Friday, 25 June 2010

How many people does it take to fix a Lift Bridge?

We set out from Jericho early on Wednesday morning, knowing how busy Thrupp can be and we planned to be in Thrupp for a piece of work on Friday. It was a lovely quiet day and odd not to see lots of V hull/plassy cruisers which we got used to on the Thames. It was a lovely day and contained Lift Bridges. This pic called to mind the "how many XYZs does it take to change a light bulb?" jokes. Here is perhaps an overkill of engineers fixing a light bulb - sorry - Lift Bridge!

We moored up neatly in one of only two 14 day moorings the southern end of Thrupp, near the Jolly Boatman. Hmmm. Right near a pub again. Odd how that keeps happening! We were delighted to imbibe with friends that very night.

How many Oxford Dons does it take to change a light bulb?

Jericho again

We realised we've been to Jericho by canal twice before - August 2008 and December 2008 for Christmas. We did a nifty turn into Isis lock from Sheepwash Channel, the southern join of the Oxford and the Thames. Duke's Cut, which we travelled on a month ago, is the northern join. This is an interesting link about Isis Lock: stayed in Jericho a few days, so Elizabeth could walk the five minutes to Oxford station for a few days work in London. Pete stayed aboard and built an amazing 72 project spreadsheet.

From River to Canal

Back on the Oxford!!! We So enjoyed the river.

Just before we go on, we thought it wise to explain why rivers have locks. Forgive us if you already know this, but for those who don't we try to be helpful (!). To be navigable, a body of water has to be deep enough to take a certain depth of boat (not that you'd know this by some sections of the canal network). Upstream of rivers is usually shallow, so there has to be some way to make rivers deeper to be able to continue to be navigable as much as possible. The cunning plan ages ago, was to dam rivers at intervals, allowing water to build up and therefore allow navigation further and further upstream. These dams are not permanent, but are lock chambers, allowing boats to go up the height of the dammed water, or to travel down from the dammed water to the lower level. A further cunning plan was as a result of angry farmers and mill owners who needed flowing water for their agriculture or for their mills. Allow some water to keep flowing around the dam/lock chamber so that the mill wheel still turns or so that water can still flow into irrigation chambers. This is what the weir is all about; the river still flowing whilst it still builds up in depth. Good, eh?

Canal locks on the other hand, are to allow water to go up and down hill; forget up and down stream. Just up hills, down hills, through mountains, over roads. Canals are water roads. Rivers are rivers. There. Said.

Anyway, we're back on the canal.

Sandford to Osney

We set out on Friday after Elizabeth had a conference call (callers from Wales, Windermere, London and Cambridge - what a hoot!). We wanted to moor in Osney in preparation for seeing friends over the weekend. On the way, we so enjoyed the approach to Folly Bridge, seen here and including the Head of the River.

We stayed in Osney over the weekend, enjoyed a visit, went shopping, purchased a basket at the Towpat Tea Party, went to St Columba's on the Sunday, then set out back to the canal.

Abingdon to Sandford

So, we set out from Abingdon after a few emails and other pieces of work and moored up in Sandford on teh 17th where we had booked electricity as before. Elizabeth set about doing laundry and enjoying hanging it on the line, and Pete set about doing some mechanics. Here he is, topping up the water in the batteries. They are below the stern deck, next to the engine. Much nicer than clearing the weed hatch!!

And look closely at the pic of Bella. Flowing in the breeze is the laundry on the stern. We have been thrilled to get our rotary drier to attach to the cruising rail. What excites some, eh?

Abingdon on the 16th and a Schmitt

We left Clifton Lock in the morning and enjoyed our sojourn to Abingdon. We had planned to be there in order to do a piece of work at one of the local schools, but that was postponed. So, we just enjoyed ourselves! We did a little shopping, then watched people with canoes playing in the "rapids" of the weir for Abingdon Lock. Do note the DANGER sign!

And, just so you know. While we travel, Elizabeth knits. These pics are of the Unique Schmitt. Scarf/Hat/Mitt. Jeffrey put in a request for a single garmet of scarf, hat and gloves so that they were all connected and he didn't lose any. So, here is the result. A Schmitt. SCarft, Hat, MITT. She can't do gloves yet, and besides mitts are far warmer, so here it is. It can be separted into its constituent parts (smaller pic), but it is a unit. It was packaged and posted in Abingdon, but made throughout the journey from the Oxford canal in Hilmorton, through the Thames and the Wey.

Wallingford to Clifton Lock

Yes, it's more than a week later and no, we are no longer in Wallingford, smart readers! We stayed one night, then set out north, hoping to moor up in a little village. As it was, the only mooring we could find was an extended layby at Clifton Lock. It was lovely, actually, and Josie loved the walk! Sorry no photographs, but there we are.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Wallingford on the 14th

On Monday, we travelled only one lock and five rather boring miles to Wallingford. We were delighted to see that there was a new mooring edge and giggled that we had seen it being built as we were travelling downstream. There was room for us, but as the day wore on, we offered alongside mooring to Morwena II, as even with new moorings, there was much demand for space. You can see us doubled up behind a Dutch Barge called Duchess.

On Tuesday we had a lovely bimble around Wallingford and enjoyed the sample of shops, including Just Trading, a fair trade shop. The owner used to live on a narrowboat in Birmingham's Gas Street Basin, so we had quite a chat!

Goring for the weekend

It has been a week since last post - apologies!! Connectivity and busyness are the reason.

We did make it to Goring on Thursday and moored just the other side of the lock in the old mill stream. The water level was quite low compared to the lock side and we were concerned if Josie could get off. We considered a chair, or some ladder, but -- discovered she can jump! We were amazed that from a standing start, she jumped more than the distance of her height (on all fours). Our incredible mutt :-) Pete watched this a considerable amount more that Elizabeth who set off from Goring on the 0836 Friday morning. While Pete did laundry (as we were on electics), bimbled through the village, got to know the John Barleycorn and generally maintained domestics, Elizabeth travelled to see students in Manchester then went on to Chester to manage a ministers' training weekend in Wales.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Pangbourne, alongside Tamesis

We decided to really get going today, knowing that we are due in Goring tomorrow night. We set out just before 8:30 and travelled the decorous stretch through Henly, watcing more awnings and tents being erected for the Henley Regatta. We stopped twice in Reading. Once, where we did on the way down, to do a quick grocery shop. Then we stopped after the lock, just above the Caversham bridge. This was for Elizabeth to hop off for Reading Station to buy tickets for the weekend (Goring, Manchester, Chester, Goring). This is Bella seen from the bridge. Elizabeth returned with tickets and Cornish pasties. mmmm.

Along the way, we saw Great Western trains on the routes to and from Reading - and got two hoots from drivers when we waved. We moored for a while just up at Mapleduram lock in order to dispose of much reclycing, devour ice cream and watch a huge passenger ferry go through the lock. Amazing sight.

Finally we settled into Pangbourne. Having been told by the Caversham Lockeeper that there was room (no problem!), we tried one last place to realise there was no way it would work. We then gratefully accepted an offer to moor alongside Tamesis, a lovely cream coloured broad beam. She's on a long outing from her mooring on the Lancaster Canal, having made it to the Thames by way of the Grand Union. Being wide, she won't be able to make the circle by using the Oxford Canal and will have to turn around. Whatever, we are delighted she was in Pangbourne and welcomed close guests!

Closish to Henly, round the corner from Hambledon

What a lovely mooring we found. We set out from Marlow in the afternoon after a full day of work, Elizabeth ticking through her tasks and Pete building a new reporting spreadsheet. We travelled 7 miles and 4 locks, working the last lock on our own, as it was after the Lockeeper's day. Pete did the controls whilst Elizabeth drove into and out of the lock. This was the first time she did both on the Thames and was quite proud of herself after the stress reduced somewhat.

We had planned to stop at Hurley, but as is so often the case on a river, no moorings were to be found. So we kept going and ended up at Remenham farm moorings on a southern corner between Henley and Hambledon. It was a lovely open field at a wide stretch of the river with full light each side. Across, and looking quite fine, was Henley Management College (home of Belbin Team roles, in case you know). Bella looked on, considering imparting some of her wisdom, but decided to keep to herself.

And we saw 2 Kingfishers. Good day!

Monday, 7 June 2010

From Maidenhead to Marlow via Cookham

We set out yesterday (June 6) from Maidenhead, having visited our neighbour's boat first. Their Sagacity is, to Elizabeth, one of the most beautiful broad beams ever. It is a dear wide shape with an open roof with awning over the bow and brass framed, rounded top windows right next to each other about half way along each side from the bows. The back section has portholes and the whole interior is wood finish and like us, personal rather than fitted furniture. We so enjoyed our tour! For those who understand, it is an inspection launch style and its sister gives tours through Little Venice in London.

From there, we set off north and made the massive leap of 3 miles, 2 locks and 2 1/4 hours to Cookham, which Sagacity's owners recommended. Bella looks lovely, tucked beside Bell Rope Meadow. You can see that we're on a bit of an angle with the stern out, but even Josie could make the leap. The river doesn't have as straight edges as canals!!! After a lovely Sunday dinner, we watched Aviator on our new tiny DVD player, linked to the TV. Yes, there is a DVD player in our TV, but it gave up a while ago.

This morning we woke to a slightly cloudy day and walked to the Stanley Spencer Galley in Cookham - A wonderful painter, Spencer's work has informed quite a few theological debates! His Christ preaching at Cookham Regatta is an unfinished work but is fabulous with Jesus in his straw hat, sitting in a Lloyd Loom rattan chair in a boat and leaning meaningfully toward those who will listen. Not many it seems, as most were enjoying the boating!

We then spent a massive hour or so with no locks to move on to Marlow. We're taking a slow journey to Goring where we've booked three days on electricity while Elizabeth takes a work excursion to Wales via Manchester for another meeting. We wanted to approach Abingdon for next week, as there is a piece of work to do there and it will be great to do it arriving by Bella.

Shepperton to Maidenhead

We stayed in Shepperton for another day so that Pete could take trains to collect post and packages from Rugby. Elizabeth used the time to get some lovely work done and to knit a bit more. A peacful summer evening was followed by a serious day of motoring.

We had not expected to travel the 19 miles and 7 locks on Saturday, as we expected to moor up somewhere in Windsor. But Windsor was Heaving With Boats. Everywhere!!! Every tiny little moment of a mooring was already bagsied by at least one boat, sometimes two abreast. There was no room at the Palace. Ah well. We kept moving.

We finally came to rest in Maidenhead, below the lock where we had moored the week before. This mooring was on a wider Thames stretch in the middle of whatever bit of town Maidenhead claims on the river. Which is not much - most of the town is almost a mile west. We walked it for some good shopping the next day and took a taxi back with the seven bags of provision/stores.

On the Wey

So we got to the River Wey with great expectation on the Wednesday morning, June 3. But then we met the reality. The history is that these navigations were the first manufactured navigations in England, a century older than canals. The river was diverted with canal type sections and with locks to enable carriage from Guildford to London in 1653. The history and present story is here: The boats designed to carry it were wide and relatively flat and over the next 350 years, the navigtations have silted up, grown weed and variously been dredged. The result for this century is a very shallow navigation indeeed. As Bella only draws two feet - there are two feet below water compared to the five or so feet above - you can imagine how shallow this is. The result for us is sluggish travel, difficult maneuvering and frustration.

Added to the shallowness is the work of the locks. We started in the Wey downstream, therefore going uphill/upstream through the locks. These lock gates were, engineering wise, a clear century before the engineering skills of the Oxford Canal and other early narrow canals. In the newer canals (we know - still 250 years old), the locks fill by water inlets deep in the floor of the lock, managed by sluices deep on the lock gate or at the side of the lock bed and operated by paddles at the top of the gate. On the Grand Union, these deep inlets are sometimes added to by gate sluices. These are grilles on the middle of the gates, the covers of which are only opened when the boats are halfway up the rising lock, as the force of water can be huge.

Well, on the Wey, there are only gate sluices and the locks are double width. So as soon as the sluices are opened any amount at all, the water rush is ruthless. The paddles have to be operated at tiny increments at a time in order not to bash the boats or to flood them. And because they are so strong, the boats need to be held by two lines, the bow and the stern. Added to that, there is no landing stage for boat crew to get off and take a line with them. This means that Pete usually let Elizabeth off on the river edge before the lock and carrying a boat hook. This she used in order to reach down and collect lines as Bella went into the locks. There was no switching and swapping crew here; Elizabeth is by far the more deft gunnel walker and there was a lot of gunnel walking to do in order to get to a good place to be dropped off for locks. And we found that all Pete's boat handling experience was critical for the force of this oddly peaceful looking river.

A beautiful day, but not a good experience. Though we had only travelled half of the length, we decided that it was not worth our pursuit. We moored in Cartbridge, near Send, and decided to turn around and go back to the Thames the next day. However, it was good to see that the National Trust uses working boats for much of the Wey upkeep; the picture captures barge and tug.

So the next morning, we set off to another stunning day to take the locks going downstream. Thes was far easier as the locks are slow emptiers and we could enter the lock at the same level as the water which allowed easy exit from Bella to lockside. It felt far more like the locks of the later canals. We were out and through Shepperton lock for a peaceful evening moored by the Thames Court Hotel/pub. Ah.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Queuing in Chertsey

Well, the British do like to queue. And today it was Bella's turn to demonstrate her heritage. We pootled along nicely from Old Windsor lock where we had electrics and did a whole heap more of laundry (zoom into Bella's deck in the pic of her moored on the pontoon). It was a lovely mostly sunny day and we were mentally scheduled to enter the top of the River Wey Navigations a waterway managed by the National Trust. But...

At Chertsey Lock, south west of central London just touching Surrey, the lock gates were not working. At first it was thought that the hydraulics had failed, but that was fine on testing. So some divers appeared and after their deep swim to the bottom of the gates, they found a large log which wedged the gate open. In the meantime, queues were forming upstream and downstream. By the time all was clear and we could move forward, we had quite a band of friends with six boats breasted alongside with us - we were boat two from the towpath in this shot, with Atlantis to our right and three small v hull cruisers outboard of them. We moved forward in three hits, two of the times with Rupert, Pete and John pulling the first-to-the-towpath narrowboats's lines so that the whole raft of six boats could move in one hit. This meant pulling on 65 tonnes of narrowboat steel and whatever the plassy cruisers (v hulls) weighed. What a hoot! We finally untied our raft for the finally decant into the lock.

The first-to-the-towpath narrowboat doesn't have a name yet, as it was only just collected by Rupert from Reading a few days ago. The proud owner of a Metrofloat double width narrowboat style (, he was thrilled for the opportunity to give tours to all the other boaters who wanted a peek! It was touring one of those which made us decide that we could actually make a boat a home, but then we thought we'd try out a 'proper' narrow boat first. We wouldn't go to a Metrofloat now until we have to think about stopping somewhere for good because our bodies can't do this anymore. Then you can probably see us in one, moored up next to a patch of garden on the Kennet and Avon...