Wednesday 3 May 2023


Today's Navigation - River Thames

We awoke to a really beautiful morning - bright blue sky.

Christine was woken  around 7 by the noisy sounds of rowing crews, their coxes and coaches. A variety of different mixes of boats and crews and, as last night, there was at times competition for space on the water to make a good run. Just beyond where we moored is Iffley Lock so this was the turn around point.

Most of  training had finished by the time we set off - no doubt the students should have  been heading off to lectures and tutorials. Even Blues have in theory to look as if they want to pass a degree! 

Just after leaving the mooring, this new family swam past - parents being very protective of their tiny brood.

Iffley Lock, and the others today, had lock keepers in attendance. 

A long, tight bend in the river creates what is known as Rose Isle, This splendid house has an amazing almost panoramic view.

Half an hour later we arrived at Sandford Lock. Christine arrived before the keeper and discovered that she had to fully close the bottom gate and sluices which had been left ajar by a boat that had gone down a few minutes earlier. She left the rest of the work to the professional!

Yesterday we had expected to look for an overnight mooring here but as almost all of the spaces were still occupied we felt relieved that we had stayed put at Iffley. However, there is a single mooring just below the lock and that was empty.

The next reach is just over six miles so we now had almost an hour of uninterrupted cruising. The flow is still noticeably stronger that 'normal' especially around some sharp bends.

This delightful boathouse seems to have no road or track to access. It probably is part of the mid 17C Nuneham House estate, once a residence for politicians or noblemen! It seems to have had a chequered career with many attempts by successive owners to re-model it, not always very successfully. It is now used as The Global Retreat Centre, run by Brahma Kumaris as a place for meditation. Its history page has this amusing entry for the start of the 20C: 

Sir William Harcourt, who as Chancellor of the Exchequer had introduced death duties in 1894, unexpectedly inherited Nuneham (by then rather dilapidated). “I appear to have inherited a bankrupt estate,” he remarked. To which the agent replied, “And whose fault do you think that is, Sir William?” He died shortly afterwards.

A little further is this splendid house, originally known as The Old Boathouse but now much extended is home to a wealthy businessman who has a keen interest in the environment. He has created a wild life lake and filled in some quarries with waste from Didcot power station to re-create agricultural land.

Nearing Abingdon we passed under Nuneham Railway Bridge which is the one that is closed for extensive repair and the reason why Mike had to take a replacement bus as part of the car shuffle on Saturday.

A very large crane was preparing to lift some steelwork into place but we could not stop to watch! (even if we had wanted to)

On another sharp bend is this sunken boat, looking almost as it did when we passed in 2014, if perhaps a little further out into the channel.

We planned to stop just before Abingdon Lock for a 'full service'. Fortunately another boat was just moving off the water point. This site has a notoriously slow rate of flow so it was nearly an hour before we could go down the lock. 

Unlike the other two, this lock was manned by volunteers. It seems as kif they have quite a sense of humour, judging by a couple of notices.

After passing under Abingdon Bridge we tied up so that we could go shopping. This town seems to welcome visitors and those coming by water have a good choice of pleasant meadow-side (free!) moorings. The only issue we had was that the flow of the river through the bridge made it difficult to control the boat and we turned around to face the stream. 

We gradually crept up to one of several rings set into the river bank and then were able to bring the stern in to another ring. It was now time for lunch. 

Waitrose was not too far to walk - other supermarkets are on the other side of the town. We were able to fulfil our shopping list and then take it back to the boat.

The centre of the town adjacent to the river has a  number of older buildings and perhaps one day we will have tome to explore further. Returning to the boat we did see what is left of a former school or hospital or almshouse, depending which century! An information panel summarises the history and remarks that the school was endowed  by a wealthy merchant but that this was woefully inadequate and for most of its subsequent life if had to be bailed out by the local corporations. Still, it did make him look benevolent! It was also a condition that the boys prayed for him three times a day.

After unpacking our shopping we realised that it would take at least two hours to reach the next likely mooring which made the decision to stay here for the night a no-brainer. The bright sunshine of the day remained - it was a rather pleasant spot to stay.

7.1 Miles - 3 Locks

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