Thursday 27 August 2020

Newbridge (nearly)

 Today's Navigations - Oxford Canal, River Thames

The day began pleasantly with generally blue skies. The temperature seemed warm enough for boating.

So, here is the half-promised photo of our overnight mooring. Look closely and you might spot an untidy bag on the bows. This is actually a part bag of solid fuel which was doubling up as a makeshift fender holder. When we moored the only part of the boat touching a hard side was right front, forward of the cabin so our usual hanging fenders were of no use. Combined with our spare home made Calder and Hebble hand spike (still kept for old times' sake!) the bag and a proper fender worked well and nothing was lost. What you cannot really see is that behind us the reeds occupied much more of the width of the canal so that we were almost hidden from view for boats coming down the canal.

We set off just after 8 and progressed down to our final lock on the main line of the Oxford Canal - alas just after we cast off (since we could not get on or off the boat at the stern this took a while) another boat appeared around the corner and etiquette demanded that we let them continue - bad manners knowingly to pull out in front of a boat, especially just before a lock.

Turned out that they too were heading towards Lechlade, where the boat is normally moored, and we kept them company until we moored at lunch time, along with another boat waiting at Eynsham Lock.

Immediately after where the lift bridge is being re-built we passed under a former railway bridge. This was built to carry a loop line belonging to the London and North Western Railway to allow trains to pass between the line to Evesham and one to Islip, without having to go into Oxford. It has long been abandoned with little sign on the ground as it is largely underneath the large A40 roundabout at Peartree Hill.

We caught up with the boat ahead at Dukes Lock.

Below the lock we then turned right, under the bridge just beyond the lock cottage. Immediately there is a lock that only rises about 370 mm, controlling the flow of water from the river into the final section of the canal into Oxford.

The top paddle mechanism is reminiscent of some found on the Calder and Hebble. Those who know that we are paranoid that windlasses should not be left on an open paddle, in case they suddenly drop and whizz off, may be surprised by the photo but this one is held by a catch and is the only way to hold the paddle up.

The first part of the link to the river is called Dukes Cut - actually today many people would probably use the name for the whole length to join the river above King's Lock but the second part is really also river, once navigable to Woolvercot Mill. (Pedant's Alert: that is the name on the 1887 OS Map)

After ascending Eynsham Lock we let the other two boats go on ahead whilst we attempted to buy a visitor licence for the river. Under the current Covid arrangements, the keeper here is not selling them and it is only possible that we may be asked when we get as far as Sty John's Lock, just before Lechlade.

The typical lock keepers cottages have now been mostly sold off as resident keepers, largely available 24/7, are a thing of the past. This one looks as if it is gradually trying to forget that it is next to he river!

By now the sky was really grey and the atmosphere much chillier. Ere long the promised rain arrived, although for the rest of the morning it was more nuisance rain rather than heavy.

The mobile home park at Bablock Hythe is truly enormous and we seemed to take for ever to pass it by. It is kept very neat and tidy.

The rain gradually intensified and by the time we passed through Northmoor Lock - still with its traditional Paddle and Rhymer weir - we were into wet weather gear properly! As a result, we started to look for a mooring - on this part of the Thames they are very infrequent.

Fortunately, just after Hart's Footbridge we saw on our old Nicholsons Guide a mooring marked that is not on the Waterway Routes - we sort of recall stopping here 10 or 11 years ago. There is only room for one boat so we were lucky it was empty. The other two boats pressed on hoping to patronise the pub at the next bridge.

The rain was really heavy during the afternoon and we reluctantly opted to stay put until the morning.

There was a bright sunny spell after 5 but as there was little chance of finding another mooring any time soon, we moved no further today. At least that direction in the photo was just right for a tv signal.

11.2 Miles - 5 Locks

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