Sunday, 17 August 2014

Over thirty and still.....boating!

Oops, being the technological wizzards we clearly aren't we have managed to delete the last blog... so here's a quick summary - completed the south Oxford, did the tourist thing in Oxford, got on the Thames at Dukes Cut and went upstream to Lechlade. All clear? Good, we'll pick up where we left off then!

Lechlade is the official upstream navigable limit of the Thames. The river is wide right through Lechlade itself but the Nicholsons guide assures you there is ample room further upstream to turn a full length (~70') narrowboat.

So we tried in our 57' boat and failed. Quite badly. The turning point is at the junction with the river Coln and the disused Thames & Severn Canal, which looks like this:

The idea is to put the bows into the River Coln on the right and pivot the stern upstream in the Thames, stage left. Maybe it was the after-effects of a dodgy meal and a few too many pints at the Boat House pub the night before but we made a bit of a mess of this. The flow from the Coln took the front of Pas Mèche into a tree and the stern became firmly wedged on the opposite bank.

In our defence the river level is very low and the left bank in the top photo is very silted up from cows walking down into the river to drink. It was also reassuring to note that the tree that caught us was covered in all shades of narrowboat paint so we're obviously not the first to make a mess of this turn.

With the help of a lot of shoving on poles and a few passing walkers pulling a rope we managed to get ourselves free and tried again.

Second time around we powered up into the Coln and beached the bows well enough to stay put while we swung the stern around. Success at last but with the river this low and silted up I'd recommend anyone with a boat over about 50-55' turns further downstream nearer the bridge in Lechlade.

Drama over, we set off at a decent speed going with the flow downstream and managed an unusally long day to Farmoor Reservoir on the outskirts of Oxford.

On Sunday we stayed put as ex-hurricane Bertha passed over. We managed a wet and windy walk around the reservoir but fortunately the weather wasn't as bad as forecast.

The following day we were up and off early, aiming for Oxford. This is a stretch of the Thames we haven't done before and the reach below Godstow lock is more like a flooded field than a river - the edges are incredibly shallow so it pays to stick to the middle of the river.

Unless that is you enjoy a dip. We spotted a boat aground and offered to tow him off the mud. The owner seemed surprisingly relaxed and declined, prefering to jump in wearing just his swimming shorts and push the boat off himself. Takes all sorts but we think he was French so maybe that explains it.

Passing the Sheepwash Channel entrance to the Oxford Canal we had cold sweats and flashbacks to 2012 when we were towed off the river on red boards. Fortunately the river was calm this time and we squeezed under Osney Bridge (the lowest on the river) with room to spare and moored above Osney Lock (free for 24 hours).

From Oxford we took our time over the next few days, stopping in Abingdon and Dorchester on the way.

The next day we were due to have university friends visiting so we gave Pas Mèche a thorough clean in their honour. Even David was spotted wielding a duster - Tony I hope you appreciated the effort!

We got to Wallingford (home for 11 days in the floods of 2012 so we know it well!) and moored up in time to meet Tony & Charlotte and their son Harry who had come to see us.

It was great to catch up and we even managed to sleep 5 onboard which is a record. Thankfully little Harry wasn't the least bit bothered by having to sleep in the kitchen and we set off for a short cruise the following day with Captain Salmon at the helm.

Amazingly we all survived Tony's steering and moored up in Goring before Tony and David recreated their university cycling team days with a flat out folding bike sprint back to Wallingford to collect the car.

The following day was Victoria's birthday and it was an important one. Being a gentleman I won't say how old she is but it was such an important milestone she was treated to special birthday porridge
Victoria's friend Carolyn and partner Rob came to visit which was well timed for the birthday girl. It was lovely to see them and we had a nice walk in the hills above Goring.

As we still have a few days left on our Thames visitor license we have gone past Reading today instead of turning onto the Kennet & Avon canal (which we will soon) and carried on to Wargrave. In Reading we saw a familiar boat who we were marooned in Wallingford with in 2012. Rachel - if you manage to find our blog it was good to see you again albeit briefly and we hope you don't mind us giving your boat its 15 minutes of fame on our blog!

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