A Trip to the Thames
harnser 2

Wednesday 25 April 2007

We arrived at the boat and immediately winded her and reversed back to the lock so we could load up. We moored just above the lock moorings but even so a hire boat coming down stopped above us and walked down to work the lock, I may have well been on the lock mooring and saved walking the extra bit.
We pushed off at quarter past four and just as we approached Marston Dole bottom lock a boat was coming out. We didn't see another boat on the move until we reached Wormleighton and then we met another couple. The working boat Bletchely was moored just above Marston Dole top lock and was advertising diesel at 48 p/lt unfortunately there was no one about or I would have bought 150 lt. Shortly before Wormleighton a cow on the offside had just had twins, one of them was snow white. At Fenny there is the normal collection of boats not displaying a valid licence on the long term BW moorings, we have slipped in at the beginning of the 14 day moorings just after the pub.

Just before we pushed off I dipped the diesel tank, the last time we took diesel was at Fazeley last time out and then we didn't fill up. The dipstick showed that we had 120 lt. not enough for a fortnight cruise so we moved on to the Fenny Compton boat yard and took on 100 lt. at 51 p/ lt. We didn't see any boats on the move until we reached Claydon Top lock where we spotted a hire boat in the first pound, I opened the bottom gates for them and that threw them completely, the gates open and no one comes out ! By the time we locked down there were two boats behind us. From now on we met boat at most locks and it continued like this all the way to Banbury. Between the bottom of Claydon and the next lock we met the Navy on one of their boats. We were just rounding the bend when they steered left instead of right which meant instead of rounding the bend the crossed the canal and were heading straight for me. I gave it full power and pushed the helm hard over, slid round the outside of the bend and they it the bank behind me. Do you think one of them will try and sell the story to the papers? As we rounded Tesco bend as we entered Banbury we came to where contractors are dredging the cut and emptying the hoppers into lorries. We had to wait about 5 minuets while the dredger finished loading the hopper he was working on and then we went past while they brought another empty for him to fill. We arrived at Sovereign boat yard about 15 minutes before they closed so I stopped and took on another 95 lt. of diesel, this time it was only 48 p/lt. and we now have a full tank. After Banbury we had a light rain shower, we decided to moor for the night before Nell Bridge but as the bank was so uneven we pushed on and finally stopped just below Aynho Weir Lock at 1900 hr., we are right beside the railway but it is the only spot for miles where its in a cutting.

It was a very overcast morning with a cool breeze, quite a change from what we had been experiencing. We must have had a boat a short way in front as all the locks were against us even though we met a few boats. At Pigeons Lock we stopped for a quick cup of tea with Guy on Virgo and then he followed us down to the Cherwell where he winded before heading back north. We moored for the night in Thrupp where I heard my first cuckoo of the year. We ate in
the Boat with Guy who came over by car.

We set off at 9-30 and as we passed the Jolly Boater we noted that all the mooring spacer had been taken overnight so it was just as well that we stopped at the Boat Inn. There were a couple of hire boats waiting to pull out so we timed it well, we just entered the first lock as they
drew up behind us. We had planned to fill with water just prior to Ducks Lock but some happy hippy had decided that he would set up home, chained his boat and genny to the piling, run his engine flat out right in the "No mooring" area for the water point. If he is still there when we return, proving to me that he hadn't just stopped to take water I will have a word with BW.
We continued on to Ducks Lock discussing whether we should go through Oxford to the Thames or turn left and go via Ducks Cut. The boat ahead settled it for us, once they finally got in the lock they lifted one bottom paddle at a time, very slowly and then after leaving the lock at tick over they stood leaning on the balance beam talking to the steerer, finally deciding to close up and headed off to Oxford still on tick over. The Thames was a lot quieter than last time we visited, it has also silted up a bit with several new marker buoys below Kings Lock which also has signs warning to stay to the centre of the channel. As we passed the Perch Pub we were surprised that there were no boats moored there for Saturday Lunch, as we drew alongside the reason became obvious. All the planks have been removed from the landing stage! We had to work the lock in Oxford ourselves as the keeper was at lunch. Its the first time that I have used the electric, DIY button system. We topped up with water at Abingdon Lock and enquired the price of pump outs, they are still £6 so we may make use of the facilities on our way back. We moored for the night at 5 pm just below Abingdon Lock and at present we are waiting for the BBQ to get hot to cook dinner.

We set off at 9-30 on a very quiet river, when we arrived at Cleave Lock it was deserted and its none electric, so I started cranking the handle, I decided that one paddle would be OK and I would wait for the lock to fill. I didn't have to wait long because the keeper appeared with his
bun and mug of tea in hand and took over with the power on. Below Clifton lock we turned hard right up the weir stream for about half a mile to The Plough at Long Wittenham where we had Sunday Lunch. It proved an interesting stop as they had an international fete on in the pub garden where we tried Norwegian cheese that is dark brown and made with a mixture of cows and goats milk, Norwegian rice pudding and French waffles. If the timing is right we tend to overnight at the pub on our way back. After lunch it was back down the Thames, we met one or two nice barges but there was very little about for a Sunday afternoon on the Thames. We continued down until 6 o'clock when we decided to moor for the night on the Beale Park 24 hour moorings about a mile before Whitchurch Lock. The stretch of the Thames that we have done today is similar to the South Oxford canal, but instead of the Wormleighton radio mast you see the Didcot power station at every conceivable angle for half the day.

We left Beale Park at 10 am. we were the last boat away again. The Barometer had fallen a bit over night which could account for the freshening wind from the east. There was a bit more traffic about today but still very little. I was informed by a lock keeper that there was no need for me to switch off my engine in a lock if I was not shearing with another boat which means that the engine has run most of the day. We had half an hour delay at Mapledurham lock as the Lock Keeper's house was having a "pump out" to do this they have to moor the barge with the tank and pump on it in the lock. I hope he paid more than £6 as his tank is much larger than mine. We just cleared Henley when I spotted "NB. Pilgrim" moored on the off side so we pulled over for a chat, sure enough as soon as we had stepped ashore there was a man waiting for the £6 mooring fee for the night. He sits in his car waiting for the boats to pull in. It is now £6 a night all the way through Henley almost as far as Hurly when it becomes "No Mooring" We have moored on the caravan site just before Hurly Lock and there is a big sign saying "Mooring Fee Charged" but it doesn't say how much, we will wait until someone turn up.

We left Beale Park at 10 am. we were the last boat away again. The Barometer had fallen a bit over night which could account for the freshening wind from the east. There was a bit more traffic about today but still very little. I was informed by a lock keeper that there was no need for me to switch off my engine in a lock if I was not shearing with another boat which means that the engine has run most of the day. About a mile above Reading there is a partly sunk Narrowboat between one of the islands and the offside bank. I still looks easily salvageable and sitting on the bottom. We had half an hour delay at Mapledurham lock as the Lock Keeper's house was having a "pump out" to do this they have to moor the barge with the tank and pump on it in the lock. I hope he paid more than £6 as his tank is much larger than mine. We just cleared Henley when I spotted "NB. Pilgrim" moored on the off side so we pulled over for a chat, sure enough as soon as we had stepped ashore there was a man waiting for the £6 mooring fee for the night. He sits in his car waiting for the boats to pull in. It is now £6 a night all the way through Henley almost as far as Hurly when it becomes "No Mooring" We have moored on the caravan site just before Hurly Lock and there is a big sign saying "Mooring Fee Charged" but it doesn't say how much, we will wait until someone turn up. As we sit here having just eaten our BBQ the surface of the river is swarming in flies in the evening sunshine. Well the man finally turned up and took £5 off us for the night. at 9 pm. The local canoe club are having fun going over the weir

We stopped to fill with water at Hurley lock which worked out well as there was a boat coming up in the lock, we then carried on to Marlow where we were held up for a bit as there was a man cleaning the lock gates with a pressure washer. Once clear we continued on to Maidenhead where at Boulter's Lock there was another narrowboat "Rolling Wave" waiting for the lock. The owner explained to me that he would be locking down alone as he did not wish to stop his engine, a Kelvin K twin cylinder with a hand start. Checking the time it was just approaching 1 o'clock which meant the locky would be gone for lunch before we got through, in the end this worked to our advantages as the locky said" I will open the top gates for you and then I'm off for lunch, you can sort out whether you share with your engine running" so thatís what happened , we both locked down with engines running and then went on to Bray and worked through that as well. When I arrived at Boveney Lock I explained to the locky that there was a boat following and that I didn't mind waiting and locking with the other boats engine running if the locky didn't mind. His response was "If you think I'm locking him down alone you can think again" so we shared yet another lock. By the time we reached Windsor we
were well ahead of him so I entered the lock alone thinking I would be well gone before he arrived, wrong. The locky closed the gates, cracked the bottom paddles and then wandered off somewhere, so it took ages for us to get down by which time the other boat had arrived and was waiting. When we finally left the lock we carried on to the National Trust land at Runnymede where we moored for the night at 4-30 pm. Mooring here is a fiver a night if anyone comes to collect it, I expect they will.

We set of at quarter past nine heading back up stream towards Oxford. All morning all we saw on the move were two narrowboats, two Dutch barges, two cruisers and a rowing boat, this included our journey through Windsor. At our first lock Old Windsor, we shared with two geese, the strange thing being that they joined us on our way up, flying in over the bottom gates and landing in the filling lock. At the next it was a family of ducks, mother with ducklings, they swam around quiet happily in the swirling water until the lock was within 6" of filling when they moved close to the top gate waiting for it to open so they were first out of the lock, I wonder how many other times they have done that. At Bray Lock the EA are putting in new landing stages both above and below the lock. The ones below are completely unusable at the moment and they have lashed 3 flats together on the other side below the lock fore boaters to moor against while waiting for the lock. Luckily the locky saw us coming and set the lock so I was able to go straight in and not try to come along side their temporary structure. As we approached Boulter's Lock it was just on one o'clock and there were two boats coming down, Diana went up to the lock and came back with the news that it was lunch time, the lock keeper would let these two out and then we were on our own, exactly the same as coming down yesterday. We locked our selves through, but of a slow process as the paddle travel is greatly restricted for user operation. On our way past Cliveden the EA were clearing fallen trees from the river. At Cookham lock moorings there was a small cruiser waiting and as he was well back we went in front of him, they had stopped for lunch as the locky was also having lunch, but if we were working ourselves through they would join us. Unfortunately we could not get the lock to work, the lights came on OK but the paddles failed to move so we had to wait until 2 pm when the locky came back on duty. From here we shared locks as far a Marlow where Diana jumped ship and went into town to buy toothpaste while I continued on to the sports ground and waited for her to catch up. We caught up with the cruiser again just above Hurley Lock where they were filling with water. They had come from Milton Keynes via Lime House and were heading for Thrupp where they would leave the boat for a few days before continuing on the way home. We were the last boats to be worked through Hambleden Lock, The locky hung the DIY sign up as we left at 1720. The cruiser stopped for the night on the way into Henley and we carried on alone, all the moorings below Henley are £6 per night but the council moorings above the town are £8. We were surprised when we arrived at Marsh Lock to find the locky still working, Diana had even gone up to set the lock, we think this must have been because there was a trip boat on the way down. We moored for the night at six thirty on the EA 24 hour free moorings at Lashford. These are very good moorings with wooden mooring stakes. The first bit where we are is a 120 foot straight section with 3 stakes on it, so its very good for narrowboats with a good depth of water.

Last night proved to be a very good mooring and this morning was a slightly later start than intended. This was due to the weather being dull and we didn't wake as early as normal. This was after the early awakening I had with the ducks trying to clean the waterline of the hull. There was also another strange noise which I couldn't identify, it sounded a bit like a short bark, I think it was a bird but it may have been a mammal, but what I don't know. We set off at 10 am just after a geriatric rowing team had been by with their cox using some very colourful language when asking them if there was any chance of them pulling together. There were a few more boats about today and we ended up sharing several locks. We called in at Reading Tesco to use the £4 off voucher that we picked up there last week. We caused bit of a hold up at the checkout when our Tesco Card disappeared down the end of the conveyor belt. The lady on the checkout was determined to retrieve it using everything from School tokens to a plastic plant label from a pot plant. She eventually succeeded by yanking bits off and springing the stainless steel top cover by wedging her fingers in it. We cleared Kings Lock just before the locky went for lunch and continued up through the town. Don was just going to Natterjack II so we pulled in and had a few word with him before passing Poplar Island where the sunken narrowboat is still lying. Just above Whitchurch Lock we passed a familiar boat "One Moore" moored on the long term moorings. We pulled in to moor just below Goring Lock but found that our gunwale would slide under the timber work so we dropped about a quarter of a mile downstream and moored in the trees against a fishing platform.

We we were up at a reasonable time and when I took the dog out the bottom gates of Goring lock were open. By the time we arrived with the boat a few minutes after 9 AM the Locky had arrived and closed the gates. While we waited a very nice steam launch turned up just as the gates opened. Knowing the problems that these steam boat drivers have stopping and starting, I waved him passed straight into the lock. As we left the lock the locky informed us that we would have to work the next ourselves. We left first as the steam launch was waiting to pick up another passenger/crew member. We arrived at Cleeve Lock to find the gates wide open so we went straight in. I pressed the button and the gates closed, walked to the top end and pressed the button to open the top sluices, nothing happened, I went back to the bottom end and checked every thing, it looked OK so I tried opening the gates again, nothing happened. Tried all the buttons and nothing happened. By now the steam launch had arrived and a narrowboat had arrived at the top. They all came and pressed a few buttons and nothing happened, so I rang the emergency 0800 number to be greeted by an automated system, press 1 for flood, press 2 for bonfires, rats, insects and a load more stuff, press 3 for Navigation. I was now in a queue, eventually an operator answered , took my details and told me someone would get back to me. After a bit a gent rang back to tell me that the locky from Goring would ring me and talk me through how to operate the lock. The locky rang and we went through what lights were on and what I had done, the end result was that he had to come out and sort it. We sat trapped in the lock for an hour, Three boats were waiting to come down and the steam launch which was 100 years old and a rowing umpire's launch called "Consuta" which was capable of 27 mph. Eventually the lock was sorted and we were away. By the time we reached Benson Lock "Consuta" had overtaken us and were out of sight. We arrived at Clifton Lock while the locky was having lunch, There was a cruiser waiting who had pulled away from the yard at Benson and overtaken us sometime earlier. He had lifted one sluice and waited for the lock to fill and he was just starting to open the gates, this lock is not powered up when the locky is not there so its a case of cranking the hydraulics. We both went in and I filled the lock and opened the top gates, There were 2 boats waiting to come down but they didn't offer to help. We both carried on to Culham Lock, just as we arrived the Locky left to do his weir, so we had to hand crank this one as well. At Abingdon Lock we stopped and had a good pump out, much better than the last one we had done by a boatyard and it only cost £6 we also filled with water before pushing on to Iffley Lock where we intended to moor for the night. About halfway to Sandford Lock we met a pair of 8 on a bend on the wrong side of the river with other rowers bobbing about in the other half of the river, the result was that the rowers on the outside bashed the rowers in the middle of the river with their oars and they both almost hit the boats just bobbing about. . When we arrived at The Isis Pub at Iffley Lock we found their kitchens are closed for refurbishment , so we are now moored just below Folly Bridge on the towpath with rowers flying passed and getting hit with the occasional oar.

We had bit of a rude awakening this mooring, about 3 30 we were both woken up by a loud female scream, I got up and looked out but all I could see was 2 girls on the towing path laughing and giggling, After this I didn't get to sleep properly and until gone 5 I heard people talking as they passed by. I can only assume it was a route home from a night club or something similar. About 8 am the rowers started in ernest and they passed very close to the boat, it is surprising the effect a stroke from their oars has on an 18 ton steel narrowboat, let alone when they actually hit the boat with their oars. After saying good bye to the crew of "Pilgrim" who were moored just up from us we set off at about quarter to ten, working out way across the river between all the rowers and then waiting behind an eight while they turned round in the river. A quick word with the locky at Osney Lock reviled he came from Lowestoft. The most expensive diesel we have seen this trip was 70 p/lt and it was not on the Thames but at Oxford College Cruisers, they also charge £15 for a pump out. We met up with Guy at Pigeons Lock and stopped for a short chat while the queue for the lock cleared. At lower Heyford there were several very nice old wooden rowing skiffs moored up, also some very smart wooden canoes. They were all on their way to Oxford for the "Go with the flow" event on the Thames on Monday, They should make quite a sight all rowing and paddling down the cut, there must have been about 10 of them in all. We moored for the night just below Allen's Lock at 1900 hr. and walked up to the Barley Mow to eat, We had not been there before but the main courses are home made and very reasonably priced, they also had London Pride and another beer on the pumps

We had a good nights sleep and didn't set off until quarter past ten, several boats had gone by and we went between two day boats from Oxford Cruisers at Upper Heyford. The canal was quite busy and we followed the day boat all the way to Nell's Bridge lock where they winded at 1 o'clock to head back to the yard. We saw a lot of Kingsground boats about, about half of them out of Enslow but the others from further afield. Banbury was quite busy with only a few moorings left in the town. The dredging of the long term moorings is complete and the boats have started moving back to their old moorings. We shouted hello to Simon on "Nene Pilot" as we passed. At Hardwick Lock we met "NB. Otter" they were leaving the lock as we arrived, they said that "NB. Gillaroo" was following so we were going to leave the top gates open for them but there was a boat right behind us. It was just as well we didn't leave the gates as we actually met them about to enter Bourton Lock. The boat following caught us up, they were moving it for a friend who had just bought it to its new mooring at Ventner Farm. It seamed they were unaware of the problems at the new marina and were expecting to straight onto their berth tomorrow. We decided to stop at Cropredy for the night but it was absolutely solid, just like when the music festival is on, the first place we could find to moor was above the lock and then through the old removed lift bridge by a good hundred yards.

We had a good rain during the night and it was sill raining on and off this morning, by 1030 it was down to a fine drizzle so we set off. We didn't see much about until we got to Clattercote Wharf when things started to appear and we met boats all the way up the Claydon flight. We stopped for water at Fenny Wharf and then continued on to Wormleighton foot bridge where we have stopped for the night. I don't know of another bridge like this anywhere on the system, it's a wooden foot bridge and the span is just one piece of timber with a pair of handrails.

We set off in good time and as Diana walked the dog I took it very slowly round the Wormleighton bends in case anyone was powering towards me, I took it so slowly that I lost steerage, got in the mud and slid straight across the bend blocking the channel completely, it was a good job no was coming the other way. The weather was very changeable, rain, cold, sun and a stiff breeze which made its self felt at Marston Doles top lock. When we arrived 1 boat had just come up and was pulling over to take water, 1 was just going in and the boat we were following was waiting on the bollards with the boat still in gear, I tried to put my bows in between the waiting boat and the one taking water but their prop wash just blew my bows out, then the wind caught us, I threw my centre rope to the chap taking water and he tried to pull me along side, as soon as I could I hoped onto his boat and it was all we could both due to pull Harnser broadside to the wind and tie her alongside. It then took the two of us to pull his boat alongside the towing path so the bout coming up in the lock could get by. Once things were sorted we were soon on our way again and by 1230 were safely moored up on our home moorings.




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