Sunday, 31 July 2011

Beale Park

We've travelled 5.88 miles today, and done 2 locks.
(Cleeve & Goring).

Beale Park MooringsWe enjoyed a nice leisurely cruise down the river, on a sunny summer sunday afternoon; with a gentle waft of breeze in our faces all the way.

(Boring) Goring had much more life to it, than the last time we passed through, in the pizzling grey drizzle of late May. The watermeadows above the lock, were full of narrowboats, double berthed. The lock was packed with 1001 spectators enjoying their ice-creams, and waiting for boats to mess up locking ("Le Boat" hirers are especially good at this). The 24 hour moorings downstream of the lock, were completely full to bursting point. Like they were at Wallingford, when we set off at 9.30am. It's the busiest time of the year, I guess. Boats everywhere.

Managed to get ourselves a nice spot by Beale Park.
Peaceful & Quiet. Sorted.

Friday, 29 July 2011


Wide Open RiverWe've travelled a total of 14.57 miles downstream today, and come down through 4 locks. Culham, Clifton, Days, & Benson.

An English GeniusThe Wallingford town jetties were stuffed full of boats, but on the way down, we'd noticed that a few of the fishing holes were vacant. Turned around below the bridge, and found us a cosy little spot, where we are tucked up safely in the bushes, anchored to trees, and directly opposite where Mr. Jethro Tull used to live.

A nice day for cruising, because it was warm, but not baking. There was hardly any wind. And we had large chunks of the river (which was like a pond, again) all to ourselves.

Thursday, 28 July 2011


In the Middle of Summer!The pump out machine at Abingdon has been 'broken' for the last 5 days. And nobody seems to know or care when it will be working again. Some people say it's the card reader that's broken. Others maintain that the "right type of truck" can't be found to empty the storage tank. Boaters needing to pump out their poo urgently are being sent downstream to the marina (where it costs £15 instead of £8).

Jolly bad show, EA.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Have a Look!

"Have a look" ... is the expression to use, if you want to get a sculler's attention, rapidly. One nearly rammed our stern, and ended up in our propeller, as we were travelling up from Iffley lock. But, yelling this at them avoided the collision. We also spotted the sculler who'd crashed into us on our last visit to Oxford. So the experience hadn't put him off sculling. Which was good to see.

It seems like complete and utter madness, to be rowing yourself backwards, and into the path of all sorts of river traffic, without mirrors. I really don't understand it's popularity, myself. I appreciate that it has a long and historic tradition with the colleges. But they didn't have tripboats, and speeding cruisers to contend with, back in the day.


Tuesday, 26 July 2011


After a busy few days in and around Oxford, we pootled off downstream to Abingdon, where we were lucky enough to get the primo out-of-town mooring spot. Every time we've passed this mooring before, it's been taken. Sumo couldn't believe his luck, either. Twenty doggy paces to a superb little swimming beach.

Bliss..Nice to see you Martin, Richard, Shaun, Adam, and Jorma. Thanks for coming to visit us.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

More Eynsham

Downstream, through Pinkhill Lock, to Oxford cruisers; where we filled up with diesel. We were still 3/4 full, but I wanted to top up, and avoid being ripped off and extorted further on down the river. We got 68 litres. Other liveaboard boater friends of ours, have recommended that we split it at 5/95. I agree with that figure. Why should we pay more tax than we have to, when the government is already stiffing us in numerous other ways. Who decided that the 60/40 split is "fair" ? But, when it came around to the time to declare what split I actually wanted, I bottled it. Wimped out, and went for 20/80. A figure which I believe honestly reflects our fuel consumption.

My friend Ad, also pointed out that the person doing the steering, doesn't have to shout to get themselves heard. I forget that it's quiet up at the front, because I'm standing over the engine, and he has to shout to me. So, my brain assumes it's also noisy at the far end of the boat. He was quite amused that I was bellowing at him, when normal conversational volume would have been sufficient.

Carried on down through Eynsham Lock, where we went for supplies and had lunch. Sumo got to play with an 8 month old lady lab, who wore him out. Then we turned ourselves around and headed back for the meadow, so that he could run round like an idiot. Unfortunately, when we got there, it was full of cows, the biggest Hereford bull we'd ever seen, and an enormous number of cowpats. Which I inadvertently trod in, when we were mooring up.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Pinkhill Resevoir

Set off for Bablock Hythe on a bright sunny July morning. On the way up there, we noticed a lamb had fallen down the bank, and was paddling about in the river. Exhausted, and in obvious distress. I pulled the boat over, and Ad stripped down to his skidders, and clambered in to rescue it. After getting himself stabbed by Blackthorn, and avoiding getting his toes nipped by crayfish, he managed to lift it out, up onto the bank. Where it bleated, ran off, and immediately began stuffing itself with grass.

When we arrived at 'The Ferry' pub, there were no boats there at all. Completely deserted. A very strange sight.

On the way back downstream, we saw a lady farmer on a quad bike, riding along the towpath. "Have we seen a lab?", we thought she said. "What colour?", we replied. Then we figured out she'd said "lamb". It's hard to hear stuff shouted from the bank over the engine noise. "Yes, we rescued it about an hour ago", we replied. She was really grateful. Which was a nice instant karmic payback for Ad, who later had to remove several blackthorn splinters, with the aid of a stanley blade.

Had the river to ourselves on the way back, and when we got to Pinkhill Resevoir, we discovered that was unusually quiet too. So we got the pick of some nice mooring spots, as well.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Eynsham Meadows

Moody day on the ThamesCruised up from Oxford to Eynsham Meadows. Through an overcast day, with rain that was refreshing, rather than a miserable downpour. The result of which, was that we had all of the river virtualy to ourselves for the whole journey. All of the Lock keepers we encountered were, friendly, helpful, and chatty as usual. The keeper at Eynsham noticed our Devon pennant, and said that he used to live in Torquay. And, as if that wasn't close enough, he'd also worked in the seafood stall on Paignton seafront. What a small world.

Chuckie RingSumo revelled in the opportunity to run around like an idiot in the newly mown fields. Last time we were up here, the grass was up to our waists, and well over his head.

Amongst the TeaselMoored up (skillfully) in front of Narrowboat "Ratty", and tucked up for the evening. We all enjoyed the beautiful sunset, which hinted optimistically at a nicer day for tomorrow. When the moon came out, so did the river mist. A very peaceful and tranquil night spent under the stars, with no light pollution at all. Felt very lucky to be "out in the wild", with no discernable traffic noise.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

To Oxford

Sheena is in Devon for a week, and my schoolfriend Adam has come down for a jolly. Cruised up from Abingdon to Oxford and only saw a couple of boats moving. We arrived late, at around 4pm, and found the Folly bridge moorings all taken. Pootled around the back of Oxford, to the East street moorings, and found ourselves a space in front of Dave (Nb 'Chavori').

Dave & AdamLater on in the evening, Adam and Dave enjoyed a "Busk-Off", seeing who could pick the most complicated song. And Dave had us in stitches with his innovative cover version of "Runaround Sue", played in the style of the Wurzels.

Dave gave me 2Kg of Liquorice allsorts. I was pleased to be able to reciprocate, and gave him the last of our Vactan, so that he can de-rust his water tank. And a bloke who I've never seen before, wandered along the towpath with a bag of frozen meaty bones, and a claw hammer. All of the dogs on boats got one. (the clawhammer was for chipping individual bones off the big block).

Do you like Sweets?Cheers Dave! My favourite confectionery.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Not Moving

Early Morning AbingdonWe're staying put in Abingdon for a few more days. Enjoying the summer sunshine, and entertaining some friends from Devon. The hay has just been cut. Everybody is out in their shorts and T-shirts. It's very peaceful here.

"Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world." ~ Ada Louise Huxtable

Monday, 11 July 2011


Had to pull the pins, and set off in a hurry this morning, as the two 'Salters Steamers' tripboats (Goring and Wargrave) were blocking the river, & traffic was backed up downstream. Not our fault, as we were on a proper mooring spot. But, we would have been the ones to get it in the neck from irate boaters unable to proceed.

Cruised 200 yards up the river, and got ourselves a really nice place, which had only just been vacated. Even on this short journey, another narrowboater tried to cut us up, and sneak themselves in before us. "You wouldn't even do that in Tescos", said Sheena.

The sun is baking hot. So, I guess everybody's tempers are a bit frayed.

Sunday, 10 July 2011


At Sandford Lock, a group of (drunken) Sloanes on a dayboat said "narrowboats should be on the canals, not the thames".

When we arrived at Abingdon, it resembled Gibraltar harbour. Stuffed, wall to wall with ostentatious wealth boats. Huge blocks of white plastic Med cruiser, with brand new gleaming shiny shiny white fenders that have obviously never been out of their fender socks for more than 24 hours.

Luckily, we did manage to find a mooring. Very close to the bridge. But it was somewhere to tie up for the night, and we were grateful for it.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Aunt Sally

Well, the afternoon and evening turned out much better than the morning. I wandered down to have a chat with Dave (Nb 'Chavori'), and he gave us a year's supply of Basmati rice. Somebody had told him we'd "blogged him", and he was well chuffed. Roy from Wb 'Baglady' stopped by, and accused us of "all being a bunch of vagrants". Sumo then hoovered up Dave's kitchen for him.

Later on, Graham and his bro-in-law Thomas turned up and dragged me down to the "Folly Bridge" pub (dog friendly), where we drank alcohol, discussed bands, the stresses of touring, the works of Cicero, the epic rages of Klaus Kinski, Gormenghast, and the documentaries of Werner Herzog.

And, to top off the evening's entertainment, we were legally allowed to throw large wooden sticks at a small white ball, from a distance of 30 feet away. Aunt Sally is absolutely the best pub game ever invented! Tom reckoned my aim was good enough to compete in 'the local league', but our game ended quickly & quietly, when a launched stick slipped out of my hand, bounced off of the perspex roof, and nearly took out an Audi's windscreen. So glad that we didn't go to "The Head of the River", which was absolutely heaving with tourists.

Got back, and went for an evening walk with Sumo, where the colours of the sunset were indescribable. All orange and purple. The river was like a sheet of glass, and there was nobody about at all. A completely different type of Oxford experience, to the ones of this morning.

Cheers, guys!


Did an overnight at the East Street moorings in Oxford last night. A quiet enough place, though the towpath was floodlit like Wembley stadium all night. Witnessed the 'other side' of Oxford when I took Sumo out for his evening walk. Saw a bearded baglady, carrying all her worldy possessions around in Tesco's carrier bags. And also some dodgy dealings being conducted in the park. Bet you won't see that on "Lewis".

Set off downstream this morning, and got gobbed at by a delinquent youth with baseball cap askew, as we passed underneath a footbridge. Thankfully, he missed. The other human shapes in this photo, are his family, who said & did nothing about it..

GobberTook the south channel under Folly bridge again, and just as we were turning ourselves around, a single-handed sculler rammed into us, and fell into the water. He was obviously shocked, at the sudden dunking, and his momentum being reduced from 20mph to zero instantly. He glowered at us, and refused our offers of assistance. I'd tried dangling off of the horn, but he hadn't heard it. "Why didn't you shout?", he said. I explained (politely) that I had sounded the horn, and as we were travelling downstream, we had priority. He also hadn't looked behind him for the whole stretch. He wasn't impressed, and maintained that the collision was all our fault.

Can't see where they are going!I'm sorry mate. But you really should have been looking where you were going. The river isn't a race track.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Pinkhill Resevoir

Got woken up at 9.30am by a shiny shiny narrowboat owner reversing badly, and ramming us. BONNNNNGGG! Sumo jumped on the bed for reassurance. Mrs Shiny appeared at the back hatch, berating Mr. Shiny for his bad steering. But then they just buggered off. Cruised up to Oxford Cruisers marina to see if they'd got the fanbelts they'd ordered for me. They hadn't. They are an 'unusual' size apparently. Yep, I knew that four days ago, mate. Cheers.. Will have to find them somewhere else now. Pootled on through Pinkhill Lock and bagged us a nice mooring by the resevoir and nature reserve. A pleasant peaceful spot, where we're staying for the night..

Third time lucky. Moored at Pinkhill.Turning around and heading back for Oxford tomorrow, so we can hopefully meet up with our good friend, Graham.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Ye Meadows

Another day of alternating sunshine and deluges. Go out in waterproofs, and 20 minutes later, they've turned into a sweatsuit. At lunchtime, narrowboat 'No Problem' berthed up alongside us, so we could have a chinwag and a cup of coffee (Cheers for the milk!). Sue explained how we could get Tesco's to deliver directly to our boat, and told us about a nifty boathandling manouever, which I'm looking forward to trying out. Vic kindly gave me a chimney liner and a stubby chimney, for when we lose ours at the first canal bridge we encounter. Thanks guys! Ten minutes after they'd taken off, it heaved it down with rain.

Narrowboat RallentandoSaw narrowboat 'Rallentando' (from the CWDF) cruise by. No sign of "Lady Muck", but the "Submarine Captain" was at the helm. Didn't have time to pop out and wave at them, because they looked like they were on a mission to get downstream quickly.

Pootled ourselves down to the waterpoint at Eynsham and filled up, but all the 24 hour moorings were taken, so we had to turn around and moor ourselves back upstream, then walk back into the town for supplies. Keeps us fit, anyway.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Flapjack Day

"I'm walking.. Just walking.. In the Rain." ~ Grace Jones

Not a very nice day for going anywhere. So I made some flapjacks. So good, they deserve two photos..

Chocolate Syrup Raisin Flapjacks4oz Butter
2oz Brown Sugar
4oz Oats
1oz Dessicated Coconut
1tbsp Golden Syrup
1tbsp Chocolate Syrup
A sprinkling of Raisins

1. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup until caramelised.
2. Pour over the dry ingredients
3. Mash it up!
4. Smooth into a greased baking tray
5. Gas Mark 4, for 15-20 minutes. 25, if you like them burnt.
6. Let them cool down on a wire rack, while you exercise some self-restraint.

Grumpy Bastids

Top ten reasons why narrowboaters are grumpy.

1. No Milk.
2. No TV/Internet reception.
3. Inconsiderately moored plastics.
4. Other narrowboats not waving.
5. Other narrowboats always waving.
6. Wife doing all the steering.
7. Poo tank full, and nowhere to pump out.
8. "Canya?" *
9. A favourite mooring spot that you are heading for is taken up by another boat!
10. Boat passes you, just as you were about to set off, and takes all the locks that were set ready for you by a boat coming down the flight!

* See Comments

Monday, 4 July 2011

Swinford Meadows

Another beautifully sunny summer day. We set off at lunch time, using a mooring post on the old ferry at Bablock Hythe, to turn us around without having to use the engine. Sadly, nobody saw this magnificent piece of boat handling, with which I'm sure the old working boatmen would have nodded their approval. "Aye, Lad".

Bablock Hythe Caravan ParkDown, past the caravan park, and through Pinkhill Lock.

Boats for HirePassed Oxford Cruisers boatyard.

Exotic FaunaAnd carried on down, through Eynsham Lock, where we tied up for a couple of hours, took Sumo for a walk, and chatted to a rather p1ssed-on-wine Kiwi boatowner, called Terry. He'd just been to view several £750,000 pound propeties in Eynsham village, where the 'luxury' fixtures, fittings and furnishings turned out to have been glued on, and hastily constructed. I think it was the Bordeaux talking, when he said this..

Complete Independence = Isolation
Complete Freedom = Insanity

Set off back upstream, rather later than we'd anticipated. Toot-tooted Sue & Vic (Nb 'No Problem'). And found ourselves a nice secluded mooring on Swinford Meadows. Just behind a narrowboat called 'Ratty', who's owner peeped out of his front door, just like a character from Wind in the Willows. Which made us laugh.

Sunset over EynshamTomorrow is a lazy day, we're staying put. And either, wandering down to see Sue & Vic, or walking up to Oxford Cruisers to pick up the fanbelts. Hopefully both.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Three Swims

Upstream from King's LockNot a puff of wind. Hardly any river traffic, and the sun not too scorching hot. A very nice day to be out and about. Cruised up to Eynsham, where alas, the public moorings were full of hireboating people having lunch. Went through Eynsham Lock, and on past the Swinford toll bridge, where we were able to moor ourselves up on the free part past the farmer's fields. Enjoyed a pleasant walk back into Eynsham, to pick up supplies. Sumo got two swims. Then we tickover cruised our way up the river for about a mile, and pulled into 'Oxford cruisers' hirebase, to order two spare fanbelts.

The manicured grass of Bablock HytheDecided to try our luck at Pinkhill resevoir, but unfortunately, we'd left it too late in the day, and it was full. There were plenty of moorings on the right hand bank (going upstream), but the fields were full of grazing sheep, and we didn't want to alarm or frighten them. As it was a beautiful day, and there were no boats coming in the opposite direction, we decided to carry on for a bit. Past the miles and miles of riverside caravan park, and have finally tied ourselves up for the evening on the free moorings at the excellently named 'Bablock Hythe'. Where Sumo got another swim, and I got a nice pint of extra cold Guinness.

Tucked up NicelyThe Ferryman pub MooringTomorrow, it's tempting to carry on further upstream. So totally different to our last journey on this stretch, where the wind was blowing in our faces all the way, and it was more about endurance. The river doesn't have a ripple on it, it's like a pond. A real pleasure to boat along. Everybody that we've spoken to, has said it's unusually quiet for this time of year. But, we'll probably head downstream, and try Pinkhill again. It looks nice there. Some nice wide open spaces to walk around.

My grandmother loved Poppies

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Kings Lock

Yesterday we travelled from Abingdon, all the way up to Oxford. Where we spent a night tied to a tree, because the Folley Bridge visitor moorings were all stuffed. Pleasant enough, but the ground was so dusty, we were wondering if the pins would hold. Huge chunks of it disintegrated and fell into the river. But thankfully, I didn't. Sumo got me up at 7am, shortly before the joggers and cyclists spoilt the tranquility of the towpath. It was nice to stroll around for 20 minutes, and not see anybody else at all. Otherwise, Oxford was "full on" in summer mode. Hordes of people, wandering about aimlessly. And Salter's steamers tripboats overloaded to a worrying level of capacity. Not the sort of place we'd enjoy staying for too long at this time of year. So we bought some supplies, pulled the pins, and headed off upstream at slightly faster than tickover.

OxfordSheepwash ~ Entrance to the Oxford CanalGood SniffsAt Osney Lock, we were informed there was a tree blocking Duke's cut. So we wouldn't be able to get onto the Oxford canal that way. The lock keeper advised us to go via Sheepwash, where we would be ogled. Even after the hairpin bends all the way up to Lechlade, we didn't feel like pulling off 2 90 degree turns in sucession, and then working our first canal lock with a large audience. So, the plan is to go up to Eynsham, to see if we can get a spare fan belt from 'Oxford Cruisers', and then probably spend a couple of nights at Pinkhill, if it's not too busy there. Just pottering about, and enjoying the sunshine.

Sheena steered us under Osney bridge, and was well chuffed we didn't lose the chimney. The water level was a couple of inches lower than the last time we went through it, so we made it comfortably. Saw Dave on Nb 'Chavori', and gave him a wave.

Godstow NunneryGodstow NunneryGodstow lock was a doddle, without a wind blowing us into the shallows. Managed to moor up in the bullrushes, ahead of Nb 'The Great Escape' (thankfully, nobody was home), so that Sumo could have a river dunk, and we could wander back to have a look at the ruined Nunnery. There was lots of it remaining, unlike Abingdon, and Wallingford, which have both been levelled, and had all their stone pinched by Henry VIII.

Bog PimpernelCurrently moored up at the Kings Lock campsite we first visited a month ago. It's a lovely peaceful spot.