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Archive for October 29th, 2012

Boat Blog: Autumn Odyssey Day 7

Posted by indigodream on 29 October, 2012

Rewind to Sunday 16th September

Sandford to Tadpole Bridge

We’re in Sandford lock – finally πŸ™‚

Richard got us off early this morning – I was tired and grumpy, so I took myself out of the way by volunteering to be ‘lock-keeper – the lockies don’t start until 9am. Unfortunately, although the lock was set our way, the ‘public power’ settings at Sandford don’t allow you to just open the gates – you have to go through the whole cycle of opening the paddles to ’empty’ an already empty lock, then open the gates. Unfortunately I hadn’t realised this, having followed my common sense rather than the instructions. Because I’d pressed the ‘close paddles’ button when I thought that the lock was really empty, I apparently reset the whole cycle, which meant another 4 minutes before the gates could be opened. Lucky for me that the lock-keeper came on duty then or we’d still be there!

We soon got up through the lock and pressed on towards Oxford, Sarah’s alma mater, and my least favourite river-front!

We needed some supplies and had googled a Tesco store within a short walk of the river – we moored up on the right (looking upstream) by the (un-named) footbridge above Folly Road bridge. This gave Richard easy access to Tesco while Andy and Sarah took the six boys for a walk along the towpath opposite; I stayed behind and supervised Lou’s little bobble. It took around half-an-hour to get our supplies but the little Tesco Express did NOT have any dog kibble in stock – this was serious! We googled some more shops and, this time, stopped off at the popular moorings just downstream of Osney Bridge.Β  There’s a useful independent corner store in the Westgate Hotel building, a short way across the canal – they had kibble – phew – the thought of having seven hungry hounds and not enough food was scary!

Heron fishing at Sandford lock…

The Osney Bridge moorings are not particularly scenic, but they do give good access to the city centre and there is the timeless entertainment of laying small wagers on which boats would make it under the low bridge! The river was very benign when we passed by, but it wouldn’t have to come up very far before Osney Bridge became an obstacle. If you happen to moor in Osney then it’s worth checking out this local website, which lists amenities in the area.

We didn’t linger in Oxford – we were determined to get up to Lechlade, though at our current pace it seemed unlikely that we’d get there before Tuesday!

We were soon through Kings Lock and past the junction with Duke’s Cut – we turned left into the serious meanders – I swear that there’s not a straight line between here and Lechlade! The Thames is so beautiful from here on up, and the afternoon light, shining dappled green through groves of slender trees made everything seem unearthly and lovely – middle earth indeed!

When we cruised up to Lechlade in 2009, we were delighted to meet another rescue greyhound, Pa (racing name ‘Handsome Pa’) that lives with the lockie at Northmoor lock. We asked after him when we passed through today, and the lock-keeper rushed to get his wife, daughter and Pa himself. They’d been to the annual Retired Greyhound Trust Great Greyhound Gathering the day before and are total greyhound addicts (as most of us are!). They were delighted to see our combined pack of 7, though we kept ours on board to prevent too much mayhem. Just as well, on the way back down we found out that Pa lives with a cat and several small furry animals including pet rabbits and rats – our seven could live with them too, just not for very long!

The secret to building an Olympic looking team is maybe to start with a big strong squad – from left to right – Eddie, Archie (lying down), Ollie and Henry..

As we rose up the lock, Herbie hound made a bid for freedom and did an athletic leap onto the bank before haring down the towpath towards the lockie’s cottage. I was on shore but he dodged me easily, luckily, a passerby snagged his collar a minute later. Herbie was thoroughly pleased with himself and enjoyed saying ‘hello’ to Pa!

From Swinford onwards, bridges and their associated settlements become increasingly rare; but they also become more interesting. As the river narrows, so do the bridge arches, and as the river meanders, so the bridges seem more skewed.

We were finally free of the Heathrow catchment area, there was no shortage of planes overhead – right overhead. There was a constant traffic of unusual craft which we think was coming to/from RAF Brise Norton nearby. Luckily, Sarah and Andy are aircraft geeks enthusiasts and identifying the aircraft make/model became part of the afternoon’s entertainment.

Sadly, Sarah and Andy didn’t see the final meanders – we dropped them off at Newbridge, where they had booked a cab to take them back to their car in Goring. We contemplated mooring just upstream of the bridge at Newbridge – there’s a meadow there with some mooring/flood poles. However the bank was a little uneven and I thought it would be too much for Lou. In addition, there were numerous cars congregating in the meadow – fishermen gathering for a competition. Ollie excelled himself by first running towards a fisherman’s tackle nearby – I yelled at him to come back, remembering the murderous intent of the fishermen towards a spaniel who widdled on their gear on the Soar last year! Luckily, Ollie stopped short of the gear but then he raced towards the parked cars – he was having a thoroughly mad greyhound moment! We hastily decided toΒ  cruise on with the hounds towards our next potential destination – the Trout Inn at Tadpole Bridge.

In a great bit of synchronicity, we moored up at the Trout Inn just as Sarah and Andy parked up – brilliant. They had an immense drive home to Suffolk ahead of them, so sadly they couldn’t stay for dinner, even though the Trout Inn is dog-friendly. We did a reluctant dog-swap – Henry was happy to go with them, but Ty would have liked to go in the car as well! I was very sad to see Henry go, he’s been very good company. Having said that, you can’t beat a Ty cuddle πŸ™‚

The photo just doesn’t do it justice – this stretch meanders extravagantly though plantations of slender trees – it’s a wonderful place to be…

It was only 6pm when we said our sad goodbyes, and the pub doesn’t start serving food until 7pm so we wandered back to the boat for a bit of downtime. The pub has a large and well-fenced garden but it was too cold for anyone to sit outside, this meant that we could let the Lou and Ollie have a good off-lead rummage – the pub garden was full of wild rabbits but the hounds were too tired to notice them!

We went back to the pub at 7pm – we had intended to take the hounds with us, but they were fast asleep when we left and showed no interest in coming. We were a bit disappointed – dog-friendly pubs are hard to come by so it’s nice to take advantage – especially one as posh as the Trout Inn. The service there was very efficient – they do a decent local cider on tap and a glorious, if pricey, menu. The food sounded so very good on paper, and although the portion of meat was good, the extras, like potatoes, were a bit lacking and, because the service was so fast, the meal was over so quickly it felt as if we’d hardly eaten (though logic says that we’d had plenty really!).

We had a nice chinwag with the delightful crew of cruiser “Millie Ann” – they’ve been owned by rescue whippets, though they don’t have any dogs at the moment. I don’t know how they’ve managed to resist the lure of getting another dog, but they are enjoying their freedom to roam, both home and abroad πŸ™‚

We were back on the boat before 9pm – the hounds had a last rummage and we were all in bed before 10pm – of course, Lou and I explored the pub garden in more detail in the “wee” (sorry!) small hours but it was magical. Tadpole Bridge is closed for extensive repairs at the moment (which must be causing difficulty – there are very few alternative river crossings around here) so the mooring was absolutely silent and very very dark – both rare commodities when you’ve come from the constant hum of London and its associated transport links.


A colony in the making…

There aren’t many dingy places on the Thames – here’s one of them – trolleys and graffiti on an otherwise picturesque bridge…

The flood markings at Pinkhill Lock -scary!

Handsome “Edwardian” style regatta launch – she’s for sale!

Another swimmer – you’re all MAD πŸ™‚

We loved the bright paintwork on nb Hythe – I imagined it would be new age youngsters looking for a cheap living on board, but when the crew passed us a few days later, they were white haired, and the man of the boat had a magnificent beard. Easy to forget that a’child’ of the 60s is now IN their 60’s πŸ˜€

One of the many military planes buzzing around the area…

This bridge is really annoying – the navigable arch is the low one on the right then you have to move quickly across to the left once you’re through – why can’t we share the higher centre arch – there’s good line of sight – bah! And double bah! because I can’t remember the name of the bridge!!!!

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