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Archive for November 5th, 2012

Boat Blog: Autumn Odyssey Day 9

Posted by indigodream on 5 November, 2012

Tuesday 18th September

Kelmscote to Swinford

Lou blending in with the fabulous flagstone wall at Kelmscott..

We had a quiet night in Kelmscott and woke up late and refreshed.In fact, by the time we emerged all of the boats that had moored overnight had moved on – and we never even noticed!

We didn’t have any guests today and, after discussions with Danusia yesterday, we had a new cruising plan. We were now aiming to end our holiday in the vicinity of Marlow so that the family could join us on 6th October for Danusia’s birthday cruise. This took the pressure off our timing as we were no longer heading for Teddington this week. So, we took a morning off to have a bobble around the village of Kelmscott. We’re always saying that we’ll explore the shore, but the lure of cruising is always too much for us!

It was a fine morning so we set off with the 3 hounds – we had an aimless wander as far as the pub, admiring anew the flagstone wall, the traditional dry stone walls and the stone houses – yep, there’s a lot of stone around! Yet the village seems very mellow – maybe it’s the soft grey colour of the stone, or the fact that it’s been weathered by yellow lichens and being eroded by the slow creep of ivy.

Kelmscott village has a decent website here

It took us a while to find the church – the pub is the heart of this village! The church is a little way out, but well worth a visit – not least for the interesting gravestones, including the tomb of William Morris. But the real gem is inside – faded red ochre murals dating back to 1280 (see notes below). They were fascinating and more naive and ‘honest’ than any church decoration I’ve seen.The murals are badly faded and I wonder how much longer they’ll last – it’s a dilemma – if you tried to restore/repaint them then they wouldn’t be originals. I suppose you could try to protect them from further fading but that might mean that fewer people see them. I guess that both options would involve spending money that might be better used on structural or human projects! Ah well, the murals have been there for nigh on 800 years – maybe they’ll last a while yet.

Wall paintings dating back to 1280 – I was moved by their great age and simplicity – there are photos of the notes below…

We took turns to look at the murals while the other sat with the hounds in the church porch. The hounds liked the porch – Lou lay on the mat, Ty enjoyed the protection of its thick walls (we had to drag him out) and Ollie was quite interested in the prominent mouse hole and abundant mouse droppings – this place must be alive at night!

Our bobble round the village was enough to wear the hounds out for the day! They settled down for a good snooze while we set off downriver.

We had a red light on the toilet, so today’s mission was to find a pump-out. The lockie at Grafton lock was very helpful – we wanted to buy a new pump-out card – sadly he didn’t have any but he did offer to drive down to Rushey lock to get us one. We didn’t want to put him to the trouble so we carried on.

There were several pump-out machines along our cruising route but the question was whether our stock of “dual cards” would work on the EA machines. We tried one out at Rushey Lock (??) – ah, that would be a “no” then! There is a pump-out and rubbish disposal at Rushey lock but no water point. There is a tap but it has a “no hoses” notice on it – I wonder if it can be used to fill water bottles though?

Now that we knew that the cards we had on board wouldn’t work, we were under a bit of pressure to find another lock-keeper who could sell us a new card. This proved to be more tricky than we anticipated – there seemed to be shortage of lock-keepers – many of the locks were “self-service” even though it wasn’t the lunch hour. We finally tracked down a card at Shifford Lock (for a reasonable £8) but then we had to make haste down to the next pump-out at Eynsham lock. We managed to make time to say “hello” to greyhound Handsome Pa and his family at Northmoor lock though…

I think this is Hart’s Weir footbridge (the weir has long since gone) – the upper Thames is so beautiful…

I was in a whimsical mood today – the countryside was wearing its muted autumn colours – wine red hawthorn berries, bruise purple sloes and faded velvet greens of the myriad leaves. The wind in the trees was like the slow sussuration of a New Orleans funeral and I wonder whether the trees would be sad or glad to lose their heavy burden of leaves. How incongruous then the vivid purple of the himalayan balsam – still a riot of blossom and as alien as a lap-dancer in a nursing home!

We arrived at Eynsham Lock, just downstream of Swinford Bridge, late afternoon – the water point is above the lock but, to our dismay, the pump-out was below. I had a little bobble with the dogs – there are 24-hour moorings just above the waterpoint and the lock is flanked by a nice green picnic area. We went through the lock – there is large weir right next to the lock and it exerts a considerable pull – it would make for a tricky single-handed mooring. It’s definitely worth tying the boat up properly – I would have struggled to hold the boat just on the centre rope while waiting for Richard to set the lock.

Once we were thought the lock, we were dismayed again because there was a man fishing at the pump-out mooring. There was no way to work around him, we’d have to ask him to move. Luckily he was extremely obliging and moved his gear without complaint. I locked the dogs inside and Richard got on with the pump-out. He says that the machine is very slow to start – so much so that he thought it wasn’t working, but once it got going it was very good.

It was quite late by now and the light was starting to drain away – we decided to move back up through the lock as the moorings above are much better than those below (and not colonised by fishermen!). Richard did quite a lengthy turn in the weir stream while I set the lock – we were soon back at the 24-hour moorings.

We set off for the pub immediately – the Talbot Inn is around half-a-mile away across Swinford Bridge and IS dog-friendly in the bar. We took all three hounds with us though it was not the most pleasant walk as the pavements are ridiculously narrow, especially over the bridge itself. The only saving grace was that the traffic had to slow down to pay the toll that’s still collected on the bridge. I’d say it’s essential to carry a torch after dark here – just in order to be visible! The bar at the Talbot Inn was a bit ‘spit ‘n sawdust’ but we had a good welcome from the locals, that is, the hounds had a good welcome! We found a table the alcove of a bay window – this meant that jellyboy Ty could be tucked away – he felt very safe there and peered out every now and then to see whether his sausages had arrived. The food was good plain pub grub and the dog sausages were very fine indeed.

It was a chilly clear moon dark night by the time we got back to the boat. There is a wide pool above the weir at Eynsham Lock and by the time we got back the water was mirror still and mirror dark. We turned our torches off and as our eyes adapted the stars came out……out of the river that is. The brightest stars and planets were perfectly reflected in the water’s surface – it was quite magical – infinity had never felt so present…


Lou shares every dog’s aversion for b-a-t-h-s but a paddle in the river doesn’t count!

Ollie having a mad greyhound moment – it’s wonderful to see how much he’s enjoying his life with us..

Lou and Ollie sightseeing in Kelmscott – it’s a charming village….

The history of the Kelmscott wall paintings…

This faded mural depicts the expulsion from paradise – I don’t know how long this be visible – see the notes…

The notes to accompany the “expulsion from paradise” – I think that the photos here is much clearer than what we saw on the wall..

The hounds enjoying the peace of the church porch….

Mouse hole in the porch of Kelmscott church…

The surprisingly unassuming tomb of William Morris….

This carving shows William Morris himself, reclining with his hat and satchel – it is carved on a pair of ‘memorial’ cottages commissioned by his widow and designed by artist Phillip Webb.

That’s Kelmscott Manor on the right – watch your dogs on this lane – it does carry traffic – this morning we had to dodge an enormous tractor which filled its entire width…

Dry stone wall…

The moorings at Kelmscott – looking upstream – these were full last night!

The moorings at Kelmscott – looking downstream – we got a neat spot by the lane to the village but it would only work when there’s not much water in the river as a tiny tributary drains into the river where we moored.

These ducks were in a hurry to get to the back of the boat – I think they were hoping for some bread, the greyhounds were hoping for some duck!!

The horsechestnut trees at Grafton lock are diseased and dying – they will be cut back this winter – grim, especially in the light of the news about the spreading disease that might kill off our ash trees…

Hawthorn – such good value – white blossom in the spring, toothy textured leaves in the summer, red berries in the autumn, and sculptured black thorns in the winter just waiting to be softened by a dusting of frost…

Pirates at Radcott bridge

We’ve passed nb the cornish navigator before and we always admire this artwork…

That’s an ugly sky in the distance….

Wonderful day…


Dappled sunlight….

Out of Africa – the last time we saw water buffalo we were on honeymoon in Zimbabwe! There was a large herd here…

Thames view…

The green corridor that leads to Northmoor Lock (I think!)….

Heron in flight – a commonplace but astounding sight – they’re just so BIG!

Windy day….

Newbridge – except it’s ancient – built in the 14th Century!

Swinford bridge – one of the few toll bridges left on the Thames – cars are charged a handsome sum of 5p to cross!

Sunset at Eynsham lock – looking upstream….

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