Our journey today would take us past Duke’s Cut, the point at which we joined the Thames a week ago. First however we had several long reaches to navigate in the glorious sunshine. We had four Locks to navigate, the third of which was King’s Lock. Once we had descended this Lock we were on new waters again. We cruised around several tight bends, which in places were very shallow. They had been clearly marked with red and green buoys to avoid any groundings. Beyond the final lock, Godstow Lock the river opened up. This Lock was even easier than all the previous easy Thames Locks, it was electric. We were now running parallel to the outskirts of Oxford heading towards its centre.
The meadow would have made a nice mooring spot, but the river was very shallow at the edge, so we had to maintain a central position. At the end of the meadow we passed the Sheepwash Channel. This is another route through to join the Oxford Canal, and is the route we will take on our return. Our intended mooring spot was just beyond the next bridge. Osney Bridge is the lowest on the Thames, but by Canal standards we still had plenty of room. I suspect if the water levels were up, it would be a bit different. We found a mooring just outside Oxford City Centre, and secured the boat.
After lunch we left four legs on guard, and went to explore Oxford and its dreaming spires. Initially Oxford had the appearance of any other dirty noisy city, that we tend to give a wide berth. However, eventually we found our way into the back streets of old Oxford, which resembled the look we had seen in many episodes of Morse.
The weather is getting much warmer, so when we spotted an ice cream vendor it was too much to resist. We didn’t tell four legs he had missed out again, he would probably sulk.
Tomorrow we will be aiming for Abingdon, and hopefully open countryside once more.
The forecast heat plume from Spain arrived this morning, but so did the wind. Whilst having breakfast we made an assessment as to whether to move or stay put. We decided on moving, we would however have to keep the power on when the gusts blew, or we would end up being blown into the bank on some of the sharp bends we needed to navigate. The first Lock of the day was Rushey Lock, just around the corner from our overnight mooring. It was set on self service, no Lock keeper doing all the hard work. This has been the case at quite a few Locks on our return journey, perhaps they have all gone on holiday. We settled into the cruise, and the breeze kept us cool in the bright sun. We passed through Newbridge, with its New Bridge, although it looks like an old bridge now, the town has not been renamed.
Once through the narrow arch, we had no more sharp bends to navigate, as the river now took a straighter course. The final lock of the day was Northmoor. Despite the appearance of human occupation, no lock keeper in sight.
We had intended aiming for Farmoor Reservoir, but as we approached Bablock Hythe we saw the field moorings empty, and decided to have a pub lunch at the Ferryman P.H. instead. We pulled in and secured the boat. After lunch the furry crew had a large field to play in, whilst the the human crew relaxed on deck chairs beneath a sun shade.
Tomorrow we should reach Oxford or beyond, we have one week left on our river license, so plenty of time to reach Reading, if we want to stop for a day or two.
Yesterday we had a day of rest from cruising, opting instead to take four legs for a walk, across the fields to St. John’s Lock. A short distance from the Lock is The Trout Inn, with a very extensive menu, and all freshly cooked local produce. Top of the specials board was grilled trout with lemon butter, so this is what I had. After lunch we dropped four legs back at the boat, then popped into Lechlade to have a look at the town. We found two antique shops to wander round, my favourite being The Old Ironmongers. We escaped without spending any money, although it would have been very easy to do so.
This morning after breakfast, we set off from our mooring spot, to just beyond Ha’penny Bridge where we winded the boat. We were initially aiming for Radcot, five miles and three Locks away. Sadly, the spot we had seen on our way to Lechlade, and recorded in the guide book as a good potential mooring, was found to be too shallow, when we tried getting into the bank. We carried on, passing through a further Lock, and found the mooring we had used when the thunderstorms had been forecast, earlier in the week. This time we have it to ourselves.
Tomorrow we are planning to get close to Oxford, where we will pass the point at which we joined the Thames. We are heading for Reading, where our intention is to join the Kennet and Avon Canal. There is a small hiccup to this plan, as there is currently a significant stoppage on the Canal near to Caen Hill. The Canal and River Trust are reporting a major pump failure, so we are hoping to receive an update via the automated notices, before committing to that route.
Today we reached the head of the navigable Thames. The actual navigation continues a further three miles to Cricklade, but not generally for powered craft. We had four Locks to navigate, three of which were manned by duty Lock keepers. The thunderstorms forecast last night did not materialise, and the rain this morning did not amount to much either. We spotted various potential mooring opportunities on the way, and each of these has been recorded in our guide for future use. The final lock prior to reaching Lechlade is St. John’s Lock, complete with statue to Old Father Thames.
Once through the Lock we had half a mile to go, before reaching our mooring on a large field, just prior to Ha’penny Bridge. We secured the boat and wandered off to find a lunch location.
Ha’penny bridge is only open to single way traffic, and at the northern end of the bridge is the former toll house, built circa 1790. It also afforded a birds eye view of our mooring spot.
After lunch we took four legs for a walk across the field to the Round House. This is as far as we could go before having to wind if we chose to. Several people have warned us that the turn is extremely tight due to the depth of water available.
Seeing the depth we are glad we did not bring the boat up. We will wind by Ha’penny Bridge when we depart Lechlade. Back at the boat we sat outside to enjoy the afternoon sunshine. It was during this time that our neighbours became a bit too friendly.
We had been advised by the Lock keepers to remove the flowers from the roof, otherwise the cows have been known to climb up to reach them. Our afternoon was periodically interrupted by numerous fly pasts of RAF transport aircraft, both propeller and jets. We assume the new recruits are being taught to fly.
There are no notices about charges for mooring here, but we have been informed someone will be along at 8 am, tapping on the boat to collect a fiver. We could have taped an envelope to the outside of the boat, but the cows would probably eat it. Someone will have to get up early. I doubt very much it will be the crew.
When we departed our overnight mooring spot, we had in mind where would aim for about ten miles away. We settled into a pleasant cruise, and as on the River Avon, we were able to set the throttle to about 1200 rpm, and the boat virtually steered itself in the deep water. The guide books tell you to keep a watch for rowers and canoes at various stages, but what they don’t tell you about, and we saw several, were swimmers. It is actually quite easy to miss, a small head bobbing about in the water. Some wore small orange floats, which made them easy to see. We had three Locks to navigate today, and all were manned by Lock keepers. All the Locks are very well maintained, including the garden areas, and each has a delightful Lock cottage on site. The Lock keepers live on site, and one stated he would have to carried out, rather than give it upon retirement. We passed a huge holiday home park at Bablock Hythe, where the very posh caravans on the river frontage, also have a mooring jetty each. I hate to think how much they cost. At the second Lock of the day, we needed to top up with water. It was also lunchtime, so a good opportunity to do both. Unbeknown to us we had stopped at the fastest water tap on the Thames, indeed probably the country. The tank was refilled in five minutes.
Lunch was therefore prepared and eaten, in an equally short time. After Shifford Lock we entered a stretch of the Thames with some very tight S bends. Whereas travelling in a straight line was easy, pushing 20 tons around the tight bends, was like pushing a brick through the water. This tight stretch only lasted for a mile, then the river opened up once more. At Tadpole bridge, there was a mooring we were looking for, but sadly it was occupied by a hire boat. We could have squeezed in under a willow tree, but with thunderstorms forecast, we didn’t fancy that. The next Lock was Rushey Lock, and the lady Lock keeper informed us that there was an excellent mooring spot just around the next bend. There was, and it was occupied by two cruisers. However the gap between the two, was big enough for us. Not long after we arrived, both cruisers departed. It was nothing we said, they just had to get back to their home mooring.
We were not alone for long, within five minutes another narrow boat tucked in behind us. We are safely away from any trees, just in case the storm does hit, and four legs has nice grassy field to play in.
Whether we move tomorrow is very much dependant on the weather. We are forecast a night of thunderstorms, and the rain may continue until midday. We shall just have to wait and see.
We departed Thrupp after breakfast, continuing our journey south towards Oxford. The moorings at Thrupp are very popular, and with a seven day allowance, few and far between. We had four Canal Locks to navigate today, before reaching the river Thames. The penultimate being Duke’s Lock, just prior to the junction with Duke’s cut.
Once below this Lock it was a sharp right turn into Duke’s Cut, a short link through to the Thames half a mile away.
There were several long term moorings in the cut, so we trundled passed on tickover towards a T-junction. Fortunately it was well signpost, because if you got it wrong, you would be in the mill stream.
We turned right and soon found ourselves on the main river. We would be going right heading towards Lechlade, but immediately to our left was King’s Lock. I reversed onto the mooring above the Lock, and then went to find the Lock keeper, to buy our license. We don’t want to rush, so opted for two weeks to explore the Thames, before we head off down the Kennet and Avon Canal. The boat being sixty feet, the price was worked out at just over 150 pounds. A bit more expensive than the River Avon was earlier in the year. By the time our admin was finished it was lunchtime.
We could have stayed put but the weather was glorious, so after lunch we set off once more. The next Lock ahead was Eynsham Lock, which was on self service. The Lock gear however is a doddle to use, in comparison to the stiff paddle gear on the canals. On route we encountered some larger boats, but the river is fairly wide so plenty of room.
The mooring at Eynsham was fairly busy, so we continued on to Pinkhill Lock. This was manned by a duty Lock keeper, so instead of just using a centre line, we had to secure ourselves in the Lock with bow and stern lines. Once through the Lock we began looking for a mooring. After navigating a couple of bends in the river, we found a spot beside a meadow. Not an official mooring site, so out came the mooring pins.
This is a lovely mooring spot with only the sounds of nature to be heard. Some of these moorings do require you to register your arrival, and then you have to pay if you stay longer than the first day. There doesn’t appear to be any signs here, so it must be free. Four legs certainly enjoyed the freedom of running around in the long grass, until he got hot that is.
Today is the summer solstice, and the day began with bright sunshine. We set off nice and early, as we had a fair way to go, and several Locks to navigate. Our first stop was for water at Lower Heyford, close to the Oxfordshire narrowboats base. Once the tank was filled we commenced our cruise south towards Oxford. At a point between the next two Locks, we noticed the towpath had suffered some subsidence, and that water was flowing slightly through the depression towards the adjacent River Cherwell. Whilst not an immediate problem, this could certainly develop into one, so we made a phone call to the Canal and River Trust, to report the issue. Once we reached Baker’s Lock we had to check the water level indicator boards, as the River Cherwell and the Oxford Canal share the same course for the next mile.
As can be seen above, this is a modern 21st century gauge, I wonder if they will last as long as the old fashioned method of coloured boards in the water.
The flow on the river was only slight, but it did make a difference in the speed of the boat over the ground, we seemed to be whizzing along. After a mile we arrived at Shipton Weir Lock where the Cherwell and the Oxford Canal part ways once more.
In the photo above the Oxford Canal is through the Lock to the right, and the River Cherwell is to the left. We were now getting close to our intended mooring spot, the only question was, would there be any space. As we entered Thrupp there was a significant number of moored boats. We were delayed for about ten minutes waiting for a boat to reverse and shoehorn themselves into an available spot. We carried on to the sharp right hand turn, and I waited for the crew to operate the electric lift bridge.
Through the bridge we were lucky, there was one spot vacant, and it was just about big enough for us to squeeze into. We secured the boat and then went to the Boat Inn for lunch.
The Boat Inn is a hundred yards ahead of our mooring spot, and was made famous being the focus of an investigation by Inspector Morse, the late John Thaw.
After lunch we had a wander round and found that Thrupp was full. Anyone turning up after 3 pm looking for a mooring, was going to be very disappointed. On the way back to the boat we went via Annie’s tea rooms to select an afternoon cake.
This morning we woke to bright sunshine, and the sound of the boat creaking as the expanding steelwork warmed up. We had a short hop to the Aynho Wharf for services. This included 80 litres of diesel, which is what we have used in the three weeks since our last top up. Having to use the heating has been responsible for some of this, but no need for heating today, it was t-shirt weather. Aynho Wharf were very accommodating, and in addition to a pump out and diesel, we also filled with water and disposed of some rubbish. There is also a well stocked shop for emergency essentials. Next stop was Somerton Deep Lock, which was mentioned in yesterday’s post. The paddle gear winders were very stiff to use, and there is a delightful Lock cottage at the site.
Descending in the Lock chamber, the walls begin to close in on you the deeper you get. Fortunately the top gate does not leak too much, but the depth below the cill, is more than the height of the gate above.
We had a couple of miles further to cruise, and one more Lock to navigate before reaching our destination. This Canal is proving to be very enjoyable, with some stunning views across open countryside. We found a mooring near bridge 203, just prior to Upper Heyford, and secured the boat. After lunch, we took four legs for a walk along the Canal to Lower Heyford, a distance of one and a half miles. The two legged crew enjoyed an ice lolly each, four legs had to settle for a drink from the Canal. Tomorrow we will be aiming for Thrupp, at which point we will be in striking distance of the Thames.
This morning we set off for Aynho, five miles and four Locks away. The skies were grey, and in the distance looked black, but at least it was warm. It would be touch and go as to whether we would be hit by a shower. The stretch of Canal we are on now, south of Banbury seems quieter, and we settled into a pleasant cruise through the countryside. We soon passed beneath the M40 motorway, and from then on, it ran parallel to the Canal, but sufficiently shielded to prevent too much of an intrusion. Our third Lock of the day was Nell’s Bridge Lock. It is necessary to check the indicator boards below this Lock, to ensure that the water levels are not excessive. The reason is because at the next Lock ahead, the River Cherwell crosses the Canal, and following periods of heavy rain, the levels can rise making navigation risky, and reducing the headroom at Nell’s Bridge.
The next Lock, Aynho Weir Lock is just over half a mile further on. The River Cherwell crosses the canal from left to right, and the Weir bridge is protected by a wooden barrier.
The levels today were fine, and the flow fairly insignificant across the Canal. Once in the Lock and looking back, it could be seen that the gauge was in the amber zone. This is fine for navigation, with caution.
Aynho Weir Lock has very small drop of about one foot. It also has an interesting diamond shape. It was built like this because the next Lock, which is one and a half miles ahead is Somerton Deep Lock. With a twelve foot drop, Somerton Deep Lock takes a larger quantity of water than is usual. In order to maintain the water levels in the pound between, extra water capacity was needed to be built in, hence the strange design.
Our intended mooring spot was just over half a mile further on, close to Aynho Wharf. After securing the boat, we wandered off to the wharf, and adjacent public house. It was lunchtime after all. The Great Western Arms was very pleasant, as was the food. We have earmarked this for a Sunday roast on our return, sometime in September. Back at the boat I had a minor maintenance task to deal with, and four legs found a spot to snooze on the grassy towpath.
Tomorrow we will need services at the Wharf before heading off towards Lower Heyford.