Thursday, 16 April 2009


With Mike now showing signs of developing the cold which has been plaguing Christine for the past couple of weeks, we first went into Lechlade for a little more shopping. The market square is surrounded by a number of interesting older buildings, including the old vicarage.

The butcher's shop had been recommended and we bought a small chicken - on the basis that Alice will appreciate it when she joins us tomorrow.

We also took a look at the marina - the guide suggested a full service boatyard but, apart from a few very disorganised facilities, it is almost non-existent. Certainly no fuel sales and only a few random paint tins! So neither objective could be fulfilled.

We eventually set off and completed the short distance up to the Round House at Inglesham where the Thames and Severn Canal once joined the River Thames. One day it may be restored to navigation.

The journey back down, under Lechlade Bridge with its one-time Halfpenny Toll building, continued uneventfully. The weather was not over-kind, with some rain, at times quite hard, but also with sunny spells in between.

We had time to look at the scenery - Christine was particularly fascinated by shapes: a pollarded tree stump, the many world war two pill boxes at each major bend in the river, and a tree where the rooks were busy building their nests.

We had planned to go as far as Newbridge and take an extra day's licence but a couple of lock keepers indicated that the next step would be to a fifteen day licence so we pressed on to reach below Eynsham Lock - the last before we turn off into Duke's Cut. Taking advantage of the now much lighter evenings, we finally moored below the lock well after eight o'clock!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009


It was a grey and rather chilly morning as we set off - we planned to reach Lechlade by the end of the day. Actually, we had hoped to do the round trip in three days but our somewhat leisurely pace means that we will probably now need to take an extra day.

(Ten Foot Bridge)

The landscape is quite flat and the river meanders almost continuously. This means that at times you can see boats moored ahead but in apperenbtly entirely the wrong direction!

There was little traffic on the water and we only passed six canoes all morning. There were a few more around in the afternoon. Several lock keepers tried to persuade us that the forecast was for the hottest day of the year so far and, although a weak sun emerged for a little while, we remained wholly unconvinced!

(Tadpole Bridge)

We eventually reached Lechlade with enough time to find the local supermarket still open - the main need was milk. We will also need to find where the boatyard is as we are probably going to need to fill up with diesel before going much further. The hardware shop had closed, however, so we will come back in the morning to see if we can find some outdoor varnish for the front cabin doors - or even at the boatyard!

(OLd Father Thames at St John's Lock)

At last Mike found a broadband signal in the town centre - the last time we could connect was yesterday lunch time - and so yesterday's blog has been uploaded.

(Lechlade spire from St John's Lock)

Back at the boat as weak signal was available and so this blog could be uploaded! (but the pix had to wait until the next day!)

Just the Thames

Christine was still suffering from her ticklish cough overnight so we treated ourselves to a lie-ie -even if we did make morning tea at 7 o'clock! As a result, it was not until late morning that we eventually set off.

We completed the rest of the Oxford Canal down to Duke's Cut where we turned onto the River Thames and thence upstream. The scenery and navigation is quite different here - not least because of the locks. Unlike those downstream from Oxford which are hydraulically operated, those upstream are manual paddles and beams. The keepers have a long pole which enables them to open and close both gates from one side of the lock.
The mechanism which seemed unusual to us when we first went onto the River Kennet has now become familiar. They are much easier to operate than the traditional canal mechanisms.
At Eynsham Lock we not only purchased our temporary licence but also the usual round of water, rubbish and elsan. We moored above the lock for lunch. In the end, we stayed here until well after three o'clock as Mike decided to tackle the varnish on the fort doors which was beginning to look the worse for wear. Although he was able to complete the sanding down as well as the varnishing of the inside, the outrside will have to wait until we can find some outdoor grade varnish! At least the new shelf was also given its first coat at the same time.

At Northmoor Lock we were joined by a couple of swans who insisted on swimming into the lock after us!

This lock is the best remaining fully working example of the old 'paddle and rhymer' weirs which were the first method of controlling the water levels. Originally introduced to provide a supply of power to local millers, King John passed the first laws to protect the right of navigation - if only to incerase trade which he taxed to finance his wars! This history came from the lock keeper who took some considerable time to explain the way in which he works the weir as well as its origins. He awaits a meeting tomorrow with English Heritage to resolve and on-going debate within the Environment Agency who have suggested that it be replaced with a powered mechanism like most other weirs on the river.

After passing under a footbridge - which shows just how much the river has narrowed now - we found the mooring recommended by the lock keeper.

Monday, 13 April 2009


The Oxford Crew had been out for a long weekend, up the Thames and we met up with them at Thrupp, having driven up from Cornwall this morning. We were an hour earlier than scheduled so they were not quite ready for us! The three girls seemed to have had a good time.

Eventually, they were ready, came up through the well-known liftr bridge to moor so that we could off-load our luggage, drive up to Lower Heyford, change to the other car, come back down and load up their belongings. As a result it was after five before we set off (the Oxfordshire Dayboats were due to return and wanted the mooring spot back!)

We only managed an hour and a half before we opted for a mooring when we saw a good spot just below Kidlington Green Lock - not all of the banks along this stretch have enough depth to moor, but this was a recently piled section so we - correctly - concluded that it we be deeper!

Time to check out the extra bits of work which had been done in the previous week - a small, long, shelf in the main bedroom (especially for morning mugs of tea and the alarm clock: the latter has been knocked onto the floor so many times it is a wonder it still works!), modification to the new side window frame, a new radio aerial and better insulation to the led lights, which had been failing from condensation. With halogens, their high temperature had kept them dry when in use, although there had been some sign that they too had suffered in the same way.

It was a wonderful evening and still quite warm, but we still lit the fire!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Return to Base

As there is no mobile phone signal at Lower Heyford, it was not possible to upload a blog at the end of our journey - and the best of intentions then got in the way until now!

We had moored overnight alongside the old abbey - Christine snapped these birds whilst waiting to set off in the morning.

Before long we were back into familiar territory with our first narrow lock for some time! Even this one had its indiosyncracies: it appears to have been moved or lengthened at some time in its history and also has a rather unusual paddle mechanism.

The remainder of the journey back up the Oxford passed pleasantly and without much incident. At the last lock before Lower Heyford we met several boats coming down with rather large and inexperienced crews. Two boats were a stag party and the othr a hen party - unrelated! Were heard later that the stag party only made it as far as Thrupp for their long weekend. No doubt they had a good time - with or without the hen party!

We moored back on our usual pontoon although we were staying on board for the weekend. We were on grandparent duties although Mike had a COIN AGM to attend in St Albans on the Saturday. On the Sunday, Adrian brought all three girls to take a look at the boat - he wanted to have an update on the changes which ha dbeen made over the winter, before they take the boat out over Easter.