July 20th near Banbury
We motored on to the mighty
Thames, a river where BIG fiber-glass cabin cruisers are available for rental if you don’t own one. A bit too flashy and soulless for the likes of us and I did put it to one of the ?owners sharing a lock with us as to whether the boat indicates the personality. I got a smile out of him.
Thames is a beautiful river and I love the weeping willow trees which grace the banks. The foliage looks like a bushy haircut and there was a lot of it! We saw a lot of swans and Canadian geese, even shared one of the locks with the Swan family who paddled in as the gates were closing, and were the first out when the gates opened. The Lock Keeper was not impressed, probably because he couldn’t charge them!
We had to pay ₤22 per day for registration to be on the
Thames. The temporary registration papers had to be placed in a window on either side of AM. In effect we had 2 ½ days to get to the , a journey of over 40 miles. I’m not sure what ₤22 paid for apart from trendy locks which were sometimes operated by Lock Keepers. If there was no Lock Keeper then the “Self Service” sign was up and that meant do it yourself pressing buttons. I was told about 12 locks later that if I was operating the lock then I would be responsible for any other craft sharing the lock. I found all this out because an empty passenger boat, which had sped past us, had closed the lock gates on us just as we were close to entering the lock. I was pissed off with the bloke and went up to have words with him just as the lock keeper appeared. They were obviously matey but I said my words and it made me feel better. And matey said that he hadn’t seen us, and that even if he had then he couldn’t have us in the lock as he was not allowed to take that responsibility. I digress…. Oxford Canal
We decided to turn right off the Kennet and
and go a couple of miles down river to Sonning. Sonning is a pretty village and Chris remembers it from his Avon Canal years. Of course it had an attractive pub and we tasted the water before ‘winding’ and heading up to Thames side of Windsor opposite Caversham.. We moored on the banks of a park and by the rowing lanes as it turned out. The bank was awash with swan & geese pooh! (They need Mole from Wind in the Willows to do a bit of cleaning up). But the view over the river to the posh houses was interesting and watching the rigorous rowing training was an eye opener and it certainly rocked the boat. The first rock of the boat made me squeal, a little, as I was in the little room and I thought that we were going to be rocked all night. But when I realized it was the Rowing club, I knew they would be packing up before nightfall. They did restart around 6 a.m. Reading
Day 2 on R.Thames saw us powering along at 4 miles an hour covering distance. The gardens of the posh and fabulous are glimpsed as we pass by. I did wave at some of the houses and photographed more than I needed to. We were going to stop at some of the towns but finding moorings was not easy. We thought we would spend the night just after Day’s Lock where
Dorchester was in easy walking distance. Another Self Service lock and after leaving the lock in the way it is supposed to be left, I jumped on AM and we were moving towards a spot we thought we’d moor in when the bleeding canoes turned up and took that exact same space! Kind of 3 Men in a Boat and their support boat or two. So we moved along and found a nice spot away from the pretenders but also no Footpath to Dorchester.
Day 3, our final day of big river motoring, we stopped in Abingdon. Had a walk into town, a cappuccino, and a look at a chandlery (Boat shop). On returning to AM we had a bench seat of 4 gongoozlers, so I had a quick chat with them. I noticed the Bow had what looked like wet white paint spattered on the floor, and I was told it was from a White Heron that had flown by! Dirty White Heron, I wonder what its diet is? I really am getting C – anal! More cruising and we were at
. We had been advised to take the Thames to Duke’s Cut rather than entering the Oxford at Sheepwash Channel. Looking back it would have been a sharp Right turn at Sheepwash and I don’t recall passing it. The signage on the Thames is a little hit and miss, and I think the Environment Agency that take our money could use it a bit to cut back foliage so we mere mortals could be kept in the picture, rather than trying to read trees. Leaving Oxford Canal we passed some open land where there were wild interbred horses sharing space with cattle. They didn’t look like they were socializing. And so arrived the last Oxford Thames lock for us, none of the fancy automated system but a job the Lock Keeper seemed to enjoy. (He’d only been on the job a couple of days and was still waiting for the uniform – well that’s what he told us). After King’s Lock we had a right turn into Duke’s Cut and within 15 minutes we were greeted by the single gate lock that is the . At first we thought we had misread the sign and the river ran out! But on a closer look, yep there was the narrowest lock and through it we went. Oxford Canal
So life on the boat, yes I screamed when the horn gets blasted and just about blows out my eardrums. Chris fixed that, yesterday. Most days I’m good with living on board, sometimes it feels too small, sometimes it feels just right, sometimes I’m impatient. All the time I imagine having Della with us, there are dogs everywhere, this country just loves them. I’ve removed the fly spotted pull down blinds, by pulling down the blinds to where there are no fly spots and cutting the dirty bit off. I know I run the risk of calling “Curtains” on this adventure by getting involved in curtains! But I’m good. We had a visit from the expat Kiwi London crowd, last Sunday, most enjoyable. But that will come in under the
episode, to be written next. Oxford Canal
Oh and the weather. Yes the forecasters get it right every day, sun and cloud and rain. I think the summer is hanging around waiting for a curtain call.