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Boat Blog: Autumn Odyssey Day 11

Posted by indigodream on 11 November, 2012

Rewind to Thursday 20th September

Sandford Lock to Moulsford (Beetle ‘n Wedge)

Lou and Ollie having an uncharacteristic cuddle at Abingdon Lock – Lou has really mellowed recently…

Oh dear, another day without notes, but who cares, I can always be relied on to remember where we ate!

Luckily, the photos prompted me to remember the excitement at Abingdon Lock. The lock is basically being rebuilt over the winter (major stoppage – it’s shut until March!); but today they had a partial stoppage while divers did some structural surveys. We joined the queue, taking the last mooring above the lock – it was a warm, pleasant day, so the dogs had a bobble and Lou enjoyed lying in the soft grass. We had to hoped to fill up with water when the queue shuffled forward enough for us to get to the water point. But alas, there’s always one – a narrowboat that tried to jump the queue! We decided to forget the water (we weren’t desperate) so that we could take our turn at the lock. The lock-keepers were shutting the lock for an hour or so, opening it to get rid of the queue, then shutting it again – it was obvious that they’d had a long morning and that they weren’t looking forward to the afternoon!

Once we got through Abingdon we noticed that there were now a lot of moorings available upstream of the bridge – this was a great improvement (the downstream stretch was still jam-packed) – we were tempted to stop but Richard had set his sights on the Beetle ‘n Wedge.

We saw an immense number of Red Kite today – their story is remarkable – once forced to the brink of extinction and now wheeling over the river. They weren’t here the last time we cruised this way – ooh, back in 2009 I think. We took loads of photos – they’re irresistibly photogenic – we’ve put them in this facebook album – let me know if the link doesn’t work.

A red kite…

We moored up for the night outside the Beetle ‘n Wedge restaurant. We’ve been wanting to come back here since our last visit in 2009 – we remembered the warmth of the grill, the flavoursome food and the fine mooring, with great dog-walking in the fields downstream.

However, we know that the moorings get busy, so we rang ahead to check – the manager told us she had a boat booked in for later but that we should take the main mooring ands he’d sort it out later. We booked a table for 7pm, but we actually got there by 5pm. The restaurant now hires out little day boats – these made it a bit awkward for us to moor a long narrowboat – we had to use stern and centre ropes and leave her bow sticking out, but she was very stable. At 6.30pm-ish the boat that was actually booked came in – it was a shallow drafted launch which fitted in just nicely on the bank alongside (rather than the mooring platform) – they made quite a meal of the mooring, even though the restaurant manager came to help them. The owners were not happy – they wanted our spot and kept giving us evil looks accompanied by much tutting – we ignored them – they could moor in the 6 inches of water available at the bank, we couldn’t – end of story!

Ok, I’m not normally that spiteful, but we had made arrangements with the restaurant and weren’t just being mooring pirates…..:-)

Moored at the Beetle ‘n Wedge – we wouldn’t normally moor with our centre rope but when there’s a good pub involved (and the river was not in spate and no rain forecast)….

It was nice to finish early and spend some time watching the world go by. However the enticing smell of steaks sizzling on the restaurant’s wood grill made us wish that we’d booked an earlier table. We got into the restaurant at the dot of 7pm!

The Beetle and Wedge seems to have changed hands – although it is definitely moving towards the high end of the market, the owner/manager is a charming presence – he still waits on the tables, and his staff were friendly and efficient. The restaurant  has some of the refinement of fine dining, but my dessert was a syrup sponge roughly the size and temperature of Vesuvius but with a thin custard that wasn’t man enough to mop up the lava stream of hot treacle pouring down the sides – I couldn’t finish it; four of me would have struggled! Still, I’m not one to complain about having too much food, and the sponge (minus the syrup) and other leftovers were welcomed by my otherwise starved and neglected hounds!

I really enjoyed the local cider so I was ready to appreciate the welcome simplicity of mooring right outside the restaurant!

We got back to the boat early, gave the hounds a final walk and got to bed – we’ve hardly had the TV on at all during the holiday and we’ve generally been asleep on the sofa before getting to the end of any DVD’s! That’s fresh air for you – oh, and not having a single complete night’s sleep since we got on board.

Tonight was Ty’s turn – at 2.30am he wanted to go out – this is Ty favourite hour – the engine is off, everyone is in bed, there is no traffic or other scary noise – bliss! I had hoped that he would just have a wee near the boat, but he needed to be sure that Moulsford was totally safe so we wandered through the village before he found a suitable spot for annointing. I used to sleep in pyjamas in case the dogs wanted to go out in the night; by this stage of the holiday I was just sleeping in my clothes!

Some divers get to search for treasure – these get to sit at the bottom of a muddy lock looking for loose bricks!

Big works at Culham Motorcross site – you get a good view of events from the river, as we found in 2009 – http://www.totalmx.co.uk/tracks/Culham-Park-Motocross-Track.php

Can’t resist another one…

This made me smile….

Moorings upstream of the bridge at Abingdon – plenty of room today – Hurrah!

I love this photo – we were so busy taking photos of the birds that we almost forgot to steer the boat – the birds were so close to us we barely needed a zoom…

Forget about hanging conkers in your boat to deter spiders – go straight for direct action! This sign is at Clifton lock – the lock-keeper also sells less aggressive plants!

Repairs being made to Clifton Hampden Bridge – the new pointing is really obvious but if it helps the bridge to stand for another 150 odd years then it’s worth it!

Speedy!

There’s a story here involving what looks like a rower recovering from a capsize and the hire cruiser on the far right who was waiting to cut across to speak to him. We didn’t see the assumed incident but they all seemed to be quite shaken.

I recently asked the vet about hydrotherapy for Lou – he said “just find a river” – done! That water is a bit chilly though!

Great dog walking and sploshing area downstream of the Beetle ‘n Wedge. Poignant for us though – the last time we were here, Blue was in this photo 😦

2009 – happy memories – though we miss Blue terribly – even now…

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