Time passes, The river flows. We move on.
Over the past three weeks, we have covered familiar territory, although, at times, not recognizable after the passage of over two years. We were very green back then and having our first major crisis with the boat – we killed the gearbox!!!! This time, there were no mechanical problems in the stretch between Reading and Oxford.However there is a severe shortage of services – we did some very long (for us) days seeking water taps and pump out facilities. This has become our biggest grump on the Thames. The scenery is beautiful, lock keepers helpful, towns and villages welcoming. And although the moorings are sometimes in short supply or expensive, it is the scarcity of boaters facilities (water, pumpout/Elsan disposal, rubbish) that hinders enjoyment most.
Anyway, we have made it to Oxford in plenty of time for some of our crew to attend their hospital appointments and to celebrate Bron’s birthday at The Trout Inn. It comes highly recommended and the almost 3 mile walk each way from our moorings was no drawback as the food, drinks, environment and service were fantastic.
We started back in Reading, leaving our moorings and returning to the Thames reasonably early on 5th August after posting off my visa extension application. After getting additional provisions at the handy Tesco, and topping up water etc we headed to Mapledurham. It’s really not that far out of Reading but we found reasonable moorings (breasted up again) by a field that was inhabited by a gazillion Canada geese. Gina enjoyed it a little more than the geese!
We stayed a day longer than expected due to very high winds – pushing us onto the bank so that even by Monday morning when we left Jim and Chris had trouble getting off.
Luckily it was only a very short stretch to Pangbourne and we had timed it beautifully to secure moorings just as other boats were leaving. This gave us a good chance to explore Pangbourne and neighbouring Whitchurch-on-Thames and top up with supplies. I even managed to get a much-needed haircut!!! And we had the pleasure of Jim and Chris’s daughter Kim, and her husband Lawrence, joining us for an afternoon. They were on their way to the airport for a holiday and left their lovely black labrador, Bella, with us as company for Gina.
We passed some lovely moorings along the way, briefly stopping for a look in Goring, before we rested for a night above Cleeve Lock. On Friday we were in search yet again of good moorings but we ended up travelling quite a distance to find a great little spot above Day’s Lock. Just a short walk through the fields to the village of Dorchester, once a Roman Town. Fantastic allotments provide an excess of produce for us to buy. Stunning little pubs with gardens to sit, drink and relax in. A very interesting old church with cake and coffee for afternoon tea. And a great run for Gina and Bella. Bella also got to collect lots of sticks so we could have a little fire one night!! What a clever little asset she is!!
And then on Monday 15th we arrived in one of our favourite towns in England, Abingdon. A town which welcomes narrowboaters (all boaters really), has plenty of services, all the shops you need, great pubs and a lovely farmers market on Fridays. Jim and Bob even managed haircuts at “old dribblers” rates! And we got brilliant weather for sitting out on the very wide towpath sharing food and drinks with loads of space for the dogs to run in. Bunion and Bungi even got off the boat for a while although I doubt anyone saw them!
So, after visiting the market in the rain, filling with diesel in the rain, getting through the lock and using the services above it as the rain ended, we made our way to a spot just above Iffley Lock in time for the sun to come out and bless us – briefly. We had moored here a few times two years ago and found it to be quiet albeit with lots of foot traffic along the towpath and quite a few rowers.
We had decided to take off at a reasonable time on Saturday morning to secure moorings in Oxford above Osney Lock. We were anticipating having to deal with a few rowing boats but at no time were we warned of a regatta being in full swing! It may have been useful for the marshalls to alert boats travelling upstream of the event prior to us turning a corner and being gunwales deep in boats at the finish line. And trying to understand the commands of moving our boat from the starboard side of the river (as is the norm) to the port side in a narrow channel they had marked out stopping right on their finish line. After being blown across to the right we eventually took advantage of the end of a race and favourable cessation of the breeze to navigate into their marked channel to complete the rest of their race track without incident.
It was therefore a pleasure to find plentiful moorings at our preferred spot in plenty of time to wander into Oxford for a bit of a look around. Sunday was the aforementioned hike to the Trout Inn for my birthday lunch (after I had enjoyed the many well wishes from both Australia and other parts of the world – thank you). A quick stop off at The Perch for refreshments to ensure we did not dehydrate on the final leg home and we made it back to our boats before the rain set in again.
With Bob off to London for his eye appointment Monday, we moved the boats with just the three crew and moored on the Oxford canal. With Jim off to Exeter on Tuesday, Bob and I enjoyed a wander around Oxford in the bright warm sunshine and planned our next couple of weeks. We also got my biometrics logged at the Post Office – visa success is one step closer! Bob has to have minor eye surgery on 9 September so has returned to the hospital today for a pre-op assessment. We are off to Julie and Phil’s this weekend to celebrate his 80th (happy birthday Phil) and they will return with us for a few days next week. September is shaping up to be very busy with lots of visitors, friends and family. And it also brings Autumn, the end of our Thames Summer and the need to make plans for our next few months.