Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Lechlade to Kelmscott

Admin: Google want you to know about the biscuits they choose.. they blame European laws for this.

We said goodbye to Richard, Linda and Muffin this morning, they are making their way to Oxford and onto the canal,  we will meet up with them again on the Oxford canal.

We set off after looking around antique shops and a coffee & cake in an Italian restaurant. Just a few miles under the hull before mooring at  Kelmscott. The manor house is open to the public on Wednesdays so a trip was inevitable. 

Sue & Diane at Kelmscott Manor

Croquet on the lawn.

The White room.

After the manor we took refreshment in the Plough before doing a circular walk around the village and back to the boats.

Lechlade to Stroud.

Monday- We pulled the pins at Bablock Hythe at 09:00 destination Lechlade 20 miles further west. The whole of the journey is through farmland with a few small villages sitting back from the river, namely Northmoor, Shifford, Radcot & Kelmscott.

The day is blustery and grey, our moods are still sunny and cheerful. Sue and Diane locked us through unmanned gates and helped grateful lock keepers at others.

We kept up a good pace, part of the journey was at what is now known as 'washing machine' speed, this is when the engine revs are upped a little to help the alternator produce the extra power required to run the domestic appliance smoothly.

The upper reaches of the Thames can become monotonous but I enjoy the avenue of trees and tall reeds especially on a windy day like today. The wind plays a wandering tune as it ripples through the bankside vegetation, the tight twists to the meanders make tillering interesting.

So we are back at Lechlade, we were last here in June. Richard, Linda & Muffin caught up with us in the Riverside pub where we all enjoyed well earned drink or two ....Arkells 3B ale for me.

Since the 1930's Lechlade has been the end for powered craft going west on the Thames, before then it was possible to get all the way to Stroud and the River Severn.

Halfpenny bridge and the old toll house, the Riverside pub is seen through the arch.

The Roundhouse marks the end of the navigable Thames for powered craft.

Looking back downstream to Lechlade 

Abutment of the bridge that spanned the river near the old Inglesham lock.

After a couple of century's of politicians talking about a proposal to link the Thames and Severn rivers, the Thames & Severn canal opened in 1789. The 'Times' described the canal as 'the Greatest project attained by inland navigation', the canal became more or less derelict in the 1930's but is under restoration by the Cotswold Canal Trust

In the evening we had a chinese meal, we were greeted enthusiastically by the diminutive proprietor of the small four tabled establishment. We had an excellent meal and after had a glass of ale for the skippers and cider for the ladies at the Trout on the way home.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Abingdon to Bablock Hythe

Saturday - We were away first after filling the water tank above Abingdon lock, MH & FD followed on behind as we continued slowly, but it wasn't until Eynsham lock some 15 miles later that we saw them again.

We had agreed to set off at 08:00 to do a long haul as Ray was free from work commitments, a 15 mile boat journey was six hours at the tiller, all enjoyable.

Two miles out of Abingdon we passed Nuneham House which these days is home to World Spiritual Centre UK's   Global Retreat Centre. Today it was hosting a 'Peace in the Park' event.

Nuneham house 

Weather although dry was cool again, the lock keeper at Iffley lock announcing that it was " Good weather for November"

Iffley lock keepers cottage

Being a Saturday there was plenty of traffic after Iffley lock, especially skullers arrowing blindly in each direction which kept us alert. Surprisingly there were plenty of empty moorings between Osney lock and the tall cruiser stopping, low Osney bridge at Oxford. The Thames upper reaches start here with wide open water and the huge Port Meadow on the east bank with grazing cattle and ponies.

Sarah, the lock keeper at Godstow lock, kept narrowboats and cruisers apart locking FL and a 27 ft cruiser separately then locking the cruiser through on it's own leaving MH & FD to come up together.

After getting FL through Eynsham lock we set the lock for FD & MH, we found a suitable spot for the 3 boats to get a bankside position

Moored at Eynsham

Sunday- I was up at 06:00 this morning after a wake-up cup of tea I checked the weather forecast rain was forecast to start at 09:00. A quick call to early rises Ray & Diane and an early morning cruise before the rain started was decided. We left MH slumbering and set off, MH will catch up later.

Diane and Sue were jigging to 'Life on the ocean waves....' at Pinkhill lock.

Similar pose a year ago with Dot.. without the singing.

The forecast was spot on, it started raining as we pulled in at Bablock Hythe two hours later, not another boat was moored here so we could take our pick. It's cold on the boat at the moment, we are very tempted to light the stove or use the central heating in late July!.....a fleece will do for now. Diane is on Sunday lunch duty today so we can warm up then. Sue reckons we had a preprandial drink in The Ferryman but I'm sure it was IPA.

16:00 we popped to the next-door neighbours for Sunday roast, first, it was a game of cards, a glass of Belgium beer for the guys and Pimms for the ladies. Dinner was excellent, we played a game of trivial pursuit afterwards which we graciously let our hosts win. Later back onboard FL we succumbed to the cold and the heating came on.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Dorchester to Abingdon

Thursday - A cool start to our journey to Abingdon, jumpers and 'happy hats' helped to keep out the chill in the easterly wind.

From Days lock the river arch's around the edge of Burcott to Clifton Hampden's fine bridge and church, we have yet to explore Clifton Hampden so may do on the way back downstream. From the bridge a three mile stretch through farmland to both banks much of it obscured by hedge and tree, broken only by a railway bridge at Appleford.

Abingdon is always busy but we all managed to get a berth, two spots on the noisy town moorings by the swimming pool and one on the meadow moorings.

Cool enough for the happy hats to make an appearance.
Abingdon is a gem of a place to visit, sited in between Windsor and Oxford it doesn't appear to be on a tourist trail, you won't find huge car parks full of coaches here. It is very boater friendly, excellent feeless moorings. There is plenty of history in the town, the County Hall Museum is free also and has one of the last MG motor cars to roll of the production line as an exhibit.

Friday, weather wise was a wash out so we have stayed put, Sue went off to the shops and met Diane in town, later I got a call to meet them in a Greek establishment for a delicious lunch 'meze' .... think tapas only cheaper, we had 8 dishes for £7.95 a head.

Changing times, first Thames side narrowboat house we have seen.
The rain was relentless, when we all went to the Nag's Head for an evening drink, part of the bar had water pouring through light fittings in the ceiling. The bar staff were undeterred - thankfully they carried on serving- we had a great evening and a good laugh.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Wallingford to Dorchester

Tuesday - The steel on the boats was already warming under blue sky when we set off from the bank. First stop was at Goring, Ray and I stayed aboard while the rest of the crews went to explore and use the butchers and post office. 

I got out the polish to give the Kingfisher tiller pin donated to FL by Ray & Diane after I had one of those panic rope throwing moments at Eynsham lock where I whipped the rope off the tiller as the stern was moving away from the lock wall and watched as FL's pin looped over the deck and into the deep.
As clean as a new pin.

We stopped a while above Cleeve lock to fill the three water tanks, Ray took over the lock keeper's duties during his absence helping grateful crews through, I'm sure some skippers were wondering why the dress code standards of lock keepers had slipped.

Arriving at a packed Wallingford we got creative getting into space against a high dirt bank, while Ray did some snipping back of the foliage and tree limbing around FD's stern MH nestled against FL's flank and we were all in. Next problem was how to get the crews off the boats with their various creaking joints & boat dog Muffin. With well-aimed blows of a mallet, Ray fashioned some steps in the earth bank, with the aid of a suitably positioned mooring pin and a length of rope we all managed to haul ourselves up the bank ....eventually.

The last time we visited Wallingford was in the early '90s, the only parts we remember are along the river frontage, so we looked forward to a stroll around. We all headed into town, as with all Oxfordshire Thames towns there are plenty of antique shops. The town is the location of Causton, home of inspector Barnaby in the TV series Midsomer Murders, Agatha Christie lived here too, Wallingford not Causton.

We took refreshments in the George Hotel followed by a quick one in the Boathouse which turned into a long one including an evening meal.. of course, I had pie, very good it was too. Back at the boats, much giggling was heard as we abseiled back on board. A great day with good company.

Wednesday- A cloudy day but still warm, a weather App on Diane's phone suggests this is the best day for the next month, let's hope the long-range forecast is pessimistic. A cruise to Dorchester is the plan for the day

 Wallingford bridge.

The short cruise took us up through Benson lock with RAF Benson based helicopters and red kites flying overhead, the kites are a familiar sight in Oxfordshire, an estimated 1000 pairs are now at home in the Chilterns after an initial release of 93 fledgeling kites from Spain in 1989.

Above Days lock has always been our favourite spot on the Thames, unfortunately, the best moorings were taken but Ray managed to get in a space among the trees. MH and FL found a space two hundred yards further along,  as I bashed in the bow pin I found a wasp nest in the bank by the cratch, so we left the stripey terrors to whatever they do, we backtracked got the saw out to remove an overhanging limb and nestled alongside FD.

Ray stayed put while the rest of the crews walked into Dorchester passing an archaeological roman dig taking place by the allotments. Thousand's of bits of pottery and hundreds of coins have been found .... ..... those Romans were a clumsy lot who didn't look after the pennys.
Digging up the past.
Dorchester is another location for Midsomer Murders and its easy to see why, quaint buildings around every corner.

Diane picked up some walking guides at the Abbey museum and took us on a mini-tour of the buildings, the narrative was informative and easily followed even with Diane's odd penchant for having her own distinct take on some of the wordage....which involves adding 'age' to nouns indiscriminately.

After our tour, Ray joined us for a walk up Wittenham Clumps for some of the best views over Oxfordshire.

Diane & Sue were actually escaping the herd when I took the photo.

A rest outside St Peters church before the climb.

A view of Days  lock from Wittenham Clumps

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Henley to Beale park.

Sunday three boats set off up steam, the Lockie had Marsh lock ready for us, the three boats stayed in a line across the back of the lock while it filled. Water was taken on and the dumpables sorted above Shiplake lock. MH headed FD with FL bringing up the rear

At Reading, MH pulled in to use the Tesco Superstore while FD & FL made use of Better Boating's discount offer of 5p.per.ltr. off diesel through Towpath Talk free paper.

Caversham lock landing was full of boats, a wide beam, various cruisers, and ourselves tried to hold station in the blustery conditions (never easy on a narrowboat). Eventually, FD found a piece of the bank to tie to and a thankful FL breasted against her.

In good time we all reached Tilehurst where we moored for the night, chairs came out and beer, wine and Pimms were consumed. Ray & Diane came aboard FL for a promised Sunday roast.

Some seesaw fun on a bouncy tree limb at the start of the day.

Diane made apple & blackberry crumble with lashings of custard.

Monday we set off from the bank at 09:30, for once we had a destination in mind, Beale Park, not for the nature park, but for the National Trust property Basildon Park, Diane is an avid fan of national trust properties and has ticked off quite a lot on her to see list, on this occasion the property was about 1.5 miles from the river. As Sue and I are both NT members we thought a trip to a property long overdue, this will be our second year of membership and only our second NT property visit.

While Ray was doing what Ray does through data signals to the other side of the world, Diane went off on a reconnaissance mission on her own, Sue was finishing off what she does, baking. 

We duly got a call from Diane that the route to Basildon house is half mile shorter if we climb the railway embankment, climb over a wire fence, through a restricted area and over a metal security gate. We didn't follow this advice when we went to join her but she made us go back that way as it missed out a busy pathless road during rush first.

Basildon Park was built between 1776 & 1783 had various owners, requisitioned by the Army and RAF in both World Wars and completely restored by the Iliffe's's in the 1950's. Lady Renee Iliffe handed it over to the National Trust's protection in 1979. 

The house, rooms and gardens have been used in many films including 'Pride & Prejudice' and the TV drama 'Downton Abbey'.

 Sue and Diane at Downton Abbey.

Rear aspect.

Part of the Grounds

Monday, 20 July 2015

Traditional Boat Show

Ray & Diane's friends Linda & Richard joined us for a fabulous day at the Henley Traditional Boat Festival. On the way to the Festival, we dropped into the local Weatherspoons for their good value breakfast, eaten in the early sunshine on the patio.

Arriving at the show, a collection of amphibious vehicles were entering the Thames from a slipway. We strolled the length of Fawley meadow admiring the various classes of boats on show.

I always like to see the Dunkirk Little Ships, they are a favourite of ours, undoubtedly one of the stars of the show was the queen's rowing barge 'Gloriana' built to celebrate the queen's Diamond Jubilee but my favourite boat of the day has to be Lady Valletta a 45' Star class built by William Bates at Chertsey.

The sun shone and the teak gleamed under a thousand coats of lacquer, I couldn't help wondering whether some of the skippers in blazers, brogues and bow tie have ever encountered a brush with varnish on at all.... probably not.

An advantage point was found at the bank to watch the sail past which was accompanied by clear narrative from the speaker system... all very informative.

The grand sight of the DLS sail past some with veterans and young sailors aboard  - a magnificent sight to me on the banks of the Thames .... but what a glorious sight they must of been to the forces stranded on a 1940's Dunkirk beach.

The only disappointment of the day was the technical difficulties that Malcolm Cambell's restored 'Blue Bird' suffered before it's scheduled 17:00 run.

Later in the day, at 22:00, we all assembled atop Henley Bridge to watch the illuminated sail past, where we enthusiastically clapped the few boats that took part.

Gloriana rowed by members of Leander club.

Lady Valletta

Ready to be dispersed among the fleet.

I don't think HRH has ever sat here.

Even the blades are ornate.