Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Abingdon #2

Our second day in "The Vale of the White Horse".

14th Century RoadbridgeThe sun came out strong, the annoying wind dropped, and Abingdon was bathed in 'picture postcard loveliness'. It looked the way it appears in tourist brochures. There were boats of every size, shape and description cruising up and down the river. And everybody had a smile on their face.

Sunny Day at AbingdonIn the afternoon, we strolled upstream a bit, to scope out the next lock we'll have to go through, and bumped into Roy, from hotel barge 'Baglady'. He was busy attempting a spot of impromptu DIY, but stopped when he saw us, and kindly made us a cup of tea. We all enjoyed a nice sit down, and chatted with him and Sue for a couple of hours in the early evening sunshine.

Lots of BoatsOne handy tip he gave us for our journey up to Lechlade, was to get a long pole, and put a flag on it. This is so that fast moving cruisers can see us coming around bends, and they will have plenty of time to react, slow down, or take evasive action. We have a Devon flag we've been meaning to find a use for. And Chas got us a 12ft extendable paint pole for our satellite dish. Sorted.

Post Dinner Snooze

Monday, 30 May 2011


We were the first boat through Culham Lock this morning. At 7' 11", it was very deep, but thankfully the lock keeper was on hand to offer us the end of his boathook, on which we hung our mooring lines, so he could run them round a bollard and hand them back to us. It was a fast filler, with a lot of water pouring in through the sluices, but as we were far back in the chamber, we didn't get banged around. Our thames guidebook told us there was a waterpoint just past the lock. Unfortunately, it's out of date, and the waterpoint is no longer there.

A short, but pleasant little cruise in the early morning rain followed, before we arrived at Abingdon. Sue & Alan (Mv 'Latitude') were there, and helped us to tie up. There are good walks and new sniffs for Sumo here, and later, we'll be enjoying a nice fire, a chicken casserole and some boatbaked coconut oat biscuits. It's still pizzling it down with rain, but this is a very nice place to spend a bank holiday.

Respect for Abingdon's kind and generous attitude towards boaters. Much appreciated by all on the 'dogma'.

Sunday, 29 May 2011


Overgrown, Neglected, & nowhere to stopWe saw lots and lots of this today. 11.75 miles of it! With a strong wind in our face all the way, and no place to stop that didn't already have a boat on it. Bank holiday weekend not a good time to be going upstream.

We travelled through three locks today, Benson Lock, Days Lock and Clifton Lock. None of which were particularly thrilling with an overcast grey sky and a blustery wind blowing us about. But we got through them all OK, without bumping into anyone or damaging anything.

Forest TrailEventually rewarded with some evening sunshine, and a nice spot to stop just before Sutton bridge and Culham Lock. Good sniffs for Sumo, who hadn't had a chance to get off the boat all day.

Moored by Sutton BridgeTucked up for the night. Knackered.

Saturday, 28 May 2011


I heard a kiddie shouting "Wahhh!!! I WANT TO GO HOME!!!!" from the other side of the river. So I had a nosey...

The wind was blowing them upstream, but the current was taking the paddle away downstream. Eventually they did manage to recover it, and started paddling themselves back to the safety of their camping site. Only to be pecked at by a family of indignant swans who were protecting their cygnets. I know I shouldn't have laughed. But must confess, I did.

(ps. they made it back safely).

Grey & Windy

We enjoyed a nice afternoon stroll around Wallingford castle grounds and meadows yesterday. It's a shame that so little of it remains, but it's still a good space to let the imagination run wild in. Nobody came to bang on the roof for payment this morning, so I think we'll be staying another night here. Shame the weather isn't more clement, but if that was the case, I expect we'd have more boats to contend with. Last night we were the only people on the visitor's moorings.

Half a dozen big plastic cruisers have just raced upstream, and the Salter's Steamer tripboat has gone out, but apart from that, it's extraordinarily quiet here, for a bank holiday weekend.

Friday, 27 May 2011


Wallingford MooringWe're moored up at Wallingford, by the bridge. Goring Lock was no problem, and we've seen deeper baths than Cleeve Lock, where we reversed out onto the waterpoint, to top up our freshwater tank.

Cleeve WaterpointThen, it was a long old stretch up to Wallingford, with nowhere for us to stop enroute. Which was a bit pants. I appreciate that many places are deliberately left "wild", because of nesting birds at this time of year, but large parts of this reach looked neglected and overgrown for several years. What appeared to be promising spots when viewed from the middle of the river, were impossibly shallow when we nudged ourselves up to them.

Not exactly the most welcoming or beautiful of the reaches we've been on, so far. But it was nice and quiet, with very few boats out on it. I suppose a grey overcast day didn't add much to it's atmosphere & ambiance, either. But at least we didn't get rained on.

When I tested the fuel tank with our broomstick dipper this morning, I could see that we still have over 3/4 in there. The last time we topped up with diesel was when we left Bourne End. So the journey from there, has used approximately 20-30 litres.

Wallingford CastleBeetle SexWallingford Wiki

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Boring Goring

Free mooring at GoringGood job we enjoyed all the sunshine yesterday, because it heaved it down with rain this morning. We set off from Beale park when there was a "sunny spell", and only got soaked once, before the big black clouds moved on towards Reading. Sheena kindly allowed me to do all the steering when it was hammering down with rain. It was a pleasant enough cruise up here, with wide open river views, big forested hills, and Brunel bridges. The few boats we encountered all seemed to be going the other way.

An Isambard Kingdom Brunel railway bridge ~ still sturdy and in serviceTowards Reading and Beale park

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Beale Park

"bang bang bang" on the roof at 7.30am. Thankfully, I was awake and dressed. When I went outside there was a smiling estate worker, not an outraged mooring owner. He clearly thought it was funny, when he politely informed us that we were on a private mooring. Explained our situation, offered apologies, and told him we wouldn't be seen again. Everything fine. Turned ourselves around, closer to the weir edge than I would have liked, but we didn't wedge ourselves up against the pylons, and we were on our way within 20 minutes from first getting 'the knock'. Thankyou Mapledurham.

Enjoyed a lovely and sunny early morning cruise upriver, without a puff of wind, or a ripple on the water. Passed lots of shiny narrowboats at Pangbourne meadow, with their 'several thousand pounds' paint jobs. Respect to the owners, but I'm glad that dogma can just be touched up with a paintbrush. Steering such boats in and out of locks must be a nightmare. Speaking of which, we found Whitchurch lock easy to negotiate. It was the smallest rise we've been through yet, so lassoing the bollards was a doddle.

When we got to Beale Park, we tied ourselves up behind Sue & Vic (Nb 'No Problem') and had a quick chat, before they departed off upstream to 'Idontknow'. I think that's where Sue said they heading for, anyway. Sumo got his first chance in a while to leap off the boat and run around like an idiot. Lucy enjoyed winding him up, and thankfully he behaved himself, by not jumping straight into the river.

Peter (Wb 'Big Baloo') gave us a call to let us know his bowthrusters were fixed. It was a simple job in the end. A spade connector had come adrift, and gone un-noticed. Good news, and a large repair bill he's managed to avoid.

Enjoying the sunshine.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


The cruise from Reading up to Mapledurham was very nice. Arrived at the lock after hours, did it ourselves, and had no major problems with it. Unfortunately, the public moorings across the river are so shallow, you'd have trouble tieing a canoe up on them. They're in desperate need of a dredging, and the closest we could get to shore, was about 8 feet. Longer than our plank would reach. So we had to sneak in on somebody's private mooring for an overnighter. The owner of the 'African Queen' hotel boat didn't seem terribly happy about that. But needs must when the flip flops.

Pangbourne Meadow, the next free place to stop is "just around the next bend" according to the map. But, not knowing the river, we weren't sure if we could make it before nightfall. We're hoping to set off at "stupid 'o' clock" before the owner of the mooring turns up, and starts jumping up and down apoplectically. Shame, as we would have liked a wander around the village (used for the film "The Eagle has Landed").

Sheena at the controlsdogma in Mapledurham lockLock signMapledurham Lock wiki
African Queen hotel boat

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Black Swans

"Black swans indicate deep mysteries within us that are longing to be set free to express themselves creatively."

Best of all, Reading has some rare Black Swans. Which, I think, next to Buzzards, are my favourite birds. Their comical trumpeting reminds me of a rusty garden gate hinge, which always makes me smile. And I haven't seen them attack anything yet, unlike their more aggressive white 'mute' cousins, which are always rampaging up and down the river.

Black Swan Wiki
Black Swan symbolism

* image pinched from Google Images.


The universe smiled at me this morning. I stepped off the boat, and found a £5 note. Would have been nicer, if it was a £20 of course. But I mustn't grumble at any gift from the river gods.

Gift from the GodsMy opinion of Reading has changed quite a bit. The times I've visited it before, it's been viewed from a train window at speed, or behind the windscreen of a car. When thoughts of Reading popped into my head, it's invariably been associated with "concrete", "business parks", and "wall to wall traffic". But, down by the river, walking along the towpath, it's lovely. It has wide open green spaces, and more Swans than we can count on our digits. They're not all huddled together and hanging out for crumbs from tourists either, unlike the ones we saw at Windsor.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Cool Runnings

K&A Canal Entrance, ReadingSpent the last few days flushing oil & crud out of the cooling system. Topped up with anti-freeze today, and negoiated ourselves around the marina, with Peter (from 'Big Baloo') onboard to assist us with his voice of experience. Thankfully, the wind was in our favour, and we didn't ram anything. It felt good that we managed to achieve it without bow thrusters. Pumped out our black tank, said our goodbyes, and are currently moored up on the other side of the river, just before the K&A canal entrance.

Quite a few people have said that it's very picturesque and well worth a visit. We watched Julia Bradbury's canal walk program about it, the other day. It does look nice, but we're not going to be swayed from our destination of Lechlade. We've paid for a thames license and want to squeeze the most we possibly can out of it. It will be nice to see Sue & Vic (Nb 'No Problem') again too. Almost a year since we met them at Cookham.

Bit noisy, here by the trains. But, a free 24 hour mooring on the thames, is a thing of great beauty and joy. Sumo had to walk 1/4 of a mile down some floating pontoons to get any sniffs in the marina. Where we are now, we just have to lift him off of the boat. The people in the marina (liveaboards and staff, were all very friendly, but it's good for the soul to be back out in the wild, and independent again.

Afternoon Nap

Sunday, 15 May 2011


Knackered Pumpah. Spoke too soon. The engine was indeed, sounding sweet. But after a couple of hours, the lift pump was piddling diesel into the sump tray, and also needed replacing. Bukh wanted £107 for a replacement unit, but Chas (nb 'Long White Cloud') found us one in Birmingham for £20, including postage. Thanks Chas!

We shoved off from Sonning yesterday, and went down to Shiplake lock, to look for containers big enough to hold the 5-6 gallons of oily muck (contaminated cooling water) that we need to dispose of. No Joy. So we limped back upstream with our deckboards up, and a boiling hot engine. Luckily, we got ourselves a temporary visitors mooring at the Thames & Kennet marina in Reading. Where we're 5 berths away from Peter and Wb 'Big Baloo'.

Sheena says it reminds her of a tesco's car park. Getting into our berth took some nifty manoeuvering around some tight right angle bends. But, thankfully, we didn't ram anything, and the nice couple from Wb 'Laura Belle' (our neighbours) helped us to tie up. First impressions of the place, was that it was "massive", and "soulless". But, all the boat owners I've met so far, have been very friendly and helpful.

At least we made it past Henley, which is where people normally break down.

Like a Tesco carparkSonning Lock
Thames & Kennet Marina

Saturday, 7 May 2011


Our engine is back together again.
With no 'spare' nuts or washers.
And it's sounding sweet.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Head Gasket

Our head gasket has blown. It's been on it's way out for a while, because we've noticed that the engine was getting progressively harder to start. On the case, and carrying out riverside repairs. It only took us an hour to get the head off.

Bit of a PITA.
But not the end of the world.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Bank Holiday

No joy sourcing a fan belt from 'Toad Hall' garden centre. The assistant was very helpful, but didn't have a lawnmower belt the length we need. So, we'll have to wait until the Reading shops open again tomorrow. But, Sonning is such a beautiful place to be 'stuck', it's not a problem. In fact, we both consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have met such friendly and helpful people.

Strange weather today. It's fiercely sunny again, which is a pleasure. But, there's a gale force wind whipping up the river, causing foot high waves. Looks like the English channel out there.

Had a comedy moment yesterday, when I took the shower taps off, only to realise that the pump was on, and the water was still under full pressure. I got drenched. Felt like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke. Or a submariner, from a WWII film. I've never seen Sheena move herself down the boat so fast. Good way to test the Whale Gulper shower pump was working, anyway.