Monday, 19 May 2014

River Thames.


Our Blog comes to you this week from a beautiful mooring on the Thames just West of Rushey Lock,which is South of the village of Bampton in Oxfordshire.OK,I know I’ve told everyone who’s prepared to listen that Lisa and I would not be doing any rivers this year,but,as always,our plans are flexible and subject to change at the drop of a hat and that’s what’s happened.No,not the hat dropping,just the change of plan at shortish notice.Anyway,as I’ve said in earlier Blogs,we met up with Rob and Suzie off Swamp Frogs and,having a week or two to spare,we all decided to go on to the Thames at Oxford and cruise to Lechlade and back.We were all a bit nervous about our first trip onto the Thames but honestly,we’ve had an absolute brilliant time.The weather has been superb,it just couldn’t have been any better,with long hot sunny days making both cruising and being moored an absolute pleasure.We haven’t cruised everyday,we’ve had three relaxing days,a day each way between Oxford and Lechlade and a day in Lechlade itself.The days we’ve cruised though have been something special,the River Thames is beautiful as it meanders through the Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire countryside.The scenery is lovely and seems to go on forever,broken only by the occasional well maintained lock and lock cottage,each one unique.In fact our time on the Thames has been awesome,we couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to it.

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Looking back over Duke’s Cut Lock to the junction with the Oxford Canal and looking back along our first stretch of the River Thames.

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On the moorings at Eynsham Lock and in the Lock itself.Our first on the Thames and it was Self Service.

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Rob & Suzie on Swamp Frogs and a footbridge over the Thames with a Heron on the Balustrade.

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One of the many WW2 Pillboxes alongside the Thames  and a statue of Old Father Thames at St.John’s Lock just before Lechlade.St.John’s Lock is the last lock on the navigable River Thames.

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Suzie preparing to open the Lock Gates which are easy for their size and the two boats in the lock,see the miniature houses in the background.

The Locks on the Thames are easy compared to a lot of canal locks.On some of them there are Lock Keepers who take you through the locks and who don’t say no to a bit of assistance.They do like you to tie up fore and aft and switch off your engine though,unlike canals where you can get away with just a centre line or keep in the centre using your engine.Other Thames locks may have a sign saying Self Service displayed,they have big wheels to open the paddles which are so much easier than using a Windlass and the gates open without any effort.They are all wide locks so two of you can go through at one time,more if they are small boats.Up this end of the Thames the moorings are nothing like what you could expect on a canal,there’s no piling and no bollards or rings,you invariably have to moor using pins.Finding a mooring can be a tad difficult too.We’ve been led to believe that you can moor anywhere where it doesn’t say “No Mooring” but the solution is to ask the Lockies who know where the best mooring places are,apparently you do get to know where to moor with a bit of experience.The River itself takes on a very twisty route up to Lechlade and you get plenty of practice on the Tiller.You also have to be very mindful of the Shoals,or Sandbanks,that build up on the inside of the bends,some,but not all are marked with Buoys,so it pays to not “cut the corners”.We saw that one unfortunate boater had got caught out yesterday and he was well away from the inside of the bend.He declined our assistance,waiting instead for a boat going in the opposite direction.We told the Lockie at the next lock,who was aware of the boaters plight,he was already raising the level of the river by adjusting the Weirs.This would help the boat refloat and we found out today that he also got a tow off from a Widebeam

We left Oxford last Tuesday and our plan was to moor for the night on Duke’s Cut before venturing onto the Thames the next morning.Well,you know it’s right what they say about best laid plans,there wasn’t anywhere to moor on Duke’s Cut so we just had to keep going.Our first night was spent on the moorings below Eynsham Lock and from there we walked into the village of Eynsham itself.The intention was to do a bit of sightseeing,that’s all,it wasn’t our fault that there was a heavy shower of rain and the only shelter was one of the local pubs.We only had one before heading back to our boats but it came on to rain again and we were still ten minutes from the mooring so we had to seek refuge again and,surprise surprise,there was another pub close to hand.This one was called The Talbot and sold Arkells ales,a brewery we hadn’t heard of,we felt it rude not to sample a couple of their products before heading home for tea.

We got to Lechlade on Friday with no real plans on what to do but we got into a couple of moorings at the edge of a farmers field,for which we had to pay £4 a night,and when the farmer came for the money the next morning we decided to stay a couple of nights and have a look at what the town had to offer.It’s a nice place with a few pubs,the usual takeaways and a convenience store,where we could get a few things to tide us over on our return to Oxford.While we were there I wanted to have a look at the remains of the Thames and Severn canal which was built in 1789 and connected the Thames at Inglesham Lock near Lechlade to the Stroudwater Navigation at Stroud.The Stroudwater Navigation  connected Stroud to the Severn Estuary and as a result a through route was formed between London and Bristol.The canal was abandoned by 1941 but there has been an active restoration campaign by the Cotswold Canal Trust since 1972 and some parts have been restored.Sadly,the lock at Inglesham that I was hoping to see has not been one of them,in fact it was impossible to even get near the site of the old lock.

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Ha’penny Bridge at Lechlade with the old Toll house at the end.Bet you can’t guess what the toll was.The Roundhouse at the end of the navigable River Thames.The Thames and Severn Canal went to the right of the Roundhouse but this was as close as we could get.

Leaving Lechlade on Sunday morning we made our way through 4 Locks and along 9 miles of river to where we are now.We call this mooring Buttercup Meadow because,guess what? it’s full of Buttercups.Nothing gets past us on a good day you know.RAF Brize Norton is only about 4 Miles away and we get to see some of the aircraft that are stationed there as they fly overhead while conducting multiple landings and take-offs.We’ve had the Lockheed C-130J Hercules,the Boeing C-17 Globemaster and the Airbus A330 Voyager all fly over us while we’ve been here.

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Buttercup Meadow and me deep in concentration pouring a beer.

Well that’s it again for this week.Since last Tuesday we have  done 15 Locks and 39 Miles which gives us a Grand Total of 724 Locks and 1293 Miles since we set off back in October 2012.Take care everyone.

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