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Down Under

by wilvir

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"Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints"

Chief Seattle (1786–1866) leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish Native American tribes

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July, and the Thames at its Best

Denham Deep Lock, Grand Union Canal. Monday 05Aug13.

1. Jim and Helen aboard their Narrowboat 'M', keeping station astern.
2. Heading out of Abingdon.
3. One of our weekend 'out in the sticks' moorings below Clifton Hampden.
4. A fully laden trip-boat heading upstream.
5. Approaching Wallingford.
6. (l-r) Helen, Jim and Ginny consult the oracle.

We left the River Thames on Wednesday morning's high tide, which took us from Teddington down to Brentford. There we locked up onto the River Brent and the Grand Union Canal.

The month spent on the Thames was a joy, made all the more so by an umbrella of blue sky and the near ever-present cloak of warmth from a sun last felt for its traditional summer brilliance in 2006.

There was also an abundance of water, which made the meandering river journey from Oxford to Lechlade that much easier when negotiating narrow bends that almost turns the river back on itself as we wound our way upstream towards our destination, before turning back for the three week leisurely run down river to the outskirts of London.

The pleasure of sharing and spending time with great friends Jim and Helen throughout a journey that was a first for them, made it all the more worthwhile and memorable for us too.

Memorable for the sights and sounds of red-kites wheeling in thermals above a field of gold as they followed in the wake of a tractor cutting a dusty swathe through a hay meadow. Boats large and small, brilliant white or traditionally painted, plying their trade or, like us, simply cruising about for pleasure. Mighty weirs, taming water upstream, tumbled unfettered, ever downstream, leaving misty rainbows hanging in the air and tranquil pools of expectation below them, enticing anglers to cast a line and test their luck. Memorable for the souvenir feathers given to us by the Swan-Uppers as they passed through Mapledurham in all their pageant finery, continuing to protect and mark swans as they have been doing traditionally for the past 900 years. The majesty of Cliveden House, overlooking the river from on high through heavily wooded slopes reaching down to the waters edge. The Crown Estate of Windsor Castle unfolding along the royal banks of the river. Cruising along the course of the Henley Regatta. Eynsham, Oxford, Rushey, Wallingford, Marlowe, Goring, Abingdon, Sonning, Runnymede and more; all linked by the trade and industry that was once the lifeblood of this great river yet now serve as weekend destinations for mainly private pleasure boats and tourists. And our last port of call, Hampton Court Palace, the seat of so much royal and political intrigue.

A river never disappoints the water-borne traveller inquisitive to learn more about our heritage. A river such as the Thames carries a living time-line that truly helps us to understand history. If rivers have taught me anything over the years, outside of my passion for angling, it's how they remain virtually impervious to change, provide opportunities for adventure, add a wilderness element to this island of ours and cleanse the mind as well as the body. Long may that continue.
5th Aug 2013, 18:41   comments (5)

Days of Our Life

(viewed 829 times)

1. Oh to be able to do just that!
2. All steamed up.
3. Thames Trail camping.
4. Ha'penny Bridge.

Lechlade and seven years have passed, good friends continue to prosper, livelihoods thrive, a favourite walk remains so, a pub much the same, the shining jewel-in-the-crown that is Horseshoe lake, village life changing face, the river listless, plagued by silt and red-signal crayfish, gliding by, shown little love or respect, as if a hindrance, trees and reeds encroach, lock-keepers poised but do little, cattle drool over boats, summer bears down, sun-burnt lips, clever-dick's tumble haphazardly from ha'penny bridge, sounds of flesh painfully slapping water, ha-ha, 'no swimming' notices ignored, quaint over-priced antique 'junk' shops, the all-year Christmas shop, a superb takeaway jal-frezi, people we knew getting on with their lives, no time to remember; once again it's time to move on.
11th Jul 2013, 18:08   comments (2)


(viewed 773 times)
We arrived here yesterday afternoon.
3rd Jul 2013, 23:28   comments (0)

Old Father Thames

Eynsham, River Thames. Sunday 30June13.

1. Leaving the Oxford Canal behind by passing under Duke's Bridge to enter Dukes Cut Lock.
2. Locking up beneath the A40.
3. Entering Duke's Cut.
4. Jim and Helen following in our wake as we head up Duke's Cut to join the River Thames.
5. A narrowboat stranded by previous high river levels.

We left Thrupp yesterday morning and locked down the final few miles to the River Thames above Oxford, where we locked up to join the river at Dukes Cut and, until our next visit, left the intimate beauty of the Oxford Canal behind.

Above Oxford, the Thames, or Isis as it is known above King's Lock, just oozes that quintessential 'Turner' quality the English countryside is renowned for.

Shortly after tying up for a couple of nights below Eynsham Lock we were seemingly greeted by the Red Arrows who over-flew our location again this morning as they made their approach into nearby RAF Brize Norton to presumably refuel as they continue their display season.

It's been a while since we left the Thames in 2006 to embrace this new way of life we had chosen for ourselves, and I can't believe how good it feels to be back. It's as though we've come home.

The number of boats that refuse to leave the perceived safety and security of the canal network to venture along this, our most famous of rivers, especially when she is behaving herself, is puzzling. However, it is understandable, if a little mischievous, when narrowboats end up being tossed amongst the bank-side trees when she's misbehaving.

Jim and Helen, kept 'M' in our wake as we joined the river and headed upstream yesterday, as pleased to be on the river as much as we are, especially as it's their first time on the Thames, and the perfect Summer weather just made our arrival complete.

Tomorrow we continue upstream to begin a month of renewing our acquaintance with the river and pay £162 for the privilege when we pass through Eynsham Lock.
1st Jul 2013, 00:20   comments (5)

'Chugging' the Cherwell

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Upper Heyford. Wednesday 26Jun13.

1. 'Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross'
2. 'Froggy went a courtin'?
3. A footbridge over the river Cherwell commemorated to Dick Smith.
4. Dick Smith remembered.

Passing through Banbury we stopped over for two nights and then moved out to moorings south of the town more akin to our preference for being out in the 'sticks'.

While in Banbury I called Jim Huggett, a colleague from my RAF days, who I hadn't seen for thirty-one years. We spent an hour or two chatting about old times and what we'd been up to since, during which time Jim accompanied us along the stretch of town moorings and down a lock to moor up not far from a supermarket. Jim then left us as we continued out of town to moor up for a couple of days to await Helen's return after her four-day trip home by train from Banbury. Great to see you Jim; until next time!

After a night-stop at Belchers Lift bridge we continued south, passing through Aynho and some really classically pretty countryside, arriving at Upper Heyford mid-afternoon yesterday to spend two nights and meet up with friends Neil and Jude who are driving over from their home at Wilstone, just an hours drive away.
27th Jun 2013, 10:03   comments (2)

A Cropredy Conga

Copredy, Oxford Canal. Monday 17Jun13.

1. My Fathers Day lunch venue (albeit a day late).
2. A narrowboat 'conga' at Cropredy with Jim & Helen's 'M' bringing up the rear behind 'wilvir'.
3. Stained glass at the church of St Mary the Virgin, Cropredy.
4. Intimate cruising.
5. Above Wormleighton the towpath is virtually undisturbed and has a wild beauty all its own.
6. A railway line once crossed the canal just south of Wormleighton reservoir until the bridge was demolished leaving just the arches on either side.

Having met up with Jim and Helen at Wormleighton on Wednesday as planned, we've now locked down to Cropredy together having stopped off at Claydon for the weekend. Sadly the 'Bygones' museum has closed and the exhibits auctioned off since we were last there. Thankfully I have the photos and memories of what I saw from my one and only visit the last time we passed this way.

As it was Fathers Day yesterday it was a good excuse to treat ourselves to lunch at 'The Red Lion'. And a fine lunch it was too, accompanied by two cracking pints of 'Hookie'.
17th Jun 2013, 22:10   comments (1)

Sights and Sounds

Wormleighton, Oxford Canal. Thursday 13Jun13.

1. Wild food - Jews Ear.
2. More wild food - Dryad's Saddle.
3. You can hear the crops growing here at Radford.
4. The River Itchen passing under a disused railway bridge at Long Itchington.
5. Napton-on-the-Hill (a windmill can be seen on the brow of the hill).
6. Napton windmill.
7. The view from the footpath. leading up to the windmill (the canal passes below the hill along the line of the hedge across the centre of the photo).

Having stopped at Priors Hardwick overnight, we rounded Napton Hill and made the short journey to Wormleighton this morning to meet up with Jim & Helen. Again, strong winds and the threat of rain kept temperatures decidedly chilly. I might fire up the log-burner later this evening.
13th Jun 2013, 17:03   comments (2)

Pressing On

Priors Hardwick, Oxford Canal. Wednesday 12Jun13.

1/2. Heading in and out of Shrewley Tunnel.
3. C&RT; Hatton Yard.
4. Cape of Good Hope.
5. Passing on the 'Stairs' at Bascote.
6. Down in the weeds.

In the past twelve days since leaving the Stratford Canal we've pressed on to rendezvous with Jim and Helen aboard their narrowboat 'M' at Wormleighton on the Oxford Canal.

We were also visited by our great friends Martin and Brenda who made the one and a half hour journey from home to spend a day with us before we locked down to Warwick. And what a full-fat food day that was. Scones on arrival, a great pub lunch at 'Tom of the Woods' and then a full chicken roast followed by apple pie and cream aboard the boat towards late afternoon. And, throughout the day, with virtually every cup of tea, came a great dollop of carrot cake. We could hardly look food in the face for the next few days. I don't know about them bearing gifts but they certainly came bearing food -phew!

We then passed through Shrewley Tunnel and on down the Hatton lock flight to overnight above Warwick. The following morning we moved on to moor at Tesco's for a BIG shop and then round the next bend to moor outside Lidl for another BIG shop. The boat is definitely down at the stern now that we've topped up with supplies.

We've since locked up to the Oxford canal having moored a few nights along the way at Radford, Bascote and Napton-on-the-Hill before ascending Napton Locks and arriving here at Priors Hardwick yesterday afternoon.

No rush - twelve days, fifty-five locks, thirty four miles and twenty-one hours cruising.
13th Jun 2013, 10:56   comments (0)