madeup of 7 miles narrow canal, 3 miles of small rivers and 60 miles of large rivers, 6 narrow locks, 2 broad locks and 20 large locks

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