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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 48 – Oxford Canal

Posted by indigodream on 12 September, 2016

Rewind to Sunday 14th August

Banbury to Fenny Compton

Banbury's busy waterfront...

Banbury’s busy waterfront…

Our guests were due to arrive mid-morning, so we had plenty of time to move to the service point below Banbury Lock to fill with water. Sadly the water point is very slow and while we were filling up, one, then two boats turned up to wait. It took almost 45 minutes to get anywhere near a full tank, but as soon as we had enough we moved back to the towpath side to await our visitors. In the meantime, the service point was a melee as boats shuffled around and brested up to use the services, not helped by the regular flow of boats up and down the lock, often hirers with only a rudimentary grasp of boat handling!

At 11am, we were hailed by Nicci and Paul along with their three lovely greyhounds, blues Harris and Holly and brindle Harvey. Herbie greeted them with aplomb and was soon getting on famously with Harvey – they’re both hounds who appreciate the finer points of memory foam and spent most of the day on the sofa. In the meantime, Harris and Holly were enthusiastic Olympic lookers and took boating in their stride. They were clever enough to work out that the dog-proof deck only works when the boat is above the towpath; in locks, once the top of the deck doors reached the level of the lock, off they jumped! They have very good recall, so it wasn’t a problem and their joyful rummaging reminded us of Blue and Lou, the original Indigo Dreamers.

Harris demonstrating his Olympic looking skills :-)

Harris demonstrating his Olympic looking skills πŸ™‚

We really enjoyed the company, but the nearer we got to Cropredy, the more congested the canal became, with busy two-way traffic squeezing its way through a channel narrowed even further by thickly moored boats. There was a grumpy air to proceedings, and I’ve since mused on the difference between moving through a festival in full swing when the beer and cheer is flowing well; and cruising through the morning after!

I’m writing this on the first of September and have been reading the latest copy of Canalboat magazine. I was struck by a letter from a boater complaining about bad manners displayed by some lads on a hire boat. I’m sorry to say that it’s not just hire boats and we had a full dose of unpleasantness below Cropredy Lock. A boat had moored on a legitimate mooring but was protruding over the lock moorings by several feet and had blocked the last lock bollard. The boat in front of us queuing for the lock was a bit precious about moving forward, but I needed to get Indigo Dream tucked to one side as the narrows below the lock meant that it was difficult for boats behind us in the queue to move forward. I tucked the boat’s nose in and, very deliberately, brought the back in to brest up to the moored boat. I’ll admit, the boats touched with a clunk, but as IDs front was stationary (R holding a rope round a bollard) so it wasn’t a violent contact and I thought nothing of it – the boats were touching at the level of their stern mooring dollies. Therefore I wasn’t prepared for the man of the boat coming out and making a huge drama, shouting his complaints at the top of his voice; he subsided briefly, then as the lock opened and I moved forward, careful not to touch his precious boat again, the flow made his rudder bang against his counter, so he stood on his bow some 70 odd feet away and yelled some more. He had things to say about my driving; I saw red and was winding myself up to full voice when I got a grip – no point in two of us being complete gits! We have a photo of the boat and its most unpleasant owner, other boaters commented about him and I’ve wondered about publishing it but, on balance, best to let it go…

Nicci learning to drive - the greyhounds are helping...

Nicci learning to drive – the greyhounds are helping…

After that, I was so glad to get out of Cropredy and move onto slightly saner waters, but it confirmed once and for all that the Oxford Canal is not for us – it felt like a victim of its own popularity and way too busy.

Yet balance was restored when we were hailed by Neil and Kath from nb Herbie, who now moor in the marina above Cropredy. We made some hasty plans for a pint later on. We also had a chat with fellow bloggers Al and Del from nb Derwent 6, reminding us of all the good people on the waterways and the great community which we feel a part of.

Ooh wassat? The towpath was made for rummaging :-)

Ooh wassat? The towpath was made for rummaging πŸ™‚

Once we were done with the locks, in a virtuoso bit of timing Neil came to collect Paul and Richard from Bridge 143 to take them back to Banbury for the cars. We were so grateful – Neil’s help saved us over an hour on the car shuffle – that’s an hour of precious pub time! In the meantime, Nicci and I carried on cruising along the increasingly narrow and meandering canal to Fenny Compton, which took a while!

The moorings there were very busy, but we found a slightly naughty spot close to the bridge and went off to the pub with Neil and Kath. We took the greyhounds with us and were soon joined by the lady of a boat that had been locking up just in front of us. Richard had wound her up earlier because he was having a pint with Paul outside the pub in Fenny Compton when they arrived and had told them that Indigo Dream had overtaken them in a stealth manoeuvre which is why he was ahead of them! We were chatting with the crew when she mentioned a friend who had lots of greyhounds and a naughty whippet called Rupert – I suddenly realised that we had friends in common and that the greyhounds she’d mentioned were Indigo Dreamers – small world!

We hadn’t seen Kath and Neil since they crewed on our bumpy ride down to the Medway so we had a lot of reminiscing to do. It was wonderful to spend the evening with old friends and new, the day’s misadventures were soon dimmed, helped by the combined restorative powers of beer and chips!

Photoblog:

Herbie (black greyhound) is so relaed with visitors - Harvey, brindle, found it such a yawn...

Herbie (black greyhound) is so relaxed with visitors – Harvey, brindle, found it such a yawn…

Happy hounds :-)

Happy hounds πŸ™‚

Nicci and Paul enjoying the day...

Nicci and Paul enjoying the day…

Paul was a natural driver :-)

Paul was a natural driver πŸ™‚

Happy Holly - we love having new Indigo Dreamers on board...

Happy Holly – we love having new Indigo Dreamers on board…

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 47 – Oxford Canal

Posted by indigodream on 11 September, 2016

Rewind to Saturday 13th August

Lower Heyford to Banbury

We decided not to bother with the Friday traffic this week and came up on Saturday morning – this made for a more relaxed journey but also a later start to our cruising. But it didn’t matter – our target for the day was Banbury, which would be very convenient for some guests to join us on Sunday.

It was another fine but slow day on the canal, though with shorter queues at the locks than last weekend. Of course, we hadn’t realised that this weekend we’d need to pass through Cropredy and its festival – d’oh. That explains why the canal was so busy and felt a little crowded.

I don’t have any notes from the day – we cruised the afternoon away, enjoying the fact that the swing bridges are locked open, which makes for a picturesque but easy passage along the canal. Once we got past Grants lock, we did the car shuffle – Richard hopped on his bike and drove ahead to Banbury train station in time to catch a train back to Lower Heyford for the car. He arrived at the station in good time and was able to ring back some information about mooring spaces. In the meantime, I mooched along the few miles of lock-free pound into Banbury.

Now, we were not looking forward to mooring at Banbury – the last time we left the boat there some kids from the local trailer park stole two of our mooring ropes to make a swing. They had been very moral about it and only stolen ropes that they had deemed to be “spare” and they didn’t untie the boat! The first space I came to was right by the trailer park, though I was gratified to see that the spot where the kids used to swing from a tree across the towpath and canal was now fenced off. However, it seemed sensible to move forward to the next space which was nestled between two other boats and within sight of the station car park. We were only staying one night and would be on board the whole time, however we did spend some time putting complex knots into our spare ropes so that they would be nearly impossible to remove.

The moorings below the lock at Banbury offer great access to the town centre and to the train station, but they are opposite some small industrial units which do generate some machine noise, but nothing too onerous.

It was quite late by the time Richard reached me with the car, so we decided to head off for the big Tesco store nearby and top up with supplies for Sunday. It was so convenient to park in the station car park by the very edge of the towpath and for Richard to hand the shopping bags down to me. Herbie was delighted to see us – Tesco almost always yields a hot chicken so our welcome was guaranteed!

Photoblog:

Oh dear, I’ve managed to confuse myself – I don’t seem to have any photos from today, though there is a possibility that I have muddled them into the previous day’s post!

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 46 – Oxford Canal

Posted by indigodream on 8 September, 2016

Rewind to Sunday 7th August

Kidlington to Lower Heyford

Diamon lock...

Diamon lock…

We weren’t too sure how far we’d get today, but we decided to shuffle the cars to the station at Lower Heyford – if we got as far as Banbury (highly unlikely) then I could always get a train back for a car. However, we barely made it to Lower Heyford as we hadn’t reckoned with the lengthy queues of narrowboats at every lock. Maybe the first queue makes the others inevitable as the pounds are not quite long enough to allow boats to get ahead of each other.

The drive to Lower Heyford was stunningly scenic – it was a beautiful morning and the rolling hills bursting with the season’s harvest were an uplifting sight. We were soon at Lower Heyford train station, which has free parking at weekends – very handy! I left my car there and Richard drove us back to the boat.

The day started fair and we set off from Kidlington in good spirits. We were soon at the first of the diamond-shaped locks that mark the boundary between the canal and the canalised River Cherwell. We were fourth in a queue here – the delay apparently being caused by a debate on how many boats you could fit into the lock. It is a wide lock, but, being diamond-shaped, it is only full length in the centre. Some shorter boats were happy to share, others refused because they were concerned that the sides were too shallow. The boat in front of us was crewed by a real character with a broad estuary accent – she had plenty to say about the boats that were too timid to share!

Queue....

Queue….

We bided our time and were soon enjoying the lush river section. But after that we encountered queue after queue – at Bakers Lock lock we waited two hours – the lock landings were short and the towpath too overgrown to offloadΒ  crew. We settled down and had lunch, confident that this would be the only substantial wait. But at the next lock, there were 10 boats ahead of us! This time Richard had to get off to help – I brought the front in to drop him off then got ready for an hour of hovering, moving forward, hovering – all in a brisk wind with shallow edges and dodging moored boats! There were boats coming down – one got jammed on the cill on the way out, causing a considerable delay, especially when the day boat waiting to come up thought it might be helpful to move into the lock jaws, right in their way. Richard assessed the situation and got busy with the top paddles and flushed the boat out!

Richard was appalled that hardly anyone from the waiting boats came up to the lock to assist – everyone waited with their boats and just came to the lock when it was their turn. However, everyone seemed grateful for Richard’s assistance. In the meantime, I was grateful for the assistance of a fellow boater ho helped me to pull Indigo Dream in to the bank when a boater coming downstream gunned his engine to get past some shallows on the offiside and pulled my bows right across the canal. I’m used to single-handing the boat while waiting for locks, so having a helper was strange and awkward, so I managed to stumble over my own rope and fall backwards into the brambles – d’oh! Then I was really glad of a my helper’s hand as he pulled me out of the hedge!

Looks even worse from up here!

Looks even worse from up here!

Eventually we got to the lock – by now there was a queue of 10 boats behind me – it promised to be a long afternoon! As I was getting ready to enter the lock, Richard brought me some crew – a grandmother and her adopted grandson, who had been watching the boats and was fascinated by how the lock worked. Richard offered them a trip up the lock so on they came. The grandson is a dog-lover, so the minute he saw Herbie hound he lost all interest in the boat and spent his time cuddling on the sofa πŸ™‚

As the afternoon wore on, the queues became less as people moored up for the afternoon, but we’d found the Oxford Canal rather wearing after the peace and solitude of the northern waterways last year.

When we approached Lower Heyford we played our usual mooring roulette – moor by Cleves Bridge 207 before the long line of long-term moorings, or press on to the visitor moorings by the station and risk there not being a space. We compromised – we stopped the boat by Cleves Bridge – it was such a beautiful spot and perfect for Herbie to have a bimble – not that he was particularly interested. I sat and took photos of a little moor hen family and of the views opposite while Richard cycled ahead to check for moorings nearer to the station. In the end we decided to stay where we were.

We packed up, minimising the number of bags that we’d have to carry down the towpath. We took a bag of rubbish with us – we had hoped there would be a rubbish point at the services at Bridge 208. But we couldn’t see any skips, so we took the bag home with us. Alas, we’d missed the skips, which are above the towpath on the footpath at bridge level above the towpath.

We enjoyed the walk past the long-term moorers – they were an affable bunch, though we were sad that the famous Mortimer Bones, with lurcher Boots, were not at home. The steep steps over the railway were a trial for poor Herbie and his bad back, but we were soon in the car and on the way back to Kidlington to pick up Richard’s car. We wended our way home via the M4 – probably for the last time, it would be the M40 from now on.

Photoblog:

I’ve not done a good job of logging the exact location of these photos but they are all on the Oxford Canal and quite lovely!

The rolling Oxfordshire countryside - so lovely..

The rolling Oxfordshire countryside – so lovely..

 

Love this vintage sign.

Love this vintage sign.

 

Got to love these views...

Got to love these views…

 

I can understand this canal's popularity -a little too popular for our taste...

(Smerton Deep Lock) I can understand this canal’s popularity -a little too popular for our taste…

 

Two bridges - so different - they've only just allowed enough headroom for boats under the M40 - imagine lifting that for a narrowboat :-)

Two bridges – so different – they’ve only just allowed enough headroom for boats under the M40 – imagine lifting that for a narrowboat πŸ™‚

 

The next big thing??

The next big thing??

 

Dog-proof deck - they're much more common now :-)

Dog-proof deck – they’re much more common now πŸ™‚

 

Tree.....

Tree…..

 

Open view....

Open view….

 

Closed view...

Closed view…

 

Family life...

Family life…

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 45 – River Thames/Oxford Canal

Posted by indigodream on 3 September, 2016

Rewind to Saturday 6th August

Kelmscott to Kidlington

Beautiful morning on the water...

Beautiful morning on the water…

We were up early by Indigo Dream standards because we had decided to do a morning car shuffle. We forced Herbie out of bed and thought he might enjoy a trip out in the car with us, but 50 yards up the lane he dug his heels in and let us know that the only trip he was interested in was the one back to his bed – Herbie is so not a morning hound!

I drove us from Kelmscott to Lechlade to pick up Richard’s car, stopping at Lechlade’s great deli to top up with supplies for lunch; then we both drove our cars to Kidlington. Although we’d initially planned to finish our trip at the Highwayman Hotel, it seemed a bit cheeky to leave our cars there all day, so we moved to the adjacent industrial estate and found some parking there. We met our guests, old friends Neil and Jenny with daughter Hannah and spaniels Max and Hugo there then we all piled into Richard’s car for the return journey to Kelmscott.

With our transport all sorted, we could settle down to a lovely day’s boating. It was warm and dry, and the river was as spectacular as ever. Although the flow never seems to be very brisk, we travelled downstream at a pace and were surprised to find ourselves at Duke’s Cut. The cut itself was woefully overgrown, with some of the resident boaters complaining bitterly about the state of the badly-maintained towpath. We felt a little frisson of gloom – the South Oxford has never been high on our personal canal league table and Duke’s Cut seemed a dreary introduction to the canal itself.

Helming the boat? Playing tiller air guitar? All of the above! :-)

Helming the boat? Playing tiller air guitar? All of the above! πŸ™‚

Nonetheless, it was good to be back in narrow locks – always the best place for a narrowboat!

Again, I didn’t take any notes – we passed Maffi’s boat, the Milly M (though we didn’t see the man himself) and as we travelled beyond the confines of Oxford itself, we started to get glimpses of the beautiful scenery that makes the South Oxford so popular. However, the canal seemed very slow after the Thames and it was early evening by the time we found a mooring in Kidlington.

It suited us to go back to Kelmscott on many levels – Neil and Jenny could give us a lift there, we could go to the Plough for supper and we could pick up Richard’s car ready for the following day’s car shuffle.We left Herbie on the boat – he was tired after the day’s cruising and we didn’t think he’d be up for the walk down the lane from the Plough to Richard’s car – as well as being an old boy, he has a sore back and paws.

It was warm enough to sit outside and we had another fine meal in good company before our guests drove back to Surrey and we drove back to the boat where Herbie was happy to greet us, but equally happy to get back to his snoozing πŸ™‚

Photoblog:

More lovely views - this time above Shifford Lock I think...

More lovely views – this time above Shifford Lock I think…

 

Herbie crossing the lock at Eynsham - the bridges are wide and stable - not something that can be said for locks on the canals :-)

Herbie crossing the lock at Eynsham – the bridges are wide and stable – not something that can be said for locks on the canals πŸ™‚

 

The road less travelled? Duke's Cut to the left; King's Lock to the right...

The road less traveled? Duke’s Cut to the left; King’s Lock to the right…

 

Here's she comes - Indigo Dream enters the Oxford Canal :-)

Here’s she comes – Indigo Dream enters the Oxford Canal πŸ™‚

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 44 – River Thames, all 188 miles of it!

Posted by indigodream on 2 September, 2016

Rewind to Friday 5th August

Lechlade to Kelmscott

End of the navigation - and a local witness who can testify that we got there :-)

End of the navigation – and a local witness who can testify that we got there πŸ™‚

Although he’s not a demonstrative person, Lucio, our guest last week, really enjoyed his cruise and asked whether he could come again with his family while the boat was near his home town. Well, the real reason for coming again was for Lucio have more cuddles with Herbie, who had charmed him the previous weekend. Of course, we said “yes”, but the complication was that he could only come on the Friday evening. However, we didn’t think that would be a problem – Richard took Herbie to work in Croydon and took the afternoon off so that he could have a late afternoon cruise with Lucio. I was working in Sutton and would be able to set off at 4.30pm to meet them in Kelmscott in plenty of time for supper at the Plough.

Our plans were almost scuppered by the M25 and resultant local congestion – we both had journeys of over three hours, and arrived well after our intended target times. Nonetheless, Richard was able to meet up with our guests and, very importantly, enjoy a trip up to the Inglesham Roundhouse to complete Indigo Dream’s Thames transit. Although we know that some boats have chanced the stretch up to Cricklade and successfully reversed out again, that was an adventure too far for a Friday night. One year we will do it, probably need 2 chainsaws at the front!

It was a stunning evening, what a great day to finish off a journey that had started at Sheerness. We have traveled 188 miles on the river and been though 46 locks, we have seen all sorts of craft from kayaks to 1000 foot long container ships. We have been under Bridge 1 on the Thames, we have cruised past Palaces, been along some truly beautiful sections, such a wonderful journey which we finished off with a lovely dusk cruise downriver to Kelmscott.

We are still many miles from the Thames' source just up there - so tempting just to poke our nose up there - not so keen on getting stuck in the shallows though :-)

We are still many miles from the Thames’ source just up there – so tempting just to poke our nose up there – not so keen on getting stuck in the shallows though πŸ™‚

I was feeling a bit fraught by the time I arrived in Kelmscott, just before 8pm – having to drive four times round the village to find a parking space didn’t help – I hadn’t realised that the Plough was such a popular destination on aΒ  dusky summer’s evening! I eventually parked and walked down the lane to the meadows just as Indigo Dream came into view. The moorings were empty once again, so we were able to moor close to the gate. We suddenly had to grab the hounds when one of Lucio’s boys went “OW” – the single strand fence a few metres in from the water’s edge was electrified! Although we speculated on whether the boys were having us on, no-one felt inclined to check their veracity πŸ™‚

We were soon back at the pub – it was such a lovely evening that many people had chosen to eat outside, leaving us a fine bench table in the bar where we could settle down with the hounds. It was a great end to the night – good food, drink and company – can’t ask for more!

Photoblog:

Lucio taking the helm just below St John's Lock - brve man - there'w work to be done on the hel to get through the meanders downstream...

Lucio taking the helm just below St John’s Lock – brave man – there’s work to be done on the helm to get round the meanders downstream…

 

So worth the journey - a cruise at dusk has to be the best end to a busy working week :-)

So worth the journey – a cruise at dusk has to be the best end to a busy working week πŸ™‚

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 43 – River Thames

Posted by indigodream on 1 September, 2016

Rewind to Sunday 31st July

Godstow to Lechlade

Reflections....

Reflections….

With Richard’s car already waiting for us in Lechlade, we had a busy day’s cruising to make sure that we finished up there – no loitering today….

Having been a little naughty with mooring right on the end of the lock moorings at Godstow, we resolved to be away before we could possibly inconvenience anyone so it was an early start by Indigo Dream standards. Herbie hound’s preferred getting up time is around 10.30am, so he wasn’t impressed!

It was another fine day and we enjoyed passing through Kings Lock, which feels like the start of the meandering journey to Lechlade. Of course, the gentle curves between Kings and Eynsham Locks are just a rehearsal – a chance to get a feel for the tiller and how much you need to do to turn a 60′ narrowboat 180 degrees round a narrow hairpin bend! The river was stunning, with perfect reflections fooling the eye and giving an otherwordly feel to our journey.

The happy couple!

The happy couple!

However, nothing brings you down to earth like stopping at the services for a pump-out and to dump rubbish, which is what we did below Eynsham Lock. I wandered around with Herbie hound, who was appalled when a little black labrador took a fancy to him, turned her tail and presented her nether regions for some action. The look on his face was priceless as he pulled me back to the boat – Herbie told me that he doens’t like fast women – quite right, Herbie, very wise….

The lock-keeper at Eynsham looked familiar, and seemed surprised when I asked him how married life was treating him! Three years ago, he got married and we delivered a card to him from his fellow lock-keepers as we cruised downstream. We got the few photos of his wedding boat up on the ipad and he was delighted – apparently married life is going very well indeed πŸ™‚

Three years on and he's still smiling :-)

Three years on and he’s still smiling πŸ™‚

I felt a great surge of love for the river and the countless stories that have been told along its great length (historical and physical), but was brought down to earth by another chore – filling the water tank, which we did above Eynsham Lock.

I have some clear memories of cruising here – sadness that the great horsechestnut trees at Grafton Lock, which had been diagnosed with a deadly disease in 2012, had now gone, with just sad stumps as a reminder of their once magesterial presence. Then we had a chat with the people Northmoor Lock – there was a relief lockie on duty, but we had a chat with the main lock-keeper’s family who seemed to be looking after the cottage while they were away. We were asking after their lurcher, Flood, whom they’d adopted when they found him wandering lost and frightened during a storm in 2013 (having previously lost their old greyhound, Handsome Pa). We were delighted to hear that Flood is fine, though we were sad that he was away and that we didn’t get to meet him again.

Ok, so I may not remember anything about what we did on Day 41, but as it didn’t involved greyhounds then what can you expect!

Almost there - St John's lock just downstream of Lechlade...

Almost there – St John’s lock just downstream of Lechlade…

We had a surprise visitor later in the day, when one of Richard’s work colleagues asked if he could join us for the last part of our cruise. We’d been negotiating meeting places and times – Lucio lives not far from Lechlade so was very familiar with the area. Whether by immaculate luck or planning, Lucio was parking up at the riverside meadows at Kelmscott just as we rounded the bend.

Although we usually encourage visitors to have a try on the helm, the bends in the river downstream of Lechlade are a challenge, especially when you add in small hire boats, barely under control and often on the wrong side of the river. Lucio was happy to watch as Richard and I took turns to navigate the narrow river. It was noticeable that there are now a load more green and red buoys and that the ones we remembered are well away from the bank, the river is getting shallower . .

It was such a thrill to reach St John’s lock – we were within metres of fulfilling our ambition of cruising the length of the navigable (by narrowboat) Thames in a single season. However, we didn’t have much time to celebrate – we found a good mooring spot on the meadow below the bridge, and decided that our trip to the Inglesham Roundhouse would have to wait until next weekend. We had wanted to celebrate our Thames odyssey with a glass of bubbly (maybe offering a libation to the river itself) but we had to drive back to Surrey.

The meadow moorings cost Β£5 a night – we would not be there when the owner called the following morning, but he has an arrangement with the narrowboat moored permanently just downstream of the bridge so we gave them our week’s mooring fee and headed off.

Although it was a low key end to the day, we still felt elated at reaching one of our big cruising milestones – it had already been an epic year’s cruising, but there was much more to come…

Photoblog:

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...

From 2012: 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…

So sad when mature trees are lost...

So sad when mature trees are lost…

Takes all sorts....

Takes all sorts….

r_Thames-31Jul2016-007

Reflections....

Reflections….

Reflections...

Reflections…

The photo doen''t do justice to how surreal the buoys and their reflections looked -

The photo doen”t do justice to how surreal the buoys and their reflections looked –

There were free range chickens running around at one of the locks - luckily Herbie hound wasn't interested - he'd prefer his ready roasted from Waitrose :-)

There were free range chickens running around at one of the locks – luckily Herbie hound wasn’t interested – he’d prefer his ready roasted from Waitrose πŸ™‚

Hot tub....

Hot tub….

Almost at the end of the navigation - this is just downstream of St John's lock - just think, at the far end the river was five miles wide :-)

Almost at the end of the navigation – this is just downstream of St John’s lock – just think, at the far end the river was five miles wide πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picked up Lucio at Kelmscott

Herbie

No cattle at Lechlade – paying for moorings – electric fence

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 42 – River Thames

Posted by indigodream on 31 August, 2016

Rewind to Saturday 30th July

Abingdon to Godstow

From here it looks like an island....

From here it looks like an island….

We traveled to the boat on Saturday morning and didn’t have too bad a journey – Indigo Dream had been fine on the moorings (we’d sneaked an extra day) and we were soon on board and ready to go. Well, I was, Richard went off and did an early car shuffle to Lechlade while I single-handed through Abingdon Lock (not a hardship with three lock-keepers on duty!) and headed off the lock-free stretch to Sandford. By now, Henry and Archie had gone home for a rest, but Herbie had stayed on to keep us company – we’d have been pretty desolate otherwise.

Again, I’ve hardly got any notes and very few photos, but I do remember the “whippet cafe” at Abingdon Lock – named for the resident whippet who normally roams the lockside blagging ice-cream (apparently!), though sadly he was away today.

As always, I enjoyed the trip upriver – it’s so very beautiful – and also much quieter above Abingdon. I soon arrived at Sandford lock – I moored well back below the lock and signalled to the lockie that I was waiting for crew. I tried to interest Herbie in a bimble but he’d much rather stay on the sofa! As I waited in Sandford, the memories came flooding back – we’ve moored there many times and the spirits of Blue and Lou romped joyfully round the lock island.

But it's the root ball of a fallen tree - still thriving - it feel down years ago but it's thriving :-)

But it’s the root ball of a fallen tree – still thriving – it feel down years ago but it’s thriving πŸ™‚

It wasn’t long before Richard joined me and we were off again. We stopped off in Oxford for a quick chat with Jon of the Green Boat Company; sadly we missed seeing Sam and lurcher Kara from nb Element – both friends from Twitter.

We don’t like how Oxford has stuffed the Thames into a culvert above Osney lock, but the meadows beyond were as picturesque as ever. There are some fearsome shoals there, so it pays to keep to the centre of the channel. But the local residents were making the best of the beaches created by the shallows as they paddled and picnicked.

We got through Godstow lock and played mooring roulette – to moor downstream of the bridge or go upstream and risk there not being any spaces. We uhhmed and ahhhhd, but decided to moor downstream of the bridge as a quick recce with Herbie showed that the meadow upstream of the bridge was full of young cattle and not to be trifled with. It was quite late by the time we finished jiggling around trying to get Indigo Dream into a tidy mooring – in the end we gave up and reversed onto the far end of the lock moorings.

Beaautiful reflections...

Beautiful reflections…

We walked over to the Trout at Godstow, leaving Herbie on board because the bridge is very narrow and it would have been a bit far for him with his bad back and sore feet (long story). I didn’t remember the Trout until we got over the bridge, then I recalled that we’d been there before. The pub was heaving and service was a bit chaotic and the food disappointing – when I checked my blog post from our previous visit in 2009 I’d written “Despite its gourmet menu and lavish surroundings the service was slow and chaotic…..when the food finally came it was rather dry and overcooked – what a pity” – nothing had changed there I’m afraid. However, there has been one improvement – the pub is now dog friendly – hurrah!

We were a bit disconsolate as we wandered back to the boat, but Herbie cuddles made the world a better place πŸ™‚

 

Photoblog:

Iffley Lcok is chocolate box charming - this is just the weir - look at those mature trees - priceless!

Iffley Lcok is chocolate box charming – this is just the weir – look at those mature trees – priceless!

Takes all sorts....

Takes all sorts….

Pastoral scene from the extensive meadows below Godstow lock...

Pastoral scene from the extensive meadows below Godstow lock…

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 41 – River Thames

Posted by indigodream on 29 August, 2016

Just re-posting this as the original posted out of sequence for some reason – let’s see if this actually puts day 41 after day 40!

Rewind to Sunday 24th July

Goring to Abingdon

My goodness, this could be the shortest post ever!

I recall that we had another quiet night thanks to our beautiful meadow mooring and that we woke to yet another fine day. But I have no notes and hardly any photos so heaven knows what we did with the day! I only know that we didn’t have any guests on board and that we ended up in Abingdon, where we squeezed into a mooring space just upstream of the bridge. We filled with diesel just below the bridge on the left as you go upstream, nice service, reasonable price. Richard went back to collect the car from Goring by bus and train, which worked well. Richard says he noticed that the moorings outside the Beetle & Wedge were empty when we passed by this morning, so maybe we could have risked pushing on to there on Saturday evening!

That’s all folks…..

Beautiful scenery...

Beautiful scenery…

A taste of things to come - the river will get even narrower in the upper reaches :-)

A taste of things to come – the river will get even narrower in the upper reaches πŸ™‚

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 40 – River Thames

Posted by indigodream on 26 August, 2016

Rewind to Saturday 23rd July

Henley to Goring

Such a fair morning...

Such a fair morning…

We travelled to the boat on Friday night and had a pretty good journey, arriving early enough for me to shop for supplies in Waitrose. We had the three Beanz with us – Richard dropped me off at the shop, then dropped the dogs off at the boat, then came back in time to pay for the shopping and do the carrying! When we got back to the boat, Archie was howling – probably because he’d heard us coming up the towpath, but he’d attracted an audience of concerned citizens who though he was being abused terribly! We hastened on board and let him out so that he could tell them personally what a hard life he was enduring!

We settled in and watched another lovely sunset over the river – it’s such a fine spot and it’s no wonder that boats flock here from far and wide.

The following morning we were up early to greet some very special guests, Cyril and Kate, ex of narrowboat Tamesis, who’d caught the bus to Henley to join us for a cruise up to Reading. We’d last seen them in 2013, when they were contemplating looking for a Freeman cruiser so that they could stay on the water – at the time, Freeman’s were in short supply. However, they’d been in my thoughts as, in June I realised why Freeman’s were in short supply – they’re all on the Medway! Sadly, they’d had to change their plans and haven’t replaced their beloved narrowboat; luckily they have plenty of friends on the water so they can still get to cruise every year.

Not mpressed - though the river was lovely :-)

Not impressed – though the river was lovely πŸ™‚

It was set to be a scorchingly hot day, but the morning was just right and we set off upriver with Cyril at the helm, grinning like a pumpkin. Cyril and Kate are such lovely people and we chatted the morning away. I can’t believe I haven’t got any photos of them – I was sure I’d taken some – never mind!

All too soon we were in Reading, where we picked up some more guests – Tina with mini-hounds Macey and Elise and her friend Sue with greyhound Malcolm, the latest Indigo Dreamer! But no sooner had we picked them up than we dropped Kate and Cyril off near to their home – sadly they had commitments in the afternoon andΒ  couldn’t stay longer – we bid them a fond farewell – it had been great to see them.

We carried on upstream, having a much smoother journey without the lengthy delays at every lock. It was ridiculously hot, and despite having all the doors open and the fan on, we worried that the hounds were overheating. We stopped for lunch at a meadow a little way upstream from Reading – it was a fine spot with a beach area where we took the hounds for a paddle. Words cannot express how unimpressed they were with their dunking – they are not natural water dogs! Macey, being Macey, had a game of chase with a passing dog – Archie joined her with enthusiasm and zoomies ensued – it was blisteringly hot for such shennanigans so we got them back in the river! Although the hounds didn’t appreciate the water, we quite enjoyed wading in with them and, of course, the subsequent shower as they shook themselves dry!

Wavng a reluctant goodbye to Still Rockin' and No Problem XL

Waving a reluctant goodbye to Still Rockin’ and No Problem XL

We continued upstream and as we passed through Beale Park we spotted widebeams Still Rockin and No Problem XL. We pulled over – the river was plenty wide enough to accommodate two “fat narrers” and a narrer! We piled off the boat and had a merry catch up on the towpath – Macey, having laid claim to Indigo Dream, proceeded to investigate Still Rockin – she heartily approved of their facilities and it seemed likely that she would jump ship! We calculated that between the three boats we had 9 dogs – all mixing harmoniously on the towpath. We only had a brief stop – it was so hard to drag ourselves away, but we needed to get a bit further upstream – Beale Park is in the middle of nowhere and we would need to get back to a car at the end of the day.

We had planned to moor somewhere below the lock at Goring, but the towpath moorings were jam packed and the lock moorings were fully booked; we asked the lock-keeper about moorings and he commented that he’d seen a narrowboat moored on the left back just upstream of the weir. We were chuffed – there was a perfect meadow mooring just waiting for us – we would never have thought to stop there if the lockie hadn’t mentioned it. Our mooring was adjacent to a very quiet towpath with a gate between us and the downstream meadow. This meant that we could let the hounds out for an off-lead bimble – even Herbie, though he only took a cursory interest in the countryside before going back to his bed.

The pack - what a shame (but not a surprise) that Archie had pushed himself into the front and obscuring lovely Malcolm!

The pack – what a shame (but not a surprise) that Archie had pushed himself into the front and obscuring lovely Malcolm!

Richard cycled to Goring station to get a handy train back to Henley; we lounged on the boat enjoying cool drinks, houndie cuddles and houndie chat – bliss! At 7pm-ish, we wandered over to the Swan at Streatley, just over the river from Goring. It was just the right distance for an evening stroll through the abundant meadows. Although the pub was dog-friendly, getting a table was such a palaver – it really was too stuffy to be inside, and there was a free table on the riverside terrace, but the staff were fretting over whether a dog at another table might not like our dogs, despite all dogs showing no reaction to each other! In the end we settled outside at the back of the pub and they did eventually consent to take our food order. It had been such a hot day, we plumped for lots of starters and nibbles rather than a big meal – Richard joined us just before the food arrived (service was slow). The food was delicious, but very pricey, as were the drinks, so the pub doesn’t get a great review.

With the night drawing in, Richard piled all of our guests into the car – Malcolm the greyhound balked at getting into the car – apparently he always does; but he looked astonished when, instead of a drama, Richard just scooped him up and put him in the boot! Richard drove our guests back to Reading and I wended my way back to the boat with the Beanz. But I had a little treat – as I was deciding which path I needed to take at the back of the pub, I met a man walking a lovely blue greyhound – I did take his racing name but promptly forgot it! Inevitable we had a chat – the man was relatively new to greyhound ownership and completely besotted already – exactly as it should be πŸ™‚

By now it was dark and I was so pleased that I’d carried a torch with me, though there was a certain magic in walking back through the long grass, enjoying the silence of the riverbank.

We were all exhausted by the time we got back on board and the hounds were anxious for me to swing our bed down from the wall so that they could get settled. Richard was quickly back and we enjoyed a peaceful night on a wonderful mooring.

Photoblog:

Open water swimming has really taken off in the last few years - we like the orange floats otherwise swimmers are virtually invisible..

Open water swimming has really taken off in the last few years – we like the orange floats otherwise swimmers are virtually invisible..

 

The mysterious red postbox has disappeared from Sonning Bridge, but we did notice in another incongruous stpo upriver...

The mysterious red post box has disappeared from Sonning Bridge, but we did notice one in another incongruous stop upriver…

 

Elsie enjoying la dolce vita

Elsie enjoying la dolce vita

 

Malcolm wasn't quite so sure about the boat, though he settled well enough :-)

Malcolm wasn’t quite so sure about the boat, though he settled well enough πŸ™‚

 

Archie wasn't too sure about cuddles with his diminutive girlfriends :-)

Archie wasn’t too sure about cuddles with his diminutive girlfriends πŸ™‚

 

Elsie and her magnificent ears!

Elsie and her magnificent ears!

 

Happy hounds at the pub - I had taken a sheepie each from them so I don't why four of the six hounds piled onto this one!

Happy hounds at the pub – I had taken a sheepie each from them so I don’t why four of the six hounds piled onto this one!

 

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Boat Blog: The Oyssey 2016 – Day 39 – River Thames

Posted by indigodream on 21 August, 2016

Rewind to Sunday 17th July

Marlow to Henley

Not something that we see every morning!

Not something that we see every morning!

We were woken up very early by the sound of raised voices and a megaphone; we thought nothing of it at first but then we heard water drumming as if an apocalyptic thunderstorm had broken over the boat. We were intrigued, but even I looked out of the porthole the sky was a clear summer blue with the promise of a day’s sunshine – what was going on?

We had a look out of the cabin doors and saw that the water was boiling – the river was alive with swimmers – hundreds of them, taking part in an open water swimming/triathlon! We were captivated – we were moored just up from the start/finish point and couldn’t have had a better view – too good a view at times as one swimmer, despite our frantic shouting, swam right into the boat! I would have worried for his head, but luckily his outstretched arm touched the bow first. Elsewhere, the safety boats were working hard to keep the swimmers on course, and out of the path of the few motorised boats that were being escorted along the river.

Richard the lock-keeper (blue T-shrt!) - it's a job he'd enjoy!

Richard the lock-keeper (blue T-shirt!) – it’s a job he’d enjoy!

Although we could have arranged our departure with the event organisers, we decided to stay put – the swimming would be over by 10am (they started at 7am) and we didn’t have a taxing cruise ahead of us.

Although we didn’t have any guests on board today, we had quite an eventful day. The river between Marlow and Henley is absolutely beautiful, but the river was busy and there were queues at many of the locks – average transit time was an hour! We had a nice moment at Mapleduram Lock – the lockie was at lunch so Richard went up to operate the lock. He did a great job of organising the waiting boats and packed the lock like a pro, I wondered at why all the boaters were being so co-operative – then I realised that Richard was wearing a blue T-shirt and looked like an EA lockie – the motley crew of boaters hadn’t realised they were being directed by a lowly narrowboater! Richard was a bit slow though when two approached him to buy day licences, he told them he was not the lock keeper and waved away their cash rather than saying ah that’s OK no need for any paper work.

We’d heard that there was a historic boat rally at Henley but we hadn’t reckoned on the sheer scale of the event. Henley was jam packed – both on the river and on the riverbank. Passing traffic was shunted into a special channel mid-river, while historic boats processed in their own channel. We flew our Jubilee pageant flag, and were gratified by the waves of acknowledgement from the many Jubilee boats at the event.

We had planned to moor Indigo Dream at the “pay ‘n display” moorings in Henley, but the town was so crowded we despaired of getting a space. But to our astonishment, there were several spaces opposite the island – we quickly moored up in the first available space and Richard went to get us a parking ticket – Β£55 for a week – bargain! Sort of.

Old friends, new boat - No Problem XL with bloggers Sue and Vic - not time to stop today but we hope to catch up with them soon :-)

Old friends, new boat – No Problem XL with bloggers Sue and Vic – not time to stop today but we hope to catch up with them soon πŸ™‚

It was quite early when we moored up – Richard went off to find a train back to the car in Limehouse and I pottered around with the greyhounds. The park adjacent to the moorings was jam-packed with picnicing families – once again, the hound and the boat became tourist attractions. In the end, I had to close the towpath-side curtains!

It had been a hot day, so later on I settled on the back deck with a good book and dangled my feet in the river – the water was cold, even after a day in the intense sunshine – it must have been freezing for this morning’s swimmers!

Richard had a slow drive back from Limehouse, but at least the boat was packed up and ready to go – we had a fridge end feast for supper then set off home…

We are publishing these blogs on the move and forgetting things. We have some wonderful photos of us going past the houses of P taken by Simon Judge, we will add them later.

Photoblog:

If ever I needed an obscene lottery win - I'd love to ownt his place and run my own events there :-)

If ever I needed to win an obscene amount of money on the lottery – I’d love to own this place and run my own events there πŸ™‚

 

Waiting for the off...

Waiting for the off…

 

The starting line...

The starting line…

 

The coruse took them a long way upriver - the duck were astonished!

The course took them a long way upriver – the duck were astonished!

 

It was exhausting work - so it's not surprising hat some swimmers lost their way and had to be herded back to the channel...

It was exhausting work – so it’s not surprising that some swimmers lost their way and had to be herded back to the channel…

 

I can't see the greyhounds taking to kayaking, though this little dogs seemed to be having a lovely time :-)

I can’t see the greyhounds taking to kayaking, though this little dog seemed to be having a lovely time πŸ™‚

 

Wonderfu procession of historic boats - some had bands on board and the river was buzzing with sights and sounds...

wonderful procession of historic boats – some had bands on board and the river was buzzing with sights and sounds…

 

Archie inspecting rowbarge Gloriana - I wonder whether it has space for a greyhound - or maybe its just for royal corgis!

Archie inspecting rowbarge Gloriana – I wonder whether it has space for a greyhound – or maybe it’s just for royal corgis!

 

One photo can't do justice to the sheer scale of the historis boat festival in Henley...

One photo can’t do justice to the sheer scale of the historic boat festival in Henley…

 

Henry and Archie enjoying the view..

Henry and Archie enjoying the view..

 

Henley has a wonderful waterfront - quaint and beautiful

Henley has a wonderful waterfront – quaint and beautiful

 

There was so much to see - Henley is a brilliant place for watching the world go by - I love the picnic basket on the back of this car/boat :-)

There was so much to see – Henley is a brilliant place for watching the world go by – I love the picnic basket on the back of this car/boat πŸ™‚

Sunset on the water...

Sunset on the water…

 

 

 

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