Friday 6 October
Radcot lock to Bablock Hythe
I am dedicating today’s journal to Leigh’s Auntie Vera, who is ninety-nine years young today. She is a really bright spark – no way would you think she is ninety-nine – and has been out for lunch today; a couple of sherries and some good food at The Kings Court in Coughton, is how she celebrated. She has booked a party room at the same hotel for her one-hundredth birthday next year. I do hope I get an invite, after all she read my first book cover to cover, telling Leigh, ‘Martha made me laugh, she is a clever little dog’. Leigh was dumbfounded. She thought Auntie Ve might compliment HER on the book, but it was not to be the case. Yelp!
Coming downstream today has been rather relaxing, although we didn’t manage to moor at Tadpole! The sun shone brightly and the sky was clear when we set off. It clouded over around lunch time but it’s been a dry, autumnal day – exactly as the weather ought to be at this time of year. I love the fact that roses are still blooming and the hollyhocks still standing tall, necks stretching skywards. We have some beautiful flowers here in Blighty.
For Tom, knowing the twists and turns of the river definitely makes steering more enjoyable. Leigh and Tom are rather like well-oiled machines, they almost work as one at the locks, although when Leigh comes across the occasional lock-keeper it throws her a little. Once such fellow was telling Leigh that for the last few years the number of boats on the river have been in decline, which she and Tom find surprising. According to many boat-related social-media sites, more and more people are buying boats and there are often concerns (and moans) about this. Yet although this is most-likely true, not many boaters actually constantly-cruise. We have been surprised by the lack of traffic since setting off in July.
For sure, more marinas are being provided. We have seen several being constructed over the last sixteen months, so I guess it is true that more people are living-aboard, but also true that they are not travelling. The lock-keeper said,’All summer if I’ve had twenty-five boats in a day that has been it, whereas a few years back a busy day would mean around forty-five boats coming through the lock’.
We four are quite happy that the waterways are quiet, the tranquility of being a lone boat is pure bliss at times.
Woofs, Martha x
Thursday 5 October
Lechlade (to Radcot Lock)
I do believe we’ve enjoyed an Indian Summer day today. After an initial downpour around six-o-clock this morning, the sun crept through the clouds, illuminating the river and drying out the fields. Leigh took Rosie and I for a walk just before nine-o-clock; fifteen minutes later we dropped Rosie back at the boat, then I took Leigh for a run along the footpath adjacent to the river. I do love running. Spotting a couple of large canines off-lead (one was a greyhound but I’m not sure of the others breed) I ran over to join in their game. They were a bit too rough for me, so I scampered back to Leigh. Yelp!
Tom’s sister, Sue, came to visit today. Arriving at the boat around eleven-o-clock she brought custard tarts for Leigh and Tom, and treats for Rosie and me. After the usual catchupchat the three humans went out for lunch; Rosie and I stayed on board. We didn’t mind at all, although I was a bit miffed when I realised they had then gone on to explore this pretty town without us.
Lechlade-on-Thames is a pretty Cotswold town with softly-coloured stone buildings. The mellow-yellow cottages near to the river look like they would have been workers cottages once upon a time. The church has a beautiful exterior – it has an incredibly tall spire – but the interior didn’t overly impress Leigh. She liked a couple of the stained glass windows, especially the ones depicting Faith, Charity and Hope, but she told me she would struggle to find much to praise inside the fifteenth century building.
Leigh and Sue decided they couldn’t visit Lechlade without popping into the openallyearround Christmas shop. Impressed with the variety and quality of stock, both of them left with purchases; even Tom (who is a little bit of a ‘bar-humbug’ human) was tempted to buy, until he saw how much Leigh had spent. Yelp!
Sue left us at around three-thirty this afternoon. Because the weather was ‘cruise-perfect’ (that is warm and sunny, without wind or rain) Tom and Leigh decided to start heading back down the Thames in the direction of Oxford. In case you don’t know, the navigable Thames finishes at Lechlade. I do wonder where the source of the Thames is…I must Google it I guess!
Rounding a corner, just after exiting St. John’s lock at Lechlade, Tom shouted, ‘What’s that in the water?’
Leigh looked and thought it might be a buoy; although they are green and red on the river this one was a sandy-pink colour. It was a swimmer! As we slowed right down to pass her, giving a wide berth – of course – Tom shouted over, ‘You’re braver than me!’ She laughed. According to social-media, this lady swims here every day. What a wonderful, refreshing, crazy thing to do. Good for her. Yelp!
Around six this evening Tom and Leigh decided to moor up, just short of Radcot lock. I had hoped we would make it a little further along the river to a hamlet called ‘Tadpole’, simply because I quite like visiting places with unusual names. Maybe we’ll stop off there for a quick walk tomorrow?
Woofs, Martha xx
Wednesday 4 October
Bablock Hythe to Lechlade
We passed through two important locks today. Shifford, which was the last lock on the Thames to be constructed, in eighteen-ninety-eight, and Rushey lock which is where Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks, Betty Grable and their ‘set’ spent leisure time back in the day!
I can completely understand the need to get away from it all; this stretch of the Thames is close enough to London, yet far enough and beautifully peaceful enough to feel you are in another world.
There are a few small villages but none are particularly easy to get to from the river. The creator of one of Leigh’s favourite childhood books, Lorna Doone, was born in one of the villages – Longworth.
We had company for the last third of the journey today. A man and a woman in a canoe. Having the advantage of being able to take their boat out of the water to walk over the locks, meant they actually overtook us (every lock that you need to travel through means at least fifteen to twenty minutes of time is taken up), so they reached Lechlade before us. At the lastbutone lock, the on-duty-lockeeper suggested they come through the lock with us. They took up the offer as this saved them lugging the boat out and putting it on it’s little wheely-carrier, then going through the process of taking it off, folding the wheels down, and getting back in the boat.
Tom threw them a rope to save them bobbing about in the lock. They were super friendly and had a nice chat with Tom whilst Leigh sat in the bow, holding her rope and re-assuring Rosie who always wants to sit with Leigh. Leigh tells Rosie that it is too dangerous so she has to wait with me in the cabin.
We have a pretty mooring here in Lechlade-on-Thames. To our left (port) there are simply lush, green fields. To our right (starboard for us boaters) is the river, of course, and a super view of the church here.
Woofs, Martha X
Tuesday 3 October
Abingdon to Bablock Hythe
Leaving Abingdon this morning, Tom decided he needed to see the disused railway swing-bride over the Oxford canal; apparently it is quite unusual so on reaching Oxford we veered right and cruised the canal.
It was a little strange to be labouring a single lock after such a long time. She and Tom agreed that the lock looked miniature in comparison to the deep, wide, long, automatic locks on the Thames.
The canal that runs through Oxford isn’t particularly pretty, although we did see some verywelltended back gardens along with a stretch of pretty cottages which are undergoing renovation.
On reaching Dukes Cut we took a left turn down the cut, then we were back on the Thames. This stretch of river is called ‘River Thames or Isis’ – I am not sure why so I’ll have to do some research. Yelp!
After a short while we passed Wytham Great Wood; I would have given my last Bonio to take a scout around this place, but it is a private wood. The flora and fauna are, apparently, quite amazing here – there are even nightingales. Imagine being in the wood and hearing a nightingale sing. That would be heaven for me. We spotted a couple of Kingfishers today; they fly low and fast, the bright-blue feathers gleam. I get such a thrill every time I see one of these. They are far too fast to allow Leigh to take a good photo.
I found out only today that the females have orange markings on the bottom of their beaks – but to spot this seems impossible.
Woofs, Martha X
PS it’s been pretty cold today – I tried to get a photo of Tom in his Elmer Fudd hat but he went all shy on me!