Rewind to Monday 17th September
Tadpole Bridge to Kelmscote (via Lechlade)
We woke reasonably early today because Richard’s sister, Danusia, husband Martin and dog Polo were coming cruising today, however we weren’t too sure when they were arriving. We made sure that we were dressed by 9am – shortly after we got a call to say they were nearly with us – good timing!
We set off, as always, with multiple cruising plans. We’d made parking arrangements with the Trout Inn, so Martin left his car there. It therefore made sense to do a there ‘n back cruise, but we doubted whether we’d make it to Inglesham and back in a day. We thought about not going as far as Lechlade so that we could get back to Tadpole Bridge in daylight, but we’ve been trying to get to the end of navigation all year and keep being thwarted, so we didn’t want to let go of that little dream. Ah well, I guess we’d have to play it by ear….again!
We set off upstream, enjoying the increasingly extravagant meanders and untamed landscape – well, apart from a few well-appointed and ancient properties. Danusia took a fancy to the rather lovely Buscot Rectory, just visible through the luxuriant trees; but she’s out of luck – its original owner left the property to the National Trust on condition that it was only rented to people with American literary connections – apparently the current tenant is an American author.
I was musing on why such a beautiful stretch of river is so unoccupied – it is surely prime development land. But then again, this is a great floodplain and there are few roads and even fewer bridges, so I guess, and hope, that the landscape will be unspoilt for many a generation yet.
Note: Wikipedia had a useful guide to Thames crossings – bridges and tunnels – here…
We pressed on to Lechlade and decided to go right up to the Roundhouse at Inglesham, except that our progress was hampered by a 68ft hire boat that was rather optimistically trying to turn on the bend just downstream of the footbridge near the Roundhouse. For some reason, they believed that there wasn’t enough room for them to turn at the Roundhouse – hmmm – there definitely wasn’t enough room on the bend! They got themselves nicely wedged across the river – Richard offered his help, not having noticed that the wind and current had planted Indigo Dream in the bushes and he wouldn’t be able to help without getting his feet wet! Luckily we weren’t stuck!
I was quite impressed with the hirers – they didn’t panic and eventually managed to free their boat and get it pointing back upstream (they were trying to turn back downstream). We passed them, with assurances that they were much better off doing the turn at the Roundhouse.
We pressed on and had a little cheer when we reached the Roundhouse at Inglesham – we’d finally reached the reasonable end of the navigation after our abortive attempt in May. I say ‘reasonable’ end because Richard is desperate to go further, having heard on the grapevine that it is feasible to get a narrowboat past Inglesham (especially when there’s a lot of water in the river, as there has been this year). The only thing that stopped him today was the St John’s lock-keeper’s dire tales of narrowboats going past the Roundhouse and either getting stuck and needing a rescue or having to reverse the whole way back!
I was on the helm for the turn, but I couldn’t remember how I’d done it last time – the intuitive way is to poke your bow into the sandbank and turn on that, but I had a vague memory that we’d done it the other way last time i.e. bow towards the mouth of the river Coln. I followed my intuition and planted the bow in the sandbank – then I remembered why this was not a good idea – the lively flow from the Coln kept sweeping the stern downstream, no amount of revs could bring us around. Bah – I really should have remembered! I let the stern come back downstream, straightened the boat and did the turn the other way – effortless – this time the flow from the Coln worked with us to turn the bow downstream.
We headed back with the idea of mooring at the Riverside Inn – the moorings in and around Lechlade were pretty full but we thought we’d spotted a gap. I headed for it, but the river was shallow and rocky there – I could get the bow into the mooring but the back would have been too far out (especially for the hounds). Being on the helm, I had the tricky job of getting us out of the pub mooring and through Ha’penny Bridge (named for the ancient toll) without drifting into any moored boats. I was quite pleased when I succeeded!
We then headed downstream and turned upstream to moor (which itself was a palaver as the flow from Ha’penny Bridge can carry a boat turning broadside quite some way!). We eventually took up one of the few mooring spots left on the meadowbank to the left (looking upstream) – the spot furthest away from the herd of young cattle. We took the dogs for a quick splosh, then put them back on the boat while we took a wander around Lechlade. The town was as charming as ever – the unique Christmas Shop is, unbelievably, still in business – apparently it’s been there since 1984. I had a wander inside with Danusia – their stock was very good quality (as you might expect) but also more reasonably price than I expected. Having said that, I can’t imagine paying £3.95 for a single (but very nice) bauble!
We stocked up with provisions at the local Spar shop, which is rather good, and bought some sausages at the very expensive local butcher/deli, which was rather less good. We also bought a cake at the deli – it was rich but a bit dry – no wonder, I realised the day after that it was several days out-of-date when I bought it! When we got back from our bobble around town, we were pleased to see that the hirers had successfully turned at the Roundhouse and were safely moored on the meadow downstream of Ha’penny Bridge. We contemplated staying overnight in Lechlade, but I didn’t fancy being surrounded by cows – they’d already mobbed an inoffensive red setter lying quietly on the bank and forced it to run at speed back to his boat! And of course, cow poo is the greyhound’s favourite grooming product 🙂
We headed back downstream, enjoying the late afternoon light and wondering where to moor – Tadpole Bridge was a possibility, though we wouldn’t get there until after dark. The Nicholson’s guide showed a pub in Kelmscott, though a little walk inland, and we thought we’d try there first. What an inspiration – the meadow moorings at Kelmscott were pretty full, but there was a cheeky Indigo Dream sized space by the gate to the lane into the village – we quickly snaffled it. The mooring was great – the bank was at a nice height for Lou to step on/off board, the edge was even enough for us to bring the stern right in, the meadow is great for dog-walking, there were no cows and there was a shallow beach just perfect for Lou to have a splosh.
We found out that the Plough Inn at Kelmscott is dog-friendly, so we soon set off to walk the half-mile or so to the pub for supper. The path from the river to the village takes you past Kelmscott Manor, house of renowned designer William Morris, and the houses in the village are charmingly adorned with carvings. But my favourite feature was the unique stone wall lining the lane – great slabs of stone set upright and held by iron bands (photo tomorrow) – they were weathered and old, covered in colourful lichen and utterly tactile.
The pub is on the village square and it was tremendous – spacious enough for the hounds to lie-down comfortably, delicious food, friendly clientele and good service. It was also considerably cheaper than the food at the Trout (Tadpole Bridge) and the portions were more to our liking! The Plough has a few bedrooms which they let out as B & B – we met a couple who were staying there with their dog. They were delighted with the place – they’d come down from the north and were enjoying every minute. We were interested because we sometimes have a weekend break at New Year and this might have potential (if it’s open).
Danusia and Martin left at around 9pm – they had to get back their car at Tadpole Bridge. Although it’s only a few miles away by road, we were shocked to find that a taxi would cost them £26. We tried a few firms and the price was the same for each. Kelmscott is in the middle of nowhere and is too small to have its own taxi firm, so cabs have to come from Lechlade so you essentially get charged for that journey too! Never mind, they had to get home, and the price did include transporting Polo the dog!
Sadly Danusia (and company) had to leave left before her pudding was served so we had to eat it it – tragic! No wonder that we rolled along the path back to the boat….