Thursday, 29 May 2014

Tadpole Bridge

One thing I forgot to tell you about yesterday is the fantastic butchers in Lechlade.  Cutler & Bayliss are a traditional butchers, greengrocers & delicatessen who not only sell "real meat" but also sharpen knives. By "real meat" I mean cuts like shin of beef or breast of lamb, homemade sausages and steaks cut to your preference not already sliced or smothered in sauce or flavourings. It really puts me off when I walk into a "butchers" only to find that everything is pre-cut and pre-packaged. I want to be able to buy 3 sausages and 2 slices of belly pork rather than having to buy in the quantities they decide. I don't want everything on polystyrene trays and sweating in cling film either. Maybe it's because I'm old fashioned.  I took 3 knives to be sharpened and the butcher did them while we waited and only charged me 75p each.

The sun came out again shortly after I'd posted yesterday's blog and we moved from Lechlade to moor out in the countryside again.

Today there's been a lot of helicopter traffic overhead.  I think they were training flights out of Brize Norton.  This Chinook passed overhead several times carrying different cargoes.

After more heavy rain last night the river level was up a bit this morning and when we got to Grafton Lock the Lockie told us that they (EA) were managing the levels and letting water down-stream. The increase in flow was noticeable but still very manageable and certainly nothing to worry about.  He also told us that there had been an accident this morning at Radcot Lock and the police and ambulance had had to attend.  A young boy had been canoeing with his father. They'd been down the canoe race but then the boy had strayed too close to the weir stream with the result that he'd been forced over the weir and got stuck.

Unfortunately we don't know how he's doing, but he was unconscious when they took him away in the ambulance.  This is another good reason for keeping the Lockies whose real job titles should be Weir Keepers. Not only do they operate most of the locks but their main job is maintaining and regulating the weirs. Given the high flood levels this winter I'd have thought the EA would be eager to keep them in place but this seems not to be the case as many of them are either leaving voluntarily or being forced to go.  It's just another accident waiting to happen and will all blow up in EA's face. Once the Lockies leave they'll be very hard to replace and all their experience will be lost.

We're now moored at Tadpole Bridge, beside the Trout Inn.

We were the only boat here for about half an hour then another pulled in behind us and shortly afterwards another two arrived and breasted up with us.

We all had tables booked for dinner in the pub and had a really good night.  The pub is really a restaurant with beer rather than a real pub and the food was excellent, if a bit pricey. I'm not sure which way we're going tomorrow, maybe down stream to arrange an Asda delivery or maybe back upstream to Lechlade. We'll see how we feel in the morning.   It's a hard life but someone has to do it...............

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


The navigable River Thames begins at the Round House which is about half a mile further upstream than were we are moored.

You can tell how much the river rises when it floods as the black door has had to be flood-proofed.

Allegedly, you can wind a narrowboat here but we didn't fancy trying and judging by all the silt that's been washed down the river here we were right. A shorter boat would probably be OK but at 65ft we'd really struggle.

We took a different route back to the boat and passed some gorgeous houses, ending up back in the village near The Christmas Shop which was very busy.

We've been very disappointed in the Lechlade pubs. We've walked into most of them........and then straight back out again when they didn't have any real beer on sale. I'm sorry but I just don't class John Smith's Smoothflow as real beer. The Beer In The Evening website recommended The Trout Inn which is back near St. John's Lock and as it was a nice afternoon yesterday we walked there through the village and along the road.  It took us about half an hour but was definitely worth it.

It's a very old pub with low beams and the log fire was roaring away. The Landlady was very welcoming and the beer was on form, Doombar and Bombadier Burning Gold. Now that we've found this little gem we'll be back, especially as we had a much quicker (10 minute) walk back by taking the public footpath straight across the fields from opposite the pub to the village church. It's as straight as a die although a bit low in places. It looks like it's been recently re-surfaced and we met several people coming back the other way carrying shopping. It's a quick route from the caravan site behind the pub to the shops.

We'd intended moving today but it's now pouring down so unless it stops soon we'll stay another night.

Monday, 26 May 2014


So far we've only found one of the mooring places listed in Nicholson's guide - but our copy is quite old so they've probably been discontinued.  That's not a problem though, as there are plenty of meadow-side moorings available and we prefer mooring away from the madding crowds anyway.

The bird life continues to be diverse and amazing. We've seen plenty of Swallows, Lapwings, Buzzards and a couple more Barn Owls hunting but the one bird that's noticeable by it's absence is the Kingfisher. We haven't seen any since we came onto the Thames.

The other morning we were awoken by this herd of cows grazing beside the boat. They were very curious about us and only moved off when the farmer came past in his van. Needless to say I had to be very careful where I trod when I took Chico out for a walk and although it was a lovely spot to moor we moved off early as the cow pats were attracting some horrid looking flies.

I couldn't quite decide if these swans were fighting or mating. The one in front was quite nonchalant while the one at the back was getting quite excited so I reckon they were having a bit of "afternoon delight" .

I've been surprised at the sheer diversity of craft on the river. We've seen rowing boats, many canoes and several of these punt type boats.

I have no idea how they manage to keep their balance but they were having a great time. Later on some teenagers come past punting on surf boards in the pouring rain!

Now this is more the type of craft I'd expect to see on the river. This Dutch Barge is just my type of boat. Maybe one day if we ever win the lottery this would be on my shopping list.

We're now moored at Lechlade and are planning on staying here for a few days. These are the first paid for moorings we've come across and the farmer was round at 8.45 this morning for his £4. I can't blame him for wanting to make some extra money from his land, but there aren't even any rubbish facilities or dog waste bins.

We had a quick walk into the village yesterday afternoon to see what's there but as it was Sunday most of the shops were closed. Some of the roads were closed too with diversions in place. This is because there's been a big music festival on over the weekend. We followed the "beer diversion" to the Riverside pub but didn't stop for a drink as they didn't have any real hand pumped beer, just Fosters and other gassy rubbish. There are plenty of other pubs in the village though, so we'll try again later today.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Thunder and Rain

The sunset last night was quite spectacular

but despite the "red sky at night, shepherd's delight" we've had heavy rain both overnight and for most of today and so we decided to stay here on the meadow and carry on again tomorrow. There was no way I was going cruising during a thunder storm and we've had lots of that this afternoon.

Once the rain stopped at 4.30 we took Chico out for a walk back to the lock, to both dump the rubbish and check-out the works that are being carried out on the weir.

Because of the Spring floods, the works are well behind schedule. I wanted to take some photos of the works being done as, despite the rain, there are lots of men and machines working today, but unfortunately the public footpath has been diverted and I couldn't get anywhere near. The footpath normally goes over the weir, but while the works are being carried out a temporary bridge has been built over the river.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Farmoor to Rushey

It's been another fantastic day! Not only have we had full sun all day, but the scenery and wildlife have been pretty spectacular too.

This morning started off with me standing at the open side hatch drinking my coffee and listening to a cuckoo calling. It's a magical sound that somehow doesn't seem quite real, almost like someone was messing about pretending to be a cuckoo clock.

Not long after we set off we saw a barn owl hunting over the meadow. I've seen one before but that was early evening whereas this was 10.00 am. It must have a nest full of chicks to be hunting so early in the day. We were travelling very slowly and the river meandered around the meadow so all in all we must have watched it for a good 10 minutes.......spectacular. I just wished I'd managed to get a photograph of it.

We've seen plenty of our native Greylag Geese so far on the Thames and very few of those awful Canada Geese.

In amongst this flock was one white goose. There were also quite a few hybrid white/Greylag babies so someone's been a naughty boy........

These are the first cygnets I've seen so far this year. The parents were taking very good care of them as we went past.

We've been seeing plenty of military aircraft over the past couple of days presumably flying into and out of RAF Brize Norton. This transport plane came down quite low on it's approach.

I've been surprised how isolated this stretch of the Thames is. There are very few houses and most are small timber holiday cottages, but not these two which were next door to each other.

This one had an annex that looked like a pool/gym. It looked like a small hotel but is no doubt some rich person's des res.

We stopped for lunch outside the Rose Revived Inn at Newbridge with the intention of just having a beer followed by food on the boat. We've had so many awful pub lunches recently that I'd made the decision to not eat in a pub again for a long time but the Old Speckled Hen was in excellent condition and the food looked good too so I gave in. It was a good decision as my Stilton, Apple and Grape salad was perfect. We'll definitely be visiting again on the way back.

You can see from the tide mark on the tree just how high the river came in the recent floods.

Unfortunately the pub mooring wasn't particularly good and we had a difficult job getting Chico on and off the boat, so after lunch we carried on our journey.

There's a lot of tree felling being done at the moment. The smaller branches are being burnt

but the larger ones have been stacked up for seasoning for next year's fuel.

After me telling you yesterday that Roger was having a holiday from working the locks because they are all manned here on the Thames, we got to Shifford Lock only to find it on self-service.

This looks like he's day-dreaming about being at the ship's wheel of his super yacht.

Rushey Lock was also on self-service but they're not difficult to do, although you do have to remember to leave them empty after you've gone up.  We're now moored just around the bend from the lock on a small meadow with two "yoghurt pots" for company. Nice people who came rushing out as soon as we started trying to moor up, not to shoo us away but to take the rope and help us in. 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Onto The Thames

We spent a couple of nights at Shipton on Churwell, taking advantage of the fantastic weather while it lasts.

There are some beautiful houses tucked away up the back streets.  This was the back of a very large property, complete with it's own private lake.

The wisteria and honeysuckle smelt lovely

Everywhere we walked there were trees in blossom and wild flowers; buttercups, clover, cow parsley and wild angelica being the most common.

After walking through the village we decided to walk back up the river towards the oddly shaped Shipton Weir Lock.

Despite it being such a gloriously sunny day, there wasn't a soul about and we had the river bank to ourselves. It really is pretty round here.

On Monday we decided we'd spent enough time at Shipton so, after chatting to Maafi while filling up with water at an exceptionally slow tap at the service block, we continued our journey and left the Oxford Canal and went onto the River Thames at Duke's Lock.

Duke's Lock is a disgrace. It's overgrown and not a good welcome to the Thames.

As soon as you come out of the lock there is a stretch of really scruffy boats which are obviously continuous moorers judging by the amount of outdoor furniture they have lying around. There was also a strong smell of cannabis smoke wafting around.

We soon left them behind and moored up for the night beside a meadow filled with buttercups.

It was a lovely peaceful spot and I spent ages at the side hatch watching a flock of black headed gulls swooping over the surface of the water catching insects.There was also a cormorant fishing but he didn't seem to be having much luck.

We were just about to sit down for our dinner at 8pm when this woman swam past.

She floated about while we had a quick chat (very posh accent) and she told us she swims here regularly and that the water wasn't as cold as you'd expect, although when Roger stuck his hand in after she'd gone he decided it was way too cold for anyone normal.

The weather changed today and it's been quite overcast and windy, although it's still warm enough for shorts and T-shirt.  We bought our River Thames license at Eynsham Lock and moored up just above Pinkhill Lock. Once again we're beside a meadow and after lunch we took Chico for a long walk along the Farmoor Conservation walkway and to the village shop at Farmoor.

Being on the Thames is like being on holiday. Not only is it really peaceful but all the locks are manned, so unless we want to travel through one between 1 and 2pm or after 6pm the lock-keeper will do all the work.