- Mac & Jacquie Court
- 70 now and our five wonderful years aboard our narrowboat Skyy seem along time ago. Jacquie, allowed me to build my replica three wheeler kit car, which was a great success. Now it's time to start on a bigger project and that is to make a good Triumph Stag even better, here goes.
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
A wet start to the day and the forecast for the next couple of days was not promising, but by the time Stanley arrived, with Phil & Lynne, at least the rain had stopped and as our surrounding was so attractive we decided to stay the night and move on first thing tomorrow morning.
The guide book said that the nearby market town of Bampton was attractive. It was right, probably the most attractive little town we have visited, this had nothing to do with the seven pubs, which all looked in good order, this observation is made purely on external appearances, as we didn’t actually go inside any of them. Having just watched the DVD of Hot Fuzz which is set in the perfectly preserved, imaginary town of Sandford, Glos, where anybody disturbing the peace and tranquility, is ruthlessly dispatched by the Neighbourhood Watch, I rather have the feeling that this could just happen in Bampton, however, it appears that this is where Morris dancing originated, must have something to do with all those pubs.
On the way back we stopped off at the nursery and suggested to the nice young man in charge, that if we bought the bedding plants to replace the sad winter pansies in our roof boxes, he might like to drive us back to the Tadpole bridge with our shopping, he agreed.
With the roof loaded with trays of begonias, petunias, and lobelia, we set of to the Oxford Cruisers boatyard, just downstream of Pinkhill Lock. Stanley the Border Terrier was arriving tomorrow and his Mum & Dad needed somewhere safe to leave their car for a couple of days. We moored, in a beautiful spot, just down from the boatyard and whilst I washed the boat, Jacquie re-did the roof boxes, which in a few weeks time should look good.
Time to retrace our passage, but not before we took SKYY to the Round House and turned her about. Yesterday I had sussed out exactly where I wanted to put SKYY’s bow when we turned as the space was limited and I could see how shallow the water was in places. All went well this morning and we were soon on our way downstream, traveling much easier with the stream behind us now, but after the calm of Sunday the winds had returned, blowing in the opposite direction to last week, so it was still in my face for most of the journey.
We decided to push on to the delightfully named Tadpole Bridge and moor up by The Trout for the evening. On route, as we came through the bridge at Radcot, a very smart, red painted, traditional boat called NOBBY kept over to one side to let us clear the bridge and as he started to move over to line up with the bridge, his boat came to a dead stop as she ran aground, we must have passed over exactly the same place on our way upstream, but his boat had a deeper draft. I kept watching as slowly the distance between us grew and it became obvious that although the wind had swung his boat, so that he now faced downstream, he wasn’t coming unstuck. I turned SKYY round and eventually got into position and attached his bow line to my stern and without much of a struggle NOBBY slipped free. The owner was very grateful, but I told him that having been aground for nearly three days, last year, I couldn’t abandon him to a similar fate. Jacquie was just grateful that I had now got something to blogg on about.
We tied up at the moorings, reserved for patrons of the Trout, had a drink, just to prove our patronage, you understand, but returned to SKYY for dinner.
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Today lived up to its name, with sunshine from dawn to dusk. We started the day by walking to the end of navigation at the Round House, it is here that the Thames and Severn canal leaves the River Thames under a typical canal bridge. This canal has not been navigable for many years, but its restoration along with other Cotswold canals is planned, but not without some major difficulties, like the 3817 yard long Sapperton Tunnel, which is blocked by roof falls in several places. However when complete this will provide another great cruising ring, but sadly not in our cruising life time.
The right of navigation continues another three miles to Cricklade, but only smaller craft can continue, we did on foot, but only as far as the little church at Inglesham. The day and the surroundings couldn’t have been bettered anywhere in the world, the lichen covered stones of the church walls, birds chirping, clumps of bluebells, cowslips, buttercups and cattle mooing, the shading trees, just to mention a few of my favourite things.
We returned to SKYY and put the fold up chairs on the rear deck, had lunch with an Old Lech and felt really privileged to be sitting in such a beautiful place.
As soon as we cast off I had to line up with the tall, but narrow bridge, but the wind had dropped right away and there were no problems. The river twists and turn back on itself, on this upper reach and the water is still and clear, the colour of thick plate glass, unlike the muddy brown of the canals. Three more locks and nine miles later we arrived at our final destination ‘Lechlade’. The spire of the church can be seen several miles away and this is the usual limit of navigation, or at least it is half a mile beyond the town bridge, the Ha’penny Bridge, so called, as this was the toll that was charged in the past.
Over the previous days our journey had been accompanied by the noise from overflying VC10’s, Trident and the occasional Hercules aircraft, all returning to the nearby Brize Norton RAF airport. We assumed that these were solders and equipment returning from Iraq and we figuratively waved to them as they banked over for their final approach.
Now all was peaceful as we tied up before the bridge alongside open meadow land, with views of the church and graceful swans our other side. We immediately left all this behind as we set of on foot to investigate the town of Lechlade.
A quaint little town built around the sharp right hand bend of the road which was busy with lots of cars and motorbikes passing through on route to Cotswold Country. Antique shops galore, but there was a convenient food store, where amongst other items we purchased some Old Lech beer, quite appropriate really, but in fact it is brewed in a local micro brewery, lots of foam, which had nothing to do with my pouring ability, but very tasty once it had settled down.
Sunday, 10 May 2009
As we breakfasted the rain was replaced with blue sky, a little walk to discover the local environment seemed like a good idea. As we climbed out of the boat there were more dark clouds looming, but we decided to ignore them, however we did grab our waterproof jackets as a precaution and were we glad we did. We only got to the other side of the bridge, when the first drops fell, just enough time to get the jacket hoods unfurled, when the hail arrived. Within seconds our bottom half was soaked through and we sheltered under the awnings of the pub before the last dash back to SKYY.
For the second time, blue sky emerged and it stayed blue, but the wind was stronger than ever, at about 25 mph and the twisting route of the river made our voyage to Radcot challenging. Feet braced, holding onto cap with one hand and a firm grip of the tiller with the other, even the swans were having difficulty today and the cattle were being driven down to the waters edge. I really appreciated the sheltered calmness of the three lock cuts that we passed through. Our mooring for the night at Radcot was greatly assisted by the help of an off duty lock keeper, who was living on his narrow boat nearby. Tonight, we did seek refreshment in the very aptly named Swan Hotel that nestled beside the bridge.
There are two bridges at Radcot. The main one that we will pass through tomorrow, a single arch affair was built in 1787. The other three arched bridge, is the oldest on the Thames, also having been built in the 13th century, which is why the one at Newbridge, is called the Newbridge, kind of makes sense now.
Jacquie wondered who it was who discovered that ‘arches’ were so effective in holding up bridges etc. and then realised that she already knew who it was ‘Archimedes’ obvious init.
An early walk took us back to the Co-op in Eynsham, but we wondered why there were so many people gathered and then we spotted in the distance a procession. At first we thought wedding and then May Day, which was exactly what it was. A pretty young May Queen headed the procession of a surprisingly large number of local school children, culminating in a very young group of would be Morris Dancers, the tradition of which originated in the Oxford area. It was great to see that some old traditions are not totally lost.
Shopping done, SKYY was unleashed into the still windy conditions and three ours later we reached Newbridge, rather a misnomer as this bridge was built in the 13th century, one of the oldest on the river and there is a pub on either side of the bridge, but we resisted their invitations.
Our journey on route, had not been without incident. Some people on the far bank were waving and pointing to the waters edge on our side of the river, and we could hear two lambs bleating pitifully, both had fallen into the river. WAGTAIL a boat we had been following for a while, had pulled into the bank and we followed, with some difficulty in the windy condition. By the time SKYY were secured, the gentleman from Wagtail had recovered one of the lambs, but the other was stuck under hawthorn bushes with the water half way up his body. With a rope tied around my waist I squirmed down the bank and managed to pull the other one to safety. He was far too wet to put into the pot, so we let him run off to find his mummy and demand food.
After we descended through the Isis Lock, the last one on the Oxford Canal, Old Father Thames welcomed us with bright but breezy conditions. The river is so much wider and initially more daunting than the canals, but we had deployed our anchor and were ready for anything. The locks are equivalent in size to canal double locks, but are in much better order and mainly operated for us by friendly Lock Keeper.
Six miles and three locks later we moored for the day at Swinford Bridge, Swinford so called, as this was a relative safe place for swine to ford the Thames in olden days, as Oxford was to ox. The bridge was built in 1777 and still collects tolls from passing vehicles; you’d have thought that they would have paid for its construction by now, but at 5p a car, maybe not. Our main reason for us to stop here was the proximity of the lovely town of Eynsham. A Benedictine Abbey had made this into a very important market town, and there still remains today, a butcher, a deli and a Co-op, but we would save them for tomorrow.
The bus didn’t quite get us into the city centre as it took an around the houses approach and got stuck behind an illegally parked car, so we got of and walked the last little bit.
Jacquie initially said how grey the city looked, but slowly the sun came out and the stone of the colleges took on a golden glow. The first college we came to was Trinity and it was open to visitors, we went in and snapped away with the camera, wonderful old buildings and gardens, hopefully not wasted on the young students. Many of the other colleges were closed to visitors, but it was possible to look through the arched porticos, defended by bowler hatted porters, into the beautifully lawned quadrangles behind. A museum or two and a glimpse of the Bridge of Sighs, named, I am sure after the one in Venice, through which prisoners had their last fleeting view of the outside world, as they crossed over on their way to prison, and we were ready for lunch
A little more sight seeing, down by the River Thames at the Folly Bridge and then the bus took our weary bodies a more direct route, this time, all the way back to our mooring.
Friday, 8 May 2009
Well Well!!! Jacquie was most upset by the response to my ‘Sunrise’ photo. Two comments. One from Julia from NB POPPY and another from Tor, a very special person. Thank you both. Jacquie is supposed to be SKYY’s ‘art’ photographer, I am supposed to just take reference photos to record our adventure, still that’s what happens when I’m abandoned.
Today we said goodbye to Thrupp, it had been a convenient and charming place for the last week, but Oxford City centre was our intended destination, but a little delayed as I thought I recognized a young lady at the tiller of a passing boat, as the ‘famous’ Canal Boat magazine columnist, Mortimer Bones. Maffi from NB MILLIE M confirmed that it was indeed and so that I would, in the future, have a claim to fame, I introduced myself. The result was that Mortimer invited Jacquie and I to join them and other boaters for tea and cakes at the newly opened, Annie’s Tea Room in the Thrupp Yard.
We eventually said goodbye and I will now read Mortimer’s column and blog with even more interest.
We eventually stopped about a mile North of Oxford; we were concerned by the supposed shortage of visitor moorings in Oxford. As we took an evening walk along the towpath we realized there was plenty of space closer to the centre, but we decided to stay put and catch a bus tomorrow into the city.
Wednesday, 6 May 2009
SKYY was now facing the right way for a visit to the self pump-out machine, provided courtesy of the Thrupp Canal Cruising Club, who organize and maintain all the facilities and moorings in this area. A ten pound card got the pump started and this essential function fortunately didn’t faze our guests.
The weather wasn’t as pleasant as promised for this bank holiday weekend, but we cruised back to the Rock of Gibraltar pub, this time we didn’t stop, but instead turned around and eventually squeezed ourselves back into a mooring at Thrupp in time for warm sunshine to encourage us to enjoy our late lunch on the grass verge decide SKYY.
Sue & Colin left us relaxed having enjoyed their brief experience of our life style and arrived back in Surrey after a swift return journey around M25.
We didn’t want to get onto the River Thames too soon, so we cruised down to the Dukes Cut Junction and turned round before finding a sunny spot to moor up for lunch. The journey gave Colin & Sue plenty of opportunity to get up close and personal with the lift bridges and locks. We ended up back at our previous mooring at Thrupp and repaired to the Boat Inn for pre dinner refreshment. Good food, fresh air and sunshine are the ingredients for contagious yawns leading to Sue saying she needed her bed, we were all in agreement.
A bus trip to Sainsburys was the order of the day. I checked the timetable on-line and we got to the bus stop in good time, the bus also arrived right on time. So far so good, we had a vague idea where the store was, but by the time I saw it and rang the bell, we were right opposite the bus stop, instead of applying the brakes in a vigorous manner and sending everybody flying, the driver sensible carried on to the next bus stop, which seemed at least two miles further on. We pretended it wasn’t us who rang the bell as we decided to carry onto to Summertown where we knew there was a Co-op store, a Waitrose and a M&S food store, which should be more than sufficient for our needs. An hour and a half later the number 59 dropped us back at Thrupp Turn.
Colin & Sue pulled up in their car right alongside SKYY after a nightmare drive which took over two hours just getting around the M25. A cup of tea, a glass or two of wine, followed by dinner, soon had them slowing down to boat speed.