Indigo Dreaming

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Archive for April 23rd, 2009

The Odyssey 2009: Day 11

Posted by indigodream on 23 April, 2009

Sunday 19th April: Lechlade to King’s Lock

End of the road - the Inglesham Roundhouse

End of the road - the Inglesham Roundhouse

We woke up to another cloudy sky but with the promise of the best weather of the weekend. I got up briefly at 6.30am and noticed that the swans were back on the grass – they were quite safe though, there’s no way that Blue and Lou would creep out of their blankets that early! When we eventually got outside at around 8.30am the swans had disappeared again.

We had a big day planned today as we needed to get back to Oxford by the evening. I was a bit sad to leave Lechlade – I could easily have spent a few days here. It reminded me of Bradford on Avon, both in the soft tones of the stone houses and in the homeliness of its inhabitants. Then I realised that we were actually in the Cotswolds and Bradford on Avon is less than 40 miles away as the crow flies. I still struggle to get my head round how far West we’ve come on the Thames.

We set off just after 9am and finished our trip to the feasible end of the canal. The guides mention a right of navigation

A last look back at Ha'penny bridge, Lechlade

A last look back at Ha'penny bridge, Lechlade

as far as Cricklade but the local lock-keeper told us absolutely not to attempt it. So we cruised upstream under Ha’penny Bridge (so called because of the toll that used to be levied here) towards the Inglesham Roundhouse that marks the end of the navigation. It’s a suitably lovely spot with tantalising glimpses of the future. There are three channels here – to the left the Thames continues on without the benefit of narrowboats; to the right the River Coln exerts quite a push into the Thames; in the centre there’s the old junction with the Thames and Severn Canal. The Thames and Severn is currently being painstakingly restored – how marvellous it would be if the link could be fully reinstated – what a trip that would be. We’ll be first on the list when it opens!

We turned the boat and headed back down the river. Easier said than done – I turned the bow into the shallows with the intention of winding around it but the flow from the Coln kept pushing the stern back and no way would she come round. So, top tip here, the turn is counter-intuitive – poke your nose into the Coln and turn clockwise; just be sure that you don’t

Father Thames at St john's Lock - carved in 1858 for the Crystal Palace

Father Thames at St john's Lock - carved in 1858 for the Crystal Palace

ground your stern on the very shallow sandbank opposite. The turn gave us a close up view of a willow opposite the sandbank – we just missed it but it was entertaining to see the flashes of different coloured paints that other visiting boats had left on its trunk!

Of course, no sooner had we reached the end of the navigation than I just wanted to do it all again, right the way back to the Royal Docks! One year we must take a full fortnight off and cruise the Thames from end to end in one go – it’s such a great waterway.

We headed back downstream- I found that the tiller was much easier when we were going with the flow but after St John’s lock I handed the helm to Richard. We were due to pick up some friends in Radcot and the floor just had to be done. What a difference it makes – Indigo Dream looks so much nicer with a clean floor. I was wondering if I could sell fluff on the ebay ….. 🙂

The scenery looks even better in the sunshine

The scenery looks even better in the sunshine

We retraced our steps, or should that be our wake, enjoying the scenery anew. We moored up in Radcot about three minutes before our friends arrived – great timing. So we were joined once again by Neil and Jenny, daughter Hannah and spaniels Max and Hugo. They bought generous gifts of chocolate so they were allowed on board! Blue and Lou just ignore the spaniels these days – I don’t think they can understand dogs that just keep going all the time!

The spaniels were full of beans after the car journey from Surrey so me and Jenny hopped off at Radcot lock and took the whole pack for a walk. It was a longer walk than we planned – Indigo Dream set off round the bends, appearing and disappearing as she turned around the landscape. At first we

The quirky narrow bridge at Radcot - this one build in the 1700's though it looks much older

The quirky narrow bridge at Radcot - this one build in the 1700's though it looks much older

managed to cut enough corners to keep up but we soon lost sight of them. No matter, the weather had fulfilled its promise and it was a lovely day. We strolled through the countryside with dogs mainly on leads even though for the most part the meads were empty of livestock. One exception was a field with a herd of young fresian cows – the path went right through them and we walked by quickly with eyes forward as the cattle turned and started walking curiously towards us. Even the dogs got the message and kept their heads down! Luckily the cattle soon lost interest in us and I was relieved to pass through the gate into the next empty field. It was a warm day but there were plenty of places for the dogs to have a cooling paddle. But not Blue, he’d managed to sneak a roll in some cow dung and didn’t want to wash off his favourite cologne 🙂

Hannah, in the meantime, had skillfully helmed her way through the meanders. Richard said she did very well and needed no instruction, though he did stay within grabbing reach of the tiller!  They took the boat through Rushey Lock and waited for us below. The landing stage there is made

Can't get enough of those views

Can't get enough of those views

of open mesh grill – fine for human feet but a trap for soft dog paws. The crew had cleverly solved this problem by laying down the rubber mats from the back deck onto the mesh so that we could get the dogs on board safely. All apart from Blue, that is, he was unceremoniously sluiced down with three bucketfuls of river-water (to get rid of his coating of cow dung) before he was deemed socially acceptable enough to be allowed back on.

We’d only walked maybe a mile and a half but that was enough for the greyhounds (and me!). But the spaniels were barely warmed up and carried on energetically patrolling the boat for the rest of the afternoon. We were considering stopping in Tadpole for lunch but the available mooring was about 10 feet too short so we lunched on board instead. The dogs appreciated this as they benefited from stray bits of bacon and hot dogs!

It was interesting having more people on board. With the exception of Hannah, who is very svelte, the rest of us are r_indigo-dream-19apr2009-_035rather large people. At one time I was pulling Indigo Dream round a particularly sharp bend when a combination of wind, current and the chance distribution of three people on one side of the boat heeled us over alarmingly! We hastily redistributed the crew and were careful with our disposition for the rest of the trip!

We were very excited at one of the locks as the resident lockie has a greyhound! His gorgeous hound’s a bit shy but was very pleased to meet Blue, who was his usual excited self at seeing a proper-shaped dog on the towpath for a change. Then Richard let Lou out and she predictably chased the poor hound round the lock-cottage. We bundled her back on board and Handsome Pa (his racing name) emerged shyly for a cuddle. Ok, he’s not one of Blue’s half siblings but Blue’s grandfather is Handsome Pa’s great-grandfather – the infamous dog ‘I’m Slippy’ who seems to appear in just about every bloodline somewhere or other!

Handsome Pa

Handsome Pa

We rang round the lock-keepers yet again for more advice on moorings and finally decided to book a week’s space at King’s Lock. The only downside is that it has no vehicle access and is about a mile’s walk from the road. Not insurmountable but we did need to be bit circumspect as to what we were carrying home.

While we’re on the subject of locks, one of the upper Thames locks had a notice warning narrowboats to stay off the lock wall, especially going down. We asked why and there are a couple of reasons – the specific reason at that lock was because there’s a little gap between the bottom of the lock-wall timbers and the metal brackets that they sit in. Apparently (and I hope it’s only in theory) the slight rim round a narrowboat’s baseplate can get caught in the gap. The gap’s caused by the bottom of the timbers rotting away so hopefully a bit of maintenance will take care of that. In other locks the chamber tapers at the bottom though I don’t see how keeping your boat off the lock-wall can help if the chamber’s too narrow at the bottom for 2 boats side-by-side!

Knowing that we had a mooring we could relax and enjoy the stunning weather. It was still chilly in the shade but great in the sunshine – with the river twisting so much, it was like being slowly turned on a spit! I didn’t want it to end but with the flow behind us we got to Kings Lock in no time. The lock-keeper charged us a very reasonable £7 a night for the mooring and it’s a wonderfully quiet spot, hopefully far from trouble. There is good dog-walking on the left upstream of the lock and the greyhounds had a good run before settling down to a big supper.

Richard and Neil went off to sort out the cars while we girls sat on the back deck enjoying the westering sun. We did

How to hang a bat box....

How to hang a bat box....

have  some interest as we watched the man from nb. Reliance climbing up a tree to hang some bat boxes. It was fascinating – is it his job or just a hobby? I hope the bats appreciate his efforts!

Typically, Neil and Richard had spotted a good pub on their travels so we got the call to abandon ship and walk towards the Trout Inn at Godstow Bridge. We took the bare minimum from the boat which meant that the four dogs got eat the remaining contents of the fridge – doggie heaven! If you ever do this trip, the path to the Trout Inn goes straight under the giant A34 road bridge past a row of moorings to Godstow Bridge. Cross over for the pub but watch out because the bridge is narrow.

We took a wrong turn and managed to find ourselves in a field of cows again – Blue immediately rolled in his favourite grooming product but mercifully chose a dry patch which just brushed off (though I keep thinking that a hint of the smell still lingers – lovely!). I was a bit concerned – there was a poster at the lock warning of an aggressive breed of brown cow in

Ones he did earlier....

Ones he did earlier....

the area. A cow had attacked a party of walkers, knocking one off his bike and badly injuring him (had to be airlifted out apparently) though the rest of the party managed to beat the cow back with their rucksacks. Of course, the field we found ourselves in had a flock of brown cows in the far corner – they didn’t stir but we got out fast just in case!

The Trout Inn (when we finally got there!) looked so promising from the outside but was rather disappointing within. Dogs are allowed in the riverside garden – there’s a path that goes right round the side of the building – don’t try to walk through the bar with them, the waitress will have a hissy fit. Despite its gourmet menu and lavish surroundings the service was slow and chaotic; they’d run out of cheese for the bacon ‘n cheese add-on to the burgers and made the generous offer of just bacon but for the same price! A few sausages on their own as a side order defeated them. When the food finally came it was rather dry and overcooked – what a pity.

We had a good drive home along largely empty roads – what a relief. I was knackered after a weekend in the fresh air and went straight to bed to dream about our wonderful cruise along the Thames. Judging by the tail twitching, paw waving and little barks, our fast-asleep dogs were doing the same 🙂

Photoblog:

A perfect end to the day's cruising

A perfect end to the day's cruising


r_indigo-dream-19apr2009-_039

Just perfect....

Just glorious....

Good use for a propeller?

Good use for a propeller?

Looking back towards the Inglesham Roundhouse

Looking back towards the Inglesham Roundhouse


Now there's an apt name for a boat!

Now there's an apt name for a boat!

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