Cruising notes

We left you at Teddington, the start of the non-tidal Thames. As I have pointed out every time we have been on the Thames, it is a slightly crazy place that has slightly crazy boats.

We came across this one, well he ended up hanging onto our boat in a lock.

Just shows you what you can do with a little ingenuity and scrap plywood

Why doesn’t it fall over, well out of view in this shot, he has another, shorter canoe attached to the other side. Basically an outrigger canoe. In this case the other canoe was so close it should probably be classed as an inrigger canoe.

Some of the boats on the Thames are truly amazing


Then there are the regular passenger service boats. This boat is over a hundred years old and is still in regular daily service (built in 1903). They don't build them like they used to.

Mind you, the Thames has become much more dangerous recently. The reason is the growing number of Red Kites. These beautiful birds are now spreading over the country and it is, for me, almost irresistible to watch them instead of where I am going. The way they fly is just fantastic, much more worth watching than me in a Cessna I assure you. However watching them means that you are not watching where you are going and as anyone who has driven a narrowboat knows they don’t go in a straight line without fairly constant attention. Never mind, that is what marine insurance is for.

We stopped off at Reading and hung about on the Kennet and Avon canal, which leads off from the Thames there to meet up with people. The K&A is one of the messiest of canals as they seem to have used cast off bits from every other canal to restore it. It does have a few bits of it's own but mostly it just looks like a bad compromise (which is exactly what it is)

There are the ridiculous “grass sided locks”, sorry historic and culturally important grass sided locks.

Scalloped edge locks (why they should be so is totally beyond me)

And it's traffic light. The only on on the canal system. You moor up, press the button and sometime in the next 10 minutes (yes really) it should turn green which means you are free to go.

When you do get the OK to go, you then pass through the middle of the Oracle shopping centre but are not allowed to stop. It looks like it could do with a few more shoppers to me.

Having done our thing in Reading, we moved back onto the Thames towards Oxford, and onto the twisty ditch, also known as the South Oxford canal.

This was done with the full expectancy of it being a disaster. The reason is quite fundamental to canal life. You need water for a canal and the Oxford canal is running out of water, rapidly. It seems the reservoirs that feed it are practically empty. We are expecting to get to Banbury and to be stuck there till there is some concerted rainfall, that could be months.

The Oxford canal is “chocolate box” pretty, truly one of the nicest canal to cruise. But it takes full concentration. That was something lacking in the hire boat steerer that hit us hard, well hard enough to break some of the welding on the boat. We are used to being hit by other boats but this guy was something else. We were moored and he hit us at about 45 degrees at full speed. As there was damage I requested name and address, which he refused to give, and then claimed he had not hit my boat. Luckily he was in a hire boat. The hire company came out, believed me, and arranged to have it fixed. We saw them as they made their way back to the hire base, a much more careful steerer, (and probably a few hundred pounds poorer).

Typical Oxford canal lift bridges

We holed up at Thrupp near Kidlington while Judy had an endoscopy as she had been “laid low” a couple of times on the Thames. Generally we try to be in the middle of nowhere most of the time but that has it's drawbacks when you need medical advice/attention. So we joined the madding crowd. An “urgent” endoscopy takes two weeks to arrange and the results dribble in over the next two weeks. Not too bad when the mooring limit in any locality is 14 days. I phoned the powers that be and got overstay permission. Fortunately they agreed without fuss (or there would have been fuss).

There are worse places to get delayed (Thrupp near Kidlington)

I wandered around the Jericho district of Oxford, a traditionally poor area now becoming trendy, and ended up with a few pictures:

Now I know that Mini's are small vehicles but you would think that they would have room for maps on the inside. I just keep on wondering what colour they declared on the vehicle registration form.

Then there were the matching bikes

Yes, right down to painted tyres and saddle. I guess it's some sort of “if you steal it, I will find it” thinking.

They seem to like painting things there:

I can tell it's graffiti, the question is “is it art”?

A single video, us going through Somerton Deep lock, and no there isn't a Somerton Shallow lock before you ask. It is not edited so this is just how it happens. The fixed camera obviously misses some of the action such as Judy shutting the gates but I sometimes need two hands to control the boat (and you never know when).


P.S. I had insufficient signal to upload the video till we were near Rugby, so to save distress to the readers I can report that we have managed to get off the Oxford canal (South end). We only have a few canals left with water shortage problems to negotiate.