Oxford to Reading
Trip Start Apr 26, 2011
27Trip End Oct 31, 2011
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Windy again this morning. As we prepared to leave our mooring at Rose Isle, James' watch fell off his wrist, thankfully into the bows of the boat, and not into the river. A spring in the strap linkage had dropped out.
We saw several red kites as we cruised down through Sandford lock, the deepest on the Thames, and on down the long reach past Nuneham House to Abingdon, where we moored on the recreation ground. We went shopping in Abingdon, and James was able to get his watch strap fixed. The Ock Street Fair was in progress, with fairground rides and stalls stretching for half a mile through the town
Tue 11th Oct
Still windy, so the banner remained down as we departed. We met some guys on a boat called Eclipse and we agreed that we had met before somewhere. We checked and it was on the Shropshire Union after we crossed the Mersey two years ago, on 18th August, by Chester Zoo.
We had not gone more than a mile when the engine started racing with no extra power and we realised that there was a problem with the gearbox. We managed to limp back to the moorings in Abingdon, where they have recently built a lower section. Most of the moorings below the bridge are on a high wall and getting off a narrowboat is not easy. These new ones are much better.
We called out RCR (the boaters equivalent if the AA) and one of their engineers turned up with a van right next to the boat. He had driven down the footpath. The problem was a rubber O-ring that had broken and the oil had gone. This was replaced and some more oil put in the gearbox
We cruised down through Culham Reach, where there is still a sign advertising the Red Lion, which closed down several years ago. The river between Culham Lock and Clifton Lock we nickname "Kingfisher Alley". Today was no exception and we saw several kingfishers. Trying to take photos is not easy - we managed to get photos of three of them but they are all taken with haste and are blurred or out of focus.
We also took photos of red kites before arriving at our mooring for the night above Days Lock, by a WW2 pillbox by some ancient earthworks called Dyke Hills. We witnessed a huge flock of rooks heading for Little Wittenham Woods. They kept on passing for several minutes.
Wed 12th Oct
We had a lovely sunny day as we went for a walk through Little Wittenham Wood, just below Wittenham Clumps. Beautiful views and autumn colours. We saw a tree creeper to add to our bird list.
We set off once more down the river past Shillingford Bridge, where we stayed for a weekend many years ago (and took a trip boat into Oxford). Then to Wallingford where we moored to go shopping. Sadly the Christian bookshop was closed on Wednesdays but we happily explored the charity shops and visited Waitrose.
The wind had dropped so we put up the banner once more. Louis arrived on Madam so he came on board for a cuppa. We caught up with all the latest news from the river as he knows all the lock keepers and is on various committees, and is himself a volunteer lock keeper. We mentioned that we have sometimes in the past found lock keepers on the phone from the time you arrive at a lock until the time you leave. He agreed and said that they have all been told about this so it should no longer be happening.
Just as Louis was leaving, Harry Hogg arrived. He used to work with James at Tear Fund 22 years ago. It was good to remember old times. He is a member at Greyfriars Church in Reading.
Wind and Waves arrived and moored on the other side of the river. We still haven’t spoken to them at any length
Thu 13th Oct
We made an early start in glorious autumn sunshine as we cruised down the 5-mile reach past two expensive riverside restaurants: the Beetle and Wedge and the Leatherne Bottle. We reached Cleeve Lock where we filled our water tank. The lock keeper was on the phone all the time so we never spoke to him! Must tell Louis. Goring Lock was different – a very pleasant lady there. We dumped our rubbish before cruising slowly down to Beale Park where moored for rest of the day.
Fri 14th Oct
We decided to use our National Trust tickets and visit Basildon Park. We looked at the map and took what we thought was the most direct route. We had to cross a main road and a railway and we found ourselves climbing over two fences to get to the railway bridge. Having achieved that we saw that the brown sign pointed down the road past Basildon Park and was obviously leading to the car park. Everything is geared for cars these days. We made for an alternative entrance to the park, which was at least half a mile shorter, and it turned out that it was the original main entrance to the property
We found the usual friendly welcome from the National Trust volunteers who have all sorts of stories to tell if you ask them. We had visited here many years ago but there was a lot to see. It was the venue for the film “Pride and Prejudice”, the Keira Knightly version. We walked back the same way to the railway bridge, but rather than climb over two fences, we walked down the road, which was hazardous as there was no pavement.
When we left our mooring, our first lock was Whitchurch. The lock keeper was on the phone!!! I mentioned this to Hazel and he overheard. He said “Don’t you ever talk to your colleagues at work?” We should have said “Not in front of customers”. We had a run-in once before with this man who ticked us off for walking past the lock with our cassette, rather than taking the boat down through the lock and then straight back up again. Perhaps it is our banner that triggers him off. This time we wanted to use the Elsan facility again but it has been closed down. We arrived at Pangbourne Meadow where we saw Louis once again and related our stories of lock keepers on phones. Apparently this lock keeper is retiring next month.
We found a mooring and a man from a wide-beam hire boat came to enquire about Boaters Christian Fellowship.
Sat 15th Oct
It was a very COLD NIGHT
Two Christian ladies saw the banner and came to talk.
Some boats came rushing downstream having come through Whitchurch lock. Here is a theory: two boats travel quicker than one. One boat leaving a lock will travel at it’s own pace. If two boats leave, the first will try to get away quickly in case they hold the other boat up. The second will also go quickly in case they get left behind before the next lock.
We left at a leisurely pace and arrived at Mapledurham Lock where – guess what – the lock keeper was on the phone! The new chemical toilet disposal point (replacing the one at Whitchurch) had been wrecked by thieves wanting the metal parts. Another boater had come down from above Whitchurch specially to empty his cassette at the end of the season. He said it will now have to wait until spring!
At Caversham Lock the pleasant lady there was just going off duty so we let ourselves through the lock.
We moored at Reading Tesco where there were only three other boats. Usually there are many more and we have had to moor alongside others. We saw the local family of Australian Black Swans – four cygnets this year.
We stocked up with provisions and bought some road diesel for our heater. Someone had suggested it is less likely to freeze than red diesel. Ours froze last year on the Basingstoke Canal in the very cold weather.
We had a good chat with a local pastor and evangelist called Tony Carson, who knows our friends John and Barbara Froggatt. He was passing on his bike and saw our banner.
We consumed all the crayfish in a Thai green curry.
Sun 16th Oct
It was foggy first thing and we went back upstream through Caversham Lock to find a mooring just our size at Caversham Bridge.
We visited New Hope Community Church where we were made very welcome. This is a church plant from Greyfriars, and the building is much more of a community centre than a typical church. The seating was arranged café style and the whole service was very informal
Afterwards we visited a large music shop that we know about and we bought a new microphone to replace the one that fell apart at Banbury.
We then had lunch at River Spice restaurant where they were serving an Indian buffet overlooking the river where we could see our boat. Very good food. There were lots of rowers out having a heads of the river race.
Going downstream again we found BCF boat Epiphany, but John and Fiona Slee were not there. We phoned them but understood they would not be back at their boat very soon so we carried on through Caversham Lock once again. This time Louis was on duty so we had a good laugh.
We passed through Sonning Lock (lock keeper very pleasant and not on the phone) and were looking for a mooring on one of the islands further down when we were hailed from the bank. It was Dave Jackson, our neighbour from Weybridge. He was walking the Thames Path (as you do!). We moored on an island called the Lynch, and after dark we heard owls hooting loudly only a few feet away.
Next week we are planning to be home on Saturday. How soon the blog will be updated is debatable as there will be lots of other things to keep us occupied.